Arundhati Roy: Walking With the Comrades

Arundhati Roy during a visit to the forest where she broke the taboo of of interviewing Maoist guerrillas in their base areas.

Last month, quietly, unannounced, Arundhati Roy decided to visit the forbidding and forbidden precincts of Central India’s Dandakaranya Forests, home to a melange of tribespeople many of whom have taken up arms to protect their people against state-backed marauders and exploiters. She recorded in considerable detail the first face-to-face journalistic “encounter” with armed guerrillas, their families and comrades, for which she combed the forests for weeks at personal risk. This essay was published on March 21, 2010 in Delhi’s Outlook magazine. Arundhati Roy made the pictures in this 20,000 word essay available exclusively to Dawn. The following was first posted on Dawn.com.

Walking with the Comrades

by Arundhati Roy

The terse, typewritten note slipped under my door in a sealed envelope confirmed my appointment with India’s Gravest Internal Security Threat. I’d been waiting for months to hear from them.

I had to be at the Ma Danteshwari mandir in Dantewara, Chhattisgarh, at any of four given times on two given days. That was to take care of bad weather, punctures, blockades, transport strikes and sheer bad luck. The note said: “Writer should have camera, tika and coconut. Meeter will have cap, Hindi Outlook magazine and bananas. Password: Namashkar Guruji.”

Namashkar Guruji. I wondered whether the Meeter and Greeter would be expecting a man. And whether I should get myself a moustache.

There are many ways to describe Dantewara. It’s an oxymoron. It’s a border town smack in the heart of India. It’s the epicenter of a war. It’s an upside down, inside out town.

In Dantewara the police wear plain clothes and the rebels wear uniforms. The jail-superintendant is in jail. The prisoners are free (three hundred of them escaped from the old town jail two years ago). Women who have been raped are in police custody. The rapists give speeches in the bazaar.

Across the Indravati river, in the area controlled by the Maoists, is the place the police call ‘Pakistan’. There the villages are empty, but the forest is full of people. Children who ought to be in school, run wild. In the lovely forest villages, the concrete school buildings have either been blown up and lie in a heap, or they’re full of policemen. The deadly war that’s unfolding in the jungle, is a war that the Government of India is both proud and shy of.

Operation Green Hunt has been proclaimed as well as denied. P. Chidambaram, India’s Home Minister (and CEO of the war) says it does not exist, that it’s a media creation. And yet substantial funds have been allocated to it and tens of thousands of troops are being mobilized for it. Though the theatre of war is in the jungles of Central India, it will have serious consequences for us all. Continue reading

Primer on India, Operation Green Hunt and the International Campaign

Road blockade in Lalgarh, West Bengal

Operation Green Hunt, the People’s Struggle in India, and the International Campaign

By the International Campaign Against War on the People in India

March 25, 2010

All over the world, people are asking questions about the nature of India’s society and government, and about the war on the adivasis—the tribal peoples—that has recently been launched by that government with strategic assistance from the US and Israel.[1]

Most commentators admit that the Indian people suffered greatly under British rule. Today, it is claimed, India is on a path of rapid technical progress and development; India has its own Silicon Valley, complete with high-tech R&D and hundreds of call centers for everything from Amazon to Victoria’s Secret.  New wealth is being created at a rapid rate, a large middle class is developing that is enjoying shopping malls, multiplex cinemas and imported cars, and much of this wealth is working its way down to the villages and urban slums seen in Slumdog Millionaire.

Largest Democracy in the World?

The most common claim is that India is “the world’s largest democracy.” It is said that India’s elected government has ended the oppressive caste system, which assigned everyone to a specific caste and types of work for life. While the government says it is solving the problem by reserving a certain percentage of jobs and places in schools for dalits (untouchables) and other lower castes, today caste oppression continues to define social reality for Indians, especially in the rural areas.

