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Ed Webb

So Why Did I Defend Paul Bowles? | by Hisham Aidi | The New York Review of Books - 0 views

  • Long a sanctuary for Spanish and French writers, American writers began visiting Tangier in the late nineteenth century: Mark Twain on his way to Jerusalem in 1867, the painters Louis Comfort Tiffany in 1870 and Henry Ossawa Tanner in 1912, and Edith Wharton in 1917. In 1931, when Bowles first visited, the American artists living in Tangier were primarily black: Claude McKay, Anita Reynolds, Juice Wilson, Josephine Baker. These African-Americans came to Morocco from Paris, where they had formed a community after World War I, and as the Harlem Rennaissance spread to France. Upon arrival, Bowles began to socialize with both McKay and Anita Reynolds. Like the other Americans, he had also discovered North Africa through France. In high school, he had read Marcel Proust, Comte de Lautréamont, and André Gide—the latter’s accounts, in particular, of his travels and sexual trysts in Algeria and Tunisia had conjured North Africa in Bowles’s teenage imagination.
  • in December 1923, France, Spain, and the United Kingdom signed the Tangier Protocol in Paris, setting up a new administration and placing the city at the center of a 150-square mile International Zone overseen by a committee of nine Western powers. The city was henceforth governed by a court that included French, Spanish, and British judges, along with the mendoub, the Moroccan sultan’s representative. It is this international period, from 1923 to 1956, especially postwar, that has shaped the image of Tangier as a free port, a tax haven, and a place of international intrigue and excess.
  • His first novel, The Sheltering Sky, told the story of an American who flees the numbing modernity of New York and meanders through the Algerian desert, only to disintegrate psychologically. Published in the fall of 1949, it became a bestseller and made Bowles a household name. Three more novels and a handful of short stories set in Tangier followed.
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  • Bowles did not create the “myth of Tangier,” but he gave it a literary respectability and an American cast.
  • In the early 1950s, Burroughs, Ginsberg, Kerouac, Bryon Gysin, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, and Susan Sontag all gravitated to this “portal to the unknown,” as one author christened Tangier. So did European writers like Genet, Juan Goytisolo, and Joe Orton, but Bowles’s influence was not limited to the literary community. In later decades, his recordings and promotion of Moroccan music would draw producers and recording artists from Patti Smith to the Rolling Stones.
  • Through the 1960s and 1970s, he focused instead on recording and translating from darija (Moroccan Arabic dialect) the oral histories of men he met in Tangier’s cafés. By the time of his death, in 1999, the idea of Tangier as a place for self-discovery had become received wisdom in the West and the Arab world, and Bowles was established as a giant of American letters despite decades of silence.
  • I gave him a copy of my thesis. He looked up from the title page: “‘Orientalism’?—that’s a bad word, isn’t it?” Faux-naïveté, I would learn, was part of his manner. He told me to come back the following day.
  • I was, he said, the first Moroccan researcher—a Tangier native, to boot—to defend him. He added his signature beneath my printed name. (A few weeks ago, I got goosebumps when I found the same copy that I gave him, albeit coffee-stained, in the archives at the University of Delaware’s Paul Bowles Collection.) Later, the thesis was included in a collection titled Writing Tangier (2004). I still see citations occasionally in student dissertations on Bowles noting that one Tanjawi, at least, did not regard him as an Orientalist.
  • Tangier’s collective memory is steeped in nostalgia and centered around the medina, the old city. The medina, the elders told us, was once the epicenter of the Islamic world: it was from the port where the medina meets the sea that Tariq ibn Ziyad had set sail and conquered Spain in 711. After the fall of Granada in 1492, it was to Tangier’s medina that the Jews and Moriscos fled, settling in its alleyways, preserving the mosaic of Islamic Spain
  • The economic misery and political repression of the 1980s and 1990s made it hard to believe that the medina was ever a free space. Most locals had never heard of these famous writers. I only heard of Bowles when, in 1988, a film crew began working in front of our family restaurant at the entrance to the Kasbah as Bernardo Bertolucci began filming The Sheltering Sky. As teenagers, we came to wonder what truths the books from the Interzone contained, and if Tangier had indeed been better-off under Western rule, as the nostalgists, local and foreign, seemed to imply
  • The narrative we learned at school was that the monarchy had liberated the north from colonial oppression. But what liberation did the regime (makhzen) bring? After independence, as a local intelligentsia began forming in Tangier, many came to see the American corpus of writings about 1950s Tangier as an invaluable record of a lost golden age.
  • I made a point of reading the American authors who had written about Tangier’s Interzone. Besides Bowles, I was intrigued by the Beats, especially the Columbia University alums—Kerouac, Ginsberg, Lucien Carr—students of Lionel Trilling and fans of Arthur Rimbaud who had somehow mapped Greenwich Village onto Tangier, turning the Boulevard Pasteur into a “North African Bleecker Street.” But even as a college sophomore, I realized that their writings were more about the straitjacket of McCarthyite America that they were running from, rather than about Morocco as such.
  • It was even gratifying to see that Tangier, like Berlin, had played a significant role in launching a gay literary movement—in some ways ahead of the West, in having its finger on the “prognostic pulse of the world,” as Burroughs called it. But what was startling was that, while these writers basked in the city’s pleasures, they—with the exception of the Bowleses—didn’t really like Tangier. The Beats had a casual disdain for the natives, invariably describing Moroccans as “rakish” or “raffish.” Capote found Tangier too alien, describing the men as “noisy heathens” and the women as “anonymous bundles of laundry.” He warned friends in New York about the “smell of the arabe.” Burroughs referred to the locals as a “bunch of Ay-rabs,” and in 1958 he pronounced: “Tanger [sic] is finished. The Arab dogs are among us.”
  • Paul Bowles traced the history of the medina from the early 1930s to independence. He chronicled how the sultan’s crackdown on Sufi practices (“the great puritanical purging”) in central Morocco inched northward.
  • Bowles’s defense of the Amazigh, or Berber, population was daringly transgressive. Morocco’s culture “is not predominantly Arabic, but Berber,” he insisted—in the face of Arab nationalists who acted as though they believed “Berbers have no culture at all,” as they tried to drag the country into the Arab League. “The general opinion is that the autochthonous population must at all costs be Arabized if it is to share in the benefits of independence,” he observed acidly. “No one seems to have conceived of the possibility of an independent Berber Morocco. In fact, to mention the Berbers at all qualifies one as a pro-French reactionary. At present, to become modern means to become Egyptian.”
  • Reading these words in my dorm room in wintry Pennsylvania in 1992 was both thrilling and frightening. We as Moroccans—especially those of us from the northern Berber region—grew up in a climate of fear, and I had never heard or read anyone publicly criticize Arab nationalism, or speak so openly of the Moroccan hinterland’s animus toward Fez, the city of the interior regarded as the seat of the regime. To hear this American writer openly excoriate the Moroccan ruling elite for its cruelty and skullduggery was exhilarating
  • Bowles prompted me to think beyond the binary of “Western” versus “Arab.”
  • Bowles, in the mid-1960s, had begun translating the memoirs and stories of down-and-out illiterate youth in Tangier. (While he could not read Arabic, Bowles did understand darija, the spoken dialect.) The most prominent of these were Larbi Layachi’s A Life Full of Holes (1966), about a petty thief and male prostitute and his experiences dodging police and servicing tourists (the book was made into a BBC film); Look and Move On (1967), the tales of Mohammed Mrabet, a hustler and golf caddie who worked for an American couple; and the best-known, Mohammed Choukri’s For Bread Alone (1972), an account of his migration from the Rif to Tangier, his life as a street kid in the International Zone, and his becoming a schoolteacher, which he recounted to Bowles in Spanish. These books were marketed in the West as “Moroccan literature,” and for many in the Anglophone world, this was their introduction to it.
  • The Ministry of Culture, which almost blocked his recording project in 1959, published a remarkable essay in 2009 on the tenth anniversary of his death defending Bowles against criticism from Moroccan nationalist intellectuals, underscoring how he presciently warned of the threats that modernization posed to Morocco’s cultural and physical landscape. Government mouthpieces such as Hespress run flattering pieces about “the American who loved Morocco.”
  • in effect erased an earlier literary tradition that had seen Moroccan writers published in French and Spanish since the 1930s, let alone the preceding centuries of poetry and other writing in Arabic
  • Laroui acted as an adviser to the king and was a strong proponent of Arabization. Tangierians saw his attack on Bowles as another attempt by the Arab nationalist elite to subdue the “sin city.” Ben Jelloun also had a complicated relationship to Tangier. The son of a merchant, a Fassi (a person from Fez) who settled in Tangier in the early 1960s, he had attended the French lycée and was seen as part of the new Francophone Fassi upper class—comprising the Alaoui, Alami, Ben Jelloun, Berrada, Omrani, and Tazi families—that had fanned out across the country as the French departed, assuming top government positions. Like Laroui, Ben Jelloun spoke neither of the two common local tongues of the north, Spanish and Tarifit (the Berber language). A paradox of Ben Jelloun’s work, in particular, was that it often featured the very tropes of mysticism, violence, and sexual deviancy he denounced in Bowles’s work. For his part, the American writer dismissed his Moroccan critics as “confirmed Marxists.”
