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Ed Webb

Beyond the Nation-State | Boston Review - 0 views

  • The Westphalian order refers to the conception of global politics as a system of independent sovereign states, all of which are equal to each other under law. The most popular story about this political system traces its birth to the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, follows its strengthening in Europe and gradual expansion worldwide, and finally, near the end of the twentieth century, begins to identify signs of its imminent decline. On this view, much of the power that states once possessed has been redistributed to a variety of non-state institutions and organizations—from well-known international organizations such as the UN, the EU, and the African Union to violent non-state actors such as ISIS, Boko Haram, and the Taliban along with corporations with global economic influence such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon. This situation, the story often goes, will result in an international political order that resembles medieval Europe more than the global political system of the twentieth century.
  • Over the last two decades, scholars working on the history of the global order have painstakingly shown the complete mismatch between the story of Westphalia and the historical evidence. The nation-state is not so old as we are often told, nor has it come to be quite so naturally. Getting this history right means telling a different story about where our international political order has come from—which in turn points the way to an alternative future.
  • Generations of international relations students have absorbed the idea of the 1648 Peace of Westphalia as a pan-European charter that created the political structure that now spans the entire globe: a system of legally (if not materially) equal sovereign states. Along with this political structure, this story goes, came other important features, from the doctrine of non-intervention, respect of territorial integrity, and religious tolerance to the enshrinement of the concept of the balance of power and the rise of multilateral European diplomacy. In this light, the Peace of Westphalia constitutes not just a chronological benchmark but a sort of anchor for our modern world. With Westphalia, Europe broke into political modernity and provided a model for the rest of the world.
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  • In fact, the Peace of Westphalia strengthened a system of relations that was precisely not based on the concept of the sovereign state but instead on a reassertion of the Holy Roman Empire’s complex jurisdictional arrangements (landeshoheit), which allowed autonomous political units to form a broader conglomerate (the “empire”) without a central government.  
  • What we have come to call the Peace of Westphalia actually designates two treaties: signed between May and October 1648, they were agreements between the Holy Roman Empire and its two main opponents, France (the Treaty of Münster) and Sweden (the Treaty of Osnabrück). Each treaty mostly addressed the internal affairs of the Holy Roman Empire and smaller bilateral exchanges of territory with France and with Sweden.
  • The treaties were only properly mythologized in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when European historians turned to the early modern period in order to craft stories that served their own worldview.
  • Looking for a story of states fighting for their sovereignty against imperial domination, nineteenth-century historians found exactly what they needed in the anti-Habsburg fabrications that had been disseminated by the French and Swedish crowns during the Thirty Years’ War
  • Leo Gross’s essay “The Peace of Westphalia: 1648–1948,” published in 1948 in the American Journal of International Law. Canonized as “timeless” and “seminal” at the time, the article gave meaning to the emerging postwar order. By comparing the 1945 UN Charter to the Peace of Westphalia, Gross rehashed a story about treaties for freedom, equality, non-intervention, and all the rest of the alleged virtues for reinventing national sovereignty
  • The solution to the Westphalia debacle, then, would seem to lie in putting forward an alternative narrative grounded in greater historical accuracy, one that reflects the much more complicated process through which the modern international order came about.
  • Until the nineteenth century, the international order was made up of a patchwork of polities. Although a distinction is often made between the European continent and the rest of the world, recent research has reminded us that European polities also remained remarkably heterogeneous until the nineteenth century. While some of these were sovereign states, others included composite formations such as the Holy Roman Empire and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, within which sovereignty was divided in very complex ways.
  • Sovereign statehood only became the default within Europe in the nineteenth century, with entities like the Holy Roman Empire gradually giving way to sovereign states like Germany. While often overlooked in this regard, Latin America also transitioned into a system of sovereign states during that period as a result of its successive anti-colonial revolutions.
  • Over the past several decades, the state has not only triumphed as the only legitimate unit of the international system, but it has also rewired our collective imagination into the belief that this has been the normal way of doing things since 1648.
  • As late as 1800, Europe east of the French border looked nothing like its contemporary iteration. As historian Peter H. Wilson describes in his recent book Heart of Europe (2020), the Holy Roman Empire, long snubbed by historians of the nation-state, had been in existence for a thousand years at that point; at its peak it had occupied a third of continental Europe. It would hold on for six more years, until its dissolution under the strain of Napoleonic invasions and its temporary replacement with the French-dominated Confederation of the Rhine (1806–1813) and then the German Confederation (1815–1866).
  • what we think of as modern-day Italy was still a patchwork of kingdoms (Sardinia, the Two Siciles, Lombardy-Venetia under the Austrian Crown), Duchies (including Parma, Modena, and Tuscany), and Papal States, while territory further east was ruled by the Ottoman Empire.
  • We are accustomed to thinking of Europe as the first historical instance of a full-blown system of sovereign states, but Latin America actually moved toward that form of political organization at just about the same time. After three centuries of imperial domination, the region saw a complete redrawing of its political geography in the wake of the Atlantic Revolutions of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Following in the footsteps of the United States (1776) and Haiti (1804), it witnessed a series of wars of independence which, by 1826 and with only a few exceptions, had essentially booted out the Spanish and Portuguese empires. Of course, Britain promptly gained control of trade in the region through an aggressive combination of diplomatic and economic measures often referred to as “informal empire,” but its interactions were now with formally sovereign states.
  • Until World War II the world was still dominated by empires and the heterogeneous structures of political authority they had created. Once decolonization took off after 1945, the nation-state was not the only option on the table. In Worldmaking after Empire (2019), Adom Getachew describes anglophone Africa’s “federal moment,” when the leaders of various independence movements on the continent discussed the possibility of organizing a regional Union of African States and, in the Caribbean, a West Indian Federation.
  • much as with Western Europe, the region did not stabilize into a system of nation-states that looks like its contemporary iteration until the end of the nineteenth century. It now seems possible to tell a relatively similar story about North America, as in historian Rachel St John’s ongoing project, The Imagined States of America: The Unmanifest History of Nineteenth-century North America.
  • “antinationalist anticolonialism” eventually ran afoul of the French government’s unwillingness to distribute the metropole’s resources amongst a widened network of citizens. Yet the fact that it was seriously considered should give us pause. Of course, in the context of decolonization, the triumph of the nation-state represented a final victory for colonized peoples against their long-time oppressors. But it also disconnected regions with a shared history, and it created its own patterns of oppression, particularly for those who were denied a state of their own: indigenous peoples, stateless nations, minorities
  • what is clear is that a mere seventy years ago, what we now consider to be the self-evident way of organizing political communities was still just one of the options available to our collective imagination
  • The conventional narrative associates international order with the existence of a system of sovereign states, but the alternative story suggests that the post-1648 period was characterized by the resilience of a diversity of polities
  • The comparative stability of the post-1648 period may therefore have had more to do with the continued diversity of polities on the continent than with the putative emergence of a homogenous system of sovereign states
  • an international system in which power is shared among different kinds of actors might in fact be relatively stable
  • even the most powerful contemporary multinational corporations—Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, and the rest—are drastically more limited in their formal powers than were the famous mercantile companies who were central actors in the international order until the mid-nineteenth century. The two largest, the British and the Dutch East India Companies, founded in 1600 and 1602 respectively, amassed spectacular amounts of power over their two-hundred-year existence, becoming the primary engine of European imperial expansion. While these companies started off as merchant enterprises seeking to get in on Asia’s lucrative trading network, they gradually turned into much more ambitious endeavors and grew from their original outposts in India and Indonesia into full-on polities of their own. They were, as various scholars now argue, “company-states”—hybrid public-private actors that were legally entitled to rule over subjects, mint money, and wage wars. From this perspective, contemporary non-state actors are still relatively weak compared to states, who still monopolize far more formal power than all other actors in the international system
  • we should be careful not to suggest that the culprit is an unprecedented weakening of the state and thus that the solution is to expand state power
  • States certainly were important after 1648, but so were a host of other actors, from mercantile companies to semi-sovereign polities and all sorts of empires more or less formally structured. This system only truly began to unravel in the nineteenth century, with many of its features persisting well into the twentieth. Viewed through this lens, the so-called “Westphalian order” begins to look much more like an anomaly than the status quo
  • Engaging with this history makes the current centrality of the states-system as a basis for organizing the globe look recent and in fairly good shape, not centuries-old and on the verge of collapse
  • What is truly new, from a longue durée perspective, is the triumph of the state worldwide, and our inability to think of ways of organizing the world that do not involve either nation-states or organizations of nation-states.
  • Even thinkers in tune with limitations of the nation-state cannot seem to free themselves from the statist straitjacket of the contemporary political imagination. Debates about state-based supranational institutions likewise fall along a remarkably narrow spectrum: more power to states, or more power to state-based international organizations?
  • Misrepresenting the history of the states-system plays into the hands of nationalist strongmen, who depict themselves as saving the world from a descent into stateless anarchy, controlled by globalist corporations who couldn’t care less about national allegiance. More broadly, getting this history right means having the right conversations. Giving power to actors other than states is not always a good idea, but we must resist the false choice between resurgent nationalism on the one hand and the triumph of undemocratic entities on the other.
  • Today the norm is that states enjoy far more rights than any other collectivity—ranging from indigenous peoples to transnational social movements—simply because they are states. But it is not at all clear why this should be the only framework available to our collective imagination, particularly if its legitimacy rests on a history of the states-system that has long been debunked.
Ed Webb

