arab governments

June 15, 1917 - Arab Revolt: T.E. Lawrence and Arabs Cut Damascus-Medina Railroad

Pictured - A train engine blown up by Lawrence and the Arab rebels rests in the desert to this day.

The amount of money that the British government spent for Lawrence of Arabia’s campaign would have financed only seven hours of fighting on the Western Front. Yet the Arab Revolt, despite its minuscule size relative to the other fronts of the war, continues to grip the imagination in ways that few other historical adventures do. Out in the desert, the British archaeologist T.E. Lawrence continued to work with a band of Arab rebels against the Ottoman government. On June 15, 1917, they blew up a stretch of the Damascus-Medina railroad between Amman and Dera’a. In return for Arab help, the British government listened to Lawrence’s arguments for an independent Arab state after the war.

Yet Britain’s countless imperial entanglements promised certain dispute in the future. On the same day that Lawrence and his men blew the railroad tracks, a Royal Navy yacht secretly delivered two Palestinian Jewish agents to Athlit, where they would use explosives to destroy other portions of the railroad. By the end of the war, Britain was to have promised portions of the middle east to the Jews, the Arabs, and to the French - promises impossible to fulfill.

Confronting Anti-Black Racism in The Arab World (Important Read)

In response to an essay I wrote recently regarding the “essential blackness” of the Palestinian struggle, I received this reaction, among others: “What about Arab anti-black racism? Or the Arab slave trade?”

The Arab slave trade is a fact of history and anti-black racism is a fact of current reality, a shameful thing that must be confronted in Arab societies. Though I claim no expertise on the subject, I think that applying notions of racism as it exists in the US will preclude a real understanding of the subject in the Arab world.

I spent much of much of my youth in the Arab world and I do not recall having a race consciousness until I came to the United States at the age of 13. My knowledge of Arab anti-black racism comes predominantly from Arab Americans. Like other immigrant communities, they adopt the prevailing racist sentiments of the power structure in the US, which decidedly holds African-Americans in contempt.

This attitude is also becoming more prevalent in Arab countries for various reasons, but mostly because Arab governments, particularly those that import foreign labour from Africa and Southeast Asia, have failed to implement or enforce anti-discrimination and anti-exploitation laws.

In many Arab nations, including Kuwait where I was born, workers are lured into menial jobs where their passports are confiscated upon arrival and they are forced into humiliating and often inhuman working conditions. They have little to no protection under the law and are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, including extraordinarily long working hours, withholding of salaries, sexual, mental, and physical abuse, and denial of travel.

The recent case of Alem Dechesa brought to light the horrors faced by migrant workers in Lebanon. Dechesa, a domestic worker from Ethiopia, committed suicide after suffering terrible mental and physical abuse at the hands of her Lebanese employers, whose savage beating of her in front of the Ethiopian Consulate went viral last year.

Defining beauty

An extension to Arab anti-black racism is an aspiration to all that our former - and current - colonisers possess. Individuals aspire to what is powerful and rich, and the images of that power and wealth have light skin, straight hair, small noses, ruddy cheeks and tall, skinny bodies. That image rejects melanin-rich skin, coiled hair, broad or pointy noses, short stature, broad hips and big legs. So we, too, reject these features, despising them in others and in ourselves as symbols of inferiority, laziness, and poverty. That’s why the anglicising industries of skin bleaching and hair straightening are so profitable.

And yet, when Palestine went to the UN for recognition of statehood, the vast majority of nations who voted yes were southern nations. The same is true when Palestine asked for admission to UNESCO. In fact, when the US cut off funding to UNESCO in response to its members’ democratic vote to admit Palestine, it was the African nation of Gabon that immediately stepped up with a $2m donation to UNESCO to help offset the loss of income.

It was not Saudi Arabia, or Kuwait, or Qatar, or Lebanon, or Sweden, or France. It was Gabon. How many Palestinians know that, much less expressed gratitude for it?

So concerned are Palestinians with what the European Union and the United States think of us. So engrossed are we in grovelling for their favour and handouts as they support a system of Jewish supremacy pushing our ancient society into extinction. We dance like clowns any time a European leader spares us a thought. Have we no sense of history? No sense of pride? No comprehension of who is truly standing with us and who is sabotaging us?

In a world order that peddles notions of entire continents or regions as irreducible monoliths, the conversation among Arabs becomes a dichotomous “Arab” versus “African”, ignoring millennia of shared histories ranging from extensive trade and commerce, to the horrors of the Arab slave trade, to the solidarity of African-Arab anti-colonial unity, to the current state of ignorance that does not know history and cannot connect the dots when it comes to national liberation struggles.

