Archive for December, 2008

Gaza: The Logic Of Colonial Power

December 30, 2008 1 comment

As so often, the term ‘terrorism’ has proved a rhetorical smokescreen under cover of which the strong crush the weak

Nir Rosen, Monday 29 December 2008 08.00 GMT


I have spent most of the Bush administration’s tenure reporting from Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Somalia and other conflicts. I have been published by most major publications. I have been interviewed by most major networks and I have even testified before the senate foreign relations committee. The Bush administration began its tenure with Palestinians being massacred and it ends with Israel committing one of its largest massacres yet in a 60-year history of occupying Palestinian land. Bush’s final visit to the country he chose to occupy ended with an educated secular Shiite Iraqi throwing his shoes at him, expressing the feelings of the entire Arab world save its dictators who have imprudently attached themselves to a hated American regime.

Once again, the Israelis bomb the starving and imprisoned population of Gaza. The world watches the plight of 1.5 million Gazans live on TV and online; the western media largely justify the Israeli action. Even some Arab outlets try to equate the Palestinian resistance with the might of the Israeli military machine. And none of this is a surprise. The Israelis just concluded a round-the-world public relations campaign to gather support for their assault, even gaining the collaboration of Arab states like Egypt.

The international community is directly guilty for this latest massacre. Will it remain immune from the wrath of a desperate people? So far, there have been large demonstrations in Lebanon, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Iraq. The people of the Arab world will not forget. The Palestinians will not forget. “All that you have done to our people is registered in our notebooks,” as the poet Mahmoud Darwish said.

I have often been asked by policy analysts, policy-makers and those stuck with implementing those policies for my advice on what I think America should do to promote peace or win hearts and minds in the Muslim world. It too often feels futile, because such a revolution in American policy would be required that only a true revolution in the American government could bring about the needed changes. An American journal once asked me to contribute an essay to a discussion on whether terrorism or attacks against civilians could ever be justified. My answer was that an American journal should not be asking whether attacks on civilians can ever be justified. This is a question for the weak, for the Native Americans in the past, for the Jews in Nazi Germany, for the Palestinians today, to ask themselves.

Terrorism is a normative term and not a descriptive concept. An empty word that means everything and nothing, it is used to describe what the Other does, not what we do. The powerful – whether Israel, America, Russia or China – will always describe their victims’ struggle as terrorism, but the destruction of Chechnya, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, the slow slaughter of the remaining Palestinians, the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan – with the tens of thousands of civilians it has killed … these will never earn the title of terrorism, though civilians were the target and terrorising them was the purpose.

Counterinsurgency, now popular again among in the Pentagon, is another way of saying the suppression of national liberation struggles. Terror and intimidation are as essential to it as is winning hearts and minds.

Normative rules are determined by power relations. Those with power determine what is legal and illegal. They besiege the weak in legal prohibitions to prevent the weak from resisting. For the weak to resist is illegal by definition. Concepts like terrorism are invented and used normatively as if a neutral court had produced them, instead of the oppressors. The danger in this excessive use of legality actually undermines legality, diminishing the credibility of international institutions such as the United Nations. It becomes apparent that the powerful, those who make the rules, insist on legality merely to preserve the power relations that serve them or to maintain their occupation and colonialism.

Attacking civilians is the last, most desperate and basic method of resistance when confronting overwhelming odds and imminent eradication. The Palestinians do not attack Israeli civilians with the expectation that they will destroy Israel. The land of Palestine is being stolen day after day; the Palestinian people is being eradicated day after day. As a result, they respond in whatever way they can to apply pressure on Israel. Colonial powers use civilians strategically, settling them to claim land and dispossess the native population, be they Indians in North America or Palestinians in what is now Israel and the Occupied Territories. When the native population sees that there is an irreversible dynamic that is taking away their land and identity with the support of an overwhelming power, then they are forced to resort to whatever methods of resistance they can.

Not long ago, 19-year-old Qassem al-Mughrabi, a Palestinian man from Jerusalem drove his car into a group of soldiers at an intersection. “The terrorist”, as the Israeli newspaper Haaretz called him, was shot and killed. In two separate incidents last July, Palestinians from Jerusalem also used vehicles to attack Israelis. The attackers were not part of an organisation. Although those Palestinian men were also killed, senior Israeli officials called for their homes to be demolished. In a separate incident, Haaretz reported that a Palestinian woman blinded an Israeli soldier in one eye when she threw acid n his face. “The terrorist was arrested by security forces,” the paper said. An occupied citizen attacks an occupying soldier, and she is the terrorist?

