Meanderings & mawqifs of poetry, poetics, translations y mas. Travelogue too.

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Going Traditional on This Day…

November 27th, 2014 · Whatever

A Nomadics blog & Straight Up tradition (well, must be the third repeat — when does ‘tradition’ begin?) continues. William S. Burroughs’s words of gratitude on Thanksgiving Day paired with two collages by Norman O. Mustill. Look and listen. It’s delish . . .

Collages © 1967 by Norman O. Mustill, excerpted from ‘Flypaper’ [Beach Books, San Francisco, 1967]

Thanks for the wild turkey and the passenger pigeons,
destined to be shit out through wholesome American guts —

thanks for a Continent to despoil
and poison —

thanks for Indians to provide a
modicum of challenge and
danger —

thanks for vast herds of bison to
kill and skin leaving the
carcasses to rot —

thanks for bounties on wolves
and coyotes —

thanks for the AMERICAN DREAM
to vulgarize and to falsify until
the bare lies shine through —

thanks for the KKK,
for nigger-killin’ lawmen,
feelin’ their notches,
for decent church-goin’ women,
with their mean, pinched, bitter,
evil faces —

thanks for “Kill a Queer for
Christ” stickers —

thanks for laboratory AIDS —

thanks for Prohibition and the
War against Drugs —

thanks for a country where
nobody’s allowed to mind his
own business —

thanks for a nation of finks — yes,

thanks for all the
memories … all right let’s see
your arms …
you always were a headache and
you always were a bore —

thanks for the last and greatest
betrayal of the last and greatest
of human dreams.

Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 1986
© 1986 by William S. Burroughs

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Paul Celan’s “Breathturn into Timestead: The Collected Later Poetry” — An Evening with Pierre Joris and Paul Auster

November 26th, 2014 · Book Launch, Live Reading, Translation

image001Monday, December 1st, 7:00 p.m.

Deutsches Haus at NYU presents a reading of Paul Celan’s Breathturn into Timestead by the poet and translator Pierre Joris and a conversation between Pierre Joris and Paul Auster, introduced by Professor Ulrich Baer, NYU’s Vice Provost for Faculty, Arts, Humanities, and Diversity.
This event is free of charge. If you would like to attend, please send us an email to Thank you!

Paul Celan, one of the greatest German-language poets of the twentieth century, created brilliant works of pure musicality and striking imagery in tension with the haunting memories of his life as a Romanian Jew during the Holocaust. Breathturn into Timestead: The Collected Later Poetry gathers the five final volumes of his life’s work in a bilingual edition, translated and with commentary by the award-winning poet and translator Pierre Joris and published by Farrar Straus & Giroux.

This collection displays a mature writer at the height of his talents, following what Celan himself called the “turn” (die “Wende”) of his work away from the lush surreal metaphors of his earlier verse. Given “the sinister events in its memory,” Celan wrote, the language of poetry has to become “more sober, more factual . . . ‘grayer.’” He abandoned the richer music of lyric poems, parins his compositions down to increase the accuracy of the language that now “does not transfigure or render ‘poetical’; it names, it posits, it tries to measure the area of the given and the possible.” In his need for an inhabitable post-Holocaust world that held the memory and anguish of that history, Celan experimented with a bold new poetics.

Breathturn into Timestead reveals a poet undergoing one of the most profound artistic reinventions of the twentieth century, creating a poetry grounded in his painful personal history and the ravages of postwar Europe.

Breathturn into Timestead: The Collected Later Poetry: A Bilingual Edition; Paul Celan; translated from the German and with commentary by Pierre Joris will be for sale by Greenlight Bookstore following the event.

Paul Celan was born in Czernowitz, Bukovina, in 1920, and is considered by many as the greatest German-language poet of the second half of the twentieth century. He survived the Holocaust and settled in Paris in 1948, where he lived and wrote until his suicide in 1970.

Pierre Joris is the author of some fifty books, including poetry, essays, translations, and anthologies. Most recently he published Meditations on the Stations of Mansur al-Hallaj and the anthology Poems for the Millenium Vol. 4: The University of California Book of North African Literature. In 2005 he received the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation for his translation of Celan’s Lichtzwang/Lightduress.

