[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
Boycott in the Air, by Haaretz Editorial
The winds of international boycott of the settlements are quickening and picking up. On 27 June, the Spanish and Italian governments warned citizens against conducting business with settlements in the Golan Heights, the West Bank, or East Jerusalem, saying such activity could expose them to a number of legal and financial risks. France, Germany, and Britain had previously issued similar warnings to their nationals. These five countries’ individual warnings may soon become an all-European resolution. A European boycott of all economic activity would be a blow to the Israeli economy, nearly all of which is invested in the settlement enterprise, whether directly or indirectly.
Hunger Strike Over, But Israel Prison Torture Continues, by Maureen Clare Murphy
Dozens of Palestinians held without charge or trial by Israel ended their sixty three day-long hunger strike protest on 25 June—marking the longest hunger strike in the history of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement. Meanwhile, the Israeli government is set to push through legislation which would permit the force-feeding of hunger strikers, a threat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wielded in an attempt to break the two-month strike. United Nations experts called on Israel to abandon the draft law, describing the plan to break the hunger strike as “cruel and inhuman” treatment.
Palestinian Hunger Strike a “Victory” Despite Israeli Pressure, by Sanaa Kamal
“In the midst of current events and open aggression on our people, after several meetings with the prisons service, we decided to suspend our strike, to have mercy on our families after sixty-three days,” read a statement by the prisoners’ movement that the Prisoners’ Club shared. The statement indicated that the details of the agreement will be announced after the hunger strikers, whose health deteriorated, are released from the hospital. Political analyst Mohammed Hijazi maintained that "Israel`s concessions to the demands is a victory for the prisoners." He explained that limiting the period of open administrative detention is a great achievement. "The [administrative] detention policy is systematic. After each operation, Israel detains hundreds of young men," he said, pointing to the link with the struggle. The strike could not prevent the policy completely, but it mitigated its outcomes.
The End of the Hunger Strike and Mounting Pressure on the PA, by Noam Sheizaf
The end of the hunger strike is a complete victory for the Israeli government and the tough line it has maintained throughout the strike. It is not only that the strike ended without any achievements for the hunger strikers, but one cannot imagine a similar protest breaking out in the coming months, or even years. The prisoner issue is one of the most painful for Palestinian society, and with this deal, Israel has bought itself relative quiet on this front for some time to come. One might speak of a Palestinian success in creating some awareness on the issue of administrative detention, but even the success of Israeli hawks balances this achievement, who believe that every Palestinian action must be met with a forceful response.
Palestinian Stone Throwers Could Face 20 Years in Jail, by Barhoum Jaraisi
The Israeli Ministry of Justice has finished drafting an amendment to the law prohibiting the throwing of stones at Israeli vehicles, military vehicles, and police vehicles. The proposed amendment proposes a prison sentence of up to twenty years for stone throwers.
Soldiers Attack Nonviolent Protests in Hebron, by Saed Bannoura
Israeli soldiers attacked students holding a nonviolent protest in solidarity with the Palestinian political prisoners in the center of Hebron city. The Hebron Defense Committee organized the protest, which started from the al-Jaza’er School and headed toward the Old City. The protest was held in solidarity with hunger striking Palestinian detainees, who were holding an open-ended hunger strike. The detainees are demanding an end to Israel’s illegitimate arbitrary detention policy, indefinitely holding hundreds of detainees without charges or trial.
Asylum Seekers March Out of “Open Prison,” Demand Resettlement, by Michael Omer-Man
African asylum seekers marched on 27 June from the Holot detention center, in which they are jailed, to the Israeli-Egyptian border in protest of Israel’s asylum policies, calling on the United Nations and the Red Cross to intervene. More than eight hundred asylum seekers tried to reach the border fence with Egypt, saying Israel does not check their asylum requests, and therefore, they are asking to be resettled in third countries. The Israeli army stopped the group, and they spent the night in a small forest located a few hundred meters from the border.
Desmond Tutu Tells G4S to Stop Supplying to Israel Prisons, by Rupert Neate
South African retired archbishop and Nobel Peace laureate, Desmond Tutu, led protesters on 5 June campaigning against British security firm G4S`s role in maintaining prisons and detention centres in the West Bank and Israel. He challenged G4S`s management over the company`s alleged role in facilitating "Israel`s brutal occupation and abhorrent prison system" at the company`s annual general meeting in London. Tutu, and several other notable protesters including directors Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, philosopher Noam Chomsky, and barrister Michael Mansfield QC have written an open letter to G4S management, which is published in the Guardian. The letter demands the company to stop supplying equipment to Israeli prisons.
