A propagandist-in-chief's war on intellectual imperialism and pursuit of a resistance episteme

Posts Tagged: colonized Arabs

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So, despite the fact that majorities in the US and the UK oppose military intervention in Syria, the US and British governments are going to war anyway. And yet even the most progressive amongst us, continue to view these systems as democracies. There is something fundamentally hypocritical and cynical about viewing western liberal political systems as democratic solely on the basis of how much they respect the human rights of their own citizens, are responsive to majority public opinion on domestic matters, and abide by the rule of law, while violating the human rights of people outside their countries, ignoring majority public opinion on foreign policy matters and dismissing international law altogether. This tendency can only be described as naked racism on the part of western liberals and self-hating, internalized racism on the part of colonized natives.

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I want to say something deep and insightful that ties all these events together, but after my son went to bed in tears because he is afraid of the next terrorist bombing, and my daughter wonders out loud which area of Lebanon will be next, and under which circumstances would we be forced to flee to England, I can only come up with this quasi-academic synthesis that borrows some concepts from the Realist school of International Relations: Fuck you and your American-backed revolutions. Fuck your collaborator opposition movements. Fuck your freedom. Fuck your priorities. Fuck your takfiri-Zionist tolerance. Fuck your abandonment of Palestine. Fuck your destruction of Syria and now Lebanon. You servile, opportunistic, unprincipled, colonized Arabs have destroyed the region and my homeland. Fuck you motherfuckers. I hope that was Realist [with a capital R] enough for you.

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I am trying to refrain from using any expletives in my reaction to this petition on Syria signed by comprador intellectuals, colonized Arabs, and of course intellectuals of the western liberal, saviour-complex ilk. So instead, I am simply going to confine myself to my favourite Liz Lemmon, from 30 Rock, line—“I want to go to there”. 
Indeed, I want to go to this revolutionary utopia where despite those rebel groups which represent “the negation of the Other politically, socially and culturally”, the “revolution for freedom and dignity remains steadfast,” where there remains a huge space space occupied by “people and organizations on the ground that still uphold the ideals for a free and democratic Syria.” And it is these guys who are calling the shots and resisting, not the takfiri terrorists of al-Nusra. Nuh uh.
It is a place where there is a revolution that “is connected to the Palestinians’ struggle for freedom, dignity and equality.” More than this, it is “an extension of the Zapatista revolt in Mexico, the landless movement in Brazil, the European and North American revolts against neoliberal exploitation.” Wow. 
It is an anti-imperialist revolution which rejects the intervention of “states that never supported democracy or independence, especially the US and their Gulf allies”, who have “tried to crush and subvert the uprising, while selling illusions and deceptive lies.” See, this revolutionary utopia rejects that intervention although it is calling on “global civil society” i.e. Western NGOs, to do precisely that. You see, this revolution has no support in mainstream corporate or Arab media or among the completely brainwashed western and Arab publics. Its a poor little revolution that has been “left alone” by the “regional and world powers.” 
I really want to go to there, to that Marxist revolutionary utopia where everyone wears a Kuffieh and a Che Guevara t-shirt and looks like Will Smith; a place where those who delight in posing for the cameras while barbecuing the heads of captured helicopter pilots are but anomaly of an otherwise progressive, popular revolution which will usher in freedom, love, peace and harmony if only it would get more western support. 

Full petition here 

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An op-ed today in al-Akhbar referred to Israel as  “the enemy” in Arabic. Although use of this term to describe Israel was once very common in Arab popular parlance and in local media, its use in this context has significantly decreased since the Syrian uprising.  Once a term reserved almost exclusively to Israel, the concept of the enemy from without has been fast replaced by the enemy from within in both pro-government and opposition circles. While government supporters can hardly be faulted for depicting the Zionist-normalizing, NATO-loving FSA as an “enemy” force, especially given its proxy status and military links with Syria’s strategic enemies, as well as its intent to destroy Syria as a state, it is both morally inexcusable and intellectually indefensible for Syrians and Arabs who profess enmity towards Israel, to use this term to describe the Assad government or Hizbullah or Iran, all of whom have paid a high price for confronting the Israeli enemy both politically and militarily.