UCSC International Students Increasingly Vulnerable Amid Wildcat Strike | MERIP - 0 views

  • Since February 10, graduate student teaching assistants (TAs) have been engaged in a wildcat strike—a strike unauthorized by their labor union—to press for a cost of living adjustment (COLA) to their salaries. UCSC students and faculty suffer from one of the most expensive and tight housing markets in the country. The graduate student workers, along with faculty and undergraduate students, are sending an urgent message to the administration: the cost of living in Santa Cruz has become unbearable.
  • continue to congregate on the lush green lawn at the base of campus daily at 7:30am. Supporters provide free food and water, legal and medical support and play English, Spanish and Arabic music around the clock. Their actions, such as teach-ins and guest lectures, are bringing together diverse groups from across campus and highlighting shared grievances among students, faculty and staff at the university. As of this moment, graduate students at UC Santa Barbara voted to go on a full teaching strike on February 27, while students at UC Davis voted to begin withholding Winter quarter grades on the same day to demand a COLA and in solidarity with UCSC.
  • While all graduate student TAs are facing a precarious situation, international students are particularly vulnerable. In a February 7 email from the UCSC office of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), international students were “reminded [of] the conditions of their immigration status.” The letter stated that while participation in the strike is not a violation of the students’ immigration status, “any actions that result in student discipline or arrest may have immigration consequences, both on your current status and on possible future immigration applications you may make in the United States.”
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  • Since visa holders are not allowed to seek employment off campus or take on more than a 50 percent work load on campus, they cannot offset the high cost of housing with additional work as other students do in desperation. The international students find the administration responsible for making the “implicit threat of deportation [the ISSS email] a reality by threatening to revoke Spring 2020 work appointments for striking graduate students.” Terminating employment would disproportionately impact international graduate students, who would lose their tuition waiver and thus be forced to give up full-time enrollment at the university, which would then invalidate their visas. 
  • for international TAs, losing their legal immigration status is “a real and terrifying consequence,” one that is affecting their choice to strike. Indeed, due to heavy police presence at the strike, some international students were advised by their professors not to participate in the rallies, for fear of arrest or the collection of evidence against them that could eventually lead to their deportation or other immigration consequences.
  • Obstacles to obtaining visas disproportionately affect students and scholars from the Middle East. The Middle East Studies Association’s (MESA) Task Force on Civil and Human Rights currently runs a research project dedicated specifically to documenting widespread cases of “visa cancellations, border denials, and deportations of students and faculty from the Middle East.” The project was prompted by the denial of entry to 13 Iranian students with valid visas at US airports since August 2019. Morteza Behrooz, an Iranian student who just completed his PhD in computer science at UCSC, says that even now as a permanent resident, he still feels at risk traveling to and from the United States. Iranian students are often issued single-entry visas, “which leaves them particularly vulnerable to unfair policies” and unable to visit their families for years on end, as Morteza experienced when he first joined UCSC.
  • With widespread uncertainty about immigration laws and practices under the Trump presidency, the university administration’s response to the strike puts international students at additional risk. While the punitive measures facing the striking TAs are presented by the administration as uniform and general, certain students are nonetheless subjected to more discipline than others due to their non-citizen status.
  • The difficulties and ambiguities of the visa process risk having an adverse impact on the diversity of US academic institutions and curricula by deterring international students and discouraging exchanges and research. The field of Middle East Studies is also currently facing threats of defunding and interference by the Department of Education, such as the department’s inquiry into the federally-funded Middle East consortium between Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill due to purported anti-Israel bias. At UCSC, which inaugurated a long-awaited and celebrated Center for the Middle East and North Africa days before the strike, the university administration’s perceived pressure on its international students leaves students and scholars coming from the Middle East uneasy.
  • “I feel totally crippled when it comes to my participation in political life as a student here,” he explains. “Even though I was supportive of the TA strike, I felt scared to participate in the rally with other students. I know that getting arrested for whatever reason is not an option for me and will jeopardize my stay. This is oppressive. It means that I cannot freely express myself politically.”
Ed Webb

IRGC warns Saudi Arabia it must 'control' media 'provoking our youth' | Amwaj.media - 0 views

  • The commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has warned the Saudi royal family that it will “pay the price” unless it reins in the media outlets it allegedly funds. The warning comes as Tehran accuses foreign-based Persian-language networks—and especially the TV channel Iran International—of spreading fake news and inciting unrest.
  • the IRGC-linked Tasnim News Agency reported hours after his speech that the main target was Iran International. Tasnim maintained that there is "no doubt" that London-based Iran International "is linked to the crown prince," referring to Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud (MbS). Tasnim also named Dubai-based Al-Arabiya and Al-Hadath as other news networks funded by the Kingdom and targeted by Salami in his speech.
  • MP Mohammad Ali Naqdali—the secretary of the parliament’s legal and judicial commission—urged Iranian authorities on Oct. 8 to file a complaint against Iran International with the UK media regulator, Ofcom. The lawmaker called on the foreign ministry and judiciary to complain about Iran International over its alleged role in "encouraging further protests” in Iran. Naqdali also criticized other Persian-language outlets based in the UK, describing them as "lie-producing factories."
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  • Tehran has previously lodged a complaint against Iran International over its programming, but Ofcom ruled that the London-based television network had not broken any rules.
  • British newspaper The Guardian reported in Oct. 2018 that Iran International had financial ties to MbS. The Guardian charged that the TV network was "being funded through a secretive offshore entity and a company whose director is a Saudi Arabian businessman with close links to the Saudi crown prince." A month later, Iran International issued a statement denying any links to any governments, including Saudi Arabia, and insisted that it "does not advocate any movement or party or government." Some of Iran International's high-profile staff have stirred controversy for often expressing opinions on social media that may be in contravention of the outlet's editorial guidelines.
  • Iranian authorities have long taken issued with foreign-based Persian-language news networks, accusing them of being tasked with attacking the Islamic Republic. Salami's warning to the Saudi royal family comes as Tehran and Riyadh are working toward mending relations and re-establishing diplomatic ties. The IRGC commander's apparent criticism of Saudi media indicates that it will be brought up in the anticipated next round of talks between the two sides in Iraq.
Ed Webb

Liberal peace transitions: a rethink is urgent | openDemocracy - 1 views

  • It is widely accepted among those working in, or on, international organisations, from the UN to the EU, UNDP, NATO or the World Bank, that statebuilding offers a way out of contemporary conflicts around the world: local, civil, regional and international conflicts, as well as complex emergencies, and for developmental issues. Most policymakers, officials, scholars and commentators involved think that they are applying proven knowledge unbiased by cultural or historical proclivities to the conflicts of others. This is not the case.
  • The broader idea has been that liberal democratic and market reform will provide for regional stability, leading to state stability and individual prosperity. Underlying all of this is the idea that individuals should be enabled to develop a social contract with their state and with international peacebuilders. Instead - in an effort to make local elites reform quickly, particularly in the process of marketisation and economic structural adjustment - those very international peacebuilders have often ended up removing or postponing the democratic and human rights that citizens so desired, and which legitimated international intervention in the first place. A peace dividend has only emerged for political and economic elites: the vast bulk of populations in these many countries have failed to see much benefit from trickle-down economics, or indeed from democracy so far.
  • this liberal peace is itself in crisis now
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  • What began as a humanitarian project has turned into an insidious form of conversion and riot control which has had many casualties. It has been profoundly anti-democratic in many cases, including in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. From the ground, for many of its recipients, the various iterations of this liberal peace project have taken on a colonial appearance. It has become illiberal
  • local actors are reframing what they require from a viable, just, and durable peace, often quietly and in the margins, drawing on the liberal peace as well as their own customs and interests.
  • Talk of ‘human security’, ‘responsibility to protect’, ‘do no harm doctrines’ and ‘local ownership’ seems very empty from the perspective of most of the peoples these concepts have been visited upon. This in turn has often elicited from subject communities a 'post-colonial response', criticising peace interventions as self-interested, imperialistic, orientalist, and focusing on the interveners' interests rather than local interests. A local (transnational and transversal) attempt is under way to reclaim political agency and autonomy from the new post-Cold War 'civilising mission', which has over the last twenty years, shown itself unable to provide for basic needs, rights, security (state or human) at levels local actors expect, or to respect or understand local differences and non-liberal, and even non-state patterns of politics. Non-liberal and non-western forms of politics, economics, society, and custom, are clamouring for discursive and material space in many post-conflict zones, with mixed implications for sustainability and for the purpose of achieving a normatively (to liberals at least) and contextually acceptable, locally sustainable peace.
  • In some cases, as in Kosovo and Timor Leste this has led to a modified form of state emerging, heavily influenced by both liberal norms and local customs, practices, identities, and national agendas. Very difficult issues arise here for 'international planners' of peace and world order, not least in how they respond to such confrontations between very different political systems, customs, and agendas. But, it is also the case that synergies may arise, where these are sensitively handled and properly understood.
  • peace requires well-being via human needs stemming from rights defined by their contexts, (where context may mean local, customary, state, market, regional or international, not merely the 'local' it is often taken to mean). These contexts are of course connected to the ambit of liberal state and international institutions, but they are not defined by them. As a result, millions of people around the world do not have adequate rights or needs provision, nor proper access to representation, despite the best intentions of liberal peacebuilders.
  • To achieve this the ethically and methodologically dubious privatisation of security and peacebuilding and its connection to neoliberal marketisation strategies in the context of a classically sovereign state should be abandoned. The privatisation of peacebuilding means that no accountability is possible until after a specific development project has failed, and only then by refusing funding often to those who need it most. Such strategies have attracted to this sector a dangerous fringe of arrogant bureaucrats, 'ambulance chasers' and 'cowboys' rather than imbuing peacebuilding with the dynamics of grounded reconciliation.
  • democracy is rarely resisted other than by the most extreme of actors, but it is often criticized for being distant in outcome to local communities.
  • At the moment the impulse appears to be to illiberalise, to postpone democracy, to open markets further, and to depoliticise because a lack of local agency is seen to be the cause of these failures, rather than faulty international analytic and policy approaches and mistaken idealism.
Bertha Flores

