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un cahier perlé

July 14, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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Photographing Greta Niu at the Public Market

Today #EricaJae and I #photographed @Greta Niu, Ph.D. at the Rochester Public Market. Greta is Director of Grants at Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York. She’s also a mom, an academic, activist, and educator. She’s featured in #TheInjuredBody: A #Film about #Racism in #America. I am saving Erica’s professional shots for a photography exhibition that will take place in conjunction with the premiere of the film. Here are some of the photographs I took. It was hot and very lively at the public market.

greta niu


greta niu and evan lowenstein

July 5, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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Sady Fisher

On June 30th #EricaJae photographed #SadyFischer, a #diversity #trainer and #queer #Latinx #community #engagement #specialist. Sady is one of the #women #featured in #TheInjuredBody: A #Film about #Racism in #America. #Wallart on Atlantic Ave in #Rochester, #NY.

© 2018 Neelum Films LLC

May 31, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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Sylvia Chan-Malik on Wajahat Ali’s story in the Atlantic

This is very long post about the language in Wajahat Ali’s Atlantic article on Israeli settlements.

Amidst all the noise, I finally buckled down and read Wajahat Ali’s story in the Atlantic about Zionist settlements. As it is Ramadan, and in addition to food and drink, I am fasting from anger and name-calling (to varying degrees of success), I attempted to read the piece like the Reading and Composition teacher I used to be. In his response to critics, Ali asks readers “to think for themselves” as to whether he is a “shill” for the Zionist cause. While I’ll refrain from answering that question (again, Ramadan), I’d like to simply point out two selected passages from a section in the piece in which Ali describes the prayers he offers at Al-Aqsa mosque.

Of the Palestinians, he writes:

“I prayed that Jihad Rashid, the father of two martyrs, and other Palestinians who use and abuse religion to validate hate and sanction violence would realize that they didn’t have to give their life or their children’s lives to defend this place.”

Of the Israeli settlers, he writes:

“I prayed for the settlers. I’m convinced that their zeal to redeem the land has transformed it into a golden calf—an idol, placed on a pedestal where even God, Jewish morality, and democracy can barely reach it. And I’m convinced that the settlements have become the Achilles’ heel of Israel’s security.”

Language matters. Word choice matters.

In the first passage, we see how Palestinians are characterized as possessing “hate,” of “abusing religion,” of “sanctioning violence,” of sacrificing their children to the conflict. The passage also infers that Palestinians do not understand that sending their children to die is a bad option. This portrays Palestinians as somehow more inclined to send their children to death than all other parents everywhere. Thus, I am hard pressed to come to any other inference from this passage except that Ali sees Palestinian humanity as warped, degraded, debased. His prayer for them is not about Palestinian suffering, of the pain and desperation that would drive any parent to view death as a viable option for their child. His prayer for the Palestinians is that they will somehow rise out of their debased state of violence and hate.

Contrast this with the second passage, about the Jewish settlers. First off, it’s important to note that nowhere in the entire article does Ali attribute hate, abuse of religion, or sanctioning of violence to the settlers or Israeli state. Indeed, his prayer for the settlers echoes the sentiment throughout the piece, that the settlers are driven by “zeal,” and a utopian vision of homeland. The settlers come off as idealistic, passionate, though slightly flawed in their approach. Their problem is, as the passage reflects, that their goals are simply too lofty, that in aspiring to their “pedestal,” they have actually undermined their own security. In this portrayal, I infer that the settlers are merely aspiring to religious prophecies and cultural autonomy. He indicates no sickness, no “hate” in the souls of those settlers who seek Palestinians to be caged and/or forcibly removed from their ancestral lands. His prayer for the settlers is that they can simply take a deep breath, so they can be the decent people they truly are.

Again, I have no desire to engage in name-calling. However, as someone who has been following this conversation, I wanted to take up Wajahat Ali’s request to read his article and assess his position and the essay’s message, both explicit and implicit.

Language matters. Word choice matters. Writing is an intimate art. So close-reading always offers keys to a writer’s truth.

May 29, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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Remi Kanazi on Roseanne

Remi Kanazi: Roseanne has been racist. Today wasn’t a revelation. It’s in line with the white supremacist garbage she’s been spouting for years on Twitter. She’s gone after black folks, Muslims, Palestinians, and the trans community. This wasn’t a slip up, this is how she’s consistently operated. And it’s not that ABC didn’t know that Roseanne was racist before reviving her show. They didn’t care. They wanted to cash in. Now after being publicly shamed on a mass scale, they acted. They are no heroes.

May 29, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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Opening U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem pours oil on flames in midst of turmoil

On May 17th, the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester published a disturbing piece about Israel’s independence day and the violence in Gaza, in the Democrat and Chronicle. I am not going to link to it. I responded by debunking some of the inaccuracies, point by point. They did not publish. Will add below. However, they did publish an essay/response by Melanie Duguid-May, from Christians Witnessing for Palestine. Here it is.

My Response:

Activists in the Rochester community were stunned to read “A historic moment marred by violence,” a piece written by Rina Chessin and Meredith Dragon of Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester and published on May 17, 2018.

