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Archive for September, 2007

Editor’s Note

By Julia I. Bertelsmann

Julia I. Bertelsmann ’09 attends Harvard College and is an Economics concentrator living in Eliot House.

NEW SOCIETY was born in late December 2006 when twenty-seven Harvard undergraduates visited the Shalem Center in Jerusalem as participants in the Harvard Israel Leadership Initiative (HILI). Like the initiative, the journal aims to encourage students and faculty members to debate positive visions for the future of the Middle East. We begin with the question: what should a peaceful, prosperous Middle East look like?

The inaugural edition of New Society features a combination of long, scholarly essays, shorter op-ed style articles, and reflections, plus an interview and write-ups of events on campus. Future editions will feature reviews of books, films and concerts, photographs, and artwork. The journal will publish students, faculty members, and associated scholars based on the quality of their scholarship and writing and on the innovation of their ideas.
The journal is largely inspired by the intellectual vibrancy and influence of a formidable group of students who became known as the “New York Intellectuals” on account of their prolific contributions to American political, economic, and cultural thought several decades ago.

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By Abigail R. Fradkin

Abigail R. Fradkin ’09 attends Harvard College and is a Classics and Government concentrator living in Lowell House.

Shahla Ka’bi. Age: 34. Nasrin Ka’bi. Age: 27. Date of Execution: August 27, 1980. Location: Sanandaj, Iran. Mode of Execution: Shooting. Charges: “Corruption on earth”; Providing medical care to counter-revolutionaries; Unspecified counterrevolutionary offense.

Remember: Shahla and Nasrin Ka’bi, two nurses arrested and executed by the Iranian Islamic revolutionary government during a military crackdown in the province of Kurdistan. After being arrested and exiled, brought back, then rearrested, the sisters spent three months in prison. During that time they were denied access to legal counsel, forbidden contact with relatives, and interrogated by the Revolutionary Guard. The Jomhuri Eslami daily from August 31, 1980 reported that the sisters had been charged with “participation in recent clashes” and “collaboration with the insurgents.” But authorities told the family that the sisters were arrested for providing care to opponents of the revolution. On the evening of August 26, 1980, Sadeq Khalkhali, an itinerant religious judge at the Sanandaj prison, sentenced the nurses to death at dawn. A fellow prisoner survived to tell the tale to the family. He described the execution as follows:

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Iran: The Inside Story

By James R. Russell

James R. Russell is the Mashtots Professor of Armenian Studies at the Near East Department and the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University.

The first confusing and inconvenient thing to know is that Persia and Iran are the same thing. Iran (note to self: look at map) resembles a comfy pussycat sitting up, with its ears between Turkey and the Caspian Sea. Its furry southwestern belly is the province of Fars. The Arabs conquered the latter in the seventh century and didn’t say “p” then, either, so Pars got its modern name. The language thereof, properly called Persian, came to be pronounced as “Farsi”— and it is all very well to refer to it that way only if you are equally agreeable to call the language you are more likely studying, if you are an American, Español rather than Spanish. The old word parsa meant “broad-shouldered”, as in “Hello, big guy.” The equally self-complimentary aryanam, from which we get Iran (Ee-ráwn, not pronoun plus preterite “I ran”), meant “(expanse) of the noble ones”. As in “Yo, noble one,” I suppose.

It is sometimes useful to come from a country with two unrelated, though similarly laudatory, designations. During the 1979 hostage crisis a friend of mine was walking across the University of Utah campus and some football players asked him where he was from. “Iran,” he said. So they punched him in the nose. A few days later a similar company posed the same question. “Persia,” he replied. “That’s cool, man,” said his interlocutor. “My girlfriend has a Persian cat.” If you memorize this humorous, true story you’ll be able to remember that Iran and Persia are the same, they speak Persian there, and the country is shaped like a cat.

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By Michael A. Carey

Michael A. Carey is a graduate of Brigham Young University, a veteran of the Iraq war and a pilot in the Rhode Island National Guard. He is a first-year student at Harvard Law School.

 

I.

I spent just over three months at Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait during my last active duty deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Toward the end of my tour I made my way over to the Kuwaiti side of the base to buy some souvenirs. I caught a ride on a van and found a seat near the back. After going through the security checkpoint that separated the living quarters from the rest of the base, the driver looked back and asked where everyone was headed.

