... in occupation,

You can't invade a country and eat its chicken

20 Aug 2014 | 160 words | iraq occupation

Chicken at Rijssel

Rijsel does the best rotisserie chicken in Amsterdam hand down. Every time i have one of those i am reminded of an interview with a US soldier who served in Iraq in 2006 during the height of the first Iraqi insurgency.

In this interview the solider spoke of how he hated paroling the streets of Bagdad in his armored vehicle unable to step out into an urban environment that was considered to be too dangerous for dismounted operations. His contempt for the Iraqi population was greatly enhanced by the fact that from his vehicle he would frequently see chicken rotisseries on the side of the road that were effectively unreachable to him despite superior equipment.

To me this is remains one of the most powerful illustrations (Islamic State and all related current concerns left aside) why one should not invade and occupy countries that one does not understand: You can’t invade a country and eat its chicken

I like Sayoun Mesfin (Ethiopian FM)...

14 Nov 2007 | 120 words | food africa war occupation milk

… who just gave an interview on BBC world justifying (in the standard language of contemporary occupiers – ‘unavoidable collateral damage’, ‘regrettable loss of innocent lives’, ‘doing the uttermost best to avoid unnecessary suffering of the population’, ‘the terrorists are using women and children as human shields’, etc…) the controversial presence of Ethiopian troops in Somalia. At some point of the interview he pointed out that…

we have not gone into Somalia to drink milk but ready to make the ultimate sacrifice to preserve peace [emphasis mine]

for some reason i can really relate to this. Having this particular expression makes the Ethiopians much more sympathetic to me (plus, of course their food is much more imaginative than Iranian food).

Wearing clown's hats in Beaufort castle

22 Oct 2007 | 543 words | israel lebanon occupation war movies film

Finally managed to source a copy of Beaufort (בופור) with english subtitles yesterday. Had been waiting to find a version that i could understand for a while and it was definitely worth the wait.

Beaufort tells the story of the last IDF unit occupying Beaufort castle in Southern Lebanon in the days before the withdrawal of the IDF from Lebanon in the spring of 2000. It is one of the most impressive war movies i have seen in a while, also because it is the only war movie that i remember that does not show ‘the enemy’ (in this case the enemy is Hizbullah) at all. This seems to confuse some people a great deal, but i think it worked very well. As a whole, the movie does not really take a position on the israeli occupation policy but generally portrays the situation as fucked up and senseless, which works pretty well for me (plus i somehow like the look of the Mitznefet (a.k.a clown’s hats) that the IDF soldiers are wearing most of the time (picture here)).

When i was in Lebanon in May 2005 (exactly 5 years after the liberation of the south by Hizbullah) we went to visit Beaufort Castle (which apparently exists since roman times, but in its current incarnation is a crusaders castle). It occupies an amazing location, overlooking the southern end of the Biqa’a valley (to the North), the Golan heights (to the East), the South Lebanese Mediterranean coastline (to the West) and the north of Israel (to the South). According to the official beaufort movie website, it also overlooks Damascus but that is pretty much impossible if you ask me.

There is one particular exchange in in the movie that made me think back to our visit to Beaufort a lot. it is an exchange between Liraz, the young outpost commander and an unnamed combat engineer, who has just been send in to blow up the outpost so it won’t be of use to Hizbullah after the departure of the IDF:

Combat engineer: It will be quite a job blowing all of this up Liraz: I just can’t imagine it. Combat engineer: What is the problem? Imagine a mountain with no outpost Liraz: can’t Combat engineer: You got a girlfriend? Liraz: Why? Combat engineer: Answer me, i asked a simple question Liraz: Yes i do Combat engineer: Imagine yourself with her. Here on the mountain, sunset, the most amazing landscape on earth. You are holding her hand, walking around with her, showing her: here was ‘green’, the observation post, here was the gate. She looks around and all she sees is nature, a tourist attraction, no sign of any of this, paradise. Liraz: I just can’t picture this. Combat engineer: It will come, don’t worry…

Now the irony is that these days the place looks pretty much the way that the combat engineer described it (although there are some remains of the outpost, that serve as some kind of memorial of the Israeli occupation) but that a real-life Liraz and his girlfriend will probably never have the opportunity to go there in their lifetime as the IDF has caused way too much harm in Southern Lebanon for any Israeli to be welcome there any time soon…

Hollow land

02 Sep 2007 | 300 words | occupation israel border

Just finished reading Eyal Weizman’s impressive Hollow Land – Israel’s Architecture of Occupation. In the book Weizman describes of how the Israeli occupation gradually hollows out what is left of Palestine, by means of architecture. His understanding of architecture is fairly broad and includes aspects like spacial theories of urban warfare, the separation wall, airborne occupation, the strategic locations of west-bank settlements and the system of checkpoints. The chapter on checkpoints (‘The Split Sovereign and the One-Way Mirror’), which is one of the strongest one’s in the entire one includes this fantastic quote, which perfectly illustrates the insanity of the entire occupation project:

The checkpoints do not only carve up space, but also divide up time as well. Israel changes to daylight saving time a month after the rest of the world because of coalition agreements with ultra-Orthodox parties whose constituency’s hours of prayer are governed by celestial composition and level of daylight. The Palestinian Authority shifts it’s clocks to daylight-saving time in tune with the rest of the Northern hemisphere. In spring, a one-hour time difference opens up across the two sides of the checkpoints, creating two time zones. ‘The working day ends at 6pm local time but 7pm checkpoint time. the checkpoint shuts at 7pm it’s time. Until everybody got used to move the clock backwards and finish work an hour earlier, the checkpoint was blocked with hundreds of winter time people begging the summer time soldiers to allow them back home’.

[i think either Weizman or Azmi Bishara, from whom the the quote in the quote is taken must have confused summer and winter time here. if the initial explanation is correct then the soldiers are still on winter time and the workers are on summer time].

A number of more extensive reviews are available at roundtable.kein.org.

On asymmetric warfare

20 Aug 2005 | 308 words | war iraq occupation, gaza

Couple of days ago spiegel online ran a story about how the insurgents in Iraq where now using dogs with explosives being strapped on to them to attack the occupying forces. While the article did not even bother to point to specific incidents or provide other proof for this claim it reminded me of two pictures of donkeys slummering on my hard-disk.

In late 2003 donkeys suddenly entered the stage of the global war on terror with incidents involving donkeys taking place in Bagdad …

Most people would never suspect the lowly donkey of being an instrument of terror – which is exactly why anti-U.S. insurgents used the beasts to launch rocket attacks Friday on two hotels and the Oil Ministry in Baghdad. […] Iraq’s donkey cart drivers now find themselves on the front-line of suspicion after insurgents used the traditional vehicles to launch rockets at the capital’s two main foreign media hotels on a major commercial street on Friday. (jordan times 23 november 2003)

… and Gaza:

Israel killed a senior Hamas militant with a helicopter missile strike on a donkey cart he was riding Thursday after his radical Islamic faction fired a rocket into a large Israeli city for the first time. […] Palestinian bystanders collected parts of Kalakh’s body from the ground, wrapped them in white cloth and carried them on a stretcher to a hospital in the Palestinian city of Khan Younis, in the south of the densely populated Gaza Strip. The donkey lay dead on the ground next to the smashed cart.

The picture from bagdad did not feature a dead donkey (which was kept alive but left other people wondering about his future) but perfectly expressed the helplessness of the US army in dealing with the situation in Iraq. You see two rather puzzled us soldiers calling home from the donkey cart.

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: