From outside one will always triumphantly impress theories upon the world and then fall straight into the ditch one has dug, but only from inside will one keep oneself and the world quiet and true. /FK (Contact: TBONotebooks at fastmail.fm. The Blue Octavo Notebooks welcomes mail, although we cannot guarantee a response. Your email may be posted in part on The Blue Octavo Notebooks unless otherwise requested.) Please enjoy the notebook entries, and thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Last Thursday, the UK Holocaust Centre and the United States Holocaust Museum suspended their regular activities for programs on the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan that called for immediate action.

The [U.S. Holocaust] Museum's Committee on Conscience sponsored the event, "Bearing Witness for Darfur," that included remarks from three members of Congress, a Holocaust survivor, a representative from Darfur, and the Committee on Conscience Staff Director, Jerry Fowler.

The Committee's mandate is "to alert the national conscience, influence policymakers, and stimulate worldwide action to confront and work to halt acts of genocide or related crimes against humanity." In accordance with this, it issued a "Genocide Warning" for Darfur in January of this year.

In May, Fowler visited some Darfurian refugees in Chad. While he described the dismal reality of their situation and the extent of their trauma, he emphasized the need for immediate action. "The obligation to prevent genocide is a legal and a moral one," he said.

Nesse Godin, a Holocaust survivor, explained to the audience that she was all too familiar with such despair. Godin witnessed immense death and destruction by the Nazis before World War II ended in 1945.

"We Holocaust survivors know what it means to be victims of hate," Godin said. "That's why we stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Darfur."

Amal Allagabo, whose family still lives in Darfur, described the current situation, which has driven an estimated one million people from their homes and killed thousands already. The U.S. government estimates that the conditions these refugees now face could kill up to 350,000 people in the coming months.

Yesterday, various activists marched on the Sudanese Embassy in Washington D.C., protesting against state-sponsored genocide and slavery.

Two Sudan Campaign members, former Congressman Rev. Walter Fauntroy and radio talk show host Joe Madison, were arrested by Secret Service agents protesting through non-violent civil disobedience. Wrapping yellow "Crime Scene" police tape around the entrance Madison declared the embassy a crime scene, noting that the racist Government of Sudan is guilty of genocide and slavery against black Sudanese.

The Sudan Campaign demonstration was timed to coincide with Secretary of State Colin Powell's visit to western Sudan where government-sponsored ethnic cleansing raids have resulted within the past twelve months in the displacement of over one million Black Africans, the death of tens of thousands and the enslavement of others. The genocide process in Sudan has progressed in tandem with a U.S. supported peace initiative directed by the newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, former Sen. John Danforth. In October 2002, President George W. Bush and both Houses of Congress, including Sen. John Kerry, identified the Government of Sudan as a perpetrator of acts of "genocide". But since then, the U.S. government has taken no further punitive measures against Khartoum. U.S. government officials have warned that hundred of thousands may die in the coming months.

CSI and Sudan Campaign partners urged the United States to work closely with Sudan's oppressed democratic opposition to restore respect for human rights; mobilize international forces to guarantee the safe return of survivors of ethnic cleansing; and to stand in the vanguard of efforts to suspend the Government of Sudan's membership of the United Nations.

Sudan, you’ll recall, sits on the U.N.’s Human Rights Commission. Be that as it may, it certainly says something about the world that media coverage and international outrage regarding Arab militias enslaving, ethnically cleansing, raping, and massacring tens of thousands of people in Sudan pales in comparison to the coverage and outcry against Israel for, say, not massacring—much less enslaving, raping, or ethnically cleansing—anybody in Jenin in April 2002. For all the caterwauling and cacophonous indignation we heard from across the globe and from innumerable parties, including Arab countries and the United Nations, both during and after the non-massacre in Jenin, you’d think that the same parties would be raising the roof—nay, blasting the roof well past the stratosphere—about what’s been happening for years in Sudan. You’d think, but so it goes. Perhaps if we could somehow blame the actions of Arab militias and terrorists in Sudan on, say, Israeli settlers or Ariel Sharon or Zionism this particular issue of genocide might receive almost equal coverage. Because, as it was once explained to me by a charming fellow clad in a “Divest from Israel” t-shirt, everybody got along fine in the Middle East until the Zionists showed up with their flag and fucked everything up.

