Category Archives: Writing and publishing

What I’ve been doing (the short version)

I realize I haven’t blogged since December 30. I believe January 2013 was the first month in the TEN YEARS that I’ve now been blogging in which I didn’t post anything at all.

Meantime, as many readers helpfully informed me, various nefarious forces (would that include you, Google, I wonder?) decided to either post malware on JWN, or to flag the blog so that readers would get scared there was malware there and would thus avoid it.

So, the CTO helped me move the blog over to another server– and also, toput it onto a WordPress platform. Potentially, that means it could end up looking better. But for me, the content will always be more important than the appearance, so I’m not going to spend too much time on redesigns, etc.

The MAIN thing I’ve been doing over these past seven weeks is work-work-work at the book-publishing business. I love the work! My company, Just World Books, has now published 14 titles! Almost none of them would even have existed– and certainly, none would have existed in anything like its present form– if I hadn’t founded the company and worked with this amazing bunch of authors.

I also made JWB’s first hire: the amazing Ms. Kim MacVaugh moved to Charlottesville to join JWB as Associate Publisher in early January. Just in time! the biggest thing we’ve been working on is the whole series of events to launch the ‘Gaza Kitchen’ cookbook…. events that, taken as a whole, I decided to dub the Gaza Cuisine Discovery Tour 2013. This tour will take/bring the book’s authors, Laila El-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt, to multiple gigs in New York, Washington DC, Boston, and London between March 10 and May 10.

At the same time, JWB author Miko Peled is doing huge numbers of speaking engagements around his great ‘General’s Son’ memoir, on a number of different continents… we’ll be launching Amb. Chas Freeman’s second JWB title– ‘Interesting Times’, a very timely examination of China’s increasing role in the world– with an event in DC at the end of March… other JWB authors like Matt Zeller and Brant Rosen are continuing to do author events.. and we’re keeping in good touch with a whole range of other signed authors as they bring their work to completion…

We’ve put a unified event calendar onto the JWB website so you can keep up with all these happenings. If you look at it now, you’ll see that on Friday I’ll be in Paris– taking The Gaza Kitchen to the Paris International Cookbook Fair. So that’s pretty exciting…

Well, I feel really bummed that the actual tenth blogiversary of JWN (Feb.3) passed  at a time when i was really up to my eyeballs in these other things, so I didn’t even blog anything about it. I’d been meaning to write a big ‘ten-year anniversary retrospective’ on what blogging has meant to me– and also, I venture, to the whole global information environment– over the past ten years. That opportunity passed… But here we are, coming up to the tenth anniversary of George W. Bush’s launching of the disastrous war against Iraq.

Oh, so much to blog about. And so little time.

But the book publishing is a complete blast, too. This year could truly be a breakout year for Just World Books! We have a whole range of amazing titles scheduled to come out… Plus, I’ve learned a whole lot about all aspects of 21st-century book publishing over the past three years… So I’m feeling good about where the company’s heading. And I think it is already starting to make a bit of a difference. So I no longer feel as “guilty” as I used to, about not having enough time to blog.

I mean really, there are enough things in life to feel guilty about, without that, as well. So I’ll just tell anyone who’s reading this what I plan to do with JWN over the months ahead: I plan to blog when I darn well feel like it. And who knows how often that will be?

So anyway, folks. Welcome  to JWN 2.0 here. Stick around. Maybe we can make it fun again.

Fundraiser for key new book on Iran– please help!

