Posts Tagged ‘identity’

GOP Rep. King says Obama officials disclosed identity of jailed Pakistani doctor – Fox News

May 23rd, 2012 Comments off

BBC News

GOP Rep. King says Obama officials disclosed identity of jailed Pakistani doctor
Fox News
GOP Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, expressed concern Wednesday about the extent of the Obama administration's efforts to protect the Pakistan doctor who was sent to prison in Pakistan for treason after helping to
Security breach alleged in making of bin Laden raid
Profile: Shakil AfridiBBC News
CIA, Pentagon quizzed onkilling of bin Laden film co-operationThe Australian
The Independent –The Guardian –Irish Times
all 1,029 news articles »

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Guess Which Country has the Most Amazigh Cabinet Members?

May 18th, 2012 Comments off

This blog has frequently noted the growing identity movement among North Africa’s Amazigh (plural Imazighen) or “Berber” peoples, especially with the revolutions in Tunisia and Libya. And of course Algeria and Morocco have large and influential Amazigh populations. So which government has the most Imazighen in the Cabinet?
Apparently, as of now, France:

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Nakbah commemoration

May 16th, 2012 Comments off
“With the Nakba in clear view, current attempts to reconcile both “Jewish and democratic” components of Israel’s identity can be seen for what they are: a grand exercise in missing the point. The only reason why there is a Jewish majority in Israel today is because of the expulsions and denationalisation of most Palestinians who would have become citizens in the new state. What unites liberal and conservative Zionists in rejecting the Palestinians’ right of return is the ugly demographic “battle” that is the foundation of the “Jewish and democratic” state.“”

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Making the Arab League Matter

April 9th, 2012 Comments off

Few international institutions have been more congenitally
irrelevant than the League of Arab States. It’s problems are structural: a
Charter rooted in the protection of state sovereignty, an autocratic and inept
membership, a façade of Arab unity hardly concealing the reality of deep
political divisions. The Arab League for
long decades has been little more than a punchline for sad jokes about the failed hopes
of unified or effective Arab action.

Some believe that this began to change over the last
year. Certainly, it was startling to see
the Arab League suddenly acting on regional security issues. Its rapid, unified response to Muammar
al-Qaddafi’s brutal crackdown in Libya, likely tipped the balance at the United Nations in favor of
NATO’s military intervention. It has
played an important role in the Syria crisis, from its
suspension of Assad’s Syria to its unprecedented (albeit failed) observer
mission and (also failed) bid for to a Security Council resolution. Some of its steps were intriguingly novel,
such as the unprecedented suspension of Libyan and Syrian membership over the
killing of their own people. And the summit recently held in Baghdad may have
finally prodded some baby steps towards Iraq’s reintegration into the Arab

But this burst of activity was misleading. The revitalized
Arab League was really a puppet show, as the GCC led by Qatar and Saudi Arabia used
the conveniently empty vehicle of a moribund Arab League to pursue their
agendas. The Arab League offered a more
useful regional organization than the GCC for acting on Libya and Syria,
especially at the United Nations. With traditional Arab powers like Egypt, Iraq and Syria
flat on their backs there was nothing to block them from doing so on such
issues. The focus of attention at the Security Council debate on Syria was Qatari Foreign Minster Hamed Bin Jassem, not Arab League Secretary General Nabil el-Arabi. The supposedly revitalized
Arab League has shown little ability to act effectively on more contentious
issues, to coordinate policies on Syria, to provide meaningful assistance to
transitional member regimes, or to generate new ideas on the Palestinian issue.
The GCC more often looked to non-Arab Turkey than to its Arab League partners
for concrete support.

But this could change. Indeed, implausible as it sounds to long-time observers of the region,
the Arab League may over the next few years emerge as a more interesting
institution than it has ever before been — and more consequential than the
currently dominant GCC
. The key GCC states
only dominate today because of their wealth and general lack of internal
problems, the unusual cooperation between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and the internal
weakness of traditional Arab powers such as Egypt, Iraq, and Syria. As those states get their acts together, and the inevitable conflicts within and between
Gulf states reappear, the Arab League might actually become interesting.[[BREAK]]

The Arab League, for all its flaws, has one core advantage:
it is the only regional organization which brings together all of the
self-identified Arab states. As such, it
will likely remain the privileged regional interloctor for the United Nations
and the focus of any kind of pan-Arab diplomacy. It can not easily be replaced by the GCC, no
matter how much that idea might appeal to Doha or Riyadh, or by some sort of
Parliament of Arab Peoples which would lack official standing or institutional cohesion.  