Arab slave trade

When I was researching the subject of the Arab slave trade, I came upon a veritable treasure of a website established by The African Holocaust Society, or Mafaa [Swahili for “holocaust”], a non-profit organisation of scholars, artists, filmmakers, academics, and activists dedicated to reclaiming the narratives of African histories, cultures, and identities. Included in this great body of scholarly works is a comprehensive section on the Arab slave trade, as well as the Jewish slave trade, African-Arab relations over the centuries, and more, by Owen Alik Shahadah, an activist, scholar and filmmaker.

Reading this part of our shared history, we can see how a large proportion of Arabs, including those among us who harbour anti-black racism, are the sons and daughters of African women, who were kidnapped from Eastern African nations as sex slaves.

Unlike the European slave trade, the Arab slave trade was not an important feature of Arab economies and it predominantly targeted women, who became members of harems and whose children were full heirs to their father’s names, legacies and fortunes, without regard to their physical features. The enslaved were not bought and sold as chattel the way we understand the slave trade here, but were captured in warfare, or kidnapped outright and hauled across the Sahara.

Race was not a defining line and enslaved peoples were not locked into a single fate, but had opportunity for upward mobility though various means, including bearing children or conversion to Islam. No-one knows the true numbers of how many African women were enslaved by Arabs, but one need only look at ourselves to see the shadows of these African mothers who gave birth to us and lost their African identities.

But while African scholars at the Mafaa Society make important distinctions between the Arab and European slave trades, enslavement of human beings is a horror of incomprehensible proportions by any standard, and that’s what it was in the Arab world as it was - or is - anywhere. There are some who argue that the Arab slave traders were themselves indistinguishable from those whom they enslaved because the word “Arab” had cultural relevance, not racial.

One-way street

This argument goes hand-in-hand with the discredited excuse that Africans themselves were involved in the slave trade, with warring tribes capturing and selling each other. But no matter how you look at it, the slave trade was a one-way street, with Africans always the enslaved victims. I know of no African tribe that kidnapped Europeans and put them in bondage for generations; nor do I know of an African tribe that captured Arab women for centuries and made them sex slaves.

I think humanity has truly never known a holocaust of greater magnitude, savagery, or longevity than that perpetrated against the peoples of Africa. This Mafaa has never been fully acknowledged and certainly never atoned for - not that the wounds or enduring legacies of turning human beings into chattel for centuries can ever be fully comprehended or atoned for. But one must try, because just as we inherit privilege from our ancestors, so do we inherit their sins and the responsibility for those sins.

Gaddafi’s role

The late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi understood this and he used his power and wealth to try to redeem our shared history. He was the first Arab leader to apologise on behalf of Arab peoples to our African brothers and sisters for the Arab slave trade and the Arab role in the European slave trade.

He funnelled money into the African Union and used Libya’s wealth to empower the African continent and promote pan-Africanism. He was a force of reconciliation, socialism, and empowerment for both African and Arab peoples. Gaddafi’s actions threatened to renew African-Arab reconciliation and alliances similar to that which occurred at the height of the Non-Aligned Movement during the presidencies of Jamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana.  

Thus, NATO’s urgency to prevent “massacres” and “slaughter” in Libya was manufactured and sold wholesale. The fear of African-Arab solidarity can be seen in the way the US-backed Libyan insurgency spread rumours that “black African” mercenaries were committing atrocities against Libyans. Gaddafi became an even bigger threat when an agreement was reached with the great anti-imperialist force in South America, Hugo Chavez, to mediate a solution to the uprising in Libya.

Now both of these champions of their people are gone, and the so-called Libyan revolutionaries are executing “black Africans” throughout the country. Gone, too, is NATO’s worry about slaughter in Libya, and another high-functioning Arab nation lies in ruin, waste and civil strife - primed for rampant corporate looting.

I wrote previously that the Palestinian struggle against the erasure of our existence, history and identity was spiritually and politically black in nature. So, too, are other struggles, like that of migrant workers throughout many Arab nations. These are our comrades. They are the wretched, exploited, robbed, and/or, at last, liberated.

I refer to Black as a political term, not necessarily a racial or ethnic descriptor. In the words of Owen Alik Shehadah: “Black People is a construction which articulates a recent social-political reality of people of colour (pigmented people). Black is not a racial family, an ethnic group or a super-ethnic group. Political Blackness is thus not an identity but moreover a social-political consequence of a world which after colonialism and slavery existed in those colour terms. The word "Black” has no historical or cultural association, it was a name born when Africans were broken down into transferable labour units and transported as chattel to the Americas.“

But that word has been reclaimed, redefined, and injected with all the power, love, defiance, and beauty that is Africa. For the rest of us, and without appropriating the word, "black” is a phenomenon of resistance, steadfastness - what we Palestinians call sumud - and the beauty of culture that is reborn out of bondage and oppression.

