Posts Tagged ‘Atlantic’

Election day! (First One Anyway): Some Readings

November 28th, 2011 Comments off

Election day in Egypt at last! Details in the next post, but here’s a Reader’s Digest of useful commentary, blogging, and thinktanking. Not at all comprehensive (that’s Google’s job) but things I thought worth linking to:

The logo along the bottom of the ad shows the silhouette of a mosque, church, skyscraper, pyramids, the Zamalek tower, and sailboats—with an army tank nestled comfortably in the middle.  Had I been consulted on the logo, I would have advised against having the tank’s gun turret aimed directly at the church.

Michele fairly recently left Carnegie in DC for the Atlantic Council, as head of their new Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. Their EgyptSource page looks like the new go-to during the elections. I feel that when she left Carnegie she sort of took Egypt with her (though Nathan Brown is still in there on legal and constitutional issues), especially since Carnegie’s Beirut operation lost Amr Hamzawy (at least for the duration of the elections) to Egyptian politics.

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Poll suggests Egyptian disillusionment with military was mounting

November 24th, 2011 Comments off

Via the Atlantic Council’s Egypt’s page, a Brookings poll carried in October showed that 43% of Egyptians believe the military was working to reverse…

Click the headline to read more

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I want My Country back from Big Oil

May 3rd, 2010 Comments off

I want my country back. I want back the country of Teddy Roosevelt, who cared about our natural environment. I want back the country of Harry Truman, who wasn’t afraid to give em hell. I don’t want an administration that authorizes offshore drilling to make political deals with the most despicable forces in American society. I know that Big Oil is making billions in untaxed profits that it uses to buy my government so that it can despoil America the beautiful, and I want my country back.

Do you doubt the reality of global climate change, caused by human beings pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere? You are the victim of propaganda and foot-dragging by big oil corporations. Virtually all the peer-reviewed academic articles published on global warming acknowledge carbon-fuelled climate change,, but a majority of press reports quite a scientist on “one side” and another on the “other side.” The “other side” is bought and paid for and lacks a scientific leg to stand on– the equivalent of the “scientists” who denied that smoking causes lung cancer.

Just as Big Oil has attempted to muddy the waters (so to speak) on the dire environmental threat of climate change, so BP actively lobbied the US government against putting in the kind of engineering safeguards that could have forestalled the worst of the present disaster in the Gulf. A whistle-blower now says that more BP drilling platforms are at risk of producing such disasters because the company hasn’t carefully kept the technical information on these platforms that is needed. BP officials are accused of initially lying about the likely impact of the spill and failing to act swiftly to contain the disaster That Drudge and CNN (!) managed to switch the conversation to how fast the White House could respond to BP’s screw-up tells you everything you have to know about corporate propaganda in this country.

The attempts at Gulf oil spill cover-ups track with attempts at climate change cover-up by big Oil. These corporations are not charities, they are not acting in our interest. They are about making money in the short term, and often are willing to take short cuts that are ruinous in the medium to long term. We need to take back our government from them.

As much as 25,000 barrels a day of petroleum is now pouring into the Gulf of Mexico, damaging shrimp and other wildlife beds, ruining beaches, destroying fishing, tourism, livelihoods at a time of 10 percent unemployment over-all. There is a real danger that the slick will get into the Gulf Stream and attack America’s Atlantic beaches, as well.

Why? Because the US transportation system is r=un wrong. 70 percent of petroleum fuels automobiles. First of all, we should be sending most goods around the country on trains, not trucks. There are all kinds of hidden government subsidies for trucking, including the millions spent every year on rebuilding inter-state highways, which are constantly torn up by those huge trucks. But the trucking industry pays only a fraction of that cost. Train transport of goods is many times more efficient, but because government subsidies are harder to hide in that industry, you always have a lot of yahoos complaining about socialism (and usually they get money from concrete and oil interests). And, we should be subsidizing city subway systems and trying to put residential skyscrapers in the downtowns of cities, in hopes people will move back from the suburbs and live near where they work. Washington DC, which is the world’s worst traffic mess, needs what Vancouver has. (Siting skyscraper condos downtown actually reduced real estate costs for residents).

We need to end the hidden government subsidies for fossil fuels and make sure their true cost, including climate change, is built into them.

