Category Archives: Middle East

The Egyptian Uprising

More at The Real News

-Chris Shortsleeve

The uprising in Egypt is escalating. Imperialists who have said that ‘stability’ is what makes for good democracy, racists who have said that Arabs do not want their freedom, patriarchs who have said that women do not attend, much less lead, protests, and the Western middle classes who have wanted to paint the Egyptian uprising as a Twitter and Facebook-happy ‘Cedar Revolution’ of doctors and lawyers, have all in the last two weeks seen their pseudo-sociological assumptions about the Egyptian people collapse.

On Tuesday, one of the largest pro-democracy demonstrations yet went down in Cairo – this after days of the US media reporting, and the Mubarak regime requesting, a return to “normalcy” in Egypt – and perhaps even more significantly, new and militant strikes are now emerging throughout Egypt: six thousand Suez Canal workers have gone on strike in Suez, Port-Said, and Ismailia. They are being joined by railway technicians and oil workers, by government, sanitation, and court employees, and by factory workers both in Suez and historic, militant Mahalla. Independent trade unions are forming, and calls are being circulated for both single-day and more sustained General Strikes. The working class is moving in Egypt.

And while the Mubarak regime unleashes both direct and extra-parliamentary repression against the pro-democracy forces, while Torturer-in-Chief Omar Suleiman issues a mixture of pleas, threats, and mild economic ‘reforms’, and while both the Obama administration and the Egyptian opposition itself cannot coherently say whether they are for dictatorship or democracy, cannot unequivocally call for the Mubarak regime to be dismantled and for Mubarak and Suleiman to step down, the Egyptian people are showing no signs of giving up, and are continuing to call for the entire government’s dismissal.
Continue reading The Egyptian Uprising

Muslim Students Take the Lead at UC Irvine

written with Will

This past February students in the Muslim Student Union (MSU) at UC Irvine deliberately disrupted a talk by Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the US, as he attempted to justify the Israeli assault on Gaza in 2008/2009.

The 11 students who disrupted Oren by shouting him down were arrested.  Afterwards, Muslim students and other Palestine solidarity activists attending the event walked out and held a protest outside.

Recently, Lisa Cornish, the Senior Executive Director of Student Housing, and other university officials at UC Irvine have recommended the 1-year suspension of the MSU.  In addition, MSU members must complete 50 hours of community, no MSU officers will be allowed to be an “authorized signer” for any other student groups, and if the MSU is allowed to re-register for official status in 2011, it will be placed under a one-year probation.

There is currently a debate over at Kabobfest where some in the Muslim community are arguing that the MSU should not have been involved in organizing the disruption.  They argue that MSAs and MSUs have no business taking leadership in this struggle.

One argument goes that it invites retaliation on the whole Muslim community threatening their religious freedom.  The problem with this argument is that it places the sins of white supremacy and empire squarely in the laps of Muslims and solidarity activists who choose to resist.  There is a faulty assumption here that the occupations of Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the racist attacks on Muslims in the US are a result of organized resistance on our part.  This is completely backwards.  Oppression doesn’t result from our resistance; we resist because we are oppressed.

Continue reading Muslim Students Take the Lead at UC Irvine

Palestine today, but what about tomorrow?

By Will and jubayr

Last week, we all watched as the Obama administration asked to get “all the facts” before releasing a comprehensive statement about the murder of 9 Palestine solidarity activists by the Israeli Defense Force aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.  If he just waits a little longer, he might be able to find a way to use international law to bury both the dead and the living.

Many of us have become depressed and catatonic, staring eyes wide and mouths dry;  we’ve lost sleep and shed tears;  there is a heavy weight in our chest as we’ve become both saddened and enraged at the continued barbarism of Israeli state violence, and the way the US ruling class justifies spilling the blood of Muslims, Arabs and Palestine solidarity organizers alike.

In response we’ve organized rallies, protests and candlelight vigils around the world.  In Turkey, dozens of our sisters and brothers declared an end to sanctuary for Zionism and white supremacy, by storming the Israeli consulate.


Continue reading Palestine today, but what about tomorrow?

Israel’s Attack on the Free Gaza Flotilla: New Escalation, New Desperation

As with the general crisis, it seems everything is magnified at a higher level.

What follows are a few brief notes on last week’s assault of the aid convoy to Gaza. It certainly isn’t the only death squad operation going on against aid convoys as events in southern Mexico shows.

The attack on the Free Gaza flotilla, with the killing of 9 solidarity organizers and wounding of 30 or more, is not an isolated incident. It instead reveals a number of interlocking tensions that need to be pulled apart.

