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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.
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

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

MEPP take 2 - Duck of Minerva - 0 views

  • The terms of the deal that Olmert and Abbas will strike are rather obvious to anyone who has followed this issue over the years. They, and their advisers know what that eventual compromise is. The issue isn’t reaching that compromise, the issue is politically legitimating that compromise to the respective societies in a way that both Olmert and Abbas can be seen as having achieved a victory and not having sold out their people.
  • What is needed is a reshaping of the rhetorical-identity topography. Someone, perhaps a US president (though perhaps not), needs to offer the Israelis a vision of an Israeli identity with a shared Jerusalem. Someone needs to offer the Palestinians a vision of a Palestinian identity without a right of return. Someone on each side needs to enact such an identity, producing the interests that support a peace deal. Then, and only then, is the potential for compromise possible.
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.
Michael Fisher

Tuning Out the Taliban - Video Library - The New York Times - 0 views

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    A Pakastani contends that the Taliban does not have a huge impact on Pakistan, rather the U.S. is guilty of having the biggest effect to its current situation. A response to this would make a great blog post, as it explores many underlying issues (politics, pop-culture, identity, etc...).
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    A Pakastani contends that the Taliban does not have a huge impact on Pakistan, rather the U.S. is guilty of having the biggest effect to its current situation. A response to this would make a great blog post, as it explores many underlying issues (politics, pop-culture, identity, etc...).
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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  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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
Ed Webb

