Are the 13 Demands to Qatar a ‘Geopolitical Crime’?

11 Jul

[Prefatory Note: the following post is part of an ongoing project assessing the international relations and international law Gulf Crisis that was initiated by a coalition of four countries, issuing a set of 13 demands directed at the government of Qatar. Qatar rejected the demands as contrary to its sovereign rights and international law, and at the same time offered to mediate the dispute. The Gulf Coalition rejected the approach, insisting on Qatar’s compliance, and causing harm to the state of Qatar and those resident in the country by blocking access and abruptly cutting relations. The essay below evaluates this experience from the perspective of whether the confrontation should be treated as a ‘Geopolitical Crime,” itself an innovative and controversial idea that I developed in a lecture at Queen Mary’s University in London at the end of March, 2018.]

 

Confronting Qatar: Gulf Crisis or Geopolitical Crime? Evaluating an Innovative Approach to Confrontational Diplomacy

 

Points of Departure

 

The general designation of the year long confrontation between the Gulf Coalition (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt) and Qatar has been one-sided from its inception. A series of demands were directed at Qatar in the form of an ultimatum. The demands were unreasonable, challenging Qatar’s sovereign rights, and violating the most fundamental precepts of international law. [For detailed demonstration see Falk, “A Normative Evaluation of the Gulf Crisis,” Policy Brief #1, Feb. 2018] The Gulf Coalition refused Qatar’s repeated formal expressions of a willingness to accept a negotiated or a mediated end of the confrontation. Such willingness was particularly forthcoming as Qatar was the wrongfully harmed party due to the policies put into operation by the Gulf Coalition to reinforce its demands with punitive acts. By way of contrast the Gulf Coalition has so far defiantly refused even to consider a diplomatic resolution of the crisis, pushing its agenda by issuing threats and warnings.

 

For these reasons it has been deeply misleading to refer to the inflamed situation involving Qatar as a crisis, which in international relations is a normatively neutral term, referring to a set of circumstances that involves a dangerous and unresolved encounter between adversaries. It is the argument of this policy brief that a more accurate way of grasping the true character of the situation, given the unprovoked wrongfulness and one-sidedness of this confrontation, as well as the disparities in size and power is to treat the confrontation under the rubric of ‘Geopolitical Crime.’

 

The question posed from this perspective is to consider whether the Gulf Coalition should be viewed as responsible for committing an a serious and ongoing Geopolitical Crime, the victims of which are the State of Qatar, and its people, as well third parties and foreign nationals hurt by the blockade and other coercive measures adopted by the Gulf Coalition. To inquire from this perspective first requires clarification as to the nature and status of what is here being called a Geopolitical Crime.

 

The allegations of Geopolitical Crime is certainly not intended to contradict or displace the assertion that Qatar has also been harmed by violations of public international law as a result of Gulf Coalition threats and acts. The reasons to bring up claims of Geopolitical Criminality is to emphasize the possibility of an appropriate informal and more flexible approach to the allocation of responsibility for harm caused and hopefully add diplomatic weight to efforts to end the confrontation and restore normalcy to the sub-regional politics of the Gulf. Alleging a Geopolitical Crime has no implications for waiving or overlooking recourse to several overlapping remedies under international law. [To be discussed in subsequent policy brief]

 

It should also be realized that even without claiming any status of Geopolitical Crime within international criminal law, the nature of the ‘crime’ is controversial, and needs to be appreciated as a proposed innovation with respect to diplomacy and international ethics. Yet it appears to be beneficial step toward creating greater compliance by dominant global and regional actors with widely accepted international norms, as well as mounting a challenge to current patterns of impunity

with respect to the crimes of such actors. As matters now stand, geopolitical actors

form part of the vertical structure of existing world order, which effectively exempts these actors from any obligation to conform to international law whenever its rules collide with the pursuit of their national interests and strategic priorities. In this respect, this kind of deference to power has the effect of making international law a weapon of the strong against the weak. It thus parallels the Un Charter that grants a right of veto to the five Permanent Members of the Security Council, which amounts to telling these five countries that for them adherence to the Un Charter is essentially voluntarywhile for the other 188 or so sovereign states adherence is mandatory. As was said of the Un when established, it is an institution designed to regulate the mice while the lions roam free.

 

In effect, the assertion of Geopolitical Crime offers a modest means for potentially extending the reach of international law to regulate the behavior of the lions, modifying the normative structures that have so far only been effective in keeping weaker states, the mice, either submissive or discouraged from engaging in disruptive behavior. Geopolitics is the vertical dimension of world order, while the relations of ordinary states is the horizontal dimension, subject to the norm of juridical equality, which ignores the relevance of political inequality, subverting law by treating equals unequally. In the current impasse Qatar is denied the protection of its fundamental rights because the Gulf Coalition is taking advantage of its sub-regional geopolitical status to engage in coercive diplomacy while avoiding legal accountability.

 

Yet the proposal to supplement international criminal law by recognizing Geopolitical Crimes is about more than giving Qatar an additional line of political and moral argument by which to vindicate their specific grievances arising from the pressures exerted by the Gulf Coalition. It is a wider response to the realization that throughout history much human suffering, devastating warfare, economic exploitation, social collapse, and political abuse have resulted directly or indirectly from the commission of Geopolitical Crimes, which have not been acknowledged, much less prevented and apprehended. The position taken here is that the delimitation of Geopolitical Crime will have a positive effect on international public opinion and civil society, and could tip the balance of diplomatic activity in concrete ways helpful to victims of Geopolitical Crime. Without such a categorization, there is an operative set of beliefs that geopolitical behavior is completely unregulated and discretionary, and at most is subject to criticism as imprudent or as in this instance

that sub-regional geopolitics should give way to promote regional and global geopolitical goals, either defined by reference to counterterrorism or as establishing a unified front against Iran.