This premeditated assault and murder is part of a general shift in the Israeli government’s policy toward international anti-apartheid organizing, where the regime itself is taking on an increasingly direct role in attacking solidarity efforts. The regime understands that a more pro-Palestinian viewpoint has steadily gained ground in the Left and progressive circles. Further, it understands that the tactic of BDS has gained significant ground in the last ten years. While Palestinians, and more broadly Arabs and Muslims, have been constant targets of U.S, European and Israeli agents and police, the net is now being cast wider to include international solidarity as a whole.

In less than 24 hours after the attack on the Free Gaza flotilla, the Israeli government, along with the vast majority of newspapers and news channels in the U.S. and Europe began their typical intensive propaganda campaign. This certainly creates a kind of firewall, with the vast majority of people suffering from lack of knowledge about Israeli apartheid and the role of U.S. imperialism.

However, even this propaganda and the immense interest U.S. and other Western elites have invested in the apartheid project is coming up against reality. They have not been able to solve the political impasse represented by the Palestinian struggle. As a result, Zionism, as a form of white supremacy, is perhaps more in crisis today than it ever has been in its history.
Continue reading Israel’s Attack on the Free Gaza Flotilla: New Escalation, New Desperation

Iran Retrospective

By Will and mlove

Two weekends ago in Iran hundreds of thousands people (perhaps more) took to the streets once again and defied the clerical regime. The holiday of Ashura was turned into another referendum in the streets with people marching, as well as attacking police stations and banks. Not only were about a dozen people killed by the police, but there were reports that some units refused to fire on the crowds and that some went over to the marchers. What seemed to be at first a continuation of the small, sporadic but violent demonstrations that have occurred in recent months, turned into another massive street confrontation with the regime. Therefore, they have turned out to be a further development of the June 2009 protests that, what seemed like protests about the questionable election result of Ahmadinejad’s victory, became a direct and mass challenge to the character of the regime itself.

Well before the June events, and periodically since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the character of the regime and the struggles against it have become among the Western Left and Iranian socialist exiles deeply and bitterly debated. The reason for this urgency is obvious: Imperialism has spent 30 years in an unrelenting attempt to win back its access to Iranian oil and destroy the historical example of the Iranian Revolution. While more recently the U.S. has hoped to sponsor a version of its “color revolutions” in Iran (as they have in Ukraine, Lebanon and Georgia), there is another side of the struggle in Iran that is fundamentally opposed to the interests of Western imperialism. The fundamental issues, of course, go back further and are not new, and go back to the time of the Russian Revolution when this became a dividing line between anarchists, Left communist currents, Trotskyists and Stalinists.

Here are some basic readings that cover some key positions on the Iran events. Some basic questions worth asking (among others): What is the class basis of the movement? What are its politics and demands? What are the forms of struggle that are developing? What is the relationship of U.S. imperialism and Israeli apartheid to developments inside Iran and the historical legacies of the Iranian Revolution? What are the issues involved in the “split” between the Iranian and Arab Left concerning the character of the regime and the movement against it?

Background to the June events:

Kaveh Ehsani, Arang Keshavarzian and Norma Claire Moruzzi,
Tehran, June 2009

Iran and the Western Left:

Wildcat,
Iran: A new warm-up?

World Socialist Web Site, The crisis of the Islamic Republic and the tasks of the Iranian working class

MRZine Editor,
How many Leftists are “United for Iran”?

Saeed Rahnema,
The Tragedy of the Left’s Discourse on Iran

Afro-Asian Solidarity from Below or Above?

by Will

Afro-Asian solidarity is the basic idea that people from these backgrounds have struggled together against white supremacy and colonialism.  This can be expanded to how both have influenced each other culturally in terms of music, food, and clothes.

I have felt this takes on a particularly important dimension in the United States where race/class tensions have existed between Asians and Africans.  This has been most notably recognized in popular media through the Asian shop owner pitted against the Black community.  Hopefully these dynamics will be explored in the upcoming months on the blog, but to frame that discussion properly we need to start from a seemingly distant point.

Here are some notes on Aijaz Ahmad’s chapter on “Three Worlds Theory” from his book, In Theory. While Aijaz explores the relationship of literature, socialism, nationalism, and anti-colonialism, I will primarily focus on the latter three.  I am specifically trying to explore the relationship of “Afro-Asian solidarity” to Three Worlds Theory (When people say “third world” the underpinnings go back to TWT.), the Bandung Conference, and the Non-Aligned Movement. I am not saying they are the same thing, or that they originate from the same historical moment or people.  I am trying to connect and separate concepts in the hopes of achieving some clarity. Fundamentally, I believe the question of Afro-Asian solidarity is about the class nature of such solidarity.

