Ramadan Kareem

 


Elevate your soul
Levitate your spirit
Reach for perfection
Reach for God
And sure enough he
Will reach back to you

30 days… to forget…
that you are human,
to forget the material,
to forget the mass,
to forget the body,
and taste the realm of heaven…

A month… to forget…
that you are human,
and to remember…
that you are a soul.

Ramadan Kareem… Allah Akram


 

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What is this nothing?!

nothing_by_liquidsunnyday

“Everything is Nothing”
“True… but if everything is nothing, don’t you agree that nothing is everything?”
“NO! just because our world is turning to nothingness, doesn’t mean that nothingness is the world!”
“But everything has always been nothing… and nothing is never anything!”
“Wrong again, Nothing wasn’t always everything! Some things used to mean something!”
“Errrrr! You are starting to confuse me! But again I disagree, Nothing was always the governing rule… everything is heading for nothing, and nothing is the eventual end of everything!”
“Well then nothing is something in itself!”
“Meaning?”
“If Nothing is the end of everything, that means that nothing is the norm! the natural state of anything is nothing, it is the state that everything (being not being at rest because it is not nothing) aspires and fights to be in, and this is why everything is heading to nothing…”
“Ok, so?”
“And since the end of everything must mean something then nothing, being the ultimate end of everything must be something in it’s own self…”
“who said that the end of everything must mean something?! Why can’t it mean nothing?”
“Because, if it means nothing, then we’re nothing!”
“And what’s wrong with that? Who told you that we are anything or something?”
“You think that our existence means nothing?!”
“No! but I’m asking why should it mean anything?!”
“Because else wise it would mean nothing!”
“and whats wrong with that?”
“……”
“Do you know what our existence means?”
“…..”
“Then maybe it means nothing… and maybe nothing means something… and maybe nothing just means nothing… and maybe nothing means everything…….”

2005

Israel in Gaza: A Critical Reframing

A Palestinian family reacts as they rush past a burning building after an Israeli missile strike in the Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008. Israeli warplanes pressing one of Israel's deadliest assaults ever on Palestine dropped bombs and missiles on a top security installation and dozens of other targets across Hamas-ruled Gaza on Sunday. Israel's Cabinet authorized a callup of at least 6,500 reserve soldiers, suggesting plans to expand an offensive against Gaza rocket squads that has already killed some 280 Palestinians. (AP Photo/Eyad Baba)

 

by Jeff Halpe, Saturday, January 10, 2009

Israel’s core messages, listed below, argue for the justice of its cause in Gaza , cast Israel as the victim and ensure that its war is seen not in terms of occupation but of the broader Western struggle against terror. The critical reframing we offer, that of Israelis committed to human rights, international law and a just peace as the only way out of this interminable and bloody conflict, argues that security cannot be achieved unilaterally while one side oppresses the other and that Israel’s attack on Gaza is merely another attempt to render its Occupation permanent by destroying any source of effective resistance. It argues that Israel could have avoided all attacks upon it over the last twenty years, and the rise of Hamas, if it had genuinely negotiated a two-state solution with the Palestinian leadership. Israel , the strong party and the Occupying Power, is not the victim. Indeed, its attack on Gaza is a form of State Terrorism.

 

  • Israeli PR: Like all countries, Israel has a right and duty to defend its citizens. Israel , acting as any life-loving nation would, has a right to be a normal country living in peace and security.

    Critical Reframing: To pursue offensive policies of prolonged occupation as well as sanctions, boycotts and closures that impoverish a civilian population, and to then refuse to engage with that population’s elected leaders, is not defending ones’ citizens. To expect your citizens to live in security while a million and a half subjugated people just a few kilometers away live in misery is both unrealistic and presumptive. Israel will only be able to defend its citizens – which is indeed its duty – if it addresses the causes of their insecurity, a 41 year-old occupation.

 

  • Israeli PR: Israel had no choice but to attack in response to the barrage of 8,500 Hamas rockets fired from Gaza into Israel over the past eight years that have killed 20 Israeli civilians.

    Critical Reframing: In the past three years alone Israel – together with the US , Europe and Japan – imposed an inhumane siege of Gaza while conducting a campaign of targeted assassinations and attacks throughout the cease-fire that left 1,700 Palestinians dead. Hamas’ barrage did not exist in a vacuum. This war is no “response:” it is merely a more deadly round of the tit-for-tat arising out of a political vacuum. The rocket firings could have been avoided had there been a genuine political horizon. To present the “barrage” as an independent event disassociated from wider Israeli policies that led to them is disingenuous.

