Columnist Ted Graham delves into the untold and unexplored stories from and about the Middle East. Highlighting and analyzing the stories untold by mainstream media, Ted strives to provide an authentic perspective on region and the lives and culture of its people.

Tuesday, 03 September 2013 11:47

Is the Arab Spring Coming to Gaza?

The popular force commonly known as the Arab Spring continues to rage across North Africa and the Middle East. Egypt’s revolution has entered a new and dangerous state, Syria’s war continue to seethe and Jordan, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia continue to face new challenges as their own populations demand their rights. Palestine has seen a bit of the popular uprising, but both Gaza and the West Bank have remained somewhat isolated as they deal with their own issues of Israeli occupation and political stagnation. Lately, however, the blossoms of a new spring appear to blooming.
“Democracy is only an experiment in government, and it has the obvious disadvantage of merely counting votes instead of weighing them.” -Dean William Inge “I have no fear that the result of our experiment will be that men may be trusted to govern themselves without a master.” -Thomas Jefferson
Bahrain is small island off the coast of the Arabian Peninsula, a country of no more than 300 square miles (roughly three times the size of Washington, DC), and may be the final piece of the puzzle in demonstrating just how bankrupt US foreign policy in the Middle East has become (with all due respect to the Palestinians).
Tuesday, 04 June 2013 11:52

Mosireen Empowers Citizen Journalists

Continuing my look at the use of crowd funding in the Middle East, in this post I turn from entertainment to the media, specifically citizen journalism.
Tuesday, 07 May 2013 00:00

A Response to Yair Shamir

I describe myself, in the byline of this column and elsewhere online in my social media profiles, etc., as a “hasbara buster.” Hasbara is a special kind of propaganda used by the government of Israel and its supporters to employ hyperbole and bigotry in delivering a nationalist message. It looks solely to the most extreme message it can deliver, hoping to shock its audience into believing the absolute worst, so that any inkling of an alternative perspective would be overlooked. Israel is not, of course, alone in its use of such tactics; but it is unique in the method of its delivery, which can range from the common public relations campaign, to the use of international lobbying organizations, right up to members of its government taking an active role in its dissemination.
“The roar produced by the chants and the megaphones eliminates thought. Thought is retribution, a crime, treason against the Leader,” reflects Fathi Sheen. “Silence is wisdom when talk is praise for the Leader,” says his girlfriend, Lama. Therein lies the dichotomy in Nihad Sirees’ first English language novel, The Silence and the Roar. Sheen, a writer, a media personality has rejected the roar of the Leader’s propaganda machine, and paid the price. He is ostracized, branded a traitor by its security services and is forced to decide between recovering his former life of remaining an outcast, and risking the lives of his family to live in the silence.
If there is anything that the phenomenon known as the “Arab Spring” has taught us, it is that the true power in the Middle East rests with the people themselves. Whether it was the singular act of Mohammed Bouazizi’s self immolation that led to the downfall of the Tunisian government or the masses that flooded Cairo’s Tahrir Square and toppled Hosni Mubarak, the crowd, the street, has shown itself to be a formidable force.
Wednesday, 27 February 2013 00:00

On Immigration: An Open Letter to The President

Dear President Obama, During your recent State of the Union address, one of the issues you announced that you would focus on in the coming years is illegal immigration. I have a few suggestions with respect to that area that I would like to bring to your attention. At first blush, these ideas may seem a little unorthodox, possibly downright controversial. But, research tells me that they have been tried and tested and have met with success elsewhere.
On January 25th, Egypt marked (you can’t really say celebrated) the second anniversary of the start of the revolution that toppled the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. Since that fateful day, Egypt has suffered two replacement dictators, the first in the form of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the second in the (ironically) democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi, the leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. The first tried desperately to cling to the power, largess and financial windfall they had enjoyed for the previous 50 years. The latter, elected under the guise of “defending the revolution” has worked to co-opt it at seemingly every step.
To the extent that the international media has paid attention to the situation in the Middle East, their stories have focused on the obvious and the easy: Israel’s elections, protests in Egypt on the anniversary of its corrupted revolution and, of course, a constant reminder that Iran may someday develop a nuclear weapon. The ongoing civil war in Syria garners hardly a notice, except when the international community pats itself on the back for its “aid packages.” Mali’s developing conflict, and its impact on Algeria, has filled plenty of by-lines with new stories of Islamic militancy. But, one story that is gradually slipping below the fold is the situation in Iraq.
Tuesday, 01 January 2013 00:00

