Planet of Refugees

Submitted by admin on Fri, 12/01/2017 - 01:12
Giles Duley UNHCR 1

 

Dear Friends,

Earlier this week, Filippo Grandi - the chief of UNHCR (the UN Refugees Agency) and my friend - went before the UN Security Council to talk about the continued refugee crisis that plagues our planet. Currently - at a minimum - 66 million people have been forcibly displaced, 23 million people officially counted as refugees. On the table remains the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert, passages to Europe that are being converted into walls and prisons. This Sea and this Desert are the main pathways for the mass migration from eastern and western Africa towards Europe. No policy is on the table to help ameliorate the destruction of agriculture by Western-driven trade policies and by the destruction of the environment. No policy for those long term solutions to the mass migration, and none for the relief of the migrants. The West has sought a military solution to a human crisis. This is what Filippo went to the UN to argue against.

 

The International community’s inability to prevent and resolve conflict is at the root of the plight - this was the key sentence in his testimony. It forms the heart of my column this week at Alternet. You can read it here.

The photograph above is taken by Giles Duley, a photographer who has been shadowing the refugees (I recommend his website).

 

Giles Duley UNHCR 2

 

Before he took on his job at the UNHCR, Filippo was the head of the UN Palestinian relief agency (UNRWA). November 29 is the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. It often goes by in a flash - with not enough time to consider the implications of the Israeli occupation, so many decades and generations gone by, so much destruction of so many lives. The picture above was taken by the AP's G. Nehmeh (and found in the UNRWA archive). These are Palestinians who have just crossed over into Jordan in 1968, the aftermath of the 1967 war when Israel seized the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza - the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Nehmeh's photograph is remarkable. It carries the emotion of loss. To watch a short film from 1968 called The Aftermath, which traces the immense cost borne by the Palestinians in the aftermath of the 1967, go here (the film is 44 minutes long). The film goes back to 1947 and then forward to 1968. It is a powerful portrait of an ongoing tragedy.

More recently, from our friends at Electronic Intifada, comes a powerful film by Jan Beddegenoodts called Thank God It's Friday. This film is about the resilient town of Nabi Saleh, which continues to protest the Israeli Occupation each Friday. The film (51 minutes long - it begins 3 minutes into the start of the version at the top of that page) is available for viewing here. The story of Nabi Saleh is well told in Ben Ehrenreich's book The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine, which I reviewed here.

From India comes a charming video on the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) movement. It is only five minutes long and can be watched here.

A few days before the International Day of Solidarity, I was fortunate to see the original painting (see below) which was reproduced on the cover of Edward Said's Orientalism (1978) - the first in a trilogy of books with the other two being The Question of Palestine (1980) and Covering Islam (1981). I talked to Mariam Said about the painting and how to came to be on the cover of Orientalism. Inspired by her story, I wrote this short blog post, which you can read here.

 

Said - Orientalism - The Snake Charmer

 

A remarkable story by Christina Goldbaum has appeared at The Daily Beast. This story is about the massacre of civilians in Somalia by the US Special Forces conducted in August of this year as part of an operation - putatively - against al-Shabaab. It is a story that deserves wide readership, buried thus far in the corporate media. This is serious and careful reporting. It can be read here.

May a day come soon when this planet of war and this planet of refugees ends and a new day of human beings dawns.

Warmly,
Vijay.