About Mient Jan Faber
Mient Jan Faber, a mathematician by training, is professor of Citizens’ Involvement in War Situations at the Free University in Amsterdam.
Articles by Mient Jan Faber
"Prof. Faber has asked Martijn Dekker and myself, his two phd students, to participate in a little brainstorm for Open Democracy's 10th anniversary. As a consequence, we now have not one, but 4 different messages, that might or might not be entirely compatible. But we are very generous and like oD a lot, so you are free to pick one or use all, as you wish.
Good luck and happy birthday,
Gijsbert van Iterson Scholten. PhD candidate VU University / IKV Chair on Citizens' involvement in war situations"
1. The road to democracy often leads through war, even though democratic countries are supposedly more peaceful than non-democratic ones. There is an old saying: "If you want peace, prepare for war". This saying is still relevant. But the problem is that war has changed a lot. Not only concerning its location but also in its characteristics. In the 20th century we were too late to prepare ourselves against world wars and the dramatic results are now part of our history books, in particular European history. The world wars were interstate wars. In the 21st century those wars will be exceptions, while civil wars will replace them in several parts of our common world, with a main focus on Africa. Let's learn from our past and prepare for the wars of the 21th century, and in return live in peace.
2. The West has stopped trying to democratize the world while at the same time securing our own short term interests; we have become content with what we have and accepted that we cannot remake the whole world to fit our purpose. We have accepted that terrorism is part of the risks of a globalized world, just like airplane crashes and infectious diseases and that the best way to fight it is to truly listen to the demands of people in less fortunate parts of the world and help them on their own terms.
3.The Arab Spring triggered an awareness that the people do have power and that even the most brutal dictators cannot ignore the demands of their own people. While at first the international community tried desparately to cling to old strategies and priorities, the fall of both Iran and Saudi Arabia forced it to accept the new world order. Bolstered by the images of success in this most authoritarian region of the world, the peoples of Africa and Asia took to the streets as well. Wise leaders, starting with the Chinese president Hu Jintao, read the signs of the times and implemented democratic reforms. Although these started out as temporary windowdressing, over time they acquired substance and could no longer be reversed, especially not because of the encouraging stand the international community took, giving authoritarian leaders no external enemies or other excuses to reinstate a state of emergency.
4. The change that has to be overcome to reach a world where open and pluralist forms of democracy prevail, is a universal and shared awareness that there are many things that do not have to be overcome at all; every human being is unique and has different habits, views and outlooks, and every human being should be respected as such. As long as it does not develop into lack of interest or radical invididualism, tolerance is the key.
A short time ago, we crossed over to northern Cyprus, with a French colleague, at Ledra Street in Nicosia in order to meet our Turkish Cypriot friend from the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly, Fatma Azgin. We sat down at a café and ordered lemonades. Fatma opened her handbag and proudly produced her brand new European passport. Unfortunately, she did not have much time because the next day, her family would cross over to the south in order to take her son to Larnaca airport where he is leaving to do a doctorate at Manchester University - as a European Union student.
Mient Jan Faber is professor of Citizens' Involvement in War Situations at the Free University in Amsterdam. For many years he worked for the Dutch Interchurch Peace Council (IKV) on civil-society initiatives.
Also by Mient Jan Faber in openDemocracy:
"Talking to terrorists in Gaza" (14 February 2005)
"Palestine's human insecurity: a Gaza report" (20 May 2007) - with Mary KaldoFatma's passport is a Republic of Cyprus passport in three languages (Greek, Turkish and English). It is the whole island that has joined the European Union even though it is formally represented by the Republic of Cyprus, the government in control in the south. That means that Turkish people living in the north are entitled to claim the benefits of membership, even though that may involve going through the Republic of Cyprus. The membership of Cyprus in the European Union allows Fatma and others like her to break out of the isolation but it also recognises her as a Cypriot and a European. The café owner offered us all extra lemonade because she was so happy to have fellow Europeans in her café.
Fatma's newfound European identity is a bright spot in an otherwise worsening relationship between the EU and Turkey. In Turkey, the process of democratic reform has slowed down. There were high hopes after the victory of the (moderate Islamist) Justice & Development Party (AKP) in the parliamentary elections of 22 July 2007.
The Turkish roadblock
The AKP had already shown its determination to introduce a raft of democratising measures. However since then, little in the way of democratic reform has been achieved, for instance in the field of press freedom. Moreover, the party continues to face attacks from the secularist fundamentalists. Parliament, dominated by the AKP, passed a resolution against banning the headscarf in universities. In response, hardline secularist groups managed to bring a case before the courts under the penal code to ban the AKP and also the DTP (the Kurdish Democratic Society Party) for its alleged relations with the outlawed PKK.