  • as long as America was seen as a political friend, Bowles was viewed favorably. Not surprisingly, after the Gulf war of 1990 and the release of Bertolucci’s film of The Sheltering Sky that same year, more articles started to appear across the Middle East critiquing Bowles’s representations of Morocco, accusing him of racism and Orientalism
  • I myself was part of this trend—defending Bowles against the Arab nationalists who were trying to tear him down and impose their political preferences on us. In his final interviews, when asked if he was an “Orientalist,” Bowles would often cite me, noting that a Tangier-born scholar now in America had judged him not to be.
  • “Paul Bowles loves Morocco, but does not really like Moroccans.” Choukri had some powerful evidence on his side. Over the decades, Bowles had made countless derogatory remarks, speaking of Moroccans as “childlike,” “purely predatory,” and “essentially barbarous.” He claimed also that Muslims aimed for world domination through “the sword and the bomb.”
  • He was sympathetic to the Amazigh, whom he saw as the original inhabitants of North Africa, a fiercely independent people only “partially Islamicized.” This affection nevertheless rested on some unsettling ideas about racial hierarchy. Bowles was profoundly influenced by the “Hamitic hypothesis,” a late nineteenth-century anthropological theory that saw almost everything of value in Africa as imported by the Hamites, a branch of the Caucasian race, who were held as superior to the Negroid peoples. Berbers, whatever their actual skin tone—even the typically dark-skinned Tuareg—were for Bowles essentially a white “Mediterranean race.”
  • In Bowles’s idiosyncratic hierarchy, it was Berber music that encapsulated Morocco’s true African identity—and this cultural essence was threatened by the Arabs and their music. The recently released Music of Morocco collection reflects this bias, giving credence to Choukri’s claim that Bowles deliberately misrepresented local culture to reflect his personal vision of Morocco.
  • I began to realize that Bowles’s fondness for the Berbers and his animus toward Arabs was, in many ways, a reflection of French colonial policy. Although he was well aware of the violence of French imperialism, he enjoyed its amenities—“the old, easygoing, openly colonial life of Morocco”—and as early as the 1950s, Bowles began to lament the loss of “colonial Tangier.” Above all, he believed in the International Zone, seeing its “anarchy” and “freedom from bureaucratic intervention” as an extraordinary political experiment. But these liberties, which is what drew many of the Beats, were the privileges of Europeans and Americans—ones generally not enjoyed by the city’s Muslim and Jewish natives.
  • In 1972, Tahar Ben Jelloun publicly accused Bowles (and the Beats) of exploiting illiterate, vulnerable youths in Tangier not just artistically but sexually. Choukri in 1997 would echo this charge, claiming Bowles suffered from a sexual illness. These allegations became more commonly heard once Farrar, Straus and Giroux published Bowles’s correspondence in 1994, although he expressed some reluctance about its release. The volume included letters in which he described the boys he slept with, in one letter even bragging about how cheap sex was in Algeria. “Where in this country [America] can I have thirty-five or forty people, and never risk seeing any of them again? Yet, in Algeria, it actually was the mean rate.” (In the correspondence, he reminisced about how he “never had sexual relationships without paying,” and viewed paying for sex as a form of “ownership.”)
  • Although the letters simply lent credence to rumors long circulating in Tangier, Choukri and other Tanjawi writers were still shocked by them. The literary reaction in Morocco fed into a larger effort there by human rights activists campaigning against sex tourism and child prostitution. Whereas Bowles had always seemed more judicious and reputable than the Beats—in contrast, say, to Burroughs’s open bragging about buying “pre-pubescent gooks” and Ginsberg’s boasting about “paying young boys” for sex—it became increasingly difficult to defend him. For a man who had called Moroccans “purely predatory,” his own behavior now appeared in rather grotesque relief.
  • The more time I spent at the Schomburg Library uptown, the more I discovered an alternative American literature about Tangier. I stumbled upon Claude McKay’s memoir A Long Way from Home about his time in Tangier in the late 1920s, where he completed his novel Banjo; the actress Anita Reynold’s diary about life in the Interzone in the 1930s; Josephine Baker’s papers, where she talks about filming Princess Tam Tam (1935) in the International Zone, and jazz recordings produced by African-American musicians living in Tangier. Although they had their own dreams about a “Mother Africa,” the African-American writers did not see Tangier as a brothel, or its residents as primitives who needed to be contained or civilized. Most wrote and produced art in solidarity with the disenfranchised local population, connecting the civil rights struggle to North Africa’s anticolonial movements.
  • In 1998, armed with this newfound knowledge, and as a conscious revision of my earlier guiding, I began giving walking tours of “Black Tangier.” We would would meet at Cinema Mauritania, the theater where Josephine Baker had performed many times, up until her last show there in 1970. She had lived in the International Zone, then joined the French Liberation forces during the war, and later had an affair with the vice-caliph of Spanish Morocco. On the first floor of the Mauritania, pianist Randy Weston had once operated African Rhythms, a music spot that drew the likes of Max Roach and Ahmed Jamal. Then we’d walk down to the Fat Black Pussycat café where the poet Ted Joans, one of few black writers in the Beat movement, played trumpet and “blew” jazz poems.
  • Next, we’d hit Galerie Delacroix, where Joans once hosted a four-hour tribute to his mentor Langston Hughes, and had the late poet’s verse read in Arabic, English, French, and Spanish. (In 1927, Hughes had visited Tangier and written a lovely poem about travel and unrequited longing, “I Thought It was Tangiers I Wanted.”) Then we’d walk to the majestic Teatro Cervantes built in 1913, where Weston had organized the first pan-African jazz festival in Morocco in June 1972 (revived in 2002), which brought Dexter Gordon, Odetta, Billy Harper, and Pucho and the Latin Soul Brothers to the city. Our last stop was the Hotel Chellah, where, as local legend had it, the Martinican anticolonial thinker Frantz Fanon stayed overnight on July 3, 1959, following a car crash on the Morocco–Algeria border rumored to be the handiwork of La Main Rouge, the paramilitary group run by French intelligence to assassinate leading supporters of Algerian independence. Fanon was flown to Rome the following day on a Moroccan passport.
  • Paul Bowles and King Hassan II died in 1999, a few months apart. The novelist and the tyrant who had towered over Tangier for generations had more in common than either would have admitted—and that in part explains the reverence Bowles still enjoys in official Morocco
  • both shared a disdain for leftist, Third-Worldist politics. Both hated pan-Arabism, and loved Berber culture as long as it was “folkloric” and apolitical. They each thought Moroccans were congenitally ill-suited for democracy.
  • both Bowles and the monarch celebrated a “primitive,” mystical, unlettered, unfree Morocco, sharing a special appetite for the intoxicating rhythms of the Berbers. No wonder King Hassan II, who expelled numerous critics—from Arab intellectuals to French journalists and American professors—never bothered Bowles.
  • The Moroccan reaction against Bowles began to take form in the early 1970s. His earliest critics were the philosopher Abdallah Laroui and Ben Jelloun, who both chided the American writer for promoting an image of the country as a land of primitivism, drugs, and unlimited sex. Laroui also lambasted the Moroccan bourgeoisie for buying into and reproducing Bowles’s “folkloric” portrayal of their country. Ben Jelloun, writing in 1972, accused the American of belittling the nation’s literary patrimony.
  • The Morocco that Bowles dubbed a “land of magic” is one the Ministry of Tourism sells to the West
  • his emphasis on Morocco’s “African” essence suits the country’s recent geopolitical turn and reentry into the Africa Union
  • for all his misgivings about Western modernity, he thought Morocco as an African country would be better off attaching itself to the West. This is now the position of a significant segment of Morocco’s ruling elite.
  • That the regime celebrates Berber folklore and the oeuvre of a novelist who wanted an “independent Berber republic” even as it imprisons Berber activists across the country is evidence for many of the regime’s fraudulence and bad faith. In this respect, Bowles’s continuing eminence suggests how little has changed in the kingdom since the colonial era, with an authoritarian regime and repressive social order remaining largely intact.
  • As for Bowles’s work, I had come to realize that it reflected poorly on Morocco and America. Yes, he had brought attention to the suppression of Berber history and made invaluable musical recordings, but decolonization was supposed to dismantle colonial representations, and instead, the Moroccan regime was validating and institutionalizing Bowles’s depictions of Morocco
  • today, a new generation of Moroccan writers—among them secularists, Berber activists, music critics, and pan-Africanists—are claiming Bowles as an ally. And that is why I found myself writing about Bowles once more.
Ed Webb