Without going into a detailed debunking of historical inaccuracies, here are some corrections that merit to see the light of day:

– May 15, 1948, 70 years ago, also marks the beginning of the Palestinian Nakba or Catastrophe whereby Palestinian villages were systematically ethnically cleansed and 700,000 Palestinian people were ejected from what became Israel. Many of those refugees are still ghettoized in the Gaza Strip.

– East Jerusalem is occupied territory and not part of Israel’s capital. According to B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, in 1967 “Israel unlawfully annexed East Jerusalem to its territory. Since then, and despite its incursion upon their home, it has treated the Palestinian residents of the city as unwanted immigrants and worked systematically to drive them out of the area.”

– Palestinian protests have nothing to do with Hamas or the embassy move. They started weeks earlier to demand an end to the Gaza blockade (described as the largest open-air prison in the world) and to reinstitute the right of people living in Gaza to free movement (guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) and a return to their homes, hence the “Great Return March.”

– It’s the Israeli army that has been accused of using Palestinian civilians as human shields, most notably by the Goldstone Report, during incursions into Gaza. Israel has violently attacked a blockaded Gaza, which the Palestinian population cannot leave, 14 times since it “withdrew” in 2005. Hamas was created in 1988. Why has Israel been occupying Gaza since 1967?

– No border was being breached. It’s a fence with a massive buffer zone erected by Israel that concentrates Palestinians into a small, densely populated camp. Israel has never declared its borders, as the process of ethnic cleansing and grabbing more land is ongoing.

May 28, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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ACLU Report: Detained Immigrant Children Subjected To Widespread Abuse By Officials

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor: Just so people are clear, the ACLU released a report describing “widespread abuse”of immigrant children based on an investigation of 30,000 documents from 2009 to 2014–during the heart of the Obama Administration. This is the problem with all of the discussion about the “unique” horror of the Trump Administration. It is horrible, but just as this current administration did not invent police brutality, it hasn’t invented the abuse and degradation of immigrants. These policies and practices are bipartisan, shared among Democrats and Republicans alike. It speaks clearly and sharply to why we desperately need a political alternative beyond choosing torture and abuse of children under one administration only to be followed by the torture and abuse of separating children from their parents at the border. More here.

May 27, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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Carceral Capitalism: A Conversation with Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang: In the carceral municipality you are followed in your car by a police officer as you drive to your shit job simply because you are not white. While you are being given a ticket for $300 the cop realizes there is a warrant out for your arrest for an unpaid fine for the length of your grass being three inches too long (though you cannot recall having ever received such a fine). In jail, you call your aunt to bail you out, but she doesn’t have the money and it takes her a day to secure your release through a commercial bondsman. Since your aunt lacked financial assets, she had to list her car as collateral. When she misses a payment due to low-waged and precarious employment, she will be charged additional fees by the bondsman. After you are released from jail, you are reprimanded by your boss for missing work without calling in, and you are written up. Because your license has been revoked for traffic violations and an unpaid ticket, you now have to use the unreliable and underfunded public transportation system to get to work. You arrive late on the day you have been summoned to appear in court because the bus did not arrive on time, and thus you are forced to reschedule your court appearance and pay an additional fee. This scenario could go on and on and on…

What would an alternative look like? I invoke Fred Moten toward the end of the chapter on municipal finance because he reminds me that in the cracks of the carceral society, insurgent socialities already exist. People have an urge toward life, a need to gather, to jam, to conduct experiments in care when the welfare state and health-care system have failed us. It could be comrades taking turns to take the poet Anne Boyer to the hospital while she undergoes cancer treatment, or the creation of mental health collectives, or things more quotidian, not necessarily bound up with our brokenness and deteriorating bodies. It could be the sociality created in the Baltimore Feminist Reading group I was part of, the different mode of engagement we invented there, based on friendship and not the performance of mastery found in the academic seminar. This is not to glorify informal structures of care that emerge in the crucible of a capitalist system that would grind us all to pulp if it weren’t for our friends. But this is the unexpected underside of social precarity: its production of need and dependence can sometimes be socially binding.

Still, some people fall through the cracks. These informal structures are not always sustainable or functional. We don’t always have the resources to catch each other when we fall, when someone is laid off from their job or evicted. I would like a world where housing and food are not commodities, where everyone has health care and guaranteed basic income rather than compulsory debt, and everyone is free to move (without being policed or surveilled) and travel using reliable green transportation infrastructure. As for the city, it should not consist solely of commercial space, but also include true commons: public space for people to gather, for teens to loiter to their heart’s content. Who knows what will be created when congregation is not met with regulation. More here.

May 27, 2018
by mara.ahmed
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US Border Patrol shoots Claudia Gonzáles in the head

US Border Patrol shoots Claudia Gonzáles in the head. The 20-year-old had traveled from Guatemala to Texas to help pay for her education. Customs and Border Protection later change their story and claim they were attacked by “blunt objects.” Sounds a lot like the IDF killing Palestinian teenagers in order to thwart “knife attacks.”