Posted by: r.m. | March 2, 2017

Collective memory of residents

Beirut: “In the absence of an agreed network of streets, there are no addresses; and without addresses, says Ghubril, “the Lebanese GPS relies on the collective memory of the residents.” One long road in the cosmopolitan Hamra district is formally designated Baalbek Street, but colloquially known as Commodore Street after a cinema that was demolished decades ago. A chaotic transport hub in the south of the city, where rickety old minibuses fill up with passengers before careening wildly across the country, is known simply as Cola, after a long-vanished Coca-Cola factory. Ghubril calls these sites “phantom landmarks.” 

 

What this writer describes as “phantom landmarks” in Beirut, I see as the collective resistance and identity of the residents of Beirut. No, we won’t say that we will meet at that newly-constructed, ugly-lit shoe store on Hamra street; we will say we will meet at Wimpy’s, the site of the beautiful act of resistance by Khaled Alwan against Israeli soldiers during the occupation of Beirut in 1982. Yes, Wimpy’s no longer exists (not in that one spot), but by referring to Wimpy’s – rather than the new ugly construction – we are also referring to the time of resistance, and to the time of coffee shops before wifi.

Referring to the landmarks that used to be — though confusing to new residents — is a way to hold on to the city’s identity, to protect the memory against the globalization and gentrification and destruction of the capital’s history.

It pains me to hear people refer to meeting across from the main gate of the AUB as ‘see you at McDonald’s’ — ignoring the historic establishment that used to be there, and forgetting that there was a restaurant on the corner of Bliss street (where now there is a generic supermarket) that was called ‘Uncle Sam’ where Zaki Nassif used to go, sit down, and compose music.

We remember. We try desperately to remember.

Perhaps it is also a way for residents to claim the city, by claiming names and landmarks of their own to remember and through which to identify the city

Posted by: r.m. | February 28, 2017

Sand Mining, Mafias and Cities

…Creating buildings to house all the people and the roads to knit them together requires prodigious quantities of sand. Worldwide, more than 48bn tonnes of “aggregate” – the industry term for sand and gravel, which tend to be found together – are used for construction every year. That number is double what is was in 2004. It’s an industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

Every year criminal gangs across the world dig up countless tonnes of sand to sell on the black market. One of Israel’s notorious gangsters started by stealing sand from public beaches.In Morocco, half of the sand used for construction comes from illegal mining. And in Malaysia, dozens of officials were charged for accepting bribes and sexual favours in exchange for allowing illegally mined sand to be smuggled out of the country.

Like any big-money black market, the sand trade is inciting violence. In Cambodia, environmental activists have been imprisoned for trying to stop illegal mining. In China, a dozen members of rival sand-mining gangs were sent to prison in 2015 after battling with knives in front of a police station. In that same year in East Java, Indonesia, two farmers – Salim Kancil, 52, and Tosan, 51 – led a series of protests against an illegal beach sand-mining operation. The mine operators threatened to kill them if they kept interfering; the farmers reported the threats to the police and asked for protection. Soon after, at least a dozen men attacked Tosan, ran him over with a motorcycle and left him for dead in the middle of the road. Salim was battered and stabbed to death. His body was left on the street with his hands tied behind his back.

In India, “sand mafias” have injured hundreds and killed dozens of people in recent years. The victims include an 81-year-old teacher and a 22-year-old activist who were separately hacked to death, a journalist who was burned to death, and at least three police officers who were run over by sand trucks.

Of course, Lebanon is no exception to the sand mining or the mafias.  From Sour to Beirut…

Posted by: r.m. | February 15, 2017

Depleted Uranium – Confirmed: US used it against Syria

Yesterday, an article in the Chicago Tribune revealed that the US military used Depleted Uranium in Syria.

“Official: U.S. military used depleted uranium for first time since 2003 Iraq invasion … U.S. military  fired thousands of rounds of the such munitions during two high-profile raids on oil trucks in Islamic State-controlled Syria in late 2015. …U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) spokesman Maj. Josh Jacques told Airwars and Foreign Policy that 5,265 armor-piercing 30 mm rounds containing depleted uranium (DU) were shot from Air Force A-10 fixed-wing aircraft on Nov. 16 and Nov. 22, 2015, destroying about 250 vehicles in the country’s eastern desert.

Hundreds upon hundreds of tons of DU were used by the US military against Iraq, from 1991 to 2003.

