DAY 170: The reckoning

May 28th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

13241325_10153793273274472_6345311678781689165_nYesterday, May 24th 2016, should certainly be remembered as a dreadful day in Calais. It’s possible that you heard nothing of it; for us, in our Calais-centred bubble, it was a day of trauma, with the camp riven by fights, tents and buildings burning 29f36edf-44bb-4e23-aa8f-72e4c9ac0911out of control. As the news came through, it was hard to avoid despair. We weren’t sure why, since we’d seen the disaster coming, and we knew, we still know that it couldn’t be, in any sense ‘the end’. Life had to go on. Still, 300 homes were destroyed, as was the New Ashram Kitchen; and many refugees were injured. More detailed assessments will have to wait. The human cost was appalling – people who had little enough already found themselves left with nothing. The first, most obvious thing to say is that the whole disaster would never have happened if it hadn’t been state policy to confine 5000 refugees in such a small area, to make their lives as hard as possible, piling on shortages of food and the resulting tensions, with no basic services and with the adoption of systematic neglect as a way of ‘managing’ the situation. The primary criminals, if we want to speak of crimes and responsibility, are the authorities of Calais and its department as they have been throughout. I refer you to today’s edition of the always reliable and hard-hitting ‘Passeurs d’hospitalités’, which highlights in particular: the scarcity of resources, and resulting competition; the state’s systematic denial of crisis; the increase in the proportion of Sudanese as against Afghans (who had been the principal group): ‘Whether it’s a question of meals, of showers, of places for women inside the Centre Jules Ferry or in the container camp: everything has been planned for a very much smaller number of people than the actual number present on the site. On top of that, the state’s arrangements make residents dependent, where a more intelligent action would encourage autonomy.’

In the last post I described the so-called ‘Big Clean-up’. This was a classic reaction on the part of volunteers to desperate neglect of hygiene by the authorities. While appealing for such actions, the volunteers’ organizations were constantly publicizing the shortages of basic foods, bedding, medicines – in short, of everything – in a situation where refugees were arriving all the time. As I mentioned, in our last visit as well as cleaning ditches, we were trying to help by bringing minimal supplies. When will we recognize that, for the past year, we have had a humanitarian crisis on our doorstep? And, of course, further; across the breadth of Europe, where the police have just closed the much larger camp at Idomeni. ‘About 400 riot police entered the camp at dawn on Tuesday to order the approximately 8,500 camp residents to leave. By sunset, around 2,000 had left voluntarily in 42 government buses for government-run camps, but thousands were still left in Idomeni overnight.

As the day drew to an end, Katy Athersuch, a spokesperson for Médecins Sans Frontières at the camp, said: “It’s still a non-violent situation, but it doesn’t mean it’s a normal situation. It’s not like people are being asked, they’re being told. There’s a very heavy police presence, with police telling people to leave – and then bulldozers coming to push over their tents.”’ (Guardian)

Ornithology This post is becoming so depressing that I think we should rapidly change the subject. Also on your doorstep, if you live in the Hebrides, (like my informant Judi Hodgkin) you may have noticed a corncrake (Crex crex) rootling corncrake_tcm9-17600around the bins – or heard its distinctive call. Given that it’s a migrant, you might probably suspect it of attempting to access our superior standard of benefits, which are probably quite tolerable in Scotland as opposed to Haringey (say). Which might explain the absence of corncrakes in Haringey. And speaking of migrants, have you noticed that the red kites, those Muslims of the bird world, which were imported to the Chilterns between  1989 and 1994 as picturesque and rare, have now become a pest and, like the Canada goose, the grey squirrel and the tree of heaven, threaten to become the dominant species. But weren’t they the dominant species before? Here we are again getting into a wrangle about ethics and migration which is exactly what I’d hoped to avoid. (Who were the original inhabitants of Palestine? And why did God see fit to encourage the Hebrews to go in for not just immigration but conquest? I know he’d promised the land to Abraham’s descendants, but did he have any idea how many descendants there were going to be?) Of course birds observe a ‘no borders’ policy, ignoring even the Israeli Separation masha-muralbWall; while goats need passports and travel documents. I think that the subject is escaping my powers of analysis, particularly when I reflect on the need to prevent the migration of some very small animals like viruses or even (in the case of BSE) prions. (Yes, I didn’t know what a prion was, but I’m not going to waste time telling you now.)