As some JWN readers know, twelve days ago I launched an online fundraising campaign to support the writing and publication of one of my company’s most important books for 2013, a book by award-winning investigative reporter Gareth Porter that exposes how the U.S. and Israel have “manufactured” the whole scare about Iran’s alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons.
(Big thanks to Mr. Netanyahu for providing us with such a fabulous book cover image, by the way.)
The book will be called Manufactured Crisis: The Secret History of the Iranian Nuclear Scare. Gareth, who in June traveled to London to receive the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, is uniquely qualified to write this book. You can see more details about his qualifications over at the fundraising page. But he needs some financial support if he is to take time out from his continuing duties as a cutting-edge investigative reporter, and pull together the huge amount of material that he has amassed, into the form of this very sorely needed book.
We want, obviously, to get the book out as early in 2013 as we can… But it still all needs to be written!
My company, Just World Books, has given Gareth a small advance. But he needs quite a lot more support, if he is to be able to devote the time that this project needs– and to do so, starting in early December! We don’t have access (as the vast majority of the warmongers and scaremongers do) to huge gobs of funding from foundations or think-tanks. So this has had to be a “people’s” fundraising campaign; and in a way I’m very glad about that.
The fundraising platform that we’re working with, Kickstarter, has a generally good format. But it has an important feature that we all need to know about: Anyone launching a Kickstarter campaign has to designate both an end-date, and a target amount of money that she or he wants to raise before that end-date… And if the pledges made to the campaign as of that date don’t meet the target, then none of the money gets collected!
From the point of view of a project’s backers, that is probably a good thing. It means that you don’t end up pouring money into a project that never gets fully funded and that may therefore never get completed. From our viewpoint as the project’s authors, however, it means we absolutely need to meet the $10,000 fundraising target we set, before December 12, which was the cut-off date that I designated.
If we don’t reach the goal by then, not only we don’t get any of the money pledged, but also, I think we don’t even get access to the contact details of the pledgers, to ask them if they could find a way to support us, anyway.
Right, I agree that that latter aspect of the Kickstarter system seems really horrible.
But the Kickstarter folks are quite right to stress, as they do in some of their literature, that running a successful fundraising campaign takes time and energy; and that people who are planning creative projects should try to be strategic about minimizing the amount of time they have to spend fundraising.
So let me ask all of you readers of JWN to help us meet our goal.
This is not a “charitable” endeavor. It is a serious pitch for backing for an important publishing project… and we’re offering a graduated series of worthwhile “rewards” to everyone who contributes $10 or more. You can check them out on the right sidebar of the Kickstarter page there.
When I was planning this fundraising campaign, I decided it should run for 42 days. We launched it on October 24. We knew it would be hard to get much attention for it during the lead-up to and immediate aftermath of the U.S. election. But now, the election has finished and all the dust that it raised has settled. The fact that Pres. Obama won re-election does not mean at all that the threat of continued tensions and future, perhaps sudden, escalations between the U.S. and Iran–or, between Israel and Iran– has gone away.
Far from it!
Today, according to the Kickstarter page, we have 29 days left for our campaign. (I would have pegged it at 30 days, but never mind…) And we are already 22.6% of the way towards our goal.
My huge thanks to everyone who has expressed their support of this project– and their confidence in Gareth and me– by pledging, so far!
But we still need to raise the remaining $7,740 by December 12.
Can you help us, please?
Kickstarter will accept pledges in any amount from $1 up. We offer good rewards, at pledge levels from $10 right through $1,000. If you haven’t pledged yet, could you consider doing so? Pledging can be done quickly and simply through the Kickstarter page.
In addition, we’d appreciate anything you can do to help us spread the word about this fundraising campaign. There must be many ways in which, for example, you could tell your friends about it, and urge them to make a pledge, too?
If you’re a fellow blogger, could you blog something quick and simple about it? (I’d be happy to help you by giving you some “talking points” you could use in your blog post… Or, just take down some of the key points that Gareth makes about the project in the great little video that we put onto the KS page.)
If you’re on Twitter and want to tweet about the campaign, we’ve created this handy short URL you can copy and use:… Actually, anyone can use that short URL, which is a whole lot easier to remember or copy than the long version.
And let’s not forget physical-media ways of doing outreach, either. I’m just about to make some print flyers about the campaign, to start handing out, including at the annual conference of the Middle East Studies Association of North America, which runs in Denver, Colorado, this weekend. Let me know if you’d like me to send you the PDF of the print flyers, so you can distribute some, too.
…So please, give us all the help you can. We need this fundraising campaign to succeed. That way, Gareth can get started very soon on the deep, sustained work that is needed to pull together all the materials he has collected, into this important book… And we can then know that this book can make a real contribution to setting the record straight on the lies, manipulations, and actual DIS-information on this issue that too many in the “west” have been subjected to, for far too long.
Thanks, everyone!