“I’m going to the Kuwaiti Store,” I replied, referring to a little shop that sold cheap trinkets and pirated CDs. A few moments later, a thoughtful airman sitting in the seat next to me looked in my direction. “Thanks for calling it the Kuwaiti Store,” he said. That was the end of our conversation, but I knew precisely what he meant. No one ever called that little shop the “Kuwaiti Store”; the troops almost universally referred it as the “Hajji Store”. I had never consciously decided not to use the term “Hajji,” but it always seemed too much like saying “nigger” or “Jap” for me to be comfortable. I was surprised that another airman had consciously thought about the term, and that he would thank a total stranger for avoiding it.

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The Case for Kurdistan

By Chia N. Mustafa

Chia N. Mustafa ’09 attends Harvard College and is a Government concentrator living in Kirkland House.

I.

As I learned it growing up in Kurdistan, the myth of the creation of the Kurdish people goes something like this: long ago there lived an evil Assyrian king named Dehaq, cursed with two giant man-eating snakes extending from his shoulders. The snakes grew and slowly took control of the old king’s mind. To sustain the snakes, the king ordered that human brains be mixed into a stew and fed to them everyday. As the snakes began to demand ever more food, the king sacrificed ever more of his subjects. One of the palace guard sabotaged the king’s plan to slaughter innocents by mixing sheep’s brains into the vile stew and saving half the people who would otherwise have been slaughtered. These survivors were sent to the far eastern corner of the kingdom, where they lived in the mountains and became the mythic founders of the Kurdish nation.

On their inadequate diet of sheep’s brains, the snakes grew weaker. The king soon uncovered the deceit of his guard, who was promptly killed and fed to the snakes. After weeks of welcoming new arrivals to their refuge in the mountains, the Kurds noticed that something was amiss when the stream of visitors and exiles stopped. Even though they now thrived, they could never forget the terror of King Dehaq and constantly thought of those who were still suffering in their homeland.

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By Joel B. Pollak

Joel B. Pollak is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Cape Town. He was a political speechwriter for the Leader of the Opposition in South Africa from 2002 to 2006 and is a first-year student at Harvard Law School.

“The Palestinian situation itself is remediable, since it is human beings who make history and not the other way round.”
-Edward Said, “These are the realities,” Al-Ahram, April 2001[1]

 

I.

On January 23, 2007, former President Jimmy Carter addressed a packed forum at Brandeis University’s Shapiro Gymnasium to defend his recently released book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. The largely Jewish audience applauded him warmly (defying the canard that Jews are viscerally hostile to criticism of Israel), and did so in spite of Carter’s refusal to debate Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz—or anyone else—at the event.

Dershowitz—who had written several scathing reviews of Carter’s book[2]—was only allowed to address the gathering after Carter had already left. After rebutting Carter’s claims, he opened the floor to questions and invited each of his interlocutors to ask a follow-up question as well. The more hostile, the better, he said.

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By Gabriel M. Scheinmann

Gabriel M. Scheinmann ’08 attends Harvard College and is a Government concentrator living in Eliot House. He is a dual citizen of France and the United States.

On March 12, 2003, French-American relations were at their lowest nadir since General Charles de Gaulle occupied L’Elysee. Congressman Bob Ney of Ohio, Chair of the Committee of House Administration at the time, renamed all French fries served in House cafeterias “Freedom fries,” calling the gesture a “small, but symbolic effort to show the strong displeasure of many on Capitol Hill with the actions of our so-called ally, France.”[1] Rather than react with anger or acknowledge Ney’s ploy as a personal affront, designed to excoriate the French for blocking a second United Nations resolution authorizing the Second Iraq War, the French Embassy declined to comment and meekly announced that French fries were actually Belgian.

This amusing episode trivializes the greater tensions between French and American policies on the Middle East. The two freedom-loving countries are at loggerheads with one another over almost every major policy issue concerning the region and they seldom pass up an opportunity to talk past one another. While the French accuse Yankee foreign policy as imperialistic, materialistic, and unilateral, Americans revel in reminding the Frogs that if it were not for the U.S. army, the French would be speaking German and eating bratwurst.

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