Third Intifada

Someone yesterday asked what is the Third Intifada. Some people had been chanting it in the city and they didn’t know what it meant, so they asked on a blog thread.

I’ve never heard of a Third Intifada; it sounds something like “World War Three”. There have been two Palestinian  intifadas so far, one in the 80s and one starting in 1999 when I was there, and ending 2005-ish. (Wikipedia: First Intifada, Second Intifada) The intifada is a low level attack on soft targets–suicide bombers blowing up pizza parlors, kids throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers, that kind of thing. Unlike 9-11, it tends to be perceived in Jordan, whose population is 60% Palestinian,  as a legitimate military action against Israel. A few Israelis die, and 4 or 5 times as many Palestinians die, but it’s seen as the only way to put pressure on Israel. It also totally ruins Jordan’s tourism and puts their economy in a nosedive–from maybe 3% growth per year to zero–but still they support the Palestinians.  What else can they do.

I see absolutely no purpose to the intifadas, except perhaps to channel frustration away from the ruling group and help keep them in power. It makes the young people feel hopeless and suicidal (see the image of Farfur the Hamas martyrdom mouse at right), and gives the group in power an excuse not to govern.  I have long been frustrated with Palestine for not just acting as if they already had a country and just…governing it. The corruption more than anything is what encourages groups like Hamas.

Even as a vehicle for expressing frustration, I suspect the days of the intifada are numbered. Witness the nonsense over the “Intifada NYC” t-shirts that plagued principal Debbie Almontaser, the founder of the Arabic-English language Khalil Gibran International Academy elementary school. During an interview with the New York Post (big mistake right there, thanks to her bosses) Almontaser was asked a question about the meaning of the word intifada and gave the dictionary definition.  Later the reason for the question became obvious; there was an organization in the same building as an organization that supported the school, Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media, and they were selling a t-shirt that said “Intifada NYC”.

Almontaser could have done several things that would have commanded my admiration. She could have condemned the intifada out of hand in no uncertain terms, which is what she did the next day after some reflection. Or she could have defended the intifada as the right of the Palestinians to self-defense, if that’s what she believes. There are plenty of people who believe that, and I can respect that point of view, even if I’m personally horrified by attacks on civilians (and for that matter, non-civilians). If nothing else, it might have been an education for some people to hear it. Or she could have just said the t-shirt belonged to a group that had nothing to do with her school, which is true enough. But when Almontaser went up against the heavy guns of the haters, she waffled, giving the win to the haters and their definition of intifada. So now “intifada” has shifted even further towards being a word that stigmatizes Arabs and Muslims.

Why anyone was chanting about intifada on American streets this week I don’t know. Clearly it was a response to the recent Israeli boarding of the Turkish ship, but other than that, I suspect it was nothing more than an expression of frustration.

Bonus photos:

Some date the beginning of the Second Intifada to the day following Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, an area known to Muslims as Al-Haram Al-Sharif.  When I visited the Temple Mount I asked where this place was where Sharon had stood, and the area pointed out to me was between the Mosque of Omar and the al-Aqsa Mosque. Up the stairs, I asked, pointing to the gold-domed Mosque of Omar?  No, I was told, below the stairs.

I am standing in the above photo on the left in the shadow beside the wall. In the background is the Mosque of Omar, where the Navel of the Universe is supposed to be located, and where the Ark of the Covenant may have once rested, hidden before its final disappearance.

At the bottom of the stairs is the al-Aqsa mosque, built by the Knights Templar.

Here is a closeup of the entrance, or maybe it’s the exit, depending on how you look at it.

I love this building.  My companion didn’t understand why I wanted a photograph of it, maybe because there was a very photogenic gold domed building right behind it.

After having stood in this spot, I still don’t understand why the Palestinians would want to riot when Sharon stood here.

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Arabia Explorers

When you think of exploring Arabia you usually think of Sir Richard Burton and Johann Burkhardt, or maybe T.E. Lawrence or even Gertrude Bell. These are all on wikipedia’s list.

