Khaled Hroub https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/1300/all cached version 09/02/2019 15:26:19 en Middle East nightmare, made in Washington https://www.opendemocracy.net/khaled-hroub/middle-east-nightmare-made-in-washington <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The United States talks to North Korea but seeks Saudi war on Iran. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-35731537.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-35731537.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, March 2018. Albin Lohr-Jones/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Even under one of the most rhetorically aggressive leaderships that it has ever had, the United States maintains a rational approach in dealing with nuclear North Korea. Its plans for a meeting between the two heads of state, reflected in the unnanounced <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/with-pompeo-to-pyongyang-us-launches-diplomacy-with-north-korea">visit</a> to Pyongyang of Mike Pompeo, former CIA director and nominee as US secrectary of state, attests to Washington's intent to scale back confrontation. </p><p>Yet at the same time President Trump’s administration displays a worrying recklessness in stoking a potential confrontation with Iran, playing against and manipulating Saudi fears. </p><p>North Korea's "rocket man", as Trump dubbed Kim Jong-un in his <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/09/19/in-u-n-speech-trump-warns-that-the-world-faces-great-peril-from-rogue-regimes-in-north-korea-iran/?noredirect=on&amp;utm_term=.d98f6087ab35">speech</a> at the United Nations in September 2017, is by most measures more dangerous than the Iranian leadership. Without downplaying the perils of Iran’s ideological drive and expansive regional foreign policy, Tehran’s politics are guided by national interest and rational calculations that are not exclusively led by ideology. Why then does the US avoid investing effort and diplomacy to save the already devastated <a href="https://www.vox.com/a/maps-explain-the-middle-east">Middle East</a> from yet another threatening war, this time between Saudi Arabia and Israel on the one side and Iran on the other? Instead, Trump is actually paving the way for such a confrontation with his plans to revoke the <a href="https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheet/Timeline-of-Nuclear-Diplomacy-With-Iran">nuclear agreement</a> that his predecessor Barack Obama managed to conclude with the Iranians. </p><p>Why should this be? The reasons include the US's interest in maintaining lucrative arms deals with the Gulf states, primarily Saudi Arabia, and many US leaders' support for bombing Iran (as demanded by the right-wing Israeli leadership). With regards to the first, Trump has never hidden his intentions to milk the Saudis to the max. In his televised <a href="http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-fg-trump-saudi-prince-20180320-story.html">meeting</a> with the Saudi crown prince Mohamed bin Salman (MBS), Trump voiced the hope that in 2018-19 alone the value of <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/blog/markaz/2017/06/05/the-110-billion-arms-deal-to-saudi-arabia-is-fake-news/">arms deals</a> with the Saudis will exceed $700 billion. Continuing to inflame Saudi fears towards Iran is the best guarantee of those current and future deals. Any diplomatic track that might offset such fears would be far less profitable. </p><p>With regards to the second reason, Saudi Arabia is already implicated in a futile war<a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/04/saudi-led-coalition-air-raid-kills-20-yemeni-civilians-residents-180421141208316.html"> </a>in Yemen that after more than two years seems <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/04/saudi-led-coalition-air-raid-kills-20-yemeni-civilians-residents-180421141208316.html">far</a> from being resolved. Ironically, that war was named by the Saudis "the battle of decisiveness" and was planned to last only the few weeks it would take to finish off the Iranian-supported Houthi rebels. Instead, the Saudis are bleeding financially and politically, and facing mounting international criticism as a result of the war's effects: enormous Yemeni casualties, the hunger of millions of <a href="http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/yemen-worlds-worst-humanitarian-crisis-says-un-chief/">civilians</a>, and the spread of disease. </p><p>If this would-be "short campaign" has proved beyond Saudi capabilities, why might they consider that a fully-fledged <a href="http://www.atlapedia.com/online/maps/political/Saudi_etc.htm">regional</a> war against Iran could ever be winnable? Such a war, even with the help of Israel, would lead to more protracted, costly and bloody confrontations for all involved. The Americans, recognising Saudi <a href="https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2018/0402/Yemen-crisis-Does-Saudi-largess-square-with-military-campaign">military</a> inadequacy even with all the imported weapons, are well aware of this. Yet in their own interest they refrain from frankness with their wealthy ally. Honest advice to the Saudis would be to seek a "grand political deal" with Iran. </p><p>This American dishonesty exploits the political impulsiveness of the young and inexperienced Saudi <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/04/09/a-saudi-princes-quest-to-remake-the-middle-east">crown prince</a>. MBS's public-relations advisors, themselves mostly Americans, seem to have given him some "Politics 101" that look trivial when examined. One of the crown prince's fondly repeated lessons is the parallel between the western appeasement of Hitler on the eve of the second world war and the west's non-confrontational <a href="https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300218169/losing-enemy">approach</a> towards Iran that culminated in the Obama-era nuclear deal. <span class="mag-quote-center">One of the crown prince's fondly repeated lessons is the parallel between the western appeasement of Hitler on the eve of the second world war and the west's non-confrontational approach towards Iran that culminated in the Obama-era nuclear deal.</span></p><p>This analogy is desperate to make the point that unless an actual confrontational line is <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2018/04/18/will-iran-attack-israel-over-the-syrian-conflict-its-only-a-matter-of-time/">adopted</a> against Iran, the region will witness Iranian invasion and expansion into the Middle East. The reference is to the notorious Munich <a href="http://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/blog/the-munich-agreement/">agreement</a> in September 1938, when British and French leaders in effect gave Hitler the right to continue invading Germany's neighbours. </p><p>Historians differ on the question whether Nazi ambitions could have been stopped without that pact, and thus the course of events leading to war in 1939 halted. In any case, the comparison with today’s Iran is naïve on many levels. The German grievances that lingered from the Versailles <a href="http://en.chateauversailles.fr/discover/history/treaty-versailles-1919">treaty</a> in 1919 that fostered the rise of Hitler are absent with regard to Iran. The aggressive Nazi war strategy was led and popularised by its intent to restore the German lands that, after the empire's fall, had been seized and given to neighbouring countries. </p><p>By contrast, current Iranian aggressive regional policies are driven by nervousness and the regime's lack of solid internal political support. In addition, the genocidal plans that Hitler had in mind and then implemented against the Jews have no equivalent against any other group whatsoever in the mindset of the Iranian <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/supreme-leader-transform-iran-180119150403602.html">leadership</a>. Those who planted this analogy in MBS’s mind knew that such a portrayal appeases Israel and cements a shared war discourse between the Saudis and their <a href="http://www.dw.com/en/israel-and-saudi-arabia-new-best-friends-in-the-middle-east/a-41571420">unlikely</a> Jewish ally. </p><p>What would a war between a Saudi-Israeli alliance against Iran, backed by the US, look like? It would, in short, mean Armageddon to the entire region. </p><p>Iran’s military and supporting groups in surrounding countries would be able to inflict great damage against adversary countries. Iranian missile capabilities would not be entirely destroyed in any massive first strike. Surviving missiles would reach, in addition to Israeli cities, major Gulf cities implicated in such a war, such as Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Manama and even the American military base in Qatar. The vulnerable Gulf cities that have flourished on commerce and extravagant attractions would be soft targets. If part of Saddam Hussein’s badly weakened capabilities in 1991 remained operational and managed to <a href="https://www.upi.com/Archives/1991/01/26/Iraq-fires-missiles-at-Israel-Saudi-Arabia/6957664866000/">hit</a> Israeli and Saudi cities, Iranian steadfastness and <a href="https://www.csis.org/programs/burke-chair-strategy/iran/irans-military-and-nuclear-capabilities">capability</a> to retaliate are likely to be even more robust. </p><p>Moreover, the unleashing of <em>Shi'a</em> <a href="https://tcf.org/content/report/understanding-iraqs-hashd-al-shabi/">militias</a> across the region would make ISIS violence look minimal. Hizbollah in Lebanon would most likely engage directly in war against Israel, this time endangering the very existence of Lebanon as a country. <a href="https://www.plutobooks.com/9781783714667/hamas/">Hamas</a> in Gaza could equally be prompted to open another front, endangering the already devastated Gaza strip. Syria and even Iraq would inevitably become embroiled battlefields, causing further calamities. The <a href="https://www.icaew.com/en/technical/economy/economic-insight/economic-insight-middle-east">economies</a> of the Gulf countries would be extremely damaged, the oil supplies drastically hit, and oil prices sent rocketing. How Turkey would behave in northern Syria amid such chaos, and what form of engagement it would pursue, is an open question. If such a war went on for a longer time, which is not unlikely, it is hard either to imagine or project the magnitude and directions of massive waves of refugees and <a href="https://reliefweb.int/report/syrian-arab-republic/forced-migration-review-issue-57-february-2018-syrians-displacement">displaced</a> people. </p><h2><strong>A failure of diplomacy</strong></h2><p>Another scary dimension to such a war is the position of Russia. Judging by the worsening <a href="https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/570367/the-road-to-unfreedom-by-timothy-snyder/9780525574460/">relations</a> between the west and Russia, it is not far-fetched to predict Russian support of the Iranians, driven by Kremlin hostility to western policies and by the desire to maintain a strong Russian influence in the region. </p><p>In terms of Israel’s <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/09/world/middleeast/syria-russia-israel-air-base.html">position</a> and perceptions, Israeli propaganda against Iran portrays Tehran’s mullahs as a bunch of fanatics that pose an existential threat to the Jewish state. This is simply hollow and baseless. Rhetoric aside, Iran’s official declared line towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to accept what the Palestinians would ultimately accept. A just conclusion of the Palestinian cause would neutralise <a href="https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/gulf-and-arabian-peninsula/iran/184-irans-priorities-turbulent-middle-east">Iran’s</a> purported threat. Ignoring Palestine and blindly supporting Israel, as the current American administration does, feeds into Iran’s belligerent attitudes, as well as radicalises a public environment receptive to what Iran stands for. </p><p>The Yemeni <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/02/the-war-in-yemen-and-the-making-of-a-chaos-state/551987/">war </a>should have given the Saudis the harshest of lessons, one repeatedly taught by history: you can decide when to start a war but you can’t control when to end it. A war against Iran is a lose-lose deal with unimaginable consequences. If a fraction of the effort and resources that would be consumed in such a war had been invested in diplomacy, a peaceful grand deal with Iran that spread across the region could have been achieved. If the US can talk to North Korea and try to save that region from the dangers and devastation of nuclear war, why shouldn’t it do the same in the Middle East?&nbsp; </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.qatar.northwestern.edu/about/people/profiles/al-hroub-khaled.html">Khaled Hroub</a></p><p>Khaled Hroub, <a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/distributed/H/bo21633684.html"><em>Hamas: A Beginner's Guide</em></a> (University of Chicago Press, 2010)</p><p><a href="http://www.merip.org/">Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP)</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/gulf-states-and-iran-dont-moan-act">Gulf states and Iran: don&#039;t moan, act</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/qatar-prestige-and-gamble">Qatar: prestige and gamble </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/france-and-arab-world-gaullist-moment">France and the Arab world: a Gaullist moment</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/israel-cost-of-arrogance">Israel: the cost of arrogance</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/arab-revolutions-and-al-qaida">The Arab revolutions and al-Qaida </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/arab-third-way-beyond-dictators-and-islamists">Arab third way: beyond dictators and Islamists</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/palestinian-vuvuzela">The Palestinian vuvuzela </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/the-arab-system-after-gaza">The “Arab system” after Gaza </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/barack-obama-muslims-and-islamism">Barack Obama, Muslims and Islamism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/hamas-after-the-gaza-war">Hamas after the Gaza war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/annapolis_or_the_absurdity_of_postmodern_politics">Annapolis, or the absurdity of postmodern politics </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/conflict-middle_east_politics/hroub_mecca_4410.jsp">Palestine&#039;s argument: Mecca and beyond</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/conflict-middle_east_politics/hamas_3982.jsp">Hamas&#039;s path to reinvention</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/egypt%E2%80%99s-coup-liberals-dark-chapter">Egypt’s coup, liberals&#039; dark chapter</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia global security Khaled Hroub Fri, 20 Apr 2018 10:03:39 +0000 Khaled Hroub 117415 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Gulf states and Iran: don't moan, act https://www.opendemocracy.net/khaled-hroub/gulf-states-and-iran-dont-moan-act <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The international deal over Iran reveals the weakness of Arab Gulf diplomacy. It's time for a new approach, says Khaled Hroub.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Many politicians in the Arab Gulf countries have a straightforward view of the famous (or notorious) phone-call between Barack Obama and Hassan Rowhani in late September 2013, and the ensuing American-Iranian <em>rapprochement</em> that on 24 November produced a landmark agreement on Iran's nuclear programme and the sanctions regime. They regard it all as a "stab in the back" - a betrayal by their United States ally. Their governments may feel obliged to <a href="http://www.voanews.com/content/saudi-arabia-cautiously-welcomes-irans-nuclear-deal/1797132.html">offer</a> lukewarm support, but privately the same judgment can be heard.</p><p>All Gulf governments see the United States as the main guarantor of their survival, against what is perceived to be the main threat to their national security: Iran. Their fear, not without reason, is that any "grand bargain" between Washington and Tehran could be at their expense. </p><p>The Gulf’s dismay at the turning of a new <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/11/diplomats-strike-deal-iran-talks-201311242333773209.html">page</a> between the US and Iran is widely understood, even by those who take a more positive view of the diplomatic process between these bitter adversaries. Where there is less sympathy is the Gulf states' combination of moaning and inaction. True, Saudi Arabia's <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/12/us-un-saudi-jordan-idUSBRE9AB14720131112">refusal</a> to take up its long-sought seat on the United Nations Security Council is a form of negative action, but it is also part of a pattern of endless, random, angry statements which amount to no more than a venting of frustration. </p><p>If Washington's "turn" over signals a shift in its policy in the region, there is a need for careful consideration of what actually can be done to <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/11/why-the-iran-deal-scares-saudi-arabia.html">offset</a> it. But what could and should the Gulf states do regarding <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/11/25/us-relations-with-iran-thaw-and-allies-shiver">potential</a> US-Iran reconciliation, beyond complaining? Here are four suggestions.</p><p><strong>Two steps...</strong></p><p>The first step is for Gulf states to stop issuing empty and unrealistic threats that they will downgrade links with the US and steer toward the east - China, and maybe Russia - for strategic alliances and security guarantees. This is pointless, as everyone knows it is not <a href="http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/822424.shtml#.UpfgqxAZuDo">going</a> to happen. Instead, their strategy should be focused on forceful <a href="http://news.yahoo.com/iran-gulf-states-tentative-diplomatic-moves-182125751.html">engagement</a> with both the US and Iran. A new, assertive Gulf strategy should abandon perch-on-the fence-and-hope-for-the-best as an approach; anchor itself on the notion of "accepted differences within the alliance"; and take a much firmer <a href="http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/menasource/how-the-gulf-states-will-and-won-t-respond-to-the-iran-agreement">approach</a> toward foreign-policy disagreements, even with the US, where necessary. </p><p>The second step follows: that the Gulf states should be an integral <a href="http://www.france24.com/en/20131127-gulf-states-urge-iran-cooperate-fully-nuclear-deal">part</a> of any international bargain with Iran (exactly as Iran demands to be part of any solution of the Syrian <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-17258397">crisis</a>). If Gulf states continue to accept a mere observer role, leaving Washington effectively in charge of their destinies, they will be perpetuating a deep strategic mistake. Both recent and longer-term events in the region show that the Gulf states' <em>carte blanche</em> (perhaps unwitting) to the US over regional issues has proven disastrous. </p><p>These states did nothing to prevent military intervention in Iraq in 2003 or to correct the mismanagement of the country in the aftermath, believing that the US administration knew what it was doing. The result was in practice to hand Iraq strategically to Iran. More recently, the same timid approach has repeated the error in Syria. The Gulf states first rallied behind the US’s non-strategy there, thus <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-23125629">wasting</a> opportunities during the non-violent phase of the revolution when effective intervention could have been justified. Then they stood meekly behind the US's "<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/wp/2013/09/06/president-obama-and-the-red-line-on-syrias-chemical-weapons/">red lines</a>" over military support to the Syrian rebels, thus allowing Iranian influence in Syria to grow further.&nbsp; </p><p>Indeed, the rising influence of Iran is at the top of the Gulf states' strategic <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-25083894">concerns</a>. The Gulf policymakers, mindful that it is their region and Iran is their neighbour, should have stood firm and pursued their own interest over Syria, even if it meant disagreeing with the US. The problem was compounded when the Gulf countries (Qatar excepted) wasted their time, effort and money by getting involved in the wrong fight at the wrong time in Egypt.</p><p><strong>...and two more</strong></p><p>The third step in a new approach by the Gulf states follows: to rebuild the region's former "moderate camp" alongside Egypt and Turkey. This has suffered a deep fracturing, in large part because the short-sighted Gulf politics regarding Egypt. Over nearly two years, a concerted Gulf effort was mobilised pre-emptively to <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/khaled-hroub/egypt%E2%80%99s-coup-liberals-dark-chapter">quash</a> the Muslim Brotherhood in post-revolution Egypt. This angered <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ivan-krastev/arab-revolutions-turkey%E2%80%99s-dilemmas-zero-chance-for-zero-problems">Turkey’s</a> Islamist-leaning government, which was much closer to the Brotherhood. Turkish-Gulf relations froze, <a href="http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/politics/2013/02/egypt-turkey-iran-relations.html#">taking</a> with them the Egypt-Gulf-Turkey triangular alliance - perhaps the only strategic alliance capable of stopping Iranian expansion. </p><p>While the Gulf states were wasting time in Egypt, alienating Turkey along the way, Iran and Hizbollah were strengthening their position in Syria, shoring up the regime, and cementing a new balance of power under the Russian umbrella. A reversal of this damage would require the Gulf states recognising the <a href="http://www.brookings.edu/events/2013/10/09-gulf-muslim-brotherhood">damage</a> a weakened and polarised Egypt represents, and encouraging Egypt's military regime to adopt inclusive policies and reconcile with the Brotherhood.</p><p>The fourth step is to reclaim the Palestinian issue and put it at the head of the regional agenda. This would involve a twofold effort by the Gulf governments: stay very close to and be supportive of the Palestinians in the peace <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/08/201381422595257277.html">talks</a> and beyond (particularly to counter Iranian rhetoric that it is they who "defend" the Palestinians), and embrace a disarrayed Hamas. The movement's support for the Brotherhood regime in Cairo was at the cost of its close relationship with Iran and Syria. The movement has been one of the greatest <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-23559846">losers</a> of the "Arab spring". </p><p>Many voices within Hamas, now <a href="http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/11/hamas-islamic-jihad-palestinian-resistance-iran-us-deal.html">exposed</a> and under no regional umbrella, press for a return to Iran. This would add yet another card to Iran's hand, and reinforce Tehran's boast that it is the ultimate beacon of resistance. Here as elsewhere, moaning alone is never going to prevent negative outcomes. The Gulf states need to get real.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Khaled Hroub, <em><a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/display.asp?K=9780863566592&amp;sf=KEYWORD&amp;sort=sort_title&amp;st1=hroub&amp;x=0&amp;y=0&amp;m=1&amp;dc=1">Political Islam: Context versus Ideology</a> </em>(<a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/index.asp?TAG=&amp;CID=">Saqi Books</a>, 2010) </p><p>Tarek Osman, <em><a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300162752">Egypt on the Brink: From Nasser to Mubarak</a> </em>(Yale University Press, 2010)</p><p><a href="http://www.grc.ae/index.php?sec=About+GRC&amp;PHPSESSID=09c6c4b9b4c718b5d0a2686e36de0d3c">Gulf Research Centre</a></p><p><a href="http://www.cis.cam.ac.uk/affiliatedprojects.htm">Centre of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies</a>, University of Cambridge</p><p>Alison Pargeter, <a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/display.asp?ISB=9780863564758&amp;TAG=&amp;CID"><em>The Muslim Brotherhood: The Burden of Tradition</em></a> (Saqi, 2010)</p><p><a href="http://www.al-bab.com/">Al-bab </a></p><p>Brian Whitaker, <a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/display.asp?ISB=9780863566240&amp;TAG=&amp;CID=">What's Really Wrong with the Middle East</a> (Saqi, 2009)</p><p>Olivier Roy, <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=502"><em>Whatever Happened to the Islamists?</em></a> (C Hurst, 2009) </p><p><a href="http://www.merip.org/index.html">Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP)</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Khaled Hroub is <a href="http://www.qatar.northwestern.edu/about/our-people/faculty/khaled-al-hroub.html">professor</a> of middle eastern studies at Northwestern University in Qatar. He is also a senior research fellow at the <a href="http://www.cis.cam.ac.uk/affiliatedprojects.htm">Centre of Islamic Studies</a> at the University of Cambridge, where he is the director of the Cambridge Arab Media Project (CAMP). He is the author of <a href="http://www.palestine-studies.org/journals.aspx?id=7087&amp;jid=1&amp;href=abstract"><em>Hamas: Political Thought and Practice</em> </a>(Institute for Palestine Studies, 2000), and <a href="http://us.macmillan.com/hamas"><em>Hamas: a Beginner's Guide</em></a> (Pluto Press, 2006), and editor of <em><a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/display.asp?K=9780863566592&amp;sf=KEYWORD&amp;sort=sort_title&amp;st1=hroub&amp;x=0&amp;y=0&amp;m=1&amp;dc=1">Political Islam: Context versus Ideology</a> </em>(<a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/index.asp?TAG=&amp;CID=">Saqi Books</a>, 2010) and <em>Religious Broadcasting in the Middle East </em>(2012). His publications in Arabic include <em>Fragility of Ideology</em> and <em>Might of Politics</em> (2010); <em>In Praise of Revolution</em> (2012); the literary collection <em>Tattoo of Cities</em> (2008); and the poetry collection <em>Enchantress of Poetry</em> (2008)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/arab-revolutions-and-al-qaida">The Arab revolutions and al-Qaida </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/france-and-arab-world-gaullist-moment">France and the Arab world: a Gaullist moment</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/israel-cost-of-arrogance">Israel: the cost of arrogance</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/qatar-prestige-and-gamble">Qatar: prestige and gamble </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/arab-third-way-beyond-dictators-and-islamists">Arab third way: beyond dictators and Islamists</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/palestinian-vuvuzela">The Palestinian vuvuzela </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/barack-obama-muslims-and-islamism">Barack Obama, Muslims and Islamism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/hamas-after-the-gaza-war">Hamas after the Gaza war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/annapolis_or_the_absurdity_of_postmodern_politics">Annapolis, or the absurdity of postmodern politics </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/the-arab-system-after-gaza">The “Arab system” after Gaza </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Qatar </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Saudi Arabia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Egypt Saudi Arabia Iran Qatar Conflict Democracy and government International politics global politics democracy & power middle east Khaled Hroub Fri, 29 Nov 2013 05:33:27 +0000 Khaled Hroub 77354 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Egypt’s coup, liberals' dark chapter https://www.opendemocracy.net/khaled-hroub/egypt%E2%80%99s-coup-liberals-dark-chapter <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The military's deposition of Egypt's elected president has been welcomed by the Muslim Brotherhood's liberal opponents. This is a historic error that carries big costs and risks, says Khaled Hroub.