[This is a bi-weekly 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 bi-weekly roundup to DARS@jadaliyya.com by Sunday night of every second week.]
News & Commentary
Why Israel Fears the Boycott, by Omar Barghouti
These days, Israel seems as terrified by the “exponential” growth of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement as it is by Iran’s rising clout in the region. Last June, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu effectively declared B.D.S. a strategic threat. Calling it the “delegitimization” movement, he assigned the overall responsibility for fighting it to his Strategic Affairs Ministry. But B.D.S. doesn’t pose an existential threat to Israel; it poses a serious challenge to Israel’s system of oppression of the Palestinian people, which is the root cause of its growing worldwide isolation.
N. Y. Senate Passes Bill Penalizing Schools for Boycotting Israel, by Haaretz
The New York State Senate approved a bill that would suspend funding to educational institutions that fund groups which boycott Israel. The legislation, approved in a 56-4 vote, bans state funding to colleges that fund organizations boycotting “countries that host higher education institutions chartered by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York.” A number of New York-based universities have Israel branches. The bill does not mention Israel, but its sponsor, state Senator Jeffrey Klein - in a statement quoted by the news site Mondoweiss - made clear that academic boycotts of Israel were what led him to introduce the legislation.
Scarlett Johansson’s SodaStream Endorsement Deal Conflicts With Charity Work, Aid Group Says, by Robert Mackey
The international aid and development group Oxfam has distanced itself from one of its own global ambassadors, the actress Scarlett Johansson, since she agreed to become the face of SodaStream, an Israeli company that makes products in a settlement built on West Bank territory Israel has occupied since 1967. To spread their message, the activists appropriated and reworked images of Johansson posted online by SodaStream, showing her on the set of a new commercial for the company, scheduled for broadcast during the Super Bowl on February 2.
Palestinian Workers Back Scarlett Johansson’s Opposition to SodaStream Boycott, by Christa Case Bryant
American actress Scarlett Johansson has been criticized as naïve and irresponsible for endorsing SodaStream, an Israeli company that operates a factory in the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim, to the detriment of Palestinian rights, say critics. But Palestinians who work in the factory largely side with Johansson, saying that they would be the losers in an international campaign to boycott the company.
Meet Gaza’s Nonviolent Resistance, by Institute for Middle East Understanding
In Gaza, a growing nonviolent movement, led predominantly by youth, is challenging Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian lands in the so-called “buffer zone” - a unilaterally demarcated and militarily patrolled area that, according to Harvard researcher Sara Roy, “now absorbs nearly 14 percent of Gaza’s total land and at least 48 percent of total arable land.” In this video, some 300 protesters are shown under fire from Israeli guns for the crime of planting citrus trees to replace those destroyed by Israel’s ongoing occupation, which daily deprives Gaza’s more than 1.7 million Palestinians of access to their farmland, to the sea that borders them, to the airspace above them - and, crucially, to their fellow Palestinians.
The End of Paternalism: Assessing the “Arab Spring” Three Years On, by Hassan Mneimneh
The expression “Arab Spring” always appeared to be on rhetorically weak ground. However, in Tunisia has there been some modest progress, with a new draft constitution accepted by the main secular and Islamist parties and a national dialogue process in place to preserve the frail legitimacy of the post-revolutionary order. The Arab Spring was the result of long-term structural transformations affecting the Middle East and North Africa. To ensure their own survival, the institutions created by autocratic regimes demonstrated resilience, adaptability, and ruthlessness. Meanwhile, the immature and heterogeneous character of the revolutionary movements made them susceptible to opportunistic radicalism.
On the Tragedy of Two Revolutions in Egypt and Syria, by Jean Aziz
It is an interesting and bizarre coincidence that two developments in two revolutions would occur simultaneously. In Egypt, the army returns to power on the third anniversary of the 25 January Revolution. In Syria, the representative of revolutionary legitimacy, Ahmad al-Jarba, stands in Geneva to thank Cairo for hosting 30,000 Syrian refugees but neglects to mention Beirut, where the number of Syrian refugees is more than half the number of the Lebanese population.
