Latest Entries

Did producers of ‘The People v. O. J. Simpson’ censor to protect Israel?

It’s the little things.

Season one of the new FX true-crime anthology, American Crime Story, attempts to recreate the O. J. Simpson murder case for the big (television) screen. Winning nine Emmy awards and earning nominations for another thirteen, The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story is clearly judicious in stroking the curiosity of a society still asking questions about Simpson’s innocence.

To their credit, the producers take an interesting course, and I think this is why the season’s ten episodes resonate far more than a documentary ever could. Rather than appreciating the evidence itself, attention is directed to the nuances of the 1995 double murder trial, allowing viewers to witness how the evidence was presented and how instrumental the public grew to become in shaping the case both inside and outside the courtroom. It is a courtroom drama in every sense of the term, but also a remarkably accurate one. When Court Clerk Deirdre Robertson read the verdict in 1995, she stumbled on O. J.’s real first name, Orenthal. The blip is cleverly reenacted in the show.

But deep within the closing lines of the final episode, we are reminded once again that there are still some limits to the truth, to honest reenactments and genuine portrayals. In a way similar to how racism is outwardly condemned but still readily welcomed under the radar, censorship flies the same route. Read More

Between Mother and Child

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Standing inside a brightly-colored superhero-themed examination room in an outpatient pediatric clinic just outside of Orlando, nostalgia hit me with such force that, for a brief moment, I contemplated balancing on the shoulder of a mother whose 4-month-old boy had been coughing and spitting up for what felt like an eternity to her. The room’s atmosphere was in total flux — the mother’s anxiety balanced by the pediatrician’s certainty, the baby’s grimace balanced by my endearing smile. He was an adorable child who had unknowingly caused his mother a great deal of distress. I saw myself in him.

Just as this infant will one day remember, my most formative years were marked with regular visits to the pediatrician’s office as well. I was too young to appreciate the value of a high-five and sticker at first, but before anyone could stop me, I had managed to sucker my way into amassing enough Disney and Hot Wheels stickers to cover my bed’s headboard at home. Front and back. It was a game to me. Sometimes the tears were fake, but an extra Dumbo sticker never hurt anyone. Read More

U of Central Florida school shooting alert reinforces Islamophobia

In response to a complaints of an allegedly armed person in the main campus library, authorities at the University of Central Florida (UCF) blasted out an email alert (“POSSIBLE MIDDLE EASTERN GUN MAN/WOMAN”) that assumed the person’s ethnic background but failed to identify anything else, including gender or clothing. This is what Islamophobia looks like. The University’s follow-up to the incident was just as irresponsible.

On April 26, a Muslim woman was allegedly spotted praying or reading from the Qur’an in a stairwell at the main campus library. (The Orlando Sentinel reported she might actually have even been crying, perhaps over a difficult exam.) Many observant Muslims utilize these stairwells or other secluded areas to pray as it offers a bit of privacy which can go a long way in a setting where anything remotely “Middle Eastern” is automatically assumed to be violent or insidious. Ironically, this is the opposite of what happened. Read More

Where are you from?

The question “Where are you from?” to Palestinians is an odd one. Sometimes it marks the beginning of the happiest part of our day – an opportunity to share a little about who we are, what we live for, and how different we are from what is written about is in the paper. Other times, it reminds us of how much work there is to do. You can be Jamaican, Thai, Venezuelan, Irish, Congolese, or Israeli and expect to have an enriching conversation with coworkers, new friends, and even interviewers. We Palestinians, however, run the risk of isolating ourselves, of closing doors and casting ourselves aside. We are asked and expected to condemn Palestinian leadership, to set aside decades of history and to conform to popular orientalist beliefs, to pledge our allegiance to the American flag once more. We are encouraged to “be from somewhere – anywhere – else” if we want that job or that law school acceptance or that recommendation letter. Read More

Dissected Poetry: Ten Toy Cars

This piece was originally published on Riwayya, an online art and literary journal featuring original work from artists the world over.

Ten toy cars
Are all that stand between me and reality,
Where two rooms away
Mother calls my name —
Urgently, but not urgent enough.

I clatter my orange Camaro
Into the generic blue speedster I found
At the bottom of my toy bin just last week.
Pushing air through my teeth, I hiss
The way a banged-up Camaro might sound in the aftermath of a crash.