 

  • Israeli PR: There is no occupation – in general, but specifically in Gaza . Israel ended its occupation of Gaza in 2005 with the “disengagement.” Gaza could have flourished as the basis of a Palestinian state, but its inhabitants chose conflict.

    Critical Reframing: Economic development, not to mention a political process which might have prevented the violence on both sides, was actively prevented by both Israel and its international supporters, which share responsibility for the present tragedy in Gaza . At no time since the “disengagement” did Israel ever relinquish or even loosen its control. The closure remained in force, including by sea; Gazans were never allowed to reopen their sea or air ports; nor were any conditions conducive to economic development allowed. Israel ’s claim that there has never been an occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza is rejected by every member of the international community. Neither does it accept Israel ’s claim that occupation ended in 2005, since the definition of occupation in international law has to do with exercising effective control of a foreign territory, which Israel obviously does over Gaza .

 

  • Israeli PR: Only Hamas violated the cease-fire, and thus it carries full responsibility.

    Critical Reframing: Israel and Hamas agreed to a truce (through Egypt ) by which Israel would allow the opening of the Gazan border crossings (at least partially) in return for an end to rocket fire on Israel . Hamas largely, though not entirely, kept its part of the bargain; Israel almost never did. Killings of Palestinians from the air continued, and on the American election day in early November it attacked the tunnels (which functioned as alternative means of supplying Gaza in the absence of open borders, which would have allowed control over the movement of arms), killing a number of Hamas people. In response Hamas launched rockets and….the truce began breaking down.

 

  • Israeli PR: Israel is only attacking the “infrastructure of terror” in Gaza and only targets Hamas fighters.

    Critical Reframing: Being the elected government, all the infrastructure, from traffic cops to schools to military installations, “belong” to Hamas. It is clear that Israeli attacks go beyond “the infrastructure of terror.” Who’s a “Hamas fighter?” The graduating class of traffic cops that was slaughtered in the first aerial attack on Gaza ? Professors and students who attend the “Hamas” Islam ic University? Family members of Hamas military figures? People who voted for Hamas? All, but for those actively participating in hostilities, would be defined as civilians under international law.

 

  • Israeli PR: Civilians may die, but it’s because Hamas hides its fighters and weapons factories among ordinary people.

    Critical Reframing: Israel’s military headquarters are located in the center of Tel Aviv, the military headquarters over the West Bank are in the densely populated civilian settlement Neveh Ya’akov in East Jerusalem, the Pentagon is located in downtown Washington D.C. and the British Ministry of Defence is located in central London. Hamas, of course, as both a government and a military organization, carries responsibility for protecting the civilian population and keeping the fighting away from them but the question that should be asked, and never is, is why western nations who do the same are not faced with such criticism?

 

  • Israeli PR: Hamas is a terrorist organization that refuses to recognize Israel or enter into a political process.

    Critical Reframing: Which Israel should Hamas recognize? 1947 U.N. partition borders? 1967 borders? With annexed East Jerusalem ? With the settlement blocs? So long as Israel refuses to define its borders then there is only an abstract concept available for recognition. Hamas has openly declared that it will de facto recognize Israel on the 1967 borders. Israel has made no such offers to any Palestinian faction, government or representatives.

 

  • Israeli PR: Hamas is a global problem, part of Islam ist fundamentalism together with Iran and Hezbollah and therefore Israel is only doing its part in the West’s agreed-upon War on Terror.

    Critical Reframing: Hamas started as a social welfare organization that was allowed by Israel to develop as a political force in Occupied Palestine to weaken the standing of the secular PLO. There also, was no Hezbollah prior to the 1982 Israeli invasion. The theocrats in Iran were an organized but quite small political force until the U.S. overthrew Iran ’s democracy. The local population will always resist when foreign countries try to oppose their will and the resistance will not always be pretty. Painting Hamas as part of a global conspiracy when it’s a product of the Occupation itself is disingenuous and a gross distortion of history.

 

Dr. Jeff Halper, an American-born Jew and founding director or The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, gives the following analysis and important reframing of the talking-points we so commonly hear from the Israeli PR machine.  As an Israeli citizen for the last 35 years, Jeff offers a vital perspective, from personal experience.

No Parliament, No cry!

On the 5th of November 1605, Guy Fawkes (Fox) sought to humiliate and end the English Monarchy, by blowing up the House of Parliament, in what is now known as “The Gunpowder treason and plot”. Guy Fawkes plot failed and he was arrested that night and executed on the 31st of January 1606. The 5th of November, now known as the Bonfire Night, is still celebrated in England till present day, some celebrate the plot’s failure, others celebrate the attempt.