Right to look the other way

Finally, solidarity from Africans is not equivalent to that which comes from our European comrades, whose governments are responsible for the ongoing erasure of Palestine. African peoples have every reason to look the other way. Ethiopians have every reason to say: “You deserve what you get for the centuries of enslavement and neo-enslavement industry by your Arab neighbours.” African Americans have every reason to say: “Why should I show solidarity with Arabs who come here to treat us like white people do, and sometimes worse?”

Malcolm X once said: “If I was that [anti-American], I’d have a right to be that - after what America has done to us. This government should feel lucky that our people aren’t anti-American.”

We can substitute the word “Arab” for “American” in that sentence and it would be a valid statement. And yet, Africa is right there with us. African American intellectuals are the greatest champions of our struggle in the United States. The impact of solidarity from four particular individuals - Desmond Tutu, Alice Walker, Angela Davis and Cynthia McKinney - can never be overestimated.

Last month, the former South African ambassador to Israel refused a “certificate” from Israel confirming the planting of trees in his name. In his letter, he called Israel a racist, apartheid state and said the gift was an “offence to my dignity and integrity”. He added: “I was not a party to, and never will be, to the planting of ‘18 trees’, in my 'honour’, on expropriated and stolen land.”

I would like my countrymen to think long and hard about this until they truly comprehend the humbling beauty of this solidarity from people who have every reason to be anti-Arab. I wish my countrymen could look through my eyes. They would see that black is profoundly beautiful. They would see that Africa runs through our veins, too. Our enslaved African foremothers deserve to be honoured and loved by their Arab children. And it is for us to redeem their pain with the recognition and atonement long owed.

Arriving at this understanding is a good starting place for reciprocal solidarity with nations and peoples who are standing with us, in heart and in action.


Susan Abulhawa is a Palestinian writer and the author of the international bestselling novel, Mornings in Jenin (Bloomsbury 2010). She is also the founder of Playgrounds for Palestine, an NGO for children.

Follow her on Twitter: @sjabulhawa

Source: Al Jazeera 


The Arabic Slave Trade is something that is rarely spoken about and often goes unheard of. When we speak of the enslavement of Africans, many of us like to connect it with Europeans, which is fine, but we should never forget they were not the only ones. For over 900 years, Africans were enslaved by Arabic slave traders. They would take Africans from all over the continent including West, East, and North Africa forcing them to march thousands of miles to Slave Markets. The Men, Women, and Children were bound together by the waist and neck so that if one died the rest could drag him or her along. These walks became known as the “Death Marches” and an estimated 20 million Africans died on these walks alone. The Arabs believed it was God’s wish to see Africans enslaved and believed they were uncivilized animals. Sound Familiar? Slaves were beaten and abused regularly. Many African Women, young Girls, and Boys would be used as Sex slaves for their owners. Islamic Slave holders would stick their swords and other weapons into the Vagina’s of Black Women and cut off the penis of African Men. This was done because they believed Africans had an uncontrollable sex drive. Many Africans would be forced to convert to Islam believing if they shared the same religion, it would stop the abuse. Muslim slave traders would also promise them Freedom after conversion. This did not stop the abuse nor did it gain them their freedom. In Fact, one can argue it made them even more enslaved. When Europeans entered the slave industry, Muslim Slave traders would use the religion to exploit Islamic Africans to bring them other Africans. These Africans would then be sold to Europeans. Slavery in the holy city of Mecca would not be outlawed until 1966 and in all other Arabic countries until 1990. The Islamic Slave Trade began almost 500 years before the Europeans would come to Africa. It would be a catalyst for the dismantling of the continent and the massive expansion of the Religion. Had it not been for Islam, European Chattel Slavery may never have occurred. History is quite a teacher and once again as the late Dr. John Henrik Clarke once said, “Africa has no friends. If you want a friend, look in the mirror.”

Written by @KingKwajo - Via: SanCopha League


T-72 “Mahmia”

T-72 Mahmia (meaning “shielded” in Arabic) is an unofficial name for up-armored T-72s from the Syrian Civil War. These tanks are Syrian Arab Army (government forces) T-72s that have been fitted with improvised stand-off armor – mostly cages and chains – in order to protect the tanks from RPGs and missiles. They were first seen in combat in 2014 at Jobar, a suburb of Damascus, and have been seen commonly since. Various combat footage and photographs show that the upgrades are somewhat reliable against RPGs, but are often no match for the power modern ATGMs.

Sometimes you have to trade looking like a rolling bird cage for not dying in a catastrophic explosion caused by your tank’s shitty ammunition storage.


