Bloggin’ Banat

two arab-american chicks takin’ over the blogosphere

Zenga Zenga! Obama’s Qaddafi Moment May 20, 2011

Filed under: Comedy,Nawal,Obama,Politics — Nawal @ 11:15 am

Yesterday, President Obama made what was touted to be a major policy speech entitled “A Moment of Opportunity”  at the State Department.  The speech wasn’t great and there was nothing major about it. However, one amusing thing that came about during the speech was reading the comments of Twitter users (using the #MEspeech hashtag) regarding this excerpt below :

For six months, we have witnessed an extraordinary change take place in the Middle East and North Africa. Square by square, town by town, country by country, the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights.

Immediately, people were commenting that Obama almost made a “zenga zenga joke” with that second line.  Of course, they’re referring to one of Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi’s fairly recent televised speeches in which he exclaimed:

I will call upon millions from desert to desert. We will march to purge Libya inch by inch, house by house, alley by alley.

Or as the latter part was said in Arabic: “Shiber shiber, dar dar, beit beit, zenga zenga!”  This Qaddafi speech quickly became an internet meme.  One of my favorite parodies was a clip shown on the late night talk show CONAN.  So while Obama’s Middle East speech certainly wasn’t groundbreaking, it at least provided some entertainment thanks to Qaddafi,  Obama’s speechwriter and Twitter users.


Alice Walker Tours Gaza March 11, 2009

alice-walkerAlice Walker, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of “The Color Purple”, toured Gaza this week. She was part of a delegation from Codepink, a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement. Walker said in an interview yesterday that she wanted to be with the victims and “bear witness to what is happening” there. Due to the recent death of a sister, Walker says she felt connected to the people of Gaza who’ve lost their loved ones in the latest assault.  She hopes to make President Obama more aware of the plight of Palestinians in Gaza. The truth is though, Obama is aware of what’s happening. However, in spite of that and Israel’s illegal actions, he’s decided not to cut the $30 billion dollars in aid promised to Israel over the next 10 years. That’s so not cool, dude. Not cool at all.

I do think Alice Walker can make people more aware, however, by writing about her experience and what she’s seen in Gaza when she comes back to the States. Better yet, why not approach Oprah and Steven Spielberg? (insert rolling of the eyes) Both participated in the movie based on her novel and both have a lot of influence, right?  Surely, Oprah will listen.  I must admit, I dislike (and I’m being kind here) Oprah. Of all the shows she’s done on crises, disasters and injustices taking place in the world, she has never spoken about the plight of Palestinians and the Israeli occupation. Correct me if I’m wrong on that, but I’m pretty sure that’s the case. And that makes Oprah a huge hypocrite. Maybe Walker can convince Spielberg to produce a documentary on the human toll the death and destruction of Israel’s assault has had on Gazans.  Lest you’ve forgotten, Spielberg is the man who lobbied President Bush to posthumously pardon a man who violated US laws by supplying Jewish forces with planes during the Nakba in 1948.  The documentary should be titled “Catastrophe in Gaza:  Death and Destruction by the Hands of the Zionist Entity.”

Who am I kidding?  That’s so not going to happen.

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Optimistic About Obama January 21, 2009

obamaI’m happy that Barack Obama is president.  I, like the millions, if not billions of people around the world, watched Barack Obama’s inauguration.  It was a historic moment and one that can not be interpreted as anything but positive.  Having an intelligent, capable son of an immigrant become president of the United States is a good thing.  Many people believe, as I do, that at the very least Obama will bring positive change to America.  I know a lot of Arabs and Palestinians are skeptical, even pessimistic that he’ll bring welcomed change to American foreign policy towards the Middle East, particularly the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  Many, including myself, were dismayed at his silence during the Israeli assault on Gaza.  While Obama’s policy towards the conflict may not change that much from his predecessors (we don’t know yet), we can’t blame foreign leaders for not helping us out when Palestinian and Arab leaders aren’t helping their own people.

There’s no doubt that if there is ever to be a just solution to the conflict, the United States must play an integral role;  being that Israel is the recipient of more military and financial aid from the United States than anyone else in the world.  But I’m fed up with a lot of Arabs being so negative about Obama’s presidency. If we are to be skeptical and  negative about anything it is the Palestinian and Arab leadership.  We can’t blame the United States for continuing to support Israel when, in light of the Israeli assault on Gaza, Arab leaders like Abdullah and Mubarak continue to have normal relations with Israel. When other Arab countries continue to have trade relations with Israel.  When Abbas continues to follow Israel’s lead.  It’s just hypocritical to blame others when Arab leaders are doing nothing.  Even when they meet, Arab leaders can’t agree on putting out a measly statement.  It’s pathetic.