Arab Women Encouraged by Arab Spring: Activists, by Ahmed Mahmoud
Latifa Jbabdi, a Moroccan activist for human rights and women`s rights, gave a presentation on the struggle of Moroccan women in light of constitutional reforms. A speech by Moroccan King Mohammed VI on 9 March 2011 brought with it sweeping reforms, especially for women. Women rights groups and organizations quickly formed a broad coalition called the Feminist Spring for Democracy and Equality Coalition. Through the coalition`s work, Moroccan women effectively pressured the government to put international conventions into law and to hold the state responsible for safeguarding and implementing them. Women have also fought discrimination and violence, and call for equality in civil, political, social, and environmental circles.
Conference of Syrian Women, Convened by UN Women and the Netherlands, Ends with Strong Recommendations for Upcoming Peace Talks, by UN Women
A two-day meeting to support women’s participation in the Syrian peace process, convened in Geneva by UN Women together with the Government of the Netherlands, ended on 13 January with a statement by Syrian women civil society members and activists. “We cannot remain silent regarding events in Syria, such as daily death, massive destruction, starvation, displacement of hundreds of thousands of families and the spread of terror, violence, ongoing detentions, acts of kidnapping, destruction of infrastructure and the spread of disease, particularly among children,” said Sabah Alhallak, who was selected to address the media.
Lebanon: Some Women Slip Through Cracks of Domestic Violence Law, by Chloé Benoist
Domestic violence has found itself in the past year regularly in Lebanese headlines. Various tragic stories have stirred public opinion in support of a draft law which would criminalize domestic violence. But while the bill is hailed by many women’s rights activists as a decisive step, some of the most vulnerable women in the country are still desperately exposed to abuse with little to no legal recourse.
Lexicon of a Revolution’s Insults, by Andeel
The ongoing disagreements and political struggles have generated much re-evaluation, as well as some aggressive reactions. One of the most widely impactful phenomena born during this period is labeling. Due to this labeling, many have complained that opinions are not being discussed as much as the individuals behind them are. Here Mada Masr and Andeel offer a dictionary of terms to use in a conversation about the revolution to demoralize your opponents without having to actually prove your point or try to understand where they are coming from.
The Revolution in Winter, by Steve Negus
While it is probably right to say there is no more "revolution," in the sense that the tactics of mass uprising will not work in the near future, there is a "revolution" in the sense of a set of ideals and a historical legacy that can guide and inspire activists. A dynamic minority of activists can destabilize, but to be a partner in government they need the kind of leverage that can only come from a nationwide mass movement, strong in the provinces as well as just the big cities. If Egypt`s revolutionaries reconsider their tactics, abandoning the adrenaline and theater of protest for the slow unglamorous work of movement-building, it may have a chance in decades to come.
Egypt’s Opposition Persists Despite Escalating Crackdown, by Jihad Abaza
Political detainees in Egyptian jails are students, activists and journalists. Some of these detainees are prominent figures and renowned Muslim Brotherhood leaders, while many more are unknown. They have been subjected to torture, abuse, harassment, and according to Al Jazeera, some female detainees have also been raped. Hundreds of these detainees have been on hunger strike since 23 December, protesting mistreatment inside prison.
Egypt Cracks Down on Students, by Safa Joudeh
Student demonstrations have become a daily occurrence at Egyptian universities, growing in recent months in response to the unprecedented, forceful suppression of civil rights expressed through traditional channels of political activism. According to the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), six hundred and ninety two students from universities across Egypt are currently being detained in a clampdown that has largely targeted the Islamist component of the anti-military opposition movement, but has also roped in liberal activist and students.
Protesters Killed on Anniversary of Anti-Mubarak Revolt, by Patrick Kingsley
At least fifty four people have been reported dead in clashes with anti-government protesters in Egypt on the third anniversary of the uprising that culminated in the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. Thousands of Egyptians also rallied in support of the army-led authorities, underlining the country`s deep political divisions. Security forces lobbed teargas and fired in the air to try to prevent anti-government demonstrators from reaching Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the 2011 uprising.
