Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas, Islamic New Year and a very a sad Eid

It's Christmas today! Around this time of the year I usually wish my friends who observe this feast a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays to my American friends whose political correctness has rubbed a little on me because they actually feel uncomfortable when you openly congratulate them on Christmas. But funnily enough if they are Jews then they expect you to acknowledge that – no political correctness there – in fact they would tell me straight – I'm Jewish. Almost making you feel guilty that somehow you offended them. I'm never offended if someone wishes me Merry Christmas or Shana Tova, 99.9% of the time the non-Arabs that I know be it in business or a more friendly settings do never wish me a Eid Mabrouk or even Happy Eid and I don't really take offense but I'm revising my attitude and as I said above; from now on I will only bother about those who have actually at one point or another shown some attention. A few occasions will be coming up and those would be my yardstick – just give the same treatment, no longer trying to be better :).

Well this weekend it's Christmas and last weekend was Hijri New Year, no one brought this up on the Libyan blogosphere except for OTE , I think (thank you), and Happy New Hijri Year to Muslims on a global scale. This New Year dawned on me discreetly again some wondered which day it would be exactly, just like the Eid Adha this year 2009.

Flashback to older posts:" this feast is the most important one in the Islamic world. If they are not performing Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca than the majority of Muslims will sacrifice a sheep on the first day and distribute most of it to the poor people. But the Eid is also very much a family day. Muslims go in the morning to the special Eid prayer and when it ends they return home in processions chanting Allahu Akbar (God is Great [.this is the Takbir.] After the prayers, the families who are making a sacrifice in honour of the Jewish Prophet Abraham who was ordered to prove his faith by sacrificing his own son and who was saved from doing this at the last minute by God.[…] However the Eid is only the culmination of the period of the pilgrimage or Hajj".

This year's Eid Adha was like no other, I was in a Mulsim country but could not hear the Takbir. On entering Mecca the Takbir was recited by the Muslims, and when I hear it on the Eid I am so overwhelmed that my skin tingles and my heart squeezes and I feel the faith being renewed in my soul.

I have not recovered since from this melancholic feeling.. I call it the saddest Eid of all and if you want to know why then come back to read me in couple of days…

Saturday, December 05, 2009

When in trouble we are all brothers and sisters

"People aren't overcome by situations or outside forces; defeat invades from within"

" In the gloom of death that surrounded the two of us, we were just at the point of approaching and negotiating a gentle curve. If we bypassed it, we would be split off into different directions"

from Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto.

I bought this bought on pure impulse, it is only 150 pages long, but every page made me think deeply about what is it the author wanted to convey: our ultimate mortality.

Although the style is in an irregular narrative sequence and the events are not chronologically or linearly drawn but that is its charm and the sentences are so concise, the words so precise and full of meaning between the lines. I loved the simplicity and I loved how it was able to jerk tears from my eyes not only because of the tragedy of romantic love but also the frailty of human condition, transgressing time, body and space.

Have you read her books ?

Type rest of the post here

Friday, November 20, 2009

The age of superheroes and contemporary anxiety

I have not read comic books since I was a nerdy teenager tampering with writing computer programmes and believing I was some kind of genius- would- be- hacker. 
But this year a republished 80s graphic novel story caught my eye. I missed it because at the time it was issued my favourite magazines and papers had started to trickle down in the bookshops in Tripoli.

So when I was filling up my basket with all sorts of books on one of my trips this year the beautiful colours on the cover  " The Watchmen " caught my eye . So I could not resist... it then lay  for months on a shelf in my room when it finally got picked up to be read on a flight where I knew there would be no movies.

The flight went like a dream and I spent the night completing the book at the hotel instead of doing my homework. Gripping plot!

Reading the book I  felt nostalgia towards the Superman era when as a child, part of me wanted to  believe he was real. But unlike Superman, the Watchmen at the end of the day were very much human and that is their appeal and that is also what makes us slightly uneasy...

We all love heroes and I think we Arabs more than others perhaps adore them, I think many of us are probably waiting hoping deep down inside for a superhero to redress the wrongs, free Palestine, unite the Arabs and generally create a miracle. This story shows that heroes whether human or not actually have limited powers just like the Greek Gods and if we believe that they are omnipotent then we are in for trouble.
However,  I enjoyed the story on another level as well.. I had forgotten that back in the 80s the world was griped by a bloody superpower proxy war which started technically with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan  against the backdrop of  the India - Pakistan conflict. I forgot how much Afghanistan and Vietnam were very much present for Americans and by proxy the rest of the world had to suffer too.  I did not realise how much the ordinary American people feared communism to the extent of paranoia and hatred. How much they were afraid that a nuclear war on them would take place ( and they still do but a bit less now,  forgetting they were the only nation who had ever used nukes on humans ) and how much this fear had warped the thinking. How much they were seeking WMD to give them a tactical advantage.

Reading the Watchmen I realised that this fear is very much true for people on the street and that the media,  politicians'  ego and ambitions and business corporations are the main culprits and the root of all evil.
This 'comic' transported me for a few hours back in history.
The handling of Afghanistan 20 years ago has put the wheels in motion for  this century's worldstage  anxieties. The scarriest bit is that no one has learnt the lesson and that it is still business as usual. When will we realise that a hero does not simply appear to save us while we wait at the bus stop of life.  The hero is within each one of us ready to pounce and seize the day when we are ready to shed our fears!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

'Investing' in Northern Ireland

I wrote this post lamenting hypocrisy in the Western world with regards to the IRA case. As expected only non - Europeans and non-Americans supported my opinion.

I would have been pleasantly surprised if someone from those two categories had come forth and said yes I agree with you Highlander, the United States IS hypocritical in its stance towards this issue and the involvement of its own citizens and organisations in the terrorism that the IRA perpetrated decades ago; and the Irish need ALSO to bear responsibility for these atrocities, because they are both the PRIMARY sources of funding.

Only reader Craig said: " It's very odd. I can't find any mention of the compensation payments the Irish made for IRA terrorism? I even tried a variety of Google searches. Nada. Every hit comes back talking about Libya. I find it completely baffling that the British would demand compensation from a secondary source when they haven't gotten any compensation - nor appear to have even sought any - from the primary source."

That's not bad as comments go :) at least he acknowledged something ( but against the Brits), I'm not sure if I should give him the benefit of the doubt that by 'Irish' he meant Irish-Americans :P most probably not and though I'm glad he noted the above I still wish the British Government had the guts to ask American citizens for compensation for the victims of IRA terrorism funded by their money and have a delegation from Northern Ireland visit the US and Ireland to talk about this and show them how their material support has hurt people. I mean they can get the names of every individual who transferred money, like they do when I transfer more than 50$ outside Libya and it has to go through US banks before going to the florist in Britain with whom I ordered flowers for a friend's party!