Like many children, I grew up with an assortment of diecast cars available for any given imagination. If I wanted to simulate a modern metropolis, I knew exactly how to guide my cars through construction sites and school zones. If a volcano erupted in the nearby forest, I knew that my Jeep could handle the marsh pits better than my slick-tired Thomassima III ever could. Even though I made a living out of crashing them, I always did so gently, doing everything in my power to keep the paint from scratching. I owned many more than ten toy cars but these were the ones I couldn’t live without.

She calls my name again,
This time with force.
“Coming!”
I neatly rearrange my cars,
Careful not to warrant an imaginary parking ticket.

Mother sits in stillness,
Illuminated by violent flashes of white and blue
Leaving imprints, like sharp razored-wrinkles,
On a face grown weary with time.
Not once does she flinch. Read More

Watch: ‘Homeless family’ prank in Gaza will remind you good people still exist

 

Momen Shweikh’s prank show Tawwil Baalak does it again. This time, with hidden cameras set up down the street, he and a young actress take on a small pharmacy in Gaza City.

Momen and the actress playing his daughter pretend to be homeless. Sharing a makeshift bed and a small bag of personal belongings, Momen audibly promises his daughter a comfortable apartment, complete with a large air conditioner and a microwave — basic amenities to many people privileged with a roof over their heads but quite the luxury to many more. Read More

Glimpses of Life and Death

Guest contribution by Amira Sakalla

In Gaza, we count the hours. We keep up with the days. Every eight hours. Off in the evening today. We do our best, as much as we can, at creating a system out of chaos. This is an affirmation of our humanity. Yes, even monitoring power cuts — this is resistance. We do our best to follow this pattern so we can plan our day. So that when the power’s off at home, we might be away.

What beautiful moments in Gaza we make for ourselves, which even in the United States, honestly, are hard to replace. We do not have much, but we enjoy these things. Trips to the market. Tea on the roof. Evenings at a cafe. Fridays on the beach. I deeply cherish these moments with my family, which taught me much of what I now know about life.

We have no control though, not in any sense. Despite our efforts, disorder will commence. I am not talking about shelling or drones, not this time. There are many different ways to commit a crime. Because following each of these beautiful times we have together, the moment to return must always come. This starts out, innocently, as a drive back in the car. Singing, laughing, and watching the Gaza scenery speed by. The air is filled with joy and our hearts are light — until we pull up to the house. The power is off tonight. Despite our calculations, extra hours of darkness await us. Read More

Photo of the Week: The first of many angels to go

Photo credit: Alaa Badameh
Date taken: July 1, 2014
Location: Jenin Refugee Camp, West Bank, Palestine

Relatives grieve as Yousef Abu Zagha, 16, is prepared for his funeral in a refugee camp in the West Bank city of Jenin. The Israeli military shot and killed him exactly one year ago during heavy crackdowns following the discovery of the bodies of three Israeli settler youth who were kidnapped in the West Bank. Read More

What you did wrong at the White House Iftar

Were you so hungry that you spent time, money, and energy to make the trip to Washington, D.C., and navigate your way through streets and sidewalks caked with the bloody footsteps of soulless lobbyists and politicians just to break bread with a man whose signature authorized the thousands of death transactions we have seen throughout his presidency? Were you so excited upon receiving your invitation that you managed to forget that just hours ago, you were condemning everything about the White House? Were you so ambitious that you thought your attendance was going to change our government’s perception of the Middle East and reverse years of war that have taken the lives of millions of Muslims?

I am never really sure which is the U.S. State Department’s bigger gimmick: the Iftar itself or the guest list, upon which are the names of leaders, diplomats, and alleged representatives who are already so disconnected from the country’s Muslim community that they and their legacies are virtually unrecognizable. The White House has even begun inviting local leaders and community organizers, recognizing their individual struggles and reminding those in attendance that Muslims are a friendly bunch with great potential. The whole event is patronizing, but just like we loathe celebrities until the moment they’re autographing our t-shirts, the attendees eat it up.

There is a certain amount of dignity you must leave at the front door before allowing yourself to be convinced that you matter, that the President is listening to your needs, that American soldiers are taught that Muslims are dogs only to stimulate their wild cartoonish imaginations, not to make it easier to shoot at them and their families. Read More