Naji al-Ali

I don’t feel like I can have a discussion about personal artistic influences without mentioning Naji al-Ali’s work.

Al-Ali is the most influential Palestinian cartoonist, full stop. Politics are easier to digest in comic form, and al-Ali was especially masterful at tackling Middle Eastern politics and the frustration that Palestinians collectively felt daily due to the never-ending occupation. He was so influential that, even though he died in the mid-1980s, you can still purchase necklaces of his iconic spiky-haired character Hanthala. His work is still regularly talked about and aspired to.

Looking at the work now, I’m sorry to say that many of his comics are still relevant today, even though 30+ years have passed since their creation. The Middle East is a place that sees a lot of strife and negative “action,” but for multiple reasons I won’t get into here, problems don’t resolve and instead simply migrate; the overall ailments remain after all these years.

Al-Ali was critical of Israel—he was exiled from his hometown in 1948 and lived under occupation, that’s not terribly surprising. But he didn’t let Arab or Western governments off the hook, either, and really fought for the Palestinian refugees—and poorer Arabs more broadly—who he felt were too often used as bargaining chips in the world. His visual representation of a government official is literally a sluglike, naked man.

His work comprises the first comics I ever “read,” through reprints in a newsletter for Palestinian Americans. I was probably 4 or 5. No, I didn’t understand them, and yes, I found them terrifying. But also intriguing. They sparked something in me.

If you’re interested in learning more about al-Ali and his work, Verso Books released a compilation a few years ago that I found to be a great primer and also useful in its interpretations of each comic.

By the way, I apologize for my somewhat crummy photos in this post, which were all taken from this book (but check out the subtitles!).

-Marguerite Dabaie

Hi—Susie the Moderator had asked if I wanted to submit something, and after a gap of many days, I have. If you have moved on and no longer need this, lemme know. I’m just proud that I stopped writing before I actually hit book length.

Stuff like this usually goes on my SemiticSemantics site, but I am also lodubimvloyaar as above.

Thanks for the opportunity!

Are Jews considered POC?

The short answer is, “Yes, no, and maybe.”

This is the long answer:

The terms ‘white’ and ‘people of color’ don’t work very well to describe many Jews, or many Jewish experiences. I’m going to try to explain why, and also to explain

The great majority of Jews are descended from an indigenous Middle Eastern people who, according to tradition, started from Iraq or Syria before settling in what is now Israel and Palestine. A global diaspora resulting from a series of invasions and population upheavals spread Jews across the map. We picked up some customs from the people we lived among, while preserving our own,and our own religion, legal code, and self-concept. We also picked up some genes along the way. Ashkenazim and Sephardim (these terms will be explained below) seem, according to modern genetics research, to be about 70% Middle Eastern, and 30% European. (I’m basically leaving Jews by choice out of this discussion, for several reasons, so I’m taking this moment to salute them and assure them that no disrespect is meant by this omission.)

The bulk of the diaspora can be split into three broad groups, distinguished by region, language, and minhag (a term referring to religious traditions). The Mizrahim, ‘the Easterners’, are the Jews of the Arabic-speaking world and their descendants, but the term is often also used for Persian Jews, and for Jews from West Asia and parts of the Caucasus. The Sephardim (from ‘Sefarad’, the Hebrew name for Spain) are the descendants of the medieval S*panish Jewish communities, expelled from Spain at the end of the fifteenth century, and Portugal during the sixteenth. And the Ashkenazim (from “Ashkenaz”, the Hebrew name for Germany) are the descendents of the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe.

These groups are somewhat fluidly defined and described, not least because Jewish history has been one of continuous upheaval, expulsion and migration. Ashkenazi communities settled in parts of Turkey and other areas within the Ottoman Empire, and Sephardim ended up in Ottoman lands, Holland and North Africa. Mizrahim moved to France. Everyone moved to Israel and the United States. Marriages between the groups happened for centuries, and are now super-common in Israel. (As a well-known pop example, Jerry Seinfeld—yes, that Jerry Seinfeld—has an Ashkenazi father and a Mizrahi mother.)

The cultural divisions above, in addition, do not include the entire Jewish people, by any means. The Ethiopian community, for example, is an example of a large group that falls into an entirely different category, since their diaspora began earlier, and their religious practice reflects an earlier form of Judaism than the ‘beginning of the common era’ model the rest of us walked away with.

However, and this is something that is rarely understood by gentiles, and vitally important to any understanding of Jews, despite all of these cultural divisions and variations, we have actively considered ourselves a single people—am Yisrael—for thousands of years.

So, given all of this, are Jews people of color?