With Palestinians divided between Hamas and Fatah loyalties and with having an incompetent president in Abbas, we need our own Obama.  There’s never been a more appropriate time.  Palestinians need someone who can unite them and inspire them.  We haven’t had a leader like that.  Many believe that Arafat was a great leader but he was no doubt a terrible politician.  We need someone who is youthful, intelligent, cunning and who understands the changing ways of the world.  We need someone who is not willing ot succumb to outside pressure and knows what is best for Palestinians as a whole.  I have to believe that a future leader like that exists somewhere out there in Palestine.

I may be naive, but I am optimistic about the next four years with Obama as president.  For one thing, things can’t get any worse as they have been under eight years of Bush.  While that is certainly setting the bar pretty low, at least Obama has made an effort to reach out to the Muslim world and has conveyed the message that diplomacy, not military action, should be the way to towards ending conflicts.  We shall see in the next few weeks and months what the Obama administration will do regarding the Middle East. In the meantime, I’ll be waiting for the Palestinian Obama.

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Celebrities on the Gaza Crisis January 3, 2009

There were a slew of demonstrations against the Israeli atrocities being committed in Gaza that took place all over the world on Friday.  Sadly, there was very little coverage of that in the western media.  However, it got me wondering if there were any celebrities or high profile figures that were participating in these demonstrations or voicing their objections to Israeli actions in Gaza.  I was happy to learn that in the UK, singer Annie Lennox and other celebrities indeed are calling for Israel to stop its air attacks on the Gaza Strip

annie-lennox1Annie Lennox participated in a press conference, held in London on Friday, that also included Bianca Jagger, UK comedian Alexei Sayle (who is Jewish), former London mayor Ken Livingstone and Respect MP George Galloway.  At the press conference Bianca Jagger called on President-elect Obama  to condemn the Israeli air strikes (I doubt that’ll happen anytime soon, if at all).  Alexai Sayle said Jewish people in the public eye should voice that this was “not being done in our name”.  Those that were in attendance will be taking part in a national demonstration on Saturday that will take place along the Embankment in London.  I’ll be curious to see what other celebrities, if any, show up for the protest.

I know that what celebrities may think on the Gaza crisis may seem trivial.  But celebrities do help bring attention and resources to causes that they support; particularly to people who are uninformed on a particular subject.  God only knows that the Palestinian perspective receives far too little coverage in the western media and any awareness would be helpful.

Unfortunately, I have yet to read or hear of any American celebrities voicing their dismay at Israel’s actions.  I won’t hold my breath.

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Lame Ducks Duck Flames January 2, 2009

One of the most densely populated areas in the entire world, the Gaza strip is bursting at its seams with 1.4 million people squished together in about 139 square miles. Therefore, any attack on Hamas elements in Gaza is sure to result in massive civilian casualties. Since the Israeli offensive began last week, more than 400 Gazans have been killed and about 1,700 wounded. Of those killed, the UN says that at least a quarter of them are civilians and several dozen are children.

Take a look at what happened when Israel targeted and killed top Hamas leader Nizar Rayan:

The bomb flattened the house and killed Rayan — as well as 18 other people, including nine of his children, ages 2 to 19, and all four of his wives. Television footage showed medics clutching the bodies of children dug from the rubble of the house and neighboring buildings.

So, with Gaza up in flames, the humanitarian crisis worsening by the minute, and the international community pressing for a ceasefire, what are our illustrious leaders doing? Phoning it in.

Asked why Rice was not going to the region, Johndroe said the secretary had been making “a number of calls” on the problem. “She’s been on the phones constantly since last Friday and Saturday for about a week now, so don’t see a particular need for her to travel to the region now since she can do the work from here.”

Bush returned to Washington on Thursday afternoon from a holiday stay at his Texas ranch. Both he and Rice have been telephoning a host of world leaders in recent days in the wake of new hostilities between Israel and the Hamas organization that rules Gaza.

They “don’t see a particular need” for Rice to go to the region…Of course not – Really, what more should we expect from an administration that has been in lame duck mode since at least ’04? Have we forgotten how this administration reacted to Hurricane Katrina? They’ve been waiting for a new administration to take over for years.

