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Ed Webb

In many countries, Millennials more inclusive than elders in views of national identity... - 0 views

  • Across a number of countries that are wrestling with the politics of national identity, younger people are far more likely than their elders to take an inclusive view of what it takes for people to be truly considered “one of us” – whether the measure is being born in their country, sharing local customs and traditions or being Christian.
  • The divide between the young and the old over birthright nationality is quite wide in certain European countries: 21 percentage points in the United Kingdom and 16 points each in Greece and Spain
  • Views on the importance of culture to national identity also split along generational lines. A majority (55%) of older Americans but only 28% of younger adults believe it is very important that a person share U.S. national customs and traditions to be truly American. There is a similar 20-point generation gap in Australia, Canada and Japan.
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  • In these predominantly Christian countries, older people are generally much more likely than younger ones to link national identity to being Christian.
  • only in Greece (65% of those ages 50 and older) does a majority of any age group believe it is very important for one to be Christian to be a true national
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    Important data for thinking comparatively about the relationship between certain aspects of identity and perceptions about national belonging.
Ed Webb

The Psychology of the Intractable Israel-Palestine Conflict - New Lines Magazine - 0 views

  • reinforcing the entrenched identities, hardened by trauma, which have contributed to the intractability of this conflict. Many researchers have been pointing out for years that societies are becoming more polarized, meaning that more people are reaching a point of complete identification with a single group, leading to demonization and, in extreme cases, dehumanization of those outside their group, and a corresponding inability to communicate with those outside of their community. Polarization essentially describes a situation where a middle ground, vital for dialogue, has been lost.
  • Emotions drive behavior, and extreme psychological states drive extreme behavior, including violence. The question becomes what to do with these insights, when violent responses to violence produce ever stronger emotional states stemming from fear and rage. The long history of this particular conflict ensures that there are now generations of traumatic memories to reinforce large-group identities based on shared feelings of vulnerability and victimization, creating an intractable cycle.
  • most of us gain our sense of belonging through a variety of groups we interact with on a daily or weekly basis — our families, friends, colleagues, sports teams or groups based around other hobbies and interests. But in addition to these groups that we experience in person through shared activities, we all have larger-group affiliations, which can vary in strength from one person to another. These can include our country of birth or residence, a political party, a wider religious group that includes people from other countries and cultures, an ethnicity, a language group or an identity based on shared passions, such as being a music or sports fan. There are many parts to a typical identity, but sometimes, if rarely, one comes to dominate above all others, leading to specific psychological states and associated behaviors, including violence.
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  • Whitehouse and Swann describe the fully fused state, when commitment to one group dominates over all others, as a “form of alignment with groups that entails a visceral feeling of oneness with the group. This feeling is associated with unusually porous, highly permeable borders between the personal and social self.” In other words, an insult, a compliment or an injury to the group or another member of the group is perceived as an insult, a compliment or an injury to the self, as most people can recognize when someone from outside the family insults a family member.
  • In Jordan, no one I interviewed ever put their nationality in the top three, but rather chose family, tribe or region, religion or “Arabness.” (There was one exception, and it turned out he was working for the security services.)
  • they have come to feel that no one is coming to their rescue, a feeling reinforced by the example of Syria: Not only did the world not act to prevent Syrian deaths, but the world — including Arabs — also ignored President Bashar al-Assad’s brutality against his own Palestinian population.
  • once an individual is fully fused to an identity, all positive and negative experiences serve to reinforce that single identity, with ever more rigid policing of the boundaries of “us” and “them,” and ever-shrinking spaces for communicating with the “other.”
  • “The Holocaust for Israelis and the Nakba for Palestinians condense into two words a multitude of horrific experiences suffered by millions of people,” he wrote, describing a trauma not only for those who experienced them directly but also for their descendants; both are just within living memory. “When members of the victimized group are unable to bear the humiliation, reverse their helplessness, or mourn their losses, they pass on to their children powerful, emotionally charged images of their injured selves.”
  • Israel’s occupation causes daily, ongoing fear and humiliation among the Palestinian population, as well as challenges to everyday existence that dampen the energy to act. But, as Fromm writes, “Young people may succumb to apathy temporarily but a return to rage is always a possibility, in part as a vitalizing alternative to helplessness or despair.” That is, the violence we have witnessed from Palestinians is a natural response to Israel’s occupations when framed in terms of psychology; as an Israeli colleague of mine put it back in 2019, “There is no chance for peace without first ending the occupation.”
  • Extreme states of belonging to a single group have enabled the most extreme violence seen throughout history and around the world, from suicide bombings to kamikaze attacks during times of war.
  • For these people, Hamas’ actions symbolized a reassertion of dignity and pride in an Arab identity against an unjust oppressor. This single massacre, which included whole families shot in their beds, has prompted more demonstrations of support for the Palestinian cause than any other occasion in the past few decades. In Jordan, pro-Palestinian protesters only dispersed from the Israeli border after the Jordanian army used tear gas.
  • “apocalyptic mindset,”
  • classic asymmetric warfare, laid out in an al Qaeda manual taken up by the Islamic State, “The Management of Savagery,” which advocates baiting the enemy’s military into wars they cannot afford and depleting them — as was achieved by 9/11 at a financial cost of mere hundreds of thousands of dollars, compared to the trillions spent on the subsequent 20-year “war on terror.”
  • In times of low stress, even a hardened identity does not fear the other and can exhibit curiosity, or at least a lack of animosity, toward an out-group. But this retreat isn’t available to groups whose security is at risk. Fully fused large-group identities, with psychological boundaries hardened by both inherited trauma and daily fear, have another damaging implication for the prospects of peace. This is the perceived threat of reaching across the divide, including gestures of reconciliation. It is felt as betrayal to build bridges with the other and is experienced as a psychological wound.
  • We are now seeing mass hardening of psychological barriers in the region and globally, with many unable to see faults on their side or, conversely, laudable elements on the other. And it is not just rhetoric
  • there is a shrinking space for empathy and dialogue
  • Conflict resolution in such a situation seems meaningless: Neither side wants nor can even conceive of a relationship with the other, so what is the possible basis for negotiation, let alone peaceful coexistence?
  • all around the world people have told me a version of “No one has suffered as we have suffered.” Victimhood limits our ability to see others also as victims, to everyone’s detriment, for violence is then justifiable, and this is what fuels ongoing wars. It is unclear who can address the intergenerational wounds of the past, but without that work, nothing can improve.
Michael Fisher

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

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    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 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

(Re)introducing Conscription in the Gulf: From Soft Power to Nation-Building - Arab Ref... - 0 views

