One More Sort of Bi Trans Queer Muslim Immigrant Something Woman

Despite my hostility to labels, be they social, cultural, medical, legal, it’s obvious that most people define and reduce people only to labels and categories. And knowing that I can appear to those people as not belonging to those categories they desire to annihilate, and thus seem to be “one of them”; and knowing that despite my own definition of self being seldom and very much ambivalently on those terms — terms which are some of the least interesting parts of me — nonetheless for them this is what I am, this is all I am.

So this is me putting my arse on the line and being counted:

Here’s one more woman, here’s one more bi, here’s one more trans, here’s one more queer, here’s one more — as they like to say in Germany — of Muslim immigrant background.

Because even though I want to have a private life, and don’t want to be the object of public scrutiny, and I’m afraid of the discrimination and dehumanisation that comes with being such an object, for many there isn’t this choice. And irrespective of the fact I am not public about this, I’ve nonetheless had to live through it, live through being this.

Because my grandmother was Muslim and Turkish, and every time I see another Muslim woman treated like shit I think of her, of that being done to her.

And we’re being targeted anyway, so fuck it.

Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is not self-defence – it’s a war crime

This letter of attorneys and academics appeared in the Times of London on Sunday. I suggest that all bloggers who agree with it just reprint it so that it is everywhere in the blogosphere. It is a succinct and cogent refutation of the reigning right-Zionist talking points that have dominated American media reporting on this atrocity.

January 11, 2009

Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is not self-defence – it’s a war crime

ISRAEL has sought to justify its military attacks on Gaza by stating that it amounts to an act of “self-defence” as recognised by Article 51, United Nations Charter. We categorically reject this contention.

The rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas deplorable as they are, do not, in terms of scale and effect amount to an armed attack entitling Israel to rely on self-defence. Under international law self-defence is an act of last resort and is subject to the customary rules of proportionality and necessity.

The killing of almost 800 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and more than 3,000 injuries, accompanied by the destruction of schools, mosques, houses, UN compounds and government buildings, which Israel has a responsibility to protect under the Fourth Geneva Convention, is not commensurate to the deaths caused by Hamas rocket fire.

For 18 months Israel had imposed an unlawful blockade on the coastal strip that brought Gazan society to the brink of collapse. In the three years after Israel’s redeployment from Gaza, 11 Israelis were killed by rocket fire. And yet in 2005-8, according to the UN, the Israeli army killed about 1,250 Palestinians in Gaza, including 222 children. Throughout this time the Gaza Strip remained occupied territory under international law because Israel maintained effective control over it.

Israel’s actions amount to aggression, not self-defence, not least because its assault on Gaza was unnecessary. Israel could have agreed to renew the truce with Hamas. Instead it killed 225 Palestinians on the first day of its attack. As things stand, its invasion and bombardment of Gaza amounts to collective punishment of Gaza’s 1.5m inhabitants contrary to international humanitarian and human rights law. In addition, the blockade of humanitarian relief, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, and preventing access to basic necessities such as food and fuel, are prima facie war crimes.

We condemn the firing of rockets by Hamas into Israel and suicide bombings which are also contrary to international humanitarian law and are war crimes. Israel has a right to take reasonable and proportionate means to protect its civilian population from such attacks. However, the manner and scale of its operations in Gaza amount to an act of aggression and is contrary to international law, notwithstanding the rocket attacks by Hamas.