About 300,000 people have died in the crisis in the Darfur region since February 2003, and an estimated 1.2 million people have been displaced, according to international agencies. The physicians' group said that about 200,000 people are in camps in Chad and have access to international aid, but supplies cannot be guaranteed during the rainy season, which is about to start and lasts until October.

There are an additional 300,000 refugees in what human-rights groups refer to as prison enclaves in Sudan, with no access to international relief. Another 400,000 are in camps inside Sudan and those areas are in better shape and are accessible by international aid organizations, Heffernan said.

He and his colleague saw refugees suffering from hunger, lack of water and sanitation, and attacks by Janjaweed, an Arab Sudanese militia.

Water is scarce in refugee camps, Heffernan said. Crude wells were dug in wadis, or dry river beds, which are shared by people and animals. He said there were thousands of cases of severe diarrhea, probably from water-borne diseases, reported in one camp alone.

Perhaps when the justices of the International Court of Justice have finished racking their brains over Israel’s nefarious Apartheid Wall they’ll address some of the human rights atrocities emanating from Sudan...

In other news, an Iranian woman has supposedly given birth to a frog , and the Ribbity Blog is back in business. Coincidence? Hmm.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Progressive Saudi society in action. Divorce: A woman so enraged her conservative husband by taking part in a TV discussion program on social issues that he divorced her after 12 years of marriage.

Marriage: Maher, 33, had told his father, a 67-year-old retiree, he wanted to marry the maid, and the father went to see the woman to “bless the marriage,” the paper said. But when the father saw the woman he decided to marry her himself and told Maher he opposed the match. The ensuing standoff between father and son escalated to the point where relatives had to intervene, and they proposed letting the woman choose. “Surprisingly, she chose to marry the father,” the paper said.

And it’s summer, so the Anti-Beggary Department has been busier than usual.

In other news, valiant Palestinian freedom fighters, whom we’ve been told ad nauseam have no weapons and nothing else to fight with other their own bodies, bravely launched a rocket attack against Sderot, slamming two missiles into the street outside a kindergarten. A child and an adult were killed, and over twenty wounded. Another missile hit a shopping mall, causing extensive damage to what I’m sure everybody agrees is a military target. Myriad times I’ve heard the argument that Palestinians would not resort to terrorism if they were supplied with equal weaponry as the Israelis (it’s soooo unfair!), yet I see little evidence that such weaponry wouldn’t simply be used to more effective target civilians in attacks such as this one. The PLO's record in Lebanon, for example, offers little evidence to the contrary.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

But, we thought we were rid of that Jew, er, Ernest Bloch. Or: Jewish composers and Jewish Beauty Queens, oh my!This week’s swastika cartoon from Egypt’s leading newspaper offers what we might call a variation on a theme. Rather than using the Nazi symbol to refer to the genocidal Apartheid Zionist entity—er, Israel— this week the Nazi Swastika refers to George W. Bush. Because comparing him to, say, Stalin or Pol Pot would have been way too subtle. And, as always, the dripping blood is a nice touch.

Al-Ahram also publishes a nice letter from Amr El-Zant, who writes from Pasadena and quite rightly takes issue with the bigotry recently espoused by the paper’s music critic. That’s right, folks, at Egypt’s leading newspaper, even the music critic can’t resist when it comes to matters Judaic. Indeed, how dare the Cairo Opera House host a concert that includes “spiritual Judaic music”!

Amal Choucri Catta's article ' Scared and profane ' ( Al-Ahram Weekly , 17-23 April), where it is implied that playing Jewish inspired music is "offensive" at this time, actually offends me personally quite a bit. It pains me to read such bigotry. It is not a pleasant experience to hear it from somebody obviously as cultured as she is, but then so were the folks inhabiting the Weimar republic.