 

 

The nature and relevance of Geopolitical Crimes

An important techical point: Geopolitical Crimes are notnow recognized as such by international criminal law, and could not be made the subject of a valid complaint to the International Criminal Court (ICC). At the same time, Geopolitical Crimes are important markers of wrongful behavior in a variety of international contexts and offer helpful criteria for resolving dangerous and harmful situations of the sort facing the government of Qatar. It may be useful to consider Geopolitical Crimes as a species of illegitimateinternational behavior, and as such, politicallyand morallywrongful, although definitely outside the present scope of legalaccountability.

 

Geopolitical Crimes are wrongful acts of those sovereign states with geopolitical capabilities to adopt policies that deliberately are harmful to other sovereign states and to people. Geopolitical actors can be contrasted with ordinary sovereign states,

although the existence of power disparities are relative and contextual. Thus, the United States may be a geopolitical actor in relation to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Coalition while these actors are geopolitical actors in relation to Qatar, which is the case for the situation here being considered.

 

A geopolitical relationship does not result in the commission of a Geopolitical Crime unless there is evidence of an intention to cause harm or a negligent failure to perceive the probable effects of actions and policies. Among prominent historical examples of Geopolitical Crime is the Versailles ‘peace diplomacy’ as it affected Europe and the Middle East, taking the forms of imposing a punitive peace on Germany after World War I, and privileging colonial ambition over the wellbeing

of resident peoples and societies after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire by imposing European territorial communities in place of the millet system of ethnic and religious communities. The Balfour Declaration and its incorporation in arrangements imposed on Palestine and its majority Arab population is another illustration of a Geopolitical Crime. [For further elaboration of these examples see Falk, ISCI Annual Lecture, Queen Mary’s University London, March 2018] A more recent example of a Geopolitical Crime in the Middle East resulted from the imposition of indiscriminate sanctions on Iraq after the Gulf War of 1991 that produced several hundred thousand civilian deaths, and was maintained in the face of official knowledge of these lethal impacts on innocent lives by the U.S. Government.

 

Extending this analysis to Qatar, the question is whether the Gulf Coalition wrongfully adopted and maintained policies foreseeably harmful to the people and state of Qatar. Both wrongfulness and awareness are elements of the crime. The wrongfulness seems demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt by the explicit nature of the 13 Demands that also confirms awareness that was acknowledged by periodic reassertion of the demands by high officials representing Gulf Coalition governments. The conciliatory responses of the Qatar Governmet to these wrongful demands and accompanying coercive diplomacy strengthens the allegation of Geopolitical Crime.

 

 

The Pros and Cons of Claiming Geopolitical Crime

 

As suggested, describing wrongdoing by geopolitical actors as Geopolitical Crime is controversial, and needs to be carefully evaluated as a general tactic for extending normative constraints to geopolitical actors. The goal is to protect those states and  people harmed by this almost totally unregulated and very damaging forms of international wrongdoing. There are two types of Geopolitical Crimes that are associated with major loopholes in the effective coverage of international law: first, diplomatic initiatives that cause foreseeable harm, yet are not prohibited by existing international law, such as punitive sanctions imposed by a victorious country on a devastated and defeated country; secondly, diplomatic moves that violate existing legal norms, even to the extent of being crimes against humanity or gross violations of international criminal law, but are not enforceable against geopolitical actors and their close allies, creating double standards with respect to the implementation of legal norms.

 

The contention here is that the Gulf Coalition demands and coercive acts fall under the second category of Geopolitical Crime, that is, involving prohibited behavior that is beyond the present reach of enforceablelaw, leaving Qatar seemingly without an effective formal remedy. The appeal of reliance on an allegation of Geopolitical Crime is to awake the conscience of the world to this vulnerability, mobilizing pressures on the Gulf Coalition to drop their demands, restore normal relations by ending blockade, boycott, and any other coercive measures directed at Qatar, and ideally, accept responsibility for all damages sustained by Qatar, Qataris, and third parties caught in this web of wrongdoing.

 

Given this complexity it seems helpful to assess whether the advantages of alleging that the Gulf Coalition behavior is a Geopolitical Crimes outweighs the disadvantages before the leadership of Qatar determines at this stage its best policy options.

 

As far as advantages are concerned, the following factors are relevant:

–to allege a Geopolitical Crime does not require any elaborate preparations or expense;

–the text of the 13 Demands is so manifestly in violation of Qatar’s fundamental rights as to make a persuasive presentation;

–as the allegation is informal it leaves open a path to a diplomatic resolution of the situation, avoiding formal embarrassment of the Gulf Coalition member states;

–relying on a Geopolitical Crime argument makes Qatar’s grievances easy for the media and public to grasp, and puts Qatar’s position in a clear and sympathetic manner;

–advancing this argument is a constructive contribution by way of filling the gaps in international law by a recourse to moral and political considerations, particularly helpful for weaker sovereign states and a step to legal accountability by geopolitical actors who are now able to avoid, or at least evade, legal obligations.

 

As far as disadvantages are concerned, the following factors are relevant:

–the allegation of Geopolitical Crime will be regarded as controversial, and even provocative, and could have the effect of escalating the confrontation, making a solution more difficult to obtain;

–as the concept of Geopolitical Crime is threatening to other major political actors in the world, it might be viewed as an unwelcome, and even dangerous innovation, which could discourage diplomatic attempts by such countries as the United States from continuing to seek reconciliation and compromise among the parties;

–as Geopolitical Crime challenges directly the Gulf Coalition it might obstruct moves toward reconciliation and compromise, as well as make terms of a solution more difficult to agree upon;

–if the Qatar primary goal is to end the confrontation, and nothing more, the emphasis on Geopolitical Crime could make a reconciliation process more complicated as it would likely introduce issues of liability and responsibility with respect to private interests.

 

 

In the end, a choice must be made as to whether at this stage of the encounter with the Gulf Coalition putting forward the Geopolitical Crime argument helps Qatar attain its spectrum of goals including peace, reconciliation, mediation, and harmony among Gulf countries and unity within the Gulf Cooperation Council.

 

Whatever decision is reached it seems helpful to be aware of the Geopolitical Crime approach as possibly applicable to this type of difficult situation facing the leadership of the sovereign state of Qatar.

