Saturday, 13 April 2013

The Lowercase Arab will now be hosted on Tumblr

Dear one and all,

The Lowercase Arab is now at Tumblr.

This domain will be closed soon. So check the Tumblr site for more updates!

Big love x

VIDEO: The chilling military indoctrination of Israeli children


If there's one video you should watch today, it's the one below. In this clip, Israeli children at the Armored Corps Memorial are able to explain to a reporter how to use grenades, missiles, and high-tech weapons. These children casually talk about how they plan to kill Arabs, how many Arabs they'd like to kill, and which kind of Arabs they want to kill (Palestinians from Gaza? The Lebanese? Syrians? Take your pick). This provides a chilling insight into the military indoctrination of Israeli children and the anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab racism instilled in them at a very young age.

It isn't only what's being said that widens your eyes. It's the casual feel of it all. The children are shown climbing and swinging off tanks at the memorial as if they were in a schoolyard jungle gym. They are having a feel for the weapons. A young girl is shown putting a military helmet on as though she was about to embark on her first tricycle ride.

The video also plays an upbeat children's song in Hebrew and opens up with a child singing "Saturday morning / It's a nice day / Mum drinks a lot of coffee". Yep, just another Saturday teaching children to lust over and fantasise about dead Arabs.

These are children like any other. Children who look restless, some are giggling, some are shy. And they are being raised as killing machines. This is what the state of Israel is creating. It makes armies out of children. They already know what platoons they want to join. One girl wants to be a ground combatant and one boy wants to join the notorious Givati brigade. Instead of thinking about being teachers or doctors or artists or singers - these kids are thinking about what they want to do in the army, first and foremost. To me, they are children soldiers. Perhaps in a different sense of the term. They are  not yet on the frontline, but they are prisoners to militaristic thinking, as is the rest of Israeli society. They are being preened and prepped to carry on military occupation and the suffering of Palestinians.

The exchanges are horrifying. 

Example

An Israeli father is shown telling his kids: "I showed you the guns, right? The rifle, the MAG, the 50 caliber, the machine guns? The mortar and the grenade?"
Interviewer to daughter: "How do you use a hand grenade?"
Daughter: "You take the plug out and you throw it." Her father interjects, correcting plug with pin
Daughter, correcting herself: "You take out the pin and throw it at the enemy".


Example

Interviewer: "What do you imagine when you're in a tank?"
Boy: "I picture a dead Arab and that makes me happy."

Example

Interviewer: "Where would you want to do your army service?" 
Boy A: "My first choice would be Lebanon." 
Boy B: "Gaza."
Interviewer: "But we gave back Lebanon, we aren't fighting with Lebanon."
Boy: "That's okay, we'll be back."
Interviewer: "Do you hope that by the time you're a soldier, we'll be at war with Lebanon again?"
Boy: "Yes."

Tiny killing machines.

Link here.

Friday, 22 February 2013

My open letter to Alicia Keys. Rethink performing in Israel.



Dear Alicia Keys,

Let me preface this letter by saying that I have been a huge fan of you and your music while growing up. During my earlier years, I was (still am) mesmerised by your soulful voice, your knack for playing the piano beautifully, and your amazing hair. I had never wanted braids so badly the way I did after watching you sing Fallin' on MTV when I was around 8-years-old. I finally got around to getting "Alicia hair" when I was 12. I think there's a photo lying around the house somewhere of me beaming into the camera with braided hair while I tightly clutched onto my late cat, Oshkosh. But I digress. 

I'm writing this because I want you to rethink something. You are planning to perform in Tel Aviv later this year. And I'm asking you, and so are many others, to reconsider holding a concert in Israel.

