Archive for Racism

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.

KristalNacht in Tel Aviv?

Posted in about the blog, Palestine, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 23/05/2012 by arabrhizome

Tonight saw some of the worst violence against Africans in israel. A mob of israelis attacked businesses owned by african migrants or refugees as well as ones that employ them. There have also been some reports of attacks against people. This all happened in South Tel Aviv. I’m in the process of gathering information and trying to get a piece published about it. The anti-african rhetoric has been growing in israel. The interior minister calling them infiltrators, and saying that they should all be locked up. The prime minister said that Africans are a notional security threat against israel, threatening its security and national identity. The news from tonight is very clear, what happened in Tel Aviv was a pogrom. No doubt about that. Anyway, as I said I will be gathering information and trying to get something published soon. If not I’ll just put it on here. Stay safe everyone. Live long and prosper.

Thinking About Ableism

Posted in Culture, Me, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on 07/01/2012 by arabrhizome

I caught up on a twitter fight that happened yesterday. Someone called out someone else for using ableist language. I follow both users and find that I generally agree with the politics of one and the work of the other. I thought we all were on the same page, but the Syrian revolution has exposed many arab leftists to be unable to criticise a regime that appears to be anti-israeli. I say appears because of course the Syrian regime has done nothing for its people in the occupied Golan heights. They’re happy to talk about and support resistance in other countries but not their own.

Now I’m not saying that the other account falls within that bracket, it’s just that their position is suspect. I don’t like accusing people of something without proof, and so far I only have circumstantial evidence. All I can say is that their criticism of the regime and support of the revolution has been conspicuously absent. But anyway, that’s not the point. The fight was about the use of ableist language. As that account used the term “lame” to refer to a stand up comedienne who they think has very suspect politics when it comes to Palestine. While I used to agree that she had problematic politics (that view has changed since I first published this post because I talked to her and she clarified her position. I was wrong and misinformed. She is a one state supporter and very vocal in her support for Palestine), the point was about the language used.

It’s very interesting to see that people are still very unaware of ableist privilege. The problem is that ableist language is so ubiquitous within our parlance. We don’t think twice about using certain terms that are derived from or mocking the physically and mentally disabled. To use the word “lame” to describe someone or someone’s comedy is very ableist. It is wrong to use it to describe someone who does not have a disability, but it’s even worse when you use it against someone with a disability. Even if you don’t mean to be ableist, using it is highly problematic. It perpetuates the idea that there is something wrong with certain forms of disability. It always comes from a place of privilege. Once that is pointed out one needs to realise and change their behaviour.

I must admit that I myself used, unthinkingly, a lot of ableist language. In fact, if you go back through my blog posts, you will probably come across a lot of ableist terms. I did not mean to use them to abuse or mock the disabled, but they still do. I have since realised that those terms are unacceptable and stopped using them. At the end of the day, all you can do is realise that you’ve done something wrong and try to fix it as best you can. No body is perfect, but it’s important to try not to hurt people because you unthinkingly use terms that abuse them and their being.

The problem is that people with disabilities suffer from real oppression, be it in accessibility or recognition, and that oppression is invisible. People without disability do not see the person with a disability but see the disability. When faced with someone in a wheelchair say, people don’t really see the person in the wheel chair but the wheelchair, they conflate the person with their disability. Moreover, the struggle of the disabled for recognition and accessibility is very often ignored by the media and its coverage is not as prominent as other forms of oppression.

We have been able to rid our language of much of the racist, sexist, classist, etc terms. However, ableist terms are still used wantonly without people realising. What happens when someone is challenged for using such language is that they become very defensive, and deny that they are doing anything wrong. Ideally, they would then think about it and realise that they were in fact in the wrong and stop using those terms. However, that doesn’t always happen, and cries of political correctness gone mad are uttered. The problem is that people aren’t always happy to acknowledge their privileged position.

All of us without disabilities are privileged, not in that we are better than people with disabilities, but we reap benefits within our society because of our lack of disability. It is imperative if we consider ourselves to be fighting for justice, that we take on the cause of the disabled as our own. We must recognise our privilege and work against it. This involves changing our language and not perpetuating the power relationship that they embody. Those terms normalise the idea that disabled people are not equal to people without disabilities. There is something absolutely wrong with that attitude and it must be fought with as much force as all other injustices.