When Palestine Meets Tel Aviv, by Andreas Hackl
Palestinian activists held a demonstration in front of Israel’s Ministry of Defense in the heart of Tel Aviv, challenging the government’s policy to draft Christian Arabs into the army. The protest included a mix of politicians and younger activists mainly from the National Democratic Assembly, an Arab political party in Israel. The reason for the protest was the state’s growing attempts—which is defined as explicitly Jewish—to make Christian Arabs in Israel serve in the Israeli army, which is occupying Palestinian territories.
Presbyterian Church Votes to Divest Holdings to Sanction Israel, by the Associated Press
The Presbyterian Church on Friday 20 June became the most prominent religious group in the United States to endorse divestment as a protest against Israeli policies toward Palestinians, voting to sell church stocks in three companies whose products Israel uses in the occupied territories. The church`s General Assembly, meeting in Detroit, voted by 310–303 to sell stock in Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions.
The B.D.S. Movement is Increasingly Seen as Legitimate Social Action, by Adam E. Gallagher
With the American-mediated negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis having reached deadlock, the media has increasingly presented the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement as a legitimate social movement aimed at securing rights for Palestinians in Israel, “under occupation,” and in the diaspora. However, nothing demonstrates the growing influence and game-changing potential of BDS more than the recent reactions of Israeli leaders and their allies in the United States Congress to BDS successes. With Palestinian–Israeli negotiations having failed, the BDS movement offers Palestinians a credible movement aimed at securing their rights when no alternative exists.
Al-Sabirin: A New Resistance Movement in Gaza, by Hani Ibrahim
The flag and logo of an organization that was launched in May in the Gaza Strip suggest a Hezbollah now exists in Gaza. The organization is called al-Sabirin (the Patient) for the Victory of Palestine and its logo bears a striking similarity to Hezbollah’s logo. Local opponents accuse it of being a Shia movement but its officials deny the charge and stress that they coordinate with other factions to organize their positioning in the resistance.
A Year After the Protests, Gezi Park Nurtures the Seeds of a New Turkey, by Constanze Letsch
Gezi Park in Turkey, where an initial environmental movement turned into a revolt against the increased authoritarianism of the country`s leader, resulted in the mass police crackdown on protesters in 2013. Feminist activist Mehtap Dogan states, "Gezi broke down the wall of fear. For the first time, people were disappointed when they were not in the park for a police crackdown. Everybody wanted to be there, and support everybody else." Anthropologist and journalist Ayse Çavdar says that "Gezi fundamentally changed the foundations and the language of politics… We are now a society that got a taste of what it is like to challenge our government. That never existed in Turkey."
Turkish Police Use Teargas Against Gezi Park Anniversary Protesters, by Reuters
Turkish police fired teargas and water cannons to disperse protesters in Istanbul who sought to mark the one-year anniversary of the country`s biggest anti-government demonstrations in decades. Authorities closed roads and stopped public transport to deny access to Taksim Square and the adjoining Gezi Park where government plans to raze the green space and build a shopping mall sparked last year`s unrest. Police lines kept back activists who had hoped to read a statement at Taksim Square and lay flowers at the park to commemorate the deaths of at least six people in the protests against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan, whom many view as holding authoritarian rule. Street protests could be a recurring feature in the run-up to an August presidential election in which Erdoğan is expected to stand, but few expect this to cause the three-time premier serious political damage.
#DirenAmasya - Turkey`s Latest Gezi-Style Protest, by BBC
The Gezi Park protests began in Istanbul over plans to knock down trees and build over a park in centre of the city. Protestors in the city of Amasya—in the north of the country—staged a similar demonstration. They were holding a "tree watch" to try to save 137 trees in a park often used as a picnic spot—against plans to build a petrol station. On 3 June the hashtag #DirenAmasya began to trend across the country. The word "diren" means resist. In this case, while the hashtag has gone national, the protests themselves have so far remained small-scale and local. There has been a "construction craze" in Turkey, and this has caused tension in many places.