Freeman's Speech - 0 views

  • disinterested
    • Ed Webb
       
      He means 'uninterested,' I think
  • It will be held under the auspices of an American president who was publicly humiliated by Israel’s prime minister on the issue that is at the center of the Israel-Palestine dispute — Israel’s continuing seizure and colonization of Arab land
  • Peace is a pattern of stability acceptable to those with the capacity to disturb it by violence. It is almost impossible to impose. It cannot become a reality, still less be sustained, if those who must accept it are excluded from it. This reality directs our attention to who is not at this gathering in Washington and what must be done to remedy the problems these absences create.
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  • Must Arabs really embrace Zionism before Israel can cease expansion and accept peace?
  • a longstanding American habit of treating Arab concerns about Israel as a form of anti-Semitism and tuning them out. Instead of hearing out and addressing Arab views, U.S. peace processors have repeatedly focused on soliciting Arab acts of kindness toward Israel. They argue that gestures of acceptance can help Israelis overcome their Holocaust-inspired political neuroses and take risks for peace.
  • Arabic has two quite different words that are both translated as “negotiation,” making a distinction that doesn’t exist in either English or Hebrew. One word, “musaawama,” refers to the no-holds-barred bargaining process that takes place in bazaars between strangers who may never see each other again and who therefore feel no obligation not to scam each other. Another, “mufaawadhat,” describes the dignified formal discussions about matters of honor and high principle that take place on a basis of mutual respect and equality between statesmen who seek a continuing relationship.Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s travel to Jerusalem was a grand act of statesmanship to initiate a process of mufaawadhat — relationship-building between leaders and their polities. So was the Arab peace initiative of 2002. It called for a response in kind.
  • I cite this not to suggest that non-Arabs should adopt Arabic canons of thought, but to make a point about diplomatic effectiveness. To move a negotiating partner in a desired direction, one must understand how that partner understands things and help him to see a way forward that will bring him to an end he has been persuaded to want. One of the reasons we can't seem to move things as we desire in the Middle East is that we don’t make much effort to understand how others reason and how they rank their interests. In the case of the Israel-Palestine conundrum, we Americans are long on empathy and expertise about Israel and very, very short on these for the various Arab parties. The essential militarism of U.S. policies in the Middle East adds to our difficulties. We have become skilled at killing Arabs. We have forgotten how to listen to them or persuade them.
  • In foreign affairs, interests are the measure of all things. My assumption is that Americans and Norwegians, indeed Europeans in general, share common interests that require peace in the Holy Land. To my mind, these interests include — but are, of course, not limited to — gaining security and acceptance for a democratic state of Israel; eliminating the gross injustices and daily humiliations that foster Arab terrorism against Israel and its foreign allies and supporters, as well as friendly Arab regimes; and reversing the global spread of religious strife and prejudice, including, very likely, a revival of anti-Semitism in the West if current trends are not arrested. None of these aspirations can be fulfilled without an end to the Israeli occupation and freedom for Palestinians.
  • The Ottoman Turks were careful to ensure freedom of access for worship to adherents of the three Abrahamic faiths when they administered the city. It is an interest that Jews, Christians, and Muslims share.
  • pathologies of political life in the United States that paralyze the American diplomatic imagination. Tomorrow’s meeting may well demonstrate that, the election of Barack Obama notwithstanding, the United States is still unfit to manage the achievement of peace between Israel and the Arabs.
  • the United States has been obsessed with process rather than substance. It has failed to involve parties who are essential to peace. It has acted on Israel’s behalf to preempt rather than enlist international and regional support for peace. It has defined the issues in ways that preclude rather than promote progress. Its concept of a “peace process” has therefore become the handmaiden of Israeli expansionism rather than a driver for peace. There are alternatives to tomorrow’s diplomatic peace pageant on the Potomac. And, as Norway has shown, there is a role for powers other than America in crafting peace in the Holy Land.
  • the American monopoly on the management of the search for peace in Palestine remains unchallenged. Since the end of the Cold War, Russia — once a contender for countervailing influence in the region — has lapsed into impotence. The former colonial powers of the European Union, having earlier laid the basis for conflict in the region, have largely sat on their hands while wringing them, content to let America take the lead. China, India, and other Asian powers have prudently kept their political and military distance. In the region itself, Iran has postured and exploited the Palestinian cause without doing anything to advance it. Until recently, Turkey remained aloof.
  • the Obama administration has engaged the same aging impresarios who staged all the previously failed “peace processes” to produce and direct this one with no agreed script. The last time these guys staged such an ill-prepared meeting, at Camp David in 2000, it cost both heads of delegation, Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat, their political authority. It led not to peace but to escalating violence. The parties are showing up this time to minimize President Obama’s political embarrassment in advance of midterm elections in the United States, not to address his agenda — still less to address each other’s agendas. These are indeed difficulties. But the problems with this latest — and possibly final — iteration of the perpetually ineffectual “peace process” are more fundamental.
  • t. For the most part, Arab leaders have timorously demanded that America solve the Israel-Palestine problem for them, while obsequiously courting American protection against Israel, each other, Iran, and — in some cases — their own increasingly frustrated and angry subjects and citizens.
  • Few doubt Mr. Obama’s sincerity. Yet none of his initiatives has led to policy change anyone can detect, let alone believe in.
  • The Mahmoud Abbas administration retains power by grace of the Israeli occupation authorities and the United States, which prefer it to the government empowered by the Palestinian people at the polls. Mr. Abbas’s constitutional term of office has long since expired. He presides over a parliament whose most influential members are locked up in Israeli jails. It is not clear for whom he, his faction, or his administration can now speak.
  • American policies in the Middle East, with an emphasis on the prospects for peace in the Holy Land
  • Yet, as I will argue,  the United States has been obsessed with process rather than substance. It has failed to involve parties who are essential to peace. It has acted on Israel’s behalf to preempt rather than enlist international and regional support for peace. It has defined the issues in ways that preclude rather than promote progress. Its concept of a “peace process” has therefore become the handmaiden of Israeli expansionism rather than a driver for peace. There are alternatives to tomorrow’s diplomatic peace pageant on the Potomac. And, as Norway has shown, there is a role for powers other than America in crafting peace in the Holy Land.
  • Yet, as I will argue,   the United States has been obsessed with process rather than substance. It has failed to involve parties who are essential to peace. It has acted on Israel’s behalf to preempt rather than enlist international and regional support for peace. It has defined the issues in ways that preclude rather than promote progress. Its concept of a “peace process” has therefore become the handmaiden of Israeli expansionism rather than a driver for peace. There are alternatives to tomorrow’s diplomatic peace pageant on the Potomac. And, as Norway has shown, there is a role for powers other than America in crafting peace in the Holy Land.
  • Yet, as I will argue,   the United States has been obsessed with process rather than substance. It has failed to involve parties who are essential to peace. It has acted on Israel’s behalf to preempt rather than enlist international and regional support for peace. It has defined the issues in ways that preclude rather than promote progress. Its concept of a “peace process” has therefore become the handmaiden of Israeli expansionism rather than a driver for peace. There are alternatives to tomorrow’s diplomatic peace pageant on the Potomac. And, as Norway has shown, there is a role for powers other than America in crafting peace in the Holy Land
  • The resentment of mostly Muslim Arabs at their governing elites’ failure to meet these standards generates sympathy for terrorism directed not just at Israel but at both the United States and Arab governments associated with it
  • Arab governments willing to overlook American contributions to Muslim suffering
  • suspending its efforts to make peace in the Holy Land
  • invading and occupying Afghanistan and Iraq
  • It has caused a growing majority of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims to see the United States as a menace to their faith, their way of life, their homelands, and their personal security
  • But I do think it worthwhile briefly to examine some of the changes in the situation that ensure that many policies that once helped us to get by in the Middle East will no longer do this
  • “peace process,”
  • The perpetual processing of peace without the requirement to produce it has been especially appreciated by Israeli leaders
  • Palestinian leaders with legitimacy problems have also had reason to collaborate in the search for a “peace process
  • Israeli backing these leaders need to retain their status in the occupied territories. It ensures that they have media access and high-level visiting rights in Washington. Meanwhile, for American leaders, engagement in some sort of Middle East “peace process” has been essential to credibility in the Arab and Islamic worlds, as well as with the ever-generous American Jewish community.
  • “The Palestinians can run their lives freely in the framework of self-rule, but not as an independent and sovereign state.”
  • It has no interest in trading land it covets for a peace that might thwart further territorial expansion
  • Obviously, the party that won the democratically expressed mandate of the Palestinian people to represent them — Hamas — is not there
  • “peace process” is just another in a long series of public entertainments for the American electorate and also a lack of confidence in the authenticity of the Palestinian delegation
  • the Arab peace initiative of 2002. This offered normalization of relations with the Jewish state, should Israel make peace with the Palestinians.
  • But asking them even implicitly to agree that the forcible eviction of Palestinian Arabs was a morally appropriate means to this end is both a nonstarter and seriously off-putting
  • has been met with incredulity
  • Only a peace process that is protected from Israel’s ability to manipulate American politics can succeed.
  • establishing internationally recognized borders for Israel, securing freedom for the Palestinians, and ending the stimulus to terrorism in the region and beyond it that strife in the Holy Land entails
  • First, get behind the Arab peace initiative.
  • Second, help create a Palestinian partner for peace
  • Third, reaffirm and enforce international law
  • American diplomacy on behalf of the Jewish state has silenced the collective voice of the international communit
  • When one side to a dispute is routinely exempted from principles, all exempt themselves, and the law of the jungle prevails
  • Fourth, set a deadline linked to an ultimatum
  • The two-state solution
  • That is why the question of whether there is a basis for expanded diplomatic cooperation between Europeans and Arabs is such a timely one
  • Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has made inter-faith dialogue and the promotion of religious tolerance a main focus of his domestic and international policy
  • President Obama’s inability to break this pattern must be an enormous personal disappointment to him. He came into office committed to crafting a new relationship with the Arab and Muslim worlds. His first interview with the international media was with Arab satellite television. He reached out publicly and privately to Iran. He addressed the Turkish parliament with persuasive empathy. He traveled to a great center of Islamic learning in Cairo to deliver a remarkably eloquent message of conciliation to Muslims everywhere. He made it clear that he understood the centrality of injustices in the Holy Land to Muslim estrangement from the West. He promised a responsible withdrawal from Iraq and a judicious recrafting of strategy in Afghanistan.  Few doubt Mr. Obama’s sincerity. Yet none of his initiatives has led to policy change anyone can detect, let alone believe in.
Ed Webb

