[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 DARS@jadaliyya.com.]
News & Commentary
Israel Seizes Gaza-Bound Boat in “Act of Piracy,” by Ali Abunimah
Israel forces boarded and commandeered the Marianne on Monday 29 June, on of four boats that were bound for Gaza in the latest attempt to break the tight Israeli siege of the occupied territory. At around 2 am Gaza time, while in international waters, Marianne was surrounded by three Israeli navy boats, the organizers of Freedom Flotilla III said in a press release. The organizers called the seizure of the boat and its passengers an “act of piracy.”
Marianne Flotilla Reflects Turkey’s Changed Israel Stance, by Ben Caspit
Five years and a month separate the naval flotilla to Gaza that centered on the Mavi Marmara and the current four-boat flotilla led by the Marianne. In this article, Ben Caspit explains how different the current political situation is than it was five years ago, as well as the reasons the two protest actions received different attention and reaction. He concludes that the geopolitical situation of the Middle East today (e.g., the role of Turkey in the region) is totally different than it was when the Mavi Marmara incident occurred.
Arab-Jewish Party Declares Support for Boycotting Firms in Settlements, by Jack Khoury
Israel`s Arab-Jewish Hadash party has declared on Tuesday, 9 June its support of an international boycott of companies operating in the West Bank, since it regards such action as a legitimate form of civil resistance to the occupation there. In an official statement Hadash’s bureau said the party “welcomes all expressions of solidarity with the Palestinian people in its just struggle, including boycotting commercial enterprises that are involved in the occupation and in violation of the Palestinian people’s rights, since this is a legitimate manner of civil resistance. Hadash calls on all nations of the world, on associations and labor unions, to intensify the struggle for a just peace in the region, based on respect for the rights of its peoples and on cessation of all acts of injustice, repression, and racism.”
US Church Votes To Divest Over Israeli Occupation, by Dalia Hatuqa
The United Church of Christ, a large mainline Protestant denomination in the US, has overwhelmingly voted to divest from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory and to boycott goods made in Israeli settlements, as support for increased action against the country`s policies grew in momentum.
Israel’s Allies in US Challenge Boycott, by Rick Gladstone
Alarmed over what they see as the growing influence of the pro-Palestinian campaign, known as Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS), Israel’s advocates in the US, mirroring the reaction among many in Israel, are scrambling to respond. Some have embraced a call by the new Israeli justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, to “boycott the boycotters.” Boycott organizers describe their movement as a nonviolent strategy aimed at pressuring Israel to end its occupation and control of territories seized in the 1967 war so that Palestinians can have their own state. Supporters of the campaign describe new anti-BDS trade legislation as a barometer of their success.
A Year Since Protests, Detained Asylum Seekers Hint at New Strategy, by Oren Ziv
A year ago, a thousand African asylum seekers marched out of the Holot detention facility towards the Egyptian border, hoping to draw the world’s attention to their plight. Since then, thousands have been pressured to leave Israel. In this piece, Oren Ziv interviews two asylum seekers about the ineffectiveness of the protests and what comes next.
Israel Brands Palestinian-Led Boycott Movement a “Strategic Threat,” by Peter Beaumont
Israel and its supporters have ratcheted up their campaign against the Palestinian-led Boycott Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, with senior Israeli officials declaring it a strategic threat. The nonviolent grassroots movement, founded with the support of dozens of Palestinian organizations, is modeled on South African anti-apartheid campaigns and calls for an end to the occupation, and equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel. One Palestinian official said he believed the latest effort was aimed not only at BDS but also at the wider Palestinian effort to promote its case in the International Criminal Court, the UN and FIFA.
Israel Risks EU Settlement Label Threat as Boycott War Heats Up, by Calev Ben-David
Made in a West Bank settlement: It’s a distinction the EU will ask member states to make on goods produced in captured territories if Israel does not do more to make peace with the Palestinians. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini relayed that message while in Israel last month. Supporters of economic sanctions, led by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, say such measures are the only means to pressure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make territorial concessions to the Palestinians. Israeli officials say while the economic harm has been small the sanctions are part of a broader, more damaging campaign to pressure Israel.