Our Oligarch - 0 views

  • Abramovich is perhaps the most visible of the “oligarchs” surrounding Putin, who are widely perceived as extensions of the Russian president and keepers of a vast fortune that is effectively under the Kremlin’s control. Much of this wealth was extracted from Russia’s enormous energy and mineral resources, and is now stashed in secret bank accounts in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, in empty mansions and condos from London to Manhattan to Miami, and in yachts and private jets on the French Riviera.
  • as much as 60% of Russia’s GDP is offshore
  • The reserved, gray-bearded Abramovich is notoriously litigious toward critics who seek to detail his close ties to Putin. Last year, he successfully sued the British journalist Catherine Belton, who claimed in her 2020 book Putin’s People that the Russian president dictated Abramovich’s major purchases, including his decision to buy Chelsea. He also extracted an apology from a British newspaper for calling him a “bag carrier” for the Russian president.
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  • Abramovich—who, like many of the most prominent Russian oligarchs, is Jewish—has for years been a prolific donor to Jewish philanthropies. He has given half a billion dollars to Jewish charities over the past two decades, sending money linked to Putin’s kleptocratic regime circulating through Jewish institutions worldwide
  • Among other things, he has profoundly influenced Jewish life on three continents, developing deep financial ties with major communal institutions. He is partly responsible for the preeminent role played by Chabad in the religious life of post-Soviet Russia, for the growth of major Jewish museums from Russia to Israel, for a raft of anti-antisemitism programming involving leading American and British Jewish organizations, and for the expansion of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem
  • the Jewish world is forced to reckon with its long embrace of Abramovich, and with the moral costs of accepting his money
  • Certain Soviet Jews of Abramovich’s generation found themselves at the forefront of an emerging market economy. Concentrated in white collar professions but systematically excluded from desirable posts and from the top ranks of the Communist Party, they were unusually prepared—and, perhaps, motivated—to find legal and semi-legal points of entry into the tightly-regulated commerce between the Soviet Union and the West. This helps explain why, as the historian Yuri Slezkine writes in The Jewish Century, six of the seven top oligarchs of 1990s Russia (Petr Aven, Boris Berezovsky, Mikhail Fridman, Vladimir Gusinsky, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and Alexander Smolensky) were ethnic Jews.
  • Boris Yeltsin soon initiated the firesale privatization of state-controlled industries at the urging of Washington and the IMF—a reckless transition from a command economy to a capitalist one that drove millions of Russians into poverty
  • the Yeltsin administration implemented its infamous loans-for-shares program, selling off key state industries in rigged auctions to Russia’s new business elite for a fraction of their real value in order to stabilize the state’s finances in the short term. Berezovsky and Abramovich gained ownership stakes in Sibneft, one of the world’s largest energy companies, and became instant billionaires.
  • In 1996, the handful of leading oligarchs pooled their financial resources—and directed their media companies’ coverage—to reelect the deeply unpopular Yeltsin over his Communist challenger, Gennady Zyuganov, whose platform of re-nationalizing industries terrified both the Russian and Western business classes
  • Fearing that it was unsustainable for a small group of mostly Jewish billionaires to prop up an ailing, visibly alcoholic president—especially after the ruble collapsed in 1998, dragging down a generation’s living standards and initiating a hunt for scapegoats—Berezovsky spearheaded an effort the following year to replace Yeltsin with a young, healthy, disciplined, and then-obscure former KGB officer named Vladimir Putin. It was a decision he would come to regret.
  • wealth so easily acquired could just as easily be taken away. In 2001, Putin hounded Berezovsky and Gusinsky—whose TV networks had criticized the president’s mishandling of a naval disaster—with criminal indictments for tax fraud, forcing them to sell their media and energy holdings at a fraction of their true cost. As a result, Abramovich, who had never challenged Putin, acquired control of Sibneft, while Berezovsky fled to the United Kingdom and Gusinsky departed for Spain and then Israel. Abramovich again came out ahead in 2003, when the oligarch Khodorkovsky was sent to a Siberian prison on tax charges after criticizing Putin for corruption, leaving his assets in the energy sector to be redistributed among those on good terms with the president.
  • “I don’t think there is a percent of independence in Abramovich,” said Roman Borisovich, a Luxembourg-based Russian banker turned anti-corruption activist who once encountered Abramovich through Berezovsky in the 1990s. “For Abramovich to stay alive, he had to turn against his master [Berezovsky], which is what he did, and he has served Putin handsomely ever since.”
  • Whereas in the Yeltsin era, the term identified a system dominated by truly independent tycoons, “Putin’s top priority when he came to power was to break that system, replacing it with a system of concentrated power in which men who are inaccurately referred to as oligarchs now have only as much access to wealth as Putin allows them to have,”
  • Even as he built up his credibility with Putin, he joined many of his fellow oligarchs in stashing his billions in Western financial institutions, which proved eager to assist. “Elites in the post-Soviet space are constantly looking to move their assets and wealth into rule-of-law jurisdictions, which generally means Western countries like the US or UK,”
  • In 2008, Berezovsky sued his former protege over his confiscated Sibneft shares; then, in 2012, seven months after a judge rejected all of his claims, Berezovsky died in his London home in an apparent suicide. Some former associates believe he might have been murdered
  • In 2017, BuzzFeed reported that US spy agencies suspect Russian involvement in as many as 14 mysterious deaths in Britain over the previous decade, including Berezovsky’s. In the wake of the 2018 poisoning of the defected double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, British intelligence services became increasingly wary of wealthy expats with close ties to the Kremlin. Diplomatic strain stymied Abramovich’s effort to acquire a Tier 1 British visa, which would have enabled him to stay in the country for 40 months.
  • “No one forced the British or American real estate industries to toss their doors open to as much illicit wealth as they could find, or the state of Delaware to craft the world’s greatest anonymous shell company services,” said Michel. “Western policymakers crafted all of the policies that these oligarchs are now taking advantage of.”
  • Abramovich also safeguarded a significant part of his fortune in the US, especially during his third marriage to the Russian American socialite and fashion designer Dasha Zhukova. Even after their 2018 divorce, Abramovich began the process of converting three adjacent townhouses on Manhattan’s Upper East Side into what will eventually become the largest home in the city, an “urban castle” valued at $180 million—making him one of the many wealthy Russians sheltering assets in New York’s booming and conveniently opaque real estate sector. (The mansion is intended for Zhukova and their two young children; Abramovich also has five children from his second marriage based primarily in the UK.) He also owns at least two homes in Aspen, Colorado, a gathering place of the global elite.
  • the oligarchs are now credibly threatened with exile from the West. Countries like France and Germany have already begun confiscating yachts owned by select Russian officials. And although the UK is still struggling to come up with a legal basis for following suit, leading politicians like Labour Leader Keir Starmer are urging direct sanctions against Abramovich. “Abramovich’s reputation has finally collapsed, along with the other supposedly apolitical oligarchs,” Michel said four days after Russia invaded Ukraine. “There’s no recovery from this. This is a titanic shift in terms of how these oligarchs can operate.”
  • Israel has been more hesitant to hold him to account.
  • In 2018, Abramovich acquired Israeli citizenship through the law of return, immediately becoming the second-wealthiest Israeli, behind Miriam Adelson. As a new Israeli citizen, he joined several dozen Russian Jewish oligarchs who have sought citizenship or residency in the Jewish state—a group that includes Fridman, Gusinsky, and the late Berezovsky. Since 2015, Abramovich has owned and sometimes lived in the 19th-century Varsano hotel in Tel Aviv’s trendy Neve Tzedek neighborhood, and in 2020 he purchased a mansion in Herzliya for $65 million—the most expensive real estate deal in the country’s history
  • As an Israeli passport holder, Abramovich is eligible to visit the UK for six months at a time and is exempt from paying taxes in Israel on his overseas income for the first decade of his residency
  • Given his increasingly precarious geopolitical position, Jewishness has become Abramovich’s identity of last resort—and Jewish philanthropic giving has provided him with an air of legitimacy not only in Israel but throughout the Jewish world. Abramovich and his fellow oligarchs “need to spend some money to launder their reputations,” said Borisovich, the anti-corruption activist. “They cannot be seen as Putin’s agents of influence; they need to be seen as independent businessmen. So if they can exploit Jewish philanthropy or give money to Oxford or the Tate Gallery, that’s the cost of doing business.”
  • A 2017 article in Politico, which identified Abramovich and Leviev as “Chabad’s biggest patrons worldwide,” also referred to Lazar as “Putin’s rabbi.” Lazar has often run interference for the Russian president—for instance, by defending his initial crackdown on oligarchs like Gusinsky as not motivated by antisemitism, or by praising Russia as safe for Jews under his governance. (The researcher noted that Putin has also cultivated prominent loyalists in other Russian religious communities, including the Orthodox Church and Islam.)
  • Abramovich also significantly funded the construction of the $50 million Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, which opened in 2012 (and to which Putin pledged to donate a month of his presidential salary). In a 2016 article in The Forward, the scholar Olga Gershenson suggested that the museum’s narrative bordered on propaganda, framing Jews as “a model Russian minority” and “glorifying and mourning . . . without raising more controversial and relevant questions that would require the viewer to come to terms with a nation’s difficult past.”
  • “It concentrates on the Soviet victory over the Nazis, and then it ends by saying that Jews in Putin’s Russia are all good and content.”
  • “Say No to Antisemitism” has brought together Chelsea players and management with many top Jewish groups; the currents heads of the ADL, the WJC, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and the Holocaust Educational Trust, among others, are all listed on its steering committee. The campaign is at least in part intended to address the antisemitism of some Chelsea fans, who have been known to shout “Yid!” and hiss in imitation of gas chambers when taunting fans of the rival club Tottenham, which has a historically Jewish fan base that proudly refers to itself as “the Yid Army.” Last November, Israeli President Isaac Herzog described the campaign as “a shining example of how sports can be a force for good and tolerance.”
  • Abramovich is also one of the primary benefactors of a Holocaust museum that opened in Porto last May. As of last year, Abramovich is a newly minted citizen of Portugal (and by extension, the European Union), which offers such recognition to anyone who can prove Sephardic ancestry dating back before the Portuguese expulsion of Jews in 1496.
  • Berel Rosenberg, a representative of the museum, denied that Abramovich had given the Porto Jewish community any money besides a €250 fee for Sephardic certification; regarding reports to the contrary, he alleged that “lies were published by antisemites and corrupt journalists.” However, Porto’s Jewish community does acknowledge that Abramovich has donated money to projects honoring the legacy of Portuguese Sephardic Jews in Hamburg, and he has been identified as an honorary member of Chabad Portugal and B’nai B’rith International Portugal due to his philanthropic activities in the country.
  • Abramovich has made a $30 million donation for a nanotechnology research center at Tel Aviv University; funded a football-focused “leadership training program” for Arab and Jewish children; and supported KKL-JNF’s tree-planting campaign in the southern Negev, which is dedicated to Lithuanian victims of the Holocaust—and which has drawn opposition from local Bedouin communities who view it as a land grab.
  • he has kept his support for Israeli settlements well-hidden
  • Abramovich has used front companies registered in the British Virgin Islands to donate more than $100 million to a right-wing Israeli organization called the Ir David Foundation, commonly known as Elad, which has worked since the 1980s to move Jewish settlers into occupied East Jerusalem. Elad also controls an archeological park and major tourist site called City of David, which it has leveraged in its efforts to “Judaize” the area, including by seizing Palestinian homes in the surrounding neighborhood of Silwan and digging under some to make them uninhabitable.
  • “In order for settlers to take over Palestinian homes, they need a lot of money,” said Hagit Ofran, co-director of the Settlement Watch project at the Israeli organization Peace Now, “both to take advantage of poor Palestinians for the actual purchases, and then for the long and expensive legal struggle that follows, and that can bankrupt Palestinian families. The money is crucial.” Of Abramovich’s support for Elad, she added, “That’s a lot from one source; I assume that if you give such a big donation, you know what it is for.”
  • Just two days before Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine, it was reported that Abramovich is donating tens of millions of dollars to Yad Vashem, the global Holocaust remembrance center in Jerusalem
  • Yad Vashem chairman Dani Dayan joined the heads of multiple Israeli charitable organizations in urging the US not to sanction Abramovich. The letter was also signed by Chief Rabbi of Israel David Lau and representatives of Sheba Medical Center, Tel Aviv University, and Elad
  • Oleg Deripaska and Mikhail Fridman, were already calling for peace negotiations just three days after the invasion. (Fridman and Deripaska are also major Jewish philanthropists, as are other Russian oligarchs including Petr Aven, Yuri Milner, and Viktor Vekselberg. All of them now face global scrutiny.)
  • Even before he announced he would be setting up a charity to help victims in Ukraine, members of Abramovich’s family were quick to distance themselves from the war: A contemporary art museum in Moscow co-founded by Abramovich and Zhukova has announced that it will halt all new exhibitions in protest of the war. Abramovich’s 27-year-old daughter Sofia, who lives in London, posted a message on her popular Instagram account that read, “The biggest and most successful lie of the Kremlin’s propaganda is that most Russians stand with Putin.”
  • Abramovich and others have spent more than two decades loyally serving and profiting off Putin’s corrupt and violent regime—one that has been accused of murdering and jailing journalists and political dissidents and of committing war crimes from Chechnya to Syria. And for much of that time, Jewish institutions worldwide have been more than happy to take money from Abramovich and his peers
  • longstanding philanthropic ties may affect the Jewish communal world’s willingness to hold Russia accountable for its violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty
  • “I think the view of much of Jewish philanthropic leadership, right and left, conservative and liberal, has been the bottom line: If the purposes for which the philanthropy is given are positive, humane, holy, and seen to strengthen both the Jewish community and the whole of society, then to sit and analyze whether the donor was exploitive or not, and whether this was kosher or not, would be hugely diverting, amazingly complicated, and divisive.”
  • Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, acknowledged the difficulty of making ethical calls about donors, but argued that the attempt is still necessary. “In philanthropy, nearly all money is tainted, either because it was acquired by exploiting workers, by harming the environment, by selling harmful products, or by taking advantage of systems that benefit the wealthy to the detriment of others. That said, we can’t throw up our hands and say that we can either take no money or all money; there have to be red lines,” she said.
  • Berman, the scholar of Jewish philanthropy, agrees. “It is tempting to say all money is fungible, so where it came from does not or cannot matter,” she said. “But no matter how much we might want to launder the money, wash it clean of its past and its connections to systems of power, the very act of doing so is an erasure, an act of historical revisionism. Even worse, it can actually participate in bolstering harmful systems of power, often by deterring institutions reliant on that money from holding a person or system to account.”
Ed Webb

The Post-WWI Migrations That Built Yugoslavia and Turkey Have Left a Painful Legacy - N... - 0 views