U.N. Is Preparing for the Coronavirus to Strike the Most Vulnerable Among Refugees, Mig... - 0 views

  • United Nations is preparing to issue a major funding appeal for more than $1.5 billion on Wednesday to prepare for outbreaks of the new coronavirus in areas suffering some of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, including Gaza, Myanmar, Syria, South Sudan, and Yemen, according to diplomatic and relief officials familiar with the plan
  • the request—which would be in addition to ongoing humanitarian operations—comes at a time when the world’s leading economies are reeling from the economic shock induced by one of the most virulent pandemics since the 1918 Spanish flu
  • “Some of the biggest donors are seeing global recession about to hit them,” said one senior relief official. “How generous are they going to be when they have a crisis looming in their own backyards?”
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  • U.N. relief officials and aid organizations are bracing for what they fear could be a cataclysmic second phase of the pandemic: spreading in the close-quarters encampments of the world’s more than 25 million refugees and another 40 million internally displaced people.
  • More than 3 billion people lack access to hand-washing facilities, depriving them of one of the most effective first lines of defense against the spread of the coronavirus, according to UNICEF
  • the effort to ramp up an international aid response is being hampered by the quest to ensure the safety of international staff. Those concerns have been amplified by the announcement last week that David Beasley, the executive director of the Rome-based World Food Program, had been infected with the coronavirus. Some international relief agencies have recalled senior field officers, fearing they could be infected.
  • Konyndyk, who worked on the response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa for the U.S. Agency for International Development, said that U.N. and relief agencies are having to balance ensuring the health of their own staff with delivering care to needy communities.
  • “You would have a hard time designing a more dangerous setting for the spread of this disease than an informal IDP settlement,” he said. “You have a crowded population, very poor sanitation … very poor disease surveillance, very poor health services. This could be extraordinarily dangerous … and I don’t think that’s getting enough global attention yet.”
  • In conflict-riven countries from Afghanistan to South Sudan to Yemen, dismal health care infrastructures are already overburdened after years of fighting
  • After five years of war, with millions of people on the brink of famine, Yemen’s population is more vulnerable to a coronavirus outbreak than those of most other countries. The conflict has left most of the country’s population effectively immunocompromised,
  • “For many population groups, living in overcrowded conditions, social distancing is a challenge or impossible,” according to the Assessment Capacities Project report. Many countries that host refugee camps, such as Afghanistan and Bangladesh, are likely to be overwhelmed by the health needs of their own citizens. Nations with weak health systems “may struggle to screen, test, and contain the epidemic for the host population let alone the refugees,”
  • In Gaza, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides primary care for about 70 percent of the territory’s more than 1.8 million people, is bracing for the likely arrival of the coronavirus in one of the most densely populated place in the world. The U.N. agency—which the Trump administration defunded last year and has sought to dismantle—has some 22 medical clinics in Gaza, putting it on the front lines of the defense of the coronavirus.
  • “I’m told that there are 60 ICU beds in the hospitals,” Matthias Schmale, the director of Gaza’s UNRWA operations, told Foreign Policy. “If there is a full-scale outbreak the hospital sector won’t cope.”
  • The leaders of major relief organizations are pressing donors to grant them greater flexibility to redirect funding from existing programs that are likely to be paralyzed by the pandemic and use that money for programs—including clean water and sanitation projects—that could help stem the crisis.
  • “As bad as it is now in the well-organized and affluent north, with health systems, good sanitation, and big infrastructure, imagine how it will be when it will hit crowded camps with refugees and displaced people,” said Egeland, who spoke by telephone from quarantine in Norway.
  • sweeping U.S. and U.N. economic sanctions imposed on governments in Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela are hampering relief efforts.
  • Egeland acknowledged that most U.N. sanctions regimes, including those for Iran and North Korea, include exemptions for the import of humanitarian goods. But the sanctions have scared financial institutions from providing vital financial services to relief agencies. “Not a single bank had the guts to transfer money, because they were all afraid to be sued by the U.S. government,”
  • The World Health Organization announced earlier this year that more than $675 million will be required through April—including $61 million for its own activities—to mount an international campaign against the virus. Though WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said recently that more money would be needed. On Feb. 17, UNICEF issued an urgent request for $42.3 million to support the coronavirus response. It will be used to reduce transmission of the virus by promoting distance learning for kids who can’t attend school and public information aimed at shooting down misinformation.
  • Guterres, meanwhile, expressed concern that the pandemic could claw back decades of efforts to raise international health standards and to scale back the most extreme levels of poverty, and undercut U.N. sustainable development goals, which are designed to improve the standard of living around the world by the year 2030.
  • “COVID-19 is killing people, as well as attacking the real economy at its core—trade, supply chains, businesses, jobs,” Guterres said. “Workers around the world could lose as much as $3.4 trillion.”
  • “We need to focus on people—the most vulnerable, low-wage workers, small and medium enterprises,” Guterres said. “That means wage support, insurance, social protection, preventing bankruptcies and job loss. That also means designing fiscal and monetary responses to ensure that the burden does not fall on those who can least afford it. The recovery must not come on the backs of the poorest—and we cannot create a legion of new poor. We need to get resources directly into the hands of people.”
Ed Webb

More than 2,000 Saudis fighting for militant groups abroad: Interior ministry | Middle ... - 1 views

  • n an interview with pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat, interior ministry spokesman General Mansour al-Turki said 2,093 Saudi militants are fighting with “terrorist organisations” in different conflict zones.Syria is the top destination for Saudi militants, according to al-Turki, with 1,540 Saudis fighting there. Other militants have joined groups in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, al-Turki said.
  • al-Turki played down the appeal of the Islamic State in Saudi Arabia. "According to our statistics, Saudis in the Islamic State are fewer than what most of us would imagine," he said. He added that Moroccan and Tunisian IS militants are greater in numbers than Saudis.
  • More than 5,000 Tunisians are fighting for militant groups abroad, mainly in Iraq, Syria or Libya, according to a UN working group on mercenaries.On Friday evening, Tunisia’s Interior Minister Hedi Majdoub told parliament 800 Tunisian nationals who had fought for such organisations abroad have returned to the country.
Ed Webb

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

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

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

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

Why Do People Flee During War? The Answer Is More Complicated Than You Think. - 0 views