Instead we have to suffer this ignominy and alone pay the price for the other two countries who were the major contributors to the conflict ! see below:

Just hot of the news: "A delegation of politicians has just returned from Libya [.]The team presented a proposal that Libya participate in a humanitarian programme for peace and reconciliation for the benefit of all affected in the United Kingdom, particularly in Northern Ireland.
The proposal includes substantial business and infrastructure investment and wide-ranging community development projects aimed at bringing closure for those who have suffered in the past, including resolution of existing claims by UK citizens involving Libya."

We will probably end up paying more than Italy's measly 5 billion $ (over 25 years) for actually decimating the Libyan population, ridiculous indeed .

Can you tell I'm 'upset' :P

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The IRA case: hypocrisy and compensations

Last month I wrote about the curse of blood money that seems to follow Libya.

I said that the Americans are resting in peace with regards to compensations on this particular case as they have received it already. It's only the British who feel cheated.....
The irony is that the US government/politicians etc... are always prompt to point injustice and help those who have no pulpit to raise their voice from, but what we don't always realise is that this happens only until they get what they want. Once that is secured they could not care less. US victims are always more precious :)

But to be honest why not? This does not surprise me it is basic looking out for yourself, why would any gov worry about other chattel ? other people's responsibility.

I don't mind as long as people don't portray themselves something they are not. I hate hypocrisy and I see a big red herring in terms of hypocrisy with the US stance towards victims.

Such as this bit:

" Asked whether she would support parity of treatment for victims of terrorist attacks, such as the Lockerbie bombing, Mrs Clinton diplomatically avoided answering the question directly.

Mrs Clinton said that she "grieved for all victims", saying that she has met many, but added: "I do not have an opinion about the question that you asked specifically."

Last year, during his visit to Belfast, former US President George W Bush was urged to back the victims' case against Libya but failed to do so." [source]

On another note, looks like that blood money to the Brits will soon be coughed up :P

" A delegation of MPs has been invited to Libya to discuss possible compensation for the families of IRA victims." [source].

Yep that is a firm step two!

PS I have the flu, could it be swine flu ? it is progressing real fast !

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Highlander is 6 years old

Ramadan and Libya being constantly on the news because of the Megrahi and other issues made me forget two important dates.

(1) The anniversary of the execution of Omar Mukhtar.
(2) This blog's birthday.

Yes Highlander has turned six since last month! There have been many learning points :)

The next important date is this Saturday as it will be the first day of Eid El Fitr in Libya

Eid Mabrouk folks !

Type rest of the post here

Monday, September 07, 2009

Libya and the curse of blood money

When Megrahi, the alleged Lockerbie bomber was sent back to Libya to die last month, I wrote a tiny sentence in a very long post : " Oh please not another cycle.. it's getting lame who else now wants money ?"
Was this a premonition?......

Blogger Maya had commented" " About the US reactions to Mr. Megrahi's welcome in Libya - I do not quite understand you. There were similar reactions in Libya when the Bulgarian medics were welcomed and immediately pardoned, weren't there? It is only logical and does not necessarily indicate that somebody "wants more money".

My reply was that " I agree that 'it does not mean someone wants more money' but in the Libya case that's what seems to happen always :P but that was not my point this time."

Again it seems that time has proven me right ( if ever my old friend DM is still reading this blog he would nod his head in approval... I have always been right :P eh?).

No sooner had Megrahi made it back to Libya that the cries for compensation for IRA victims started to trickle in on August 25. I chose to look the other way, but now I am more than convinced I was correct in my assumption.

Just two days ago, "Gordon Brown has confirmed the UK will support compensation claims being made against Libya by IRA victims' families." [ref]

Apparently the Americans as usual had already negotiated compensation from Libya for their citizens ages ago cutting out the British in the process:

"Out-of-court deals have been agreed by Libya with three American victims of IRA atrocities.

But more than 100 UK IRA victims, who had been pursuing similar claims through the US courts, had been excluded from those deals" [ref].

Moreover, we are constantly reminded that the families of the US Lockerbie victims have received compensation, what did the UK victims receive?

Ironically numerous people in the UK lost family as a direct result of American aid, one minor example being the funding sent through the tarnished NORAID organisation.
We cannot forget that there was (it may not be that politcally correct anymore) widespread support for the IRA from a large group of Americans of Irish descent and other rich American misanthropes :P... the process only started to be curbed when it bit the US in the face. But my impression is that Americans don't really like those Brits anyway so turning a blind eye could be more than OK,

Today I wonder why is the US not paying blood money also for the victims of IRA terrorism ? It's attitude towards what constitutes terrorism leaves a lot to be desired (but you all know that now this is a useless conjecture).

In conclusion it's easier to just demand money from Libya, because the US can always give the excuse " oh but we have no power over what individual citizens chose to do"! LOL no they only have power when that individual is Muslim or Arab. Irish - Americans have not been incarcerated or viewed with mistrust for their relation to Ireland in their community and by their government - why ? again because they are white and so the xenophobia will not play against them. Xenophobia is selective and the UK is playing a game of distracting the world to gain points with the US and try to shift the blame of the current political fiasco between them on Libya.. The UK would not dare ask America for compensation.

The things goverments, politicians and those in power will do for strategic, national and personal interests... oh and I don't blame them - I merely remark on things

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Donkeys vs People: The Media Circus

Even before Megrahi left Scotland I expected the media circus, the inflammatory notes and last minute bandwagon jumpers. So predictable!

I am not discussing here the Scottish decision or the UKUS relations or even those silly enough to want to boycott Scotland :) that was hilarious to read, because I can remember when the US was mad at France: renaming fried potatoes as freedom fries smacked of third world behaviour to me. Seriously is that all the US can do to punish a European country that does not want to follow its lead all the time? I bet you that if some similar act that displeased the US government had been perpetrated by a non Western country and especially if that country was Arab or Muslim or both (the term is interchangeable for them) the ink would not have been allowed to dry before that country would have born the brunt of the wrath of a vengeful nation. That fictitious country would have been shocked and awed and given a lesson in justice.

Please USA, show me you are even handed in your 'justice' and go punish your British allies now. Can you please start by closing their bank accounts and preventing access to any investments they have in the US and the world, can you slap sanctions and bully the UNSC to do so as well, can you further show me you are just and blitz bomb Edinburgh and London ? Of course none of this is going to happen because these are your old colonial masters and even though the UK is somehow a multiethnic society now with a large number of immigrants it is still WHITE.

Ok got that off my chest now let me go back to my topic.

Sadly, the majority of Libyans are not that interested in Megrahi's fate. In trying to catch up with the lost years (partly due to sanctions and partly our fault) many of us have become so superficial that we'd rather strive for a bigger income, buy more bling, cars, land, farms and show off. The least on the mind of a large number of my compatriots are things like "has there been justice?" Many of us as so weary of this story (over 20 years now) and believe that it is old and that guilty or not we have paid to the West what they wanted so can this please go away now.

