Thursday, November 29, 2007

Palestine, Year Forty

An elderly Palestinian man stands in front of a mural in the West Bank town of Jenin, two days after the launch of new peace talks on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
[Source: BBC News]

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

'The Bubble:' Love, War, & Homosexuality in the Middle East

Three young Israelis, two guys and a girl, share an apartment in Tel Aviv's hippest neighborhood. Trying to put aside political conflicts and focusing on their lives and loves, these progressive 20-somethings are often accused of living in a sort of escapist bubble.
While on army reserve duty at a West Bank checkpoint, music store clerk Noam crosses paths with Ashraf, a Palestinian guy. When they meet in Tel Aviv, no cultural taboo can hold back their sexual attraction...
Noam and Ashraf fall in love, and the Israeli friends decide to help the Palestinian stay illegally in Tel Aviv. They arrange for Ashraf to wear less inconspicuous clothing, go by a Hebrew name and work in Yali’s cafe. From a traditional upbringing, the young Palestinian is taken by permissive city life and yearns to share his new love with his sister.
Dreaming of the day their beloved Tel Aviv will be free of political problems, the friends organize a beach rave against the occupation. But their good times soon meet up with more than just disappointment and romantic entanglements. The friends must face the bitter truth that love and friendship cannot withhold the harsh reality of the region’s on-going violence.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Music from the Arab World (Yes, they have Music)

Julia Boutros (Lebanon) Christian Lebanese singer's song written after the 2006 Lebanon War which is entitled, in translation, "My Beloved Ones." She's more classic-style pop.

Nancy Ajram (Lebanon)....Not a fan personally...Think of her as the Arab Britney Spears without the insanity...

Kazim Saher (Iraq, from Sunni-Shi'i Arab parents)...I'm a fan...

Fairouz (Lebanon)...One of the most famous Arab singers and my favorite...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Middle East Studies for Neocons

Apparently unhappy with the critiques of their overarching generalizations and fanciful interpretations of the Middle East, Princeton's Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Near Eastern Studies Emeritus Bernard Lewis and his disgruntled Lebanese counterpart and friend Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University, who both advised the Bush administration on the Iraq War, have founded their own Middle East studies academic association: the Association for the Study of the Middle East and North Africa (ASMEA). The new organization, which has been praised by Rudy Giuliani foreign policy advisor Martin Kramer, apparently seeks to challenge the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), the largest and most important academic association of scholars and graduate students who study the Middle East, North Africa, and areas such as the Balkans and Spain which have historically been under the control of Middle Eastern states.

Scanning ASMEA's roster of officers and council members, besides Lewis, Ajami, and a couple other regional scholars, it's remarkable in contrast to MESA's board and officers how few of the new organization's officers actually specialize primarily in the Middle East and North Africa. Instead, ASMEA is headed by the likes of Cevik Bir, a former Turkish general from a democratically-challenged institution which has launched several coups in the past 30 years against democratically-elected governments, former Reagan Secretary of State George Shultz, and James Madison University's chickenhawk Neoconservative professor J. Peter Pham [RIGHT] who has sought to define himself as a Middle East "expert" when in reality he is not, much like a former political science professor I had the misfortune of studying with once at my alma mater George Mason University.

Am I opposed to American neo-rightwingers and Neoconservatives having their own academic association? No, of course not. However, their attempt to masquerade that they want "balance" in Middle Eastern and North African studies should be revealed for the farce it is. Rather than balance, they wish to tilt the discussion of the region to the right much like a certain cable news channel, and this is fine. Problems arise when they then try to pretend to be something which they clearly are not. An argument can be made that many MESA members share similar views on issues but this cannot then be interpreted as an indictment of the entire organization and all its members. MESA recently turned down an advertisement from Daniel Pipes' watchdog group Campus Watch which is another organization which uses the "balance" argument when it really seeks to move the discussion to the right and, in Mr. Pipes' case, the far right when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (he continues to oppose peace talks and from evaluation of his writings, seems to favor the one-state/Israel-only "solution" sought by Jewish and Evangelical Christian extremists.)
ASMEA's restrictive policies on who may submit papers to their annual meeting (professors, postdoctoral scholars, and "senior" graduate students) also will limit access that younger scholars-in-training have to the discussion. MESA, on the other hand, has policies which are much more inclusive. ASMEA's closed nature both intellectually and at their meetings is not conducive to a broadening of the discussion of the region and its affairs. It's also doubtful that they'll be able to produce a journal to rival MESA's International Journal of Middle East Studies, the standard in Middle Eastern and North African studies. ASMEA will instead produce a "newsletter."