  • In the Middle East, the US invasion of Iraq, the Arab Spring of 2011, and the subsequent foreign interventions in Yemen, Syria, and Libya, brought military preparedness and competence to the surface again. This led to a return of compulsory military service not only in countries that are at war and/or under the threat of military intervention but also in other countries. This was the case of certain Gulf countries including Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which historically seldom resorted to conscription.
  • Qatar introduced conscription in 2013, followed by the UAE in 2014. Kuwait, on the other hand, reintroduced it in 2014, having practiced conscription between 1961 and 2001. Until recently, these countries’ militaries were formed by a national officer corps, foreign - mostly Western- expert non-commissioned officers (NCOs), and foreign contract soldiers coming from different countries (Jordan, Yemen, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Oman)
  • In 2018, not long after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt imposed a blockade on Qatar, the Qatari government amended the National Service Law, introducing national service for women and extending its duration for men. While the national service remains voluntary for women over the age of 18, men are now expected to serve a year instead of three or four months. The new law gives eligible men only 60 days after they come of age to apply to the military and stipulates harsher punishment (up to three years in jail plus a fine) for those who fail to do so.
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  • Since the beginning of the 2020s, several articles5Jean-Loup Samaan, “The Rise of the Emirati Defense Industry,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 14 May 2019 https://carnegieendowment.org/sada/79121;  Elenora Ardemagni, “The UAE’s Military Training-Focused Foreign Policy,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 22 October 2020, https://carnegieendowment.org/sada/83033; Melissa Dalton and Hijab Shah, “Evolving UAE Military and Foreign Security Cooperation: Path Toward Military Professionalism,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 12 January 2021,  https://carnegie-mec.org/2021/01/12/evolving-uae-military-and-foreign-security-cooperation-path-toward-military-professionalism-pub-83549; Elenora Ardemagni, “ Building New Gulf States Through Conscription,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 25 April 2018, https://carnegieendowment.org/sada/76178; Elenora Ardemagni, “Gulf Monarchies’ Militarized Nationalism,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 28 February 2019,https://carnegieendowment.org/sada/78472; Zoltan Barany, “Big News! Conscription in the Gulf,” Middle East Institute, 25 January 2017, https://www.mei.edu/publications/big-news-conscription-gulf; Dr. Eman Ahmed Abdel Halim, “Implementation of Military Conscription in the Gulf,” Future for Advanced Research Studies, 12 December 2016, https://futureuae.com/m/Mainpage/Item/2250/pressing-threats-implementation-of-military-conscription-in-the-gulf were written on the economic, social, and geopolitical reasons behind Gulf countries’ shift in military recruitment strategy. The security problems originating from Iran and Yemen, the willingness to exercise soft power in the region along with the volatile energy sector, and the ruptures within the rentier state model are put forward as the main justifications behind the Gulf countries’ developing defense industries and growing their armies. In this context, compulsory military service does play an important role, be it to increase the size of the army, cause deterrence in the region or create new job opportunities and a qualified workforce out of young citizens.
  • can also create intangible moral advantages, and thus have significant effects on these countries’ civil-military relations. The biggest reason for this is the symbiotic relationship that has formed over time between compulsory military service and national sentiment.  In this sense, introducing conscription shows an effort to turn these societies into nations where individuals would be bound to one another by national sentiment and not the rentier state model they have so far known.
  • To raise obedient and productive citizens who wore the same uniform, spoke the same language, and sang the same anthems, education became an important tool in the nation-building process.11Ayşe Gül Altınay and Tanıl Bora, “Ordu, Militarizm ve Milliyetçilik,” Iletişim Yayınları, (2002): 140. In Prussia, this “new form of nationalist socialization” was provided through military establishments with the hope that, after their discharge from military service, men would remain loyal to the state and transfer their sentiment and what they “learned” to the rest of the population.12
  • mandatory military service in these countries should not be seen as a way to efficiently raise strong and competent armies. First, like their Gulf neighbors, neither Qatar, Kuwait, nor the UAE is populated enough to sustain a competent standing army. Most of their populations are made of ex-pats who are not subject to conscription laws. Second, their current system of outsourcing military needs has proven to be efficient in the long run, with all three countries continuing to invest in contracting foreign soldiers to efficiently populate their armies. Therefore, the new conscription laws should be seen as a symbolic move to strengthen nationalistic bonds and ambitions.
  • paradoxically, the exact nationalistic sentiment and loyalty that the Gulf countries try to channel among their citizens can backfire if the people (including the conscripts) were to ever resent the rulers and their policies. This is rather contrary to the long-established coup-proofing strategies25After gaining their independence, most countries in the region (or rather individual leaders) have engaged in various coup-proofing measures to keep their militaries in check. There were different types of coup-measuring strategies. For example, until 2011, Hosni Mubarak, a military man himself, tried to keep the Egyptian military at bay by giving officers and the military institution economic benefits and providing an unfair competition. In Tunisia, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali took a different approach and choose to ouster the military as an institution completely and empowered the police force. In Sudan and Libya, former presidents Bashar and Gaddafi took a more social approach and tried to counterbalance different groups of society, especially the tribal establishments, as a buffer against the military. In the Gulf, the ruling monarchs resorted to using foreign soldiers to keep the military away from social and political affairs as much as possible. that Arab countries followed over the years. However, given the low numbers of citizens that will be drafted each year, the risk of such revolts taking place remains low.
  • In Kuwait, UAE, and Qatar, there are legal sanctions in place against anyone who fails to enlist when they become eligible and conscientious objection is not recognized. This could cause or further the feeling of oppression and resentment and trigger protests and turmoil in these countries. However, at this stage, this risk is low but still a possibility as seen in Thailand, Israel, and Armenia
Ed Webb

A New History for a New Turkey: What a 12th-grade textbook has to say about T... - 0 views