The vast majority of the 1.2 billion people who live in India have no control over their lives.  Living and working conditions have not changed for the better from colonial times to the present. According to a 2008 study by the US Agency for International Development, three-quarters of the people live on less than $2 per day.[2] Illiteracy is widespread in the countryside, where more than half of the women cannot read or write and many children leave school to support their families.[3] Nothwithstanding its “socialist” pretensions, successive governments since independence in 1947 have postponed and put off free and compulsory education for children. Continue reading

U.S. Campuses Rocked by Education Rights Protests

Photo by Luis V., Kasama Project

Fightbacknews.org, March 2010

by Kati Ketz

Thousands of students, workers and faculty at over 100 campuses in at least 39 states participated in a national day of action March 4. One demand was that administrators and chancellors must quit raising tuition and fees. Another demand was that theycut the salaries of the highest-paid administrators instead of the lowest-paid staffers on campus. Many of the protests opposed layoffs. Actions ranged from walkouts and marches, to occupations and shut-downs, to teach-ins and movie showings

At UCLA, where cuts have been especially severe, over 300 students have staged a sit-in at the administrators’ building where the chancellor refuses to come out and meet with the protesters. Eric Gardner from UCLA Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) says, “We don’t accept the explanation that their hands are tied by the crisis. There are a lot of things they can do right now to alleviate the situation for students and workers, but they refuse – so we are confronting them and will continue to do so, today and in the future. Our struggle is not over yet. We make this university run, so they cannot ignore us for long.”

Charla Schlueter from UCLA SDS was also at the protest. “Five hours later, students are still here protesting the cuts with spirit. Later tonight, there will be a march with both UCLA and high school students demanding an end to the furloughs, and no more pink slips for high school teachers [who are expecting 5000 more pink slips this spring]. This whole day has been incredible – I have never seen so much unity amongst students, workers and professors working together to defend public education. Professors have brought their classes to the protests, people have been bringing food at water, workers have been taking their furlough days to protest.”

Schlueter continued, “ The most inspiring moment to me was when a group of visiting grade school kids came to the protest and talked about how nobody in their family has had the opportunity to attend college. That’s when I realized that if we don’t fight this now, then those children might never get that opportunity.” Continue reading

Peasants Tortured and Murdered in Brazil

This statement was received from Cebraspo, the Brazilian People’s Solidarity Center.

PEASANTS TORTURED AND MURDERED IN RONDÔNIA, BRAZIL

The National Commission of Poor Peasants League

Poor Peasants League of Rondônia and western Amazon

Jaru, Rondônia, December 10th, 2009

On December 9, at 2 o’clock pm, two coordinators of the Poor Peasants League of Rondônia, northern Brazil (LCP / RO) were kidnapped by paramilitaries in the service of landowners, on the road linking the peasant camp called Rio Alto and the city Buritis, in the state of Rondônia. The coordinators Elcio Machado (called Sabiá) and Gilson Gonçalves were tortured with refinements of cruelty. They had their fingernails torn out and also pieces of skin were torn from their bodies, then both were killed. On the morning of the same day two peasants had been brutalized on the same road.

Gilson had been interviewed in 2008 by a delegation of the International Association of People’s Lawyers – IAPL, which held a mission to investigate the facts, abuse and violence of the Brazilian State and landowners against the poor peasants of Rondônia.

The camp Rio Alto is located on lands that were supposed to be reserved for the Settlement Project of peasants from Rio Alto. But by the connivance of officials of the Incra National Institute of Agrarian Reform, an agency of the federal government, those lands were illegally taken by the landowner Edilson Cadalto. Since last year more than 45 families have been camped in that area and have been resisting the attacks of armed gangs of paramilitaries in the service of the landowner. Continue reading

US-AFRICOM Conference Staged in Ghana

Myjoyonline.com, March 20, 2010

AFRICOM to sharpen skills of military

The First United States – Africa Command Inspector General (IG) outreach conference opened at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) with the aim to help African military leaders champion standards, performance and also illustrate how the work of the IG system contributes to the fight against crime and corruption.

The conference, which ends on Thursday, would provide a platform to discuss IG’s missions, principles, organizational structures, operations, challenges and best practices of the system in the various countries.

Col. Ron Baldinger of the US Air Force explained the IG system as a military commander’s tool to instill, maintain accountability as well as professionalism. He said it allowed the military commanders to also ensure soldiers and their families got a venue for exposing violations coupled with wrongdoing when all other avenues had failed.  “The IG is the means by which a commander can monitor forces for compliance with established standards and policies”, he said. Continue reading

Call from the Philippines: Resist U.S. Military Intervention!

This article was published on Philippine Revolution in October 2008.

Resist US military intervention in the country

American troops are permanently stationed in the country, contrary to claims that they are merely visiting. Since 2001, when the Bush regime cited the Philippines as its “second front” in the US’ global terrorist war, American troops have been pushing the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to wage war against various armed groups in Mindanao and have had bigger and broader involvement in these wars as well.

