Archive for the Culture Category

We Must Go Back To Coalition Building And Stop Cannibalising Ourselves

Posted in Culture, Friends, Me, Palestine, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on 23/11/2012 by arabrhizome

During the latest onslaught by israel against the besieged people of Gaza, most of the online pro-justice community was focussing on spreading information about the death, injury and destruction brought by israel on the tiny strip of land, as well as showing solidarity and organising local protests & actions. However, unlike the onslaught in 2008/2009 there is a strange oppressive atmosphere around the pro-justice community this time around. It has been there for a while, but I felt it most acutely during this past week. I am not interested in pointing fingers, or calling out particular people, because that would only contribute to that atmosphere.

No what is more important, in my opinion, is to talk about it and try to figure out a way out of it. I understand where the motivation to be careful and to be suspicious of those who come to the pro-justice movement originates. We have been stung before. Some very unsavoury characters tried to associate themselves with the Palestinian cause, some people used Palestine as a career opportunity and then left never to mention it again. I get it. I think that there is nothing wrong with being careful and being vigilant. However, we must be careful not to let that become our default setting. We must not let the movement cannibalise itself.

I have been speaking to many people in the twitter community about this for the past few days. Many feel the same way. They do not all feel like they can say anything openly, and that’s very problematic. We cannot have people in our movement feeling like they cannot express themselves freely because of an atmosphere that makes them feel they will be chastised and ostracised if they do. That is something, I think, we can all agree on. I am not trying to speak for them, but I’m hoping that by writing this we can all have an open and honest discussion of what has been a set of worrying trends.

There has been an upsurge of snark and ad hominem attacks on some people who seem genuine and who are doing a great job reporting the facts from Gaza, I am thinking of Harry Fear in particular here. I enjoy snark as much as the next person, however, when it is used to undermine allies it becomes problematic. Particularly when there doesn’t seem to be any reason for that attack. All it does is that it makes those who initiate the attack seem bitter and jealous.

I do not want to be seen as a fan boy or someone who wants to stick his flag on the Harry Fear ship and go down with it. If there are clear, reasonable, and cogent arguments that show him not to be a genuine ally, then I would be the first to criticise him and call him out. However, I haven’t seen any. All I’ve seen are ad hominems calling him a white saviour, an oppression tourist, a white messiah, and chastising him for appearing on media outlets.

The first three attacks are completely and utterly unsubstantiated. Harry has been very careful not to make any white savioury comments. He has been an activist for Palestine for a while, as attested by the many Palestinians who know him. He has also done a very good job spreading information and amplifying the voices of Palestinians during the onslaught. More importantly, many Palestinians in Gaza, many of whom are ones we have all been getting information from, trust him & share their information with him. It seems to me that if he is good enough for Palestinians in Gaza being bombed he should be good enough for us.

On the third point, about him appearing on media outlets and seeming to be constructing a career out of this. I do not get that criticism at all. I repeat he seems genuine and a good ally. What is the problem with him, remember he wants to be a journalist, having a career thanks to his great reporting. If we are to go down that route then many of the great allies we have who aren’t Palestinians must be chastised in the same way. For this criticism to have any consistency then every non-Palestinian journalist, or activist, who gets work talking about Palestine must be chastised, and that would be ridiculous. Otherwise, that argument doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

Let us remember that the BDS call explicitly calls for coalition building. This means that we cannot retreat within ideological rigidity. Everyone won’t agree with everyone within the movement about everything. However, we can all agree on the three central demands voiced by the BDS call.

We must have red lines. Any form of bigotry must be rejected without any qualms. Just because someone calls themselves an ally of the Palestinian people does not mean they have carte blanche to say or do anything. However, we must be careful not to draw red lines beyond that. People are coming to this movement with years of propaganda talking points intrenched within them. We must help them overcome this. Not through snark or rejection. But through understanding, open discussion, and education. The facts are on our side, rationality is on our side, if this is not enough to get through to them, then by all means snark away.

