White House renews Hamas sanctions – The Majlis

January 21, 2010 at 9:29 pm (Uncategorized)

A critical look at the effect of US sanctions in the Middle East.

White House renews Hamas sanctions – The Majlis.


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BBC News – Palestinian graves found damaged after settlers visit

January 21, 2010 at 8:38 pm (Uncategorized)

What you won’t hear about from the New York Times:

BBC News – Palestinian graves found damaged after settlers visit.

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YouTube – Israeli T-shirts mock Gaza killings

January 14, 2010 at 6:11 pm (Uncategorized)

My first experience with this story was through the wonderful Dana, English-language coordinator for Jordan’s refugee camps. She told me that during Operation Cast Lead, Israeli soldiers had t-shirts that said “when you kill a pregnant Palestinian, you kill two with one bullet.” Al-Jazeera has the story below.

YouTube – Israeli T-shirts mock Gaza killings – 23 March 2009.

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Sumerians Look On In Confusion As God Creates World | The Onion

January 14, 2010 at 6:09 pm (Uncategorized)

Some levity!

Sumerians Look On In Confusion As God Creates World | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source.

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Lanka firmly behind Palestine – Ambassador

January 14, 2010 at 10:36 am (Uncategorized)

Sri Lanka News | Online edition of Daily News – Lakehouse Newspapers.

It’s nice to see Sri Lanka throwing its weight behind Palestinian voices, and calling out the Western media for its peculiar omission of coverage of the Gaza war.

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The Social Revolution is not being Televised

January 14, 2010 at 2:09 am (Uncategorized)

Hmmm…it’s disappointing that the Prop 8 hearings will not be streamed on YouTube and thereby made available to the public. I guess it’s not that common for trial proceedings to be made available live (except super obscure ones on ex-Court TV), but I liked the idea of the Prop 8 hearings being aired live because this is such a crucial trial for so many people, it seems to remove any opportunity for misunderstanding about what’s going on inside the courtroom.

I don’t know why the ruling judge ruled against it; I hope it’s more a matter of legal precedent than a bias toward one party or the other. One of the pro-Prop 8 participants had actually decided not to participate when he learned it was going (initially) to be broadcast. Was he afraid of being held accountable for his homophobic views? That’s my bias, anyway.

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The Governator

January 13, 2010 at 10:51 am (Uncategorized)


My mom and I were having lunch in Los Altos, when, while looking for parking, we spotted a suspiciously motorcade-ish-looking group of vehicles consisting of two CHP motorcycle cops and two black SUVs with tinted windows and guys in suits with wires in their ears. The CHP guys really did live up to their reputation (sorry guys) of “AAA with a gun,” which is how a certain police department (MVPD) likes to think of them! There probably isn’t any casual way to inquire who the VIP is, so I awkwardly wandered up and said, “uh, who’s the motorcade for?” They each tried to respond with awkward, not-so-funny jokes. I finally managed to coax an “Arnold” out of one of them, after exaggerating the truth about interacting with the Secret Service during the campaign. Intelligence fail on his part.

My mom’s first guess was that the motorcade was for Al Gore, since his daughter lives in Los Altos (apparently), and that maybe they were having lunch at the ritzy restaurant next door to where we ate. It really made me miss campaign days. Long story short, it was Arnold himself, browsing at an antique store (?). Does this show a Democratic bias on my mom’s part? 🙂

I caught a glimpse of Schwarzenegger, but not his height–he looks exactly the same in person that he does on TV. Not his movies, but in his role as Governator. I’m pretty sure they were Secret Service–they have offices around the country and apparently have to spend several years protecting “lesser” folk like anyone-other-than-the-president before they can apply for Presidential detail. Hot stuff. Brings out my inner Jack Bauer.

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“Mish Mushkila”

January 12, 2010 at 10:27 am (Uncategorized)

Yes! Arabic has a version of Hawaii’s “da kine”!

“Mish mushkila” is colloquial street Arabic for “no problem.” It comes in handy a lot; if the cab driver can’t get to just the right corner before dropping you off, “mish mushkila” lets him know it’s no problem. Someone bumps into you, “mish mushkila.”

I want to make a t-shirt that has “mish mushkila” written on it in Arabic script. To a much, much lesser extent than Borat, I like to turn people’s expectations upside down and watch the reaction. I’m pretty sure that to the average bystander, anything written in Arabic would conjure images of al Qaeda and terrorism. But “no problem” has quite the opposite sentiment.

Where can I have a t-shirt like that made, I wonder? Plus, Arabic just looks cool. I’m still surprised when I can put the letters together to recognize a word. It’s a puzzle, and the challenge reduced our class last summer to sounding out words syllable by syllable, reminding me a lot of kindegarteners learning to read.

It’s humbling to be rendered essentially illiterate.

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Believing my own schtick

January 12, 2010 at 8:55 am (Uncategorized)

Here is an as-yet-unpublished letter I just submitted in response to the following editorial in the San Jose Mercury News on January 11, 2010: Starvation in Gaza is a Myth.

I use “schtick” in the ironic sense because the author of the editorial, Gil Stein, claims that the information coming out of Gaza is propaganda. I’m trying to present what I know to be true as just that, and therefore, I believe my own propaganda. Or something.

Dear Editor,

After watching days of footage of Gaza Freedom Marchers clashing with Egyptian police in an attempt to enter Gaza on January 1st, learning that Israel (with Egypt) plans to build yet another wall to advance the ghetto-ization of Gazans, seeing that George Galloway’s humanitarian convoy to Gaza has been denied entry again, and hearing more stories of humiliation of Palestinians at the hands of Israeli soldiers from some Iraqi friends, I was shocked to read Mr. Stein’s editorial.

