• Upcoming Events

    Monday 11/8
    Peter Beinart
    "Israel: Have we lost that loving feeling, and can we get it back?"
    Davis Auditorium
    Sturm Hall

    Monday 11/8
    The Muslim Student Association is hosting an Eid Mubarak dinner from 6-8 pm at the Korbel Cyber Cafe.

    Wednesday 11/10
    A Faculty Panel will discuss different issues surrounding the Occupy Wallstreet movement.
    Noon in the Cyber Cafe

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Where Should the Birds Fly – a documentary

Hello All,

Sorry for the lack of updates, but, we have an upcomming event that everyone should attend.  Fida Qishta is a Gazan filmmaker who will be screening her film Where Should the Birds Fly.  After the film, Fida will take questions from the audience.  The event will be on Friday, April 6th from 12-2 pm on SIE 150.  We hope to see everyone there!

(Also, the poster is getting cut off, so click it to see the full image)



Isreal vs. Iran

Sorry for the lack of updates (busy week), but anyway, follow this link from the New York Times-


I’ve just started reading, and will post some thoughts in the comments section later.

Egypt, One Year Later

A year ago today, I sat glued to my computer screen watching the unfolding images of downtown Cairo on Al Jazeera’s live-streaming English channel. I would remain in a virtual state of media-induced catatonic awe for the following 18 days. One year later, it feels somewhat difficult determining how much and how little things have changed in post-Mubarak Egypt.

First, let me be absolutely clear about what I think happened in Egypt a year ago today. Whatever it was, it was not a “revolution.” I side with Theda Skocpol on this question, and consider true “revolution” to necessitate more than simply a change of faces at the political apex. Revolution demolishes existing sociopolitical structures and slowly replaces them with new ones pieced together from the revolutionary rubble.

What happened in Egypt was, at best, a serf uprising against the individual lordship of Hosni Mubarak, who had treated the state as his personal fiefdom for three decades. Whatever intentions the activists in the streets of Egypt’s cities had at the outset of the protests, whatever they hoped would happen in the wake of Mubarak’s resignation, does not matter. What matters is the reality of the aftermath – the reality that virtually nothing changed. The pyramid of power, with the base government bureaucrats and big-business technocrats supporting the apex military elite, remains firmly ensconced in power. The only difference being that, now, the national legislature is run by the Muslim Brotherhood and popular elections are not farcically rigged.

While free elections and an open legislature are certainly steps in the right direction, what changes there have been in Egypt’s political structure are dwarfed by those of nearby Tunisia, whose uprising inspired and propelled Egypt’s own. Egypt’s constitution remains intact (save the changes made by the military to protect and legalize their “stewardship”), Egypt’s socioeconomic have-nots remain poor and relatively powerless, and, above all, the Egyptian military continues to balk at handing over its power. As I wrote several months ago,

Combined with its strong corporatist and elitist ethos, as well as a deeply embedded network of patron-client relationships, the coercive strength and political power of the Egyptian military represents the single greatest potential obstacle to a legitimate and uninterrupted transition to open democratic governance in Egypt.

I believed that then and I believe it now. So what can we say about Egypt one year after the Uprising of January 25? The more things change, the more they stay the same? Or, perhaps, meet the old boss, same as the new boss? Either way, there’s a rough road ahead.

Obama Shellacs Somali “Criminals” in Midnight Raid that Saves Two Hostages

Say what you will about President Obama’s domestic policies, he’s done nothing if not put the screws to terrorist networks and pirates the world over for the past four years. The latest iteration, again calling upon the US Navy SEALS, involved a nighttime raid in Somalia that resulted in the rescue of two foreign aid workers and the killing of nine hostage takers. Although the Pentagon denied that the hostage takers were linked to al-Shabab, their exact identities remain unknown. For a full rundown of the operation, check out the BBC article.

Israel is a Perplexing Place…

In an effort to curb the use of Holocaust imagery and comparison in its current domestic sociopolitical discourse, the Israeli parliament (Knesset) is now considering a bill that would make such usage a crime punishable by fine and possible imprisonment. Here’s a blurb from NPR.org about it:

[A] bill under consideration by parliament “would impose penalties of up to six months in jail and a $25,000 fine for using the word ‘Nazi’ or Holocaust symbols for purposes other than teaching, documentation or research.”