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Egypt's liberal forces have aborted the country's nascent and shaky democracy by bringing&nbsp; the army back to power. Their shortsightedness is compounded by shamelessness, as leading liberal figures accepted posts in a puppet government under the generals' oversight. The <em>de facto</em> coup has taken Egypt back to square one: an alliance between the military and self-proclaimed liberals (whose credentials to that label are now in even greater doubt). </p><p>These events expose the flaws and failures of all parts of Egypt's political spectrum. The victory of the <a href="http://www.saqibooks.co.uk/book/muslim-brotherhood/">Muslim Brotherhood</a> in free and fair <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/25/world/middleeast/mohamed-morsi-of-muslim-brotherhood-declared-as-egypts-president.html?pagewanted=all">elections</a> in November 2011-January 2012 (parliamentary) and May-June 2012 (presidential) deeply frustrated the forces ranged against it, in particular - because thay had failed to join forces to stop this very outcome - Egypt's liberals, nationalists, and leftists, as well as the many young people whose determination had helped force the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/goran-fejic/egypt-and-thirty-years-of-solitude">departure</a> of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. The "<em>fulool</em>" (remnants of the Mubarak regime) and the military were, of course, also alarmed. </p><p>After only a year, though, the political <a href="http://lynch.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/07/23/egypts_reset">landscape</a> had changed again. The victorious Muslim Brotherhood proved itself incapable of governing in almost every respect, with decisions and attitudes that were amateurish, exclusive, inward-looking, reactionary and conducive to sectarianism. Its record categorically proved to Egypt's <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2013/0726/In-Egypt-s-public-squares-dueling-definitions-of-democracy">public</a> the futility of the Islamists’ claim that their salvationist message was a panacea to all problems. </p><p><strong>The missed opportunity</strong></p><p>This, assessed cold-bloodedly, was the best outcome that any Egyptian or Arab liberal could have hoped for. After all, over several decades no single ideology (or even group of ideologies) had proved able to dislodge the simple yet penetrating mantra of "Islam is the solution" from the hearts and minds of the Arab public. A historic opportunity at last arose with the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/khaled-hroub/arab-revolutions-and-al-qaida">Arab spring</a> of 2010-11, which allowed the people themselves first to take hold of their own destiny and then hold to account the governments they had now freely elected.&nbsp; </p><p>The Islamists' record of governance, had it been exercised to the next point of democratic exchange, would have disabused many elements of the public which (for religious or emotional reasons) had supported the Brotherhood. After <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12313405">decades </a>when the Islamists were able to highlight their victimisation by the state and boast of being in the vanguard of "resisting the west", this was their first test in power. Their comprehensive failure would have stripped them of the advantages - including in matters of prestige, morality and "aura" - they had long enjoyed over their rivals. At last, as they faced the gruelling test of politics (in Tunisia and Libya as well as Egypt), the badge of "the oppressed" and the <a href="http://www.cfr.org/egypt/egypts-muslim-brotherhood/p23991">accumulated</a> capital of victimhood would have begun to erode. Through the political and democratic process - not by military force - the Islamists would have ended up being downsized drastically, with the public exercising the decisive judgment. </p><p>But allowing the Brotherhood and the president, Mohammed Morsi, to continue governing until the end of their term proved impossible. The active, wide-ranging youth <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-23131953">movement</a> called <em>Tamarrud</em> ("rebel") quickly and impressively organised to demand early elections - which was in itself legitimate and democratic. Their mobilisation of millions panicked Morsi and his group, resulting in fissures within the leadership. Amid the mounting pressure - from the street, from within Morsi's coterie, from foes and friends alike - produced talk of possible deals made behind the scenes. An agreement on early elections was within reach. But the army's speedy intervention disrupted what until then had remained a democratic process. </p><p>What made the situation even worse was the liberal forces' hasty approval of and collaboration with the army's <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2013/0724/Egyptian-army-chief-calls-for-help-to-fight-terrorism-of-the-Muslim-Brotherhood">move</a>. This is <a href="http://www.dw.de/challenges-for-egypts-liberals/a-16946290">ominous</a> both for Egypt's and for the liberals' own future. In narrow terms, it adds self-inflicted deep scars on the already battered face of Arab liberalism, and refuels the Islamists' "oppressed and victimised" narrative - which can now draw on the experience of killings and arrests of their members, the <a href="http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-07-26/deposed-egyptian-president-mohamed-morsi-to-face-murder-charges/4847100">kidnapping</a> of their president and the theft of their election victory by (they will argue) a coalition of liberals and generals.</p><p><strong>The four dangers</strong></p><p>But there are four even greater dangers, which extend beyond Egypt to the region at large. </p><p>First, the liberal-military <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/16/world/middleeast/egypt-morsi.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=0">alliance</a> represents an invitation to civil war that other Arab cases have already experienced (such as Algeria in the 1990s). For the liberals' position shatters the growing, if reluctant, belief in democracy among mainstream Islamists; leaves moderate Islamists <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/salafists-gain-from-chaos-in-egypt-after-muslim-brotherhood-shooting-a-911423.html">vulnerable</a> to attack by their radical counterparts; and serves <em>jihadists</em> and fanatics by granting them a heaven-sent excuse to launch yet another aimless war (a result expemplifed by Ayman al-Zawahiri and al-Qaeda’s jubilant statements). </p><p>Second, in the post-colonial Arab world this alliance has long had the effect of discrediting both liberalism and secularism; now, the discredit is perpetuated, and has acquired an even more alienating aspect as the opponent of the free spirit and <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/asef-bayat/egypt-and-post-islamist-middle-east">nascent</a> democracy midwifed by the 2011 revolution. </p><p>Third, it is a great risk to <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2013/0726/Risky-game-as-Islamist-party-finds-its-footing-with-Egypt-s-military">entrust</a> the military to safeguard a political process and oversee democratisation. If politics is not the job of any army, this is even more so in the case of the Egyptian military - a product of decades of authoritarian rule. The army has stood for authoritarianism, cronyism and corruption - temptations now given a free pass. The military's language of "stability" and "order", of which it claims an exclusive interpretation, is used to slow or block any democratic <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/khaled-hroub/arab-third-way-beyond-dictators-and-islamists">process</a> deemed out of line with the generals' interests. </p><p>Fourth, the language and thinking of both sides of the liberal-military alliance threaten to engulf even the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/arab-rebellion-perspectives-of-power">possiblity</a> of stable democracy in Egypt. Pro-coup liberals are irritated by the term "military coup": for them, the army intervened to translate the will of the people, expressed by millions in the street, and in order to save the country from civil war. The elected president lost his legitimacy they argue, because the "legitimacy of the street" proved&nbsp; stronger and more numerous than the legitimacy of the ballot-box. This is at odds with the basic principles of democracy, and a <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/tension-raises-doubts-about-stability-of-interim-government-in-egypt-a-910358.html">step</a> deep into the unknown. </p><p>Any street legitimacy, big or small, must be channelled through ballot-box legitimacy. Otherwise, Egypt - and the same goes for any country in the Arab world or beyond - will end up in an endless, chaotic race of <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/egypt-struggles-with-political-chaos-after-second-revolution-a-913674.html">competing</a> "street legitimacies" where the Muslim Brotherhood and their rivals try to outnumber each other in mobilising a fractured people. This also means that future elected presidents will be forever vulnerable to street-based populist movements armed with the belief that at any time they can rightfully overthrow the democratic head of state. </p><p>Egypt's liberals have colluded in a military violation of democracy that is both wrong in principle and is certain to be very damaging in practice. It is vital that this is acknowledged before the aspirations of Egypt's revolution are buried for ever. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Khaled Hroub, <em><a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/display.asp?K=9780863566592&amp;sf=KEYWORD&amp;sort=sort_title&amp;st1=hroub&amp;x=0&amp;y=0&amp;m=1&amp;dc=1">Political Islam: Context versus Ideology</a> </em>(<a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/index.asp?TAG=&amp;CID=">Saqi Books</a>, 2010) </p><p>Tarek Osman, <em><a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300162752">Egypt on the Brink: From Nasser to Mubarak</a> </em>(Yale University Press, 2010)</p><p><a href="http://www.grc.ae/index.php?sec=About+GRC&amp;PHPSESSID=09c6c4b9b4c718b5d0a2686e36de0d3c">Gulf Research Centre</a></p><p><a href="http://www.cis.cam.ac.uk/affiliatedprojects.htm">Centre of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies</a>, University of Cambridge</p><p>Alison Pargeter, <a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/display.asp?ISB=9780863564758&amp;TAG=&amp;CID"><em>The Muslim Brotherhood: The Burden of Tradition</em></a> (Saqi, 2010)</p><p><a href="http://www.al-bab.com/">Al-bab </a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Brian Whitaker, <a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/display.asp?ISB=9780863566240&amp;TAG=&amp;CID=">What's Really Wrong with the Middle East</a> (Saqi, 2009)</p><p>Olivier Roy, <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=502"><em>Whatever Happened to the Islamists?</em></a> (C Hurst, 2009) </p><p><a href="http://www.merip.org/index.html">Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP)</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Khaled Hroub is <a href="http://www.qatar.northwestern.edu/about/our-people/faculty/khaled-al-hroub.html">professor</a> of middle eastern studies at Northwestern University in Qatar. He is also a senior research fellow at the <a href="http://www.cis.cam.ac.uk/affiliatedprojects.htm">Centre of Islamic Studies</a> at the University of Cambridge, where he is the director of the Cambridge Arab Media Project (CAMP). He is the author of <a href="http://www.palestine-studies.org/journals.aspx?id=7087&amp;jid=1&amp;href=abstract"><em>Hamas: Political Thought and Practice</em> </a>(Institute for Palestine Studies, 2000), and <a href="http://us.macmillan.com/hamas"><em>Hamas: a Beginner's Guide</em></a> (Pluto Press, 2006), and editor of <em><a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/display.asp?K=9780863566592&amp;sf=KEYWORD&amp;sort=sort_title&amp;st1=hroub&amp;x=0&amp;y=0&amp;m=1&amp;dc=1">Political Islam: Context versus Ideology</a> </em>(<a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/index.asp?TAG=&amp;CID=">Saqi Books</a>, 2010) and <em>Religious Broadcasting in the Middle East </em>(2012). His publications in Arabic include <em>Fragility of Ideology</em> and <em>Might of Politics</em> (2010); <em>In Praise of Revolution</em> (2012); the literary collection <em>Tattoo of Cities</em> (2008); and the poetry collection <em>Enchantress of Poetry</em> (2008)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/arab-revolutions-and-al-qaida">The Arab revolutions and al-Qaida </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/france-and-arab-world-gaullist-moment">France and the Arab world: a Gaullist moment</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/israel-cost-of-arrogance">Israel: the cost of arrogance</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/qatar-prestige-and-gamble">Qatar: prestige and gamble </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/palestinian-vuvuzela">The Palestinian vuvuzela </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/arab-third-way-beyond-dictators-and-islamists">Arab third way: beyond dictators and Islamists</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/barack-obama-muslims-and-islamism">Barack Obama, Muslims and Islamism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/the-arab-system-after-gaza">The “Arab system” after Gaza </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/hamas-after-the-gaza-war">Hamas after the Gaza war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/annapolis_or_the_absurdity_of_postmodern_politics">Annapolis, or the absurdity of postmodern politics </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Democracy and government International politics institutions & government democracy & power middle east Egypt divided Khaled Hroub Violent transitions Revolution Fri, 02 Aug 2013 15:27:50 +0000 Khaled Hroub 74489 at https://www.opendemocracy.net France and the Arab world: a Gaullist moment https://www.opendemocracy.net/khaled-hroub/france-and-arab-world-gaullist-moment <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P> </p><P>There is a unique opportunity for France to recast its policy towards a changing Arab world by&nbsp;focusing on the region's people and Palestinian rights. This would make Paris a global leader and benefit everyone, says Khaled Hroub.&nbsp;</p> <P></p> </div> </div> </div> <P>"What should France hope for and from the Arab spring; what should it fear; and what should it do to help realise favourable conclusions for the Arabs and itself?" These questions were posed by France's new foreign minister Laurent Fabius in an address at Paris's Sciences Po&nbsp;institute on 27 June 2012. The event was a conference on "<A href="http://calenda.revues.org/nouvelle24456.html">The Arab world in the age of revolutions</a>" (24-27 June 2012), whose&nbsp;audience included more than sixty international scholars and researchers (several&nbsp; among them from the middle east). </p> <P>Fabius’s contribution, a carefully written lecture entitled "<A href="http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/the-ministry-158/events-5815/article/france-and-the-new-arab-world-17387">France and the new Arab world</a>", vacillated between hope and fear while treating the question of "what to do" in a somewhat modest and unadventurous way. His timidity about formulating a new vision invites further discussion for it reflects a deeper French (and western) ambivalence about the <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/david-hayes/arab-spring-protest-power-prospect">Arab spring</a> and the region as a whole, with its emerging forces and developments. If such a vision is to emerge, its pillars could be twofold: building alliances with people, not regimes; and supporting Palestinian self-determination and liberation. </p> <P>Let's begin, however, by <A href="http://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2012/07/06/un-nouveau-moment-gaulliste-dans-le-monde-arabe_1729951_3232.html">noting</a> an implication of the word "new" in the title of Fabius’s talk. Why, after all, is the same word not placed before "French foreign policy", as an indication of the need to keep pace with the "newness" of developments in the Arab world? Wouldn't this be the right moment for the recently <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/patrice-de-beer/fran%C3%A7ois-hollande-and-france-big-test">installed</a> French government to respond to the region's unfolding chapter by drafting "a <EM>new</em> French foreign policy towards a <EM>new</em> Arab world"? </p> <P>The signals of such a change are already there. After <A href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/02/25/le_scandal?hidecomments=yes">initial</a> hesitation when the Tunisian revolution erupted, France’s policy towards the Arab uprisings took the right side by supporting citizens' demands and aspirations. This stance remained fairly consistent, with France taking the lead in Libya and holding firm <EM>vis-à-vis</em> the <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/carsten-wieland/syria-tale-of-missed-opportunity">Syrian</a> revolution. As a result France has been able to amass significant political capital and leverage in the Arab world in the year and a half since the Arab <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/david-hayes/arab-spring-protest-power-prospect">uprisings</a> started. This "investment" could be increased further or squandered, depending on how creative and forward-looking the country's foreign policy can truly become (see Patrice de Beer, "<A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/patrice-de-beer/france-europe-and-arab-maelstrom">France, Europe, and the Arab maelstrom</a>",&nbsp;10 March 2011)&nbsp;</p> <P><STRONG>The two pillars</strong></p> <P>The first of the two potential pillars of such a policy is the decision to build alliances with people and their elected governments, not dictators. In the intensifying debates across the Arab world about western support and involvement in the Arab spring, there is a shared view that the west is fundamentally interest-driven rather than ethical. The "new" dimension of this interest-driven politics is that it is anchored in a sense that the "common good" is something it now shares with Arab peoples rather than their authoritarian rulers - a departure from the post-decolonisation era, when western powers became used to doing business with dictators only. </p> <P>The costs of that practice were manifold. The west's supposed <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/arab-rebellion-perspectives-of-power">interests</a> in the region were advanced against the will of the people not in agreement with them - one-way-traffic with a vengeance. The west's politics were seen by many as a continuation of colonialism in an indirect way, using puppet rulers. The west's <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/godfrey-hodgson/libya-arab-democracy-and-western-policy">refusal</a> to match its actions to its words and principles created a poisonous dialectic that was <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/khaled-hroub/arab-revolutions-and-al-qaida">conducive</a> to all sorts of extremism. Now, for the first time in decades, the alliance between the west and Arab dictators has been shaken to the roots. If a different norm of relations is to emerge - based on common interests with the people at its centre, within a context of democracy and pluralism in the new Arab world - then both sides will greatly benefit. </p> <P>The second potential pillar of a creative and forward-looking French <A href="http://carnegieeurope.eu/publications/?fa=48051">foreign policy</a> relates to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The universally agreed key to resolving this conflict is enshrined in many United Nations resolutions: for the Palestinians to exercise self-determination. Any solution that attempts to surmount this core principle will categorically fail, as has been demonstrated over the past two decades of the "peace process". The parameters of the final settlement are known to almost everyone: an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with <A>East Jerusalem</a> as its capital, and a just solution for the refugee problem. The Arab <A href="http://www.al-bab.com/arab/docs/league/peace02.htm">peace initiative</a> of 2002 brought all the Arab countries on board and offered Israel unprecedented collective recognition and normalisation of relations in return for complying with what has been agreed by the entire international community. </p> <P>The Palestine question, unless it is justly resolved, will destroy any chance of improvement in Arab-western (including French) relations. France’s support for the Libyans' and Syrians' struggles to achieve freedom is considerable; but if such support is not matched by backing for the Palestinians to achieve their liberation, its policy would seem hypocritical. Already, French and western insistence on the implementation of UN resolutions on Libya (and, earlier, Iraq and Afghanistan) reflects crude "double-standard politics" when no similar stance is adopted towards UN <A href="http://unispal.un.org/unispal.nsf/res.htm">resolutions</a> on Palestine. </p> <P>Here, France should come under particular scrutiny, for its recent history also contains experience of occupation, resistance and liberation is still fresh. It knows from the infamous Vichy <A href="http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780195090529.do">regime</a> that occupation is the ugliest form of dictatorship. So France and the west's declarations in favour of freedom and democracy in the Arab region will bear fruit only if they are extended to a genuine support for the Palestinians in achieving their freedom from Israeli occupation.</p> <P><STRONG>The window for change</strong></p> <P>The current moment is a unique opportunity for France to embark on a fresh and vigorous middle-eastern policy, by vigorous backing of democracy in the Arab world and the emergence of a viable and independent Palestinian state. If it does so, the hopes of the Arab spring would be multiplied, and many terrors allayed. </p> <P>But the opportunity has a time-limit. The window for salvaging the two-state solution is rapidly closing because of the aggressive <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/khaled-hroub/israel-cost-of-arrogance">expansion</a> of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. At the same time, extreme right-wing parties are gaining ground in Israel as well as in many Arab countries. A bold French approach in the region that builds on the political capital accumulated during the Arab spring would help win this race against time. </p> <P>The change needed could be described as another "Charles de Gaulle moment" in the region, recalling the time when France's great <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/neal-ascherson/charles-de-gaulle-remembered">general</a> took the momentous decision to withdraw from <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy_power/africa_islam/algeria_politics">Algeria</a> and thus facilitate the country's freedom and independence from colonial rule. The fiftieth anniversary of Algeria's independence, a historic Franco-Arab event, is&nbsp;celebrated in July 2012. It coincides with the 300th <A href="http://www.unhcr.org/4fec23bc6.html">anniversary</a> of the birth of another son of France, the humanist philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. If his commitment to a new social contract based on citizenship and equality could be combined with de Gaulle's strategic vision, French foreign policy in the middle east could lead the&nbsp; region and the world to a better era.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P><A href="http://www.grc.ae/index.php?sec=About+GRC&amp;PHPSESSID=09c6c4b9b4c718b5d0a2686e36de0d3c">Gulf Research Centre</a></p> <P><A href="http://www.cis.cam.ac.uk/affiliatedprojects.htm">Centre of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies</a>, University of Cambridge</p> <P>Alison Pargeter, <A href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/display.asp?ISB=9780863564758&amp;TAG=&amp;CID"><EM>The Muslim Brotherhood: The Burden of Tradition</em></a> (Saqi, 2010)</p> <P><A href="http://www.al-bab.com/">Al-bab </a></p> <P><A href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/ebooks/revolution_in_the_arab_world"><EM>Revolution in the Arab World</em></a> (<EM>Foreign Policy</em>, 2011)</p> <P>Olivier Roy, <A href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=502"><EM>Whatever Happened to the Islamists?</em></a> (C Hurst, 2009)</p> <P>Brian Whitaker, <A href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/display.asp?ISB=9780863566240&amp;TAG=&amp;CID=">What's Really Wrong with the Middle East</a> (Saqi, 2009)</p> <P><A href="http://www.merip.org/index.html">Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP)</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P>Khaled Hroub is professor of middle-eastern studies, Northwestern University / Doha, and director of the Cambridge Arab Media Project n association with the <A href="http://www.cis.cam.ac.uk/affiliatedprojects.htm">Centre of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies</a>, University of Cambridge. He is the author of <A href="http://www.palestine-studies.org/journals.aspx?id=7087&amp;jid=1&amp;href=abstract"><EM>Hamas: Political Thought and Practice</em> </a>(Institute for Palestine Studies, 2000), and <A href="http://us.macmillan.com/hamas"><EM>Hamas: a Beginner's Guide</em></a> (Pluto Press, 2006), and editor of <EM>Political Islam: Context versus Ideology </em>(<A href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/index.asp?TAG=&amp;CID=">Saqi Books</a>, 2010)</p> <P>A version of this article was published in French in&nbsp;<EM><A href="http://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2012/07/06/un-nouveau-moment-gaulliste-dans-le-monde-arabe_1729951_3232.html">Le Monde</a></em> on 6 July 2012</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/patrice-de-beer/france-europe-and-arab-maelstrom">France, Europe, and the Arab maelstrom</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/arab-third-way-beyond-dictators-and-islamists">Arab third way: beyond dictators and Islamists</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/david-hayes/arab-spring-protest-power-prospect">The Arab spring: protest, power, prospect</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/vidar-helgesen/arab-democracy-rising-international-lessons">Arab democracy rising: international lessons</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/asef-bayat/egypt-and-post-islamist-middle-east">Egypt, and the post-Islamist middle east</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/democratising-the-muslim-world">Democracy and the Muslim world: the “post-Islamist” turn</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/igor-cherstich/libyas-revolution-tribe-nation-politics">Libya&#039;s revolution: tribe, nation, politics </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/syria-and-iran-diplomatic-tunnel">Syria and Iran, a diplomatic tunnel</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ayman-ayoub/syrias-revolution-year-on">Syria&#039;s revolution, a year on</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/conflict-institutions_government/chirac_3811.jsp">France and Lebanon: diplomacy of tragedy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/francis-ghil%C3%A8s/north-african-diversities-personal-odyssey">North African diversities: a personal odyssey</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/francis-ghil%C3%A8s/north-african-diversities-tunisian-odyssey">North African diversities: a Tunisian odyssey</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/goran-fejic/tunisia-or-democracy%E2%80%99s-future-in-jasmine">Tunisia, or democracy’s future in jasmine</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> France </div> <div class="field-item even"> Libya </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> Palestine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Palestine Syria Libya France Conflict Democracy and government International politics democracy & power middle east Khaled Hroub Tue, 10 Jul 2012 04:40:35 +0000 Khaled Hroub 66897 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Israel: the cost of arrogance https://www.opendemocracy.net/khaled-hroub/israel-cost-of-arrogance <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A triple diplomatic challenge to Israel from Turkey, Palestine and Egypt both reflects the region's political transformation and reveals the key flaw in Israel's attitude to its neighbours, says Khaled Hroub. </div> </div> </div> <p>Israel has been dealt three serious blows in recent weeks: one Turkish, one Egyptian and one Palestinian. All came in response to characteristically arrogant Israeli behaviour.