What Islamophobes Really Want

Few thoughts regarding the lengthy article published by the Atlantic: What ISIS really wants.

Daish Kittens and Nutella: saw this circulating on FB and thought it made so much sense.

Daish Kittens and Nutella: saw this circulating on FB and thought it made so much sense.


The White man’s perspective rears its ugly head once again in this article to mislead us and remind us that no matter how much research and resources are deployed these self-proclaimed “experts” still get it very wrong. Throughout the article, Graeme Wood tries to present daish as a cancer where in reality it is one symptom of western capitalism and militarism. As if to say that, the years of bombardment, colonization, vilification, dehumanization and enslavement of people in Islamic regions meant nothing.

For starters one needs to compare the way past colonialist literature perceived and portrayed people in Africa, the Arab region and India with this article. Then we can read this is for what it is: a neo-colonialist misreading.

I think the author slipped into a well-known Western Orientalist view of Islam and its subjects, compounding the 1.5 billion Muslims as one entity, functioning with one mindset. He has tried to dodge this by citing Edward Said but his imagination has clearly failed him all along. In regards to Daish his view, like the majority in the West and co, is that of an exotic phenomena that emerged out of thin air. No recognition is given to the realities (mostly a creation of western foreign policy and their Arab dogmatic dictators) that shaped such a nihilistic collective. By this token, the author’s line of thought is that of the west; of refusing to recognize that it failed in its “tolerant” approach towards it’s non-white citizens. Immigrants, especially from Muslim countries, were never integrated; they are still kept in ghettos treated and portrayed as the untrustworthy marginalized other, the homo sacers.

The west also refuses to see Daish as a mirror. For example, when Bush launched a war that destroyed the Middle East’s already worn out fabrics it was his god (a Christian one) that told him to do so. In addition to that, we have the already existing rise of rightwing Christian violent movements who bomb abortion clinics and degrade women using biblical terms/texts (just to name one). These backwards elements are very much in common with Daish’s practices. Moreover Israel, an extension of the West, can be viewed literally as the Jewish advance model of Daish. Ultimately, Saudi Arabia is the motherland of Daish also known as America’s second best friend in the region. Inside and through Saudi this apocalyptic ideology has been manufactured for tens of years, given international cover and support; first to fight the spread of communism/socialism and second to empower cliental puppet regimes loyal to the U.S. while they dumb-down and deprive their own people. What we have missed in this process is state building and citizenship…

Over analyzing these doped bewildered Jihadis as the author did is basically doing them a propagandistic favor. Isn’t this apocalyptic myth that is given so much weight in this article precisely the opium that Daish uses for recruitment mixed with the jihadis’ drug of choice: Captegon?   To put it in plain terms Daish is today’s go to outlet for vengeance.

The Left and its ongoing inaction have also left a void of Ideology meanwhile capitalism is on steroids, pioneering future methods in human enslavement, taming and control. This ideological void has left a gap which Daish has handsomely capitalized on.

Finally, I would like to add that the circumstances for recruitment and ultimately the want for vengeance are a result of the war on terror and the diesel that drives the war on terror; that Daish/AQ and the leaders of the war on terror are but two sides of the same coin. End the brutal war on terror, stop bombing weddings, stop the corporate driven foreign interventions/ support for oppressive sectarian regimes, end the occupation of Palestine and Daish will have little chance for survival. Keep the war on terror and the above hegemonies and Daish will continue to balloon. Keep enriching the 1% and soon many Daish wannabe movements will spring up all over the globe.

Bombing problems into supposed nonexistence will only continue to unfold a bleak future that awaits our region. One where we will be kept in check by drones buzzing over.  Enclosed either in fortified shopping islands protected by private security firms and local militias or in refugee camps governed from the inside by the survival of the fittest and on the outside by “peace keeping” troops who have orders to shoot and kill any wretched refugee who manages to slip out. The war on terror is the one to blame for such dystopia.

Therefore, daish can only be viewed as the mutated monster of unfettered capitalism which self-proclaimed “experts” in the west ought to focus on instead of producing another misleading Islamophobic narrative.  Thus, I think, the reason why we get such misleading nonsensical analysis is because the latest capitalist society has become so focused on viewing the other as an inherently alienated creature devoid of human commonality.


Palestinians in Lebanon push back against media incitement

18 December 2014

Ein al-Hilwe camp proves a convenient scapegoat. (Kristian Buss/STARS)

Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have been trying to remain outside the consuming fire of Lebanese politics.

Since the 2007 destruction of Nahr al-Bared refugee camp by the Lebanese army in the north of the country, Palestinian refugees have learned to quickly take preemptive measures to avoid a repeat of that disaster.

In 2007, militant Islamic fighters Fatah al-Islam, who had been employed by local Sunni sectarian politicians as potential proxy fighters, hid out in Nahr al-Bared camp. An armed confrontation with theLebanese army ultimately led to the army destroying the camp, home to nearly 30,000 refugees.

A similar threat is today looming overEin al-Hilwe camp, near the southern city of Sidon. That camp is home to more than 80,000 Palestinian refugees.

In recent months, Lebanese media have increasingly been claiming that various Lebanese Sunni extremist figures with ties to al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, and with the “Islamic State” group are hiding in Ein al-Hilwe.

Palestinians are again becoming a scapegoat, despite the fact that some of these extremist figures have enjoyed the backing of top Lebanese political figures.

Palestinians in Ein al-Hilwe are acutely aware that their camp could turn into another arena for Lebanese politicians to settle their differences.

Moreover, since right of return to Palestine is still denied to them and their land still occupied by Israel, in the current hostile Lebanese environment there is literally no place to go outside the camp, which is only one square kilometer in size.

Ein al-Hilwe is still housing refugees who fled the destruction of Nahr al-Bared, and whonever saw a full process of reconstruction in their camp. Since 2011, the southern camp has also been sheltering a large influx of refugees from the civil war in Syria.