 

8 June 2018

 

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Wider Consequences of U.S. Withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council

7 Jul

Interview with Daniel Falcone, June 21, 2018, initially published in TruthOut, July 3, 2018

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Questions on U.S. Withdrawal from UNHRC

 

  1. What are your thoughts on the US pulling out of the UNHRC and how are Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley’s disparaging and overly defensive claims different from what is taking place in the background? They’ve remarked how the UNHRC is “hypocritical and self-serving” and remarked of its “chronic anti-Israel bias.” What is it about the UNHRC that compels the US to disengage?

 

I think the superficial response to this latest de-internationalizing move is the tendency of the Trump Administration to align its policies in conformity with Israeli priorities and preferences, which have long focused on the Human Rights Council (HRC) as a venue hostile to their policies and practices. HRC is the most important actor in the UN System in which geopolitical pressures can be largely neutralized, partly because there is no veto, and partly because it is representative of the frustrations that the world as a whole has felt for decades in response to the dual Israel posture of defying international law while constantly expanding their grip on what was internationally widely understood after the 1967 War as territory set aside for a Palestinian sovereign state. This interactive process has gone on so long as to seem irreversible at this point, making the two-state solution reflective of the international consensus no longer a realistic option, which appears to leave open the path to an Israeli one-state solution that corresponds with the maximal Zionist vision of establishing a Jewish state with sovereignty over the whole of Palestine, which from the Zionist perspective is ‘the promised land’ of Jews by virtue of a biblical entitlement. Such a rationalization completely ignores the normative primacy in the 21stcentury of the right of self-determination to be exercised by the majority resident population and its legitimate representatives. This circumstances helps explain both Palestinian resistance and Israeli reliance on an apartheid matrix of control to shatter opposition to its goals.

 

Rather than an anti-Israeli bias, the UN as a whole, and the HRC in particular, have done too little rather than too much with respect to expressing disapproval of Israel’s policies and practices in Palestine. It should be recalled that after the British gave up their Mandatory status as administrator of Palestine after World War II, the UN was tasked with finding a solution to the tensions between the majority Palestinian population and the Jewish minority (of about 30% in 1947). It came up with a partition plan embodied in General Assembly Resolution 181, which when rejected by the Palestinians produced the Partition War resulting in the removal, mostly by force, of about 750,000 Palestinians from the area set aside for a Jewish state, and the prolonged occupation of 22% of the territory that remained of the Palestine Mandated territory, governed by Jordan until 1967, and subsequently militarily administered by Israel. In other words, the UN has failed to produce a sustainable solution that protects minimal Palestinian rights, much less its fundamental right of self-determination, and has been unable to curb Israeli behavior to conform to the constraints of international humanitarian law. It should be understood that the UN has no comparable unfulfilled responsibility with respect to any other territory in the world, and its attention to Israeli defiance is more of an expression of institutional frustration and futility than it meant to mount a serious challenge to Israeli behavior, including its flagrant violations of the Geneva Conventions and Protocols. To the extent Israel is challenged it comes from Palestinian resistance initiatives, as witnessed recently in the lengthy demonstrations and killings associated with the Great Return March, and secondarily, from the intensifying global solidarity movement highlighted by the growing success of the BDS Campaign. It is this success that is much more threatening to Israel than anything that happens at the UN, and helps explain their frantic effort to criminalize and penalize those that are active BDS supporters.

 

 

  1. How can you describe the current reputation of the United States in world affairs? There was talk of the US pulling out preemptively as to avoid a embarrassing condemnation from the UN for the US/Israel treatment of Gaza.

 

The U.S. by design and incompetence has pushed itself increasingly into a sterile ‘America, First’ corner that has increased tensions in several regions of the world, loosened long-term alliance relations, weakened multilateral lawmaking, and raised risks of nuclear and regional warfare. Instead of seeking to overcome the turmoil that is causing massive suffering in the Middle East, the United States has lent material and diplomatic support to genocidal war making directed at Yemen and joined with Israel and Saudi Arabia in pushing toward a regime-changing intervention in Iran with dire potential consequences both for the Iranian people and the region, and possibly the world. The Trump repudiation of the 2015 nuclear agreement reached with Iran and the Paris climate change agreement is to retreat from positive internationalismand its global leadership role exercised since 1945, as well as to disrupt the institutional and treaty frameworks facilitating global trade and investment. This combination of warmongering militarism and exclusionary nationalism is generating a new American foreign policy that might be identified as illiberal internationalism, or maybe more graphically as negative internationalism. It is not only causing dangerous forms of confrontation, it is also acting as a catastrophic distraction from urgent problem-solving imperatives of this period of world history, especially, meeting the challenges of climate change, biodiversity, nuclearism, migration, and extreme poverty.

 

 

  1. Real Clear Politics asserted that, “the international community stokes Gazans’ ruinous belief that Israel belongs to them and fuels their delusive dream of return. On May 18, for example, the U.N. Human Rights Council again improperly intervened in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in favor of Hamas.” This outlet is called “ideologically diverse.” How crucial is Israel’s role in the US pullout?

 

It is difficult to assess the motivational calculus that prompted the U.S. withdrawal from the HRC. It seems over-determined, especially consistent with this pattern during the Trump presidency of withdrawing from otherpositive internationalistarrangements mentioned earlier. Surely, Israeli hostility to the HRC, which I experienced personally while serving as HRC Special Rapporteur on Occupied Palestine, is a factor, but to what extent, is impossible to say. In some respects, the HRC withdrawal seems parallel to the provocative move of the American Embassy to Jerusalem. In effect, we think we are punishing the world by our refusal to participate in these international arrangements, but in reality we are harming ourselves.

 

 

4.Describe the structure of US geopolitics at the moment and how are allies reacting to this unclear and confusing period? Also, do you see any good press coverage?

 

I think the Trump pattern is so erratic and dangerously destabilizing that it impairs our capacity to acknowledge positive initiatives even if narcissistically or defensively motivated. I find the liberal Democratic criticism of the Korean nuclear accommodation as the prime example, but another is the indistinct effort to normalize relations with Russia, avoiding a second Cold War. As suggested, Trump may be seeking glory for the Korean diplomacy and his fears of Moscow disclosures about his finances might drive his approach to Putin and Russia, but even such dubious and dark motives should not color our judgment of the policy? The mainstream media seems so polarized with respect to the Trump presidency, and thus tends mindlessly to condemn or applaud, with little by way of effort to disentangle the policy from the person.