The situation in Turkey is becoming increasingly polarised between Islamic democracy and the secularist-authoritarian inheritance of the Kemalists, in a situation complicated even further by the indictment on 15 July 2008 of eighty-six people charged with planning to overthrow the government on behalf a hardline secularist group called Ergenekon. If the courts uphold the case and declare the AKP illegal, this will deliver a serious blow both to Turkey's democratic hopes and to the negotiations on Turkish membership of the EU. Indeed the deteriorating situation is already contributing to a growing anti-Turkish mood within the EU, which could become worse during the French presidency.
Mary Kaldor is professor of global governance at the London School of Economics (LSE), co-chair of the Helsinki Citizens Assembly and governor of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. Her books include New & Old Wars (1999) and Global Civil Society: An Answer to War (2003) Among Mary Kaldor's many articles in openDemocracy:
"Safe democracy" (23 December 2004)
"Parallel politics in Iraq" (22 March 2005) - with Yahia Said
"Iraq: the wrong war" (8 June 2005)
"London lives" (7 July 2005)
"America's Iraq plight: old and new thinking" (13 February 2007)
"How to free hostages" (29 September 2004)
"Palestine's human insecurity: a Gaza report" (20 May 2007) - with Mient Jan Faber
"The Balkans-Caucasus tangle: states and citizens" (9 January 2008)
A solution to the long-running Cyprus problem could, perhaps, break this deadlock - in four ways. First, a Cyprus solution would mean that Turkey would lift its current embargo on all trade that passes through Greek Cypriot ports. This would unfreeze some important parts of the negotiations that have been halted as a consequence of the embargo. Second, the Cyprus problem is one of the rationales along with the Kurdish problem for the dominant role of the military in Turkish politics. Third, solving Cyprus would weaken one of the arguments put forward by those who oppose Turkish membership because of the occupation since July 1974 of part the island by the Turkish military. Fourth, and most important, a solution would mean that Turkish people living in northern Cyprus would be fully included in the European Union and that will demonstrate that the EU, in principle, is not anti-Turkish and remove one of the central arguments of the anti-European hardliners in Turkey.
A new momentum
So what is the prospect for a solution? For more than forty years, there have been efforts to reach an agreement to overcome the partition of the island. There is broad agreement that the solution is a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. Every so often, the talks seem close to fruition and then fail at the last moment. The most recent failure was the Annan plan in 2004 when Cyprus joined the EU. The plan was supported in a referendum in the north but overwhelmingly defeated in the south, thereby allowing only the government of the south to represent Cyprus in the EU.
What has changed is that there are now (after the election in Cyprus of February 2008) governments in both north and south, for the first time, that favour a solution. As a consequence, efforts are already being made to improve the communications between the two halves of the island. Border restrictions have been lifted; crossing is very easy. There is no obvious police presence. Northerners can use Larnaca airport and work in the south. All this has taken place without a single violent incident. Greek and Turkish Cypriots are able to mingle freely. And this in itself has important implications for the peace process. The main rationale for the division of the island is that the north needs Turkish troops to protect them from the Greek Cypriots. That argument still persists but is much weaker than before.
In parallel, with the improvement of everyday life, the preparatory process of negotiations is now taking place with working groups and technical discussions. Unlike previous efforts which were largely the consequence of outside pressures, the current peace process is initiated from within Cyprus.
Despite the new momentum, there is caution both among civil society and within the political class, mainly because they have been disappointed too many times in the past. We were given many reasons for this caution. The negotiators are sometimes caught up in the obsessions and sticking points of the past. Turkish military influence could still be a powerful constraint in the north. The south has a minority government dependent on the support of the rejectionist parties, including the party of the former president Tassos Papadopoulos. Finally, there is a tendency among the political class on both sides to feel comfortable with the status quo. The impression we gained was that there is much more enthusiasm for an agreement within civil society than among politicians and negotiators.
A Cypriot pioneer
Nevertheless, there is no going back. What is happening in Cyprus could be viewed as an example of the way deepening can follow the widening of the EU. If a solution is indeed achieved, then it is important for the future of the EU that it is seen to play a crucial role in promoting a solution.
