Subverting the Ice Bucket Challenge With a Bucket Full of Rubble

On the second day of a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, Palestinians are finding a use for the rubble that seven weeks of fighting has deposited on their streets: They're dumping it over their heads.

The "rubble bucket challenge," a twist on the "ice bucket challenge" that has raised more than $80 million for ALS research in a month, encourages those who support the cause of Palestinian statehood to demonstrate their solidarity by posting a video of themselves pouring sand and dust, rather than ice water, over their heads. Jordanian comedian Mahmoud Darwazeh thought it up when fellow comedian Nikolas Khoury issued him the "ice bucket challenge" earlier this summer.

"When I uploaded my 'rubble bucket challenge' video, the only videos going viral were the ALS ice bucket challenge," Darwazeh wrote in an email Wednesday, Aug. 27. "I sat down with myself and thought about how I can bring awareness to what's happening to Gaza's children in a way that is most relevant to what is actually happening to them. I came up with the idea from my heart."

Maysam Yusef, a university student in Gaza, caught wind of the video and thought it could become a movement. She contacted Darwazeh to ask for permission to start a Facebook page called the Rubble Bucket Challenge. It garnered more than 7,000 "likes" in just five days.

The ALS stunt raises research money for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the degenerative nerve illness better known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Participants are asked to either donate $10 and pour ice water over their heads or donate $100 and stay dry. Videos of Americans and celebrities participating in the challenge have become a phenomenon and raised record sums for the ALS Association.

But as good philanthropy goes, there are far more effective ways to make a difference than funding research into a rare disease with little hope of a medical breakthrough in the near future. "[T]here are thousands of charitable organizations out there that could really use the money going to ALS -- could use it to make the world a better place today," Felix Salmon wrote in Slate over the weekend. "Some are medicine-based, treating the sick around the world; others might be in areas such as education, or clean water, or animal rescue, or the arts, or simply just giving money to poor people."

As awful a disease as ALS may be, there are other problems in the world that affect a far greater number of people. Only two in 100,000 Americans will ever be diagnosed with ALS.

What will and won't go "viral" in the social media sense is difficult to predict, and issues such as potable water don't have viral marketing budgets. So many activists have decided that if you can't beat them, join them, and have adapted the ALS challenge like Darwazeh did. In India, they're using a rice bucket and challenging Indians to donate a bucket of rice to someone in need. In the United States, some Californians have dumped sand over their heads to drive home the severity of the three-year drought there.

According to the World Food Program, India is home to a quarter of the world's undernourished people. California declared a drought emergency in January. In Gaza, a 50-day war has left more than 2,200 dead.

The rubble bucket challenge doesn't ask for donations.

"Our campaign does not aim at collecting donations because the money will not bring the so many innocent souls back to life and we cannot begin to rebuild Gaza unless the Israeli attacks stop," Yusef wrote in an email. "Our campaign is more of a social media revolution where people show their solidarity with Gaza and publicly reject the killing of civilians."

When Palestinian journalist Ayman Aloul took the challenge on Monday, he stood in front of a destroyed building with dust billowing around him.

"We looked for a bucket of water, but the use of water is more important than to empty over our heads," he said. "We do not have water, but this is what we have."

Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images


North Korea Joins Chorus of Trolls Slamming U.S. Over Ferguson

North Korea is arguably one of the world's most racist societies, so it's with no small measure of irony that the country's Foreign Ministry on Tuesday bashed the United States for the happenings in Ferguson, Missouri, which has been gripped by unrest following the death of a black teenager at the hands of a white police officer.

According to North Korea, Michael Brown's murder and the police's response reveal "a country wantonly violating the human rights where people are subject to discrimination and humiliation due to their races and they are seized with such horror that they do not know when they are shot to death." In his parting shot, the Foreign Ministry spokesman called the United States "a graveyard of human rights."

North Korea, of course, is one of the world's worst human rights violators. The country sends entire families to labor camps, brooks no political dissent or pluralism, and regularly tortures and executes citizens to keep them in line. Somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 North Koreans reside in government gulags, calling the country's nonexistent "credibility" on human rights into laughable question.

In addition to that dark irony, the communist nation is also built on a deeply racist ideology. One tenet justifies the Kim dynasty's continuation with the notion that Koreans are members of the world's most pure, innocent race. As such, they require a strong, paternal leader to shelter them from a chaotic world. North Korean propagandists bolster this belief by pointing toward Korea's long history of foreign invasions and the Kim dynasty's track record of repelling its enemies.

That same line of thinking has also cultivated an enormously racist society. When in 1965 the Cuban ambassador to the country, who was black, was showing some visitors around Pyongyang, "locals surrounded their car, pounding it and shouting racial epithets," B.R. Myers writes in his book The Cleanest Race. Police had to beat back the crowd. When Dennis Rodman and a group of basketball players visited the country in January, the website Daily NK reported that many North Koreans were asking one another, "Where did they find that group of goblins?"

But in its official propaganda, North Korea would have you believe that it remains committed to ideals of socialist equality. "The protests in Ferguson City and other parts of the U.S. are an eruption of the pent-up discontent and resistance of the people against racial discrimination and inequality deeply rooted in the American society," the Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

The spokesman's statement ends not with a plea for racial tolerance but with a castigation of the United States to stop lecturing other countries on their human rights records when it doesn't have its own house in order. North Korea, the statement implies, would really just like to be left alone. "The U.S. should know that it is bound to get itself into a big trouble unless it behaves with discretion, not knowing where it stands," the spokesman said.

That too is a lie. The Kim regime needs a turbulent world and the existence of persistent enemies in order to justify its continued existence.

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