on progress

so president bush just met with mahmoud abbas in the white house. he said–with a straight face no less–this:

The U.S. president said, “No question, this is a hard challenge. But nevertheless, people must recognize that we have made a good deal of progress.”

really, can someone please put me to sleep and wake me up when this orwellian universe goes back to normal (or, wait, was it ever normal to begin with?)? what progress? i seriously want to know what he means. does he mean that the zionist regime made progress expanding its illegal settlements, imprisoning and killing more palestinians, destroying more homes in the west bank and 1948 palestine?

perhaps this was overlooked in the whole shoe-throwing-extravaganza, but what bush was telling the media at the press conference that day was strikingly similar to what he told abbas today:

On a whirlwind trip shrouded in secrecy and marred by dissent, President George W. Bush on Sunday hailed progress in the wars that define his presidency and got a size-10 reminder of his unpopularity when a man hurled two shoes at him during a news conference in Iraq.

where was muntathar al zaydi when we needed some shoes thrown today? or, rather where were the others who can see through this farce and want to express their rage at it sources? oh, right, he is in prison where he has been badly beaten and tortured. there have been calls for his release, including, apparently, a call for bush himself to issue a pardon of al zaydi. but in all this discussion about al zaydi, i couldn’t help but recall the story of another journalist, jassam mohammed, who has been held in u.s. custody in iraq and i would venture to subjected to the same treatment as al zaydi:

An Iraqi court on Sunday ordered the release of a freelance photographer working for Reuters news agency who has been held by U.S. forces since early September.

The Iraqi Central Criminal Court ruled there was no evidence against Ibrahim Jassam Mohammed, and ordered that the U.S. military release him from Camp Cropper prison near Baghdad airport.

Iraqi prosecutors acknowledged in remarks included in the court ruling that there was a lack of evidence, and said they were closing the case against Jassam. A copy of the court order was supplied to a lawyer working for Reuters.

There was no immediate response from the U.S. military to the ruling.

Under a security pact signed between the United States and Iraq, the 16,000-17,000 detainees currently held by U.S. forces will have to be released next year if they have not been charged, or handed over to Iraqi authorities. The pact paves the way for U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011.

“I’m pleased to learn that a court ordered Ibrahim Jassam released as there was no evidence against him,” said Reuters News Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger.

“I hope the U.S. authorities comply with this order swiftly to reunite him with his colleagues, friends and family.”

Jassam was detained in early September in a raid on his home in Mahmudiya by U.S. and Iraqi forces. His photographic equipment was also confiscated. Jassam works for other Iraqi media, in addition to Reuters News, a Thomson Reuters company.

but i guess this is progress, right? imposing so-called “democracy” on people and then imprisoning its journalists. this happens to palestinian journalists here as well in spite of bush’s assertion of the “progress” that has been made. most notably mohammed omer was subjected to this sort of brutal treatment:

From his hospital bed at the European Hospital in Gaza and with barely audible voice, award-winning Palestinian journalist Muhammed Omer has given a full account of the hair-raising encounter he had last week with Shin Beth agents at the Allenby Bridge border-crossing between Jordan and the West Bank.

Omer, a co-winner of the 2008 Martha Gelhorn Prize for Journalistic Excellence, said he was abused, assaulted, humiliated, ridiculed, kicked, and strip-searched at gunpoint by undisciplined Shin Beth officers until he had a nervous breakdown in which case he lost consciousness for at least 90 minutes.

A resident of Rafah at the southern edge of the Gaza Strip, Omer said he didn’t know for sure why the Shin Bet people treated him in such a barbaric matter apart from the characteristic sadism and savagery routinely meted out to Palestinians.

“They behaved with unimaginable hatefulness and vindictiveness. They couldn’t accept the very idea of a Palestinian journalist winning a renowned journalism prize. They wanted to punish me for being a successful journalist and especially for exposing Israeli barbarianism to the people of Europe .”

these are the sorts of incidents–which happen more often than not in iraq and palestine–that lead people to want to throw shoes and likewise that make people feel somewhat vindicated when they see an act like al zaydi’s. but as i mentioned the other day, my friend abed cautioned that exuberance over the shoe-throwing incident. he elaborated his comments with will on kabobfest today:

Don’t get us wrong, it was a beautiful action and this is not a critique of his courage. But acts of individual resistance, from the subtle to the explicit, happen in Iraq every day without cameras capturing them. Iraq, Palestine, Sudan and other places ravaged by oppression and occupation need more than individual or symbolic gestures.

Muntather should not be turned into a hero. Celebrities can lose their humanity We exotify their nationalist impulses and wash away the logic of their actions. Making a hero out of him is to treat his action as pure spectacle, rather than as inspiration for more creativity. As he becomes a hero, we the viewing public become spectators. We need to become active participants in the not-yet-existent struggle his flying shoes symbolize.