Moreover, we should be generating electricity from alternative sources or natural gas (of which we have a lot) and then moving to electric and hybrid automobiles. (Natural gas burns cleaner than petroleum or coal and is probably a necessary bridge fuel to the alternatives). Going to electric vehicles powered by natural gas, wind and solar plants would be cheaper than rebuilding all the gas stations in the country. Coal should be banned altogether and its use made a hanging crime.

And, we should be matching every penny of the cost of the Gulf clean-up with a huge government Manhattan project on solar energy.

The environmental and economic costs of the oil spill are huge, but they are tiny compared to the costs of actually burning the oil and spilling more masses of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. If you’re not alarmed about your future, it is because you have bought the cover-up of climate change, just as Obama did when he believed what he was told about the unlikelihood of oil spills from ocean platforms.

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"… If I do, I will be rabbi ’emeritus emeritus,… ‘"

April 30th, 2010 Comments off


Earlier this week, the Atlantic’s Jeff Goldberg reported that an unnamed leader of a Jewish American organization tells him Petraeus is right:

“General Petraeus is right. We can’t get around that. He is, essentially, the American ambassador to the Arab world, and to the Muslim world beyond it. The State Department has ambassadors on the ground, but Petraeus is something above ambassador, and when he goes around the Middle East he meets ferquently with heads of state, and from what I understand, he hears quite often about settlements on the West Bank and about what the Arabs call Israeli intransigence, and occasionally his interlocutors answer his requests for help on various issues by saying, ‘Let’s see what you guys do on the Palestinian question and then we’ll see what we can do for you on your problems.’

“Is there hypocrisy here? Of course there’s hypocrisy. Does the average Arab leader care about the Palestinians? If they cared, they would have bought them new houses with their oil money a long time ago. But they know that their people, thanks to Al-Jazeera, care, and are aware of the situation on the ground, and they know that America is Israel’s prime benefactor. The point is, the perception of israeli intransigence makes it seem like the deck is stacked against the Arabs and considering that we need the Arabs for oil, to stand against Iran, for all kinds of things, it’s Israel’s job to help its main ally unstack that deck a little. Petraeus was just telling the truth about the on-the-ground reality.”

Consensus would seem to be emerging that this is not a radical analysis, although the leader preferred not to go on the record, Goldberg says, because it may be a bit advanced for members of his organization. Just to add, I had a call from a retired conservative synagogue rabbi in the heartland the other day, who articulated much the same sentiment, and he also wished not to go on the record, for similar reasons. “If I do, I will be rabbi ’emeritus emeritus,'” he joked.

Former Sharon adviser Dov Weisglass observed something similar in an interview with Israeli daily Haaretz last month. The American Jewish community “will defend Israel in the face of the administration only on matters where there is a real threat to Israel,” Weisglass told the paper. “I have serious doubt that U.S. Jews see the Netanyahu government’s territorial aspirations in Judea and Samaria [West Bank] and the Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem as an existential matter.

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Blog, "high-jacked", by an Obama henchman

March 29th, 2010 Comments off

“Obama’s ‘Oval Office’ as per the Pro-Israel lunatics…”

Jeffrey Goldberg, coming to the rescue of Denis Ross … Very Funny … In the Atlantic/ here

Laura Rozen (story) allows an anonymous Administration official to hijack her blog and accuse the National Security Council’s Dennis Ross of dual-loyalty:

“He [Ross] seems to be far more sensitive to Netanyahu’s coalition politics than to U.S. interests,” one U.S. official told POLITICO Saturday. “And he doesn’t seem to understand that this has become bigger than Jerusalem but is rather about the credibility of this Administration.”
What some saw as the suggestion of dual loyalties shows how heated the debate has become….”

An alternative explanation might be that Ross, who is a well-known critic of Netanyahu’s, understands the internal dynamics of Netanyahu’s dysfunctional coalition, and is looking for smart ways for President Obama to manipulate the situation so that progress — not merely rhetorical progress, but actual progress — can be made, both in bringing about the territorial compromise needed for peace, and in stopping Iran from going nuclear. But in today’s neo-Lindberghian climate, if a Jewish Administration official suggests a course of action that can be interpreted in any way as sympathetic to Israel, he will be called a dual-loyalist, in this case by a coward hiding behind a screen of anonymity erected by Politco.”

