Women fighters of Kobane © free kurdistan | Flickr
EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionSex & Gender

The Mastery of Non-Mastery

A report and reflections from Kobane

As I write, the plug is being pulled on the steady-state.

Violence and tragedy take revenge on humanity through routinization. Sooner or later we become immune.

But is there a reverse process, such as Freud writes about in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, where the nightmare recurs so as to provide the anxiety that would have …

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Twin explosions in southeastern Kobane on October 8, 2014, caused by a suicide bomber ©  Karl-Ludwig Poggemann | Flickr
EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

The Overlooked Besieged Alternative in the Middle East

The Rojava Cantons

In my previous article I wrote about how both soft and hard Islamists render a very dark future for the Middle East. I finished my article by stating that the Kurdish Movement may provide a salient alternative for the whole region. However, this alternative is currently under attack by Islamists and its supporters.

As I write this article, ISIS thugs surround the northern Syrian city Kobanê — also known as Ayn Al Arab. While both the Kurdish guerilla group PKK, Syrian arm PYD and some factions from the Free Syrian Army are desperately fighting to keep ISIS out of town, the situation is getting worse by the day. Turkey is reluctant to open its borders for humanitarian and military assistance, and so help ISIS to take over the town. …

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Feminist fist  © Eva the Weaver | Flickr
Essays

Call for International Solidarity against War in Rojava

An emergency call to all women struggling for peace! Take action against the massacre in Rojava.

Women’s Initiative for Peace urges ALL women’s organizations struggling for peace worldwide to launch actions and organize demonstrations on Sunday, September 28th (and if this date is too early, any time before or on October 1st) wherever you are located. 

The images of Kurdish female fighters of YPJ have been widely circulated in various media covering the war against Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS) in Rojava. Celebrated for the bravery, the Kurdish female guerrilla force has been the forefront in the struggle against patriarchy and against the Islamic State’s targeting, slaughtering and enslaving of women. The women in Rojava, who are not only fighters, but also peacekeepers, leaders, or simply women, are much more than figures that terrify the IS gangs, who believe that they won’t be rewarded with heaven if killed by a woman in battle. They stand for a hope for a different form of governance in the region. Yet, Rojava now is facing a massacre. IS gangs has besieged Kobanê on three separate fronts. …

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Kobanee-MAIN © Roarmag.org
Essays

Kobanê Under Siege

Kurds resist fierce Islamic State attack

Öcalan calls for mass mobilization as suspicions of Turkey’s support for the Islamic State rise and attacks on Kobane in Syrian Kurdistan continue.

For over a week the Kurdish town of Kobanê in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) has been under severe attack from the Islamic State (IS). The attack commenced on September 15, when thousands of IS fighters supported by dozens of tanks and heavy artillery attacked Kobanê on three fronts. Thus far, the IS advance has caused tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds to leave their homes in the villages surrounding Kobanê and seek refuge in either the city itself or across the border in Turkey.

Thanks to the brave resistance of the local Kurdish YPG/YPJ militias (the People’s and Women’s Defense Forces), IS has been unable to capture the town. …

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"The Apotheosis of War," oil on canvas, 1871, by Vasily Vereshchagin © AlexSoft | Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Can I be a Pragmatic Pacifist?

This is a gently updated version of a post I originally published in Deliberately Considered. I post it now, thinking about the latest chapter of the never ending story of the war on terrorism.

I remember struggling with this question as a young man. Subjected to the draft during the Vietnam War being a very early and precocious opponent to the war, I tried to convince myself that I was a pacifist. Wanting to avoid conscription, I read the writings of Gandhi and A.J. Muste. I looked into the pacifist activities of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Although I realized that making the claim of being a Jewish pacifist would be practically difficult, I wanted to explore possibilities. …

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Screen shot from "A State of Union Square" © Gisela Albuquerque
EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionMedia & Publics

9/11: A Most Restless Event

The video below was produced between the Fall of 2001 and the Spring of 2002. It was first screened as a final project for the class Semiotics for Digital Producers, taught by professor Paul Ryan, as part of the graduate program in Media Studies of the New School for Public Engagement in New York City. Twelve years later, I revisited it editing and showing it for a second screening on the occasion of the memorial for Ryan in the Orozco room of the New School in April 2014.

I have returned to the video while reading the article “Theorizing the Restlessness of Events” by Professor Robin Wagner-Pacifici, thinking about issues of temporality, event, perception, performance and meaning. …

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UN School in Gaza © United Nations Photo | Flickr
Essays

Proportionality and the Diaspora in Operation Protective Edge

A response to Piki Ish-Shalom

As far as military euphemisms go, Operation Protective Edge is not the worst offender. As any reliable voice will point out, Israel faces significant danger from Hamas and its various factions. The threat posed by missile attacks or deadly incursions courtesy of a significant tunneling network out of Gaza and into Israel are real and they are serious. It is unreasonable to expect Israel to do nothing about them indefinitely. Yet, self-defense does not mean that anything goes. Therein lies the problem. The population density of Gaza is high, and so the risk of harming civilians in any military attack is great. Any military strike, no matter how precise, will almost certainly hit civilians. Assuming, for a moment, that this war has been taken as a last resort, one of the remaining moral questions about this war becomes one of proportionality. …

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IDF Soldiers Uncover Tunnels in Gaza, July 17, 2014 © IDF | Flickr
Essays

Operation Protective Edge and Just War Theory

I teach Just War Theory (JWT). I defend it strongly as a necessary moral guideline for world politics in classes full of cynical students, Israeli-raised students, many of whom went through the grinding machine of the occupation (themselves grinding Palestinians in check points, night arrests, and the like); students who speak fluently the language of power. But at times I myself see the dark, the political abysses in which JWT becomes almost nothing but a scholastic exercise, like debating how many angels (or for that matter, demons) can dance on the head of a pin.

Think of the recurrent explosions of violence in Gaza/Israel, which in its current phase is called by Israel “Operation Protective Edge.” The recurrence of the violence has a fundamental importance that should not be overlooked in applying JWT to Operation Protective Edge. …

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Danger sign © Mary Crandall | Flickr
CapitalismEssaysThe Left

On the Heilbroner Center’s Manifesto

Explanation and Critique

In our opinion, the document drafted by Julia Ott and Will Milberg for the new Robert L. Heilbroner Center for Capitalism Studies should be the beginning of a debate among NSSR faculty about the Center’s mission rather than a final manifesto. There are many claims in the document with which we wholeheartedly agree: the pressing necessity to return to discussing and analyzing large structures, long processes, and big questions; the idea that capitalism must be a central object of study and concern; the interpretation of capitalism as a social process; the identification of various power relations as critical determinants of economic outcomes; and the acknowledgment that economic theories operate as political ideologies. Further, we agree with Ott and Milberg that capitalism “should not be assumed.” However, we think that it should not be only “explained,” as the present document suggests, but also, by the same token, criticized. Critique, indeed, is a constitutive part of the explanation of social phenomena and processes, and explaining capitalism without criticizing it does amount to assuming it. …

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