April 21, 2010

Socialism 2010

Socialism 2010 - Ideas for Changing the World from International Socialist on Vimeo.


With the economy in shambles and with wars and occupations continuing, the challenge to change these conditions confronts us all. More than a year ago, millions placed their hopes in Barack Obama and the Democrats to solve these problems. But after months of broken promises and concessions to conservatives, jobs are scarce, the banks are unregulated, and full equality for LGBT people remains elusive.

Socialism 2010—to be held in both Chicago and Oakland—will provide an unparalleled opportunity for new and veteran activists and scholars to explore questions about how we got into this mess and how we can get out of it.

Last year, more than 1,800 people turned out to explore the history of struggles of ordinary people, to learn about radical figures who led social movements and to debate theoretical questions that can help us change the world.

Join us for more than 100 talks on issues such as: What is the Real Marxist Tradition?, Race in the Obama Era, Capitalism, Climate Change, and the Future of Humanity, Abortion and Women’s Liberation, and Building a New Left in the Obama Era.

Don’t miss the chance to meet, talk and socialize with hundreds of others like you who want to build an alternative to a system of greed, racism, war and oppression.

http://www.socialismconference.org/

April 20, 2010

Hamas Under Different Social Microscopes

By Kivanc Ozcan

Hamas in Politics: Democracy, Religion, Violence
by Jeroen Gunning
Columbia University Press, 310 pp., $23.85

Inside Hamas: The Untold Story of the Militant Islamic Movement
by Zaki Chehab
Nation Books, 244 pp., $13.63

Hamas: Political Thought and Practice
by Khaled Hroub
Institute for Palestine Studies, 329 pp., $29.95


The January 2006 legislative elections in Palestine changed the balance of power in the country and dealt a new hand of cards in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Receiving 42.9% of the votes, the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, gained the majority of seats and came to power. The West, which has been accustomed to thinking about Hamas only in regard to its armed attacks against Israel and radical Islamic discourse, did not welcome Hamas’ election victory. The discontent of Western countries for the rise of Hamas led to the elimination of Western financial aid to the Palestinians. Besides this, escalation of the tension between Hamas and Fatah in the aftermath of the legislative elections resulted in a bloody civil war, which ended with a new status quo in June 2007. Since June 2007, Hamas has been controlling Gaza whereas its rival Fatah has been keeping the West Bank under its control.

The new balance of power in Palestine has triggered new debates in the scholarly circles of the West. The focal point of discussions on Hamas has moved away from Israeli security and Islamic violence to the compatibility of Islam and democracy and the evolution of Hamas. As Yezid Sayigh pointed out in his speech in the George Washington University, discussions that ignore the differences between Hamas-the-movement and Hamas-the-government are far from grasping the new dynamics of Hamas. Although they approach Hamas from different perspectives, Hamas in Politics, Democracy, Religion, Violence by Jeroen Gunning; Inside Hamas, The Untold Story of the Militant Islamic Movement by Zaki Chehab; and Hamas, Political Thought and Practice by Khaled Hroub are considerable attempts to understand Hamas correctly. Even though these studies diverge from one another on the lenses that they use to explain Hamas, they complement each other by bringing different aspects of the movement to the foreground.


Jeroen Gunning is Deputy Director of the Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Contemporary Political Violence and a Lecturer in Critical Terrorism Studies and Middle Eastern Studies in the Department of International Politics in Aberystwyth University. He is the founder of the world’s first Masters in critical terrorism studies at Aberystwyth University. He extensively writes on social movements in the Middle East in general and Hamas in particular. In his work, Hamas in Politics, Democracy, Religion, Violence, by providing profound analysis of Hamas, he defends the idea that an Islamist movement is capable of evolution. Rejecting the basic argument of traditional terrorism studies and Islamic studies that there is a fundamental incompatibility between political Islam and democracy, Gunning highlights the wider social and political environment within which Hamas operates to come to the conclusion that Hamas is a product of its environment and can be compatible with democracy. Moving from the fact that politics is not static, he harshly criticizes the views which tend to see Hamas only in terms of its armed struggle and as a black and white picture, for being biased: he argues that critical methodology which aims to humanize ‘the other’ and to place Islamism with its historical and socio-political context is essential. Relying primarily on more than one hundred interviews with Hamas members and nine months of life experience in Gaza Strip, Gunning’s main aim is to explain Hamas’ way of conceptualizing and practicing authority. In more concrete terms, Gunning strives to read the evolution of Hamas by focusing on its authority. The most noteworthy aspect of his book is that it foremost uses sociology, political science and social movements theories in a harmony to delve into political theory of Hamas. In this regard, although the study has negligible shortcomings that I am going to mention below, its way of problematizing the relations between democracy and violence and democracy and secularism with the help of Bourdieu, Derrida, Gramsci, Hegel, Rousseau, Rustow, Said, Tilly and Weber is a striking contribution to literature.


