DAY 89: Those Elections

May 28th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

As shocked as you all are by the earthquake of the Euro-elections, I hastened as you probably did to grab a reassuring copy of Le Monde, from which it appeared that there was not too much to panic about. The neoliberals had won again, as they always do. I agree that the rise of parties whose members hate Romanians (except in Romania, where they hate Roma) is disturbing; but the true picture is best shown by the following pie-chart which I drew up thanks to my faltering grasp of Excel and a rather inaccurate reference to the actual results:

Screen shot 2014-05-29 at 09.14.40

European Parliament membership (projections)

As you can see, the august European Parliament is not about to be engulfed by beer-swilling, cigar-smoking populist skinheads. Is it, even so, the time to revive the Popular Front? Those of us who were alive in those times (say between 1936 and 1940) – and I count myself, though by the time I was two years old there wasn’t much left of it – are still nostalgic. Though building a mass movement on the basis of nostalgia for something which failed seventy years ago seems a doubtful programme.

The hand of God (cont.)

I have been unjust – not for the first time – to the current Pope, who, whatever one’s natural prejudices against Argentinians, seems a bit more like Roncalli than Montini, Wojtyla, or that German shit. Since his trip to Bethlehem, that is, and the iconic (that word again) moment at the WallPope Francis touches the wall that divides Israel from the West Bank in the West Bank city of Bethlehem

On which Richard Falk, long-term human rights hack has come up with an appropriate commentary.

In related news, if you are still up to reading about Israeli injustices: tomorrow , Monday June 2, 2014, at 9 am, the Supreme Court in Jerusalem will hear the appeal of the heirs of Sheikh Suleiman Al-Ukbi regarding the right of ownership of land at Al Araqib and Zazhilika, northwest of Be’er Sheba. The panel including Justices Elyahim Rubinstein , Esther Hayut and Salim Jubran will deliberate on an appeal of the ruling of Judge Sarah Dovrat of the Be’er Sheba District Court , who had ruled against the heirs.

Nuri al-Ukbi , a veteran Bedouin rights campaigner who is one of the appellants , said : “In 1951, members of my tribe were expelled from their village and lands in Al Araqib , and deported by force to Hora, about twenty kilometers to the east, close to the then border with Jordan. The authorities in the State of Israel used methods of intimidation and fraud in order to justify the criminal deportation of civilians from their homes and lands.

Documents and written history  prove that  Araqib was a place of residence and cultivated land of the al-Ukbi Tribe for generations , ever since the days of the Ottoman Empire , and they still lived there during the first four years after the establishment of Israel. As a citizen of Israel, Sheikh Suleiman Muhammad al-Ukbi voted in the first elections to the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) in 1949 , the ballot box being placed at his residence in El Araqib. The same residence served every Monday and Thursday as the venue for a Tribal Court, acting under authorization of the State of Israel and sitting with it National Flag and State Emblem displayed. Then, the state suddenly turned on its Bedouin citizens and violated their basic  rights, solely because of their ethnicity, and in 1951 expelled them mercilessly from their land. We have appealed to the Be’er Sheva District Court, seeking justice – and were rejected. We hope that the Supreme Court will now redress this long-lasting injustice.”

Attorney Michael Sfard, who represents the appellants , said : ” For the first time was  joined together a team of experts on Geography , Judicial History and International Law to challenge the legal doctrine by which the State of Israel for decades dispossessed the Negev Bedouin and denied their land rights.  has

The appellants seek to overturn a precedent set in the early 1980’s, under which the determination regarding Bedouin rights is made by examining the Negev situation in the Nineteenth Century and relying extensively on travelogues published by European missionaries, who asserted that at that time there were no fixed Bedouin abodes and that the Bedouins maintained no agriculture in the Negev. These were momentary ans superficial guests from another continent ,who  judged what was and was not “an agricultural settlement” by European standards. They failed to notice that the people which they saw were living on the land,  maintaining agriculture under the harsh conditions of an arid region and with endless struggle making use of every drop of water available to them.

As part of a research conducted on behalf of the appellants , there were submitted to the Be’er Sheva District Court dozens of documents found at archives in Israel and abroad – indicating that the precedent set in the eighties was based both on a judicial error and on an incorrect analysis of the reality of the Negev in the Nineteenth Century . However, Judge Dovrat in the District Court preferred to cling to the precedent and ignored the innovative facts presented to her. Now the Supreme Court will have to deliberate on the issue.

A central argument brought by the appellants  is that the state practices a blatant  double standard: On the one hand, it does not recognize Bedouin land ownership in the Negev; on the other, it does recognize the land deeds in transactions when Zionist organizations bought Bedouin land at Ottoman British Mandatory times. At the time, naturally, Zionist bodies such as the JNF and Hachsharat Ha’Yishuv did recognize the rights of the Bedouin sellers over the land, and paid an appropriate price for their land.