</p><p>The Turkish government expelled the Israeli ambassador, withdrew its own envoy and <a href="http://www.voanews.com/english/news/middle-east/Egypt-Israel-A-Cold-Peace-Gets-Colder-130198163.html">suspended</a> military cooperation with Israel in response to Israel’s refusal to apologise for killing Turkish solidarity activists on the “freedom flotilla”. Egyptians <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-14862159">stormed</a> the Israeli embassy in Cairo and forced out the ambassador and his staff in response to Israel’s refusal to apologise for <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/18/us-israel-egypt-idUSTRE77H1OO20110818">killing</a> Egyptian soldiers on the Sinai border. The Palestinians defied all Israeli and American pressures to prevent them from pursuing a vote at the meeting of the United Nations general assembly that would <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2011/0920/Palestinian-UN-bid-key-moves-to-watch-for/What-are-the-Palestinians-seeking">recognise</a> Palestine as a full member-state (see Victor Kattan, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/victor-kattan/palestinian-statehood-turning-point">Palestinian statehood: a turning-point</a>", 6 July 2011).</p><p><strong>Into the depths</strong></p><p>In the first two cases, with Turkey and Egypt, Israeli officials have declared that they want no further “escalation” and sought to contain the fallout of Turkish and Egyptian anger. In the Palestinian <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,787078,00.html">case</a>, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu is making a final bid by <a href="http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/abbas-rejects-netanyahu-compromises-ahead-of-palestinian-statehood-bid-1.385226">offering</a> to meet the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in New York upon the United Nations meetings. The strident threats mouthed by foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman towards Turks, Egyptians and the Palestinians are less than worthy.</p><p>The true Israeli position is alarmed and <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,785845,00.html">defensive</a> for the first time in years. It was spelled out in Netanyahu’s remarks after the sacking of the embassy in Egypt. His remarks reflect the extent of Israel’s anxiety about the transformative <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/tarek-osman/egypt-nation-state-faith-and-future">effect</a> of the collapse of Hosni Mubarak’s rule and the outbreak of the Arab revolutions on the regional strategic environment, now accompanied by losing a long-time strategic ally, Turkey (see Thomas O'Dwyer, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/thomas-odwyer/israel-and-arab-awakening">Israel and the Arab awakening</a>", 9 March 2011).</p><p>To date, Israeli policy and strategy have been underpinned by a doctrine of political and military deterrence aimed at preserving the image of an all-powerful and unchallengeable Israel. Whenever it has felt under regional or international pressure to alter its behaviour, Israel has lashed out violently and unremittingly to thwart it.&nbsp; Thus when the Arab states put forward the Arab peace <a href="http://www.al-bab.com/arab/docs/league/peace02.htm">initiative</a> at the Beirut summit in 2002 - offering their collective recognition of Israel in exchange for its recognition of a Palestinian state within the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict-middle_east_politics/sixdaywar_4629.jsp">1967</a> borders - Ariel Sharon, the then Israeli prime minster, responded by attacking the Gaza strip.</p><p>Any military action carried out by any Palestinian faction has invariably been met with massive and devastating Israeli military retribution. This Israeli doctrine of deterrence extends to the entire region, and to anything that Israel may deem to constitute a potential future threat, however slight - such as when it bombed the Syrian nuclear facility in 2007 (see Paul Rogers, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/israel%E2%80%99s-security-complex">Israel's security complex</a>", 28 July 2011).</p><p>There is a long list of Israeli political and military actions over the years that go <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/israel%E2%80%99s-security-trap">beyond</a> any conventional definition of “deterrence” to reach the heights of presumption, conceit and arrogance. Regional and international conditions have allowed and enabled Israel to get away with such behaviour. Arab weakness tempted successive Israeli governments to vie with each other over how aggressive and extreme they could be - in the process <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/keith-kahn-harris-joel-schalit/israeli-post-democracy-origins-and-prospects">turning</a> domestic Israeli politics into a contest between the right and the far-right (see Colin Shindler, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/israel-s-rightward-shift-a-history-of-the-present">Israel's rightward shift: a history of the present</a>", 23 February 2009).</p><p>Mubarak’s Egypt was a “strategic treasure” - as Israeli officials have described it - in this regard, acting to stifle any official or popular Arab attempt to stand up to Israel. Israeli outrages were routinely met with Arab inaction. There were several incidents in which the Israelis killed Egyptian soldiers on the border, but the Mubarak regime never reacted in any deterring manner, let alone demanded an apology or expelling the ambassador.</p><p>Nothing better illustrated the depths to which Egypt and the Arabs had sunk than the arrangement to <a href="http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/report-egypt-to-double-price-of-israel-bound-natural-gas-1.360013">sell</a> Egyptian natural gas to Israel at below the market-price. The fortune squandered in that corrupt deal could have gone a long way to offsetting the annual US aid which Washington <a href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41317259/ns/politics/t/what-united-states-has-stake-egypt/">uses</a> to hold Egyptian foreign policy hostage. On the international front, meanwhile, the protection of the United States in particular and the west in general allowed, and continues to allow, Israel to persist with its aggressive and arrogant behaviour with <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/israel-gaza-and-international-law">impunity</a> and disregard all sources of criticism - including international public opinion (see Avi Shlaim, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/israel_at_60_the_iron_wall_revisited">Israel at 60: the 'iron wall' revisited</a>", 8 May 2008).</p><p><strong>The agent of change</strong></p><p>But things have begun to <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/david-hayes/arab-spring-protest-power-prospect">move</a>. A line is being drawn beneath the era when Israel could treat its Arab and other neighbours, government and peoples alike, with contempt. At the level of Arab region, the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/sultan-sooud-al-qassemi/egypt-from-revolt-to-change">demise</a> of the Mubarak regime was the big game-changer. But that is not the only factor in the equation. Even those governments that <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/madawi-al-rasheed/saudi-complex-power-vs-rights">remain</a> in power will now have to rethink their relations with and attitudes to Israel in the light of the region-wide assertion of people power. The Arab <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/vicken-cheterian/arab-revolt-and-colour-revolutions">revolutions</a> have torn <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/mansoor-mirza/egypt%E2%80%99s-new-politics-democratic-test">down</a> the barrier that used to insulate the conduct of official policy towards Israel from public opinion. This used to be the exclusive preserve of dictatorial regimes. They alone took the decisions with little regard for their peoples’ views.&nbsp;</p><p>Egypt and Jordan’s peace <a href="http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Politics/Arabs.html">treaties</a> with Israel, in 1979 and 1994 respectively, were signed at the whim of rulers who lacked any democratic or popular legitimacy. The same goes for the diplomatic ties, both covert and open, that several Arab regimes, from Mauritania to Qatar, have forged with Israel. The <a href="http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/0/20856/Egypt/0/The-storming-of-Cairos-Israeli-embassy-an-eyewitne.aspx">invasion</a> of the Israeli embassy in Cairo is a turning-point which dramatically illustrates the nature of the change that is <a href="http://www.rusi.org/analysis/commentary/ref:C4E26B037138D6/">occurring</a>: from an era in which Israel was protected by the official Arab order, to an era of confrontation with the Arab peoples themselves - and of payback for decades of arrogant and contemptuous treatment of those peoples.</p><p>The key agent of this change in the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/israel-turkey-united-states-gaza%E2%80%99s-global-moment">wider</a> region is Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey. The Turkey that toed the Nato line and maintained strong strategic and military relations with Israel is radically <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ivan-krastev/arab-revolutions-turkey%E2%80%99s-dilemmas-zero-chance-for-zero-problems">redefining</a> itself and its role, and seeking to become a leading player in the region - an understandable aspiration given the tempting leadership <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/hazem-saghieh/arab-revolutions-end-to-dogma">vacuum</a> on the Arab side. Turkey has become increasingly tough in standing up to Israeli excesses in recent years, and Israel has accelerated this process with its disdainful treatment of its former ally (see Kerem Oktem, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/kerem-oktem/turkey-and-israel-ends-and-beginnings">Turkey and Israel: ends and beginnings</a>", 10 December 2009).&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>But Turkey’s regional role and influence go beyond its own <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/gunes-murat-tezcur/akp-years-in-turkey-third-stage">policy</a> or national interests and strategic ambitions. More importantly - and more <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/israel%E2%80%99s-security-beyond-zero-sum">dangerously</a> for Israel - it also provides a model for others in the region to follow. They too can refuse to acquiesce to Israeli high-handedness and opt to hit back instead. Turkey has raised the bar for all the Arab governments where their dealings with Israel are concerned. And Israel has only itself to blame.<br /></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.cis.cam.ac.uk/affiliatedprojects.htm">Centre of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies</a>, University of Cambridge</p><p><a href="http://www.grc.ae/">Gulf Research Centre</a>, Dubai</p><p>Kerem Oktem<em><em>, </em><a href="http://www.zedbooks.co.uk/book.asp?bookdetail=4372">Angry Nation: Turkey since 1989</a></em> (Zed Books, 2010)</p><p>Tarek Osman, <em><a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300162752">Egypt on the Brink: From Nasser to Mubarak</a> </em>(Yale University Press, 2010)</p><p>Alison Pargeter, <a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/display.asp?ISB=9780863564758&amp;TAG=&amp;CID"><em>The Muslim Brotherhood: The Burden of Tradition</em></a> (Saqi, 2010)</p><p><a href="http://www.al-bab.com/">Al-bab </a></p><p><a href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/ebooks/revolution_in_the_arab_world"><em>Revolution in the Arab World</em></a> (<em>Foreign Policy</em>, 2011)</p><p>Brian Whitaker, <a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/display.asp?ISB=9780863566240&amp;TAG=&amp;CID=">What's Really Wrong with the Middle East</a> (Saqi, 2009)</p><p>Olivier Roy, <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=502"><em>Whatever Happened to the Islamists?</em></a> (C Hurst, 2009)</p><p><a href="http://www.haaretz.com/"><em>Ha'aretz</em></a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Colin Shindler, <a href="http://www.cambridge.org/uk/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521615389"><em>A History of Modern Israel</em></a> (Cambridge University Press, 2008)</p><p><a href="http://www.merip.org/index.html">Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP)</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Khaled Hroub is <a href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/people/dr_khaled_hroub">director</a> of the media programme at the <a href="http://www.grc.ae/">Gulf Research Centre</a>, Dubai, and director of the Cambridge Arab Media Project in association with the <a href="http://www.cis.cam.ac.uk/affiliatedprojects.htm">Centre of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies</a>, University of Cambridge. He is the author of <a href="http://www.palestine-studies.org/journals.aspx?id=7087&amp;jid=1&amp;href=abstract"><em>Hamas: Political Thought and Practice</em> </a>(Institute for Palestine Studies, 2000), and <a href="http://us.macmillan.com/hamas"><em>Hamas: a Beginner's Guide</em></a> (Pluto Press, 2006), and editor of <em><a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/display.asp?K=9780863566592&amp;sf=KEYWORD&amp;sort=sort_title&amp;st1=hroub&amp;x=0&amp;y=0&amp;m=1&amp;dc=1">Political Islam: Context versus Ideology</a> </em>(<a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/index.asp?TAG=&amp;CID=">Saqi Books</a>, 2010)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/thomas-odwyer/israel-and-north-africa-west-asia">Israel and the Arab awakening</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/gareth-jenkins/turkey%E2%80%99s-election-and-democracys-shadow">Turkey’s election, and democracy&#039;s shadow</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ivan-krastev/arab-revolutions-turkey%E2%80%99s-dilemmas-zero-chance-for-zero-problems">Arab revolutions, Turkey’s dilemmas: zero chance for &quot;zero problems&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/asef-bayat/egypt-and-post-islamist-middle-east">Egypt, and the post-Islamist middle east</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/vidar-helgesen/arab-democracy-rising-international-lessons">Arab democracy rising: international lessons</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/arab-revolt-and-colour-revolutions">The Arab revolt and the colour revolutions</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/goran-fejic/egypt-and-thirty-years-of-solitude">Egypt, and the thirty years of solitude</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/arab-rebellion-perspectives-of-power">The Arab rebellion: perspectives of power</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/rada-ivekovic/arab-insurgencies-women-in-transition">Arab insurgencies, women in transition </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/egypt-nile-and-revolution">Egypt, the Nile and the revolution</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/nadim-shehadi/arab-revolt-transformation-to-transition">The Arab revolt: transformation to transition</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/israel-s-rightward-shift-a-history-of-the-present">Israel&#039;s rightward shift: a history of the present</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/arab-third-way-beyond-dictators-and-islamists">Arab third way: beyond dictators and Islamists</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/gunes-murat-tezcur/akp-years-in-turkey-third-stage">The AKP years in Turkey: the third stage</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/israel_at_60_the_iron_wall_revisited">Israel at 60: the “iron wall” revisited</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/godfrey-hodgson/america-and-arab-revolts-faces-of-power">America and the Arab revolts: faces of power</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/israel%E2%80%99s-security-complex">Israel’s security complex</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/israel-turkey-united-states-gaza%E2%80%99s-global-moment">Israel-Turkey-United States: Gaza’s global moment </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Israel </div> <div class="field-item even"> Palestine </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Turkey </div> <div class="field-item even"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Egypt Turkey Palestine Israel Democracy and government International politics israel & palestine - old roads, new maps democracy & power middle east europe Palestine at the UN Khaled Hroub Wed, 21 Sep 2011 17:31:07 +0000 Khaled Hroub 61540 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Arab revolutions and al-Qaida https://www.opendemocracy.net/khaled-hroub/arab-revolutions-and-al-qaida <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The democratic wave in the Arab world confirms the emptiness of al-Qaida’s ideology, strategy and rhetoric. The death of Osama bin Laden can be seen as part of this wider process, says Khaled Hroub.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The Arab revolutions of 2011 have exposed the weakness and indeed meaninglessness of the idea of al-Qaida in the eyes of many Arabs and Muslims. The effect of Osama bin Laden’s death on 2 May is to reinforce the message. &nbsp;</p><p>The Arab revolutions, incomplete as they are, have made both the means and the rationale of the <em>jihadi</em> network look even more obsolete than they were before. For in addition to toppling regimes in Tunisia and Egypt and frightening those elsewhere, they have overthrown much conventional thinking and prejudice about the Arabs and the possibility of change in the Arab region.</p><p>Such thinking, after all, assigned a definite weight and role to various state or non-state actors in the Arab world. These “usual suspects” included regimes and their cliques; western powers and their meddling; Islamist movements, moderate and extremist;, liberal and leftist parties, usually characterised as weak or marginal; and civil-society NGOs, likewise seen as too fragile to be real agents of change.</p><p>The Arab revolutions have exploded this familiar schema, as new forces - previously silent, ignored or dismissed - have jumped to the forefront of politics. The lead player among them is formed of educated, energetic, and globally communicative young people. This generation has shown itself to be at once deeply aware of political matters yet free of ideological dogmas; it longs rather for freedom, dignity and the ability to control its future.</p><p>The youth-led wave has accomplished two “role-model” revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, and has elsewhere resisted being crushed or hijacked; its genuine, popular and autonomous. character has remained intact even under enormous pressure</p><p>These achievements have exposed as anachronistic the <em>modus operandi </em>and discourses of many formerly dominant actors - not least, among them, al-Qaida and other violent <em>jihadi</em> organisations. In particular, the Arab revolutions of 2011 undermine four of the central ideas that have guided al-Qaida’s strategy for more than a decade.</p><p><strong>A revolution’s sweep</strong></p><p>The first idea is that violence (militant jihad) is the only means by which to overthrow corrupt regimes in Arab and Muslim countries, and to challenge their western backers. This strategy of using violence to the extreme has not only failed but also brought upon Arab and Muslim peoples all sorts of disasters, including the military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.</p><p>The Arab revolutions, using peaceful mass demonstrations as the main strategic method, have completely flattened this violent thesis. These non-violent mobilisations succeeded in deposing two powerful presidents in Tunis and Egypt backed by draconian security forces. The most fundamental failure of al-Qaida’s approach of maximum violence and terrorism is revealed here as one of effectiveness.&nbsp;Al-Qaida, in contrast to the Arab revolutions, was unable to pose a serious threat to the regime of any Arab or Muslim country, let alone come close to offering a route to fulfilling their population’s needs or wishes.</p><p>The second idea demolished by the Arab revolutions is the jihadists’ view of the impact of global media, especially its amplifying effects of their use of spectacular violence. Al-Qaida believed that the obsessive media coverage of its attacks would disseminate information about the movement - its organisation, exploits, ideology, rationale and justification for killing civilians - in such a way as to offer a shortcut to win the hearts of angry young Muslims around the world.</p><p>The global media focus on al-Qaida did follow each of its operations, and to a limited extent created an attraction among a small minority of the confused or dislocated. But the Arab revolutions have shown that global media can be far more supportive and instrumental in relation to a peaceful, enduring mass movement with its own potent - but benign and human - form of inbuilt spectacle. The live broadcasts from Tunis’s boulevards and Cairo’s Tahrir Square helped undercut the might of the security state; the positive and appealing image of the protesters they conveyed, a total contrast with the <em>jihadists</em>’ bloody and ugly image, drew warm sympathy from people across the world.</p><p>The third idea shattered by the Arab revolutions is al-Qaida’s claim to be a voice for the grievances and demands of Arabs and Muslims. This is evident in two respects. First, the great movement of 2011 has revolved around freedom, dignity, social justice and democracy - all of which profoundly contrast with al-Qaida’s rhetoric of war against the west or the need to impose sharia law and an Islamic state. <br /><br />Second, the inclusiveness of these revolutions - with people of various backgrounds rallying together, Muslims and Christians, westernised and traditionalist, secular and non-secular, leftists and non-ideologised, <em>hijab</em>-wearing and jeans-wearing - greatly contrasts with al-Qaida’s inward approach, whose definition of “good Muslims” as those committed to a salafi-jihadi reading of the faith excludes all but a tiny fraction of the Muslim world from legitimacy.<br /><br />The fourth idea punctured by the Arab revolutions follows from this: al-Qaida’s division of the world between “us” (the good ones/Muslims) and “them” (the bad ones/non-Muslims) - the very flipside of George W Bush’s declaration that in the “war on terror”, people are “either with us [the United States] or against us”. <br /><br />The Arab revolutions have rendered hollow this reductive polarisation, which can acquire force only in a situation of war and hostility. These revolutions have won the backing of the vast majority of public opinion and activists in the west, and forced western governments to change their long-detested policies of self-interested support for Arab dictators. <br /><br />The west’s changed policy over Libya is the clearest example of how much al-Qaida’s “us/them” model has been rendered null. The initial western military intervention following the United Nations Security Council Resolution was, after all, welcomed by Islamists in Libya as well as many Libyans of other political beliefs and none; and several veterans of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (once very close to al-Qaida) have complemented Nato’s air-strikes by fighting on the ground against Muammar Gaddafi and his brutal regime.<br /><br /><strong>An end in sight</strong><br /><br />In these four ways, the tide of change sweeping the Arab world in 2011 has made al-Qaida’s main ideas and strategies obsolete. Even before the death of Osama bin Laden, this raised the possibility that the revolutions marked the beginning of the end of al-Qaida. The movement has over recent years increasingly been reduced to a pointless idea, obsessed with violence and terrorism with no attainable political goals, clear agenda or specific cause worthy of the fight. In effect, bin Laden’s “hide and seek” itself became the “cause”.</p><p>The al-Qaida leader’s undeniable charisma and appeal to his followers transformed him into a myth even while he was still alive. This process, however, also highlighted the movement’s lack of cause and agenda. The revenge attack in Pakistan that killed dozens of military trainees shows that it can still inflict damage. But the beacon of the Arab revolutions is making al-Qaida history.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Tarek Osman, <em><a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300162752">Egypt on the Brink: From Nasser to Mubarak</a> </em>(Yale University Press, 2010)</p><p><a href="http://www.grc.ae/index.php?sec=About+GRC&amp;PHPSESSID=09c6c4b9b4c718b5d0a2686e36de0d3c">Gulf Research Centre</a></p><p><a href="http://www.cis.cam.ac.uk/affiliatedprojects.htm">Centre of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies</a>, University of Cambridge</p><p>Alison Pargeter, <a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/display.asp?ISB=9780863564758&amp;TAG=&amp;CID"><em>The Muslim Brotherhood: The Burden of Tradition</em></a> (Saqi, 2010)</p><p><a href="http://www.al-bab.com/">Al-bab </a></p><p><a href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/ebooks/revolution_in_the_arab_world"><em>Revolution in the Arab World</em></a> (<em>Foreign Policy</em>, 2011)</p><p>Brian Whitaker, <a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/display.asp?ISB=9780863566240&amp;TAG=&amp;CID=">What's Really Wrong with the Middle East</a> (Saqi, 2009)</p><p>Olivier Roy, <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=502"><em>Whatever Happened to the Islamists?