The rhythms of blogging and other work

I had a great, though short, get-together with Josh Foust today. Josh is a top-notch analyst of the United States’ various interventions(!) in Afghanistan and the other ‘Stans over the past ten years. His work first came to my notice back in my old ‘heavy-blogging’ days– let’s say, in around 2007-08. At that time, he was blogging very heavily at an excellent group blog called I’ve always found his work very clear, very grounded, evidence-based, often quirky, forthright, smart, and not at all marked by the politically motivated punch-pulling that distorts so much of what passes for “analysis” in the U.S. commentatoriat.
In 2010, when I founded Just World Books with the aim of (among other things) working with some of the bloggers whose work I most admire, to have them curate their own best work into book chapters, and then into books, Josh was one of the first whom I approached. He agreed. And the result was his book Afghanistan Journal: Selections from, a super book that still holds up really well today.
I never met Josh in person until the time came to sign the book contract… let’s say, maybe May of 2010? At that point, I needed to have his mailing address– and discovered to my amazement that he actually lived in my hometown of Charlottesville. I mean, how crazy was that?? So we met at the local Whole Foods store to sign the contract.
Soon thereafter, he moved up to live in that big expanse of northern Virginia that abuts DC directly. We met a few times at the time the book came out; and then again around a year ago when he came back to Charlottesville to take part in the JWB-organized panel discussion at the March 2011 Virginia Festival of the Book… But really, I haven’t spent much time with him in the “real” world at all since his book came out. I’ve encountered him a lot in the Twittersphere, where he has a massive presence. But that’s still not the same as sitting down in a room together and bouncing impressions, analyses, and ideas off other, which is what we did today. He’s been working for a while now at the American Security Project, where his work is still really smart, and he still blogs from time to time at Registan, writes for the Atlantic (including this fabulous recent piece, titled “The Annals of Chicken Diplomacy”– I told you he can be quirky).
So we were talking. I’d taken him a copy of our latest book, Matt Zeller’s very moving epistolary memoir Watches Without Time: An American Soldier in Afghanistan— which Josh was good enough to write a short endorsement (blurb) for. Josh looked at the cover and said he was jealous: that we’d given Matt a much better cover than the one we gave him. Okay, it is sort of true. Back in 2010 the company was still was at the very beginning. We’ve learned a lot along the way!
But when I got home, I realized it was me who was feeling a bit jealous. Josh still manages to do plenty of blogging– and with all the demands of this book publishing business, I barely get any time to blog at all these days! (Okay, the business plus the grandchildren. But mainly, I confess, the business.)
So that was why, this evening, I decided to sit down and write a bit about the way that blogging has assumed a different rhythm at different points in the last nine years of my life, and how I feel about it.
Back at the beginning, when I started blogging in February 2003, it was so deliriously exciting! This idea that any of us with internet access, wherever we were, could publish our thoughts and our interactions without the mediation of any editors, press barons, or other representatives of institutions and the status quo! We could have real, interactive written ‘conversations’ across national boundaries– in near real time. We could learn from some of those amazing Iraqi people who were blogging in English as well as Arabic, what it was like to be living with their families in a society being targeted by intensive U.S. military bombardment. This was unprecedented. I believed then– and I believe now– that it has changed something fundamental about the nature of warfare, forever. Sure, the “smart” bombardier now tries to use all his tricks to disable the internet in the place being bombarded– as in Gaza in 2008-09, or in Lebanon 30 months earlier. But still, that kind of internet silencing can never be complete. The stories will always find one way or another of getting out. Put simply, we are no longer in the 19th century; and heavy-duty military powers can no longer wage the kinds of brutal, anti-humane campaigns of bombardment, intimidation, and genocide that the colonial powers waged so regularly throughout that century and the two preceding it. (Why on earth did Samantha Power think that genocide started only in the 20th century? What terrible historical blinders she wears… )