War in the north

The recent wave of defamation against the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon started on 24 November when Lebanese media circulated news alleging the entry of Shadi Mawlawi into the camp.

Shadi Mawlawi is a controversial Lebanese operative who was arrested in 2012 by the Lebanese general security on charges of recruiting fighters in the northern city of Tripoli to fight the regime in Syria. He was also accused of facilitating financial support for Islamic groups in Syria.

Following the arrest of Mawlawi in May of that year, protesters in Tripoli took to the streets demanding his immediate release. Mawlawi was soon released and met with then Prime Minister Najib Mikati at the latter’s private Tripoli home, affirming his credentials with the Sunni polity.

In September, Mawlawi, now openly an Islamist firebrand, made a local TV appearance announcing his support for Jabhat al-Nusra. On 24 October, following Friday prayers, Mawlawi, his supporters and other militant groups clashed with the Lebanese army for three days in the historic market of Tripoli. This small war spread all the way to Akkar, the most northern district of Lebanon, where the militants were thought to have fled afterwards.

In the last two weeks Ein al-Hilwe camp has become the subject of a torrent of accusations made by Lebanese security forces. Media outlets have alleged that the camp is hosting Shadi Mawlawi, sectarian salafi rabble-rouser Ahmad Assir, singer-turned-Assir-supporter Fadel Shaker (wanted for calling on Sunnis to defect from the army) and Salafi preacher and northern militia leader Khaled Hoblos — the four of them among the most wanted men in Lebanon.

Nonsensical allegations

In response, Palestinians took a collective deep breath, baffled by the absurdity of the allegations.

One Palestinian from Ein al-Hilwe, who asked not to be named, said news reports that Mawlawi paid a taxi driver $100 in Tripoli — who then “drove him across all the checkpoints from north to south” and into a camp in a state of lockdown by the Lebanese army — were laughable.

“Each time I step foot outside the camp the Lebanese army check my ID and search me head to toe. They want to convince us that one of the most wanted men in Lebanon casually strolled into the camp,” the young man remarked. He further elaborated that the Lebanese army “even have female Lebanese soldiers on all the entrances searching women, especially those who wear a niqab [face veil].”

Following the latest accusation, the Lebanese military intelligence chief in the south, Ali Shahrour, summoned the Security Coordination Committee from Ein al-Hilwe camp to Zoaib military base in Saida and declared that Shadi Mawlawi was hiding in the camp.

(This camp-specific committee includes members of the Palestine Liberation Organization and members from other political factions in the camp which are not part of the PLO. The committee was created after Nahr al-Bared as a response to accusations that the camp was sheltering the remnants of Fatah al-Islam. It has been coordinating security matters with the Lebanese army ever since.)

The intelligence chief emphasized that Palestinian political factions should assume their responsibility over the security of their camp. He also insisted that Khaled Hoblos, Ahmad Assir and Fadel Shaker were all inside Ein al-Hilwe, despite the fact that it is common knowledge that Assir fled Lebanon following his battle with the Lebanese army in Abra Saida two years ago.

Following the security meeting, and without a shred of evidence, Lebanese media trumpeted the idea that the fugitives are residing in the camp and planning attacks against Lebanese army forces.

The most important details, however, were never mentioned in any report: how did these men manage to enter a camp enclosed by walls, topped with barbed wire, the gates of which are controlled by the Lebanese army? Not to mention precautions taken by the camp’s Security Coordination Committee, which has been coordinating with Lebanese security forces.


An urgent campaign of reassurance that no wanted men were hiding in Ein al-Hilwe was launched by the Palestinian Supreme Security Committee — a PLO body tasked with supervision of Palestinian refugees’ security in the camps in Lebanon, which is composed of members from all PLO factions.

The campaign was spearheaded by its chief, Sobhi Abu Arab, who shuttled between various Lebanese political groups and security figures saying as much.

Sheikh Abu Sharif Akel, a member of the security committee for Ein al-Hilwe camp and a spokesperson for Usbat al-Ansar — another non-PLO Islamic Palestinian faction, allied with Hamas — said at a meeting with the Mufti of Saida on 2 December that the camp would defend itself from any “evil” outside elements:

“We do not want either Shadi Mawlawi nor Ahmad al-Assir nor any of these names that carry trouble and problems into the camp,” Akel said.

“There is insistence by some Lebanese parties, who seem to have information not available to us, claiming that Shadi Mawlawi has entered the camp,” he added. ”We tell Shadi and others that the camp has its cause and destination and its compass is fixed towards Palestine … Go back to where you came from, the camp is a host only to those who care about Palestine.”

Realizing the consequences of the accusations against the camp, Palestinians in Lebanon have refuted and denounced them, finding that staying neutral in the country can be a challenging feat.

“Security sources”

Despite the ongoing campaign of dehumanization of the camp, Palestinian refugees from Ein al-Hilwe have retaliated to the absurd allegations in kind.

Satirical image skewering Lebanese media fear-mongering about Palestinian refugees that was circulated on social media. (Facebook)

The caption to this image circulated on social media reads: “Al-Jadeed reporter: an exclusive picture of the airplane that transported Shadi Mawlawi to Ein al-Hilwe. PS: picture taken from inside a flock of pigeons.”

Other efforts against the incitement against Ein al-Hilwe have proved more serious.

After the leftist Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, citing unnamed “security sources,”published an alarmist report stating that the camp is harboring some the most wanted men in Lebanon, a joint Palestinian security delegation composed of Islamist and national representatives headed to the Hittin neighborhood of the camp.

The commission made a surprise visit to the residence of Islamist activist Naim al-Naim. Following a detailed inspection the commission found no evidence to back up media allegations claiming Shadi Mawlawi and other wanted men were hiding inside al-Naim’s home.