The EU could do three things. First, the European parliament could offer to host a gathering of civil society in north and south to initiate a sort of democratic convention about the future shape of Cyprus. This could increase pressure on the political classes to reach a solution. Holding it in the European parliament and involving all the guarantor powers especially Turkey, would greatly enhance the visibility and legitimacy of such a convention.
Second, the European Union should make it clear to Turkey that any solution of the Cyprus problem will speed up the negotiations over Turkish membership.
Third, the EU should also consider what kind of security arrangements will be needed after an agreement. The EU brought the conflict inside the union by admitting Cyprus and now it has a responsibility to make sure the islanders are secure. This does not mean security in a traditional sense. Rather it means everyday personal security - freedom from fear and freedom from want. The military threats have disappeared but there remains organised crime, poverty in the north, and ethnic tension. Much of this will be the responsibility of a future Cyprus government. But it will need outside help since many of these new sources of insecurity are transnational. That outside help should come from both the EU and Turkey. At present there are British and Turkish troops on the island. The south wants demilitarisation of the island. Nevertheless, the agreement should include some visible security presence from Turkey and the EU (not necessarily military) to show the commitment of both to peace and stability in Cyprus.
These measures would not only strengthen and Europeanise the peace process in Cyprus. They would also bring Turkey closer to Europe. Let us hope that Fatma is blazing a trail for all other Turks to get a European passport.
To enter Gaza from Israel you have to cross at Erez where the Israelis have erected a huge new terminal made of glass, steel and Jerusalem stone (it is actually 1.7 km inside Palestinian territory - even at the moment of withdrawal from Gaza in August 2005, the Israelis couldn't resist taking a little bit extra). To get inside the terminal compound, you show your passport at a barrier, then cross a big empty space and enter the terminal. In a glass booth, a pretty Israeli soldier sits high above you, asks severely what you plan to do, and checks your name in the computer.
This is a digest of a report written by Mary Kaldor & Mient Jan Faber for the human-security study group at the Centre for Global Governance, London School of Economics, based on a visit to both parts of the Palestinian territories (Gaza and the West Bank) in 2007
Once through passport control, you follow arrows through several gates that close behind you before the one in front opens. There is nobody to be seen. You come to several turnstiles but only one has a green light. You pass through a corridor with high wire on each side and a steel corrugated roof, then through more turnstiles until you reach an enclosed room with walls on all sides. For a moment you think you must have followed the wrong arrow but all the turnstiles have closed behind you and you can't go back.
There is a not a soul to be seen. You feel all the walls but they seem completely impregnable. And then, mysteriously, one wall slides open. You are through to yet another wired corridor and through yet more turnstiles until, recognisably, you are in a Palestinian corridor with concrete walls and a canvas roof. Suddenly there are people talking very loudly. On the way, you pass two very dirty toilets - the squatting sort. At the end of the corridor there are two small booths - one for women and one for men - where your names are written down by hand in a big book.
Returning is even worse. But the point is made. This, moreover, is how it is experienced by a foreigner: it is far, far worse for Palestinians. The crossing is only one example of the daily harassment and humiliation, the fear and intimidation, which are the consequence of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. Very few Palestinians actually succeed in crossing - the names of those who manage the journey each day can all be handwritten on half a page of the book. Among the names on the day we crossed were most of the new (post-Mecca agreement) Palestinian cabinet including the president, Mahmoud Abbas. Permission for cars to cross is almost impossible to obtain and so many Palestinians we saw were dragging bags and trolleys through the long corridors. The loss of dignity is etched on people's faces.
Mient Jan Faber is a mathematician by training, and professor of Citizens' Involvement in War Situations at the Free University in Amsterdam. For many years he worked for the Dutch Interchurch Peace Council (IKV) on civil-society initiatives. He was part of the working group on civil-society's role in relation to terrorism at the International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security in March 2005
Also by Mient Jan Faber in openDemocracy:
"Talking to terrorists in Gaza"
(14 February 2005)
The lack of human security for people living in Palestine is, first and foremost, caused by physical insecurity. It is the result both of the occupation and the lack of internal security, which are linked. Restrictions on movement, shelling from afar, periodic Israeli invasions, arrest and imprisonment, crime and gang or factional warfare are all part of the daily life of Palestinians. Palestinians experience economic, environmental and food insecurity as well; but fundamentally, these forms of insecurity cannot be disentangled from the lack of physical security, the situation of fear in which most people live.
