Sheep magazine Archive 2: issues 10-17


Lefty online magazine: issue 10, May 2016 to issue 17, November 2016


transnational existence is assured, from

Fallujah in Iraq to the edge of Syrian

Aleppo, from Nigeria to Niger and Chad.

It can thus degrade the economy of each

country it moves through, blowing up a

Russian airliner leaving Sharm el-Sheikh,

attacking the Bardo museum in Tunis

or the beaches of Sousse. There was a

time – when Islamists attacked the Jewish

synagogue on Djerba island in Tunisia in

2002, for example, killing 19 people –

when tourism could continue. But that was

when Libya still existed. In those days, Ben

Ali’s security police were able to control the

internal security of Tunisia; the army was left

weak so that it could not stage a coup. So

today, of course, the near-impotent army of

Tunisia cannot defend its frontiers.

Isis’s understanding of this new

phenomenon preceded our own. But Isis’s

realisation that frontiers were essentially

defenceless in the modern age coincided

with the popular Arab disillusion with their

own invented nations. Most of the millions

of Syrian and Afghan refugees who have

flooded into Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan

and then north into Europe do not intend

to return – ever – to states that have failed

them as surely as they no longer – in the

minds of the refugees – exist. These are

not “failed states” so much as imaginary

nations that no longer have any purpose.

I only began to understand this when,

back in July, covering the Greek economic

crisis, I travelled to the Greek-Macedonian

border with Médecins Sans Frontières. This

was long before the story of Arab refugees

entering Europe had seized the attention

of the EU or the media, although the

Mediterranean drownings had long been a

regular tragedy on television screens. Aylan

Kurdi, the little boy who would be washed

up on a Turkish beach, still had another

two months to live. But in the fields along

the Macedonian border were thousands of

Syrians and Afghans. They were coming

in their hundreds through the cornfields,

an army of tramping paupers who might

have been fleeing the Hundred Years War,

women with their feet burned by exploded

gas cookers, men with bruises over their

bodies from the blows of frontier guards.

Two of them I even knew, brothers from

Aleppo whom I had met two years earlier

in Syria. And when they spoke, I suddenly

realised they were talking of Syria in the

past tense. They talked about “back there”

and “what was home”. They didn’t believe

in Syria any more. They didn’t believe in


Our support for an Israel that has not told

us the location of its eastern border runs

logically alongside our own refusal to

recognise – unless it suits us – the frontiers


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