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DARS Media Roundup (February 2016)

[Boycott Israel. Image by Helga Tawil Souri via Flickr] [Boycott Israel. Image by Helga Tawil Souri via Flickr]

[This is a monthly roundup of news articles and other materials circulating on Resistance and Subversion in the Arab world and reflects a wide variety of opinions. It does not reflect the views of the DARS Page Editors or of Jadaliyya. You may send your own recommendations for inclusion in each monthly roundup to]

News & Comments

Greatest Threat to Free Speech in the West: Criminalizing Activism Against Israeli Occupation, by Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Fishman
United Kingdom’s government ban of the boycott of Israeli goods may sound like an extreme infringement of free speech and political activism--and of course, it is--but it is far from unusual in the West. There is a very coordinated and well-financed campaign led by Israel and its supporters literally to criminalize political activism against Israeli occupation, based on the particular fear that the worldwide campaign of Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment, or BDS--modeled after the 1980s campaign that brought down the Israel-allied apartheid regime in South Africa-- is succeeding.

The Right to Boycott Is Non-Negotiable, by Amjad Iraqi
The political backlash to BDS was always expected; similar attacks by state authorities had targeted the boycott movements in the Jim Crow south and against apartheid South Africa. What is shocking, however, is not only the extent to which authorities are working to crush today’s BDS movement, but the use of legal measures to restrict or fully silence boycott activities against Israel. These legal crackdowns point to the success of Israel and its supporters in portraying boycott as an immoral act: that to support boycott is to be anti-Israel (and anti-Semitic), and to undermine the advancement of peace. This view, of course, is grossly misguided since boycotts are supported by Jews too. 

Banning Boycotts of Israel Will Protect Britain’s National Security, Government Says, by Jon Stone
The government of the United Kingdom (UK) said it is banning public boycotts of Israeli goods because the practice undermines “community cohesion” and Britain’s “international security.”  Ministers have issued a so-called procurement policy note notifying public authorities that they would face “severe penalties” if they continue procurement boycotts on ethical grounds. The UK government announced the policy on 15 February and has implemented it without any parliamentary debate or vote.

Anger as UK Moves to Ban Israeli Settlement Boycott, by Patrick Strickland
Activists have accused the UK of a crackdown on human rights campaigners over plans to ban city councils, public bodies and some student unions from boycotting "unethical" businesses, including those operating in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. As part of the measure, all publicly funded institutions will be barred from boycotting goods or services by companies complicit in weapons trade, tobacco products or Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. 

BDS Movement: Lessons from the South-Africa Boycott, by Megan Hanna
When the UK government announced a new law that would restrict the freedom of all publicly-funded institutions to participate in "inappropriate" political boycotts, it was met with anger. Parallels have been drawn with the Thatcher government's approach towards those who lobbied for sanctions on the apartheid-era South African government during the 1980s. Al Jazeera asked former members of the Anti-Apartheid Movement who were heavily involved with the boycott movement against South Africa from the 1960s until the 1990s what they think of the new law.

Israeli Soldiers Assault Nonviolent Protesters in Hebron, by IMEMC News
Israeli soldiers attacked, Friday 26 February, dozens of Palestinians, accompanied by Israeli and international peace activists, holding a nonviolent protest, demanding Israel to reopen Shuhada Street, in Hebron’s Old city. The attack caused several injuries. 

Bahrain’s Young People Mark Fifth Anniversary of Arab Spring, by Associated Press
Hundreds of young people shouting anti-government slogans took to the streets in Bahrain on Sunday 24 February despite a heavy police presence to mark the fifth anniversary of an uprising calling for political change in the tiny island kingdom. The 2011 protests in Bahrain, which is home to the US navy’s 5th fleet, were the largest of the Arab spring wave of demonstrations to rock the Gulf Arab states. They were driven by the country’s Shi‘i majority with protesters demanding greater political rights from the Sunni-led monarchy. Many opponents of the government and rights activists remain behind bars and the site that was the focus of the protests in 2011 is still sealed off by security forces. On 14 February, demonstrators from the largely Shi‘i community of Sitra, south of the capital, attempted to march but were turned back by police firing teargas.

Journalists in Aqrab Prison Start Hunger Strike, Protest “Slow Death” Behind Bars, by Heba Farouk Mahfouz
Nine Egyptian journalists serving sentences in Aqrab Prison, the maximum-security section of Cairo's Tora prison complex, have started a hunger strike “against mistreatment and poor living conditions in detention.” 

Dozens Protest Ban on Niqab at Cairo University, by Mai Shams El-Din
Dozens of students, faculty members and medical staff at Cairo University protested against a ban on wearing niqab, both on campus and at university-affiliated medical centers. On February, university president Gaber Nassar banned all female medical staff working at the university’s hospitals from wearing niqab, maintaining that patients have the right to know the identity of the medical staff treating them, and that the full-face veil hindered effective communication between professors and students.

Egypt Doctors Stage Silent Stand Throughout the Country, by Marina Barsoum
Hundreds of Egyptian doctors staged on 20 February a one-hour stand in front of their hospitals over the January attack by policemen on doctors at Cairo’s Matariya Hospital. A statement by the Doctors Syndicate said the demonstrations called for a secure work environment for doctors, holding assailants accountable, and the drafting of legislation imposing heavy penalties on those who assault doctors. On 28 January 2016, a number of policemen allegedly assaulted two doctors at Matariya Hospital after one of the doctors refused to include fake injuries in a medical report for one of the policemen.

Turkey’s Other “Gezi” Moment, by Ali Bilgic
There were two Gezi moments: one, a resistance to neoliberal authoritarianism; the other, a defence of representative democracy and “the national will,” for whom Gezi spelt the end of democracy. The article focuses on the ‘anti-Gezi’ social groups and their protests, which were happening concomitantly with the Gezi protests: the “other” Gezi moment in Turkey. It also questions how and under what political and economic conditions the government was capable of creating a counter-discourse to Gezi and garnering support for the regime.

From Revolution to Reaction in Egypt, by Sameh Naguib
Sameh Naguib, a leading member of the Revolutionary Socialist party in Egypt, elaborates on the forces of counterrevolution in Egypt, as well as on the role of the left in Egypt today.


Artists Challenge the Blockade by Building a Virtual Bridge Between Gaza and London, by Amelia Smith
At Home in Gaza and London is a digital, cross-border art project that offers an intimate look into people’s personal lives. The project’s creators, Station House Distributed, have used digital technology to transport artists in England into the homes and lives of artists in Gaza and vice versa. Artists on either side have set up live video streams which are then superimposed onto each other to create the effect they are in the same place. The blockade on Gaza has had a devastating impact on freedom of movement for Palestinians and in this context At Home in Gaza and London attempts to transcend physical restrictions and political borders by offering a virtual bridge between the two countries.

The Art of Dissidence and Diplomacy, by John Feffer
John Feffer tries to explore what role can artists play in not only addressing political issues, but also helping to resolve political problems? As provocateurs, can artists do more harm than good? Is all art inherently political—or are politics and art antithetical?

Events & Conferences 

Al-Mutanabbi Street Festival, January-March 2016, Washington DC., USA. Details on all exhibitions can be found here:

Why Some Contentious Movements Fail: the Case of the Syrian Opposition, 15 March 2016, London School of Economics, London, UK. 

Europe and the Arab Uprisings Five Years On: The Betrayal of Democracy, 17 March 2016, University of Sydney, Australia.


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