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Lisa Hajjar


A Critical Retrospective on Obama’s Rhetoric of New Beginnings

“Who is that guy?” Barack Obama’s impressive oratorical skills rocketed him onto the national stage of US politics in 2004 when he, then a freshman senator from Illinois, delivered a speech of stunning eloquence at the Democratic Party national convention. Four years later, he won two decisive victories, first beating Hillary Clinton to become the Democratic Party nominee and then beating Republican Party nominee John McCain to become the president of the United States. ...

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Making American Torture Great Again

 [Witness Against Torture protesters hold a demonstration outside the White House in January, 2016. Credit: Justin Norman at Shrieking Tree.]

Early on in Donald Trump’s bid to be the Republican Party nominee for president of the United States, he pledged to bring back the waterboard and “a whole lot worse.” (Waterboarding is a torture technique that involves strapping a person to a board and dousing his cloth-covered face with water to cause the sensation of drowning.) Like most of the other Republican contenders who vied for the 2016 nomination (and eleven of the twelve Republican contenders in the 2012 race), ...

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Schadenfreude circa 2016

[Donald Trump. Image via David Duke's Twitter account]

Schadenfreude, a German term, describes a coldhearted pleasure derived from the misfortune of others. While taking pleasure from others’ misfortune is not a virtuous sentiment, the 2016 race for the US presidency, which has been an unprecedented debacle in many ways, is one such circumstance when it may be politically valid. To understand who has derived grim pleasure from this debacle, and why, we should consider how different constituencies have apprehended the 2016 US ...

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Normalizing Extreme Violence: The Israeli Case

[The Shejaiya district of Gaza city was pulverised on 20 July 2014. Image via Jews for Justice for Palestinians]

On 15 February 2016, Amitai Etzioni, sociologist and professor at George Washington University, published an op-ed in Israel’s Ha’aretz titled “Should Israel Consider Using Devastating Weapons Against Hezbollah Missiles?” Quoting, first, an unnamed Israeli official who claimed that Hezbollah has one hundred thousand missiles which pose a major security threat, Etzioni asserts that most of these missiles are located in private homes, citing Israel’s chief of staff. Sending ...

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Drone Warfare and the Superpower’s Dilemma (Part 2)

[Image source: The Economist]

This is Part 2 of a two-part article. To access Part 1, click here. Historically, the risks of soldier death and injury were ineluctable features of war, and served sometimes to limit or force an end to wars. Risks to soldiers’ lives were altered (but not eliminated) long before the appearance of drones through the development of increasingly long-range weapons. For Americans, the Vietnam War, at the time the longest overseas armed conflict, was a major turning point in ...

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Drone Warfare and the Superpower’s Dilemma (Part 1)

[Image source: The Sleuth Journal]

The United States has been in a continuous—or, at least, uninterrupted—state of armed conflict since 2001, and there is no end in sight. The strategies and technologies, as well as the locales of engagement and designated enemies of this “’global’ war on terror” have changed considerably over the past fourteen years. Nevertheless, the US government still relies on the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), passed by Congress on 14 September 2001 (three days after ...

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A Theory of the Drone

[Cover of Grégoire Chamayou,

Grégoire Chamayou, A Theory of the Drone, translated by Janet Lloyd. New York: The New Press, 2015. Since the turn of this century, armed drones (that is, unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs) have become a weapon of choice for the United States. Drone strikes started during the Bush administration with the “war on terror.” Under the Obama administration, drone warfare has been elevated to the pinnacle of counter-terrorism strategy, a shift driven by the combined effects of ...

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How To Not Know about the CIA’s Targeted Killing Program

[Drone during a storm. Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: jeditrilobite, david.evenson.]

The CIA operates armed drones to engage in targeted killing operations in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. That is known. But, to borrow from former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s iconic statement, is it a “known known” or a “known unknown”? Known knowns are things we know we know, whereas known unknowns are things we know we do not know. The third ingredient of Rumsfeld’s rhetorical mélange is the “unknown unknowns”—things we do not know we do not know. The CIA wishes ...