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Sullivan, Goldberg, and new ferment among U.S. liberals

March 14th, 2010 Comments off

There is some new and very real ferment on the Palestine Question these days, in the heart of the United States’ chronically very strongly pro-Zionist “liberal” political-cultural establishment.

Witness, the the increasingly sharply expressed series of arguments between the two bloggers Andrew Sullivan and Jeffrey Goldberg, both of whom have their blogs published by the liberal-establishment magazine The Atlantic.*

Last Thursday, Sullivan published this hard-hitting post about what he described as the “kick in the balls” that Benjamin Netanyahu and his government delivered two days earlier to Vice-President Joe Biden, then on a key fence-mending visit to Israel.

Sullivan wrote,

    Joe Biden was kicked in the balls as he came to Israel with a simultaneous “fuck you” by the Israeli government announcing new settlements – 1600 houses – in East Jerusalem.

He then explored the question of whether Netanyahu had or had not known about the construction decision before it was announced. He concluded:

    I cannot read Netanyahu’s mind. But I can observe Israel’s actions. They intend to occupy and colonize the entire West Bank for ever. They may allow some parceled enclaves for Palestinians, but they will maintain a big military presence on the Eastern border of West Bank, and they will sustain this with raw military power and force. I certainly cannot see any other rationale for their actions these past few years that makes any sense at all. Many Israeli politicians now use the term “apartheid” for this future.

He also prefaced the post with the now rightly famous “postcard” set of maps showing the growth in Jewish control over the area of pre-1948 Mandate Palestine.

(Postcard map series)

Sllivan’s fellow Atlantic blogger Jeffrey Goldberg immediately had conniptions, expressed in this blog post, Friday.

Goldberg, who has written proudly about his service in the IDF back in the 1970s, has increasingly been emerging as one of the most persistent of Israel’s attack-dogs/ defenders within the American political discourse.

Sullivan’s use of the postcard map series seemed to arouse Goldberg’s particular ire. He wrote:

    Andrew is free to publish malicious nonsense, such as the series of map[s] he published yesterday, maps which purport to show how Jews stole Palestinian land. Andrew does not tell us the source of these maps (in a magazine with standards, the source would be identified), but they were drawn to cast Jews in the most terrible light possible.

    The first map in the series of four is most egregious. It suggests that, in 1946, nearly all of the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean was “Palestinian.” Land designated as “Jewish” in this map constitutes maybe five percent of the total. This map is ridiculous, not only because the term “Palestinian” in 1946 referred, generally speaking, to the Jews who lived in Palestine, not the Arabs, but because there was no Palestine in 1946 (nor was there an Israel.) There was only the British Mandate… The intent of this propaganda map is to suggest that an Arab country called “Palestine” existed in 1946 and was driven from existence by Jewish imperialists. Not only was there no such country as “Palestine” in 1946, there has never been a country called Palestine. Before the British conquered Jerusalem, Palestine was a sub-province of the Ottoman Empire. (And after the British left, of course, Jordan and Egypt moved in to occupy Gaza and the West Bank.)

On the first point, re attribution of the map series, Sullivan pointed out in a post he blogged yesterday that he had indeed provided a source for it, at the bottom of the original post. (Sullivan also, evidently, took great pleasure in reproducing the map series in this second post, too, to make his point even more forcefully.)

But the series of allegedly historical arguments Goldberg adduced in his conniption-post are also a fascinating example of the hasbaristas’ malicious manipulations of the historical record.

First of all, his claim that “the term ‘Palestinian’ in 1946 referred, generally speaking, to the Jews who lived in Palestine, not the Arabs.” This is simply ill-informed and wrong. The Term ‘Palestinian’, as used by everyone involved as residents or administrators in the British Mandate for Palestine, referred to all those then resident in the area of the mandate, and subjects of the Mandatory government. As anyone who has ever done even a cursory reading of the history of the Mandate era, the Palestinian Arabs used the term just as much as the Palestinian Jews (and there were a lot more of them.)

Where on earth did Goldberg get the idea that the term ‘Palestinian’ “generally” referred to the Jews, not the Arabs? Maybe from his many readings of Israeli/Zionist history, in which, it is true, the Jewish residents of pre-1948 were often referred to as “Palestinian Jews” or– when referring to them in the all-Jewish context in which many of these histories were cast– simply as “the Palestinians.” Those histories often didn’t even really refer to the local “Palestinian Arabs” very much, at all.