Countering infighting

Meanwhile an ad hoc initiative was organized by youth and civil society groups in the camp, who are keen not to be dragged into a repeat of the Nahr al-Bared tragedy. The youth initiative has staged protests and started media awareness campaigns to demonstrate that Palestinians remain neutral, and are not harboring any criminals wanted by the Lebanese state.

The Association of Palestinian Journalists in Lebanon meanwhile launched a petition titled “Your security is my security” and issued a statement rejecting media incitementagainst Palestinian refugees in the country.

Despite continuous efforts by Palestinian refugees in Lebanon to push back against scapegoating by the Lebanese media, dehumanization persists in Lebanese public discourse.

Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, stateless and shut out of the economy, wielding little power in the country, have proven a convenient target for the state’s frustrations.

Moe Ali Nayel is a freelance journalist based in Beirut. Follow him on Twitter:@MoeAliN.

The legendary piano of Yarmouk

Submitted by Moe Ali Nayel on Tue, 10/14/2014 – Electronic Intifada

There is a piano that continues to survive alongside the Palestinians in besieged Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus.

Earlier this year the piano appeared in the above YouTube video; it was the first time I learned of its existence. A favorite musical instrument, my ears were absorbed and my eyes followed each stroke of its keys.

That decrepit piano from Yarmouk appeared on the screen in front of me as a living, breathing thing. As I watched, the piano sang, directed by cold, dry fingers which appeared almost fossilized.

A young Palestinian pianist from Yarmouk dropped his head to the keyboard and his music spoke. The tune that came from the piano did not have the same effect the piano usually triggers in my psyche; the melody created a feeling of discomfort, sweaty palms and a dull anxiety, causing my teeth to clench throughout the four-minute video.

My usual joy in the piano gave way to melancholy as I watched a dystopian reality unfold in the video: five young men stand shoulder to shoulder facing the piano; they sing along despite the bitter cold that shivered in their malnourished bodies. They tuck their hands in their pockets and sing along with the angry piano notes: “O displaced come back, the traveling has been far too long.”

The Yarmouk piano surfaced again on social media on 3 October, in a video titled “Blue.”

Just like the first time, my second encounter with the piano was by coincidence while I scrolled aimlessly on a social media timeline. Produced by Bidayyat and Rad Fael (Reaction), the short video work is a personal story narrated by its director, Abo Gabi, who is displaced tries to Skype with his friend who has remained in Yarmouk.

The video begins on a gray street in Yarmouk refugee camp as a screaming ambulance zips by. The camera walks the viewer through the grim reality of the besieged camp and settles on the pianist who is accompanied by several youths who sing “Promises, promises, promises! While our people are dying.”

At 9:39, during a scene showing a funeral procession, the camera stops at a handwritten sign hanging on the windshield of an ambulance, reading; “I’m the 80th person to die from starvation because of the oppressive siege of Yarmouk.” The video ends with a note that reads: “Yarmouk camp has been under siege for the last 450 days,” followed by Aeham Ahmad playing his piano, destruction in the background.

In the video’s description on YouTube, Abo Gabi describes his motivation for creating the video:

“I’ve had a recurring dream since I fled the Yarmouk Refugee Camp and came to Beirut. The dream takes me back to besieged Yarmouk, where death and destruction have found a way to settle in all its details. I am not sure whether it is a dream or a nightmare. But I live in this open-ended waiting with images of that place and the difficulty of abandoning it. Maybe the sound of my friend Aeham’s piano changed the nightmare into dream and the place into a legend. Here, there is no geography, a place between two times, the first is a tent and the second is bags packed for other conquests. These conquests stimulate the hardness and bitterness of our catastrophes and previous disappointments. We pack our luggage to find only our memory that tells the stories of our relation with the wind. We, as witnesses of disappointment and hope.”

The pianist of Yarmouk appeared to me again three days ago. This time he is alone, his piano painted white and decorated with Palestinian colors and trademarked by Naji Al-Ali’s iconic cartoon character Handala. In this third video, Aeham plays his latest piece, “Ends.” On Facebook he describes the song as “(a) melody of the Levant mixed with Yarmouk’s wretched streets compressed into three minutes.”

This latest video compelled me to find and contact Yarmouk’s pianist. I felt that I needed to meet him, virtually at least, and learn how he is surviving. I wrote to Aeham and he responded. The 27-year-old Palestinian refugee from Yarmouk shared bits of his story:

“At the start of the siege in the camp, I decided to isolate myself from music and decided to stay neutral to the Syrian conflict. I sold falafel for six months, and kept music in my soul. But I couldn’t help it so I took out my piano and fixed it onto my uncle’s vegetable cart and started moving it between depressing neighborhoods in the camp.

“The camp’s streets were desolate; all the beloved ones who used to fill the street with their noise and joy were gone. I started playing my piano and moving in the streets of Yarmouk to bring back hope. That’s why I roamed the streets because I couldn’t keep the music quiet. I fed my body on falafel but I had to nourish my spirit and so despite hunger and siege I kept playing my piano.

“I started playing the piano when I was five; I studied music in the Arab conservatory from the age of six until I was sixteen. I usually play academic music on my piano but the current circumstances have inspired me to compose music that speaks about the siege and the crisis in a camp besieged for two years and a half.”

When we finished chatting, I was left wishing that I could simply take that familiar two-hour taxi ride from Beirut to Damascus, meet Aeham in person and invite him for a thick cup of tea in the rambling old streets of Syria’s ancient capital.

Someday the Palestinians and Syrians who survived the war will tell stories about what happened in Yarmouk. People will recall how they ate grass to remain alive during the siege. In survivors’ collective memory, Aeham and his piano will live. In the future, some might say Aeham’s piano was a legend.

