Thursday, 24 April 2008

2048: a peace odyssey

Israel is 60 years old and the conflict still rages on. Can we look forward to peace by the 100th anniversary?

Glimmers of hope

Palestinian and Israeli peace activists have joined forces to demand the lifting of the Gaza blockade.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Annapolis or bust

By Khaled Diab
Ahead of the Annapolis conference, a TV debate in which I appeared was broadcast on Wednesday 22 November. In it, I argued that Annapolis was little more than a photo op and that the hopes it raised would be dashed in a camera flash. If the gathering fails, then the time would be ripe to experiment with creative and radical approaches to peace.

Nadia Abu Zahra hosted Middle East Today, an hour-long debating programme on the new London-based satellite channel, Press TV*. The other members of the panel were Ghayth Armanazi, a former Arab League ambassador, George Lambrakis, a former US diplomat, and Simon Tisdall of the Guardian.

The discussion revolved around the prospects for a breakthrough at Annapolis, the aims and agendas of each of the parties, whether or not Israel was missing an opportunity, and what the different players – the EU, Russia, the Arab League, etc. – from the outside world could do to improve prospects.

When asked whether and why Israel was missing an opportunity, I pointed out that the Israeli peace camp is too weak to hold back the vested interests that want to hold on to the settlements and large chunks of the West Bank. I added that there is a lot of public disillusionment and apathy, with a lot of Israelis reconciled to the idea of an indefinite conflict.

When quizzed on why the Palestinians were going to Annapolis despite the low expectations attached to the event, I suggested that, given the desperate situation Palestinians endure, certain Palestinians are compelled to clutch at straws in this way.

The road less travelled
Given the resounding failure of top-down diplomacy, I speculated that perhaps we were tackling this conflict the wrong way round. I argued that involving all the stakeholders to the conflict was crucial and that means engaging the citizenry directly in the peace process because the leadership on both sides do not enjoy the mandate necessary to make the necessary concessions.

I also suggested that it might be time for the Palestinians to do something daring if Annapolis did not deliver: give up their national struggle and demand full civil rights and Israeli citizenship.

*Press TV is a new Iranian satellite channel based in London. I had never heard of it before they contacted me and was somewhat concerned by the fact that it was owned by the Iranian government and whether that would place restrictions on what I could or couldn’t say.

The station’s fixer assured me that Press TV operated on the “BBC model”, i.e. it is funded by the state, but there is no governmental interference, and that I would have complete freedom during the programme to speak my mind. She also informed me that the programme was taped as live and none of it is edited. However, after the debate, a journo friend told me that he’d heard that the channel cuts out the bits it doesn’t like – which worried me a little bit. Fortunately, as far as I could tell, every single word was broadcast.

This was the first time I’d taken part in a TV debate and the frequent breakdowns in the satellite connection did not help the flow. In addition, the fact that I could not see the other panellists and could only hear them like ghostly apparitions in my ear while gazing into the impassive eye of the camera, made it a lot tougher to get my points across than in an article!

Monday, 19 November 2007

A civil solution?

If the Annapolis peace conference fails, then Palestinians should abandon their national struggle and demand their civil rights.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Desiring recognition of Palestinian gays

Marhaba Prof Joseph Massad,

Allow me to express my deep gratitude for your articles, research and advocacy on behalf of my/our people, the Palestinians. After Edward Said, we do need an advocate for a truly downtrodden people, their shattered identity and a pillaged existence. Whereas we are not the only population to suffer, I am allowing myself a certain selfishness after the thorny mess of the diaspora.

I have, and at times still, read your articles and admittedly use many of your arguments where the mere uttering of the words "I am Palestinian" bring on unwarranted contentions. All is not well when not abiding by any invisible law denoting shame for one's heritage.

I love the image of a country I have never known, the eyes of a mother who can never seize the trauma of the Nakba, reflected by the women of Palestine and the gestures of defiance of a father carried by many of the men of Palestine. That country is no longer a place, it is a part of a lost soul. Peace of mind and heart that many of us are still trying to find.

Sadly, I was recently reminded of the fragility of human judgement; Palestinian have every right to fight for the simple right of statehood, yet when they are homosexual they are merely the puppets in a plot created by the "Gay International"? They are, therefore, of lesser Gods, lesser men and, according to you, the source of the what the West still has in store for us!

I am a queer Palestinian having to put up with the partiality of daily life in the West. When followed around a drugstore, frowned upon for asking a rightful question, called a terrorist, I am being treated as an underdog for being non-white and Palestinian. Imagine the type of refuge I receive when among Arabs with their all too rigid, even sordid, views on manhood.

Nor am I an imaginary product of the "West". Born and raised in the Arab world, I have taught myself the "white man's" tongue.

Nor am I some freak of one parental dominance over the other. If you have lived with Palestinian parents, I assume you would know that male dominance is prevalent in our society, whereas a Palestinian mother might as well open a college teaching Jewish moms what real control looks like!

I am not an academic, nor do I pretend to be one. I am angry at the racism of the winners and the hypocrisy of Arabs and the West. I would rather live in Beirut, Cairo or Abu Dhabi, listen to the morning Athan and have a family that will not view me as morally corrupt than enjoy the stifled freedom in a black-and-white society. The only difference is that back home my life is under threat for the mere assumption of immoral behaviour, thus forcing me and others like me to lead double lives. The West still offers a minimum of legal protection from discrimination. Yet, it does not offer the warmth of an Arab family.

If our intellectuals are as bigoted in their opinion as you are, how is the rest of the populace faring?


Wikipedia entry on Massad's Desiring Arabs

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Middle Eastern cult heroes

With political disillusionment at an all-time high, a certain brand of hardline Middle Eastern leader is being elevated to the status of cult hero.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

A perfect spy?

An ageing billionaire falls to his death in Mayfair. Vital evidence disappears. The latest Le Carré novel? No, a real life Middle Eastern spy thriller.