 

Trump’s crude pushback against European allies has generated confusion. On the one side, there is a European sense that the time has come to cut free from the epoch of Cold War dependence on Washington, and forge security and economic policy more independently in accord with the social democratic spirit of ‘Europe, First.’ At the same time, there is a reluctance to risk breaking up a familiar framework that has brought Europe a long period of relative stability and mostly healthy economic development to Europe. Such considerations create a mood of ambivalence and uncertainty, perhaps thinking that Trump is a temporary aberration from reestablishing a more durable framework versus the idea that Trumpism has given Europe and the separate states an opportunity to achieve a political future more in accord with the values and interests of the region and its member states than its longtime deference to the shifting moods and priorities of Washington. Also, Europe is now facing its own rising forms of right-wing populism, chauvinistic nationalism, and a resulting crisis of confidence in the viability of the European Union under pressures from the refugee influx and the unevenness of economic conditions in northern Europe as distinct from Mediterranean Europe.

 

Finally, the Asian context is different. Trump has sought to focus on revising the economic relationship with China in ways that supposedly help American business and consumers. In this pursuit, it would be helpful to stabilize the Korean peninsula and keep firm the relationship with Japan. So far, this pattern seems to describe the present approach, but given the clumsy impulsiveness of Trump when it comes to abrupt shifts in policy it is hazardous to make predictions as to the future course of American behavior in the Asian context. Maybe, just maybe, the absence of the Israeli dimension, may give Asian policy more flavor of coherence and rationality, yet such a possibility still involves a radical repudiation of the earlier promotion of neoliberal globalization and international liberalism, and a return to mercantilist approaches to economic nationalism.

 

 

  1. Is there a strategy to this exit because of the Republican Party base in your view? How much of this, like Iran perhaps is for electoral politics?

 

Earlier in the Trump presidency seemed the Republican Party seemed divided, and there was more tension between the White House and the Republican leadership in Congress than recently. Especially after the passage of the pro-rich, pro-business tax bill in 2107, the Trump hold on the Republican Party strengthened to the point that an astonishing 89% of Republicans, according to recent polls, now approve of his presidential leadership. This is profoundly worrisome, and at the same time, revealing that any serious Republican departure from the Trump approach to major political issues will be viewed as virtual political suicide by career-minded Republicans.

 

As for Trump himself, his motivations are hard to assess as he proceeds by intuition, demagogic self-confidence, and unparalleled narcissism, which means no accountability, no truthfulness, and no coherence. Intellectuals tend, as they did with Reagan, to underestimate Trump’s capacity to connect with the raw feelings of ‘ordinary’ Americans, especially those feeling left out. This Trump appeal becomes formidable when bolstered by right-wing financial and ideological support.

 

I feel it is not too alarmist or misleading to talk of the present era of American political life as ‘pre-fascist,’ posing the formidable challenge of reversing the political current in the country as rapidly as possible to avoid any transition from pre-fascism to fascism (in some distinctly American form that refuses the language of fascism while implementing its worldview).

GAZA: Ordeal & Destiny

30 Jun

[Prefatory Note: I post below two items pertaining to Gaza—my short poem, and a collection of responses to the question “What is the Future of Gaza” by a clever online publication, called ‘One Question,’ which true to its name poses a single question to a number of people presumed to have something to say in response, is the creation of Cihan Aksan and Jon Bailes. I only learned about this format because I am among the respondents represented below.  My current concern is that while the world of states, and even the UN, has virtually abandoned the people trapped in Gaza, we who support their empowerment and liberation, must not lose faith in their future, nor weaken our emotions of empathy so long as their ordeal persists.]

 

*******************************************************************************

 

Great March of Return and the Unspeakable

 

This wordless borderland

Where love and atrocity meet

 

Where free fire zones

Fill pools with blood

 

Overflowing hatred

Climb forlorn fences

 

Call forth silences

Of heart and mind

 

Words of rage

Rightless rights

 

March and return

Return and march

 

Tears are not enough

Nor outrage nor silence

 

When tending the wounded

Become a capital crime

 

It’s time to say

This world is doomed

 

 

27 June 2018

Yalikavak, Turkey

 

 

 

One Question

Gaza

28th June 2018 Cihan Aksan And Jon Bailes <stateofnatureblog.com/one-question-future-gaza>

 

One Question is a monthly series in which we ask leading thinkers to give a brief answer to a single question. This month, we ask:What is the future of Gaza?

With responses from: Ramzy BaroudRichard FalkSara Roy; Abdalhadi Alijla; Norman Finkelstein; Toufic Haddad; Atef Alshaer; Helga Tawil-Souri; Hagar Kotef; Joel Beinin; Magid Shihade; Ran Greenstein; Richard Hardigan; Salman Abu Sitta.

 

 

Ramzy Baroud

 Journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story(Pluto, 2018). He has a PhD in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California Santa Barbara. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.

 

The ongoing siege on the Gaza Strip was interrupted by three major Israeli wars: in 2008/9, 2012 and 2014, with a total death toll that exceeded 5,000. Tens of thousands were wounded and maimed, and hundreds more were killed in the in-between, so-called ‘lull’ years. Coupled with a hermetic blockade, Gaza cannot rebuild most of its destroyed infrastructure, leading the United Nations to conclude that the tiny but overcrowded enclave will become ‘uninhabitable’ by 2020. In many ways, however, and tragically so, it already is.

 

The future of Gaza will follow the same path of horrific wars and a suffocating siege if no new positive factors are injected into this dismal equation. Without a regional and international push to force Israel to loosen its grip, or to find alternative routes to assist the isolated Strip, misery will continue, even beyond 2020. ‘Uninhabitable’ or not, Israel has no plans to allow Gaza’s 2-million inhabitants, mostly refugees from historic Palestine, today’s Israel, to lead normal lives.

