Articles by Ramzy Baroud:
May 9, 2013 by Ramzy Baroud
As they spoke to a BBC correspondent in their run-down room which they call home in Dhaka, Bangladesh, a man sobbed as his 12-year-old daughter sat close to him. His face, wrinkled before its time, was a picture of utter anguish. It could only be understood by a parent whose child was dying under giant slabs of concrete where nothing could be done.
“If she is dead,” he said, “I just want to bury her with my own hands, so at least in my mind I know that I have finally found my daughter.” Then the despairing man succumbed to his uncontrollable tears.
His daughter Hamida had been working right along his other young daughter who had miraculously escaped the collapse of several factories in the Rana Plaza building in Dhaka on April 24.
May 1, 2013 by Ramzy Baroud
During his talk sponsored by the New American Foundation in March 2008, author Parag Khanna addressed the rising challenges facing the US’s global hegemony. According to Khanna, China and the European Union are the new contenders with the battlefield being a global ‘geopolitical marketplace.’
Aside from Khanna’s insight, one statement particularly puzzled me greatly. “Why am I talking about Europe, China, and the United States? What about Russia, what about India, what about Islam…what about all those other powers?” Initially, I thought it must have been an error. The speaker must surely realize that Islam is a religion, not a political entity with a definable ‘geopolitical marketplace.’ But it was not an error, or more accurately, it was a deliberate error. Khanna went on to explain that Islam doesn’t have ‘that kind of coherence’ that allows it to spread its power and influence, unlike the dominant other powers which he highlighted. According to that odd logic, Islam and Brazil were discussed in a similar context.
This sort of twisted reasoning has flourished as an academic discipline-turned-industry since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Sure, it existed prior to this date, but its ‘experts’ and their then few think-tanks were largely placed within a decidedly pro-Israel, Zionist and right-wing political orthodoxy. In the last decade or so, the relatively specialized business multiplied and became mainstream wisdom. Its numerous ‘experts’ – who are more like intellectual purveyors – became well-known faces in American news networks. Their once ‘politically incorrect’ depiction of Arabs, Muslims and the non-western world at large, became acceptable views which were then translated into actual policies used for invading countries, torturing prisoners and flushing Holy Korans down toilets.
April 3, 2013 by Ramzy Baroud
‘Confused’ may be an appropriate term to describe Turkey’s current foreign policy in the Middle East and Israel in particular. The source of that confusion – aside from the appalling violence in Syria and earlier in Libya – is Turkey’s own mistakes.
The Turkish government’s inconsistency regarding Israel highlights earlier discrepancy in other political contexts. There was a time when Turkey’s top foreign policy priority included reaching out diplomatically to Arab and Muslim countries. Then, we spoke of a paradigm shift, whereby Ankara was repositioning its political center, reflecting perhaps economic necessity, but also cultural shifts within its own society. It seemed that the East vs. West debate was skillfully being resolved by politicians of the Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, along with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, appeared to have obtained a magical non-confrontational approach to Turkey’s historic political alignment. ‘The Zero Problems’ policy allowed Turkey to brand itself as a bridge between two worlds. The country’s economic growth and strategic import to various geopolitical spheres allowed it to escape whatever price meted out by Washington and its European allies as a reprimand for its bold political moves – including Erdogan’s unprecedented challenge of Israel.
March 6, 2013 by Ramzy Baroud
One fails to understand the unperturbed attitude with which regional and international leaders and organizations are treating the unrelenting onslaught against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, formally known as Burma. Numbers speak of atrocities where every violent act is prelude to greater violence and ethnic cleansing. Yet, western governments’ normalization with the Myanmar regime continues unabated, regional leaders are as gutless as ever and even human rights organizations seem compelled by habitual urges to issue statements lacking meaningful, decisive and coordinated calls for action.
Meanwhile the ‘boat people’ remain on their own. On February 26, fishermen discovered a rickety wooden boat floating randomly at sea, nearly 25 kilometers (16 miles) off the coast of Indonesia’s northern province of Aceh. The Associated Press and other media reported there were 121 people on board including children who were extremely weak, dehydrated and nearly starved. They were Rohingya refugees who preferred to take their chances at sea rather than stay in Myanmar. To understand the decision of a parent to risk his child’s life in a tumultuous sea would require understanding the greater risks awaiting them at home.