Anyway, to return to  Calais, the fire and the immediate disaster. You won’t be surprised to find that the response involves me and many of my ‘friends’ leaping into action. By about 8 p.m. the warehouse  was issuing the order that we should all hastily purchase tents, bedrolls, sleeping bags and what not. By 11, having exchanged about twenty facebook posts and despite  being rather slow on the uptake, I was on the Argos website, registering and doing all those timewasting tasks that Argos consider essential before they’ll deign to allow you to buy their substandard goods. We were wondering how, if we bought four tents in Brixton (say), we could find a volunteer to deliver them in Calais. Simultaneously, by one of those astonishing coincidences which rule our lives, James was trying to teach me the uses of WhatsApp, and found  that my friend Cleopatra (see previous post) was a contact. He typed ‘Hi’, she replied ‘Hi Luke’, and we were immediately deep in a virtual conversation about the appalling fire, the desperate situation,  the need for tents, and the possibility of purchasing and collecting them in Brixton. 13254626_1752649551624789_8807537700845360918_nWhence she was planning to leave for Calais the next day. It looks like brilliant organization; I’d call it Fate. All the same, we’re lucky to live in a part of the world where such things are possible. No Argos in Gaza, let alone Aleppo, will honour your credit card if all your worldly goods have been destroyed. And while we rage against the limits and the futility of our charitable efforts, what choice do we have but to buy the tents, take them over, and care? In that world without care which constantly threatens to engulf us and leave us absorbed in the doings of celebrities and the latest episode of ‘Game of Thrones’. Like Lear, having given all to my daughters and with an uncertain grasp on reality, I’m still able to observe the worse conditions of others around:

Poor naked wretches, whereso’er you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
Your looped and windowed raggedness, defend you
From seasons such as these? Oh, I have ta’en
Too little care of this! Take physic, pomp.
Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
That thou mayst shake the superflux to them
And show the heavens more just.

I can’t think of a better way of getting out of this cycle of despair than through music; in this case, the wonderful Anita O’Day, who was allegedly high on heroin throughout her showstopping performance at Newport. Here she gives a great performance of ‘The Peanut Vendor’, which my Cuban friends will know as ‘El Manisero’:

DAY 169: What it’s all about

May 24th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

DitchI think this is our team in the ditch, though the enlargement has made the focus so crap that it’s hard to say.

I was back in Calais on Sunday. Don’t expect me as a result to launch into an account of the indescribable filth and misery, the enthusiasm of the volunteers who cleared tons of garbage – dead tents, beer cans, cigarette packets, nameless unspecifiable objects out of dank stagnant ditches and by diligent gouging out of sludge – thanks Hala – made the ditches flow if a bit feebly, so probably stemming the spread of mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, Zika fever, chikugunya et al. (But she comes from Iraq, where they’ve been into irrigation since the third millennium BCE.) You’ll no doubt find an account of what all my friends, with a little feeble contribution from myself, made to what’s been grandly called the Big Clean-Up on the relevant facebook pages. Nor will I mention our contribution to  holding off (partially)the constant risk of starvation in the camp by transporting 300 litres of milk, 89 litres of oil, 5 kg of Palestinian dates and much else to the warehouse. Why go on about these things and needlessly seek for self-aggrandisement? Let others dwell on these achievements. In any case (to stay with the refugees for a brief instant more of your time), they continue to arrive, at the rate of 100 a day in Calais where the warehouse is constantly running out of supplies; and the governments across Europe are constantly increasing their efforts to clamp down on refugees and close borders . A report from Greece, as attempts to close Idomeni go ahead (Guardian of May 24th):

‘Thousands are stuck in wretched conditions in detention centres on the Greek islands, where dozens are on hunger strike to protest at their treatment. “This is my seventh day on hunger strike,” said Wassim Omar, a Syrian teacher detained on the island of Chios. “We don’t want to spend our lives here.”

Some are still attempting to reach Germany with the help of smugglers. “We hear that tomorrow we will all go to camps,” Abdo Raja, a 22-year-old Syrian at Idomeni, told the Associated Press on the eve of Idomeni’s clearance. “I don’t mind, but my aim is not reach the camps but to go Germany.”’

We – that’s you and me and several thousands of our comrades, reader, are going to have to rally for la lutte finale if we can hope to get anything done in these increasingly desperate conditions. The mud at Calais, you might say if you wanted to get metaphorical, is the tip of the iceberg.

