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New Book Traces Roots of Saudi-Funded Extremism

In Tunisia protestors came out en masse againt Saudi Arabia's Mohammed bin Salman with signs reading "You're not welcome." (AP/Independent) A review of The Wahhabi Code: How Saudis Spread Extremism Globally (Arcade 2018, hardback, $24.99)   By Jordan Elgrably This is a multiple-choice quiz: —Which country is the most responsible for terrorism worldwide: A) Saudi ArabiaB) IranC) North KoreaD) The United StatesE) none of the above You probably caught that that was a trick question. (Guest speakers will address it on the evening of Dec. 20th in Los Angeles, when The Markaz and the L.A. World Affairs Council presents a public forum, Ending Saudi Extremism with author Terence Ward, moderated by Ani Zonneveld, the president of Muslims for Progressive Values.) Continue reading

From Beirut to the American Halls of Justice

an immigrant and trial lawyer prepares for the trenches "Every trial lawyer’s life experiences are different, of course, but no doubt interesting to explore. For me, I remember doing homework in the dark using only candlelight due to power outages in the war in Beirut. I remember not being able to buy my favorite cereal due to food shortages. Being in bomb shelters. Being a refugee in Syria. Loosing our home due to bombs and rebuilding it. Collecting bullet shells instead of bottle caps."   By Amal M. Smith            When I took the bar exam to become a lawyer, it was three full days of testing. Back then, the mere thought of a three-day exam was grueling. And naturally, passing was a joyous celebration. But now, as a trial lawyer, I often fondly reminisce about that exam as a nostalgic achievement. Because when I am in trial everyday, all day, sometimes for weeks at a time, I would do anything to sit for a three-day exam instead. Continue reading

There is No Marshall Plan for Iraq

An American volunteer on a recent mission in Iraq observes the state of the country.   By Greta Berlin On June 5, 1947, in an address at Harvard University, Secretary of State George C. Marshall introduced a European recovery program that would be financed by the United States to the tune of 12 billion dollars (about $100 billion by 2018 estimates). More than 16 European nations accepted the money to jumpstart their economy. What few of us ever talk about is that the Marshall Plan hugely benefited the American economy1 as well, for most of that money would be used to buy goods from the United States, goods that had to be shipped across the Atlantic on American merchant vessels. The US government viewed this as a win-win situation where do-gooders could financially help European nations while (in their minds) halting the advance of Soviet influence across the continent, and money could be made all around. After all, the United States doesn’t do anything for free. Our country prospered, as companies were able to find markets in Europe and sell their products.2 And who paid for all of this? Why the American taxpayer, of course, convinced that we would stop Communism if we agreed to this huge payout. Continue reading

The Dream of Edward Said & Daniel Barenboim Comes to Disney Hall

An Angeleno assesses The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra   By Tony Litwinko Back in 1999, two iconoclasts, one Arab, the other Israeli, devised a new, unorthodox orchestra and called it the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, after a Goethe poetry book inspired by the Persian Sufi poet, Hafez. The “Divan” as envisioned by author-pianist Edward Said (Orientalism) and pianist-conductor Daniel Barenboim, would invite talented Palestinian, Israeli and other musicians from the Middle East to perform together, in spite of obvious political, religious and physical barriers. What was originally intended to be a summer workshop is now nearing its 20th year, and recently competed a U.S. tour, which included their Los Angeles premiere at downtown’s Walt Disney Concert Hall. Continue reading

The Markaz Review—October 2018

Interview with Sama'a Al-Hamdani on Yemen / Jordan Elgrably Review of Algiers, Third World Capital, Freedom Fighters, Revolutionaries, Black Panthers / Anthony Saidy Palestinian Women Were the Heart and Soul of the First Intifada Opinion: US Anti-Iran Sanctions Harm the Iranian People / Mohamad Huseini Opinion: They Came for Muslims and Immigrants, Then They Came For Me / Stephen Rohde