 

It is important to note that Israel is not solely responsible for Gaza’s current fate; Egypt and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are also culpable, each with its own agenda. Egypt, which shares the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, wants to ensure that Hamas, which it perceives as an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood Movement, is isolated and weakened. The PA, which is controlled by the largest Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) faction, Fatah, is also hell-bent on defeating Hamas. Fatah lost a parliamentary election to Hamas in 2006, and does not wish to repeat that perceived folly by allowing another democratic election to take place.

 

Thus, the Palestinian political rift is important for all parties involved: Israel needs to demonise Hamas and, by extension, all of Gaza; Egypt wants to marginalise any strong Islamic political tide, and the PA in the West Bank wants to keep its rivals at bay. Despite Hamas’ regional politicking, it has so far failed to break away from its isolation. Gaza is, therefore, not a victim of Israel alone. True, the latter owns the largest shares in Gaza’s desolation, but other Arab and Palestinian parties are greatly invested and equally keen on keeping the hapless Strip on its knees.

 

If the status quo persists, a backlash is on the way, not just in terms of another deadly Israeli war to ‘downgrade’ the defenses of Palestinian resistance, but also in terms of social and political upheaval in Gaza and the West Bank. The large protests against the PA in Ramallah in recent days were violently suppressedby PA police and thugs, but West Bankers are growing angry over the subjugation of their Gaza brethren. Meanwhile, the mass ralliesat the Gaza-Israel fence are an indication that Gazans are seeking alternative methods to fight back, even at the price of a high death and injury toll, as has been and continues to be the case

 

.

Richard Falk

 

Professor Emeritus in International Law, Princeton University; between 2008-2014 he served as Special Rapporteur for Occupied Palestine on behalf of the UN Human Rights Council; his most recent books are Power Shift: On the New Global Order(University of Chicago, 2016) and Revisiting the Vietnam War(University of Cambridge, 2017).

 

It is important to understand some essential features of the distinctive place of Gaza in the wider context of the Palestinian struggle for elemental rights. Perhaps most fundamentally, unlike the West Bank and Jerusalem, Gaza is not considered part of the ‘promised land’ that forms the substance of the Zionist Project to form a Jewish State that corresponds with its understanding of the scope of biblical entitlement.

 

At the same time, Gaza has a long history of centrality in the Palestinian national experience that stretches back before the time of Mohammed, and thus the inclusion of Gaza in Palestine’s vision of self-determination is vital. This collides with Israel’s desire to maintain a Jewish majority state, which would make it desirable for Gaza to be absorbed or at least administered separately by either Jordan or Egypt.

Gaza, more than the West Bank, has also been the center of Palestinian resistance, being the site where the First Intifada was launched in 1987 and where Hamas came to govern after it prevailed in internationally supervised elections of 2006 and in a struggle for governing authority the following year.

 

The intense hostility between Hamas and the PLO has fractured Palestinian political unity, weakening Palestinian diplomatic leverage, and making it more plausible for Israel to claim it has no Palestinian ‘partner’ in the search for a peaceful solution.

Such a background helps us understand why Gaza has experienced massively destructive attacks by Israel in 2008-09, 2012, and 2014, as well as the recent border massacre in response to the Great Return March that is the latest example of Israeli reliance on excessive violence and cruel tactics to crush Palestinian resistance.

 

Gaza also partakes of the wider fate of the Palestinian people, which in the time of Netanyahu and Trump seems extremely unfavorable, with respect to relief from the ordeal of a suffocating blockade that has lasted more than a decade and control policies designed to achieve de-development of the Gazan economy. In this regard, the safest prediction is a continuation of the cycle of repression and resistance with no change of basic circumstances. Even the Israeli expansionists do not seek to absorb Gaza, although its offshore deposits of natural gas might create a future temptation.

 

The longer vision of a Gazan future is clouded at present. Ideally, Gaza would participate in a single secular state embracing the whole of historic Palestine. Increasingly, the impracticality of the two-state solution has focused Gazan hopes either on a long-term ceasefire or a genuine peace process that establishes a single democratic state.

 

 

Sara Roy

 

Senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University, specialising in the Palestinian economy, Palestinian Islamism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She is also co-chair of the Middle East Seminar, jointly sponsored by the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and co-chair of the Middle East Forum at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. Her books include: The Gaza Strip: The Political Economy of De-development (Institute for Palestine Studies, 1995, 2001, third edition 2016 with a new introduction and afterword and Arabic edition forthcoming in 2018); Failing Peace: Gaza and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict (Pluto Press, 2007); and Hamas and Civil Society in Gaza: Engaging the Islamist Social Sector (Princeton University Press, 2011, 2014 with a new afterword).

 

The question itself reflects the problem. It speaks to Gaza as separate and apart – severed from Israel, the West Bank, and the world. In this regard, Israel has been stunningly successful; it has not only removed and contained Gaza geographically, economically and legally; it has convinced us to understand and accept Gaza as something distinct and awful, unenduring, and therefore undeserving of a normal, worthwhile existence.

 

Gaza’s temporality has always defined Israel’s approach to the territory because Israel has never really known what to do with Gaza. Gaza has always been unruly, guilty of what for Israel is indefensible and unforgiveable: defiance. This accounts in part for Israel’s brutal treatment of the territory including a blockade now in its 12thyear, which has destroyed the local economy. Gaza was – and remains – the center of Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation and the injustice that sustains it.

 

The recent protests along the fence isolating Gaza from Israel, which at times exceeded 30,000 people, were a nightmare for Israel, a harbinger of things to come. No doubt one issue plaguing the Israeli government right now is how better to control Gaza.

 

This question, I am told, is at the heart of the American peace plan (especially since the West Bank has effectively succumbed to Israeli rule). Controlling Gaza in the future, however, will be no different from the past.  Gaza will continue to be treated as a humanitarian problem requiring nothing more than subsistence relief. Defining the parameters of Israel’s policy toward the territory, an Israeli defense official was clear and succinct: ‘No development, no prosperity, no humanitarian crisis.’