Paul Auster is the bestselling, award-winning author of 16 novels, including Sunset Park, Invisible, Man in the Dark, The Brooklyn Follies, The Book of Illusions, and The New York Trilogy. His work has been translated into more than forty-one languages. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Ulrich Baer is NYU’s Vice Provost for Faculty, Arts, Humanities, and Diversity, and also a Professor of German and Comparative Literature. He has published widely on literary representations and historical testimonies of the Holocaust; on Rilke and Celan; on the history and theory of photography, and on contemporary art. His books include: Remnants of Song: Trauma and the Experience of Modernity in Charles Baudelaire and Paul Celan,Spectral Evidence: The Photography of Trauma, 110 Stories: New York Writes After September 11, Letters on Life: The Wisdom of Rainer Maria Rilke, and The Rilke Alphabet.

Paul Celan’s “Breathturn into Timestead: The Collected Later Poetry” An Evening with Pierre Joris and Paul Auster  is a DAAD-sponsored event. Additional support was provided by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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Bravo, Juan Goytisolo!

November 25th, 2014 · Book Award

The great Juan Goytisolo, for me the most interesting Spanish writer of his generation, was awarded the prestigious Cervantes Prize for 2014. Below the pix, the CNA (Catalan News Agency) report on the event.



Juan Goytisolo, author from Barcelona, scoops prestigious Cervantes Prize 2014


Barcelona (ACN).- The winner of the Cervantes Prize 2014 is Catalan author Juan Goytisolo, who has developed his entire literary career in Spanish and has lived in several countries throughout his life. The jury’s verdict for the prestigious literary award, considered the Nobel Prize of literature in Spanish, was read at noon on Monday by Spain’s Minister for Culture, José Ignacio Wert.  He highlighted the author’s “ability to delve into language, his “complex stylistic proposals” and “his desire to bring together” different cultures. Goytisolo, who now lives in Marrakech (Morocco), will receive the award at a ceremony to be held on April 23 in Alcalá de Henares, in Madrid’s region. The Cervantes Prize is awarded by the Spanish Minister of Culture and is worth €125,000. Goytisolo’s works have been translated into many languages, including English, French, German, Polish, Slovak and Romanian. His two brothers José Agustín and Luís are also writers.

Juan Goytisolo, who was born in Barcelona in 1931, travelled extensively, living in several countries and his current abode is Marrakesh. In 1956 he moved to Paris, where he worked as a consultant for the French publisher Gallimard. Thirteen years later, in the late 1960’s, he moved to the United States, where he worked as a professor, primarily in the University of La Jolla in San Diego, and later in Boston and New York.

An expert in the Arab world who also cooperates with UNESCO

The Barcelona-born author is a member of the International Parliament of Writers and is president of the jury that selects the UNESCO Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. An expert of the Arab world, Goytisolo’s has contributed knowledge on this subject at European level through articles and essays. Moreover, he was a vociferous advocate of the designation of the Jemaa-el-Fna square in Marrakesh, as an Oral Heritage of Humanity.

His first novels were ‘Juegos de manos’ (1954), ‘Duelo en el paraíso’ (1955) or the trilogy made up of ‘El circo’ (1947), ‘Fiestas’ (1958) and ‘La resaca’- which are considered to be part of the ‘critic realism’ literary movement. Through his trilogy formed of ‘Señas de identidad’, ‘Reivindicación del conde Don Julián’ and ‘Juan sin tierra’, there was a breaking point in Spanish literary tradition until now, as highlighted by the Spanish Ministry of Culture.

From this point on, he has explored new styles, and published novels such as ‘Makbara’, ‘Paisajes después de la batalla’, ‘Las virtudes del pájaro solitario’, ‘La cuarentena’, ‘La saga de los Marx’, ‘El sitio de los sitios’, ‘Carajicomedia’ or ‘Telón de boca’. In the 1980s, he published two autobiographical works: ‘Coto vedado’ and ‘En los reinos de taifa’. In addition, he also wrote ‘El furgón de cola’, ‘Blanco White’, ‘Contracorrientes’, ‘Cronicas sarracinas’ and ‘Aproximaciones a Gaudí en Capadocia’.

As for his journalistic contributions, they are to be found in the collections ‘Pájaro que ensucia su propio nido’ and ‘Contra las sagrades formas’. What is more, between 1993 and 1996, he lived in close proximity to the conflicts in Bosnia and Chechnya, and published several articles in the Spanish newspaper ‘El País’.