  • When armed forces uproot people, the act tends to be characterized by journalists, politicians, and policymakers as ethnic cleansing. This suggests that the primary purpose is to expel or eliminate the targeted population. Strategic displacement takes different forms and can serve multiple purposes, from interdicting enemy supply lines to facilitating territorial annexation. What my research suggests, however, is that combatants, particularly state forces, often displace civilians to sort the targeted population—not to get rid of it.
  • This strategy mimics the use of strategic hamlets, regroupment centers, and so-called protected villages during civil wars in Burundi, Indonesia, the Philippines, Peru, Rwanda, Uganda, and Vietnam, where government forces ordered people living in conflict areas to relocate to particular locations. In addition to denying rebels access to the population, these methods were used to help counterinsurgents distinguish friend from foe while fighting shadowy guerrillas who hid among civilians. Areas outside relocation sites were transformed into free-fire zones where those remaining were assumed to be rebel fighters or supporters. The sites themselves served as instruments of identification. Occupants were screened and catalogued—making the population more “legible” to the state—and their movements were used as continuous indicators of their political loyalties.
  • “The good people were in the camps” and so “anyone found out of the camp was seen as a rebel or collaborator automatically.”
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  • A similar dynamic can be seen in Syria. Throughout the conflict, the government of Bashar al-Assad and its allies have engaged in a ferocious campaign to expel civilians from cities and towns controlled by Syrian rebels. These displacement tactics have undermined rebels’ ability to govern and deprived them of civilian support. But they have also been used to weed out those considered disloyal to the Assad regime. The government has sought to lure the displaced to its territories and employed civil registration, property claims, and other administrative procedures to screen returning refugees and IDPs. As part of evacuation and reconciliation agreements in areas retaken from opposition groups, the Assad regime has given residents a choice of moving to government areas or to other rebel-held parts of Syria. Electing the latter is seen as signaling allegiance to the opposition. Many of those who moved are now being relentlessly targeted by regime forces in Idlib province, the only remaining opposition stronghold. When I spoke to a defector from the Syrian army, he conveyed the logic through a chilling metaphor: “Think of a dumpster where you gather garbage to finally burn it.”
  • Viewing displacement as a sorting mechanism is essential to understanding the drivers and consequences of wartime migrations, and for improving efforts to manage them. The United Nations and international NGOs typically set up and manage displacement camps; provide food, shelter, health care, education, and other services; advocate on behalf of the displaced; and help governments adopt domestic policies on displacement-related issues. While this assistance has done much good, it has also raised the specter of moral hazard. It is one thing for the international community to assist those who flee to another country in order to ease the strain on refugee-hosting governments. It is quite another for it to shoulder the burden of displacement within a country on behalf of a government or nonstate actor that is directly responsible for the displacement in the first place. In Syria, for instance, the Assad regime has steered massive amounts of humanitarian assistance to areas it controls, which has helped the government lure IDPs and address some of their needs.
  • If humanitarian agencies show they are willing to offset the costs of uprooting civilians, they could perversely incentivize armed groups to engage in these practices. This is not hypothetical. There are multiple instances where international aid, while providing crucial life-saving assistance to people in conflict zones, has also enabled combatants to implement, sustain, or expand policies of forced displacement.
  • The widespread use of sorting displaced people demonstrates that fleeing in wartime can be perceived as a political act. But the presumption of guilt by location is often embraced by combatants and civilians alike, and not just in cases where displacement is used as a weapon of war. As Stephanie Schwartz argued in a previous article in Foreign Policy, post-conflict societies commonly experience hostility between people who fled during a conflict and those who stayed.
  • Conflict resolution and reconciliation efforts need to treat displacement and return as a political phenomenon, not just a humanitarian one
  • if combatants purposely compelled people to flee during the conflict, then victims will need greater security assurances to return, along with accountability mechanisms that recognize these violations and provide restitution and justice. Rarely are state or nonstate actors held responsible for displacement.
  • an international refugee system that is increasingly seen as feckless and disconnected from the realities of modern migration. That’s because in civil wars, civilians are valuable assets for armed groups. If people are given the ability to escape conflict-affected countries, then they are not compelled to “pick a side” through their movements. Armed groups are deprived of vulnerable recruits and propaganda pawns. Leaving the country may still be perceived as treachery, but at least crossing the border puts civilians beyond the reach of all warring parties and makes them eligible for international protection. Limiting the possibility of exit only stands to embolden combatants while forcing people to decide between bad options.
  • strategic value in enacting more generous asylum policies as a tool of conflict management
  • hostility toward immigrants and surges of nationalist sentiment have been accompanied by political leaders recognizing the advantages of welcoming refugees from other countries. A prominent example is the Cold War. For the United States, accepting emigres from the Soviet Union and allied countries was a foreign-policy priority meant to signal the discontents of communist rule and the relative merits of American values and institutions. Today, the refugee system is in desperate need of reform, which could gain some momentum if more emphasis is placed on articulating and promoting the strategic benefits of asylum and refugee resettlement.
Ed Webb

Jadaliyya - 0 views

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

Syria Comment » Archives » "Bush White House Wanted to Destroy the Syrian Sta... - 0 views

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Ed Webb

Freelancing abroad in a world obsessed with Trump - Columbia Journalism Review - 0 views

  • “I can’t make a living reporting from the Middle East anymore,” said Sulome in mid-December. “I just can’t justify doing this to myself.” The day we spoke, she heard that Foreign Policy, one of the most reliable destinations for freelancers writing on-the-ground, deeply reported international pieces, would be closing its foreign bureaus. (CJR independently confirmed this, though it has not been publicly announced.) “They are one of the only publications that publish these kinds of stories,” she said, letting out a defeated sigh.
  • Sulome blames a news cycle dominated by Donald Trump. Newspapers, magazines, and TV news programs simply have less space for freelance international stories than before—unless, of course, they directly involve Trump.
  • Trump was the focus of 41 percent of American news coverage in his first 100 days in office. That’s three times the amount of coverage showered on previous presidents
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  • Foreign news coverage has been taking a hit for decades. According to a 2014 Pew report, American newspapers even then had cut their international reporting staff by 24 percent in less than a decade. Network news coverage of stories with a foreign dateline averaged 500 minutes per year in 2016, compared to an average 1,500 minutes in 1988, according to a study by Tyndall. “Clearly it’s harder for international stories to end up on front pages now,” says Ben Pauker, who served as the executive editor of Foreign Policy for seven years until the end of 2017. He is now a managing editor at Vox. From his own experience, Pauker says, it’s simply an issue of editorial bandwidth. “There’s only so much content an editorial team can process.”
  • In October 2017, Sulome thought she had landed the story of her career. The US had just announced a $7 million reward for a Hezbollah operative believed to be scouting locations for terror attacks on American soil—something it had never done before. Having interviewed Hezbollah fighters for the last six years, Sulome had unique access to the upper echelons of its militants, including that specific operative’s family members. Over the course of her reporting, Hezbollah members told her they had contingency plans to strike government and military targets on US soil and that they had surface-to-air missiles, which had not been reported before. Convinced she had struck gold, she was elated when the piece was commissioned by a dream publication she’d never written for before. But days later, that publication rescinded its decision, saying that Sulome had done too much of the reporting before she was commissioned. Sulome was in shock. She went on to pitch the story to eight other publications, and no one was interested.
  • I’ll go back to the Middle East on trips if I find someone who wants a story, but I’m not going to live there and do this full-time, because it’s really taking a toll on me
  • According to Nathalie Applewhite, managing director of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, the lack of international coverage has become a real problem for Pulitzer grant recipients. Those grants, she says, were established to address the earlier crisis in which news organizations were closing foreign bureaus and could no longer fund big foreign reporting projects. “Now we’re seeing an even bigger challenge,” she says. “We’re providing the monetary support, but the problem is finding the space for it.” Grant applicants, Applewhite adds, are finding it harder to get commitments from editors to publish their work upon completion of their reporting. And stories that already have commitments are sitting on the shelf much longer, as they are continuously postponed for breaking Trump news.
  • As the daughter of two former Middle East-based journalists, Sulome knows what it used to be like for people like her. “I grew up surrounded by foreign correspondents, and it was a very different time. There was a healthy foreign press, and most of them were staff. The Chicago Tribune had a Beirut bureau for example. So when people say we’re in a golden age of journalism today, I’m like, Really?”
  • The divestment from foreign news coverage, she believes, has forced journalists to risk their lives to tell stories they feel are important. Now, some publications are refusing to commission stories in which the reporter already took the risk of doing the reporting on spec. Believing that this will discourage freelancers from putting their lives in danger, this policy adds to the problem more than it solves it.
  • “When people lose sight of what’s going on around the world, we allow our government to make foreign policy decisions that don’t benefit us. It makes it so much easier for them to do that when we don’t have the facts. Like if we don’t know that the crisis in Yemen is killing and starving so many people and making Yemenis more extremist, how will people know not to support a policy in which we are attacking Yemenis?”
  • “Whether it’s environmental, ethnic or religious conflict, these are issues that may seem far away, but if we ignore them they can have a very real impact on us at home. International security issues, global health scares, and environmental crises know no borders, and I think we ignore them at our own peril.”
Ed Webb