Ian Brownlie QC, Blackstone Chambers
Mark Muller QC, Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales
Michael Mansfield QC and Joel Bennathan QC, Tooks Chambers
Sir Geoffrey Bindman, University College, London
Professor Richard Falk, Princeton University
Professor M Cherif Bassiouni, DePaul University, Chicago
Professor Christine Chinkin, LSE
Professor John B Quigley, Ohio State University
Professor Iain Scobbie and Victor Kattan, School of Oriental and African Studies
Professor Vera Gowlland-Debbas, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva
Professor Said Mahmoudi, Stockholm University
Professor Max du Plessis, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban
Professor Bill Bowring, Birkbeck College
Professor Joshua Castellino, Middlesex University
Professor Thomas Skouteris and Professor Michael Kagan, American University of Cairo
Professor Javaid Rehman, Brunel University
Daniel Machover, Chairman, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights
Dr Phoebe Okawa, Queen Mary University
John Strawson, University of East London
Dr Nisrine Abiad, British Institute of International and Comparative Law
Dr Michael Kearney, University of York
Dr Shane Darcy, National University of Ireland, Galway
Dr Michelle Burgis, University of St Andrews
Dr Niaz Shah, University of Hull
Liz Davies, Chair, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyer
Prof Michael Lynk, The University of Western Ontario
Steve Kamlish QC and Michael Topolski QC, Tooks Chambers

— Informed Content

Top Ten (Plus 1) Good News Stories in the Muslim World, 2008 (That Nobody Noticed)

Cheerful Saturday morning reading I thought I’d post in its entirety, though I do think anyone who has the slightest interest in the Middle-East and Central Asia should make a habit of reading Juan Cole. Wish that I hadn’t missed number 8 though…

We all too often focus only on negative developments, and while it is understandable for people to keep their eyes on impending calamities, obsessing about the bad sometimes causes us to miss good news. We see a lot of that even with regard to the US. For instance, there has been a 23% decline in violent crime over the past twenty years in the US, but people who watch a lot of television (especially, I presume, police procedurals) tell pollsters they think crime has gotten worse.

I see significant positive stories in the Muslim world in 2008 that don’t get a lot of press in the US, but which will be important for the incoming Obama administration.

1. The Pakistani public, led by its attorneys, judges and civilian politicians, conducted a peaceful, constitutional overthrow of the military dictatorship of Pervez Musharraf in 2008. Last February, the Pakistani public gave the largest number of seats in parliament to the left of center, secular Pakistan People’s Party. The fundamentalist religious parties took a bath at the polls. In August, the elected parliament initiated impeachment proceedings against Musharraf, who resigned. A civilian president, Asaf Ali Zardari, was elected. George W. Bush is reported to have been the last man in Washington to relinquish support for Musharraf, who had rampaged around sacking supreme court justices, censoring the press, and imprisoning political enemies on a whim. Pakistan faces an insurgency in the northwestern tribal areas, and problems of terrorism rooted in past military training of guerrillas to fight India in Kashmir. But the civilian parties have a much better chance of curbing such military excesses than does a leader dependent solely on the military for support. True, the new political leadership is widely viewed as corrupt, but South Korean politics was corrupt and that country nevertheless made progress. Besides, after Madoff/Blagojevich, who are we to talk? The triumph of parliamentary democracy over military dictatorship in Pakistan during the past year is good news that Washington-centered US media seldom could appreciate because of Bush’s narrative about military dictatorship equalling stability and a reliable ally in the war on terror. In reality? Not so much.

2. The Iraqi government succeeded in imposing on the Bush administration a military withdrawal from Iraq by 2011. The hard negotiations showed a new confidence on the part of the Iraqi political class that they can stand on their own feet militarily. The relative success of PM Nuri al-Maliki’s Basra campaign last spring was part of the mix here. But so too was the absolute insistence by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani that any Status of Forces Agreement not infringe on Iraqi sovereignty. The Sadr Movement resorted to street politics, aiming to thwart any agreement at all, thus providing cover to al-Maliki as he pushed back against Bush’s imperial demands. The Iraqi success in getting a withdrawal agreement has paved the way for President-elect Obama to fulfill his pledge to withdraw from Iraq on a short timetable.

3. Syria has secretly been conducting peace negotiations with Israel, using the Turkish Prime Minister Rejep Tayyip Erdogan as the intermediary. There are few more fraught relationships between countries in the world than the Israel-Syrian divide, but obviously Bashar al-Asad and Ehud Olmert felt that there were things they could fruitfully talk about. Ironically, the clueless George W. Bush went to Israel last spring and condemned talking to the enemy as a form of appeasement. While he got polite applause, the Israeli mainstream is far more realistic than the silly Neocons who write Bush’s speeches, and Olmert went on talking to al-Asad. Unfortunately, the Israeli attack on Gaza has caused Syria to call off the talks for now. It should be a high priority of the Obama administration to start them back up.