Caged in Cairo: Where Journalism Is a Crime, by Al Jazeera
After 177 days of incarceration in Egypt, the three Al Jazeera English journalists went to court to hear the verdict in their case. Just the week before Al Jazeera Arabic journalist, Abdullah al-Shami, had been released, so hopes were high for an acquittal. Instead, journalists Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste, and Baher Mohamed were all sentenced to seven years in prison for, according to the court, “spreading false news” and “aiding or joining the banned Muslim Brotherhood.” Baher Mohamed received an extra three years for having a used bullet casing in his possession at the time of his arrest.
Protests Against the Protest Law, by Reem Leila
The police arrested twenty-four protesters from among the hundreds who marched to Al Ittihadiya Presidential Palace on 21 June to demonstrate against the controversial protest law and to call for the release of those who have been arrested for violating the law. The police intervened and dispersed the crowds with teargas. The government of former Prime Minister Hazem Al-Beblawi issued the protest law last November, which obliges protest organizers to inform the authorities of their intention to demonstrate three days before the protest takes place.
Egypt’s Revolution Won’t Be Undone: the People Still Have the Will, by Ahdaf Soueif
After the presidential elections there is a subdued air about Cairo, with the old regime morphing into a new arrangement under president-elect, Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi. Hosni Mubarak thought he could ignore popular protest and he was proved wrong, as was Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood president, who made the same mistake to his downfall. While Field Marshal Sisi courted the people, the reality of his promises was exposed on the first day of presidential elections when the masses failed to show up. Perhaps the president, chastened by the elections, is working out how he can balance the demands of the people with the interests of his backers. Egypt`s revolution has expressed the urgency and intensity with which the young desire a different system, and it has shown that they have the ability and the energy and the inventiveness to create it. The revolution proved that a framework enabling people to self-organise in small but coordinated communities will empower them and set free their creative energies.
Egypt Criminalises Sexual Harassment For First Time, by Patrick Kingsley
Egypt has criminalized sexual harassment for the first time, in a move that campaigners say is just the first step towards ending an endemic problem. Egypt`s outgoing president, Adly Mansour, issued a decree that categorized sexual harassment as a crime punishable by a minimum six-month jail term and a fine worth three thousands Egyptian pounds—with increased penalties for employers and repeat offenders. Sexual harassers have been prosecuted on rare occasions in the past in Egypt—but only on vague charges of physical assault. Campaigners welcomed the law, but warned that it remained to be seen whether the police will enforce it. "The biggest issue is still the cultural one: society does not see it as a crime," said Eba`a El-Tamimi, a spokesperson for HarassMap.
Religion and the Fight Over Public Space in Egypt, by Marwa Fikry Adbel Samei
Much to the Egyptian regime`s dismay, posters stating "Have you pronounced blessings on the Prophet today?" spread across Cairo and surrounding areas, seen on cars, taxis, shops, and apartment building entrances. The Ministry of Interior`s spokesperson roamed the different media channels announcing the crusade against these posters and whoever was behind them. Regardless of who stands behind these posters, the incident reveals that the current regime holds uncompromised control over the public space.
Reporting Saudi Arabia’s Hidden Uprising, by Safa Al-Ahmad
In Saudi Arabia`s oil-rich Eastern Province, protesters inspired by the “Arab Spring” have been venting their anger against the government for the last three years. Saudi journalist Safa Alahmad got unprecedented access to the area and explored how frequent protests rumbled on in the region without being silenced. She found that the Eastern Province is home to most of Saudi Arabia`s Shia Muslims, who risk their lives to demonstrate against the monarchy in the hopes of protesting sectarian discrimination. Even inside Saudi Arabia, the protests in the coastal region of Qatif hardly ever make the news and it is nearly impossible for journalists to operate there. Alahmad uses rare footage from activists and meets dozens of protesters in secret gatherings to understand the sweeping reforms demanded by the Shia activists who say they have been long marginalized politically and economically.
How Nonviolent Action Could Thwart ISIL’s Advance in Iraq, by Maria J. Stephan
Organized nonviolent defiance and non-cooperation could be a complicating factor for terrorist elements seeking to control territory in Iraq, Syria, and beyond. To the extent that ISIL elements seize control of economic levers of power, it is conceivable that Iraqis could restrict their labor and consumption en masse. The focus of nonviolent action and strategic communications would be to strip Sunni support away from ISIL. The spectacular violence and military advances of ISIL have gained it widespread media attention, but attention is not the same thing as power, and it remains to be seen how effective ISIL will be at actually achieving political goals beyond its operational successes.