The European Union does a lot to alleviate suffering and ease restrictions, through aid and through missions like police training or through the monitors at Rafah on the border with Egypt. But there is a big gap between what is done on the ground and what happens at the political level, through the "quartet" (European Union, United States, Russia and United Nations) and top-down relations with Israel and Palestine. If human security is a guiding principle for what is done on the ground, geopolitics shapes relations at the level of governments - and the consequence is that geopolitics constrains what is done on the ground. The sanctions imposed on Palestine as a consequence of the election of Hamas in January 2006 greatly complicate and indeed subvert local EU efforts. Moreover, the pressure is one-sided; little or no leverage is exerted on Israel.
In what follows, we elaborate this argument by exploring the insecurity in Gaza in more detail, before addressing the role of the international community, especially the European Union.
A state of indignity
Occupation is exercised in different ways. Before the Oslo agreement, occupation was direct and therefore Israeli control was implemented through a range of methods - military, civil (policing), economic and political. Since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, occupation is primarily exercised indirectly and from a distance. The use of conventional military in these circumstances entails that resistance is punished collectively rather than (as is the case with civil control) individually.
Mary Kaldor is a professor, and director of the Centre for the Study of Global Governance, at the London School of Economics
Also by Mary Kaldor in opendemocracy:
"In place of war, open up Iraq"
(13 February 2003)
"Iraq: a war like no other" (27 March 2003)
"Iraq – the democratic option"
(13 November 2003)
(23 December 2004)
"Parallel politics in Iraq" (22 March 2005) – with Yahia Said
"Iraq: the wrong war" (9 June 2005)
"America's Iraq plight: old and new thinking" (13 February 2007)
In Gaza, several people told us that they feel free as a result of the Israeli withdrawal. Nevertheless, they are not free to leave.
The Israelis control all the crossing-points except the one at Rafah, on the border with Egypt. Under an agreement in November 2005, the Rafah crossing was opened on the understanding that a European mission would monitor the border. However the presence of the European monitors is dependent on Israeli permission so Israel continues to exert indirect control. Since 24 June 2006, when an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, was kidnapped and two Israeli soldiers killed, the border has been practically closed. It is totally closed 81% of the time. For the remainder of the time, only certain categories of people are allowed to cross. Palestinians with a Palestinian IDs are allowed to cross provided their names have been approved by the Israelis. The other crossings are mostly closed or operate "haphazardly" according to the World Bank (see World Bank Technical Team: Potential Alternatives for Palestine Trade: Developing the Rafah Corridor, 21 March 2007).
The restrictions on movement and access prevent most Palestinians from leaving Gaza and have devastated trading opportunities, which are the main source of income for Gaza. In other words, the narrow Gaza strip is a kind of Palestinian prison-camp in which there are no guards inside the camp.
Israel watches Gaza from the skies and through informers. From time to time - as in the past few days, when alongside infighting between Fatah and Hamas there have been rocket-attacks on the Israeli border-town of Sderot - Israeli forces invade or shell houses. Israel has declared buffer-zones along the border no-go areas, and in them has destroyed houses, uprooted orchards and made land unusable.
Both sides always claim that what they do is retaliation. But the Israeli response is often disproportionate. For example, in response to the abduction of Corporal Gilad Shalit on 24 June 2006, Israel four days later bombed and destroyed the Gaza power plant. The lack of electricity meant a significant decline in the level of medical services provided by clinics and hospitals in the strip. The urban population received two-to-three hours of water a day; the sewage system was on the verge of collapse; everyone in Gaza was punished for the behaviour of one group of militants.
The occupation is compounded by the lack of internal security. Indeed, polls show that this is the main security concern of most people living in Gaza. The different official security forces are competing for political power rather than trying to maintain law and order. At the same time, attempts by different sides, supported by outside patrons, to boost official and informal security forces have squeezed one of the main instruments of law and order - the Palestinian civil police. In the vacuum created by the absence of law and order are political factions, criminal gangs and armed families. The latter may consist of tens of thousands of people, using their weapons as a source of income, through protection, or kidnapping or hostage-taking, or merely to ensure the survival of the family.
Gaza is much poorer than the West Bank, with a per-capita income (some $700 per year) at about half. Three quarters of the 1.4 million population of Gaza are refugees. Of these, some 500,000 are living in camps, where the population density (according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East [UNRWA]) is the highest in the world. The last few years have witnessed a decline in manufacturing and construction and a dramatic deterioration of public services, especially education and health. Indeed, the World Bank and the IMF estimate that in the first three quarters of 2006 alone there was a decline of 8%-10% in per-capita GDP in the West Bank and Gaza as a whole (with a steeper decline in Gaza). In addition to the loss of trade, there has been a huge reduction in the number of Palestinians working in Israel; at least half the fall in GDP is attributed to restrictions on movement.