February 27, 2013 by Ramzy Baroud
An Israeli-Turkish rapprochement is unmistakably underway, but unlike the heyday of their political alignment of the 1990’s, the revamped relationship is likely to be more guarded and will pose a greater challenge to Turkey rather than to Israel. Israeli media referenced a report by the Turkish newspaper Radikal with much interest, regarding secret talks between Turkey and Israel that could yield an Israeli apology for its army’s raid against the Turkish aid flotilla, the Mavi Marmara, which was on its way to Gaza in May 2010. The assault resulted in the death of 9 Turkish activists, including a US citizen.
The attack wrought a crisis unseen since the rise of the Turkish-Israeli alliance starting in 1984, followed by a full blown strategic partnership in 1996. But that crisis didn’t necessarily start at the Mavi Marmara deadly attack, or previous Israeli insults of Turkey. Nor did it begin with the Israeli so-called Operation Cast Lead against besieged Gaza in Dec 2008, which resulted in the death and wounding of thousands of Palestinians, mostly civilians.
According to the Radikal report (published in Feb 20 and cited by Israeli Haaretz two days later), Israel is willing to meet two of Turkey’s conditions for the resumption of full ties: an apology, and compensation to the families of the victims. “Turkey has also demanded Israel lift the siege,” on Gaza, Haaretz reported, citing Radikal, “but is prepared to drop that demand.”
February 13, 2013 by Ramzy Baroud
Soon after the joint US-British bombing campaign ‘Operation Desert Fox’ devastated parts of Iraq in Dec 1998, I was complaining to a friend in the lobby of the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad.
I was disappointed with the fact that our busy schedule in Iraq – mostly visiting hospitals packed with injured or Depleted Uranium Victims – left me no time to purchase a few Arabic books for my little daughter back in the states. As I got ready to embark on the long bus journey back to Jordan, an Iraqi man with a thick moustache and a carefully designed beard approached me. “This is for your daughter,” he said with a smile as he handed me a plastic bag. The bag included over a dozen books with colorful images of traditional Iraqi children stories. I had never met that man before, nor did we ever meet again. He was a guest at the hotel and somehow he learned of my dilemma. As I profusely, but hurriedly thanked him before taking my seat on the bus, he insisted that no such words were needed. “We are brothers and your daughter is like my own,” he said.
February 1, 2013 by Ramzy Baroud
The British security firm G4S is set to rake in massive profits thanks to crises in Mali, Libya and Algeria. Recognized as the world’s biggest security firm, the group’s brand plummeted during the London Olympics last year due to its failure to satisfy conditions of a government contract. But with growing unrest in North and West Africa, G4S is expected to make a speedy recovery.
The January 16th hostage crisis at Algeria’s Ain Amenas gas plant, where 38 hostages were killed, ushered in the return of al-Qaeda not as extremists on the run, but as well-prepared militants with the ability to strike deeply into enemy territories and cause serious damage. For G4S and other security firms, this also translates into growing demands. “The British group (..) is seeing a rise in work ranging from electronic surveillance to protecting travelers,” the company’s regional president for Africa told Reuters. “Demand has been very high across Africa,” Andy Baker said. “The nature of our business is such that in high-risk environments the need for our services increases.”
January 23, 2013 by Ramzy Baroud
A reductionist discourse is one that selectively tailors its reading of subject matters in such a way as to only yield desired outcomes, leaving little or no room for other inquiries, no matter how appropriate or relevant. The so-called Arab Spring, although now far removed from its initial meanings and aspirations, has become just that: a breeding ground for choosy narratives solely aimed at advancing political agendas which are deeply entrenched with regional and international involvement.
January 10, 2013 by Ramzy Baroud
What does a Palestinian farmer who is living in a village tucked in between the secluded West Bank hills, a prisoner on hunger strike in an Israeli jail and a Palestinian refugee roaming the Middle East for shelter all have in common? They are all characters in one single, authentic, solid and cohesive narrative. The problem however, is that western media and academia barely reflect that reality or intentionally distort it, disarticulate it and when necessary, defame its characters.
January 3, 2013 by Ramzy Baroud
Reading the text of a bill that was recently signed into law by President Barack Obama would instill fear in the hearts of ordinary Americans. Apparently, barbarians coming from distant lands are at work. They are gathering at the US-Mexico border, cutting fences and ready to wreak havoc on an otherwise serene American landscape.
