Category Archives: arab

Quoted: Lucette Lagnado On Being An Egyptian Jew In 1960s America

Lucette Lagnado

I was a child of the ’60s. No, not those ’60s of peace, drugs, and rock and roll, but rather the period several years prior, when a secret agent named Emma Peel reigned supreme on TV’s The Avengers. [...]

When I caught my first episode in 1965, I assumed it was the black leather that gave Mrs. Peel her courage. At nine years old, I longed for a catsuit of my own. [...] Every week, I watched with a combination of fascination, intrigue, and utter longing, dreaming of growing up to be exactly like her.

It was madness, of course. No child on earth was a more unlikely Mrs. Peel.

At the time, my family was new to America. Even our black and white TV was a recent acquisition – the only vaguely valuable possession in that cramped apartment on 66th street in Bensonhurst, a working-class section of Brooklyn where our neighbors were either Italian Catholics or Jewish like us. But we were Egyptian Jews – Arab and Jewish both. When I was seven, my parents moved me and my three older siblings from Cairo, where we were born. In Egypt, we’d lived in a lovely apartment overlooking a main boulevard and I attended a private French lycée. Several times a week, my father would take me to a Swiss patisserie where we’d sit outdoors enjoying cakes and cold drinks.

But this comfortable way of life was rapidly deteriorating. For decades, Egyptian Jews had been embraced by both Muslims and Christians, managing to flourish in a society that was exceptionally tolerant. But the creation of Israel in 1948 marked the beginning of a Jewish exodus, which intensified after the Egyptian monarchy was overthrown in 1952 by an oppressive military dictatorship. Its leader, Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser, had decided that Jews were no longer true Egyptians. The security that Jews, foreigners, and other minorities had enjoyed vanished; a Jewish community numbering 80,000 was chased out or pressured to leave.

By 1963, businesses had been confiscated, the once-renowned Jewish hospital had been taken over by the army, and a g general fear — of arrest, of some terrible repercussion for refusing to leave-was pervasive. Most of our friends and relatives had already fled, and my father finally agreed that we too should go.

We were a family of six with only $200 ~ and 26 suitcases. Our papers branded us co as “stateless”-people without a country. Our painful journey led us from Cairo to Paris and ultimately to New York, where we fetched up in a corner of Brooklyn.

Yet Americans had trouble processing us. How could I be both an Arab and a Jew? Had I lived in the Pyramids, they asked, or perhaps in a tent? I learned early on not to tell people I was Egyptian at all.

—”The Avenger” by Lucette Lagnado, part of her memoir The Arrogant Years, originally published in Elle Magazine

M.I.A. And The Real ‘Bad Girls’

By Guest Contributor Thanu Yakupitiyage, cross-posted from Hyphen Magazine

Courtesy of TheGrio.com

By now pretty much everyone knows M.I.A. as the bad girl who flipped off the Super Bowl halftime camera. But her fans are more preoccupied with her new music video, “Bad Girls”, in which BMWs and Mercedes Benzes race in a desert we presume to be in the Middle East, tires burn in nameless oil states, Bedouin-styled men ride stallions à la Casablanca, brown rebel-types tote guns, and backup dancers appear in not-quite-accurate hipsterized niqab and hijab.
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Sundance Pick: 5 Broken Cameras

Trailer “5 Broken Cameras” from Guy Davidi on Vimeo.

 

“By healing, you resist oppression. – Emad Burnat”

5 Broken Cameras is a story of living in the shadow of oppression, a moving portrait of vibrant resistance through the unapologetic embrace of life itself. Set in the small Palestinian village of Bil’in, the story and narrative belongs to Emad Burnat, who became the eye of the village and ultimately chronicled over five years of activism. The people of Bil’in found their lands being encroached on by the building of a new settlement, and the wall to protect that settlement. They protest peacefully, marching up to the wall each Friday and thinking of new actions and demonstrations to stop the advancement of the settlement.