4. There has been a “near strategic defeat for al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia.” “Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” conducted numerous bombings and shootings in the period 2003-2006, during which the Saudi authorities got serious about taking it on. Saudi Arabia produces on the order of 11 percent of the world’s petroleum, and instability there threatens the whole world. The dramatic subsiding of terrorism there in 2008 is good news for every one. Opinion polls show support for al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia plummeting, and determination to fight terrorism is overwhelming. In polling, a solid majority of Saudis say they want better relations with the United States. Yes. The Wahhabis are saying that. And their number one prerequisite for better relations? A US withdrawal from Iraq. (See above).

5. The crisis of state in Lebanon was patched up late last spring by the Doha agreement. Qatar’s King Hamad Al-Thani showed himself a canny negotiator. Hizbullah came into the government and received support as a national guard for the south as long as it pledged not to drag the country into any more wars unilaterally. Lebanese politics is always fragile, but this is the best things have been for years. Lebanese economic conservatism allowed its banks and real estate to avoid the global crash, and hotel occupancy rates are up 25% over 2007, with a 2008 economic growth rate of 6%. The new president, Michel Suleiman, has also pursued responsible diplomacy with Syria, and the two countries are normalizing relations after years of bitterness. For all the potential dangers ahead, 2008 was a success story of major proportions in Lebanon.

6. [pdf] Indonesia’s transition to democracy that began in 1998 has been ‘consolidated’ and it has regained its economic health, paying back $43 billion in loans to the International Monetary Fund. Indonesia is the world fourth most populous country and the world’s largest Muslim country, comprising something like 16 percent or more of all Muslims. It faces many challenges, as do all young democracies, but when 245 million Muslims have kept democracy going for 10 years, the thesis that Islam is somehow incompatible with democracy is clearly fallacious.

7. Turkey avoided a major constitutional crisis in 2008 when the constitutional court declined to find the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) guilty of undermining the official ideology of secularism. AKP is mildly Muslim in orientation, in contrast to the militantly secular military. The verdict gave Turks an opportunity to work on bridging the secular-religious divide. Turkey, a country of 70 million the size of Texas, is a linchpin of stability in the Middle East, and it survived a crisis here.

8. Major Arab pop singers jointly performed an anti-war opera that called for co-existence among the region’s Christians, Muslims and Jews and an end to the senseless slaughter. It ran on 15 Arab satellite channels,and one satellite channel ran it nonstop for days. It was the Woodstock of this generation in the Arab world and it got no international press at all.

9. King Abdullah II of Jordan pledged an end to press censorship in Jordan. Tim Sebastian reports,

‘The man at the center of this event was King Abdullah of Jordan, who last month gathered together the chief editors of Jordan’s main newspapers and told them that from now on there would be big changes in the country’s media environment. Specifically, no more jailing of reporters for writing the wrong thing and a new mechanism would be created to protect the rights of journalists, including their access to information. “Detention of journalists is prohibited,” he said. “I do not see a reason for detaining a journalist because he/she wrote something or for expressing a view.”‘

It is legitimate to take all this with a grain of salt, to be skeptical, to wait and see. But Sebastian is right that if the king means it, it is big news for Jordan and the Middle East, and the court in Amman should be pressured to stand by the new procedures.

10. The United Arab Emirates is creating the first carbon-free city, “Masdar,” as a demonstration project. That the Oil Gulf, a major source of the fossil fuels that, when burned, are causing climate change and rising sea levels, has become concerned about these problems, it is a very good sign.