The fight against oppression isn’t a simple one. We aren’t fighting against a group of people but against a system that created hegemonic power relations. Those power relations are actualised in real physical violence or lack of accessibility but are also mirrored in our language. If we want to fight oppression effectively we must dismantle all the forms of oppression including our use of terms that perpetuate and normalise that oppression. Anyway, those are my thoughts on the subject. I’d like to hear what you have to say about it. It would be interesting to get your perspectives. Stay safe everyone. Live long and prosper.

Twitter Rant

Posted in about the blog, Culture, Me, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on 04/01/2012 by arabrhizome

So I had a bit of a twitter rant today, i thought I’d tell you all about it. I don’t remember what prompted it but it was about anti-theism. Now as you might already know, I am an atheist. I had my anti-theist phase when I hated all religions and wanted to destroy them. It’s an understandable impulse. You feel like you have some knowledge that people don’t have and you want them to see the truth. It comes from a good place I guess, or at least it for me. The impulse wasn’t against religious people but against the institutions of religion which have caused so much pain and suffering in the world.

However, it’s very easy to fall into a very totalitarian view of the world. It’s very easy to elevate yourself onto a pedestal of self-satisfaction and smugness and actually be hurtful to people who didn’t do anything to hurt anyone. I thankfully got over that phase some time ago. I don’t really care what anyone believes as long as they leave me alone and don’t try to force their beliefs onto me. Even then if someone is nice about it, in that patronising way that some religious people have, then I’ll just simply decline the offer. But if they’re rude then I’ll be rude right back.

The point that I made in my twitter rant though was that my problem with anti-theism is that it sometimes felt very cultish. The figureheads of the movement were often raised to the level of idols. So that Hitchen’s sexism, islamophobia, warmongering, and general arseholiness was excused and even defended by anti-theists. The same goes for Dawkins, who’s response to Rebecca Watson of Skepchick, about her experience feeling threatened when propositioned at four in the morning in an elevator, exposed his sexism and also his islamophobia, as his response was filled with misinformation about muslim women.

You see anti-theists present themselves as champions of rationalism and critical thinking and use those tools to dismantle religious myths. However, they’re very often not ready to turn those tools onto themselves and look rationally and critically at their own attitudes and actions. The anti-theist movement is composed mainly of rich or at least not poor white men, that’s not to say that it is composed exclusively of that group. Which means that for many of them, their lives were filled with privilege, be it male privilege or white privilege or both. That position of privilege means that they, for the most part, do not understand the perspectives of women or minorities.

Richard Dawkins’ response to Rebecca Watson was a clear illustration of that. He wrote a mock letter to a fictional muslim woman, Here it is:

“Dear Muslima

Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.

Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so . . .

And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.

Richard”

I hope you all see how terrible that is. Not only is it wrong to attribute all of these terrible practices to islam, as FGM for example is not a muslim practice, rather than to specific regimes that use islam in order to crush women, like Saudi, but also it is making that fallacious argument that because things are worse somewhere else we shouldn’t deal with problems closer to home. Let’s not finally forget the most important point which is that the woman is being blamed for saying that she felt threatened by someone propositioning her in an elevator in the middle of the night.

Anyway, I don’t want to go through the whole controversy, but Richard Dawkins then went on to say that the annoyance she felt was comparable to someone chewing gum in the elevator with him. That’s right, Dawkins thinks that the threat of physical/sexual assault felt by a woman (as most women she probably had to deal with some form of harassment at some point in her life being physical or verbal) to the annoyance of someone chewing gum next to him.  The clarity of the privileged place from which he speaks couldn’t be made clearer. Of course most of the anti-theist crowd stood by him and decided to send Rebecca Watson threats of physical and sexual violence. As most, if not all, women who write on the internet would tell you that’s not an exception.

The other example is of course Hitchens and his sexism and islamophobia. He became in the last part of his life a horrible human being. He championed the wars on iraq and afghanistan which led to over a million and a half deaths, taken together. He saw islam as the enemy of the west and was generally an arsehole. He was good at sticking it to religious people though, and this meant that the anti-theist crowds loved him. All of his disgusting behaviour was excused because he made a religious person look like a fool.