Until now, he has received other awards such as the Octavio Paz Essay and Poetry Award (2002), the Juan Rulfo Award (2004), the National Prize of Spanish Literature (2008), Award of Arts and Cultures of the Three Cultures Foundation (2009), and the Quixote Prize for Spanish Literature for the work of his entire career (2010).

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Bernard Heidsieck (Paris, 1928 – 22 November, 2014)

November 24th, 2014 · Obituaries, Poetry, Poetry readings

Photo by Gerard Malanga

Photo by Gerard Malanga

The sad news just in that the great French sound poet Bernard Heidsieck has passed away. Here, two videos of Bernard showing what “poésie sonore” does & is:

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“As a Friend,” A Film by Miles Joris-Peyrafitte…

November 22nd, 2014 · Film, Visual Arts

… shows tonight, Saturday November 22, 2014 @ 8:30PM

as an official selection of the

at the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn
80 Wythe Ave
Brooklyn, New York
 (718) 460-8001

“As a Friend” is produced by Ta’wil Productions and Joseph Mastantuono.

As A Friend – OFFICIAL TRAILER from Tawil Productions on Vimeo.

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Diary of a Muslim Jew

November 21st, 2014 · Arab Culture, Book Review, Mashreq

via Arab Literature (in English)

‘Diary of a Muslim Jew’: And Yes, That’s the Book’s Title

by mlynxqualey


We have become so accustomed to thinking of religion as a place of singularity in human identity that Diary of a Jewish Muslim gives all the shock in translation that author Kamal Ruhayyim surely intended in the original:

It was — as I have written earlier — beginning about a decade ago that films and novels that foregrounded ordinary Arab Jews began to appear, set in Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya, Egypt, Iraq and Algeria. Among these were Syrian novelist Ibrahim al-Jubain’s Diary of a Damascus Jew (2007), Iraqi novelist Ali Bader’s The Tobacco Keeper (2008), and Ali al-Muqri’s The Handsome Jew (2009). The latter two were widely discussed and also longlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.

Kamal Ruhayyim’s Exhausted Hearts: The Muslim Jew (2004) was among the first of these new novels. Exhausted Hearts, translated by Sarah Enany and published in English as Diary of a Muslim Jew (2014) was the opening novel in a trilogy. The second, published in 2008, was translated as Days of the Diaspora (2012). The third, Days of Return, was published in Arabic in 2012 and hasn’t yet been translated.

So why did Ruhayyim, who has worked as a policeman in Cairo and Paris, decide to bring Arab Jews back into Arabic narrative arts? Like other authors who have recently written novels featuring Arab Jews, Ruhayyim is not descended from Jewish parents or grandparents. But Ruhayyim’s son Ahmed said that his father has long believed that Jewish Egyptians formed an important part of the Egyptian community, and “he wanted to write a book so the Egyptians remember them and keep their memory immortal.”

The first novel in Ruhayyim’s trilogy, Diary of a Muslim Jew, met with both acclaim and readerly interest. It won a State Encouragement Prize in 2005 and was republished in 2009 after the second novel in the trilogy was released.

The books follow the life of Galal, the “Muslim Jew”, so-called because of his dual religious life. His father’s family is Muslim, while his mother’s is Jewish. Charmingly, the first book opens from the point of view of infant Galal, who is given a six-month-old’s body and an adult’s narrative voice.

Galal is born in the middle of the twentieth century, when the situation for Egyptian Jews is becoming less and less tenable, a moment also sketched out in Waguih Ghali’s seminal 1964 novel, Beer in the Snooker Club. Galal’s Muslim father dies in the Suez War of 1956 without ever meeting his son. At this point, the two halves of Galal’s family don’t yet know each other, and it is a month before Galal’s mother hears that her beloved husband is dead.

Although the opening is pegged to a historical moment, the story barely engages with official history. Instead, it focuses on the characters’ interior lives, most particularly the conflicts that arise between Galal and his mother.

>>Keep reading the review at Qantara.


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Happy 80th Birthday, Fairuz!

November 20th, 2014 · Mashreq, Music, Uncategorized

If you don’t know this great Lebanese singer, check here & also here, where you’ll find the poet Sargon Boulos’ biographical essay on her.

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Ken Irby @ 78!

November 19th, 2014 · Criticism, Homage, Literature, Poetics, Poetry

Ken Irby at home in Lawrence, pointing out  a book I'm looking for.