Also in openDemocracy on Gaza, the plight of the Palestinians, and the prospects of diplomacy:
Eyad Sarraj, "The campaign that should never stop"
(13 November 2006)
Khaled Hroub, "Palestine's argument: Mecca and beyond"
(6 March 2007)
Ghassan Khatib, "The Arab League summit: two challenges"
(28 March 2007)
Richard Youngs, "The European Union and Palestine: a new engagement"
(29 March 2007)
Eóin Murray, "Alan Johnston: a reporter in Gaza" (23 April 2007)
The quartet is responsible for high-level negotiations about the political future of Israel and Palestine. It operates within a top-down geopolitical framework laid down in the so-called "roadmap", initiated by the United States, in which the notion of a "global war on terror" is central. The conflict between Israel and Palestine is viewed through this prism. The biggest problem is considered to be terrorist actions, i.e. violence by non-state actors. Rockets and suicide-bombers are regarded as the primary impediment to peace and the occupation is treated primarily as a method of ensuring Israel's security.
This explains why, after the election of Hamas, a boycott was imposed on the Palestinian authority. Despite the fact that the international community had called for elections, and that outside observers certified the elections as free and fair, the US announced that it would blacklist any bank doing business with the Palestinian Authority, which has restricted funds paid into the Arab League bank account by Arab donors. The European Union and the US halted the flow of direct aid to the authority, and Israel withheld some $50-$60 million collected in taxes and duties on its behalf. The quartet imposed three conditions on the new government: non-violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations including the roadmap.
In these conditions, the role of the European Union is potentially crucial. The European Union is the largest aid donor in Palestine and plays an active role through missions like EU-BAM (the Rafah monitors) or EU-COPPS (police training). At the political level, however, it is very weak because it is constrained by its own internal structure and the difficulty of reaching agreement among member-states.
This has constrained its ability to improve the situation in Gaza. The Rafah monitors, for example, are paralysed by Israeli decisions to keep the crossing closed for most of the time. At present they are living in temporary headquarters in Ashkelon in Israel; the military compound constructed for them in Rafah lies empty. Indirect payments by the EU civil servants and social security beneficiaries undermines the authority of the Palestinian Authority, While EU-COPPS is hamstrung by the boycott. Meanwhile the Americans are arming the presidential guard and Iran and Syria are arming the special executive force, established by Hamas, to counter the Fatah-dominated security forces.
There are five things the EU could do to encourage progress - which can be understood as closing the gap between a state perspective and a human perspective:
- play a more active and proactive role in the quartet and in the US-sponsored bi-weekly meetings between the two bodies. The EU could, for example, press for a broadening of discussions to human-security concerns and then also to the so-called "destination map", where the final status of a two-state solution will appear
- apply the Rafah model (that is, finding ways to ease restrictions on Palestinians while recognising legitimate Israel security concerns) in a more serious way. Comparable improvements in the human-security situations may be possible in northern Gaza (where an international presence, perhaps on the model of Unifil in Lebanon, could protect the local population from Israeli incursions while taking measures to prevent rocket attacks) and in Nablus and other main Palestinian cities (where an international security presence could prevent Israeli incursions while providing an enabling environment for internal security)
- give primacy to the establishment of a legitimate political authority in Palestine. This would mean recognising the new government implicitly or explicitly and talking to the government as a whole, not selectively to those members of the government of which they approve, while pressing for a mutual ceasefire and recognition between Israel and Palestine
- encourage a more bottom-up approach. Despite the fragmentation and brutalisation of Palestinian society, there is still an active intelligentsia and civil society whose members are more likely to press for democratisation and internal security
- focus more broadly on the regional dimension. Saudi Arabia played a critical role in the Mecca agreement, which led to the present government. The Arab League peace initiative could be a fruitful starting point to start serious discussions between Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas on the so-called destination map.
The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is in essence a conflict between state security and human security. For most Israelis, state security, i.e.the delimitation of borders, the protection of territory and the preservation of the Jewish character of the state, is crucial. For most Palestinians, human security is the principal concern. Many of them are refugees, living in camps in the occupied territories or neighbouring countries. They are denied freedom of movement, humiliated at checkpoints, facing arbitrary arrest. Understandably, their dream is to return to their homes (to be distinguished from their land) and to live and die in peace. The bridging of the gap between these two realities is fundamental to progress towards a settlement. The European Union could - if it chooses - do much to achieve this historic and essential goal.