Still, in the absence of collective project, we should multiply these kinds of symbolic actions on camera — especially when they break the scripted pseudo-reality of staged events, such as press conferences. The excess of happiness over the shoe symbolizes our incapacity for action at the Arab collective level. Beyond street protests, we generally lack the coordinated, organized politics needed to sustain movements. Celebrating Al-Zaidi’s actions only highlight Arab weakness.

there were some attempts at collective action today, trying to build on this momentum, but not in the sustained sort of vision that i know abed and will have in mind. nevertheless it is worth noting these protests.

in london:

Protesters staged a shoe protest outside the US embassy in London on Friday, demanding the release of the Iraqi journalist held after throwing his footwear at US President George W. Bush.

Demonstrators voiced support for “courageous” journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi, who has been in custody in Baghdad since Sunday’s dramatic shoe protest which made him an instant sensation in the Arab world.

in bil’in, palestine:

Protesters carried pictures of U.S President George Bush having shoes thrown at him. They also carried their own shoes as a symbolic refusal of the Israeli occupation.

The protest today marched towards the wall singing slogans and attempting to reach the confiscated land behind the wall. The Israeli army was stationed behind concrete blocks and fired teargas and sound grenades when the protesters tried to reach the gate. Dozens suffered gas inhalation and eight demonstrators were shot with rubber coated steel bullets, two journalists, one of them from Israel, his name is Israel, and the second, Issam Arrimawi working in Wafa Media. Two others were taken to the Ashshikh Zaid Hospital in Ramallah : Mohammad Abu Rahma and Baseb Abu Rahma and the others we treated in the village: Adeed abu Rahma, Sabri Abu Rahma, Jehad Alhaj, and Mohammed Imran. The demonstrators responded to these attacks by throwing their shoes at the army.

these small protests are fine, but we need something stronger, bigger, and full of creativity in order to resist american and israeli imperial designs on the region. and it cannot just be from the people; it also has to come in the form of pressure and resistance to normalization with the zionist regime in particular as fawaz traboulsi wrote yesterday. and this is why i get so enraged whenever i read about a possible agreement between syria and the zionist regime. why might this enrage me? well let’s just take a look at what the zionist terrorist forces have done in the last 24 hours at its most norther border with lebanon, shall we?

yesterday israeli terrorists terrorized a lebanese farmer:

An Israeli patrol opened automatic rifle fire at a Lebanese farmer in the southern region of Blida on Thursday, but no casualties were reported.

The state-run National News Agency said the patrol also fired two smoke grenades at 75-year old Mohammed Ahmed Zaher while working in his field.

Two patrols from the Lebanese Army and the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) arrived at the area and started an investigation into the attack, the report said without further elaboration.

today israeli terrorists kidnapped two lebanese villagers:

An Israeli infantry patrol crossed into Lebanon and kidnapped two Lebanese citizens from their olive grove near the southern village of Blida n Friday.

The two were only identified as members of the Tarraf family.

UNIFIL informed the Lebanese authorities that the two would be released pending completion of investigation by the Israeli military. It called for self restraint.

The state-run National News Agency (NA) said 18 Israeli soldiers crossed the barbed wire fence and kidnapped the two field workers.

this is why simple responses to such terrorism such as angry arab’s yesterday fill me with joy: No peace (with that entity), no negotiation, and no recognition. likewise hezbollah’s amazing protest in solidarity with gaza today also fills me with joy:

Tens of thousands of people gathered in Beirut on Friday for a mass protest organised by Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah movement against Israel’s crippling blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Streets in the southern suburbs were cordoned off as demonstrators waving Palestinian flags and yellow Hezbollah flags poured into the Hezbollah stronghold as loudspeakers blasted out a speech by its chief, Hassan Nasrallah.

“We are are responsible, like all Arabs and Muslims, to completely liberate Palestine, from the river to the sea,” Hezbollah’s deputy head Naim Kassem told the crowd.

“The Palestinian cause is a just cause,” he said from a platform on a main road in the area.

meanwhile when protesters tried to launch a similar demonstration today, they were met with a very different response from the authorities:

Witnesses say Bahraini security troops have fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse thousands of protesters demanding Arab governments take action to end the closure of the Gaza Strip.

The witnesses say a number of people, including women and children, were wounded by rubber bullets and others overcome by gas. The witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity fearing reprisals by authorities and could not give exact numbers.

Ibraheem Sharif, an opposition leader, says more than 10,000 people were attending the rally Friday.

why is it that hezbollah is the only group in region that can mobilize so many people to have a peaceful protest and talk about liberating all of historic palestine? i know that this, too, is not what abed and will meant exactly, but i believe it is still an important sign to see at least some massive, collective response to this brutal siege–especially when it is coupled with a discourse that connects the situation in gaza to the root of the problem.

meanwhile zionists are publicly announcing new illegal plans of terrorizing palestinians in the pages of their newspapers:

Assassinating Hamas leaders is one option being explored as Israeli troops prepare for the end of the ceasefire, according to a Thursday report in the Israeli daily paper Maariv.