Barenboim played Wagner in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and still got the Israel prize, despite the protestations of Holocaust survivors and opportunist and nationalist politicians. Why can't people play Bloch in Cairo? And yes, by the way, Tel Aviv's Mann auditorium did present, repeatedly, Muslim inspired music (e.g. the Andalucian orchestra).

Israel has had a strong Arabic music revival in the last decade on the popular, "world" and classical fronts. Most auditoriums in Israel would be happy to host an Arabic music ensemble from Egypt. If it weren't for the "anti-normalisation" thought police, those musical groups who wished to would have played there decades ago.

The rhetorical question Ms Catta asks, while certain of a negative answer, reflects her ignorance and lack of curiosity. It results from blocking what is thought to be politically incorrect. It is the bigotry born of ignorance that sustains the conflict.

In honor of Amal Choucri Catta’s delightfully progressive critical sensibility, I’m going to pop into the CD player Pierre Fournier’s version of Ernest Bloch’s Schlemo.

In other news, “I Coulda Been a Contender (if it hadn’t been for the death threats)”:

Israeli girls donning evening dresses participate in a beauty pageant in the neighborhood of Gilo, an area Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed as part of Jerusalem, Tuesday June 15, 2004. Eight Palestinian girls from the nearby West Bank town of Bethlehem, all of them Christians, were to participate in the Miss Barrier Line contest, named after the line that separates the West Bank from the neighborhood but the girls, citing threats on their lives from fellow Palestinians, slowly backed out over the past months. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

It’s somewhat curious that although the AP identifies the Palestinian girls as Christians they offer no such identification for either the Israeli girls or the “fellow Palestinians” who threatened the (Christian) Palestinian contestants. Beauty pageants always struck me as notably lame, to be sure, and I suspect this one is probably another example of Zionism’s inherently oppressive nature, crass ideological underpinnings, and all that, y’know? Shabbat shalom, and have a nice weekend!

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

The historic 19th-Century Tempel Synagogue in Krakow’s Kazimierz district, once desecrated by the Nazis, is one of the more beautiful buildings I’ve ever visited. On Monday, this historic building was desecrated yet again, this time by vandals who defaced it with antisemitic graffiti. Fortunately, it sounds like the police have responded quickly. Although the building has seen worse, this most recent vandalism is another scar upon it, and one that updates its history of anti-Semitic attacks into this century.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

This week’s disgusting Nazi swastika (y'know, Israel) cartoon from Al-Ahram. As usual, the dripping blood is a nice touch.

Anyway, this week’s Orwellian “Say What?” moment from Ah-Ahram comes from Nader Fergany, the director of Almishkat Research Centre and the lead author of the Arab Human Development Report, who wants us to know, among other fascinating things, that

Our leaders are Muslims. They even boast of being guardians of Islam's sacred sites -- although Israel now holds one of the two holiest places in Islam.

Uh, say what?

Sunday, June 06, 2004

A Scary Consensus is Emerging, Indeed. As anyone who has seen the movie Heathers knows, whether to kill oneself or not is the biggest decision of a teen’s life. Mujahideens, whether they’re teenagers or not, should not take the decision lightly, either. According to an article in Egypt Today, “Over the past few years, Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, regarded as the highest spiritual authority in Sunni Islam, has issued a number of contradictory statements regarding suicide bombings or ‘martyrdom operations,’ as they are often referred to in the Muslim world.”

As the article notes, “Tantawi’s opinion wavers between outright condemnation of all types of suicide missions (‘the difference between true jihad in Islam and the violent extremism we see today is like the difference between earth and sky’) and de facto support (‘martyrdom operations are permitted acts according to the Qur’an’).”

At other times, the Grand Sheikh “has occupied a middle ground which holds that only soldiers occupying Muslim land are fair game.” Well, this certainly sounds rather fickle. Does the sheikh flip a coin when he has to make a statement about suicide bombings? End the Occupation of the Middle Ground!

