Riches To Rags To Virtual Riches: The Journey Of Jewish Arab Singers

Shoshana Gabay. Ills. Joseph Sassoon Semah

Some of the most revered musicians from the Arab world moved to Israel in the 1950s and 60s, where they became manual laborers and their art was lost within a generation. Now, with the advent of YouTube, their masterpieces are getting a new lease on life and new generations of Arab youth have come to appreciate their genius. Part one of a musical journey beginning in Israel’s Mizrahi neighborhoods of the 1950s and leading up to the Palestinian singer Mohammed Assaf.

The birth of the Internet awakens our slumbering memory. Sometime in the 1950s and early 1960s, the best artists from the metropolises of the Levant landed on the barren soil of Israel, from: Cairo, Damascus, Marrakesh, Baghdad and Sana’a. Among them were musicians, composers and singers. It didn’t take them long to find themselves without their fancy clothing and on their way to hard physical work in fields and factories. At night they would return to their art to boost morale among the people of their community. Some of the scenes and sounds which at the time would not have been broadcast on the Israeli media have little by little, been uploaded to YouTube in recent years. Through the fall of the virtual wall between us and the Islamic states, we have been exposed to an abundance of footage of great Arab music by the best artists. This development has liberated us from the stranglehold and siege we have been under, allowing us to reconstruct some of the mosaic of our Mizrahi childhood, which has hardly been documented, if at all.

We should remember that in the new country, as power-hungry and culturally deprived as it was in the 1950s and 1960s, the impoverished housing in the slums of the Mizrahi immigrants was a place for extraordinary musical richness. The ugly, Soviet-style cubes emitted a very strong smell of diaspora. At night, the family parties turned the yards, with the wave of a magic wand, into something out of the Bollywood scenes we used to watch in the only movie theater in our neighborhood. On the table, popcorn and a few ‘Nesher‘ beers and juices. At a Yemenite celebration one would be served soup, pita bread, skhug and khat for chewing, and at that of the Iraqis,’ the tables would have kebabs and rice decorated with almonds and raisins. A string of yellow bulbs, as well as a beautiful rug someone had succeeded in bringing from the faraway diaspora, hung between two wooden poles. There were a couple of benches and tables borrowed from the synagogue, and sitting on the chairs, in an exhibit of magnificent play, were the best singers and musicians of the Arab world.

It is worthwhile to reflect upon those rare times, just before the second generation of Mizrahim began trying to dedicate itself to assimilating in the dominant culture. Those were the days when the gold of generations still rolled through the streets of the Mizrahi neighborhoods and through its synagogues. We should step back for a moment and allow ourselves to look at what we had, what was ours, and what ceased to be ours.

An example of the musical paradise in which we lived can be seen in a video recording from a little later – apparently from the early 1990s. At that time, Mizrahi musicians of all origins were already mingling at each other’s parties, which we see here in a clip of a Moroccan chaflah. The clip, uploaded by Mouise Koruchi, does not tell us where and when the event took place. The musicians in this clip are: Iraqi Victor Idda playing the qanun, Alber Elias playing the Ney flute, Egyptian Felix Mizrahi and Arab Salim Niddaf on violin. One of the astonishing singers is the young Mike Koruchi, tapping the duff and singing with a naturalness as if he never left Morocco, a naturalness that our own generation in Israel has lost. Indeed, it turns out that back then he used to visit Israeli frequently but did not actually live there.

Following him, we see some older members of the community appear on the stage: Mouise Koruchi sings ‘Samarah,’ composed by Egyptian singer Karem Mahmoud; after him comes Victor Al Maghribi, the wonderful soul singer also called Petit Salim (after the great Algerian singer Salim Halali); Mordechai Timsit sings and plays the oud; and Petit Armo (father of the famous Israeli singer Kobi Peretz) rounds out the team. This performance could easily be included in the best festivals in the Arab and Western world, complete with Al Maghribi’s beautiful clothes and the rug at the foot of the stage.
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The Abuse Of The Right To Sexual And Reproductive Health In Nigeria: The Way Out

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Somewhere in Osun State, Nifemi, a three-year old baby, has been put under the knife for her clitoris to be cut off. Somewhere in Zamfara, thirteen-year-old Aisha has been betrothed to a 65-year-old Alhaji. Somewhere in Lekki, ten-year-old Ayoola is being sexually abused by his uncle. Somewhere in Zamfara, new mother, Aisha, just drew her last breath after bleeding profusely due to the negligence of the medical practitioners that handled her childbirth. Each of these people are victims of the failed healthcare system which Nigerians are constantly being subjected to. For a long period of time, the issue of the abuse of the right to sexual and reproductive healthcare in Nigeria has been ignored like a slowly growing pimple. However, the previous pimple has now developed into an unavoidable boil ridden with pus and blood. Much to the chagrin of the powers that be, the ripple effects of the poor handling of sexual and reproductive health in Nigeria, can no longer be swept under the carpet.

