Beirut, beyond the Corniche

For every civilisation that has arisen on the territory now occupied by Beirut, one asset has been central – its harbour. Nowadays the port district (Al Marfa in Arabic) has an air of neglect. It remains vital to the economic life of modern Beirut but is barely visible to most inhabitants of today’s sprawling, chaotic city.

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Jordan, the view from Gaza Camp

 

“The Kebabs are ready dad!” Faris yells over his shoulder. His father, busy preparing the bread and tomatoes cannot hear him, so he calls again. “Dad, they are ready!”

Taking matters into his own hands, Faris locates a near-full jerry can of water and drags it across the grassy picnic ground to douse the coals on the barbecue. Faris is only four years old and the jerry can is only slightly shorter than he is. But like most of Jordan’s refugee children he is fast learning to be independent.

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Humanitarians for War: Language and the New Orientalists

My latest article which appeared in Off-Guardian on the 5th of October

OffGuardian

by Alex Ray

Not-so-subtle dehumanisation of the targeted "other". Not-so-subtle dehumanisation of the targeted “other”.

A UK House of Commons inquiry into the 2011 attack on Libya and the country’s subsequent collapse has found what many suspected: NATO and its Gulf Arab allies used their ‘Responsibility To Protect’ to launch their attack even though: “

…the proposition that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence.”

Though the MPs’ damning report blames Libya’s political and economic collapse on former Prime Minister David Cameron, the manipulation of public opinion to lay the basis for war is built upon longstanding – but now sharpened – processes and semantic structures that prepare populations to accept punitive action against a targeted ‘other’.

In an earlier example, on October 10 1990, a young Kuwaiti woman known as ‘Nayirah’ testified before the United States’ Congressional Human Rights Caucus that invading Iraqi soldiers…

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Is Israel Backing Jihadists In Syria?

This article appeared in Foreign Brief on August 3rd 2016.

Western coverage of the Syrian conflict has largely overlooked allegations that Israel is backing jihadists fighting in Syria. Middle Eastern leaders have a history of blaming domestic unrest on such conspiracies – particularly when Israel is involved. Although conspiracies of Israeli support for Al Qaeda and ISIS are largely hyperbole, the country’s posture towards the Syrian conflict and its relations with jihadi groups deserve closer inspection. Continue reading

The Death Toll in Syria: What Do the Numbers Really Say?

This article appeared in Counterpunch on May 26, 2016.

What is the Syrian death toll now? 400,000? Less? More? While the aphorism “One death is a tragedy, one million deaths is a statistic”, has been attributed to many, it is likely none foresaw the inverse utility of this concept for shaping narratives in an age of humanitarian intervention. Statistics are now weapons in themselves. Raw numbers are ambiguous; as journalist Sharmine Narwani writes, “It doesn’t tell us who is killing and who is dying. And that information matters – the global political response to a genuine civil conflict would be different than to a genocide committed by a ruthless authority.”

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The Stamp Collection: Amman’s assault on the senses.

The light of Amman, Jordan is strikingly similar to many parts of Australia, perhaps derived from the age of both areas – their vibrancy worn by thousands of years of activity.

The light is dry, bright, harsh and shallow – like the contrast has been turned up on the TV. It refracts off the ubiquitous sandy grey surfaces of every building, leaving few shady refuges. The glare is intensified by the doggedly cloudless sky, making you lose  sense of distance and scale as the cinder-block buildings roll over the endless hills. Continue reading

Syria and the facade of partition

Alex Ray 05.02.2016

In the media war for Syria, half-truths and redacted explanations are par for the course. While most common narratives romanticize the trajectory of the war into pre-assumed moulds, others such as “sectarian war” or “baddies versus baddies” shift blame from outside powers and their part in the conflict and largely onto the people caught up in it. Continue reading