While it is understandable that family members of the victims of the Pan AM flight are saddened and even angered at this outcome, I find it hypocritical that the US media and the US politicians view this from such a narrow angle. I am not laying blame on them alone but on most of the West and the western wannabes. The double standards used are so conspicuous that for me it evokes the word RACISM.

It was actually Bulgarian reader and blogger Maya who reminded me of an interesting comparison:

"About the US reactions to Mr. Megrahi's welcome in Libya - I do not quite understand you. There were similar reactions in Libya when the Bulgarian medics were welcomed and immediately pardoned, weren't there? It is only logical and does not necessarily indicate that somebody "wants more money"." [ref]

Therefore, the US reaction is logical because they believe they have been cheated of the right for vengeance and so cannot see that someone is happy to have a family member back in their midst. The Bulgarian reaction is logical also because they have their compatriots (the medics) back, but then so is the Libyan reaction logical! Why not? Why would it be OK for Bulgarians to show happiness and for Libyans to hide it? Where was the outcry from international community and at its head the US? If I recall well every western country was falling over its head to claim they were the ones who instigated the release of the Bulgarian medics.

In the words of Ghadafi: "Perhaps they have feelings, and we don't? Maybe we are donkeys, and they are people?". Sometimes one wonders.

The Lockerbie issue and the Libyan Children with AIDS issue are actually quite similar.


(1) Alleged Libyan bomber convicted and sentenced - after bringing a country to its knees with sanctions- by a European court under immense US pressure and meddling. There are so many question marks on the procedures and evidence. It just is not so well glued together, to the point were some people have cried that there was miscarriage of justice. If you feel like reading more these two bloggers (1 , 2) have accumulated a number of articles which while not proof show that Libya's guilt is at the very least debatable.

(2) Megrahi serves 8 years in prison in Scotland (I think he would have been killed a long time ago if he served them in the US).

(3) US families receive 10 million $ compensation each – not sure what the Scottish families did. ( I'm OK with the concept of compensation after all it is blood money, you can take it and usually forgive ( ie drop the charges) or relinquish your right to take it and either drop the charges or not)

(4) Global circumstance change and the political machine is set in motion.

(5) Megrahi released to die home on compassionate grounds.

(6) Megrahi received home and given what looks like a hero's welcome. There is no life to resume. We still don't know who did it (except the US: P), so justice is not served for the families of the victims. Some families believe that he is a scapegoat

(7) Outrage by the West

(8) Megrahi gets a kiss and hug from the head of state the following day- more outrage- but is that such a big deal? just reflect about it I don't need to spell it out...

(9) British diplomats think the release of Libyan national was worth it.

Libyan children injected with AIDS issue

(1) Bulgarian medics (+ their Palestinian friend) convicted by a Libyan court for allegedly injecting Libyan children in hospital in Benghazi with the AIDS virus. International experts brought from the West who maintain that scientifically this is not correct etc.. so still many question marks on the procedures and evidence.

(2) They served 8 years also in Libyan prison.

(3) Global circumstances change and the political machine is set in motion and the death sentence is lifted from over their head.

(4) The death sentence is commuted to prison only and the medics are released to Bulgaria on the condition they serve the remaining sentence there.

(5) Medics given a widely broadcasted real hero's welcome in Bulgaria and all over the world with Mrs Sarkozy accompanying them. Immediately pardoned by the president so they go to resume their life free, even though justice is not really served for the Libyan children and we don't know what was the real story, and a number of Libyans still believe they are guilty

(6) The west celebrates and one more point 'gained' for freedom from those 'evil' Arabs.

(7) Outrage by Libyans only – nobody else cares

(8) Compensation or blood money finally set in motion for 1 million $ per family. Bargain price he he he. 10:1 and European diplomats think that the release of the European medics and their tag-along Palestinian friend was worth it.

The funny part is that unlike the media's portrayal which carried two photos only across the world and made a mountain out of a molehill, Megrahi did not receive a hero's welcome. The streets were the usual when he returned because the ordinary Libyan as I said had more pressing things to think about like shopping for Ramadan and eking out a living. But there is nothing preventing his tribe, family and friends from welcoming him at the airport and feasting him at home. After all for them he is innocent and anyway just because your dad is a convict you don't stop loving him. One article states that thousands of jubilant crowds greeted him, then a few paragraphs later states that it was a low key approach: " al-Megrahi's welcome was relatively muted. Hundreds of people waiting in the crowd for his plane were rushed away by authorities at the last minute, and the arrival was not aired live on state TV."

Hell I could raise at least 25,000 relatives to greet me when I return from treatment overseas or even if I had gone to prison. For them I'm still Highlander.

So to go back to the beginning Maya reminded me that reactions are logical depending on where you are situated. The only problem is that we need to be fair and either condemn both the Bulgarians (and the West) and Libyans for their jubilation. Or shut our mouth.

I could not care less about the relationship between the two Western allies, it's their problem and they will sort it out soon, it's just that some egos have been bruised and some people did not get a piece of the political pie and so are bitter about it. What I'm worried about is that both countries will bury their differences and unite to somehow inflict pain on Libya, the mechanism has already started…everyone who has a grievance wants payment :P but that's not today's post.

My biggest disappointment is that now that the documents have been sealed forever we will never know what really happened on the ill fated Pan Am flight and more than a lingering doubt will remain about this unresolved mystery.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The sum of all conspiracies

Ramadan 2005, in an era when Highlander was more prolific:

" paying compensation to the victims is insignificant to get out of international isolation, if that is the price even if he is innocent because stagnancy on the issue dragged on too long. As the old adage says "when you can't beat them .join them !". If further evidence prove he is innocent, then he should be compensated, Libyans should be compensated, the compensation money we paid should be returned and the world will owes us a collective apology. If he is not innocent ..well he is in prison anyway and compensations to victims have been settled. All is legal. [sic]"

Now the so called Lockerbie bomber is back home. If I had any doubts before, they are evaporating fast.. the guy is most probably innocent...or is he not?

I mean he was in the process of appealing and they let him go on condition he drops the appeal, the 'compassionate grounds' thingy while commendable seems like an excellent smokescreen, same as Mrs Clinton's attempts to block his release a few days ago It's just designed to throw dust in our eyes, and hasten the process of dropping the appeal because he is dying and wants to go home.

These points keep running in circles in my head:

(1) Libya and Megrahi are innocent of this atrocity.
(2) The appeal would have turned up embarrassing evidence proving Libya's innocence.

"Secret documents before the Appeal Court - which even the defence has not seen - might have provided new information.
They will now remain undisclosed, after the foreign secretary issued a Public Information Immunity certificate stating that to publish them would be to the detriment of UK national security." [ref].

{3) Libya has already paid out the compensations..
(4) Megrahi's illness was a gift allowing bargaining to come into place for his transfer or release whichever is more suitable, and allows to save taxpayers' money.
(5) Hillary's attempted blocking was the icing over the cake - adds spice to the cooking so that we really believe that all is fair and just and governments are outraged :P
{6) Truth has a way of turning up but now we have lost the legal grounds for compensation for the years of sanctions and suffering since 1992.

