Sunday, January 31, 2010

Israel: land stealers

"Khirbit Tana is located 14 km to the east of Nablus City in the West Bank. 50 families that consist of more than 300 people live in the area. They totally depend on farming and grazing for their living.
At around 8:00 AM on January 10, 2009, the Israeli Occupation Army bulldozers demolished 30 residential and agricultural structures in the village without any prior warning. The decision was based upon the Israeli Occupation Supreme Court decision which was issued on December 26, 2009. The Court ordered the demolition of the structures in compliance with the Israeli Occupation Army recommendations."

Greening the desert?

Anyone knows anything about this? (Thanks Arbi)

Friday, January 29, 2010


In Badael this week, my editorial on food safety in Lebanon "Russian Roulette". Muhammad Muhsin wrote about Mar`ash street in Burj Hammoud "Little Aleppo", and on the sweets of Mar Sarkis, an Armenian specialty and on dried vegetables used for stuffing in the winter...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


"WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Foreign ministers meet Wednesday in London to discuss international support for Yemen's economic development and security. Gallup surveys show the economic situation in Yemen is one of the most dismal in the Middle East and North Africa and many Yemenis expect it to get worse. Only Palestinians (64%) are more likely than Yemenis (59%) to say economic conditions in their country are getting worse.
According to the United Nations' World Food Program, roughly half (48%) of Yemeni households are estimated to be food insecure, similar to the 45% who tell Gallup they were unable to afford food for their families at times in the past year. The percentage of Yemenis reporting an inability to buy food is three times higher than the median percentage for the Middle East/North Africa region (15%)"

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

More Aleppo

"In Aleppo, we like our stomach, we like good food — rich [in] fat," says Akkad, who works in guest relations at the city's Sheraton Hotel.

Take kibbe, for instance. Anyone who has ever eaten in the Middle East is familiar with kibbe, a deep-fried oval of cracked wheat with ground meat inside, often greasy and tasteless. But in the hands of Aleppo's chefs, kibbe is an art form — lightly crispy on the outside with delicately spiced, fragrant lamb in the middle. In Aleppo, there are more than a dozen varieties that include additions of rice, pistachios and pine nuts." (Thanks Annie)

More on Aleppo here and here and here

Farming is life

"Reform of once-vibrant agricultural sectors in both Afghanistan and Yemen is critical to any international effort to ensure long-term stability and security in two of the world's least governable spaces." (Thanks Laila)

Friday, January 22, 2010

The NGOization of Palestine

From the always excellent Kabobfest

"Hatem Bazian: NGOs control the purse strings. Through this funding or through the staff they hire, they assert their political agenda. For example, the largest coalition of organizations that work on Palestine do not insist on US divestment from Israel or devote organizing resources into achieving this agenda. But look at the solidarity movements that developed around apartheid South Africa and Central America: they made divestment central to their struggle. These movements recognized that economic sanctions and pressure are central to change a government’s policies; but when it comes to Palestine, NGOs do not want to offend certain segments of the liberal Zionist community. So they shift their focus to changing Israel’s mind without making Israel suffer. This kind of strategy was dismissed as ineffectual in the South African and Central American solidarity movements."

So the invasion of Iraq is just a sort of homecoming?

"Most Britons are direct descendants of farmers who left modern day Iraq and Syria 10,000 years ago, a new study has shown. After studying the DNA of more than 2,000 men, researchers say they have compelling evidence that four out of five white Europeans can trace their roots to the Near East. The discovery is shedding light on one of the most important periods of human history - the time when our ancient ancestors abandoned hunting and began to domesticate animals."

Either a fool or an economist

"But the natural sciences rightly forewarn us that there are limits to this process – the law of entropy, while the dominant discourse of mainstream and conventional economics from Harvard to Cambridge to Beijing University to Delhi University has no theoretical notion of limits and is therefore the most dangerous of all social science disciplines when it comes to thinking about ways to live in harmony with our environment. It is not for nothing that one of the earliest and most thoughtful and ecologically sensitive of economists, Kenneth Boulding, way back in the 1950s said, that to believe in unlimited growth in a finite world one had to be either a fool or an economist!"