I believe this is important as in the last decade a host of works by Bill Mullen, Vijay Prashad, Robin Kelley and Fred Ho revive a legacy of African and Asian solidarity.  I believe this attempt is vital, but has been underdeveloped theoretically and politically.  Most notably it has taken on Stalinist and Maoist politics.  I have taken Aijaz’s chapter as a key place to start thinking about the problems of any discussion on Afro-Asian solidarity.  My interest is in thinking about Afro-Asian solidarity ‘from below’ from a class perspective.  In this light Mullen’s connection of CLR James and Grace Lee Bogg’s collaborative efforts is vital.  There is much more that can be explored from ‘from below’ recoveries in the context of national liberation and communist movements.

If my notes on Aijaz do not make 100% sense right now, my upcoming notes on the Darker Nations should clarify why Aijaz is so vital in the discussion of Afro-Asian solidarity. I believe that Vijay Prashad’s work is a long lament or tragic drama on why the national bourgeoisies did not have time or resources to develop the nation; or that they were not pushed to the left far enough; among other excuses justifying a history of national liberation and neo-colonialism rooted in the national bourgeoisies as the determining agents of social change.

Continue reading Afro-Asian Solidarity from Below or Above?

Collapse of the Palestinian Authority?

Is the Palestinian Authority (PA) going to collapse?  If not the PA, then is Fatah imploding?

No one can say for sure, but the succession of events over the past several months brings these questions to mind; questions which could drastically reshape the struggle for Palestine as we know it.

The current change in the winds began as early as this past August over the shady organizing of Fatah’s first party congress in some twenty years.  Then, in October, Abbas and the PA withdrew their support for the Goldstone report, which documented Israeli war crimes during its assault on Gaza last winter.  This betrayal by Abbas & co enraged Palestinians, Arab folks and Palestine solidarity organizers alike.

More recently, Abbas has announced he will retire, and Israeli liberals and US negotiators are running around frantic because Abbas is their only hope of continuing the sordid peace process without having to deal with Hamas.  Shortly afterwards, Abbas began supporting a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state that would forgo the peace process and negotiations with Israel.  While many have applauded this declaration as the long-awaited arrival of Palestinian liberation, in reality it would, under the current conditions, enshrine Israeli apartheid and the shattered social and political lives of Palestinians.

These fractures and desperate measures by Abbas & co have come in response to the US and Israel’s refusal to compromise during negotiations, which would have provided legitimacy for Palestinian rulers.

Since the first Intifada, Fatah has consistently compromised with Israeli apartheid and US Empire, while popular movements in Palestine have repeatedly rejected that compromise.  Gains have only been made by popular self-activity on the part of everyday Palestinians.  This dynamic lies at the heart of the crisis.  The truth today is that Fatah no longer has any social base.  These latest maneuvers by Abbas and Fatah, which treat notions of independence merely as a bargaining chip or a bureaucratic maneuver, should be interpreted in this light.

These articles help contextualize these events:

“Where is Fatah Headed?”
Here’s an article by Toufic Haddad just before the party congress this past August, which traces the increasingly authoritarian character of Fatah both internally, and in relation to the struggle for Palestine.

“Bantustans and the unilateral declaration of statehood”
This is an excellent essay by Virginia Tilley on the pitfalls and consequences of the recent “threats” to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state.

“White House Pivots on Mideast Bid”
and “Short-Term Fixes Sought in Mideast”
And for what it’s worth, the NYTimes on how the lack of direction by US Empire contributed to these latest gambits by Abbas and the PA.

Nidal Hasan: The Soul of a People

written with fatima & Will

For the moment, no one can say for sure that they understand the dynamics behind the events at Ft. Hood involving Nidal Hasan. What is clear is that he attacked military personnel whose sole purpose is to kill Arabs and Muslims. This should not be forgotten. He was humiliated and attacked for being Arab and Muslim, he desperately wanted to avoid deployment in a war that was directed against him and our people, and he believed that it is our duty as brown, black, Muslim, Asian, Arab, South Asian and many more to stand up and fight our oppressors. This rage that we feel swelling up in our hearts, weighing heavy in our chests, that rises up to choke us and bring tears to our eyes can only be held back for so long.

This rage cannot be controlled. Liberals and Conservatives get upset when we don’t express that rage in ways they are comfortable with.  They send troops to put bullets in our peoples’ heads, and then council patience and moderation to us. This lets them offer the solution of dialogue to everyone who has their necks under the boot of Empire.  When they disband the U.S. military, then dialogue can be considered with these hypocrites. There is no hope of explaining this rage to them. They will never understand.