</em></a> (C Hurst, 2009)</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a href="http://www.merip.org/index.html">Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP)</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Khaled Hroub is director of the media programme at the <a href="http://www.grc.ae/index.php?sec=About+GRC&amp;PHPSESSID=09c6c4b9b4c718b5d0a2686e36de0d3c">Gulf Research Centre</a>, and <a href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/people/dr_khaled_hroub">director</a> of the Cambridge Arab Media Project in association with the <a href="http://www.cis.cam.ac.uk/affiliatedprojects.htm">Centre of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies</a> at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of <a href="http://www.palestine-studies.org/journals.aspx?id=7087&amp;jid=1&amp;href=abstract"><em>Hamas: Political Thought and Practice</em> </a>(Institute for Palestine Studies, 2000), and <a href="http://us.macmillan.com/hamas"><em>Hamas: a Beginner's Guide</em></a> (Pluto Press, 2006), and editor of <em>Political Islam: Context versus Ideology </em>(<a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/index.asp?TAG=&amp;CID=">Saqi Books</a>, 2010)</p><p>Also by Khaled Hroub in <strong>openDemocracy</strong>:</p><p>"<a href="khaled-hroub/khaled-hroub/conflict-middle_east_politics/hamas_3982.jsp">Hamas's path to reinvention</a>" (9 October 2006)</p> <p>"<a href="khaled-hroub/khaled-hroub/conflict-middle_east_politics/hroub_mecca_4410.jsp">Palestine's argument: Mecca and beyond</a>" (16 March 2007)</p> <p>"<a href="khaled-hroub/khaled-hroub/article/annapolis_or_the_absurdity_of_postmodern_politics">Annapolis, or the absurdity of postmodern politics</a>" (22 November 2007)</p> <p>"<a href="khaled-hroub/khaled-hroub/article/hamas-after-the-gaza-war">Hamas after the Gaza war</a>" (15 January 2009)</p> <p>"<a href="khaled-hroub/khaled-hroub/article/the-arab-system-after-gaza">The 'Arab system' after Gaza</a>" (27 January 2009)</p> <p>"<a href="khaled-hroub/khaled-hroub/khaled-hroub/barack-obama-muslims-and-islamism">Barack Obama, Muslims, and Islamism</a>" (15 February 2010)</p><p>"<a href="khaled-hroub/khaled-hroub/palestinian-vuvuzela">The Palestinian vuvuzela</a>" (25 June 2010)</p><p>"<a href="khaled-hroub/qatar-prestige-and-gamble">Qatar: prestige and gamble</a>" (27 January 2011)</p><p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/khaled-hroub/arab-third-way-beyond-dictators-and-islamists">Arab third way: beyond dictators and Islamists</a>" (9 February 2011)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/asef-bayat/egypt-and-post-islamist-middle-east">Egypt, and the post-Islamist middle east</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/tarek-osman/arab-prospect-forces-and-dynamics">The Arab prospect: forces and dynamics</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/arab-third-way-beyond-dictators-and-islamists">Arab third way: beyond dictators and Islamists</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/goran-fejic/egypt-and-thirty-years-of-solitude">Egypt, and the thirty years of solitude</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/vidar-helgesen/arab-democracy-rising-international-lessons">Arab democracy rising: international lessons</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/tarek-osman/egypt-after-revolt-transition">Egypt: after revolt, transition</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/arab-revolt-and-colour-revolutions">The Arab revolt and the colour revolutions</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/sultan-sooud-al-qassemi/egypt-from-revolt-to-change">Egypt: from revolt to change</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/arab-rebellion-perspectives-of-power">The Arab rebellion: perspectives of power</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/hazem-saghieh/other-arab-exception">The other Arab exception</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/nadim-shehadi/arab-revolt-transformation-to-transition">The Arab revolt: transformation to transition</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arshin-adib-moghaddam/postmodern-islam-and-arab-revolts">Postmodern Islam and the Arab revolts </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/goran-fejic/tunisia-or-democracy%E2%80%99s-future-in-jasmine">Tunisia, or democracy’s future in jasmine</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> <div class="field-item even"> Libya </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Tunisia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity Tunisia Libya Egypt Conflict Democracy and government International politics politics of protest democracy & power middle east Spring of the “others” Khaled Hroub Mon, 23 May 2011 23:59:35 +0000 Khaled Hroub 59549 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Arab third way: beyond dictators and Islamists https://www.opendemocracy.net/khaled-hroub/arab-third-way-beyond-dictators-and-islamists <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The popular uprising across the Arab world is shaking not just the region's authoritarian regimes but fallacies about the Arabs themselves. The consequences will be momentous, says Khaled Hroub. </div> </div> </div> <p>Arab authoritarian regimes are now being shaken to the roots or in the process of falling. So too are many fallacies about the people of the Arab world. For decades, these regimes have used the threat of Islamist fundamentalism to manipulate their western “allies”: either support us, or these extremists will bring other Iran(s) on your head. A fearful west decided to back the devil they knew.</p><p>The Arab street and its long-sidelined citizens have now exposed the hollowness of this claim, and in ways that have surprised almost everybody - the Islamists more than anyone. The millions of Tunisians, Egyptians and others who have entered the centre of their countries’ public life have delivered six especially salient messages.</p><p><strong>The street and the world</strong></p><p>The first and overarching message is that Arab peoples really have had enough of their dictators - and of those who propped up these dictators. It took decades to get to this point, but it has at last been reached.</p><p>The Arab state’s average lifespan in the post-colonial era is about sixty years, and for much of this period the new ruling elites were granted time and space to achieve state- and nation-building. In the early post-independence years, the overwhelming task was to align the new territorial entities with local identities along the inherited colonial boundaries - and, along the way, dissolve embedded pan-Arab sentiment. The rulers argued that that these strategic needs justified putting&nbsp; development ahead of democracy; some invoked the flimsy notion of “cultural specificity” to claim that democracy is inappropriate to the Arabs. The result was a model that entrenched&nbsp; security and authoritarian control.</p><p>In addition, the war with Israel was used to deride political openness and democratisation as a distraction from the Arabs’ principal cause alongside development. In the event, both projects failed. Instead of progress and victory, most Arab states - monarchies and republics alike - mutated into corrupt family businesses, surrounded by small opportunist cliques, all protected by draconian security apparatuses backed by an indifferent west. The corruption and malfunctioning spared no aspect of social, political and economic life. It had to end, and now it has, with a revolt of people no longer willing to be humiliated. They have declared the time-allowance for their rulers to create viable political and economic systems over.</p><p>The second message of the uprising debunks the rulers’ common cry that the sole conceivable alternative to them is an Islamist takeover. These are early days, but there is multiple evidence of momentum towards a third way beyond that locked binary. In Tunisia and Egypt, the leading force of the revolution is a new generation of educated youth whose brave actions have struck a strong chord across all strata of society and in the process bypassed the traditional (and ineffectual) opposition parties.</p><p>Their success in mobilising many members of the “silent majority” proves that millions of Arabs are fed up with both the status quo and any religiously-driven future alternative. The Islamists are certainly influential in the Arab world, including these two countries. But they are only part of the political scene; and they have so far shown a preference for power-sharing over power-controlling.</p><p>The third message is that the change heralded by these revolutions is not the work of any elite or any group promoted by a military coup or foreign intervention; rather, it is inspired and made directly by the people. The fact that the people alone are the legitimate parents of change&nbsp; gives confidence that the Arabs’ fate is finally in their own hands. The new era will be defined by the power of the people - not by any revolutionary junta or monarchical custodian acting in the people’s name.</p><p>The fourth message is that this widespread Arab protest is fundamentally political. The demands for jobs or better living conditions and jobs may be the catalysts, and are important in themselves, but political aspirations have soon taken the lead. In Tunisia, the leading slogan of the “jasmine revolution” was: “We live with only water and bread, but without Ben Ali”. In Egypt, the slogan “The people want to change the regime” expresses the same idea. People are not hiding behind modest and short-term demands, but want to change the political system as a whole. This is a dramatic and uncompromising shift.</p><p>The fifth message, which demands to be understood by ruling elites and their external backers, is that (superficial) stability based on armed security is no longer an option. This model might have endured for a lengthy period, but current events show that it does eventually implode. The west’s short-sighted strategy of buying stability while turning a blind eye to repression reveals the hollowness of its democratic values.</p><p>The sixth message is that the erstwhile free hand of authoritarian regimes (including Arab ones) is becoming palsied in a world interconnected by trans-border satellite coverage and social media. The waves of protest across Arab countries (as in Tunisia and Egypt) evolve organisationally on social media such as facebook and twitter; become visible on the street; and are then picked up and transmitted by satellite and international TV.</p><p>This makes the work of state-security, intelligence services and even the military very difficult. These institutions do not have the skills or the tools to suppress “electronic civil-resistance movements’. In face of massive unarmed determination, and under the world’s vigilant scrutiny, these security apparatuses and the regimes they protect are unmasked as paper tigers.<br /><br /></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Khaled Hroub, ed., <em>Political Islam: Context versus Ideology </em>(<a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/index.asp?TAG=&amp;CID=">Saqi Books</a>, 2010)</p><p><a href="http://www.cis.cam.ac.uk/affiliatedprojects.htm">Centre of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies</a>, University of Cambridge</p><p><a href="http://www.lavanguardia.es/"><em>La Vanguardia</em></a></p><p><a href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/"><em>Foreign Policy</em></a></p> <p><a href="http://www.merip.org/index.html">Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP)</a></p><p>Asef Bayat, <a href="http://www.sup.org/book.cgi?id=17080"><em>Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East</em></a> (Stanford University Press, 2010)</p> <p>Paul Rogers, <a href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/publications/monthly_briefings/tunisia_and_egypt_context"><em>Tunisia and Egypt in context </em></a>(Oxford Research Group, January 2011)</p> <p>Tarek Osman, <em><a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300162752">Egypt on the Brink: From Nasser to Mubarak</a> </em>(Yale University Press, 2010)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Khaled Hroub is <a href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/people/dr_khaled_hroub">director</a> of the Cambridge Arab Media Project in association with the <a href="http://www.cis.cam.ac.uk/affiliatedprojects.htm">Centre of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies</a> at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of <a href="http://www.palestine-studies.org/journals.aspx?id=7087&amp;jid=1&amp;href=abstract"><em>Hamas: Political Thought and Practice</em> </a>(Institute for Palestine Studies, 2000), and <a href="http://us.macmillan.com/hamas"><em>Hamas: a Beginner's Guide</em></a> (Pluto Press, 2006), and editor of <em>Political Islam: Context versus Ideology </em>(<a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/index.asp?TAG=&amp;CID=">Saqi Books</a>, 2010)</p><p>This article is also being published in <a href="http://www.lavanguardia.es/"><em>La Vanguardia</em></a></p><p>Also by Khaled Hroub in <strong>openDemocracy</strong>:</p><p>"<a href="khaled-hroub/conflict-middle_east_politics/hamas_3982.jsp">Hamas's path to reinvention</a>" (9 October 2006)</p> <p>"<a href="khaled-hroub/conflict-middle_east_politics/hroub_mecca_4410.jsp">Palestine's argument: Mecca and beyond</a>" (16 March 2007)</p> <p>"<a href="khaled-hroub/article/annapolis_or_the_absurdity_of_postmodern_politics">Annapolis, or the absurdity of postmodern politics</a>" (22 November 2007)</p> <p>"<a href="khaled-hroub/article/hamas-after-the-gaza-war">Hamas after the Gaza war</a>" (15 January 2009)</p> <p>"<a href="khaled-hroub/article/the-arab-system-after-gaza">The 'Arab system' after Gaza</a>" (27 January 2009)</p> <p>"<a href="khaled-hroub/khaled-hroub/barack-obama-muslims-and-islamism">Barack Obama, Muslims, and Islamism</a>" (15 February 2010)</p><p>"<a href="khaled-hroub/palestinian-vuvuzela">The Palestinian vuvuzela</a>" (25 June 2010)</p><p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/khaled-hroub/qatar-prestige-and-gamble">Qatar: prestige and gamble</a>" (27 January 2011)</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/sultan-sooud-al-qassemi/egypt-from-revolt-to-change">Egypt: from revolt to change</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/democratising-the-muslim-world">Democracy and the Muslim world: the “post-Islamist” turn</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/egypt-on-brink-from-nasser-to-mubarak">Egypt on the Brink: From Nasser to Mubarak</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/islam_s_and_politics_post_traumatic_states_in_algeria">Islam(s) and politics: post-traumatic states in Algeria</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/asef-bayat/egypt-and-post-islamist-middle-east">Egypt, and the post-Islamist middle east</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/qatar-prestige-and-gamble">Qatar: prestige and gamble </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/goran-fejic/egypt-and-thirty-years-of-solitude">Egypt, and the thirty years of solitude</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/egypt-the-surreal-painting">Egypt: the surreal painting </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/palestinian-vuvuzela">The Palestinian vuvuzela </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/goran-fejic/tunisia-or-democracy%E2%80%99s-future-in-jasmine">Tunisia, or democracy’s future in jasmine</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/the-arab-system-after-gaza">The “Arab system” after Gaza </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/barack-obama-muslims-and-islamism">Barack Obama, Muslims and Islamism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/tunisia-and-world-roots-of-turmoil">Tunisia and the world: roots of turmoil</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/hamas-after-the-gaza-war">Hamas after the Gaza war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/egypt-the-blindness-of-expertise">Egypt: the blinkers of expertise </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/faith-europe_islam/islamism_4043.jsp">Islamism&#039;s failure, Islamists&#039; future</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/tarek-osman/egypt%E2%80%99s-election-power-actors-and%E2%80%9Cchange%E2%80%9D">Egypt’s election: power, actors, and...“change”</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Egypt Democracy and government International politics institutions & government Globalisation democracy & power middle east Khaled Hroub Wed, 09 Feb 2011 15:46:27 +0000 Khaled Hroub 57963 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Qatar: prestige and gamble https://www.opendemocracy.net/khaled-hroub/qatar-prestige-and-gamble <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The small Gulf state of Qatar has translated economic assets and creative diplomacy into extraordinary global influence. But the eclipse of regional giants such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia is also a high-risk strategy, says Khaled Hroub. </div> </div> </div> <p>“It’s nothing but a short lady in high heels”, one Arab politician described Qatar to me after it was named the 2022 host of football’s world cup. The reaction is typical, in that a mix of envy, cynicism and disparagement colours the attitudes (whether publicly or privately expressed) of Arab “big brothers” towards this tiny yet wealthy and influential Gulf <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/country_profiles/791921.stm">state</a>. No wonder, for <a href="http://go.hrw.com/atlas/norm_htm/qatar.htm">Qatar</a> boxes above its own weight, and is efficient and ambitious on various fronts. Its clear lesson to larger yet lazier neighbours, particularly Egypt and Saudi Arabia, is that size doesn’t matter.</p><p>Its <a href="http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/12/201012374444141404.html">triumph</a> in winning the bid to host the world’s biggest sporting event is, after all, a continuation of previous successes. Its organisation of Asian sports, Asiad, in 2006 provoked similarly stunned reactions. But by <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2010/SPORT/football/12/02/world.cup.qatar.opinion/index.html">winning</a> the contest over 2022, Qatar scored not only regionally but also globally, particularly <a href="http://msn.foxsports.com/foxsoccer/worldcup/story/world-cup-bid-usa-loses-2022-world-cup-bid-to-qatar">against</a> a battered United States and (as England was also a competitor) Britain. Yet sport is perhaps the softest side of the Qatari story.</p><p>The roughness comes with politics. Qatar’s aggressive and proactive diplomacy has been causing waves of nervousness across those Arab capitals that like to think of themselves as “regional leaders”. Washington too has joined the club of the irritated. Much of Qatar’s regional diplomacy has <a href="http://www.irdiplomacy.ir/index.php?Lang=en&amp;Page=21&amp;TypeId=&amp;ArticleId=5113&amp;Action=ArticleBodyView">deviated</a> from preferred American positions, especially its relations with anti-American countries and movements. The sympathies of (Qatar-based and -owned) <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization/aljazeera_qatar_4466.jsp">Al-Jazeera</a> with causes opposed to Washington also play into this; some of the ensuing annoyance is <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/america-panoptic-shiver">revealed</a> in the Wikileaks documents.</p><p>In relation to a number of protracted regional issues, it is the Qataris who have succeeded in mediating and brokering deals. To Egypt’s south, the Qataris have <a href="http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2010/02/2010222124520248470.html">fronted</a> efforts to bring peace between in Sudan's government and rebels in Darfur, while Cairo merely watched. To Saudi Arabia’s south, the Qataris have <a href="http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/90001/90777/90855/7247696.html">engaged</a> the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels in talks, gaining the confidence of both parties, while Riyadh merely watched. In 2009, it was the Qataris who effectively prevented Lebanon from sliding into what appeared another imminent civil war by <a href="http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2008/05/200861501514388216.html">convening</a> the main protagonists in Doha and striking a last-minute agreement.</p><p><strong>A risky game</strong></p><p>The larger picture is no less telling. Qatar at the same time hosts the biggest American military base in the world, has a friendly relationship with Iran, and maintains open commercial links with Israel (which have survived tremendous strains, including the second Palestinian <a href="http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745325477&amp;"><em>intifada</em></a> [2000-05], and Israel‘s war against <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict-middle_east_politics/hizbollah_victory_3809.jsp">Hizbollah</a> in Lebanon [2006] and Hamas in <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/israel-and-gaza-rhetoric-and-reality">Gaza</a> [2008-09]; all the more remarkably in that Qatar enjoys the confidence of both these organisations as well as many other Islamist movements).</p><p>The ruling Qatari Emir and his globally <a href="http://www.mozabintnasser.qa/pages/default.aspx">active</a> wife, Sheikha Moza, are close friends to a number of Arab presidents and ruling families. Yet Qatar is also the main destination for the leading political opponents (mainly Islamist) of many of those Arab regimes. Doha may be committed to the policies and decisions collectively adopted by the <a href="http://www.gccsg.org/eng/index.php">Gulf Cooperation Council </a>(GCC), the regional body (controlled by Riyadh) that comprises all six Arab Gulf states;&nbsp; but it has created margins in which to manoeuvre its own independent diplomacy, frustrating the other GCC states in the process.</p><p>Its tactic of inducing each major player with a different prize allows Qatar to float above threats, remain off-target and build regional and global status. Within the current intra-Arab rivalry between the “axis of moderation” (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the UAE and most Gulf states) and the “axis of resistance” (Iran, Syria, <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/the-hizbollah-project-last-war-next-war">Hizbollah</a> and Hamas), it is difficult to pigeonhole Qatar. It chooses to stay close to the middle-point, shuttling relatively freely across sides.</p><p><strong>A state in full</strong></p><p>The question that arises is less why the Qataris are <a href="http://www.qnaol.net/QNAEn/Qatar/Foreign_Policy/Pages/QatarDiplomacy.aspx">doing</a> this than, perhaps, why the Egyptians or the Saudis are not. It is deeply puzzling for Arab intellectuals and publics alike how timid the big Arab countries have been over the past decade or so. The result of their inactivity or ineffectuality in most regional issues (Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia...) has been to create a political-regional vacuum that allows Iran and Turkey (states with regional agendas of their own) to assume more energetic roles - and opened <a href="http://uscpublicdiplomacy.org/index.php/newswire/cpdblog_detail/qatars_well-funded_public_diplomacy/">space</a> for small states like Qatar to stand out and gain prestige.</p><p>The benefit for Qatar extends far beyond mere pride and appearances, for with the prestige comes further layers of success and networking that becomes a strong aspect of its national-security strategy where potential threats are offset against each other and deflected away from the tiny state. The risks are evident: a strategy that has the US and Israel on board along with Iran, Hizbollah and <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict-middle_east_politics/hamas_3982.jsp">Hamas</a> requires iron nerves. If the extreme brinkmanship fails the consequences could be catastrophic.</p><p>Money helps. Doha would have never been able to achieve what it has thus far without resting on comfortable reserves of gas that make Qatar’s GDP the <a href="http://data.worldbank.org/country/qatar">highest</a> in the world. But money does not function on its own: examples of wealthy failures abound in the region and beyond. Qatar’s economy and finance are less based on credit and loans than its neighbours, allowing it to escaped the fate of Dubai, which found itself at the heart of the global financial whirl.</p><p>The ambitious Qatari Emir has supplemented active diplomacy by making his country a leading media hub, with Al-Jazeera now a <a href="http://english.aljazeera.net/">flagship</a> global brand; a leading regional education laboratory, with first-rate American and European universities establishing branches there; and a sports destination, with various international tournaments (the Asian football cup as well as the world contest) moving to Doha.</p><p>By allocating around $50 billion to <a href="http://www.meed.com/home/hot-topics/qatar-world-cup/">build</a> the infrastructure for the 2022 world cup, Qatar has set out both to outstrip wounded Dubai economically and to continue to surpass the much bigger Arab-Islamic states in the region in prestige and political clout for at least the next decade. <br /><br /></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.cis.cam.ac.uk/PARTNERS.htm">Cambridge Arab Media Project</a>, University of Cambridge</p><p>Khaled Hroub, <em><a href="http://www.alsaqibookshop.com/ItemsStore.asp?sku=9780863566592&amp;prd=1">Political Islam: Context versus Ideology</a> </em>(Saqi books 2010)</p><p><a href="http://www.meed.com/home/hot-topics/qatar-world-cup/">Meed - World Cup, 2022</a></p><p><a href="http://www.qnaol.net/QNAEn/Qatar/Foreign_Policy/Pages/QatarDiplomacy.aspx">Qatar news agency - Qatari diplomacy</a></p><p>Christopher M Davidson, <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=615"><em>The Persian Gulf and Pacific Asia: From Indifference to Independence</em></a> (C Hurst, 2010)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Khaled Hroub is <a href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/people/dr_khaled_hroub">director</a> of the <a href="http://www.cis.cam.ac.uk/PARTNERS.htm">Cambridge Arab Media Project</a> in association with the <a href="http://www.cis.cam.ac.uk/">Centre of Islamic Studies</a> at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of <a href="http://www.palestine-studies.org/journals.aspx?id=7087&amp;jid=1&amp;href=abstract"><em>Hamas: Political Thought and Practice</em> </a>(Institute for Palestine Studies, 2000), and <a href="http://us.macmillan.com/hamas"><em>Hamas: a Beginner's Guide</em></a> (Pluto Press, 2006), and editor of <em>Political Islam: Context versus Ideology </em>(<a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/index.asp?TAG=&amp;CID=">Saqi Books</a>, 2010)</p><p>Also by Khaled Hroub in <strong>openDemocracy</strong>:</p> <p>"<a href="conflict-middle_east_politics/hamas_3982.jsp">Hamas's path to reinvention</a>" (9 October 2006)</p> <p>"<a href="conflict-middle_east_politics/hroub_mecca_4410.jsp">Palestine's argument: Mecca and beyond</a>" (16 March 2007)</p> <p>"<a href="article/annapolis_or_the_absurdity_of_postmodern_politics">Annapolis, or the absurdity of postmodern politics</a>" (22 November 2007)</p> <p>"<a href="article/hamas-after-the-gaza-war">Hamas after the Gaza war</a>" (15 January 2009)</p> <p>"<a href="article/the-arab-system-after-gaza">The 'Arab system' after Gaza</a>" (27 January 2009)</p> <p>"<a href="khaled-hroub/barack-obama-muslims-and-islamism">Barack Obama, Muslims, and Islamism</a>" (15 February 2010)</p><p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/khaled-hroub/palestinian-vuvuzela">The Palestinian vuvuzela</a>" (25 June 2010)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/globalization/aljazeera_qatar_4466.jsp">Al-Jazeera: the matchbox that roared</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/the-arab-system-after-gaza">The “Arab system” after Gaza </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/tarek-osman/egypt%E2%80%99s-election-power-actors-and%E2%80%9Cchange%E2%80%9D">Egypt’s election: power, actors, and...“change”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/tunisia-and-world-roots-of-turmoil">Tunisia and the world: roots of turmoil</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/annapolis_or_the_absurdity_of_postmodern_politics">Annapolis, or the absurdity of postmodern politics </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/conflict-middle_east_politics/iran_gulf_states_3863.jsp">Arab Gulf states: the Iran complex</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/hamas-after-the-gaza-war">Hamas after the Gaza war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/goran-fejic/tunisia-or-democracy%E2%80%99s-future-in-jasmine">Tunisia, or democracy’s future in jasmine</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/barack-obama-muslims-and-islamism">Barack Obama, Muslims and Islamism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/conflicts/middle_east/energy_futures">The quiet revolution: energy futures in Iran, the Gulf, and Israel</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/dubai-s-stifled-voice-censorship-vs-progress-in-the-uae">Dubai’s stifled voice: censorship vs progress in the UAE</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/christopher-m-davidson/dubai-and-abu-dhabi-implosion-and-opportunity">Dubai and Abu Dhabi: implosion and opportunity</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/christopher-davidson-kristian-coates-ulrichsen/bahrain-on-edge">Bahrain on the edge</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/palestinian-vuvuzela">The Palestinian vuvuzela </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Qatar </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Qatar Conflict Democracy and government International politics institutions & government Globalisation democracy & power middle east Khaled Hroub Thu, 27 Jan 2011 19:48:32 +0000 Khaled Hroub 57742 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Palestinian vuvuzela https://www.opendemocracy.net/khaled-hroub/palestinian-vuvuzela <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Palestinians’ vicarious yet passionate identification with the national teams in South Africa’s football world cup reflects both local concerns and global longings, finds Khaled Hroub in Ramallah. </div> </div> </div> <P><SPAN>When Mexico scored against France in faraway Polokwane, the blaring noise of <EM>vuvuzelas</em> was merely the background to the joyful screams and cheers that filled the open garden of the elegant Azure restaurant in Ramallah. My Palestinian friends sitting round the table responded to my question as to why on earth Mexico enjoyed such massive support by saying it had to do more with Nicolas Sarkozy and his <A href="http://www.newsweek.com/2008/07/18/mediterranean-bridge-building.html">alignment</a> with&nbsp;Israel than any admiration of Mexican football. A few years ago, one elaborated further, France was a football favourite of Palestinians, but that was when Jacques Chirac was the country’s president and <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization-village/zidane_3751.jsp">Zinedine Zidane</a> (born of an Algerian family) its star player.