 

Gaza’s future must be informed by its past; yet, its lived reality has no connection to a past or a future. The majority of Gazans have no memory of Gaza before the destruction. History – both recent and far – is not so much absent as it is vacant, and without that history to navigate a way forward, there are no prospects worth thinking about or expectations worth having. People are so consumed by the present that mundane needs have become aspirational. The future is beyond conceptualisation.

 

If Gaza has a future outside incarceration, it lies in ending its liminality and present state of exception. It lies in admittance and inclusion. And it lies in returning to Gazans what they want most – a predictable, unexceptional life.

 

 

Abdalhadi Alijla

 

Palestinian-Swedish researcher and writer. Since April 2018, he has been an Associate Fellow at the Post-Conflict Research Center in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He is a member of the elected Executive Committee of the Global Young Academy for 2018-2019, Director of Institute for Middle East Studies, Canada (IMESC), and Regional Manager of the Varieties of Democracy Institute (Gothenburg University) for Gulf countries. His work has appeared in OpenDemocracy, Huffpost,Qantara, Your Middle East, Jaddaliyaand other media outlets.

 

Gaza has two futures: the future that the Palestinians living in Gaza are looking for, a Gaza open to the world with no fear, and the future that seems to be their destiny, which is the current reality of a life filled with misery. When I left Gaza more than a decade ago, I knew that I was leaving a place which seemed like another planet behind me, where the unemployment rate was high, Palestinian internal division was deepening, and the Israeli siege had only just started. Today, the situation in Gaza is catastrophic, literally.

 

The Palestinians of Gaza are paying the price for Israel’s occupation, and the detrimental policies of both Hamas and Fatah. The recent incidents in Ramallah and the Gaza strip, where Hamas and Abbas’s forces broke up protests taking place in opposition to the sanctions against Gaza by the PA, has proven that both political entities are acting as de-facto, Israel-delegated authoritarian forces.

 

The Palestinians of Gaza look for a bright future where they can move freely, study and have access to health care without being dehumanised. The future Gazans want is the future where ICT incubators flourish, and industries that have been destroyed by Israel, such as textiles, will return. The future of Gaza should be without the occupation, the siege, and political division.

 

The other future, which I see as the most probable, is the continuation of the suffering and dehumanisation of the Palestinians of Gaza by settler colonial Israel, as well as the negligence of the Palestinian leadership with respect to the demands of their citizens for unification and elections. This future is the one that nobody wants except the Israeli occupation. It is the future characterised by high rates of suicide, a slaughter every four years, and miserable economic and societal conditions.

 

 

Norman Finkelstein

 

Received his PhD from the Princeton University Politics Department. He has written many books, including The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering(Verso, 2000), and most recently, Gaza: An Inquest into its Martyrdom(University of California, 2018).

T

he modern history of Gaza begins in 1948 with the massive influx of expellees from the newborn state of Israel. In 1967, Gaza came under a brutal Israeli occupation. Israel alleges that it withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but the consensus among legal specialists – including top Israeli authority Yoram Dinstein – is that Israel remains the occupying power. In 2006, after Hamas won ‘completely honest and fair elections’ (Jimmy Carter), Israel imposed a medieval-like blockade on Gaza. In the meantime, Israel has visited not fewer than eight ‘operations’ on Gaza since 2004. After the last massacre, Operation Protective Edge (2014), President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, went to Gaza and observed, ‘I’ve never seen such massive destruction ever before.’

 

UN agencies have now pronounced Gaza ‘unlivable.’ ’I see this extraordinarily inhuman and unjust process of strangling gradually two million civilians that really pose a threat to nobody,’ UN humanitarian coordinator for Gaza, Robert Piper, observed last year. Echoing him, UN Human Rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, recently deplored the fact that Gazans have been ‘caged in a toxic slum from birth to death.’

 

On March 30, the people of Gaza initiated weekly mass demonstrations to break the illegal siege. Human rights groups report that the marches have been overwhelmingly peaceful. But more than 110 Gazans have been killed and more than 3,700 injured (many permanently) with live ammunition by Israeli snipers. ‘Israeli forces’ repeated use of lethal force in the Gaza Strip since March 30, 2018, against Palestinian demonstrators who posed no imminent threat to life,’ Human Rights Watch concluded in a major investigation, ‘may amount to war crimes.’

What is the future of Gaza?

Sara Roy of Harvard University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies has observed that ‘innocent human beings, most of them young, are slowly being poisoned by the water they drink, and likely by the soil in which they plant.’ Experts say that before long Gaza will be overrun by typhoid and cholera epidemics. It is impossible to predict the future except to say, if the international community doesn’t act, Gaza won’t have one.

 

A 2015 UN report by New York State judge Mary McGowan Davis called on Israel to lift the blockade ‘immediately and unconditionally,’ while the European Parliament in 2018 called for an ‘immediate and unconditional end to the blockade.’ If Israel isn’t compelled to end the illegal and inhuman siege, the judgment of History will not be kind. Will it one day be asked, why was the world silent when Gaza was crucified?

 

 

Toufic Haddad

 

Completed his PhD in Development Studies at the School for Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London in 2015, and has recently engaged in postdoctoral research for the Arab Council for Social Sciences, exploring the political economy of siege and resilience in the Gaza Strip. Author of Palestine Ltd.: Neoliberalism and National Liberation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory(I.B. Taurus, 2016).

The future or Gaza needs little prognostication: what after all could be the future of a territory of 360 km2crammed with two million people, two thirds of whom are refugees; whose water is entirely poisoned; whose civilian infrastructure has effectively collapsed; where food dependency exceeds 80 percent, and unemployment is the highest in the world? In 2017, the UN advanced its own 2012 prediction that the territory would become ‘unlivable’ by 2020, declaring the territory had already passed this dubious threshold.

 

Gaza has long been a ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ well documented by the not-so-small cottage industry of local and international organisations designated to confer such designations.

 

And here lies part of the problem: the perpetually deteriorating humanitarian and developmental conditions that have come to define the ‘Gaza ghetto’ continually frame their subject matter as an object of international humanitarian appeal, or as a festering security dilemma.