At the same time, many liberal and conservative Muslims are afraid of this rage as well because they profit from their role as our prison guards. It is clear that the Muslim community is not united and can never be under these conditions.  There are some who want to join the club of American Empire.  They just want American Empire to kill less Muslims and to interrogate them with less electricity.  They are just as afraid of the Black people, poor people, and queer people as the racists, the homophobes, and the rich.

Continue reading Nidal Hasan: The Soul of a People

Crashing the Party: Protesting Apartheid Celebrations in Seattle

-gila

The following are two speeches, one by myself and the other by Wen, given at a rally protesting Israel’s Independence Day at the University of Washington in April, 2009.

Each year, the Zionist groups on campus take the opportunity to hold what they call “IsraelPalooza,” which they frame as a purely cultural Independence Day celebration.  As part of the Palestine solidarity campaign that Wen and i were involved in, we decided to crash their apartheid party.Crash IsraelPalooza Flyer

While the Zionists tried to emphasize their event as a celebration of Israeli culture, we decided to celebrate 61 years of Palestinian resistance to apartheid.  At their event, they offered live music, henna, hookah,  falafel, and a “dialogue” tent, ostensibly to prove that they were nice, reasonable people.  However, once we began our rally not far away, the white supremacist insults began.  First we heard, “There’s no such thing as a Palestinian, you idiot!”  Later, Zionists tried to verbally and physically provoke those on our side.  We held our cool, while the campus police, who had promised to keep the groups separated, stood back and did nothing to prevent the Zionist hostility.

After several speeches were made and some lively chants recited (including: “From Mexico to Palestine, tear down the wall!”), we began a loud march around the perimeter of the apartheid party.  Being that the event was outdoors and advertised as free and open to the public, we decided that we would enter their settlement-like party as a contingent.  However, when we tried to enter, the cops formed a human barricade and denied us entry.  While they were not willing to intervene when the Zionists were trying to provoke physical fights, the cops were all too happy to bar us from a free event.  In comparing the two opposing sides, as we stood face to face with each other, two things were clear: 1) They were overwhelmingly white and we were majority people of color; and 2) The cops were willing to use force to “protect” the whiteys and their “culture” from all the scary brown people.  For a brief moment that day, it was like we were living under legally enforced segregation.

Just in case their white supremacy wasn’t obvious enough, the Zionists helped make it crystal clear when one of them yelled at our brown group, “Swine Flu.”  When an anti-Zionist Jewish woman who was part of our rally tried to enter IsraelPalooza, the cops barred her, while a couple Zionists behind the cops screamed, “Don’t let her in.  She might be a suicide bomber.”

Anyway, after a lengthy showdown with the pigs, we marched through campus, still full of energy, right to a local Palestinian falafel restaurant.  The food there was good; much better, i imagine, than the appropriated, blood-soaked falafel that the Zionists were giving out.

I wish i could post video from the event, but it has been lost, so i am posting the flyer for the event along with the two speeches. Continue reading Crashing the Party: Protesting Apartheid Celebrations in Seattle

The Labor Movement in Egypt

written with mlove

egyptian-intifada

Over the past three years the energy of Egyptian workers has created exciting  possibilities for the working class across the Middle East. In December of 2006 over 24,000 workers at Misr Spinning and Weaving company in Ghazl el-Mahalla initiated a wave of strikes and industrial actions that has extended well beyond the Mahalla al-Kubra industrial center challenging the foundations of the Egyptian state.  As this rank-and-file activity grew into a movement, it increasingly came into direct confrontation with the state, with well over 200 major strikes in 2007. When Mahalla workers again struck in April of 2008, the dictatorship looked to crush the movement. As soldiers and police tried to occupy the factory, clashes broke-out and spread, with live ammunition being fired on strikers and protesters.

The April 6 movement, as it became identified, was an important catalyst for grievances against the regime as striking workers were joined in the street by the mass outcries against the rising cost of bread. It is no accident that since 2008 there has been an attempt to crush the movement by arresting rank-and-file leadership, student activists, and opposition intellectuals, many of whom have been tortured, taking a place next to hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood organizers sitting in jail. What has been striking about the movement are the political dimensions of the protest.  In addition to fighting privatization and demanding back payment of bonuses, demanding for the raising of the minimum wage, people are singling out Mubarak and his American-backed dictatorship.
Continue reading The Labor Movement in Egypt