American troops are involved in intelligence work, provide weapons and training to the AFP and directly participate in combat operations. Their permanent presence in the Philippines enables the US to prop up the puppet regime and protect US power in Southeast Asia.

The US invokes the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)–an agreement it exploits and circumvents at will–to justify its troops’ continued presence in the country. The American soldiers’ permanent presence is camouflaged through “joint military exercises” that are held several times a year. Continue reading

CPP Opposes May Elections, NPA Launches Successful Tactical Offensives

The four articles that appear here–two commentaries on the elections and two reports on recent military victories over the Philippine Army–lay out the position of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its military arm, the NPA, on the upcoming national elections in May and their basic strategy to  ”arouse, organize and mobilize the people in mass struggles and the armed struggle.” These articles and the CPP’s bimonthly newspaper, Ang Bayan, are available on the Philippine Revolution website.

“The NPA views elections under a reactionary state as a power struggle amongst various factions of the ruling classes. It neither participates nor can it decide the outcome of these elections. On the other hand, the NPA upholds that the genuine democratic elections that reflect the peoples’ choices take place among local organs of political power organized in revolutionary base areas in the countryside.”

Walk the talk

Chadli Molintas Command, NPA-Ilocos-Cordillera Region, March 10, 2010

Recent ridiculous allegations by the Armed Forces of the Philippines linking a presidential candidate and more than 50 politicians to the New People’s Army highlight once again the apalling ineptitude of the Arroyo regime’s propaganda and psywar machinery.

As proof, the AFP presented an intelligence report that listed the names of politicians supporting the NPA, and said a decision to support a presidential candidate in exchange for money was passed by the Communist Party of the Philippines during its anniversary meeting in barangay Aguid, Sagada, Mountain Province last December 28, 2009.

The depths from which the AFP dredges up data for its intelligence report is so murky and slimy that even its own officers are confused. The CPP anniversary is on the 26 of December, and no meeting to decide whom to endorse for president ever took place last December in barangay Aguid or in any part of the Cordillera. Continue reading

UN Official Calls for Investigation into Executions of Tamil Rebels

This article was published in Al Jazeera on January 8, 2010.

UN Official Urges Sri Lanka Inquiry

A UN human rights official has urged Colombo allow an impartial investigation after he concluded that video footage allegedly showing Sri Lankan troops executing Tamil Tiger fighters last year is authentic.

 Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, told Al Jazeera that Sri Lankan arguments used to dismiss the video, aired on Britain’s Channel 4 in August 2009, were flawed.

“Sri Lanka has consistently denied the authenticity of the footage, but two of their investigators were members of the Sri Lankan military,” Alston said on Thursday. ”That is why I decided to commission an independent report by experts with no connection to the conflict.”

The mobile phone footage was shot during the final stages of the Sri Lankan army’s conflict against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Continue reading

Video-The Guerilla Tunnels of Cu Chi

Cu Chi Tunnels

Cu Chi Tunnels

THE CU CHI TUNNELS (with subtitles), running time 59:16

During the war in Vietnam, thousands of people in the Vietnamese province of CuChi lived in an elaborate system of underground tunnels. Originally built in the time of the French, the tunnels were enlarged during the American presence. When the Americans began bombing the villages of Cu Chi, the survivors went underground where they remained for the duration of the war.

The secret tunnels, which joined village to village and often passes beneath American bases, were not only fortifications for Viet Cong guerillas, but were also the center of community life. Hidden beneath the destroyed villages were schools and public spaces were hospitals where children were born and surgery was performed on casualties of war: underground were schools and public spaces where couples were married and private places where lovers met. There were even theaters where performers entertained with song and dance and traditional stories.

THE CU CHI TUNNELS, a Mickey Grant film, is the story of life underground told by the people who lived the experience. It is a story told by a surgeon, an artist, and actress, an engineer, and the few survivors of the guerilla band who left the tunnels each night to fight against an enemy of vastly superior strength. Attached to the guerilla bands were Viet Cong documentary cameramen and camerawomen whose footage of the war from the Vietnamese point of view and of love, life and death in the tunnels has survived and is used in the film. This extremely rare footage povides a fascinating kind of echo; we see and hear an actress perform in the wartime tunnels and then hear her describe the experience nearly thirty years later.