We can note, too, for example, that in pre-1948 years, the Israeli newspaper now known as the “Jerusalem Post” was called the “Palestine Post”.

So what we have here from Goldberg are two remarkable feats of rhetorical legerdemain. He is trying to tell us that the area’s “Arabs” didn’t use the term ‘Palestinian’. And he is trying to tell us that the Jews of the area, a large proportion of whom were recent immigrants, had almost exclusive use of it.

The first of those rhetorical tricks is all of a piece with the whole bundle of quite unsubstantiable claims to the effect that there never was anything resembling a stable Arab population in the area of British Mandate Palestine, but that any Arabs who by chance turned up there in the early 20th century had come from elsewhere, attracted, indeed, by the many “economic opportunities” the Zionist immigration offered to them (the argument of the dreadful disinformer Joan Peters), and that there had never actually been a “Palestinian people”, at all (Golda Meir’s argument.)

And the second of those rhetorical tricks is– yet again!– an act of Zionist-colonial cultural appropriation of the boldest possible kind. Here we have the arch-Zionist Jeffrey Goldber telling us that even the name “Palestinian” that the Palestinians use to identify themselves and their own people should really (for the pre-1948 period, and perhaps also for today) be used exclusively for the country’s Jews!

But let’s move on to Goldberg’s claim that,

    there was no Palestine in 1946 (nor was there an Israel.) There was only the British Mandate… “

This, too, is arrant nonsense. There was a British Mandate for Palestine, just as there was a British Mandate for Iraq, a French Mandate for Syria, etc. “Palestine” was not a name made up from nowhere”, and the name of the Mandatory administration was quite specific. The coins, postage stamps, passports and ID cards issued by the Mandatory authority all quite clearly said “Palestine”.

Anyway, I’m sure you get my drift.

Fascinating that Goldberg got so riled up by the postcard map-series, eh?

But the big story here is not Goldberg and his mouth-frothing excesses. It is Sullivan, and the degree to which this important figure in the liberal-establishment elite is now willing to take Goldberg on head-on.

In his March 13 post (yesterday), Sullivan wrote:

    I will respond merely to the criticism… First, the map was not discussed except as an historical illustrative context for the way in which the Netanyahu government is intent on aggressively expanding Israeli settlement even further in Jerusalem and the West Bank. This matters because as that famous anti-Semite [btw, irony alert there ~HC], Joe Biden, said yesterday

      “This is starting to get dangerous for us. What you’re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace.”

    … [T]here was a place called Palestine (among other things) under mostly Ottoman or British rule for a very long time before Israel came into existence. Wikipedia tells us that in 1850, for example, the population of the area comprised roughly 85% Muslims, 11% Christians and 4% Jews. In 1920, the League of Nations reported that

    Four-fifths of the whole population are Moslems. A small proportion of these are Bedouin Arabs; the remainder, although they speak Arabic and are termed Arabs, are largely of mixed race. Some 77,000 of the population are Christians, in large majority belonging to the Orthodox Church, and speaking Arabic. The Jewish element of the population numbers 76,000.

    By the end of the British mandate, and an influx of Jewish refugees and Zionists, the proportions were roughly 70 percent Muslims and 30 percent Jews. Jews were concentrated in urban areas along the coast but, as the first map shows, some were indeed in the West Bank, although as a tiny minority.

    This isn’t propaganda; it’s fact.

    The maps show what has happened since – in sixty years in terms of growing sovereignty and accelerating Israeli control…

This is great. To have these matters now being openly discussed within the heart of the US political-cultural establishment is new and important.

* Some people may claim that Andrew Sullivan is not a member of the U.S. liberal establishment. It is true that he is far from being a committed, knee-jerk liberal. He writes thoughtfully and thought-provokingly on a number of different subjects and is, I gather, a fairly devoted Catholic in his belief. He is also, fwiw, an out gay. But the fact that he was previously editor of The New Republic and is now a fixture at the Atlantic qualifies him, I believe, as a leading figure in the liberal establishment.

