Thursday, March 31, 2016

Reflection 5: The Field Trip and Carol Zaru's Talk

The Arab-Israeli conflict is one marked by many years of struggle and bitterness and as such, there is not an easy answer for how the conflict can be solved. There are steps that can be taken toward a peace, however, without cooperation from both parties, there is no guarantee that they will help fix the damaged relationship between the two.

One step that needs to take place is that the method of Israeli military occupation needs to change. The situation faced by those in Palestine is inhumane and does not protect the rights of the people living there as the occupiers are supposed to do under International laws as was stated in the talk given at The Palestine Center. Carol Zaru’s presentation helped to show specifics of the experiences had by Palestinians living under occupation: curfews imposed without warning, checkpoints and the threat of detention by Israeli authorities, power and water being cut off for unknown periods of time as well as bombings. All of this lends to an atmosphere of fear that needs to change if there is going to be movements toward genuine and not artificial and forced “peace”. As the Israelis do not appear to be willing to change of their own accord, international pressure needs to be put on them.

Another major factor is that the international view on Palestine needs to change- particularly that held by the United States and many European Nations. They – the United States in particular- favor Israel and write off their atrocities as justifiable and regard the Palestinians who are living in oppression as terrorists. This view needs to change; this can be done through better and less biased education about the area. These nations need to learn about the struggles Palestinians face and put pressure on Israel to change.

If the method of occupation and international views change, there is more of a chance for an open and equal dialogue between Palestine and Israel that could lead to matters of contention being resolved in a way that is – although maybe not favored by both parties, is at least fair to both parties. Any negotiations done up to this point have been heavily favoring Israel and as such do not do any real, permanent, lasting change in the direction of peace in the area. Only if both parties are treated the same and there is no favoring of either side, can there start to be work toward solving problems in a way that is fair to both and may help to ease the tensions.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Weekly Report 4: Israeli- Palestinian Conflict

On the afternoon of Friday, March 25, 2016, Israeli Occupation Forces attacked protesters who were non-violently protesting the Israeli apartheid wall as well as illegal Israeli settling in Bil’in village and in Ni’lin village. These protests had been happening on a weekly basis and were continually peaceful. The IOF used gas bombs containing tear gas and excessive force against the protestors causing many to be injured. The protestors in Bil’in were composed of locals of the area, international protestors and Israeli protestors. All were treated in the same brutal manner as they were attacked while marching through town protesting the occupation of Palestine and the need for an independent Palestine. They also took a stance of solidarity with Belgium people in the aftermath of Tuesday’s terrorist attacks in Brussels in addition to all people suffering from terrorism.  
The leader of the Popular Committee against the Wall and illegal settlements in Bil’in condemned these attacks to the press by comparing the Israeli treatment of Palestinians to the terrorist actions suffered by many countries across the world. These attacks however are happening on a daily basis where Palestinians are kicked out of their homes and property and the Israelis are then confiscating these seized lands.
In Ni’lin, the Israeli Occupation Force also used excessive force against peaceful protestors protesting the same topics. They fired gas bombs containing tear gas at the protestors as well as in the direction of cars and houses, causing many people to suffer from inhaling the gas. Other Palestinians in Bethlehem and Kafr Qaddoum town were injured after a violent encounter with IOF forces who also used tear gas and sprayed them with waste-water mixed with chemicals.

Although actions similar to these have probably been happening for a while, these specific attacks appear to be a fairly recent development in the conflict. I noticed while reading this article, links leading to two article taking place the past two weeks that are essentially the same as this article detailing similar attacks. This attack is just the latest in a string of attacks against these peaceful protestors and shows the brutality that the Israelis use in their treatment of Palestinians, especially those who oppose the way they are treated.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Reflection 4: Lecture by Dr. Boukras

I found Dr. Boukhras’ lecture to be very enlightening about radical Islamist groups, especially about the circumstances surrounding their rise, particularly that of ISIS. ISIS rose to power through many factors and actors- largely its enemies- making missteps and increasing sectarianism. ISIS started its rise with the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and gained traction when troops pulled out after not completely destroying all parts of it. Iran's funding of Shia militias as well as increasing sectarianism as well as Assad's radicalization of the war on terror and Russia's involvement in the Arab World, particularly in Syria, are also factors that have helped ISIS to gain a foothold in the Middle East.

Their claimed constituency is Sunni Muslims, particularly those who live in Shia- controlled Iraq and Syria under very oppressive regimes. Their ideology is to help those oppressed Sunni Muslims. Dr. Boukhras described the Sunnis as “a majority with a minority complex” which I thought was very interesting especially considering that the Sunnis are a majority of Muslims however, especially recently, Shia Muslims are the ones making gains and winning- albeit somewhat controlled- victories while the Sunnis keep failing and being marginalized and killed by Shia. Because the Sunnis cannot find inspiration- even by looking at nations that are ruled by Sunnis- they look elsewhere and found a source of inspiration in ISIS which is experiencing victories. ISIS’s main goal is to improve the lives of Sunni Muslims, even though they have very little to offer politically, have a very archaic view of how society should be run and are only in control of the places they have because there is a power vacuum left there by the Shia government.

Those who join ISIS do not usually do so for theological reasons; they join because they are looking for direction and inspiration, feel wronged by the society they are in, or to be a part of a larger group that they feel are actually accomplishing their goals. The members of the movement are generally young, and the majority of the members are youth who as a whole, reject their parent’s Islam and have a different perspective of how it should be. Dr. Boukhras even pointed out that many of those who are recruited do not know Arabic and because of this, get their information about Islam from books other than the Quran and that many of them were initially not religious and then became religious in a “born again” fashion that quickly changed to radicalism. The theology of ISIS and similar radical groups is very different than mainstream Islam or what the Quran promotes, so these groups tend to scorn and be isolated from mainstream Muslim society.

I enjoyed Dr. Boukhars’ lecture about Islamist radical groups very much. I learned a lot about their motivations as well as the motives of people who join and how these groups have become enmeshed in the politics of the Middle East and how difficult it will be to stop Islamist radical groups.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Reflection 3: Concert and Drumming Session

I greatly enjoyed both the concert and the drumming session with Jon Seligman and Massamba Diop; I unfortunately had to leave the concert early, however, I was able to see the first half including the part where Dr. Esa got pulled up to dance. It was very entertaining to watch and although the movements were just a very basic movement of the hips, they were –for the most part- on the beat to help emphasize the main beats and was a fun way to involve the audience and help to increase their energy. The concert was a very engaging and very high energy experience.

                It reflected the description of Arabic music from the reading where a focus is placed on polyrhythmic patterns and on improvisation.  From what I could tell at the concert and at the drumming session, there was a basic form to the song; however, they appeared to be improvising over a basic beat. Massamba Diop also appeared to be improvising some with his singing that he was doing over the songs. Some, like ‘Waloo Waloo’ clearly had been performed before and definitely had a basic format, however with others; he appeared to be improvising the majority of his vocalizations.

                The polyrhythmic tendencies of Arabic music were also apparent in the drumming of Jon Seligman and Massamba Diop. There were several different rhythms going on at the same time, almost all four players were playing at least some variation on a basic rhythm and together, they formed a completely new distinct rhythm as well adding lots of texture to the piece.

                The drumming session was very informative; it was very interesting to learn about the backgrounds of the three main musicians. I enjoyed learning about their views regarding different topics like Islam and how the media has affected their traditions and culture.

                The concert was a lot of fun to watch and the drumming session was very interesting to be a part of; I enjoyed both of them greatly and it was a lot of fun to be able to be a part of the session as well as attend the concert.