Blog Archive

Blog Archive – April, 2012

May 29, 2012 Memorial Day: Remembering the “Nakba”

April 29, 2012

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Memorial day. Radio Tahrir marks the 64th year of the “Nakba”, Palestinians expulsion from their lands in 1948. Our two hour special on WBAI radio features two outstanding interviews from our 22-year audio archive.

First is Intissar Al-Wazir Um Jihad in 1990 in Ramallah speaking about early Palestinian strategies--at that time called “The Intifadah”--  to regain their rights and return to their lands, and the early career of Abu Jihad, assassinated in 1988.

 Accompanying this is our interview with Dr. Adel Samara, Marxist writer and commentator, discussing the flawed Oslo Accord with the sabotaging of the Palestinian economy and general deterioration of Palestinian rights within a year of the much celebrated treaty. This audio, produced exclusively for WBAI audiences, includes contemporary Palestinian poetry.

With this audio CD, we offer a copy of the banned DVD “Valentino’s Ghost: the Politics of Images” by director W Singh. A highly sophisticated 90 minute documentary featuring some of the best informed people on Middle East history and the Nakba, “Valentino’s Ghost” was produced for a major American TV network but withdrawn because of objections raised by Zionist parties about its honest depiction of Palestinian and Israeli history.

Ideal as a gift to your school, college and community radio. Copies can be obtained with a pledge to WBAI, listener-sponsored free speech radio in NY (www. wbai.org). Ask for the May 15 “Nakba Special”.

Watch for upcoming special when our regular broadcasts resume on June 5; special guests in June include Egypt’s Bassim Youssef, and Naif Al-Mutawa creator of “The 99”.

[ May 29, 2012 Memorial Day: Remembering the “Nakba” ]

Who Says Culture is Not Political? Take the Case of Turkey

April 20, 2012

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

A striking example of culture serving a political position is Turkey today. Take a look. Before Turkey joined in the NATO campaign for regime change in Libya, the US public was regularly reminded of President Erdogan’s rude treatment of the Israeli president, and Ankara’s daring warnings to Israel. Reference to Turkish president Recep Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party was usually prefaced with the US-pejorative label --‘islamist’.

 Two years ago, when Turkey partnered with Brazil to bring about a promising agreement with Iran regarding pulling back on its nuclear program, the plan was swiftly rejected by USA and its allies. Then Turkey was unfavorably featured in the West for its support of Palestinians’ right of self-determination.

Today all that has changed.

Reference to any Islamic character in the JD Party is now whited-out. Have you noticed how many high profile international policy conferences are now taking place in Turkey?

 Turkey is ‘in’.

And culture? Well to confirm this new face of Turkey, in case you say you don’t follow international affairs, look at a forthcoming film festival and newly announced student exchange program. For the first time since I can remember, I find announcements inviting us to join a summer exchange program in Turkey. It’s sponsored by something called, appropriately, International Program for Democracy and Peace-- likely a US-government funded project.  

What awakened me to the energy going into a makeover of Turkey’s image here is a forthcoming film festival in New York. April 27 to May 10, our global media center—New York-- will treat us to festival unmatched in its scale—screening 29 films by Turkish directors.

Many of these films are co-produced in Germany and elsewhere in Europe where a large community of creative Turks reside and where ample funding is available. Turkey itself is home to a productive film industry tapping abundant Turkish talent, from writers to directors and actors. In Europe Turkish talent is already well regarded. But the industry made little impact in the US, even among the so-called intellectual elite.

This will change, in part due to the coming film festival.

One can only explain the lavishness of NY’s Lincoln Center project on Turkish films with a specific aim to help plant Turkey on American consciousness as a place of creativity and modernity. Our Turkish friends are ‘good guys’ now.

Turkey attracts some American tourists of course, but that’s of a different order. Boat rides on the Bosporus, photos in front of Sultan Ahmed Mosque and purchases of ceramic tiles and rugs do not change American acceptance of a country the way that films can, and do.