Director Mickey Grant has 3 other films on Google Video which are CHINA RUN, DESTINATION DANANG,INJECTION, GENTLEMAN’S CHOICE PREVIEW, and HI.

see the complete video at: http://revolutionaryfrontlines.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/vietnam-the-cu-chi-tunnels/

Visit   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azxnc1nDkos for a 5 minute video clip

Building the Anti-Imperialist Movement After Obama’s Election

On the November Elections and the Next Steps in Building the Anti-Imperialist Movement in the US

November 25, 2008

On November 4, 2008, millions of new voters stepped into political life with the hope that the traditional (as many put it) rich-white-male-Christian cultural monopoly on political power would no longer determine the conditions of life in the United States. These millions who stepped forward to be counted — young, poor, women, people of color, the wronged and abused, the falsely accused, sick and disabled, atheists, Moslems, Buddhists, and progressive Christians, displaced, evicted, and laid-off, and other “outcasts” and have-nots — were repelled by that de facto oligarchy, which had, they felt, excluded them. The Bush regime had arrogantly and unsuccessfully led that traditional elite for 8 years of widening wars and monstrous economic crises, which drew widespread domestic and global anger and condemnation. With high hopes, the millions of new voters were joined by millions of others who were trying to find a way out of the mess that this system has been making of their lives and of the world. Black people, Latinos, other people of color, workers, and youth stepped out of the shadows of solitude and “making do” and into political life, albeit within the confines of a presidential election.

By and large, these millions are responding to the promise of access, of open doors. They bring with them the worries and concerns and angers of their lives—of the wars being waged on false pretenses, of the worsening conditions of life. These are the issues they bring with them, though solutions to these issues were not on the electoral table.

On the night of November 4, hundreds of thousands in cities around the U.S. celebrated their success in electing the first Black president and the fact that millions of whites moved past the racist fears and codewords that have habitually set the boundaries of political life.

But to move forward, celebrations must turn to sober, straight talk.

The interests around which Barack Obama and the Democratic Party leadership have coalesced, despite the campaign banner of “change”, are the interests of the rich and the privileged, even as more wars are looming and the economics of the capitalist system here and worldwide are dragging the lives of millions into deeper crisis. Continue reading

John Bellamy Foster on Finance Capital and the Economic Crisis

This is an interview of John Bellamy Foster with the Norwegian daily, Klassekampen on October 15, 2008. John is editor of Monthly Review.

Klassekampen: Is the credit crisis a symptom of overaccumulation of capital? It seems to me that investments worldwide, but especially in the United States, were funneled into the traditionally “safe” housing market following the bursting of the dotcom-bubble. This overinvestment in turn generated a new bubble, thus causing today’s havoc. Is this correct?

JBF: Yes, I agree that this is due to what might be called an overaccumulation of capital in a number of senses: an overbuilding of productive capacity (physical capital) in relation to a demand constrained by monopoly within what economists call the “real” (as opposed to financial) economy, an over-amassing of profits and wealth at the top of society, and a hypertrophy of financial claims to wealth. In terms of the financial crisis itself, there has been a massive, highly leveraged expansion of money claims to wealth, creating a huge debt overhang, and forcing, at this moment, a massive devaluation of capital. All of this is related, however, to the breakdown of the capital formation process, accumulation proper, in an increasingly stagnant real economy. These are contradictions of what I have called the phase of “Monopoly-Finance Capital” (Monthly Review, December 2006).

The bursting of the dot.com or New Economy bubble in 2000 resulted in what has been dubbed “the great bubble transfer” whereby the bursting of the New Economy bubble compelled the Federal Reserve to lower the main interest rate it controls (the Federal Funds rate), leading to a new and more massive bubble based in home mortgages, the dangers of which were apparent early on (see “The Household Debt Bubble,” Monthly Review, May 2006). This involved an enormous expansion of consumer debt despite the fact that real wages had been stagnant in the United States since the 1970s creating an unstable situation.

It also involved the need on the part of capital to book ever increasing profits from finance, achieved through securitization of every form of what had previously been individual debts — especially home mortgages. This in turn led to the extension of mortgage financing to riskier and riskier customers under the theory that new “risk management” techniques had devised the means (hailed — bizarrely — by some as the equivalent of the great technological advances in the real economy) with which to separate the weaker from the stronger debts within the new securities. These new debt securities were then “insured” against default by such means as credit-debt swaps, supposedly reducing risk still further. This was the ideology behind the housing bubble. (See “The Financialization of Capital and the Crisis,” Monthly Review, April 2008.) Continue reading

Zionism is the Problem for Jews

Los Angeles Times

Opinion: Zionism is the problem

“The Zionist ideal of a Jewish state is keeping Israelis and Palestinians from living in peace.”