The danger of such labeling can hardly be overstated in this case; the link between power and language has been well documented by the likes of Michel Foucault and Edward Said. As these thinkers have noted, language creates not only knowledge, but reality itself. The resulting discourse, which becomes internalized by its subjects shapes their assumptions, values and cultural habits. In short, it changes and re-fashions their political identity and beliefs.

To be more accurate, this discursive onslaught began in 2005 when the Lebanese became divided over whether Syria or Israel was their real enemy, with some March 14 politicians referring to the Zionist entity as “our neighbor”. But irrespective of this semantic divide and March 14’s collaboration with Israel during the July war as Wikileaks documents later revealed, not once did Hizbullah refer to the opposing camp as “the enemy”,” and settled on terms like “ our opponents/rivals” and “the other camp”.  Compare  this to the Syrian opposition camp today, whose leading “intellectuals” and activists in the Arab world have no qualms about speaking of the “Shia enemy” or the “Iranian enemy”, or cheering on the FSA who issue empty threats to attack Hizbullah and assassinate Seyyid Hassan Nasrallah.

By redefining the concept of the “enemy”, both the Syrian uprising and to a lesser extent, its US- engineered counterpart in Lebanon, have succeeded in reversing decades of Arab political socialization, whereby those who prioritize resistance to Israel and the US are mocked and dismissed as old-school anti-imperialists, or more disparagingly by Third Wayers like Bassam Haddad, as “Fumigating Anti-Imperialists”.

  The Arab Spring may not be a revolution in the economic or political sense of the term, but it has achieved a semantic revolution which, if left unchecked by counter-hegemonic forces, will lead to the full intellectual and political colonization of the Arab mind and the Arab identity. 

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I was chatting with an old student the other day who is currently doing his MA thesis. He described his thesis supervisor as someone who is “great politically,” though “only in private.” Nothing insults my intelligence more than this oxymoronic phrase. So often I have heard how much Third Way intellectuals, who oppose the opposition but call for Assad’s overthrow, secretly support the Assad government’s struggle— views which they only dare utter in private. Or academics who privately support the resistance yet insist on sounding “balanced” when writing or speaking publicly about Hizbullah. 
Let’s get one thing straight, whether we are talking about Syria, Palestine, Hizbullah, resistance, or any other controversial political cause: your privately held, publicly unexpressed thoughts and feelings count for nothing. A political position is an activity, not a state of being; it entails an active and substantive role, not a passive point of view, otherwise we would call it an opinion and not a stand or position. Either keep it real or keep your deepest, darkest, radical views you are too ashamed or afraid of declaring, to yourself. If you are too scared to get out of your comfort zone by articulating a controversial anti-imperialist, anti-Zionist position, then do us all a favour and stop trying to market your undeclared opinions as a principled stand in your private conversations with a trusted few. It is not. 
If every intellectual behaved as you did, the truth would remain forever hidden and there would be no anti-imperialist movement to begin with.

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I really like the “Palestine’s Day” (playing on Valentine’s Day) meme circulating on social media, but it does give some pause for thought: all too many Arabs and western leftists have come to *love* Palestine in the same capitalist-driven, commodified, Hollywood-ized and ultimately meaningless way that people *love* other people.  This has become all too apparent in the wake of the counter-revolution in Syria whereby those who call for the overthrow of the “Assad regime” and attack Hizbullah for supporting it, audaciously (and somewhat schizophrenically) profess a deep love and commitment to Palestine, no less stomach-churning and empty than the concept of Valentine’s itself. For these Arabs, and many western pseudo-leftists like them, Palestine has been reduced to a popular brand image and hence, a tool of self-legitimation, in much the same way that people seek romantic love for self-validation; if I love Palestine then I am politically  correct, and if I am politically correct then I belong [to the post-Arab Spring regional order]. As with physical attraction that is often mistaken for love, Intifada Chic is often confused with a deep emotional connection and strong commitment to Palestine by the #IlovePalestine consumers.