Here in modern day Egypt we do not need an evil perpetrator to humiliate us, we humiliate ourselves. Tuesday the 19th of August 2008 should go down in Egyptian history as the ultimate celebration of our failure as a nation, the day we lost our dignity to fire, smoke and incompetence.

Yesterday a massive fire ravaged the 19th century palace that housed the upper house of Egypt’s parliament (Shura Council). Flames started from the roof and within the course of two hours worked its way downwards through the building; soon enough the blaze soared upward from the top floor of the three-story building, and much of the interior appeared gutted.

It took the first fire truck to an hour and a half to arrive at the site and Yahoo! News reports that: “While firefighters focused on one corner of the building, the blaze burned unabated on the other side, spreading to the second floor with periodic explosions and showers of sparks…. Hours after the fire erupted only three trucks were hosing down the building, apparently due to water shortages.” Meanwhile Al Jazeera was showing comical footage of two army helicopters scooping water from the Nile River to and blindly pouring  it over the blaze site, of course without any immediate (or non immediate) effect.

Come dusk, downtown Cairo was covered in a cloud of thick black smoke; smoke billowed over the metropolitan capital and could be seen from as far as Maadi district. The once prestigious building have miraculously (or in this case tragically) turned into an uncontrollable inferno, and the poor Egyptian fire fighters aided by the army and national security forces were unable to do anything to save the building.

Later on, parts of the buildings ceiling collapsed and news reporters were quoting witnesses saying that the building was utterly destroyed and burnt to the ground. Parliament’s archive room, library and several large meeting chambers were all destroyed. Firefighters doused surrounding buildings with water to prevent them from igniting, but flames continued to rage past midnight.

Reportedly there were no casualties and less than 20 people were hospitalized, mostly workers and firefighters.

Twelve hours after the fire started, there was still no official word on the cause of the fire. However some security officials said they had ruled out terrorism, and that an electrical short-circuit had likely sparked the fire.

Now whether the building was set ablaze or not, that’s not the question right now -although honestly if it was arson, it would be a little more dignified and face saving-  the question is: How did our ever vigilant  police force and courageous fire fighters allow a symbol of the government, the nation and it’s dignity, which also happens to be a historical building, be burnt to the ground?

When asked about why the fire fighters couldn’t control the fire, Cairo governor Abdul Azim Wazir, the interior affairs ministry spokesmen and other officials, kept repeating to the reporters the same foolish ridiculous answer: “We have to put in mind that building is old and contains a lot of wood… Wood is an inflammable substance!”. No shit? Wood is flammable? That’s odd… I thought it was used in making fire matches because it was fireproof and fire-retardant. Obviously I was wrong, turns out that our governmental officials are the ones who are RETARDants.

We get the picture, the building is old, it contains a lot flammable substances, which means we have to be a little more careful, and fire proof the building in more efficient ways, especially when we are talking about the house of parliament (Think US Capitol).

As usual, the Egyptian government does not learn from its mistakes, here is a list of fires that took place in downtown area alone during the past years:

  • In the early 70’s the Royal Opera House was destroyed by fire
  • August 2005 a huge fire brought down a building in the downtown neighborhood of Abdin.
  • March 2007 Fire destroyed Cairo’s shanty town in downtown Cairo on Tuesday, leaving about 1,000 people homeless. A police officer said the fire was caused by (again) an electrical short circuit.

So where the hell is the surprise? Fire, eats out the structures of old buildings and brings them down… Did no one in the fire department know that before? All the more reasons to enforce fire-safety codes on old building as well as new ones!

I don’t care about the 91 fire trucks on site (as reported by Cairo governor), I care about how many of these trucks were actually fighting the fire, apparently not many according to global news agencies. The two army helicopters scooping water from the Nile were a tragically comic scene, is it really that hard to get fire fighting choppers these days? Especially that fires seems to be a recurring “incident” in Modern Egypt.

Yahoo! News reported: “Egypt requires some fire-safety measures in buildings, including fire extinguishers, but in general the rules are not strictly enforced.” Just as they reported after the Lauran building collapse that: “Buildings regularly collapse in Egypt.”

When will it end?

When will our government value the Egyptian citizens and their dignity?