Luckily for me, in any case what one seeks from a superior blog post such as I hope mine will be is not so much an update on the day’s events, but more a deeper understanding of human nature, particularly one’s own; so, say, that one emerges from ploughing through it feeling in some way enriched. To contribute some of this kind of material – as opposed to random facts like the population of Grenada, [which by a startling coincidence is at 100,000 roughly the same as that of Nablus] – I’d like to contribute some of the insights I had yesterday; after the usual cup of Syrian tea in a Syrian tent.



To begin with a bit of reflection on what preoccupies us: it’s easy to get interested in the life stories and struggles of refugees, as it is in the daily conditions of life of (say) students at an-Najah university – see earlier posts. As my friend Cleopatra movingly put it: ‘While we were in Calais over the weekend doing the Big Clean Up Event, I was walking with a friend of mine who is 77 who had come to help along. He suddenly lost his balance and while I tried to stop him falling a group of Syrian refugees came running over to offer us support, they then walked us and invited us to their shelter for tea so that our friend could rest. While we spent an hour with them talking and sharing stories, the kindness and love they offered us remains with me today, they take us with them in their journeys through the deep human connections made during the friendship formed. When all you have to get know people by, is their immediate presence, their eyes, smiles and solidarity you find something which is extremely rare in this current society when most people are worried about possessions and social status. You find true beauty in humans, you encounter the beauty of the universe in one of the most desolate places I have been to in Europe. You realise that humans, stars and the sun and one and the same thing. That the most beautiful things we find in nature outside of the body should also be found in people, and while I was confronted with this raw aspect of humanity I saw clearly the beauty of being alive.’

How true! But what is more likely to stay embedded in the consciousness, as you might say, are the position of the Afghan cricket team in world rankings (number 9, if you didn’t know – information from a guy, inevitably, in a café in Calais). And, on the  bus going home, I gradually became aware  of what, for want of a better word we could call my ‘mind’ – the way I focus on things; as I and one of my fellow-passengers (lets call her Fidelio) discovered that we shared an interest in: a) the Vandals and the Roman Empire after 476 in general; b) Algeria at almost any period, particularly the present, the 19th century, the war of liberation, etc etc; c) the hit parade during the 1990s… (e.g. ‘Mr. Vain’), (d) the dance sequence in ‘Pulp Fiction’,… It became clear that this was either a case of our being attuned to each other at some deep level, or that one or – more likely – both of us was more or less completely indiscriminate in our interests, so that by elementary probability theory we were almost bound to be interested in the same things 90% of the time.

Socrates, of course, told us that our best source of knowledge was to know ourselves; while Husserl (I hope I’ve got this right, it’s a while since I looked at Ideas I) would say that there isn’t anything much else we can know. This leaves quite a décalage, as you might say, between different kinds of knowledge – the level at which we know what song was number 1 in June 1995, or how you tell an Anopheles from an Aedes when it’s on the wall, and the level at which we know why we should care about this information so obsessively. But hell, if philosophy can’t tell the difference between levels of knowledge after all these years, what’s it for? We might as well be stuck in Plato’splatoscave cave, confusing shadows and realities. And how would that apply to 1990s music? But I digress. I must move on to my blinding insight, which you probably had years ago: Knowledge is not about things, it’s a relation between people. The bad cases (we know them) are those where it’s used for exclusion, so e.g. that you can make a killing by knowing that one of the horses in the Cheltenham Gold Cup has a dodgy knee. The good cases, as in my example, is where you can use it to build friendships: ‘Yeah, isn’t that panning sequence from Weekend with the grand piano the most total?’ ”Oh my God! I completely insanely love that!’

So (to moralize, and to go on with friendships, which if you can remember that far back were the theme of the last post), while we all agree that friendship is all-important in the desolate places on this earth where we find ourselves, it is also built on the sharing not only (of course) of kindness, on picking up rickety old men, but also on shared enthusiasms, whether for the ending of all border controls or for Fairouz (here singing ‘Watani’). I think I’ll stop here., as Andrew Wiles said famously when, lecturing in Cambridge, he thought (incorrectly as it turned out) that he’d proved Fermat’s Last Theorem.