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When slander no longer works

February 10th, 2010 Comments off

I don’t usually like to blog about personality clashes happening in the American blogosphere (the Egyptian already blogosphere and twittosphere provides plenty of amusing clashes) but put up with me on this one.

Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of the leftish but rabidly pro-Israel magazine The New Republic, has penned a 4,000+ word attack on the prominent blogger Andrew Sullivan (of the centrist but rabidly pro-Israel magazine The Atlantic Monthly) calling him an anti-Semite, apparently because he has lately become mildly critical of Israel, or at least of the Netanyahu government, even though he feels obliged to repeatedly profess his love of Israel. 

Only in America.

There’s plenty to dislike about Sullivan — another prominent, pro-Israel leftish American blogger, Eric Alterman, once did a fine hatchet job on his schizophrenia as a liberal Republican in the age of George W. Bush — but he certainly is not an anti-Semite, as many have rushed to point out. I perhaps liked best prominent blogger Matthew Yglesias’ (of the progressive ThinkProgress, which is reasonable on Israel) take:

If you call anti-semites anti-semites, then people who aren’t motivated by anti-Jewish racism will figure “hey, since my political opinions aren’t motivated by anti-Jewish racism, then I’m safe.” The idea is to put everyone on notice that mere innocence will be no defense. 

Yglesias goes on, rightly, to defend the likes of Walt & Mearsheimer from the anti-Semitic label that Wieseltier likes to use. I think this is one of those moments in American intellectual life where everyone, long after having realized it, can actually finally say that the emperor has no clothes, and that the bullying of the likes of Wieseltier, Krauthammer, Peretz and other will simply not be taken seriously at all. Now, let’s get on with the business of criticizing Israel and its influence on American policy in the region (which has plenty of faults that have nothing to do with Israel) as we do so many other countries.

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December 16th, 2009 1 comment



Shortlist Announced

MUHAMMAD AL-MANSI QINDEEL, MANSOURA EZ ELDIN, RABEE JABIR, ABDO KHAL, RABA’I MADHOUN and JAMAL NAJI are today, Tuesday 15 December, named as the six finalists shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2010 (IPAF), the prestigious literary award celebrating the very best of contemporary Arabic fiction.

The shortlist of finalists was announced by Taleb Alrefai, Chair of Judges for the 2010 prize, at a press conference at the Beirut International Book Fair in Lebanon.

The six books, selected from a longlist of 16, are (in alphabetical order):

Author Title Publisher Nationality
Al-Mansi Qindeel, Muhammad A Cloudy Day on the West Side Dar Al-Shorouk Egyptian
Ez Eldin, Mansoura Beyond Paradise Dar Al-Ain Egyptian
Jabir, Rabee America Al-Markaz al-Thaqafi al-Arabi (Arab Cultural Centre) Lebanese
Khal, Abdo She Throws Sparks Al-Jamal Publications Saudi Arabian
Madhoun, Raba’i The Lady from Tel Aviv Arab Institute for Publishing and Studies Palestinian
Naji, Jamal When the Wolves Grow Old Ministry of Culture Publications Jordanian

Chair of Judges Taleb Alrefai commented on the shortlist of finalists: “A democratic, objective discussion was held, the most important target of which was to reach a list approved by the judging panel. The selected books represent the opinion of the panel, with due respect to and appreciation of all the longlisted novels.”

The panel of five judges were also revealed today. All specialists in the field of Arabic literature, they come from Kuwait, Egypt, Tunisia, France and Oman. They are: Taleb Alrefai (Chair of Judges), Kuwaiti novelist and short story writer; Shereen Abu El Naga, Egyptian lecturer of English and comparative literature at Cairo University; Raja’ Ben Salamah, Tunisian lecturer from the Faculty of Letters, Arts and Humanities at Manouba University, Tunisia; Frédéric LaGrange, French academic, translator and Head of the Arabic and Hebraic Department at the Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV); Saif al-Rahbi, Omani writer and poet.

The prestigious literary prize, now in its third year, aims to recognise and reward excellence in contemporary Arabic creative writing and to encourage wider readership of such Arabic literature internationally through translation. It is run with the support of the Emirates Foundation and the Booker Prize Foundation.

