Cairo is defended against its own citizens – City of walls

Since the Arab Spring, the walls have gone up in Cairo. They can’t keep the future out or the people in.

By: Nael Shama
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 Cities talk, smile, frown, wail and rejoice, but their language can be only heard by those who care to listen. A city’s architecture and art, planning and design, streets and traffic, houses and shacks, signs and billboards, advertisements and banners, all speak about its identity. Old Cairo became Egypt’s capital city in the 10th century, though the current downtown area was built in the 19th century by the overambitious Khedive as a Paris on the Nile, a symbol of his grand plan to align Egypt with Europe and western civilisation. Demographic and socioeconomic changes over the past 150 ...

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How America made ISIS

Their videos and ours, their “caliphate” and ours

By: Tom Engelhardt
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Whatever your politics, you’re not likely to feel great about America right now. After all, there’s Ferguson (the whole world was watching!), an increasingly unpopular president, a Congress whose approval ratings make the president look like a rock star, rising poverty, weakening wages, and a growing inequality gap just to start what could be a long list. Abroad, from Libya and Ukraine to Iraq and the South China Sea, nothing has been coming up roses for the U.S. Polls reflect a general American gloom, with 71% of the public claiming the country is “on the wrong track.” We have the loo...

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Islamic State fills Middle East void – IS back in business

Emerging in an increasingly chaotic Middle East, IS is profiting from the region’s growing sectarianism, political vacuum and the ambivalence of the West.

By: Peter Harling
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The so-called Islamic State (IS) — the jihadist movement also known as ISIL or ISIS and by the derogatory acronym Da’ish in Arabic — now controls much of northeast Syria and northwest Iraq (1). In a region beset with so much confusion, it appears uniquely determined and self-assured. Despite its name, it is in no sense a new state, since it rejects the concept of borders and largely does without institutions. Yet IS tells us much about the Middle East — and especially about its genuine states — as well as about western foreign policy. IS is an aggressive movement with a surprisingly ...

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Iraq Illusions

By: Jessica Tuchman Mathews
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 The story most media accounts tell of the recent burst of violence in Iraq seems clear-cut and straightforward. In reality, what is happening is anything but. The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), so the narrative goes, a barbaric, jihadi militia, honed in combat in Syria, has swept aside vastly larger but feckless Iraqi army forces in a seemingly unstoppable tide of conquest across northern and western Iraq, almost to the outskirts of Baghdad. The country, riven by ineluctable sectarian conflict, stands on the brink of civil war. The United States, which left Iraq too soon, now has ...

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The Sistani Factor – How a struggle within Shiism will shape the future of Iraq

By: Mohamad Bazzi
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The most influential man in Iraq is an octogenarian Shiite cleric who rarely ventures out of his modest home in the holy city of Najaf. His scowling portrait hangs on walls, storefronts, concrete blast barriers, and cars throughout Iraq, yet he prefers to stay out of the limelight. But ever since early June, when an insurgent group of Sunni militants captured a large swath of northern Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has emerged from seclusion in a last-ditch effort to restrain the jihadists, persuade Iraq’s Shiite political elite to replace Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, and preserve a ...

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Syria in Revolt – Understanding the Unthinkable War

By: Sadik J. Al-Azm
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The people’s intifada in Syria, against the military regime and police state of the Assad family, took me by surprise. I was fearful at first that the regime would crush it almost instantly, given its legendary ferocity and repressiveness. Like other Syrian intellectuals, I felt total impotence before this devouring monster, which precluded any thought of an imminent, or even possible, collective “no.” I was surprised by the revolution, but I should not have been. Daily experiences and recurrent observations foretold a crisis that many Syrians tried hard to deny. And deny we did. Let me ...

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“Five Broken Cameras”

  “Five Broken Cameras” nominated to the Oscars 2013, but will the Oscars help to bring this film to Israeli youth. “Five Broken Cameras” is the engaging story of Palestinian cameraman, Emad Burnat, who documented 6 years of the Non-violent movement in his village, Bil’in. This impressive movement joined by international and Israeli peace activists and solidarity movements became a symbol and a model for a positive resistance to create political change in the region. This intimate and powerful film, shot by Emad himself and co-directed and written by Israeli ...

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Recalling anti-racism

Can the anti-racist struggle keep up with racism's capacity to reinvent itself again and again? Yes - we can "recall" anti-racism and adjust it.