When people recall Yarmouk, perhaps they will say:

Remember while snipers shot anything that moved and in the middle of this destruction, one young man broke the silence, fixed his piano on his uncle’s vegetable cart and rolled around the camp playing music in those bleak streets? Remember when one young man defied death by blasting his piano notes over the deafening sounds of bombs and bullets?

Palestinians fleeing Syria charged $400 per month to rent garages in Beirut

Moe Ali Nayel The Electronic Intifada Beirut 18 September 2014 protest at unhcr

On Tuesday, 9 September, Palestinian refugees from Syria descended from acrossLebanon to Beirut. They gathered in a group of approximately two hundred to protest outside the UN refugee agency UNHCR’s headquarters in the capital’s Jnah neighborhood.

The protest was called by Syria’s Palestinians in Lebanon, an organization that draws attention “to all the humiliation and insults” they are subject to in Lebanon.

At the protest, Palestinian refugees described the dire conditions they face in Lebanon.

A middle-aged man, Omar, stood warily on the sidewalk facing the UNHCR building. A resident of Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus, which has been under siege since June 2013, Omar was sandwiched between his teenaged son and daughter. He held onto his family in the absence of his wife who he said was “taken by death in Yarmouk last year.”

Omar explained that “it’s very difficult for a father to support his family.” Then he went silent.

He began to grow uncomfortable as his son and daughter looked at him from both sides, waiting for him to continue. The widowed father’s sleep-deprived eyes broke into tears as he spoke again.

“We don’t know what to do,” he said. “We’ve lost everything in Syria and we can’t return to Yarmouk. No one wants to help us; we can’t stay in Lebanon.”

Firm demands

Palestinian refugees from Syria came to the protest with a list of demands they delivered to UNHCR representatives. The demands include lifting the ban on renewing residency permits for those who have been in Lebanon for more than a year; endingforced deportation; lifting the closure of the Syrian-Lebanese border; addressing the lack of adequate financial support from UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees; and securing the right to asylum in European countries.

Tarik Sakhnin, 23, was studying journalism at Damascus University before he fled to Lebanon two years ago. He told The Electronic Intifada: “This is not a protest. This is us trying to confront the world, trying to say we are here we are living in hard times. We are here because we refuse to die silent.”

Sakhnin said that Palestinians from Yarmouk and other refugee camps in Syria want to return to Palestine, not to “the unknown of today’s Syria.”

Most Palestinians in Syria are refugees from the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine and their descendants. Israel refuses to respect the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their land and property.

“The majority of us came here today in the hope we can get the right to apply for asylum to Europe, and once we get a European passport, we want to return to Palestine,” Sakhnin added.

The severity of circumstances Palestinians have experienced has pushed many to take desperate measures in hope of a better life, including undertaking treacherous journeys by small boats to other countries across the Mediterranean.

“Many of us have nothing left to live for in life so we take the only option available now, we go and take death boats, risk it all and hope we get to Europe alive,” explained Sakhnin.

The plight of Palestinian refugees from Gaza and Syria came to the fore in recent days. Approximately five hundred refugees, many of them Palestinians, were drowned during the deliberate sinking of a vessel by human traffickers in the Mediterranean.

Subjected to violence

Refugees from Syria sheltering in Lebanon have been subjected to public, violent resentment from Lebanese citizens as well as raids in which security forces look for the most trivial pretext to attack, arrest or deport people back to Syria.

The violence in Syria has impacted Lebanon. Most recently, Lebanese soldiers have been captured by the group Islamic State in the town of Arsal, close to Lebanon’s border with Syria, in multiple incidents over the past two months. There has also beenfighting between the Lebanese army and the Islamic State in the Bekaa Valley, where Arsal is located.

Um Muhammad, 48 years old, is another Palestinian refugee to have fled Syria. She and her family have been living in Lebanon’s Rashidieh refugee camp for the past two years.

“In Rashidieh, there is no security or safety — my six girls and only son and I live in a garage,” she said. “We pay a monthly rent of $100 and another $50 for electricity.”

She explained that they are forced to search for food every day, foraging for edible plants to eat.

“A Palestinian mother will have to come up with a miracle,” she added, to nourish her family under such circumstances. Throughout the month of Ramadan earlier this summer, Um Muhammad said that she only received one portion of food aid which only lasted a few days, and UNRWA stopped giving her family financial aid to pay their rent.

“Our people, those political factions in the camp, are against us,” she said. “They raised the rent for everyone and then turned to us and blamed us. They said, you Syrians raised the prices, and so in turn, Palestinians from Lebanon believe that it was us who made their situation worse than it was.”

Deprived of education

Um Muhammad’s children will not be going to school this year. This is the second school year they have missed.

The Lebanese education ministry announced recently that priority will be given to Lebanese children. The other 400,000 non-Lebanese pupils will have to wait and see if there will be available teachers and seats in government-run schools.

According to UNRWA, more than 53,000 Palestine refugees from Syria were seeking safety and shelter in Lebanon in April this year. Most of them have gone to the coastal city of Saida and to refugee camps further south.

Some Palestinians who fled from Syria now residing in Shatila camp in Beirut live inside garages and pay a steep rent of up to $400 a month for such inadequate spaces.


According to one international aid worker who operates relief programs in the south of Lebanon, Palestinian refugees from Syria have been excluded from the relief programs funded by UNHCR.

“One day last winter, we were distributing winter kits [containing thick blankets and mattresses] at the area of distribution for Syrian refugees,” said the worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Our team was approached by two Palestinian families from Syria,” the aid worker recounted. “They were obviously eligible to get a kit, but our team leader was faced with a moral dilemma: UNHCR provides us with data of beneficiaries from the program and those two families were not listed because they are [Palestinian refugees from Syria]. We knew if we gave them kits and listed them as additional beneficiaries, UNHCR might stop our funding and we would all lose our jobs. Finally, we decide to give both families kits without listing them.”

