Friday, December 11, 2009
Dr. Yerushalmi is the author of perhaps one of the most influential works read by jewish scholars titled, “Zachor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory,” a slim volume whose title bore the Hebrew imperative “Remember!” Barely 100 pages, “Zachor” was an examination of the conflict between the collective stories that invigorate Judaism as a culture and the verifiable chronicle of history itself. Many scholars have argued that it has joined the canon of Jewish wisdom, even if they interpret his thesis differently.
More notably, Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic and a former student of Dr. Yerushalmi’s at Harvard, said Dr. Yerushalmi had been torn between the power of memory and the complexity of the historical perspective and had struggled to reconcile the two streams throughout much of his life, though perhaps not conclusively. “History involves critical detachment; memory involves a deep immediacy,” Mr. Wieseltier said. Dr. Yerushalmi, he said, harbored “a deep ambivalence and a certain degree of pessimism about the ability of scholarship to nurture a living culture.”
Yet, the part of Dr. Yerushalmi's story that intrigued me the most was his insight, expressed by Harold Bloom's review of Yerushalmi's conflicts between fact and collective memory where he wrote that Dr. Yerushalmi worried that in the modern age “Scripture has been replaced by history as the validating arbiter of Jewish ideologies,” and that the replacement “has yielded chaos.”
At age 77, Dr. Yerushalmi has left our world, but his insights will carry meaning long into the future. What that future will look like may depend more on what he recognized as the results of a "collective memory", rather than the verifiable facts about the history of a people, regardless of which people that may be referring to.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
The Iranian Diaspora community should take care not to follow the neocons in their push for confrontation without knowing what will come in the place of the current regime.
I think it is safe to say that Nasri has a sharp eye for history and understands many of the lessons from it. A worth while read, even if you're not Iranian.
But really, why does this matter? Answer? Because Al Jazeera has better interviews, more on the ground coverage and asks tougher questions (with the government of Qatar spared, of course) than anything running through an American media wire.
Remember how I said yesterday that Obama was in a sticky situation with the whole Nobel Peace Prize thing? Here is what Al Jazeera had on it. Did anyone see anything like this on CNN, NBC, Fox, etc.?
A democracy isn't much if it isn't informed. Al Jazeera simply is better, smarter and more informed TV journalism.
Update: Yes, of course. Washington DC residents can now get Al Jazeera via their cable provider. Hmm...
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Wow. Interesting Wasta. (Suppose you are the new Middle East "sex expert" in this Casbah. Haha.)
But really, it is an issue of great importance. Beirut this summer was another example of how Khaleejis, or people from the Gulf, come to Lebanon with so-called sex holidays in mind. It is a disturbing dose of reality; many talk about these exploiting "Super Night Clubs" with shameless glee.
On a different note, I thought I'd sound off in my morning round up with another piece by Amira Hass, Israel has made settlers of all its citizens. Her main point seems to be that we can't blame the settler; for most are not followers of the late Rabbi Kahane, but immigrant opportunists who live in the West Bank because of government subsidy. But As-Salibi's favorite part was:
"The legitimacy of the settlement blocs exists only in the Israeli consensus."
(So I asked on the Israeli Birthright trip just how "one" might move into a settlement and received such subsidy. The answer? I guess you're just going to have to wait for my book to be finished.)
The second thing I'd like to share with the readership is the fact President Obama has to travel to Norway on Thursday to give a speech accepting his Nobel Peace Prize. It will put this man of brilliant oration to the ultimate test: deliver a speech about peace right after sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. Hmmm... Indeed, it shall be interesting to see him rhetorically polish his way out of this one.
I usually view these types of articles as sensational, but I'm inclined to believe these findings for a couple of reasons:
1. The information stems from a report by UNIFEM, The United Nations Development Fund for Women. I've dealt with UNIFEM a few times and they're a professional organization.
2. Amira Hass wrote the article, and she is 100x more skeptical about any regional news than I will ever be.
3. Rather than describing foreign women jetsetting to Jordan for sex with Bedouins, this content is much more realistic.
Monday, December 7, 2009
For analysts who argue Syria can be peeled away from Iran, Asad made promising remarks. He suggested that Iran was working against Arab interests in Iraq and especially in Yemen. In fact, let’s take a moment to stop in Yemen. Whether or not Iran is directly backing the Houthi rebels (Al-Farabi has more doubts than it appears the media does), Asad’s unambiguous stance with Saudi Arabia must give pause in Iran. However, this shouldn’t necessarily be striking. Syria still views itself as the “beating heart of Arabism.”