The 6th of April: Gunpowder, treason and plot

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I first heard of yesterday’s failed “National strike” on March 24th, through a blog post on a friend of a friend’s blog, this guy was going on about why he will not be participating in yesterday’s strike, but mind this guy, I too decided that I will have none of it, but for different reasons.

The invitation to the strike read:

“All national forces in Egypt have agreed upon the 6th of April to be a public strike.
On the 6th of April, stay home, do not go out; Don’t go to work, don’t go to the university, don’t go to school, don’t open your shop, don’t open your pharmacy, don’t go to the police station, don’t go to the camp;
We need salaries allowing us to live, we need to work, we want our children to get education, we need human transportation means, we want hospitals to get treatment, we want medicines for our children, we need just judiciary, we want security, we want freedom and dignity, we want
apartments for youth;
We don’t want prices increase, we don’t want favoritism, we don’t want police in plain clothes, we don’t want torture in police stations, we don’t want corruption, we don’t want bribes, we don’t want detentions.
Tell your friends not to go to work and ask them to join the strike.”

Which sound pretty good, in concept! But, first things first, what is a strike?

A strike is a work stoppage caused by the mass refusal by employees to perform work. It is illegal or partially illegal in most parts of the world.

A general strike is a strike action by a critical mass of citizens in a city, region or country. It can be for political goals, economic goals, or both, it tends to gain its momentum from the ideological or class sympathies of the participants. It is very rare to occur and the successful or notable ones are only handful of ones.

These two are forms of direct action, which is basically a form of political activism which seeks immediate direct changes to social injustice, as opposed to indirect actions which is mainly participating in elections.

The main problem with direct action is that it includes both, nonviolent and violent activities. And in a society like ours (and actually most societies), it usually takes the later form. Remember what happened in France a couple of years ago?

And that is why I deemed yesterdays strike will be a failure, simply because:

1. With the current lack of true political awareness, things were bound to go wrong.

2. It seemed very unlikely to succeed in achieving anything as the invitations for the strike was targeted at members of the middle class and upper middle class, via mobile phones, e-mails & facebook invitations!

3. As much as I resent the government (and all governments for that matter) I’m not going to be someone else’s doll.

And I believe that that is what was taking place; the strike was called (outside Egypt) “the Kefaya general strike”. And I hate the fact that someone or some organization would exploit the latest national strife on account of achieving their own goals and hidden agendas.

The strike invitation listed that the strike was “scheduled” after a meeting held and represented by Egyptian people forces: Ghazl Al-Mahala workers (who are striking since last year expressing their demands to increase their wages to be in line with price hikes, their strikes were followed by a series of strikes by many working sectors in Egypt); Al-Karama Party; Al-Wasat Party; Labor Party; Kefaya Movement; the Bar Association; Educational Workers Movement; Grain Mills Workers; they expect a positive response regarding Muslim Brotherhood participation and support in the strike.

However it didn’t list one party of those mention above as the leader or main “inciter” of the strike, not to mention that there was no single unified set of goals or demands that the strike aims to achieve! The ones written in the invitation are so broad and vague, they can’t possibly all be met as a result of a limited strike!

Why this strike was bound to fail in my opinion is, that outside Cairo and 4 or 5 other major cities, no one even heard of the so called general strike, and even in the cities that did, citizens beyond a certain payroll didn’t hear or care about that strike. (and these are the people who are actually standing in the bread queues)

The strike was not organized action, and in a lot of its aspect a continuation of INACTION.

For the most part, people who participated in yesterday’s events, didn’t have any idea on what they were participating in, didn’t have a clear outline of what they should do, and more importantly didn’t have a goal or set of objective that they hope to achieve by their strike.

Thus it lacked all the forms of civil disobedience, it was not a successful general strike, nor was it a public demonstration. It didn’t convey any message to anyone. And the real people of Egypt, (most of which don’t have an email or facebook account) were not affected or even emotionally touched by the strike.

What the strike was however, is a meaningless and tasteless half cooked meal of half strike/half demonstration and combo police force. It was a boring episode that didn’t catch the attention of anyone on the 9 o’clock news. And at the end of day, was reduced to another set of disturbing pictures that are circulated by email, to prove how bad our government is, which we already know!

I don’t claim to know the solution to our national strife, I don’t claim that I offer a better solution, however, based on personal experience, I know that lacking organization and ideology, civil disobedience is often reduced to a band of barbaric mob, and I know that the hard way.

And this I don’t approve of, and will not take part in.

If you really want to be positive, and show your solidarity with the people of your country, consider “charity” and if that’s not enough for you and you feel that you are bigger and more capable than that, lead and ORGANIZE a “Peaceful Revolution”, a people’s revolution, and then and only then, I guarantee you will get the Egyptian people on board as well as myself.