But it's not that simple, it is intertwined in a number of issues which have put the Libyans in this unenviable situation... I am not interested in elaborating further as I'm aware of our own mistakes and applaud those smart enough to make use of every 'loophole'.
What I hate the most are these kind of statements:

"Crowley told reporters that the administration will closely watch how al-Megrahi is received in Libya and that his reception may affect U.S.-Libyan relations." [ref].

Oh please not another cycle.. it's getting lame who else now wants money ?

On an another note since last month we are no longer swine flu free and for those of you who asked about my opinion on Mr Obama's June Cairo speech (though I never had any hopes as you know ) I was still prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt - but he lost me forever when he stated:

's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied."

The day the US is able to free itself from its self imposed bondage with Israel is still a long way.

If you read so far you know that I'm back folks..oh and Ramadan Mabrouk :)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

June movie review

It's been a long time since I updated my movie list. In no particular order maximum 5 stars

XIII the conspiracy - awarded 2 stars only I simply could not get the feel of the action

X-Men origins wolverine - can I say 6 stars ? I simply loved the plot and everything about it - to me this is the best X- men so far.

Yes Man - 4 stars it was a fun movie

The curious case of Benjamin Button - a well deserved 5 star
Seven Pounds - 5 stars - great theme

Beowulf ( with Angeline Jolie) - a dismal 2 stars although the cartoons deserve a 4 star

Frost Nixon - 4 and a half star - I just did not like the actor who played Frost :)

Knowing ( Nicholas Case) - 2 stars only - actually regret buying this DVD

More next months

Friday, May 29, 2009

Musings about the Swine Flu

Swine flu is no longer breaking news material and seems to have become 'another flu' just like bird flu. We know it's there but we don't think about it much, even though we are anticipating the second deadly wave around autumn.

I remember at the beginning when it looked like it was going to be something bigger than bird flu or even SARS how I used to read testimonies from all over the world to evaluate the situation of the outbreak. A family's ordeal in the UK struck me as something like a movie script...

"My partner and I returned to Birmingham from Cancun yesterday morning at 08:20am. There were no members of the health department there to meet us, over 400 people passed through without help or advise being offered.
We returned home to our seven-months-old daughter and in-laws. Last night we developed many of the symptoms listed.
I contacted the NHS Direct and after several hours we were asked to go to the hospital ourselves. We had to wait in A&E before being seen by doctors dressed in masks, aprons and gloves.
We have high temperatures over 38 degrees, aches, coughing and sneezing, diarrhoea and nausea. The hospital prescribed us both with Tamiflu and told us to drive to a chemist in Coventry, we waited for 15 minutes surrounded by other people before we had the Tamiflu.
The chemist informed us that they only had one dose available and that we would need to return the following day. This morning we were contacted by the HPA, we informed them of the situation and they told us that under no circumstances should we leave the house.
We are waiting the results now, we are very concerned about our daughter and family around us as it looks like we have now infected them. "
Richard Cook, Nuneaton, UK

The pandemic scenario painted by the WHO means that what happened to the family above could have resulted in a much worse situation and that maybe a few basic rules had been flaunted.

(1) no members of health department at the airport
(2) no one offering advice
(3) they contacted the NHS who asked them to go to the hospital => so putting many people at risk on the way !
(4) they had to wait at the ER => more contact with people
(5) they had high temperature and were sneazing
(6) they had to go on their own to get the medicine from the pharmacy => putting more people at risk on their way
(7) they were asked to return the second day to get more Tamiflu.

Only 3 days after they returned were they contacted by the equivalent of the CDC and asked to stay put. I don't know what happened to them but I expected this to happen in an non EU OECD country, like Libya for example. How safe are we really and is it realistic to expect that people will watch their borders as closely as we imagine or does that only happen in movies?

I had the opportunity to experience first hand and compare when I recently travelled to Britain.

Upon boarding the flight to London from Tripoli international airport, there were a number of medical staff at the gate, the tube to the airplane has obviously been cleaned and sprayed with something similar to Dettol- so I assumed this was a request by the country of destination so that travellers do not bring any germs in the sole of shoes or something.

My flight landed about the same time as a flight arriving from Mexico, and my luggage was on the conveyor belt right next to the one of the Mexico flight. I saw no body with face mask or from any medical body and that area was quite crowded. It was just business as usual. I retrieved my baggage very fast and proceeded to the customs and the way out.

When I returned to Libya, we were greeted at the gate by medical staff with masks and gloves who proceeded to screen travellers by checking their forehead temperatures. I realise it may not be much and I'm not that knowledgeable medically but I guess that someone with fever was going to be asked to step outside into another area. I think Hong Kong had already been using sophisticated thermal scanners since the bird flu alert, we have nothing like that in Libya but I was happy at the effort deployed no matter how insignificant or ridiculous or annoying some people were thinking it was.

So far Libya and the rest of the Maghreb as Swine flu free. For the naysayers and negative people who see always only the bad sides yes we do have lots of other problems but it's good to know someone has thought about this virus because if it is as dangerous as they say then our health system cannot deal with it, so an ounce of prevention goes a long way.

Our neighbours in Egypt had decided to cull pigs - I'm not sure that's such a great idea because the waste generated is above their capacity to clean up and could probably cause an outbreak of something else besides Swine flu. I mean they still have cases of bird flu as recently as last week.

The Swine flu or Mexican flu as some people call it (unfairly) has also brought a number of questions to my mind it has now spread into over 42 countries. ( see map here for confirmed cases and deaths). So why many of us would hesitate to go to Mexico even though we know now it is a mild strain - and yet would travel to the USA or to Europe without any second thoughts?

Another idea to ponder on is that human greed is the cause of all disasters and similarly to Mad Cow Disease, Swine flu also seems to have a human mismanagement component in farming. When we mess with nature it always backfires.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Libyan Female Writers

Beirut has been chosen as the World Book Capital this year, and the bookworm that I wanted so much to be there and immerse myself in all these books on display but I had other commitments.

There has indeed been a flurry of Arab novels in the last few years not only in the Arab world but also on the international scene. Recalling the hit books by Arab authors that reached international fame, I found myself nodding in agreement with the statement that ""The West likes Arab novels that deal with political oppression, women, or sexual taboos. ""...

Algerian writer Ahlam Mosthaghanemi is not far from this thought
when she notes that:

"Arabic writers are accepted in the West only if they criticise their homeland or their culture and religion. The West only promotes Arab writers who criticise their own people and culture. Mosthaghanemi, who has more than 2 million readers in the Arab world, said her works are not well received by the Western world because of her great respect for the Arab culture and her religion."

Something tells me that's how our very own Hisham became famous ;) but that is not today's topic so put those filed tongues back where they belong he he he....