Importance of the deliberations goes beyond the specific question of ownership in the lands of Araqib Village, which in recent years has become a symbol . Success of the appellants can also affect hundreds of other land disputes between the state and the Bedouin, and might even impact the  status of the government’s ‘Prawer  Plan’, which assumes that the Bedouin of the Negev have no land ownership rights.

True or false?

1. Yotam Ottolenghi’s real name is Paddy McPhee, and he lives in Haggerston.

2. Jupiter has over 60 moons.

3. The Second Coming of Jesus will occur within one Biblical generation of the founding of the State of Israel.

4. A simply-connected closed 3-manifold is homeomorphic to a 3-sphere.

5.Richard III is still alive.

6. Osama Bin Laden is still alive and is working for the NSA.

7. Money grows on trees.

8. The security at the Aljazeera office in Doha is controlled by the Qatar police, and if you call them stupid you risk a jail sentence.

More later; I’m conscious of my failure to keep the blog up to date owing to the constant nagging need to insert enough material for a decent-sized entry. Enough of that! More of this post will follow, in the meanwhile here‘s Ernst Busch’s rendering of the ‘Einheitsfrontlied’;

and here, in contrast, is the bewitching Ayano Kataoka performing Xenakis’ ‘Rebonds A’.  Can’t get enough of that Greek Commie mathematical soul.

DAY 88: 长河沉寂地流向前去

May 16th, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

The above, I’ve been informed, is the first word of Dai Congrong’s bestselling translation of Joyce’s Finnegans Wake into Mandarin Chinese – which makes it available to 960 million people, though I doubt it’s on Kindle. ‘Word’ is stretching it a bit, indeed so is ‘translation’ since where the master of Zürich

james-joyce-finnegans-wakeMr Joyce and Ms Beach

employed the single word ‘riverrun’, Ms Dai writes literally ‘long river silently flowing forward’, five words and nine characters. Or so I’m assured by authorities who are more acquainted with their hanzi characters than I am. The rhythm of the sentence reminds me, and I expect you, irresistibly, of Borges’ translation into the idealist language of Tlön of the sentence ‘The moon rose above the river’: hlor u fang axaxaxas mlo, or literally ‘upward behind the onstreaming it mooned’ (‘Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’, II.)  But this is simply a coincidence, and Dai is surely a materialist

daiDai and friends

– although Bishop Berkeley inevitably makes an appearance (‘pidgin fella Balkelly’) in the Wake. I seem to be digressing again.. (Sources are cagey about Dai’s age, but rumours that she was a product of the Cultural Revolution have got to be wrong.)

On a related topic (movies), today’s award is the Bechdel Award, for films which satisfy the Bechdel Rule as follows:bechdel-test

(I hope your screen resolution is good enough for you to read it. If not, find it here. Two female characters who hold a conversation on something other than a man.) The Hobbit, Casablanca, and Alexander Nevsky fail (I think), but Chocolat passes, as well as Alien.

The Cup Final

– could we avoid it? And Arsenal are in, after a nailbiting semi against Chelsea, to face Everton on June 1st. I refer as usual to the women’s (or as it’s quaintly called, ‘ladies”) squad. Rather than post a pin-up of (say) Shinobu Ohno, Danielle Carter or Freda Ayisi, let’s look at some of those north London nine-year olds gun__1391159185_ladies_festival2who will be the backbone of the lady Gunners when M. Wenger is pushing up the pissenlits.


This week’s app is the hugely popular iNakba, produced by the Israeli ‘memorial’ organization Zochrot,presentation3which ‘provides coordinates and maps of Palestinian localities that were completely demolished and obliterated after their capture, partially demolished, or remained standing although their residents were expelled.  The maps also show buildings that were left in these localities, provide historical information and include video clips and photographs.’ Unfortunately only available on the iPhone, as its name would seem to imply. Not so, we are told – it’s ‘shortly’ to be on Android; and anyway the ‘i’ in iNakba is the first person singular as in moi or ego. This may in any case the meaning of the ‘i’ in iPhone; those of us who have nothing better than an idPhone will have to wait for Freud’s promised upgrade: Wo Es war dort soll Ich sein.

Human Rights (Britain, torture, etc.)

