Norman X. Finkelstein’s Inquest Into His (Self-provoked) Martyrdom?

One user over at reddit, when seeing the announced book cover a year ago, uttered, "[He] goes full joker [now.]" Well said. This can't be serious.

Phew! I just checked and it took me ten weeks to finish reading it. I don’t know exactly what is this, at least, it’s Norman Finkelstein’s latest book. One user over at reddit, when seeing the announced book cover a year ago, uttered, “[He] goes full joker [now.]” Well said. This can’t be serious.

The book was long announced on Finkelstein’s newly designed web page (unfortunately most of his more interesting blog posts had been deleted). After his publisher, Verso, had quickly rejected the draft of the manuscript, Finkelstein finally found a, possibly convenience, publisher, Sublation Media (so far unknown and not important). His new editor had evidently huge problems to redact the convoluted and incoherent text (footnotes over footnotes, containing sometimes pages (!) of quotes from books; I’m not sure whether the author had asked the original publisher for permission when inflating his own text with overlong borrowed texts which may amuse or outrage just himself). Amazon further delayed marketing this book, and I got my copy only on March 22.

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Dissatisfied, Incompetent, Socially Retarded

When Prince Harry now mentions that he had killed 25 Afghan fighters when in the country at the tender age of 23, I remember what I wrote about him in 2008.

The Testosterone Factor

March 03, 2008

This morning I received a chain email by a friend and colleague with the following content:


March, 02 2008 By Faheem Hussain

“It’s very nice to be a sort of normal person for once, I think this is about as normal as I’m ever going to get.” – Prince Harry on his time in Helmand Province in Afghanistan.

The BBC reported these words with approval. It’s nice to know that this is what is considered normal for a young man in the UK. I guess it is normal to send 23 year olds to join an illegal occupation army. It is normal to call in air strikes (this was Harry’s job) to drop 1000-pound bombs on villages killing and destroying men, women, children, animals. It is normal to go on foot patrol in an occupied country and look down with contempt on the poor people of the country and it is normal to feel the hatred emanating from the people of the occupied country.

I am sure that Prince Harry feels terribly elated and uplifted by his 10 weeks in Helmand where he did his duty in the great Western “humanitarian” enterprise to spread democracy and bring development to Afghanistan. Did he ever wonder why NATO is losing the war in Afghanistan? Did he ever wonder why the resistance is getting popular support? Did he ever think of why opium production in Afghanistan has reached record levels since the US and NATO occupied the country? Did he ever look at the suppressed women in burkas and wonder what happened to all the promises of “liberating women” which was one of the so-called humanitarian reasons given by the US for attacking Afghanistan? Or was he there just to have a “normal” time with the blokes, kick around a football, have a couple of beers, try to push start an abandoned motorbike and have a fun time interspersed with calling in air strikes to kill a few more Afghans?

Perhaps this is what is recommended for the “gap year”. Take a mini-break, go to Afghanistan (or Iraq or wherever), have a fun time with the blokes, kill a few locals and be back to the cool life in the UK feeling fulfilled that you are a “normal” bloke now. Such an experience will surely stand you in good stead for the rest of your life.”

Faheem Hussain claims that he is Visiting Professor of Physics at the School of Science and Engineering, Lahore University of Management Sciences, Lahore, Pakistan. I do not know him.

Faheem may be right in a way. But isn’t it all about young men without social perspective? Is Harry (23) so much different from his peers in Afghanistan? A young man without any ‘normal’ perspective, coming third in line for the succession to the throne. A half-orphan as so many young men in Afghanistan? Another victim of wrong and misleading education? With a deep desire of finding sense in his life? With a perceived future which can be considered only horrible?

To be honest, I find his engagement honorable. I do not agree with Faheem on his mere speculations on Harry’s attitude when serving in Afghanistan, and I am quite convinced that his sojourn in Afghanistan has modified his views about the operation.

Anyway, it is uneducated young men without any social perspective who are considered the most dangerous species on Earth. It might be called the testosterone factor, which makes life in countries so unbearable, at least for women, where they have got the opportunity of dominating daily life.