While we are all hegemonized by the neo-liberal, consumerist concept of *love*, we have no excuses for being colonized on the question of Palestine. We can fake-love all the people we want, but Palestine is sacred and requires risks, sacrifice, deep and unwavering commitment, lack of ego, being unpopular and generally being uncomfortable. To love Palestine one has to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. That is love. 

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It has become increasingly apparent that the war on Syria has not merely succeeded in sowing sectarian discord among the Arab public at large, but has even infected the reasoning of once progressive, secular, Arab intellectuals.

Take founder of Electronic Intifada Ali Abunimah as an example. Last week, Ali tried to sanitize the FSA of its sectarian crimes by blaming anti-Alawite hate speech on Twitter on “pro-Assad trolls”.  This week, Ali has gone one step further in his defense of rabidly anti-Shia, sectarian takfiris by condemning all those who disseminated a fatwa [mis]attributed to Shia-bashing, Saudi Wahhabi cleric Muhammad al-Arifi  who later denied ever issuing it.

The fatwa in question permitted Syrian rebels to engage in temporary marriages with Syrian women over 14 for the sole purpose of sexual gratification—a religious edict which is easily believable considering Wahhabi misogyny and Arifi’s record of morally repugnant social and political positions which Ali himself notes in his piece. For example, in one such instance, Arifi brands Shia as “treasonous villains”.

Viewed against this background and given that the fake tweet uses an identical Twitter handle as Arifi’s original account and an identical profile pic, reporting the fatwa can hardly be portrayed as an unforgivable sin at a time when mainstream media has done nothing but manufacture entire news reports and narratives about Syria, with an even flimsier grounding in reality.

Yet, despite Ali’s admission that Arifi “has openly engaged in sectarian incitement against Shia Muslims”, Ali seems intent on whitewashing the takfiri cleric by devoting an entire article and numerous tweets to dissociating the nefarious figure from the fake tweet—as though it were significantly worse than his other odious rulings and statements.

More disturbing still, is the Islamophobia accusation Ali levels against all those who circulated the offensive tweet. Ali suggests that Iran is in cahoots with Israel in spreading Islamophobia when he links his EI piece on the subject to the following tweet:

“Zionists, Islamophobes, Hindu nationalists, US progressives and Iran come together to spread Islamophobic trash.”

Ali makes a similar allegation in his piece : “Progressive news organization AlterNet has fallen for and disseminated a story, pushed by Zionist, Islamophobic and Iranian outlets, claiming that a prominent Saudi cleric issued a religious edict authorizing sex-deprived fighters in Syria to rape women there.”

Aside from the absurdity of lumping Iran together with Israel in ANY campaign, Ali’s branding of a nation which identifies itself as the Islamic Republic of Iran as Islamophobic, is equally, if not more, absurd.  In so doing, Ali seems to be adopting Saudi media discourse which uniformly attempts to depict Iran as harbouring an anti-Sunni agenda, as well as a Wahhabi discourse that seeks to de-Islamicize Iran as a heterodox version of Islam . This attempt is further revealed by Ali’s assertion that Iranian tv outlets, namely Press Tv, reported that Arifi’s fatwa legalized rape, as indicated in the above excerpt. When distinguishing media which misinterpreted the fake tweet as a license to gang rape from those that didn’t (Ali informs readers that “the term “gang rape” does not appear in the New TV report”), he neglects to list Press Tv as an outlet which did not use these terms in its report. In fact, if one follows the Press Tv link to the fatwa story which Ali himself provides, all that can be found is a faithful translation of the fatwa and non-sensationalist headline “Militants can marry Syrian women: Wahhabi cleric in Saudi Arabia.” 

I wonder what Ali’s next campaign will be, perhaps to justify Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s exhortion to: “fight all those working with the regime, whether they are combatants or civilians or religious scholars or the ignorant”? 