Ken Irby at home in Lawrence, pointing out a book I’m looking for.

Yesterday was Ken Irby’s 78th birthday, and I’m extremely happy to announce that the Jacket2 special feature (edited by Kyle Waugh & Billy Joe Harris) is now live. Happy Birthday, Ken! This feature devoted to the work of Kenneth Irby collects a number of papers delivered at the 2011 colloquium devoted to Irby in Lawrence, Kansas, along with new essays by Robert Bertholf, Dale Smith, Matthew Hofer, and others; a chronology, a poem by Nathaniel Tarn, some uncollected Irby poems, a selection of letters between Irby and Ed Dorn, and a cluster of former student musings; and sound recordings from the Lawrence symposium, including readings by Irby.

Here the opening shot of the Festschrift, the introduction by Billy Joe Harris, followed by the table of contents:

Although Kenneth Irby, a distinguished innovative poet, has recently become better known, he deserves to be much better known than he presently is. In 2009 he published a massive book of poems, The Intent On: Collected Poems, 1962–2006, which for the first time provided easy access to the full body of his work and ample evidence of how productive he has been over the years. Before this book, I think, few people realized how prolific he has been. Furthermore, in 2010 he won the prestigious Shelley Memorial Award of the Poetry Society of America. Among other notable winners have been Lyn Hejinian, Robert Pinsky, Anne Sexton, Marianne Moore, and E. E. Cummings — big books and awards help writers get established, especially awards. Awards, beyond giving writers a little money, make them visible. Ken isn’t better known — that is, isn’t better known beyond a relatively small group of fellow avant-gardists and poetry connoisseurs — for a number of reasons. Coming from the American postwar avant-garde tradition, in particular, the New American Poetry, his friends and supporters do not give out the major prizes (which make one major — yes, it’s that simple). Ken has been happy with and loyal to his friends and the little presses that usually publish him, and finally, he has not tried to push himself into the literary big time: he is not a literary operator. But we feel that his work has been kept nearly secret long enough. Clearly, he is entitled to be more celebrated, and moreover, the poetry public would greatly benefit from being exposed to this learned, musical, and compassionate poet.

To gain a general sense of Irby’s poetry, let’s look at the opening paragraph of Lyn Hejinian’s essay “We might say poetry,” included in this feature, about this Irby poem. Hejinian says:

First, it is a landscape poem — or, to put it in more current terms, it is a site-specific work; it bestows specificity on a particular locale, and in so doing it projects forth from its site a multilayered and emotionally-complex geocultural vision. Second, it is notable for its intimacy of address; one feels one is sharing not only a moment but the affective memories, sensations, and feelings that characterize that moment. And third, it radiates love.

In this brief description of one Irby poem, Hejinian captures the general character of his poetry: it is local, it is intimate, and it radiates love. Ben Friedlander in his essay, “The Walk to the Paradise,” a reading of another Irby poem, helps the reader understand the phenomenological nature of Irby’s poetry — it is a poetry of attention where language makes “contact with the real.” In short, Irby writes a homely but luminous ongoing epic of the everyday world of the here and now: of friends, of dreams, of music and reflection.

Since Irby is both an intellectual and personal poet, one preoccupied with many notions as well as the quotidian moment, there are many names the reader needs to know to fully appreciate his work. There is the UC-Berkeley cultural geographer, Carl Sauer, and the University of Kansas Western and Plains historian, James C. Malin — these two scholars undergird much of Irby’s meditations on geography, a main topic of his. Then there is the long list of poets who figure into his life — his life of the mind and of his poetry — both famous and little-known. Some are the New American poets: Charles Olson, a father figure; Ed Dorn, Robert Creeley, and Robert Duncan — all close friends; another close friend, the Gloucester, Massachusetts poet, Gerrit Lansing; and the two Kansas poets: John Moritz, Lawrence poet and small publisher of Irby as well as others, and Ronald Johnson, the Topeka and San Francisco experimental epic poet. To fully enter Irby’s poetic universe we need to become friends with his friends and intellectual heroes.