So yes, it was exciting, and it was wonderful, and it was hopeful. But that blogging also took up a lot of time. I have huge admiration for the two “doyens” of the community of English-language, professorial bloggers concentrating on the Middle East: Juan Cole, and As’ad Abou-Khalil… Even though I don’t always agree with either of them; still I have huge respect for the sheer grit of their commitment to their blogging. (Which can be a burden and an addiction– and in my experience was frequently both at the same time.) And appreciation, too, for the somewhat different kinds of expertise that each brings to his blogging, and for their commitment to sharing it.
By 2009, I was ready for various reasons to reorder my priorities. I decided I wanted to spend the next phase of my life doing something to build an institution, rather than continuing to pursue the somewhat lonely calling of an independent writer. My first foray into doing something “institutional” was, as many JWN readers may recall, the distinctly unhappy experience of working with the folks at the Council for the National Interest. It turned out to be an extremely dysfunctional organization that was ravaged by many of the worst shortcomings of small nonprofits, and a “President” at the time who completely overstepped the boundaries of his (in truth, very limited and “ceremonial”) role under the bylaws, refusing to let me do the job I had been hired to do, as Executive Director.
I have banged my forehead against so many glass ceilings in the course of my career that at that point, as a very experienced professional in her late 50s, I simply said “No more!” To heck with all those institutions run by older guys who are quite incapable of recognizing women’s capacity for leadership. I do not need that kind of grief and humiliation any more in my life. I would, I decided, build my own institution… And that, in a nutshell, is a big part of the reason that I decided to found the book-publishing company, Just World Books.
One of the costs of having done this has been that I’ve been working so hard that really, I haven’t had much time or energy left over to get into what I call the “blogging zone”… that is, the mindset and the mental space from whence it is possible to blog. Sometimes, it hasn’t even felt possible or easy to tweet, for goodness’ sake– and we all know how much less mental energy that takes, than blogging.
But it’s still kind of nice to know that JWN is still here for when I do want to blog. And I’m thinking the time may well come when I’m not throwing so much of myself into the book publishing, that I might want to get back to doing more blogging again. Including, perhaps, more blogging from on-the-ground reporting various places around the world. Who knows? What I do know– something I first learned when I was a single working mother with two small children, and writing my first two books– is that a person cannot do everything she wants to do in life, all at once. I have been blessed to be able to do a large number of different, very meaningful things in y life so far… but not all at once.
As of now, I’m pushing 60, and I’m in good health. Let’s say I have decent shot of being able to do productive and interesting things for another 25 years. So in the course of those 25 years, I can do any number of additional interesting and meaningful things. Yes, I want to be able to spend good time with the grandchildren and the rest of our family. Yes, I may have a couple more books in me. Yes, I may decide to get into some real, on-the-ground social-justice activism. Yes, I may take time out for reflection and spiritual recharging. Yes, there may be many things I can do whose nature we cannot even dream of yet! (I mean, two decades ago, who could ever have imagined the possibility of being a “blogger”?)
And in the meantime, I really love this publishing business! Working with ten fabulous authors, Just World Books has now created eleven really fabulous books— and if I hadn’t worked with these authors, almost none of these books would ever have existed… Or, they wouldn’t have existed in exactly this form… And certainly, they wouldn’t have come to life in such a timely fashion. Speedy turnaround of excellent manuscripts is one of JWB’s biggest commitments– and it is one of the things that has kept me and my key layout person working late into the evenings for most of the past week, in pursuit of getting speedy, high-quality production of Matt Zeller’s important book.
So anyway… it does feel good getting back into the blogging zone here, this evening. I’ll try to keep checking back into it. (Yes, I still have a heck of a lot to say about what’s been going on in the world!)
And I invite all of you who are still reading JWN to come visit me in my book-publishing zone, too. In particular, all the support you can give to my great authors by actually buying and recommending their books would be most appreciated! You can do that, at the JWB webstore, here.