What I had been thinking about all along was... are taboos really stiffling Arab women writers as this article implies ? which is again what Mosthaghanemi whom I respect immensely states :

" [..]as women writers are forbidden from using personal emotions as a tool of creative writings, most of the works of Arab women lack the warmth of real life. “We have to take great risks to portray the basic emotions of human beings like love, lust and romance”".

It vividly brought to mind a chat I had with a great Arab blogger friend of mine (let's call her A) about why with all her talent, head firmly on her shoulders and great humour does she not write a book. A told me that she shelved her dreams of writing novels because everything she wants to write about could be unacceptable.

This led me to have a short look at Libyan blogs after all even blogging is writing n'est ce pas?

And so I discovered that poet Lolitta's blog was no longer available... a week after she made this post :

Lolitta is Libyan and she writes beautiful daring poetry in English. Is it social pressure or is it because she has gotten married and simply moved on?

In a ranting from back in January, it was with surprise that I noted Shahrazad complaining that :

" Many Libyan female bloggers have either left the blogspehere all together or have made their blogs open to invites only [because]hey have been put into the so called pressured social paralysis situation where either the parents or some other family member has read the so called blog and disapproved of it existing . On the other hand these fanatic members of family read other blogs and enjoy them as well[.]Many fathers have given consent to their daughters writing a blog and quite a few are so proud of them and encourage them continuously until they get entangled in the dos and don’t of a young lady still unmarried whose future hubby might not approve of her blog!"

I'm all for sharing everything with family but it's difficult enough to be a blogger so why bother to tell anyone? (personally I regret telling some people - who are not family about it but I was happily surprised that one of my brothers who stumbled on it by chance loved it and was so proud of me he actually wanted me to stop being anonymous). Use the blogosphere as a sandpit to hon in your writing skills ladies - and don't tell anyone yet :P

I don't think that the Libyan males are against their sisters, mothers, wives etc. writing but more as social pressure and the 3ayb part - as in what cannot be seen then does not exist... or that the precious females maybe recognised and their ideas misintepreted and God forbid their reputation ruined because Libyan dudes would be trolling their website/blog . This was indeed confirmed in the comments from various Libyan female bloggers on that post here.

I think that's why controversial Libyan Violet's blog is hardly known and people who do comment do so almost shyly because most of her writing is about love or sometimes blatant erotica and all one anonymous commenter could tell her was " u're longing for an orgasm ".

Then I checked Luna and she echos Shahrazad " we Libyan bloggers especially the women face tremendous pressures from family ,work and all who are close. Is Blogging such an awful thing ??I never in my mind thought it to be till I got into trouble with needless to say the closest people to me." Again some of the comments confirm the suspected weird behaviour that prompted some bloggers to go underground or in this case in 'restrict' mode.

This is a pity as we readers loose so much by not being able to tap into their ideas, experiences, emotions plus someone could actually be the next Nobel or Pulitzer prize winner.

We have tons of talented ladies!

So I guess if you keep to cooking recipes, mothering and crochet tips ( which I think is absolutely fine as topics as well) you are OK. If you venture into more mature ground whether you are blogging or being in the printed media - about your life, fantasies or hopes then you have two choices : (1) if you bash your own strongly enough then you will be celebrated in the West a la Hirsi Ali or (2) move to Beirut :) otherwise the climb is very steep!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Facebook in Libya

Many of the earlier Libyan bloggers are hardly writing anymore, rumour has it they have moved to Facebook. I am not sure how you can blog on FB but I understand they just want to talk among each other as their real selves.

Over the years I've had dozens of requests to join FB. It seemed like all my friends were suddenly incapable of writing emails. Email became the new snail mail.. and I was left with a dwindling inbox. I still fought back the urge to join the community, until a great friend asked me to do so and I accepted to try it for fun. After creating the account and adding him I browsed and found that as I initially thought the Libyans were populating FB fast. So many bloggers were there, so many people. Young men and women and not so young either. I found one of my brothers had an account too and I toyed with adding him as friend but decided against it as his account was gathering dust....

Also, I did not like any of the add-ons, pokes and applications so avoided them like the plague. So there you have it the number of friends in my account are counted on the fingers of one hand and I have forgotten the password!

What brought FB back to my mind to warrant this post ? it's just that I've seen a few Libyan bloggers/readers mention it...

Dream Libya thinks the facebook era is quite evil " Facebook is a way to spy on your friends, what they do, who their Friends are, the more you put on your facebook account the less privacy you will have." and from him I found out that there is a large community of Libyans online there.

While Libyan Violet has discovered that it has now replaced the traditional informal way of investigating about the bride or the groom before the engagement "Don't tell your parents about her yet man, why dont you probe about her on facebook, check her profile, pictures, list of friends and who sent her flowers. Then investigate in Hi5 and it won't be wrong to Google her name see what comes up ... I mean I don't have anything specific on her, but you never know!".

Personally I think that this tool is OK to have; as a master data of friends and acquaintances all in one place where you can check on them from time to time. Also for finding long lost classmates and friends and satisfy your curiosity about what happened to your high school crush :P. For the security conscious I think there is nothing to fear, FB will dish out whatever you feed it and you can put as much info as you wish and you can ask your friends not to upload photos of you as well and usually if they are your friends then they have no business doing so and if they are not your friends then they would put your photos online regardless of being on FB or not! If you are paranoid then you should not be online in the first place!

But the main point is that I'm glad the bloggers are still around but simply in another place and I'm glad Libyans are networking too! I may join them at another time ...

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Mysterious Libyan Coins

In my last post related to the economy in Libya, Khadijateri said "Are Libyans too lazy to carry coins? Are they [the coins] too heavy to lug around? Or is the problem that they are so difficult to count?".

I don't think any of these choices is the right answer :)

But it is not the first time that this issue has been brought to my attention....

Last year Khadijateri had already noted : "Another thing I can't understand is why people here [in Libya] hate using coins. When they raise the prices on goods in the shops they usually add a quarter of a dinar because that is the smallest banknote used here. When I first came to Libya, in 1989, using coins was common. It certainly would be better if they went back to using them again and then only raising the prices a few cents at a time instead of in big chunks."

I can't really state that Libyans hate using coins or are too lazy to do so, because we do use them overseas and we know how to and we also use them when available. The fact that at least in 1989 i.e . 20 years ago and some years after for sure, they were available is proof enough that we do love our coins. Are we too lazy or are the coins too heavy? Surely that can't be the case for all Libyans?

Our salaries are not always a perfect round number but would be something like this : 300 Dinars and 0.631 Dirhams, if I get this in cash then I would either receive 0.500 Dirham or 0.750 Dirham depending on the mood of our cashier. But most of us receive our money in our bank accounts and so those precious Dirhams accumulate and I like it this way. We also would love the prices not to rise in such increments as mentioned above because the smallest paper denomination is 0.250 (or 25 ) Dirhams. Why buy 5 breads instead of one only ?