Some groups are undeniably ‘visible’ people of color, such as the Ethiopians or the Chinese communities, and no one attempts to define them otherwise. Ditto, visible people of color who are Jews by choice, or people of mixed Jewish and gentile PoC heritage.

Outside of this narrow zone, however, definitions get tricky.

Many European (both Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews) have defined and do define themselves as white, since roughly the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the point at which the development of whiteness as a social construct intersected with the emancipation of the Jews of many European countries. Many of these hopeful dates, of course, reflected false promises. If whiteness was offered in many places in Europe in the 1800s, one might say it was revoked, emphatically, during a period of the 1900s. Nevertheless, this is the starting point of the idea that Jews could be ‘white people’ in any real sense.

I can’t emphasize enough that this access to whiteness was conditional on the borders and attitudes of gentile nations and cultures. The perception that Ashkenazim were always privileged for being white Jews is entirely false. This extended to some of the Mizrahi communities as well: for example, the wealthy Baghdadi merchant families

I also can’t emphasize enough that all of these groups have, throughout Jewish history, understood ourselves as one people, one am. Despite separations of distance, we shared a language, a religion, a legal code, and an understanding of ourselves as the descendants of common ancestors. I am not going to be romantic enough to insist that distance, cultural difference and gentile concepts of race never got in the way of this, but I find that it is very hard for most gentiles to accept how deeply it ran and runs, and how core the concept that all Jews are a single people has been and continues to be.

In the United States, my experience has been that most light-skinned Jews tend to identify themselves as white. It is how we are commonly perceived by strangers, at least in urban, ethnically diverse areas, and it is how we are defined (like Arabs) on government paperwork. It also reflects, in the last few generations, the degree of white privilege we are able to access. This is not a universal. Some Jews, identifying themselves primarily as people of Middle Eastern descent, or as people consistently targeted historically and in the present day by white supremacy, choose to define themselves outside of whiteness. It’s common for American Jews who feel this way to define themselves as ‘white-passing’ or ‘conditionally white-passing’. Many Mizrahim, regardless of skin color, describe themselves as people of color, because of their cultural and historical distance from what is usually defined as whiteness.

This is the United States. Europe is a different matter, and I would argue that, outside of, perhaps, Great Britain, it’s impossible to define European Jews as being white in a European context. I’m basing this on my own experience, and that of people I’ve been close to, as well as discussions with Jews living or raised in Europe. If a European Jew wants to weigh in with more detail about this, please, please do. In areas where the dominant Gentile cultures are not white, there are other issues, and the concept of white/PoC may be entirely irrelevant, or only relevant in the context of the country’s experience of colonialism.

My back went up when I saw the original question. For Jews in places where it’s a relevant question, whether we are white or not has often been a subject that gentiles feel free to pronounce upon, often with political objectives of their own in mind. Jewish oppression, both historical and modern, is often dismissed scornfully—if Jews are white, how can we possibly have been the victims of racial oppression, the reasoning goes. Non-Jews with little understanding of Jewish history and culture often weigh in as experts, announcing confidently that Ashkenazim are white and Sephardim and Mizrahim are PoC. Not only does this not reflect either historical or modern reality—and reveals that these weighers-in have met very few if any Jews who are not assimilated American Ashkenazim—but from a standpoint of Jewish social and political identity, it can be a direct attack on our self-definition and our concept of peoplehood.

Often, the results of outsiders imposing their ideas of whiteness or color on Jews results in the idea that Ashkenazim are white—and that therefore, their privilege outweighs their oppression as Jews—and that the ‘exotic’ Sephardim and Mizrahim are people of color. As such, the gentile ‘definer’ will agree that they can experience racism—from white people, and from white Jews—but the ‘definer’ will seldom bother to understand their experience of anti-Semitism, nor to understand that the source of this anti-Semitism was often other people who would be called people of color.

The result of all this is to drive an artificial wedge…one not based in Jewish thought…through the Jewish people, insisting that a sociological distinction based on the concepts of white-supremacist non-Jewish cultures defines Jews more accurately than our own cultural concepts, and is entitled to divide us from one another.

To the questioner: ask. Don’t try to put some thirteen million people who were, until recently, flung world-wide into such a small box. One Jew may tell you she is white, another that she is white-passing, and yet another that she is a woman of color. All three may look the same to you, or they may look different. Understand that even if they give different answers, they are tied to one another by thousands of years of history.

Edit: I just sent through a submission, then realized one sentence got truncated. The sentence is from toward the beginning and should read: “The terms ‘white’ and ‘people of color’ don’t work very well to describe many Jews, or many Jewish experiences. I’m going to try to explain why, and also to explain to some extent how Jews actually identify ourselves.”