  • Rather than simply serving as crude propaganda for Erdoğan’s regime, Contemporary Turkish and World History aspires to do something more ambitious: embed Turkey’s dominant ideology in a whole new nationalist narrative. Taken in its entirety, the book synthesizes diverse strands of Turkish anti-imperialism to offer an all-too-coherent, which is not to say accurate, account of the last hundred years. It celebrates Atatürk and Erdoğan, a century apart, for their struggles against Western hegemony. It praises Cemal Gürsel and Necmettin Erbakan, on abutting pages, for their efforts to promote Turkish industrial independence. And it explains what the works of both John Steinbeck [Con Şıtaynbek] and 50 Cent [Fifti Sent] have to say about the shortcomings of American society.
  • Turkey has long had competing strains of anti-Western, anti-Imperialist and anti-American thought. In the foreign policy realm, Erdogan’s embrace of the Mavi Vatan doctrine showed how his right-wing religious nationalism could make common cause with the left-wing Ulusalcı variety.[5] This book represents a similar alliance in the historiographic realm, demonstrating how the 20th century can be rewritten as a consistent quest for a fully independent Turkey.
  • Ankara is currently being praised for sending indigenously developed drones to Ukraine and simultaneously criticized for holding up Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership. Contemporary Turkish and World History sheds light on the intellectual origins of both these policies
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  • Among the 1930s cultural and intellectual figures given place of pride are Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso and John Steinbeck. Guernica is reproduced in an inset about Picasso, illustrating the artist’s hatred of war. (47) A lengthy excerpt from the Grapes of Wrath concludes with Steinbeck’s denunciation of depression-era America: “And money that might have gone to wages went for gas, for guns, for agents and spies, for blacklists, for drilling. On the highways the people moved like ants and searched for work, for food. And the anger began to ferment.”
  • The book places added emphasis on the harsh terms imposed on Germany at Versailles. Prefiguring the later treatment of Al Qaeda terrorism, the intention appears not so much to justify Nazism, but rather to present injustice as the causal force behind violence and cruelty in world politics.
  • the Holocaust instead appears here as one among several examples of Western barbarity
  • The foundation of the UN is immediately followed by a discussion of Israel under the heading “Imperial Powers in the Remaking of the Middle East.” (80-81) The Palestine problem, students learn, is the principal cause of conflict in the region. It began when the Ottoman Empire, “the biggest obstacle to the foundation of a Jewish state,” grew weak, leading to the creation of Israel.
  • Next comes a discussion of the post-war financial order and the International Monetary Fund. Students learn that “the IMF’s standard formula, which recommends austerity policies for countries in economic crises, generally results in failure, chaos and social unrest.” (81-83) An excerpt, which students are then asked to discuss, explains how the IMF prescribes different policies for developed and developing countries.
  • only in the context of the Cold War origins of the EU does the book engage in any explicitly religious clash-of-civilizations style rhetoric. The idea of European unity is traced back to the Crusades, while a quote about the centrality of Christianity to European identity appears under a dramatic picture of Pope Francis standing with European leaders. (112) The next page states that the EU’s treatment of Turkey’s candidacy, coupled with the fact that “all the countries within it were Christian” had “raised questions” about the EU’s identity.
  • Early Cold War era decolonization also provides an opportunity to celebrate Atatürk’s role as an anti-imperialist hero for Muslims and the entire Third World. (122-123) “Turkey’s national struggle against imperialism in Anatolia struck the first great blow against imperialism in the 20th century,” the authors write. “Mustafa Kemal, with his role in the War of Independence and his political, economic, social and cultural revolutions after it, served as an example for underdeveloped and colonized nations.” Atatürk himself is quoted as saying, in 1922, that “what we are defending is the cause of all Eastern nations, of all oppressed nations.” Thus, the book explains that “the success of the national struggle brought joy to the entire colonized Islamic world, and served as a source of inspiration to members of other faiths.” The section ends with quotes from leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and Habib Bourguiba about how Atatürk inspired them in their own anti-imperial struggles or was simply, in Nehru’s words, “my hero.” An accompanying graphic shows Atatürk’s image superimposed over a map with arrows pointing to all the countries, from Algeria to Indonesia, whose revolutions were supposedly influenced by Turkey’s War of Independence.
  • Amidst the polarization of the Erdoğan era, what is striking in this book is the authors’ efforts to weave together the conflicting strands of Turkish political history into a coherent narrative. Illustrating Ernst Renan’s argument about the role of forgetting in nation-building, this account glosses over the depth of the divisions and hostility between rival historical actors, presenting them as all working side by side toward a common national goal
  • The authors also offer a balanced treatment of the fraught domestic politics during the period from 1945 to 1960 when Turkey held its first democratic election and experienced its first coup. (138-142, 144-146) They focus their criticism on the negative impact of U.S. aid, arguing that Washington intentionally sought to make Turkey economically and politically dependent, then sponsored a coup when these efforts were threatened.
  • The narrative of national independence also helps smooth over Turkey’s Cold War domestic divides. Students are introduced to the ‘68 Generation and left-wing leaders likes Deniz Gezmiş as anti-imperialists protesting against the U.S. Sixth Fleet in support of a fully independent Turkey. (185-186)[9] In this context, Baskin Oran’s work is again cited, this time quoting Uğur Mumcu on the role of “dark forces,” presumably the CIA, in laying the groundwork for Turkey’s 1971 coup.
  • The book also offers a relatively neutral treatment of political activism during the ensuing decade, suggesting that rival ideological movements were all good faith responses to the country’s challenges. On this, the authors quote Kemal Karpat: “Both right and left wing ideologies sought to develop an explanation for social phenomena and a perspective on the future. A person’s choice of one of these ideologies was generally the result of chance or circumstance.” (202) Thus the authors imply that while foreign powers provoked or exploited these movements, the individual citizens who participated in them can be given the benefit of the doubt. Interestingly, the book takes a similar approach in discussing the 2013 Gezi protests: “If various financial interests and foreign intelligence agencies had a role in the Gezi Park events, a majority of the activists were unaware of it and joined these protests of their own will.”
  • Turkey’s real struggle in the 21st century, as in the 20th, is against dependence on foreign technology
  • a book which begins with a portrait of Atatürk ends with a photo of the Bayraktar TB2.
  • the book’s biases are less in the realm of wild distortion and more reminiscent of those that plague ideologically infused nationalistic history education in all too many countries
  • its exaggerated critique of European imperialism may be no more misleading than the whitewashing still found in some European textbooks
  • At moments, Contemporary Turkish and World History is better aligned with recent left-leaning scholarship than the patriotic accounts many Americans grew up reading as well
  • Throughout the 20th century, America defined itself as the world’s premier anti-imperialist power, all while gradually reproducing many of the elements that had defined previous empires.[11] Today, it often seems that Turkey’s aspirations for great power status reflect the facets of 20th century American power it has condemned most vigorously
  • Turkey’s marriage of power projection and anti-colonial critique have been particularly visible – and effective – in Africa. Ankara has presented itself as an “emancipatory actor,” while providing humanitarian aid, establishing military bases, selling weapons across the continent.[13] In doing so, Turkish leaders have faced some of the same contradictions as previous emancipatory actors. In August 2020, for example, members of Mali’s military overthrew a president with whom Erdoğan enjoyed good relations. Ankara expressed its “sorrow” and “deep concern.”[14] Then, a month later, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu became the first foreign official to meet with the country’s new military leaders. “Like a brother,” he “sincerely shared” his hopes for a smooth “transition process” back to democracy
  • Selçuk Bayraktar, the architect of Turkey’s drone program, said that as a student “I was obsessed with Noam Chomsky.” [16] During the 1980s and 90s, America sold Ankara F-16 jets and Sikorsky helicopters that were used to wage a brutal counterinsurgency campaign in southeast Anatolia. No one was more critical of this than left-wing scholars like Chomsky.[17] Now, Ankara is selling Bayraktar drones to Ethiopia, where they are being used to kill civilians and destroy schools in another violent civil war.
  • certain themes dominate Contemporary Turkish and World History. At the center of its narrative is the struggle for global hegemony, in military, economic, technological and artistic terms
Ed Webb

Palestinian in Israel - Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • “I don’t use the term Arab-Israeli,” said the 30-year-old journalist, who was born in the Galilee and now lives in the northern city of Haifa. “We are Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. It’s very important for us, the terms and the terminology we use.”
  • Arab-Israeli—the official media and Israeli government term for the 20 percent of Israel’s almost 9 million citizens who are Arab-Palestinian—is increasingly unpopular among the people it’s meant to describe. Only 16 percent of this population wants to be called Arab-Israeli, according to a 2017 survey by the University of Haifa professor Sammy Smooha provided to Foreign Policy.
  • Last summer’s adoption of the new nation-state law, which demoted the status of both the Arabic language and non-Jewish minorities in Israel, accelerated an ongoing shift in the public identity of the Palestinian population in Israel. It is a political statement to use Palestinian as a modifier—a link to cousins in the West Bank and Gaza and an identity distinct from fellow Jewish Israeli citizens.
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  • the increasingly assertive identity of Palestinians in Israel runs parallel to an ongoing reframing of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a civil rights struggle, both in Israel and the occupied territories
  • Palestinian citizens of Israel—also now referred to as Palestinians inside Israel, ’48 Arabs, Palestinian Arabs, Palestinian Israelis, Arab-Israelis—are part of the communities that remained inside the so-called Green Line drawn between Israel and Jordan after the 1948 war. They include Druze (a religious minority), Bedouins, Christians, and Muslims. This group, in theory, has the same rights as Jewish Israelis. In practice, though, they’ve long faced institutional discrimination, and about half of the population lives in poverty, the highest rate in Israel. Even the Druze, who have historically been the most integrated into Israeli society, including serving in the Israel Defense Forces, are furious that the new nation-state law targets them, too. (Among the different Druze communities, a minority is located in the occupied Golan Heights and still rejects Israeli citizenship and identifies as Syrian.)
  • with talk in Israel and the Palestinian territories of a two-state solution shifting now toward a one-state reality—be it either one binational state or one Jewish state where not all Palestinians have equal rights—some Palestinians inside Israel are asserting these two parts of their identity as the core of a more rights-based discourse
  • one significant finding of Smooha’s data is not simply that Arab-Israeli is an unpopular option but rather that more people are rejecting the Israeli part of the identity all together. Since 2003, about 30 percent of respondents have reported that they prefer the term “Palestinian Arab in Israel.” But while in 2003 just 3.7 percent said they prefer the term “Palestinian Arab” (which doesn’t reference their Israeli component at all), in 2017 that number rose to 17 percent
  • “We are not here nor there,” she said. “They [outsiders] think the ’48 [Arabs] live so well. We are poor! In the West Bank, they think that we ’48 Arabs are like Jews. … And here the Jews say we are Arabs.”
Ed Webb

