Friday, August 27, 2004

Peace deal in effect in Najaf

The violence in Najaf has finally come to an end through a deal brokered by Ayatollah Sistani. I agree with Juan Cole's assessment that "the big losers from the Najaf episode are the Americans. They have become even more unpopular in Iraq than they were last spring after Abu Ghuraib, Fallujah and Najaf Part 1. The Allawi government is also a big loser. Instead of looking decisive, they ended up looking like the lackeys of neo-imperialists.The big winner is Sistani, whose religious charisma has now been enhanced by solid nationalist credentials. He is a national hero for saving Najaf. For Muqtada, it is a wash. His movement in the slums of the southern cities is intact, even if its paramilitary has been weakened."
Although the quiet sure is a welcome, many people have died & suffered due to the siege. The infrastructure & scores of homes were also destroyed as this Washington Post article reports.

The hunger strike by over 2,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisoners is on it's 11th day, although it has not received much attention from the US media. Electronic Intifada reports that Aron Gandhi, the grandson of the Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi, who arrived in the region this week, called for putting an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people. He announced that he would launch a hunger strike tomorrow in support of the Palestinian prisoners.

More on the popular music show Superstar in the Arab World - the winner (either Ayman from Lebanon or Ammar from Palestine) - will be determined by thousands of voters from the Arab World on Sunday. A few critics are suggesting that people are voting for Ammar just because he is Palestinian is pulling at people's heart strings. Others are weary of the whole show & would rather see the money spent on the show in something more beneficial for Arabs in the various countries. Some even see it as Western cultural invasion on Arabic values & morals, while others are angered that the coverage on Ammar is taking away from the plight of the Palestinian prisoners & the hunger strike.

My take? I understand all the concerns, but with the kind of life most Palestinians live, Ammar's success is a rare ray of happiness in their dire lives. In addition, Ammar is a student wanting to become a dentist, so singing is not his career - I think he will serve as an inspiration to hundreds of Palestinian youth that violence is not the only way of life.