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Monday, March 25, 2013

Egypt’s future in little brave Rajaa’s hands



As soon as I landed in Cairo, I could feel the heaviness of life, economy, politics and breath. It didn’t take long for the first Egyptian to blurt that things were “better under Mubarak’s dictatorship than they are in the Muslim Brotherhood’s lair.” A slew of similar observations followed, mostly from poor people like a taxi driver who told me he sometimes works all day long to barely avoid sending his kids to sleep hungry. Not that life was much better before, but now they are “unbearable,” he said as he asked god’s forgiveness for wishing death over “this life of indignity!”

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Palestinians of 1948: A Failed Plan To Uproot People And Land



The Galilee predates any known old texts and all holy books. Driving through the winding roads of villages and cities of the Galilee is a voyage through the history of a land and its people. Visiting the Galilee in the company of Palestinian Historian Johnny Mansour was an eye-opener. Throughout our day trip he pointed out plenty of evidence about what he and other scholars describe as the old Zionist plan of “Judaizing” all aspects of Palestinian life by removing as many signs of Arab Palestine and replacing them by the new face of Israel and its mainly European Jews who migrated there after 1948. “It’s a well calculated and dangerous practice,” says Mansour. In addition to pushing Arabs out or squeezing them into areas and neighborhoods, it consists of changing names of places from Arabic to Hebrew, uprooting the native olive trees and planting in their stead the larger and greener kinds of trees that “recreate the sense of home for the masses of European Jews migrating to Israel.” According to Mansour, this all began after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and continues to this day.

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Friday, March 15, 2013

Big Brother and The City – The Case of Damascus Then and Now

By Guest Blogger Hanibaael Naim

Editor's Note:

Syria enters the third year of its uprising in devastation to the people and land. Satellite imagery gives a grim picture of what has become of the land while the horror of a rising death toll now at more than 70,000 according to the UN and more than a million refugees scattered around the world facing a dangerous and uncertain future.


In observance of this anniversary, we chose to post an updated version of last year's 'Big Brother and The City: The Case of Damascus' by guest blogger Hanibaael Naim. In his in-depth analysis of the relationship between a dictator and the city he controls, Naim describes Damascus as Bashar Assad's last stronghold. Two years after the peaceful uprising, Naim describes how the face of dissent changed with time and why he believes that the "decisive battles are near" through this analysis and its conclusion.


I'm always grateful for guest bloggers for carving time out of their busy schedules to share their insights with the octavianasr.com audience. I hope that you find those additions helpful and enriching. Your feedback is always appreciated.


Our life is defined by cities. Those we belong to and love stir deep emotions in us such as pride, home, inspiration and nostalgia. Dictators also love their cities, but theirs is a story of obsession and control. An abusive relationship that can last for decades and can only be broken by force or revolution!

Once considered routine in the Middle East, this bizarre relationship between tyrants and cities has become a pressing issue in light of the Arab Spring. In Syria today, Bashar al-Assad is a dictator hanging by the capital city of Damascus, refusing to relinquish power even if the entire country is destroyed one city at a time, and every message of dissent killed along with its messenger.

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Monday, March 11, 2013

What Haifa Taught Me



It has crossed my mind on several occasions during my lifetime that Haifa is the city I could one day live in. Diverse, lively and has a great beach.

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Monday, March 4, 2013

Ramallah Is Palestine



No other city says Palestine to me more than Ramallah. At the Kalandia checkpoint, a large Israeli sign warns visitors they are about to enter Palestinian territories and that as such their safety and security are under threat. The obvious separation wall Israel has erected is an eyesore that immediately sets a mood of desperation and isolation. The huge cement wall which Israel calls “security fence” is tall and lifeless. It separates, divides even West Bank residents from their schools and businesses. It explains in no uncertain terms how difficult and challenging life behind it must be.

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