There will be a need for such a regional organization. Pan-Arab identity
at the popular level has grown vastly stronger through the Arab uprisings of the
past year and a half. This emergent
pan-Arabism will ensure both their continuing focus on these shared regional
issues — whether Syria or Palestine — and their relentless disappointment with
the performance of their leaders.  Young
Arabs may have little use for the Arab League as an institution, but it’s the
only regional organization they’ve got. It is the only formal site for the
robust political battles over collective Arab norms, initiatives, or policies.  

The GCC has clearly taken the lead role in Arab diplomacy
over the last year. But the current dominant GCC position within the Arab
League is a bubble. At least some of the traditional Arab powers such as Egypt,
Iraq, Libya, and Syria which are currently consumed by domestic chaos will in
the coming years get their houses in order and retake their place as regional
great powers. As they do so, the GCC
will not be able to sustain its artificial domination of Arab institutions. Egypt,
in particular, is likely to seek to use its traditional leadership of the Arab
League (which is physically based in Cairo and has long had an Egyptian
Secretary-General) as a pathway back into regional politics once its domestic
transition resolves sufficiently to actually have a foreign policy. Potentially emergent powers excluded from the
GCC, such as a new Libya or new Iraq, will likely try to empower an institution
which includes them.

The biggest driver of change in the Arab League will be the increasing domestic diversity of its members. For decades, Arab states increasingly resembled one another in
their internal political structures. Almost all Arab states were entrenched autocracies, with at best limited
forms of superficial democratic participation. Almost all were close American military and political allies and part of a common security architecture. Almost all were content to sideline the
Palestinian issue and cooperate with the United States against Iraq, Iran and al Qaeda,
regardless of the feelings of their people. Even the traditional divide between monarchies and republics lost
meaning as presidents such as Hafez al-Assad and Hosni Mubarak sought to hand
over power to their sons.  

The Arab uprisings have introduced significant diversity
into this isomorphic mix. It’s
impossible to know how any of these emergent transitions will turn out, of
course — can anyone really offer a firm prediction about how the Egyptian
mess or the nascent Libyan state will resolve? But more diversity
seems almost inevitable, as does a greater role for public opinion in foreign policy. Most Arab regimes — including monarchies like Jordan, Kuwait, and Morocco — will face turbulent politics and be more responsive to
public opinion, whatever constitutional forms they take (or else, like Bahrain, retreat into sullen alienation and stifling repression at great cost to their own future). The need
of these governments to respond to public opinion will likely push them
toward more popular foreign policies, even if some continue to try to stick to the
old games. 

Identity will also increasingly divide as well as
unite — though, as should be obvious to all students of pan-Arabism, this has always been the case. The potent popular pan-Arabism
ensures that there will be no easy shift to local or domestic issues alone. But
the definition of Arabism will remain deeply contested, with very concrete
implications. For instance, the GCC
prefers to use Sunni identity as a unifying force amongst its Arab allies and a
useful weapon against Iran, the Syrian regime, and their own domestic Shi’a
populations — a formula potentially challenged by a Shi’a-led, semi-democratic
Iraq. Islamists of some variety seem
likely to play a greater role in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya (at least), which
poses a challenge to regimes which have demonized and repressed their own

The Arab League might therefore take on a very different
feel as these domestically transforming states begin to play a meaningful
regional role. The Gulf monarchies will remain influential, of course, though
they will likely return to their bickering ways. An Egypt which pursues a relatively popular
foreign policy might regain the regional power and influence which the decrepit
Mubarak regime had squandered. A Libya
not completely eccentric and self-marginalized could compete at the level of
wealth. A successful, inspirational
Tunisian democracy could offer a voice of moral authority. A somewhat stabilized Iraq actively engaged in
Arab politics could introduce new views of Iran and of the political role for
Shi’a communities with implications for regional security arrangements. And what role might be played by a new Syria
— either with an Assad regime which has survived as an international pariah
engulfed in protracted civil war or with some new kind of regime?

Decisions made over the last year might also provide an
entry for new kinds of collective action through the auspices of the Arab
League. The Saudis and Qataris might
have had purely strategic goals in mind when they invented a
new standard of Arab legitimacy by which leaders should not kill their own
. But that normative standard
has now been articulated repeatedly and used to suspend the membership of both
Libya and Syria. This is a major
departure from the Arab League Charter’s traditional endorsement of state
sovereignty. It is not inconceivable
that emergent new powers could seek to institutionalize this new norm of
conditional sovereignty.  Could Aryeh
Neier’s creative idea of an Arab War Crimes Tribunal
gain purchase? Could
Bahraini or Saudi Shi’a begin to find a forum not dominated by the Gulf states
to press their grievances?