In September, Bush spoke at the United Nations. No cause could justify the deliberate taking of human life, he said. Yet the US has killed thousands of civilians in airstrikes on populated areas. When you drop bombs on populated areas knowing there will be some “collateral” civilian damage, but accepting it as worth it, then it is deliberate. When you impose sanctions, as the US did on Saddam era Iraq, that kill hundreds of thousands, and then say their deaths were worth it, as secretary of state Albright did, then you are deliberately killing people for a political goal. When you seek to “shock and awe”, as president Bush did, when he bombed Iraq, you are engaging in terrorism.

Just as the traditional American cowboy film presented white Americans under siege, with Indians as the aggressors, which was the opposite of reality, so, too, have Palestinians become the aggressors and not the victims. Beginning in 1948, 750,000 Palestinians were deliberately cleansed and expelled from their homes, and hundreds of their villages were destroyed, and their land was settled by colonists, who went on to deny their very existence and wage a 60-year war against the remaining natives and the national liberation movements the Palestinians established around the world. Every day, more of Palestine is stolen, more Palestinians are killed. To call oneself an Israeli Zionist is to engage in the dispossession of entire people. It is not that, qua Palestinians, they have the right to use any means necessary, it is because they are weak. The weak have much less power than the strong, and can do much less damage. The Palestinians would not have ever bombed cafes or used home-made missiles if they had tanks and airplanes. It is only in the current context that their actions are justified, and there are obvious limits.

It is impossible to make a universal ethical claim or establish a Kantian principle justifying any act to resist colonialism or domination by overwhelming power. And there are other questions I have trouble answering. Can an Iraqi be justified in attacking the United States? After all, his country was attacked without provocation, and destroyed, with millions of refugees created, hundreds of thousands of dead. And this, after 12 years of bombings and sanctions, which killed many and destroyed the lives of many others.

I could argue that all Americans are benefiting from their country’s exploits without having to pay the price, and that, in today’s world, the imperial machine is not merely the military but a military-civilian network. And I could also say that Americans elected the Bush administration twice and elected representatives who did nothing to stop the war, and the American people themselves did nothing. From the perspective of an American, or an Israeli, or other powerful aggressors, if you are strong, everything you do is justifiable, and nothing the weak do is legitimate. It’s merely a question of what side you choose: the side of the strong or the side of the weak.

Israel and its allies in the west and in Arab regimes such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have managed to corrupt the PLO leadership, to suborn them with the promise of power at the expense of liberty for their people, creating a first – a liberation movement that collaborated with the occupier. Israeli elections are coming up and, as usual, these elections are accompanied by war to bolster the candidates. You cannot be prime minister of Israel without enough Arab blood on your hands. An Israeli general has threatened to set Gaza back decades, just as they threatened to set Lebanon back decades in 2006. As if strangling Gaza and denying its people fuel, power or food had not set it back decades already.

The democratically elected Hamas government was targeted for destruction from the day it won the elections in 2006. The world told the Palestinians that they cannot have democracy, as if the goal was to radicalise them further and as if that would not have a consequence. Israel claims it is targeting Hamas’s military forces. This is not true. It is targeting Palestinian police forces and killing them, including some such as the chief of police, Tawfiq Jaber, who was actually a former Fatah official who stayed on in his post after Hamas took control of Gaza. What will happen to a society with no security forces? What do the Israelis expect to happen when forces more radical than Hamas gain power?

A Zionist Israel is not a viable long-term project and Israeli settlements, land expropriation and separation barriers have long since made a two state solution impossible. There can be only one state in historic Palestine. In coming decades, Israelis will be confronted with two options. Will they peacefully transition towards an equal society, where Palestinians are given the same rights, à la post-apartheid South Africa? Or will they continue to view democracy as a threat? If so, one of the peoples will be forced to leave. Colonialism has only worked when most of the natives have been exterminated. But often, as in occupied Algeria, it is the settlers who flee. Eventually, the Palestinians will not be willing to compromise and seek one state for both people. Does the world want to further radicalise them?