Israel's Religiously Divided Society | Pew Research Center - 0 views

  • a major new survey by Pew Research Center also finds deep divisions in Israeli society – not only between Israeli Jews and the country’s Arab minority, but also among the religious subgroups that make up Israeli Jewry.
  • Nearly all Israeli Jews identify with one of four categories: Haredi (commonly translated as “ultra-Orthodox”), Dati (“religious”), Masorti (“traditional”) or Hiloni (“secular”)
  • secular Jews in Israel are more uncomfortable with the notion that a child of theirs might someday marry an ultra-Orthodox Jew than they are with the prospect of their child marrying a Christian
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  • The vast majority of secular Jews say democratic principles should take precedence over religious law, while a similarly large share of ultra-Orthodox Jews say religious law should take priority.
  • When asked, “What is your present religion, if any?” virtually all Israeli Jews say they are Jewish – and almost none say they have no religion – even though roughly half describe themselves as secular and one-in-five do not believe in God.
  • Sephardim/Mizrahim are generally more religiously observant than Ashkenazim, and men are somewhat more likely than women to say halakha should take precedence over democratic principles. But in many respects, these demographic differences are dwarfed by the major gulfs seen among the four religious subgroups that make up Israeli Jewry.
  • Most non-Jewish residents of Israel are ethnically Arab and identify, religiously, as Muslims, Christians or Druze
  • Israeli Arabs generally do not think Israel can be a Jewish state and a democracy at the same time. This view is expressed by majorities of Muslims, Christians and Druze. And overwhelmingly, all three of these groups say that if there is a conflict between Jewish law and democracy, democracy should take precedence
  • Fully 58% of Muslims favor enshrining sharia as official law for Muslims in Israel, and 55% of Christians favor making the Bible the law of the land for Christians
  • Roughly eight-in-ten Israeli Arabs (79%) say there is a lot of discrimination in Israeli society against Muslims, who are by far the biggest of the religious minorities. On this issue, Jews take the opposite view; the vast majority (74%) say they do not see much discrimination against Muslims in Israel
  • Nearly half of Israeli Jews say Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel, including roughly one-in-five Jewish adults who strongly agree with this position
  • Israeli Arabs are highly skeptical about the sincerity of the Israeli government in seeking a peace agreement, while Israeli Jews are equally skeptical about the sincerity of Palestinian leaders. But there is plenty of distrust to go around: Fully 40% of Israeli Jews say their own government is not making a sincere effort toward peace, and an equal share of Israeli Arabs say the same about Palestinian leaders.
  • The vast majority of Jews (98%), Muslims (85%), Christians (86%) and Druze (83%) say all or most of their close friends belong to their own religious community
  • Israeli Jews overall are more religiously observant than U.S. Jews. Politically, American Jews are more optimistic about the possibility of a peaceful two-state solution and more negative about Jewish settlements in the West Bank than are Israeli Jews
  • Israel is no longer a predominantly immigrant society; at present, roughly three-quarters of Israeli adults are natives, and just one-quarter were born abroad. Yet with virtual unanimity, Israeli Jews of every kind – native-born and immigrant, young and old, secular and highly religious – agree that all Jews everywhere should have the right to make “aliyah,” or move to Israel and receive immediate citizenship.2 This overwhelming support for Jewish immigration may be linked, in part, to perceptions about anti-Semitism. Fully three-quarters of Israeli Jews (76%) think that anti-Semitism is both common and increasing around the world, and roughly nine-in-ten (91%) say that a Jewish state is necessary for the long-term survival of the Jewish people.
  • A solid majority of Haredim (62%) favor gender segregation on public transportation, such as buses and trains, used by members of the Haredi community. Among Hilonim, meanwhile, just 5% favor this policy. The vast majority of Hilonim (93%) are opposed to enforcing gender segregation on any public transport, even when it is used by Haredim
  • The survey asked Jews whether they strongly agree, agree, disagree or strongly disagree with the statement that “Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel.” Roughly half of Israeli Jews strongly agree (21%) or agree (27%), while a similar share disagree (29%) or strongly disagree (17%).3 Datiim are especially likely to favor the expulsion of Arabs. Roughly seven-in-ten (71%) say Arabs should be transferred. Hilonim lean in the other direction: Most (58%) disagree and say Arabs should not be expelled from Israel, including 25% who strongly disagree. But even among these self-described secular Israeli Jews, about one-third (36%) favor the expulsion of Arabs from the country
  • Seven-in-ten Haredim (70%) and roughly half of Datiim (52%) say being Jewish is mainly a matter of religion, while 3% of Haredim and 16% of Datiim say being Jewish is mainly a matter of ancestry and/or culture. Among Hilonim, by contrast, only 4% see being Jewish as primarily a matter of religion, while 83% say Jewish identity is mainly a matter of ancestry and/or culture. However, at least some members of all of these groups see their Jewish identity as bound up with both religion and ancestry/culture.
  • Arabs in Israel – especially Muslims – are more religiously observant than Jews as a whole. Fully two-thirds of Israeli Arabs say religion is very important in their lives, compared with just 30% of Jews. Israeli Muslims (68%), Christians (57%) and Druze (49%) all are more likely than Jews to say religion is very important to them, personally. In addition, more Arabs than Jews report that they pray daily and participate in weekly worship services.
  • Religious intermarriages cannot be performed in Israel (although civil marriages that take place in other countries are legally recognized in Israel).7 This is reflected in the rarity of marriages between members of different religious communities in the country. Nearly all Israelis in the survey who are married or living with a partner say their spouse or partner shares their religion. Relatively few married Muslim, Christian and Druze residents (1%) say their spouse has a different religion, and only 2% of married Jews say they have a spouse who belongs to a non-Jewish religion or is religiously unaffiliated.
  • About one-in-six Muslims say they have been questioned by security officials (17%), prevented from traveling (15%) or physically threatened or attacked (15%) because of their religion in the past 12 months, while 13% say they have suffered property damage. All told, 37% of Muslims say they have suffered at least one of these forms of discrimination because of their religious identity in the past year
  • While Muslims living in Israel, overall, are more religious than Israeli Jews, they are less religious than Muslims living in many other countries in the region. For example, about two-thirds of Muslims in Israel (68%) say religion is very important in their lives – higher than the comparable share of Lebanese Muslims (59%), but lower than the share of Muslims in Jordan (85%), the Palestinian territories (85%) and Iraq (82%) who say this.
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.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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