By Ben Ehrenreich

[March 15, 2009] It’s hard to imagine now, but in 1944, six years after Kristallnacht, Lessing J. Rosenwald, president of the American Council for Judaism, felt comfortable equating the Zionist ideal of Jewish statehood with “the concept of a racial state — the Hitlerian concept.” For most of the last century, a principled opposition to Zionism was a mainstream stance within American Judaism.

Even after the foundation of Israel, anti-Zionism was not a particularly heretical position. Assimilated Reform Jews like Rosenwald believed that Judaism should remain a matter of religious rather than political allegiance; the ultra-Orthodox saw Jewish statehood as an impious attempt to “push the hand of God”; and Marxist Jews — my grandparents among them — tended to see Zionism, and all nationalisms, as a distraction from the more essential struggle between classes.

To be Jewish, I was raised to believe, meant understanding oneself as a member of a tribe that over and over had been cast out, mistreated, slaughtered. Millenniums of oppression that preceded it did not entitle us to a homeland or a right to self-defense that superseded anyone else’s. If they offered us anything exceptional, it was a perspective on oppression and an obligation born of the prophetic tradition: to act on behalf of the oppressed and to cry out at the oppressor.

For the last several decades, though, it has been all but impossible to cry out against the Israeli state without being smeared as an anti-Semite, or worse. To question not just Israel’s actions, but the Zionist tenets on which the state is founded, has for too long been regarded an almost unspeakable blasphemy.

Yet it is no longer possible to believe with an honest conscience that the deplorable conditions in which Palestinians live and die in Gaza and the West Bank come as the result of specific policies, leaders or parties on either side of the impasse. The problem is fundamental: Founding a modern state on a single ethnic or religious identity in a territory that is ethnically and religiously diverse leads inexorably either to politics of exclusion (think of the 139-square-mile prison camp that Gaza has become) or to wholesale ethnic cleansing. Put simply, the problem is Zionism. Continue reading

March 30 Delhi Protest against Police Attack on Punjab Farmers’ Demonstration of 25,000

PEOPLES’ DEMOCRATIC FRONT OF INDIA (PDFI)

Invitation to Join Protest Dharna on 30th March 2010 at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi

Dear Friends,

The 30th March 2010 Kisan Dharna Programme of PDFI Sub-committee on Agriculture Crisis (of which Dr. Darshan Pal is the Coordinator) is going to be held as per schedule at Jantar Mantar, Delhi. It will start at 11 AM. More than 1000 people from Punjab, UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Delhi and other states are expected to attend the programme. The  Dharna Programme is going to be organized on the issues related with Agriculture Crisis, such as Irrigation, Electricity, Agriculture Credit, Guarantee of MSP, Price Rise, Equitable Entitlement of Agriculture Community, Separate Budget for Agriculture etc.

It is to note that Dr. Darshan Pal (as the Coordinator of the Sub-committee on Agriculture Crisis) is the main organizer of this programme. But, the Punjab police has arrested him along with several farmers’ and agriculture workers’ leaders to suppress the farmers’ movements, going on in Punjab and other states.

The arresting of Dr. Darshan Pal is directly related with the farmers’ struggles of Punjab. Altogether 22 farmers’, agriculture workers’ and employees’ organisations organized a massive joint rally of more than 25000 people at Jagraon, mainly against imposing electricity charges on farmers and agriculture workers, privatization of electricity and  repression on farmers’ movement. The meeting was steered by Balkar Singh Dakaunda (the President of BKU-Ekata, Punjab and the All India Coordination Committee member of PDFI). Continue reading

Prachanda: Integration of PLA Fighters into Reactionary Nepal Army Will Help Prepare “People’s Revolt”

PLA soldiers in Hattikhor satellite cantonment

Yahoo News India, March 8, 2010.

Be ready to capture power, Prachanda tells Maoist fighters

Kathmandu: In remarks that place the Maoist commitment to the peace and democratic process in severe doubt, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPM-M) chief Prachanda has said that combatants should remain ready for mass revolt with a view to capture power from the government and security agencies of the country.