UNHCR is only mandated to offer relief to Syrians fleeing from Syria, and not Palestinians, even though they are fleeing the same war.

Majida is a 34-year-old schoolteacher and mother of three who once had her own two-bedroom apartment in Yarmouk. Today, she shares a one-bedroom apartment with her brother-in-law and his family in Saida refugee camp.

“My three children and I risked deportation by coming here [to the protest] today. Our residency permit expired last year and if we are stopped at a checkpoint we will get deported back to Syria,” she said.

Majida bitterly denounced the favoritism that influences decisions about which families receive aid. She said that some families who know aid workers or who are affiliated with certain political parties receive monthly help.

“I am not going to beg this or that man from the political parties,” she exclaimed. “We will not die from hunger … We are forced to be in Lebanon in exile — it is not as if we are here on a vacation.”

Moe Ali Nayel is a freelance journalist based in Beirut. Follow him on Twitter:@MoeAliN.

مقابلة مع “الراس”، وتقرير عن إطلاق “آدم، داروين والبطريق” (Arabic)

عن حفل إطلاق اسطوانة “آدم داروين والبطريق”

كتب المقال محمد علي

ترجمته عن الإنجليزيّة سماح جعفر

يوم السبت 24 أيّار/ مايو 2014، وقف مازن السيد، الملقب بالراس، على خشبة مسرح مترو المدينة، باصقاً المقاطع اللفظية من فمه كالرشاش، مطلقاً اسطوانته الثانية: آدم داروين والبطريق، كالقذيفة. لم يقف الراس وحيداً تلك الليلة؛ فمقابله وقف جمهور من جميع الأعمار وإلى جانبه وقف “الفرعي” الذي حضر من عمّان، وناصر طفار الذي ينحدر من محيط جبال بعلبك. وكما هو الحال دائماً، احتلّ طرف الخشبة الموسيقي، الجندي المجهول كما سمّاه ناصر الطفار لاحقاً في الحفل، “مونما”.

بدت ليلة السبت تلك كأي عطلة نهاية أسبوع أخرى في بيروت، كان شارع الحمرا يختنق بالاختناقات المروريّة المزدانة باللاجئين السوريين الأطفال الذين يبيعون الزهور ويلمعون الأحذية لرواد الليل. على السطح بدا كل شيء طبيعياً ومملاً في تكلّفه بينما تُهدم هوية بيروت بفعالية كبيرة من قبل آلة النيو-الليبراليّة الوحشية المسماة “تنمية”.

كان التباين ما بين دواخل شارع الحمرا وطرقها الرئيسيّة واضحاً. وفي أروقة مسرح مترو المدينة، تجمّعت وجوه متنوّعة لترى ما سيقدمه الراس من جديد. تبادل البعض الآراء حول ما سمعوه حتى تلك اللحظة من الاسطوانة الجديدة على ساوند كلاود. إذ توقّع البعض أن تكون الاسطوانة تكراراً لعمله الأوّل “كشف المحجوب”، بينما كان البعض الآخر أكثر حماساً تجاه العمل الجديد.

كانت هناك أيضاً وجوه جديدة حائرة لم تحضر حفلاً من هذا النوع من قبل. من هؤلاء برز ثلاثة شبان تتراوح أعمارهم بين 12 و14 عاماً على الأكثر، جاؤوا برفقة أمهاتهم. أحد الشبان الصغار سحب والدته المحجبة، والتي ربما كانت في أواخر الأربعينيّات، إلى كشك التذاكر وأخبرها بحماس “ماما هون بنشتري التذاكر” ثم تابع محاولاً إقناع والدته الحذرة “بيعطونا سي دي كمان”. استهجنت الأم ذلك وقالت “منُّه ناقصنا سي ديات” ولكنها شرت التذاكر لإبنها الذي كاد يطير فرحاً.

بعد انتظار طال بعض الشيء خرج الفرعي من وراء الستائر وافتتح العرض بأغنية “صاحب الراعي”، من اسطوانته “صوت من خشب” التي تبدأ بـ”قلي يا وليدي ايش هالون اللي تغنيه”، والتي هي بداية مناسبة جداً من باب أنها تطرح السؤال حول نوع الموسيقى الذي يتعاون فيها هؤلاء الشباب، وخصوصاً في الاسطوانة التي كان الراس على وشك إطلاقها.

تتراوح النقاشات وتختلف حول الاسم المناسب لهذا النوع الجديد والناشئ: “هيب هوب”، أو “راب عربي” كما يسميه الأكثرية، وهو ما لا يوافق الكثيرون- بمن فيهم الراس- على أنها تسمية مناسبة. ذكر الراس في عدة مناسبات أنه يفضل تسمية “تعليق”. تسمية التعليق مفيدة لعدة أسباب أهمها ربط العمل هذا النوع من الموسيقى بإرثها العربي اللغوي، الأمر الذي تحدث عنه الراس بتوسّع في مقاله “الراب والنص القرآني، بين الموروث الانقلابي والاشتباك” ورفْض تحجيمه كمجرد تنويع على تقليد الغربي.

واصل الفرعي عرضه بغناء “بحة بدوية” ثم انتقل إلى مقطع شعري أداه بدون موسيقى آلاتيّة “أكابيلا” حمّس فيه الجمهور. أداء الفرعي القوي مهّد الطريق للراس الذي ظهر من وراء الستائر وثبّت قدميه أمام الميكروفون. تحته كان انقسام الجمهور واضحاً؛ كان هناك من يهتف ويصفّر وكان هناك من بقوا في مقاعدهم وصفّقوا بتهذيب وخجل. بدأ مونما تأدية ألحانه وانبثقت كلمات الأغنية الأولى في الاسطوانة “معركتي” من فم الراس الذي بدا متوتّراً بعض الشيء. شد الراس حامل المايكروفون بيد واحدة وتابع تدفقه: “مخنوق بكيت كتير جوا”. على الرغم من أنني عرفت كثيرين يحفظون كلمات الأغنية منذ أن أطلقت على ساوند كلاود، إلا أن أحداً لم يغنِّ مع الراس. كان وجوده على المسرح قويّاً وأداؤه مؤثراً.

