Who cares about the Israeli elections?  

Don’t mention the ‘p’ word in the Israeli elections. It won’t turn heads and it would only bring a shrug of the shoulders and a rolling of eyes.

Israel is ‘managing the conflict’ with the Palestinians and as long as the cost of the occupation is low, there is no incentive for it to change course. The cost of the occupation is low.

The PA delivers services to the occupied and its security services coordinate closely with Israel’s security services.

The PA itself is funded by external donors and Israel  can punish the PA for misdemeanors such as signing the Rome statues by withholding the Palestinian taxes it collects.

If Israel needs to attack Gaza to punish Hamas, it can and the cost is borne by the U.S.   And when it allows its extremist settlers to storm Alaqsa, or when it demolishes Palestinian homes, condemnations come with no cost attached.

It’s illegal settlers can roam the West Bank including Jerusalem, protected by the IDF heaping terror on Palestinians, knowing the state gives them a nod and a wink.

And when the International Community condemns any of the above or the continued illegal settlement construction it applies no sanctions. Even worse Western countries boast about the expanding trade with Israel and its importance as an ally of the West.

Israel is also on the offensive to silence critics abroad who dare speak up against its atrocities towards the Palestinians. It has tried to conflate criticism of its policies with Antisemitism, pushing western states to introduce draconian measures to limit free speech when it comes to criticism of Israel.

Netanyahu can address the U.S. congress against the will of the President, claiming he knows best when it comes to Iran.

Taking all of the above, it is clear Israel feels there is no need to do anything at all to bring peace to the Holy Land. The international community talks the talk but will not walk the walk to force Israel to change course.

Israeli leaders have made it clear there will be no 2-state solution, a genuine end to the occupation or a sharing of Jerusalem.

So frankly who cares about the Israeli elections?

Over 100 artists announce a cultural boycott of Israel

Today, the Guardian carried this letter from over 100 artists that announced a cultural boycott of Israel

13 February, 2015

Over 100 artists announce a cultural boycott of Israel

Along with more than 600 other fellow artists, we are announcing today that we will not engage in business-as-usual cultural relations with Israel. We will accept neither professional invitations to Israel, nor funding, from any institutions linked to its government. Since the summer war on Gaza, Palestinians have enjoyed no respite from Israel’s unrelenting attack on their land, their livelihood, their right to political existence. “2014,” says the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, was “one of the cruellest and deadliest in the history of the occupation.” The Palestinian catastrophe goes on.

Israel’s wars are fought on the cultural front too. Its army targets Palestinian cultural institutions for attack, and prevents the free movement of cultural workers. Its own theatre companies perform to settler audiences on the West Bank – and those same companies tour the globe as cultural diplomats, in support of “Brand Israel”. During South African apartheid, musicians announced they weren’t going to “play Sun City”. Now we are saying, in Tel Aviv, Netanya, Ashkelon or Ariel, we won’t play music, accept awards, attend exhibitions, festivals or conferences, run masterclasses or workshops, until Israel respects international law and ends its colonial oppression of the Palestinians.

To see the full list of supporters, go here.

Peter Kosminsky, Mike Leigh, Jimmy
McGovern, Phyllida Lloyd, Max Stafford-Clark, Will Alsop OBE, John Berger, Miriam Margolyes, Maggie Steed, Riz Ahmed, Anna Carteret, Jeremy Hardy, Brian Eno, Richard Ashcroft, Gillian Slovo, China Miéville, Aminatta Forna, Hari Kunzru, Liz Lochhead, Hanan Al-Shaykh, Peter Ahrends, David Calder, Caryl Churchill, Sacha Craddock, Selma Dabbagh, Ken Loach, Roger Michell, April De Angelis, Andy de la Tour, Mike Hodges, Rachel Holmes, Ann Jungman, Kika Markham, Simon McBurney, Andrew O’Hagan, Courttia Newland, Michael Radford, Lynne Reid Banks, Kamila Shamsie, Alexei Sayle, Roger Waters, Mark Thomas, Susan Wooldridge, Laura Mulvey, Pauline Melville, Khalid Abdalla, Bidisha, Nicholas Blincoe, Leah Borrromeo, Haim Bresheeth, Victoria Brittain, Niall Buggy, Tam Dean Burn, Jonathan Burrows, Taghrid Choucair-Vizoso, Ian Christie, Liam Cunningham, Ivor Dembina, Shane Dempsey, Patrick Driver, Okin Earl, Leon Rosselson, Sally El Hosaini, Paul Laverty, Eyal Sivan, John Smith, Mitra Tabrizian, Siobhan Redmond, Ian Rickson, Tom Leonard, Sonja Linden, David Mabb, Rose Issa, Gareth Evans, Alisa Lebow, Annie Firbank, James Floyd, Jane Frere, Kadija George, Bob Giles, Mel Gooding, Tony Graham, Penny Woolcock, Omar Robert Hamilton, James Holcombe, Adrian Hornsby, John Keane, Brigid Keenan, Hannah Khalil, Shahid Khan, Sabrina Mahfouz, Sarah McDade, Jonathan Munby, Lizzie Nunnery, Rebecca O’Brien, Timothy Pottier, Maha Rahwanji, Ravinder Randhawa, Leila Sansour, Seni Seneviratne, Anna Sherbany, Eyal Sivan, Kareem Samara, Cat Villiers, Esther Wilson, Emily Young, Andrea Luka Zimmerman, Jeremy Page, Sarah Streatfeild, Colin Darke, Russell Mills, Elaine Di Campo, Treasa O’Brien

From Bouazizi to Alkasasba, the Arab Uprising from Spring to Nightmare

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Mohammed Bouazizi

Four years after Mohammed Bouazizi set fire to himself, triggering the Arab Spring, Islamic State set fire to Jordanian pilot Muath Alkasasba confirming that it had turned into the Arab nightmare.