“It’s a sensitive issue and in this highly-charged political environment that we are facing today, anything you say will be attacked one way or another,” says Azharite Sheikh Mahmoud Ashour, a former deputy to Tantawi.

Ashour sighs deeply. The debate is not the Sheikh’s favorite topic for discussion. “The western media calls these attacks ‘suicide missions’ we call them ‘martyrdom operations;’ that distinction, I think, says it all.

Indeed, who knew that detonating oneself in a crowded restaurant or coffee shop might offer such rich fodder for moral debate? One can only marvel at the myriad Aristotelian contingencies that might emerge. For example: How much rat poison, or how many nails and/or ball bearings, must the bomber include with his (or her) explosives before the operation becomes overly gratuitous? It’s a sensitive issue, after all!

According to Egyptian cleric Sheikh Gamal Kutb, a former member of Al-Azhar’s Fatwa Committee, the confusion and contradictory statements issued by Al-Azhar on suicide bombings stem from the fact that in the West all such operations are lumped together and called “terrorism.”

“When we talk about people blowing themselves up, a clear distinction has to be made between those who do so to defend their own land, and those who are just aiming to cause terror and instability as with the World Trade Center bombings,” says Kutb.

Ahem, but what if the person blows himself up to defend his land and to cause terror, hmmm? Or is that getting too, uh, Talmudic about things? (And, technically, the WTC terrorists didn’t blow themselves up. Gosh, this gets so complicated.)

At first glance, though, all such missions appear to contradict two basic precepts in Islam: not taking your own life and not killing innocent civilians.

But upon further analysis…

Both Kutb and Ashour, however, argue that a suicide mission carried out as a form of defiance against a foreign occupier makes you a martyr; the same act in a case where there is no occupation or state of war makes you a sinner and terrorist.

Kutb says because most Israelis are required to serve in the military, none can be considered civilians.

It’s a logic that allows the indiscriminate bombing of men, women and children alike.

“It’s true that Sheikh Al-Azhar has repeatedly gone both ways on the issue, but the consensus within Al-Azhar now is that Palestine and Iraq are two special cases,” Kutb says. “Suicide attacks there can not be condemned; on the contrary, we must support our brethren in these two countries because, like anybody else, they have a right to live as free individuals.

“As for terrorism, we stand against it. Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance. We deplore what is happening in Riyadh and elsewhere around the world where there is no state of war to justify violent acts.”
“The issue of jihad, when it should be applicable and what form it should take has been heavily debated since that communiqué was issued,” says Ashour. “But I believe, and I think most Muslim scholars will agree with me, that the mujahid should utilize all the options available to him.

“When there are none, as is the case in the occupied lands of Palestine and Iraq, the last resort is blowing oneself up. If the intention of the bomber is self-defense, it is not suicide — it is martyrdom.”

Well, talk about transcendent introspection, or something. All this, of course, is both chilling and convoluted, if not self-contradictory. The fact that almost every single Palestinian suicide bombing—er, martyrdom operation—has targeted a civilian target (restaurants, shopping malls, public buses, etc.) would therefore, by the logic presented in the article’s final sentence, dictate that such attacks are in fact terrorism and should be condemned as such, not least by the clerics quoted in the article.

Unless, of course, we are to believe that detonating oneself in a crowded pizzeria or a packed discoteque or in some other similarly crowded location is somehow an act of “self-defense.”

The logic offered by Sheikh Kutb—that “because most Israelis are required to serve in the military, none can be considered civilians”—is particularly chilling. Anyone who subscribes to such “logic” is in effect arguing that children, the elderly, and the disabled, if they are Israeli, rather than being civilians are in fact military targets. (Incidentally, other Israeli military targets would thus include Israeli Arabs, Christians, peace activists, and so on.) I beg to differ with such logic, although I realize certain folks far more enlightened than I may disagree with me. So it goes, but I can’t help being reminded of something Noam Chomsky, of all people, once wrote: “By entering into the arena of argument and counter-argument, of technical feasibility and tactics, of footnotes and citations, by accepting the presumption of legitimacy of debate on certain issues, one has already lost one's humanity.” Indeed.