انتقل بعدها الراس إلى أغنية “في الجليد” مع “الفرعي”، والتي يمكت اعتبارها جزءاً ثانياً لأغنيتهما التي لاقت نجاحاً كبيراً “استشراق”، والتي تتناول معاناة ومشقات المهاجرين العرب في أوروبا. هتف الحضور بعد كل مقطع وخصوصاً بعد أن أطلق الراس السطر التالي “هونيك بشغل عينيي وهون بشغل دفتري، لأنو عرب الدنمارك أسعد من عرب الزعتري”. غنى الراس دون توقف وتدفقت 12 أغنية من أصل الـ 14 في عمله الجديد. ومع كل أغنية، واصلت طاقة الجمهور نموها، وجرفت كل أغنية الجمهور أقرب إلى الفنان على خشبة المسرح. نظام الصوت بمترو المدينة تلك الليلة لم تشبه شائبة؛ وأضاف وضوحه قيمة هامة إلى ألحان مونما وأداء الراس، وحافظ على سير الحفل بسلاسة.

انضم ناصر طفار إلى الراس على خشبة المسرح لأداء ثنائي آخر من العمل. ظهور ناصر أشعل موجة من الصافرات والصيحات والتصفيق، فهو معروف بحضوره القوي على المسرح كما هو معروف بلكنته الجردية البعلبكية وكلمات أغنياته العنيدة والتي لم تفشل مرة في تأجيج حدث. معاً غنوا “أنباء هامة” الأغنية التي تعالج نفاق وسائل الإعلام وتضليلها وصاح كلاهما في مقطع غنائي يشبه هتافاً يعتبر من أكثر المقاطع قوة “الثورة عالطريق، الثورة مو عالشاشة”.

شعرت أن الراس نجح في إطلاق اسطوانة جديدة تحمل أفكاراً منعشة موسيقيّاً وغنائيّاً على حد السواء. كما لاحظت أن المشجعين الذين التزموا الحذر في البداية صارت رؤوسهم تومئ مع الألحان. أغنية واحدة على وجه الخصوص جعلت الناس يتحادثون بلهفة وهي الأغنية رقم 3 في الاسطوانة: “كشغرة”. ففي هذه الأغنية، يقدم الراس نقداً لإرث النبي محمد وللطريقة التي يتعرّض بها الإسلام ورسالة محمد للإساءة والتحريف اليوم. أكثر من شخص أخبروني عن نيتهم في العودة إلى المنزل للاستماع إلى الأغنية بتمعّن.

اليوم نشهد تغييرات واسعة في العالم العربي. منها التغيير أيضاً في فهمنا لتاريخنا العربي/ الإسلامي وثقافتنا ومعها الرؤية الفاشلة والخرافات التي وضعتها أجيال آبائنا والتي تتحطم اليوم إلى قطع. من تحت أنقاض وحشتنا المستمرة تظهر هناك أصوات جديدة لديها القدرة على الوصول إلى مختلف الأجيال.

صوت الراس، خلال عمله الجديد “آدم داروين والبطريق”، يبرز بوضوح ليقود حركة ثقافيّة عربيّة شابة. هذا الفنان العربي وزملاؤه يثبتون مراراً وتكراراً أن المواهب لا يمكن رعايتها بعائدات النفط. “آدم داروين والبطريق يدوّي مستقلّاً”، وضوحه وصدقه في التعبير هو نوع موسيقي نحن بأشد الحاجة إليه، يستطيع أن يتغنى به كل الشباب العربي التواق للتغيير.

هذا الفيديو من إنتاج Medrar.TV، وينشر بالشراكة مع معازف.

– See more at: http://www.ma3azef.com/node/306#sthash.blWsPF1P.dpuf

“We’re exhausted from being homeless”: recalling the Palestinians’ plight on Nakba Day

Moe Ali Nayel The Electronic Intifada Beirut 15 May 2014


“We walked and walked and walked for days until we finally settled on the beach of Damour,” said 80-year-old Um Zohair. “On the beach we fetched green banana leaves together and with bamboo sticks we made a hut that sheltered us for three months on the sand.”

Sixty-six years ago, Um Zohair — Nada Mousa — was one of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians ethnically cleansed from their homeland, Palestine.

“That was the first time we were displaced,” she said. Since the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948, a series of upheavals and struggles has marked Palestinian refugees’ nomadic life in exile. A new chapter in this history of dispossession has been added by the violence against Palestinian refugees in Syria.

“Palestinians from Syria are living in sewers. Come and look,” Um Zohair told me.

Recently while I was on a visit to Shatila refugee camp in Beirut, I was told about Um Zohair’s family and the conditions they endure.

Abedlrahman, a young Palestinian refugee from Syria, led the way. At an alley’s dead end, we needed to leap over the reeking water to get into the entrance of a murky dungeon. Once inside, it seemed like we had crossed into an invisible parallel world — except that the sewer’s stench stang the nostrils as a reminder of the dark reality surrounding us.

A dim, windowless subterranean room once an underground bomb shelter in the 1980s “War of the Camps” — and later a storage room — is now home to eight members of a fragmented family. Inside sat an old woman surrounded by four smiling faces and a fifth whose permanent scowl was hard to break: arms crossed, 14-year-old Mahmoud sat on the edge of a decomposing sofa.