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Is Gaza Still Occupied and Why Does It Matter?

[Entering Gaza at the Erez Checkpoint. Image by Olly Lambert.]

[In view of Israel's assertions that it has not occupied the Gaza Strip since 2005, Jadaliyya re-posts an analysis of this claim authored by Lisa Hajjar, initially published in 2012.] Yes, the Gaza Strip is still occupied. Despite official Israeli remonstrations that the unilateral disengagement of 2005, which removed Israeli military bases and Jewish settlers, transformed Gaza into “no longer occupied territory,” neither those changes nor anything that has transpired ...

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Quick Thoughts: Lisa Hajjar on Guantanamo Bay and High Seas Detention

[The five 9/11 defendants in the Guantánamo military commission, June 2014. Artwork by Janet Hamlin.]

[Jadaliyya Co-Editor Lisa Hajjar recently returned from her fifth visit to the US naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where the United States has maintained a military prison facility since 2002. Below she provides her impressions and analysis of the current state of military trials.] Jadaliyya (J): You recently visited Guantánamo to report on the military commission proceedings. What is the state of the cases currently on trial? Lisa Hajjar (LH): In the ...

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Comparing American and Israeli Ways of War

[Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin and Brig. Gen. Shahar Shohat at a press conference for a combined US-Israel military exercise, Austere Challenge 12; Image by Staff Sgt. Yuval Haker/IDF]

Over the last few years, Israel and Palestine have become major topics of interest and debate for scholars who do American Studies. This is evident in burgeoning comparative analyses of settler colonialisms, militarized borders, intersections of racialization and revolutionary politics, and cultural productions that emanate from or speak to the issue of diaspora, to name a few. Here, I share some thoughts about the comparative work that I do on Israel’s and America’s ways ...

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Let's Go to Guantanamo! An On-the-Ground Perspective on the 9/11 Trial

[Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay as drawn from life. Sketch by Molly Crabapple]

In this talk, I focus on the military commission trial for Khaled Sheikh Muhammad and four other men accused of responsibility for the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, a case often referred to as "the trial of the century." The presentation offers a first-hand perspective on what it is like to go to Guantanamo, and an analysis of the critical and contentious issues that this case raises. The government is striving to pursue accountability for the 11 September ...

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هل ما زال قطاع غزة محتلا؟ وما جدوى السؤال

[تصوير جورج عازار ]

      [ هذا المقال جزء من ”أصوات من أجل غزة" وهو ملف خاص تنشره جدلية على مدار شهر كامل. للإطلاع على بقية المقالات اضغط/ي هنا] نعم مازال قطاع غزة محتلاً، فبالرغم من الاحتجاجات الإسرائيلية الرسمية  حول إنهاء الاشتباك الأحادي الجانب والمتفق عليه في عام ٢٠٠٥ والذي أزال القواعد الإسرائيلية العسكرية والمستوطنات اليهودية والذي حول القطاع إلى منطقة ”لم تعد محتلة“ فإن هذه التغيرات وكل ما حصل منذ ذلك لم يؤد فعليا إلى انتهاء الاحتلال. الاحتلال ...

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Classified Memories: Trying To Try Terror Suspects Who Were Tortured by the CIA

Two high-profile cases being prosecuted in the military commissions at Guatanamo raise exceptionally challenging problems for the US government as well as the civilian and military lawyers defending the suspects. One case involves five people, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who are accused of responsibility for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The second case is against Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri, who is accused of participating in the bombing of the USS Cole off the coast of ...

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Actualizacion sobre la guerra con aviones no tripulados: El arte de ganar enemigos

Pakistani mourners for civilians killed in US drone strike. Image from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.]

[This article was originally written by Lisa Hajjar and published by Jadaliyya in English. It was translated into Spanish by Sinfo Fernández and published by Rebelión.]  Actualización sobre la guerra con aviones no tripulados: El arte de ganar enemigos El 1 de agosto de 2013, el Secretario de Estado estadounidense John Kerry hizo un anuncio en Islamabad, adonde se había desplazado en un intento de resucitar las estratégicas ...