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
  • Americans inside and outside of government will not quickly abandon the benefits they receive from economic, military and political ties to Gulf rulers
  • 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
  • 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

The Many Myths of the Term 'Crusader' | History | Smithsonian Magazine - 0 views

  • the international news cycle whirred to life, attaching a charged adjective—Crusader—to a potentially unrelated object. In doing so, media coverage revealed the pervasive reach of this (surprisingly) anachronistic term, which gained traction in recent centuries as a way for historians and polemicists to lump disparate medieval conflicts into an overarching battle between good and evil, Christianity and Islam, civilization and barbarism.
  • the term should never stand alone as an explanation in and of itself. Crusades were waged by Christians against Muslims, Jews and fellow Christians. They were launched in the Middle East, in the Baltic, in Italy, in France and beyond
  • The Crusades weren’t the only events happening during these two centuries in either the Middle East or Europe. Relatively few people were, in fact, Crusaders, and not everything that fell into the eastern Mediterranean Sea during this period was a Crusader artifact. The habit of referring to the “era of the Crusades,” or calling the petty kingdoms that formed, squabbled and fell in these years the “Crusader states,” as if they had some kind of unified identity, is questionable at best. Inhabitants of this part of the Middle East and North Africa were incredibly diverse, with not only Christians, Muslims and Jews but also multiple forms of each religion represented. People spoke a range of languages and claimed wildly diverse ethnic or extended family identities. These groups were not simply enclaves of fanatically religious warriors, but rather part of a long, ever-changing story of horrific violence, cultural connection and hybridity.
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  • “In calling this period ‘Crusader,’ Israeli archaeology had, in some ways, aligned itself with a European colonial narrative about the Middle East” that privileged the experience of Europeans over those of locals.
  • The term “Crusade” has always been an anachronism—a way of looking back at complex, often disconnected movements with a wide array of motivations, membership, tactics and results and organizing them into a single coherent theology or identity. As Benjamin Weber of Stockholm University explains, the phrase “opened the way to complete assimilation of wars fought against different enemies, in varied places and often for similar reasons. ... [It] took on a legitimizing function. Any contested action could be justified by dubbing it a ‘crusade.’ It, therefore, became a word used to wield power and silence denouncers.”
  • The word “Crusade” came into use late, long after medieval Christian holy wars began. The Latin word crucesignatus, or “one marked by the cross,” first appeared in the early 1200s, more than a century after Urban II’s call to action in 1095. In English, “Crusade” and “Crusader” don’t appear until around 1700; by the 1800s, the term—defined broadly as a military campaign in defense of one’s faith—had become a convenient way for Victorian historians to mark the past as a battle between what they saw as good and evil, represented respectively by Christianity and Islam
  • claims worked especially well as supposed historical justification for contemporary European colonialism, which used rhetoric like “The White Man’s Burden” to paint land grabs as civilizing crusades against “uncivilized” non-Westerners.
  • Today, the terms “Crusader” and “Crusade” latch onto a nostalgic vision of the past, one that suggests there was a millennia-long clash of civilizations between Islam and Christianity (or “the West”)
  • historians must develop terminology that accurately reflects the people who inhabited the Middle East around the 12th century. A potential alternative is “Frankish,” which appears routinely in medieval Arabic sources and can be a useful “generalized term for [medieval] Europeans,” according to Mulder. It initially had pejorative connotations, being “kind of synonymous with a bunch of unwashed barbarians,” she says. “But as there come to be these more sophisticated relationships, it just becomes a term to refer to Europeans.”
  • Between the 11th and 13th centuries, “hybridity [in the region] is the norm. The fact that another kind of group [establishes itself in the same area] is just part of the story of everything. It's always someone. ... If it's not the Seljuks, it’s the Mongols, it’s the Mamluks. It’s you name it.” Mulder isn’t denying that medieval kingdoms were different, but she argues first and foremost that difference was the norm.
  • In the Middle Ages as a whole, but perhaps especially in this corner of the Mediterranean, objects, people and ideas moved across borders all the time
Ed Webb