Razan Zaitouneh and Her Comrades: Spirit of the Syrian Revolution Kidnapped, by Joseh Daher
It has been more than five months since Razan Zaitounah, Wael Hamadeh, Samira Khalil, and Nazem Hammadi were kidnapped. The meaning of their kidnapping was well summarized: “Her kidnapping [Razan Zeitouneh] and the kidnapping of her colleagues indicate yet again the endeavour of some to undermine any form of civil action to help Syrians in the liberated areas to rule and provide for themselves.” The main reason behind the abduction is that these activists represent a threat to some groups, just as they do to the Assad regime. They represent the Syrian people empowered, aware of their strength when they act collectively, and above all, they show that the people refuse any form of submission to authoritarianism.
Nabeel Rajab: The Problematic Success of “Human Rights” in the Arab World, by Mark LeVine
One crucial development is how the use of a human rights discourse has become, in a tragic way, an enabler of continued, and even increased, oppression. The manner in which the King of Bahrain accepted a heavily watered down set of recommendations from the so-called Independent Commission of Inquiry with great fanfare, only to be completely ignored, is a good example of this process. Even as human rights become the currency of the realm, so to speak, the game continues to be played on the government`s terms. Many long-term Arab human rights activists in fact see this paradox as central to the problem of human rights in the region today.
Investigating Bahrain’s Mockery of Justice, by Amy Braunschweiger and Nicholas McGeehan
In February 2011, Bahrain erupted into protests with hundreds of thousands filling the streets, peacefully calling for change. But a month later, Bahrain’s government called in reinforcements from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Bahraini riot police fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition at demonstrators, killing at least eighteen and injuring hundreds. A new Human Rights Watch report shows how the country’s courts have locked up protesters—some for life—while the soldiers who ordered demonstrators killed suffer few, if any, consequences.
Bahrain Activist Nabeel Rajab Urges Serious Dialogue, by BBC
Human rights activist Nabeel Rajab says he would talk to the government to end the political deadlock in Bahrain, following his release from prison. Rajab was freed after completing a two-year sentence for organizing "unauthorized" protests. While Rajab was in detention, the Sunni-led government continued clamp down on peaceful protests and to arrest and intimidate leaders of the Shia-dominated opposition. Despite the restrictions on dissent and the risk of being imprisoned, Rajab insisted he would continue to speak out on human rights issues. Rajab also argued that the key to stopping violence was to end the ban on peaceful demonstrations and restrictions on freedom of expression.
Moroccans’ Gay Pride March Aims to Carve Out New Space From a Distance, by Massoud Hayoun
Moroccans will host a gay pride parade on 28 June—a call for gay rights in a kingdom where same-sex intercourse is punishable by up to three years in jail—not in the heart of major cities like Rabat or Casablanca, but on the side-lines of a larger pride event in Paris. In a society where religious conservatives often dismiss homosexuality—as well as reproductive rights and secular government—as phenomena imported from the West, members of the gay community in Morocco are unable to freely go about their lives.
Moroccan Women Protest Against P.M. Remarks That “Women’s Place Is in the Home,” by Middle East Monitor
Dozens of Moroccan women demonstrated outside the Moroccan parliament on 24 June, to protest against the remarks of Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, who said that women should stay at home instead of going out to work. Protesters called for the premier to withdraw his remarks, which "limit women`s role to their biological reproductive function and domestic work." The protesters raised banners demanding the government implement the principle of equality between men and women stipulated in the Moroccan Constitution, and to protect women`s rights. The Prime Minister`s remarks sparked a wave of mixed reactions among those who consider them an insult to the importance of Moroccan women`s role in the economic and political development of the country, and others who believed they were taken out of context.
Women’s Rights Activists Protest Last-Minute Citizenship Decree, by The Daily Star
Lebanese women’s rights activists organized a sit-in to protest a presidential decree granting citizenship to more than six hundred people, arguing that children of Lebanese women should be a priority. The “My Nationality is a Right for Me and My Family” campaign organized a sit-in at Riad al-Solh Square and gathered Lebanese women married to foreigners and their children. Under the current law, children can only receive Lebanese nationality through their fathers. The activists said that the Lebanese government naturalized 644 non-Lebanese and offered people of Lebanese origin living abroad citizenship once they return to Lebanon, and yet, Lebanese women were still denied the right to pass their nationality onto their children.