Here is another list from Zahra Dickson Freeth’s out of print Explorers of Arabia from the Renaissance to the end of the Victorian era, along with any wikipedia links that exist.

Lodovico Varthema, gentleman of Rome (entered Mecca 1503)
Joseph Pitts (captured English sailor in Mecca c 1685) [google books limited view]
Carsten Niebuhr (cartographer)
Jean Louis Burckhardt (rediscovered Petra)
Richard Burton
William Palgrave spy, former Jesuit and British diplomat (1826–1888)
Carlo Guarmani (Italian) author of 1864-1866 Classic Works ‘Al Kamsa’ (about the Arabian horse) and ‘Journey from Jerusalem to Northern Najd’
Charles Doughty author of 1888 travel book Travels in Arabia Deserta republished by T.E. Lawrence
The Blunts Anne Isabella Noel Blunt and her husband Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, Arabian horse aficionados


Top, William Palgrave’s map of Arabia;

Bottom, Lady Anne Blunt, in Bedouin attire

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Arab Heritage Month

Trying to catch up on my email to make Thanksgiving plans, I found a link to the schedule for Chicago’s Arab Heritage Month. Once again I have managed to miss a great deal of it.

I was most disappointed to find that the Jasmin Jahal School of Dance‘s “Belly Dance Workshop: Intro to Sword Dancing” was over.  Not that I could have gone; it conflicts with my work schedule. Several years ago I went to Jasmin’s Arab Heritage Month event (an introductory lesson was only $10 back then, not $35) and greatly enjoyed the workout. Jasmin is a great teacher with apparently limitless energy. Even those with two left feet will believe that they too can learn to belly dance. The type of dance here is the traditional kind that is done at Arab wedding parties, the kind with only women present, not the kind done in certain (unnamed) north side Greek restaurants .

Unlike the Arabeque Arab festival, there is no master list of participants for Arab Heritage Month. Here is my own partial list, collected from hovering a mouse over the calendar of events:


The two-part PBS film “Islam: Empire of Faith”

The Desert Triology [sic] of Nacer Khemir

Continuous exhibit

“Arab World Cultural Display” at Green Hills Public Library, 8611 W. 103rd Street, Palos Hills
from 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM from November 1-30. Admission: Free


Mondays: “Mornings with Ray Hanania” on WJJG 1530 AM Radio for guest information

Saturdays: Islamic and Arab Voices of Chicago presents “Arab Culture and Countries” & “Arab-Americans Past, Present & Future” on WCEV 1450 AM and streaming live online at


Galerie du Maroc (Moroccan Arts)
exhibit of Images du Maroc by Michael Monar
a traditional music performance by Bulbul Ensemble (see “music” below)


Arabic for children on Saturdays from 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM at Bridgeview Public Library (year-round) “Arabic Story and Basic Arabic Language Class for Children”


“Homeland Insecurity, the Arab-American and Muslim Experience after 9/11” by Dr. Louise Cainkar. Over a hundred in-depth interviews conducted  in the Metropolitan Chicago Area, about the experiences of Arab-Americans and Muslims after 9/11.


Bulbul Ensemble is a takht based in Chicago. The ensemble plays the music of Oum Kalthoum, Fairouz, Asmahan, Sabah Fakhri and others, including composers Muhammad Abdal-Wahhab, Assi and Mansour Rahbani, Sayid Darwish, and other great artists from 20th century Near East music. Musicians: Nai: Kim Sopata, Oud: Rami Gabriel, Percussion: Doug Brush,Violin: Steve Gibons.

[Bulbul's next public appearance:  Saturday, Dec 5, 2009, from 3 pm to 5 pm Il-Bulbul Arabic Music Ensemble Performs at Oak Park Winterfest
Downtown Oak Park, IL. -- check their webpage for some amazing  concert excerpts with unfortunately low sound quality]

Assi El Hellani & Shada Hassoun in Concert at Rosemont


Chicago’s Premier Arabic/English monthly, Al-Offok Al-Arabi Newspaper (The Arab Horizon), presents an introspective look into Chicago’s Arab-American Community. The paper has been covering the local scene and its organizations & individuals for over ten years…Links: profile for editor Amani Ghouleh.