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Jordanian pilot Muath Alkasasba
Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor, took his own life on 17 December 2010 in in protest at confiscation of his wares and humiliation by municipal workers in Sidi Bouzid. The ensuing revolution brought down the then Tunisian President Ben Ali giving great hope to the Arab world that citizens could effect change and overthrow decades-long rule by dictators.

This was quickly followed by the removal of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Muammar Gaddafi of Lybia, and Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen. It also triggered what was seen as a revolution in Syria.

It seemed the democracy the West had been prescribing for the Middle East was on its way. Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was elected President of Egypt and TV cameras brought us images of debates in parliaments and elections that appeared to be fair and free.

Wind forward to 2015 and apart from Tunisia, the Arab Spring states are in turmoil. Libya is a complete basket case that is out of control. Yemen has just witnessed a coup. Egypt has still to heal after Morsi was deposed and Cairo witnessed horrific scenes in the lead up to the election of Sisi. The Sinai is witnessing terrible violence and has seen almost unprecedented cooperation between Egypt and Israel to eradicate extremism.

Iraq has lost swathes of territory to the new kid on the block, Islamic State and Syria’s regime is fighting a multitude of military groups, including the notorious Islamic State. Lebanon teeters on the brink and Palestine remains under military occupation by Israel.

But why is this happening? Why did the Arab Spring turn into the Arab nightmare? Are Arabs simply incapable of developing functioning democracies? Are Arab lives so cheap that the past four years have seen a few hundred thousand Arabs lose their lives?

The situation is of course very complicated and it is not feasible for one short blog to untangle it but I have some thoughts on this.

Democracy

I believe that Arabs who have endured non-democratic rule for decades and leaders that have suppressed the development of individuals and free thought need time to shed away fear from ‘the state’ and to develop infrastructure for free thought, free expression and acceptance of differing view points. We lack the patience to listen, to argue our point of view, to build support for it and then to win in a fair and open environment. We also allow individualism to trump collectivism. We invest so much and expect so much from a leader that sets him (normally) up for failure as he could never meet our expectations. We need to develop belief in roles rather than individuals.

Critics will say that the above generalisation is too crude and some may say it borders on racism. That is certainly not my intention but in this free space I feel able to express my views honestly.

Extremism

I was born and brought up in Saudi Arabia. The curriculum up to and including secondary school included five separate subjects under the religious education part. This accounted for a third of the curriculum. I learnt to recite parts of the Quran from memory and learnt about the dos and don’ts. Jihad was explained as part of the curriculum including the various types. I was brought up in Riyadh, Najd, the heart of Wahbism. I have to say that I do not re ally at any point being introduced to what is now considered radical teaching. At no point was I or my friends encouraged to adopt a completely strict interpretation of Islamabad nad I am not aware that any of my fir ends form school every developed any such leanings.

Most of the friends I have kept in touch with have gone on to achieve a high level of education and have led normal ‘extremism-free’ lives.

This phenomena of extremism is a recent development. I believe that it originated in the fight to eject the Soviets from Afghanistan and that management of those that took part from various Arab countries upon their return failed. This also coincided with greater Western interference in the region which was seen as simply an attempt to exert control on sources of energy rather than to help with the de elopement of societies.

The double standards were also there for all to see. The Iraqi occupation of Kuwait was not allowed to stand and lots of feet on the ground were deployed to end it, but the longstanding Israeli military occupation of Palestine was not only tolerated but supported. In fact the Palestinians legitimate residence to it was labeled terrorism and the occupier’s right to self defence was supported without question.

Islamic State

Alqaeda, the original Islamist ideology (save perhaps for the Muslim Brotherhood) has created lots of off shoots but there is little doubt now that the most organised and most violent is Islamic State. Palestinain journalist Abdul Bari Atwan estimates that its fighters now number 70,000. They come from several countries, continents and backgrounds, drawn to a cause which non of us can understand. I wonder if they really know what the cause is?

It is truly astonishing that this group has grown so quickly and has taken on the army of Iraq and won. But most shocking of its short life have been the assassinations of western and then Japanese civilians. This has been done without mercy and their horrible deaths have been professionally stage managed for maximum impact.

It is of grave concern that there appears to be no real plan either by neighbouring countries or indeed the coalition to eradicate them as a force, even if their torrid ideology won’t be so easily defeated. Perhaps the lead Jordan is now taking to avenge the horrific murder of its pilot will bring some greater urgency to end IS’s growth before the rest of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

It seems the state that is currently safest from this evil is ironically Israel, the one state that normally unites the Arab street in wanting it. To be pressurised toned it’s illegal occupation of Palestine.

The Arab Spring has been unkind to Palestinians. Palestinian refugees in Syria have once again been dispossessed and displaced and many have faced starvation and siege in refugee camps. The degradation in the capability of of Arab armies in Iraq and Syria has removed the military deterrent to Israel, such as it existed. The changing political scene in Egypt has also hurt Palestinians, with Gaza scene as a problem and Hamas as terrorist organisation.

Looking ahead then, the nightmare continues and can only end in my view with some exceptional leadership both religious and political.

The Arab Spring which morphed into the Arab Nightmare needs to move quickly to an Arab awakening.