BBC News - Neighbours at war in Lebanon's divided city of Tripoli - 0 views

  • The Alawites once ruled the roost here, back in the 1980s, when Lebanon was occupied by Syrian forces, whose then President, Hafez al-Assad, was a member of the heterodox Shia sect. But now their 50,000-strong population is crammed onto a hilltop called Jabal Muhsin. Surrounded by hostile Sunni areas, it is effectively under siege.
  • Every few weeks, armed clashes erupt and the neighbours go at each other with sniper rifles, machine-guns, rocket launchers and mortars
  • Charismatic and politically ambitious, Sheikh Bilal's every waking hour seems dominated by his hatred of the Syrian regime in Damascus - and its Alawite allies up on the hill. With long hair and wild eyes, he reminds me of a young Rasputin. Sheikh Bilal is today where Abu Rami was 30 years ago: young, trigger-happy and eager for the fight. When he is not preaching jihad or selling phones, he leads a small militia of local toughs. And when the clashes break out, he is a dab-hand with a sniper rifle, shunning modern assault weapons for his beloved bolt-action Lee Enfield.
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  • He thinks that the slaughter in neighbouring Syria will lead to the overthrow of the Assad regime that back in the 1980s murdered his father, his friends and so many of his neighbours.
  • Muawiya is barely out of nappies and he would probably rather watch cartoons than Free Syrian Army propaganda. But his head is being filled daily with sectarian chauvinism and thoughts of war. As we interview his father, Muawiya starts firing an imaginary rifle made from a stick. He is very specific in his actions - it is an imaginary bolt-action sniper rifle
  • Out on the streets of Bab al-Tabbana we film other young boys playing war games. They take aim and shoot their toy rifles uphill towards Jabal Muhsin
  • Up on the Jabal, it is a mirror image. The kids point their plastic Kalashnikovs down the slope, as their fathers do in real life.
  • The young men who make up the militia on both sides look identical in their skinny jeans, knock-off Adidas weightlifter vests, baseball caps and Maori-style tattoos.
Ed Webb

Our revolution has been stolen, say Libya's jihadists | Reuters - 0 views

  • One effect of hostile reactions at home and abroad has been that some Islamist groups, part of a patchwork of militias which fill a vacuum left by Gaddafi, have made a tactical retreat from view, in some declaring their brigades to have disbanded.
  • Islamist fighters in Derna make clear they will seek redress for grievances, many with little to do with religion, some dating to colonial times, others rooted in a sense that victory in the fight against Gaddafi they began years ago has been "stolen" by his former henchmen and stooges of the West
  • "The state is making up this conspiracy. The state deliberately ignores the fact that there is an Islamic renaissance," said Dirbi, whose brother was among more that 1,200 Islamist inmates machine-gunned by guards in a Tripoli prison in 1996."I want to see Gaddafi's men on trial, not being rewarded and honored,"
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  • The town's radical reputation has lately been burnished by the presence of several former Guantanamo prisoners, including Sufyan bin Qumo, who heads the Ansar al-Shariah Islamist group blamed by the American for the U.S. embassy attack.
  • "In Libya it's only been a year and the idea of democracy and political parties is difficult for people to absorb. The people have not responded to this imported, packaged democracy. We don't accept it. We have a religion that needs to be taken into account," said Azouz, an English teacher who belongs to one of Derna's most prominent families.
  • For the Islamist groups, which are part of a Salafi movement whose members try to model their lives on the early followers of the Prophet Mohammad, the legitimacy of the newborn Libyan state is highly questionable."It's the revolution that made the state and some of the opportunists who did not participate in the revolution or shed any blood for the revolution are the ones who are forcing their orders on us," Azouz said.
  • "The solution is to draft an Islamic constitution ... and set up Sharia courts so that people can trust that this state is a true Islamic state,"
  • Some jihadists are already preparing for what they see is an inevitable showdown with those who seek to turn Libya into an "apostate" nation. They can see no compromise with an infidel West bent on changing Libya's Islamic identity.
  • The deep streak of radicalism in eastern Libya that fed on the neglect of towns such as Derna during the Gaddafi era is still strong these days. Many jihadists say the country's new rulers are favoring Tripoli just as the former dictator did.
  •  
    Complicated dynamics
Ed Webb