JWB’s fab titles–in C’ville Saturday, and globally, forever!

For all JWN readers in the Greater Charlottesville area– do come by the VaBook book fair that runs tomorrow, 9am-4pm, at the Omni Hotel. Tell your friends to come, as well! You can see and buy copies of all the fabulous titles published by my company, Just World Books, including the two latest: Miko Peled’s “The General’s Son”, and Jon Randal’s “The Tragedy of Lebanon”.
I know I haven’t blogged much at all this year. But the book publishing has been really exciting– and all-consuming! Our Spring 2012 “list” (inasmuch as we have a “list” as such, which I’ve always resisted doing) is shaping up to be truly great. In addition to those two new titles we’ll have “Watches Without Time: An American Soldier in Afghanistan”, a really important memoir from Matt Zeller, an amazing young man who served eight months in the U.S. military as an embedded combat adviser for the Afghan security forces– and then came back to run for Congress on a strong veterans’ rights platform, in 2010… and “Wrestling in the Daylight” by Rabbi Brant Rosen, author of the “Shalom Rav” blog, which is his own curation of the best of the blog-posts and comments board discussions over at his blog… and which traces his transformation from, as he describes it, “a liberal Zionist to… a Palestinian rights activist.”
(Who knows, maybe Peter Beinart and other present-day liberal Zionists might also make this same journey over the months and years ahead?)
By the way, we’re already taking advance orders for Matt Zeller’s book, over at the webstore… and we’ll hope to take advance orders for Rabbi Rosen’s book soon, too.
Plus, we may well have another couple of fab titles to announce before summer sets in… Stay posted…
For those of you NOT in Charlottesville– a clear majority of JWN readers, I’m sure!– I hope you all know that everyone, all around the world, can now affordably buy JWB’s pathbreaking titles through our new webstore, where you can now get free shipping on all orders greater than $40.
Setting up the webstore, and upgrading JWB’s capabilities in general, has all taken a lot of hard work. But I’m really excited at the team we’ve been building here… and most importantly, at our output!
By the way, I would love to hear from anyone on the U.S. west coast, or in London, who might be interested in doing a bit of publicity and outreach work for us on a part-time contract basis!
This work will include backing up the efforts several of our authors are making to take their books “on the road” with book tours… Miko Peled will be doing a full schedule of speaking events over the months ahead, in many countries, all of which will need a lot of support from us. Check his book-blog here. It has just the first few events listed in the calendar portion there. There will certainly be a lot more, soon! (Also, check out the contest we’re running there. Think of entering it, and tell your friends about it, too.)
Jon Randal will be in Washington DC and NYC in early May. I timed the publication of his book, which gives a LOT of detail about the history and record of the Falangist militias in Lebanon, for this year’s 30th anniversary of the massacres at Sabra and Shatila, which were, of course, committed principally by the Falangists, but under the ever-watchful eye (and WP flares) of the area-dominating Israeli military. If you know anyone who wants to do a media event with Jon around his book’s themes, give me a holler.
Matt Zeller will also be doing huge numbers of events around his book, for which we’re hoping to have actual copies in hand at the end of April. He seems to have amazing networks all around the United States, already.
We want to set up a good schedule of speaking events for all our authors, not just these three, at U.S. colleges in the Fall semester. Please let us know if you’re at an institution, or a member of a student group, that has access to some decent program funding and would be interested in inviting one of our authors, so we can start working on the Fall schedules now! Here is the list of all the titles we have on our website so far– and don’t forget Rabbi Brant Rosen, either. (We’ll get his book onto the website very soon. Copies of his book will be available maybe late May?)
So JWN friends, I really hope all of you can help me get the word out about JWB’s authors and their important, discourse-expanding books. If you can help me by doing that, then I promise that in return I will make a lot more effort in the weeks ahead to do some good, cutting-edge blogging here. So many breaking news events to blog about!