We must be an open movement that welcomes allies no matter where they come from. There are many people who come to the pro-justice movement with great enthusiasm and filled with honest genuine passion but who might not be up to date on all the subtleties of the arguments and different views that have been built up over the past six decades. I am not trying to rework the zionist “it’s complicated” argument here. I’m just pointing out that there is a plurality of voices within the pro-justice for Palestine movement and not everyone knows them all and the different arguments they advance.

Talking to some of my friends about this atmosphere we remarked on the fact that it must be very difficult for people who are just coming into the movement, unlike how it was when many of my friends came into it. It must be very hard for them to know what they can and can’t do. What they can and can’t say. What their role should be. Or even what they must read to learn more about a given issue. We need to be there to help them. We need to respond to, educate, and welcome them. I’m not saying that we need to become Kumbaya singing hippies, but we must make sure that our movement doesn’t become an exclusive club. Those who are appalled by the crimes of israel but aren’t educated well enough must feel like they can express those feelings and find a community that supports and educates them.

The final point I want to make is about how many people who have been fighting for justice in Palestine for years, if not decades, feel like they are sidelined and feel like they cannot trust those who they are fighting with to bring justice in Palestine. This feeling is particularly true of non-Palestinians who have consistently stood in solidarity with Palestinians. Some of them at great cost to their personal life, losing family, friends, & loved ones in their pursuit of justice. They were ready to give up those relationships because of their principled stance with the Palestinian cause. They should have found a new family, new friends, and new loved ones within the movement. Instead many feel like they are not welcomed anymore.

I had a private conversation with a friend about this very subject, I will try to protect this person’s anonymity in my writing. That friend’s words were the catalyst that pushed me to write this post. If that person cannot feel safe within our movement then we are definitely doing something very wrong. That person started by asking me whether the “language of justice” within our movement  is “towards a goal, or the goal itself?” In other words, are people truly fighting for justice or just for their family/dignity/people/country/sect. My answer was clear, we’re fighting for justice. There can be no dignity for a people or a country if justice isn’t the end goal.

The person then explained that they had given up their country/family/people/even dignity in their fight for justice, but that they feel like many in what should be their new family are busy backstabbing each other and would not hesitate to backstab them. This particular comment felt very painful, but I unfortunately had to agree. There has been a move towards ideological purity, which means that a small disagreement can lead to very damaging and personal attacks.

The most important point made by my friend about the subject is that the family of choice, which we need to be towards each other, seems to have been undermined by ideological rigidity and purity. The words that hurt the most, but that I think we all need to hear were: “My zionist parents are more likely to stand by me than some ideological purists who I think of as comrades. And with whom *I* will stand nonetheless, because I know what loss of either type of family is like.”

This is an important issue for our movement and its future. We shouldn’t dismiss the feelings of the members of that movement who feel like they have become potential targets because they do not fit a rigid ideological mold. Our tent must be a broad tent. It must accommodate those who seek justice, even if we do not agree on the finer points of a given issue. We must rebuild the solidarity within our movement and strengthen our ranks, otherwise we will find that people will start leaving the movement because of the psychological strain they feel.

We should not dismiss the concerns of those in our movement who feel like they are being edged out because they happen to be privileged in one way or another. It has been my experience that the vast majority of them are actively fighting against their privilege in order to achieve justice. Many are doing everything they can so that their privilege is dissolved and that those who do not enjoy their privilege can in fact live in a just society.I am not saying that they need to be mollycoddled, but they shouldn’t feel like they are not welcome either. They are trying to show solidarity with us, we must not reject them, we must not let our movement become exclusive, and we must not allow those who want to voice their disagreement on certain issues feel like they cannot.

I hope this post is taken in the spirit it was written in. I am trying to open a dialogue. I am not interested in shaming anyone, or silencing anyone. I am in fact trying to show that there has been a lot of silencing happening. Many people feel like their voices are not being heard. Many feel like they cannot be open about their feelings. This needs to be addressed. Thank you for reading.