Here is one simple study on the impacts of DU:

Environmental pollution by depleted uranium in Iraq with special reference to Mosul and possible effects on cancer and birth defect rates. (2013)

Iraq is suffering from depleted uranium (DU) pollution in many regions and the effects of this may harm public health through poisoning and increased incidence of various cancers and birth defects. DU is a known carcinogenic agent. About 1200 tonnes of ammunition were dropped on Iraq during the Gulf Wars of 1991 and 2003. As a result, contamination occurred in more than 350 sites in Iraq. Currently, Iraqis are facing about 140,000 cases of cancer, with 7000 to 8000 new ones registered each year. In Baghdad cancer incidences per 100,000 population have increased, just as they have also increased in Basra. The overall incidence of breast and lung cancer, Leukemia and Lymphoma, has doubled even tripled.

 

Posted by: r.m. | February 10, 2017

farmers and farmworkers – and the market economy

A new brief from the excellent “Food First”

“The same market economy that compels the intensification and consolidation of agricultural land in the United States has also pushed farmers off their land, depressed local economies, and driven mass migration across Latin America. The new brief from Food First, Unbroken Connection to the Land, highlights the interlocking destinies of farmers and farmworkers and the ways we can resist the exploitation of migrant farmworkers while furthering a restorative land ethic.”

This is Food First’s 8th installment in their Dismantling Racism in the Food System series.

Check it out here ->Unbroken Connection to the Land

 

Posted by: r.m. | January 28, 2017

New course: Exploring environmental (in)justice

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Interested in the course? I’ll be uploading all the readings on a page on this website. Enjoy 🙂

The course is being offered this semester at AUB.

Posted by: r.m. | December 31, 2015

#TamirRice & #MazenAribe- we continue to resist

I include this open letter from Rev Sekou to #TamirRice  – as published in Ebony in full    Nothing can be excerpted from it — it deserves to be read in full and to be read slowly. I read it and thought of Palestine.
I read it and thought of the Trail of Tears and the genocide throughout the Americas. I read it and thought of the lives killed – and the lives to be killed tomorrow, from BlackLives to PalestinianLives to others. I read it and thought of hope and resistance and love.
Thank you Sekou!
I also include this open Facebook post by Noura Erakat, posted today, about another child murdered by another racist regime.
Read them both together.
In both statements, the bolds are my own.
======
America has failed you, yet again. This nation gorges on our flesh, and yet it is never satiated. Your mother’s wails could not wake democracy from its deep slumber.  And we cannot protect you, not from a brutal and lonely death, not from vilification, not from the exoneration of your murderers.  We are powerless, and we mourn.  It must seem the case that our people are insane.  We march and march and keep marching, getting the same results but forever expecting America to be different.
So we must change. Law and order—a whip and a gun— can be our only expectation and unreasonable the force that will be used on our flesh.  You were the burnt offering for America’s second sin.  What are we to believe of a nation that claims its right to exist on stolen land?
In your name, dear one, we shall take to the streets and register our lamentations before idols that have eyes that cannot see and ears that cannot hear.  Our cry is not for them but for our own ears lest we become dumb. Neither the maddening fact that we are never safe nor the insufferable truth of degradation can be your eulogy.
Your name sounds like Trayvon. It alone warranted democracy to let loose its vanity on your precious self. The mere sight of you caused men to bear arms against a baby.  Our cry will march—some may burn— others will pray.  A few will do all of above.  America will continue along her merry way not batting an eyelid or shedding a tear.
I am sure you were taught to always tell the truth. And yet your homeland was founded by liars; the whole lot of them.  The scared text of the democracy—the Constitution—is a bible of lies.  For none of these scriptures hold true for you, nor your mother, her mother, or her mother before her. Those who gunned you down are sworn to protect and serve on the basis of a two-fold lie—that we are not human and that democracy is real. America is as far from the truth as you are from your mother’s touch.  Yet we believe.
The United States continues to be a war zone for us.  If you had lived, you’d have heard the names Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland and Jamar Clark.  Your young mind would have wrestled with their lives lost, perhaps wondered if you were next.  You fell before them and we carry you all because we believe—not in the country or its constitution – but in you.
All we have left is our undying love for our future.  I bet you heard old folks talk about the good old days. How they wished your generation could be more like theirs. Nostalgia is a form of mourning, because the present is unbearable, and the future is unforeseeable.  You are all we can see.  Rest in peace knowing that we will resist.
Our resistance, like our expectations, must change.  It is clear the mainstream is a cesspool and the ever-so-cherished Dream is an [un]reality show. At times, our resistance is tainted by the intoxicating fantasy of America. Fallacious sentiments abound: “If they knew more” or “If we did better”… causing the speaker and hearer alike to believe the lie.  Cameras cannot save us. The world saw you murdered, and still they deny it. We contort our righteous rage to fit into a cell reserved for prisoners of hope. Thus we must become something else—ourselves.  Full and free—swinging on swings—living as though our lives depend upon.  Living into us until there is no lie.  For sure this has been our fore-parent’s aspiration since being forced to this godforsaken land.
Lives – America’s commodity – are bought and stolen every other day but we must live.  This is our hope. To keep doing the very thing that was denied to you.  There is nothing ironic about that choice. If we are alive then we might have a chance at joy. To be black and live in America is to resist, and to live a life of resistance demands a sense of joy.
We are crying now and filled with rage because we are what they say we are not – human. Though capricious death is our ever-present companion, we breathe in spite of it. In the midst of a death dealing civilization, the life of a black child taken too soon – as most are – takes our breath every time but for a moment. Demands for forgiveness are followed by the necessity to “keep on keeping on” and a mighty people keeps trying not to die.  We live with the expectation that they will continue to kill us. And for that I am sorry. But we will continue to resist. We will not cease to resist.
Yours in love and lament,
Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou
====
Mazen Aribe