More on the limits to growth by Achin Vanaik


Today in Badael: Aela Menguy writes from France about "La Decroissance" (de-growth?). My editorial also talks about the limits to growth and Rameh Hamieh puts in a lighter touch with Abu Amineh's patties, a traditional winter food from the Biqa`.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Classic sunsets

Taken a few days ago

From the window of my house in Sinay, South Lebanon

And in Beirut, Ramlet al Beida

Monday, January 18, 2010

Every shekel buys a bullet

"It is a much-repeated complaint in this Palestinian city. While the Palestinian Authority prime minister dramatically set fire to goods from Jewish settlements last week, and the government urged its citizens to boycott these products, Israel still has a chokehold on a captive market in the occupied West Bank, making it almost impossible for local companies to compete.
Anwar Hamad, who was clothes-shopping with his pregnant wife and two children in Ramallah, said: “People who buy Israeli products without thinking don’t have a goal in life." He already takes care to buy Palestinian whenever possible, and Israeli only as a last resort. “Each shekel spent on Israeli products is supporting the occupation,” he said. “Every shekel buys a bullet.” "

Friday, January 15, 2010

الجمارك الأردنية تعفي 2500 صنف إسرائيلي من الرسوم والضرائب

عمان - أصدرت دائرة الجمارك الأردنية جملة من الإعفاءات والتخفيضات الجمركية على السلع ذات المنشأ الإسرائيلي اعتبارا من بداية العام الحالي


"‘Black Skin, White Masks’ by Frantz Fanon and ‘The Bluest Eye’ by Toni Morrison both do a good job of describing the psychological pressures on the oppressed – something I thought Palestinians were mostly immune to. But the quote by the Palestinian in the Huffington Post article, “It’s a dream to own a house here, in a new city where you work and live quietly with your kids…. It will be similar to life in the U.S.” forces me to reconsider. This man’s dream is to mimic American modes of living. He wants to live quietly and see the Mediterranean Sea on a clear day, just there, beyond Tel Aviv. Where is the compulsion to actually visit the sea, off-limits to him because of this race? Where is the denunciation of material and ‘quiet’ living when that ‘quiet’ living comes at the expense of your freedom? What corruption forces you into ‘quiet’ subordination in plain view of your own children? Where is your dignity?" (Thanks Laila)
(By Ahmad Moor)


In Badael this week. My editorial "agriculture the last frontier": why do we ask from farming to be "economically feasible" when we do not hesitate to pour money into the army, or the resistance? Farming should be part of the national defense strategy! Kamel Jaber writes about the changes in the Nabatieh souk held on mondays, and Maya yaghi on the (mal)nutrition of university students.

A Black Panther in Beirut

A Black Panther in Beirut by dear Daniel

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My new book is out: Plants and People

Written with my colleague Salma Talhouk with beautiful drawing by our student Cynthia Gharios, a book in both Arabic and English about plants used by people in Lebanon, what are they, where do they grow and what do we know about them...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Politics, not water is the real problem in the Formerly Fertile Crescent

"But rainfall, or lack of it, is not the only culprit, he says. Syria and Iraq blame Turkey's huge network of dams on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers for reducing water supplies by 50 percent.

Turkey is the site of the headwaters of a river system that Syria and Iraq depend on. An informal agreement determines the flow downstream.

"When we had bad relations with Turkey, they reduced the flow of water despite the agreement, and now, thank God, we have excellent relations with Turkey, and hopefully, we will not see any cutoff of water," Sukkar says.

Turkey says there is enough water for everyone, but Syria and Iraq waste their share. Amery, the water expert, says the Turks are partly right.

"The issue is water but it goes far beyond water," he says.

Amery says the key to head off a water crisis is more efficient management of a scarce resource. But he adds politics, not climate, is the problem.

"A lot of Arabs believe that Turkey is trying to assert itself as a regional superpower," he says, "and water is being used as a tool to advance that interest."" (Thanks D.)


"In its report Nanotechnologies and Food, the committee suggests a public register of foods or packaging that make use of nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology is the use of very small particles - measured in the billionths of a metre. At these sizes, particles have novel properties and there is active investigation into how those properties arise.

