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Freddy Deknatel
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Entries by Freddy Deknatel

'Bill Clinton is Syrian' and Other Tales of Obama's Speech From Damascus

(1) Comments | Posted June 10, 2009 | 10:35 AM

The traffic flowed through Damascus last Thursday, peaking as always in the early afternoon. There was little buzz about President Obama in Cairo, and given all the packed taxis and microbuses clogging the street, it was a typical day in Damascus - and no special arrangements to watch the speech....

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Disaster Tourism at the Edge of the Golan Heights

(1) Comments | Posted May 6, 2009 | 11:27 AM

A few weeks ago at a popular haunt for old men, writers and boozers in Damascus, I was talking with one well-traveled old man about the Golan Heights. Some weeks earlier I had visited Quneitra, the Golan's capital, which fell to Israel in 1967.

The town was reportedly...

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Refugee Chess

(0) Comments | Posted April 22, 2009 | 3:06 PM

They lived well in Baghdad; their eldest daughter had two cars. Six years later, the Iraqi couple moves their mattresses out of the bedroom each night to sleep on the living room floor. The only bedroom is left for their daughters while they live in this concrete refugee suburb of...

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Anniversary in Damascus

(0) Comments | Posted March 24, 2009 | 10:33 AM

DAMASCUS, SYRIA -- The screen showed "shock and awe" and Saddam's family scrambled to pack their bags. "I've seen this three times here since it came out," Khalid* said as the next scene opened. At a birthday party in the late 1970s, Saddam's daughter received a gift from President Ahmed...

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"Don't Let It Sink" : Making Coffee with Mahmoud Darwish

(2) Comments | Posted February 20, 2009 | 12:06 PM

They can aim sea, sky, and earth at me, but they cannot root the aroma of coffee out of me. I shall make my coffee now. I will drink the coffee now. Right now, I will be sated with the aroma of coffee, that I may at least distinguish myself...
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It's About Occupation

(0) Comments | Posted January 2, 2009 | 11:55 AM

My old landlord in Damascus is from the Golan. Christian, he fled with his wife and children from Quneitra, the region's capital, after the city fell to Israel at the end of the June 1967 war.

"Our house, it was between the hospital and the church," he told me one...

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Hysteria in Gaza

(34) Comments | Posted December 27, 2008 | 5:16 PM

Children's bodies are being covered with cardboard boxes in Gaza -- the hospitals have run out of sheets -- as Washington and London urge Israel to use restraint and avoid civilian casualties.

Palestinians on the West Bank are organizing in protest, but this was Israel's plan all along....

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No Arabic Harry Potters in Israel

(0) Comments | Posted August 13, 2008 | 9:07 PM

Maybe someone can explain this: Israel imposes a law drawn up by the British in 1939, before the state was created, to block the importing of Arabic-language children's books from Syria and Lebanon.

As the AFP reports:

Arab-Israeli publisher Salah Abassi told Israeli public radio...

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The Trouble with "Dreams of Investment" in the West Bank

(5) Comments | Posted May 29, 2008 | 1:34 PM

Tony Blair was sitting next to Mahmoud Abbas last week -- a familiar sight -- but this was the opening of the first Palestine Investment Conference in Bethlehem. Its slogan, "Palestine is open for business," seemed to suggest that the place had been closed for a long time. How long?...

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A "Failed" Strike in Egypt and Mubarak's Enduring Image

(2) Comments | Posted April 7, 2008 | 6:06 PM

April 6th in Egypt will be remembered as the day that a nationwide general strike was suppressed by the state. It may also be remembered as the day that Egypt began resembling Palestine.

In a dusty Delta industrial town, workers at Egypt's largest state-owned textile plant clashed with state police...

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In Egypt, Where Everything Can be Yogurt, Bread is Getting Too Expensive

(0) Comments | Posted April 1, 2008 | 11:21 AM

During a particularly bad week of heat and smog last summer in Cairo, I was in a cab in traffic, talking to the driver about the weather. He summed up the swelter memorably -- "Everything is yogurt" -- and the phrase has stuck. It's the first thing I hear when...

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No, You Can't YouTube Egyptian Torture Videos

(10) Comments | Posted November 29, 2007 | 1:19 PM

Wael Abbas, the Egyptian blogger who has been leaking video footage of police brutality and torture in Egypt through his website, MisrDigital, over the past year, has had his YouTube account suspended. One of Abbas's videos showed a bus driver being sodomized by two officers in a Cairo...

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Blogging Egypt's Factory Strikes

(2) Comments | Posted September 24, 2007 | 5:42 PM

Whether or not this is picked up in the American press shouldn't matter. It's a story to pay attention to, however you can.

The textile factory at Ghazl el-Mahalla in the Nile Delta is Egypt's largest, with over 27,000 workers. Nearly all of the factory's workers went on strike last...

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Political Tourism in Jerusalem

(4) Comments | Posted August 23, 2007 | 9:28 PM

There is certainly more than one way to see Jerusalem, which, since 1967, is either a reunited city or one half under occupation.

On a recent visit to Jerusalem, two tours of the city and its surroundings underlined the disparities in what different people see in the city- Jews,...

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Politicizing Tenure Continues with Attack on Barnard's Abu El-Haj

(3) Comments | Posted August 20, 2007 | 11:48 AM

Denying Norman Finkelstein tenure was, it seems, just the start.

Nadia Abu El-Haj, an assistant professor of anthropology at Barnard College, is now the target of a petition (with over 1200 signatures) to deny her tenure, on the basis that her book Facts on the Ground:...

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Talking with Lawrence Wright

(1) Comments | Posted July 11, 2007 | 11:14 AM

"Islam and the West have clashed in the past and have not clashed. There is nothing inevitable about it."

This was Lawrence Wright, the Pulitzer-prize winning author of The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, in a long distance interview I did for the...

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Talking Fabric and Politics in Cairo's Tentmaker's Alley

(0) Comments | Posted July 9, 2007 | 11:04 AM

I first really met Said in October. We had met briefly in September over a stack of appliqué pillowcases, one of many fabrics in his shop in Khan al-Khayamiyya, or Alley of the Tentmakers, in the busy heart of Islamic Cairo. In October, after buying a bundle of scarves from...

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Let's Strangle Democracy

(2) Comments | Posted June 25, 2007 | 3:19 PM

Asked yesterday in Paris about her infamous "birth pangs" line last summer, in which American-backed Israeli cluster bombings of Lebanon signaled "a new Middle East," Condoleezza Rice insisted that "democracy is hard."

"I see it as especially hard when there are determined enemies who try and strangle it."

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Cairo Cabs and Conversation

(0) Comments | Posted June 6, 2007 | 1:01 PM

Cairo is a city of taxi cabs, far more than New York or London. The signature yellow and black of those cities' hired cars are an orderly and frankly boring system compared to the hectic, haphazard way of hailing and paying for a cab in Cairo. Meters left years ago,...

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