At today’s press conference Jonathan Taylor, Chair of the Board of Trustees, said: “IPAF is increasingly regarded as the leading prize in the Arab literary world. Its impact is indisputable, with its winners and shortlisted writers recognised as some of the most significant voices in contemporary Arabic literature – many of whom are now available to a wider world in translation thanks to the prize.”

Salwa Mikdadi, Head of the Arts and Culture Programme at the Emirates Foundation, added: “The Foundation is proud of its association with this increasingly influential prize. In three short years, the intellectual strength and operational independence of both the board of trustees and the judging panels have made it into the major fiction prize in the Arab World.

The 2010 prize received 115 eligible submissions from 17 Arab countries – Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq, UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, Oman, Morocco, Libya, Sudan, Tunisia and Algeria – and the longlist of 16 titles was announced this November.

Joumana Haddad, the Prize Administrator, commented: “We are proud that the IPAF is contributing in increasing the interest in contemporary Arabic literature, whether reading or translating wise. No other Arab literary prize has ever enjoyed this much attention and influence, which proves that the IPAF came to fill an urgent need in our cultural life”.

The shortlisted finalists for the prize will each receive $10,000, with the winner receiving an additional $50,000. They can look forward to reaching wider audiences and potentially securing publishing deals – both within the Arab World and internationally. The previous two winners for the prize – Bahaa Taher (Sunset Oasis) and Youssef Ziedan (Azazel) – have not only secured English publications of their novels in the UK, through Sceptre (Hodder & Stoughton) and Atlantic Books respectively, but also a number of international deals as a result of the prize.

The winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2010 will be announced at an awards ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday 2 March 2010, the first day of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.


A Cloudy Day on the West Side Muhammad Al-Mansi Qindeel

Dar Al-Shorouk, Cairo, 2009

In his novel A Cloudy Day on the West Side, Muhammad Al-Mansi Qindeel evokes the period of great archeological discovery and nationalist struggle in Egypt. The novel tells the story of a young girl taken from home by her mother when she is forced to flee her abusive husband. After changing her name and fastening a crucifix around her tiny arm, the mother leaves her daughter at a village in Asyut. The fate of the girl, who grows up to become a translator, intersects with that of a number of historical figures from the period, including Howard Carter, Lord Cromer and Abdulrahman al-Rifa’i. This thrilling tale is brought to life by the author’s detailed and vivid descriptions of real historical events and places.

Egyptian novelist Muhammad Al-Mansi Qindeel was born in 1946 in the Egyptian delta city of al-Mahalla al-Kubra, where his father was a worker. His first novel, Breaking of the Spirit, was inspired by events surrounding workers’ unrest in the city. A medical school graduate, he worked as a doctor in the countryside before dedicating himself to writing. He currently lives in Kuwait, where he works as an editor for monthly magazine Al-Arabi. He has won two awards for his writing, the State Incentive Award in 1988 and the Sawiris Foundation Award in 2006. He has published several novels, short story collections and children’s books and his novel Moon over Samarkand has been published in English by the American University in Cairo Press.

Beyond Paradise Mansoura Ez Eldin

Al-Ain Publishing, Egypt, 2009

In Beyond Paradise, Mansoura Ez Eldin engages with Egypt’s rural middle class through the character of Salma. The editor of a literary magazine, Salma is trying to dispose of her negative self-image by liberating herself from a past loaded with painful memories. The process encourages her to write a novel in which she tells her family history: a history of love, a history of the body, a history of movement across the social classes within her village, a history of madness, and a history of writing.  Through this process Salma’s identity is split into two. On the one hand she observes and narrates in the present, whilst on the other she delves frantically into the hidden depths of her memory.

Egyptian novelist and journalist Mansoura Ez Eldin was born in Delta Egypt in 1976. She studied journalism at the Faculty of Media, Cairo University and has since published short stories in various newspapers and magazines: she published her first collection of short stories, Shaken Light, in 2001. This was followed by two novels, Maryam’s Maze in 2004 and Beyond Paradise in 2009. Her work has been translated into a number of languages, including an English translation of Maryam’s Maze by the American University in Cairo (AUC) Press. This year, she was selected for the Beirut39, as one of the 39 best Arab authors below the age of 40. She was also a participant of the inaugural nadwa (writers’ workshop) held by the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in Abu Dhabi this November.