  • the religious, ethnic and linguistic diversity that characterized their territories in the Middle East and Eastern Europe no longer chimed with the new world order being organized around nation-states
  • Designing measures such as the Greek-Turkish population exchange of 1923, the League of Nations legitimized demographic engineering policies and made migration an intrinsic part of nation-building. With international encouragement, the states with Muslim minorities in the Balkans devised multipronged policies to push out the citizens they saw as undesirable. Turkey became the only destination for Balkan Muslims, even when they were not Turkish.
  • in 1938 Belgrade and Ankara concluded a little-known agreement to transfer 200,000 Yugoslav citizens to Turkey. The transfer did not materialize because of the start of World War II, but the migrations did eventually take place and continued into the 1950s. For both Yugoslavia and Turkey, new states created in the aftermath of World War I, migration was an important part of nation-building.
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  • took as its model another such deal between Turkey and Romania in 1936 as well as the better-known Greek-Turkish population exchange of 1923
  • Forced processes of homogenization are still part of the repertoire of nation-state building, and continue to shape our understanding of world order. Muslim presence in the southeastern periphery of Europe likewise continues to be viewed as problematic and even dangerous: As Piro Rexhepi observed in the book “White Enclosures,” their integration continues to be desirable for security but impossible racially.
  • Focus on religious identity allowed for a formal incorporation of these rather diverse populations into the Turkish national body. The asylum policy and the settlement laws defined migrants as Turks and those “affiliated with Turkish culture” to encompass all the Slav, Albanian and Greek Muslims, making Turkey­­ a safe haven for Muslim minorities fleeing oppressive regimes.
  • Dispossession, expulsions and massacres of diverse Muslim populations were already a grim reality of nation-building in southeastern Europe in the 19th century, when Greece, Montenegro, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria were carved out of Ottoman provinces. In fact, the conquests of Ottoman Europe after 1699 normalized expulsion and compulsory conversion of local Muslims in the lost territories
  • During the Balkan Wars (1912-1913) Serbia, Montenegro, Greece and Bulgaria invaded the remaining Ottoman territories in Europe. Within several months, an estimated 1 million Muslims vanished, murdered and expelled from the regions taken over by these states. The shocking magnitude of the violence, which continued into World War I, made many Muslims wary of their future in the new nation-states and incited migration to the Ottoman Empire, itself in the midst of conflict.
  • 19th-century definitions of South Slavic brotherhood envisioned Slav Muslims as potentially assimilable, distinguishing between “the Turks” as the non-Slavic Ottomans and “our Turks,” that is, Slav Muslims
  • so-called reform also included the vast properties of the Islamic pious endowments. Schools, mosques and Sufi lodges lost the land and incomes that were used to operate educational, religious and community services. Some land appropriations were symbolic: The 15th-century Burmali Mosque that visually defined Skopje’s main thoroughfare was simply torn down
  • In the 1920s, Catholic missionaries working in neighboring Kosovo, a former Ottoman province inhabited by Albanian Muslim and Christian populations and similarly incorporated into Southern Serbia, sent reports of massacres, assassinations, imprisonment and forced labor in a memorandum to the League of Nations, receiving no response.
  • Ivo Andric, an admired novelist and Yugoslav Nobel laureate, was also one of the highest-ranking Yugoslav diplomats in the interwar period. Eager to finalize the population transfer agreement with Turkey, he advised the government in Belgrade that Turkey was not only interested in the small group of ethnic Turks in Yugoslavia but also populations akin to Turks in their “mentality.” Repeating a constant theme in almost all of Andric’s novels, Muslims were described in his diplomatic correspondence as alien to the Balkans. For Andric, they were “Turks leftover in the territories of our Kingdom.”
  • over 2,000 Bosnians were settled along with Greek Muslims in the town of Izmir.
  • Turkish officials, faced with the constant influx of migrants, pursued agreements with the Balkan states that would offset the costs of migrant settlement. The 1934 Balkan Pact included minority clauses that allowed Turkish citizens to sell their properties in their former homelands. Turkish administrators also considered requesting an estimated payment from the Balkan nation-states to match the value of the properties that Balkan Muslims were forced to leave behind.
  • The Turkish Republic saw population growth as beneficial for economic development and national defense in the long term, as it worked to populate its eastern and western borderlands. Moreover, many of Turkey’s early administrators, as migrants and children of migrants themselves, understood these new waves of migration from a personal perspective.
  • Laws barred those speaking languages other than Turkish from settling in groups and limited the “foreign” presence to no more than 10% of a municipality, though the realities of the period frequently made these laws impossible to execute. The locals took on much of the burden of helping newcomers, begrudgingly sharing public resources. At the same time, the immigrants provided necessary manpower and introduced new methods in agriculture and certain industries. While Balkan languages largely disappeared with the following generation, enduring legacies, such as Balkan cuisine and music evoking the most personal memories of exile, acquired a place in the Turkish national heritage.
  • Today, no official recognition of the violent policies of “unmixing” exists, and barely anyone has heard of Yugoslavia’s attempted population transfer of 1939.
  • the international community’s preferred solutions to “ethnic conflicts” in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo remain equally tied to principles of nationalist homogenization and demarcation. A century after the foundation of modern Turkey and the first Yugoslavia, the legacies of that era’s mass migration and state violence persist.
Ed Webb

When is a nation not a nation? Somaliland's dream of independence | News | The Guardian - 0 views

  • in Somaliland, there is never any question that you are in a real country. After all, the place has all the trappings of countryhood. When I arrived at the airport, a customs officer in a Somaliland uniform checked my Somaliland visa, issued by the Somaliland consulate in Washington DC. At the airport, there was a Somaliland flag. During my visit, I paid Somaliland shillings to drivers of cabs with Somaliland plates who took me to the offices of ministers of the Somaliland government
  • according to the US Department of State, the United Nations, the African Union and every other government on Earth, I was not in Somaliland, a poor but stable and mostly functional country on the Horn of Africa. I was in Somalia
  • Unlike South Sudan before its independence, Somaliland’s claim for statehood is based not on a redrawing of colonial borders, but an attempt to re-establish them. Unlike Taiwan, it is shackled not to a richer, more powerful country, but a poorer, weaker one. Unlike Palestine, its quest for independence is not a popular cause for activists around the world
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  • What separates “real” from “self-proclaimed” countries is simply the recognition of other countries. There’s no ultimate legal authority in international relations that decides what is or isn’t a real country, and differences of opinion on that question are common. What separates the Somalilands of the world from, say, Sweden is that Sweden is recognised by its peers
  • what would happen if you created a new country and no one noticed?
  • Try to book a hotel in Somaliland online from the US and you are likely to be referred to a travel advisory stating: “The US Department of State warns US citizens to avoid travel to Somalia because of continuous threats by the al-Qaida affiliated terrorist group, al-Shabaab.” But once you’re there, you quickly realise that such warnings are unnecessary. Hargeisa is one of the safest large cities in Africa, and, aside from the pollution and the traffic, there’s not too much to be concerned about when you’re walking around, although foreigners travelling outside the capital have been required to hire an armed guard since the killing of four foreign aid workers by bandits in 2004
  • Adan was Somalia’s first qualified nurse-midwife, and the first Somali woman to drive. She spent years as a UN and WHO official before returning to Somaliland to build the hospital with her own savings; for all its limitations on personnel and equipment, it is one of the premier facilities in the Horn of Africa. She’s been called the Muslim Mother Teresa for her work in promoting women’s health and campaigning against female genital mutilation. She also served for several years as Somaliland’s foreign minister, continuing to deliver babies while on the job.
  • It shouldn’t be surprising that today the territory where the colonising power had more ambitious state-building goals is the more unstable. There is evidence from studies of regions of India and other parts of Africa to support the notion that postcolonial countries where colonisers had a lighter touch turned out better in the long term.
  • On 26 June 1960, the former Protectorate of Somaliland became fully independent from British rule, its independence recognised by 35 countries around the world, including the US. The next day, its new legislature passed a law approving a union with the south. On 1 July, Somalia became independent from Italy, and the two were joined together. It is a decision Somaliland has regretted almost ever since.
  • During the 1980s, with support for Barre and his harsh military regime eroding, a primarily Isaaq northern rebel group known (somewhat misleadingly), as the Somali National Movement (SNM) emerged to challenge rule from Mogadishu. The crackdowns that followed simply added to the perception that the north was a region under occupation. This culminated in an all-out civil war between the SNM and the central government in the late 80s, during which thousands were killed and millions fled.
  • “It’s the elders who really made this peace,”
  • Whereas Somaliland had been considered a backwater by the British, and therefore left mostly to govern itself through the existing clan structure, Italy considered Somalia an integral part of its short-lived ambitions to build a north African empire that also included modern-day Libya and parts of Egypt.
  • Non-recognition by western powers is having an impact on the status of women as well, Adan argued, saying that western countries’ lack of engagement was opening the door to the influence of fundamentalists from the Gulf. She pointed to an old photo of herself as first lady in a chic cocktail dress: “You see my pictures! We never used to cover ourselves from head to toe,” she said. “We had necks, we had hair, we were people. Others are getting into Somaliland faster than the west. And if that keeps on like this, heaven help us.”
  • Its main industry is livestock export, which accounts for about 70% of jobs. Its main customers are in the Middle East, and business picks up during the annual hajj in Mecca. With few opportunities at home, it’s not surprising that an estimated 44% of unemployed youth have stated their intention to migrate.
  • A large number of people are also dependent on $500m per year in remittances from the roughly million-strong Somaliland diaspora living for the most part in Britain, the US, Scandinavia and elsewhere in Africa. This isn’t unusual for developing countries, but officials are understandably worried that this flow of cash from abroad is a finite resource
  • The twin hopes for the Somali economy are oil exploration – currently being carried out by a handful of hardier energy firms off the coast – and a plan by Dubai Ports World to develop the Red Sea port of Berbera, which could conceivably be an alternative means of bringing goods by sea into landlocked Ethiopia. But it’s hard to imagine that plan taking off without a serious improvement in roads and infrastructure, and that probably requires international investment
  • Although it’s true that Somaliland voluntarily erased the border with Somalia in 1960, Somalilanders don’t consider that decision irreversible. As Somalilanders often point out, theirs wouldn’t be the first country to back out of a postcolonial merger. Senegal and the Gambia, a narrow strip of a country located completely within Senegal’s territory, were joined together as the confederation of Senegambia from 1982 to 1989. Egypt and Syria were briefly joined together as the United Arab Republic from 1958 until 1961, when Syria seceded. If these countries couldn’t make their marriages work, why, Somalilanders ask, should Somaliland be stuck in a loveless alliance?
  • For Somaliland, the frustrating reality is that the world map is preserved in place less by international law or even custom than by what’s sometimes called “path dependence” – the thousands of small decisions that, over time, lead to the creation of institutions, and that are very hard to unmake without massive disruption. Countries tend to stay the way they are, and people, with some justification, believe it would be awfully difficult and dangerous to change them.
  • We are treated as de facto independent – it is only the de jure recognition of sovereignty [we lack]
  • International organisations such as the African Union and the Arab League are hostile to the idea of recognising further territorial divisions. Countries wary of their own separatist movements don’t want to establish any sort of precedent. The UN, which has invested enormous resources in promoting stability and unity in Somalia as a whole, views Somaliland as a hindrance to those goals rather than any sort of beacon of stability. Somaliland’s neighbour Ethiopia mostly supports it, but given Addis Ababa’s wariness about its own Somali separatists, it likely prefers the status quo – a weak and divided Somalia – rather than a strong independent Somali state on its borders. The two most recent instances of country creation in Africa – autocratic, impoverished Eritrea and anarchic, violent South Sudan – have not bolstered Somaliland’s argument that its recognition would be a boon to regional and global stability.
  • the US NGO Freedom House classified it as an “emerging democracy”, and it is the only country in its region considered at least “partly free” or higher on the group’s annual rankings
  • “Being a peaceful, democratic and developing state isn’t helping Somaliland gain international recognition,” said Hagi. “Somaliland is very quiet. It’s a peaceful place. The international community doesn’t really care about a peaceful place. When there is a problem in a country, the international community is always there – Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Libya. When there’s no problem there, there’s no point in coming to build a state.”
  • The world will continue to defend an abstract principle of territorial integrity in the face of the clear will of the people of Somaliland.
  • Looking at the decades of support given by the US to dictators such as Mobutu Sese Seko, or considering the destabilising role of western oil companies in countries such as Nigeria, there’s a case to be made that if that’s what engagement with the outside world means for fragile African states, maybe Somaliland has been better off without it.
Ed Webb