In other news, The Cairo Times reports that

Legal and political wrangling over the detention of 11 Palestinians in Egyptian prison escalated this week as the detainees, who launched a hunger strike on 22 May along with 45 Egyptian inmates, were dispersed to at least seven jails throughout Egypt.

The charges against the Palestinians in custody, the majority of whom were arrested in 2000 and 2001, remain classified under Emergency Law. In several trials over the past three years the courts have ordered the release of the detainees, ruling their imprisonment unlawful. In each instance, the Ministry of Interior has intervened, maintaining that the detainees pose a dangerous threat to national security.

This week’s decision by the Ministry of Interior to separate and relocate the striking prisoners is seen by human rights groups as a move to fracture the strikers’ solidarity, diffusing a situation that has attracted negative attention to the government.

I’m sure a contingent of “Solidarity” activists will be arriving in Egypt any day now to stand in solidarity with the imprisoned, hunger-striking Palestinians, as well as to loudly and vociferously protest the Egyptian government’s actions. It’s been several years now, after all. Perhaps the activists will even confront some armed Egyptian soldiers.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

And yet more folks who can’t draw an Israeli flag correctly: As I’ve noted before: Two triangles, two lines. How difficult can this be?

Here’s another interesting photo, from that most intolerant and genocidal Apartheid state that we all know and love:

An Israeli soldier holds a rainbow-colored flag as hundreds of people participate in a gay pride parade in downtown Jerusalem Thursday June 3, 2004. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Not that gay pride parades aren’t commonplace throughout all the other countries in the Middle East, of course. I mean, if you think Tel Aviv has a large openly gay scene, you should check out the scenes in the region’s non-Apartheid states. Indeed, gay pride parades in Cairo, Damascus, Amman, and Mecca put Israeli ones such as this to shame! And last year’s gay pride parades in Ramallah and Gaza City were sights to behold, or so I hear. For more information about gay pride events in such places, or about the tolerance afforded to gays under the Palestinian Authority, check out the plethora of Palestinian GLBT-related information available from your local “Divest from Israel” group.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Sarah Whalen, one of the resident geniuses over at Arab News and whom I’ve mentioned before, today retches up an exceptionally rank rant about a (Neocon, of course!) conspiracy to manipulate the news. She even manages to belittle the deaths of at least three Americans, all while smearing others. Nice “quotes” around “Al-Qaeda,” too. Her wisdom contains such gems as this:

Conspiracy? Dare we say the word?

Yes, we dare.

Because Princess Haifa never funded terrorists. She gave money to a woman who claimed to be desperately ill and needed to feed her children.

Because Lynch did not fight off her “captors.” Nor did she brave enemy fire and fire her weapon to defend her unit, but sustained her injuries by automobile accident, and was so incompetent that her gun “fell apart,” likely because she’d never cleaned or fired it.

Because Tillman did not die from an enemy’s bullet defending his comrades under enemy fire, but was killed by a fellow American soldier.

Because Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl was killed not because he was American, but because he was an Israeli suspected of being a Mossad spy using his journalism credentials as a cover in Pakistan.

The last sentence is, well, particularly fascinating. For if such was the case, then why, one wonders, did Pearl’s murderers make him say “My name is Daniel Pearl. I'm a Jewish-American. My father is Jewish. My mother is Jewish. I am a Jew.” if their reason for beheading him was, as Whalen states, not because he was an American but because he was Israeli? Of course, Pearl’s murderers had also accused him of being an American spy, but who needs facts when you write for Arab News?

One can only imagine why Whalen is no longer teaching law at Loyola University School of Law, assuming she ever actually did.

