Simon Assaf

Under the Bombs

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Director: Philippe Aractingi; Release date: 21 March

With her marriage breaking down, Zelna (Nada Abou Farhat) sends her son to stay with her sister in south Lebanon. It is the summer of 2006, and Israel has just unleashed a ferocious 33-day assault on the country. Her son is lost somewhere in the chaos and rubble.

Zelna returns on the day of the ceasefire and hires taxi driver Tony (Georges Khabbaz), a Christian from the south, to help find her son. The frantic search takes the pair into the chaos of post-war Lebanon and a journey into the history of the south.

Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam

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Eds: Lloyd C Gardner and Marilyn B Young, The New Press, £17.99

In 2003 Donald Rumsfeld was asked by reporters whether US troops would get bogged down in Iraq as they did in Vietnam 30 years before. "All together now quagmire," he mocked.

Within a year, as US troops were faced with a mass uprising across the country, the analogy was no longer seen as a joke.

Epic Conflict

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Review of 'God's War', Christopher Tyerman, Allen Lane £30

When Pope Urban II summoned Christians to invade the Middle East and seize Jerusalem in 1095, he would cast a long shadow over the history of the West and Islamic worlds.

The rhetoric of the crusades can still be heard in the speeches made by the neocons while the statue of the Muslim warrior Saladin in Damascus was draped in Hizbollah flags during Israel's recent war on Lebanon. The symbolism of the "encounter" still lives on, as do the myths and misconceptions.

Wrong War

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Review of 'God's Terrorists', Charles Allen, Little, Brown £20

Since the 11 September attacks on the US there has been a raft of books on the Middle East, Islam and terrorism. Most of them have been churned out to justify the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, or to inform us that Saudi Arabia (a major US ally since 1933) is run by religious fanatics. That there should be so much rubbish in the bookshops is not unexpected, but when respected historians are tempted to reinterpret history to suit modern prejudice we need to sit up and take notice.

In Search of Zarqawi

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Review of 'Insurgent Iraq', Loretta Napoleoni, Constable and Robinson £7.99

When US Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed the United Nations on 5 February 2003 he was about to create a myth. Powell proclaimed that a little known Jordanian, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was the link between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

This link was enough to prove that Saddam was responsible for the attacks of 11 September 2001, and since there were no weapons of mass destruction, the new justification for the invasion of Iraq.

What Rises from the Ashes

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Review of 'The Fall of Baghdad', Jon Lee Anderson, Little Brown £14.99

Jon Lee Anderson is an old hand at reporting war. His other books, Guerrillas: Journeys in the Insurgent World, Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life, and The Lion's Grave: Dispatches from Afghanistan, set him apart from the usual breed of foreign correspondent - the 'embeds' who report wars from inside a tank and the 'hotel journalists' who never stray beyond the lobby bar.

Interview: Hell No, We Won't Go

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Carl Webb from the US and George Solomou from Britain explain to Andrew Stone and Simon Assaf why they refuse to go and fight in Iraq.

Socialist Review: Why are you accusing the US army of drafting you?

Carl Webb: I'm refusing to go to war because I do not believe the US is on the right track. I think this war is not about liberating people, it's about oppressing them. It's a war that's being fought for profit.

So what's your history with the army?

Interview: The Imperial Blowback

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Robert Fisk explains to Simon Assaf why there can be no peace in the Middle East until Britain and the US get out.

You are currently writing a book - what is it about?

It's called The Great War of Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East. It studies the way in which history traps us, and how we are never free to make decisions because we are always caught by history.

'Sparks of Hope in the Past'

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John Rose, author of a new book on Israel, spoke to Simon Assaf about the roots of Zionism and the Palestinian struggle today.

Your book The Myths of Zionism charges that the ideology behind Israel is based on a whole series of myths, going all the way back to ancient Israel. Can you tell me what those myths are?

In the book each chapter heading is based on a myth. The first two myths are based on ancient Jewish history, the next two myths are based on medieval Jewish history, and the last six myths are based on the modern period starting roughly in the 19th century.

A New Left is Born

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Simon Assaf reports on the anti-war movement in the Middle East.

'Now the anti-war movement has become a movement against occupation in Palestine and Iraq,' the Al Jazeera correspondent declared from the London demonstration on 12 April. Images of the protest, and the millions out across Europe, punctured the mood of despondency that had gripped the Arab world since the fall of Baghdad. The anti-war movement served notice on the warmongers that they will continue to face deep opposition.

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