Oriental Institute’s highly acclaimed special exhibit “The Life of Meresamun: A Temple Singer of Ancient Egypt.”

Upcoming events

Just for my own reference I’ve pasted here the info for a couple of upcoming events, tomorrow’s Oriental Institute (the inspiration for Raiders of the Lost Ark) tour is not to be missed.

tonight (free music downtown):

What: Amman Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International Program presents Doris: The Arab Musical Star
Where: Chicago Cultural Center – 72 E. Randolph, Chicago
When: Nov 18, 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM

Description: The Amman Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International Program cordially invites you to a performance by Doris, the fabulous Arab musical star.

Admission: Free, but reservations are required

For more information email or call Adrienne Tongate: 312-742-5320

also tonight (radio):


Connecting Women Radio presents “Celebrating Arab Heritage Month”

Where: Nov 18, 9:00 PM – 10:00 PMDescription:

CCHR Advisory Council on Arab Affairs member Hanadi Abukhdeir will be speaking about the Advisory Council and Arab Heritage Month, and author Alia Malek, will be discussing her new book “A Country Called Amreeka: Arab Roots, American Stories.”

For more information, call Faten Abdallah: 646-595-3653

tomorrow (U of C campus museum tour):

Oriental Institute presents “Gallery Tour: The Life of Meresamun: A Temple Singer of Ancient Egypt”

Where: University of Chicago – 1155 E. 58th Street, ChicagoWhen: Nov 19, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PMDescription:

Don’t miss this last chance to tour this exhibit with Curator Emily Teeter before it closes on December 6th!

Learn the behind-the-scenes story of how the Oriental Institute produced this three-dimensional biography of an ancient Egyptian priestess, and see how forensic scientists have used the latest CT data to reconstruct Meresamun’s physical appearance as she actually looked nearly 3,000 years ago.

For more information call: 773-702-9507 or visit:

A week from Monday:

Eid Al-Adha (!!?!)

What: Moraine Valley Community College presents “Eid Celebration”Where:

Moraine Valley Community College – 9000 W. College Parkway, Palos Hills, Room U111

When: Nov 30, 12:00 PM – 2:00 PMDescription: Do you have friends, colleagues or classmates that celebrate “Eid” and have always wondered what it is? A short presentation about the significance of the holiday will be presented. Enjoy free Middle Eastern sweets in celebration of the Muslim holiday, Eid Al-Adha. Also have your name printed in Arabic calligraphy to take home!

Admission: Free

For more information, contact Multicultural Student Affairs: (708) 974-5475

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Looking for Ibn Zaydun

Does anyone know what this poem is?

Here is a partial quotation from a Jordanian named Zaydoun. His namesake was the poet Ibn Zaydun from Spain who was famous for loving a princess. The Ibn Zaydun poem fragment is something like “We used to meet…our meeting” the last word being the Arabic word “deena” (?) (meeting).  Apparently the first two lines of the poem are somewhat famous in Arabic and are studied extensively in Syria.

A cursory review 9f a few google books shows Ibn Zaydun was the great poet that set the standard for judging later poets.  So far I have tracked down the quite short Wikipedia article about Ibn Zaydun, a tantalizing tourism biography, and a few lines of a poem from Syrian (?) blogger MoCo:

God has sent showers upon the abandoned dwelling places of those we loved. He has woven upon them a striped, many colored garment of flowers, and raised among them a flower like a star. How many girls like images trailed their garments among such flowers, when life was fresh and time was at our service… How happy they were, those days that have passed, days of pleasure, when we lived with those who had black, flowing hair and white shoulders… Now say to Destiny whose favors have vanished – favors i have lamented as the nights have passed – how faintly its breeze has touched me in my evening. but for him who walks in the night the stars still shine: greetings to you, Cordoba, with love and longing.


Tired of politically slanted “news” items about the Middle East? Seems like everyone has an ax to grind, an ethnic or religious group to demonize (preliminary to….?), a book to publicize, or vitriol to barter for that coveted Western visa.