Syria Descends Into Hell

I first wrote about the crisis in Syria in August of 2011 under the title “Weathering a Front of the Arab Spring.” It was at about that time that the uprisings in Hama, Dera’a and their surroundings, and the subsequent crackdown by the Assad regime, had become something more than just another set of protests. Syrians wanted change and they were willing to — and were — dying for it. At that time the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) put the death toll at 2,000. The numbers were shocking. Egypt and Tunisia had not come close to those figures and only Libya compared by breaking into a war.
On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the partition of Mandatory Palestine into two states, Palestine and Israel. On the same day, 65 years later, a UN General Assembly resolution has finally recognized the statehood of Palestine.
The two main candidates for the Presidency of the United States recently held a series of debates. They were stage plays, presented for the television audience, and none of them were particularly “debate-y.” The third, and final, debate, however, was (supposed to be) about foreign policy. Now, while easily 50% of the conversation was instead about domestic policy, roughly 10% about who agreed with who more, the remaining ~40% covered something of a “foreign policy” nature.
I had the opportunity this past week to attend part of the Boston Palestine Film Festival. While my travel schedule had, sadly, kept me from attending most of it, I made sure I could attend at least one night. The film being screened was called ‘5 Broken Cameras.’ It is a documentary by Palestinian filmmaker Emad Burnat and Israeli filmmaker Guy Davidi.
Wednesday, 10 October 2012 04:30

A late spring comes to Jordan?

On Friday, October 5th, thousands of Jordanians took to the streets of the capital, Amman. The rally had been called for by the Muslim Brotherhood to protest the structure of Jordan’s current parliamentary system and a perceived lack of effective representation. The crowd of an estimated 10-15,000 people, however, called for more broad reform of the regime, denouncing corruption in the government, the growing role of the security forces in daily life in Jordan and the slow pace of the King’s attempts to meet their demands.
Wednesday, 19 September 2012 09:25

Israel’s Nuclear Bluster

There is a growing threat in the Middle East. In a region rife with volatility, this player could destabilize an already tenuous situation to the point of war. From within the borders of one nation could spread a conflict that would costs countless lives, further weaken the global economy and rekindle age-old political animosities. While the danger originates from a single country, it will spill out, thrust across its borders to affect the world.
Thursday, 13 September 2012 17:40

In Libya, A Victory For All Extremists

I was asked this morning to put some thoughts down on paper about the recent attacks in Egypt and Libya (and Yemen now as well). It got me thinking, sadly, more so than when I first heard about the actual events.
Monday, 09 July 2012 07:21

Settling on Violence

There is a growing threat in the Middle East. It is a religiously motivated, violent and often state-sponsored terrorist organization. It doesn’t have an official name, there is no central leadership that can be highlighted or targeted and its victims are almost always civilians. They will not negotiate, they will not capitulate, they believe that they are on a mission from God and that whatever means they employ are justified, regardless of who is hurt or what is destroyed. They are loosely known as the Israeli Settler.
Monday, 18 June 2012 15:32

Whither (or Wither) the Revolution?

Although official election results are likely not to be released until Thursday, it appears that Mohamed Mursi of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has eked out a victory over former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq to become the next President of Egypt. Early polls show Mursi with just over half of the cast ballots in his favor. Shafiq’s campaign is, of course, denying any such victory, as their own polls show that they are winning. Given the notably un-enthusiastic turnout in the election, the true loser of the election, however, appears to be Egypt herself.
Sunday, 03 June 2012 06:37

Good Night Uncle Hosni

One of my earliest memories of Cairo was the staring visage of then President Hosni Mubarak. Not quite smiling, not quite scowling, he stared out at me from unexpected places, he was in a hallway in the Airport, he was hanging on a street sign, and he was a massive mural on the side of a building. Leaving the airport and heading into the city, I sat in the back of my friend Abdu’s car and watched the city roll by, continually reminded of Mubarak. “Your Uncle Hosni is watching you!” Abdu intoned from the driver’s seat. “Now that you live here, you’ll have to get used to that.” His son sat next to him, he smiled a wan smile. I glanced out the window to see Mubarak pass by us once again.
Saturday, 19 May 2012 08:09

A Hunger for Freedom

Imagine, if you will, that you are hungry. It’s almost lunchtime and the light breakfast you had didn’t quite last. Your stomach is growling, you have a slight headache, and perhaps, like me, your hands are a bit shaky. But, it’s almost lunchtime and relief is near.
Saturday, 14 April 2012 00:00