During this time, Emad also had a son, Gibreel, which brought his total brood to four. Emad mentions that each of the boys knows a slightly different world. The eldest was born during the Olso Accords which meant that he grew up with more freedom and mobility. Gibreel, on the other hand, mixes his first words of “mommy” and “daddy” with “army,” “cartridge” and “run! run!” If it weren’t for the ever present undercurrent of violence, Emad’s life would almost be seen as idyllic: a loving family; a large, involved village; numerous dances and celebrations are cornerstones of the life they create. Their marches are also full of hope and some humor. At one point, tired of the late night raids on the village, a group of children march up to the wall, chanting “We want to sleep! We want to sleep!” The situation in Bil’in gained international attention, and groups of Israeli, German, and other activists come at various points to show their support and solidarity. However, violence is never far enough away, and the promise of more hangs over Bil’in like a cloud. Continue reading

Not My Arab Spring

Courtesy of Illume Magazine

By Guest Contributor Sara Yasin

The Arab Spring shattered everything that I thought I knew about the Arab world. As unrest broke out in the region, and regimes fell, I realised how little I knew. As a Palestinian-American, it has been routine to reference my heritage, from explaining why I do not look like Princess Jasmine, or distancing myself from suicide bombers. The politics of the land of my parents always frustrated me, and I suppose what I understood was mostly gleaned from exhausted conversations overheard in our home or headlines.

To my shock, even though I proved to know very little about what caused the Arab Spring, many seemed to automatically think that the first half of my hyphenated identity automatically made me an authority on the region. While I feel tied to and interested in the struggle for change across the Middle East and North Africa, this is not my Arab Spring.

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How Egypt’s Nude Revolutionary Delivered a Stick of Dynamite

 By Guest Contributor Simba Rousseau, cross-posted from Witnessing Life

Twenty-year-old Egyptian blogger Magda Aliaa el-Mahdy rose to stardom after delivering a stick of dynamite via her blog, ‘A Rebel’s Diary’, in what she described as being in the spirit of the revolution.

(Editor’s Note: NSFW image is under the cut. – Arturo)

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Ethnic Hatred Taints Liberated Libya

20-year-old Eiman from Darfur sought shelter at the UNHCR-run Chousha camp on the Tunisia/Libya border

By Guest Contributor Simba Russeau

With more than 140 tribes and clans, Libya is considered one of the most tribally fragmented nations in the Arab world. Despite modernization, tribalism remains a prominent force in a country now awash with weaponry.

In the aftermath of Gaddafi’s reign, nearly forty different independent militias that reportedly emerged during the rebellion remain at large.

Raising questions as to whether the National Transitional Council (NTC) has the ability to reign in all the various groups, many of which have competing interests like settling scores from the past.

For Libyans from the far south this daunting picture has already become a reality.
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I’m Not Your Habibi: Thoughts on Craig Thompson’s Graphic Novel

By Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie

Sir Richard Burton is most famous for sexing up The 1,001 Arabian Nights. Two centuries later, Craig Thompson has graciously provided some accompanying imagery.

I feel like I have no choice but to hate Thompson’s latest graphic novel, Habibi. I’ll admit that it was beautifully drawn, though some of the panels seem needlessly garnished with alchemy symbols or random Arabic letters. But I’ll let Robyn Creswell’s review for The New York Times handle the fact that Thompson clutters his story—my beef with Thompson is about his staggering Orientalism, which I’ll get to shortly.

Themes of longing and survival permeate Habibi. The protagonists, Zam and Dodola, long for each other, likening this to a yearning for the Divine – Middle Eastern poets have done this for centuries. Zam and Dodola endure horrible events in the name of survival, perhaps tying in with Thompson’s conservationist theme by implying that our disregard for the earth is tantamount to rape and castration of the planet. These themes, however, are often drowned out—no matter how much Thompson underlines them—by the towering gaffes of his misrepresentation. The country of Wanatolia may be fiction, but the cultures it mimics and clumsily muddles together are real.
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Miss(ed) Representations, Part One: ‘I’m a Culture, Not a Costume’ Campaign

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid

Longtime Racialicious readers know this time on the calendar has prompted the R to read someone (or several folks) about their racist costumes or some other Halloween-related foolishness. Well, this year, Ohio University’s Students Teaching about Racism in Society (STARS) put on posters what we’ve been putting into words for quite a while.

I think that, for the most part, the campaign deserves the accolades, coverage, and support it’s been getting around the web, from Angry Asian Man to the 17,575 (and counting!) responses on the STARS president’s Tumblr to The Root to Bitch to the former Racialicious owner Carmen Sognonvi .

Of course, we can argue, among other things, that phenotypes don’t equal culture and cultures aren’t static or even talk about the historical-religious appropriation of Halloween itself.

My only quibble with the campaign is that I may have chosen photos where the models conveyed different body language. Not that the models didn’t pose how they wanted, being a student-driven campaign. What I do think is quite a few photographers rarely get The Shot in one shot; in fact, several photographers submit several photos for clients/collaborative partners to choose from.

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