Italy Caused Chaos in Libya by Mismanaging Migration Policy - 0 views

  • Over three days in May 2017, the Italian secret service—masquerading as a humanitarian nongovernmental organization—summoned to Rome two dozen delegates from the southern edge of the Sahara desert. The pretext was to promote a peace deal for their war-torn region; the real goal was to bring them on board with an Italian plan to curb migration.
  • the pitfalls of a foreign policy that conflates peace and development with migration control
  • The International Organization for Migration manages one key pillar of the EU’s migration policy in Libya, namely the so-called voluntary repatriation of stranded migrants.
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  • Migration, however, was never much of a concern for the inhabitants of the Sahara. For the most part, they move freely across borders, and their economies depend heavily on the transit of people and goods.
  • What was meant to be “A dialogue on peace, development, security and human rights in the trans-border regions of Libya, Chad, and Niger,” according to the government’s agenda, became a failed attempt to co-opt some of the poorest people on the planet in a fight against migration from which they had little to gain.
  • The interior ministers of the three countries attended the gathering, as well as one vice president of the GNA—hardly a typical NGO summit. The summit was ostensibly organized by the Ara Pacis Initiative, a group that claims to be an “international not for profit organization based in Rome, dedicated to the human dimension of peace.” Its peculiar inspiration, according to its website, is the altar of peace built in Rome by emperor Augustus. The founder and sole active member of Ara Pacis is Maria Nicoletta Gaida, an Italian American former actress with little background in the humanitarian sector
  • The mysterious man with the ponytail started off with an offer meant to capture the goodwill of his audience: “We will ask for Italy’s commitment to immediately establish cultural identity centers for the trans-border tribes,” he said. Italy would staff these centers with teachers “that will keep alive the history and the culture of these great people.” He also promised health clinics connected via webcam to Italian hospitals. “These are small things,” he said, “for the seed from which the plant grows is always small.”
  • “After peace,” he said, “comes security and development.” The delegates should “deal with the issue of immigration and terrorism through border control mechanisms based on the optimization of reception centers that already exist in your countries.”
  • “My minister is ready to support any of your requests,” he said at one point. In return, he asked for the tribes’ backing in curbing migration: That would “give him the strength to go to Europe and defeat our enemies,” he said, without clarifying who those enemies might be.
  • At roughly the same time as the meeting near Rome, the Italian intelligence services reportedly brokered a multimillion-euro payment to Libyan militias involved in trafficking to enlist them as a coast guard force, a claim that Italy denies.
  • The Tuareg, the Tebu, and the Awlad Suleiman—the groups represented at the summit—are the gatekeepers of the desert crossed by those hoping to reach the Libyan coast to embark on a sea journey to Europe.
  • these agencies have repeatedly proved useless when it comes to defending the human rights of migrants in Libya. Indeed, the Associated Press revealed last month that the EU’s humanitarian spending has often been diverted to militias and traffickers—sometimes with the knowledge of U.N. officials.
  • Sergio De Caprio, known by the public as Capitano Ultimo, became a legend in Italy after arresting the godfather of the Sicilian mafia Totò Riina in 1993. His exploits inspired novels and a TV series. In 2016 and 2017, he was transferred to the secret service. While his anti-mafia record is legendary, his foreign-policy credentials are unknown. His appointment affirmed the Italian government’s belief that migration is essentially a criminal problem, and that smuggling rings can be fought in the same way as mafia organizations.
  • The parties in the Libyan conflict store weapons “in close proximity” to migrant detention centers, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, so these become a target of the bombing
  • “Rather than cultural centers,” he said, “let’s open factories, so that the youth can have a hope, an alternative to joining criminal gangs.”
  • Although the south of the Sahara is rich in oil, gold, and uranium, local populations suffer abject poverty. The Saharan delegates laid out their priorities: Negotiating peace was their main aim—and supposedly the reason they had flown all the way to Rome. They saw Italy as having a European mandate to mediate peace in Libya by virtue of its old colonial ties. But still the war raged on
  • if a border force was what Europe really wanted, the tribes could welcome military equipment. The United Arab Emirates, the Tuareg leader reminded De Caprio, had lent their helicopters and pilots for border patrol after just one meeting, and this was already their fifth visit to Italy.
  • There is no accountability for Europe’s multibillion-euro spending spree on projects to curb migration. In vast regions such as southern Libya that are inaccessible to diplomatic missions, let alone humanitarian agencies, officials are able to pocket the money for themselves. Migration spending thus ends up fostering corruption, rather than development.
  • when the Libyans sought ambitious development projects they were offered handicraft workshops instead
  • Humanitarian catastrophe looms over the wider Sahara region as Islamist insurgencies in the bordering Sahel region displace 4.2 million people. The Libyan war has escalated into an international conflict
  • “The social components of southern Libya are many more than just Awlad Suleiman, Tebu, and Tuaregs,” he argued. Moreover, he said, “their representatives know their identity and history well and are perfectly able to preserve their traditions.”
  • Italy and Europe’s credibility has been severely undermined by their single-minded pursuit of migration control when dealing with Libya and other African countries
  • At least 36,000 people have been returned to Libya as they attempted to leave the country since 2017 by a Libyan coast guard that Europe funded and equipped. Unsurprisingly, given the way they were recruited, coast guard officers have been found to be involved in such crimes as detaining and extorting ransoms from migrants, whipping shipwreck survivors, shooting migrants, sinking their dinghies, and ignoring distress calls
  • For several years the Community of Sant’Egidio, a Catholic organization of which Giro is a prominent member, had been mediating peace among the Saharan peoples. The association is involved in several conflict resolution initiatives around the world and has been credited with ending a bloody civil war in Mozambique in 1992.
  • Europe’s “migration obsession … a sickness that has infected all 28 EU countries
  • Mogherini’s tenure as EU foreign-policy chief will be remembered for its unprecedented callousness toward the plight of migrants and refugees; she now co-chairs a newly formed U.N. High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement
  • “Do you realize what it would mean if Libya fell into Turkish and Russian hands, at the expense of Europe? We would lose everything.” What would we lose? I asked him. “Everything! Control over migration, political control, economic control, the oil. … Eventually, we would lose it all.”
Ed Webb

The Deportation of Omar Shakir: The Israeli Supreme Court and the BDS Movement - Lawfare - 0 views

  • Two judgments handed down just days apart—one by the Israeli Supreme Court and the other by the European Court of Justice—highlight a growing jurisprudential divide between Israeli and international courts on the status of Israeli settlements in the West Bank
  • On Nov. 12, the European Court of Justice ruled that Israeli food products from the West Bank and Golan Heights must be explicitly labeled as coming from “Israeli settlements,” rather than from Israel itself. The ruling, which cited European Union regulations designed to allow consumers to make informed choices about their food purchases, held that since international humanitarian law limits Israeli jurisdiction in these territories to that of an “occupying power,” it would be misleading to represent such products as being “from Israel.”
  • stakes of the long-anticipated Israeli Supreme Court judgment in Human Rights Watch v. Interior Minister, handed down just a week earlier. In its judgment, the court upheld a government decision to expel Human Rights Watch’s (HRW’s) Israel and Palestine director, Omar Shakir, from the country, based on a law barring entry by foreigners who promote boycotts of Israel or its West Bank settlements. The case marked the first time the court was called upon to rule on the law’s application to boycott-related activities directed primarily at the settlements, rather than at Israel itself.
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  • In 2015, in Avneri v. The Knesset, a divided court upheld most of the 2011 law, striking down a provision providing for punitive damages in civil tort cases and construing the law narrowly in order to limit liability to instances where there is a proven causal link to concrete damage. (For more on Avneri, see here and here.) Most significantly for our purposes, a majority of justices in Avneri upheld the law’s contentious provision (which applies equally to the 2017 amendment), equating settlement boycotts to boycotts against Israel as a whole.
  • A boycott directed at an individual company due to its specific behavior, by contrast (for example, because it engaged in discrimination or in some other problematic activity), would not risk running afoul of the law.
  • If actively promoting HRW’s stance on settlements is enough to demonstrate ongoing promotion of boycotts, any new employee could face similar consequences. Israeli employees of HRW, too, could face civil or administrative ramifications simply for implementing HRW’s stated policy of calling on businesses “to stop operating in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank as part of their duty to avoid complicity in human rights abuses.”
  • Back in 2016, when HRW first requested a foreign expert visa for Shakir, an American citizen, the Foreign Ministry objected on the grounds that HRW itself was biased against Israel, “falsely waving the flag of human rights” in the service of “Palestinian propaganda.” Shortly thereafter, the ministry withdrew its objection, citing political and diplomatic considerations, and the Interior Ministry granted Shakir his visa. An administrative petition by the right-leaning organization Shurat HaDin, among others, led to an additional reversal, and the visa was revoked. The new decision was based on a memorandum issued by the Strategic Affairs Ministry (charged in Israel with heading up the fight against BDS), which argued that the problem was Shakir himself—who had called in the past for boycotts of Israel and the settlements—rather than HRW
  • The appellants, for their part, challenged the constitutionality of the 2017 amendment, arguing that even though foreigners don’t have a right to enter the country, they should not be denied a visa or fear deportation for expressing unpopular views. Mainly, they claimed, the law violates the free speech and equality rights of Israelis (and Palestinians), whose ability to engage freely with foreigners the government doesn’t agree with is limited by the law. They also argued that Shakir’s activities—particularly those undertaken on behalf of HRW—shouldn’t be considered boycott activities, since they were motivated by a desire to combat specific human rights violations and to encourage private corporations to respect their human rights obligations under international law
  • While once again acknowledging that the law doesn’t apply to boycotts targeting specific behaviors, the court stated: An individual who negates the very legitimacy of the State of Israel or its control of the Area, and seeks to undermine it through a boycott, is [included in the law], even if he disguises his position with the rhetoric of human rights or international law. The test is a substantive one, and the words the de-legitimization campaign wraps itself in do not grant it immunity.
  • Several amici from both sides of the political spectrum, including NGO Monitor, Shurat HaDin and Amnesty International, submitted briefs to the court. A group of former foreign service officials also joined the proceedings as amici, arguing that removing Shakir would cause substantial and lasting damage to Israel’s image as an open and democratic society.
  • In Human Rights Watch, the court clarified that what is at stake is also, potentially, the “delegitimization of Israel and of its policy” (emphasis added).
  • the boycott laws, coupled with the court’s continued acquiescence to the law’s conflation of Israel with Israeli settlements, threaten to impair the ability of citizens and noncitizens alike to engage in free discourse on one of the most difficult issues facing the country. They risk undermining the ability of human rights groups to defend human rights and promote respect for international law when their positions and interpretations of the law do not align with those of the Israeli government. They also threaten to further erode the all-important distinction in a democracy between delegitimization of the country itself and criticism of government policy
  • a growing disconnect between the discourse on settlements in Israel (and now, perhaps, the United States) and abroad
Ed Webb

Accountability for Islamic State Fighters: What Are the Options? - Lawfare - 1 views