DAY 168: Friends

May 15th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

You can’t avoid them, can you? You friend them, you unfriend them, they have birthdays, they have hangovers and need to tell you… In a situation of extreme distress the other day where most of my friends were upset, angry or simply not speaking to me or to anyone else, I popped over to Muswell Hill to my local meeting of the Quakers – or Religious Society of quakersFriends, as they call themselves in their more pompous moments. What, I wondered, sitting in silence in a circle of sixteen oldish people, many wearing sandals (not that I’ve anything against that), waiting for the Light, has friendship got to do with religion or vice versa? More conventionally one associates religion with loving God or one’s neighbour; and if either God or your neighbour is your friend, that’s a bonus. I hoped that the Spirit would tell me what was eating my friends (not Friends). But when you ask questions like that, you normally get a sort of Delphic (see below) answer, and I did.

Well, talking of friends, I and a gang of my friends are planning to run a minibus over to Calais next Sunday with blankets, tents, red beans, lentils,… Sound familiar? The process goes on and on relentlessly, as if I and at least some of my friends (those who aren’t being broken on the wheel of the ghastly SOAS exams machine) go through the same motions we’ve been doing since last September; collecting goods, packing them up in warehouses, piling onto minibuses, driving merrily off to Calais, and distributing the goods in the camp.

Of course the camp has changed. Back in January, despite the horrible weather, I could sometimes look at it in a rosy way as a community with its nations, cafés, mosques, schools,… The demolitions of February and March changed that completely. Yes, the camp is still there, and indeed it’s growing. The activists, the idealists – Liz Clegg, lizcleggZimako, Chiara – are still at work. How could they not be? The work’s there to be done. In Liz’s case, the situation is worse, since the demolitions scattered children, many of them unaccompanied, to unknown places. If possible, they have to be found and accounted for. And we who feel some relation to them, and to each other, try to bring support and solidarity to the increasingly grim situation in some way which fits in with lives otherwise clogged with birthdays, friends’ birthdays and…

I interrupt these musings for a startling observation. (It may only be startling to me, but still…) WHAT IS THE POINT OF FACEBOOK? Don’t tell me of places in the Middle East where social media started revolutions which in any case never got off the ground. Look instead at your friends (them again); who, when they should be agitating at the union whatsgoingonbranch or arguing the toss with the cops, or indeed jumping into coaches and bringing supplies to Calais (you thought I’d forgotten it) are updating their status or changing their cover photo. How many of your friends did you wish a happy birthday today? How much do you, or they, care? How much time did you spend reviewing your memories of 2013? Never mind that you were on a demo on that day; where are you now?

The point of Facebook: it shouldn’t take a genius to see it, and I’m certainly not one, is to keep the young and potentially active away from changing the world and fixed on changing their profile. To an extent, it seems to work; I’m currently applying for a grant to finance a study on ‘Depoliticization linked to Facebook Use: A Comparative Study in Brixton and Billericay’. (I couldn’t resist the alliteration.) I was a bit narked to find there were already 600 papers on the subject in refereed journals, but I’m confident I have a fresh approach.

These reflections are beginning to give me the feeling of going round in a circle. In a sort of crowning irony, Facebook has reminded me that three years ago today, it closed the accounts of Palestinian Israelis who were using their pages to commemorate the Nakba of 1948. I have at least learned something. But I, and my diminishing circle of friends must secure our places on the coach and head back into the jungle. I hope I see you there.

At he Movies

I can’t tell you how intoxicating was the sight, at the Whitechapel Gallery, of my oldest friend auteur Laura Mulvey at a showing of her seminal avant-garde film Riddles of the Sphinx. (How’s that for a name-drop?)  After thirty or more years, I’d completely forgotten the abstractions, riddles-of-the-sphinx-1977-008-green-screenthe 360-degree pans, never mind Anna’s struggles to combine feminism, childcare and work or the visits to the British Museum. Why don’t they make them like that any more?


Here, continuing the Palestinian theme for a while, is a bit of dabkeh:

while for poetry, another YouTube video of Kurdish poetry duelling at Calais. Don’t complain that the blog is getting monotonous. Isn’t that the point?

DAY 167: The Muqaddimah

May 6th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink


People are constantly coming up to me in the street, or in the pub, or more occasionally in the park, and saying ‘What do you make of all this business in Syria, eh?’ (or words to that effect), In a situation where a beautiful and cultured country descends for no good reason into a maelstrom of brutality with Americans, Brits, Russians and of course Daesh, not to mention Bashir Assad and his forces competing to kill as many Syrians as possible (you would think), and in the case of Daesh destroy thousand-year-old monuments as well, your credentials as an explainer of the historical process are naturally strained. I don’t speak of the refugees; for months I’ve spoken of little else, and you can take it for granted that they are the central element in my concern.

