Obama’s Middle East: ‘Change we can believe in’?

Obama does AIPAC The Washington Post ran an editorial today entitled "Mr. Obama’s Middle East" in which they opined that Obama "doesn’t see the region much differently than President Bush does."

This editorial comes right after Obama’s speech to the Jewish lobbyist group AIPAC earlier in the week during which he said, "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided." His speech also revealed him to be hawkish about Iran.

For those that have not been following the latest developments, Obama’s speech angered many in the Arab world, especially Palestinians. After the interview, Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, told Al Jazeera Thursday: "This is the worst thing to happen to us since 1967 … he has given ammunition to extremists across the region. What really disappoints me is that someone like Barack Obama, who runs a campaign on the theme of change — when it comes to AIPAC and what’s needed to be said differently about the Palestinian state — he fails.”

The Post argues:

Mr. Obama opened his general election campaign this week with a major speech on Middle East policy, the substantive strategy he outlined was, in many respects, not very much different from that of the Bush administration — or that of Republican Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). That’s not a bad thing; rather, it’s a demonstration that there is a strong bipartisan consensus about America’s vital interests in the Middle East and that the sensible options for defending them are relatively limited.”

As I said before on this blog, I think Obama is charismatic but I never completely bought his message of "change." At least when it comes to the Middle East, it doesn’t seem he will bring any tangible change. When I endorsed Clinton, my friends and readers of this blog were unimpressed. A comment from reader Arabi put it like this:

Actually to put it differently, its not Hillary that is hated in the Arab world, its Hillary that hates the Arab world. Hillary was viewed positively for a long time until she made her choice and instead of trying to be an honest broker (as possible as that is given the influence of the Jewish community) like Bill did, she chose to [alienate] herself from many including the Palestinians. It does not surprise me though that you would support her. At the end of the day, the Jewish community will buy Obama as well (already started to).

I’m currently halfway through Obama’s biography Dreams from My Father, and I’m enjoying it. If my citizenship application is finalized before November, I would vote for him over McCain. However, I do not foresee any radical change if he becomes president, especially when it comes to the Middle East. Actually, I still believe Hillary would have been a better choice. But ah well, the people chose and they chose Obama. I need to get over it and move on. Anyway, let’s see what the future holds. Meanwhile, my friend Dan is ecstatic.

Rachel Ray and Dunkin Donuts: My thoughts

Rachael Ray shills for Dunkin Donuts
Reader ‘Dunkin’ asked me my thoughts on the Rachel Ray – Dunkin Donuts controversy. I have been talking about this issue extensively with my coworkers lately, so I’ll just reiterate myself here. I’m extremely disappointed that Dunkin Donuts backed down and listen to a misguided blogger, who is obviously oblivious to Arab and Muslim culture and diversity.

My grandfather, Saliba (whose name means ‘cross’ in Arabic), wore his Kuffayeh almost his entire life. He never took it off. When he used to go to church, he used to take off the rope circlet, which is placed atop the Kuffayeh (iqal), as a sign of respect.

The Kuffayeh is part of the national dress of a whole nation. It is a shame that it is portrayed in this light by a misguided and (I hate to say it) bigoted blogger who referred to the Kuffayeh as "the traditional scarf of Arab men that has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad." It is unfortunately true that the Kuffayeh was worn by extremists during some of their actions but the acts of a minority should not stain the rich and diverse culture of an entire population.

Ms Malkin, my grandfather, Saliba, along with my uncles and cousins have nothing to do with what you referred to as "murderous Palestinian jihad," so you are way off base here. And it is a shame that Dunkin Donuts complied to these bigoted remarks by an ignorant yet influential blogger.

Thoughts on nasty comments

When I first started this blog, I was very passionate about my opinions. I talked candidly about how I felt about certain topics especially the politics of the Middle East. Of course, the outcome of this was nasty comments posted on this blog mostly by anonymous readers. I was called many names and I was attacked personally. In one instance I was called a "Christian bitch." I deleted improper comments and banned users, but that never stopped the flow of nasty comments. At first, these comments used to get to me and I even lost some sleep just thinking about some of them.

Now, since my blogging is becoming less and less, the number of comments in general (along with the improper ones) are decreasing to almost zero.

However, the other day I got one of those comments. It was in reaction to a post that I wrote years ago about statements made by a Jordanian member of parliament. Here is the post. And here is the comment that I received last week from someone with the alias "me you us."

Middle eastern tyran in a bloggers outfit. Same old tyranny but new style of wording. Why are you so upset about what she says; right or wrong. Has none to do with you. STOP MEDDLING WITH OTHER’S BUSINESS. SHAME ON YOU!

I’m not sure what’s happening to me, but frankly, I did not lose sleep over this or get upset and bite my nails. I just brushed it off and even laughed. Am I becoming less passionate? Or is it because I have been away from the Middle East for almost three years now? Or is this is one of the hallmarks of being thirty and jaded?

I’m not sure. But I will continue to blog. Things are settling down now in my life now and I have time to jot down my thoughts like I always did. Blogging for me is therapeutic and I do not think I should give it up. However, with blogging comes mean comments like the one above. I’m ready for them, and no, I will not lose sleep over them.

Finally, I see ‘Captain Abu Raed’

Amin Matalqa and Natasha Tynes It was three years ago when I was introduced to the work of Amin Matalqa. It happened when I found a couple of his short movies on the web. I then posted them on my blog. He contacted me and thanked me for highlighting his movies on my site. We have remained in touch since then. A year or so later, he shared with me the first draft of his screenplay for the movie Captain Abu Raed. I felt so privileged because I knew Amin was headed for success. I was not mistaken. His movie has won a number of international awards so far, including one from the prestigious Sundance Film Festival.

A few days ago, I finally got a chance to see Captain Abu Raed at a special screening in DC. The movie was beautiful, managing to portray Jordan in a wonderful light. I especially loved how clearly the movie showed the divide between West Amman and East Amman. I also enjoyed seeing familiar sights in Jordan, like downtown and Queen Alia airport. Nadim Sawalha, who played the role of Abu Raed, was phenomenal. Watching him interact with others on the screen I got this feeling of déjà vu, like I knew him in a previous life. Perhaps it was because his is acting was very real, very Jordanian. The young boy who played Murad also gave a stellar performance. I highly recommend this movie, especially for those who are not familiar with Jordan.

Bravo Amin! We are all so proud of you. The movie will be playing in the US, Europe and the Middle East. There are more details on the movie’s website. I also really enjoyed meeting the film’s producer, Emmy-award winner David Pritchard. He was extremely down to earth and very supportive of Amin and his work. During the Q & A that followed the movie, Pritchard told the audience he was sure that the film would receive either an Academy Award nomination or one for a Golden Globe or both. Why not?

Here, in this picture of Amin and I that Jeff took using his cellphone, there is a firetruck, which arrived at the venue (the Goethe Institute) in response to a fire alarm before the screening. The audience stayed outside for a bit before the movie started until that situation cleared. The wait was a great way to catch up with Amin after all these years and congratulate him in person.

From the archive: With Prince Felipe of Spain

Prince Phillipe and me

Someone just put up this picture up on Facebook. I’m the one who is standing right next to Prince Felipe of Spain. I think this was taken in 1995 in Amman, Jordan at  Instituto Cervantes. I look so young and somehow so naive. As for el principe, you can tell from this picture that he is extremely tall! I miss the Instituto Cervantes. I spent a number of years there, studying Spanish and taking part in their various cultural activities.