Turkey's Invasion of Syria Makes the Kurds the Latest Victims of the Nation-State - 0 views

  • The global system is built around sovereign states, and it shows. This is an enormous problem for groups that define themselves, or are defined by others, as distinct from the country within whose borders they happen to reside, and it’s also terrible as a framework for navigating the global politics of a rapidly changing world.
  • Sovereignty is usually traced back to the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which was pivotal in shifting conceptions of government toward a secular state with entire authority inside inviolable territorial borders. Designed as a diplomatic solution to catastrophic religious wars among feudal, monarchical territories, its tenets have persisted into the modern world largely due to the entrenched power of those states, jealously guarding their unfettered rule over their slice of geography.
  • as the power of monarchy eroded and European countries needed something else to inspire loyalty among their citizens, the ideal of the nation-state—that the people within those arbitrary borders would feel some sort of collective identity—became popular. This led to more wars as European states expelled or converted anyone who didn’t fit their concept of nation: not French enough, not German enough, not Italian enough. They also spread this idea to their colonies, exporting successive waves of destructive conflicts.
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  • governments still harass, expel, and attempt to exterminate minority groups in the name of the nation-state ideal, and sovereignty still gives them carte blanche to do so
  • insistence on the nation-state as the only legitimate and legal actor on the world stage leaves substate groups vulnerable to exploitation, attack, and shady dealing
  • the issue isn’t limited to the Kurds. In the news this week are Rohingya refugees stuck between two countries that don’t want them, Uighurs forced into detention camps, and Catalan protests for independence. History offers even more parallels, from the United States repeatedly breaking treaties with Native Americans to World War II, in which the United States was willing to go to war to protect the territorial integrity of France along with the people in it but was not willing to accept refugees fleeing the Holocaust. The nation-state system is designed to protect itself and its members, rather than people
  • nonstate groups are at a particular disadvantage. Though they may hold de facto territory, they don’t hold it legally; they have no international rights to a military or to self-defense. They have no seat in international or supranational organizations, leaving them outside global decision-making and with no recourse in attempting to hold states accountable for their actions. Their leaders are not accorded head of state status, and they have no official diplomats. Since even the most generous autonomy statutes don’t confer the protections of statehood, separatist groups are often willing to risk high losses to win independence, fueling conflicts
  • While interstate conflicts have fallen over the past 50 years, intrastate fighting has soared. These wars disrupt trade and world politics, weaken countries, and raise uncertainty in neighboring states. On the other hand, states have proved themselves adept at using substate actors to further their own interests within foreign countries while evading responsibility for it, from the United States arming the Contras in Nicaragua to Sudan and Chad supporting each other’s rebel movements.
  • States remain reluctant to break the collective agreement on the legitimacy of sovereignty. They are similarly reticent about adding more states to their exclusive club, in part because it might suggest to dissidents within their own area that renegotiation of borders is possible
  • it remains difficult to garner international recognition for a new state. That leaves mediators attempting to convince vulnerable groups to settle for something less, in the face of all evidence that a recognized state is their best chance for security and self-determination.
  • Substate groups are not the only example that the system is failing. Nonstate actors from terrorist groups to multinational corporations have increasing impacts on global politics, and traditional geopolitical theory does not do a great job of dealing with them. Even for bilateral issues, the nation-state is not always the most useful unit of analysis.
  • Russian elites attempted to tip the scales of U.S. leadership in order to win more modern spoils: unfettered soft power in their region, access to trade, and, notably, the ability to infringe on other countries’ sovereignty without consequences.
  • the United States—and other nation-states—has little or no control over multinational corporations, with their complex legal structures and tenuous ties to geography
  • we need to recognize both the rights of substate groups and the legal responsibilities of extrastate entities and create mechanisms in the international system to include them in the halls of power
Ed Webb

The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer: Countering Extremism: Jihadist Ideology Reig... - 0 views

  • By James M. Dorsey Edited remarks at India Foundation conference, Changing Contours of Global Terror, Gurugram, Haryana, 14-16 March 2018
  • Al Qaeda produced the counterterrorism industry in the context of a response that was focussed on law enforcement, security and military engagement. To be sure, that has produced significant results. It has enhanced security across the globe, stopped plots before they could be executed, driven Al Qaeda into caves, and deprived the Islamic State of its territorial base. All of that, however has not solved the problem, nor has it fundamentally reduced the attraction of religiously-cloaked extremism.
  • the call for a counter-narrative has produced an industry of its own. Like the terrorism industry, it has vested interests of its own: its sustainability is dependent on the continued existence of perceived real threats.
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  • The notion that one can eradicate political violence is illusionary. Political violence has been a fixture of human history since day one and is likely to remain a fact of life. Its ebbs and flows often co-relate to economic, social and political up and down turns. In other words, counterterrorism and counternarratives will only be effective if they are embedded in far broader policies that tackle root causes. And that is where the shoe pinches. To develop policies that tackle root causes, that are inclusive and aim to ensure that at least the vast majority, if not everyone, has a stake in society, the economy and the political system involves painful decisions, revising often long-standing policies and tackling vested interests. Few politicians and bureaucrats are inclined to do so.
  • militants have benefitted from the fact that the world was entering a cyclical period in which populations lose confidence in political systems and leaderships. The single largest success of Osama bin Laden and subsequent militants is the fact that they were able to disrupt efforts to forge inclusive, multicultural societies, nowhere more so than first in Europe, then the United States with the rise of Donald Trump, and exploit ripple effects in Asia
  • what makes this cycle of lack of confidence more worrisome and goes directly to the question of the ideological challenge is how it differs from the late 1960s, the last time that we witnessed a breakdown in confidence and leadership on a global scale. The difference between then and now is that then there were all kinds of worldviews on offer: anti-authoritarianism, anarchism, socialism, communism, concepts of extra-parliamentary opposition, and in the Middle East and North Africa, Arab nationalism and Arab socialism. Today, the only thing on offer are militant interpretations of Islam and jihadism
  • With democracy on the defense, free market enterprise having failed significant segments of the public, and newly found legitimacy for prejudice, bias and bigotry, democratic governments are incapable of credibly projecting a dream, one that is backed up by policies that hold out realistic hope of producing results
  • Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appeared to be holding out a dream for his kingdom. But that dream increasingly is being shattered both in Yemen and at home. Autocrats in the Middle East and North Africa are about upgrading and modernizing their regimes to ensure their survival, not about real sustainable change
  • populists and nationalists advocating racial, ethnic and religious purity and protectionist economic policies are unlikely to fare any better
  • Creating a policy framework that is conducive to an environment in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia that would favour pluralism and respect of human rights and counter the appeal of jihadism and emerging sectarian-based nationalism is not simply a question of encouraging and supporting voices in the region, first and foremost those of youth, or of revisiting assumptions of Western foreign policies and definitions of national security.  It involves fostering inclusive national identities that can accommodate ethnic, sectarian and tribal sub-identities as legitimate and fully accepted sub-identities in Middle Eastern, North African, and South Asian, as well as in Western countries. It involves changing domestic policies towards minorities, refugees and migrants
  • Instead of reducing the threat of political violence, the largely military effort to defeat Al Qaeda produced ever more virulent forms of jihadism as embodied by the Islamic State. It may be hard to imagine anything more brutal than the group, but it is a fair assumption that defeating the Islamic State without tackling root causes could lead to something that is even more violent and more vicious.
  • an approach that focuses on the immediate nature of the threat and ways to neutralize it rather than on what sparked it
  • Norway’s response to right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik’s traumatic attacks in 2011 that killed 77 people stands as a model for how societies can and should uphold concepts of pluralism and human rights. Norway refrained from declaring war on terror, treated Breivik as a common criminal, and refused to compromise on its democratic values. In doing so, Norway offered a successful example of refusing to stigmatise any one group in society by adopting inclusiveness rather than profiling and upholding the very values that autocrats and jihadists challenge
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