Details of the speech that Prachanda made in Shaktikhor cantonment in his home district Chitwan, about 180 km from here on March 1, have found its way to the media. “We must prepare for a mass revolt after May 28 as soon as the government seeks to extend the term of constituent assembly,” he said. “We will need to get at least 10,000 of our combatants in the Nepal Army and police.” Prachanda asked the combatants to have patience as “the country will belong to you soon”.

The content of the speech makes it clear that the Maoists will not accept the democratic process, a fact that political parties and the international community feared. “We will not ask, this time, for the top post in the Army as the international community will be opposing it, but we certainly should strive for the Number two spot and positions below.” “The Nepal Army and the police are going to be our real strength now, and we are going to introduce at least 10,000 of our combatants in the security outfits soon,” he said.

A video tape of the secret meeting Prachanda had with the combatants in the same cantonment three years ago had him asking them to buy arms and not to bother with the party’s participation in the peace process.

[Note: The US and Indian-backed Nepal Army has 96,000 soldiers.]

Mapping the Occupation and Balkanization of Palestine

From http://kasamaproject.org

The French cartographer, Julien Bousac, has rendered the the Israel-Palestine conflict geographically, representing the Palestinian areas as land masses, surrounded and divided by Israel-dominated territories represented as water.

This was originally posted on strangemaps.wordpress.com.

Palestine’s Island Paradise, Now With a Word from its Creator

palestine_map_500

The Bible contains at least two stories equating the aquatic with the amoral. As Red Sea pedestrians, Moses and the Israelites didn’t even get their sandals moist, while the Lord did some expert smiting on the pursuing Egyptians, by way of the gurgling waters closing in on them. And a few thousand years earlier, Noah kept his binary boatload afloat while all the rest of humanity (and the now extinct species of the animal kingdom) met their watery grave.

Even though this map of L’archipel de Palestine orientale (‘The Archipelago of Eastern Palestine’) is set in the same area and uses a similar theme, the cartographer behind it refutes any allegation that it is meant to reflect the same Biblical dry = good, wet = bad analogy. “The map is not about ‘drowning’ or ‘flooding’ the Israeli population, nor dividing territories along ethnic lines, even less a suggestion of how to resolve the conflict,” gasps Julien Bousac, the Frenchman who created this map.

A small excerpt of the map (focusing on the Greater Jerusalem area) was published a bit earlier on this blog, but the map in its entirety (sent in by Mr Bousac but also earlier by Baptiste Hautdidier) merits a separate entry, not only because “without a legend, it […] gives ground to various misinterpretations, due to the high sensitivity of the subject,” as Mr Boussac relates – but also because it just looks so nice. And strange, of course.

“Maybe posting the full map would help to take it for what it is, i.e. an illustration of the West Bank’s ongoing fragmentation based on the (originally temporary) A/B/C zoning which came out of the Oslo process, still valid until now. To make things clear, areas ‘under water’ strictly reflect C zones, plus the East Jerusalem area, i.e. areas that have officially remained under full Israeli control and occupation following the Agreements. These include all Israeli settlements and outposts as well as Palestinian populated areas.”

Mr Boussac took advantage of the resulting archipelago effect “to use typical tourist maps codes (mainly icons) to sharpen the contrast between the fantasies raised by seemingly paradise-like islands and the Palestinian Territories grim reality.” The map does have a strong vacationy vibe to it – but whether that is because of the archipelago-shaped subject matter, or due to the cheerful colour scheme is a matter for debate.

Those colours, incidentally, denote urban areas (orange), nature reserves (shaded), zones of partial autonomy (dark green) and of total autonomy (light green). Totally fanciful are of course the dotted lines symbolising shipping links, the palm trees signifying protected beachland, and the purple symbols representing various aspects of seaside pleasure. The blue icon, labelled Zone sous surveillance (‘Zone under surveillance’) has some bearing on reality, as the locations of the warships match those of permanent Israeli checkpoints.

Some of the paradisiacally named islands include Ile au Miel (Honey Island), Ile aux Oliviers (Isle of the Olive Trees), Ile Sainte (Holy Island) and Ile aux Moutons (Sheep Island), although the naming of Ile sous le Mur (Island beneath the Wall) constitutes a relapse into the grimness of the area’s reality.