</span></p> <P><SPAN><SPAN><EM>Everyone</em> is busy watching: the Palestinian president, <A href="http://electronicintifada.net/bytopic/people/112.shtml">Mahmoud Abbas</a>, my “I-prefer-not-to-be-named” Hamas-politician companion, my niece in Bethlehem, some members of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, taxi-drivers and housewives, along with the excited groups filling the streets and cafes. A busy crowd makes its way through Ramallah on the <A href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/10359600.stm">evening</a> of 19 June to find places in front of the large <EM>ad-hoc</em> screens mounted around the city in preparation for the England vs Algeria match. That evening a voluntary curfew was imposed in Palestinian areas - without any military order! The taxi-driver told me with a cynical laugh that Abbas too was a world-cup obsessive&nbsp;- but his mood turned irritable at the intense security around the posh Darna restaurant where the president was about to join its clientele of affluent Palestinians and high-ranking officials to watch the game.</span></span></p> <P><SPAN><SPAN><STRONG>The global screen</strong></span></span></p> <P><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN>I am observing this Palestinian world-football fetish for the second time in a few months. In February-March 2010 the Spanish league championship was locked in fierce competition between the great rivals - Barcelona and Real Madrid – whose direct <A href="http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/news-and-comment/real-madrid-v-barcelona-el-clasico-preview-1677470.html">encounter</a> (<EM>el</em> <EM>clasico</em>) would likely prove decisive. Palestinians’ support was divided unevenly between the two giants: most favour Barcelona, although the royal club also enjoys a very decent level of support.<SPAN>&nbsp; </span>Barcelona is more identified with because it is seen from the perspective of a “homeland with a cause”, <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/fred-halliday/barcelona-catalonia-real-thing">Catalonia,</a> in much the same way as Ireland is viewed. Juman, my friend who teaches media at Birzeit University, champions Barcelona while her husband Ibrahim follows Real. When the <EM>classico</em> took place they watched the game separately, keeping football rivalry outside the family home. </span></span></span></p> <P><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN>This time round it is the month-long world cup in South Africa that gives Palestinians the chance to indulge themselves. Just beneath the over-excitement around this (and other) global sporting and cultural events lies a palpable if half-formed national desire to <A href="http://www.fifa.com/associations/association=ple/index.html">belong</a> to normal life&nbsp;- to care more about small things, a sentiment beautifully evoked by the late Palestinian poet <A href="http://www.al-bab.com/arab/literature/darwish.htm">Mahmoud Darwish</a>. </span></span></span></span></p> <P><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN>Throwing myself into the “national mood”, I watched more than a dozen games in Ramallah and Bethlehem: in cafes, purpose-built tents, hotel-lobbies and family and friends’ houses. I missed, but would love to have seen, the ultimate surrealism of watching the games projected live onto the “separation wall” in Bethlehem. Al-Jazeera&nbsp;and other media <A href="http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2010/06/13/111261.html">report </a>the wall’s use as a huge screen draws massive and cheerful crowds from the city and its refugee camps. This is something really exciting: conflated resistance and cynicism are precariously interwoven in one big transcending act that allows the besieged Palestinians to set themselves virtually free and go global.</span></span></span></span></span></p> <P><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN>But it would be an exaggeration to see world-cup fever in Palestine as completely politicised. An acquaintance is keen to emphasise another form of Palestinians’ claim to normality: that in part they also “defy the expectation of football-political-support - and manage to cling to an objective love of beautiful football”. The Dutch and German teams receive comfortable backing simply because they play with style and grace, even as their countries are seen as strong&nbsp;allies of Israel; the solid support for the <EM>flamenco</em> squad is unshaken by the bizarre comment of Spain’s former prime minister <A href="http://www.clubmadrid.org/en/miembro/jose_maria_aznar">José Maria Aznar</a> that “if Israel goes down, we (the west) goes down”; a witty commentator, stunned by the United States team’s unexpectedly good performance, links their improvement to the coming of Obama. </span></span></span></span></span></span></p> <P><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN>The leading “quartet” here is Brazil, Argentina, Spain and Italy, roughly in that order. But another form of Palestinian support runs in common with the universal tendency to identify with the underdog - one,&nbsp;understandably, stretched a bit further on the <A href="http://www.faqs.org/docs/factbook/maps/we-map.gif">West Bank</a>, where there is a&nbsp;clear alignment with most of the African and other Latin American teams, and of course with the “greens” of Algeria. Yet as the “lions” and “eagles” of the African continent (<A href="http://english.aljazeera.net/sport/worldcup2010/2010/06/201062321377752757.html">Ghana</a> apart) frustrate their Palestinian fans, a frequent lament is heard: “It’s our fate that even those we support lose!”</span></span></span></span></span></span></span></p> <P><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><STRONG>The local stage</strong></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></p> <P><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN>The football-fest <A href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5j9iJiu9J86rz1Y9qXMXM6p4euZqA">across</a> Palestinian cities and refugee-camps is not passing without vehement criticism, a kind that has nothing to do with sometimes poor TV <A href="http://www.france24.com/en/20100625-palestinian-fans-turn-israeli-tv-world-cup">reception</a>.&nbsp; From various perspectives, voices are raised condemning the “blind obsession” at a time when far more pressing priorities assail the Palestinians. Hamas preachers have been careful to avoid directly and sweepingly confronting the mainstream; they present cautious concern about the need for “rational” attitudes in the face of such mania. But more radical <EM>imams</em> engage in full-steam condemnation of the games as part of a global conspiracy to divert Muslims from facing up to the real challenges that confront them. </span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></p> <P><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN>Tellingly, this conspiracy theory about the world-cup’s seductiveness is also embraced by a few who are considered to be on the extreme left. A writer of this tendency bemoans the spread of stupidity and naivety among Palestinian and Arab audiences who have so easily fallen into the trap of “watching an inflated piece of leather being chased around by twenty-two idiots for an hour and a half”.<SPAN>&nbsp; </span>The entire exercise, he concludes, is meant to perpetuate the dominance of the imperial powers by <A href="http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,5718682,00.html">distracting</a> the world from fighting against them and their oppressive politics. </span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></p> <P><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN>Whatever the merits of this case, numerous activists and movements voice the complaint that a new Palestinian generation is growing fed up with politics. This sentiment multiplies in the shadow of the South African event. The “proximity talks” <A href="http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/06/2010618125139663907.html">between </a>Mahmoud Abbas and <A href="http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=m000811">George Mitchell</a>, Barack Obama’s special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, generates little if any interest. Even the <EM>Mavi Marmara</em>-led aid-flotilla <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/thomas-keenan-eyal-weizman/israel-third-strategic-threat">raided</a> by Israel, the “liberty ship”, was almost overtaken by the football. The imminence of so many big games as the competition moves towards its climax, and the media primacy they enjoy, mean that the aid-convoys scheduled to sail towards Gaza have now been postponed until after the final match on 10 July. </span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></p> <P><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN>The new tradition of watching football games in public places, cafes or huge tents, is accompanied by a custom older even than the South Africans’ deafening <EM>vuvuzelas</em>: the puffing of water-pipes (the <EM>shisha</em> or <EM>nargheila</em>). The inhaling and exhaling of the smoke gather pace with the flow of the matches; the little white clouds of smoke floating above the spectators’ heads expand as the fate of chosen teams is decided. This Palestinian fascination also invests <A href="http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/matches/index.html">global</a> football with national emotion: a complex mix of escapism from the bleak realities of occupation, fatigue at its impositions, frustration that the longest revolution of the 20th century is still far from realising its aims in the 21st, joyfully direct emotional connection to the world, and longing for normal life with its everyday routines.&nbsp; </span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></p> <P><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN>&nbsp;</span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P>Khaled Hroub is <A href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/people/dr_khaled_hroub">director</a> of the Cambridge Arab Media Project in association with the <A href="http://www.cis.cam.ac.uk/affiliatedprojects.htm">Centre of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies</a> at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of <A href="http://www.palestine-studies.org/journals.aspx?id=7087&amp;jid=1&amp;href=abstract"><EM>Hamas: Political Thought and Practice</em> </a>(Institute for Palestine Studies, 2000), and <A href="http://us.macmillan.com/hamas"><EM>Hamas: a Beginner's Guide</em></a> (Pluto Press, 2006), and editor of <EM>Political Islam: Context versus Ideology </em>(<A href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/index.asp?TAG=&amp;CID=">Saqi Books</a>, 2010)</p> <P>Also by Khaled Hroub in <STRONG>openDemocracy</strong>:</p> <P>"<A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict-middle_east_politics/hamas_3982.jsp">Hamas's path to reinvention</a>" (9 October 2006)</p> <P>"<A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict-middle_east_politics/hroub_mecca_4410.jsp">Palestine's argument: Mecca and beyond</a>" (16 March 2007)</p> <P>"<A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/annapolis_or_the_absurdity_of_postmodern_politics">Annapolis, or the absurdity of postmodern politics</a>" (22 November 2007)</p> <P>"<A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/hamas-after-the-gaza-war">Hamas after the Gaza war</a>" (15 January 2009)</p> <P>"<A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/the-arab-system-after-gaza">The 'Arab system' after Gaza</a>" (27 January 2009)</p> <P>"<A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/khaled-hroub/barack-obama-muslims-and-islamism">Barack Obama, Muslims, and Islamism</a>" (15 February 2010)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/barack-obama-muslims-and-islamism">Barack Obama, Muslims and Islamism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/the_world_cup_kaleidoscope">The World Cup kaleidoscope</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/tibet-palestine-and-the-politics-of-failure">Tibet, Palestine and the politics of failure </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/israel-turkey-united-states-gaza%E2%80%99s-global-moment">Israel-Turkey-United States: Gaza’s global moment </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/globalization-institutions_government/politics_soccer_3660.jsp">Politics and soccer: France sings the blues</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arts-Film/offside_3620.jsp">Offside rules: an interview with Jafar Panahi</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/conflict-middle_east_politics/hroub_mecca_4410.jsp">Palestine&#039;s argument: Mecca and beyond</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/russia-theme/the-rise-of-russia-and-its-football">The rise of Russia and its football</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-protest/argentina_football_3651.jsp">The democratic dribble: Buenos Aires&amp;#146;s politics of football</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/a-solution-for-palestine-the-past-as-prologue">Palestine’s right: past as prologue </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/egypt_s_football_triumph">Egypt’s football triumph</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/fawaz-gerges/america-and-israel-palestine-dangerous-disarray">America and Israel-Palestine: dangerous disarray </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/globalization-institutions_government/zidane_3721.jsp">Zidane&amp;#146;s farewell, France&amp;#146;s hangover</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democracy-newright/azzurri_3717.jsp">The Azzurri&amp;#146;s message to Italy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/keith-kahn-harris-joel-schalit/israeli-post-democracy-origins-and-prospects">Israeli post-democracy: origins and prospects</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/fred-halliday/barcelona-catalonia-real-thing">Barcelona i Catalunya: the real thing </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/thomas-keenan-eyal-weizman/israel-third-strategic-threat">Israel: the third strategic threat</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Palestine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Palestine Conflict Democracy and government International politics israel & palestine - old roads, new maps Globalisation democracy & power middle east Khaled Hroub Fri, 25 Jun 2010 22:39:27 +0000 Khaled Hroub 54865 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Khaled Hroub https://www.opendemocracy.net/author-profile/khaled-hroub <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Khaled Hroub </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-au-firstname"> <div class="field-label">First name(s):&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Khaled </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-au-surname"> <div class="field-label">Surname:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Hroub </div> </div> </div> <p>Khaled Hroub is <a href="http://www.qatar.northwestern.edu/about/our-people/faculty/khaled-al-hroub.html">professor</a> of middle eastern studies at Northwestern University in Qatar. He is also a senior research fellow at the <a href="http://www.cis.cam.ac.uk/affiliatedprojects.htm">Centre of Islamic Studies</a> at the University of Cambridge, where he directed the Cambridge Arab Media Project (CAMP). He is the author of <a href="http://www.palestine-studies.org/journals.aspx?id=7087&amp;jid=1&amp;href=abstract"><em>Hamas: Political Thought and Practice</em> </a>(Institute for Palestine Studies, 2000), and <a href="http://us.macmillan.com/hamas"><em>Hamas: a Beginner's Guide</em></a> (Pluto Press, 2006), and editor of <em><a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/display.asp?K=9780863566592&amp;sf=KEYWORD&amp;sort=sort_title&amp;st1=hroub&amp;x=0&amp;y=0&amp;m=1&amp;dc=1">Political Islam: Context versus Ideology</a> </em>(<a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/index.asp?TAG=&amp;CID=">Saqi Books</a>, 2010) and <em>Religious Broadcasting in the Middle East </em>(2012). His publications in Arabic include <em>Fragility of Ideology</em> and <em>Might of Politics</em> (2010); <em>In Praise of Revolution</em> (2012); the literary collection <em>Tattoo of Cities</em> (2008); and the poetry collection <em>Enchantress of Poetry</em> (2008)</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-au-shortbio"> <div class="field-label">One-Line Biography:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Khaled Hroub is director of the media programme at the &lt;a href=http://www.grc.ae/&gt;Gulf Research Centre&lt;/a&gt;, Dubai, and of the Cambridge Arab Media Project in association with the &lt;a href=http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/people/dr_khaled_hroub&gt;director&lt;/a&gt; Cambridge Arab Media Project in association with the &lt;a href=http://www.cis.cam.ac.uk/affiliatedprojects.htm&gt;Centre of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies&lt;/a&gt;, University of Cambridge. He is the author of &lt;a href=http://www.palestine-studies.org/journals.aspx?id=7087&amp;jid=1&amp;href=abstract&gt;&lt;em&gt;Hamas: Political Thought and Practice&lt;/em&gt;&lt;/a&gt; (Institute for Palestine Studies, 2000), and &lt;a href=http://us.macmillan.com/hamas&gt;&lt;em&gt;Hamas: a Beginner&#039;s Guide&lt;/em&gt;&lt;/a&gt; (Pluto Press, 2006), and editor of &lt;a href=http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/display.asp?K=9780863566592&amp;sf=KEYWORD&amp;sort=sort_title&amp;st1=hroub&amp;x=0&amp;y=0&amp;m=1&amp;dc=1&gt;&lt;em&gt;Political Islam: Context versus Ideology&lt;/em&gt;&lt;/a&gt;(&lt;a href=http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/index.asp?TAG=&amp;CID=&gt;Saqi books&lt;/a&gt;, 2010) </div> </div> </div> Khaled Hroub Fri, 26 Mar 2010 13:12:35 +0000 Khaled Hroub 51128 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Barack Obama, Muslims and Islamism https://www.opendemocracy.net/khaled-hroub/barack-obama-muslims-and-islamism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The United States president has put better relations with the Muslim world at the heart of his foreign policy. The discourses of political Islamists reveal the scale of his task after a year in office, says Khaled Hroub. </div> </div> </div> <p>Barack Obama responded to a student’s question in Istanbul in April 2009 with an interesting <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/07/obama-in-istanbul-visits-_n_183912.html"><span>comment</span></a> on the pace of political change: “States are like big tankers, they’re not like speedboats. You can’t whip them around and go in another direction ... you turn them slowly, and eventually you end up in a very different place.”</p> <p lang="en-US">The United States president’s landmark <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/world/europe/08prexy.html">visit</a> to Turkey less than three months after his inauguration was itself evidence that he had started to “turn” the American “tanker”. But by February 2010, over a year into his first (and possibly sole) term of office, its “slow” motion is far from fulfilling the hopes that swept the people of the middle east and the Muslim world when he was elected in November 2008. True, only the most naive might have expected a “speedboat” ride; but Barack Obama inherited a position where the image and foreign relations of the United States had been so <a href="http://lynch.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/05/19/arab_public_opinion_in_2009"><span>corroded</span></a>, and has thus far done so little to repair it, that a faster pace and a surer direction have become an urgent requirement.</p> <p lang="en-US">The tanker-speedboat analogy is realistic - even to a frustrating degree. It begs two questions, not least among Muslims (and mainstream or “moderate” Islamists) across the world. The first and most obvious is whether any turning of the tanker is likely; the second is whether it would be irreversible even if it happened. The second is more straightforward to answer. The spurt of fresh air that US-Muslim relations enjoyed after Obama’s arrival in the White House is already somewhat musty; it could be exhausted even before the end of his period in office, and certainly after it.</p> <p lang="en-US">The first question is more complex. This article attempts to answer it in terms of the prospects for improvement that Obama’s arrival in power has offered, with particular reference to the reactions of political Islamists and their movements. I argue that Obama’s policy towards the Muslim world and the middle east hinges on two major factors: the issue of Palestine, and support for democratisation.</p> <p lang="en-US">George W Bush made the promotion of democracy in the middle east a priority but ignored Palestine. Barack Obama seems to have adopted the opposite approach. Bush’s policies destroyed whatever confidence existed among Muslims that the US would pursue a just policy towards them. The high expectations <a href="../../../../../../../../article/barack-obama-hope-fear-and-advice"><span>invested</span></a> in Obama are part of the difficult legacy the Bush administration has passed to his successor. The younger president needs to fulfil at least some of them if Muslims’ compound frustration is not to develop irreversible momentum.</p> <p lang="en-US"><strong>A history man</strong></p> <p lang="en-US">The potential for regress can be measured by the existing impact of Barack Obama’s election on US-Muslim perceptions. During 2009, the first year of his presidency, the approval-rating of American leadership increased by a significant margin in most Arab countries when compared to 2008, George W Bush’s last year in office.</p> <p lang="en-US">The numbers rose (according to <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/118940/Approval-Leadership-Arab-Countries.aspx"><span>Gallup</span></a> polling) most impressively in Tunisia (from 14% to 37%); Algeria (25% to 47%); Egypt (6% to 25%); Saudi Arabia (12% to 29%); and Syria (4% to 15%). In Lebanon (25% to 22%) and Palestine (13% to 7%) they continued to fall, however. These trends correspond to the new tone that Obama has brought to the realm of international politics: one where cooperation, multialteralism and <a href="../../../../../../../../article/idea/democracy-promotion-doctrine-vs-dialogue"><span>dialogue</span></a> have succeeded confrontational rhetoric, unilateralism, and polarisation.</p> <p lang="en-US">This international approach acquires perhaps its most profound meaning in relation to the Muslim world in general and the middle east in particular. Most importantly, the Palestinian <a href="http://www.un.org/Depts/dpa/ngo/history.html"><span>question</span></a> has been <a href="http://www.portobellobooks.com/Books/A-World-of-Trouble"><span>restored</span></a> to near the top of Washington’s foreign-policy agenda, with an awareness that a settlement would serve both American national interests and good relations with Muslims. There are other items where progress has begun: the scheduling of a withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, movement on the closure of the Guantánamo prison-camp; attempts to reassure Muslims in the United States that they are equal citizens and not (as in the aftermath of 9/11) objects of fear and suspicion.</p> <p lang="en-US">Obama’s determination to show the Muslim world that he intended to follow a fresh course was reflected in his first television interview as president, given a week after his inauguration to the (the Saudi-owned and Dubai-based) Al-Arabiya satellite network. In it he <a href="http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2009/01/27/65087.html"><span>stressed</span></a> that Muslims should know that the Americans are not their enemy; and that his job is “to communicate the fact that the United States has a stake in the well-being of the Muslim world, that the language we use has to be a language of respect. I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries.”</p> <p lang="en-US">This reconciliatory approach to the Muslim world culminated in historic visits (each defined by a single major speech) to Turkey and Egypt, respectively in April and June 2009. These Istanbul and Cairo speeches reiterated the themes of coexistence, cooperation and common values; dismissed the notion of any “clash of civilisations”; and delineated a clear distinction between the vast peaceful Muslim majorities and the small violent radical groups hijacking Islam and claiming to act in its name. The <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/NewBeginning/"><span>Cairo speech</span></a> was in its own right a masterpiece of oratory that received worldwide <a href="http://www.brookings.edu/PROJECTS/ISLAMIC-WORLD.ASPX"><span>acclaim</span></a> and warranted the publication of books on its significance and impact.</p> <p lang="en-US"><strong>A broad river</strong></p> <p lang="en-US">The discourses of Islamist movements and intellectuals in the Arab world on Barack Obama and his leadership are <a href="../../../../../../../../article/the-cairo-speech-arab-muslim-voices"><span>diverse</span></a> and far from monolithic. Each is best perceived within its specific context. Yet these perceptions do share common traits, evident sometimes in silence and sometimes crystallised in their pronouncements. The prevalent themes include ambivalence; cautious welcoming and guarded hope; and the demand for action that follows rhetoric and confirms intentions.</p> <p lang="en-US">A curious example is when Egypt’s <a href="http://www.ikhwanweb.com/articles.php?pid=87"><span>Muslim Brotherhood</span></a> issued an ambiguous statement in advance of Obama’s arrival in the country, entitled “The Brothers’ Opinion on the American President’s Visit to Egypt”. The oddness, and perhaps import, of this statement stem from the fact that it refrained from pronouncing any clear position.</p> <p lang="en-US">The document <a href="http://www.ikhwanonline.com/Article.asp?ArtID=49566&amp;SecID=211"><span>reiterated</span></a> the brothers’ views on Israel, attacked western policies, and confirmed the determination of the Egyptian people to defend their country and change their internal authoritarian regime. Towards the end, the statement declared that the brothers would assess the visit in its aftermath, thus avoiding any prior and prejudiced position.</p> <p lang="en-US">This short and vague announcement expressed the then ambivalent mood among Arab Islamists - even if it was riddled with concerns and particularities pertaining to Egypt’s own Islamist movement. Equally notable is the fact that when the visit was over the brothers issued no substantive follow-up statement as promised.