Daily struggle

Um Zohair’s daughter-in-law and grandchildren have fled to Lebanon without their breadwinners, their exact whereabouts in Syria remain unknown. As Um Zohair watched over her grandchildren, their mother, Um Mahmoud, left her five children (Ahmad, 10; Issa, 8; Haytham, 6; Mahmoud, 14; and Huda, 15) and went around Shatila refugee camp, hunting and gathering, looking for any menial job she could score in exchange for money or food.

The mother’s daily struggle to put food on the table is but one part of the bigger burdens of finding $200 to pay for Lebanese residency permits for each of the four family members who are over the age of ten. As if the Lebanese residency fees weren’t hard enough to find, she also has to come up with rent money for the dungeon that shelters them: $200 per month.

Six-year-old Haitham has stopped going to school because of a new-found intolerance for loud noises and overcrowded places. The eldest boy, Mahmoud, said: “I wish I could find a job; I’ll take any job so my mother won’t have to go out every morning and beg people in humiliation for money and food.”

Mahmoud pressed his lips, his frown tensed to prevent tears from gathering, and hissed, “I cannot find a job in the camp, and I’m afraid to venture outside Shatila. We don’t have residency permits. I do not want the police to catch me. I swear I’ll work at anything.”

The three meter by four meter storage room Um Zohair and her grandchildren rent comes with a faucet and a bucket hanging from it, functioning as a kitchen sink. In the corner opposite the kitchen is the toilet: a caved-in drain in the floor enclosed by a curtain made from a vintage bedsheet. The black hole in the room, a drain/toilet, continuously emits unpleasant smells.

The floor, never having seen tiles, is a clammy, uneven bumpy surface of olive green cement. The beds are but two sponge mattresses no more than five centimeters thick. When there is food to cook, Um Zohair and her daughter-in-law use a little camping stove donated by a sympathetic neighbor.

Failed promise

In 1917, Arthur James Balfour, then Britain’s foreign secretary, proclaimed that nothing should be done to prejudice the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine. Almost one hundred years later, Zionist settlers continue to degrade the identity, history and wellbeing of the original inhabitants of Palestine.

This failed promise that nothing should be done to prejudice Palestinians’ rights has today developed into what can be safely called apartheid.

Um Zohair, like many Palestinians, is more accustomed to displacement than any human being should be. One year ago she and her family fled war-ravaged Syria. Their last home was in a Palestinian refugee camp near the Damascus international airport.

Um Zohair, who seems to suffer from numerous health problems, held her cane in one hand and rummaged through a plastic bag full of medicine in the other. When asked about Palestine she jerked her head high and her eyes sparked as she reminisced. “I am from Safed, Palestine; my village and place of birth is called al-Qatiyya. Do you know it? It is right next to Naameh. I was 13, a young girl, when we were attacked, our house burned and later forced to leave by the Haganah [a Zionist militia].

“That day is always in my memory. I remember, before the assault, elders in the village kept warning us about the Haganah gang who were coming to attack us. My father said those were rumors and we should not leave our land and house. Rumors kept increasing about the arrival of European Jews to attack our village and take our homes; this prompted some people to leave, but we stayed.”

Um Zohair went silent for a minute and looked again in her medication bag. Then, as if the memory of her hometown came back to her, she resumed talking.

“Long walk to Lebanon”

“That morning they broke into houses and forced everyone out to the streets. The Israeli Haganah soldiers started shouting for us to go out and gather in the village’s square. I remember our neighbors, they were Jews, those were our friends and we coexisted for as long as I remembered.

“It was not they, our neighbors, who attacked us; it was the nationalist Israelis, the Europeans. They pointed their guns at men who were in the village and led them to the village’s outskirts. My father was taken with two of my uncles and we never saw them again afterwards. Our Jewish neighbors came to our defense at first and I remember clearly how they shouted in Hebrew at the Israeli militants.

“However, our neighbors could not stop the Israeli militants as they started to burn down one house after another in the village. I don’t remember what happened after that but I remember my mother, my two sisters and I, together with other families, stayed put in the village’s square for two days until the European militants came again and forced us to leave. They started shouting, asking why we were still in the village, and ordered us to join the others who fled their villages from the Safed region. We fled and started the long walk towards Lebanon.”

Um Zohair can still remember her home where she was born and raised in al-Qatiyya. She recalled the serenity and simple life she took for granted at the age of 13 in her family’s stone house and her father’s wheat field.

She wished for her grandchildren to return to al-Qatiyya and have a chance to live with dignity.

“Palestinians are there for each other. Those around us in Shatila know about our plight; they too are not in a much better situation but they still share with us the food they cook. Palestinians are exhausted from being homeless for so long.

“In Syria, my sons used to work from morning until night at a brick factory. I had four boys and two girls; one of my girls was killed last year by shrapnel.

“My other daughter is still in Syria; they cannot afford to flee. Two of my four boys have been missing since last year; one of them is the father of these kids with me. Each night as the eight of us gather to sleep we hope that this will be the last night on the floor of this room.”

Being ethnically cleansed means that Palestinian refugees are estranged from their homeland. They move from one place to another, never feeling at home.

Palestine, their homeland, is still occupied and their internationally-recognized right of return is continually denied and violated by Israel.

The urgency and determination to return to Palestine was broadcast to the whole world during the attempt to return while commemorating the Nakba three years ago on 15 May 2011.

Then, more than 50,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon headed to the border with occupied Palestine. The vast majority of them were young Palestinians determined to fight for their right to return to Palestine. In response, as the whole world watched, Israeli occupation forces did what they have been doing best for the last 66 years: they hunted down and killed Palestinians with sheer cruelty, killing nearly a dozen.

Um Zohair’s story is a tale of a lifelong struggle. She is one of millions of Palestinians stuck in exile, banned by Israel from returning to their roots, their villages and orange trees.

Beirut theatre retains alternative roots

Story first published by AJE

Facing gentrification and financial struggles, al-Madina Theatre is one of Lebanon’s last non-commercial art spaces.