When Americans beat up Arabs and Sikhs after 9/11, it wasn’t ‘because of’ what Saudi hijackers did, it was because of our society’s pre-existing bigotry and lust for a scapegoat. Likewise, when Arab governments took advantage of growing conflict with Zionism and Israel to seize Jews’ homes and savings and expel them; when people beat and murdered Jews in the streets in Syria and Aden in 1947, Libya in 1967, and elsewhere, it wasn’t 'because of’ Israel. So don’t tell us that the global attacks on Jews will end when Israel stops what it’s doing. Israel needs to stop oppressing the Palestinians because it’s wrong - no further reason is needed. But when it does, anti-Jewish oppression will still be here, because it didn’t start in '48. If it’s going to end, you’re going to have to help end it.

April Rosenblum,  The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere: Making Resistance to Antisemitism Part of All of Our Movements”

An important reality that Pro-Palestinian activists should be aware of.

anonymous asked:

Did you see the UN repealed Wonder Woman's status as an honorary ambassador for the empowerment of girls? Looks like they're going the way of the League of Nations, stupid fucking diplomats. I hope the Joker breaks the fourth wall and does what he did during the second half of Death in the Family.

I mean are we really shocked? there are many nations very much NOT interested in the empowerment of women/girls, they know they have to pay lip service to the idea, but it’s very much “no not like that” so the image of a woman who kicks the shit out of men in a bathing suit is not what they want for “women empowerment” see the bitter attacks from the same people Malala Yousafzai got for showing up to classes in Oxford in pants and boots. 

the other issue of course is Gal Gadot is Israeli. Lot of Arab governments can’t manage to be even civil to Israel, and you get things like Arab athletes refusing to compete against Israelis or if they do not shaking their hands before/after matches, some Arab nations, Saudi Arabia, the UEA etc are very rich and use their foreign aid budget to buy votes from poor 3rd world countries, which is why the UN spends more time investigating and condemning Israel then any other nation on earth, there have been more human rights reports and such against Israel than North Korea, Syria, and Burma put together, and that’s every year right?
I’m Arab and Many of Us Are Glad That Trump Won
It’s not that we see Trump any differently. Trump is an egotistical racist misogynist who, in a rational world, shouldn’t be in any…
By Omar Kamel

“Throughout the campaign, Clinton supporters have turned a blind eye to her failings. Somehow they were more horrified by what Trump may do than what Clinton already has done.”

Queer in Palestine
Lesbian and bisexual Arabs on coming out, keeping secrets and living the audacity of hope.

First, you have to be invited. Then you have to promise complete discretion. On the appointed evening, you arrive and the list is checked. If everything looks OK, you’re in.

You’ve suddenly entered another world. There are scores of women dancing, talking, eating, drinking. They come from different backgrounds—Muslim, Christian, Bedouin, Druze—but they’re united, as Palestinians and as queer,

You’re finally home.

This is a monthly party for LGBT women put on by Aswat, a decade-old organization for Palestinian queer women based in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, not far from the Lebanon border.

“I thought I was the only Arab lesbian in the world. Even when I was young and I heard about lesbianism, it was, for me, a foreign thing, not something that happened in our society,” says 32-year-old Inaam, describing the parties one afternoon as we sit in the Aswat office and eat cheese-filled Druze bread and tomato-and-cucumber salad.

Inaam is from a city in northern Israel and has been a member of Aswat for seven years. “When I heard about Aswat, I was shocked,” she says. “It was eight women then, and I was like, ‘There’s actually eight Palestinian gay women?’”

With short-cropped hair and low-slung cargo pants, Inaam would register on the radar of dykes anywhere in the world. Still, even in Haifa, a city known for its liberal politics and lively arts scene—and which is home to a healthy smattering of gay cafes and clubs—she’s cautious, and prefers to keep her last name out of the press. It seems that sexual liberation here is for the 90 percent Jewish majority rather than the 10 percent Arab minority.

“I choose when to be out and when to not,” Inaam explains. “When I go to talk [to groups], it’s important for me to know who’s coming, and what villages they are from—if there’s someone I know, it’s more scary for me.”

Her friend Nora*, smiling, lights a cigarette and interjects from her perch near the window, “This is the Palestinian outing process.”

Therein lies the problem. In Israel, a country that prides itself on being the most gay-friendly destination in the Middle East, Arabs experience discrimination for being Arabs, but they also suffer silently within their own Arab cultures for being queer. Add gender to this already complex duality, and you’ve got … well, complications. From its inception, Aswat has faced these complications head on.

Most of the members of Aswat, like Inaam and Nora, would be called “Israeli Arabs” by the government, as they reside within the current borders of Israel. But Aswat, as an organization, has chosen to emphasize its links with its sisters in the West Bank and Gaza, calling itself a group for “Palestinian gay women.”

