the stone and the shoes

it has been almost 24 hours since i first glimpsed the most beautiful thing i’ve seen in a long time: creative resistance in the form of a pair of shoes being thrown at president george bush. a lovely way to say farewell to the man who has created utter havoc and devastation through its illegal war and occupation over the past five years. watch for yourself and experience the euphoria:

i first saw the story yesterday evening on common dreams and immediately sent it to angry arab who has had undoubtedly the best coverage of this remarkable story. but what i have found is most interesting in all of the various versions of this story are the ways in which the media has talked about iraqi journalist muntathar al-zaydi form of resistance yesterday. common dreams, for instance, noted that some iraqi journalists apologized on al zaydi’s behalf:

Other Iraqi journalists apologised on behalf of their colleague, a television journalist.

Bush arrived in Baghdad earlier on Sunday on a farewell visit before he leaves office in January. The U.S.-led invasion in 2003 to topple Saddam Hussein triggered years of sectarian bloodshed and insurgency in Iraq, killing tens of thousands.

but just look at the paragraph afterward: about then tens of thousands (more like a million in reality) who have been killed as a result of bush. and yet these other iraqi journalists want to apologize for him? i mean, come on, he didn’t even hit him (it would have been even more beautiful had the shoes actually hit bush–and even more beautiful if they were soiled with mud!)! thankfully interviews with ordinary iraqis and other journalists in the region are standing in solidarity with al-zaydi. his news station al baghdadia is also standing beside him devoting air time to coverage in support of al-zaydi.

cnn reported bush’s response to the incident:

“So what if the guy threw his shoe at me?” Bush told a reporter in response to a question about the incident.

“Let me talk about the guy throwing his shoe. It’s one way to gain attention. It’s like going to a political rally and having people yell at you. It’s like driving down the street and having people not gesturing with all five fingers.

“It’s a way for people to draw attention. I don’t know what the guy’s cause is. But one thing is for certain. He caused you to ask me a question about it. I didn’t feel the least bit threatened by it.

“These journalists here were very apologetic. They … said this doesn’t represent the Iraqi people, but that’s what happens in free societies where people try to draw attention to themselves.”

free society? what free society? it is under american occupation. iraq, like palestine, cannot by any stretch of the imagination be free when it is under foreign occupation. clearly bush is as clueless now as he was when he started this murderous rampage in the region. and clearly he didn’t hear al zaydi’s words otherwise he would understand instantly what his cause is.

almost across the board western news sources have decided that there is a specific iraqi, arab, or muslim reason for the shoe being thrown at bush yesterday. here is cbs news deciding it’s an iraqi thing:

In Iraqi culture, throwing shoes at someone is a sign of contempt; Iraqis whacked a statue of Saddam Hussein with their shoes after U.S. Marines toppled it to the ground in 2003.

bbc thinks it is an arab thing:

Showing the soles of shoes to someone is a sign of contempt in Arab culture.

Muntadar al-Zaidi was quickly wrestled to the ground and hauled away

With his second shoe, which the president also managed to dodge, Mr Zaidi said: “This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq.”

here is the guardian concurring with the bbc on thinking it is an arab thing:

It was also pregnant with symbolism. In the Arab world, throwing shoes at somebody is considered a serious insult, as is even showing them the soles of one’s footwear, as demonstrated by jubilant Iraqis towards the statue of Saddam Hussein as it was toppled in Baghdad during the 2003 invasion.

With less than six weeks to go before the end of Bush’s presidency, his surprise visit to Iraq aims to highlight the decline in violence in the country and the so-called status of forces agreement, which comes into force next month.

even al jazeera, which should know better, writes this is an iraqi thing:

In Iraqi culture, throwing shoes at someone is a sign of contempt.

The incident will serve as a vivid reminder of the widespread opposition to the US-led invasion of, and subsequent war in, Iraq – the conflict which has come to define Bush’s presidency.

and the huffington post seems to suggest a similar iraqi phenomenon with shoes:

This wasn’t the first time that Bush – or at least a depiction of Bush – has been pelted with shoes in Iraq.

Three weeks ago, HuffPost blogger Jamal Dajani noted that crowds of Iraqis “gathered in Ferdous Square, where Saddam Hussein’s statue one stood” and pelted an effigy of Bush with their shoes.


so what: the shoe is to the iraqi as the stone is to the palestinian? i’d like to see a size ten stone pelting bush the next time he or anyone else representing the u.s. steps foot on palestinian soil. just think: it is ripe with possibilities! and perhaps in lebanon and syria too–though i don’t think we can hope for such a following in jordan. i wonder if this could catch on–become a phenomenon like the stone. we could even name it–we could name the action after zaydi. and as hala mentioned today: his first name means one who is waiting–which perhaps now could be read as one who is waiting for the right moment or opportunity to express is his outrage at the proper source.

clearly in some of the remarks above we can see why zaydi has good reason to be enraged enough to throw his shoes. here is some context about his reporting in iraq in recent years:

Colleagues said Zaidi has done extensive reporting from Baghdad’s Sadr City district, the stronghold of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada Sadr, and was rescued by Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia after being abducted by an unidentified group in November 2007.

Zaidi was one of several Iraqi journalists attending the Sunday evening news conference in Baghdad’s heavily secured Green Zone. His outburst came without warning as Bush and Maliki prepared to answer questions. The first shoe flew over the heads of other journalists and might have hit Bush square in the face had he not ducked.

let the glory of this moment spread. let this be an example of how resistance can always be creative, perhaps spontaneous. and let this man be set free so he may be hailed like a hero!

ps: today there were protests in the streets of iraq supporting zaydi and demanding his release from prison.


3 thoughts on “the stone and the shoes

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