America – Rabee Jabir

Al-Markaz al-Thaqafi al-Arabi (Arab Cultural Centre), Morocco and Lebanon, 2009

America evokes the story of the Syrians who left their homeland in the early twentieth century to try their luck in the young America.  Spurred on by a sense of adventure and the desire to escape poverty, they made the epic journey. Leaving their homeland with only a few belongings, their journey takes in everything from their travels across mountains and plains, to their gradual integration into American society, later becoming citizens of America and fighting its wars. In particular, the novel focuses on the character of Marta, who travels alone to New York in search of her husband, with whom she has lost contact. America is a tribute to those who left Syria in search of a new life from those who remained behind.

Lebanese novelist and journalist born Rabee Jabir was born in Beirut in 1972. He has been editor of Afaq, the weekly cultural supplement of Al-Hayat newspaper, since 2001. His first novel, Master of Darkness, won the Critics Choice Prize in 1992. He has since written 16 novels, including: Black Tea; The Last House; Yousif Al-Inglizi; The Journey of the Granadan (published in German in 2005) and Berytus: A City Beneath the Earth (published in French by Gallimard in 2009).

She Throws Sparks ­– Abdo Khal

Al-Jamal Publications, Baghdad/Beirut, 2009

A painfully satirical novel, She Throws Sparks depicts the destructive impact that power and limitless wealth has on life and the environment. It captures the seductive powers of the palace and tells the agonising story of those who have become enslaved by it, drawn by its promise of glamour.  She Throws Sparks exposes the inner world of the palace and of those who have chosen to become its puppets, from whom it has stolen everything.

Abdo Khal is a Saudi novelist born in al-Majanah, southern Saudi Arabia, in 1962. He studied political science at King Abdel Al Aziz University in Jeddah before starting writing in 1980. He is the author of several works, including: A dialogue at the Gates of the Earth, There’s Nothing to be Happy About, and Cities Eating the Grass. Some of his works have been translated into English, French and German. In addition to his writing, he is a member of the board of directors of the Jeddah Literary Club and the editor-in-chief of the Ukaz newspaper, for which he writes a daily column.

The Lady from Tel Aviv – Raba’i Madhoun

Arab Institute for Publishing and Studies, Beirut, 2009

In The Lady from Tel Aviv, Raba’i Madhoun tackles the Arab/Palestinian-Israeli issue, focusing on a pivotal time of anxiety and suspicion, with tensions on the point of boiling over. The novel’s protagonists are Palestinian exile Walid Dahman, who is returning home to Gaza after many years in Europe, and Israeli Dana Ahuva, who happens to be sitting next to him on their flight into Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport. Their dialogue takes the reader into the far realms of memory, history and the self. The Lady from Tel Aviv is a novel that, in its complexity, intricacy and ambiguity, avoids the dogma of ready-made ideology.

Palestinian writer Raba’i Madhoun was born in al-Majdal, Ashkelon, Israel, in 1945. Along with his parents, he was uprooted from his homeland during the 1948 Nakba exodus and as a consequence his childhood was spent in the Khan Younis Palestinian refugee camp situated in the Gaza Strip. He studied at Alexandria University, Egypt, and since 1973 has worked as a journalist. His written works include the short story collection, The Idiot of Khan Younis, an academic study (The Palestinian Intifada) and his autobiography, The Taste of Separation. He currently works as an editor for Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper in London.

When the Wolves Grow Old – Jamal Naji

Ministry of Culture Publications, Amman, 2009

When the Wolves Grow Old reveals the secret lives of the social climbers who have travelled from Amman’s poor quarters to positions of wealth and power, providing an insight into the world of the city’s preachers, politicians and charitable institutions. The book is told by a succession of characters who narrate incidents and scenes that repeat, conflict and develop from one character to the next. However the protagonist, ‘Azmi al-Wajih, remains silent and shrouded in mystery throughout the novel:  is he the only one of these wolves that does not grow old? When the Wolves Grow Old is a story of human frailty and the complex interaction between sex, religion and politics.

Jamal Naji is a Jordanian writer of Palestinian descent, born in the ‘Aqbat Jaber refugee camp, Jericho (Ariha) in 1954. He began writing in 1975 and his published works include: The Road to Balharith, Time, The Remnants of the Last Storms, Life on the Edge of Death, The Night of the Feathers, What Happened Thursday and The Target.  He was president of the Jordanian Writers Association from 2001-2003 and he currently works as head of the Intelligentsia Centre for Research and Survey in Amman, Jordan.