Parents protest as dream of bilingual education in Israel turns sour | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • Hand in Hand operates four bilingual schools across Israel and two kindergartens. Jaffa’s primary school classes are the most recent addition.The idea of children from different cultural backgrounds learning together and speaking each other’s language may seem uncontroversial. But it has prompted a fierce backlash from right-wing Jewish groups in Israel.In late 2014 Hand in Hand’s flagship school in Jerusalem was torched by activists from Lehava, an organisation that opposes integration between Jewish and Palestinian citizens. Graffiti daubed on the walls read “Death to the Arabs” and “There can be no coexistence with cancer”.Three of the group’s members were jailed last year. In January Israel’s high court increased the sentences of two brothers involved in the arson attack.Although Lehava is a fringe group, it draws on ideas that have found favour with much larger numbers of Israeli Jews, especially over the past 15 years as the country has lurched to the right.A survey by the Pew polling organisation this month found that half of Israeli Jews wanted Arabs expelled from the state, and 79 percent believed Jews should have more rights than their Palestinian compatriots.
  • 1,350 children are currently in bilingual education, out of a total Israeli school population of some 1.5 million children.
  • The Jaffa parents argue that their coastal city of 50,000 residents, which is incorporated into the Tel Aviv municipal area, is the natural location for a bilingual school.A third of Jaffa’s residents are Palestinian, reflecting the fact that, before Israel’s creation in 1948, it was Palestine’s commercial centre.Although Israelis mostly live in separate communities, based on their ethnicity, Jaffa is one of half a dozen urban areas where Jewish and Palestinian citizens live close to each other.
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  • Within days of the bilingual first-grade classes opening last year, parents hit a crisis when school administrators refused to let the children take off the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha.When the parents rebelled and kept their children home, the management “flipped out”, said Ronel. “Now the trust has gone and we are demanding that they make commitments in writing that things will be different.”
  • Ronel, an Israeli Jewish journalist, said he had long been pessimistic about the region’s future and had contemplated leaving Israel with his family, taking advantage of his wife’s German passport. But that changed once his daughter, Ruth, began at the bilingual kindergarten.“I have become evangelical about it,” he said. “I see how her knowledge of Palestinian identity and the Arabic language has made her own identity much stronger.”He said knowing the other side was essential to strengthening Israelis’ sense of security and reducing their fears. “This is the model for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict too. I am sure this is what a solution will look like.”
  • bilingual schools are proving particularly popular in Israel’s mixed cities. Next year Hand in Hand will open the first bilingual elementary school in Haifa, Israel’s third largest city, following the success of a bilingual kindergarten there
  • Far-right Jewish religious groups, ideologically close to the settlers, have set up seminaries and exclusive housing areas in Jaffa and other mixed cities. “They are going the other way: they want even deeper segregation,” said Dichter.Hassan Agbaria, principal of the only bilingual school in a Palestinian community in Israel, located in the northern town of Kafr Karia, said there were problems in more rural areas too. This month the gated Jewish community of Katzir, close to his school, refused to allow Hand in Hand organisers in for a parents’ registration meeting, accusing the group of “political activity”.“It is a big psychological hurdle for some of them,” he told MEE. “Some think you must be crazy to send your young children into an Arab community every day.”
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.
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    Some flaws here, but worth a read/some thought.
Ed Webb

American citizens are detained in Hebron for wearing hijab on a 'Jewish street' - 1 views

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    A description of what borders, identities, citizenships etc can look and feel like at the micro-level in the Israel-Palestine context.
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