While nanotechnology is already widely employed - in applications ranging from odour-free socks to novel cancer therapeutic methods - they have long been regarded as a subject requiring further study to ensure their safety.

In the food sector, nanotechnology can be employed to enhance flavour and even to make processed foods healthier by reducing the amount of fat and salt needed in production."


In Badael yesterday, dear Marcy wrote about boycott and the links between multinationals and zionism. I wrote about the new action plan of the minister of agriculture (I refuse to call it a strategy) and Nicolas abu Rjeily wrote about the replacement of cherry trees with olives in the Bekaa.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What a great idea!

"The government plans to launch a "grow your own" revolution by encouraging people to set up temporary allotments or community gardens on land awaiting development or other permanent use.

It aims to develop a "meanwhile" lease to formalise such arrangements between landowners and voluntary groups and is considering establishing a "land bank" to broker better links and ensure plots are not left idle." (Thanks Laila and happy new year to you too!)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Like cattle...

Indian workers sold like cattle in Saudi Arabia: Stowaway

Rachna Singh, TNN 4 January 2010, 01:25am IST

JAIPUR: Habib Hussain of Moradabad, who hid in a toilet on an Air
India flight from Saudi Arabia to return to his own country, says he
did so for his two children, his pregnant wife, and an ailing mother.
After his bizarre experience, Habib says he has realised that `aadhi
roti' (half a piece of bread) at home is better than one in an alien
land. He also said Indian labour is sold like cattle in that country.

He had sold his two `bigha' land for Rs 1.25 lakh and left behind just
about Rs 11,000 for his family after paying the agent. He now
tearfully says, ``There was no point in staying in Saudi. I just had
to return. My wife was two months pregnant when I left and will have a
baby any time now. My family was hungry here; I was hungry there. I
was better off earning Rs 80 a day and feeding my family rather than
living on a promise of Rs 15,000-20,000 and not getting a paisa.

``I know there could have been serious problems during the flight, but
I had confidence in my countrymen. Moreover, I was ready to face any
consequence in India which would have been better than living in Saudi
Arabia,'' he says.

``After grazing goats until noon, I offered namaz. In the evening,
after helping a Haji with his bags, I slipped into a toilet in the
lower deck of the aircraft. Forty-five minutes after the plane took
off, an air hostess saw me. After she heard my story, she gave me a
seat and food,'' said Habib.

All that Habib got to eat in the six months that he was away was one
roti and a bowl of dal worth Re 1 each day - bought from the money
that the Hajis tipped him with. ``I didn't get a penny from my
employer and started saving whatever I could to get back to my
country. I could manage to save Rs 800 and thought if my passport was
returned to me, I could board a flight to India. But whenever we asked
for our passports, we were kicked and thrashed and made to work for
over 14 to 18 hours a day,'' he said.

``Indian labour is sold in Saudi like cattle and thousands of Indians
from UP and Bengal are suffering there. They are helpless without
their passports,'' said Habib. ``My agent (Imran) got an assignment to
provide 50 labourers from India. We were recruited and sent in groups
of five, 10 and 20. After landing, I was made to work in Jeddah for a
month. I grazed goats during the day and worked as a cleaner at the
airport in the evenings. I worked for 14-18 hours a day. Thereafter, I
was sold to a `khafil' or agent in Medina who required 500 people. In
Medina, I worked for over 15 hours daily. I wept and wondered how my
family was doing back home,'' he said.

``My father passed away two years back and my mother is ill and needs
medication. I just want to get back home. I hope my case will be seen
with empathy. Who will feed my children if I am put behind bars?'' he

(Thanks Marcy)

Friday, January 1, 2010


I got busy last week with the Tales of the Badia book and did not link to Badael

Here's the link for the issue of December 25

where I talk about Lebanon's effort to celebrate food heritage by becoming the international hummus capital of the world. Mohammad Muhsin talks about Ashoura food in Lebanon and about a special Ashoura dish cooked in Lebanon by Iraqis.

And here's the link for today's page,18362 wrongly linked under turath wa athar (!)

In my editorial, I talk about our resolutions for the beginning of the second year after Gaza. I will translate later. Rima Habib wrote a very important article about the health status of Syrian farmworkers in Lebanon, and Maya Yaghi wrote about over-eating during the festive season.