I would not want to push this argument too far. I certainly wouldn’t predict the inevitability
of an effective, unified Arab League. Little in history or current trends would
suggest any confidence in that. I don’t expect the Arab League to follow the
EU template any time…well, ever (ASEAN might be a more useful comparison,
with more regional identity but less economic complementarity). But as we all attempt to peer ahead into the
kind of regional politics to which the Arab uprising might give birth, it seems
worth considering how an Arab League which incorporates these changing states
could  become a far more interesting
organization…and even a valuable part of a transformed, better Middle East. 

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Tunisia’s Al-Nahda: No Shari‘a Clause in Constitution

March 27th, 2012 Comments off

As the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt flexes its muscles with talk of running a Presidential candidate and controlling the writing of the Constitution, Tunisia’s Al-Nahda (Ennahda) Movement is taking a different tack, declining to support efforts to insert a clause in the Constitution that would declare Shari‘a the major source of legislation. Al-Nahda has long said that it is content with the existing first article, which declares that the religion of the state is Islam and its language is Arabic.

Reaffirming the “Arab Muslim identity” clause gives centrality to the role of Islam in Tunisian identity without writing Shari‘a into the constitution, and is in keeping with Al-Nahda’s efforts so far to maintain peace with secular parties in the highly Westernized country, while more extreme Salafi groups are agitating for a Shari‘a clause. The “Arab Islamic identity” formula is generally uncontroversial in Tunisia, which lacks has only a small Jewish population and no real indigenous Christian population. Though Amazigh/Berber activists would prefer to downplay the “Arabic” identity, retaining the existing clause is clearly the line of least resistance.

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Al-Qaeda cabalism

March 4th, 2012 Comments off

A case of mistaken identity? Gamal Nkrumah attempts to decipher the person behind a top terrorist named Seif Al-Adl
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Muhammad Mahmoud Street Becomes Graffiti Central

February 29th, 2012 Comments off
This and other stills below from

I’ve noted before that Muhammad Mahmoud Street, the street in downtown Cairo where I ;lived back in 1977-78, became a key battleground in November and then again earlier this month after the Port Said football deaths. It has also been a major venue for Cairo’s revolutionary graffiti scene, with the American University in Cairo’s walls providing the canvas. Al Jazeera English takes note of the fact and provides this video:

A lot of attention has been paid to graffiti in all the Arab revolutions, and especially in Egypt. (Not njust in countries in open revolt either: here’s a site on Saudi street art.)  I’ve posted the occasional photo or link, but haven’t talked about it in detail. Perhaps the Muhammad Mahmoud development is a good reason to do so. Besides the pharaonic themes I’m reproducing here, the walls also contain portraits of the dead supporters of the Ahly football team who died at Port Said, often depicted with wings.

Blogger suzeeinthecity, whose blog regularly posts collections of graffiti and who occasionally interviews the artists, has an appeal to AUC to leave the current art up on its wall. The photo at top, much of the Al Jazeera video, and the pharaonic themed paintings below are all on the AUC walls. As she puts it:

Dear AUC,
You will probably not listen to me – why should you? I’m clearly no art expert with any weight to throw around – but please don’t paint over this wall. These artists have worked tirelessly for two weeks to commemorate the deaths of 75 young men, including a student of yours, working days and nights through tear gas and riots to pay tribute to the dead.
This, in my humble opinion, is a masterpiece. And you clearly have bigger things to worry about, such as the fact that every single side street down Mohamed Mahmoud has been blocked by concrete slab walls, or that the military has turned your area into a war zone and has no problem shooting students, doctors or journalists. Or the fact that your Greek Campus SS Building has had a fire on its upper floor, and probably several other properties have been harmed in the past months of clashes. And who knows what more violence the future will bring?
As an institution that teaches art and publishes books on Egyptian art, including one on graffiti soon, please take pride in this mural on your walls, and instead of removing it, protect it. Show it off as a symbol of how your campus was in a pivotal location in so many historical events that have shaped our country for the past year.
But clearly this will fall on deaf ears and you will paint over it all. NB: painting a wall gives a new canvas to a graffiti artist. They will keep coming back. Just so you know. You might as well save the paint. Your effort is futile.

I don’t know her identity, but I’m sure AUC knows Al Jazeera English’s identity, and while I have no particular clout there either, I see no reason not to note that preserving this work of street art seems worth doing. She has a much fuller collection of the Muhammad Mahmoud photos here.