Not only is the starvation of Gazans not propaganda, it is difficult to avoid seeing the vivid photos on international news sites of the increasingly dire living conditions in Gaza. Mr. Stein’s one-sided piece is an example of why so many Americans unquestioningly support Israel’s behavior: what is actually occurring on the ground in Palestine receives no coverage in our media. I lived in Jordan this summer, where I met with Palestinian refugees and survivors of Operation Cast Lead. How many Americans know what Operation Cast Lead stands for?

I learned that Israeli soldiers do not attempt to hide their contempt for Arabs. One soldier said that Palestinians are “cockroaches,” and that they are “fun to kill.” Have you seen an old Palestinian woman on her knees, begging arrogant Israeli soldiers not to wrongfully bulldoze her home and orchard? I have. Israel is one of the most militarized states in the world. The Palestinians aren’t allowed the dignity of a state or national army with which to defend themselves. The UN has never taken Palestinians seriously.

After hearing firsthand from a Palestinian woman about how the men in her family were machine-gunned as they ran from approaching Israeli soldiers in 1948, I don’t want to hear a single complaint from Israel about the resentment that the people they have trampled on for 60 years have. I supported Israel until I saw what is actually happening on the ground. Now I get so upset about it I have decided to devote the rest of my life to making sure that Arab voices are heard in equal number to Israeli voices.

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Gloves Off

January 10, 2010 at 11:10 am (Uncategorized)

I’m kind of amused at the almost-provocative reactions when I challenge commonly held stereotypes about the Middle East here. There has been so much inaccuracy of late that I decided to write a letter to the “Daily News,” which used to be the “Palo Alto Daily News.” It ran on January 5th.

Dear Editor: I was so disappointed to read the ill-informed letters from Mr. Licht and Mr. Stein regarding Islam and terrorism. I speak Arabic and lived in the Muslim country of Jordan this summer. I couldn’t have been treated more warmly or with more respect. The Muslim call to pray five times per day is beautiful; there is a spirituality that pervades life there that is a refreshing change from our Western cynicism.

Muslims I spoke with are terribly offended and fearful of the anti-Muslim sentiment coming out of the West. If we were to say the same things about Judaism that we do about Islam we would never live down the label of “anti-Semitic.”

Anti-Islamism is no better than anti-Semitism. I didn’t meet a single Muslim who is interested in taking over the West. Please do not make the mistake of ascribing to an entire religion (of 1 billion people) the errant ways of a handful of misguided individuals. As for terrorism being our fault, while we cannot take responsibility for the actions of others, it does behoove our nation, as it does every nation, to ensure that our behaviors are not causing more harm than good in certain parts of the world.

Propagating the myth that America can do no harm brings the potential for it to everyone.

A Mr. Phil Smaller, of Palo Alto, decided to respond with the following, that ran on January 7th:

Dear Editor: I am very happy that Diana Galbraith enjoyed her trip to Jordan as described in her Jan. 5 letter. The fact that she “Didn’t meet a single Muslim who is interested in taking over the West” is very reassuring to me. I must ask if in her conversations with Muslims she inquired why freedoms of speech and religion are so restricted in Muslim countries.

Or why newspapers that publish articles that question government policies are shut down. Did she get a chance to find out why Muslim schools and madrassas teach that violence to Christians and Jews has support in the teachings in the Koran?

I realize that she was treated warmly, but there surely must have been a few moments when she may have inquired if her hosts followed the Islamic teaching of offering your enemy conversion, subjugation or war. The last occurring if your enemy refused the other two.

Lastly, did she make any inquires on the subject of jihad? I must take issue with her comments that jihad is on the mind of only a “handful of misguided individuals.”
The world is a dangerous place, and notwithstanding Ms. Galbraith’s wonderful trip, it is time to start asking tough questions.

My response, that ran on the 8th:

Dear Editor: In response to Mr. Smaller’s response to my letter: The question of why Arab governments suppress their people would be better directed to them, not to those who suffer from their regimes.

Freedom of religion is not restricted in Jordan, which is a secular country. There are no extreme madrassas. Like Africa, the Arab world is not a homogenous body where every country and every person is the same.

Had Mr. Smaller studied more carefully the tenets of Islam or asked a Muslim, he would know that Islam does not offer a choice of conversion, subjugation or war. The Bedouin code in Jordan is if a person agrees to shelter someone, that he is bound to defend that person’s life with his own.

One definition of jihad I heard from Jordanians is the inner struggle to resist temptations like an extra piece of dessert or buying five cars when two would do. The second definition of jihad is the principle of self-defense; if someone’s home is attacked, he or she has the right to defend it.

Muslims take offense to the question of suicide bombing and affirm that violence of any kind is forbidden. The world is indeed a dangerous place, Mr. Smaller, in particular for Gazans, who die at the whim of the Israeli army, which is supported by an underinformed American public. Please do not speak on behalf of Islam or the Arab world unless you have lived there.

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“And we’re back!”

January 6, 2010 at 7:21 am (Uncategorized)

I’ve been wondering how to arrange my blog situation going forward, now that I’m home and no longer using this one exclusively for Jordan. I will start graduate school soon, so it’s probably time to shift the focus from Jordan to my daily comings and goings, and whatever else might come along.

One of my current struggles is coming to terms with how this summer changed my view of the Middle East. I was overwhelmed with information I’d never had access to before and feel that my world view was put into a wood chipper and is only just being reconstituted now. It’s incredibly difficult to talk about because criticizing Israel is interpreted as being anti-Jewish. How are we going to have an honest conversation about what is going on if one entire perspective is essentially disallowed?

Not really sure where to go from here; I just know that I need to convey what I learned to Americans because no one here has any idea what’s really going on in the region. I believe that the Arabs need a voice and that they are not being listened to, and I’m not OK with that.

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