Zionism is immoral …

December 15th, 2009 Comments off
Via Philip Weiss who got us an excerpt of a review of Yitzhak Laor’s book, The Myths of Liberal Zionism, in the new Harper’s.

“… This piece strikes me as a high watermark in the American mainstream press’s treatment of anti-Zionism as anything other than leprosy and proves if it needs re-proving that after 50 years of purdah, and abeyance and obedience to the lobby, anti-Zionism is coming back into the house. (When will the Atlantic get the news?) Not available online yet, but Jeffrey Blankfort got me this excerpt:

The Myths of Liberal Zionism is a work of political critique as literary criticism, a treatment of statecraft as an adjunct to poetic craft, and it is also an attack on the famous writers of Laor’s generation, whom he reads as providing humanitarian cover for Israeli abuses. Amos Oz, A. B. Yehoshua, even David Grossman, who lost a son in the 2006 Lebanon war— Laor accuses these and others of sanctioning, through impotent dissent and empty rhetoric, the tragic status quo. Novelists who pen pietistic eulogies but have never resisted their governance; public intellectuals who absolve liberal guilt but have never directly opposed the moral compasses of their readership—“They shall not be cleansed.” According to Laor, the singular Myth of Liberal Zionism is Liberal Zionism itself. Like the beasts Behemoth and Leviathan, a Zionis liberalis is inconceivable to Laor, because whereas his Liberal believes in openness and the policies of empathy, his Zionist—more than a century after Theodor Herzl recalled Palestine as the Judenstaat— believes that millions can be denied their patrimony, dispossessed, abused, and even murdered in the name of Jewish statehood.

And piece ends with this $60,000 question:

Can a Zionist act morally if morality dictates Zionism’s erasure?

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Defining Israeli Cuisine … "The Schnitzel" … and all the rest is usurpation!

December 4th, 2009 Comments off

In the Atlantic/ here

I recently spent two months working as a kitchen apprentice in Tel Aviv, a city that doesn’t generally rank high on gastronomic capitals of the world lists. Most Israelis looked perplexed when I told them I was there to learn more about their cuisine. “Why would you come to Israel?” my friend Natan asked shortly after I arrived. “Israel has no food culture. Hummus, falafel, we stole those from the Arabs. The only truly Israeli food is chicken schnitzel.”….
In more upscale cafes or restaurants, the fried cutlets are served alongside pureed potatoes and maybe a simple chopped salad. And while chicken schnitzel represents everyday fare more than haute cuisine, it illustrates why I wanted to experience Israel. …
Many people identify Israeli cuisine as Jewish cuisine, which certainly it embraces. However, when people think of Jewish cuisine, they almost always think of the Ashkenazi culinary tradition with its matzoh ball soup, brisket and gefilte fish, and not the Sephardic Jewish culinary heritage, which is steeped in the rich flavors and spices of the Mediterranean and Middle East….
Sabich, one of my favorite foods from my time in Israel, is a great example. Sabich is an Iraqi Jewish food, made by stuffing cold, fried eggplant slices into a pita along with preserved hard boiled eggs, tehina, hummus, chopped salad, and amba, which is a mango pickle, and is said to have been brought to the Middle East by spice traders in India…..
Similarly, for breakfast in Tel Aviv, two favorite dishes are jachnun, a traditional Yemenite dish of rolled dough served with grated tomatoes and harissa, and shakshuka, a dish of poached eggs in tomato sauce originally eaten in North Africa and brought to Israel by Tunisian Jews. And the ubiquitous chopped cucumber and tomatoes tossed with oil and lemon? It may be known as an Israeli salad, but it comes from the Arab culinary tradition, along with other “Israeli” favorites as hummus and pita…….
More sophisticated restaurants in Israel, like the one where I was working, still exhibit a clear French influence. Lacking a distinct Israeli food culture in the early years, upscale chefs embraced generic continental cuisine. ……….. By the end of my two months in Israel, I realized that I still couldn’t define modern Israeli cuisine because it was still evolving. (Read ‘building-culinary-settlments-and-pots&pands-disappropriation) ……………”

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