"Until 1975, old coins denominated in milliemes (equal to the dirham) circulated. In 1975, coins were introduced in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 dirham which bore the coat of arms of the Federation of Arab Republics. These were followed in 1979 by a second series of coins, in the same denominations, which bore a design of a horseman in place of the arms. ¼ and ½ dinar coins were issued in 2004. [1] 1, 5, 10, and 20 dirham coins are rarely used, if ever, as units of exchange. However, they still retain their status as legal tenders. [source]

See the old and new sets of coins here - but you need to scroll down to Libya:

The next logical question is why has the circulation of coins dwindled in Libya?


(1) In the late 80's I remember reading in the local newspapers about the caravans of cisterns filled with coins that were busted on their way to cross the border to Egypt. Someone had been smuggling our coins outside the country. You can imagine how many coins can one cistern carry? But what would Libyan coins buy you in Egypt I used to think ? nothing really their value lay in the quality of the alloy they were made from.

(2) Greedy Libyan merchants were hoarding coins in order for the price increase to be large. Instead of 5 or 10 Dirham they would 'have' to raise it to 25 at least.

(3) The country was not minting enough coins.

Whatever it was the circulation of coins continued to decrease slowly but surely. At one point coins became so rare that I started collecting them each time I actually came accross some. I have a small jar full now. We learn to live with that especially during the sanction years, afterwards people were too busy consuming and becoming materialistic in their outlook. But now when prices have become astronomical due to inflation and our extreme hurry to catch up with capitalism many are wondering where are those elusive coins?
In my quest for the Libyan coins I saved an article from the Oea newspaper of November 8th 2008, issue no. 068 : " who is responsible for the non-circulation of coins? where have the coins that the Central Bank of Libya issued disappeared? Is it true that they are smuggled out of the country to be recycled? Is there a mafia that melts the coins to make sewage covers?".

The author confirms that at least one old man he knew had started throwing the coins in the rubbish as too heavy too carry around especially since they are useless with the spike in prices. Also the merchants have been hoarding those coins for decades as this is to their benefit, and yes a 'mafia' was busted smuggling coins because the alloy could be smolten into other useful things or sold as scrap metal and they would still make loads of money.

Once again this is a vicious circle, sometimes you don't notice things and when one does its quite late in the day.

For sure though that the following is true :

(1) The Central Bank of Libya (CBL) has been taking steps for some time now to combat this shortage by putting new coins into circulation at regular intervals. We've seen from the Wiki article above referenced that at least till 2004 some new coins have been punched out. Moreover, the CBL's website has a link to money issued and money taken out of circulation, and one of the sublinks refers specifically to coins. See the photo below, courtesy of CBL. We can see that there are 8 denominations ranging from 50 Dirhams to 1 Dirham and all are valid!

(2) The merchants have been exponentially increasing prices following anticipated pay rises and that means for sure that they have been hoarding coins for a long time.

The lack of coins actually hurts our economy because it affects:
(a) salaries
(b) purchasing power
(c) accounting
(d) it wastes public money

So it's definitely a combination of circumstances but I can't believe that as stated at the beginning of my post that we are so irresponsible as to throw money or are simply lazy.

For the last 3 months or so it has become very very common to get change in coins at least in 25 and 50 denominations which I'm always happy to accept and use, I've been surprised with a few 5 Dirhams as well in some government offices. Basically there is an effort and the supermarkets cashiers are full of shiny gold coloured coins. Hopefully this a good sign !

Friday, March 06, 2009

The significance of foreign currency reserves, imported goods and inflation

"Libya had $44 billion balance of payments surplus in 2008[and]Libya's foreign currency reserves were at $136 billion at the end of 2008 [...]Oil producer Libya is among the few countries which are free of any foreign debt".[Reuters]

This all sounds like great news to me (regardless of the political system which is not my concern in this post.).

It's good to have liquidity in these high risk financial times. I still maintain that the OPEC countries though should stop pegging their economies to the US$ and diversify a little to spread the risk. Although I'm not sure at the safety of their respective countries from physical demolition if they do take that step. But the global financial crisis and credit crunch gripping most nations could be used as an excuse to divest from the US$ and stockpile gold bullion as in not put all the eggs in one basket). Maybe then the US will run less high trade deficits and get away with it! but this is not my concern today either :P

What I was wondering about was the central bank governor in the same article I quoted above was saying i.e. that "average inflation is expected to fall sharply this year as a result of the decline of prices of food and other imported goods as well as the fall of the euro-Libyan dinar parity,".

Again I'm no economist so I'm not able to project into the future but would appreciate someone explaining this to me.

Does he mean that in quarter 2 or quarter 3 of the financial year prices will drop ? Because I thought that many commodities have definetely increased - check On the Edge "I couldn't BELIEVE how much food items have gone up ! A small jar of coffee that used to be 3.50 is now 6 dinars and the large would be 10 , when it was only 7 something last month". This is imported goods that she is talking about.But maybe supermarkets in Libya are making their own prices unrelated to the global situation. I think the eggs are cheaper but for sure car fuel has gone up it is now officially at 20 dirham per litre. To be honest I was embarassed at the gas station when I asked him to fill up my car for 5 Dinars and that barely reached half of the car tank. I thought the employee was cheating and regretfully it showed in my faces (even though I did not voice it) and he had to explain that prices had gone up.

So basically if inflation goes down, will fuel, bread and food commodities decrease too ? How does this work ?

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Gaza Aid Convoy in Libya

"Thousands of people have contacted me to say that they have marched, cried at the television pictures and feel helpless in the face of the suffering.

That’s why I have launched a major initiative in response to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. I will be leading an aid convoy from London to Gaza leaving on 14 February and travelling through France, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and through Rafah and into Gaza. It will bring material aid and raise the banner of Palestine in all the countries that we visit.

The convoy will be led by a British fire engine, ambulances, and many trucks full of practical aid given by the various communities in Britain.

It is quite an undertaking, which I anticipate will have a high public profile throughout its journey and on its arrival in Gaza, god willing, some 30 days later." George Galloway

I was aware from media activity that the Gaza Convoy initiated by George Galloway was going to pass through Libya, but since I was not following the news closely I was not aware it had arrived.

So when I was driving in Tripoli yesterday afternoon I noticed a humongous traffic jam on the coastal road. I assumed there must have been some visiting VIP or a road accident. But as I got closer I noticed too many trucks too count and all had a Viva Palestina banner. Only then did I remember about this planned convoy.

I mean many of us had already donated to the various charities and movements collecting money for Gaza even to the Viva Palestina cause . But it was one thing to read about it and another to see the sheer number of trucks and people surrounding them live. Can you imagine more than 5 lanes of cars stopped in the street - litterally parked alongside the trucks !

I was talking at that time to my best friend and mentioned the trucks to him, he suggested I take a photo with the cellphone and I really did want
to join the group and shake some hands and take a few photos but I was driving on the other side of the road separated by concrete - it would be suicidal to stop and run accross the road.