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

Reimagining US Engagement with a Turbulent Middle East - MERIP - 1 views

  • the debate about US foreign policy needs to be not only about redefining US interests and strategy but also focused on how to transform America’s self-identity and the domestic political and economic structures that shape US interactions abroad
  • US foreign policy toward the Middle East has always been driven as much by domestic politics and American self-identity as by different conceptions of strategic interest
  • a diverse set of policy makers, scholars and large segments of the US public, have grown deeply concerned about the high economic and human cost of US interventions in the Middle East. Trump even sought office vowing to end endless wars. America’s overly militarized approach, they argue, has not brought stability or peace to the region. Many also suggest that the longstanding US national interests at stake, such as the flow of oil and Israeli security, no longer seem to be at risk while many US goals—such as a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians, the rollback of Iranian influence and the elimination of terrorism—no longer look achievable.
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  • Calls for the United States to pull back reject US intervention and hegemony in the Middle East, but they also seek to insulate the United States from the damage past policies have inflicted on the region and distance Americans from the peoples impacted.
  • The decline of US hegemony and its dominance of global economic and political systems, Schweller explains, has led Americans to “demand a more narrowly self-interested foreign policy” that seeks to insulate Americans from “the vagaries of markets and globalization.” The animating logic of America First, however, does not focus on the country’s global role as much as on the view embraced by Trump’s populist support base that US policy should counter the (perceived) threats posed by transnational flows and interdependence.
  • Much of the mainstream foreign policy debate in opposition to Trump has revolved around voices advocating for the US to return to a more modest, more multilateral version of its role as a global hegemon that seeks to rebuild the liberal international order.[4] Others are calling for an all-out mobilization against the rise of China and Russia.[5]
  • Support for restraint has accelerated with recognition of the declining strategic importance of the Middle East and the absence of major threats from the region to core US interests. With the massive expansion of US domestic energy production, Americans increasingly question the US military presence in the Persian Gulf and security commitment to allies in the region. Meanwhile, with unchallenged Israeli control over Palestinian territories, its military capacity that includes nuclear weapons and growing ties between Israel and Arab Gulf states, Israel is in a more secure strategic position than it has ever been. Advocates of restraint also understand that Iran has a limited ability to project conventional military power and even if it wielded a nuclear weapon, its use could be deterred. Lastly, restraint recognizes that the hyper-militarized approach of the global war on terror engages US forces in continuous military operations that are politically unaccountable and often exacerbate the political and socioeconomic conditions that foster armed non-state actors and political violence in the first place.
  • restraint fails to address the legacies of past US involvement in the region. The hope of insulating the United States from regional instability and future conflicts is also unlikely to be sustainable in the long run.
  • the Israeli right and their US supporters—including the evangelical right and Islamophobic populists—have been unconstrained in their efforts to shape US goals and policies based on a close identification with the Israeli right and Israeli militarism at the expense of the Palestinians
  • While advocates of restraint have long opposed excessive US backing of Israel, without the mobilization of domestic political forces that seek to dissociate the United States from Israeli militarism and support Palestinian human rights, a future US president dedicated to restraint will likely find little strategic value or political support for reversing current policies beyond trimming the price tag.
  • maintain close ties to the Saudi regime and other Arab Gulf states through flows of petrodollar recycling in the form of massive arms sales that sustain American jobs, corporate profits and campaign donations
  • today US ties to the Gulf are being shaped by invented security rationales and material interests. Networks of arms sales, private military contractors, logistics firms and Gulf-funded think tanks—often with cooperation from Israel and its backers—have defined US policies by portraying Iran as a strategic threat, supporting arms sales in the name of so-called economic security and defending the strategic importance of protecting the rule of autocratic elites. At the same time, many segments of the US military and national security state have deeply rooted interests in maintaining bases and military-to-military ties in the region
  • Americans inside and outside of government will not quickly abandon the benefits they receive from economic, military and political ties to Gulf rulers
  • In the foreseeable future, the Middle East will likely experience more instability and conflict due to, in large part, the legacy of US policies over the past two decades, which include the invasion of Iraq, interventions in Libya and Syria, the fostering of proxy wars, the promotion of neoliberal economic reforms, massive arms sales and support for aggressive actions by regional allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia
  • the increased capacities for self-organization by armed non-state actors has helped sustain the regional environment of turbulence
  • It is unlikely that the United States could reclaim the diplomatic credibility needed to rebuild norms of restraint and balancing after having embraced militarism and unilateralism for so long
  • developments in the region will likely impact other US interests relating to the global economy, rivalry with China, climate change, nuclear proliferation and refugee flows
  • while the ideological and media infrastructure that mobilized fears to build the spurious case for the Iraq war have been temporarily disrupted, similar processes could be activated in the future to convert fears, such as of an Iranian cyberwar capability, a Chinese naval base in the region, or a resurgence of ISIS, into a strategic threat requiring a US response
  • the work of forging an alternative path for the United States in the Middle East, one that embraces sustainable anti-imperialism and demilitarization, must go beyond redefining US strategic interests to transforming domestic political, economic and ideological forces that shape US ties to the Middle East
  • In Notes on a Foreign Country, Suzy Hansen tries to diagnose the current era of anxiety and confusion felt by Americans living in an era when aspects of US exceptionalism and global hegemony are waning. She writes, “It is also perhaps the first time Americans are confronting a powerlessness that the rest of the world has always felt, not only within their own borders but as pawns in a larger international game. Globalization, it turns out, has not meant the Americanization of the world; it has made Americans, in some ways, more like everyone else.”
  • The effort to envision an alternative, post-exceptionalist US role in the world requires refashioning the debate so that Americans come to view the insecurities experienced by societies abroad as counterparts to the challenges Americans face at home.
  • Within the turbulent Middle East regional system, efforts to promote security would require not only an end to US military primacy and dominance but also a limit on regional and external interventions, the demobilization of the numerous armed non-state militias and proxy forces and a reversal of processes of state erosion and territorial fragmentation.
  • Americans need to envision a new internationalism that no longer seeks to remake the world in the American image but defines a new way for living within it
Ed Webb

Ethiopia and Egypt Are Already at War Over the Nile Dam. It's Just Happening in Cybersp... - 0 views