— Informed Comment

And the eleventh, from the comments:

Anonymous said…

Not surprising that you forgot, but for millions in South Asia recently, there was very good news: Bangladesh just had free, fair, and peaceful elections. In a nation of 160 million (90% of whom are Muslim), a secularist party was elected with landslide mandate. Bangladesh is now the second largest Muslim democracy (after Indonesia) and the 6th largest democracy in the world.

http://www.thestar.com/comment/article/560410

Shayer said…

Don’t forget Bangladesh, the 4th largest Muslim country in the world just had their largely peaceful, free, and fair elections in 7 years with the secularists capturing 230 of 300 seats in the Parliament and Jamaat-i-Islami (the Islamist party)went from 20 seats in the 2001 election to only 2 seats effectively wiping them out and showing a great rejection of islamist ideologies.

The Awami League, the winners in this election, offers to share power with the losing parties and the losing party BNP conceded defeat showing a change from part politics where the oppostion would always take to the streets and protest.

The good news shows the Bangladeshis commitment to democracy and the resilience of a moderate Islam that renounces violence.

kunst and the greens

Three years ago I was so happy to be leaving Australia immediately after the nauseating reelection of that repulsive clique of born-again christians, social conservatives and anti-intellectuals. I’d love to flatter myself that I was prophetic in the eventual outcome of that event, but really it was self-evident. Shame I didn’t stay away, no?

I was going to write about the current disaster in Queensland where the Arts Minister Rod Welford said of his decision to leave funding hanging that it would make “the arts sector more commercial and self-reliant” (actually deserves a post in itself). I was also going to write about AusDance’s call to the Government and Opposition to make clear what they would do for dance. I got sidetracked though.

I was reading Adelaide zine overlord, bicycle frotteur and intellectual Ianto Ware’s blog, Nicht Das Paperkrieg yesterday, where he wonders if the Greens “aren’t just a lefty version of Family First?”, who we’ll end up voting for anyway. I was thinking without Bob Brown, they might just end up another oh-they’re-still-around? party like the Democrats, but … and maybe he rewrote part of this since yesterday because I don’t see it in his entry now, but …

I was really pleasantly surprised and happy to find the Greens have a specific policy for gender identity, and moreover say, The Australian Greens will: establish intersex as a gender recognised by the legal system. For that alone they get my vote.

liberals arts policy: go fuck yourselves

I can’t quite articulate exactly how much I want to see the Victorian Liberals hurled bodily into a swampy, fetid morass where they are set upon and devoured in a berserk frenzy by a herd of wild, blood-crazed boars. Such a circus I would cheer, and imagine a pre-feeding promenade in which they are lanced with banderillas and generally tormented, though I imagine the sport these spineless cretins might provide would show a profoundly unsatisfying lack of entertainment.

It is this spurious proclamation once again as arts being elitist and not ‘of and for the people’ that is the Liberals platform for the state’s arts funding. It is absolutely despicable and purposefully offensive. The Liberals arts platform, which specifically and intentionally snubs any dialogue with actual artists in the state can be reduced to this: regional eisteddfods good, Melbourne arts bad. This, we are supposed to believe will return Victoria to the forefront of arts excellence.

A couple of days ago, William Gibson, who remains one of the foundations of my, I guess you could say, imagined utopian world view, quoted another author whom I haven’t read. Zadie Smith in an interview on KCRW said this about the role of readers:

But the problem with readers, the idea we’re given of reading is that the model of a reader is the person watching a film, or watching television. So the greatest principle is, “I should sit here and I should be entertained.” And the more classical model, which has been completely taken away, is the idea of a reader as an amateur musician. An amateur musician who sits at the piano, has a piece of music, which is the work, made by somebody they don’t know, who they probably couldn’t comprehend entirely, and they have to use their skills to play this piece of music. The greater the skill, the greater the gift that you give the artist and that the artist gives you. That’s the incredibly unfashionable idea of reading. And yet when you practice reading, and you work at a text, it can only give you what you put into it. It’s an old moral, but it’s completely true.