By: GHASSAN HAGE
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Anti-racism as a current of thought and as a social movement has a long history. From the opposition to slavery to the anti-colonial struggles and until today, anti-racism has been and remains a vital and important current of thought and a social movement embodying the noblest of all human values: at the very least, a belief in the right of all human beings to be related to in a decent and dignified manner regardless of where they come from and how they happen to be perceived and categorised. Yet, despite this long history, and some remarkable victories against the forces of racism in their va...

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Noam Chomsky | Nightmare in Gaza

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Amid all the horrors unfolding in the latest Israeli offensive in Gaza, Israel’s goal is simple: quiet-for-quiet, a return to the norm. For the West Bank, the norm is that Israel continues its illegal construction of settlements and infrastructure so that it can integrate into Israel whatever might be of value, meanwhile consigning Palestinians to unviable cantons and subjecting them to repression and violence. For Gaza, the norm is a miserable existence under a cruel and destructive siege that Israel administers to permit bare survival but nothing more. The latest Israeli rampage was se...

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Analyst Mouin Rabbani on the Gaza Crisis

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Q — On Saturday, under intense international pressure to negotiate a ceasefire, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a press conference to say that the Israeli military would “regroup,” while continuing its operations in Gaza. Following the announcement, Israel began to withdraw at least some of its forces from inside Gaza. Why is Netanyahu halting the ground invasion now, even though one of his main stated objectives for the operation, stopping rocket fire, hasn’t been accomplished? MR — “Even though Israel has announced relatively modest military objectives ...

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Italian activist and artist, Gianluca Costantini

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      Italian activist and artist, Gianluca Costantini, has created a series of drawings calling for an end to Israel’s on-going siege of Gaza, the third in five years. We published a similarly moving collection of his work on Gaza last week. To read more about the siege and what you can do to oppose the bloodshed in Gaza, click here. soure: Muftah   ...

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Racists and anti-racists by Etienne Balibar

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Racists and anti-racists by Etienne Balibar Where, when and how was the concept of racism formed? It seems to have its origins in a book that appeared in 1933-1934, in which Magnus Hirschfeld described the ‘racial theory’ underlying Hitler’s conception of race war. So the word was born in Germany, by way of contact with its first ‘object’: the racism of the Nazi state elaborated in the name of the Aryan myth, principally directed against Jews, but also against other ‘untermensch’ peoples and populations. As early as 1938 the term appeared in English in...

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Dignity and solidarity

The struggle of the Palestinian people is now a byword for emancipation and enlightenment, except, perhaps, in the Arab world, writes Edward Said (2003)

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In early May I was in Seattle lecturing for a few days. While there I had dinner one night with Rachel Corrie’s parents and sister, who were still reeling from the shock of their daughter’s murder on 16 March in Gaza by an Israeli bulldozer. Mr Corrie told me that he had himself driven bulldozers, although the one that killed his daughter deliberately because she was trying valiantly to protect a Palestinian home in Rafah from demolition was a 60 ton behemoth especially designed by Caterpillar for house demolitions, a far bigger machine than anything he had ever seen or driven. Two...

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‘A racism without races’: An interview with Étienne Balibar By Clement Petitjean

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Professor emeritus at the Université Paris X, the philosopher Étienne Balibar has made the question of racism and its new forms of expression an important theme of his political philosophy, notably in his critique of capitalism and of liberal society. He is the author, among others, of Citoyen Sujet et autres essais d’anthropologie philosophique (2010) and La proposition de l’égaliberté (2011), published by Presses Universitaires de France. Passing through Montreal last November, he was keen to answer our questions. Relations: Given the predominance of the question of human rights in o...

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The Holocaust, Palestine and the Arab World: Gilbert Achcar interviewed (January 2011)

By: Arwa Aburawa
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In his latest book The Arabs and the Holocaust, Gilbert Achcar, a professor of Development Studies at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, explores the Arab world’s complex and sometimes contradictory relationship with the Holocaust. Focusing on the Israeli occupation of Palestine, Achcar tackles the Zionist caricature of all Arabs as anti-Semitic Holocaust-deniers complicit in Nazi crimes by meticulously deconstructing the evidence put forward. Achcar also doesn’t shy away from condemning the persistence of unacceptable attitudes towards the Holocaust acros...