These attitudes just don’t fit within my understanding of critical thinking. I cannot and will not be associated with people who think that women aren’t funny and shouldn’t complain about feeling threatened, or that islam is a uniquely evil religion (I don’t like all religions equally and islam is just as bad and just as good as every other religion), or who promote the illegal invasion and subsequent plundering of resources and murder and maiming of countries. These people are arseholes and should be called out as arseholes. There is no justification for that.

More importantly this type of attitude just doesn’t fit within my political project. I’m looking to fight privilege and dismantle the structures of racial, gender, sexuality, and economic privileges and help construct fairer ones. That’s my main project. I find that being an atheist is the logical position for me within this struggle but I accept that it might not be for others. More importantly, I will never idolise someone to the point where I would not call them out for being a complete arse. Anyway, sorry about the ranty post, and I’m sure not very coherent, but I needed to get it off my chest. Stay safe everyone. Live long and prosper.

Bye Bye 2011

Posted in about the blog, Culture, Me, Palestine, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 30/12/2011 by arabrhizome

I thought I’ll write my post saying good bye to 2011 tonight, as I don’t know if I’ll be able to write more than a few words tomorrow. I thought that I would very creatively write a review of 2011. I know no one is blogging about that. I’m the only person in the world who’s ever thought of reviewing the year that’s just passed. Being serious for a second, I thought I’d write about my perspective on the year, with a mixture of personal and not so personal stories that made this year what it was for me. So, let’s start at the beginning.

The year started in a bad place for me. I had just gotten out of a long relationship and wasn’t feeling very good about myself. I had very little self esteem and was not able to get much work done. I felt slightly lost and was not sure what to do to get out of the hole I felt I was in. It was a difficult time and in many ways I’m still dealing with the aftermath of that. I am much happier today, not only because I’m able to be friends with my ex, which is brilliant, but also because I’ve moved on and I’m able to work again, which was another big problem this year.

That was another feature of the year. The clear lack of work. I kept trying and sometimes wrote some stuff, but it was never good enough. It wasn’t even slightly acceptable. However the more common occurrence was me spending most of the year sitting in front of my laptop trying to write but not being able to concentrate. This spell was broken at the end of November and the beginning of December. I was able to write a work in progress which went down very well. That gave me a great boost in confidence in the work department. But the year wasn’t all bad.

To remain within the personal for a bit this year also involved me discovering comic books and Dungeons and Dragons. Well if you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know all about Dungeons and Dragons. I’ve met some great people through it and I’m enjoying the great adventure that Andy our Dungeon Master has thought of for us. I’ve also met some new friends who are really brilliant through Remi’s poetry reading. I hope that I’ll get to see more of them  in the coming year. Nothing like meeting some great activist, feminist, pro-Palestine, vegan, anti-capitalists. I can’t wait to hang out with them soon. That also speaks to the other great thing that happened in my world this year. I became a vegan. I have to say that I still feel like this was the best things I’ve ever done. But I’ve written a whole post about that, you can read it if you want to know more.

Another highlight of the year was the wedding of two of my friends. I am not a fan of marriage but if there ever were two people who can make the institution work it’s those two. It was a wonderful wedding, with lots of emotion and many laughs. I met some very interesting people and enjoyed their company. Hopefully I’ll get to see more of them this year. Congratulations again to Mike and Becky. It was a beautiful wedding and I wish them all the happiness in the world. That was definitely a great day.

But how can we talk about 2011 and not talk about the great upheaval that shook the entire world starting in a village in Tunisia in 2010 when a fruit seller set himself on fire out of desperation and in so doing started a movement in the arab world that we are still living through. First it was Tunisia, then Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria. We’ve also seen protests in Kuwait, Saudi, Algeria, Morocco, and Jordan. Dictators fell others are still clinging to power, either through the help of Western imperial powers and their Arab lackeys, or through brute military force. We’ve seen what the West’s intervention in Libya has done, and so even though I fully support the Syrian revolution, I’m not happy to see it repeated in Syria.