The World Health Organisation defines reproductive health as: “A complete state of physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity in all matters related the reproductive system, its functions and its processes” [1]. The right to sexual and reproductive health has slowly garnered recognition over the past five decades. From the World Population Conferences in Rome and Belgrade held at 1958 and 1965 respectively [2], to the Beijing Conference of 1995 [3]; reproductive and sexual health has constantly been reaffirmed as a sine qua non in the lives of both men and women. In Nigeria, several Acts, and policies alike, have been enacted in order to guarantee this right to every Nigerian. They include, amongst others: The HIV(Anti-Discrimination) Act, 2013; the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, 2015; and the National Strategic Framework for the Elimination of Obstetric Fistula in Nigeria (2019-2023) [4].
However, the Nigerian situation seemingly sings a different tune. In spite of the existing legal framework, there have been numerous cases bordering on the flagrant abuse of the right to reproductive and sexual health in Nigeria- ranging from child marriage to sexual violence.

Currently, Nigeria has the highest number of child brides in Africa [5]. Over 20% of global maternal deaths occur in Nigeria with a staggering 600,000 maternal deaths enumerated from 2005-2015 [6]. In the same vein, over 25 percent of Nigerian women have been circumcised, with Osun State hosting the highest prevalence rate of 77 percent [7]. Each of these violations have negative effects on victims, hence, the global attention which the right to reproductive and sexual health has attracted. For example, there has been no report on the health benefits triggered by Female Genital Mutilation; however, numerous studies and research works have reported the harmful effects of female genital mutilation which could range from immediate complications which include: shock, haemorrhage and genital tissue swelling; to long-term complications which include: pain during sexual intercourse, urinary tract infections and menstrual problems [8].
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Philip Roth ~ The Plot Against America

About The Plot Against America
Set in Newark, New Jersey, in the early 1940s, The Plot Against America tells the story of what it was like for the Roth family and Jews across the country when the isolationist aviation hero Charles Lindbergh was elected president of the United States. Roth’s richly imagined novel begins in 1940, with the landslide election of Lindbergh, who blamed the Jews for pushing America toward war with Nazi Germany. Lindbergh’s admiration of Hitler and his openly anti-Semitic speeches cause increasing turmoil in the Roth household, and in nine-year-old Philip, as political events at home and abroad overtake their daily lives. Alvin, the orphaned nephew the family has taken in, runs away to Canada to fight the Nazis. Sandy, Philip’s older brother, ascribes his parents’ fears to paranoia and embraces Lindbergh’s Just Folks program, which sends him and other Jewish children to live in the “heartland” for a summer. Philip’s mother, Bess, wants the family to flee to Canada before it is too late to escape. But his fiercely idealistic father, Herman, refuses to abandon the country where he was born and raised as an American. Overwhelmed by the tensions around him, Philip tries to run away. “I wanted nothing to do with history,” he says. “I wanted to be a boy on the smallest scale possible. I wanted to be an orphan.” But history will not let go, and as America is whipped into a deadly frenzy by demagogues, the Roths and Jews everywhere begin to expect the worst. In The Plot Against America Philip Roth writes with a historical sweep and lyrical intimacy that have rarely been so skillfully combined. As the novel explores the convulsive collision of history and family, readers take a chilling look at devastating events that could have occurred in America–and consider the many possible histories existing beneath the one that actually happened.

About Philip Roth
In 1997 Philip Roth won the Pulitzer Prize for American Pastoral. In 1998 he received the National Medal of Arts at the White House, and in 2002 received the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in Fiction, previously awarded to John Dos Passos, William Faulkner, and Saul Bellow, among others. He has twice won the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 2005 Philip Roth has become the third living American writer to have his work published in a comprehensive, definitive edition by the Library of America.

Source: http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/

The Plot Against America – PDF-format: https://m.reddit.com/theplotagainstamericabyphiliproth/

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Decolonising ‘Decolonisation’ With Mphahlele

Es’kia Mphahlele – Ills.: unisa.ac.sa

Es’kia Mphahlele was a writer, activist, organiser and teacher committed to the view that ‘Afrikan humanness’ is the real key to our freedom.
This week marks the 10th anniversary of Es’kia Mphahlele’s death.