Jadaliyya - 0 views

  • in exchange for a slew of Palestinian strategic concessions, Israel magnanimously agreed to negotiate the PLO’s terms of surrender.
  • The Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements, as the Oslo Accord is formally called, is only a few pages long and largely free of technical jargon, and well worth reading for those who haven’t done so. It contains not a single reference to “occupation”, “self-determination”, “statehood”, or anything of the sort. Rather, Palestinians were to exercise limited autonomy, within limited areas of the occupied territories (excluding East Jerusalem), from which Israeli forces would “redeploy” rather than withdraw
  • the issues that had the greatest impact were the effective abandonment of the refugees, who constitute the majority of the Palestinian people, by the leadership; the political-institutional fragmentation of the Palestinian people; the indefinite suspension of the national agenda in exchange for economic reconstruction that was unlikely to materialize (as it stands the Palestinian economy is today but a shadow of what it was in 1993); and the transformation of the national movement into a local authority
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  • Things have turned out very much worse than Oslo’s bitterest critics could have imagined, particularly in the Gaza Strip and Jordan Valley
  • The second enabling policy was Israel’s relentless campaign of mass violence throughout the occupied territories, and the Gaza Strip in particular, to crush the 1987-1993 uprising. It didn’t succeed, but as Graham Usher perceptively noted at the time, it did lay the basis for widespread Palestinian acquiescence, and quite a bit of enthusiasm, in these territories for the false promises of Oslo. 
  • Colonization of course commenced immediately after Israel occupied and initiated the “creeping annexation” of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in June 1967, but Oslo was nevertheless a critical turning point. Although the settlement enterprise constitutes a grave breach of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention and a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (which is the primary reason Israel refused to ratify it), the Oslo Accords as a matter of design make no reference to international law. Further, the sponsor of the Oslo process, the United States, has spared no effort to ensure that international law is not applied to Israeli conduct towards the Palestinians beyond the confines of Oslo, that it is not held accountable for its actions, and that it can continue to act with unrestricted impunity. In other words, the United States ensured that Oslo was implemented beyond the purview of the norms and rules established to govern international conduct. 
  • Israel’s response to the 1994 Hebron Ibrahimi Mosque massacre by a fanatic Israeli-American settler, which it instrumentalized to further entrench its control over Hebron and the mosque rather than confront the settlers, provided an early, definitive indication in this regard. It bears recalling that this response was led by Rabin, his fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shimon Peres, and their military commander Ehud Barak, not Binyamin Netanyahu or Itamar Ben-Gvir.
  • Every time Israel engaged in a new act of colonization, such as the construction of the Har Homa settlement on Jabal Abu Ghnaim in 1997, it was tolerated on the pretext of keeping the process alive
  • If, for the sake of argument, we take claims that Oslo was supposed to conclude with Palestinian statehood seriously, ignoring reality on the ground on the pretext of preserving the diplomatic process helped ensure its failure.
  • A second key Israeli policy enabled by Oslo is Palestinian fragmentation
  • Israel succeeded in making Oslo’s transitional phase a permanent arrangement, in the process transforming the Palestinian Authority (PA) into a local subsidiary of the Israeli state
  • if a Palestinian from the West Bank or Gaza Strip seeks to pursue a claim against Israel for an act committed between 1967 and 1995, let’s say against the Israeli military for unlawful use of force in 1976 or during the 1987-1993 uprising that rendered the claimant quadriplegic, the PA is under an obligation to ensure that the claimant brings the case before a Palestinian rather than Israeli court, and that any financial judgement by that court in the claimant’s favor is paid out by the PA rather than Israel. If the claimant despite the above brings the case before an Israeli court, and an Israeli judge rules in the claimant’s favor, on account of unlawful actions by the Israeli military years before the PA even existed, the PA is required to immediately reimburse Israel the full amount of compensation awarded to the Palestinian by the Israeli court. Article XX perfectly encapsulates the thoroughly lopsided nature of Oslo, the imbalance of power it codified, Israel’s insistence upon achieving retroactive impunity, and its determination to hold its victims responsible for its crimes against them. In my view nothing better demonstrates that this is a conflict between occupier and occupied and nothing else.
  • the enormous economic windfall Israel derived from the Oslo Accords and its integration into the global economy. Most importantly it led the Arab League to renounce its boycott of Israel and – crucially – of companies that do business with Israel. For all its shortcomings this boycott was exponentially more effective than the current Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and for example kept major Japanese and South Korean firms out of Israel and quite a few Western ones out of the Arab world. It is often forgotten that during the 1970s and 1980s Israel was something of an international pariah, but in the wake of the 1991 Madrid Middle East diplomatic conference and thereafter Oslo was able to normalize relations with much of Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia
  • While Oslo promised Palestinian economic development in exchange for political paralysis, growth materialized only temporarily from the desultory baseline where it stood in 1993 at the conclusion of a prolonged uprising. A sharp reversal in fact commenced in the years leading up to the 2000 eruption of the Al-Aqsa Intifada on account of Israeli policy, and this deterioration has continued at an accelerated pace ever since. What Oslo did achieve was to catapult Israel into the ranks of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), of which it has since 2010 been a full member. It is virtually inconceivable Israel would have acquired this status without Oslo.
  • Palestinians, whether within the West Bank and Gaza Strip, within Israel, in its prison system, or in the diaspora, have been organizing and resisting in myriad ways. Most importantly, they have despite massive and systematic state violence and repression, and betrayal by their own leaders and Arab governments, refused to surrender – putting into practice “the power of refusal” advocated by Said. In doing so the Palestinians have retained the overwhelming support of the international community, and even in the West public opinion increasingly recognizes that Israel is a structurally racist, colonial state
  • when the succession commences Israel is likely to promote a model where different Palestinian population concentrations – Hebron-Bethlehem, Ramallah, Jericho, Nablus-Salfit-Jenin, Qalqilya-Tulkarm – are administered by a series of local chieftains
  • even this model, a regional version of the failed Village Leagues of the 1980s, may prove unpalatable to the lunatics currently running the Israeli asylum. These are forces agitating for wholesale, formal annexation and then some, and which thanks to the inexorable rightward shift of Israeli society, and international and regional support and acquiescence (not unrelated phenomena) are only gaining in strength and power.
Ed Webb

Crossing the river: Black Mauritanians haunted by mass expulsion to Senegal | Middle Ea... - 0 views

  • Thirty years ago Mariame, along with tens of thousands of Black Mauritanians, was violently expelled in what survivors have called a “genocide”. More than 14,000 people now live in a series of dusty refugee camps near the Senegal river that separates the two countries, a matter of kilometres away from their former homes. A similar number live in Mali.
  • after independence, Mauritania embarked on aggressive “Arabisation” policies, securing the racial supremacy of a tiny Arab-Berber elite at the expense of the much larger black population, many of whom it expelled en masse in 1989
  • Ethnic Fulani people, as most here are, have ancient ties to both sides of the river, which throughout the ages has connected, but at other times acted as a barrier between, the riverine communities that live upon its banks.
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  • Fearing the return home, they are now struggling to keep their identity alive, refusing to take on Senegalese citizenship and melt into society, because they see themselves as indigenous to Mauritania, a country which has tried to erase its black population.
  • Offering a respite from the harsh Sahara, the fertile river valley had historically been a meeting point between Arabs, Berbers and Black Africans. Gilded African kingdoms like Takrur and Walo, straddling both banks, sealed its reputation as the “river of gold” described by medieval Arab geographers, its glittering lure proving irresistible to European explorers, traders, and later slave traders. Arab-Berbers, also known as beydanes  - literally "white men" -  were the descendants of local ethnic Berbers conquered by a succession of Arab tribes arriving on camel back from the Arabian peninsula. One of those tribes, the Bani Hassan, gives its name to their language: Hassaniya Arabic.
  • Relations between the riverine communities were mixed. Arab-Berber raiders were known to sweep down from the right bank across the river, carrying back young women, men and children into the desert as slaves. This legacy of slavery still haunts Mauritania to this day.
  • While French colonialism had the impact of opening the river up once again - allowing Arab Berber merchants and clerics to head south and for Black Africans to settle in the north - it also bred tensions.
  • While slavery was officially abolished in 1981, there are an estimated 90,000 enslaved Haratin.
  • A gradual purge of Black Mauritanians from official posts had started at independence but it gathered pace during the 1980s under the rule of military ruler Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taye, a Pan-Arab nationalist who had strong ties to Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Rising at the same time was the African Liberation Forces of Mauritania (FLAM), a black militant organisation, which in 1986 published the Manifesto of the Black Mauritanian, vowing to destroy the country’s “apartheid” system.
  • The execution of three Fulani army officers following an abortive coup the following year gave authorities the justification needed to present Black Africans in general, and Fulanis in particular, as being enemies of the state.
  • Many Fulanis, whose Islamic heritage stretches back a millennium, were particularly resentful of the way Islam was equated with being Arab.
  • Mauritania was also now in the business of projecting an exclusively Arab image both at home and abroad, reflected on everything from banknotes to stamps to holiday brochures. It joined the Arab League in 1973. But this masked an uncomfortable demographic reality: Arab-Berbers were a minority. They make up 30 percent of the population today, as do Black Africans.
  • The balance is made up by Haratins, the poor descendants of Black African slaves once owned by the Arab-Berber population. They sit at the foot of the steep socio-economic pyramid despite their number. Black-skinned, but also Arabic-speaking, integrated into the Arab-Berber tribal system while at the same time bearing the brunt of racial discrimination, they occupy a precarious position, caught between the hold of their erstwhile masters and the potential of black solidarity.
  • Mauritania therefore faced an identity crisis by the time of its independence in 1960. Black Africans saw the country’s future as lying in a pluralistic state of Arab-Black unity merged together with neighbouring Black francophone nations Mali and Senegal. But many Arab-Berbers supported a union with Morocco, wanting to exclusively emphasise the country’s Arab character. The country became independent in November 1960 under president Moktar Ould Daddah, an Arab-Berber, who quickly instituted one-party rule and made Arabic the country’s official language.
  • After a catastrophic drought through the 1970s and a costly war in the Western Sahara which ended with a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Polisario Front in 1979, the Mauritanian government took a keen interest in exploiting the Senegal river valley. With 90 percent of the country already desert, the riverine farmland was by then seen as an especially precious commodity. Who owned the farms controlled the food supply.
  • The land grabs only added to a sense of impending doom among the country’s Black population. The Manifesto of the Black Mauritanian observed in 1986: “They aim to break all ties between the inhabitants of the two shores inhabited by the same families, Wolofs in the Lower Valley, Fulani-speakers and Soninke in the Middle Valley, Soninke in Upper Senegal.”
  • An “air bridge” was agreed between the two neighbours, repatriating each other's citizens. Instead of just repatriating Senegalese nationals as agreed, Mauritanian authorities used the opportunity to systematically expel its Black African population. Underlying this move was the idea that Black Africans were not Mauritanian but actually Senegalese.
  • in April 1989, Diop left the country on a plane meant to be repatriating Senegalese back home. It was full of Black Mauritanian policemen like him
  • Mauritanian authorities drew up lists targeting the urban leadership and potential leadership of the black community. Intellectuals, civil servants, businessmen, professionals and students were put onto overcrowded trucks and driven down to the river where they were made to cross by boat.
  • Entire villages were burnt or destroyed by the army. In the four Mauritanian regions abutting the Senegal river 236 villages were either destroyed or abandoned.
  • According to Human Rights Watch, over 50,000 people had been displaced by the end of 1989, as much as eight percent of the country's Black African population, enough to drastically alter the racial politics of the country.
  • Between 1990-91 up to 600 black political prisoners were executed or tortured to death by government forces.
  • Repopulating the abandoned villages, seizing prized cattle and the possessions left by those fleeing the pogroms, were the Haratin, who had earned their share of the spoils by carrying out much of the state’s dirty work - the rape, the torture and the theft
  • The gains they made would go some way to sealing their political allegiance to their erstwhile Arab-Berber masters for years to come, while driving a painful wedge between Mauritania’s two black communities.
  • By the early 90s, a new order had taken shape along the river. Along Mauritania's increasingly militarised river border facing Senegal, Haratins now formed a first line of defence. Opposite, swelling the population of Senegal’s riverside towns, were tens of thousands of bewildered Mauritanian refugees, who only had to look a few hundred metres into the distance to see their homeland. Gone was the dynamic riverine community.
  • A constant source of anxiety has been a lack of job opportunities, owing in part to the limitations placed on refugees, affecting their ability to pay for healthcare and education.
  • many here dream of travelling to find work to support their families. But Senegal, which is responsible for issuing travel documents to the refugees, has yet to produce the machine readable travel documents which became required document for international refugee travel back in 2015
  • Senegalese authorities have pressed the community to accept its nationality. Abdoulaye Diop, and many here, reject this based on principle, as an infringement on their identity. “I am as Mauritanian as the president is, and Mauritania is the place where I know, where I was born and grew up,” Diop said.
  • But according to a survey conducted by the UNHCR last year, of the Mauritanian refugees, 67 percent said they would be willing to become Senegalese.
Ed Webb