On Saturday, November 5, 2011, there was a colloquium in Lawrence, Kansas, celebrating Ken Irby’s seventy-fifth birthday and his career. The scholar-poets Lyn Hejinian, Pierre Jorris, Ben Friedlander, Denise Low, and Joe Harrington delivered cogent papers discussing Irby’s work — all have been published here. Moreover, additional essays by Robert Bertholf, Robert Grenier, Dale Smith, Matthew Hofer, Aldon Nielsen, and Andrew Schelling; a chronology, a poem by Nathaniel Tarn, some uncollected Irby poems, a selection of letters between Irby and Ed Dorn, and a cluster of former student musings have been added. The students, Cyrus Console, Kyle Waugh, Peter Longofono, Jeff Bergfalk, and Monica Peck, have been included because teaching is integral to Ken’s mission: his job is not only to help young writers become better writers but also to help them engage in adventures of the mind and the arts. Moreover, from the conference we are also including a sound recording of Low, Hejinian, Joris, Friedlander, and Harrington reading from their work and the culminating event of the day, where Ken reads from his oeuvre. Following classical tradition, at the end of the reading Lyn Hejinian crowned Ken with laurel. She did this as the renowned classicist and translator, Stan Lombardo, recited the last few lines of Horace’s Odes I.30. First in Latin:

              sume superbian
quaesitam meritis et mihi Delphica
lauro cinge volens, Melpomene, comam.

and then in English:

              Take this just pride
as your honor, Melpomene, and wreathe
my hair with laurel, a Delphic crown.

There are two areas I wish the special feature had covered which it hasn’t: Irby’s journals, the source of his poems, and his involvement with music, a joy in his life and a source of his own poetry. Moreover, even though Denise Low in these pages has initiated the study of Irby’s artwork in her survey of his glyphs and drawings, there needs to be more work done in this area. To not look at his designs and pictures is like discussing the poetry of William Blake or Kenneth Patchen while ignoring their art; that is, you are missing a great deal of the story. I hope these rich topics, in addition to many others, make it into another issue of a journal devoted to the work of Kenneth Irby.

Since Ken Irby should be ranked with such contemporary figures as Amiri Baraka, Robert Creeley, Lyn Hejinian, Ed Dorn, Robert Duncan, and Rae Armantrout, I hope this feature will cause a bit of a stir, and help introduce this important poet to a larger audience. This audience needs this gentle but commanding presence.

— William J. Harris

Sunflower drawn by Lee Chapman

Sunflower drawn by Lee Chapman

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Ayotzinapa’s Uncomfortable Dead [1]

November 17th, 2014 · Human rights, Man-made Disaster, Politics

Image: Open Source #IlustradoresConAyotzinapa

Image: Open Source #IlustradoresConAyotzinapa

by Charlotte María Sáenz

via: Other Worlds

11 xi 14

Vivos se los llevaron y vivos los queremos. “Alive, they were taken, and alive we want them back,” became the national and international public’s rallying cry for the 43 disappeared male student teachers attacked by municipal police and then handed over to the Guerreros Unidos drug gang on September 26, 2014 in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico. This remains the rallying cry even after the official press conference of the Attorney General (PGR) [2] announced last Friday that those missing had most likely been executed and burnt to ashes as detailed in the suspected assassins’ video testimonies shared at the press conference alongside maps and photographs of suggestive evidence. However, there is no conclusive proof yet and so the 43 missing remain undead. Their parents refuse to accept this verdict, and in doing so, reveal the state’s incompetency, not only to deliver justice. But also their inability to act with any kind of legitimacy or credibility before a populace to whom it has become ever more clear that the federal government is in fact deeply implicated in the violence it claims to oppose.

This refusal of death has led to rage in all of those protesting in the streets, on social media and even in the National Chamber of Deputies, where photographs of the missing 43 surround Deputy Luisa María Alcalde Luján who while withstanding the interruptions and dismissal of her peers, insists that Ayotzinapa is a State crime. The PGR press conference was itself a theater of death that revealed many gruesome details, but no definitive confirmation of whether the disappeared are, in fact, dead. Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam characterized the inconclusive investigation as bastante exitosa, quite successful, but also emphasized that he could not confirm if the ashes found belonged to the students without further mitochondrial DNA studies for which they have sent the remains to a specialized lab in Austria.