European States Boycott Israeli Security Exhibition, by Middle East Monitor
Several European states, most notably France and the UK, have decided to boycott an international Israeli security exhibition that opened on 2 June in Tel Aviv. The exhibition`s subscription procedures stipulate that interested companies should obtain advance approval from their respective states to participate in the exhibition. But this year, many companies could not get such approval from their countries, including from France and Britain, as well as a number of Western European and Scandinavian countries. One Spanish company has displayed its products in the Israeli exhibition under another company`s name out of fear of losing its business relations with those states that are boycotting the exhibition.
Egypt’s Quiet Social Revolution, by Koert Debeuf and Ayman Abdelmeguib
Hidden from the public eye, a social revolution is transforming Egypt. For the first time in fifty years, women have started to take off their hijabs. Every Egyptian seems to know at least one woman in his or her family or circle of friends that has committed this small but significant act of revolt. In private, more and more people are discussing taboos like atheism or even sexual identity. In this way, they are defying not only the strict fundamentalism of Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood, but also the “establishment” Islam defended by the current regime.
Matariyya, Egypt’s New Theater of Dissent, by Amira Howeidy
Matariyya square has emerged as a new theater of dissent directed at what critics call the “counter-revolution” of the regime —four years on from the 2011 uprising that overthrew Hosni Mubarak. Matariyya is reminiscent of the fixation with Tahrir Square, the symbol of the 25 January revolution. While Tahrir Square’s central location and wide boulevards made it the chosen theater for the non-ideological pro-democracy protests, the peripheries of Matariyya’s intertwining alleys are a natural stage for the criminalized underground political activism aimed at the zero-tolerance policy of the security apparatus.
Tamarod After the Rebellion, by Heba Afify
Tamarod took the political scene by storm in 2013 when it launched a campaign against the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. The movement has been largely credited with facilitating the downfall of former President Mohamed Morsi on 3 July. However, amid internal rifts and a different political climate, many are skeptical as to the movement’s ability to replicate its success in formal politics.
Egyptian Women Defy Protest Ban to Call for Release of Political Prisoners, by Robert Mackey
Dozens of Egyptian women defied a nationwide ban on unsanctioned street protests, rallying outside the presidential palace in Cairo to demand the release of political prisoners. The demonstration was staged where twenty-three opposition activists were arrested a year ago while marching against the protest ban. The demonstration was called by organizers a “stand,” a form of peaceful assembly used during the Hosni Mubarak era by activists who gathered silently in solidarity with Khaled Said, a victim of police brutality whose death in custody was a catalyst for the 2011 uprising.
Egyptian Groups: Government Has Been Kidnapping Students, Activists, by Erin Cunningham and Heba Habib
Egyptian activists say they have documented a disturbing rise in forced disappearances over the past two months, cases in which victims are taken without warrants and police deny knowledge of their whereabouts. The detainees often show up later in court or are released without explanation. At least two who were recently seized by security forces were later found dead, according to rights groups. “People have disappeared in Egypt before but definitely not at this rate,” said Khaled Abdel Hamid, spokesman for the rights group Freedom for the Brave. The group says that security forces have kidnapped one hundred and sixty three people since April and that since sixty-four of them have been released.
Egyptian Police Officer Jailed for Fifteen Years Over Death of Protester, by Associated Press via The Guardian
An Egyptian court has sentenced a police officer to fifteen years in prison for the killing of a protester during a peaceful demonstration in Cairo in January. Cairo’s criminal court found police lieutenant Yassin Hatem Salahedeen guilty of manslaughter of activist Shaimaa el-Sabbagh. The killing struck a nerve among many Egyptians and stoked anger over perceived brutality of the police. Video footage of the incident showed Sabbagh collapsing in a colleague’s arms with her head, chest and back soaked in blood after a masked policeman fired birdshot in her direction. A voice was heard in the videos, commanding: “Fire.” The verdict comes against a backdrop of a state-orchestrated campaign to silence dissent.
How Egyptian Media Has Become a Mouthpiece for the Military State, by Nour Youssef
Having shed any pretense of revolutionary fervor or objectivity, Egypt’s journalists are reluctant to even suggest that more than thirty-six people died in the 2011 uprising, when independent estimates say more than nine hundred people were killed. Today, many of Egypt’s top TV presenters and journalists are remarkably candid about their willingness to act as government mouthpieces. “I would say anything the military tells me to say out of duty and respect for the institution,” says Ahmed Moussa, one of the most popular TV presenters in Egypt. Continuing pervasive pressure from government has prompted journalists to police themselves more rigorously.