</p> <p lang="en-US">There are other cases where a similar combination of <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/06/04/notebook/main5064302.shtml"><span>attitudes</span></a> is visible in Islamist discourses - though with great variation in tone. For example, Isam al-Aryan, a Muslim Brotherhood leader in Egypt, <a href="http://www.al-akhbar.com/ar/node/139321"><span>wrote</span></a> an article in <em>al-Akbar </em>(Beirut) under the title “A Letter to Barack Obama”. In it, al-Aryan encouraged Obama to refrain from backing authoritarian regimes in the region, lamenting that these regimes have surrendered their sovereignty and interest to outsiders. Al-Aryan also expressed bitterness that America’s global military outreach ran contrary to the essence of American values: “[yes] it is a matter of allegiance to your country when you promote principles that are called upon by the American constitution, and the values of freedom, respect of human rights, democracy and respect of the will of people. By contrast, it is not a matter of allegiance to your country to keep your armies ... occupying all corners of the world. It is not a matter of faithfulness to your principles to keep those detainees in jail without conviction and extract false confessions from them by torture; and to use tyrants and autocrats who remain in power because of your support....”</p> <p lang="en-US">An article by the Moroccan academic Mustafa Ikhlaif published on Al-Jazeera offers an interesting variant on this problematic. It calls on Obama to convert to Islam so that he can immediately become the leader (indeed <em>caliph</em>) of Muslims the world over. The writer <a href="http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/800E59BC-7313-41A2-8BCB-85804ACC2D59.htm"><span>argues</span></a> that for Muslims the race or ethnicity of who rules them is of no importance as long as that person embodies Islam. After all, people of Persian, Turk, Seljuk and other origins have ruled Arab regions - why could not Barack Hussein Obama become one of them? Muslims have warmly received and hailed Obama; the only obstacle in the way of him reigning over Muslim lands is the mere one of becoming a Muslim.</p> <p lang="en-US">Another article on the same site by the Saudi Islamist writer Muhanna Al-Habail is far more critical. Al-Habail <a href="http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/E241E8B7-6559-4EBF-8941-585DB16A1166.htm"><span>wonders</span></a> how the “man [Obama] can explain to us the meaning of justice and tolerance in Islamic values at the same time that his forces strike against tens of innocent people in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and those American-occupied areas [are drowned] in rivers of blood. How nice Mr President looked while he was sending his greetings to the victims in their graves...”</p> <p lang="en-US">The Syrian Islamist writer Nabil Shabib (who is based in Germany) is equally sceptical. He <a href="http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=ArticleA_C&amp;cid=1237705954218&amp;pagename=Zone-Arabic-News%252FNWALayout"><span>considers</span></a> that Obama’s choice of Turkey as the first Muslim country to visit and address the Muslim world was loaded with a biased message: that the United States president sees Turkey is the type of Muslim country that the west wishes to deal with: a secular Muslim country that can be persuaded to help implement American policies in (for example) Afghanistan, the Arab/Israeli conflict and Pakistan. For Shabib, this amounts to “Turkey becoming a Trojan horse for American policy in two ways: a soft political discourse; and a political substance that is based on the continuation of hegemony in a transformed ‘soft hegemony’ that follows military failures.”</p> <p lang="en-US">The response of the radical Islamist movement Hamas to Obama’s initiatives is also noteworthy. Obama’s Cairo speech sought to outline a very delicate position regarding Palestine and Hamas’s role, a litmus-test for many Muslims as to whether the west is to be viewed as hypocritical or credible in promoting human values and justice (see “<a href="http://carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&amp;id=22507&amp;prog=zgp&amp;proj=zme."><span>Obama and the Middle East: Palestine First</span></a>”, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 8 December 2008). Hamas closely watched the American presidential race and strongly favoured Obama - to the extent of harming him, when a favourable comment made by Ahmad Yousef (a political advisor to Ismail Haniya’s Hamas-led government in Gaza) was widely <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/05/12/obama-on-hamas-smear-we-d_n_101387.html"><span>circulated</span></a> by the then candidate’s domestic enemies.</p> <p lang="en-US">Khaled Meshal, <a href="../../../../../../../../article/conflicts/middle_east/hamas_talk_to_them"><span>Hamas’s</span></a> top leader, made several positive statements about Obama from his Damascus base in which he expressed the <a href="http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/World-News/Hamas-Leader-Khaled-Meshaal-Says-He-Is-Ready-To-Talk-To-President-Elect-Barack-Obama/Article/200811215147164?lpos=World_News_Carousel_Region_2&amp;lid=ARTICLE_15147164_Hamas_Leader_Khaled_Meshaal_Says_He_Is_Ready_To_Talk_To_President-Elect_Barack_Obama"><span>readiness</span></a> of his movement to open dialogue with the United States. Meshal welcomed Obama’s victory in November 2008 as “a big change, politically and psychologically, and...I congratulate President Obama ... yes, we are ready for dialogue with President Obama and with the new American administration, on the basis that the American administration respects our rights and our options.”</p> <p lang="en-US">Obama’s Cairo speech seemed to echo this apparent outreach: “Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have to recognise they have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognise past agreements, recognise Israel’s right to exist.” In turn, Meshal responded in an <a href="http://swampland.blogs.time.com/2009/06/04/a-meeting-in-damascus/"><span>interview</span></a>: “Undoubtedly, Obama speaks a new language. His [Cairo] speech was cleverly designed... The essence of the speech was to improve the United States’s image and to placate the Muslims. We don't mind either objective, but we are looking for more than just mere words. If the US wishes to open a new page, we definitely would welcome this. We are keen to contribute to this. But we [believe that this cannot happen] merely with words. It must be with deeds, by changing the policy on the ground.”</p> <p lang="en-US">Indeed, there were signs in the early days of the Obama administration of a readiness to engage with Hamas and end the movement’s isolation - and with it that of the 1.5 million Palestinians in <a href="../../../../../../../../article/israel-and-gaza-rhetoric-and-reality"><span>Gaza</span></a>. But a year on, nothing tangible has taken place. The “well-intentioned” will to turn the tanker around may be present, but in practice the first year of the Obama presidency has rarely departed from the eight years of George W Bush.</p> <p lang="en-US"><strong>A double test</strong></p> <p lang="en-US">Barack Obama faces two challenges. The first, and largest, is to translate rhetoric and well-intentioned statements on major issues into real politics and action. More than a year into his presidency the balance-sheet is mixed, and frustration is gathering.</p> <p lang="en-US">Over Palestine, the US president has failed to press Israel to “freeze” settlement-building in the <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/middle_east/03/v3_israel_palestinians/maps/html/six_day_war.stm"><span>West Bank</span></a> and East Jerusalem and thus pave the way to a resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians. The withdrawal of troops from Iraq has become a more prolonged process, and subject to doubts over the status of the American troops due to remain there until December 2011. The closure of <a href="../../../../../../../../conflict-terrorism/guantanamo_3055.jsp"><span>Guantánamo</span></a> has proved messy. The engagement with Iran on the nuclear issue has been <a href="../../../../../../../../volker-perthes/iran-2010-11-four-scenarios-and-nightmare"><span>difficult</span></a> and contentious, narrowing Obama’s choices and perhaps rendering the entire “dialogue and engagement” approach obsolete. The renewed American military strategy in Afghanistan faces formidable challenges, and the “surge” in troops it involves invites comparisons with Obama’s predecessor.</p> <p lang="en-US">All in all, even shifting the hefty tanker by a slight degree has become an extremely strenuous task. Iran and Israel, among other states, are quite content to make Obama’s job harder; and the president’s domestic foes - on a spectrum from neo-conservatives and “tea-party” activists to hawkish radio hosts and (self-proclaimed) pro-Israel groups - are equally adamant in their opposition. Only leadership, boldness and consistency can make the tanker move.</p> <p lang="en-US">The second challenge facing Obama with regard to the Muslim world, and Islamists in particular, concerns “<a href="../../../../../../../../article/idea/the-future-of-democracy-support"><span>democracy-promotion</span></a>”. Islamists and other opposition forces in the Arab world were dismayed at Obama’s neglect in his Cairo speech of the issue of democratisation (and more broadly reform) in Egypt. Indeed, he even praised the autocratic regime of Hosni Mubarak. The Obama administration’s speeches and strategy papers about American involvement in the world have almost completely dropped its predecessor’s emphasis on democratisation. This may be understandable in light of where that policy led, but it is a judgment that may carry more dangers than it seems to contain.</p> <p lang="en-US">A baleful aspect of the George W Bush-era <a href="../../../../../../../../article/idea/democracy-support-and-the-arab-world-after-the-fall"><span>legacy</span></a> with regard to democracy-promotion is the real dilemma that surrounds any demand that the outside (western) world intervenes to encourage democracy in the Muslim world. It can be summed up in that familiar yet inescapable phrase “double standards” - denoting the many cases where the ostensible push for democratic reform is used insincerely as a tool to advance other interests, and where rhetoric is completely at variance with reality. When democracy is fought for in Iraq and completely ignored in Saudi Arabia; when democratic elections are praised in Lebanon when they deliver the “right” result, but ignored in Palestine when they award <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4654306.stm"><span>victory</span></a> to the “wrong” people - the contradictions, the “double standards”, are obvious and damaging.</p> <p lang="en-US">Yet beyond the obvious there remains ambivalence. Islamists, as well as other opposition forces in the Arab world, are in great confusion as to what exactly they should demand from the west. If they urge the west to press authoritarian regimes toward democratisation, this would be seen as inviting foreign powers to interfere in national affairs; and risk a death-kiss to democracy and democrats alike. But any rejection of western interference could be seen as the tacit backing of dictators and indifference to the suppression of people and their freedoms.</p> <p lang="en-US"><strong>After the dream</strong></p> <p lang="en-US">The onus now lies on both sides. On the American side, if Obama really believes that the well-being of the Muslim world is in the interest of the United States then he urgently needs to be less focused on short-term objectives, more value-driven - and to adopt a consistent <a href="../../../../../../../../article/idea/american-democracy-promotion-an-open-letter-to-barack-obama"><span>approach</span></a> to the promotion of democracy. True, all this is harder to implement than to say, but it remains a prerequisite for long-term and healthier US-Muslim relations.</p> <p lang="en-US">On the Islamist side, there is a need to articulate a public vision as to what is exactly required (and hoped) from the west in the area of democracy-promotion. Islamist approval of “some” such western policies would help to channel these policies on a less hostile course, free of the taint of conspiracy and infiltration of Muslim countries. Of equal importance is the further politicisation and secularisation of the politics of Islamist movements, in ways close to the Justice &amp; Development Party (AKP’s) <a href="../../../../../../../../article/turkeys-political-emotional-transition"><span>experience</span></a> in Turkey. If Islamist political practice moved the “politics of services” to the forefront while keeping ideological rhetoric and the “politics of identity” in check, this would encourage external actors to deal more seriously and less fearfully with political Islam.</p> <p lang="en-US">It could be argued that by mid-February 2010 the “Obamania” that swept the Muslim and Islamist worlds (as elsewhere) a year earlier has evaporated, and that harsh realities have resurfaced. Barack Obama’s foreign-policy agenda is after all hedged by a host of intractable issues: inherited conflicts, the global financial crisis, unemployment and the healthcare bills among them. The resources needed to build on his initial outreach to the Muslim world are correspondingly limited. In these difficult days, the mantra of astute observers (including Islamists) that “deeds should prove words” remains valid. The Palestinian cause and democracy-momentum are the test of whether the Obama agenda towards the Muslim world lives. If those are the levers for tilting the “tanker”, so much else could follow.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <div class="content"><div class="odtab-content"><p>Marina Ottaway et al., <a href="http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&amp;id=19928"><em>The New Middle East</em></a> (CEIP, 2008)</p> <p>Fred Halliday, <em><a href="http://www.cambridge.org/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521597412">The Middle East in International Relations</a><em> </em></em>(Cambridge University Press, 2005)<em><br /> </em></p></div></div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Khaled Hroub is <a href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/people/dr_khaled_hroub">director</a> of the Cambridge Arab Media Project in association with the <a href="http://www.cis.cam.ac.uk/affiliatedprojects.htm">Centre of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies</a> at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of <a href="http://www.palestine-studies.org/journals.aspx?id=7087&amp;jid=1&amp;href=abstract"><em>Hamas: Political Thought and Practice</em> </a>(Institute for Palestine Studies, 2000), and <a href="http://us.macmillan.com/hamas"><em>Hamas: a Beginner's Guide</em></a> (Pluto Press, 2006), and editor of <em>Political Islam: Context versus Ideology </em>(<a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/index.asp?TAG=&amp;CID=">Saqi Books</a> [forthcoming], 2010)</p><p><br />Also by Khaled Hroub in <strong>openDemocracy</strong>:</p><p>“<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict-middle_east_politics/hamas_3982.jsp">Hamas's path to reinvention</a>” (9 October 2006)<br /><br />“<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict-middle_east_politics/hroub_mecca_4410.jsp">Palestine's argument: Mecca and beyond</a>” (6 March 2007)<br /><br />“<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/conflicts/israel_palestine/annapolis_postmodern_politics">Annapolis, or the absurdity of postmodern politics</a>” (22 November 2007)<br /><br />“<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/hamas-after-the-gaza-war">Hamas after the Gaza war</a>” (15 January 2009)<br /><br />“<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/the-arab-system-after-gaza%20">The ‘Arab system’ after Gaza</a>” (27 January 2009)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/kerry-brown/chimerica-obama-visits-beijing">Chimerica: Obama visits Beijing</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/fawaz-gerges/america-and-israel-palestine-dangerous-disarray">America and Israel-Palestine: dangerous disarray </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opendemocracy-general/ali-reza-eshraghi/iran-and-america-obama-and-%E2%80%9Cvelvet-coup%E2%80%9D">Iran and America: Obama and the &quot;velvet coup&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/what-obama-must-say-and-do-in-egypt">What Obama must say (and do) in Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/barack-obama-and-the-middle-east-pragmatism-vs-hope">Barack Obama&#039;s middle east: pragmatism and hope </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/barack-obama-israels-true-friend">Barack Obama: Israel&#039;s true friend</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/memo-to-obama-the-middle-east-needs-you">Memo to Obama: the middle east needs you</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/what-obama-means-for-iraq">What Obama means for Iraq</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/the-failure-of-force-an-alternative-option">The failure of force: an alternative option</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/barack-obama-s-triple-test">Barack Obama’s triple test</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/barack-obama-hope-fear-and-advice">Barack Obama: hope, fear... advice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/kerry-brown/chimerica-obama-visits-beijing">Chimerica: Obama visits Beijing</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/godfrey-hodgson/barack-obama-imperial-president-post-american-world">Barack Obama: imperial president, post-American world </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/united-states/barack-obama-s-poisoned-shirt">Barack Obama’s poisoned shirt</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> International politics Conflict american power & the world democracy & power conflicts Khaled Hroub Mon, 15 Feb 2010 16:00:43 +0000 Khaled Hroub 50308 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The “Arab system” after Gaza https://www.opendemocracy.net/article/the-arab-system-after-gaza <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> 72 544x376 </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> Normal 0 false false false </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> </xml><![endif]--><style> </style><!--[if gte mso 10]> <style> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} </style> <![endif]--> <p> George W Bush in an inimitable way succeeded in his aim of creating a &quot;new middle east&quot; - albeit one that is almost opposite to the outcome he had in mind. The ideologically-driven agenda that the former United States president and his neo-conservative advisors <a href="/democracy-americanpower/article_2348.jsp">pursued</a> in the aftermath of 9/11 was ambitious: waging a &quot;war on terror&quot;, crushing the Saddam Hussein regime, talking loosely of democracy while shoring up friendships with authoritarian allies - and abandoning more than a cursory search for political progress in the Palestinian-Israeli <a href="http://www.economist.com/printedition/displayStory.cfm?Story_ID=12899483&amp;source=most_commented">conflict</a>. <br /> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> 72 544x376 </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> Normal 0 false false false </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> </xml><![endif]--><style> </style><!--[if gte mso 10]> <style> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} </style> <![endif]--> </p> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> 72 544x376 </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> Normal 0 false false false </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> </xml><![endif]--><style> </style> <p> <span class="pullquote_new">Khaled Hroub is director of the Cambridge Arab Media Project in association with the <a href="http://www.cmeis.cam.ac.uk/affiliatedprojects.htm">Centre of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies</a> at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of <a href="http://www.palestine-studies.org/journals.aspx?id=7087&amp;jid=1&amp;href=abstract"><em>Hamas: Political Thought and Practice</em></a> (Institute for Palestine Studies, 2000), and <a href="http://us.macmillan.com/hamas"><em>Hamas: a Beginner&#39;s Guide</em></a> (Pluto Press, 2006)<br /> <br /> Also by Khaled Hroub in <strong>openDemocracy</strong>:<br /> <br /> &quot;<a href="/conflict-middle_east_politics/hamas_3982.jsp">Hamas&#39;s path to reinvention</a>&quot; (9 October 2006)<br /> <br /> &quot;<a href="/conflict-middle_east_politics/hroub_mecca_4410.jsp">Palestine&#39;s argument: Mecca and beyond</a>&quot; (6 March 2007)<br /> <br /> &quot;<a href="http://annapolis,%20or%20the%20absurdity%20of%20postmodern%20politics/">Annapolis, or the absurdity of postmodern politics</a>&quot; (22 November 2007)<br /> <br /> &quot;<a href="/article/hamas-after-the-gaza-war">Hamas after the Gaza war</a>&quot; (15 January 2009)</span>This last element in particular meant granting Israel a <em>de facto</em> free hand to enhance its <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/middle_east/03/v3_israel_palestinians/maps/html/six_day_war.stm">post-1967</a> policy towards  the West Bank and the Gaza strip. The effect has been so to alienate Arab publics and even the leaders of &quot;moderate&quot; Arab states that when Israel <a href="/article/email/gaza-hope-after-attack">unleashed</a> its war on the Hamas movement and on Gaza on 27 December 2008, something broke in the minds and hearts of the region&#39;s people. The hunger for change, for progress, for movement, for dignity in the shadow of the Gaza bombardment has become resounding. All the governments of the region are feeling its <a href="http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&amp;id=22615&amp;prog=zgp&amp;proj=zme">effects</a>, even as their mechanisms to contain and divert popular pressures seem more and more hollow.  </p> <p> <strong>A new formation</strong> </p> <p> The <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7812136.stm">Gaza war</a> can be seen in part as the culmination of America&#39;s short-sighted middle-east policy in the <a href="http://avalon.law.yale.edu/subject_menus/mideast.asp%232000">2000s</a>: that is, of leaving things to take their own shape in Israel-Palestine without external intervention. The result of such indulgence of Israel and indifference to the deep-rooted and long-standing problems of the Palestinians is the emergence of new realities in the <a href="http://www.cambridge.org/us/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521597412">region</a>, where pro-western Arab countries (Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan in particular) are now being forced to take harder stances as their &quot;moderation&quot; is exposed as ineffective. </p> <p> The counterproductive effects of the Bush years have buried the <a href="http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&amp;id=19928">aspiration</a> of a peaceful &quot;new middle east&quot; and produced instead emerging signs of what might be called a &quot;resisting middle east&quot; - a region where the moderates have been weakened, the radicals are stronger, anti-Americanism is deeper, and Palestine as the core <a href="http://www.un.org/Depts/dpa/ngo/history.html">issue</a> in the region is as persistent as ever. </p> <p> The rise of this &quot;resisting middle east&quot; is grounded in two great failures over the past two decades: that of Israel to end its occupation and/or subjugation of the West Bank and the Gaza strip, especially after the historic Palestinian compromise accepting the <a href="/article/two-states-for-two-peoples-solution-or-illusion">two-state</a> solution in 1988; and that of the United States to adopt a fair <a href="/article/conflicts/israel_palestine/annapolis_amman">policy</a> toward Palestine-Israel. Both have fuelled alienation and anger among Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims in ways that have helped strengthen the &quot;resistance&quot; camp. </p> <p> The results can be seen in the diplomatic reactions to the Gaza <a href="/article/gaza-the-wider-war">assault</a>. Several of those countries often seen as important (if not uncritical) US allies in the region, such as Jordan, adopted harsh language in criticising the Israeli operation. The condemnation by <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5h9CNwXYXSHHg65ITZwwf7MAWWpkw">Qatar</a> and Turkey was so vehement as to put them effectively alongside the Syrian-Iranian &quot;axis of resistance&quot; (which on its own flank encompasses <a href="http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/hamas.htm">Hamas</a> and <a href="http://www.cfr.org/publication/9155/">Hizbollah</a>). </p> <p> True, this new <em>ad hoc</em> regional <a href="http://www.metimes.com/International/2009/01/14/arabs_squabble_as_gaza_burns/5350/">formation</a> - visible at the summit in Doha of thirteen Arab states (as well as Turkey, Iran and Senegal) on 16 January 2009 - may prove temporary. But it is almost certain that the dominant trend in the region is in the direction of a resisting middle east - one that, if it continues, would confirm the US-constructed image of a &quot;new middle east&quot; as a mirage and (more importantly) threaten the traditional &quot;Arab system&quot; centred on the <a href="http://www.arableagueonline.org/las/english/level1_en.jsp?level1_id=1">League of Arab States</a>. <br /> <br /> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> 72 544x376 </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> Normal 0 false false false </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> </xml><![endif]--><style> </style><!--[if gte mso 10]> <style> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} </style> <![endif]--><span class="pullquote_new">Among <strong>openDemocracy&#39;s </strong>articles on the Gaza conflict of 2008-09:<br /> <br /> Paul Rogers, &quot;<a href="/article/email/gaza-hope-after-attack">Gaza: hope after attack</a>&quot; (1 January 2009)<br /> <br /> Ghassan Khatib, &quot;<a href="/article/gaza-outlines-of-an-endgame">Gaza: outlines of an endgame</a>&quot; (6 January 2009)<br /> <br /> Avi Shlaim, &quot;<a href="/article/israel-and-gaza-rhetoric-and-reality">Israel and Gaza: rhetoric and reality</a>&quot; (7 January 2009)<br /> <br /> Paul Rogers, &quot;<a href="/article/gaza-the-israel-united-states-connection">Gaza: the Israel-United States connection</a>&quot; (7 January 2009)<br /> <br /> Tarek Osman, &quot;<a href="/article/egypt-s-dilemma-gaza-and-beyond">Egypt&#39;s dilemma: Gaza and beyond</a>&quot; (12 January 2009)<br /> <br /> Mary Robinson, &quot;<a href="/article/email/a-crisis-of-dignity-in-gaza">A crisis of dignity in Gaza</a>&quot; (13 January 2009)<br /> <br /> Paul Rogers, &quot;<a href="/article/gaza-the-wider-war">Gaza: the wider war</a>&quot; (13 January 2009)<br /> <br /> Menachem Kellner, &quot;<a href="/article/israel-s-gaza-war-five-asymmetries">Israel&#39;s Gaza war: five asymmetries</a>&quot; (14 January 2009)<br /> <br /> Prince Hassan of Jordan, &quot;<a href="/article/the-failure-of-force-an-alternative-option">The failure of force: an alternative option</a>&quot; (16 January 2009)<br /> <br /> Paul Rogers, &quot;<a href="/article/after-gaza">After Gaza: Israel&#39;s last chance</a>&quot; (17 January 2009)<br /> <br /> Martin Shaw, &quot;<a href="/article/israel-s-politics-of-war">Israel&#39;s politics of war</a>&quot; (19 January 2009)<br /> <br /> Conor Gearty, &quot;<a href="/article/israel-gaza-and-international-law">Israel, Gaza and international law</a>&quot; (21 January 2009)<br /> <br /> Paul Rogers, &quot;<a href="/article/gaza-the-war-after-the-war">Gaza: the war after the war</a>&quot; (22 January 2009) </span><strong>A corroded system</strong> </p> <p> This would be very bad news for the &quot;Arab system&quot; - that operating network of empty and declarative elite diplomacy that has long allowed Arab regimes to pretend that their regular summit meetings and collective statements amount to anything. This approach has also, by creating the appearance of a new (in fact mostly Washington-led) &quot;strategic&quot; orientation, served to absorb and channel public anger. At times the pressures were so great that the &quot;system&quot; effectively cracked - notably over the <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/november/19/newsid_2520000/2520467.stm">visit</a> of Egypt&#39;s president Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem in 1977 and the subsequent <a href="http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/isregypt.asp">peace treaty</a> with Israel, and later over the wars with <a href="/article/the-futures-of-iraq">Iraq</a> in 1991 and 2003. </p> <p> The invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent war put the &quot;Arab system&quot; under immense strain, but it is again the Palestine issue that has created its deepest crisis. The outlines of a pronounced rivalry have emerged over the Gaza war of 2008-09 that pit <a href="/article/egypt-s-dilemma-gaza-and-beyond">Egypt</a> and Saudi Arabia (seen by many Arabs as too silent over or even tacitly approving of Israel&#39;s assault on Hamas) against Syria, Iran and even Qatar and Turkey (which have taken strong positions against Israel&#39;s war).  </p> <p> The response of the historic &quot;Arab system&quot; to large-scale crises in the region has tended to combine the noisiest of rhetoric with the least effective of actions. The appearance of unity in the status quo it sought to maintain was always <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/18/weekinreview/18worth.html">hollow</a>, a sort of &quot;sustained fragility&quot;. The best that can be said of it is that it has worked to the extent that it <a href="http://www.sup.org/book.cgi?id=9700">survived</a> (albeit with great strain at times) and kept the Arab roadshow in business. </p> <p> The reaction of this system to the Gaza war fell within the same parameters of maximum rhetoric/minimum action. This time, however, the pressures are becoming unbearable. In part this is because the great and almost unopposed <a href="http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=82445">destructiveness</a> of the Israeli military <a href="http://dover.idf.il/IDF/English/News/the_Front/08/oper/default.htm">campaign</a> in Gaza has exposed the corrosion of the system from within. But more is involved - for what makes this moment differ from previous crises and even near-breakdowns of the system is the emergence of a new geopolitical environment in which powers such as <a href="/article/iran-and-the-gaza-war">Iran</a> and <a href="/article/turkey-israel-relations-after-gaza">Turkey</a> are eager to play a central role in regional politics. </p> <p> In a sense,<a href="/globalisation/global_politics/crisis_middle_east_2003"> long-term</a> inaction by Arab states has created a vacuum of political leadership which two non-Arab countries now seek to fill. The vast majority of Arab public opinion has - if the evidence of media reports, commentaries and street demonstrations are a guide - welcomed their arrival. Some analysts even portrayed Turkey&#39;s prime minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a defiant Ottoman sultan refusing to accept the humiliation of fellow Muslims. This very reminder of past <a href="http://www.cambridge.org/us/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521476799">hegemony</a> also suggests that only the issue of Palestine and its complex of historic claim and national aspiration could permit Arab publics to welcome Turkey and Iran into their heartlands. </p> <p> <strong>A desperate hope</strong> </p> <p> The Gaza-focused <a href="http://www.aljazeerah.info/News/2009/January/16%2520n/Resolutions%2520of%2520the%2520Arab%2520Summit%2520in%2520Doha%2520Regarding%2520the%2520Zionist%2520Israeli%2520Terrorist%2520War%2520on%2520Gaza.htm">summit</a> in Doha may prove a significant event in the formation of a &quot;resisting middle east&quot;. Egypt and Saudi Arabia saw the event as an overt attempt by Qatar to play a bigger and (to them) intolerable regional role, and they pressured other Arab countries not to attend. But the Qataris, angry and frustrated, went ahead with a <a href="http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-01/17/content_10672178.htm">gathering</a> that also included the daring and prominent <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/featuredCrisis/idUSLG112054">presence</a> of three radical, non-state actors - <a href="http://insidethegulf.com/central.php?o=6&amp;s=1920&amp;d=3&amp;i=1956">Khaled Meshal </a>of Hamas, <a href="http://en.timeturk.com/secretary-general-of-the-islamic-jihad-movement-talks-decided-14757-haberi.html">Ramadan Abdullah Shallah</a> of Islamic Jihad in Palestine, and Ahmad Jibril of a smaller leftist/pan-Arab nationalist Palestinian faction. </p> <p> The Qatar-hosted summit suggests that Arab governments can - if they want to - make principled decisions that depart from the norm. The proof is that Qatar itself was able during the Gaza crisis to play a much bigger role than its small size and limited leverage should allow. The decisions taken at the summit may have been largely symbolic, but they were in context very strong: a threat to withdraw support of the <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/1844214.stm">Arab peace initiative</a> of March 2002, and the <a href="http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/01/2009116151135307776.html">freezing</a> by Qatar and Mauritania of diplomatic relations with Israel. </p> <p> The initiative, agreed at the Arab summit in Beirut in 2002, <a href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/work/middle_east/api.php">offered</a> Israel full normalisation of relations with all Arab countries in return for its acceptance of the two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders. It could still be a strong basis for progress, but the fact that even the Arab states most likely to support it are losing faith that it can ever be implemented tells its own story. </p> <p> <a href="/article/gaza-the-war-after-the-war">After</a> the Gaza war, any deepening of a &quot;resistance&quot; camp backed by new states would be chilling news to the Egyptians and Saudis (and their western backers). This was clear at the Arab <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5j4GFhDkq87mgoQgoiTWhWsV_7kLA">summit</a> in Kuwait on 19-20 January (already scheduled to discuss economic and social development, but hastily <a href="http://www.arabnews.com/?page=4&amp;section=0&amp;article=118314&amp;d=19&amp;m=1&amp;y=2009">including</a> Gaza reconstruction on its agenda); there, a defensive Riyadh was forced into a bolder stance - echoing the threat to back away from the 2002 initiative, <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gLwH9XY4ENvN0wS3IyYDTT7YV3hg">pledging</a> $1 billion for Gaza reconstruction, and calling for Palestinian unity. </p> <p> Indeed, the Gaza war has placed the entire moderate Arab camp on the defensive. Barack Obama is their last <a href="/article/barack-obama-hope-fear-and-advice">hope</a>: in particular, that he and his administration turns out to be more even-handed between Israel and the Arab world, embraces and builds on the Arab peace initiative, takes steps to end Israel&#39;s occupation of and <a href="http://www.btselem.org/English/Settlements/">settlement</a> on land seized in 1967, and works to make an independent Palestinian state a reality. If this hope too dissolves, the prospect is that a growing wave of radicalisation that encompasses state as well as non-state actors will transform middle-eastern realities on its own account. </p> Conflict conflicts middle east israel & palestine - old roads, new maps Khaled Hroub Creative Commons normal email Tue, 27 Jan 2009 16:00:00 +0000 Khaled Hroub 47221 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Hamas after the Gaza war https://www.opendemocracy.net/article/hamas-after-the-gaza-war <p> "The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people", said Moshe Yaalon, the then Israel Defence Forces (<a href="http://dover.idf.il/IDF/English/">IDF</a>) chief-of-staff in 2002. The war launched by Israel in the Gaza strip at the end of 2008 is designed in part to force the Hamas movement too to internalise this belief. It will not and cannot work; indeed, it is my argument that the war will have the opposite effect. </p> <p> "The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people", said Moshe Yaalon, the then Israel Defence Forces (<a href="http://dover.idf.il/IDF/English/">IDF</a>) chief-of-staff in 2002. The war launched by Israel in the Gaza strip at the end of 2008 is designed in part to force the Hamas movement too to internalise this belief. It will not and cannot work; indeed, it is my argument that the war will have the opposite effect. </p> <p> After three weeks of intense and round-the-clock attacks by air, land and sea, Israel is far from achieving either its immediate aim of halting rocket-attacks from Gaza or the larger "psychological" aim enunciated by <a href="http://mosheyaalon.com/">Moshe Yaalon</a>. It has become apparent that the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/01/07/world/20080104-conflict-graphic.html">war</a> itself will instead convince many more Palestinians that their ability again to <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,601040,00.html">withstand</a> an assault by the fourth most powerful army in the world is a source of their power rather than their weakness. </p> <p> In this, the 1.5 million Palestinians under siege in Gaza are writing a new chapter in their own <a href="/conflicts/israel_palestine/secret_visitations_memory">uncompleted</a> modern history. They are also demonstrating a more general lesson of warfare: that wars and armed conflicts have unexpected consequences, including often the creation of a new reality quite different from what it was launched to achieve. </p> <p> <strong>The political reality</strong> </p> <p> In this case, the outcome of the Gaza war of 2008-09 is likely to leave <a href="http://www.cfr.org/publication/8968/">Hamas</a> stronger and with an enhanced legitimacy among the Palestinians and within the region. Israel has pursued its <a href="http://dover.idf.il/IDF/English/News/the_Front/08/oper/default.htm">official</a> goal of "achieving a new security situation" in southern Israel with ferocity: its use of massive military force has in (at the time of writing) twenty days of war <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7828884.stm">killed</a> over 1,033 Palestinians, around 600 of them women and children. Yet it has failed either to silence Hamas's primitive rockets or to destroy its ability to function as a coherent entity. </p> <p> _________________________________________________________ </p> <p> <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0745325904?ie=UTF8&amp;tag=opendemocra0e-21&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;camp=1634&amp;creative=19450&amp;creativeASIN=0745325904">Hamas: A Beginner's Guide - Buy on oD </a><img style="border: medium none ! important; margin: 0px ! important" src="http://www.assoc-amazon.co.uk/e/ir?t=opendemocra0e-21&amp;l=as2&amp;o=2&amp;a=0745325904" border="0" alt="" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p> _________________________________________________________ </p> <p> True, in operational terms <a href="http://us.macmillan.com/hamas">Hamas's</a> capability has been reduced (though this may prove only temporary). Israeli intelligence estimates that Hamas has around 15,000 strong fighters, and it has killed in the current operation no more than 400. The movement's leadership remains <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,600349,00.html">intact</a>, and its popular support and regional standing have risen. It is clear that in the aftermath of the war Hamas will have to be included in international dialogue about the Palestinian future. </p> <p> This in itself would be sufficient evidence of Israel's failure. But even as things stand, the reduction in its capacity to subdue its enemies is exposed.&nbsp; The army that in the six-day war in 1967 defeated the armies of four Arab states and seized parts of Egypt, Syria and Jordan that far exceeded Israel's then area has followed the <a href="/conflict-middle_east_politics/winograd_report_4577.jsp">embarrassment</a> of the war against Hizbollah in <a href="/node/3809">2006</a> with another inconclusive campaign against a non-state militia. </p> <p> This has an important political as well as a military dimension. The heart of Israel's strategy since Hamas's victory in the <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4654306.stm">Palestinian elections</a> of January 2006 has been the imposition of an economic blockade against Gaza that would create such misery as to press people there to turn against the Hamas administration. </p> <p class="pullquote_new"> Among <strong>openDemocracy's </strong>articles on conflict over Gaza:<br /><br /> Eyad Sarraj, "'<a href="/article/conflicts/gaza_is_quite_a_dynamic_place_now_an_interview">Gaza is quite a dynamic place now': an interview</a>" (29 January 2008) <br /><br /> Geoffrey Bindman, "<a href="/article/conflicts/israel_palestine/gaza_unlock_this_prison">Gaza: unlock this prison</a>" (7 March 2008)<br /><br /> Jeroen Gunning, "<a href="/article/conflicts/middle_east/hamas_talk_to_them">Hamas: talk to them</a>" (18 April 2008)<br /><br /> Paul Rogers, "<a href="/article/email/gaza-hope-after-attack">Gaza: hope after attack</a>" (1 January 2009)<br /><br /> Avi Shlaim, "<a href="/article/israel-and-gaza-rhetoric-and-reality">Israel and Gaza: rhetoric and reality</a>" (7 January 2009)<br /><br /> Paul Rogers, "<a href="/article/gaza-the-israel-united-states-connection">Gaza: the Israel-United States connection</a>" (7 January 2009)<br /><br /> Tarek Osman, "<a href="/article/egypt-s-dilemma-gaza-and-beyond">Egypt's dilemma: Gaza and beyond</a>" (12 January 2009)<br /><br /> Mary Robinson, "<a href="/article/email/a-crisis-of-dignity-in-gaza">A crisis of dignity in Gaza</a>" (13 January 2009)<br /><br /> Paul Rogers, "<a href="/article/gaza-the-wider-war">Gaza: the wider war</a>" (13 January 2009)<br /><br /></p> <p> The flaw in this project is Israel's self-defeating understanding of the basis of Hamas's evolution since its <a href="http://www.al-bab.com/arab/countries/palestine/orgs3.htm%23Hamas">formation</a> in 1987-88 (see "<a href="/conflict-middle_east_politics/hamas_3982.jsp">Hamas's path to reinvention</a>", 9 October 2006). The growth of the movement in these two decades was never exclusively based on its armed activities alone. The bedrock of its strength was a broad-based <a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=0300110537">social network</a> that permeated Palestinian society (in much of the West Bank as well as in the Gaza strip). The 2006 elections were in part the reward for Hamas's long-term <a href="http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/hamas.htm">effort</a> to create this network, which is a continuing political reality that cannot be eliminated by military means. </p> <p> <strong>The post-war prospect</strong> </p> <p> There may be another twist of <a href="http://www.economist.com/printedition/displayStory.cfm?Story_ID=12899483&amp;source=most_commented">history</a> at work here. Hamas's <a href="http://www.palestine-studies.org/journals.aspx?id=7087&amp;jid=1&amp;href=abstract">emergence</a> to the fore of the Palestinian national movement has also been a gradual process of displacement of the previously dominant <a href="http://www.al-bab.com/arab/countries/palestine/orgs1.htm%23Fatah">Fatah</a> movement. Fatah's own early history after its foundation in the early 1960s was also a two-track one: military (where it marched from one impasse to another: its at best patchy operations against Israel in the second half of the 1960s, its defeat by the Jordanian army in 1970, its expulsion from Lebanon in 1982) and political (where it kept moving ahead, consolidating its legitimacy and political leadership of the Palestinians). </p> <p> Fatah's rise halted with the (in the end) futile peace process that started in 1991 with the <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/october/30/newsid_2465000/2465725.stm">Madrid conference</a> after the war with Iraq over Kuwait. At the heart of what happened to Fatah is that its inability to end Israel's post-1967 occupation via an endless series of <a href="http://www.un.org/Depts/dpa/ngo/history.html">negotiations</a> came to erode its political and national capital. To put the same point in another way: the <a href="http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2006/10/01/unwritten_history/?page=full">route</a> to Palestinian legitimacy and leadership has always hinged upon offering a plausible strategy to resist and reverse the Israeli occupation. If this criterion fails to be met - as became the case for Fatah and the Ramallah-based <a href="http://www.pogar.org/countries/country.asp?cid=14">Palestinian Authority</a> led by the president, Mahmoud Abbas - the Palestinians will look in other directions. </p> <p> This suggests that long-term trends as well as short-term <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7812290.stm">events</a> are working against Fatah and for Hamas. The indications are that Palestinian opinion in the West Bank increasingly <a href="http://www.iht.com/articles/2009/01/15/africa/15fatah.php">regards</a> Mahmoud Abbas as incapable of <a href="http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-01/15/content_10659462.htm">fulfilling</a> the core responsibility of Palestinian leadership, and irrelevant at a time when they see their compatriots facing daily war-crimes by Israel. The decline in "Abu Mazen's" image and standing is paralleled by a growth in Hamas's popularity in the West Bank. </p> <p> The pressures of war and suffering admittedly create exceptional circumstances and responses that can prove fleeting. It is also certain that some Palestinians in the <a href="http://labs.aljazeera.net/warongaza/">Gaza strip</a> now or later will direct their anger and frustration onto Hamas on the grounds that the movement has brought a terrible <a href="http://www.btselem.org/English/Press_Releases/20090114.asp">assaul</a>t down upon them. But the larger and longer-term political <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/ismail-haniyeh-my-message-to-the-west-ndash-israel-must-stop-the-slaughter-1366726.html">picture</a> is of a movement that will gain additional domestic support from this war, be regarded as a symbol of defiance and courage for millions in the Arab and Muslim worlds, and become an unavoidable reality at future diplomatic negotiations. If this is not a kind of victory, then what is? </p> Conflict israel & palestine - old roads, new maps conflicts middle east Khaled Hroub Creative Commons normal email Fri, 16 Jan 2009 18:55:37 +0000 Khaled Hroub 47151 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Annapolis, or the absurdity of postmodern politics https://www.opendemocracy.net/article/annapolis_or_the_absurdity_of_postmodern_politics <p> It is not really difficult to discern what the United States hopes to achieve by hosting the conference in Annapolis, Maryland, now scheduled (after much uncertainty over the date) for 27 November 2007. In the same way it is rather easy to figure out what Israel will gain from the fact of this meeting and its own attendance. In a sentence: both Americans and Israelis want this conference to take place for its own sake, without any agreements or declarations having to emerge from it. </p> <p> In their eyes, simply to hold the meeting is the objective and counts as a success - one that serves several agendas, but not the one that really counts: resolving the historical conflict between the Palestinians and Israel&#39;s Zionist project. The key to understanding Annapolis, as so many comparable events in the middle east, can be expressed in Henry Kissinger&#39;s &quot;classical&quot; (and ingenuous) formulation: a &quot;peace process&quot; is a substitute for peace itself, and it could take for ever. Annapolis is part of this &quot;process&quot;. </p> <p> In this light, it is really difficult to understand why the Palestinian side is prepared to participate in this surreal event. After all, there is next to total agreement before the event not only among the two main contending sides, but among almost every interested party - that the conference will fail to promote peace. It is a moment for black humour when organisers as well as participants are at pains to curb ambitions, lower expectations and warn against excessive optimism regarding Annapolis - as if anybody who is following events on the ground were to raise ambitions or express any optimism. The misjudgment here seems total. Still, the preparations are underway - for the conference, once declared, cannot be undone. In times like these, traditional criteria of success and failure no longer apply. </p> <p> <span class="pullquote_new"><strong>Khaled Hroub</strong> is director of the Cambridge Arab Media Project in association with the <a href="http://www.cmeis.cam.ac.uk/affiliatedprojects.htm">Centre of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies</a> at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of <a href="http://www.palestine-studies.org/final/en/books/item.php?id=209"><em>Hamas: Political Thought and Practice</em></a> (Institute for Palestine Studies, 2000), and <a href="http://www.plutobooks.com/cgi-local/nplutobrows.pl?chkisbn=9780745325903&amp;main=&amp;second=&amp;third=&amp;foo=../ssi/ssfooter.ssi"><em>Hamas: a Beginner&#39;s Guide</em></a> (Pluto Press, 2006).He is a frequent author for major Arab newspapers such as al-Hayat, as well as <strong>openDemocracy</strong><br /> <br /> Also by Khaled Hroub in <strong>openDemocracy:<br /> <br /> </strong>&quot;<a href="http://opendemocracy.net/conflict-middle_east_politics/hamas_3982.jsp">Hamas&#39;s path to reinvention</a>&quot; (9 October 2006)<br /> <br /> &quot;<a href="http://opendemocracy.net/conflict-middle_east_politics/hroub_mecca_4410.jsp">Palestine&#39;s argument: Mecca and beyond</a>&quot; (6 March 2007)<br /> <br /> This article is being simultaneously published in the journal of the <a href="http://www.boell.de/">Heinrich Böll Foundation</a>, by mutual cooperation and kind agreement of the author</span> </p> <p> <strong>A visual triumph</strong> </p> <p> Annapolis thus represents - consciously or unconsciously - one of the great surreal signatures of postmodern politics: a world where images, language and symbols take preference over meaning, content and results. It is an example of how powerful modern states, in their presumptuous handling of the political issues of &quot;others&quot;, abandon real politics and adopt what may be describes as postmodern (non-)politics. </p> <p> Most manifestations of postmodernity - be they political, cultural, literary or social - are impelled by a temptation to escape from the strictures of sequence and logic that are foundational of modern thought. &quot;If A follows B and then arrives at C&quot; - all this can appear very tedious, restrictive of a human creativity which may want to arrive at C without having to pass through B, or may want to set out from A with no intention of even going to Z, ever. </p> <p> This desire to break out of the prison of rigid logic into a wide open space of expression, a realm of floating meaning no longer concerned with ends and objectives, has catapulted human creativity to dazzling results - in the arts, in literature, in culture. </p> <p> Not so in politics. Carried away by language and form, and with no regard to content and political realities, such political postmodernism leads to a constant and transparent denial of reality. Thus it becomes possible - in stark contrast to the overwhelming majority of observers, who still apply the standards of &quot;conventional&quot; modern politics - to declare Annapolis a success <em>already</em>, even before it has happened. </p> <p> The reason such an astonishing act of intellectual legerdemain is possible is that Annapolis is emphatically <em>not</em> about making peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Annapolis is about the image and the representation of the United States in a middle east that is ablaze, locked in a downward spiral of destruction of which Washington is a central agent. </p> <p> Annapolis is about peddling the image of an American diplomacy committed to addressing the root cause of all the troubles in the middle east - the Palestinian issue - even as the US&#39;s political, military and economic efforts are focused on completely different issues (Iraq, Iran, oil, Sudan...). Annapolis convenes &quot;negotiating&quot; parties, Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas, who have nothing to negotiate about but who are capable of maintaining a smile and handshake for the cameras, and holding meetings to no ends and no results - which the media then reports as, in and by itself, a &quot;creative effort&quot;. </p> <p> <span class="pullquote_new">Also in <strong>openDemocracy</strong> on the Palestinians, Israel and Annapolis:<br /> <br /> David Mepham, &quot;<a href="/conflict-debate_97/hamas_reform_3229.jsp">Hamas and political reform in the middle east</a>&quot; (1 February 2006)<br /> <br /> Richard Youngs, &quot;<a href="/conflict-middle_east_politics/union_engagement_4485.jsp">The European Union and Palestine: a new engagement</a>&quot; (28 March 2007)<br /> <br /> Mient Jan Faber &amp; Mary Kaldor, &quot;<a href="/conflict-debate_97/report_gaza_4632.jsp">Palestine&#39;s human insecurity: a Gaza report</a>&quot; (20 May 2007)<br /> <br /> Pierre Schori, &quot;<a href="/conflict-debate_97/europe_arab_4637.jsp">Europe and the Arab world: divided souls</a>&quot; (30 May 2007)<br /> <br /> Daniel Seidemann, &quot;<a href="/article/annapolis_and_the_jerusalem_paradigm">Annapolis and the ‘Jerusalem paradigm</a>&#39;&quot; (30 October 2007)<br /> <br /> Mariano Aguirre &amp; Mark Taylor, &quot;<a href="/article/conflicts/israel_palestine/annapolis">Annapolis: the conditions of failure</a>&quot; (12 October 2007)</span> </p> <p> These individuals differ on every substantial political matter and are unable even to agree on a common statement of the problem; but in their domestic weakness, their inability to deliver anything, they resemble each other. On this foundation, Annapolis will build an extravagant visual media performance whose profusion of hollow imagery disguises its evasion of and indifference to a myriad of issues on the ground. </p> <p> <strong>A political choice</strong> </p> <p> The postmodern absurdity of Annapolis would be incomplete without enlisting the Palestinians, who are being led along (and goaded) like a herd of cattle. The sheer magnitude of the event and its set-up has a cumulative psychological effect: it makes the Palestinians feel they would carry another great global and &quot;historical&quot; responsibility if they were to say what they really think - that they will not go to a conference which is a failure even before it starts, and which anyway is more concerned with regional objectives than with the Palestinian cause. </p> <p> In the eyes of the world, any attempt to escape from this scenario will be turned into another &quot;historical irresponsibility&quot;: once more, the Palestinians are the reason for the failure of peace in the middle east! But aside from any desire to deflect such accusations, what is the logic of the Palestinians&#39; presence? After all: </p> <p> * Israel declares openly that it will not discuss any of the essential issues at the conference; and yet the Palestinians are going </p> <p> * Israel declares that it wants the conference to confirm that its security is more important than a Palestinian state (and of course than the Palestinian people); and yet the Palestinians are going </p> <p> * Israel wants all Arab countries to be present in the conference, in a new bid to &quot;normalise&quot; relations with them and create the impression that what happens &quot;over there&quot; in the middle east is but a small diversion on a long and laborious regional agenda; and yet the Palestinians are going. </p> <p> Ehud Olmert has said a lot over recent weeks to confirm the image of the conference projected to the world: that it will restart the negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis, though reaching a comprehensive solution of the conflict may take a long time, perhaps thirty to forty years; and that the conflict is complicated and should not be expected to be resolved in one conference or within a definite timeframe. The Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni launched into more extreme, rightwing litanies, in hope to curry populist favour in future elections. </p> <p> All of this is in striking harmony with the postmodern signature of Annapolis, its lack of any content. Even more amazing, all of it has come in the form of statements geared to &quot;clarify&quot; Israel&#39;s position towards the conference. But why do Israelis and Palestinians need a global conference to restart negotiations, if that is what Olmert wants? Why are Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas meeting in Jerusalem, on a regular (and televised) basis, if not to keep the &quot;peace process&quot; going? </p> <p> There is only one way out of this postmodern daze: a clear Palestinian refusal to attend a conference devoid of any substance. The Palestinians need a courageous decision from their leadership that sets the record straight. The Palestinians cannot afford to lose time and effort in conferences that are just for show, while their situation deteriorates, their rights are lost, and their blood is spilled on a daily basis. </p> Conflict conflicts israel & palestine - old roads, new maps Khaled Hroub Original Copyright Thu, 22 Nov 2007 12:36:16 +0000 Khaled Hroub 35124 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Palestine's argument: Mecca and beyond https://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict-middle_east_politics/hroub_mecca_4410.jsp The Saudi-mediated pact between Fatah and Hamas marks the return of Palestine as an arena for regional rivalry, says Khaled Hroub.