Time to escape the self-serving agendas and look at the ordinary people. Oh, sure, you can find the same old, same old politics in Jordan if you look hard enough, but most Jordanians just don’t go around with a chip on their shoulder hating one group or another.

For a more refreshing, and probably more realistic snapshot of the Middle East, try Wasapnin Jordan, written by a British ex-pat (click the page tabs for photos of Jordan and Amman), or try picking something at random off of the successors to Planet Jordan:  Jordan Blogs, Quaider Planet, or  Girly Gator (sometimes the Arab women like to blog away from the guys)–these are all blog aggregators with several hundred blogs on their blogrolls.

hiv-public-announcement-in-arabicThere’s nothing like a Jordanian blog to give you a slice of real Arab life. Here is just one sample from Jordan Blogs. Moey, who says he  has two friends suffering from AIDS right now, has designed a public service announcement for HIV.  The slogan in Arabic says “When cheating, make sure you’re protected.”  (Click image for larger view). According to his profile:

The free time I have becomes more and more precious to me as the years go by. I’m a working student, I work for one of the most notable advertising agencies in the world. I also like my quiet time to balance out the social leanings of my study and leisure.

If you want some edgy cartoons with a definite pro-Palestinian slant, try Abu Mahjoob. It can sometimes be difficult, but is easily as creative as Doonesbury. Cartoons are in the archives, and the forum is always good for a couple hours.  For those who are more comfortable with same-sex forums, there are also forums for only women or only men.

[Note: This post for some reason has become a magnet for Russian spam comments. Do they not notice the irony of spamming a website in a language other than the one it's written in? I have translated them with a machine translation tool and kept the ones I like--but with the links neutered!]

Palestinian Scuttlebutt: “Mish Harb”

This week the Middle East blog chatter has been heating up.  Blogs that cater to American politics have seen a sudden influx of right wing pro-Israeli propaganda of the most extreme kind.  These cut and paste spam artists start work long after even the west coast Americans have gone to bed.  Like maybe at about 8AM Tel Aviv/Ramalla/Amman/Jerusalem time.  And they never discuss American politics; they just drag out every anti-Palestinian, pro-settler propaganda piece that ‘s ever been done in the last 10 years. For a while, I tried to counter the hate, but it was like trying to empty the ocean with a thimble.  Then two days ago the Israeli-bots  went mostly silent, or cut back on the comments, until yesterday when Israel announced the unilateral cease-fire against Hamas in Gaza–along with a resumption of the occupation of Gaza that they had unilaterally ended in 2005.  (It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out they would announce a cease-fire before the American inauguration Tuesday–the Middle East is completely attuned to the American election cycle.)  My curiosity was piqued and I had to make a foray over to the Arab neighborhood to see how the Arab street was taking this.

It turns out they are taking it very well.  In fact they are jolly.

Mansef, I decided.  I’ve got plenty of hummus at home–tonight I would have to eat something special.  Arriving at my favorite mansef place,  I saw in the window a sign that said, “Work like you don’t need the money. Love like you have never been hurt. Dance like no one is watching.”  Not very Arab, that.  And inside the furniture was covered with drop cloths while a half a dozen Arab men sat around a big table with huge argila pipe discretely on the floor between them. They cheerfully waved me in.  “Remodeling,” said one, proud of the word.  “We can accommodate you”, said another.  I was in the right place, for sure.  But the mansaf special was yesterday.  “We have mansaf”, they declared confidently.  Just for kicks I ordered the kubba too.  Of course they didn’t have it.  On the South Side it’s always on the menu but they never have it.  You have to go to the North Side.  Mint tea, but with dry mint.  Can’ t have everything. In the winter you should really drink sage tea, but it’s the thought that counts.