Karma: action that has consequences

I know that many people all over the world enjoy your music. You have fans everywhere. But when an artist or band performs in Israel, they help to normalise Israel's treatment of Palestinians. It says to the Israeli people, the Palestinian people, the Israeli government and to the rest of the world that the current state of affairs, one where Palestinians do not enjoy full rights and have not since their land was colonised in 1948, is okay. Performing in Israel says inequality and discriminatory laws is not that big of a deal – that it can be treated lightly. But it is a big deal. Dark things happen in Palestine/Israel. Palestinians are living under Israeli military occupation today. They are subjected to apartheid laws - laws that discriminate against them based on their ethnicity. There are Jewish-only roads in the West Bank (occupied Palestinian territories) that Palestinians cannot travel on. There are Jewish-only buses that Palestinians cannot board. Racism against Palestinians infiltrates every aspect of Palestinian life, and yes, it's as simple as not being able to sit on the same bus. Palestinians do not even have the opportunity to refuse giving up their seat like the brave Rosa Parks did in 1955. Palestinian homes are demolished and Jewish-only colonies are built on their land. Those living in the blockaded Gaza and the West Bank would not be able to attend your concert because the Israeli occupation does not permit them to. Rethink performing in Israel.

Some people just want it all...
Some people live for the power...

Some people say music and politics shouldn't mix, but when people are mistreated and deprived of their human rights because of a political ideology and regime that dehumanises them and does not recognise their rights, their lives are inherently political. Everything that comes in touch with the people and the land cannot escape the politics, even if it tries to. A concert held in Israel is not performed in some kind of apolitical vacuum. Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv, where you plan to perform later this year, is not positioned inside a bubble or force-field that will magically separate your music or your concert-goers from the social, historical and political realities on the ground. No artist, no song, no lyric, no note, no beat is above or beyond what happens in Palestine.

When a group of people are systematically discriminated against for being born Palestinian, for not being a white Jew (African Jews in Israel are subjected to appalling treatment and racism because of their skin colour and background too), when Palestinians do not have the same access to education, when their water and agricultural and mineral resources are stolen and expropriated and capitalised on for Israel’s benefit, when they live under a crippling blockade in Gaza and have lived (or were unlucky not to live) through massacres these last several years, when they don't know when Israeli drones will strike next, when they don't feel safe in their own homes, schools and hospitals, when they don't have the right to travel freely, when most Palestinians living outside of Palestine do not have the right to return and will never have the chance to see their homeland, when Palestinians are indefinitely imprisoned, when a separation wall is built around them because they are deemed a "security threat", when they are constantly referred to as a "demographic threat" – it is political. 

And music, no matter how loudly played, cannot drown out these realities. But artists have the power to be conscious. Music can make conscious statements. Many great artists were born by questioning social injustices and criticising power and authority. Many movements were led by conscious songs - the background music to their resistance. 

I'm aware that you've travelled to South Africa before - a country stained by decades of apartheid. Many similarities have been drawn between the suffering of black South Africans in apartheid South Africa and Palestinians in apartheid Israel. Many South African activists, including Bishop Desmond Tutu, have said Palestinians have it worse. 

None of this is normal. To live the way Palestinians do - burdened by a relentless military occupation that watches them and controls them and restricts them - is not a normal way to live. It is no way for any person to live. And it should never be treated as though it is normal.

Alicia, stand on the right side of the history and join other artists who have refused to perform in Israel or had initially planned to but later reconsidered upon learning the extent of the injustices faced by Palestinians. Join Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, Cassandra Wilson, Stevie Wonders,  Gil Scott-Heron, Jon Bon Jovi, The Gorillaz, Elvis Costello, Cat Power, The Pixies, The Klaxons, Jason Moran, Natascha Atlas, The Yardbirds and many other musicians and bands who took action by deciding not to perform in apartheid Israel. Join Alice Walker, Arundhati Roy, Dustin Hoffman and many others who have endorsed the artistic and cultural boycott of Israeli apartheid.

You have a big heart, and you’ve openly supported humanitarian causes, so I’m hoping you will find it in your heart – in the name of human rights, human dignity, equality – to withdraw from performing in Israel. And may you one day be able to perform in a Palestine without occupation - a land where Palestinians and Israelis are equals.


Saturday, 19 January 2013

poetry


This is a small excerpt from a piece of short prose fiction (non-linear) I wrote a few years ago. It is set in a Palestinian refugee camp during one of the darkest years of the Lebanese Civil War. I would like to go back and rework it - perhaps extend it into a novel one day.