The paper quoted military sources as saying Arab countries advised Israel to assassinate major Hamas leaders if they reject the truce.

The story appeared on page two of the Hebrew paper and claims un-named Arab states have given Israel the ‘green-light’ to use extra-judicial means to ensure the disappearance of Hamas leaders in case the party refuses to extend the truce.

and today israeli terrorists, on the first day of the end of the so-called “truce,” they fired missiles into gaza:

At approximately 5am today, 18 December 2008, Israeli aircraft fired two missiles at the house of Hassan Mohammed Abu Nasser, which is located in a dense neighborhood in Block 8 in Jabaliya refugee camp. The target is a simple house roofed with asbestos. Field investigations indicated that the two missiles struck the garage, destroying a Subaru. It also caused damage to the house and several other neighboring houses.

In Khan Younis city, south of the Gaza Strip, Israeli aircraft fired a missile at a car maintenance workshop at approximately 1:15am today. The workshop, owned by 35-year-old Iyad Fathi al-Jbour, was completely destroyed. No casualties were reported in this attack; however, seven neighboring houses and three cars were damaged.

this on top of new deteriorating conditions in gaza:

The price of Pampers is the latest casualty in the ongoing Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip, where parents of newborns are turning to smugglers for Egyptian-made diapers.

Gaza’s pre-siege diaper supply amounted to something like eight trucks each day, but for the past year and a half, the desperately needed commodity has been absent from the Israeli “Not Permitted” importation list.

Now that stockpiles are dwindling, Palestinian mothers face new challenges attaining the hot item this month, while even hospital maternity wards are running dry. Doctors are warning of an increasing spread of skin disorders among newborn babies in the Gaza Strip, which they speculate have been caused by the diaper shortage.

food also remains in short supply, ever dwindling, ever on the brink of running out of staples:

The remainder of operating flour mills in Gaza closed down Thursday night after running out of wheat, said Head of the Society of Mill Owners in Gaza Abed An-Naser Al-A’jrami on Friday.

Most mills closed down as early as 19 November, and only a handful stayed open to process what grain remained in the area. Less than 4,000 tons of wheat was delivered to Gaza since the start of December, at which time stores were already exhausted.

“truce” or no “truce” there is never any “progress” for palestinians who suffered brutal conditions during this period:

Forty nine Palestinians, including seven children and eight resistance fighters were killed in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip during the six-month Egyptian brokered truce which ended on Friday morning, according to a report by Quds Press.

Palestinian factions agreed to a truce on 19th June this year provided that the Israeli occupation stops its aggression and lifts the siege and that the truce should be extended to include the West Bank.

According the report of Quds Press 22 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip where the truce was active, 22 others were killed in the West Bank and five in occupied Jerusalem. These figures include seven children under the age of 18, and elderly man and an elderly woman.

Amongst the Eight resistance fighters killed during the truce, seven were assassinated in the West Bank by special occupation forces.

In the Gaza Strip, the month of November witnessed the highest number of casualties as 17 Palestinians were killed in Israeli occupation shelling and during incursions.

these are some of the many reasons why resistance is necessary and why palestinians in gaza have been training for it throughout this period as ayman mohyeldin reported on al jazeera today:

the people of gaza have resisted long before the current colonial occupiers ruled this land. ramzy baroud offers some historical perspective on gaza, which is often not talked about including on this blog:

Conquerors came and went, and Gaza stood where it still stands today. This was the recurring lesson for generations, even millennia. Ancient Egyptians came and went, as did the Hyksos, the Assyrians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Ottomans, the British, and now the Israelis. And through it all, Gaza stood strong and defiant. Neither Alexander the Great’s bloody conquest of 332 BC, nor Alexander Janneus’s brutal attack of 96 BC broke Gaza’s spirit or took away from its eternal grandeur. It always rose again to reach a degree of civilianisation unheard of, as it did in the 5th century AD.

It was in Gaza that the Crusaders surrounded their strategic control of the city to Saladin in 1170, only to open up yet another era of prosperity and growth, occasionally interrupted by conquerors and outsiders with colonial designs, but to no avail.

All the neglected ruins of past civilisations were only reminders that Gaza’s enemies would never prevail, and would, at best, merely register their presence by another neglected structure of concrete and rocks.

Now Gaza is undergoing another phase of hardship and defiance. Its modern conquerors are as unpitying as its ancient ones. True, Gaza is ailing, but standing, it people resourceful and durable as ever, defiant as they have always been, and hell-bent on surviving, for that’s what Gazans do best. And I should know, it’s my hometown.

there was an interesting report on al jazeera’s ashraf amritti about jawdat al-khoudry’s museum on gaza’s rich history. it is worth watching:

this history is laden with foreign occupiers and they are all long gone. but for real progress, the kind that doesn’t require scare quotes, we need all kinds of resistance, including the sort of creative types of resistance that abed and will are calling for. not normalization. not negotiations. not anything as long as zionists continue to terrorize those whose land, palestine, this belongs to and those who live in lebanon.

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