The revolutions also moved to Europe, North America, South America, and parts of Asia. The occupy movement made a difference, apart from Occupy Wall Street’s refusal to show solidarity with Palestinians because of some zionist pressure. I point this out because it is important. There can’t be no justice without solidarity between all oppressed people. Occupy Wall Street’s refusal to show solidarity is a stain on their record and needs to be rectified. The rest of the movements showed a lot more solidarity, including occupy Boston, LA, Oakland, Chicago, and others. We also saw how much the US’s political system is sold to corporations. The incredible brutality with which the police responded to those protests, which was reminiscent of some of the worst dictatorships in the world, showed that at the end of the day Corporations mattered more to the US political system than the people.

There was also the riots of the summer in the UK. I saw many people who call themselves leftists, when faced with the actual raw reality of class warfare and the real anger caused by police brutality and economic pain, turned to fascist language about the rioters. I was shocked, but not surprised, to see how many arm chair activists are happy to abandon all of their supposed beliefs when the poor stand up, however clumsily, and are ready to adopt rightwing narratives. The riots showed that a large section of the British society are disenfranchised and feel completely disconnected from their communities. What we saw, in my opinion, is the result of Thatcherism and Reganomics combined with the clear police brutality felt by the youths of deprived areas in Britain.

Then there was Palestine. This year so much in the struggle for justice in Palestine. I can’t cover all of it, however, I’ll write about a few events that marked me. First there were the protests on Nakba. For the first time, Palestinian refugees from neighbouring countries walked to the borders of Palestine demanding their internationally recognised right of return. Israel responded the only way it knows how, with brutality and without any regards for civilian life or international law. They fired across international borders killing and injuring dozens. This year the BDS movement kept growing and becoming more and more mainstream. There was also much unnecessary death and destruction. Palestinian human life is still too cheap in the eyes of israelis and the world.

However, I am feeling optimistic. I believe that public opinion is changing. The world thanks to the incredible work of many activists who work very hard to bring the truth about the Apartheid state of israel and the brutal racist policies of the zionist state to the world. I trust that when people see and understand the deep injustice in Palestine they can’t but find themselves in the anti-zionist camp. What we also saw was that israeli propaganda and intimidation tactics aren’t working as well as they used to. As many have said, the truth is that the facts are anti-zionist. On this note, I hope you all had a very good year. It certainly was an interesting one. Stay safe everyone. Live long and prosper.

There Are No Words

Posted in Palestine, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 10/12/2011 by arabrhizome

It’s very hard for me to write a coherent post today. I am angry and sad. Today Mustafa Tamimi, one of the many Palestinian Gandhis that liberal spineless orientalist westerners and their house arab lackeys keep asking for while simultaneously ignoring, has died as a result of the injuries he suffered yesterday. He is one of the many brave Palestinians who for years now have been staging peaceful weekly protests in West Bank villages affected by settlement activity and the Apartheid wall stealing their land, water supply, and cutting them off from their crops. He was shot in the face by a high velocity tear gas canister fired at close range from an armoured israeli military jeep.

Mustafa Tamimi was 28 years old. A life snuffed by the brutal military occupation force of the apartheid regime. That in itself, unfortunately, is not a remarkable event in the eyes of the world it would seem. We have grown accustomed to Palestinian deaths. They are numbers and statistics. Casualties of what is often represented as an intractable conflict that has plagued the land for centuries. Of course this analysis is flawed on several levels. The conflict is around 60 years old and is very simple. A native population is colonised and being ethnically cleansed at varying speeds since 1948 by a brutal racist ideology, zionism.

What happened today is not remarkable because for too long Palestinian deaths have been reduced to numbers or shorthand words that dehumanise the murdered. The dead are referred to as militants, protesters, rock throwing youths. Make no mistake all these terms are designed to obscure and hide the fact that these are human beings with stories, families, experiences, and histories. They are not just nameless statistics, or faceless numbers. They are human beings like Mustafa Tamimi with friends and families who will never be able to see them again. Who have to continue to live under a brutal military racist occupation. We must never lose sight of that.

The story however is even more disgusting than that. Mustafa’s sister was not allowed to get to her brother’s body after he was deliberately shot in the face with a high velocity American made tear gas canister at close range from an armoured military jeep. Medical services were deliberately delayed and were not allowed to tend to him straight away. Occupation soldiers laughed in the face of the other protesters as they cried because a young man, their friend, neighbour, and family member, was laying with a broken face on the floor unattended. The soldiers showed no remorse because they have been raised within a racist system that teaches them that they are the chosen people and that Palestinians are not human beings.