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Broken Eggs, But No Omelet

All austerity has wrought in Europe is a messy kitchen

By: SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK
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After the electoral triumph of the anti-immigrant Eurosceptic parties in France and the United Kingdom in May, many liberals expressed their shock and worry. However, there was something of a feigned naiveté in their indignation and wonder at the Right victories. What one should wonder about is why it took the anti-immigrant Right so long to make a decisive breakthrough. When Jean-Marie Le Pen—founder of the French far-right National Front party that triumphed in France’s recent European Parliament elections—made a tasteless gas-chamber joke about a French pop singer of Jewish descent, ...

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TEHRAN BAZAAR

By: Joobin Bekhrad
2014-Untitled, 2009 (Rostam II Series), by Siamak Filizadeh. Courtesy of Aaran Gallery Tehran

In discourses revolving around Iran’s tumultuous history, particularly that of the last thousand years, a comparison has often been made between Iranian culture and the mythical phoenix. Following the decay and decline of the Sassanian Empire—heir to the legacy of the Achaemenids and Parthians, whose influence not only reached the far-flung corners of the then-known world politically, but culturally as well—Iran was plunged into a dark era that would radically alter the course of its culture, history, and identity for centuries to come. The arrival of the Umayyads and Abbasids saw not on...

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The tragedy of the Europeans

A civilisation that used to lead the world is in ruins – and only the locals can rebuild it

By: Zihni Özdil
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 Inspired by the totally not simplistic, not over-generalizing and not bizarrely orientalist The Economist article on ‘the tragedy of the Arabs’, I have written an article about the tragedy of the Europeans. After all, as the distinguished The Economist teaches us, peddling essentialist stereotypes is the way to go. About NINETY years ago, the great cities of Berlin, London and Paris took turns to race ahead of the non-European world. Christianity and innovation were twins. The various European empires were dynamic superpowers—beacons of learning, tolerance and trade. Yet today the Euro...

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Thought is the courage of hopelessness: an interview with philosopher Giorgio Agamben

By: Jordan Skinner
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Giorgio Agamben’s philosophy ranges across disciplines, traditions, and topics in order to develop critical philosophical and political questions. Moving from religion, law, and language to capitalism, work, sovereignty, and the economic crash his thought sheds new light on the contemporary condition. This, his most recent interview, is no exception. He sat down with Juliette Cerf in Rome to discuss and clarify many of his positions. Thought is the courage of hopelessness: an interview with philosopher Giorgio Agamben by Juliette Cerf As the church bells ring out in Trastevere, where we ...

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How Nouri al-Maliki´s Policies are Dooming Iraq

By: Nabeel Khoury
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After three years of bashing Sunni opponents and lending assistance to Iran and Bashar Al-Assad’s regime in Syria, , i Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki’s chickens have now come home to roost. Fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have now overrun the largest Sunni cities in Iraq, Falluja, Ramadi, Mosul, and Tikrit. If statements on their websites are to be believed, ISIL is planning to go all the way to Baghdad—a bridge too far perhaps. But they certainly control the largest swath of the Sunni populated areas of Iraq. ISIL has been able to marshal local Sunni suppor...

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Could the Quds Force be behind the ISIS in Iraq?

By: Reza Parchizadeh
Vehicles drive past a flag of the al-Qaeda linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, at the entrance to Raqqa

As the militias of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are inundating northwestern Iraq, ravaging the country and massacring the civilians, speculations pop up as to who might be behind this mess in Iraq. On the face of it, as the ISIS is basically a loosely formed Sunni coalition, the most appropriate candidate that comes to mind is Saudi Arabia, the self-proclaimed patron of all the Sunni movements in the Middle East that also has geopolitical designs on the region. However, what if what is going on in Iraq now has actually been formulated and engineered in order to look like that? In...

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A cartoon history of the Middle East starting in 1853

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The purpose of this project was to display by way of a collection of drawings how the Anglo-American press cartooned and lampooned the chain of events within the region between 1853 to today. The Cartoonist do not draw for today. Looked back upon, we find that their art provides a time capsule of history, offering a graphic perspective of events over a given time. The idea to mount this project came about almost by accident. Being passionately interested in politics in general, I had long developed the habit whenever I opened a newspaper, of looking immediately for the page with the cartoon. F...