Perhaps unwittingly, Attorney General Murillo Karam pointed to a crucial difference between individualist vs. collective ways of being and knowing that produce radically different approaches to action. In response to a reporter’s question about whether the parents of the missing believed him, he explained that the parents of the 43 disappeared son gente que toman decisiones en conjunto, are people who make decisions together. It is not about whether any of the parents as individuals believes or disbelieves Murillo Karam’s evidence—although they have since visited the alleged garbage dump crime site and confirmed their disbelief based on what they observed. Rather, they share a common refusal to accept the insufficient state evidence and its silence about its own complicity in the attacks and probable execution of their sons. Collective decision-making is characteristic of Mesoamerican communities and is still widely practiced in much of the territory of what is today called the nation-state of Mexico. This points to an important distinction between how decisions are made in the vertical elite power centers “above” in what contemporary political theorist/activist Gustavo Esteva calls el México Imaginario, Imaginary Mexico, and in the participatory assemblies of grassroots indigenous communities “below” from what anthropologist Guillermo Bonfíl Batalla famously termed México Profundo. These metaphors suggest that the actual power of the elite functioning through what has increasingly become a narco-state, is imagined, conjured up through the artifice of the mass-media duopoly Televisa and TV Azteca, a crucial part of the long-standing recipe of submission, by keeping people badly educated, misinformed and mal-nourished. But thankfully, rumblings from below, of the many dead and of these most recent 43 undead, together with those deeply held memories of ways of being, knowing and doing from México Profundo are joining up with the ranks of the living to combat the fear that can momentarily pause Mexico’s deep and persistent resistance.

Antithetical to the fear that often weaves its wave through the narco-state’s theater of death is the defiant Mosaic of Life portrayed in multiple performances and visual arts representations (such as from all over the world giving “life” through faces and names to the missing 43. Forty-three student-teachers have now come to signify all of the disappeared and killed, by growing exponentially into a movement calling itself “43 x 43”, where thousands continue to take the streets in Mexico City and cities all over the nation and world. #Ya me cansé (“I am tired” said Attorney General Murillo Karam after an hour of presenting and responding to questions) was immediately taken up as a new hashtag for Mexican society to express that it, too, is tired, tired of being afraid, of being full of digna rabia, dignified rage, but not tired of fighting for justice. Students and teachers everywhere are rising up to greet these undead, who with the more than 100,000 killed and/or disappeared since 2006, the start of this drug war under former President Calderón, call us to fight for dignity in both life and death.

The refusal by the parents of the disappeared 43 is part of a larger refusal: that of a Mexican society fed up with decades of terror and death at the mercy of an increasingly horrific narco-state. It is also a refusal of the dead to remain dead, and so in this week right after a particularly poignant Dia de Muertos, Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico and its diaspora, the dead return multiplied exponentially. This is similar to what happened last May in the Zapatista autonomous municipality known as el Caracol de la Realidad [3] in the state of Chiapas, where a teacher known as Galeano was murdered by paramilitary forces. At the pre-dawn ceremony held there in Galeano’s honor on May 25, 2014, Zapatista Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos announced that he, Marcos, would cease to exist. He then disappeared into the night. The assembled then heard a disembodied voice address them: “Good dawn compañeras and compañeros. My name is Galeano, Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano. Does anybody else respond to this name?” In response, hundreds of voices affirmed “Yes, we are all Galeano!” And so Galeano came back to life collectively, in all of those assembled, and now 43 disappeared student-teachers have now multiplied into thousands demanding justice from the state. The Zapatistas do not seek revenge for Galeano’s murder, but rather justice for all; in making this important differentiation, they echo the larger country’s calls. Dignity belongs to both the dead and the living…and both refuse to be extinguished as the globalized Death Power Machine would have them be. As the now “deceased” Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos, now Subcomandante Galeano in honor of his deceased compañero, said: “Quisieron enterrarnos, pero no sabían que eramos semilla.” They wanted to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.

Mexico’s bloody history has buried many seeds of resistance, which have sprouted in all sorts of creative grassroots-led alternatives. Among these are various policías comunitarias, community police, from Michoacán to Guerrero [4] who have begun to build greater autonomies that visualize a better life with alternative education, health and governing systems. Seventeen of the 43 disappeared students were from the Costa Chica region, one of the poorest and most marginalized areas where policías comunitarias operate under principles of community justice.[5]  There is now a call for a nation-wide general strike, which includes taking the Mexico City Benito Juarez Airport, scheduled for this coming November 20th, the 104th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. Let us see if this newly sprouted 43 x 43 movement can finally edge the country closer to comprehensive structural change that can nourish the kind of collective leadership which already exists in another of Mexico’s poorest provinces: Chiapas. The Zapatista alternative political system has existed for over 20 years, and is a viable home-grown model of a systemic alternative to the capitalist narco-state. Small communities across the nation have already been building their own versions of autonomy–whether around healthcare, education, justice or government. This may well be an opportunity to take this learning to the next level; it’s not only the dead who are now uncomfortable, but also those who deny the living.