ASMEA's scholarly credentials rest on the lapels of Lewis, whose recent essay-length generalist screeds are Gospel to Neoconservatives, and Ajami, whose last book, The Foreigner's Gift, praises the results of the Iraq War. Lewis also was a staunch proponent of the war and was the originator of many of the claims which have since proven tragically false (America would unquestionably be accepted as a liberator instead of an occupier.) In terms of contemporary affairs, that's 0-1 against the Lewis-Ajami nexis.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

'Redacted' & Bill O'Reilly: The Murders at Mahmudiyya

Bill O'Reilly's self-righteous rage has been directed at a new target (no, not the faux "war" on Christmas), Brian De Palma's latest film Redacted. The film, which is shot in a "documentary" format and has been criticized by right-wing commentators such as O'Reilly for portraying American soldiers in a negative light. He has called for protests at showings of the film. Many of the film's critics, including O'Reilly, appear to have based their opinions of the film without actually seeing it (but when has not knowing something about an issue stopped O'Reilly). Other critics have taken offense at De Palma's comments that the film shows the realities of what has happened during the nearly 5-year-long U.S. occupation of Iraq. What O'Reilly is less concerned about is what actually happened at Mahmudiyya, Iraq on March 12, 2006. The self-appointed "advocate" for abused children also claimed that the now teenage Shawn Hornbeck liked being kidnapped and held for four years against his will.

The film is a fictionalized account of the murder of 14-year-old Abir Qasim Hamza, her father Qasim Hamza Rahim (45), mother Fakhriyya Taha Muhsin (34), and little sister Hadil Qasim Hamza (5). Abir was gang raped after her father, mother, and little sister had been shot and murdered. The bodies were then set on fire by the guilty soldiers in an attempt to mask their crimes. The incident came to light after a soldier in the same unit as the guilty parties, who apparently knew about the murders, mentioned it to other U.S. military personnel.

In court proceedings it was revealed that the guilty soldiers had conspired to rape Abir beforehand. All were members of the 101st Airborn, according to a BBC article (

Three of the soldiers pled guilty, some to avoid the death penalty. Spc. James P. Barker received 90 years in prison; Sgt. Paul E. Cortez received 100 years in prison, both after pleading guilty to rape and murder. Pfc. Bryan L. Howard, who was not directly involved in the rape and murders but who knew about the others' plan, received 27-months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit rape, premeditated murder, and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Pfc. Jesse Spielman was convicted in August of four counts of felony murder, rape, conspiracy to commit rape, and breaking an entering with the intent to commit rape was sentenced to a mandatory term of life in prison though he is, despicably, eligible for parole after 10 years. He had pled guilty earlier to charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice, arson, and wrongfully touching a corpse.

The alleged mastermind of the attack, Pfc. Steven D. Green (born 1985), will be tried in federal court because he was discharged from the military before formal charges were brought. He has pled not guilty and faces the death penalty if convicted.

Steven D. Green

Jesse Spielman

Abir Qasim Hamza, as a little girl

Monday, November 12, 2007

Comedy by Frank Caliendo


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Jews of Iran




Sunday, November 04, 2007

Excellent Documentary Videos HERE

This user has an extensive and diverse selection of documentary video reports and clips which I highly recommend to my readers.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Film Preview: 'The Kite Runner'

The movie adaptation of the best-selling book by Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini:

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Janbiyya Dance, Traditional, in Yemen (or "Yemen, How I Miss Thee")

A dance performed by Yemeni men at weddings with the Janbiyya, the traditional Yemeni curved dagger, accompanied by Yemeni drums. Yemen is the most culturally unique place which I've had the privilege to travel to and I really fell in love with it. Oh Yemen, How I Long to Return...