Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Separate This

Have the US or UK ever met any separatists they didn't love? I'm not talking about separatists within the borders of their own nation-state, of course, because when it comes to them, territorial integrity and national sovereignty mean something.

I don't know enough about the Balkans to comment on the wars, internal dynamics, or the seemingly endless crumbling of the region into smaller states, but to me it speaks volumes that during a February 17 rally for independence, US and UK flags seem to outnumber those of Kosovo:



I was a self-absorbed teen when the Balkans were on fire, so I never really followed the news, but I imagine that the peoples of former Yugoslavia were subject to what we in our household call Sunni-Shia-ing (yes, it is a verb). In other words, I'm sure the press couldn't describe a burning building without throwing in gratuitous references to ethnicity or religion, just like now, the 'western' media cannot report the most banal detail about Iraq without throwing in the terms Sunni or Shia for good measure.

In the build-up to the 2001 war on Afghanistan, I was on a college campus that fancied itself progressive and so had arranged a teach-in. A couple of the 'expert' members of the panel were going on about Pashtuns, Hezara, Sunni, Shia, and I wasn't paying too much attention until a few Afghan students got up to speak during the question session. The first guy was asked about his ethnicity and sect, to which he furiously responded that he was Afghan. The other two Afghan students (I think there were a total of three Afghans in the entire school, as a matter of fact), were similarly irate about some of the presenters' compartmentalization of Afghanistan by language, ethnicity, and religion.

I have to admit that I didn't quite get what the big deal was at the time, but I certainly get it now. And I can hardly keep my jaw from clinching or my eyes from rolling when someone tries to corner me on my own ethnic or religious background. "I'm Iranian." That is about the most you will get out of me.

But those handsomely funded folks with massive propaganda machinery at their disposal who are intent on breaking up Iran and forcing its people to identify themselves based on their language, ethnicity, or religion rather than as Iranians, their task will not be simple. And I present a linguistic map of Iran to show why they won't have an easy time. The ethnic and religious categories, of course, criss-cross over the linguistic divisions, making things even more complicated.

So just try and Sunni-Shia this, Mo-Fos!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Human Freak

Surely the well-known propaganda outfit MEMRI tried their best to edit this interview to favor the sell-out Lebanese anchor and make Norman Finkelstein look bad, but it is pretty clear that they failed. Anyway, don't take my word for it and check it out for yourself.

My favorite Finkelstein quote from the interview, by the way, is a classic: "The secretary of state said it was the birth pangs of the new middle east. That's the statement of a freak. A human freak would compare the birth of a child with the destruction of country."

Enjoy!