 

It is this dual approach that bears much of the blame for Gaza’s tortured predicament, because the ‘problem of Gaza’ is ultimately a political problem. And it has been the deliberate attempt on behalf of these actors to avoid or suppress the political nature of Gaza that has led to its persistent worsening situation.

What after all is ‘the Gaza Strip’? The territory has no natural precedent, and can only be understood as a rump territory created in the wake of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine’s southern and coastal plains during the creation of the state of Israel.

 

Gaza’s concentration of historical and political injustices is too long to document in 400 words. The resulting ‘open air prison’ the territory has become is a scourge on the conscious of humanity.

 

Absented in the statistics documenting Gaza’s travails is the untold story of how this ugly brother of the West Bank consistently generated the Palestinian movement’s political vanguard, organising for refugee return, statehood and national liberation. While today this movement is led by Islamo-nationalists (Hamas), years ago this mantle fell to communists, Nasserists, Left nationalists (PFLP), and secular nationalists (Fateh).

 

The myth that this predicament can continue ad infinitum, solved through ‘technological fixes’, aid and yet more sophisticated military means – from drones and remote controlled machine guns, to underground walls, is precisely that – a myth.

 

Eventually Palestinians and their allies will develop means to more effectively counter their predicament, be this violently or nonviolently.

 

The question then becomes how much blood is to be shed before then, and perhaps more importantly, what history will write about those who perpetuated this bloodshed, by design or by default.

 

Atef Alshaer

 

Lecturer in Arabic Studies at the University of Westminster. He has written several research papers and monographs, including Poetry and Politics in the Modern Arab World(Hurst, 2016); Language and National Identity in Palestine: Representations of Power and Resistance in Gaza(IB Taurus, 2018); the co-authored The Hezbollah Phenomenon: Politics and Communication, with Dina Matar and Lina Khatib (Hurst, 2014); and an edited volume, Love and Poetry in the Middle East(Hurst, 2018).

 

Known as the biggest open air prison, Gaza’s future lies in it being totally liberated. Besieged and battered by three devastating wars and constant attacks by Israel, ruled by Hamas without any regimes nearby to cooperate with its partisan rule, Gaza is left to fend for itself in the face of a world that seems content to look at it as an abyss, the ultimate brainchild of Israel and its ideology of racist Zionism, with its irrational and irresponsible American patronage.

 

Much has been written about Gaza, but little has been done to alleviate its suffering, that of two million people trapped for more than a decade in 365 square kilometres. It is crowded as well as poverty-stricken, and lacking in opportunities for its vibrant and often educated youth. It is depleted of humane prospects for the future, yet Gazans continue to resist and innovate in their resistance; and the latest manifestation of this is the Great March for Return, held to commemorate the 70thanniversary of the Palestinian Nakba, the dispossession from historic Palestine.

 

The past of Gaza has been tragedy and resistance and so is its present and so will be its future. The only meaningful future for Gaza is for it to be reunited with historic Palestine within a one democratic state solution, where every citizen from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea has equal political and human rights. Short of that, Gaza will remain deadlocked between uncaring Egypt on the one hand and deadly Israel on the other. Alas, it will continue to be without an open border to connect it to the outside world, and without viable infrastructure reinforced with fair political solutions that address the root cause of its wretched state. This is anchored in the liberation of the whole of Palestine from the Israeli occupation and its entrenched mind-set of apartheid.

I

t is utterly sad that Gaza lacks a future that befits its extraordinarily warm and movingly steadfast people, notwithstanding the pain. Gaza was once part of the fabric of the Mediterranean world. Wrenched from its natural bosom, Gaza will most unfortunately remain a suffering shadow of its former prosperous self.

 

Helga Tawil-Souri

 

Associate Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University where she is also the Director of the Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies. She co-edited Gaza as Metaphorwith Dina Matar (Hurst, 2016), and teaches and writes on technology, media, territory and politics in the Middle East, with a focus on Palestine-Israel.

 

That the question of a future of Gaza separate from Palestine makes sense already foretells a destination. Gaza has been severed: from Palestine, and from the world; while that world either supports Israel’s leading role in Gaza’s undoing, or, at best, throws up its arms in despair or in disregard, and lets Gaza sink into an abyss.

 

There is no doubt – looking at the past five, then, twenty, fifty, seventy years – that Gaza gets progressively worse. Based on that calculation, the future is grim: dispossession, destitution, misery, abjection; more of the past seven decades, for a growing population whose age is younger, who has never known anything outside of the man-made disaster called Gaza.

 

In the immediate future, Israel is hell-bent on making Gazans disappear… How, I’m not sure. The coming years and decades are too painful for me to ponder.

So my thoughts move along the measure of centuries instead. I think of the Maya (or the Mycenaeans): disappeared civilisations about whom we rely mostly on archaeologists to reconstruct an understanding, while we treat their ruins as playgrounds on which to take holidays along pretty seasides. Gaza might become a tourist destination with beautiful beaches in three or four-hundred years. But unlike with the fate of the Maya, or the Mycenaeans, our task today is to document – so that centuries from now, Gaza’s fate is not sealed as yet another disappeared culture.

 

There should be records, notes, reports; recipes, stories, biographies, pictures. Accounts and illustrations about life with constant military machines flying overhead and life forcefully severed from outside contact except virtually. Recordings, compilations, archives of sub-local dialects, idioms, performances, prayers, songs, architectural details, engravings, memories (of those who remember ten, twenty, seventy years ago). Details of weddings and burials and surgeries performed in the dark and the din of generators; figures, measurements and reports of babies orphaned, footsteps taken, high school graduation ceremonies held, regardless of physical and psychological scars wreaked.

 

Centuries from now, the disappearance of Gaza will be a permanent stain on humanity’s conscience, a moment of failure when society allowed a mighty victim to do away with a group of individuals because of the circumstances they were born in. There will be records that this disappearance wasn’t a miracle, a freak series of natural causes (as what presumably befell the Maya), or an inexplicable migration of millions of people. No, in Gaza, it was a protracted, painful, relentless sociocide, and the world clapped along or shed a tear, but not more. And we would have the records.

