Friday, May 31, 2013

"Encounters" by Hedy Habra, from Tea in Heliopolis

"Encounters" by Hedy Habra, from Tea in Heliopolis

In the tower of a restored Italian cloister a bourgeois restaurant
flourishes in its loggias I meet the high dignitaries of my adventures
my djins and afrits

We're trapped in the basement of a building in Beirut with many
unknown families we'll have to cross the street at dawn
to change shelter during the next truce

In a car parked in a dark alley a hand slowly outlines my eyes
the bridge of my nose lingers at my lips and neck
everyone hears my heartbeat

Alone in my bed again crying I hit with my fists the indifferent wall

On an indefinite sheet of water surrounded by two lines of rowers
she watches the rhythmic synchronized movements
of their gigantic oar
the boat barely touches the surface 

Your smile tells me in a stairwell "You haven't changed in twenty
years you stood it all well"

it's getting harder to sit i become heavier every day i'm no longer
good for anything anymore i'd like a small drop to warm
my heart up children bring my shawl please

We walked hand in hand over brittle pine needles wild oregano
in bloom thorny umbels swarming with shiny ants

it’s impossible my house isn't for sale i'll never sell 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

On Zaqtan's predicament of travel...

May 29, 2013

To the Canadian government,

I recently learned of your denial of visa to the acclaimed poet Ghassan Zaqtan, who was intending to attending the Griffin awards as his book of poems Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me (translated by Fady Joudah) has been shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize.

According to my sources, the reasons for denial are dubious.  Being on a shortlist for this prestigious Canadian prize is most certainly a reason to grant a visa.  The notion that Zaqtan might have uncertainty regarding his desire to return to his place of origin feels a little absurd in the case of Palestinian nationals, many of whom live in exile and long to return to their (and their forbears') places of origin.

Zaqtan's poetry is a meditation on the predicament of exile and disappearance, as his poem, "A Graphic 1995" so aptly demonstrates:

The endings are not ours
not anyone's.

Endings belong to strangers
who weren't born on wagons,
people we find in the dust of corridors
and who happen in speech

people who are born from shadows
and unraveling mats.

And while we were plowing
they were laughing
and filling our pockets with dirt.

I ask the Canadian government to reconsider its decision to reject Zaqtan's application for a visa, and make a different ending to this predicament. 


Philip Metres

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Attack Upon Persis Karim

My colleague and friend Persis Karim, who recently (April 2013) held a workshop on teaching the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at San Jose State University, has been targeted and defamed in various ways by people inside and outside the university.  The workshop, which I attended and at which I presented, was an interdisciplinary exploration of various methods of teaching the conflict in high school and college.  It was fair-minded and quite balanced, to my mind, in its inclusiveness.  

The latest idiocy against Karim is that a fake press release has been issued as if authored by her and others.  The "humor" (very much in quotations) behind this is to expose Professor Karim as someone who secretly is really "after" Israel, because after all, all these other Arab and Muslim countries have numerous human rights violations, but only Israel gets blamed and boycotted.  While there is truth to the fact that many Arab and Muslim countries are serious violators of human rights, the idea that any pro-just-peace advocate of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would turn a blind eye to such violations is simply ridiculous.  In the end, this "news release" betrays its writer as someone who has swallowed wholesale the crude Orientalisms that lump all these Muslims and Arabs into one unhappy and indistinguishable lump of miserable inhumanity.  It overlooks very real sanctions already levied by the U.S. government against human rights violators like Iran.  

Again, this is FAKE.