No matter how ardently Ali will struggle in future to appease his pro-opposition fans with his takfiri-washing, the rest of us know full well the difference between Islamophobia and Salafi Takfiri-phobia. While the former targets Sunnis and Shias alike and does not distinguish resistance actors like Iran, Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad, and al-Qassam Brigades, from  Salafis, Syrian jihadis and Wahhabis,  the latter exclusively targets mainstream Sunnis, Shia and Christians; in other words, the overwhelming majority of Arabs and Muslims. Ali’s efforts would be better spent defending our people rather than those who seek to divide and destroy our region and who surely will not countenance secular progressives like himself. 

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"Only the most totalitarian kind of hegemony could succeed in turning the progressive values, means and objectives of the oppressed into weapons against them: using anti-politics to dislodge anti-imperialism, revolution to eliminate resistance, freedom to strip away independence and people power to dominate the people."

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Les Politiques: 'Divisions Among The Arab Left regarding The Syria Crisis'

Comrade Sophia who blogs at Les Politiques has kindly translated this article from Le Monde Diplomatique which talks about the  divided state of the Arab left over Syria. I am also quoted in the article.  Sophia’s full article is reproduced below. 

'Divisions Among The Arab Left regarding The Syria Crisis'

This is a rough translation of an article appearing in Le Monde Diplomatique, August French edition, accessible only to subscribers. Original title: ‘La crise syrienne déchire la gauche arabe’
In August 2011, the Lebanese nationalist leftist daily newspaper Al-Akhbar undergoes its first crisis, since its creation in the summer 2006.   Assistant editor, Khaled Saghieh, resigns from the journal he contributed to create citing  the lack of support from the journal to the Syrian popular uprising of March 2011.  Al-Akhbar has never kept secret its political proximity with Hezbollah, one of Syria’s president Bashar el-Assad principal regional allies, nor hidden its preference for dialogue between the government and part of the opposition over the pure and simple fall of the regime.  However, at the same time, the daily has opened its pages for the Syrian opposition to express itself.  Among those published was Salameh Khaileh, a Syro-Palestinian Marxist intellectual, arrested at the end of April 2012 by the security services.
Last June, the dissent appeared in Al-Akhbar English online version with an article by Amal Saad Ghorayeb: ‘Syria Crisis, there is a crowd’.  In it, the Lebanese chronicler adopts a clear line of support for the Syrian regime and critcises ‘third wayers’ who denounce the authoritarian Syrian regime while warning against western foreign military intervention, Libya style.  The same month, another Al-Akhbar collaborator, Max Blumenthal,  resigns denouncing what he calls ‘Assad apologists’ inside the journal editorial team.
What happened at Al-Akhbar is symptomatic of wider strategic and ideological divisions among the Arab Left regarding the Syria crisis.  Some show support for the regime in the name of the struggle against Israel and the ‘resistance against imperialisme’.  Others support the uprising in the name of a ‘revolutionary logic’ and the defence of ‘democratic rights’.  Finally, some express a middle position between a distant solidarity with the uprising demanding freedom for the protests while rejecting ‘foreign intervention’ promoting ‘national reconciliation’.   Diverse sensibilities exist within the Arab Left : there are communists, Marxists, Leftists Nationalists, Radicals, and Moderates.  The Arab Left appears, with the Syria crisis, as a fragmented mosaic.
Anti-imperialism as the analysis grid for the Arab Left
On one side, the unconditional support for Al-Assad is not mainstream among the Arab Left and very few are the voices calling to maintain the regime as it is.   But, on the other side, the unconditional support for the popular uprising is not a dominant position.  It can be found among movements that are at the extreme Left of the political Spectrum ; Trostkyistes, the Lebanese Socialist Forum, the Revolutionary Socialists in Egypt, Maoists, and the Democratic Voice of Morocco.   These latter movements have built relationships with a fraction of the opposition to the regime, namely the Syrian Revolutionary Left of Mr. Gayath Naisse.  They have participated, since the Spring of 2011, in discrete mobilisations like protests in front of  Syrian embassies and consulates in their respective countries.
Some intellectuals from the independant Left, like the Lebanese historian Fawwaz Trabulsi, support the logic of uprisings.  They demand the fall of the regime.  This current excludes any dialogue.  And even if this part of the Left insist on the necessity of pacifist popular protests, they do not deny to protesters the right to take up arms.  At the extreme Left, the partisans of the revolution diverge from the Syrian National Council on the alliance with Qatar, Turkey, or Saudi Arabia.  They denounce such alliances as compromising the independance of the popular revolution in Syria.
Denouncing the regime and calling for its fall does not prevent the radical Left from being suspicious of the support given to the Syrian revolution by Gulf monarchies neither from dissociating itself from the anti-Assad discourse of a part of the ‘international community’ headed by the United States.  However, their anti-imperialist reflex comes after their support for the revolution.  The priority is given here to the internal situation in Syria : the logic of the uprising of the people against their political regime is what counts first, as in Tunisia and Egypt.