Inside the Pro-Israel Information War - 0 views

  • a rare public glimpse of how Israel and its American allies harness Israel’s influential tech sector and tech diaspora to run cover for the Jewish state as it endures scrutiny over the humanitarian impact of its invasion of Gaza.
  • reveal the degree to which, in the tech-oriented hasbara world, the lines between government, the private sector, and the nonprofit world are blurry at best. And the tactics that these wealthy individuals, advocates, and groups use -- hounding Israel critics on social media; firing pro-Palestine employees and canceling speaking engagements; smearing Palestinian journalists; and attempting to ship military-grade equipment to the IDF -- are often heavy-handed and controversial.
  • The final group consists of those who are "reflexively pro-Israel, kind of ‘Israel, right or wrong.’" Members of this group "are not actually very knowledgeable," so they needed to be equipped with the right facts to make them "more effective in advocating for Israel,” Fisher said.
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  • Members of the hasbara-oriented tech world WhatsApp group have eagerly taken up the call to shape public opinion as part of a bid to win what’s been described as the “second battlefield” and “the information war.”
  • The group, which also includes individuals affiliated with the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), has tirelessly worked to fire employees and punish activists for expressing pro-Palestinian views. It has also engaged in a successful push to cancel events held by prominent Palestinian voices, including an Arizona State University talk featuring Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat who is the only Palestinian-American in Congress. The group has also circulated circulated a push poll suggesting Rep. Tlaib should resign from Congress and provided an automatic means of thanking Rep. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y., for voting for her censure.
  • J-Ventures has also veered into an unusual kind of philanthropy: shipments of military supplies. The group has attempted to provide tactical gear to Israel’s equivalent of the U.S. Navy SEALs, known as Shayetet-13, and donated to a foundation dedicated to supporting the IDF’s undercover “Duvdevan” unit, which is known for infiltrating Palestinian populations. Many of the shipments intended for the IDF were held up at U.S. airports over customs issues.
  • Israel would soon lose international support as its military response in Gaza kills more Palestinian civilians, noted Schwarzbad, who stressed the need to refocus attention on Israeli civilian deaths. “Try to use names and ages whenever you can,” she said. Don’t refer to statistics of the dead, use stories. “Say something like, 'Noah, age 26, was celebrating with her friends at a music festival on the holiest day of the week, Shabbat. Imagine if your daughter was at Coachella.’”
  • The Israel-based venture capitalist outlined three categories of people for whom outreach, rather than attacks, is the best strategy. The first group is what he dubbed “the impressionables,” who are "typically young people, they reflexively support the weak, oppose the oppressor," but "are not really knowledgeable." For this category of people, the goal is not to "convince them of anything," but to "show them that it's much more complicated than it seems." Seeding doubt, he said, would make certain audiences think twice before attending a protest. "So it's really about creating some kind of confusion,” Fisher continued, “but really, just to make it clear to them that it's really a lot more complicated."
  • Fisher repeatedly noted the need to offer accurate and nuanced information to rebut critics of Israel's actions. Yet at times, he offered his own misinformation, such as his claim that "anti-Israel" human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch "didn't condemn the October 7th massacre."
  • One participant even suggested that they appeal to the university’s “woke” aversion to exposing students to uncomfortable ideas.   The participant drafted a sample letter claiming that Tlaib’s appearance threatened ASU’s “commitment to a safe and inclusive environment.” The following day, ASU officially canceled the Tlaib event, citing “procedural issues.”
  • efforts to discredit HRW stem directly from its outspoken criticism of Israel’s record in the occupied territories and its military conduct. An HRW report released the same day as Fisher’s remarks cited the World Health Organization’s conclusion that the IDF had killed roughly one child in Gaza every 10 minutes since the outbreak of violence in October.
  • members of the J-Ventures group chat also internally circulated a petition for Netflix to remove the award-winning Jordanian film ‘Farha,’ claiming that its portrayal of the actions of IDF soldiers during the 1948 displacement of Palestinians constituted “blood libel,” while another said the film was based “antisemitism and lies.”
  • Last year, the Israeli government revoked funding for a theater in Jaffa for screening the film, while government figures called for other repercussions to Netflix for streaming it.
  • One member noted that despite the controversy over a scene in the film in which Israeli soldiers execute a Palestinian family, Israeli historians have documented that “such actions have indeed happened.” The critique was rejected by other members of the group, who said the film constituted “incitement” against Jews.
  • a variety of automated attempts to remove pro-Palestinian content on social media
  • Over the last two months, dozens of individuals have been fired for expressing opinions related to the war in Gaza and Israel. Most have been dismissed for expressing pro-Palestinian views, including a writer for PhillyVoice, the editor of ArtForum, an apprentice at German publishing giant Axel Springer, and Michael Eisen, the editor-in-chief of eLife, a prominent science journal. Eisen’s offense was a tweet sharing a satirical article from The Onion seen as sympathetic to the plight of Palestinians in Gaza.
  • The WhatsApp chats provide a rare look at the organizing efforts behind the broad push to fire critics of Israel and suppress public events featuring critics of the Israeli government. The scope is surprisingly broad, ranging from investigating the funding sources of student organizations such as Model Arab League, to monitoring an organizing toolkit of a Palestine Solidarity Working Group – “They are verrrry well organized”, one member exclaimed – to working directly with high-level tech executives to fire pro-Palestinian employees.
  • "President Biden seems incapable of using the one policy tool that may actually produce a change in Israel's actions that might limit civilian deaths, which would be to condition military aid that the United States provides to Israel,” Clifton added. He partially attributed the inability of the U.S. government to rein in Israel’s war actions to the “lobbying and advocacy efforts underway.”
  • Lior Netzer, a business consultant based in Massachusetts, and a member of the J-Ventures WhatsApp group, requested help pressuring the University of Vermont to cancel a lecture with Mohammed El-Kurd, a Palestinian writer for The Nation magazine. Netzer shared a sample script that alleged that El-Kurd had engaged in anti-Semitic speech in the past.The effort also appeared to be successful. Shortly after the letter-writing campaign, UVM canceled the talk, citing safety concerns.
  • The WhatsApp group maintained a special focus on elite universities and white-collar professional positions. Group members not only circulated multiple petitions to fire professors and blacklist students from working at major law firms for allegedly engaging in extremist rhetoric, but a J-Ventures spreadsheet lists specific task force teams to "get professors removed who teach falcehoods [sic] to their students." The list includes academics at Cornell University, the University of California, Davis, and NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus, among others.
  • Many of the messages in the group focused on ways in which to shape student life at Stanford University, including support for pro-Israel activists. The attempted interventions into campus life at times hinged on the absurd. Shortly after comedian Amy Schumer posted a now-deleted satirical cartoon lampooning pro-Palestinian protesters as supporters of rape and beheadings, Epstein, the operating partner at Bessemer Ventures Partners and member of the J-Ventures WhatsApp group, asked, “How can we get this political cartoon published in the Stanford Daily?"
  • The influence extended beyond the business and tech world and into politics. The J-Ventures team includes advocates with the most powerful pro-Israel lobbying organization, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, better known as AIPAC. Officials in the J-Ventures group include investor David Wagonfeld, whose biography states he is “leading AIPAC Silicon Valley;” Tartakovsky, listed as “AIPAC Political Chair;” Adam Milstein, a real estate executive and major AIPAC donor; and AIPAC-affiliated activists Drs. Kathy Fields and Garry Rayant. Kenneth Baer, a former White House advisor to President Barack Obama and communications counsel to the Anti-Defamation League, is also an active member of the group.
  • Other fundraising efforts from J-Ventures included an emergency fund to provide direct support for IDF units, including the naval commando unit Shayetet-13. The leaked planning document also uncovers attempts to supply the mostly female Caracal Battalion with grenade pouches and to donate M16 rifle scope mounts, “FN MAG” machine gun carrier vests, and drones to unnamed IDF units. According to the planning document, customs enforcement barriers have stranded many of the packages destined for the IDF in Montana and Colorado.
  • the morning after being reached for comment, Hermoni warned the WhatsApp group against cooperating with our inquiries. “Two journalists … are trying to have an anti semi[tic] portrait of our activity to support Israel and reaching out to members,” he wrote. “Please ignore them and do not cooperate.” he advised. Shortly thereafter, we were kicked out of the group
  • Victory on the “media battlefield,” Hoffman concluded, “eases pressure on IDF to go quicker, to wrap up” and “goes a long way to deciding how much time Israel has to complete an operation.”
Ed Webb

The myth of the 'lone wolf' terrorist | News | The Guardian - 0 views

  • The modern concept of lone-wolf terrorism was developed by rightwing extremists in the US. In 1983, at a time when far-right organisations were coming under immense pressure from the FBI, a white nationalist named Louis Beam published a manifesto that called for “leaderless resistance” to the US government. Beam, who was a member of both the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nations group, was not the first extremist to elaborate the strategy, but he is one of the best known. He told his followers that only a movement based on “very small or even one-man cells of resistance … could combat the most powerful government on earth”.
  • the New York Times published a long article on the new threat headlined “New Face of Terror Crimes: ‘Lone Wolf’ Weaned on Hate”. This seems to have been the moment when the idea of terrorist “lone wolves” began to migrate from rightwing extremist circles, and the law enforcement officials monitoring them, to the mainstream. In court on charges of hate crimes in 2000, Curtis was described by prosecutors as an advocate of lone-wolf terrorism.
  • Although 9/11 was far from a typical terrorist attack, it quickly came to dominate thinking about the threat from Islamic militants. Security services built up organograms of terrorist groups. Analysts focused on individual terrorists only insofar as they were connected to bigger entities. Personal relations – particularly friendships based on shared ambitions and battlefield experiences, as well as tribal or familial links – were mistaken for institutional ones, formally connecting individuals to organisations and placing them under a chain of command.
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  • For prosecutors, who were working with outdated legislation, proving membership of a terrorist group was often the only way to secure convictions of individuals planning violence. For a number of governments around the world – Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Egypt – linking attacks on their soil to “al-Qaida” became a way to shift attention away from their own brutality, corruption and incompetence, and to gain diplomatic or material benefits from Washington. For some officials in Washington, linking terrorist attacks to “state-sponsored” groups became a convenient way to justify policies, such as the continuing isolation of Iran, or military interventions such as the invasion of Iraq. For many analysts and policymakers, who were heavily influenced by the conventional wisdom on terrorism inherited from the cold war, thinking in terms of hierarchical groups and state sponsors was comfortably familiar.
  • the threat from Islamic militancy was evolving into something different, something closer to the “leaderless resistance” promoted by white supremacists two decades earlier
  • Having identified this new threat, security officials, journalists and policymakers needed a new vocabulary to describe it. The rise of the term lone wolf wasn’t wholly unprecedented. In the aftermath of 9/11, the US had passed anti-terror legislation that included a so-called “lone wolf provision”. This made it possible to pursue terrorists who were members of groups based abroad but who were acting alone in the US. Yet this provision conformed to the prevailing idea that all terrorists belonged to bigger groups and acted on orders from their superiors. The stereotype of the lone wolf terrorist that dominates today’s media landscape was not yet fully formed.
  • Before the rise of the lone wolf, security officials used phrases – all equally flawed – such as “homegrowns”, “cleanskins”, “freelancers” or simply “unaffiliated”.
  • Lone wolves are now apparently everywhere, stalking our streets, schools and airports. Yet, as with the tendency to attribute all terrorist attacks to al-Qaida a decade earlier, this is a dangerous simplification.
  • many of the attacks that have been confidently identified as lone-wolf operations have turned out to be nothing of the sort. Very often, terrorists who are initially labelled lone wolves, have active links to established groups such as Islamic State and al-Qaida
  • we may be more likely to find lone wolves among far-right extremists than among their jihadi counterparts
  • Very often, what appear to be the clearest lone-wolf cases are revealed to be more complex. Even the strange case of the man who killed 86 people with a truck in Nice in July 2016 – with his background of alcohol abuse, casual sex and lack of apparent interest in religion or radical ideologies – may not be a true lone wolf. Eight of his friends and associates have been arrested and police are investigating his potential links to a broader network.
  • murder of the Labour MP Jo Cox, days before the EU referendum, by a 52-year-old called Thomas Mair, was the culmination of a steady intensification of rightwing extremist violence in the UK that had been largely ignored by the media and policymakers. According to police, on several occasions attackers came close to causing more casualties in a single operation than jihadis had ever inflicted. The closest call came in 2013 when Pavlo Lapshyn, a Ukrainian PhD student in the UK, planted a bomb outside a mosque in Tipton, West Midlands. Fortunately, Lapshyn had got his timings wrong and the congregation had yet to gather when the device exploded. Embedded in the trunks of trees surrounding the building, police found some of the 100 nails Lapshyn had added to the bomb to make it more lethal.
  • Thomas Mair, who was also widely described as a lone wolf, does appear to have been an authentic loner, yet his involvement in rightwing extremism goes back decades. In May 1999, the National Alliance, a white-supremacist organisation in West Virginia, sent Mair manuals that explained how to construct bombs and assemble homemade pistols. Seventeen years later, when police raided his home after the murder, they found stacks of far-right literature, Nazi memorabilia and cuttings on Anders Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist who murdered 77 people in 2011.
  • Even Breivik himself, who has been called “the deadliest lone-wolf attacker in [Europe’s] history”, was not a true lone wolf. Prior to his arrest, Breivik had long been in contact with far-right organisations. A member of the English Defence League told the Telegraph that Breivik had been in regular contact with its members via Facebook, and had a “hypnotic” effect on them.
  • very few violent extremists act without letting others know what they may be planning
  • Any terrorist, however socially or physically isolated, is still part of a broader movement
  • the idea that terrorists operate alone allows us to break the link between an act of violence and its ideological hinterland. It implies that the responsibility for an individual’s violent extremism lies solely with the individual themselves
  • Terrorism is not something you do by yourself, it is highly social. People become interested in ideas, ideologies and activities, even appalling ones, because other people are interested in them
Ed Webb