To my brother Jamil Suleiman, 23-08-1982. 
September dawns 
Our mother weeps into the clothes she mends 
The dough she folds 
The mint she washes 
The letters you send 
She is lost without 
Your voice 
Your gait 
Your embraces


Nolingua



Language is limited. Our vocabulary is finite. There is only so much we can say. Many words in other languages simply cannot be translated into English without losing their meaning and vice versa. Expressing yourself - talking - can be difficult when you can't find the right words. I'm a lover of English, a reader of things, a writer of stuff, but sometimes I find it really hard to say what I want or need to say. 

We sometimes find ourselves umm-ing and ahhing and going off on tangents and just being really inarticulate because our mind is scrambling to find the right words. Sure, some words are close enough, but sometimes you need the right words, and 'close enough' won't do. For a while, when friends asked me how I was, I would reply with "I don't know". Not because I didn't know, since deep down I knew how I was (though sometimes I really had no clue), but because words like 'great', 'good', 'fine' or 'not too great' were never entirely accurate. They just did not, and sometimes still don't, express what I'm feeling or what I'm thinking. In fact, they're stunting. I've finally dropped "I don't know" as a reply to "how are you?" because I was (unintentionally) confusing and worrying the hell out of some people. So, what am I meant to say? I feel indescribable. Things are indescribable. Beyond words. Inexpressible. It's incommunicable. I just am. I am.

But it's easier to say "I'm good, thanks".

While I love a good conversation, I love silence even more. Comfortable silence. Actions. Facial expressions. Eye contact. Just basking in someone's presence without the pressure to talk. People often feel the need to talk constantly - to fill the silence - but silence isn't a bad thing. It only becomes awkward if you think it's awkward. Sometimes, the greatest words are the words you never said.

I stumbled upon a blog called The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows a while ago. It's a dictionary of made-up words for things, feelings and thoughts we experience but don't have words for in English.

It's not extensive at all and whoever runs it only posts every while or so, but I like to go back sometimes and scroll through to read - just to relate to something, to check out if I've felt that way recently, to be like 'yes, exactly!' 

Some of my favourite words from Obscure Sorrows are posted below. Have a look at the site. You might relate to some, or all. Make up some of your own too.








And my own contribution:

nolingua
n. the state of hesitation and mental blankness when your mind is hopelessly searching itself for the right words - often non-existent - to properly express how you feel.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

A Day Project

I've created a new channel on Youtube - A Day Project Films.

I love filming and cinema, but I've never had the right equipment. I've been trying to save up for a pro camera so I can start shooting (but I haven't gotten very far, being the poor student that I am). However, instead of putting off filming, I decided yesterday to use whatever I have at my disposal. My iPhone 5. 

The purpose of A Day Project is to film, edit and upload short films/movies within the span of a day. It's a challenge I've set up for myself. It allows me to be creative, abstract and to improvise. Below is my first film. Check it out and let me know what you think.


Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Snow in Palestine



Snowing in Palestine. So beautiful. via @mikopeled

via @mikopeled
via Rashid Mashrawi


Making a Palestinian snow man:




It's snowing where my heart's at, but meanwhile in Sydney...!


Heat waves, sun and surf in Sydney


If Iran is merciless, what does that make Murica?



If you were a clergyman high up in the political ranks of the Islamic Republic of Iran – hypothetically speaking, of course – or perhaps even the Supreme Leader himself, would you use the atomic bomb if you had it?

If prominent British human rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson was still hosting the long-gone television series Geoffrey Robertson’s Hypotheticals on ABC today, he would force you into Ayotallah Khamenei’s shoes and robes and probe you about nukes.

The world is closely watching the Cold War-esque war of words between the US, Israel and Iran, and Robertson weighs in on it in his newly published book, Mullahs Without Mercy. The alliterative, catchy and, well, controversial title of the book sums up Robertson’s opinion of the entire fiasco: Iranian mullahs are merciless. He argues that Iran cannot be trusted with nuclear weapons because of its long list of human rights abuses.

I agree that the Islamic regime is not a bastion of human rights, but if Iran can't be trusted, how in the world can the United States and Israel be trusted? 