Do not be deceived: the persistence of the Palestine problem is the main motive for every anti-American militant in the Arab world and beyond. But now the Bush administration has added Iraq and Afghanistan as additional grievances. America has lost its influence on the Arab masses, even if it can still apply pressure on Arab regimes. But reformists and elites in the Arab world want nothing to do with America.

A failed American administration departs, the promise of a Palestinian state a lie, as more Palestinians are murdered. A new president comes to power, but the people of the Middle East have too much bitter experience of US administrations to have any hope for change. President-elect Obama, Vice President-elect Biden and incoming secretary of state Hillary Clinton have not demonstrated that their view of the Middle East is at all different from previous administrations. As the world prepares to celebrate a new year, how long before it is once again made to feel the pain of those whose oppression it either ignores or supports?



Vulgarity on Youtube

December 28, 2008 1 comment

I just want to comment on this because it really bugs me.  I am not referring to the content on youtube.  Rather, I am referring to the obscene comments that people leave on youtube, especially on videos that women post.

The comments that I am specifically referring to are sexual in nature.  I am quite sure you know what I am talking about.  Comments referring to the woman’s breasts, or other parts of their body; comments about the poster want to have sex with the woman in the video…that sort of stuff.

It seems as though that this culture we live in has stripped the innocence out of almost every facet of society.  I have come across videos of 13, 14 year old girls talking about how they love Hanna Montana or something and some sick pervert will leave a vulgar comment on that poor girl’s page.  What is wrong with these people?  Has our society and culture become so sexualised that people feel that they can express deviant sexuality freely in front of everyone without worrying about consequences?  I honestly think that innocence is becoming such a rare characteristic that people may actually forget that such a thing actually existed at one point in time.  And the victims are none other than women.

This post was sparked by my outrage after I came across a clip on youtbe that was “featured” on the site.  Its of this young woman talking about being greatful which featured her mother in the clip as well.  I scrolled down to look at the comments and every now and then there would be some sick douche talking about how beautiful the girl’s breasts were and what a “MILF” the young girl’s mother is.  I mean come on, have some respect here.  What do people gain out of making such comments?  They literally don’t get anything out of it.  In fact they are doing themselves a detriment by fueling such thoughts inside their heads.

To have thoughts of a sexual nature are normal.  Everyone has them.  But for one to convert those thoughts into vulgarity and then to express that vulgarity in the open is something we as people (especially on the Internet) need to be aware of at the very least, but also try and prevent in a open public realm such as youtube.

The clip I was refering to above:

Reading For Fun

December 28, 2008 4 comments

reading for funNow that school is over for the semester, I feel completely useless with no purpose in life.  I never thought I’d feel like this but I do.  All I do is either sit home and watch tv, surf the net aimlessly trying to find the next thing that will distract me from my normal mundane routine or go to work.  That is literally what my life activities consist of right now.

I had planned on doing some recreational reading.  A friend of mine suggested I read Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goldkind.  He thinks that I’ll like it, even though Im not into wizard books at all.  I also wanted to read the new Tariq Ali book called The Duel, Nasr’s The Garden of Truth, Farid Attar’s poem, The Conference of the Birds and a few others.  On top of that I wanted to re-read a few philosophers like  Rousseau, Hobbes, Locke and Mill.  But quite frankly, my degree has taken that desire for recreational reading out of me.

I actually used to love reading back in the day.  I was a fast reader and my comprehension was through the roof.  I always read at above grade level which actually drove me to read a lot.  But because of certain health issues of which I will not get into, my reading started to suffer.  I could not read as fast or as well and my comprehension went down the drain.  And because of my health condition, I had to essentially train myself how to read at a comfortable level.

By the time I got to university, all I did was read.  Read this paper, read that book, read such and such’s article; its all reading.  And the fact is, despite all the reading that I do, my reading really hasn’t improved all that much, despite the fact that all I do is read.  But now what has happened to me is that I have now associated reading a book with work.  I find it to be a chore to read a book whereas before, this was not the case.

This wizard book my friend wants me to read has been sitting beside my bed on the table for a good month now.  And I have yet to pick it up because I can’t drive myself to pick it up because it feels like work.  The other books that I have mentioned above are also sitting on the table next to me, literally collecting dust.

I really wish I could get rid of this association that I have developed inside of my head.  I want to read these books so as to further expand my mind.  Because I know that if I can get back into reading, I can develop new ideas and redevelop my old ones.  I just need that spark inside of me to trigger it.