[What has been described so far is the position of a minority situated at the extreme Spectrum of the Arab Left.]
On the contrary, a cautious distance toward the Syrian revolution is what characterises the majority of the Left in the Arab World.  This majority denounces the militaristaion of the uprising, a process it thinks is profiting the radical Islamists and foreign fighters entering Syria.  It fears the confessionalisation of the conflict leading to opposing religious minorities, Alawis and Christians to Sunnis radicalised by repression, seeing in this the spectre of an unending civil war.  This majority also takes into account the balance of regional and international powers : Iran and Syria against Gulf monarchies, Russia and China against the United States.  In this confrontation between multiple international state actors, the majority of the Arab Left does not hesitate to take sides where its affinities are rooted, with Iran and Syria as state actors against Gulf monrachies and with Russia and China against the United States.
Thus, when the union of Socialist and Leftist parties in Jordan, a coalition of six political formations including communists and Arab nationalists, met in Amman in April 2012 to commemorate the 9th anniversary of the 2003 invasion of  Iraq, the Syria crisis, more than the fall of Saddam, was front and center in the discussions, leading to firmly denounce any foreign intervention in Syria, where some of the speakers did not hesitate to draw the parallell  between the military intervention in Iraq and the support the SNC and the Syrian armed opposition enjoy in the West.
In Tunisia, in a communiqué dated May, 17, 2012,  the UGTT, Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail, which is the main unionised force in Tunisia whose executives come partly from the extreme Left, while affirming its support for the legitimate democratic aspirations of the Syrian people, warns against the ‘plot’ fomented by the ‘colonial states’ and ‘Arab Reactionaries’.  Two months before this, the Communist Labour Party of Tunisia (POCT, acronym in French) called, along with Arab Nationalist Movements, to protest the venue, in Tunis, of the conference of the Friends of Syria formed of the SNC and 60 international delegations.
The Lebanese Communist Party has adopted a cautious position.  While opening its Press to opponents of the Syrian regime like Michel Kilo (who is not member of the SNC), it abstained from participating in the daily protests that have been taking place for a year now in front of the Syrian embassy in Beirut.  The party is under criticism from the extreme left in Lebanon for its support for Qadri Jamil, head of the Popular Will Party in Syria, and member of the ‘legal’ opposition, who joined the newly formed Syrian government of Mr. Riyad Hijjab in June 2012 as vice PM for economic affairs.
It is mainly a reformist logic that has the favours of a part of the Arab Left : the solution to the Syrian conflict must be political, not military.  The final communiqué of the Arab Nationalist Conference meeting in June, in Hammamet, Tunisia, the gathering of 200 members of Arab Nationalist Leftist  - and to a lesser extent - Islamist formations, reflects this reformist logic.  Their communiqué, trying to please everybody,  recognises the right of the Syrian people to ‘freedom, democracy, and pacific alternance of power’, denounces violence from all origins, thus highlighting the violence of both the uprising and the regime and calling on both to commit to a logic of dialogue based on the peace plan of March 2012 of UN special envoy, Mr. Kofi Annan.
If, for a part of the Arab Radical left, the revolutionary perspective must come first in Syria,  the majority of the Arab Left has renounced this perspective.  This majority does not want the brutal fall of the regime.  For this majority, there is a contradiction in what’s going on in Syria : a cold war that doesn’t say its name.  The fear of the void in a post-Assad Syria reconciled with the US and allied to gulf monarchies is much stronger than the fear of the continuation of the regime.
Moreover, Syria is some sort of Janus to many Leftist militants in the Arab world.  Very few among them deny the repressive and authoritarian character of its regime, but even today,  the defensive discourse of a regime under international sanctions, echoes the profound ideological bedrock of the Arab left which can be found in the third worldist and anti-imperialist paradigm. To some, this ideological paradigm is nuanced by the attachment to the popular character of the revolt, to others, this ideological attachment is, to the contrary, multiplied and amplified by the increasing internationalisation of the conflict.
Not to forget the Islamist dynamic born from the Arab Spring which translates by seizing power, in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt, by the Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood.  These events have provoked a backlash among part of the Left: from now on, Arab revolutions are feared because they may lead to an Islamist hegemony in the Arab world.
What stokes these fears among the Arab Left is the support of Islamist movements to the revolution in Syria: Ennahda in Tunisia, as well as the Msulim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jordan, are fervent supporters of the Syrian revolution.  Thus, the position of a majority of the Arab Left  toward the Syrian revolution reflects the history of their own confrontation with political Islam.  This is why, Arab Leftist parties with commitments to ‘revolution’ and ‘progressism’, and for some, to ‘Marxism’, have, paradoxically, set their preference for a negotiated and gradual transition in Syria, out of fear of the disillusion these revolutions will bring.