Last night, Israeli authorities delivered the body of Mazen Aribe, to his mama. It arrived frigid in her home with only a sliver of his face exposed to cover the bullet wounds in his head. Still enough so that she could pray on him and begin to fall apart at the unnatural condition of surviving her child. His body had been in a freezer for 3.5 weeks and it was one of the over 300 Palestinian bodies Israel has held hostage even after death. On December 3rd, Israeli officers shot him dead at Hizme checkpoint in broad daylight. They then wrapped him in a garbage bag and left him strewn on paved asphalt as they justified his extrajudicial assassination in rehearsed soundbites. Supposedly, Mazen drew a gun on an officer but we don’t know and will never know what actually happened because he will not get a trial. His murder was his indictment, and his life as a Palestinian sufficed as a presumption of guilt. What we do know is that now his home, the shelter for his widow and four children will be slated for demolition and that his mama who just removed a brain tumor can’t complete her chemotheraphy in Jerusalem because her son’s murder registered her as a “security threat.”

Mazen is my second cousin, born and raised in Abu Dis, and I’ve been repeatedly warned to pay his mama my condolences as secretly as possible because contact with the family would similarly register me as a threat. No matter that this is my family. No matter that we are all inextricably entwined in a Palestinian national fabric. Not a single one of us is more than a degree of separation removed from a “security threat” and, besides, according to the state, we are all sleeper cells- latent terrorist threats and, thus, guilty until we prove or survive otherwise.

That’s why it’s so easy to kill each of us- the machinery is in place to make sense of it to the “reasonable person” and to acquit the murderer even without a trial. This is more deeply resonant today as the Ohio grand jury finds that there is insufficient evidence to try Tamir Rice’s murderer- who pledged a duty to protect and serve, who shot him at arm’s length, who didn’t even ask the child to put the (toy) gun down, who was videotaped on camera. Tamir was presumed guilty. We, our public imagination, saw his black body before we registered his youthful joy. His murder was his indictment as affirmed by a grand jury who thought it reasonable for a veteran, armed officer to fear for his life at his image. It’s so easy to kill black children – the machinery is in place to make sense of it to the “reasonable person” and to acquit the murderer even without trial.

There isn’t a single thing reasonable about these atrocities. They are cruel, insidiously racist, and a systematic feature of our lives. What could be more absurd than this condition and more reasonable than a commitment to resist and to struggle, and to continue to resist, until we defeat it? We’re trying to do much more than survive. ‪#‎Thrive‬ ‪#‎Joy‬ ‪#‎Love‬ ‪#‎Life‬ ‪#‎Free‬

– Noura Erakat

Posted by: r.m. | November 26, 2015

interview – topic: #ISIS, #US, racism, and more

Jeff Blankfort interviewed me last night for his show ‘Takes on the World’ on http://kzyx.org

We discussed US foreign policy and domestic policy, Democrats and Republicans, ISIS and US governmental interests, and, of course, racism.

Here is the interview – http://www.radio4all.net/index.php/program/83903  (It can also be accessed here: http://www.radio4all.net/files/jblankfort@earthlink.net/1752-1-totw112515masriinterview.mp3)

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Two points to discuss about the US and ISIS

—  Intention?

Someone close to the US Administration has finally  confirmed what we guessed all along to be the US strategy: split the region into smaller states according to their sectarian identity.John Bolton – former US ambassador to the UN – writes, “To Defeat ISIS, Create a Sunni State.” In typical imperialist fashion, absence from the discourse is the voice of the indigenous population — the Syrians and Iraqis. We have, rather, more voices of empire discussing how to divide and (further) rule other people’s lands, cities, and nation.

Too conspiratorial to claim this is/was the US intention?  Let’s remember this document, as discussed by Seamus Milne article in the Guardian here – under the title ‘Now the truth emerges: how the US fuelled the rise of Isis in Syria and Iraq’!