From my hiding place in a booth, I couldn’t help but overhear what they were saying–and although I couldn’t follow the conversation  it was pretty clear what they were talking about.  Filasteen, Iss-rah-el, Muser (Egypt), Mubarak, Hamas, and of course yahood. One topic after another was discussed and dropped.  No saber-rattling, for sure. I would recognize that sound.   Then agreement around the table.  “Mish harb.”  (Not war) “Mish harb.” “Mish harb”, everyone agreed–cheerfully. “Did you solve all the problems of the world yet”, I asked on my way back from paying the tab.  “Not yet”, one said, as cheerful as anyone can be without alcohol consumption, “but we’re this close.”  He held his thumb and finger an inch apart.

A harmful neighbour will either die or move away

palestine-settlers1Al-Ahram, a weekly from Egypt, showed up on my google reader’s list of top recommendations this week.  It is described as the “Arab world’s leading English-language publication.” Thanks, but no thanks.

Curious, I looked up last weeks’ confrontation in Hebron that was going on at the same time as the terrorist attack in India. A quick skim was disappointing. There was a picture of some people with guns and Jewish attire labeled “Israeli settlers teach their children to kill Palestinians”, but no Palestinians being aimed at.  A promised photo of a grave marker with a star of David was not posted. The world “Nazi” was sprinkled liberally throughout, and paragraph after paragraph claimed to know the thoughts, motivations, hearts and minds of a group of people who are not generally known for sharing their innermost thoughts and feelings with Palestinians.   The central incident the piece revolved around was vandalism in the middle of the night, resulting in breaking of car windows.

“The last time I went to submit a police complaint in Kiryat Araba one policeman took me to the next room and told me ‘I want to advise you, there is no point in submitting all these complaints. We simply can’t do anything to help you. The settlers control the state and the army can do little to protect you from them.'” Asked what he would do next to protect his family, Daana said, “I have no choice but to remain steadfast. A harmful neighbour will either die or move away,” said Daana quoting an old Arabic proverb.

Nice proverb.

Going to a Jewish source brings out a few more facts about the incident without the adjectives and heavy-handed world-view speculations of the Egyptian source.

Statements from the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Congress, and the dovish groups Ameinu and J Street criticized the settler reaction, which included setting fire to olive trees, stoning vehicles and pedestrians, and defacing Muslim graves with the Star of David. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert termed the violence a “pogrom.”

A strong condemnation of the settlers.

But leave it to the Christian Science Monitor to put the incident in context of the upcoming Israeli February elections, the government /settler split, and the cultural background of the city.

The violence here last week that started with the Israeli army evacuating ultranationalist settlers from a disputed house was captured on film and broadcast around the world. One thing it made clear for many was the extent to which extreme right-wing Jewish settlers have gone beyond the control of the Israeli government and army….


Hebron is a city that is complicated at its core. Jews and Muslims regularly pray here at the tomb of their common forefather Abraham. Jews call it the Cave of the Patriarchs and Muslims call it the Ibrahimi Mosque. To suppress the chances for violence, there are separate entrances to the holy site. The city itself was divided into Israeli and Palestinian-controlled sectors in 1996, leaving just about everyone miserable with the results….


Some say the move to evacuate the settlers was a preelection ploy. Israel faces parliamentary elections in February, out of which will come a new prime minister and a new government.

The big question now is whether growing settler violence will lead to a more radical or moderate direction for the Israeli right.

On Monday, members of the right-wing Likud Party were going to the polls in primaries to choose a new leader. The toss-up is between Benjamin Netanyahu, the hawkish politician who served as prime minister from 1996 to 1999, and Moshe Feiglin, a harder-line, religious figure who is closer to the settlement movement….


“We appreciate that the army threw them out. I don’t see that any Arab army has been able to do that,” says Mussab Jabari, who lives across the street from the evacuated building. He has covered his windows with cardboard slats to protect against the rocks thrown at the house. “Last week, we saw the good side of the Israeli soldiers,” he says. “There’s a change in their attitude toward the settlers.”

Maybe that will give the Arabs a new proverb, something like “A harmful neighbor will either die, move away, or be removed by the government.