Readers (e.g. Guardian readers) who are always looking out for a reason to knock our country’s human rights record in comparison (say)  with that of Somalia or the DRC will be cheered at the news that HMG is facing the prospect of being hauled up before the ICC over torture and other human rights abuses in Iraq; putting Mr Cameron potentially in the dock with Karadzic and Charles Taylor. There’s a good case; I bet they (the Brits, not the Guardian readers) now wish that, like the US, they’d held back from signing up to the Rome Statute. See of course A & Ors v. SSHD no. 2 (2005) per Lord Bingham on the ‘non-immutability’ of the definition of torture – the problem of shifting goalposts in the human rights field.

Poetry Corner

(To mark International Conscientious Objectors day, a bit late. Same as Nakba Day, is this a coincidence?)

‘Futility’ – Wilfred Owen

Move him into the sun –
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields unsown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.

Think how it wakes the seeds, –
Woke, once, the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides,
Full-nerved – still warm – too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
– O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth’s sleep at all?


Have we had any Bellini? Have I posted Casta Diva? Too hackneyed, you’ll say, with reason. Here’s Anna Netrebko with the mad scene ‘Vien, diletto’ from I Puritani. Let the Youtube pseudo-experts sneer, she has my vote.


DAY 87:

May 4th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink


The blog returned from a week’s hard work in the Languedoc to discover that, to its surprise, Fatah and Hamas had agreed to form a unity government. (Yet again, I hear you say.) No hint of this had appeared in the pages of the Midi-Libre, which was more concerned with the disgrace of Montpellier in the First Division, with the dubious figures appointed by the new Front National mayor of Béziers, and the outlook for the vendanges following the recent drought. So I had to do some hasty catching up with the analyses which had been thudding into my mailbox, from Rashid Khalidi to Amira Hass. What can I add?

I’ll simply note that those who (like Ali Abunimah) claim that a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation can’t work because the parties hate each other and have diametrically opposed principles are confused about what politics is about. Remember Hitler and Stalin in 1939, or Stalin and Roosevelt in 1941? I expect you’re too young.

In totally unrelated news, Zochrot is launching a new app for refugees, ‘iNakba’, which will enable you to locate 1948-era destroyed Palestinian villages and, I think, add your own and your family’s information. 8 p.m. in Tel Aviv if you’re there.

Human Rights Law

My old friend Slavoj Zizek’s observation that human rights lawyers are the modern equivalent of rock stars (no, maybe he didn’t say that exactly, but he has said many things along the same lines) found eloquent confirmation with the news that Amal-Clooney-Rexv2long-term bachelor George Clooney is engaged to the London-based Lebanese HR specialist Amal Amaluddin of Doughty St Chambers. (She’s represented  Julian Assange, but also Yulia Tymoshenko et al. Have they been meeting for dinner at the Ecuadorean embassy?) This blog hopes to open a dating column in which the defenders of the downtrodden and dispossessed can meet the rich and glamorous to their mutual advantage. I’d also like to point out to readers (I hesitate to say friends) in the more moderate wings of the jihadist movement that the kidnapping of a top Hollywood star while at an intimate date with a top Amnesty representative could be a double ransom opportunity.

As a sideline, I imagined a plot – could even be a West End musical. Lazy Jack is long-term unemployed, and his Jobcentre advisor requires him to do voluntary work at an asylum-seekers’ centre or lose his benefits. While working there, he runs into glamorous filmstar Scarlett whose agent has advised her to do similar work to boost her image. They sing duets, the asylum-seekers sing choruses, they click. I just need a villain, a composer, and a lyricist.


Returning briefly to the Languedoc: I was lambasted in the pages of Facebook for admitting I could only identify five birds from their song. No marks for honesty, then. Now I come up with a different problem: I can hear a hoopoehoopoe (one of the five) somewhere in the neighbourhood; it’s going on all the time driving me crazy. But I can’t see the dangblasted bird so as to get a fix on it with the old airgun. Is there, I wondered, an app for my phone which would locate the bird from the song? Of course there is, and as you might expect it’s a spinoff from the admirably advanced technology the military use to locate folks discussing plans for meetings in Tottenham or Kabul.


Having seen Canada’s Karen Solie highly praised in the LRB, I thought it best to take a look; and offer this for you to admire…

Gratitude toward the houseplants, shame
for what they must endure. Of particular concern,
the azalea, flowering like the gestures and cries
of someone off the trail who sees a
helicopter. And a long cold night is coming on.Is it dying or being killed?
When I’m 100 percent on what’s happening,
there’s still that niggling five. Too much
water, neglect, information. Decisions
made at the executive level.

Science tells us plants emit signatures and responses
on yet another frequency we cannot hear.
That’s all we need. When we were little we were
told our heads were in the clouds.
Now we suspect it is the opposite.


Today’s contribution is from the hugely popular Latvian postmodern folk group Iļģi (you may wonder how I managed to type that, or how you’d pronounce it). It’s a boppy, easy-listening number. Recommended.

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