With that said, and because i hate to be a disappointment to the readers, here are the circulated photos of yesterday’s unfortunate events.

Alex catastrophe: I blame the media!

Follow up on my last article; Alex catastrophe: The Wakeup call…

 

As is the case with tragedies like the Louran building collapse; they bring us to question all the role players on the scene, Government, society, local authorities, District office, engineers & of course the media.

The global media coverage is in the least, sad but true, it gives us a painful insight about how we’re viewed as a nation worldwide, and it’s not by any means an optimistic or admirable image.

The CNN coverage stated that:

Buildings regularly collapse in Egypt, either as a result of deterioration with time or shoddy construction that fails to meet standards and regulations.”

Al Jazeera, Reuters, Herald tribune & New York Times coverage gave statements to the same effect. As for the MSNBC, they went further to state:

“Shoddy materials, illegal construction and a culture of corruption were blamed for the deaths of more than three dozen people buried when a 12-story apartment building crumbled to the ground.”

That’s how we are viewed globally now, as a culture of corruption!

However, what’s even more upsetting was the Egyptian media’s coverage. The Egyptian media’s coverage of the incident confirmed that our media is still divided into two halves; which I’ve named the appeasers & the inciters.

The appeasers being of course the sector of the media that is indirectly sponsored & controlled by the government, those work as somewhat an unpaid PR agency for the government, trying to pacify and soothe the society in the face of such tragedy.

Therefore the information communicated by this sector is somewhat true, but is often unreliable because it is toned down to the maximum.

As for the inciters, they are of course all the yellow tabloids and opposition owned media, which tend to do the exact opposite, blow the news out of proportion and exaggerate it to the other extreme.

Those two faces of the coin are equally untrustworthy for getting facts and objective information. And usually in a lot of these cases they both worsen the sufferings of those directly affected by the tragedy, with their mixed false information and uncertain facts.

An example of this is the “Al Masry Al Youm” coverage which on 28/12/2007, on its website published the news of the death of Roba Ayoub & all of her family. Although at the time Roba (God bless her soul) was still under the rubble. Continue reading

Alex catastrophe: The Wakeup call!

This is a refined version of my article; Awake: the collapse of buildings and morals, it was published in Campus magazine March 2008 issue. To view the older article click here

dedicated to Roba Salah Ayoub, may God bless her & rest her soul

“We wish you a merry Christmas,

We wish you a merry Christmas,

& Happy new year…”

The jingle goes. Unfortunately that was not the case in Alexandria…

One day before Christmas, & right after Adha eid, on Monday the 24th of December morning; Alexandria woke up to another horror, to maintain the series of tragedies the city have been plagued with during the recent years.

The Lauran residential building collapse claimed 35 innocent lives (including 2 complete families) & took both the city and the nation by surprise. Amongst whom is “Roba Salah Ayoub” may God rest her soul & also 4 other members of her family.

I came to know her during my study in Arab Academy, Alex. and the least I can say about her is that she was a young and vibrant character, with a kind heart & a bright future awaiting her; fate has it that she was one of the many victims of this tragic collapse. And this touched me deeper than I imagined such thing would, as I’m sure it did to all those who knew her.

On Sunday the 30th the authorities announced the end of search and rescue operations, and left the city celebrating the New Year by burying it’s loved ones. Only 3 survived the disaster, all were pulled out of the rubble during first 48 following the collapse.

The apartment block, which was originally built as a seven-storey structure, was built without a license, in 1982. The owner later obtained a permit, and then added an illegal extra five floors.

On site witnesses have recounted that the rescue operations were well coordinated, and surprisingly humane. Except for a territorial feud that occurred on the first day between the army and the National Guard forces on-site, everything went smoothly, and everybody did the best they can.

Up till here the news is pretty normal (if we consider a building collapse a normal occurrence), buildings fall everywhere right?

It’s a painful tragedy by all standards, true, but yet it’s not as tragic as a ferry sinking, and taking 1,000 passengers down with it, one might say. So normally this feature should end here, and with a little prayer for the victims of the Louran Building, I should conclude this article.

Unfortunately this is not the case, buildings fall everywhere, that’s right, but not as regularly as they do in Egypt.

During the last 8 years only, (starting with the turn of the century) we had about 20 building collapses in various areas of Egypt, 5 of which was during the last two years. (Almost as frequent as, say, rock concerts?!) Continue reading