Posted in Arabs, Palestine. Tags: . 4 Comments »

Chicago’s Arab Heritage Month

arab-chicago-commissionOnce again it’s Arab Heritage Month and I’ve missed half of it.  I only found out because I’m signed up for Arabic language meetups and they sent a notice.  I don’t go to the meetups any more because they’re always in a smoky environment–ah, how I miss that tufaHtain (double apple) argila since I quit smoking–but my interest in Arabic is eternal. There are still some good events left and other events at museums and such that continue for the whole month.

This Sunday, for women only: if you’re interested in belly dancing–the proper Arab kind they do at all-female engagement parties and not the Greek restaurant kind–do check out the ten dollar introductory lesson that Jasmin gives at her North Side studio.  She’s very good and it’s quite a workout. Believe me, you will discover muscles you didn’t know you had.

The link to the schedule is here.

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New Hussam Al-Rassam حسام الرسام links for Iraqi Music

When I first discovered Hussam Al-Rassam  حسام الرسام a few years ago I posted a link to his website and a couple of his most popular songs. Those links are long gone, but today I was looking for his music again and found some new links. It looks like he’s been in Detroit, Chicago, and in Australia recording some new stuff.

Results of search (more in this list) (sound quality is like TV):

Iraqi Song-Sad but True

Bilani Zimani [New song 2008]

Ya Noora NEW

Results of translated google search, with thumbnails and YouTube links–the sound quality is better on some of these and there are some links to stuff from his defunct website.

A little better sound quality from YouTube:

Ya Ali ياعلي

Ibnak Ya Iraq ابنك ياعراق …another version of Ibnak Ya Iraq (Your son, O Iraq)

Mu Galo – مو كالوا with some crosstalk at beginning of recording–I think the photos are Baghdad.’

The Iraqi Football (soccer) Song “bring the cup home” Jeeb El Kahsجيب الكاس

And then of course there’s the ever popular al-3agruba العگربة “Oh, my mother I have been bitten by a scorpion”, take-off on American Idol, with Hussam’s sphinx-like smile and hot dance moves.

Wait! Wait! Here it is, the official new Hussam Al-Rassam website (?)–still under construction, but very slick, and there’s a nice instrumental on the home page.  It looks like there will be eventual links to his albums–and I can only hope they plan to add a little ingeleezi button for English.

If anyone knows where to find the lyrics in English and/or in Arabic, please do post a link for me.

Three more days for the Chicago World Music Festival

The Chicago Music Festival runs from September 19-25 this year with free or very reasonably price concerts at various locations around the city.

Arabic artists this year are Dhafer Youssef of Tunisia, Ensemble Al-Kindi of Syria, and Gaida Hinawwi–listen to her |here|, a female vocalist from Iraq in the traditional maqam style.  The Iraqi already performed Sunday, and the Syrian group preformed Friday–drat, they bill themselves as “Whirling Dervishes of Damascus”.

Yet to come–


The Dhafer Youssef concert (Sufi Mystic Fusion) is Wednesday 9/24 7:30 P.M at the Museum of Contemporary Art–Admission $15. Listen to a sample of the music–“Farha” from Electric Sufi–at the festival website |here|. (Click on Wednesday) Also  Wednesday night is Mor Karbasi with the flamenco-esque Shephardic Ladino music from Jerusalem–see Thursday for the link.


You can also hear Dhafer Youssef  Thursday from 11:00-2:00 PM at the Chicago Cultural Center’s Claudia Theater free.  (And bask in the glow of the Tiffany stained glass dome at the same time.) To be broadcast line on WNUR 89.3 FM on the “Continental Drift” international program.  Also appearing in this venue is Mor Karbasi–listen here, oh, yes! from Israel with Sephardic Ladino Music–the music and language of the exiled Jews of Spain–sounds interesting, but they are separted by two acts–could that be a coididink?

The festival ends Thurday with an open house/Mexican market at the Cultural Center. For addresses see the City of Chicago’s official festival website.

The links for audio tracks again are:

Chicago Music Festival

Gaida Hinawwi–listen to her |here|

Mor Karbasi–listen here, oh, yes!

or look for links yourself on this list of featured artists

Lo Cor de la Plana from Spain, a capella male voices

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