Read The Article

Posted in about the blog, Culture, Me, Palestine, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 30/05/2012 by arabrhizome

So the article I co-wrote about the pogrom in tel aviv last week has been published by CeaseFire Magazine. Here is the link to it. Please read it and if you like it share it. I’m really proud of that piece. It did take some work but the final product is worth it. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from people about it. Please feel free to add a comment here about it or on the article itself. I spent a good portion of my day publicising it. Anyway, I need to go eat a little bit and then get ready to sleep. Stay safe everyone. Live long and prosper.

First Day of Yoga

Posted in about the blog, Culture, Me, Uncategorized with tags , , on 24/05/2012 by arabrhizome

So I finally got to do yoga for the first time. It was wonderful. I won at Yoga on my first time (That’s my joke that I have used on everyone. Shut up I like it!). But getting back to the Yoga session. It was great. I felt every muscle in my body stretch, I felt invigorated. We also had a bit of relaxation towards the end and it just took away so much worry and stress. I will be going regularly and I will be doing a lot more Yoga in the years to come. Anyway, I must go back and edit a piece I’m writing at the moment. Will tell you more when I know more. Stay safe everyone. Live long and prosper.

Remembering Deir Yassin

Posted in about the blog, Culture, Palestine, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on 09/04/2012 by arabrhizome

Today is the 64’th anniversary of one of the first, although not the first, massacres in Palestine perpetrated by zionist terrorist groups against unarmed civilians. Deir Yassin was a village that was attacked and 254 villagers, and the rest were forced out of their homes which were destroyed. This is one of the many similar actions undertaken by zionist groups in 1947-9 in order to ethnically cleanse Palestine and establish israel as a majority Jewish country. In the days, weeks, and months following the massacre of Deir Yassin Palestinians were forced out of their ancestral homes en mass. The number of Palestinians forcefully expelled is estimated at 800000, half of which were expelled before the establishment of israel.

Today we must remember this horrible day. It is unfortunately not the worst massacre that Palestinians suffered, nor was it the first or last. Deir Yassin should remind us that zionism is racist, supremacist, and murderous ideology that is responsible for great injustice and unspeakable crimes. We must fight against it with all our power. The greatest weapon we have is BDS, boycott Divestment, Sanctions, which is a non-violent call to boycott israeli products and put pressure on israel until it complies with international law and human rights and respects the rights of Palestinians. I ask you all to read the call and join the struggle for justice.

Indian Food

Posted in about the blog, Culture, Food, Me, Uncategorized with tags , , , on 06/04/2012 by arabrhizome

Since I became vegan a few months ago, Indian food has been a big part of my diet. The reason for that is quite simple, indian food is filled with vegan options. Whenever I’m out at a friend’s house ordering take away, or we want to go out for dinner, I go for indian food. This makes everything simple, as I am sure of finding at least one, if not more, vegan options. However, I haven’t been cooking indian that much. I mainly just cook some Daal, or Dahl, because it’s easy and it’s very close to a Lebanese dish I’m used to cooking.

Lately I’ve been trying to make my own though. Ordering take away can be very expensive. Cooking at home is always cheeper. So I’ve been experimenting with indian cooking. I’m still not very happy with the results. I don’t know why but I can’t seem to get the spice mix right. It’s not so much the heat that’s the problem but the flavour. I tend to end up with either too little flavour, or too much of a given spice. I’m still playing around and will hopefully get to a happy medium. My goal is to incorporate some vegetable meats in my cooking.

I have a bit of a project to make some good Seitan (in its mock chicken form) tikka masala. Getting the Seitan to be tikkaish enough is the first obstacle. I’ve been looking for recipes but can’t seem to find any nice ones. I think it’s going to take a bit of ingenuity on my part to get it done. The masala part is the second obstacle, though a much simpler one to overcome. Replacing the yogurt is the main issue. I’ve tried soy yogurt but it just doesn’t work as well. I’m thinking of using some coconut milk. It might give it a different consistency though.