Is a Single State the Solution? Part Three

“The war is over. The victor was declared long ago … It’s time to raise the white flag, to admit publicly that the two-state solution has been foiled,” writes Gideon Levy. Yossi Beilin (one of the architects of the Oslo Accords) has called for the dismantling of the Palestinian Authority. Yossi Alpher, of the Americans for Peace Now organization, believes that the current Netanyahu government is “advancing a not-so-hidden agenda of rampant settlement expansion, including in and around East Jerusalem, that is clearly geared to preventing the emergence of a Palestinian state within viable boundaries.” So, if the hurdles of the one-state solution are to be overcome, what steps need to be taken?
The one-state solution posits that the ongoing attempts to forge a two-state solution, one Israel and one Palestine, are a failure and untenable going forward. Following up on my initial piece on this subject, I now turn to the hurdles that would need to be overcome in order to accomplish a single state where both Israelis and Palestinians live in peace.
The cycle of violence between Israelis and Palestinians hardly makes the news anymore. This past week, Israeli jets launched a pre-emptive strike against two members of the Popular Resistance Committee (PRC) in Gaza, who were said to be involved in planning an attack on Israel. To say nothing of the extrajudicial death sentence which Israel handed down without trial on the two militants, the air strike also killed civilians. The response from Gaza was, as expected, a volley of rockets from Palestinian militants fired into Israeli territory. This response provoked another full set of Israeli air strikes against Gaza, which, in the end, killed 25 Palestinians and wounded nearly a hundred others. Israeli media glibly pointed out that the operation was executed without any Israeli casualties.
Friday, 02 March 2012 19:00

Lions and Tigers and Muslims, Oh My!

This past week I had the good fortune to attend a lecture at Brandeis University where Ali Abunimah was speaking on the one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. During the Q&A section of the evening, Ali said something that got me thinking (well, most of what he said had my mind swirling, but more on that later). Someone had asked about the constant accusation that President Obama is a Muslim. “It’s socially acceptable to accuse him of being a Muslim,” Ali answered, “because it’s not socially acceptable to hate him because he’s black.” Hatred of Muslims, he explained, is the new anti-Semitism. “Politicians and the media in America today speak of Muslims in much the same way they spoke of Jews in Europe in the 30s and 40s,” he continued, “and I wish we heard people denouncing this as loudly as they have denounced anti-Semitic speech.”
Saturday, 18 February 2012 19:00

Time to End Syria’s Nightmare

“We appeal to anyone with conscience to intervene to stop the massacres of Bashar al-Assad and his cohorts.” This was the voice of Dr. Mohammad al-Mohammad, a surgeon at a makeshift hospital in Baba Amro, a district in the Syrian city of Homs, made while he tended to a young man who had been shot by a government sniper. His plea sums up the demands of the Syrian people and puts the challenge to help them squarely in the international community’s lap.
Saturday, 11 February 2012 19:00

Keffiyeh On A Train

The conversation started like any other you might have with a stranger. A passing glance, a cleared throat, etc. I noticed that she kept glancing over at me, but I paid it no mind. It was when she leaned across the aisle on the train that I realized it was actually me she was looking at and not at the scenery outside the window next to me. “Excuse me,” she said, “but I was wondering, does that scarf keep you warm?” This was not the question I was expecting. Reeling, I momentarily forgot what I was wearing and had to glance down. “Yes, it does,” I replied. There we're some curious glances from our fellow passengers. She continued, without missing a beat, “Well, that's probably due to the blood of innocent children you have wrapped around your neck.” Wearing a keffiyeh is an interesting experience. I am used to getting strange looks, a few of them disgusted, some of them more concerned. There’s also the occasional smile. I have been challenged about it before as well, but not quite like this. Some within an earshot gasped. Those previously pretending to read their books or sleep slowly turned towards our conversation.
Saturday, 28 January 2012 19:00

Reflecting on A Year of Revolution

It was just over a year ago that Asmaa Mahfouz issued her challenge to Egyptians to meet her in Tahrir Square on January 25th and “demand freedom, justice, honor and human dignity.” That day now stands in Egyptian history as the beginning of a revolution that would sweep away autocratic rule and launch an adventure in the further development of one of the world’s oldest nations. I remember watching these events unfold. Through Twitter, al-Jazeera and email from friends and old classmates in Cairo, it was amazing to see the movement crescendo. The coming days would be fraught with excitement, horror, mourning and renewed optimism. I longed to climb on a plane and fly back to my second home, but had to satisfy myself in helping spread the word of the revolution, its goals, the pains and the losses suffered. I didn’t think my affection for Egypt or its people could grow, but was proven wrong on a daily basis during those weeks.
Saturday, 14 January 2012 19:00

Hamas Ascendant?

It is hard to look at the political trends growing in the Middle East today and think that fair notice had not been given to anyone looking for it. As Islamist parties begin to succeed at the polls in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt, and show signs of doing the same in Libya, the after effects of the Jasmine Revolution and the Arab Spring are not what many may have expected. They are, however, exactly what one small group of elected officials saw in the winds years ago. Those prescient politicians are more commonly referred to as Hamas.