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Gaza now stretches all the way to Disneyland

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- on the hopelessly interdisciplinary nature of reality ]
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There really is no limit to the diversity of strands which go into a complex tapestry such as that of Gaza.

Jean-Pierre Filiu has written, and Hurst will shortly publish, his History of Gaza. Mark Levine, University of California, Irvine, sums up both the book and the timeliness of its publication in his blurb:

Anyone familiar with Jean-Pierre Filiu’s scholarship knows well his talent for taking complex historical processes and bringing their relevance for the present day to the front burner. Never have such skills been more needed than in addressing the still poorly understood history of Gaza. And Filiu succeeds admirably. Providing a wonderful synopsis of a century’s worth of history, his discussion of the more direct roots of the present violent dynamics, beginning with the “crushed generation” of the Six Day War and continuing through the travails of Gaza’s burgeoning hiphop scene, demonstrates just how historically and culturally rich remains this much abused land. A clear must-read for all those seeking to think outside the existing outdated prisms for studying history, and the future of Gaza and Palestine/israel writ large.

Filiu himself:

Considering the appalling reality of life in contemporary Gaza, a broader view of the current situation can only be taken from the perspective of history, with an attempt to set aside the disorientation, the horror and the hatred that the present situation has engendered. The ‘Gaza Strip’, as it is today, is not so much a geographical entity as the product of the tormented and tragic history of a territory where the majority of the population is made up of refugees who have already attempted to escape other torments, and other tragedies. Gaza’s borders have closed in on those who have fled there: the refugees born within the territory have been destined to remain confined within it, a fate they also share with all of those who have dreamed of leaving it. Neither Israel nor Egypt wanted the ‘Strip’ to exist: it is a territorial entity ‘by default’.

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When Filiu wrote his earlier book, Apocalypse in Islam, he knew the realities of the situation demanded he research pop culture as well as classical sources in Qur’an and ahadith — and devoted 8 full-color pages to illustrations of 21 book-covers like these:

It’s not surprising, then, that he covers “the travails of Gaza’s burgeoning hiphop scene” in this one — but the point I wish to make is more general. If we are to grasp the complex realities of today’s and tomorrow’s trouble-spots, we need to be aware of trends that impinge on our disciplinary foci — “national security” and so forth — from an unprecenented array of other areas. Many of our nat-sec authors, bloggers and tweeters, bloggers, authors and pundits are aware of these areas — Dan Drezner, for instance,eploicates international affairs via a trendy meme in his — but it’s the use of such memes by those the analysts study that’s most significant.

Thus Daveed Gartenstein-Ross wrote a year ago regarding the Boston bombing:

Tamerlan listened to all kinds of music, including classical and rap, and used the email address The_Professor@real-hiphop.com. In fact, a few years ago he had planned to enter music school. AP (Apr. 23) shows that Tamerlan’s interpretation of Islam guided his eventual avoidance of music. Six weeks after Tamerlan had told Elmirza Khozhugov, the ex-husband of his sister, about his plans to enter music school, they spoke on the phone. Elmirza asked how music school was going. Tamerlan said that he had quit, and explained that “music is not really supported in Islam.”

and more recently in The Lies American Jihadists Tell Themselves on FP:

The first “homegrown” jihadist whom most Westerners learned about was John Walker Lindh, a young man who traveled to Afghanistan to join the Taliban prior to the 9/11 attacks. Lindh, before his turn toward radical Islam, used to post regularly on hip-hop message boards in the adopted persona of a racially-conscious black hip-hop artist (Lindh is white, from the wealthy northern California region of Marin County).

And thus also, Disney characters now show up in anti-Hamas propaganda… echoing an image of Samantha Lewthwaite we’ve seen here before:

The truth is, pop culture, high culture, scholarship, propaganda, truths, myths and lies are all hopelessly entangled in how we think about the world, and while our thoughts may prefer certain disciplines or “silos” to others, the world itself is no respecter of silos, but is interdiscipoinary to the core.

We had best get used to it.

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Daveed Gartenstein-Ross twitterstreaming re Iraq & ISIS…

Friday, June 20th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- today's source of understanding addresses the tensions within the ISIS alliance -- with a question about the Naqshbandiyya tagged on for our readers ]
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Here, including a “ramp-up” from two days ago, is a series of related tweets from Daveed G-R:

Nota bene:

  • We reject Sharia.
  • IAI may eventually have to fight ISIS.
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    While we’re at it, here are two other DG-R tweets on significant topics:

    Daveed’s Spectator cover-article is (appropriately) spectacular, btw.