[1] With a nod to “Muertos Incomodos,” (The Uncomfortable Dead), a Mexican novel co-written by spokesman Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation and Mexico City crime writer Paco Ignacio Taibo II, in 2004.

[2] In Mexico the Procuraduría General de la República (PGR) is an institution belonging to the federal executive branch that is responsible for the investigation and prosecution of federal crimes.

[3] With profound, beautiful and symbolic names that describe alternate realities and places, like La Realidad: Mar de la Esperanza de Nuestro Sueños (The Reality: Sea of the Hope of our Dreams), the Zapatistas give names and actions to other parallel geographies that nourish their movement, one which holds an ethical compass for so many others around the world.

[4] For an in-depth description, please read “Community Police in Guerrero’s Costa Chica Region to Celebrate 19 Years of a Better Way to Combat Crime and Corruption,” by Greg Berger and Oscar Oiivera, Narco News, November 7, 2014.

[5] Ezequiel Flores Contreras, “Padres de normalistas recorren basurero de Cocula y reiteran “No les creemos,” Proceso, 9 de noviembre de 2014.

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Uri Avnery: Wine, Blood and Gasoline

November 14th, 2014 · Demonstrations, Israel, Palestine

Arab youth clash with Israeli riot police in Kafr Kanna, Israel. The protests come less than a day after an Arab man from the village was shot and killed by Israeli policemen. Security cameras caught the man attempting to attack the policemen, as well as the shooting, which took place after the man had already backed away considerably. (photo: Oren Ziv/

Arab youth clash with Israeli riot police in Kafr Kanna, Israel. The protests come less than a day after an Arab man from the village was shot and killed by Israeli policemen. Security cameras caught the man attempting to attack the policemen, as well as the shooting, which took place after the man had already backed away considerably. (photo: Oren Ziv/

Uri Avnery
November 15, 2014

KAFR KANNA, a village near Nazareth, is probably the place where Jesus – according to the New Testament – turned water into wine. Now it is the Arab village where the Israeli police is turning stones into blood.

On the fateful day, the police was confronting a group of young Arabs protesting against the Israeli efforts to change the status quo on the Temple Mount (known to Muslims as “the Noble Sanctuary”). Such demonstrations were taking place that day in many Arab towns and villages all over Israel, and especially in occupied East Jerusalem.

According to the first police statement, the 22-year old Arab, Kheir a-Din Hamdan, attacked the police with a knife. In self defense, they had no choice but to shoot and kill him.

As so often with police reports, this was a pack of lies.

UNFORTUNATELY (for the police), the incident was recorded by security cameras. The pictures clearly showed Hamdan approaching a police car and beating on its windows with something, possibly a knife. When he saw that this had no effect, Hamdan turned around and started to walk away.

At that moment, the policemen got out of the car and immediately started to shoot at the back of Hamdan, who was hit and fell to the ground. The officers surrounded him and, after some hesitation, obviously a consultation between them, started to drag the wounded youngster on the ground towards the patrol car, as if he were a sack of potatoes. They dumped him on the floor of the car and drove away (to a hospital, it appears), with their feet on or near the dying man.

The pictures show clearly, for everyone to see, that the policemen violated the standing police orders for opening fire: they were in no immediate mortal danger, they did not shout a warning, they did not shoot first in the air, they did not aim at the lower part of his body. They did not call an ambulance. The youngster bled to death. It was a cold-blooded execution.

There was an outcry. Arab citizens rioted in many places. Under pressure, the Police Investigation board (which belongs to the Ministry of Justice) started an investigation. The first investigation already uncovered several facts which put an even more severe face on the incident.

It appeared that before the cameras caught the scene, the police had arrested Hamdan’s cousin and put him into the car. Obviously, Kheir a-Din wanted to release the cousin and therefore beat on the car. The cousin saw him being shot and dumped on the floor of the car in which he was sitting.

The first reaction of the police command was to justify the behavior of the policemen, whose names and faces were withheld. They were spirited away to some other police unit.