In addition to the outgoing lame duck administration, the incoming administration and its president-elect are ducking, as well. After addressing the attacks in Mumbai and the current economic crisis, Obama has remained mum on the situation in Gaza and conveniently evoked his “there is only one U.S. president at a time” line.

How convenient. The casualties continue to mount, Israel is closer than ever to pushing a ground offensive, and all of our leaders are lame ducks ducking the flames.ducking-ducks


Torture Worse Than Waterboarding December 10, 2008

As we all know, waterboarding is a form of torture that hopefully Barack Obama will ban for good.  However, a technique US military interrogators often use is to blast music at detainees like those in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo.  And this my friends could be a legal technique worse than waterboarding.  I’m guessing that even if the prisoners don’t give in and offer some valuable information then the music, at the very least, will drive them crazy.  According to the British law group Reprieve these are some of the songs that they’ve used:

“Enter Sandman” Metallica.

“Bodies” Drowning Pool.

“Shoot to Thrill” AC/DC.

“Hell’s Bells” AC/DC.

“I Love You,” from the “Barney and Friends” children’s TV show.

“Born in the USA” Bruce Springsteen.

“Babylon” David Gray.

“White America” Eminem.

“Sesame Street” theme song from the children’s TV show.

Now, I’m not familiar with some of these songs but I could definitely see how some could be used for particular purposes. “Enter Sandman” is downright creepy and scary.  It could be used for sleep deprivation. “Born in the USA” I’m sure is thrown in there just as a big f-you to the prisoners.  But the one song that I think shows absolutely no mercy and is worse than waterboarding is the “I Love You” Barney song.  It’s not so much the song itself that’ll drive oneself to the brink of insanity, it’s the annoying voice of Barney singing it.  Hearing his voice and this song over and over again is sure to drive the poor guys on the receiving end of it to consider suicide.  Sure, committing suicide is haram (forbidden) in Islam, but there’s only so much Barney one human being can take.

On the other hand, I’m wondering why the theme song from Sesame Street is on the list.  That song is the jam.  Who wouldn’t want to know how to get to Sesame Street?


Hanan Ashrawi is the Voice of Reason December 2, 2008

hanan-ashrawiI’ve always admired Hanan Ashrawi.  And it’s not just because she’s a smart, strong Palestinian woman. I’ve always thought that she’s been the voice of reason when it comes to Palestinian politics.  And oh how I wish she was the Palestinian president.  God knows we’d be in a better state of affairs.

Al Jazeera English recently conducted an interview with Ashrawi and discussed the possible impact of the Obama administration on the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, the upcoming Israeli elections and the rift between Hamas and Fatah.

The entire interview is definitely worth reading but here are some selections I found interesting.

On the prospects of the Obama administration, with Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, towards the Middle East peace process:

First of all, we must not personalise issues. I don’t think it is a matter of individuals. It’s a matter, first of all, of the team as a whole and their policies. Obama’s policies certainly indicate that he wants to engage. He doesn’t want to postpone things until the end as [Bill] Clinton and Bush did. And secondly, he’s marking a departure from the Bush administration, which was disastrous for everybody.

Now having said that, I must caution against any type of unrealistic optimism. There are constants in American policy – such as the strategic alliance between the US and Israel – that are not going to be changed by individuals.

Individuals change their own positions and their own policies to serve their own interests and their own careers. Hillary Clinton was outspoken about Palestinian rights when she was First Lady, but when she ran for office in the Senate for New York she did a 180 degree turn and became not just totally supportive of Israel, but of the extreme right in Israel and hostile to Palestinians.

On the divide between Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza:

I think there’s a problem because there’s a power struggle. The sharing of the spoils of power.

Of course we are one people, but if the division remains we are in danger of having a serious risk that will create two separate systems that in the future will become irreconcilable. Right now they are reconcilable and we must work on that.

On her running in the upcoming election:

No. I’ve decided I’m not running. What you can count on me doing is supporting young women, young leaders, the new generation to run for office.

We need the young. People my age should know how to step aside and how to provide a system of support and solidarity for the new leaders. We have a disastrous situation of a leadership that doesn’t know the meaning of a graceful exit, but I see lots of hope in the younger generation.

I wish we could continuously blast that message of change on loudspeakers directed towards the Muqataa.