Rauda Morcos, one of the founding members of Aswat, summed it up to Xtra! Canada’s LGBT newspaper in 2004. “We’re against any type of occupation. I don’t want to be occupied as a Palestinian or as a woman or as a lesbian.”

“Palestinian society is still very conservative,” explains Nora, also in her early 30s. “For an LGBT group, maybe there is a benefit to being here [in Israel].” But those legal, government-sanctioned benefits don’t necessarily translate to the family or societal level.

Nora continues: “It doesn’t really help me, being inside Israel, because the Palestinian society is separated culturally from the Jewish. Living here, it doesn’t mean that we’re living a safe life. Some families, if they know their daughter is a lesbian, they might kill her, or abandon her.”

But those are the actions of extremists, and for the majority of Arabs Inaam and Nora know, they represent a worldview that is nowhere near the reality. And, both Inaam and Nora emphasize, life is getting better for lesbians and bisexual women in Arab societies, a development they readily credit to both the openly sanctioned and underground work done by Aswat and by other LGBT Arab groups throughout the region.

Inaam herself is out to most of her immediate family, whom she describes as “traditional” rather than religious. “It’s been a long process, but after five years, I would say [my mom is] embracing me for who I am because she doesn’t want to lose me,” Inaam says. “For her, it’s important that no one else knows, the bigger family, the society.”

Nora, too, discusses being gay with her family, albeit in more theoretical terms. “I try to raise the issue with my parents in the sense of human rights,” she says. But she’s met mixed results. “My sister said, ‘If I hear about you having something with a woman, don’t even think about coming back to this house.’”

For now, Nora, who is bisexual and divorced, chooses to stay silent, seeing no benefit in coming out to her family, who live in a small village outside of Haifa.

“I’m not going to tell anyone, because getting divorced was really hard to do. I’ve been seen as a whore—I’ve been seen as everything that is bad,” she says, lighting another cigarette. “As a divorced woman I should have gone back and lived with my parents. But I didn’t do that. I worked hard to gain my financial independence. It was rough, but it was worth it. Now I can live my life the way I feel is OK for me.”

Nora adds, a bit regretfully: “I wish that the day comes when we can talk about this freely, with no restrictions, with no limits, with no fears.”

And when that day finally happens, Aswat will throw away its closed guest list and open up the doors to the party. (

Curve Magazine - Maria De La O
Known as al-Qaeda and now the Islamic State, modern jihadism was invented by US and Britain, assisted by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The original aim was to use and develop an Islamic fundamentalism that had barely existed in much of the Arab world in order to undermine pan-Arab movements and secular governments. By the 1980s, this had become a weapon to destroy the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The CIA called it Operation Cyclone; and a cyclone it turned out to be, with its unleashed fury blowing back in the faces of its creators. The attacks of 9/11 and in London in July, 2005 were the result of this blowback, as were the recent, gruesome murders of the American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
—  John Pilger, ‘Breaking the last taboo - Gaza and the threat of world war’

“A romantic adventure with an intriguing blend of modern and classic touches, The Rendezvous throws together Rachel, a Jewish-American doctor and Jake, an Arab-American government bureaucrat, who are trying to solve the mysterious death of Rachel’s treasure hunting brother. Racing around the world, they find themselves being hunted by a doomsday group calling themselves the Armageddonites who believe Rachel and Jake possess an ancient script discovered by Rachel’s brother that could bring about the end of days. Caught in the middle of a plot to hasten the end of mankind, Rachel and Jake need to solve a murder, save the world and discover for themselves that treasure is where you find it.” - The Rendezvous starring Stana KaticRaza Jaffrey

667vs  asked:

Basically all you have to do is search "Jews history Libya" and you'll see that everything was a-OK up until Italian occupation. That's not rhetoric, that's not revisionism, that's exactly what happened. Of course there was tension in the country prior to Italian rule but on a wide scale, Europeans introduced antisemitism.

First, it’s news to me that we are now talking exclusively about Libya. Secondly, the Italians took Libya from the Ottomans, who actually did have a pretty solid record toward Jews in their territories. If you go back further, you see that Jewish communities in Libya are thriving around the 1100s, then decline due to persecution and emigration. It goes up once the Ottomans take charge.

As soon an Arab nationalist government takes over, it’s all over but the shouting and the riots and the confiscated property and the murders. That’s exactly what happened. ‘Did not kill us because occupied by other people who said no,” is not really a recommendation.

The history of Jews in Muslim nations is various. It included some long and shining periods of tolerance, prosperity and mutual respect, although never complete equality of Jews under the law or in society. The same is true for Europe, BTW. It also contains an ongoing thread of violence, legal persecution, expulsions and forced conversions. As is also true in Europe.