  • the group calling themselves the Cyber_Horus Group in late June hacked more than a dozen Ethiopian government sites, replacing each page with their own creation: an image of a skeleton pharaoh, clutching a scythe in one hand and a scimitar in the other. “If the river’s level drops, let all the Pharaoh’s soldiers hurry,” warned a message underneath. “Prepare the Ethiopian people for the wrath of the Pharaohs.”
  • Rarely have young people been so passionate about an infrastructure project. But the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which will be Africa’s largest, is more than just a piece of infrastructure. It has become a nationalistic rallying cry for both Ethiopia and Egypt—two countries scrambling to define their nationhood after years of domestic upheaval. Many Ethiopians and Egyptians are getting involved in the only way they can—online—and fomenting the first African cyberconflict of its kind, one with far-reaching and long-lasting consequences.
  • Today, there are several entries for the GERD on Google Maps, most earning middling 3 to 4 stars ratings, buoyed by five-star ratings with feedback such as, “One of the great architectural dam in the World!” but weighed down by one-star complaints including, “You’re gonna make us die from thirst.”
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  • Tensions escalated this year, as the U.S.-brokered negotiations between Ethiopia and Egypt unraveled and new talks mediated by the African Union began
  • The Ethiopian government does broadly engage in “computational propaganda,” according to a 2019 report from the Oxford Internet Institute. Agencies there use human-run social media accounts to spread pro-government propaganda, attack the opposition, and troll users. The same goes for the Egyptian government.
  • Social media users from the two countries frequently collide on the Internet, but seem to do so most often on Adel el-Adawy’s Twitter page: As a member of a prominent Egyptian political dynasty, a professor at the American University in Cairo, and the most visible disseminator of the Egyptian perspective on the dam in English, he has amassed a significant following. Adawy, whose pinned tweet is a picture of himself shaking hands with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, posts frequently about the Nile and Ethiopian affairs, especially when things get sticky.
  • It’s possible that the engagement is coming from concerned Ethiopians at home and abroad, at the encouragement but not the behest of Ethiopian officials. “I have friends who joined Twitter just for the sake of this. It’s highly emotional and nationalistic,” said Endalkachew Chala, an Ethiopian communications professor at Hamline University in Minnesota.
  • Construction of the dam was completed in July, and the filling of its reservoir started soon after amid heavy rains but before an agreement between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan was signed. The U.S. government, a top source of aid for both Ethiopia and Egypt, said in August that it would halt some aid to Ethiopia over what it saw as a unilateral move to progress with the dam.
  • For both countries—Egypt since the 2011 fall of Mubarak and Ethiopia since the 2012 death of strongman Prime Minister Meles Zenawi—national identity has been in flux
  • the first known time these kinds of digital tools have been used by people from one African country against people from another, said Gilbert Nyandeje, founder and CEO of the Africa Cyber Defense Forum. “It only means one thing. It means we should expect this more and more.”
  • at the core of Egyptian identity is the Nile, so bolstering nationalism means defending the Nile, too. And officials have encouraged this outlook: One sleekly produced video shared on Facebook by the Ministry of Immigration and Egyptian Expatriates Affairs warned, “More than 40 million Egyptians are facing the threat of drought and thirst.… The cause of water shortage is Ethiopia building a dam five times bigger than its needs.”
  • a show of vulnerability rare in Arab power politics. But the strategy has helped garner global sympathy for Egypt, even as its Nile claims are framed by Ethiopia as the result of unjust colonial-era agreements in which Egypt’s interests were represented by British colonizers.
  • the dam provided a unifying issue around which Ethiopians of all ethnic backgrounds could rally. “We do have a lot of divisions—ideological, ethnic, tribal, religious,” said Chala, the Ethiopian professor. “But even though we have these bitter divisions, Ethiopians have overwhelmingly supported this Nile dam especially on social media.”
  • Ethiopian officials, meanwhile, continue to encourage Ethiopians to post about the dam online and often use the #ItsMyDam hashtag in their own social media posts. This use of social media to rally around the dam has also meant that Ethiopia’s massive global diaspora can get involved, without having to worry about frequent in-country Internet shutdowns that otherwise curtail online movements there.
  • The thousands of Ethiopian refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants living in Egypt are now facing greater pressure and harassment from Egyptian citizens and authorities since the dam tensions started to heat up
  • in Ethiopia, it has meant that any domestic criticism of the dam from an environmentalist point of view—namely, that it could disrupt ecosystems and biodiversity, even within Ethiopia—is met with derision
  • for both countries, surging nationalist sentiment means that it’s harder for officials to agree to, and for the public to accept, compromise
  • the main sticking points now are related to dispute resolution, drought contingency plans, and future upstream projects. And yet, much of the online rhetoric remains maximalist, even rejecting items that have already been unanimously decided—such as the existence of an Ethiopian Nile dam in any form—raising the possibility that the online tensions and attacks may not subside anytime soon
Ed Webb

Qatar's Soccer Stars Are Guinea Pigs in an Experiment to Erode Citizenship Rights - 0 views

  • Qatar has not simply spent money to import and train a soccer team: It has also redefined the very idea of citizenship. Like most states in the Persian Gulf, Qatar is a majority-foreigner country. There are only about 300,000 actual Qatari passport holders out of a population of nearly 3 million. Pathways to citizenship are notoriously exclusive, and only 50 new citizenships can be granted per year to those personally approved by the emir of Qatar himself. Yet 10 of the 26 players on Qatar’s national soccer team are naturalized citizens. To comply with FIFA regulations, the entire team consists of Qatari citizens. But these naturalized soccer players are not quite immigrant-origin  national heroes, in the vein of Zinedine Zidane or Zlatan Ibrahimovic. These immigrant players all carry “mission passports”—documents that confer citizenship for the purposes of sports competition
  • Tibetans in exile have been granted pseudo-passports—but not citizenship—by India. Residents of American Samoa are “U.S. nationals” not possessing the full rights of citizenship. The disintegration of Yugoslavia left thousands of Roma people stateless. Issues of statelessness and ambiguous citizenship are universal in any part of the world which experiences crisis and conflict.
  • that Qatar has redefined the very nature of citizenship—without fanfare, controversy, and with the sole goal of appeasing FIFA nationality regulations—takes this story of temporary citizen soccer players beyond the realm of Gulf labor exploitation
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  • The Middle East and North Africa are becoming a kind of citizenship frontier: a region where certainty, permanence, and protection of citizenship is being uniquely and dangerously corroded. And Western countries are enabling this dynamic.
  • The creation of a new, opaquely defined but unambiguously lesser form of citizenship is not a symptom of exploitative labor conditions. It’s a symptom of a regional erosion of citizenship.
  • Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain all emerged as states containing substantial populations of bedoon—stateless residents who were not recognized as citizens and were, in some cases, denied even birth certificates.
  • Most significant of all are the post-1948 populations of Palestinians in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, millions of people who were eventually issued identity documents by several governments, such as subvariants of Syrian passports (Syrian travel documents for Palestinian refugees), which looked like and served as passports but faced adamant political insistence from all sides—save Jordan, which eventually largely naturalized Palestinians—that this documentation was not, in fact, citizenship.
  • this type of citizenship comes with a built-in expiration date, making these immigrant players’ citizenships temporary as well as second class.
  • Since the 2010s, the Middle East is emerging as a kind of experimental zone where the erosion of citizenship rights can be trialed. While Qatari soccer players are temporary citizens naturalized with an expiration date—even if the details of when their passports expire is not public—Western countries are increasingly comfortable denaturalizing and revoking the citizenship of their own immigrant citizens of Middle Eastern origin when those citizens are accused of terrorist activity in the region.
  • some right-populist movements are claiming that Middle Eastern and North African immigrants are somehow not really American, Dutch, or British
  • The West looks the other way as Gulf states chip away at citizenship norms for expediency, and local governments don’t protest too much when Western governments strand their denaturalized ex-citizens in the region. Especially after the emergence of the Islamic State, with its large contingent of Western, immigrant-origin fighters, the revocation of citizenship became an appealing alternative to long and complicated criminal prosecutions.
  • Western institutions in the Middle East have led the way in demonstrating that the definition of citizenship can be changed to solve an embarrassing problem, be that one of your citizens swearing allegiance to the Islamic State or the fact that half your national soccer team is foreign
  • The erasure of citizenship rights in these cases can be tolerated by international legal regimes because they are considered exceptional. It’s just for some athletes. It’s just for terrorists. But it doesn’t stay that way: The model, once implemented, is attractive for other uses.
  • conditional citizenship, a term coined by the American author Laila Lalami to describe people who, through a web of big and small prejudices and bureaucratic procedures, have “rights the state finds expendable.”
Ed Webb