On the domestic front, he warned that the Ba’ath better shape up or risk losing relevance. Bear in mind that the Ba’ath Congress is slated to be held next year. Frankly, it’s hard to decipher whether this was simply an emphatic statement for the Ba’ath to fall in line behind Asad as he steadies the Syrian ship towards unfriendly waters (i.e. negotiations with Israel). Asad's assertiveness, however, does not dispel the need to cajole domestic constituencies on occasion. In this sense, he does not operate as the quintessential dictator. This last point is lost on most Westerners. Decisions are made from the top, but keeping influential centers of power behind Asad constrains him. Finally, he raised concern that Turkey’s opening policy towards the Kurds could reinvigorate Kurdish designs in Syria.
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Well here we go: Your dear Abu G keeps getting turned down from various jobs because they say A) the economy sucks and we're not hiring; B) your skills are nice but not needed; C) we don't hire Armenian/Jews like yourself. (Jokes. Yes, I made up C.)
But seriously folks, the job market in California is tough at the moment. In fact so much so that I even decided to throw a "Donate" button on the Casbah as a way to keep this Casbah alive. And if it were to come down to it and I got offered a "real job" that didn't like me blogging in a casbah that spoofs Palestinian insurgency, well, I'd throw in the towel and let As-Salibi, The Rooster, Wastafarian and Al-Farabi take the ring.
But before we resort to gettin' sauced off that fermented Casbah camels milk in despair, let me just say this: I am strongly considering writing a book about Israel, Lebanon, the Levant in general, the next war between Israel and Hezbollah and my experience traveling through it all with a surfboard. (Such a book will be written in the Hunter S. Thompson, gonzo style of first-person travel writing. God willing it shall capture a nitch that has not yet been, well, "nitched." Indeed.)
So well I'm still floating this idea--without healthcare, of course--I thought I'd open up the floor to see if anyone had any ideas about employing your most beloved guerrilla. And just to break the ice, my dear buddy Jeff told me over lunch today that I should write a travel book about riding a horse from California to Montana.
I know nothing about horses.
About a week ago, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. finalized a deal to purchase a sizeable stake of Rotana, a media conglomerate and one of the Arab world’s top entertainment companies.
Rotana is owned by the successful Saudi businessman Prince Waleed bin Talal, a figure on the more moderate end of the Saudi royal spectrum of ridiculous conservatism. The company started in the late 80s as a record company, later growing to produce content for film and TV as well as music. These days, a quick 5 minutes on the NileSat or ArabSat satellite lineups will show half a dozen Rotana channels: one for orchestra/classical Arabic music, a couple for modern music videos, a couple for movies, etc. Rotana is a household name, and an influential cultural force especially in the youth market.
Are Sean Hannity and Prince Waleed now working for the same boss? Sort of. For now, Murdoch has only purchased a 10% stake in the company. Also, it is rumored that Prince Waleed has about a 5 to 7% stake in News Corp. himself.
In fact, Murdoch’s FOX has already been running two new channels in the
The Wastafarian would be interested to hear if anyone thinks that Murdoch’s stake in Rotana is a good thing. News Corp. already has its hands on dozens of newspapers, magazines, production companies, cable networks, websites, radio stations, and even Dow Jones & Company.
Despite some great Arabic vocab I learned by listening to my female colleagues chat daily about lastnight’s episode of Desperate Housewives on FOX Series, I think that this deal is mostly a negative development. If Murdoch continues to gain influence on Rotana and the Arab media establishment, the region will only face a further homogenization of news and content.
Mostly, I would hate to see the Saudi-funded Al-Arabiya news channel eventually tainted by Murdoch’s name. Then Wastafarian’s favorite ultra-hot Lebanese anchorwoman might be out of a job.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
"...the Internet access to most of Iran's non-governmental sites has been cut and general Internet traffic has been severely slowed down in the country, affecting Twitter and other news dissemination sites. It is believed the government has limited and slowed the access to the Internet ahead of the expected nationwide demonstrations on Monday, marking the Student Day- 16 Azar."
Interesting. Especially because we can remember how these Internet tools played a big part in the reform movement’s strategy to communicate to the streets in the June 12 election. So has the government finally figured out a way to bash the connections of all those pesky reformists? Is it really possible to smash every satellite dish in north Tehran?
Update: Peter Baker's piece in the Sunday NY Times is probably the read of the week. It is an epic in decision making--Obama style. And I now feel a bit better about some 30,000 young men and women going to this no-so-yielding Central Asian plateau.