  • Trump’s sudden announcement that the U.S. would withdraw forces from along the Syria-Turkey border has already had dramatic consequences. Turkish armed forces launched an invasion into northern Syria dubbed “Operation Peace Spring,” in response to which the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the predominantly Kurdish military backed by the U.S.-led coalition, has warned that it will be forced to withdraw some of its guards from the Islamic State detention centers and camps to deal with the invasion
  • both the Islamic State and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are taking advantage of the Turkish invasion to launch their own attacks within Syria: On Oct. 9, the Islamic State attacked an SDF position in Raqqa, the former de facto capital of the Islamic State, and Assad’s Russian-backed forces moved further into Manbij and Idlib. The same day, the U.S. reportedly helped move some of the “most dangerous” Islamic State detainees out of SDF custody but subsequently ordered a halt to any further operations against the Islamic State
  • By some estimates, the SDF is currently holding more than 10,000 Islamic State fighters—including at least 8,000 Iraqis and Syrians and 2,000 foreign fighters—in overflowing temporary detention centers in northeastern Syria. Thousands of family members of detainees are being held in camps for internally displaced persons in the same region
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  • The SDF has consistently asserted that it has limited capabilities to guard these facilities and has continually called for support from the coalition countries. Even before Trump’s announcement on Sunday, the head of the Kurdish forces expressed concern that the camp was at risk of falling under the control of the Islamic State. Despite the general consensus that the status quo was not sustainable, coalition countries have done little to address the problem and there has been no agreement on how to handle these fighters and their families.
  • Iraq reportedly intends to execute at least seven French nationals who were convicted under charges of being members of the Islamic State. There has been little clarity about exactly how these French citizens who had been fighting in Syria ended up in Iraqi detention centers, but experts suspect that they were transferred to Iraq by the SDF at the request of the French government after the French refused to allow them to return home
  • The situation may depend on who—among the SDF, Turkey, Syria and Russia—gains control of the northeastern territory. But if the security surrounding the detainees deteriorates, the Islamic State will likely exploit the situation and create a further opportunity for its ongoing resurgence
  • Although national courts in a conflict region usually provide the most obvious mechanism for criminal proceedings, neither Iraq nor the Kurds controlling territory in Syria have courts that are capable of achieving a just and fair form of accountability
  • a small subset of European governments—along with the SDF—have been calling for some sort of tribunal to deal with the detainees
  • Some see local prosecutions in Syria and Iraq as unrealistic options for foreign fighters, arguing instead for active repatriation followed by possible prosecution in the fighters’ home countries. This is also the option being urged by the U.S. government. Some practitioners even argue that European countries have an obligation to bring foreign fighters to justice under certain international legal instruments (specifically under U.N. Security Council resolutions 2178 [2014] and 2396 [2017]).
  • Countries outside of western Europe, including Kosovo, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have demonstrated the most initiative in repatriating their nationals. Kosovo, the country that had the highest number of its citizens per capita leave to join the caliphate, has made particularly notable repatriation efforts. In April, for example, the Balkan republic brought back 32 women, 74 children, and four men from SDF custody in Syria. The male returnees were immediately placed in detention, pending prosecution, while the women and children were allowed to return home.
  • some western European examples of the successful handling of returned foreign fighters:
  • European Union has also recently set up a counterterrorism register meant to facilitate prosecutions of returning foreign fighters from Iraq and Syria. The database is intended to be a repository for information from all EU countries about ongoing investigations and prosecutions of terrorist suspects who fought in Iraq and Syria so that all 28 member states have access to the same data and evidence
  • a growing number of calls for the establishment of some sort of ad hoc international criminal tribunal to deal with Islamic State fighters. Leaders from relevant U.N. agencies, Sweden, the Netherlands and the SDF have raised the idea of an international tribunal located in the region to deal with the detainees
  • President Trump maintains that Turkey will take control of the Islamic State prisoners, but it is unclear whether any Turkish officials agreed to assume this responsibility and the detainees are located further inside Syria than Turkey is expected to occupy during the current phase of their offensive. Even if the Turkish forces did start to police the camps, there is concern that Turkey’s security would be inadequate given the country’s past failures to crack down on and contain Islamic State cells within its own borders.
  • Russian-backed Syrian forces may end up in control of the detainees since the U.S. withdrawal from Syria has created an opening for Assad to strike a deal with the SDF. Given Assad’s history of putting thousands of Syrians into “filthy dungeons” to be “tortured and killed,” the Islamic State detainees would potentially be subjected to severe conditions with no prospect of a fair trial
Ed Webb

More than Genocide - Boston Review - 0 views

  • Mass state violence against civilians is not a glitch in the international system; it is baked into statehood itself. The natural right of self-defense plays a foundational role in the self-conception of Western states in particular, the formation of which is inseparable from imperial expansion. Since the Spanish conquest of the Americas starting in the sixteenth century, settlers justified their reprisals against indigenous resistance as defensive “self-preservation.” If they felt their survival was imperiled, colonizers engaged in massive retaliation against “native” peoples, including noncombatants. The “doctrine of double effect” assured them that killing innocents was permissible as a side effect of carrying out a moral end, like self-defense.
  • By the nineteenth century, the Christianizing mission had been augmented by a civilizing one of the “savage” natives. More recently, this colonial ideology has manifested itself in the project of “bringing democracy to the Arab world,” with Israel designated as the “the only democracy in the Middle East,” the proverbial “villa in the jungle.”
  • Without imperial possessions and the lucrative trade in sugar and other commodities predicated on the Atlantic slave trade, European states would not have generated the surpluses necessary to pay for their military establishments and the bureaucratic apparatuses required to sustain them. And while European powers and settlers in their colonies did not set out to exterminate the peoples they conquered, they killed any who resisted, claiming that their hands were forced.
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  • civilian destruction tends to be greatest when security retaliation reaches the level of what I have called “permanent security”—extreme responses by states to security threats, enacted in the name of self-defense. Permanent security actions target entire civilian populations under the logic of ensuring that terrorists and insurgents can never again represent a threat. It is a project, in other words, that seeks to avert future threats by anticipating them today.
  • The historical record shows that, however terrible, violent anticolonial uprisings were invariably smashed with far greater violence than they unleashed. The violence of the “civilized” is far more effective than the violence of the “barbarians” and “savages.”
  • Throughout the five-hundred-year history of Western empires, the security of European colonizers has trumped the security and independence of the colonized.
  • Jabotinsky’s famous “Iron Wall” argument from 1923, in which the Revisionist Zionist leader argued that Palestinian resistance was understandable, inevitable—and anticolonial. Speaking of Palestinians, Jabotinsky wrote that “they feel at least the same instinctive jealous love of Palestine, as the old Aztecs felt for ancient Mexico, and their Sioux for their rolling Prairies.” Because Palestinians could not be bought off with material promises, Jabotinsky wanted the British Mandate authorities to enable Zionist colonization until Jews, then a tiny minority of Palestine, reached a majority. “Zionist colonisation must either stop, or else proceed regardless of the native population,” he concluded. “Which means that it can proceed and develop only under the protection of a power that is independent of the native population—behind an iron wall, which the native population cannot breach.”
  • to ensure that Palestinian militants can never again attack Israel, its armed forces are subjecting two million Palestinians to serial war crimes and mass expulsion
  • If Western states support this solution for Israeli permanent security—as the United States appears to be with its budgeting of refugee support in neighboring countries under the guise of a “humanitarian” gesture—they will be continuing a venerable tradition. During, between, and after both twentieth-century world wars, large-scale population transfers and exchanges took place across the Eurasian continent to radically homogenize empires and nations. Millions of people fled or were expelled or transferred from Turkey, Greece, Austria, Italy, India, Palestine, Central and Eastern Europe. Progressive Europeans reasoned then that long-term peace would be secured if troublesome minorities were removed. This ideology—which the governments of Russia, China, Turkey, India, and Sri Lanka share today—maintains that indigenous and minority populations must submit to their subordination and, if they resist, face subjugation, deportation, or destruction. Antiterrorism operations that kill thousands of civilians are taken to be acceptable responses to terrorist operations that kill far fewer civilians
  • Indigenous and occupied peoples, then, are placed in an impossible position. If they resist with violence, they are violently put down. If they do not, states will overlook the lower-intensity but unrelenting violence to which they are subject
  • Hamas thus reasons that Palestinians have nothing to gain by conforming to a U.S.-led “rules-based international order” that has forgotten about them.
  • When state parties to the UNGC negotiated in 1947 and 1948, they distinguished genocidal intent from military necessity, so that states could wage the kind of wars that Russia and Israel are conducting today and avoid prosecution for genocide. The high legal standard stems from the restrictive UNGC definition of genocide, which was modeled on the Holocaust and requires that a perpetrator intend to “destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such” (the dolus specialis) in at least one of five prescribed ways (the actus reus). The words “as such” are widely regarded as imposing a stringent intent requirement: an act counts as genocide only if individuals are targeted solely by virtue of their group membership—like Jews during World War II—and not for strategic reasons like suppressing an insurgency.
  • Together, the United States and Russia have killed many millions of civilians in their respective imperial wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Chechnya; so have postcolonial states like Nigeria and Pakistan in fighting secessions. Genocide allegations were leveled in some of these cases in global campaigns like the one we see now, but none stuck, and they are largely forgotten in the annals of mass violence against civilian
  • Adding to the difficulty of establishing genocidal intent is the uncertainty in international humanitarian law about the legality of civilians killed “incidentally” in the course of attacking legitimate military targets. While the majority of international lawyers agree that civilian deaths are acceptable so long as they are not disproportionate in relation to the military advantage sought, others argue that bombing crowded marketplaces and hospitals regardless of military objective is necessarily indiscriminate and thus illegal.
  • They go far in excusing all Israeli conduct in the name of its legitimate self-defense; the US even seems to have demurred on whether the Geneva Conventions are applicable to Palestinian territories. It is thus unsurprising that they have not pressed the Israeli government to explain how cutting off water, food, and power to Gaza—a “war of starvation” as the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor put it—is a legitimate military tactic, one not covered by the UNGC, which declares one genocidal predicate act to be “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.” But if so-called humanitarian pauses are occurring to allow in a little, if grossly inadequate, aid, and the “total siege” is lifted after the military defeat of Hamas (should it happen), it will be difficult to argue in a legal context that Israel’s strangling of Gaza was a genocidal act.
  • the “Dahiya Doctrine,” which, they argue, dictates “disproportionate attacks, including against *civilian* structures and infrastructure.” This is clearly illegal.
  • Excessive reprisals, we should recall, are a staple of colonial warfare and state consolidation
  • Since genocide is a synonym for the destruction of peoples, whether the killing and suppression of their culture is motivated by destruction “as such” or by deterrence, the experience is the same: a destructive attack on a people, and not just random civilians. But the UNGC does not reflect the victim’s perspective. It protects the perpetrators: states that seek permanent security.
  • Unless the conditions of permanent insecurity are confronted, permanent security aspirations and practices will haunt Palestinians and Israelis.
Ed Webb