3 Years Later, Young Bloggers Who Made the Tahrir Revolution Are in Jail, by Jillian C. York
The military “interim government” in Egypt is cracking down on virtually all meaningful form of assembly, association, or opposition. Following the passage of a November 2013 law banning peaceful protest, dozens of activists and organizers have been sent to prison. Among them is Alaa Abd El Fattah, software guru, blogger and political activist. As the third anniversary of the 25 January revolution draws near, we express our concern that Alaa’s case marks a worrying trend for civil liberties in Egypt.
The Illusion of Change, by Rana Allam
Egypt already has good laws set in place against torture, inhumane treatment, sexual harassment, carrying arms, destroying churches, beating women, discrimination. Egypt is a signatory to almost every international human rights, women’s rights, anti-discrimination agreement that exists, and have been since the Mubarak era. What do laws matter if you also have a law enforcement body that breaks them, twists them to its benefit, and wields absolute immunity? There will be no stability, no security, no progress, unless state institutions, especially the police and the judiciary, get their act together and possess a will to change from within. Nothing will change unless our rulers stop their false promises of democracy and justice, and start practicing them.
Egyptian Journalist Explains Hunger Strike in Prison Letter, by Robert Mackey
Abdullah Elshamy, an Egyptian journalist for Al Jazeera who was detained in August while covering the bloody crackdown on an Islamist sit-in in Cairo, has embarked on a hunger strike, according to a letter from prison that was posted online by his family on 27 January. Elshamy, the Qatari network’s West Africa correspondent before his arrest, is one of five Al Jazeera journalists currently being held in jail by the military-backed government that took power in July and swiftly moved to shut down media outlets considered sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood and the deposed president, Mohamed Morsi.
Egypt’s Shame: Why Violence against Women Has Soared After Mubarak, by Emily Dyer
In late November 2013, Egyptian police rounded up fourteen female activists in downtown Cairo, including three prominent women who had helped lead the first protests against former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime in 2011. Three years later, the women are still at it, now protesting military trials against civilians and a draconian new law banning public demonstrations without a permit. Following the arrests, the women allege, they were detained for several hours by the police, beaten and sexually abused, and then dumped in the desert outside the city.
Turkey Internet Activists Warn the Government “Cannot Stop Us,” by Dorian Jones
Protesters in Turkey have been demonstrating against government legislation that`s going through parliament to tighten state control over the Internet, in a country that already has some of the tightest controls in the world. The proposed legislation would enable the government to impose further controls over the Internet, including empowering ministers to block websites. Net activists in Turkey say a proposed law to tighten censorship online won`t stop them, for, as in China, many people in Turkey have found ways to get around the blocks.
Arab Lost Confidence in Erdogan after Gezi Protests, Dec. 17 Operation, by Sinem Cengiz
Arabs started to lose confidence in Turkey. “We are astonished by the way the Erdoğan government handled the Gezi demonstrations and the major corruption scandal,” said a senior Arab diplomat who spoke to Today`s Zaman on condition of anonymity. Turkey, the diplomat said, particularly after the Gezi protests, which began last May in protest of government plans for the redevelopment of Gezi Park in İstanbul`s Taksim Square, started to lose its positive image in the eyes of the Arab people, adding that the 17 December corruption operation, which has shaken Turkey`s political landscape, further led to the decline of admiration for the “Turkish model.”
Saudi Arabia: New Terrorism Law Is Latest Tool to Crush Peaceful Expression, by Amnesty International
A new counter-terrorism law in Saudi Arabia will entrench existing patterns of human rights violations and serve as a further tool to suppress peaceful political dissent, Amnesty International said after analyzing the legislation. The Law for the Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing, which took effect on 1st February, uses an overly vague definition of terrorism, gives the Ministry of Interior broad new powers and legalizes a range of ongoing human rights violations against detainees.
Saudi Arabia Faces More Immediate Threats than Arab Spring, by Saoud Kabeli
Since the Arab Spring revolutions first ignited, international media and research centers have constantly asked whether the Arab Spring threatens Saudi Arabia. While some consider Saudi Arabia immune to the events in some of the other Arab countries, others believe that revolutions will find their way into the kingdom. The real threat to the Gulf countries does not stem from abroad, nor from the Arab countries that are currently suffering from instability, but from internal challenges, such as youth unemployment, and the raising of public-sector wages by 60% in other Gulf countries.