But you’ve got to be a complete turniphead to think that after a few thousand years of no anti-Semitism and mutual prosperity and love, all it would take is one fucking Zionist state being established to create a cataclysm of hate and ethnic cleansing that ends with in excess of 800,000 people being forced out of nations they had lived in for, in some cases, thousands of years. That’s not how it happened.

Now if you want to talk about the Ottomans, I’m with you. They were pretty damn nice to their Jews. They had other horrible problems, but they were pretty damn nice to their Jews. 

I love Jewish history in the Muslim world, and I like to dwell on the good parts. But blaming the way Jews have been and are treated in MENA on Europeans and Zionists is just creating justifications for nationalist racism and violence.

Mohamed Bouazizi was born and raise in the central Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid, an inland province neglected by tourists and the government alike. He earned a precarious living and helped support his mother and siblings with the proceeds of his vegetable cart. By all accounts he was an affable and popular man, whose high school education had given him a love of poetry and reading. Twenty-six years old, he was hoping to save enough money to expand his vegetable trade by buying a van.

It was hard enough to make a living selling vegetables without having to pay off the municipal inspectors as well. Vendors in Sidi Bouzid claim that they had to pay ten Tunisian dinars (~$7 USD) to secure the inspectors’ permission to sell on the street. Failure to satisfy the inspectors led to fines for selling selling without a permit of twenty dinars. Mohamed Bouazizi had been fined twice in the past two years. On December 17, 2010, Bouazizi was accosted by a forty-five-year-old female inspector. He didn’t have a permit, didn’t have cash for a bribe, and could not afford another fine. Eyewitnesses claim that when Bouazizi defended his produce against confiscation, the inspector encouraged two of her colleagues to beat the young vendor and seize his wares.

Confronted by corruption, injustice, and public humiliation, Mohamed Bouazizi doused himself with paint thinner outside the gates of the governor’s office and set himself on fire. He suffered burns of over 90 percent of his body before the flames could be doused by horrified onlookers. He was rushed to a hospital and placed in intensive care. Though he was not to know it, his desperate act of self-violence marked the start of the [Arab Spring].

The Arabs: A History, Eugene Rogan, p. 501

This story should sound familiar to many of you. I suspect those of you familiar with the Arab Spring were already aware of its Tunisian origins. Some may have just learned something new. But more importantly, this story should ring a bell of familiarity with citizens in the United States right now.

On July 17, 2014 Eric Garner, father of six, was peacefully selling loose cigarettes on the street, hoping to provide for his wife and children. Unable to overcome the pricy barriers to entry, including a license to sell stamped cigarette packages, Garner also circumvented the law despite past altercations with law enforcement. Whereas Bouazizi was beaten and stolen from, Garner was placed under arrest. The chokehold used by the white officer lasted more than 20 seconds and prompted Garner to inform authorities 11 times that he couldn’t breathe. Despite this, Garner went in to cardiac arrest and died.

Although these events aren’t entirely similar, they both illustrate how easily a citizen can fall prey to his own government. News of Bouazizi’s death quickly spread via the Internet throughout the Arab world and popular uprisings in support of Bouazizi and his family sprang up in many cities all over North Africa, the Levant and the Middle East. Similarly, news of Garner’s death coupled with the lack of indictment of the officer responsible has built upon waves of unrest which have been going on for months following the grand jury decision in Ferguson, MI.

I foresee protests lasting another few months and every instance of police brutality in the coming weeks will be more tinder for the flames. We may not see an ‘American Spring’ but there is a good possibility more young people than ever will wake up to the atrocities perpetuated by the U.S. federal government.

Watch on

“Berber Exploitation; Nov 1997 - For centuries the Berbers of Morocco have been persecuted by their Arab masters. Today even their festivals have been hijacked. Miriam is fighting to keep her language and culture, whilst fellow militant Zaid claims the Arabs have ‘stolen our history.’ Etched out of a beautiful, yet inhospitable and rugged land, stands Imichil, where the annual marriage market or Moussem des Fiances takes Place. It’s here that the Arab government has turned an exclusive Berber celebration into a tourist fest. Shy young brides wander around the market in traditional veils as streetwise city slickers sell trinkets and souvenirs to dollar laden foreigners. The Arabs have encouraged the press to come and soak up the traditional atmosphere It’s turned into objects of curiosity in the process. Hussein and his wife to be, were forced to attend the festival in order to obtain a marriage certificate. Fascinating look at a culture being silenced and yet exploited for its rich and colourful traditions.”

Interesting short documentary I found while browsing youtube