This is hardly the first tasteless comment Whalen has made about Daniel Pearl. On April 30, she offered this trenchant commentary about his brutal murder:

Danny Pearl was killed not for “being” Jewish, but for what “Jewish” has come to mean, rightly or wrongly, in a part of the world that sympathizes and suffers with those the Israelis have dispossessed from land, from culture, from civil rights. Danny was killed not by powerful actors in service of some evil ideology, but by those powerless before Zionism, an ideology that sacrifices Palestinians for “freedom” and “security”

Notice how the chief similarity in Whalen’s Orwellian explanations—two, so far, and counting—for Pearl’s murder, other than her obnoxious tone and fairly obvious disdain for Pearl (and his widow), is her portrayals’ lack of anything negative in regards to the murderers in question. One would think that someone with such a sarcastic, venomous pen would have something at least mildly cutting to write about people who beheaded an innocent man. But I guess even Sarah Whalen has to set her standards of silence and civility somewhere. How charming.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

More charming behavior from members of the so-called “Committee for Justice in Palestine” at the Ohio State University: Two weeks ago, OSU Hillel sponsored a program called Writing on the Wall, “a celebration of culture to make students more aware of discrimination.” According to an article in the OSU student newspaper,

The Writing on the Wall is creating numerous programs to accomplish its goal of raising awareness for anti-discrimination. The biggest activity of the week will be the building and tearing down of a cinder block wall on the South Oval.

"We want students and organizations from around campus to sponsor all sorts of events during the week. Anything from cultural festivities, guest speakers, films - just anything that promotes diversity on campus," said Jill Daher, a senior in linguistics and co-chair of WOW.

A wall painted with remarks of racism and discrimination will be demolished at the end of the week to represent the destruction of such negative comments.

Purely by coincidence, I’m sure, the progressive partisans of CJP opted to have an affair on the Oval during the same time and across from the same spot. Why they set up shop next to the Hillel-sponsored WOW rather than, say, anywhere else on the Oval’s ten-plus acres or anywhere else on campus is, of course, anybody’s guess, but the behavior speaks for itself. Perhaps they were afraid they’d become lonely if they and their spectacle had to stand alone.

Anyway, from what I’ve heard, five or so of the darling anti-Zionists showed up hauling with them a mess of chicken wire, which was supposed to represent that nefarious Israeli Apartheid wall, which they predictably claimed was the “real wall” of discrimination and hate, or some such drivel. They also used the opportunity to pass out literature that, if it was similar to what the group has distributed in the past, was both grammatically and factually challenged. How clever and cute to use a program that’s not about Israel to indulge in “activism” against Israel. It must have been exceptionally self-fulfilling.

Of course, if CJP had spent several weeks planning and organizing an event on the Oval only to have some pro-Israel group show up at the same location for a counter-event, we’d likely be hearing all sorts of protestations about how poor ol’ CJP had, gasp, once again “come under vicious attack by Zionist forces,” to quote one of its members.

Interestingly enough, one of these chicken wire “activists” was the same woman who offered a delightful (albeit rude and obnoxious, although for CJP this apparently goes without saying) display for Dennis Ross after he’d finished speaking at the OSU Hillel on May 12. Among other things, she lamented the supposed intolerance of Israel supporters, including people in the audience. (She also claimed that someone in attendance had, um, fired her because of her “activism.” I’m dubious, but somebody call the bloody U.N. Security Council, already.)

Yet tolerance for this person apparently means showing up at somebody else’s event, milking that event’s theme, all the while brandishing tendentious slogans and cheap chicken wire. To be sure, some might claim this behavior is boorish and juvenile, not to mention bereft of any originality or creativity, or even attention seeking; but such folks likely know little about rising up and striving for revolution, yo, and they’re probably Zionists, anyway, grrr. Granted, there’s no accounting for taste, but if brandishing chicken wire somehow offers you an outlet for ideological expression, well, more power to you. Indeed, maybe next time you and your chicken wire can stand alone rather than across from somebody else and their project. Maybe.

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