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"The gloves are off. The Syrian Information Minister says Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel are responsible for today’s events. This is the first time a Syrian official singles out the conspirators by name since the start of the conflict. Indeed, this is a new stage in the war.
The same Arab traitors rejoicing the killings are also mocking Seyyid Hassan Nasrallah on twitter now. It is sickening to the core to know that if Israel invaded Syria or Lebanon today they would most likely be cheering it, if not publicly (because they still pay lip service to Palestine) in private just as March 14 collaborators did in 2006 as revealed by Wikileaks State Department cables ."

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"Whoever thinks that the killing of the Syrian Defense Minister and Security Chief is going to finish off the Assad government is delusional. While demoralizing, it will not effect cohesion, but will only have a radicalizing effect on security cadres. The western colonizers and Arab traitors (al-Qaeda’s new secular bedfellows) now rejoicing are either blind or indifferent to the major escalation that is to come. Things are going to get very ugly as there will be much collateral damage. This is not the end but the beginning of a new phase in the war on Syria. Let us wait for tonight when Nasrallah will address the issue of Israel’s security threats against Lebanon and Syria."

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The Syrian opposition: who's doing the talking?

Hands down the most diligently researched and comprehensive article on the Syrian opposition in  the Guardian. Brilliant stuff:

'This is the story of the Syrian war, but there is another story to be told. A tale less bloody, but nevertheless important. This is a story about the storytellers: the spokespeople, the “experts on Syria”, the “democracy activists”. The statement makers. The people who “urge” and “warn” and “call for action”….
These spokespeople are vocal advocates of foreign military intervention in Syria and thus natural allies of well-known US neoconservatives who supported Bush’s invasion of Iraq and are now pressuring the Obama administration to intervene. As we will see, several of these spokespeople have found support, and in some cases developed long and lucrative relationships with advocates of military intervention on both sides of the Atlantic.’


Full story here

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Arguably the funniest tweet by a Syrian oppositionist:

On a scale of 1 to Amal Saad Ghorayeb, where does Sharmine Narwani sit on the issue of  in your opinion?

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