Excerpt: A recently declassified secret US intelligence report, written in August 2012, which uncannily predicts – and effectively welcomes – the prospect of a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria and an al-Qaida-controlled Islamic state in Syria and Iraq. In stark contrast to western claims at the time, the Defense Intelligence Agency document identifies al-Qaida in Iraq (which became Isis) and fellow Salafists as the “major forces driving the insurgency in Syria” – and states that “western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey” were supporting the opposition’s efforts to take control of eastern Syria. …A year into the Syrian rebellion, the US and its allies weren’t only supporting and arming an opposition they knew to be dominated by extreme sectarian groups; they were prepared to support the creation of some sort of “Islamic state” – despite the “grave danger” to Iraq’s unity – to weaken Syria

— Discourse?

A former CIA intelligence officer turned blogger Michael Scheuer said the U.S. should bomb even hospitals and universities  Isn’t that the ethic of #ISIS? Remember – ISIS wanted to bomb a hospital in Beirut and then opted to bomb a marketplace instead (not because they don’t want to harm patients but because it was easier). Isn’t that the ethnic of Zionism?Another US pundit learning from the Israelis: Americans shouldn’t care about non-American civilians killed, he says

Of course this is the usual corporate-media. No surprise to discover that the US Media is Fueling War Fervor, Xenophobia In 24/7 Cycle

Reminder: – Who is bombing Syria?

From the Intercept: “A coalition made up of the United States, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates began striking ISIS targets in Syria in September 2014, with the U.S. military taking the overwhelming lead in the bombings. As of this month, U.S. warplanes had delivered roughly 94 percent of the nearly 3,000 coalition airstrikes in Syria, according to coalition figures. While the coalition has maintained that it operates the most precise weapons systems on the planet, evidence that its strikes have caused civilian casualties has steadily mounted — with some estimates indicating as many as 354 civilians allegedly killed in the coalition’s first year of operations. Still, despite launching thousands of airstrikes in Syria since its campaign began, the U.S. Central Command, as of September, had admitted to just one “likely” incident of a civilian casualty caused by a coalition strike. France announced it would join the coalition air campaign in Syria a year after the Americans did, in mid-September 2015. … The Russians have been bombing Raqqa as well”

And let’s not forget the role of Turkey

But wait – did the US actually claim “precise weapons systems”… like those drones?

Really? Drones precise?

“U.S. DRONE OPERATORS are inflicting heavy civilian casualties and have developed an institutional culture callous to the death of children and other innocents, four former operators said at a press briefing in New York”

  • Drone operators refer to children as “fun-size terrorists” and liken killing them to “cutting the grass before it grows too long,” said one of the operators, Michael Haas, a former senior airman in the Air Force. Haas also described widespread drug and alcohol abuse, further stating that some operators had flown missions while impaired.
  • The drone program killed people based on unreliable intelligence, the vast majority of people killed in a multi-year Afghanistan campaign were not the intended targets, and the military by default labeled non-targets killed in the campaign as enemies rather than civilians. Up to 90% of the people killed in drone strikes may be unintended, with the disparity glossed over by the recording of unknown victims as “enemies killed in action” Read more here: https://theintercept.com/drone-papers
  • The number of lethal airstrikes has ballooned under Obama’s watch. The Pentagon has plans further to increase the number of daily drone flights by 50% by 2019.- 41 men targeted – 1,147 people killed!  In Pakistan, in one attack, For the death of a man whom practically no American can name, the US killed 128 people, 13 of them children, none of whom it meant to harm. Some 24 men specifically targeted in Pakistan resulted in the death of 874 people.  In Yemen, 17 named men were targeted multiple times. Strikes on them killed 273 people, at least seven of them children. At least four of the targets are still alive.

 

So, does the US really want to destroy ISIS? Does the US really want to defeat terrorism? 

Posted by: r.m. | November 25, 2015

#ISIS and #Turkey

“For well over a year the Turkish Government has been secretly supporting ISIS, but the US and NATO turn a blind eye to this because of Turkey’s geopolitical position. ISIS as an armed force – though not ISIS terrorists outside the Mid East region – would most likely have been defeated long ago had it not been for Turkey’s support.”

 

Read the article in full here: ISIS survives largely because Turkey allows it to: the evidence – and there is plenty of referenced evidence included there

From the article:

 1. Turkey Provides Military Equipment to ISIS

2. Turkey Provided Transport and Logistical Assistance to ISIS Fighters

3. Turkey Provided Training to ISIS Fighters

4. Turkey Offers Medical Care to ISIS Fighters

5. Turkey Supports ISIS Financially Through Purchase of Oil

6. Turkey Assists ISIS Recruitment

7. Turkish Forces Are Fighting Alongside ISIS

8. Turkey Helped ISIS in Battle for Kobani

9. Turkey and ISIS Share a Worldview

Posted by: r.m. | November 25, 2015

Countering Colonialism and Apartheid in Palestine

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