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    Of particular interest to me, in case you read this and know where to point me, is anything re the strength or nominality of connection between the Jaysh Rijal al-Tariq al-Naqshabandi or Naqshabandi army and the Sufi Naqshbandiyya order.

    Thanks!

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    The ISIS flood in my twitterstream today 2: big picture

    Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- an attempt to "curate" the onrush of news, hitting the high points on a low, low morning ]
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    I have tried to keep the tweets here limited to their own texts, with illustrations only where essential, and without “parent tweets” and other encumbrances. Even so, it’s a long read — my advice would be to take it fast, first, and then come back to click on articles and other details that look like they’re of particular interest.

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    And I’m sure a lot has happened during the half-hour or more it has taken me to put even this small selection of relevant tweets together!

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    Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, conclusion, second point

    Saturday, February 8th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- all too important, all too easily overlooked, Daveed G-R nails it ]
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    I thought Daveed Gartenstein-Ross made an exemplary point in his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee session on the State of Al Qaeda, its Affiliates, and Associated Groups: View From Outside Experts, when in the second of four points in his Conclusion: Al-Qaeda and U.S. Policy (five in his testimony as delivered orally) he said:

    This testimony has outlined two competing views of al-Qaeda, and it’s worth noting that public discussion of the jihadist group is impeded by the fact that open-source analysts lack basic information about the al-Qaeda network that can be found in such primary source documents as those recovered after the raid that killed bin Laden in Abbottabad. The seventeen Abbottabad documents that the U.S. government released in 2012 represent less than 1% of the total cache of information, and they don’t even contain a single complete correspondence. To improve public sphere discussion about al-Qaeda, declassification of those documents should be hastened.

    A number of analysts have been saying the same thing for a while in blog posts and tweets, though in the present budget-cutting atmosphere they have been ignored and the program to continue declassification and analysis shelved — but Daveed brought the issue, pointedly and courageously I thought, to the House Committee itself.

    If anything can turn things in a positive direction as far as that cache of documents is concerned, Daveed’s direct testimony will. As he put it:

    Better harnessing the talents of open-source analysts has the potential to sharpen U.S. counterterrorism policies and alert policymakers to possible pitfalls.

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    Sources:

  • HASC testimony, video
  • CTC West Point, Letters from Abbottabad: Bin Ladin Sidelined?
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    Of serpent-bites in logic

    Saturday, August 31st, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron -- continuing my series on the "serpent bites tail" reflexive form (1, 2, 3, 4) in which analytic gems and other insights may often be easily discovered or succinctly expressed -- read this post fast for fun, or reflectively (!!) for the ripples ]
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    I’m going to lead off with this tweet, which seems very timely considering the news this last week or so about Syria…

    I thought this was another quite beautiful example of “serpent bites its own tail” phrasing — timely too — uttered by JM Berger in summarizing his Loopcast with Daveed Gartenstein-Ross on the current status of Al-Qaeda, highly recommended, BTW:

    And if you want to know about Hezbollah and its global reach, this one refers to the book you need…

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    Okay, having given pride of place to those three, I’d like to catch those of you who are interested up on an entire series of self-referencing tweets I’ve run across since I last posted. I’m really collecting these things because I’d like, one of these days, to do a thorough analysis of what they teach us about our modes of thought, and how we can apply that to pattern-recognition in our own readings, and creative insight in our writings and analytic output… In the meantime, don’t feel obliged to read every last one, just dip in as you feel inclined — think of this as a reference section, okay? Take what you need and leave the rest.

    Here’s one that uses the Escher‘s hand draws hand format:

    And here’s a pair that needs to stay together:

    Continuing… I might as well give you a cluster from Teju Cole, since he’s a master…

    Okay, here’s another one with timely reference, this time to the whole NSA business:

    Really, this is just such a rich vein of humor and insight:

    Let’s go to another wordsmith — they’re often good at this stuff:

    Two from philosopher Allen Stairs:

    One from quasi-Einstein, via the very bright (non-quasi) Seb Paquet:

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    I’ll close with an example from the “all is nothing” category, this one from Peter J Munson:

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