Mphahlele (1919-2008) was a writer of fiction, a journalist, a cultural activist, an organiser and, above all, a teacher. The main aim of his fiction and non-fiction work was dealing with what he characterised as the “first exile” – from home culture and ways of understanding the world – from which victims of colonisation suffered. Mphahlele argued that colonised people should begin by overcoming “first exile” if they are to develop decolonising theories and practices. In an era in which the decolonisation of politics and knowledge has captured the imagination of many people, we would do well to recall Mphahlele’s work.

The focus on “first exile” is important because the ultimate aim of colonisation is to separate colonised people from their sources of economic autonomy, ways of understanding the world, and, ultimately, from themselves. The primary “spiritual striving” of victims of colonisation, not just colonialism, is a striving against what the great African-American intellectual WEB du Bois called double consciousness. Similar ideas were developed closer to home. Writing in the 1940s, HIE Dhlomo explained that successfully colonised individuals are ‘neither-nor’ characters who “are neither wholly African nor fully Europeanised”. Dhlomo showed that the double consciousness of these characters was evident in their use of “European measuring rods for success, culture, goodness, greatness”.

In a settler colonial context, the work of colonisation would be achieved when leaders of the colonised people calibrate their demands to Western-style multiparty democracy, civil rights and, therefore, the integration of the elite layer of the colonised people into the historically white world. In such a context, the world and privileges of the settler minority are legitimised and guaranteed, while ‘uncivilised’ people, the majority of the population, continue to exist on the underside of the new society.

When the ‘decolonial’ is fundamentally shaped by the colonial
But not all projects of self-determination take the lived experiences and ideas of this majority seriously. Some are attached to colonialist ideas or obsessed with whiteness, leading to ‘radical’ projects that recenter what they aim to challenge.

In the first case, seemingly decolonial projects repeat colonialist ideas about the inherent differences between black and white; the uniqueness of ‘black culture’ and its supposedly essential traits; and the need to retrieve ‘native’ discourses; forgetting that ‘the native’ comes into being only when the settler arrives and that ‘native’ discourse is constituted by what Congolese philosopher VY Mudimbe calls the “colonial library” – colonial experts of various kinds.

In the second case, the black radical’s ‘colonial mentality’ manifests in projects whose main aim is to shame historical colonisers by constantly repeating anti-black discourses that the black man is not human and cannot coexist with humanity. This trend can be seen in certain strands of Afro-pessimism.

The important point here is that decolonisation often needs to be decolonised itself. In South Africa, no other thinker grappled with this dilemma more than Mphahlele. Read more

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Polycracy As An A-System Of Rule? Displacements And Replacements Of The Political In An Unbounded Dictatorship

Abstract

The concept of polycracy is beset by a number of paradoxes: it designates a form of political rule in the absence of such rule. In such circumstances, a
multiplicity of social formations, economic and financial agencies and operational functions install themselves anomically at local level and extend independently of and beyond policy and legislation. In doing so, they split and supplant frameworks of the state and of political and societal institutions. This article sets out to trace the lineages of the concept of polycracy and its instantiations in a system of rule that involves a process of political de-structuring. More specifically, the question explored here is what takes place in the destroyed political space and what takes its place in the unbounded state of the Nazi dictatorship.

Keywords: polycracy; National Socialist totalitarianism; Nazi regime; party–state relationship; occupying regime; Weimar Republic; quantitatively total state

Introduction
Even with historical hindsight, the phenomenon termed “totalitarianism” presents a number of conundrums. To start off with, it resists definition. To describe it as a “system of rule” risks contradiction (see Kershaw 1999, 222), because “a-systematicity” is its most pertinent characteristic. As a particular type of modern dictatorship, it has invited comparisons, yet such comparisons remain limited and general (considering e.g. the limited comparability of the National Socialist regime in Germany and the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union—see Kershaw 1999). The process of political disintegration described by it is bound to leave the concept under-theorised (see Kershaw 1991, 98) and possibly even to impress itself on the theorist as incomprehensible (see Arendt [1951] 1994, viii), both conceptually and politically. In this article, we propose to put one of the elements specifying “totalitarianism” to the test: Can “polycracy” provide a specifying criterion for the definition of “totalitarianism”? If so, how would it have to be conceptualised in order to be able to account for the simultaneous diffraction and concentration of structures and agencies that reconfigure governance for conditions of geopolitical expansion, invasion, annexation and occupation; total mobilisation for war; and population relocations, forced labour and genocide?