The Politics of Image: The Bedouins of South Sinai - 1 views

  • For a foreign power to successfully occupy, control and integrate the Bedouins into the new state-system entailed the disruption all of the above; from the nomadic lifestyle and lack of social stratification, to ourfi laws, loyalty to the tribe, and the notion of collective identity
  • turning Egypt into a modern nation-state. To that end, he had to first re-organize Egyptian society, streamline the economy, train a bureaucracy to effectively run a centralized government, and build a modern military. “His first task was to secure a revenue stream for Egypt. To accomplish this, (he) ‘nationalized’ all the Egyptian soil, thereby officially owning all the production of the land.”13 As a result, all tribal or communal rights to landownership were not legally recognized. With the disenfranchisement of land came the disenfranchisement of image. In order to exert control over Sinai, the government restricted movement, imposed taxes and demanded payment for camping and grazing. It also started to co-opt certain individuals from various tribes, and favor some tribes over others, which in turn disrupted the Bedouin hierarchy based on sex, age and seniority.14
  • Sykes-Picot agreement in 1916. The agreement divided the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire outside the Arabian Peninsula into areas of British and French control or influence. As a roaming people whose livelihood depended on seasonal movement from one pasture to another, cementing the border left them with no choice but to become sedentary. This severance from “fundamental elements in their economic, commercial and social universe,”15 exposed the Bedouin to a whole new level of poverty
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  • the role of “The Sheikh” was invented, as mediator between the government and the inland population. Unlike the wise and elderly tribal sheikhs who were appointed through tribal consensus, these “sheikhs” were co-opted by the government. They did not protect the independence of the tribes, they did not arbitrate disputes, and they had little power in local affairs. Still the power of these sheikhs for hire was “exalted, since it was through them that decrees of government were transmitted to the tribesmen.”17 Although they were viewed as “agents of the occupier,” the Bedouins were left with no choice but to turn to them in issues pertaining to their economic and political lives
  • Prior to 1952, “Egypt had the largest consumer market for hashish in the Middle East. Turkey, Lebanon and Syria were the largest regional producers of the drug.”20 The smuggling route ran through the more accessible desert areas of the Middle East, crossing the TransJordanian Plateau, the Negev, and the North Sinai to Egypt. With the ousting of King Farouk in 1952, Abdel Nasser started to fortify the North of Sinai to prepare for nationalizing the Suez Canal. As a result, the smuggling route had to move to the mountainous and inaccessible South Sinai. Thus, the South Sinai “smuggler” came into being, and made use not only of his unemployment, but his nomadic prowess and knowledge of his cavernous terrain. The logic was, if the state treated them as outsiders, then they might as well exist outside the law. After all, smuggling was more lucrative than any grazing or menial government job could ever be
  • the smuggling business continued even after the Israeli occupation of the Sinai Peninsula in 1967. “Assuming that the Egyptian border guards would be given a cut of the drugs as a bribe, they chose to allow the smugglers to continue operating the drug traffic to Egypt, on the logic that drug use by Egyptian soldiers could only benefit Israel.”21 However, when the Eilat-Sharm road opened in 1972, the Israelis feared that the inexpensive drug might find its way into their own lucrative drug scene, and effectively ended all activity
  • Whereas the Egyptian administration distributed a sadaga, meaning charity, through their hired sheikhs, the Israelis personally distributed basic food staples from the American charitable organization CARE to the heads of every family.25 They also organized visits to villages in Israel, built a total of eleven clinics, offered formal vocational courses in Dahab and Sharm El Sheikh, employed half the Bedouin population in the oil fields, and in military and civilian construction, and at the request of the sheikhs, built them a total of thirteen schools in South Sinai alone. The Bedouins, who had expected to be dealt with impersonally, were quite amused with the new perks. Still, while most embraced change, they never let their guard down. In other words, there were no illusions of loyalty. Israel was still seen as an “occupying power.”
  • the Israelis also created “The Exotic Bedouin.”
  • One way for the Bedouins to mark their territory was to come up with an image that would help define and differentiate them. As a result, the “Muslim Bedouin” was born. The issue of self-definition became an urgent one when relations with outsiders ceased to be conducted through sheikhs and Bedouins came into increasing contact with the West. They felt that all Westerners, whether tourists or soldiers, Israelis or Europeans, Jews or Christians, invaded their privacy and threatened their traditions and customs.28 For example, in keeping with the Sinai image as an exotic, all-natural paradise, the tourists sunbathed in the nude, a practice that Bedouins took great offense to. When they expressed their dismay and requested that the behavior of tourists be regulated, Israeli authorities responded by explaining that they wanted nothing to do with the issue. Seeing that the “Bedouins were not permitted by either Israeli or Egyptian law to impose their own laws on non-Bedouins.. the problem could not be resolved.”29 In response, the Bedouins encouraged an Islamic revival of a very paradoxical nature. They still worked in tourism and came into contact with tourists everyday, but all the money made was “purified” by lavish expenditure on mosques and shrines of Saints and excessive manifestations of religious zeal. “‘We are Muslims,’ (they said) ‘they are the Jews.’”30
  • While the Bedouins were trying to disassociate themselves from the West, Egyptian policy was heading in the other direction. To complicate matters even more, “state-supported Muslim institutions, such as Al-Azhar University, invested this official policy with an Islamic sanction.”31 Result was an institutional type of Islam, one that was mainly constructed to fight the remnants of Nasser’s socialist regime. In this context, it was hard for the Muslim Bedouin to demonstrate loyalty merely by waving the flag of religion. The fact that Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel did not help bridge the gap either. Were the Bedouins to be viewed as fellow Egyptian returning from exile or were they treacherous collaborators?32 More importantly, which of these images was more beneficial to the state?
  • “The Villain” was born; an all-encompassing figure who stood for many ills all at once. He was uncivilized, lawless, treacherous, and dangerous. The most important thing for the state was to cater to the economic interests of Cairo’s elite in the Sinai, from the military and the industrialists, to the members of political parties and ministers. This goal could only be achieved through a label that would blunt Bedouin capacity to organize, gain sympathy, and attract media attention. In 1980, “Law 104, providing for state ownership of desert land and thus making the whole Sinai government property was changed to permit private ownership.”33 The law had some devastating effects on the Bedouins. Their land claims were not legally recognized, and they were subsequently displaced “with no government compensation.”34 In their place, the land was repopulated with peasants to solve the unemployment problem in the urban center. The once virgin coast became littered with grotesque infrastructure that paid no heed to damaging the natural balance of the environment; thousands of them were framed and sent to prison after the terrorist attacks on Sharm El Sheikh and Dahab in 2004 and 2005
  • a 20 million pound wall was built in Sharm El Sheikh to isolate the “dangerous” Bedouin from the tourist “paradise” beyond
  • every Bedouin stereotype out there has been readily absorbed and exploited by the Bedouins themselves
  • All what is left of Bedouin life is its cultural identity, and they hold on to that dearly. “The Bedouin is not Egyptian,” a young man in a white cotton head dress said, “The Sinai is not Egyptian or Israeli. It is Bedouin.” This is all that is left. In the age of state-systems, modernization and globalization, the world is becoming increasingly hegemonic and indigenous cultures are losing the battle. The world might like to think that it is without borders, but say that to a Bedouin and wait for a response.
  •  
    Some flaws here, but worth a read/some thought.
Ed Webb

Varieties of 'Islamophobia' and its targets | openDemocracy - 3 views

  •  
    Very useful in placing in historical context identity politics that can appear to be eternal. Empires built both umma nationalism and Islamophobia, in different ways.
Ed Webb