I fall back, naturally, on ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah (1377 CE), Ibn_Khaldun_Economy-2_4and his theory of the rise and fall of dynasties. Coming out of the desert (you will recall) as happened in the case of the Almoravids and the Almohads, they sweep all before them, adopt a puritanical form of Islam, rule with a rod of iron; and then in a generation go soft amid the luxury of court life only to give way to a new dynasty. (I oversimplify as usual.) My 56 or so friends at SOAS, all in the grip of exams, will recognize the argument and probably have encountered the critique in Messier’s ‘Re-Thinking the Almoravids, Re-Thinking Ibn Khaldun’ ( Journal of North African Studies, 6:1, 59-80.) [In case you’re interested, and why wouldn’t you be? Messier’s excavation-driven new reading has led to important new interpretations: the impact of the Almoravids on the urban development of Sijilmasa, the importance of their role in the African gold trade, their alleged intellectual repressiveness, their initial success in winning the support of the masses but their ultimate failure to hold it.  Can we apply this theory to Daesh? If we’re lucky. To Putin and the global neoliberal alliance? I think not. Ibn Khaldun was dealing with societies more rationally organized than today’s blind marketized hegemonies. Oh dear, I’ve started to rant.

Farida, one of my friends from an-Najah, asked me what the British thought of Syria. I gave a mediocre answer, based on the fact that most of my British friends got their facts from Syrians in any case; and asked the much more interesting question what did Palestinians think? She replied:

‘As someone who lived in Palestine for nearly eight months only, I think that the palestinian’s view of what’s happening in Syria is differ between one to other. What I hear from the people here -students, especially -as I spend most of my time in the university-, some still supports “Bashar al-Assad” and “Hezbollah” in Lebanon and believe that they are right and that everyone is conspiring against them! And justify their support for the fact that “Hezbollah” is against Israel, with the Palestinians, and so on! But those are few. Others say that what is happening in Syria is a plot of the dominant forces globally -You know, perhaps assuming the plot is easy for everyone! -. There are also many who follow what is going on, with some sort of sympathy with the Syrian people, certainly, with all these refugees. I personally see that what is going on with them is like the Palestinian nakbaNakba! But I think that it really is complicated somewhat in Syria and the region in general. So interferes everyone really there! But I think that it is really complicated in Syria and the region in general. So interferes everyone really there! You can see now many people changed their facebook personal image to the red color13100842_10209072577157311_5391242241426252430_n, in sympathy with what is happening in Aleppo. This may not exactly help the Syrian issue, but -as they say that’s what we can do. What do you think? What can the normal person do to what is happening in Syria?’

I leave you with those lines which show that the thoughtful Palestinian is no clearer than the thoughtful Brit. The parallel with the Nakba is interesting, though I don’t see how it would work. In the Nakba you had the dispossession of a people, forced off their land by another people who were determined to stay. There’s no easy way of undoing that. In Syria, you can imagine a way in which war would end, everybody would stop interfering, and Syrians could return home.

Stratford Corner

My friend Kate Bradley has taken the occasion of Shakespeare’s death anniversary to have a swipe at the antique playwright; We keep doing it, but he’s pretty resilient. And here is his recently notorious plea for refugees, from Sir Thomas More:

Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England;
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding to the ports and coasts for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silent by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I’ll tell you: you had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another….
Say now the king
Should so much come too short of your great trespass
As but to banish you, whether would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbour? go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, to Spain or Portugal,
Nay, any where that not adheres to England,
Why, you must needs be strangers: would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper,
That, breaking out in hideous violence,
Would not afford you an abode on earth,
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you, nor that the claimants
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But chartered unto them, what would you think
To be thus used? this is the strangers case;
And this your mountainish inhumanity. 



Slightly changing the subject: Gazan hip-hop, or rather hip-hop  about Gaza is today’s music: “Hip-hop is the land of the people that don’t have a land,” Chilean hip-hop artist and musician Ana Tijoux recently told the news program Democracy Now! Here she is:

‘Somos Sur’


DAY 166: Europe

May 2nd, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

I was at this meeting this evening – yes, I must really be back in that form of ‘reality’ which is called London – and a friend claimed that I ran (wrote?) a blog. This was decent of her, since I haven’t posted for weeks really I think. Whatever, it prompted me to feeling that I should make some more serious effort.