Foreign Secretary statement to Parliament on Syria - Oral statements to Parliament - In... - 1 views

  • The conflict is therefore creating opportunities for extremist groups. Syria is now the number one destination for jihadists anywhere in the world today, including approximately 70 to 100 individuals connected with the United Kingdom
  • The UN assesses that by the end of this year, on these trends, over 3.5 million, or 15 per cent of Syria’s total population, will have become refugees in other countries. And the Foreign Minister of Jordan has warned that Syrian refugees are likely to make up 40 per cent of his country’s population by the middle of next year, with similar numbers predicted for Lebanon
  • We have supported human rights investigation teams to collect documentary, photographic and interview evidence of abuses, and trained medical staff to gather forensic evidence of torture and sexual violence. This material is being made available to the UN Commission of Inquiry and other international investigative bodies so that those involved in human rights violations can be held to account.
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  • the conference, which should be held as soon as possible, should be focussed on agreeing a transitional governing body, with full executive powers and formed by mutual consent
  • we are stepping up our efforts to support the opposition and increase pressure on the regime, in order to create the conditions for a political transition
  • We are increasing the support we are providing to Syria’s neighbours, including providing equipment to the Jordanian Armed Forces to help them deal with the immediate needs of Syrian refugees at the border and transport them safely to international humanitarian organisations. We have provided funding to the Lebanese Armed Forces for four border observation towers, to help reduce cross-border violence in key areas and to protect and reassure local communities. And we are also working with the Syrian National Coalition and key international supporters to develop plans for transition and Syria’s post-conflict needs, building on the conference we held at Wilton Park in January
  • There is no purely military victory available to either side without even greater loss of life, the growth of international terrorism and grave threats to neighbouring countries
  • We have not sent arms to any side during the conflicts of the Arab Spring. No decision has been made to go down this route, and if we were to pursue this, it would be under the following conditions: in coordination with other nations, in carefully controlled circumstances, and in accordance with our obligations under national and international law. The United Kingdom and France are both strongly of the view that changes to the embargo are not separate from the diplomatic work, but essential to it. We must make clear that if the regime does not negotiate seriously at the Geneva conference, no option is off the table
  • Our assessment is that chemical weapons use in Syria is very likely to have been by the regime. We have no evidence to date of opposition use. We welcome the UN investigation, which in our view must cover all credible allegations and have access to all relevant sites in Syria
  • The United Kingdom holds the Presidency of the UN Security Council next month, and we remain in favour of the Security Council putting its full weight behind a transition plan if it can be agreed
Ed Webb

Donald Trump Is the First Demagogue of the Anthropocene - The Atlantic - 1 views

  • Jürgen Scheffran, a professor of geography at the University of Hamburg, has been investigating whether climate change makes armed conflict more likely for more than a decade. In 2012, he worked on a team that analyzed all 27 empirical studies investigating the link between war and climate change.“Sixteen found a significant link between climate and conflict, six did not find a link, and five found an ambiguous relationship,” he told me. He described these numbers as inconclusive. Trying to prove that climate change is linked to war, he said, would be like trying to prove that smoking causes cancer with only one available case study.
  • there is only one world, and not a million worlds, in which the temperature is rising, and you cannot associate a single event—like a single hurricane or a single conflict—to climate change. It’s a statistical problem, and we don’t have enough data yet
  • the U.S. Department of Defense already considers global warming a “threat multiplier” for national security. It expects hotter temperatures and acidified oceans to destabilize governments and worsen infectious pandemics
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  • Martin O’Malley was mocked for suggesting that a climate-change-intensified drought in the Levant—the worst drought in 900 years—helped incite the Syrian Civil War, thus kickstarting the Islamic State. The evidence tentatively supports him. Since the outbreak of the conflict, some scholars have recognized that this drought pushed once-prosperous farmers into Syria’s cities. Many became unemployed and destitute, aggravating internal divisions in the run-up to the war
  • Scheffran underlined these climate connections but declined to emphasize them. “The Syrian War has so many complex interrelated issues—and most of them are political and economic—that the drought is just one contributing factor to the instability in the region,”
  • it’s all about the exogenous shock. We were all interested in, to what extent does a big event like a flooding or a drought undermine society, or trigger a conflict outbreak?
  • Heatwaves, droughts, and other climate-related exogenous shocks do correlate to conflict outbreak—but only in countries primed for conflict by ethnic division. In the 30-year period, nearly a quarter of all ethnic-fueled armed conflict coincided with a climate-related calamity. By contrast, in the set of all countries, war only correlated to climatic disaster about 9 percent of the time
  • climate disaster will not cause a war, but it can influence whether one begins
  • Models predict that northern Africa and the Levant, both already drought-prone, will dry out significantly over the course of the century. On the phone, Schleussner also cited southern Africa and south-central Asia as regions to watch. (It’s no coincidence that some of the largest, longest wars this century have occurred in those places.)
  • a drought-and-flood-fueled armed conflict near the Mediterranean Basin could send people toward Western Europe in the hundreds of millions
  • “I wouldn’t say that there would be a mass migration to Europe, but I would expect to see a large number of people being displaced within Africa,”
  • There is literally, in legal parlance, no such thing as an environmental refugee,” says Edward Carr. “To meet the international standard for refugee, a changing environment is not a forcing. It doesn’t count.”
  • When would you attribute the decision to move to changes in the climate? Does a place have to be dry for five years? For 10 years? Does someone have to have three children die, and then they decide to move?
  • Climate change could push Western politics toward demagoguery and authoritarianism in two ways, then. First, it could devastate agricultural yields and raise food prices; destroy coastal real estate and wash away family wealth; transform old commodities into luxury goods. Second, it could create a wave of migration—likely from conflict, but possibly from environmental ruination—that stresses international reception systems and risks fomenting regional resource disputes.
  • it could erode people’s sense of security, pushing them toward authoritarianism
  • Like the CEO in the 1950s who predicted that America would see flying cars and three-day workweeks by the year 1999, I’ve assumed that every ongoing trend line can be extrapolated out indefinitely. They can’t. The actual future will be far stranger.
  • climate change must be mitigated with all deliberate speed. But he also suggests certain cultural mechanisms. Some Americans may favor more restrictive immigration policies, but—in order to withstand against future waves of mass migration (and humanely deal with the victims of climate change)—racist fears must be unhooked from immigration restrictionism. In other words, as a matter of survival against future authoritarians, white supremacy must be rejected and defeated.
  • Improving the United States’s immune response to authoritarian leadership—a response that could be repeatedly tested in the century to come—can follow from weaving its civic fabric ever tighter. I don’t know what this will look like, exactly, for every person. But here are some places to start: Volunteer. Run for local or state office. Give to charity (whether due to religion or effective altruism). Organize at work. Join a church or a community choir or the local library staff. Make your hometown a better place for refugees to settle. Raise a child well.
  • climate realists have always split their work between mitigation—that is, trying to keep the climate from getting worse—and adaptation—trying to protect what we already have
Ed Webb

Israel faces world anger over illegal settlement law | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • Israel faced international criticism Tuesday over a new law allowing the appropriation of private Palestinian land for Jewish settler outposts, although the United States remained notably silent.Britain, France, the United Nations and Israel's neighbour Jordan were among those coming out against the legislation passed late Monday.
  • Pro-Palestinian Israeli NGOs said they would ask the Supreme Court to strike down the law, while Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog warned the legislation could result in Israeli officials facing the International Criminal Court.
  • Separately to the new law, Israel has approved more than 6,000 settler homes since Trump took office on January 20 having signalled a softer stance on the issue than Obama.
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  • The law could still be challenged, with Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman saying last week it was likely to be struck down by the Supreme Court.International law considers all settlements illegal, but Israel distinguishes between those it sanctions and those it does not, which are known as outposts.
  • To some Israelis, the law reflects their God-given right over the territory, regardless of the courts, the Palestinians and the international community."All of the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people," said Science Minister Ofir Akunis of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, using the biblical term that includes the West Bank."This right is eternal and indisputable."Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi called for the international community to assume its "moral, human and legal responsibilities and put an end to Israel's lawlessness."
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