The end of September marks fourteen years without Edward Said, literary theorist and an intellectual of a wide range. Many of the things Said wrote about – from the way West perceives and represents The East to the question of Palestine – remain a hot topic today. To commemorate Said and recall the magnitude of his works, we are in conversation with Judith Butler, Laleh Khalili, Avi Shlaim and Illan Pappé.
Jehan Bseiso, Palestinian poet and aid worker (Médecins sans Frontières): "The media is reporting about refugee fatigue and compassion fatigue. I find the notion that compassion can be finite truly terrifying. I’m haunted by the refugee crisis, and it’s a global one. I’m haunted at my work, by the images of bodies clinging to orange life vests, and I’m haunted at night when I think of how random it is, that it’s not me, not my family. My poetry is now a site of intersection that displays the explosive choices I’ve been making as an aid worker and a writer."
Adrienne Roberts, author of Gendered States of Punishment and Welfare: The idea of corporate business and neoliberal government institutions is that it makes good economic sense to empower women. The problem here is how the empowering is understood, which is empowering women as workers and as consumers. What gets left out of those types of arguments is any attention to all the work that women already do. There are inherent limits to forms of gender equality we can attain in a capitalist system, because it is historically founded on gender inequality. Feminism needs to be anti-capitalist.
Laleh Khalili, professor of Middle East politics at SOAS, London: The structures of ports today, particularly the big container ports in the Arabian peninsula, still reflect colonial labour structures. Aden ended up taking DP World, one of the biggest terminal management companies, to court and got to cancel the 35-year container terminal concession with them. Now, when Aden is destroyed in a war waged by Saudi Arabia and UAE, one of the first things UAE announced once they got the control of it, is that they will help rebuild the port. There's such comfortable traffic between war and commerce.
More than a century has passed since the famous strikes of female workers in American textile industry. For more than a century, all around the world, International Women's Day is celebrated on the 8th of March. A century later, inequality isn't gone. To discuss the issues of inequality and representation in the Middle East, a region often in the spotlight for violation of women's rights, we talk with female lawyers, poets, aid workers, directors and activists from the region - Jehan Bseiso, Hind Shoufani, Roula Baghdadi, Fatima Idriss and Nagwan El-Ashwal.
Yazan Halwani, one of the most famous Arab street artists: "I focus on painting the figures of people that connect us, instead of all these signs of separation. I want to show that these streets belong to all of us. In all art disciplines, there are certain things that are still done but there's no longer justification for doing them. Take Lebanon today – people in power do things ilegally all the time, vandalism is so common, and it doesn't make sense to me to do things that way. It's much more dangerous to try to create a unified sense of identity and do it legally."
Eyal Sivan, French-Israeli filmmaker, the guest of 14. HRFF: Israel was established as a state for the Jews, which makes Israel a racist state. There is a difference between state racism and a racist state – in Israel we have both. What is the big Israeli question? The Israeli question is to renounce some of our privileges. The only question is the willingness to share power. All the time we hear this "we'll give rights", "equal rights" talk. What does that mean? Who is the one giving rights? Can the Palestinians give Israelis rights? Women to men?
The war in Yemen, with all of its tragedies, keeps on unravelling far from the media flashlights. We talk with Judith Brown, aid worker and founder of Yemen News Today: "What is true is that in effect there are two systems of government, one in Sana'a and one mostly in Riyadh. It's chaos. The situation is even more complex than Syria and it is escalating as USA seems to have joined in the war and Iranian warships are now openly stating that they are in Yemeni waters."
Jason W. Moore, sociologist and the author of Capitalism in the Web of Life: Capitalism has transformed planetary life and is now creating forms of nature that cannot be resolved within capitalist techonology and its productive forms. These forms of nature are climate change, which cannot be resloved within the capitalist framework, and the emergence of new diseases, bacteria and superweeds –we have no ways of solving those issues anymore. This is a dangerous time to live in, but it is also a profound danger to capital. Capitalism as a system is much more vulnerable than most of us think it is.
Such an opportunity does not come often. Let's open the possibility to have as many of these people stay here, integrate, enrich us with their millennial culture. No, it’s not fortunate that they want to go to Germany. It’s not good news to hear that they don’t want to stay with us. What are we, lepers?