<p>In the month since the agreement in Mecca, after the summit of 6-8 February 2007 which broke the bloody deadlock between Fatah and Hamas, the implications for Palestine and the region have become increasingly apparent. The &quot;<a href="http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticleNew.asp?xfile=data/middleeast/2007/February/middleeast_February141.xml&amp;section=middleeast&amp;col" target="_blank">Mecca agreement</a>&quot; may have registered in the international media mainly for its role in the formation of a Palestinian national-unity government after many torments and trials; but the significance of the pact is to be found as much among the regional balance of power around Palestine as among the Palestinian people themselves.</p><p>The most evident success belongs to Riyadh, in hosting and facilitating the agreement between the two main Palestinian movements. In contrast to this Saudi regional triumph, Iran and Syria have many reasons to be wary. <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/me.asp?service_ID=10217" target="_blank">Hamas</a> has represented one of the strongest cards in Tehran and Damascus&#39;s broader regional confrontation with the United States and Israel; now this seems to be slipping away without any gains in return. Egypt, for its part, is not particularly pleased either, as it sees the long-awaited (and still far from <a href="http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200702/s1856300.htm" target="_blank">secure</a>) reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas being engineered far from Cairo&#39;s hands. This means a further blow to the already diminishing Egyptian role in regional politics. Israel, meanwhile, is confused and still in the process of making up its mind about whether this development is a welcome step in terms of its own interests. </p> <p><strong>The diplomatic dance </strong></p><p>In this mosaic, the satisfaction of Riyadh may be easiest to grasp. Saudi involvement in Fatah-Hamas politics implies an injection of a measure of moderation that can in principle circumvent rising Iranian influence (particularly on <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/me.asp?service_ID=10217" target="_blank">Hamas</a>). At the same time, the terms agreed at Mecca have been rightly seen as on the whole favouring Hamas. Hamas, after all, did not succumb to the three Israeli-American conditions for opening contact: recognising Israel, denouncing violence, and acknowledging the previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. In addition to Hamas&#39;s own firmness on these points, Fatah&#39;s wish to see the Saudis having a stronger influence over Hamas than the Iranians&nbsp; was a major driving-force in their acceptance of only slight <a href="http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1171894524960&amp;pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull" target="_blank">modifications</a> in Hamas&#39;s positions. </p><p>Mecca came after a series of efforts to bring Fatah and Hamas onto common ground - mediated by Egypt, Qatar and Syria - had gone nowhere. Hamas saw the Egyptians as being tacitly partial, siding with Fatah and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. Moreover, Egypt&#39;s stance is governed by its national-security concerns, particularly regarding the situation in Gaza and the possibility of any spill-over of violence across the border to Egypt. Cairo sees a Gaza ruled by Hamas - a sister organisation to Egypt&#39;s <a href="http://www.fas.org/irp/world/para/mb.htm" target="_blank">Muslim Brotherhood</a> - in effect as a nightmare that it wants to end. </p><p>Fatah&#39;s attitude towards the Syrians is a mirror-image of Hamas&#39;s towards Egypt. It sees Damascus as pro-Hamas, and against the Oslo accords with Israel which it negotiated. The meetings between Hamas and Fatah leaders in Damascus before Mecca yielded no practical outcome. The Qatari mediation was also short-lived, partly because of Fatah suspicion that Qatar is one of the Hamas leaders&#39; &quot;backyards&quot; (the emirate hosted them for a few years after their expulsion from Jordan in 1999). Iran, for its part, was not interested in reconciling Hamas with Fatah and exercised no effort on this front. </p><p>Against this background, the Saudis held several cards: they were equally distanced from Fatah and Hamas, they retained regional and diplomatic leverage, and they could be credited with the ability to &quot;market&quot; any agreement to the Americans and the west in general. The Saudis themselves were less concerned with the contents of any such agreement than with countering rising Iranian influence in the region by securing a wide entry-point to the heart of the &quot;Palestinian matter&quot;. </p><p>The Saudi intervention also came at a favourable moment to exploit a sudden, sharp fall among popular Arab support to Iran - something Iranians gradually built by their confrontational stance against the US on the nuclear issue and by their backing of Hizbollah in its <a href="../conflict/lebanon_war_3992.jsp">war</a> against Israel in July-August 2006. The retreat of this sentiment was notable after Iran&#39;s jubilation over the hanging of Saddam Hussein and, more widely, its alliance with the <em>Shi&#39;a</em>-dominated Iraqi government that carried out the <a href="../conflict-iraq/ghost_saddam_4296.jsp">execution</a>. By seizing this unexpected moment of anti-Iranian sentiment among many Arabs and Palestinians, the Saudis could also rely on concern within Hamas ranks that a strong association with Iran at such a tricky moment would damage the movement&#39;s popularity. </p><p><strong>Palestine</strong><strong> and the region</strong></p><p>The implication of the foregoing analysis is that the formation of the Palestinian unity government <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/cgi-bin/review/article_full_story.asp?service_ID=13040" target="_blank">after Mecca</a> has little to do with the heart of the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis and much to do with regional politics and rivalry. The construction of such a government might indeed have been expected to have a direct impact on &quot;peace talks&quot;, but in fact the greater consequence is somewhere else: on Iran. </p><p>The Americans and the Israelis are neither ready nor in a <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6345427.stm" target="_blank">serious mood</a> to undertake concrete steps along the track of peace talks with the Palestinians, regardless of the internal make-up of the new Palestinian leadership. The Americans&#39; current obsession is divided between Iraq and Iran. The post-Mecca <a href="http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/A0052A0E-98CD-4F1A-9B16-EB60005E626E.htm" target="_blank">visit</a> of Condoleezza Rice to Palestine, Israel and other countries in the region is a mere PR exercise that seeks to pacify Arab anger over US policies. </p><p>The shaky Israeli government has suffered from a series of scandals of all sorts at all levels after the non-victory and <a href="../conflict-middle_east_politics/hizbollah_victory_3809.jsp">almost-defeat</a> in the summer war against Hizbollah. It too lacks solid ground on which to move towards peace. The little energy that this exhausted government has left is expended in drawing scenario options <em>vis-&agrave;-vis </em>what is seen as Iran&#39;s definite achievement of nuclear power. There is no Israeli offering on the &quot;peace talks&quot; front that could display a convincing degree of seriousness for the Palestinians. Even the much-discussed <a href="http://www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&amp;c=Page&amp;cid=1051782172293" target="_blank">roadmap</a> drawn up by the &quot;<a href="http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2007/sg2124.doc.htm" target="_blank">quartet</a>&quot; (United States, Russia, European Union, and United Nations) in 2002-03 has been on the shelf for years, covered in the dust of numerous Israeli reservations and now with the additional three unreachable conditions imposed on the Hamas-led Palestinian government. </p><p>Before Hamas&#39;s <a href="../conflict-debate_97/hamas_reform_3229.jsp">election in January 2006</a>, Israel was not interested in dealing with Mahmoud Abbas, the most moderate Palestinian politician, and did not consider him a partner for peace. How then - many Palestinians rightly ask - could Israel accept a government led by Hamas to become such a partner? Even if Hamas met overnight all the conditions imposed on it, it would hardly secure the confidence of Israelis, who only trusted <a href="http://www.medea.be/index.html?page=2&amp;lang=en&amp;doc=1" target="_blank">Mahmoud Abbas</a> after decades of moderation. </p><p>The deeper meaning of Mecca is that the Saudis have thrown their heavy diplomatic (and potentially financial) weight to break the Palestinian impasse almost certainly with prior American consent - or at least with the assurance that Washington would not be displeased with an outcome that could cut Iranian influence on Hamas. Yet the American official line so far has been to continue to refuse dealing with any Palestinian government led by Hamas (or power-shared by it), unless it accepts the three conditions (Israel, violence, previous agreements). By imposing those high-ceiling conditions on Hamas, the Americans and the Europeans have made it difficult for themselves and for Hamas to meet somewhere in between. </p><p>Thus, the green light to the Saudis is also a desperate invitation to a pro-American third party to intervene. If that were accepted, American, Israeli and European concerns about the seemingly unstoppable rise of Iranian influence could still be seriously allayed on the Palestinian front - and there would be no visible backtrack on the three conditions, to avoid giving Hamas the appearance of victory. One component of such an intervention is that humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people could be resumed by different channels (Saudi and <a href="http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/02/14/news/edsieg.php" target="_blank">European</a>), while the Americans pretend to look the other way. This would be far from an overall political solution, but in the short term the moral dilemma of punishing the Palestinian people for electing Hamas would at least come to an end.</p> Conflict Middle East conflicts middle east Khaled Hroub Original Copyright Tue, 06 Mar 2007 00:00:00 +0000 Khaled Hroub 4410 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Hamas's path to reinvention https://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict-middle_east_politics/hamas_3982.jsp An internal shift from religion-based to politics-defined struggle is reshaping Hamas's identity. Khaled Hroub, author of "Hamas: A Beginner's Guide", explains how it has happened and criticises the west's failure to understand this key Palestinian trend.A remarkable yet mostly overlooked transformation has been taking place within the thinking and political practice of Hamas over the past few years. The process started long before the radical Palestinian movement's victory in the legislative elections of <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4654306.stm" target="_blank">25 January 2006</a> in the West Bank and Gaza. Its essence has been a shift in the justification behind Hamas's "hardline" positions: in particular, from their rejection of any concession over the "land of Palestine" on religious grounds (based on the claim that <a href="http://www.un.org/Depts/dpa/ngo/history.html" target="_blank">Palestine</a> is <em>waqf</em> [endowment] for successive Muslim generations which no one has the right to compromise on), to a political and pragmatic argument for this stance. <p>The language may have changed; the policy remains. Hamas's response to demands that it recognise Israel as a precondition of the inclusion of its government into the regional and international system is a consistent, and political, one: Israel itself is "borderless" and the country's leaders have never - whatever the current prime minister <a href="http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/F8FFD8BD-0C30-4912-8C0C-555D1FB962AA.htm" target="_blank">Ehud Olmert</a> proclaims about his ambition for 2010 - clearly identified the borders of their own state - so what is the geographical extent of the Israel that we are asked to recognise? </p> <p>Yet this very line of argument is a key to Hamas's wider transformation; for when Hamas today is asked why it has frozen its <em>jihad</em> against Israel by stopping suicide attacks, its response is to present political (not religious) arguments that link its decision to delicate calculations drawn from the disadvantageous political conditions which surround Hamas as a governing force. </p> <p>Today, when Hamas is involved in a bloody <a href="http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2006/10/10/africa/ME_GEN_Israel_Palestinians.php" target="_blank">power-struggle</a> with the Palestinian president and his <a href="http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/al-fatah.htm" target="_blank">Fatah</a> movement, the parameters of this fierce rivalry too are political; no religious pretexts (such as the old Hamas line that the PLO is in essence secular and un-Islamic) are invoked. The change in the rationalising of Hamas's positions - gradual and painful though it has been - disconnects the movement from its inheritance of inflexible religious dogma. </p> <p>The shift is in some ways still <a href="http://www.plutobooks.com/cgi-local/nplutobrows.pl?chkisbn=0745325904&main=" target="_blank">in the making</a> and still vulnerable to regression, especially under pressure from the regional and international environment. But if Hamas's potential interlocutors were wise, they might realise that dialogue and negotiation with a hardline political Hamas is in principle far easier than dealing with a hardline religious Hamas. </p> <p>It seems, however, that "if" can be the biggest word in global politics. For the policies of external players - Israel, the United States, other western states and Arab governments - are not helping to consolidate Hamas's turn. Rather, their short-sighted policies - especially the imposition of a crippling embargo on its government - threaten to crush the chance for a more politicised and pragmatic organisation to emerge. </p> <p>A close examination of the internal and external dynamics affecting Hamas casts light on the nature and potential of its gradual transformation.</p> <p><strong>The national and the religious</strong></p> <p>A vacillation between political and religious impulses is not new in Hamas's thinking and politics. From its <a href="http://www.al-bab.com/arab/countries/palestine/orgs3.htm#Hamas" target="_blank">inception</a> in 1987-88, Hamas strove hard to harmonise the two currents within its movement: the national-liberationist and the religious-Islamist. These two forces (each combining intellectual and mobilising elements) were neither necessarily contradictory nor fully harmonious. </p> <p>They would walk hand-in-hand in certain periods, clash at others, or move at a different pace - depending on the conjunctural political conditions. At the same time, across Hamas's rank-and-file, the direction of opinion has been from a "nationalist" to a more "religious" shading. This shift at the base contrasts with that towards a political-nationalist discourse among the hierarchy of the movement. </p> <p>From the outset, Hamas's identity and evolution were deeply influenced by both nationalist and religious agendas. In the context of the political world it emerged into - including Israeli occupation pressures on <a href="http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2006/10/01/unwritten_history/?page=full" target="_blank">Palestinian society</a> and politics, and the rise of political Islam across the middle east in earlier decades, it could hardly be otherwise. In this, Hamas's development echoed that of other Palestinian nationalist movements, such as the Fatah movement which <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/debates/article.jsp?id=2&debateId=97&articleId=2234">Yasser Arafat</a> established in the late 1950s. </p> <p><a href="http://www.cfr.org/publication/8968/" target="_blank">Hamas's</a> ultimate nationalist aim is to "liberate Palestine". Unlike its predecessors, however, it adopted an Islamist rather than a secular ideology in order to achieve this aim. By espousing the core ideological objective of other classical movements of political Islam - the establishment of an Islamic state - Hamas's rhetoric emphasises that once the "liberation" of Palestine is achieved, the state established on its territory should be an Islamic one. </p> <p>Hamas's unexpected victory in the January 2006 elections exacerbated the internal nationalist-religious tension within the movement. It found itself in the international limelight, suddenly obliged - in order to establish its status and credibility in the face of a far larger, and predominantly sceptical, worldwide audience - to sharpen the profile of its nationalist thinking and image at the expense of its <a href="http://www.qantara.de/webcom/show_article.php/_c-478/_nr-391/i.html" target="_blank">religious</a> one. </p> <p>For Hamas as well as for Palestinians as a whole, then, the election created a new reality. For the first time since its foundation, the organisation assumed the leadership of the Palestinian <a href="http://www.palestine-studies.org/final/en/books/item.php?id=449" target="_blank">national movement</a> inside Palestine by democratic elections. Also, for the first time in the history of this national movement, a party that subscribes to Islamist/religious ideology eclipsed all other secular factions, including the alliance between leftists and nationalists. </p> <p>But this victory was the culmination of a pre-existing trend, as well as the inauguration of a new phase. The very decision to participate in the 2006 elections, made in March 2005, was something of a tormented birth. In the minds of many Hamas supporters (and foes), the decision had to be measured against Hamas's refusal to join similar elections in 1996, on the basis that these were part of the 1993-94 <a href="http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/mideast/isrplo.htm" target="_blank">Oslo agreements</a> between the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Israel, which it had opposed strongly. The controversy within Hamas over participation in the 2006 elections derived partly from the fact that they were effectively organised under the status quo established by Oslo. </p> <p>In fact, the March 2005 decision was coupled with two equally significant decisions: a freezing of Hamas's suicide-attacks and an agreement to join the <a href="http://www.al-bab.com/arab/countries/palestine/orgs1.htm#PLO" target="_blank">PLO</a>. Hamas was here making important leaps in the direction of becoming a more politicised movement at the expense of a being a religion-inspired military one. For a lengthy period before, during and after the elections, Hamas remained committed to a one-sided ceasefire, in the face of all Israeli incursions in the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict-debate_97/gaza_motives_3702.jsp">Gaza</a> strip and the West Bank. But the equally important point is that all arguments over taking part in the elections were anchored in political loss-gain calculations, rather than in religious <em>fatwas</em>. </p> <p>In practice, Hamas's campaign for the 2006 elections was based on an impressive "electoral platform" of fourteen pages, which offered a political, social, educational, legal and environmental programme that could almost fit into that of any other secular Palestinian faction. Hamas deliberately minimised its "religiosity" in an effort to <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/debates/article.jsp?id=2&debateId=97&articleId=3223">represent</a> the entire Palestinian constituency. </p> <p>In trying to absorb the shock of winning the elections, Hamas has advanced its moderate and pragmatic outlook further. It invited the defeated Fatah movement to join a national unity government on the basis of an even more secular political programme. The secularisation of Hamas's politics manifested itself again in the June 2006 <a href="http://www.bitterlemons.org/docs/prisoners.html" target="_blank">"prisoners' document"</a> created by leaders of Hamas, Fatah and other factions in Israeli prisons, which was then endorsed by their counterparts on the outside. </p> <p><strong>Palestine</strong><strong> in the world</strong></p> <p>Meanwhile, the wider external regional context, with its currently fast-moving developments, merits a closer look. </p> <p>In the eyes of <a href="http://www.bitterlemons.org/previous/bl280806ed34.html" target="_blank">Israel</a>, the United States and the west in general, seeing a Hamas committed to hardline aspirations emerging towards a position of leadership of the Palestinians was already an unimaginable nightmare; to see it materialise in free and fair elections was stupefying. </p> <p>It was not just the west that was worried. Several Arab governments - including <a href="http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3313306,00.html" target="_blank">Egypt</a>, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, states significantly close to and with influence in the conflict - were also unhappy to see an organisation effectively aligned with their "collective enemies" (that is, <a href="http://www.qantara.de/webcom/show_article.php/_c-651/i.html" target="_blank">political Islam</a>) coming to power by democratic elections. They see this outcome as encouraging other Islamist movements to aim not just for power-sharing through elections, but for outright power-control.</p> <p>By contrast, other <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict-debate_97/hamas_reform_3229.jsp">regional players</a> rejoiced in Hamas's victory. The "arc of resistance", as it is sometimes called, to American policies in the region is led by Iran, but it includes Syria, Hizbollah, Hamas and (potentially) the <em>Shi'a</em> of Iraq whose loyalties extend to solidarity with their Iranian co-religionists. These parties saw the result of the Palestinian election as an opportunity to further include Hamas in their range of sympathy. Thus, Hamas's election victory has been in many ways a turning-point that has - directly or indirectly - affected many parties engaged in the Arab-Israeli conflict.</p> <p>Within this regional context, the Israeli-American opposition to Hamas's government suffers from a double flaw: it is incongruous in terms of democratic principle, and it is counterproductive in relation to the <a href="http://www.pbs.org/newshour/indepth_coverage/middle_east/conflict/map.html" target="_blank">Israeli-Palestinian conflict</a> because it strips all moderate voices within Hamas of credibility. The failure of Hamas's government, now the focal point of the Israeli-American strategy towards the movement, would have the effect of pushing Hamas back to the militarised approach of the pre-election period. </p> <p>Rather than a strategy of containment designed to bring Hamas further into the arc of politics and its compromises, Tel Aviv and Washington seem content to drive Hamas back towards its previous radicalism, in which the tactic of suicide-attacks played a central role. Such an attempt to besiege Hamas in the hope of breaking its will to make greater concessions is a stance full of risks, not least that it will only make a desperate Hamas even more ready to accept Iran's offers of much-needed support.</p><p>Iran's regional <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-iran_war/politics_3538.jsp">ambitions</a>, by opening a route out of the deadlock facing Hamas in almost all directions, work to undercut the movement's nascent inclination to moderation. The Iranians' interest in using Hamas as a future bargaining-card with the US and the west is for Tehran also a neat component of its own wider strategy of extracting political leverage (with or without nuclear capabilities) and western recognition of its regional role. </p><p class="pullquote-right"><b>Also in openDemocracy on Hamas and <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict-debate_97/debate.jsp">Palestinian politics</a>:<br /><br /> -Stephen Howe, "The death of Arafat and the end of national liberation" <br />(<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict-debate_97/article_2234.jsp">18 November 2004</a>)<br /> -Jane Kinninmont, "Life after Sharon: Palestinian prospects" <br />(<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/debates/article.jsp?id=2&debateId=97&articleId=3165">10 January 2006</a>)<br /> -Eóin Murray, "After Hamas: a time for politics" <br />(<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict-debate_97/politics_hamas_3223.jsp">30 January 2006</a>)<br /> -David Mepham, "Hamas and political reform in the middle east" <br />(<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict-debate_97/hamas_reform_3229.jsp">1 February 2006</a>)<br /> -Yasser Abu Moailek, "A Palestinian choice" <br />(<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict-debate_97/hamas_3222.jsp">27 January 2006</a>)</b></p> <p>In a nutshell, the regional configuration seems at present to be limiting the potential for Hamas's pragmatic evolution to continue. </p> <p>A deep irony of this situation is that the most peaceful and calm period that Israeli cities enjoyed over almost the past two years was the period in which Hamas was preparing for the elections and after the movement took power in Palestine (until, of course, the invasion of Lebanon on 12 July and the Hizbollah <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict-middle_east_politics/lebanon_haifa_view_3803.jsp">missile-attacks</a> that ensued). Hamas refuses to make verbal concessions on the issue of clear-cut recognition of the right of Israel to exist. It says that it acknowledges Israel as an existing fact on the ground, no more. Yet, in power, it has stopped attacking Israel as it used to do when it was part of the opposition to Palestine's governing authority. </p> <p>This again highlights the rhetoric-practice dichotomy. Hamas needs to keep its rhetoric high and loud, refraining from any blunt offer of recognition of Israel, in order to compensate for the slow, daily "undoing" of its military struggle. If Hamas gives in on both rhetorical and practical fronts, it will lose out greatly in the eyes of its supporters. </p> <p>For the time being, then, the choice for Israel, the United States and other concerned states seems to be: do you prefer a rhetorical Hamas in power (observing a practical truce), or a rhetorical and military Hamas in opposition, where the resumption of suicide-bombings is only one step away?</p> Conflict Middle East conflicts middle east Khaled Hroub Original Copyright Mon, 09 Oct 2006 23:00:00 +0000 Khaled Hroub 3982 at https://www.opendemocracy.net