One of the interesting things about the Egyptian graffiti is that a number of graffiti artists with distinctive styles have emerged, often signing their work and gaining a following, such as Ganzeer. Someone could write a book on the subject and if AUC press is up to their usual quality, I imagine they’ll publish it.

The pharaonic themes are recurrent: this by Alaa Awad:

Another pharaonic theme:

And this by Muhammad Alaa:

There are good views of these in the AJE clip above, as well. I find the pharaonic theme intriguing, since the vast majority of the graffiti I’ve seen has been standard revolutionary street art: some of it stenciled, some painted, but mostly contemporary, political, and often aimed at either demonizing or insulting authority. That’s worth preserving too, and some of it is clever. But this seems to transcend that. It evokes the deep past and the Egyptian identity.

The walls along Muhammad Mahmoud saw plenty of graffiti in November and December, most of it quickly painted over (hence the above plea to leave the current art in place). Here’s an interesting palmpsest of graffiti along the stret from late last year, also from suzeeinthecity. It’s more the typical mix of slogans and scrawled graffiti, with one quite clever item (and one crude one). Although I mainly want to talk about the Arabic, it needs a language warning due to an English expletive on the same wall, which English readers will naturally gravitate to first:

The most interesting part is not the profanity, though I’ll address that too, but the part on the right, painted to resemble one of the plaques used to give street names. It reads “Street of the Field Marshal’s Massacre (Formerly Muhammad Mahmoud).”  No doubt long since painted over,the mimicking of the street sign struck me as notable (and others, as I’ve seen other photos of it from differing angles).

The painting to its left, in the colors of the flag, with the manacled hands, reads “Freedom Must Come.” On the left, under the obvious “Fuck SCAF,” (sorry: there’s little point in my using asterisks here, as it’s right there in the picture), is something about the Field Marshal in Arabic, possibly (?) Tiz ya Mushir, which would be rude, but not as rude as the English,and hard to translate exactly (possibly in the “Up yours” range of offensiveness).

This brings up a delicate subject I’ve noted, at least from my long distance perch, though discussing it may offend some readers. I can’t really talk about it without giving examples, so first, strong language warning in both English and Arabic. Nor do I wish to suggest that most of the graffiti is vulgar: from what I’ve seen, it’s not, and I hope mentioning it here doesn’t offend too many readers (if the photo above upsets you, stop reading) nor do I want to imply that profanity is common. But I think it’s an interesting linguistic observation, even if I have to cite offensive language to make it: at least in terms of the graffiti photographed by bloggers, English profanity (mostly “Fuck SCAF,” and before that, Mubarak) has seemed much more common than Arabic, at least as graffiti if not in speech, despite Arabic’s rich wealth vocabulary for cursing and obscenity. I’ve seen the same “Fuck SCAF” phrase in photos of a tent in Tahrir, and on lots of walls (and #FuckSCAF became a common Twitter hashtag). On the other hand, strong language in Arabic, while heard on plenty of YouTube videos and angry Twitter posts in Arabic, doesn’t appear as much on walls, at least in the graffiti photos I’ve seen (exception below). Once again, I’m not there, and perhaps those taking the photos are self-censoring in Arabic, or the authorities are painting over Arabic profanity before it can be photographed. Or perhaps it’s the revolutionaries themselves, more willing to curse in English than in Arabic (what if grandma found out?). I suspect in all seriousness it’s an attempt not to alienate and offend the less-educated populace (who are conservative and would object) but who would be unable to read the English, combined with the cachet among many young elite Egyptians of English, especially transgressive English.

But they definitely don’t appear to be as quick to use profanity in Arabic on walls (again: they seem to use it in their chants, though). Also from one of suzeeinthecity’s earlier collections, I found one graffiti use of very strong Arabic — but it uses the equivalent of asterisks:

In small script at the top: “Connect the dots:” then “*** umm al-Maglis al-‘Askari.” Anyone knowing Arabic (probably even the hypothetical grandma mentioned above), will know that the missing three letters are kuss (the u is not written), the most vulgar Arabic term for the vagina, followed by “of the mother of SCAF” (profanity rarely makes sense in any language). It’s easily the functional equivalent of “Fuck SCAF,” and arguably even more taboo, given recent trends in English. Yet it’s censored with the dots instead of the word. It’s the equivalent of “**** SCAF.” Readers know what is meant, but unlike the English above, it’s not actually written.