Slain Libyan Rights Activist Documented Her Last Hours Online, by Robert Mackey
Just hours before she was assassinated, one of Libya’s most prominent civil rights activists, Salwa Bugaighis, logged on to Facebook to urge her fellow citizens of Benghazi to head to the polls and vote, despite violent clashes in the streets between Islamist militias and the forces of a renegade general. She was killed shortly after she voted in a parliamentary election, marred by violence and insecurity. Bugaighis was an early participant in the 2011 revolt against Muammar Qaddafi, and later became a vocal critic of the Islamist militias in Benghazi that refused to disarm after the uprising, and a defender of the rights of women in the new Libya.
How Tunisia Lost Sight of the Revolution, by Manel Zouabi
The Tunisian Revolution of the 14 January might have offered Tunisians some relative freedom of expression; but it has also imprisoned them in the Bourguiba–Ghannouchi dichotomy. Three years after the Revolution, the Tunisian people are still literally divided into pro-Islamists versus anti-Islamists, in a country that counts more than one hundred political parties and thought schools and that has endless economic and social issues to worry about.
Worldwide campaign for the release of Al Jazeera journalists Mohamad Fahmy, Peter Greste, and Baher Mohamed, who Egyptian authorities have been detained since 29 December 2013. On 29 January, 2014, a total of twenty three journalists were charged with a variety of serious charges including “instilling terror” and “possessing and disseminating images contrary to the truth."
Iran and the Struggle for Equality, by Tamsin Walker
Recently, several campaigns advocating for basic freedoms and gender equality inside Iran are making authorities nervous. "Stealthy Freedom" began when Masih Alinejad posted an unveiled picture of herself on the social network platform, and invited her female compatriots to do the same. Another campaign caused an arrest of the young Iranians who danced on the now infamous "Happy" video is proof that the government lacks confidence in its own survival and is put on edge by grassroots movements.
Syrian Art Flourishes in Exile, by Susanne Dickel
Despite the civil war in Syria that is ravaging the ancient cultural treasures and dampening the arts scene, Syrian artist Diala Brisly says that her country`s art scene is flourishing more than ever, but in exile. While there are very few artists active in Syria today, many artists who are in exile come together and work freely in other countries such as Lebanon and Turkey. Brisly states that Syrian art is becoming more diverse as people miss their home and have become more emotional and influenced by Syrian culture.
Iran’s Rock Stars and Their Underground Scene, by Jai Brodie
With only whisperings of what really goes on in Iran, photographer Jai Brodie sought out to learn about Tehran’s youth culture and the underground rock music scene. He was pleasantly surprised to find a vibrant, albeit underground Indie music scene where young musicians come together to make music that is considered illegal by Iranian officials. Many band members that Jai met asked him about his opinion on their music, a sentiment that he believes is not just about the music but more about self-expression and refusing to conform to a hardline regime. Given the legal limitations, the life of a typical band is short. Just about all the bands playing in the underground music scene want to leave Iran so they can play their music. Many describe the fatigue of closed-door performances, dodging the law, and lack of audiences.
Arab YouTube Revolution: Push for Free Speech, by Ismaeel Naar
Political satire has been surging since January 2011 in the Middle East and North Africa. Comedians are using the social media platform YouTube to upload their sketches and spread their political messages.
Conferences & Events
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
Biopolitics and Resistance in Palestinian East Jerusalem, 24 July 2014, Al Falasi Lecture Theatre, Australian National University
The Role of Diasporas, Migrants, and Exiles in the Arab Revolutions and Political Transitions, WAFAW Conference, 15-17 October 2014, Tunis, Tunisia
Call for Papers: Conference on Impact of Arab Uprisings on Citizenship in Arab World, 12-14 November, University of Balamand, Lebanon. (Deadline: 10 July 2014)
Beyond the Arab Uprisings: Rediscovering the MENA region, Annual Conference of the Italian Society for Middle Eastern Studies, 16-17 January 2015, Ca’ Foscari University, Venice, Italy. (Deadline: 30 July 2014)