Mustafa’s father, and other members of his family, were not allowed to visit him in hospital. Eventually he died as a result of the injuries he sustained after being deliberately shot in the face with high velocity American made tear gas canister fired from a rifle at close range from an armoured military jeep. I hope that me repeating this fact bothers you and makes you uncomfortable because it should. These words should never be a sentence. These words however are the actual description of what happened. This is what the israeli army does to the Palestinian Gandhis. Remember that the next time you hear a liberal say something stupid like “where are the Palestinian Gandhis?” Remember Mustafa Tamimi’s name and deliberately shoot it in their face. Tell them this is where they are! Why don’t you open your eyes and see them?

I am angry. Mustafa is not the first to die, he won’t be the last. In fact, many have died this week in Gaza because of fighter jets bombing the besieged territory. There are no words to express how I feel. I am aware that no matter how angry or sad or outraged I might feel, it is nothing compared to how the families and friends of those who are being killed everyday must feel. I know that my anger, being righteous or not, is nothing. I did not know Mustafa Tamimi, now I never will. I recommend you read this article which articulates the anger that is felt today better than I ever could. I also recommend you read this article about the disgusting and stomach churning IDF attempts at justifying the murder of Mustafa Tamimi on twitter. And for those who think that this post is not balanced, please tell me what justification do you have for the deliberate shooting in the face of an unarmed 28 years old Palestinian named Mustafa Tamimi in the face with a high velocity American made tear gas canister fired from a rifle by an occupation soldier from an armoured military jeep?

V for Vendetta

Posted in Culture, Me, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 05/11/2011 by arabrhizome

Today I read the graphic novel V for Vendetta. I didn’t realise that I was reading it on Guy Fawkes night, thus unwittingly making a political statement. I had seen the film before and loved it, although I had forgotten the details of it. The graphic novel is brilliant. It is intelligent, poignant, gripping, insightful, and fantastic. I highly recommend it. It is even more relevant today with the rise of fascism, xenophobia, and religious extremism around the world. It was written in the 1980s and yet still feels fresh and relevant. Alan Moore, the man who wrote it, is a genius.

After reading the graphic novel, I thought I should watch the film and do some comparing. First, having Natalie Portman play Evey is a complete mistake. She’s an awful actress that makes any film she’s in not as good as it could have been. Also, her fake english accent was so bad that it destroyed any possibility for me of buying into the narrative. Then there are so many things that are wrong with the film. I mean it’s a good film in and of itself, but when you’re comparing it to the graphic novel it’s very poor. It fails on certain key points.

One of the things that really bothered me is that Evey leaves and is somehow fine for the whole summer. If we are to buy that it’s a fascist surveillance based society that is being represented than she would have been arrested within a week. The feeble attempt to say that no one recognised her because she’s changed so much on the inside is completely unbelievable and frankly insulting to our intelligence. If a former colleague had seen her, given that in the film she worked at the state tv, they would have recognised her. Journalists are supposed to be observant, even in fascist regimes.

But that’s not the worst one in my opinion. The really bad thing in the film is the last bit when V says that he fell in love with Evey and is personalised in this way. V is a symbol, that’s why anyone who wears the Guy Fawkes mask after him and is free, truly free, is V. He is the hammer, the destroyer, the bringer of chaos before the advent of true Anarchy, spontaneous order through consent. He isn’t a simple man. He doesn’t fall in love with Evey. He trains her for what is to come after the revolution. He is the destroyer and she is the creator. I just felt that it was such a hollywood moment that completely and utterly missed the point of the whole thing.

Anyway, I really really recommend the graphic novel, it’s brilliant. Also, my favourite part in both the novel and the film is Valerie’s story. Alan Moore created one of the most gripping, heart breaking, and believable story for her. She brings home the fact that those who suffer under fascism are human beings. Her story shows that there is no such thing as acceptable bigotry. Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, islamophobia, xenophobia, antisemitism, disablism, etc are all evil and must be fought. They must never be allowed to be “normal”. They must be stopped where ever they are found. On this note, stay safe everyone. Love you bye.