I haven't yet read the book, but in recent interviews with ABC’s Lateline and the BBC, Robertson sounds almost conspiratorial. He is absolutely sure – fervent head nodding and all – that Iran will acquire an operational nuclear bomb within a year or two, maybe three. He also says that current Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, will be re-elected this January and will strike Iran in “spring or early summer”. Robertson seems to have prophesised and laid out an itinerary for a looming World War 3. And I can’t help but scrunch my nose up a bit.

At this point, one of his predictions might materialise – the re-election of Netanyahu. Bibi will, without much doubt, serve another term, particularly after Israel's November assault on Gaza, aka “Operation Pillar of Defence” as the Israeli Defence Force calls it, or “Operation Pillar of Racism, Occupation and Bibi To Get Another Term” as I call it.

Robertson’s strong emphasis on Iranian nuclear acquisition downplays the west’s nuclear arsenal and "the empire's" historical relationship with nukes. The US and Israel are culpable of far more crimes against humanity than Iran, which is currently suffering from crippling economic sanctions and embargoes enforced and tightened by the US, the EU and Australia. Ordinary Iranians are bearing the brunt of rising food prices, a 40% drop in the value of the rial and a crumbling pharmaceutical sector, which I posted about earlier.

I’m not vindicating Iran’s stained human rights record and brutalisation of dissenting citizens and political opponents whatsoever. But what irks me is Robertson’s selective internationalism.

Have we forgotten Truman’s mercilessness when he used atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Or the many wars and invasions America has waged? Its coups and installations of friendly leaders (otherwise known as ‘spreading democracy’), like, hmm, Shah Pahlavi?

Keep in mind that the US has approximately 5000 nuclear warheads today. It has 900 military bases – and counting – in almost 150 countries. Obama has authorised extrajudicial killings, and has approved predator drone attacks that have left civilians dead in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya.

And then there’s Israel, an apartheid state with its own nuclear arsenal that colonises and occupies indigenous Palestinians and Palestinian land and resources. Both Israel and the US are not signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, along with Pakistan, India and North Korea. And Iran’s the overshadowing nuclear threat?

This isn’t to say that Robertson isn’t critical of the west’s hypocrisy; he is a little in this instance – but not enough. Robertson doesn't seem too fussed about America's nuclear arsenal. He seems content enough with Obama’s promise to disarm. He also isn’t exactly disapproving of Britain’s Trident weapon program because, according to him, it’s a “refurbishment of an existing program”. Furthermore, he supports NATO intervention, just as long as international law is not breached. In other words, America can police the world and violate the sovereignty of states as long as its strikes are "surgical". In the case of Iran today, he thinks the US won’t be "surgical" and will hit hard if it leads an invasion, and thus believes that NATO should stay out otherwise we will witness something reminiscent of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. But what he fails to see is that invasions, in general, are never "surgical". I wonder why he thinks there are exceptions.

These sentiments and this kind of selective internationalism is evident in his foreword for the Melbourne University publication A Question of Zion too. He applies moral equivalency to Palestinians and the state of Israel, when it is unarguably an uneven conflict. His foreword is laced with a kind of neutrality that dismisses the occupier/occupied state of affairs. He writes: “Both sides are under a duty to negotiate but neither has been prepared, at least simultaneously, to give peace a chance.” This is extremely biased political rhetoric that is disguised as objectivity. How can Palestinians bargain and negotiate their rights and land with the very entity that is compromising those rights and stealing their land? Why is a human rights barrister overlooking justice?

Robertson also once said that international law is for all and that the International Criminal Court is a court for the whole world, but the reality is that it isn’t. Western powers are above the law and are excluded from accountability. The ICC is a racist institution and has only ever tried African leaders - from Congo to Sudan to Uganda. The west is not subjected to any trials and tribulations for its own crimes.

Scrutiny of Iran is valid, but it is examined with a colonialist slash post-colonialist attitude that the brown man is more trigger-happy and ruthless than the white man. Robertson should be more critical of the west and maybe even pen a book about Congressmen and Members of the Knesset without MercyI will read his book and report back with more.