All in all I’ve been happy to have a new form of cuisine to play with. I’m still very far from getting it right and would love any advice/experiences from any of my readers. I also have to admit that I’m still not very knowledgeable about indian cuisine. I know a few dishes but I’m not sure I can differentiate all the different flavours and recognise the richness of that very interesting and diverse cuisine. Anyway, that was me trying to get back to blogging slightly normally. Hopefully this will continue. Stay tuned. Hope you’re all doing well. Stay safe everyone. Live long and prosper.


Posted in about the blog, Culture, Friends, Me, Uncategorized with tags , , , on 16/03/2012 by arabrhizome

So I went to London today. A very good friend of mine is visiting and I went to spend the day with her. It was a lot of fun. We went to Borough market, then to the Tate Modern. It was a lot of fun. Weirdly, three of the exhibits were centered around Lebanon. It was really funny. We walked in a room that was all about objects that people chose to remind them of the civil war, we actually know the artist responsible. After that there was a room with photographs by a Lebanese artist. Finally we got into a room that had some model buildings (human size more or less). One of the buildings was oddly familiar, it turned out to be a replica of Burj El Mur in Beirut. T had pointed out that it looked exactly like Burj Al Mur and then it turned out to be exactly that. It was a little strange, especially if you add the fact that the last time me and T hung out was when we both were in Beirut 3.5 years ago. Anyway, must go now. Stay safe everyone. Live long and prosper.

Dungeons and Dragons 21 part 2

Posted in about the blog, Culture, Friends, Me, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on 15/02/2012 by arabrhizome

Once the bloodstone left and our dwarf came out with the phoenix we had to make a quick decision. The bloodstone was going to figure out that we got the phoenix back and so would be coming back, probably with some backup. The dwarf tried to break the bonds on our mage, as he had now gained the power to manipulate stone. But those had some magic woven into them and he is still learning this craft, he therefore could not break those bonds. Our mage decided to let the “vampire” bite her and free her. We left them in the room alone and she came out free of her bonds but she did not tell us what happened.

Our DM gave her a blue marble. We don’t really know what this means but it’s going to be revealed at some point. Hopefully it’s not going to be too bad. We then made our way out of the mountain through a skill check, our dwarf’s new ability made it much easier to achieve. Once we got out, we decided to move away from the mountain and try to free the phoenix from her bonds. Through a group effort we managed to figure it out and ended up freeing her. Once she was freed her eyes went slightly red but then went back to normal. We then started having a conversation with her. Trying to understand her culture and her experiences.

She slowly started feeling more and more comfortable. Being a dark unicorn, the ancestors of the drow, she started displaying her very matriarchal attitude. In their culture, men are seen as the servants of woman. So it was up to our Avenger and mage to talk to her. We learned much about her culture and about her. She clearly felt threatened by our mage, who’s also a phoenix. She explained that she was a high priestess. They don’t have gods but have a form of spirituality. They are summoners of creatures from other planes. We were afraid that they might in fact be in contact with the Kaltesh or the Vrinue, but it became clear that they weren’t.

As the conversation progressed, we realised that she wasn’t a very pleasant person. She seemed to be interested in taking the witch king’s offer. She thought that she would dominate him and thus be the queen of the world. She’s clearly very full of herself and thinks that she can in fact control him, which we all doubt. We asked her if she wanted to go to her people, but she seemed uninterested in that. We tried to convince her to come meet the Shi with us. She agreed a bit too easily. After some conversation amongst ourselves we realised that she might in fact want to spy on the Shi and feed the information to the Witch King. We decided to keep an eye on her and tell Auron as soon as we see him so that we might feed her some false information. That’s where we left it. So as always, stay safe everyone. Live long and prosper.