Americans for Boycotting Arab and Iranian Goods

                                   News Release

No. NR -  329,994
For Immediate Distribution
Updated and Revised at 0900 Hrs EST

WASHINGTON,  May 14 --  A new boycott campaign against the Arab world and Iran requiring the cooperation of every supporter of Middle East freedom has been successfully launched by a group of outspoken Americans, it was revealed this week by its founders.
            "It is high time we exposed the crimes against humanity committed by the modern pharoahs of the Muslim Middle East.  Hosni Mubarak, who enslaved the long-suffering Egyptian people with a 30-year dictatorship that is unprecedented in modern history has now been ousted but a reactionary Islamist junta has seized power in his stead. Libyan dictator Mouammar Gaddafi has been throttled but democracy has yet to bud in his country.
           Meanwhile Algeria, Morocco, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman,Tunisia, Gaza, the West Bank and Jordan are being ruled by hereditary fascist thugs and usurpers who are massacring their own people ," stated prominent Middle East activist Prof. Persis Karim.
            Speaking to hundreds of Muslim Americans in front of the Syrian embassy, Karim excoriated the Arab and Iranian regimes for plundering their countries of their wealth and depriving their people of their basic human rights. She particularly upbraided Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Syria and Iran for their entrenched system of apartheid against their Christian Copt,  Berber, Shia and Kurd populations.
           The political science professor at California's San Jose University lamented the thousands of civilians massacred by the Arab and Iranian security forces in the streets of Algiers, Alexandria, Cairo, Port Suez, Aleppo, Latakia, Damascus, Homs, Teheran, Manama,  Amman, Jeddah, Gaza City, Aden and Sanaa.
           "It is simply incomprehensible that these bloodthirsty regimes are committing genocide against their own people," she declared.
             As a consequence, her new organization -- Americans for Boycotting Arab and Iranian Goods (ABAIG) --  has demanded that all US importers immediately terminate their contracts for the purchases of petroleum, petrochemicals, plastics, cotton yarn, towels and garments, rugs, fertilisers, majhool dates, figs, strawberries, taboule, couscous and sheet metal from these countries. In addition, all US firms with investments and joint ventures in these tyrannies, including Chevron, Standard Oil, Boeing and Starbucks, are being pressured to divest their assets from them.
            Of greater importance is our campaign for the US to implement new sanctions by halting its tank and missile weapon shipments to the Nazi-like governments of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. 
           "We are now happy to report that the American people is supporting our initiative until the vicious dictatorships of the Arab Middle East and Iran are overthrown and their civilian populations are finally endowed with classical democracy," Karim affirmed. She particularly lauded President Obama for ordering the divestment of US corporations and personnel from Syria and the Administration's arms shipments to the brave revolutionaries fighting against President Assad's killing machine.
           "The welfare of the beleaguered Arab and Iranian people must be our number one priority. It is vitally urgent that the international community quickly bring the genocidal dictators Assad and Ahmadinejad to the gallows, just as Osama Bin Laden was so speedily dispatched, " she stated.
          She also warned against allowing the criminal Fatah and Hamas factions continuing to rule in Palestine. They operate deathly prisons and torture chambers. She repeated her insistence that their undemocratic leaders be ousted and be hauled before the International Criminal Court in the Hague for their despicable war crimes detailed in the Goldstone Report. 
          The new boycott campaign is supported by the Presbyterian Church, American Freedom Radio, Ralph Nader, the Association of Arab Professors in the USA and Canada, Prof. John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, filmmaker Michael Moore, Friends of Middle East Democracy,  the International Solidarity Movement,  Counterpunch Magazine, the Nation, the League for Iranian Democracy, American Women Against Saudi Gender Apartheid, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Libertarian Party as well as by the American Muslim Congress. 
          ABAIG co-founder Joshua Schott, a miltant student at Stanford University, has from his early youth been a crusader for the seething Arab masses of Gaza and the West Bank. He pointed out that the illegitimate Arab government leaders of the Middle East are being targeted by his bevy of activists with arrest warrants should they step foot on American soil or seek asylum here. Under the international laws of universal jurisdiction, war criminals and their genocidal ilk are liable to arrest upon the deposition of a citizen's complaint before the Secretary of Homeland Security.
           The former Montana native emphasized that his group's actions were in complete fulfilment of the treasured American tradition of seeking justice for suffering humanity.  Moreover, it has the complete approval of his political mentor former President Jimmy Carter.
            In that regard, he echoed the call on the international community to prepare the gallows for Bashir Assad, the fascist ruler of Syria who is bombing his own people as well as thousands of Palestinian refugees with war planes and the sarin nerve gas agent, as well as for the nuclear outlaw Ahmadinejad of Iran.
           "These greasy rats  should be torn limb from limb," he declared to tumultuous applause before the Washington demonstrators.   
            Schott also singled out the apartheid oppression inflicted by the Lebanese government against the Palestinian refugees in its midst, an act advised and consented to by the illegitimate para-state organisation Hizbullah.
           Casting aside his enmity towards Israel, Schott pleaded with the Jewish state to invade Syria and Iran and wipe out their respective Alawite and Shi'ite feudal ruling classes. "Only such a humanitarian gesture under the UN's Responsibility to Protect Doctrine can have the desired effect of strengthening the region-wide intifadas in these countries leading to the toppling of their authoritarian regimes,'' he posited. 
           "As for our myriad of friends amidst the general public, we do sincerely thank them for embracing the boycott of Arab and Iranian goods which will immeasurably assist in the  liberation of the beleaguered Arab and Iranian masses, " Karim and Schott concluded.
                                                                         - 30 -

 Media contacts:
 Persis Karim
 Founder ABAIG
 Prof. San Jose State University
 San Jose, CA
 Joshua Schott
 Co-founder ABAIG
 Stanford University Student Association
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 University of Chicago
 Chicago, IL
 Jeremy Hammond
 Editor, Foreign Policy Journal
 Jesus T. Vasquez
 Director of Communications
 San Francisco, CA
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