The Contrasting Fates of Tunisia and Libya, by Stephen Zunes
The people of Libya and Tunisia both overthrew long-standing dictatorships in popular uprisings in 2011. Four years later, however, the current political situation in these two neighboring North African states could not be more different. The reason has much to do with how their authoritarian regimes imploded. The majority of dictatorships brought down by largely nonviolent struggles, as with Tunisia, usually evolve into stable democracies. But after a bloody civil war in Libya, an elected coalition led by secular moderates was unable to exert power in the face two hundred thousand armed militiamen.
The Algerian Exception, by Kamel Daoud
Algeria is the only Arab republic untouched by the Arab Spring. This is largely because Algeria already had its Arab Spring in 1988, which left Algerians with a fear of instability. In 1988, student protests were ruthlessly suppressed, and subsequent elections were won by Islamists, followed by a military coup and a civil war that killed two hundred thousand people. Fear of reprising such events was exploited by the regime of President Bouteflika, in power since 1999. And so it was that in January 2011 protests were promptly quashed. But now the situation is untenable. Islamists are on the rise again. Protests against fracking have gained traction. The Algerian exception cannot last much longer.
Seven Myths About Democracy in Morocco, by Till Bruckner
As Arab Spring street protests lost momentum—partly due to police repression—democratization in Morocco was put in reverse gear. Just one example: the constitution enshrines access to information as a basic right. But the latest draft of the accompanying law adds a Kafkaesque twist: citizens can access information, but if they publish it, they might get sent to jail. The author explores seven reasons that undermine democracy in Morocco.
Assad Is Losing Its Troops, by Hassan Hassan
A quiet insurrection against the Assad regime has been building for the past year in the Syrian province of Sweida, home to the bulk of the country’s minority Druze population. The rebellion reached a crescendo when a prominent religious figure declared that the Druze were no longer obliged to serve in the Syrian Arab Army—a development that poses a major threat to the teetering regime of Bashar al-Assad, which has long been losing soldiers and more recently has been losing ground to an increasingly more organized and effective rebel force.
Anger as Iran Bars Women from US Volleyball Game, by BBC
Activists were angry that women were barred from watching a volleyball game against the US, despite earlier indications they could attend. There had been reports that the sporting federation would permit a limited number of women to watch the game, but opposition from hardline conservatives apparently led the federation to backtrack. Women`s presence at sporting events has become a lightning rod for tensions between religious hardliners and more progressive elements.
Iranian Hard-Liners Protest Women’s Presence in Sports Stadiums, by Golnaz Esfandiari
Hard-liners demonstrated in front of the Sports Ministry in Tehran on 17 June to protest the possible presence of women in sports stadiums. The protest followed reports that a limited number of Iranian women could be allowed to attend two upcoming international male volleyball matches. Iranian women are currently banned from entering stadiums to watch male sporting events. But earlier this month, Iran`s vice president for women and family affairs said that the ban will be partially lifted and that women will be allowed into stadiums to watch sports such as men`s volleyball, basketball, and tennis. Women`s rights advocates have for years campaigned for allowing women to attend all male sporting events, including soccer, which is immensely popular in Iran.
How Security Forces Keep Critics Quiet in “Progressive” UAE, by Matt J. Duffy
Through a series of overt and covert actions, the security forces of the United Arab Emirates have created an environment in which internal criticism is practically nonexistent and external critics are targeted. The result is a shiny veneer of liberalism—propped up by partnerships with Western organizations such as the Louvre, Guggenheim and New York University—while in reality the country operates like a modern police state. The all-powerful, opaque security agency operates outside of the judicial system, often detaining its own citizens and holding them without charge or notice to families for months at a time.
A Quickly Stifled Attempt to Ease Suffering in Bahrain, by Kareem Fahim
The roundup of health workers who treated injured protesters set the tone for the furious and uncompromising reaction by Bahrain’s government to a popular uprising in 2011. The authorities arrested doctors, nurses and others on charges ranging from violating medical neutrality to plotting to overthrow the government. Some of the health workers said they were tortured in prison, drawing outrage from medical groups around the world. Though the health workers were eventually released, after trials that lasted for months, their arrests were a measure of the deep schism in Bahrain’s society that has troubled the tiny island nation now for years.