Powerful, intimate memoir from Israeli peace activist Miko Peled

The countdown clock is now ticking fast, toward the publication of Miko Peled’s amazing and powerful memoir, The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine. The book traces Miko’s journey from being born, in 1961, into a family that was at the core of the Jewish-Israeli elite to, now, being a visionary and gutsy activist in the cause of equal rights for all in Israel/Palestine, and a rights-based solution to the deadly conflict between the two peoples.
I am so happy that my company, Just World Books, has been able to work with Miko to make this long-planned book a reality. Our editors have been doing a fabulous job, and we should have the first copies in hand in the early days of March. And did I mention that Alice Walker has contributed a wonderful Foreword to it?
As we’ve all been working on the book, I’ve increasingly been reminded of an earlier book that some 20 years ago captured my attention both by the quality of its writing and by the morally gripping content of the tale it told. That was My Traitor’s Heart, by the South African writer Rian Malan. You see Malan, too, like Miko Peled, had grown up in the bosom of the tightknit elite that ruled his country… And in both cases, that government, feeling itself embattled, was committing major rights abuses against large, disenfranchised swathes of the population under its control… And Malan, too, like Miko Peled, spent some time outside the oppressive hothouse/coccoon of the land of his birth and came to the realization that the only future for his country and the national group of which his family was a part was for the ciuntry’s ruling group to learn to share power and to start to deal with all the people whose lives they had been controlling on a basis of equality and mutual respect, rather than continuing an oppressive and increasingly morally deadening reliance on mechanisms of force and control…
If you haven’t read Malan’s amazing book, I urge you to do so. But the tale he tells is now a part of history. The tale that Miko Peled tells, by contrast, has a burning urgency to it! In Israel/Palestine, the oppression continues, on a daily basis; and the unresolved conflict between the two peoples continues to blight the lives of both of them (though very asymmetrically so.)
There are several books out now in the west, in which Jewish citizens of western countries wrestle publicly with some of the anguish they feel over the fact that the Zionist project in which an earlier generation of western Jews invested so many of their– often politically liberal– hopes and dreams has now spawned a government and system that has turned increasingly to the right, and has aligned itself increasingly with the most rightwing and oppressive forces in western society.
There are also a number of works of great scholarship by Jewish-Israeli historians and geographers in which they document the past practices of the Zionist leaders and planners in an unflinching and unvarnished way, laying bare for all to see the ethnic cleansings and other, often still continuing, acts of administrative violence that lie at the heart of all the ‘success’ the Zionist project has claimed until today.
But Miko Peled’s book is the first book I know of that combines the features of being a reflective and very intimate memoir, by an Israeli, of what it felt like for him to grow up in the bosom of the Jewish-Israeli elite in Jerusalem– one grandfather was a signer of Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948; his father was a revered general during the 1967 war; his older sister used when young to frolic at the local poo alongside Benjamin Netanyahu and other children of the world Zionist elite– with having acquired enough perspective from his time outside his country to be able to see its conflicts and dysfunctionalities with new eyes.
Hence, the comparison I make with Rian Malan. Malan’s family, too, had been part of the innermost core of the elite that ruled his country. He had a great-uncle who was the prime minister who wrote the country’s infamous apartheid laws. He had an uncle who was defense minister in the 1980s. And yet, he rebelled… In his case, it was his involvement in the country’s anti-conscription campaign that led him into pro-democratic and pro-rights engagement.
Miko Peled’s story is a not entirely the same, of course. In his case, it was the killing of his beloved niece Smadar, at the hands of a suicide bomber in Jerusalem in 1997 that first propelled his activism. (His activism was nurtured by way of the Bereaved Families Forum, and involvement in a local Israeli-Palestinian dialogue group in Southern California.) Miko came to his activism when he was already significantly more mature than Malan– and therefore, perhaps, the commitment that his activism has required has necessarily had to be deeper. And Miko Peled has been able to draw on considerably more support, in his quest for justice and meaning, from members of his family than, as I recall, Rian Malan was ever able to find…
Miko’s dad, I should add, was indeed a much-decorated in the Israeli military; and in the run-up to the 1967 war he part of a hawkish claque of generals that urged– some say, virtually forced– the country’s civilian government to launch a “pre-emptive” war. But Miko’s dad, Matti Peled, was also, from almost the very moment that that war ended, also himself a peace activist. Indeed, from then until his death in 1995, Matti Peled ran many very real risks for peace, being one of the Jewish-Israeli pioneers of the campaign to open up negotiations with the PLO…
Well obviously, I urge you all to buy Miko’s book— and to tell all your friends about it! You can place your orders here. I honestly think that this book, even more than Rian Malan’s, will be one that can transform the political calculus, and therefore the world.

Mrs. Peled and the Palestinian homes of West Jerusalem

I am delighted that my company, Just World books, is publishing Miko Peled’s intimate and thought-provoking memoir The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine. (We’re already taking advance orders though the book won’t be available before the end of February.)
Miko has been giving out some great teasers for the book in the writing and lecturing he’s been doing in recent months. Today, on his blog, he has this intriguing story:

    Newt Gingrich, being the history buff that he is, might be interested in a story I mention in my book The General’s Son, about my mother. She was born and raised in Jerusalem and she remembers the homes of Palestinians families in neighborhoods in West Jerusalem. She told me that when she was a child, on Saturday afternoons she would go for walks through these neighborhoods, admiring the beauty of the homes, watching families sit together in their beautiful gardens. In 1948 when the Palestinian families were forced out of West Jerusalem, my mother was offered one of those beautiful, spacious homes but she refused. At age 22, the wife of a young army officer with little means and with two small children, she refused a beautiful spacious home, offered to her completely free because she could not bear the thought of living in the home of a family that was forced out and now lives in a refugee camp. “The coffee was still warm on the tables as the soldiers came in and began the looting” she told me. “Can you imagine how much those families, those mothers must miss their homes?”
    She continued, “I remember seeing the truckloads of loot, taken by the Israeli soldiers from these homes. How were they not ashamed of themselves?”
    There are thousands upon thousands of homes in cities all over the country that were taken.

Ah, the importance that a mother has in raising a thoughtful and compassionate person, eh?