The Real Reason the Middle East Hates NGOs - Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • when pressed, the head of the officers’ delegation became red-faced with anger. Apparently, laying the groundwork for more open and just politics did not include human rights organizations, good-governance groups, environmentalists, private associations that provide aid to people in need, or other NGOs.
  • in Egypt, employees of NGOs have become virtual enemies of the state. In keeping with its reputation as the lone Arab Spring “success story,” Tunisia has created a more welcoming environment for these groups, but even there, the ability of NGOs to carry out their work can be constrained given that a state of emergency and other laws place restrictions on the right to assemble
  • the relentless pressure Middle Eastern governments have long applied to NGOs. Leaders in the region do not do well with ideas like “self-organizing,” “relatively autonomous from the state,” and the creation of associations and “solidarities” — and it is hard, without justifying repression, not to see why. Civil society groups have the potential to help people with common interests overcome the considerable obstacles to collective action that many Middle Eastern governments have put in place and, in the process, give greater voice to people’s grievances.
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  • officials in the region have often boasted of the large number of nongovernmental organizations (even as they were cracking down on them) as a way to both deflect criticism from abroad and embed in the minds of their citizens the idea that reform was underway. It has hardly been believable and has not worked, which is why the default for Middle Eastern governments is to repress such groups.
  • It is a mistake to conclude that only narrowly self-serving authoritarianism explains the thuggish approach to NGOs around the Middle East. After all, the hounding of these groups (including in Israel) seems to be out of proportion to any evidence that they can create significant political change in the region. No doubt many NGOs have helped people in need throughout the Middle East, but those dedicated to governance and human rights, for example, have hardly had an impact. But then why do the Middle East’s commanders of tanks, planes, and missiles treat the Arab hippies who want to defend the freedom of association as such a problem? The threat isn’t about loosening the authoritarians’ grip on power, but something more abstract: the Middle East’s fragile sense of identity and sovereignty.
  • Arab leaders essentially regard nongovernmental organizations, especially those with foreign funding, as agents of a neocolonial project. The hypocrisy of this position for governments that either receive copious amounts of foreign assistance or that rely on the West for their security is self-evident, but that does not necessarily diminish its effectiveness
  • Western-funded human rights campaigners and good-governance activists as the most recent manifestation of the civilizing mission that originally brought European colonialists to North Africa and the Levant
  • The related problem of sovereignty brings the matter into sharp relief. The European penetration of the Middle East in the late 18th and early 19th centuries began a long-term process of intellectual ferment and discovery among Middle Easterners about how best to confront this challenge. Islamic reformism, Arab nationalism, and Islamism, which emphasized identity, were the most politically effective (and enduring) regional responses
Ed Webb

The Death of the Palestinian Cause Has Been Greatly Exaggerated | Newlines Magazine - 1 views

  • For the last 10 years, Western (and even Arab) pundits have repeatedly questioned the place of Palestine in the pan-Arab psyche. They surmised that the Arab Spring had refocused Arab minds on their problems at home. They assumed that battling tyrannical regimes and their security apparatuses, reforming corrupt polities and decrepit health care and education systems, combating terrorism and religious extremism, whittling back the power of the military, and overcoming economic challenges like corruption and unemployment would take precedence over an unsolved and apparently unsolvable cause.
  • reforming the Arab world’s political systems and the security and patronage networks that keep them in power and allow them to dominate their populations appears to be just as arduous a task as resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
  • The difference now is not that Arab populaces have abandoned Palestine. Western and regional observers say the muted outrage over affronts like American support for the annexation of the Golan Heights or recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, or even the Abraham Accords and the subsequent sycophantic embrace of Israel in the Gulf is an indicator of Arab public opinion, that it signals a loss of interest in the cause.It is not. Arabs are of course not of a single mind on any particular issue, nor is it possible to gauge public opinion under tyrannical regimes. But it is indicative of the fact that these authoritarians no longer see the pan-Arab Palestinian cause and supporting it as vital to their survival. They have discovered that inward-looking, nationalistic pride is the key to enduring in perpetuity. It is the final step in the dismantling of pan-Arabism as a political force, one that will shape the region’s fortunes and its states’ alliances in the years and decades to come.
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  • Nowhere is this shift in attitude more abjectly transparent than in the Gulf states’ media outlets, which hew closely to the state line and even go beyond it in an attempt to out-hawk official policy, which by comparison appears reasonable and measured.
  • few Arab leaders have ever actually done anything for the Palestinians beyond rhetorical support for the cause, but they were happy to use the prospect of Palestine to keep their populations in check. The late former President Hafez al-Assad imposed a multi-decade state of emergency and mobilization to justify his tyrannical hold over Syria while awaiting the mother of all battles with the enemy, all without firing a single shot across the border since 1973. The leader of the beating heart of Arabism intervened in Lebanon’s civil war and had no qualms massacring pan-Arab nationalists and their Palestinian allies, or to recruit his Amal militia allies to starve Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. His son and successor, President Bashar al-Assad, negotiated with Israel via intermediaries, ready to sell out his allies in Iran and Hezbollah, even as he declared his fealty to the resistance.
  • Jordan violently suppressed demonstrators protesting the attacks on Gaza, who apparently did not receive the memo that 27 years should have been enough time to accept Israel’s position on the conflict. In Egypt, despite its testy relationship with Hamas and its participation in the blockade of Gaza, it is still political and social suicide to publicly embrace normalization as a concept.
  • There was great presumption and folly in the grandiose naming of a convenient political deal between unelected monarchs and a premier accused of bribery and corruption, which was brokered by an American president who paid hush money to a porn star, after the patriarch of the prophets of Israel and Islam.
  • an obvious and transparent outgrowth of the Gulf states’ normalization deals with Israel, though it is curious to me why they feel the need to amplify Israel’s narrative of the conflict if they did not think public opinion was already on the side of normalization
  • The Gulf states have long had backchannels and secret dealings with the Israelis and developed a penchant for Israeli digital surveillance tools. Egypt needed Israel to destroy extremist militants in Sinai. And Morocco, Oman, and Qatar all had different levels of diplomatic ties.
  • We don’t know broadly whether a majority of Arabs care about Palestine or not, though every indicator points to the fact that they still do
  • Riyadh’s media outlets have taken on a prominent role in expressing public sympathy for Israel and its positions
  • In Saudi Arabia, a monumental shift is underway to neuter the power of the clerical establishment in favor of a more nationalistic vision of progress that gives primacy to Saudi identity. According to Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince, in a recent interview, this identity derives from religious heritage but also from cultural and historic traditions. MBS has defanged the hated Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, introduced social reforms that dismantle some of the restrictions on women, detained numerous clerics who criticized his policies, both foreign and domestic, and has been elevated by his surrogates into an almost messianic figure sent to renew the faith and empower Saudi identity through KPI-infused economic progress initiatives like Vision 2030. He has also, of course, arrested those who sought to pursue activism and reform and those who criticized the pace and manner of his revolution.
  • where nationalist pride is intermingled with the quality of life and performance metrics of a technocratic capitalist state, albeit one where the reins are held by only a handful of families
Ed Webb

Is Turkey Renaming Istanbul Constantinople? | Foreign Policy - 1 views

  • The Turkish government wants to end the PKK's terrorist campaign without splitting off a Kurdish state -- and sees extending cultural rights and linguistic freedoms as the way to do it. But what will it take to reconcile the Turks and the Kurds?
  • Turkish journalists expect the government to allow public servants and politicians to speak Kurdish, end restrictions on Kurdish media, give some form of amnesty to all but the highest ranking PKK members, and possibly even revise the Constitution to allow Kurds to be full Turkish citizens without giving up their Kurdish identity. (Those Kurds who are proud to call themselves Turks have always been accepted and often risen high in the ranks of politics and pop culture) 
  • Realizing at last that the fight will never be won through purely military means, Turkey's leading general now supports greater cultural freedom for Kurds and wants to make it easier for PKK members to surrender. The National Security Council, traditionally a vehicle for the military to "advise" the government on political issues, also gave its blessing to the initiative.
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  • As the chief of staff of the president of Iraqi Kurdistan told the International Crisis Group, "If the Shiites choose Iran, and the Sunnis choose the Arab world, then the Kurds will have to ally themselves with Turkey."
  •  
    This would make Harold Pinter happy...
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