Apologies for the brief diversion into revolutionary cursing. There’s a scholarly article in there somewhere, perhaps for comparative linguists. I hope I haven’t detracted from the genuine art above.

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Qatar emir: Arab identity in Jerusalem at risk (AP)

February 26th, 2012 Comments off

AP – Qatar’s ruler says the Arab identity in Jerusalem is threatened by Israeli expansion around the city claimed as capital by both Israel and Palestinians.
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Israeli Mossad Agents allegedly Impersonated CIA in fostering Baluch Terrorism against Iran

January 14th, 2012 Comments off

Mark Perry reveals that Israeli Mossad intelligence operatives pretended to be American field officers when contacting members of the Baluch Jundullah terrorist group, presumably in Pakistan, and funding and encouraging Jundullah to blow up targets in Iran.

Among Jundullah operations was a July, 2010, bombing of a Shiite mosque in Zahedan in July of 2010– which killed 27 innocent civilians and injured 169. It was blamed by Shiite authorities on the United States.

The province of Sistan and Baluchistan in Iran is dominated by members of the Baluch ethnic minority, who are Sunni and speak a distinctive Indo-Iranian language, in addition to Persian. Zahedan, the capital, has a lot of Persian Shiites from elsewhere in Iran.

If the allegations are true, they indict the right wing Israeli government on several counts:

1. Of being involved in terrorist operations against civilians and,

2. Of falsely implicating the US government in those terrorist operations, shifting blame onto the CIA and also encouraging Iranian counter-attacks on Americans.

Just to be clear, it is too soon to absolve US agencies from any involvement in Jundullah. But apparently from what Perry says, that would have been very indirect, through third or fourth parties. Washington is annotedthat Mossad made itit look direct, in hopes of provoking Iranian terrorism against the US and ginning up a war.

Israeli right wing governments have often been perfidious “allies.” Their political agent in the United States, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), has assiduously spied on America, garnering military, technological and trade secrets. The spying is so normal that when AIPAC fired the longtime head of its Mideast bureau, Steven Rosen, was caught passing classified Pentagon documents to the Israeli embassy, he sued AIPAC on the grounds that he was only acting as AIPAC operatives routinely did, given the long history of domestic espionage conducted by that organization.

Likewise, the assassination by Mossad operatives in Dubai of alleged Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Mabhouh involved massive identity theft by Israeli agents of names, passports and other information of nationals from countries considered friendly to Israel such as Australia and the UK. 1) Identity theft is wrong. 2) Stealing another person’s identity to commit murder is wrong, both because murder is a crime and because the consequences of the murder would then fall on an innocent. 3) Israel was clearly attempting to deflect a) international blame and b) any Hamas retaliation onto the innocent citizens of countries that supported Israel. That’s about as sleazy as you can get.

In the peculiar American system of legalized bribery, AIPAC has bought most US congressmen by organizing thousands of Jewish and Christian Zionist groups to give money to Congressional campaigns. AIPAC ought to have to register as an agent of a foreign country, but is allowed to so function without any let or hindrance, by the FBI, which really ought to intervene here.

The hypocrisy is so thick you could drown in it. The Israel lobbies have managed to configure the Hizbullah party-militia of Lebanon as a “terrorist” organization, when Hizbullah’s major military operations were defensive, aimed at expelling occupying, aggressive Israeli troops from Lebanese territory on which they had unlawfully squatted.

But when Mossad (pretending to be Americans) buys Baluchi agents to blow up innocent worshippers in mosques in Zahedan, that is defined away as not terrorism. Not only will there be no consequences for Israel for endangering American lives by impersonating CIA field officers, but it won’t even be reported in most American news outlets that Israel may have done so.

In fact, Jundullah itself has not been designated a terrorist organization by the US, and you would now want to look into whether the Israel lobbies have worked against such a designation.

In fact, Israel will be rewarded for bad behavior be even more taxpayer money in “aid” (Israel’s per capita income is greater than some European countries and it doesn’t need any American taxpayer money as aid). And, far right wing and very pernicious Israeli demands such as the unilateral annexation of Jerusalem and gradual expulsion of its Palestinian inhabitants, have been obsequiously adopted by the Republican presidential candidates.

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Israel’s identity crisis: Why it could be as detrimental as Palestinian conflict (The Christian Science Monitor)

January 12th, 2012 Comments off

The Christian Science Monitor – When Tanya Rosenblit boarded the No. 451 bus to Jerusalem last month, she knew that the predominantly ultra-Orthodox passengers would keep their distance from her because of their adherence to strict rules of gender segregation.
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