I DESCRIBE the incident at length, not because it is unique but on the contrary – because it is so typical. What was special about it was only the unnoticed presence of the camera.

Several cabinet ministers lauded the exemplary behavior of the police in this incident. This can be dismissed as the publicity-hunting of extreme right-wing demagogues, who believe that their voters approve of all and any shooting of Arabs. They should know.

However, one statement cannot be ignored: the one made by the Minister of Home Security.

A few days before the incident, Minister Yitzhak Aharonowitz, a protégé of Avigdor Lieberman and himself a former police officer, declared publicly that he did not want any terrorist to survive after an attack.

That is a manifestly illegal statement. Indeed, it is a call for crimes. Under the law, policemen are not allowed to shoot “terrorists” or anybody else after they are taken prisoner, especially when they are wounded and do not present any “mortal danger”.

Aharonowitz always seems a nice guy. He has a knack of popping up before the cameras after every newsworthy incident – whether a severe road accident, a political crime or a fire. God knows how he manages that.

In actual fact, the Minister for Home Security (formerly known as Minister of Police) has practically no function. Since the days of the British Mandate, the commander of the police force has been the Inspector General, a uniformed professional officer. The sole police function of the minister is to recommend to the government the appointment of a new commander.

But for ordinary policemen, a statement by the minister sounds like an order. Quite probably, the irresponsible utterance of the minister was a direct incitement to the crime of Kafr Kanna. Especially since neither the Inspector General nor the Prime Minister denounced it.

All this reminds one of the fateful 1984 utterance of then Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who also declared that no terrorist should stay alive after an attack. The direct result was the “Bus Line 300″ affair, in which four Arab boys, without any weapons, hijacked an Israeli bus. They were stopped, two were shot during the recapture, and two were taken alive. One of them was murdered by the chief of the Shin Bet himself, Avraham Shalom, who crushed his skull with a rock. When the pictures were published (first by me), Shalom and his colleagues were pardoned. Shamir denied any responsibility.

BACK TO today’s events. Is this the long-awaited Third Intifada? Yes? No?

Army and police officers, politicians and especially media commentators are busy trying to answer this question. (Intifada means literally “shaking off”.)

This is not just a mere semantic game. The definition carries with it operational consequences.

As a matter of fact, the entire country is now aflame. East Jerusalem is already a war zone, with daily demonstrations, riots and bloodshed. In Israel proper, since the Kafr Kanna killing Arab citizens are also mounting daily strikes and demonstrations. In the West Bank, there were some demonstrations and a fatal stabbing, after which an Arab was shot and killed.

Mahmoud Abbas is doing everything in his power to prevent a general uprising, which might quite well endanger his regime. But pressure from below is mounting. Abbas refused to meet Netanyahu in Amman.

Popular wisdom in Israel has already found a name for the situation: “Intifada of Individuals”. For the Israeli security chiefs, that is a nightmare. They are ready for an organized Intifada. They know how to quash it by force, and, if necessary, by more force. But what to do with an Intifada which is entirely made by isolated individuals, with no orders from any organization, with no grouping that can be infiltrated by the collaborators of the Shin Bet net of informers?

An individual Arab listens to the news, is incensed by the latest outrage against the Holy Shrines and drives his car into the nearest group of Israeli soldiers or civilians. Or takes a knife from the kitchen of the Israeli restaurant where he washes the dishes and stabs people in the street. No prior information. No network to be infiltrated. Quite frustrating.

The center of the storm is the Temple Mount. The al-Aqsa (“far away”) Mosque, the third holiest place of Islam, is under siege. At one point, Israeli soldiers entered the mosque (with their boots on) in pursuit of stone-throwing demonstrators.

WHERE ARE we going?

For decades now, a group of Israeli zealots has been busy planning for a new Jewish Temple to be built in place of the al-Aqsa and the magnificent Dome of the Rock. They are stitching garments for priests and making the necessary preparations for animal sacrifices.

Until recently, they were considered simply a curiosity. Not anymore.

Several cabinet ministers and Knesset members have entered the holy enclosure to pray, contrary to the status quo. Throughout the Islamic world, this has aroused alarm. Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and in Israel proper are furious.

Netanyahu promised King Abdallah II to restore quiet. But he is doing the opposite.

Jesus turned water into wine. Netanyahu is turning water into gasoline and pouring it on the flames.

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