Bring back the theater to Beirut

Bring back the theater to Beirut

Beirut, Lebanon – In 1994, as Beirut was brushing off the dust and rubble of the country’s devastating civil war, Masrah al-Madina (al-Madina Theatre) was born. The iconic theatre was established to resuscitate the artistic and cultural life that Beirut was famous for before the war.

Now, 20 years later, Beirut is going through a different set of changes, led by unfettered real-estate giants ripping down the city’s historical landmarks. Public spaces have been privatised, and Starbucks, McDonalds and other Western food chains have sprung up across the city.

Amid this rapid change, Masrah Beirut (Beirut Theatre), one of the oldest theatres in the capital, closed its doors last year – despite popular protests to keep it open – after the building was sold to a real-estate developer. Now, al-Madina Theatre is one of only three theatres left in Lebanon to offer non-commercial, artistic events.

“We are a cultural theatre. We only host works that are based on artistic cultural expressions,” said Louay Ramadan, 39, who has managed the theatre since it was first established by artist Nidal Achkar in 1994. Speaking to Al Jazeera from his office, as artists arrived to start rehearsing for a dance show, Ramadan explained that by avoiding commercial shows, which generally bring in the most money, the theatre struggles to stay afloat financially.

“Three quarters of the Lebanese audience today look merely for entertainment at commercial shows and perhaps a quarter of people still look for cultural venues to attend; the latter are our bloodline that keeps us busy,” Ramadan said.

Facing financial troubles, and without any subsidies from the Lebanese government, al-Madina Theatre turned into al-Madina Theatre Association for Arts and Culture in March of 2005. As a non-profit organisation, the theatre receives private and institutional donations from Lebanon and across the Arab World

The theatre aims to promote dialogue and create a space of free expression. In addition to plays and performances, al-Madina Theatre organises festivals, exhibitions and film screenings, and hosts cultural events such as conferences, seminars, lectures, book signings and workshops.

Roy Dib is a Lebanese artist and art critic, whose work focuses on the subjective construction of space. The 30-year-old told Al Jazeera that while al-Madina theatre is trying to appeal to young artists and broach new ideas, the steep cost of renting theatre space remains a problem.

While there is no fixed rate, Ramadan told Al Jazeera that al-Madina charges artists between $600 and $800 to use the theatre as a rehearsal space, while rental costs can go up to $2,000 on performance days. He added that the theatre sometimes offers its space up for free when artists cannot afford to pay.

“The main problem in Lebanon for theatres is that they cannot sponsor an event or cater for events that won’t have a financial turnover. In the absence of a budget to cover logistics, this kind of theatre work becomes stagnant,” Dib said.

Al-Madina originally began in a smaller space, known as Metro al-Madina. Today, the smaller theatre is an extension of al-Madina and is under different management.

Hip-hop artist El-Rass will launch his second album, “Adam, Darwin and the Penguin” at Metro al-Madina on May 24. “I think Metro al-Madina is a much-needed kind of place in Lebanon,” El-Rass told Al Jazeera, “[for] its mantra of pushing new forms of art, its size that allows both sophisticated performances and affordable prices for artists and audience with a cozy feel.”

Lina Sahab, an artist who performs in the cabaret show Hishik Bishik at Metro al-Madina, said the theatre provides “a space to express and perform alternative shows and concerts for an audience that has been long denied such a venue”.

“Metro al-Madina brought back that spirit and art, and the more we performed our Hishik Bishik show, the more we realised our audience was growing and liking what they watched,” she said.

Throughout modern Lebanese history, theatres have served as a hub for political events. Theatres across the capital hosted politically active Lebanese artists, like Ziad al-Rahbani. They also helped resurrect Lebanon’s Hakawati (storyteller) tradition through the works of artists like Roger Assaf, who produced shows on the heroism of Fedayeen (literally, “those who sacrifice”, a reference to Palestinian fighters) and their resistance to the Israeli occupation.

Clashes also broke out during the Lebanese civil war in front of Beirut Theatre, which sits in the waterfront area of Ain al-Mraisy.

Dib told Al Jazeera about an incident that occurred in April 1969 at the Beirut Theatre that cemented the theatre’s influential role in Lebanese politics: That night, Dib said, Lebanese security services interrupted a play, Majdaloun, while the actors were still onstage.

“The actors decided to continue the play in the street and resumed acting, walking with their audience up to Hamra Street… Actors then clashed with the police one more time, finally stopping the play and ending in their arrest,” he recalled.

Issam Bou Khaled – a director, scriptwriter, actor and expert on theatre in Lebanon – told Al Jazeera that in the 1970s and 80s, theatre was more interactive with its audience, many of whom were working-class Lebanese who wanted theatre to reflect the political issues of the time.

“Back then, there was the influence of the Palestinian revolution, the Left and the movements of unions and workers’ syndicates. Then, Masrah Beirut presented artistic expressions that reflected concerns on the streets. People used to look forward for that interactive theatre,” he said.

“The artists and audience found each,” Bou Khaled added, “and that kind of theatre was a mediator [for] interacting and influencing.”

According to Ramadan, al-Madina Theatre continues to serve as a centre for culture and political expression. “The theatre became a platform for various expressions, some calling for change in the political situation, and others advocating issues that concern society,” he said. “Our theatre brings together people from all sects, from all regions in Lebanon, and [from all] political views and colours.”
Outside the theatre, in Beirut’s traffic-filled Hamra street, Mahmoud, who runs a newsstand next to al-Madina and did not give Al Jazeera his last name, agreed.

“This theatre represents a time when Beirut shone its cultural values on the world,” Mahmoud said. “Today Beirut is full of clothing shops and shopping malls. The moment theatres like al-Madina cease to exist, is the moment Beirut’s cultural image is erased.”


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