The term “polycracy”, as Walther Hofer points out, is of recent coinage. It designates social and political processes unlike those described by any of the classical theories of political organisation (Hofer 1986, 249; see also Arendt [1951] 1994, 461; also Schmitt 2000, 66) or system or type of rule.

Writing in the aftermath of war and genocide in the late 1940s, Hannah Arendt ventures this description: “We always suspected, but we now know that the [National Socialist] regime was never ‘monolithic’ but ‘consciously constructed around overlapping, duplicating, and parallel functions’ …” (Arendt [1951] 1994, xxxii–xxxiii; also 404 fn. 8).

What she pinpoints here had, in fact, been articulated by Carl Schmitt even before the Second World War in his prescient analyses of the Nazi dictatorship (1933) and by Ernst Fraenkel and Franz Neumann during the course of the War and in its immediate aftermath. The multi-levelled dynamic functioning of the Nazi regime became the subject of further investigation in the 1960s and 70s, first by Klaus Hildebrand, Karl Bracher and Peter Hüttenberger and later by Ian Kershaw. Even as they differed in the details of their analysis, all of these historians and political theorists either explicitly or implicitly returned to Johannes Popitz’s concept of “polycracy”, coined in the late 1920s to take account of the decline of the German state during the late Weimar period.

“Polycracy”—A conceptual–political history
Popitz held on to a substantive universal idea of the state against its devolution and dissolution into concrete orders and functions. In his positions in the Finance Ministry in the latter half of the 1920s, he was intent on clearing up Weimar’s “administrative confusions” (see Kennedy 2004, 147; also Schmitt 2000, 62 fn. 4) and on restoring the authority of a centralised state.

Carl Schmitt’s conversations with Johannes Popitz (the friendship with whom Schmitt only reluctantly admitted to) trace the decline of the state in the Weimar Republic with its proliferation of special interests, political parties and particularist movements. Popitz views this process as the replacement of “the state as the source of order and the locus of authoritative decisions … by the notion of ‘free competition’ and ‘the self-organisation of society’” (see Kennedy 2004, 33). This defines Popitz’s notion of polycracy. “Pressures from within the private sector and the party politics of the Reichstag had created,” he argued in 1927, “a ‘polycratic’ system that displaced parliamentary democratic will formation” (Kennedy 2004, 147). What these “diverse forms of economic organisations and public/private partnerships” had in common was the “fact that they retained a degree of independence from the state” while assuming responsibility for “important public functions” (Kennedy 2004, 142 fn. 3). Read more

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Being Human: Relationships And You ~ A Social Psychological Analysis – Preface & Contents

Preface
This book represents a new look at social psychology and relationships for the discerning reader and university student. The title of the book argues forcefully that the very nature of being human is defined by our relationships with others, our lovers, family, and our functional or dysfunctional interactions.

Written in easy to follow logical progression the volume covers all major topical areas of social psychology, with results of empirical research of the most recent years included. A common project between American and European social psychologists the book seeks to build a bridge between research findings in both regions of the world. In doing so the interpretations of the research takes a critical stand toward dysfunction in modern societies, and in particular the consequences of endless war and repression.

Including topics as varied as an overview of the theoretical domains of social psychology and recent research on morality, justice and the law, the book promises a stimulating introduction to contemporary views of what it means to be human.
A major emphasis of the book is the effect of culture in all major topical areas of social psychology including conceptions of the self, attraction, relationships and love, social cognition, attitude formation and behavior, influences of group membership, social influence, persuasion, hostile images, aggression and altruism, and moral behavior.

Table of contents

Introduction
1. The Theoretical Domain and Methods of Social Psychology
2. Cultural and Social Dimensions of the Self
3. Attraction and Relationships: The Journey from Initial Attachments to Romantic Love
4. Social Cognition: How We Think about the Social World
5. Attitude Formation and Behavior
6. The Influences of Group Membership
7. Processes of Social Influence: Conformity, Compliance and Obedience
8. Persuasion
9. Hostile Inter-group Behavior: Prejudice, Stereotypes, and Discrimination
10. Aggression: The Common Thread of Humanity
11. Altruism and Prosocial Behavior
12. Morality: Competition, Justice and Cooperation
References

ISBN 978 90 5170 994 0 – NUR 770 – Rozenberg Publishers – 2008

“Therefore this reading has a rare and valuable feature, that of making a link between American and European social psychology: “Being human: Relationships and you” is an excellent example of how the two lines of thought are actually articulated…it is clearly written, using a professional yet assessable language and therefore easy to read by even the non-specialist public…always pointing to the fact that social psychology is not “just a science” but it deals with issues that constitute the substance of our existence as humans”.

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