It’s in a way a shame that especially Islamic countries have developed into ‘boys’ countries’ during the past few decades. Where women (mothers !) have long given up the careful upbringing of their sons, their development of emotional intelligence, empathy, social competence, responsibilities for nature, culture, and so many other things.

When living in the Middle East and later I have learned from countless discussions with women, citizens of their countries, how deep these deficits in fact are, especially in Arab countries and Iran. Of course, societies do not change in one or two generations. But we have to find a way of putting more emphasis on the role of women in the prevention of irrational acts which have led to a war on terror and Islam. I am not talking about resistance fighters, that will be another story.

8 January 2023 @ 07:35 am

Last modified January 8, 2023.

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A Memoir of a 34-Year-Old

It’s true, Chelsea Manning has experienced what others would not have in an entire life. She has done the public an incredible favor when downloading thousands of documents to WikiLeaks which illustrate the terror of modern warfare and cynic actions of U.S. American embassies around the world to meddle in foreign state affairs.

“Why has there never been a coup in the Unites States?” was asked before Donald Trump’s attempt on January 6, 2021, and answered by (joking), There is no American embassy in the USA.

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Venus Transits in 1032 and 2012

Venus transit on June 6, 2012, Tromsø. By courtesy of Bert Olsen.

As readers may have noticed, I am a moon watcher. Eclipses of either the sun or the moon had been a sort of passion throughout my life, ever since my late father woke me up at 3 o’clock in the morning on Saturday, December 19, 1964 for a total eclipse of the moon. I was just 9 years old and bought my first small telescope the next year from saved pocket money.

Legendary were my unsuccessful huntings of solar eclipses in 1999 and 2019, while lunar eclipses were much easier to observe.

When living in the Middle East, moon watching became even more important for me as I tried to understand the Muslim calendar, in patricular the beginning and end of the holy month of Ramadan.

There was one remarkable occasion, on March 29, 2006, when a partial eclipse of the sun occurred in Kuwait. I had manufactured a simple camera obscura from a cardboard box which produced an image of the sun, already partially covered by the moon, on the tiled floor in the entrance hall of Kuwait University’s FOD. I showed the image to my friend, the former Dean of the Faculty, who was surprised as the light was not dimmed in the slightest way by the moon.

On June 6, 2012, a rare Venus transit occurred very early in the morning, which was best to be seen on the disc of the midnight sun in the Arctic. So, I was in Tromsø and I was well-prepared to observe it with the aid of my cardboard box. In the woods close to the building where I lived I looked for a proper place but I had forgotten one important tool: a white piece of paper for projecting an image of the disc of the sun through the little hole in the cardboard box. I realized that the forest floor wasn’t suitable for that. So, I did not see the transit and, honestly, I doubt whether I ever would have been able to see it with this primitive camera obscura.

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Insights Into Shi’ite Islam

I have come across this book by photographer Hans Georg Berger, Einsicht – Drei Reisen in die innerste Welt des schiitischen Islam (Insight – Three Journeys Into the Innermost World of Shi’a Islam, edited by Boris von Brauchitsch and Saeid Edalatnejad, Kehrer Verlag, Heidelberg Berlin 2017) when ZEIT online published a brief article about it. Not more than an announcement for an exhibition of respective pictures of the book in Berlin. Unfortunately, with numerous mostly hostile comments condemning the mere fact of displaying pious seminarians and teachers as blunt propaganda for a murderous regime where mollahs are willful oppressors.

Quite a sensation is not that Berger had collected, during his travels in Iran between 2000 and 2005, intimate portraits of young seminarians and their teachers at theological centers in Qom, Isfahan and Mashhad and how they interact in intense discussions. The contrast (or should I say, actually the lack of it) with century old early photos is, in fact stunning. These pictures had been taken by two court photographers of Qajar Shahs, Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar (r. 1848-1896) and his son Muzaffar al-Din (r. 1896-1907), who accompanied them on visits to the holy shrines of Shi’te Imams in then Ottoman Iraq. In particular, Nasir al-Din got interested in photography very early in his life, as crown prince already, as his father Mohammad Shah Qajar (r. 1834-1848) had received, as gifts from QueenVictoria and Czar Nikolaus I, two daguerrotype cameras.

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