To fill in: I got back. (The immigration officials at Ben Gurion, who give you a hard time if you’re in shorts with a backpack, wave you through if you’re in a wheelchair. Should I feel insulted that I’m not seen as a threat?) I’m in London; getting a stream of photos and affectionate messages from Nablus students; while none of my London friends will answer the phone. Poor me.

But reality is always more complex. About half my friends seemed to have dissertations to finish, or were otherwise preoccupied. Eventually we make contact and meet up; I find that the increasingly appalling Tory Government is refusing to accept 3000 Screen_Shot_2016-02-22_at_23.36.57child refugees from Europe. Alf Dubs, who proposed the amendment which would allow them to be admitted, had this to say:

Since this House last discussed this amendment, I have been astonished at the amount of popular support there has been for it. I would not normally think that an issue to do with refugees and migrants would command such support. I cannot cope with the emails coming in from people I have never met or heard of who are saying that we should continue with this because it is the right policy. The British people are rising to the need for a humanitarian response. It is fine that we are doing good things in the region, but British people see that there is a problem for children exposed and vulnerable in various parts of Europe. They are not all safe. They may be in an EU country, but many of them are in dangerous circumstances. The fact that many have disappeared altogether is an indication of how alarming the position is.
I will not disguise the fact that last night’s outcome was disappointing. I felt very upset watching the result of the vote being announced in the Commons. The Government’s main argument seems to be that if we do anything for the children in Europe it will be a magnet for further ones to come. That was the thrust of the noble Earl’s comments just now. Yesterday afternoon, on the green outside, I was talking to a young 16 year-old Syrian man who had come here. We asked him about his family. He said they were all dead. He is not being lured by the attraction of an amendment passed here. He does not see it as a magnet. He came to save his life and get out of the most dreadful situation. He spent many months travelling to Calais before he got to Britain. He has a relative in Britain, so he should have been dealt with a long time ago. He had been in a desperate situation.’

So: the Dubs amendment was lost, by 294 votes to 276. It’s being reframed, and will be voted on again; and a number of Tory MPs are said to be unhappy, and considering switching. So pile on the pressure! A little maths will show you that only ten of those Tories need to switch for the amendment to pass.Screen shot 2016-05-02 at 22.48.10And then… What a pitiful number we are talking about, in comparison with the number of refugees lonely, lost and desperate across Europe. Whose responsibility are they? An entire continent -or rather, its leaders – would seem to have lost its moral sense altogether. As Dubs pointed out in the speech I quoted, the ‘ordinary’ people seem to be more prepared to accept the tiny number of lone children that his proposal calls for.

At the Movies

The blog, having nothing better to do, went to a film called ‘Eye in the Sky’, with Helen Mirren and the late Alan Rickman. Both in combat fatigues, and responsible for the dispatch of Hellfire MV5BMTUyNDYxNDI0Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTMxMTgyNzE@._V1_UX100_CR0,0,100,100_AL_missiles from drones over Kenya to annihilate evil al-Shabab militants. But damn! Just at that precise moment, a sweet little Somali girl sets up her table to sell bread in the precise place where there is a 65% chance that she’ll be wiped out as ‘collateral damage’. The feeble politicians keep referring the decision higher up the chain of command, Rickman and Mirren insist that the ROE (rules of engagement to you) put them in the clear as the evil al-Shabab would kill many more than one teenage bread-seller.

You can see how wicked and corrupt this film is going to turn out even without my spoiling the plot for you (the girl escapes). I’m sorry that Alan Rickman, who I admire in general, had this to his name as his last film.

Poetry Corner

I usually have to struggle over this one. So many thanks to Amro Jamous, one of an-Najah U’s bright stars, for supplying this:

Alice Walker ‘I will keep Broken Things’ (Don’t ask what’s that got to do with it)

I will keep
The big clay
With raised
Of their


I will keep
The old
To my

By Mississippi
A jagged
In its sturdy

I will keep
The memory
Nig ht

I will keep
In my house

On which
I will

Their beauty

I will keep
Thoug h
It is now
Gra ceful

I will keep

Thank you
So much!

I will keep

I will keep

I will keep


Keeping on the theme of my Nablus period: in a musical interlude I produced a rendering of Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’

(you’ll be glad to know the link is to Marley’s version, not mine). What a rich period it was! A student asked me what was my favourite novel? When did anyone in England ask me that?



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