Getting back to the blogosphere

So much has been happening in the world… The horrible killing of Qadhafi; an earthquake in Turkey (preceded by an upsurge in PKK-Turkish violence); some great-looking elections in Tunisia; continued strife in Syria; the Hamas-Israel prisoner exchange, etc etc…
But for the past few weeks, I’ve been almost completely consumed with the nuts and bolts of running Just World Books. Yikes!
On the assumption that I still have some readers here at JWN, I just want to put in a really heartfelt plea that you all do whatever you can to support the book company. I would love to find a better work/life/blog balance. But as of now, I have to spend a massive amount of time worrying about JWB’s bottom line and how to turn it around.
Do whatever you can to help, please!
You can buy individual books from our growing list. We now offer a growing number of titles as ebooks, as well as in paperback form… Or you could buy a small stack of books, to give them away as holiday gifts. (If you’re buying more than five, contact me to learn the discounts we give on bulk sales.)
In addition, you could urge your local bookstore to stock some of our titles; or press your college or community library to buy some of them… Or, write a good review someplace and generally recommend the books to friends, etc, etc…
Okay, please think really seriously if there’s anything you can do to support JWB…
So then… I have been developing a little plan for transitioning back into refinding my blogging voice. Sometimes, it’s hard. Very often, the longer I go without blogging here, the harder it is to get back into it… and I see that now, it’s been really quite a while. So my plan has been this. First, today, I went to an event at the Brookings Institution on Turkey, where Soli Ozel (one of the contributors to JWB’s super latest book, Troubled Triangle: The United States, Turkey, and Israel in the New Middle East) was speaking.
Rather than blog that, I tweeted it… then I compiled a Chirpstory out of the tweets. (Okay, I know some of you don’t like it when I tweet. Deal with it. For me, it’s a good warm-up exercise for getting back to blogging.)
Step 2 is I’m planning to do a longer blogged think-piece on the Arab Spring at nine months… And then, after that, I have a couple of ideas for other serious blog posts, as well.
But for the present blog post, I want to leave you with the idea that there are things you could do that would really help Just World Books… Which is worth doing because the company does already have some fabulous books… because we have plans for other great ones* in the coming months… and because if JWB’s finances get healthier that will help me regain some good balance in my life, including regaining my blogging voice…
* Other great books we have in the coming months include:
— A book by Issandr El-Amrani of ‘The Arabist’ that traces the roots of Egypt and Tunsia’s democracy movement(s) through six years worth of tracking them closely on the ground, and
— A reflection by Israeli-American activist Miko Peled on the intriguing personal journey he has made to being an advocate for a one-state solution.
(and much more!)

In Algiers: Book Fair and Colloquium

I’m writing this on a plane, at the end of a four-day visit to Algiers… In Algiers I was participating in a big international Colloquium on the Arab Spring organized in conjunction with the ‘Salon Internationale du Livre d’Alger’ (SILA– the Algiers Book Fair.) It was really interesting to return to Algeria. I hadn’t been there since 1989; in the interim, the country passed through a truly terrible, lengthy civil war that lasted throughout most of the 1990s and was laced with repeated atrocities, committed by both sides: both the very secular government and the ferocious Islamist opposition. In 1998, at the end of what Algerians today refer to as “the Black Decade”, the government finally won.
On Friday morning, participants in the Colloquium were taken on a tour of the city’s historic Casbah, the labrynthine, historic area of four- and five-story dwellings that clings to a steep hillside in the center of the capital city. Yes, we walked right by the (under-reconstruction) house in which famed national-liberation activist “Ali La Pointe” was entombed along with two other militants, when the French colonial powers blew up the house during the national liberation war, as memorialized in “The Battle of Algiers”. And that night we dined with Madame Zohra Bitat, one of the liberation heroines who figured in the war (and in the movie), who is now Vice-President of the country’s Senate…
When we toured the Casbah our guide told us that for several years up until 1998, the country’s security forces were unable to go into it, so strongly did the Islamists control it. That’s how grave and present the threat was, that the regime felt itself under.
It is notable to me, during the present Arab Spring, that the Arab countries that have experienced grave internal conflict in the past 15 years have not witnessed the kind of mass pro-democracy movements that marked the Arab Spring. We didn’t discuss that phenomenon very much during the colloquium. But we did have a very rich discussion of, in particular, developments in Egypt and Tunisia. There were some excellent analysts– and analyst-participants– from those countries, from several other Arab countries, from the U.K., U.S., Turkey, etc., who also participated. I believe the organizers are hoping to publish some kind of a ‘proceedings’ volume from the gathering. (At which point, you can read the presentation I gave on the reactions of the Anglo-Saxon media to the Arab Spring. A shortened version is here.)

Continue reading