Zaki Chehab, the author of Inside the Resistance: The Iraqi Insurgency and the Future of the Middle East, and Inside Hamas, The Untold Story of the Militant Islamic Movement, is the political editor of Al Hayat newspaper and senior editor of the Arabic TV channel LBC. Reflecting insiders’ views is the main characteristic of his studies. For instance, he is the first journalist in the world to broadcast interviews with members of the Iraqi resistance. As he grew up in Palestinian refugee camp Burj El Shamali and has many connections in Palestine, his second book Inside Hamas, The Untold Story of the Militant Islamic Movement, successfully presents detailed observations of the daily lives of Palestinians in general and Hamas members in particular. Criticizing Westerners’ ignorance of internal divisions among Palestinians, he goes far beyond the Hamas-Fatah split and sheds light on class based differences in Palestinian society and relations between locals in Gaza and returnees. Although he downplays the role of regional dynamics, his in-depth interviews with leading Palestinians such as Yasser Arafat, Ahmed Yassin, Ismail Haniyeh and Abdel Aziz Rantisi, and his flowing narrative style makes the study a remarkable attempt to understand Hamas, or at least its internal dynamics. However, explaining the factors that influence the martyrs, informers and military attacks through the memories of individuals is far from presenting the broad picture in which Hamas is an actor. Nevertheless, thanks to its direct reflection of insider views, Chehab’s study is an important contribution to the literature on Hamas.


Khaled Hroub of the University of Cambridge is widely known through his articles in leading Arab newspapers such as Al-Hayat, Al-Quds Al-Arabi, and in prestigious academic journals such as the Middle East Journal. Hroub is the author of two books on Hamas - Hamas: A Beginners Guide and Hamas: Political Thought and Practice. In Hamas: Political Thought and Practice he castigates other studies on Hamas for not using Arabic sources extensively and not being comprehensive and he instead emphasizes the movement’s political thought and practice, in the context of the transformation of Palestinian struggle and the emergence of Palestinian Islamism. Highlighting the various functions performed by the movement, he aims to understand Hamas’ role in Palestinian resistance against the Israeli occupation. Similar to Gunning’s study, Hroub argues that contrary to common belief in the Western media and academia, which tends to label Hamas as a terrorist organization, Hamas is a product of the conditions and political environment within which it operates. In the study, he mostly focuses on Hamas’ political relations with Palestinian, regional and international political actors. In other words, he reads Hamas’ political thought and practice alongside its relations with other political actors. In comparison to above-mentioned studies, while a lack of sufficient fieldwork appears as a shortcoming of the book, Hroub’s extensive use of Hamas’ official documents makes this study a noteworthy effort to understand Hamas.

All of the above-mentioned studies, thanks to the different lenses that they use, contribute to the literature on Hamas. Zaki Chehab’s Inside Hamas, The Untold Story of the Militant Islamic Movement stands out with its flowing narrative style despite its lack of academic viewpoint and bibliography. Khaled Hroub’s Hamas, Political Thought and Practice, with its select bibliography and presentation of Hamas’ official documents, is a must-read. However, Hroub’s study would have been more successful if he had given more emphasis on field research. Jeroen Gunning’s Hamas in Politics, Democracy, Religion, Violence is theoretically sophisticated study that explains Hamas by placing it into the wider social and political context. However, reading circle may ask why he did not interview with Yasser Arafat although he spent long time in Gaza and interviewed many influential members of the PLO.

April 19, 2010

Note: 1) To request the full review, please e-mail me.
2) Please don't quote without permission.
3) Comments welcome.

April 17, 2010

durgun

Kaldırım taşları ıslaktı geldiğinde
Ve uykudaydı eskinin hayaletleri

O geldi ve söndü
Bütün nöbetçi sokak lambaları

Onun omuzlarında dokundum
bütün şehrin yorgunluğuna
sessizdi,
bir şehir soyundu onunla

sabah gri bir körfez gibi
uzandı aramiza

bana sokulduğunda
bütün fırtınalarını açıklarda bırakmıştı

durulmuştu…

Kıvanç

16 Nisan, DC