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The Sociologist Has Left the Building by Kevan Harris

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“Here in Iran, Professor Wallerstein, you are a dangerous man.” So an adviser of President Hassan Rouhani counseled the 83-year old sociologist, and he was correct. It was March, and Immanuel Wallerstein had just arrived for a three-city lecture tour. It was as if the Islamic Republic had granted a visa to Elvis Presley. From left to right and secular to Islamist, people from all points on the Islamic Republic’s intellectual spectrum read Wallerstein. His name is printed in high-school textbooks next to a summary of his contrarian approach to social change: a “world-systems” perspect...

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Postcolonial Thought’s Blind Alley, by Vivek Chibber.

After a long hiatus, we seem to be witnessing the re-emergence of a global resistance to capitalism, at least in its neoliberal guise, argues Vivek Chibber.

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After a long hiatus, we seem to be witnessing the re-emergence of a global resistance to capitalism, at least in its neoliberal guise. It has been more than four decades since anti-capitalist movements exploded with such force on a global scale. There were brief tremors every now and then that temporarily derailed the neoliberal project. But not like those we have witnessed in Europe, the Middle East and the Americas over the past two years. But the re-emergence of such movements has revealed that the retreat of the past three decades has exacted a toll. The political resources available to wo...

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Dispatches on the Future City, by Hamid Dabashi

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In 2013 I had the opportunity to engage in a series of public conversations about the future of the city around the world, many of which stemmed from the publication of a book that I wrote about Arab revolutions called The Arab Spring: The End of Postcolonialism. In that book, I paid particularly close attention to the notion of public space, and the way in which Tahrir Square had emerged as an allegorically potent term through which we as citizens of a future that cannot be too distanced from our present might begin to reimagine our citizenship. I noted that soon after the Egyptian revolution...

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“The battle is among Muslims themselves – a battle for the very soul of Islam” by MONA SIDDIQUI

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The British Muslim academic Mona Siddiqui writes about the “Arabisation” of Islam and changing attitudes to Muslims in the west. If you were to assess much of the current coverage of Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism and Islam, you could be forgiven for thinking that the three are defined respectively through the issues of gay clergy, child sex abuse and violence. The talk of homosexuality and child sex abuse, however, can be understood as expressing institutional and social concern; they are divisive and damaging to the churches and their congregations and leave victims, but by no means are ...

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When artists go to war: inside the PLO’s information department, by Nicholas Blincoe

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The Palestinian Revolution was fought with posters and films as well as rocks and bullets. As a new exhibition opens, Nicholas Blincoe looks at the work of the PLO’s information department “I was 24 years old. We were in danger. The Israeli planes were flying raids overhead. And I was designing posters.” Hosni Radwan won’t easily forget the conditions in the Beirut offices of the PLO Information Department, as an exhibition of the work it produced opens in London. The World Is With Us: Global Film and Poster Art from the Palestinian Revolution, 1968-1980, covers a tumul...

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How Is This Dutch Company Using a Harem to Sell Chocolate Milk?

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The Dutch chocolate-milk manufacturer Chocomel has produced a new commercial that has gotten nearly 800k views on YouTube in the three weeks since it was posted. How has a commercial for a sweet dairy drink drawn that kind of attention? By employing old Orientalist and racist tactics, and Arab face. You know the kind: sleazy Arab sheikh tries to get what he wants by luring an innocent white man into his “palace,” where eager, exotic women line the walls.     Although, I must admit they’ve put some fresh spins on an old move. Here’s how: 1. They’ve made it look like a rap v...

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Pakistan’s Sectarian Turn, by: Ahmed Humayun

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As the Arab world descends into sectarian turmoil, with rival Sunni and Shi’i militias fighting on multiple fronts, a new battlefield is opening up in Pakistan. Although much of the Western attention has focused on clashes between the Pakistani military and Sunni militant groups in the remote tribal regions, these armed actors are expanding their terrorism against civilians across urban Pakistan. A key component of this campaign is a systematic attempt to harden identity-based divisions and provoke wider conflict between Sunnis and Shi’a. Not only does Islamabad have no effective response ...

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Dissonances of the Arab Left, by: Hisham Bustani

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To talk of the secular democratic leftist project in the Arab world is to talk of crisis – a crisis that is manifest in two ways. First, there is the fundamental question of whether such a project even exists in a coherent and comprehensive form, rather than as a mere collection of statements and propositions that contradict one another, and the foundations they allegedly rest upon. The evidence for such incoherence is clear in the way that political parties and the individuals who claim to adhere to the project present it with expediency, selectivity and dema­goguery. In contradiction with...

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