The bill was introduced — and approved by Cabinet ministers — a week after ultra-Orthodox Jews dressed as prisoners from a concentration camp to protest what they said was a campaign against them by secular media.

The BBC reports the protesters wore striped uniforms with a yellow star of David emblazoned with the word “Jude,” which is German for Jew. The protests caused an uproar. [The BBC writes,] “Ultra-Orthodox Jews, who make up 10% of Israel’s population, have been criticised in recent weeks for attempting to impose their strict beliefs on others as their population grows and spreads to new areas. Extremist sects have sought to ban the mixing of sexes on buses, pavements and other public spaces. Members of one sect jeered and spat at girls walking to school, saying they were dressed immodestly.”

Haaretz reports that Uri Ariel, one of the ministers sponsoring the bill, said this law would deter “the cynical exploitation of Nazi symbols and epithets in a manner that injures the feelings of Holocaust survivors.”

While in some respects it is difficult not to feel sympathetic toward the Knesset’s intent – the use and abuse of Holocaust imagery and comparison for political gain is bad enough in principle, but to actually make use of it, and in Israel of all places, is simply revolting – the overarching point remains that the step is a direct violation of free speech, something on which Israel has traditionally prided itself.

In my view, the passing of such a law merely plays into the hands of the fringe groups who already complain of being socially marginalized and mistreated. By retaliating this way, the Knesset just gives the Ultra-Orthodox community more ammunition in its arsenal; worse, it turns them into victims potentially worthy of popular sympathy, while before they were simply exploitative, misogynistic, intolerant anachronisms with little to no broader support among average Israelis. To make these people political martyrs would be a gross miscalculation by the Knesset, not to mention a violation of basic democratic rights.

Assad speech coming

According to Al Arabiya, President Bashar al Assad will give a national address on recent developments in Syria.  The Arab League, which has suspended Syria’s membership and sent in a mission to encourage peaceful resolution to Syria’s internal dissent, is now being criticized by the opposition in Syria.

The [Syrian National Council] expressed disappointment at the “slowness and reluctance of the Arab League in implementing the Arab plan, which clearly states the need for the military to return to their barracks, release all detainees, authorize peace demonstrations and give access to observers and journalists.”

The umbrella group made up of Arab and Kurdish nationalists, Marxists and independents urged the League to “immediately” begin talks with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon on proposing the Arab peace plan to the Security Council to “prevent procrastination.”

It called for “the protection of civilians by all legitimate means in the context of international humanitarian law, including the establishment of safety and no-fly zones.”

Within the United Nations Security Council, Russia and China have already demonstrated a willingness to veto resolutions allowing for military intervention in Syria.  It may be that such actions must come out of the Arab League itself.  However, despite the hints that are out there, it seems incredibly unlikely to me that the Arab League could succeed in coordinating the use of force in Syria.

Arab League officials said the future of the monitoring mission, due to make a full report on Jan. 19, depended on the Syrian government’s commitment to ending the daily bloodshed.

“If the … report comes out saying the violence has not stopped, the Arab League will have a responsibility to act on that,” Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani told a news conference after the Cairo meeting.

Japan foreign minister visits Saudi Arabia

Koichiro Gemba, Japan’s foreign minister, visited Saudi Arabia to discuss contingency options to maintain Japan’s flow of oil should EU plans to sanction Iranian oil come to pass, according to Al Arabiya.  Currently Japan receives 9% of its oil supply from Iran, and 30% from Saudi Arabia, so it follows that Japan would like assurances that the Saudis can provide 25-33% more oil if need be.  The article notes that

Pressure from Washington and the European Union to boycott Iranian crude comes at a time when Japan must make greater use of thermal power plants after a massive earthquake and tsunami sparked a nuclear power crisis last March. The vast bulk of Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors are now shut down, amid public distrust of the technology and increased safety calls.

Despite ranging projections of how much oil Saudi Arabia still has, an short-term increase in production to help ease the burden of an embargo on Iran is feasible.