Forgotten lessons: Palestine and the British empire | openDemocracy - 0 views

  • he acknowledged the elephant in the room of Anglo-Muslim relations:  Britain’s colonial record in the middle east and south Asia, and its legacies. As part of this rare confession of culpability, he noted ‘the failure – it has to be said not just ours - to establish two states in Palestine’.
  • Whilst Arabs and Jews played a fundamental role in the unfolding drama of mandate Palestine, the driving force was imperial Britain. The old myth that Britain was merely ‘holding the ring’ — trying to keep the peace between two irrational, warring parties — is a gross misunderstanding of history.
  • the direct outcome of Britain’s drafting, interpretation, and implementation of the league of nations mandate for Palestine
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  • a forthcoming book edited by Rory Miller, Palestine, Britain and Empire: The Mandate Years,
  • The chief concerns were to avoid further alienating the Palestinian Arabs, whilst also satisfying the imagined bogey of Jewish power. Into this policy vacuum stepped the Zionists. With their own plans for Palestine, they persuaded the government to go further than the vague Balfour Declaration. The text of the league of nations mandate for Palestine was based on Zionist proposals. The preamble stated Britain’s obligation to put the promise of the Declaration into effect. It also recognised the Jewish people’s historical connection with Palestine, and the ‘grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country’. The articles of the mandate went much further. As a legally binding document, it obliged Britain to secure, not facilitate, the establishment of the Jewish national home. To that end, the British administration was to cooperate with, and be advised by, the Zionist Organisation. In addition, the British had to facilitate Jewish immigration and settlement.
  • the British intention to stay in Palestine for as long as possible, so as to protect strategic interests in the middle east.
  • the Palestinian political elite favoured by the British were placed in an impossible position. They had to satisfy the British of their commitment to moderation and peace, and their willingness to play the game of liberal international politics. They could not push the British too hard for substantive changes to the status quo. If they did, they would have been considered dangerous extremists. But at the same time this elite had to assuage the Palestinian masses, who increasingly demanded an end to British support for Zionism. With the Empire’s continuing backing of Zionism in the 1920s and 1930s, much of the Palestinian elite focused on the liberal path of advocating constitutional change. The constitutional path failed, however, in March 1936, after a Legislative Council, which was to include significant Arab representation, was defeated by a pro-Zionist majority in the house of commons. The Palestinian population erupted, and the first intifada began.
  • The Palestinian national movement, which had tried to resist colonial rule, had been fatally wounded. And the Palestinian leadership was no longer viewed by the British as a viable partner.
  • The assumption that state-sponsored violence followed by agreements between political elites can make peace lives on to this day. It betrays the old assumptions of British colonialism — that a reputation for being firm must be maintained at all costs, that colonial state violence prevents future anti-colonial violence, and that peace can be achieved by elites re-drawing maps, and making constitutional agreements.
  • suffering cannot be undone by academic agreements crafted by politicians and officials. And it is precisely the experiences and expectations of regular people, be they Palestinian or Israeli, that will make or break peace in the long-term
Michael Fisher

The League of Nations and the Question of National Identity in the Fertile Crescent - 0 views

  •  
    Nationalism, national boundaries, and the nation-state system in the Arab world present to the student of international affairs a unique set of paradoxes. Whereas few, if any, scholars would treat pan-Africanism or pan- Americanism with any degree of seriousness, social scientists who study the politics of the Middle East--even those who would debunk the pragmatic value of the doctrine--can ill afford to ignore the impulse that celebrates the linguistic, ethnic, or historic ties among Arabs and/or that demands the political integration of the region.
Ed Webb

The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer: Saudi Arabia rolls the dice with bid for New... - 0 views

  • Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has rolled the dice with a US$ 374 million bid to acquire storied British soccer club Newcastle United. If approved by Britain’s Premier League that nominally maintains a high bar for the qualification of aspiring club owners, Prince Mohammed would have demonstrated that he has put behind him an image tarnished by Saudi conduct of a five-year long war in Yemen, the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, systematic abuse of human rights and, more recently, the kingdom’s badly-timed oil price war with Russia.
  • the kind of financial muscle that allows it to acquire trophies that enable it to project itself in a different light and garner soft power rather than financial gain at a time of a pandemic and global economic collapse.
  • Aramco, the Saudi national oil company, was reported to be talking to banks about a US$10 billion loan to help finance its acquisition of a 70% stake in Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC). The deal would pour money into the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund.
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  • The acquisition would mimic the 2017 purchase of celebrated soccer star Neymar by Qatar-owned Paris St. Germain for US$277 million intended to demonstrate that the Gulf state was unaffected by the then several months-old Saudi-UAE-led economic and diplomatic boycott.
  • a decision by the Premier League to reject the acquisition of Newcastle would be perceived as yet another of Prince Mohammed’s self-inflicted public relations fiascos that include multiple failed attempts to position the kingdom as a powerhouse in international soccer governance
  • Prince Mohammed is betting that the Premier League at a time of economic crisis and with Britain needing to forge new trade relationships in the wake of its departure from the European Union may not want to slam the door on a wealthy investor and/or jeopardize British relations with the kingdom.
  • Saudi Arabia responded in 2018 to Canadian criticism of the kingdom’s human rights record by withdrawing its ambassador and freezing all new trade and investment transactions. German criticism of a failed Saudi attempt to force the resignation of Lebanon’s prime minister led that same year to a de facto downgrading of diplomatic relations and reduced trade.
  • The League has tightened its criteria to test potential club owners on their integrity and reputation. The criteria include ensuring that a potential owner has not committed an act in a foreign jurisdiction that would be a criminal offence in Britain, even if not illegal in their own country.
  • Supporters of the acquisition argue that it bolsters Prince Mohammed’s reforms in a soccer-crazy country and reaffirms his push to break with the kingdom’s austere, inward-looking past. They reason further that it will bolster investment in Newcastle and surroundings at a time of impending economic hardship.
  • Supporters only need to look at Manchester where the United Arab Emirates’ acquisition of Manchester City more than a decade ago has benefitted not only the club but the city too.
  • supporters of Newcastle are likely to welcome the financial injection and departure of the club’s unpopular current owner, Mike Ashley, and ignore condemnation of the deal by human rights activists, including Amnesty International, as “sportswashing, plain and simple.”
Michael Fisher

Memo From Cairo - A Nation's Shaken Ego Seen in a Soccer Loss - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • With all the challenges Egyptians face — more than half the population lives on less than $2 a day — nothing has mobilized public opinion in recent history quite like the events that occurred in Sudan. Egypt thought it would beat Algeria and earn a World Cup berth for the first time in 20 years. It approached the contest more like a nation going to war than to a soccer game.
  • With all the challenges Egyptians face — more than half the population lives on less than $2 a day — nothing has mobilized public opinion in recent history quite like the events that occurred in Sudan. Egypt thought it would beat Algeria and earn a World Cup berth for the first time in 20 years. It approached the contest more like a nation going to war than to a soccer game. When it lost and Egyptian fans left the stadium, many said they were chased down and harassed by Algerians, and some suffered minor injuries. But, most of all, they said they were deeply offended and left feeling helpless.
  • “How can Egypt, the Arab symbol of strength, be humiliated like this in the streets of Khartoum?” asked Ahmed Tarek, 33, who runs an Egyptian advertising agency in Sudan. “And if we are really a strong country, why aren’t we doing something about it? Nobody had ever insulted the Egyptians to this degree. This issue revealed so many things, it woke up the people.”
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  • Television talks shows and daily newspapers have been busy with discussion about Egyptian identity, while commentators have lamented the final collapse of pan-Arab unity.
  • Relations between Algeria and Egypt became so strained that the Arab League asked Libya’s leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, to mediate.
  • “The leader who uses power and oppresses his citizens and forges their will in elections cannot convince anyone when he speaks about the dignity of the citizens,” wrote Alaa al-Aswani,
  • people focused on domestic failings that until now were largely tolerated, or swallowed: A ferry that sank leaving 1,000 Egyptians lost at sea; universities ranked among the worst in the world; an Egyptian border guard killed by the Israelis; Egypt’s longtime culture minister losing to a Bulgarian as the new leader of Unesco; and now Algerians desecrating the Egyptian flag.
  • he object of most people’s ire has shifted from the Algerians to the government, which many have started to accuse of exploiting the defeat for political gain, even as they continue to ache over the personal loss of pride.
  • what has emerged, instead, is a surge in nationalism wrapped up in anger — and despair. “If we are infuriated, it is not over soccer, to hell with the game, we are infuriated over our dignity,” said Hamada Abdullah, who lives in Daqahalya, northeast of Cairo. “We love this country and don’t want to be humiliated whether from the authorities inside or from other people outside. We feel oppressed and constrained and unable to do anything.”
  • Comparing the loss in 1967 with events in Khartoum, he wrote, “The Egyptian dignity which was wounded by the behavior of the Algerian thugs as they chased after the peaceful Egyptian fans in the streets of Khartoum will rise once again across the nation.”
Ed Webb

Saudi Crown prince threatened economic pain on U.S. during oil standoff - The Washingto... - 0 views