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How To Lose Friends and Alienate People: An Update on Drone Warfare

[Pakistani mourners for civilians killed in US drone strike. Image from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.]

On 1 August 2013, US Secretary of State John Kerry made an announcement in Islamabad, where he had gone to resuscitate bilateral US-Pakistani strategic negotiations. At a press conference, he said that the United States was committed to end drone strikes in Pakistan in the near future. “I think [President Obama] has a very real timeline, and we hope it's going to be very, very soon.” The plan to wind down drone warfare was essentially a precondition to resume negotiations ...

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The Agony and the Irony of Guantanamo’s Mass Hunger Strike

[Force feeding restraint chair. Image by Jason Leopold.]

The executive order pledging to close Guantánamo within a year, signed by freshly inaugurated President Barack Obama on his second day in office, is a dead letter. Over the past two months, however, the president has recommitted to his 2009 pledge, including appointing a special envoy to head the effort to break through the stalemate that is largely the product of domestic politics. Clearly, one trigger for this renewed attention to Guantánamo is the mass ...

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The Least of All Possible Evils: Humanitarian Violence from Arendt to Gaza

[Cover of Eyal Weizman,

Eyal Weizman, The Least of All Possible Evils: Humanitarian Violence from Arendt to Gaza. New York: Verso, 2011. [This review was originally published in the most recent issue of Arab Studies Journal. For more information on the issue, or to subscribe to ASJ, click here.] In that historical moment after the September 11 terrorist attacks, American politicians and pundits launched a debate about whether torture should be employed to combat terror. Those who endorsed the ...

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Lawfare and Armed Conflict: Comparing Israeli and US Targeted Killing Policies and Challenges against Them

[Lisa Hajjar. Image from below video]

In this public lecture, I engage the concept of lawfare (an amalgamation of “law” and “warfare”) to compare Israeli and US twenty-first century armed conflicts. Specifically, I focus on both states’ targeted killing policies and the legal rationales that have been advanced to try to project their lawfulness, and legal challenges to these policies in order to tell a larger story about the relationship between contemporary practices of law and war. In order to tell this story, ...

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New Texts Out Now: Lisa Hajjar, Torture: A Sociology of Violence and Human Rights

[Cover of Lisa Hajjar,

Lisa Hajjar, Torture: A Sociology of Violence and Human Rights. New York: Routledge, 2012 [“Framing Twenty-First Century Social Issues” series]. Jadaliyya (J): What inspired you to write this book? Lisa Hajjar (LH): Torture is my great and terrible obsession. I think, read, write, and talk about torture all the time, as anyone who knows me can attest. I was inspired to write this book in order to share my knowledge, my passion, and—to be blunt—my anger about torture with ...

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Personal Posts

Is There A Pill For This?

[Image from OliviaB]

In my first Jadaliyya post, I described my “great and terrible obsession” with torture. Generally speaking, I love my obsession; thinking and talking about torture in an age of torture
seems not only rational and reasonable but politically responsible. I’d
bet my torture-related information command center (i.e., the part of my
brain that stores, categorizes and operationalizes torture data) would be a source of great riches if there was a Jeopardy-Torture game ...

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Lisa Hajjar


Lisa Hajjar is a professor of sociology at the University of California-Santa Barbara. Her scholarship focuses on international law, war and conflict, human rights, and torture. She is the author of Courting Conflict: The Israeli Military Court System in the West Bank and Gaza (University of California Press, 2005) and Torture: A Sociology of Violence and Human Rights (Routledge, 2013). She is a co-editor of Jadaliyya, and has served on the editorial committees of Middle East Report and Journal of Palestine Studies. She is working on a book about anti-torture lawyering in the “war on terror.” In 2014-2015, she was the Edward Said Chair of American Studies at the American University of Beirut, and the following year she served as the director of AUB’s Center for American Studies and Research.


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