Sunday, April 28, 2013

To catch a terrorist within the American Dream

Here is an excerpt of my latest in Today's Zaman (25 April 2013):

The Boston Marathon bombing, killing three people and injuring over a hundred others, shocked the world as it played out on live television. The story picked up on Thursday night after the release of photos of two possible suspects, who within hours were spotted at the scene of a robbery. Following this, the two suspects hijacked a car, temporarily holding its owner hostage; from there, they wreaked havoc, killing a university security officer, engaging police in a car chase, and a subsequent gun battle, which left one of the suspects dead. Following this incident, a whole neighborhood was placed under lockdown, and a search began for the second suspect, who was apprehended in serious condition within a little over 24 hours.

Within hours of the suspects' photos being released, they were identified; it was two brothers of Chechen origin, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, who was killed during the gun battle, and his younger brother, Dzhokhar, 19, arrested at the end of the saga. The release of the identities of the suspect led to a media frenzy, much to the likes of reality television, which aired as a non-stop 24-hour episode. Both on the airwaves and social media, everyone questioned who these two men from the far off lands of Chechnya and Dagestan were, and what ills they held for the American way of life.

To continue reading, here is the link

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

With Mashrou' Leila from Haifa to Beirut, and back to Istanbul

Images (from left) Beirut, Haifa, Istanbul and Mashrou Leila
Here is my latest from Your Middle East (10 April 2013):

From the moment I heard that the Lebanese band Mashrou' Leila was coming to Istanbul, I knew I was in for a great evening; I just never imagined how much this band, made up of former students from the American University of Beirut, could dish out.

Just a year ago, this group made its way across my Facebook feed, and it took only weeks before they became a part of my daily life, with a ritual developing at my home where I would share their music with friends coming over in evenings before going out to enjoy Istanbul nights.

What strikes me most about Mashrou' Leila’s music, and its musicians, is that it seems to be very much a product of urban mixing, which I myself experienced both in Haifa and Istanbul. While their music offers a splash of Beirut, evident also in their Lebanese accents, it is rather a testament to a multicultural existence, which is not forced but natural; it is a dangerous mix of happiness and the backdrop of a much darker reality. Song after song, they offer a personal narrative of crossing borders, challenging existing cultural, social and gender constructs.

To continue reading, here is the link

The US, Syria and the need for a comprehensive strategy

Here is an excerpt of my latest in Today's Zaman (11 April 2013):

The Syrian uprising started a little over two years ago and few of us remember it in its first days when thousands of peaceful protestors throughout the country joined in unison, calling for a democratic transition. However, as their protests were brutally beaten down, they were left with only one option: either submit or fight on for freedom and the downfall of Bashar al-Assad, who had failed at reforming the country from years of the cruel regime of his father, Hafez al-Assad.

Over time, the peaceful uprising turned into a civil war, with the formation of the Free Syrian Army, and numerous other factions, fighting the state's forces.

Since the beginning of the Syrian uprising, the crisis has been locked in stalemate, with the US, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia supporting the Free Syrian army and other factions, while Iran is supporting the Assad-led Syrian government, with the blessing of Russia and to some extent China. While many speculated numerous times that Assad's forces were near the end, his regime's resilience has came as a surprise to many. Others have rightly claimed that this has turned into a proxy war, showing little resemblance to what the Syrian people demanded at the beginning of the uprising. However, this should not deter us from the fact that Assad regime must go, and claims that the uprising has been orchestrated as a tool of Western imperialism, only give credence to Assad's cruel authoritarian regime.

To continue reading, here is the link

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Some Initial Thoughts on the Israeli Apology

Here is an excerpt of my latest in Today's Zaman (24 March 2013):

Almost three years have passed since the Israeli operation on the Gaza flotilla in which nine Turkish citizens (one possessing both US and Turkish citizenship) were killed. From the outset, it was clear that this was a botched operation and that the Israeli government and forces had made a major miscalculation; in place of working for a diplomatic solution, they opted to board the ship in which a group of passengers from among the Turkish contingent were clearly set on provoking the Israeli forces, resulting in tragedy. Without a doubt, this event marked the lowest point in the history of Turkish-Israeli relations, as Turkey demanded from Israel an apology, compensation and the end of the Gaza blockade.

As the price of strained relations became evident, support for issuing an apology started to emerge in Israel -- not only among the opposition, but also among members of the Israeli government. However, with time it became clear that as long as Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, whose hard core politics managed to isolate Israel worldwide on numerous issues, was in office that this would not be possible, as he staunchly objected to any Turkish demand. The fact that Lieberman has temporarily relieved himself of ministerial duties due to an ongoing court case, which could find him guilty of corruption, opened the way for the apology; not surprisingly, just hours after the apology Lieberman vented his anger calling it a grave mistake.

To continue reading, here is the link

Israel's new government: steps towards a civil society (not so quickly)

Here is an excerpt of my latest in Today's Zaman (20 March 2013):

Even if on the surface the demand that the Haredim also serve in the army seems just, we need to remember that it was secular Jewish politicians in the first place who extended exemptions to them and facilitated their strong influence. Second, demands that they serve in the army are irrational since it is questionable whether or not the military establishment believes they can be integrated into the ranks, due to their strict religious demands; not to mention the question if the army is ready to restructure a force that is based greatly on the integration of women, and not the segregation of sexes.

More importantly, why demand from the Haredim to serve, yet ignore the fact that there is no consensus concerning the recruitment of Palestinian citizens of the Israeli state, who make up 20 percent of the population, and are considered by some Israeli Jews as an internal threat. Concerning this case, there have been calls for the Arab community to commit to doing community service in place of the army. However, due to the fact that the Arabs suffer legal and social discrimination at the hands of the state and society, Israeli Jews are fooling themselves if they think they will agree to this. Moreover, the Arabs only need to look as far as the small Arab Druze community who are forced to serve in the army, and some Bedouin communities who volunteer, to demonstrate that army service by no means brings equality.

To continue reading, here is the link