It was definetely a great sight anda
lump rose in my throat...not just for Palestine but also the incredible emotions of my Libyan brethrens. I knew that the visitors would have a grand time in Libya - because being hospitable is what we do best and I'm not counting the trucks filled with goods that Libya has donated to this cause this time again.

Reading the testimonies online was an added bonus:

This is the best welcome we received. What is different this time is that the authorities did not try to stop the people mingling and getting close to us, nothing was orchestrated, it was natural and spontaneous.." [Viva Palestina website].

I'm happy to hear that they will be allowed into Gaza from Egypt! Well done to all.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Movie reviews

The bootleg industry is great to watch those movies that you would miss in cinemas. In Libya a DVD is about 3 Dinars for a superb copy just as good as what you would get at any Virgin store. While for 1 Dinar I can get the CD and still be able to enjoy the show.

Between September 2007 and January 2009 I bought many movies here the list of the ones I watched so far and what think about them. This would probably serve me as an aide memoire not to buy the same movie again ( I tend to do that with books as well)....

The films are not in any particular order: the scale is from 1-5 stars, ( 5 being the highest)

Ironman: 5 stars
Mirrors ( Kiefer Sutherland): 3 stars
The love guru: 4 stars
Baby Mama : 5 stars
Anthony Warrior of God ( foreign movie): 2 stars
Body of lies: 5 stars
Arn (foreign movie) : 3 stars
Flags of our fathers: 4 stars
What happens in Vegas: 4 stars
Mamma Mia: 5 stars
The secret life of bees: 5 stars
Live free or die hard: 5 stars Bruce always delivers.
The dark knight: 5 stars- although I did not think that the Joker was overshadowing Batman as some reviews stated.
PS I love you : 5 stars very good to watch with chocies and a cup of tea
Tropic Thunder: 3 stars I failed to see the humour - but the twist is OK
Death Race: 2 stars - the trailer was the nicest thing about it
The notebook: 5 stars another classic romance
In the valley of Elah: 5 stars- It's good to know about the hidden things
Burn after reading: 1 star - I cant' believe Brad and Clooney would star in such a miserable thing.
Nights in Rodanthe: 5 stars - marvellous but I wish it ended differently
Wanted ( Angelina Jolie): 3 stars - more hype then when you see the real stuff
Zodiac: 4 stars not bad
The Day the Earth stood still ( Keanu Reeves): 5 stars - good topic on environment etc..
Frost/Nixon: 5 stars
Xiii the conspiracy : 2 stars - some idea but not sure what it was all about
Casino Royale: 5 stars, I did not like the first half hour but then I understood the story.
Quantum of Solace: 5 stars - Daniel Craig is so gorgeous once more. I will be watching Bond movies again
Masjoon Transit ( Egyptian) : 5 stars - that was a good idea
Wa7ed min al nass ( Egyptian) : 5 stars - another good issue tackled
Hassan wa Marcus (Egyptian): 5 stars- excellen portrayal
Kasf hesab ( Egyptian): 5 stars - quite enjoyed it
Cabaret ( Egyptian): 5 stars - the story lasts all night long up to the next day and shows the different facets of the people in a cabaret, the owner the prostitute, the singer the guests, the Gulfies and even the wannabe terrorist. Good finale
The House bunny: 5 stars a feel good movie
Twilight: 5 stars - I never stopped loving vampires and this one gorgeous
Original sin ( Banderas- Jolie) : 4 stars and quite racy definetely over 18- good concept
Miss conception : 5 stars a cute story about a girl who discovers she has early menaupose.
American Psycho: 3 stars - too gory- I still can't understand why?
Ocean's 13: 4 stars
Breach: 5 stars
Babel: I gave it 2 stars first then I watched it again and gave it 5.
Jarhead: 5 stars
Deja vu: 3 stars even though Denzel is so hot
The Marine: 1 star - the only good thing about this movie is the title
The forgotten: 5 stars
the sentinel 5 stars
the departed: 5 stars
300: 5 stars
Tristan and Isolde: 5 stars
The number 23: 5 stars but I was so scared
Caramel ( Lebanese): 5 stars stuff that happens in a beauty center in Beirut and the lives that cross each other there. I liked the
Mr Brooks: 5 stars
Home of the Brave: 5 stars
The Good Sheperd: 5 stars and my super favourite
WallE: 5 stars - I was reluctant to watch this kiddie movie but now I'm a fan.
No country for old men : 1 star - I hated it
21: 5 stars
Gone baby gone: 3 stars
1000 BC: 5 stars overall.

I still have a huge list to be watched but at least I'm finally catching up.

Which movies did you like and why ?

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Nine souls: Lessons of a dying cat

Just as the muezzin had finished calling for the dawn prayer her eyes finally glazed over after a night of agony. I started to unfold the large blue kitchen tablecloth and holding her up slowly from her feet and arms, I gently placed her on the cloth then proceeded to wrap her in it (she will be buried later that day).

A this point I allowed myself to cry out all the feelings I've holed up for the last weeks, because no matter how much you prepare yourself for imminent loss.
Being in the presence of a soul that is dying is not only solemn you actually feel the cold creeping in and become close to a near death experience. You are brought face to face with all the questions that you usually repress at the back of your mind.

Why we are on this earth and what happens after we die? Is dying painful or is it a release as we would like to think?

The incredible sadness of the loss is tearing your heart out. In her case it was tearing my heart several times until dawn. Each time I would think she has exhaled the last sigh and last breath. She wakes up again looks at me with forlorn expression, screams in pain, kicks her legs, opens her jaws to the point of breaking, yawns and makes a unearthly sound from the deepest part of her throat and stops breathing. The last heave was the strongest.. I did not know it was possible for a soul to take so long to die… nine hours –. No amount of calling the veterinary or Adib was this time going to change anything.

Whoever said that cats had nine lives is right! I spent nine hours helplessly watching her die, nine times over.

It's been a while now since she has left us hopefully to a better place, yet I still hear her bell on the stairs at night, and I still think she is sitting near the heater. I still call her in the morning then remember that I don't need to fill the bowl of food anymore, and the bed is very very cold without her cuddling on my feet.

Pet loss and all the emotions entailed are acknowledged in the literature and with a variety of coping mechanisms.

I find myself agreeing with this statement: "For someone who has truly loved a pet, however, the loss of that animal can feel just as devastating as a human loss, if not more. The very things that make animals different than humans often make them more endearing. An animal who doesn’t talk can’t pass judgment or give you the silent treatment or withhold companionship and love. For many, pets provide a source of unwavering love, affection and companionship. The qualities of a beloved pet are hard to match in human form. The loss of that companion can be heartbreaking."

This again led me to think that if I felt that much pain for my longtime pet, how much are parents feeling for the loss of their child. I think what made her death even more intolerable and led me into a downward spiral is that it came at the time when the recent 22 day war on Gaza was taking place so I could only focus on daily death toll from that attack and every photo of the injured or dead especially children became unbearable.