I think I might try it tonight.  After all, there is no better time than now.  I am pretty sure that I am procrastinating when it comes to this.  I’ve pretty much learned that procrastinating on stupid issues like this doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to overcome.  All one needs to do is begin the task and be consistent in performing it.  Now, lets see if I can overcome the hurdle of picking up a book and beginning to read it.

After Semester, Red Eyes and No Sleep

December 24, 2008 Leave a comment

photoWell the fall semester has come to an end for quite some time now.  I actually ended my semester at precisely 9:01am on the 17th of December to be precise.  That is when I managed to hand in my take home exam (7 hours before it was due) and finally get some sleep.

This semester was probably one of the most fun semesters I have had since first year.  I got involved in a lot of stuff that was happening on campus.  I made a ton of new friends and even got a bit closer to some of my older friends.  My classes weren’t all that bad either.  I also managed to get to know all my profs a bit better as well.  Considering I’ll be needing reference letters soon from them, I am glad I got to know them but regret not getting to know some of my previous professors.

But I also worked really hard this semester as well.  This was probably one of the most intensive semesters I have had in quite a while.  The library became my second home, literally.  Especially during the last month, month and a half of school, I was at University til 2 or 3 in the morning everyday.  My days turned into my nights and my nights turned into my days.  My entire sleeping schedule turned upside down and I still haven’t been able to recover from it.  During exam time, I was getting home at 4, 5, even 6 in the morning.  It was brutal.

I dedicated a lot of time to my finals.  But its my take home final that  will not soon forget.  This final was due on the 17th of December at 4.30pm, the last day of exams.  I got up at around 3 or 4pm the day before as I had a final then.  I took my time getting ready and finally headed out at 6.  I picked up a friend and we managed to get to the U at around 7.30 in the evening.  After finding what is arguably one of the most perfect study rooms in the entire university, I began my final at around 9ish at night.  So essentially I had 20 questions that I had to write on with no set page limit or restrictions of any kind.  So I began writing.  I discovered that I was averaging about half a page per question and each question was taking me roughly anywhere between 15 minutes to a half hour to complete.  Sometimes I would go all out and end up writing an entire page (single spaced) for some questions.  When I was writing I noticed time flying by like it was nothing.  It was actually quite amazing to look at the clock, look down at my work and when I looked up again, an hour had gone by; one wouldn’t even feel it.  When it was around 3am or so, the two people I was studying with decided to take a nap since they had their exam bright and early at 8am.  I never slept.  I wrote and wrote and wrote until I was finally done at around 8.15am or so.

After editing and all that, I ended up writing about 16 single spaced pages in 12 font.  When I double spaced it, it turned out to be 32 or so pages.  I couldn’t believe I managed to write that much.  It was amazing.  When I went to go hand it in, my prof was there accepting an exam from another student.  I was the second one to hand it in and apparently the girl before me had written about the same.  After I handed it in, I couldn’t believe that I had written that much.  I surprised myself.  I was going to go home but then I ended up staying and chatting with some friends for a few hours.  By the time I went home, my eyes were barely open.  I was talking like I was high or something.

I am sure I got my marks back by now but I am not going to check them until after Christmas.  I am confident that I did well on them so I don’t really have all that much to worry about.  And also, I just don’t want to think about school at this point in time.  I need a good mental break right now.  I feel like I am intellectually burnt out right now.  All I want to do is mindless stuff that doesn’t really require any hardcore cognitive activity.  Plus, I need to get back into a regular, normal sleeping pattern which is proving to be quite difficult.

All in all, it has been a good semester.  I will remember this semester for a very long time, I am quite sure of that.  I desperately hope that next semester, which will FINALLY be my last semester will be even more fun.  *Fingers crossed*

Never Rob a Law Student.

December 8, 2008 1 comment

I was supposed to post this a while ago but it slipped my mind:

Why You Should Never Try To Steal a Law Student’s Laptop

A thief learned the mistake of trying to steal a law student’s laptop last week after after becoming a punching bag for an Arizona State student he tried to rip off. Armed with a baseball bat, the intruder, Gabriel Saucedo, allegedly climbed through an open window into Alex Botsios’ apartment, waking the student and threatening to smash his head in.
Botsios was willing to let Saucedo take his wallet and guitars. Then the robber made the mistake that ultimately landed him in the hospital — he went for the laptop. According to Botsios, he said “Dude, no — please, no! I have all my case notes…that’s four months of work!” Saucedo, obviously underestimating the fury of an overstressed, overworked first-year, was unsympathetic. That’s when Botsios could take no more.