A Humanitarian Catastrophe: Understanding the War in Yemen

An interview with Sama'a Al-Hamdani On September 26, California Representative Ro Khanna and about a dozen other House democrats put forward a bill to stop US support for the Yemen war—the War Powers Resolution to End U.S. Military Involvement in Yemen—because in fact Congress has not authorized US military and financial support for the war. As of this writing, only two Republicans, Thomas Massie from Kentucky and Walter Jones from North Carolina, were backing it. On September 27, Yemeni-American analyst Sama’a Al-Hamdani spoke in Los Angeles at UCLA along with Tasleem Mulhall about the Yemen conflict in a program presented by The Markaz and UCLA’s Center for Near Eastern Studies. The following interview was conducted by Jordan Elgrably. [Photo: Sama'a Al-Hamdani, Tasleem Mulhall, Jordan Elgrably, by Jo Anderson.]     Why is it that Americans know so little about Yemen, why has the country seemed so off the radar to us? Not to be overly cynical, but is it perhaps in part because of Saudi Arabia’s long-standing relationship with the U.S., particularly with respect to the oil and gas industry and its lobbyists in Washington? There isn’t a single correct answer as to why Americans know so little about Yemen, but one must consider several factors at play. It could be as innocent as poor education or lack of interest. From one standpoint, Yemeni nationals are brown, poor and too remote from America. However, to the majority of Americans, it is the result of a methodical capitalist agenda, which sees no profit in “saving” Yemen, an impoverished country in a very wealthy peninsula with nothing financial to offer the world in general, and the US in particular, without war and terrorism. Continue reading

Algiers, the Black Panthers and the Revolution

Book Review by Anthony Saidy Algiers, Third World Capital, Freedom Fighters, Revolutionaries, Black Panthersby Elaine Mokhtefi (Verso, 2018)At 23, motivated by lofty ideals for world peace and justice, New York native Elaine Klein settled in postwar France, where she found work as a translator and interpreter for international organizations. In 1960 Klein got involved with a New York-based group that was part of the Algerian National Liberation Front, or FLN. They lobbied the United Nations in support of Algeria’s government in exile, working for Algeria’s independence from France. Klein soon found herself swept up in the Algerian Revolution and gave it two decades of her life, marrying the Algerian intellectual and liberation war veteran Mokhtar Mokhtefi (author of J'Étais Français-Musulman). In Algiers, she got attached to Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver, for whom she performed various tasks and missions, and was ultimately deported for refusing to be a spy for the Algerian secret police, having long known of their use of torture. Continue reading

Palestinian Women Were the Heart and Soul of the First Intifada

Naila and the Uprising, a film by Julia Bacha Review by Jordan Elgrably   Last month Human Rights Watch presented the Los Angeles premiere of a new Just Vision documentary by directing stalwart Julia Bacha (Budrus, Encounter Point, Control Room). Using a creative combination of animation, live action and archival footage, Naila and the Uprising recounts the story of Palestinian women during the First Intifada (1987-1993). The narrative circles around Naila Ayesh and others who were swept into the maelstrom of confrontation with Israel's then 20-year Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. (Last year marked 50 years of this cruel and ludicrous stalemate.) Continue reading

For the Man in the Street, U.S. Anti-Iran Sanctions Don’t Augur Well

On September 25th, President Donald Trump gave a speech to the UN in which he touted breaking the anti-nuclear deal with Iran as a pro-active move for Middle East peace and stability. Trump insisted U.S. sanctions against Iran are necessary to move the regime away from its agenda in Syria and Yemen. The present writer who lives in Iran under harsh economic conditions begs to differ.   By Mohamad Huseini Are economic sanctions humane? Are they a subversive act of war or are they a gentle way to put pressure on certain unfriendly states to change their ways? Walk through the streets of any city in Iran and all you hear about are the hardships that sanctions have brought to everyday life. From one day to the next, no one knows the price of basics. Standing in line at a bakery you hear people asking each other the cost of bread when they should already know the answer. After all, bread and rice are the staples of life and the cheapest way to fill the belly. Yet no one seems to know how he or she will manage to pay for a few pieces of bread or a kilo of rice. Continue reading

They Came for Muslims and Immigrants, Then They Came for Me

Seventeen years ago, in the wake of 9/11, Rev George Regas convened a wide array of faith leaders and activists in Southern California to found Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace.  Since then, ICUJP has met on over 875 Fridays and has organized hundreds of events to advance its mission that RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES MUST STOP BLESSING WAR AND VIOLENCE.  As the dangerous, threatening and fateful US “War on Terror” began to emerge, I was reminded of the haunting words of Rev Martin Niemöller’s cautionary poem, warning the world during the atrocities of Nazism that when a repressive government moves against the most despised in society, if left unchecked, no one is safe and it will move against its own citizens. In October 2001, I published my own version of “Then They Came for Me,” reproduced here.  Sadly, today, seventeen years later, we are confronting ominously comparable threats to democracy revealing the persistence of fear, hatred, racism and bigotry.  That’s why ICUJP continues it work without interruption and that’s why everyone, everyday needs to resist and advance the cause of peace, justice and liberty for all.     Continue reading