  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman threatened to fundamentally alter the decades-old U.S.-Saudi relationship and impose significant economic costs on the United States if it retaliated against the oil cuts
  • It is unclear whether the crown prince’s threat was conveyed directly to U.S. officials or intercepted through electronic eavesdropping, but his dramatic outburst reveals the tension at the heart of a relationship long premised on oil-for-security but rapidly evolving as China takes a growing interest in the Middle East and the United States assesses its own interests as the world’s largest oil producer.
  • Biden, who pledged to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” as a presidential candidate, scarcely communicates with the crown prince but the president’s top aides have gradually rebuilt ties with him hoping the two nations can work together on pressing issues, including a long-sought peace deal in Yemen, a sustained cease-fire in Sudan, counterterrorism challenges and continued disagreements over the supply of oil.
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  • U.S. officials say the U.S.-Saudi relationship is too important to let languish given Riyadh’s economic and political clout and Beijing’s courtship of traditional U.S. partners in the Middle East.
  • Following Blinken’s meetings, differences appeared to remain over Saudi Arabia’s ambitions to generate nuclear power, seen by Washington and others as a potential proliferation risk, and the notion that the United States has a right to admonish the kingdom over its human rights record
  • a steady stream of high-level U.S. meetings in the kingdom in recent months, including trips by national security adviser Jake Sullivan, CIA Director William J. Burns, Biden’s top Middle East adviser Brett McGurk, and his senior energy security official Amos Hochstein.
  • The oil-rich country has sought to present itself as a global player unmoored to Washington. In recent months, Riyadh has been on a diplomatic tear, winding down hostilities in Yemen, restoring relations with arch-nemesis Iran, inviting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad back into the Arab League after a decade-plus ban, and ending its regional tiff with Qatar.
  • Saudi Arabia’s relationship with China, which the United States considers its top economic and security competitor, was also raised during Blinken’s news conference in Riyadh. The top U.S. diplomat denied any suggestion that the United States was forcing Saudi Arabia to choose between Washington and Beijing.AdvertisementA second leaked U.S. intelligence document from December warned that Saudi Arabia plans to expand its “transactional relationship” with China by procuring drones, ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and mass surveillance systems from Beijing. But U.S. officials say those warnings were exaggerated and did not come to fruition.
  • “China is the world’s second-largest economy. China is our largest trading partner. So naturally, there is a lot of interaction … and that cooperation is likely to grow,” he said. “But we still have a robust security partnership with the U.S. That security partnership is refreshed on an almost daily basis.”
Ed Webb

Blurred Lines | Newlines Magazine - 0 views

  • Consistently, borders drawn in the immediate aftermath of the First World War took on a life of their own later in the 20th century. Political and military disputes gave lines that were initially intended to be quite permeable the fortified, disruptive character we associate with them today. Bad neighbors, it seems, make bad border regimes, and bad border regimes disrupt societies
  • The King-Crane commission report, despite presenting itself as a corrective to European imperialism, ultimately concluded that imperial rule could help smooth the challenges posed by self-determination and maintain smoother relations across borders
  • As Robert Fletcher concludes in his study of interwar borders, “Freedom of grazing and nomadic migration was written into all major boundary agreements in the 1920s.” Moreover, he argues, “These terms were assiduously observed by local frontier officials, even to the point of risking conflict with demands from the center.”
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  • when it came to both trade and nomadic migration, the League assumed that political forces, not borders, would be the main factor in transforming traditional patterns of life. Forcible resettlement of nomads by both the Turkish and Iraqi states, they suggested, would curtail migration, while the construction of new railways and roads would transform economic patterns in the region. In other words, other aspects of the modern state would prove more disruptive than the borders that came with them
  • The Turkish-Syrian border experienced a similar transformation. The story is perhaps most familiar to Turkish audiences from the 1999 film Propaganda, which shows the disruptive impact of the new border that came into being with the Turkish annexation of Hatay in 1939. The film offers a dramatic parable of neighbors and lovers separated as their village is torn apart by an arbitrary and unnatural line. But in fact, after 1923, the Turkish-Syrian border was relatively open until the ongoing conflict over Hatay itself caused both sides to gradually close it.
  • In World War II, wartime security concerns led to new restrictions, with religious minorities in particular carefully monitored amidst accusations of espionage. Finally, in the 1980s, after Turkey’s Sept. 12 coup, the Turkish government for the first time laid mines along the border in order to prevent potential Syrian support for illegal left-wing groups in Turkey. Mining the border half a century after it was first drawn showed the deadly and disruptive result of Cold War politics, as well as Turkish-Syrian tensions arising from the Hatay dispute.
  • To blame Europeans for creating many of the Middle East’s problems yet simultaneously recognize that they presided over a period when you could simply board a bus from Haifa to Beirut is not necessarily paradoxical. Rather, it helps articulate the difficulty, and possibility, of resolving these problems today. We must constantly struggle to overcome the injustices around us while remaining constantly alert to the risk of creating new ones. Nationalism promised former Ottoman citizens self-rule, but instead brought them continued oppression in smaller states. Likewise, the resistance movements that proved necessary to overthrow European colonial rule carried with them the seeds of the conflicts that compounded some of colonialism’s worst features.
  • We don’t need to change the lines on the map to mitigate their human toll, whether by making them easier to cross or helping people fight for their rights within them.
Ed Webb

BBC News - Arab Spring revolution at the Arab League - 0 views

  • one of the standard-bearers of Arab nationalism, the Syrian Arab Republic, is now excluded from the body committed to Arab unity. Members of the Syrian opposition - just the sort of activists whom the Arab League members happily ignored or repressed for years - are being invited to Arab League headquarters, for the League to help them co-ordinate their efforts.
  • Qatar is taking advantage of the turmoil in the region to seize its moment of leadership.
  • For years commentators said the League could not agree to act because it was so divided. Now, in theory, it should be all the more divided between democracies and Arab autocracies. Yet, remarkably, in recent months it has taken two of the most decisive moves in its 66 years of history.
Ed Webb

Qantara.de - "The Dialogue between the Cultures Is My Life's Work" - 0 views

  • It never occurred to me that we would once again find ourselves discussing theories that consider a clash of civilisations and a conflict of the religions as a given. For example, my own culture as an Arab Moroccan of the Jewish faith is not a culture of confrontation or of rejection of others. On the contrary, I consider it a culture of openness and intellectual encounter.
  • The tragedy in Palestine is real, but not because it is a conflict between Islam and Judaism. It is much more true to say that political problems are at the root of this conflict, and political solutions should be used to resolve it. Those who use the rhetoric of conflict and the clash of civilisations and religions to distract us from the real causes are ultimately the ones who bear responsibility for the current situation.
  • one must not forget that it is not much more than 60 years since the world suffered under the barbarity of National Socialism. At that time, Morocco was the only country among its neighbours to send out a message of respect, human dignity and solidarity.I have not forgotten history; it is still very alive in me. When Muslims and Jews suffered under the Spanish inquisition 500 years ago, they stood side by side, resisting these atrocities. This shows that Judaism and Islam are indeed capable of fruitful cooperation.
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  • I would like to point out that I was elected president of the Anna Lindh Foundation as the candidate of the Arab League. It was the first time in the history of the Arab League that an Arab Jew was selected to represent the league in an international institution.
Ed Webb

Has Erdogan given up rapprochement with Arabs? - 0 views

  • the lack of trust for Arabs among Turkey’s intellectuals and the rest of the public is based on historical developments. According to the Turkish Historical Society, in 1916, Sheriff of Mecca Hussein bin Ali subscribed to the British promise of independence, rose against the Ottomans and became an instrument of dividing the Ottoman empire among Christian states. This “Arab betrayal” has left a scar in Turkish minds.
  • renowned historian Ilber Ortayli, who said, “Palestine, which rose against the Ottomans and betrayed them, today is paying for this betrayal with its life and property.”
  • AKP came to power in 2003 and adopted a policy of rapprochement with Arabs
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  • the 22-member Arab League debated Turkey’s incursion into Syria and condemned Turkey for it, much to Ankara's disappointment.
  • “Oh Arab League! Today 3,650,000 Arabs are our guests. Why don’t you see this? Why did they escape? They fled the Syrian barrel bombs. We are acting as their brothers. Did you spend a single penny for these people? Now you are making haphazard decisions about Turkey. So what if you do?”
  • “The Arab League, which didn’t raise its voice while Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens suffered the cruelties of terror, is disturbed by our struggle against terror. The Arab League’s condemnation of Turkey means supporting terror.”
  • Reactions in Turkey now show that 17 years of effort to create a new Arab image have failed. One indication is the angry reactions to Arab-language signs all over the country. Turkey's central Anatolian province of Eskisehir began efforts to use only Turkish in all sign boards, advertisements, noting that the public's aversion to Arabic signs has grown in response to Arab states' opposition to Turkey over its Syria operation.
  • the “Arabs are our brothers” thesis has been abandoned.
Ed Webb

A New 'Quartet' for Israeli-Palestinian Peace | United States Institute of Peace - 1 views

  • On July 7, Egypt, France, Germany and Jordan joined to oppose Israel’s declared intent to annex territory that it has occupied since 1967. Vital actors, including Arab states and the European Union, have been unable to stop the march toward annexation and the attendant risks of renewed violence. Yet a partnership of key Arab and European states—the latest in a string of diplomatic “quartets” on the conflict—offers a foothold on which to build.
  • the attributes of this new quartet lend it the potential for some real impact over the issue. Critically, the group combines influence in both Europe and the Arab world, and good relations with Israel and the U.S. administration.
  • The “Middle East Quartet”—combining the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations—has been less active of late than at its inception in 2002. After years in which mediation had been largely a U.S. venture, this quartet aimed to broaden the set of diplomatic brokers, and to balance American positions through inclusion of the other parties. The quartet’s most noted effort was its endorsement of the U.S.-led “roadmap to peace” in 2003—an initiative that at first spurred some optimism, but that fell apart in the mid-2000s.
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  • The second quartet—Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates—was established by the Arab League in 2007 to revive peace efforts. This “Arab Quartet” also was active at first, only to become dormant amid a range of developments. These included Arab and regional instability; Saudi-Emirati preoccupation with Iran, Yemen and other regional conflicts; Egypt’s preoccupation with the Nile River negotiations with Ethiopia and Sudan, the conflict in Libya, and a number of pressing internal challenges; and a general feeling that there is very little hope to advance a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • Israelis generally accord high importance to the relationship with King Abdullah of Jordan and are enthusiastic about steps toward warmer relations with the Arab World
  • The EU has said that annexation “could not pass unchallenged.” But in considering specific actions, the bloc faces difficulties in achieving the required unanimity among its 27 member states.
  • Egypt and Jordan, the only Arab countries with peace treaties with Israel, have significant influence in the Arab quartet and on the Arab position pertaining to this conflict. Similarly, France and Germany play a central role in Europe, and on EU positions within the Middle East Quartet
Ed Webb

Middle East peace effort's missing key: female negotiators. - Yahoo! News - 0 views

  • These women work toward a sustainable peace as committee members, as demonstrators, and as mothers raising and educating their children despite occupation. But their representation in formal negotiations is inadequate. Because Israeli and Palestinian women are disproportionately affected by occupation and the threat of violence, their input into the national security debate – and international negotiations for peace – is essential.
  • The suffering that women face under increased militarization should translate into a large presence in the security sector. But the Haifa Feminist Center reports that men are overwhelmingly the central decisionmakers in matters of formal conflict resolution, while female politicians largely address socioeconomic issues within the "private" sphere.
  • For years, women's organizations in Israel and Palestine have worked to increase female participation in the peace process. Groups like the Haifa Feminist Center have organized conferences and lobbied legislators, while the Palestinian section of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom has met with Palestinian leadership about increasing the number of high-level posts held by women. Such grass-roots efforts should be supported and recognized by US diplomats and the Obama administration, both politically and financially. One simple step for major players to take could be to facilitate increased information-sharing between these organizations, the Israeli government, the Palestinian Authority, and members of the Quartet. That alone could bring a spotlight to this issue.
Sana Usman

Nawaz Sharif called eradicating the entry permit with India - 0 views

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    PML-N leader Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has called for unilaterally eradicating the entry permit government with India even if New Delhi "vacillates to return" the move.
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