— Boing Boing

Contrast this, in which the audience is afforded an intelligence, sophistication, and active engagement and appreciation of a work with the Liberal Party policy in which as dumb fodder for sub-literate trolls, a work of art is entertainment to be passively consumed, and in which any qualities from the preceding millenniums, the transcendental capacity of art to shape and elevate our world, are annulled and replaced by a policy to restore accountability to arts spending.

Continue reading

shit if this is gonna’ be that kind of party

Actually it took longer than the time Rumsfeld used to announce he was bailing out of the White House to find that the Beastie Boys used that sample on Ill Communication (as in ~”I’m gonna’ stick my dick in the mashed potatos”). The last time I was actually happy about elections in the US was when Bill “don’t ask don’t tell” Clinton got into power. And promptly disappointed the pink vote. Or something.

Last night I went to sleep (plus nightmares) thankful at least the Democrats had taken the House of Representatives in a quite unequivocal damning of Bush and his cronies (who are all now trying to pass the blame onto anyone within Improvised Explosive Device range), but kinda disappointed the Senate was not going to also get turned over. So today, with the really spectacular news the Democrats got the Senate too, I really feel like pretending for a few minutes that after six years of tyranny, things are finally going to get better. I’ll be back to my usual misanthropic self shortly.

Anyway, who gives a fuck? What Australia cares about is Britney ditched K-Fed.

axis of evil

I’m considering applying for refugee status to the Belgium Consulate.

Howard winning the election again, gaining votes, and the emergence of Family First on an odious right-wing homophobic platform gives me no hope for this country.

The result means Howard and his private school gang of born-again christains can continue turning Tasmania into a clear-felled desert, and continue to preside over one of the poorest environmental records in the world. They also have a mandate to continue their evisceration of the pubilc health welfare and education systems, all of which constitute the bare essentials of any caring democracy.

The worst thing for me is that when I walk outside today, the majority of the people I look at will be people who share a similar view. I can’t live in a country of such selfish, parochial, and just plain nasty people.

When I first came to Australia, I would say that outside of South Africa, this had to be the most racist country in the world. This always provoked outrage and a stream of invective to prove otherwise. But after how many years now of a political party that prides itself on the same bigotry and hatred that undelies racism, this country has swung far into the territory it professes to abhor.

As for the future of the arts in Australia, it will only be more of the same. The government has sustained such a fierce and hostile attack on the arts during its terms, there is no reason to expect anything less than a continued savaging of what little remains. When the majority of young artists in a country intend to leave in the next couple of years, and the institutions which train them are in real danger of being unable to continue, this is a community in serious and immediate crisis caused by the very government which has just returned.

I have no hope for any future as an artist here, and am only thankful that I will be leaving on Thursday anyway. I’m not sure where I will go after my time in Taiwan until early next year, but it won’t be back to Australia. Until the Howard government falls, and Australia stops its vile addiction to the worst of the right-wing’s view of the world, I can’t and won’t live here.

This is why we’re in power and you’re not

The Standing Committee of China’s parliament insane dictatorship, the National People’s Congress ruled today that Hong Kong will not have direct elections in 2007, making a mockery of the Basic Law. The new ruling effectively denies Hong Kong citizens the right to appoint a democratically elected successor to the risible Tung Chee-hwa in 2007 and all law-makers the following year.

With the Basic Law now little more than fancy toilet paper, democracy has become a fanciful notion bearing no relation to reality, as an endless stream of power-addicted officials pay lip service to the idea and hamstring any likelihood of its realization in the next few years.

Associated Press today reported Hong Kong delegate to the Standing Committee

Tsang Hin-chi said the Chinese lawmakers had acted “according to Hong Kong’s actual situation” and that they had listened to Hong Kong public opinion.

Hong Kong lawmaker Fred Li accused Beijing of “dictating Hong Kong policy” without regard to public opinion. Li said the decision violated Beijing’s promise to give Hong Kong a great deal of autonomy when it was returned from Britain to China in 1997.

So Hong Kong has become another jewel in the imperial crown of Cina, just like Tibet, just like Xinjiang, and just like they want to do with Taiwan. One country two systems? More like a knife in the back.