Wrestling Saucdeo to the floor, Botsios separated the bat from the thief and repeatedly punched him in the face. When it was all over, police had to get Saucedo stitched up before charging him with armed robbery and kidnapping, while Botsios only suffered some scrapes and a bruised knuckle. Most importantly, at least to the student, is that his laptop, which he called “his baby,” escaped unharmed. Next time, Saucedo might want to try robbing a third-year student, as they’re generally more docile.


To All Those Writing The LSAT Tomorrow…

lsat I just want to take this opportunity to wish everyone who is writing the exam tomorrow the best of luck.  I know I have a few friends that will be writing it as well so I hope it goes well for them.

Please take time today and relax.  Don’t do any practise exams.  In fact, get your mind off the exam totally today and just escape.  Go watch a movie, go snowboarding, skating, shopping…ANYTHING to get your mind off the exam.  And when you go home tonight, have a good dinner and go to sleep early.  Oh yea, make sure your pencils are sharpened before you got bed.  That way it’s one less thing you have to worry about when you wake up tomorrow.

I ran into a friend a few days ago who told me that on the day of the LSAT you’ll have so much adrenaline pumping through your body and that’s what will get you through the exam.  I hope you guys are a bit more calm than that.  Personally I’d rather write an exam in a state of somewhat calmness rather than constantly having adrenaline coursing through my veins but to each their own I guess.

I wish I could have joined you guys but circumstances are as such that I probably will not be writing the exam until sometime next year if all goes well.  I kind of feel like a loser for not writing it, left out but at the same time I am glad that I put it off.  I’d rather write it when I am completely ready rather than just having a go at it knowing I could have done better had I been patient and waited.

But anyways, good luck to all of you guys.  To all my friends, I’ll be there in spirit with you guys since I’ll be writing a final exam tomorrow somewhere on campus.  I hope you all do the best and we’ll see you in law school!

The Last Week of Classes

December 3, 2008 1 comment

frustratedWell, it is upon us my friends.  It’s the last week of school.  And it is intense on campus.  People are running around all over the place with the look of utter fear on their faces.  It’s as if all of us are staring death right in the face.  There is nowhere to study on campus.  The library is literally flooded with people.  Every floor of every tower, every classroom, and every cubicle is occupied with crammers.

First exams begin on Saturday and I am one of those unfortunate souls that will be sacrificed early on that morning.  I don’t even know where to begin studying.  The prof threw so much information at us this semester that it literally seems impossible.  I just hope whatever studying that I manage to pull of over the next three days will actually be worth something.  I can’t afford to get a B in the class. I desperately need at least an A-.

I finally finished my last remaining paper last night.  It was such a good feeling handing it in and knowing that I will not have to do any of these things again for another couple of months.  I used to love doing papers during the first year or two of University but now I am just literally sick of them.  I hate researching my topics, I hate trying to figure out how to structure my essay, what to put in, what to leave out…all that sorta stuff.  I hate editing my work after I am done.  The worst part about papers, the one thing that literally irritates me are footnotes and citations.  They are such a pain it’s not even funny.  Footnoting and citing literally takes me an hour at the very least.  But like I said before, thank God I won’t have to do any of that for a while.

My condition right now is horrid.  I am so stressed for this up coming exam.  I have no eating schedule, no sleeping schedule no going home schedule…nothing.  I am in desperate need of a haircut and my nails are so long that it’s actually embarrassing.  I don’t think I’ll have time to shave until a few days before Christmas when exams are finally over.  I have bags under my eyes because I can’t sleep properly.  And dressing decent is out of the question.  I am walking around school literally looking like some guy that just got off work from a construction site.  I am trying to find every excuse in the world not to study.  I am constantly hungry and constantly irritated.  If I had swear jar, it would be filled to the top right now.  It’s getting so bad that coffee and tea have no effect on my whatsoever.  Caffeine highs are no longer doing it…I need something harder than caffeine.  I think it’s time to move up to energy drinks.

For those of you who will be joining me in these crutial last weeks of the semester, I wish you the best of luck.  Godspeed.