Edward W. Said London Lecture 2018 – Amira Hass

I mostly focus on Syria on this blog, but the issue of Palestine is also one which I follow with some regularity. A friend of mine invited me to attend the Edward W. Said London Lecture for 2018 last night, which had Amira Hass as its speaker.

The event was titled The Preventable: Israeli Fantasies and Techniques of Population Expulsion.

‘The Oslo process precipitated an internal compromise in Israel: between the urge to make Palestinians vanish and the realization that the geo-political circumstances do not permit a repetition of the 1948 mass expulsion of Palestinian civilians. This compromise is best expressed in the systematic policy of creating Palestinian enclaves, which successive Israeli governments have meticulously pursued in tandem with the internationally sponsored negotiations process. The enclaves best exemplify the way in which Israel divorces the Palestinians and their very existence from land, history, space and movement – both mentally and physically. As Israeli politics loses its last traces of shame and sheds the final, tattered remains of its liberal pretensions, the danger of more audacious mass expulsions of the Palestinians from their land is growing.’ – Amira Hass.

Amira’s talk was so incredibly powerful – she pulls no punches in describing Israeli policies that seek to constrict and constrain Palestinians, and she was incredibly forthright in discussing the spectre of antisemitism that always arises whenever anyone criticizes Israeli policies.

I will try to find a video and upload the talk if they recorded it. In the meantime, definitely follow Amira on Twitter, and read her news articles on Haaretz.

 

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Towards Socially Just Development in the MENA Region

And the events at SOAS just keep coming! Last night I went to a really interesting book launch for a publication called Towards Socially Just Development in the MENA RegionYou can actually download the publication as a pdf here.

It was a really interesting event, and it had my old professor Gilbert Achcar talking about his contribution to the publication.

I still have to read the book, but according to the blurb, it explains that economic policies adopted by most MENA countries over the last decades contributed to social injustice, inequality, marginalization, poverty, and unemployment (neo-liberalism policies predominately). Add to that political repression and authoritarianism, all these factors contributed to the Arab Spring. In the years after the Arab Spring, however, socio-economic injustice has continued to grow, but it has been more ignored than other issues.

I’m looking forward to reading the book – it should be really interesting, because social justice isn’t an aspect of the region that gets a lot of attention, and we should be striving to create more socially just conditions, not just in the Middle East, but also in the West as well (where neo-liberalism has also eaten its way into our institutions).

 

Syria & the Left: 7th Anniversary of the Syrian Uprising

Another week, another great event at SOAS – Syria & the Left: 7th Anniversary of the Syrian Uprising with Leila al-Shami. Leila is co-author of Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War

The event was a really interesting exploration of the failure of the left (or parts of it) to stand with revolutionary Syrians, and why some on the left, in common with those on the right, have supported the Assad regime.

Leila did an excellent job of explaining the rationale behind those who support Assad, which was important for me to understand, since I’ve had such a hard time in understanding why anyone would support a very obvious murderous dictator. According to Leila, there is a section of the left that is so anti-imperialist, that they view Assad as standing up to “imperialist powers”, and really fail to notice or acknowledge the immense suffering of civilians under Assad’s regime. In my mind, the rights and wants of Syrians on the ground are much more important than any anti-imperialist political chess match, and we should be listening to Syrian voices.

I highly recommend watching the livestream video of the event, which you can find here.

(Note: it was a deliberate choice not to film Leila’s face for security reasons).

Open Source Intelligence in Syria

I went to a super interesting event last night at SOAS – Open Source Intelligence in Syria with Eliot HigginsIf you don’t know, Eliot Higgens (aka Brown Moses) is the founder of Bellingcat, a website which which applies the use of open source investigation to a range of topics. Eliot’s work on Syria focuses on the authentication of weapons and planes, including the monitoring of the use of barrel bombs and chemical weapons. Through Bellingcat, he was involved in documenting the most recent chemical attacks in Syria and the geo-tracking of airstrike targets and sources.

Eliot’s presentation was absolutely eye-opening. It is really astounding the amount of open-source information that exists out there, and how you can use it to verify (and disprove) events on the ground. He showed the process he’s used to verify videos and pictures, and how to disprove the propaganda that seems to be coming from Russia who use a similar type of open-source rhetoric, but actually are obfuscating or blatantly lying about their facts.

I highly recommend watching the event if you have time. Click here to access the facebook livestream of the event.

Also, definitely follow Eliot Higgins on Twitter, and check out the Bellingcat website!