Every Protest Is Crushed by the Great Brutality of Morocco, by Matthew Vickery
Western Sahara is a nation crippled by an aggressive Moroccan military occupation supported, whose native Saharawis’ aspirations for self-determination are largely ignored by the international community. This collective punishment of a whole nation - stretching not just to those who live in the territories occupied by Morocco but also to the extensive refugee population - ensures that Saharawis are unable to live as individuals with political and human rights in a nation of their own. Individuals who speak up against this injustice are brutally silenced. Saharawi activist Mohammed Wered describes the many techniques that Morocco uses to find and silence activists in the occupied territories.
From Shah to Supreme Leader: What the Iranian Revolution Revealed, by Laura Secor
Two magisterial new books by British scholars of Iran make the best of this historical divide between pre-revolutionary Iran - which foregrounds the shah, his court, and its foreign patrons - and the post-revolutionary Islamic Republic, which forced Iranian society, with all complexities, into the light of historical explanation. James Buchan’s "Days of God" is a survey of the years of Iran’s last shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, moving largely from the top down until 1979, when the revolution forced the old protagonists from the scene. Michael Axworthy’s "Revolutionary Iran" carries the country’s history forward as a contest among political visions and social forces. To read these two books together is to understand the revolution as something other than a historical rupture.
“Melh Al-Ard” Campaign
Hundreds of Palestinians announced on the 31st of January the launching of “Melh Al-Ard” (Salt of the Earth) campaign by reviving the village of Ein Hijleh in the Jordan Valley on land belonging to the Orthodox Church and St. Gerassimos monastery. The campaign is launched in refusal of Israeli policies aimed at Judaizing and annexing the Jordan Valley.
Turkey Must Clean Up its Politics or Suffer Even Greater Problems Down the Road
Transparency International Turkey launched a public online petition drive to pressure the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to adopt a series of anti-corruption reforms. The group invites the Turkish people to take the first step against political corruption by signing the online petition that calls for greater disclosure of assets held by politicians and high level-bureaucrats.
The Square: an Egyptian Oscar nominee that won`t be shown in Egypt, by Patrick Kingsley
“The Square” is the first Egyptian film to earn an Oscar nomination - but it cannot officially be shown in Egypt itself. That is down to its provocative subject matter: the documentary charts the course of Egypt`s political upheaval since 2011, through the eyes of a handful of Tahrir Square protesters. Here, the film`s director, Jehane Noujaim, explains how she made it, and defends her protagonists against accusations of idealism.
A Confused and Contradictory Film on how Foreigners “help” Palestine, by Sarah Irving
The Do Gooders is a film on the question of aid and international intervention in Palestine. In this article, Sarah Irving provides a critical analysis of it.
Two Men, a Car, and the Wall
With little more than a Peugeot and a projector, three Palestine filmmakers bring a rare taste of regional and international cinema to Gaza, where they show films in villages, in classrooms, and even on the separation wall itself. This new film tells their story.
Gaza Writers Resist War and Siege through Fiction, by Yazan al-Saadi
Fifteen young writers, between the ages of eighteen and thirty, five of whom never wrote fiction before, contributed twenty-three short fiction stories to the final collection “Gaza Writes Back: Short Stories from Young Writers in Gaza, Palestine.” Only four were able to attend the book’s launch in packed rooms in London and Malaysia on January; the rest unable to leave Gaza. For these writers, the stories symbolized their own personal struggles, as well as societal challenges they witnessed around them. It was an opportunity for them to give voice to the voiceless.
Conferences & Events
"Civil society in Syria before and during the uprising" – AUB Sociology Café, February 6, 2014, at 6:00 pm, in T-Marbouta, Hamra Square, Beirut, Lebanon
Creative Dissent: Arts of the Arat World Uprisings, 8 November 2013-9 February 2014, Arab American National Museum, Michigan, USA
The Third Annual Conference on the Social Sciences and Humanities, 19-20 March 2014, Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, Tunisia
Call for Papers: Protest (deadline: 24 February), University of Glasgow, College of Arts, Postgraduate Conference 2014
Call for Papers: ‘Bread, Freedom and Social Justice:’ Organized Workers and Mass Mobilizations in the Arab World, Europe and Latin America, 10-11 July 2014, University of Cambridge, UK.