Rallying on Behalf of People Without Passports, by BBC
About ten percent of the population belongs to a group without any citizenship rights at all. They`re called bidoons (the Arabic word for "without"), and their lack of Kuwaiti passports—or indeed of passports of any type—means that they have trouble registering at schools, applying for driver`s licenses and they cannot freely travel abroad. But bidoons found themselves on the receiving end of a groundswell of support after dozens of them were sacked from their temporary jobs in Kuwait`s health and religious affairs ministries. More than seven thousand tweets were posted with the hashtag #bidoons_fired—a relatively large number in a country of 1.2 million people. Many ordinary Kuwaitis tweeted their support and criticized what they saw as unfair treatment by the government.
Beyond the Headscarf: Turkey’s Women Struggle for Equality, by Pinar Sevinclidir
While Turkey was gearing up for a general election on 7 June, women were pushing to make gender equality an issue. Activists were calling for more female participation in politics and working life. More than a hundred women have been killed by men in Turkey since the beginning of this year, local media report. The rise in murders is also symptomatic of a wider problem with domestic and sexual violence. Gulsum Kav, from the campaign group We Will Stop Murders of Women, says that politicians—overwhelmingly male—are dragging their feet on pressing issues. Activists say having more women in politics would help resolve many of the questions around gender equality.
In the Arab Spring, Revolution Was Made by Everyday People, by Sophie McBain
“Revolutions are not hatched in smoke-filled rooms or by activists armed with Twitter and Facebook accounts: rather revolutions are made by everyday people who are no longer afraid,” writes Adel Abdel Ghafar, an activist from Cairo. This statement is captured in "Voices of the Arab Spring," a collection of personal stories from Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen gathered by Asaad al-Saleh, who wants to show why so many individuals, from diverse backgrounds and in various countries, engaged in collective rebellion. Similarly, Jonathan Littell in "Syrian Notebooks" meets Syrians who are still motivated by “the dream” of a country released from dictatorship.
Making Herself Heard, Before and After Tunisia’s Uprising, by Carlotta Gall
As part of "The Trials of Spring," a six-part series about women who played important roles in their countries during the Arab Spring, Tunisian veteran activist, Ghazala Mhamdi, is called the "queen of resistance" by supporters of her run for parliament. Even before the revolution, she was leading the fight for jobs, freedom and human rights.
Iranian Women Are Taking to Social Media to Declare Freedom from Hijab, by Kelsey Warner
My Stealthy Freedom, a Facebook page created by Iranian journalist and activist Masih Alinejad, is being amplified by the public support of Iranians who are taking part in its powerful message: shed the compulsory hijab in a country where it is illegal to do so. Women in Iran, Tehran in particular, are taking the campaign further by videotaping and photographing themselves in public spaces with their heads uncovered. Pushback from the theocratic government has been swift and fierce.
Iranian Journalist Launches Project Highlighting Persecution of Colleagues, by Patrick Greenfield
In an effort to hold Iran’s government to account for persecuting journalists, formerly jailed journalist Maziar Bahari—subject of the film Rosewater, directed by US comedian Jon Stewart—has launched Journalism is not a Crime, an initiative that aims to document the history of human rights abuses against journalists since the modern Iranian state was created in 1905. The advocacy group also provides legal and psychological assistance to journalists targeted by the state.
Concrete Tent Embodies Contradictions of Palestine Refugee Life, by Alex Shams
Bethlehem’s Duheisha refugee camp on Friday 26 June officially became home to a new community center housed in an unexpected but albeit quite familiar structure for local residents: a refugee tent constructed entirely out of concrete and mesh. The concrete tent is located in the Edward Said Garden of the al-Feniq cultural center near the camp; it is the brainchild of Campus in Camps, a project affiliated with Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency. The structure challenges the idea of the temporariness of refugee camps, highlighting their increasing permanence and the importance of the camp’s history of struggle and resistance since 1948 by “embracing the contradictions of an architectural form that emerges from exile.” To do so, the structure’s creators insist, that it does not detract from refugees’ right to return to their original villages inside what is now Israel. Instead, they say, it emphasizes the strength of the community and culture that have been formed as a result of nearly seven decades in exile, as well as their continued insistence on reclaiming their stolen homes and land.
Events & Conferences
ICCG2015: Precarious Radicalism on Shifting Grounds: Towards a Politics of Possibility, 26—30 July 2015, Ramallah, Palestine.
The Arab Revolutions: Five Years On, 21—23 January 2016, Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, Doha, Qatar.