Twenty-nine films, all from one country! At the celebrated Lincoln Center in New York! This is not a marginal event. And it will surely be the launch of a wider campaign to cleanse our general image of Turkey, its perceived ‘islamist’ leaning, and its pro-Palestinian policy. As the program director announced of the event “an extraordinarily rich cinematic tradition that, despite the growing importance of that country on the world stage, has remained largely unknown to even the most dedicated American film goers.  “despite”? - well they are going to fix that.

Don’t get me wrong about these films and Turkish talent. I am on record for my devotion and admiration for Turkey’s TV dramas, translated into Arabic and distributed worldwide where the industry has spawned a new emotional attachment of Arab peoples to Turkey. (We discussed this on Radio Tahrir Jan. 31st 2012; see podcast.radiothrir.org)

Two years ago a friend familiar with Turkey’s TV industry informed me that the huge promotion given to Turkish productions over Arabic language networks was not accidental; he suggested it was in fact engineered to ‘penetrate’ the Arab consciousness—in the service of a wider political agenda. My associates in Syria, witnessing how Turkey has gone from ‘special friend’ to foe in a matter of months, charge their neighbor with using Syria to break into the entire Arab market and into its diplomatic circles. Indeed we now find Turkey at the table of important Arab League and other regional policy meetings regarding Syria and Libya. Yet not at the Palestine peace table, we note.

So go to the festival. Appreciate Turkish talent. Turkish filmmakers and writers are in the forefront of raising important social questions about justice and values across the Middle Eastern. In my opinion, the themes of their films express genuine and worthy social and ethical statements. From Turkish productions I’ve viewed in the past 4 years, I consider they are equal to and often surpass the output and quality of the Arab film industry.

All I am saying here is: let’s not pretend these films and festivals and the rapid spread of Turkish TV into Arab households is not part of Turkey’s new favorable position vis-a-vis the current US, European and Gulf Cooperation Council political agenda for the area.

 

[ Who Says Culture is Not Political? Take the Case of Turkey ]

Hana Shalabi Forcibly Exiled to Gaza

April 02, 2012

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

It’s hard for normal people to envisage others seated around a table thinking up punishments-- really torture. Imagine a doctor, a lawyer, a prison guard along with a foreign affairs official seated in a well-furnished ministry office or at a Tel Aviv restaurant deciding how to deal with a recalcitrant woman on hunger strike to protest her wrongful imprisonment.

In the end it seems Israel relented; a ‘humane’ solution was found:—it would discharge the woman from prison, from her detention without charge.  Humdulallah.

But the story does not end here. Yes, Israel did indeed release Hana Shalabi on the 43rd day of her hunger strike. But did it allow the emaciated, frail woman to return to her home and family to be nurtured and healed after her ordeal?

No. She is sent from prison into a forced exile to Gaza. This, knowing her home and family are in the West Bank. She is to remain in Gaza by force,  for 3 years, they announced.

What is the message Israel is giving the world with this decision? Compassion? Their recognition that the woman’s detention was illegal? Deterrence? Will Gaza’s seaside climate be more restorative?

Some of us may recall that almost 20 years ago, in December 1992 Israel applied its regular policy of forced exile in a particularly dramatic incident. It sent 415 Palestinian men it suspected as Islamists across the border to Lebanon. The banished men remained in a desolate ‘Israeli-controlled security zone’ in Southern Lebanon for several months during the cold winter season. Nothing did more to win admiration for the then fledgling little known "Hamas" group. One newspaper opined at the time: “The longer this impasse continues, the greater the publicity given to the deportees, and the more likely that they will be seen as heroes and martyrs, which is definitely not what Israel intended.”

I personally cannot fathom Israeli intentions, neither in 1992 nor now.

[ Hana Shalabi Forcibly Exiled to Gaza ]


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