Some families lost more than one child. I shudder and can only imagine by proxy the pain of feeling helpless for your own child. You have given birth and raised him/her only to have that erased in a jiffy.

I also discovered that both camps cared about their pets as well in the middle of the carnage.

For example these Israelis devastated at the possible loss of their dog and the Palestinians who despite sustaining a heavy death (if I believe the news it is 13:1300) were able to attempt to save some pets. ( see photos right and left)

Pets are therefore family members.

The most obvious lesson that I learned from my dying cat is that DEATH is inevitable and we are ALONE when we die; it is also extremely painful for the dying and for those left behind - regardless of the process being swift or protracted.

It was also one more death in the family that needed to be promptly dealt with 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 it looks like everyone is dying all of a sudden and there is no time to stop and grieve because the emotional toll would paralyze you.

I also remembered impending death, a painful realization consciously accepted a while back, there was no way to avoid the mental anguish. Will it be lonely, peaceful or messy? Denial was never an option.

Where are those nine lives when you need them ?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Support a Gazan, international calls are free to Gaza!

Global Voices Online recently reported that "Bloggers are calling upon their readers to pick up the phone - and call the residents of Gaza to show them support." Check the post and support the bloggers as well.

This is a super idea, and comes to reinforce the generous step that the General Posts and Telecommunications Co (GPTC) in Libya had taken..

We received an sms on January 7th, informing us that in solidarity with Gaza, calls to the Palestinian Territories will be free of charge from any landline or mobile in Libya from now until the end of February 2009!

I have several Palestinian friends but I never dare call them because their number starts with +972 which is the code for Israel so we chat on skype instead.

I know that the Palestinian Territories have been assigned their own international code of +970 a few years ago but had no idea how widespread it was as there was some controversy and objection over that.

Ordinary Libyans and Palestinians living in Libya have made use of the GPTC offer and phoned their families and friends or even made random calls, some and I have first hand report of that have even fallen in love with someone at the other end. Amidst all the carnage there is still hope.

What are you waiting for ? go and pick up that phone

Sunday, January 04, 2009

"A bleeding homeland of a bleeding people"

I have been trying to avoid making such a post since before Israel began pounding Gaza a week ago. This post is not about who started what when or whether the egg came before the chicken and the whole painful story spanning over six decades. It only brings bitterness, and I no longer have hopes for a swift and just solution (so I won't talk about that). I won't even draw parallels between Gaza 08/09, Lebanon 2006 and Iraq 2003.

What I'm sure of is that Palestine more than any place in the world evokes strong connotations in the Arab world. As someone paraphrasing the famous Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish said "Palestine is [..] a metaphor - for the loss of Eden, for the sorrows of dispossession and exile, for the declining power of the Arab world in its dealings with the West."

In this context, Libyan cities have witnessed a number of demonstrations in solidarity with the Palestinian people, the latest of which took place this morning in Tripoli.

Moreover, Libya has always been generous with its aid. Suffice it to say that it was the first Arab country that in defiance of the sanctions imposed on Gaza since 2007 attempted to send a boat to the Gaza strip last year only to be ordered back by Israeli warships with the advice from Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor that "anyone wishing to transfer humanitarian aid into Gaza is welcome to do it in coordination with Israel and through the regular crossings. They can also contact Egypt."
This time Libya heeded this advice and sent planeloads of humanitarian aid via Egypt, that were barred on December 28 from landing, probably until further clearance is obtained from the necessary authorities in Israel, Egypt and maybe the USA. I did not follow the diplomacy at work behind the scenes but I'm relieved to read that the next day whatever problem was seemed to have been resolved and the consignment was delivered thereby forming the first link to a chain of aid over the next days.I hope it does reach the Gazan people as it gives one the selfish feeling that at least we are doing something.

As the blood once again spills into our living rooms - especially now with the ground assault that started on the evening of Saturday 3rd January, emotions are consequently running high in our region, with tolerance levels sometimes verging on the non-existent.

It will serve no purpose to mention casualties and body count from the Palestinian side in this latest episode because numbers are always ridiculously and unbearably high, and I'm sure someone else has already recorded them.

Hence, whilst all 32 dead and 600 wounded Israelis and their families, victims of Palestinian rockets since 2001 up to now do get my sympathy and while I do understand the plight of those Israelis suffering post traumatic stress syndrome, having been myself exposed to a relatively limited but intense experience 22 years ago; I must admit that the plight of the Gazans who I'm sure are now beyond 'mere' PTSS strikes a totally different chord not only within me but within many others.

In this regard Darwish's 1988 poem "O those who pass between fleeting words" which I always associate with any occupying army ( so do not dare call me anti-Semitic!) has been playing not only on my Ipod for the last two years but also in my head. To me it has a timeless quality and the metaphors so beloved by Mahmoud Darwish make it possible depending on one's mood to be interpreted or misinterpreted.
Below is one English translation from "Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising Against Israeli Occupation", courtesy of the following gentlemen: Zachary Lockman and Joel Beinin.


0 those who pass between fleeting words
carry your names, and be gone
Rid our time of your hours, and be gone
Steal what you will from the blueness of the sea and the sand of memory
Take what pictures you will, so that you understand
That which you never will:
How a stone from our land builds the ceiling of our sky.

0 those who pass between fleeting words
From you the sword,from us the blood
From you steel and fire,from us our flesh
From you yet another tank,from us stones
From you tear gas,from us rain
above us, as above you, are sky and air
So take your share of our blood, and be gone
Go to a dancing party, and be gone
As for us, we have to water the martyrs' flowers
As for us, we have to live as we see fit.

0 those who pass between fleeting words
As bitter dust, go where you wish, but
Do not pass between us like flying insects
For we have work to do in our lands
We have wheat to grow which we water with our bodies' dew
We have that which does not please you here
Stones or partridges
So take the past if you wish to the antiquities market
And return the skeleton to the hoopoe, if you wish,
On a clay platter
We have that which does not please you: we have the future
And we have things to do in our land.

0 those who pass between fleeting words
Pile your illusions in a deserted pit, and be gone
Return the hand of time to the law of the golden calf
Or to the time of the revolver's music
For we have that which does not please you here, so be gone
And we have what you lack
A bleeding homeland of a bleeding people
A homeland fit for oblivion or memory

0 those who pass between fleeting words
It is time for you to be gone
Live wherever you like, but do not live among us
It is time for you to be gone
Die wherever you like, but do not die among us
For we have work to do in our land
We have the past here
The first cry of life
We have the present, the present and the future
We have this world here, and the hereafter
So leave our country
Our land, our sea
Our wheat, our salt, our wounds
Everything, and leave
The memories of memory

For my Arabic speaking readers here is the link for عابرون في كلام عابر and a bonus link for those of you who may also want to enjoy it in Syrian diva Assala Nasri's voice.