Never mind that crazed, armed to the teeth, homegrown American terrorists are killing children and terrorizing whole cities. It is the Iranian menace that we are meant to fear according to the new law. When compounded with the other imagined threats of Hezbollah and Hamas, all with sinister agendas, then the time is right for Americans to return to their homes, bolt their doors and squat in shelters awaiting further instructions, for evidently, “The Iranians are coming.”
December 26, 2012 by Ramzy Baroud
It must have been 2007, although I cannot remember the exact date. I do recall getting lost in what seemed like a futile search for the headquarters of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) in Rome. There was a meeting of NGOs and some General Assembly body, consisting of several UN ambassadors, dedicated to the ‘Question of Palestine’. I was asked to attend on behalf of one NGO. Timidly, I agreed.
Knowing in advance how such meetings often conclude – reiterating old statements, rehashing old text, reaffirming this and reasserting that – I still attended. The subject of the discussion was the Palestinian refugees, who, for most Palestinians, aside from Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, still represent the core of any just solution to a decades-long Palestinian struggle for freedom and rights. I was compelled by a greater sense of urgency than the need to restate and reconfirm official UN text. A few days earlier in London, I had received a worrying call.
The caller was a young Palestinian man named Hossam who was stranded at the Jordan-Iraq border. Two of his brothers had been killed in Iraq in recent months. One was executed in the Baladiat neighborhood in Baghdad, which then hosted mostly Palestinian refugees. The other was killed by US forces.
December 19, 2012 by Ramzy Baroud
France is insisting on ‘rapid’ military intervention in Mali. Its unmanned drones have reportedly been scouring the desert of the troubled West African nation – although it claims that the drones are seeking the whereabouts of six French hostages believed to be held by Al-Qaeda. The French are likely to get their wish, especially following the recent political fiasco engineered by the country’s strong man and coup leader Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo. The Americans also covet intervention, but one that would serve their growing interests in the Sahel region. African countries are divided and have no clear alternative on how to restore Mali’s territorial integrity – and equally important political sovereignty – disjointed between Tuareg secessionists and Islamic militants in the north and factionalized army in the south.
The current crisis in Mali is the recent manifestation of a recurring episode of terrible suffering and constant struggles. It goes back much earlier than French officials in particular wish to recall. True, there is much bad blood between the various forces that are now fighting for control, but there is also much acrimony between Mali and France, the latter having conquered Mali (then called French Sudan) in 1898. After decades of a bitter struggle, Mali achieved its independence in 1960 under the auspices of a socialist government led by President Modibo Keita. One of his very early orders of business was breaking away with French influence and the Franc zone.
December 6, 2012 by Ramzy Baroud
Palestine has become a “non-member state” at the United Nations as of Thursday November 29, 2012. The draft of the UN resolution beckoning what many perceive as a historic moment passed with an overwhelming majority of General Assembly members: 138 votes in favor, nine against and 41 abstentions.
It was accompanied by a passionate speech delivered by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. But decades earlier, a more impressive and animated Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat sought international solidarity as well. The occasion then was also termed ‘historic’.
November 24, 2012 by Ramzy Baroud
Many key phrases have been presented to explain Israel’s latest military onslaught against Gaza, which left scores dead and wounded. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is flexing his muscles in preparation for the Israeli general elections in January, suggested some. It is Israel’s way of testing the administration of Egyptian President Mahmoud Morsi, commented others. It was a stern message to Iran, instructed few. Or that Israel is simply assessing its ‘deterrence’ capabilities. And so on.
November 9, 2012 by Ramzy Baroud
In Malaysia, a small group of community activists are busy at work developing projects that benefit most vulnerable members of Palestinian society in Gaza. Working under the umbrella of Viva Palestina Malaysia (VPM), the group shows solidarity through empowerment projects: interest free loans for micro projects, providing employment for women, supplying thousands of solar lamps aimed at ending the persistent darkness for many families, and more.
The overall value of the combined efforts of VPM is important, because it is long-lasting. But equally important, the channeled funds are not part of a political scheme nor are aimed to exact concession. This can hardly be said of much of the relationship between Palestinian leadership and society, and outside funds, which began pouring in, with a clear political manual that has been dutifully followed by those who provide the funds and those who receive them.
That relationship was once more a subject of scurrility and discussion following the recent visit by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, emir of Qatar to Gaza, which has been under an Israeli siege soon following Hamas’ victory in the general elections in 2006. The siege became complete in 2007, when Hamas clashed with its rival Fatah, perceived by Israel and the US as ‘moderate’.