 

 

Hagar Kotef

 

Senior Lecturer in Political Theory and Comparative Politics at SOAS, University of London. Her book Movement and the Ordering of Freedom (Duke University Press, 2015) examines the roles of mobility and immobility in the history of political thought and the structuring of political spaces.

 

’m writing these words as the future of Gaza seems to oscillate, once again, between a bright (?) economic future promised by the new American peace-enterprise, and yet another round of the ongoing ‘cycles of fighting’, as they are officially termed. In recent days, we have seen increasing attacks on ‘Hamas’ infrastructures’ (which in Gaza often means simply ‘infrastructure’), retaliations on Hamas’ part, and an inflated rhetoric that we know too well from previous rounds. (Is there a future for a place that seems to be situated within a cyclical temporality?)

 

Trying to predict the future would therefore be foolish, but I am also not sure I want to use this question as an opportunity to imagine. As a Jewish Israeli, this is not my imagination to unfold, not my space to occupy.

 

The point of departure should therefore be the imagination of people in Gaza, and the recent demonstrations at Israel’s buffer zone provide an opportunity to listen. Those demonstrations entailed a demand for a future: a demand to be set free of the siege that has lasted (depending how and what one counts) at least 11 years, but also, through the name ‘the Great March of Return’, a demand to change the terms through which this freedom is understood.

It is not just a demand for basic human conditions: electricity for more than four hours a day, drinking water (96% of the water in Gaza is not drinkable), the right to fish, to work, to reconstruct demolished homes, the right to move, to see family members, to receive education, medical treatment; it is also a demand for a political language, a space, where the people of Gaza have a place not just as humanitarian subjects but as political actors. This demand, I believe, calls us to question initiatives such as the new American enterprise, but also to reflect on the terms of the question itself. As a question about the future of Gaza it undermines, I believe, precisely this latter – political – call for a future.

 

The future of Gaza should be integral to the future of Palestine, and any effort to separate the two questions already surrenders itself to the terms Israel has worked so hard to construct. Since 1967, and increasingly after the disengagement of 2005, and then the rise of Hamas and the division of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 2007, Israel has been doing everything within its capacity – politically and militarily – to separate the future of Gaza from the future of the West Bank.

 

The recent attacks of the PA on demonstrators supporting Gaza show that the PA itself has accepted this division (if only as a tool to re-gain control over Gaza). The American enterprise seems to already take the isolation of Gaza almost for granted. When we ask about the future of Gazawe have already given up the question of the future of Palestine or have excluded Gazans from this question. We need to ask a different question then, or ask the question differently.

 

Joel Beinin

 

Donald J McLachlan Professor of History and Professor of Middle East History at Stanford University. From 2006 to 2008 he served as Director of Middle East Studies and Professor of History at the American University in Cairo. In 2002 he served as president of the Middle East Studies Association of North America. He has written or edited eleven books, most recently, Workers and Thieves: Labor Movements and Popular Uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt (Stanford University Press, 2016).

 

The Palestinian Great March of Return exposed both the diplomatic impasse over Israel/Palestine and the emergence of a new political alignment in the Middle East. The campaign, which began on March 30, was initiated by politically unaligned young men and women of the Gaza Strip as a protest against their miserable futures. They did so independently of both Hamas and Fatah, which have become increasingly corrupt while failing to improve their lives or to advance Palestinian political and human rights. Demonstrators demanded that the decade-long siege by Israel and Egypt be lifted and called for the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes – highlighting the origins of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, rather than its post-1967 consequences.

 

On May 14, as President Donald Trump’s coterie of hardline Zionist funders and supporters, represented by Sheldon Adelson and anti-Semitic evangelical Protestant preachers John Hagee and Robert Jeffress, celebrated the inauguration of the future US Embassy in Jerusalem, Israeli forces shot dead over 60 Palestinians and injured over 2000. Beyond verbal denunciations, the only practical response by any Arab state was Egypt opening its border with the Gaza Strip for the month of Ramadan, allowing a limited number of Palestinians to exit. The reason for the measured response of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt is that they have been forging an alliance with Israel directed against Iran.

While several secret meetings between Israelis and Emiratishave been reported, Saudi Arabia is reluctant to openly acknowledge its alignment with Israel. Israel is pursuing a more public relationship. Before Saudi Arabia and Russia kicked off in the opening game of World Cup 2018, the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s official Arabic Twitter account wished Saudi Arabia ‘best of luck!

 

By withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, President Trump signalled willingness to follow Israel’s lead in pursuing realignment of the Middle East around an anti-Iranian front. Palestinians may become collateral damage of this agenda, first and foremost the 1.9 million residents of the Gaza Strip, which may become ‘unliveable’ by 2020 according to a UN report. However, the Saudis and Emiratis, who have recently bailed out Egypt to the tune of $8 billion, could easily become the lead funders for the rehabilitation of Gaza if they became convinced that their anti-Iranian project requires it.

 

Magid Shihade

 

Assistant professor of International Studies at Birzeit University. His book, Not Just a Soccer Game: Colonialism and Conflict among Palestinians in Israelwas published in 2011 by Syracuse University Press. His recent articles include: ‘Global Israel: Settler Colonialism, Ruptures and Connection’, Borderlands, 2015, and ‘Education and Decolonization: On Not Reading Ibn Khaldun in Palestine’, Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education, & Society, 2017.

 

In thinking about the future of Gaza, one has to consider the history of modern Palestine, and the founding of the Israeli settler colonial state in 1948, which has led to a process of elimination of the native Palestinian society, through displacement, separation, maiming, encampment, caging and killing.

 

The Israeli state is a racialised and racist state which affects not only the native Palestinians but also Jews of non-western origin, and migrants from Africa and Asia. Since its founding it has been engaged in violence against the native Palestinian population, and peoples in neighbouring states. It has also been engaged in wars, arms exports and support for criminal regimes, creating havoc around the world. Like all settler colonial states, its impact can be seen locally, but more than other cases it has been a global issue from the start.

 

Thus, while the Israeli state must be seen as a European settler colony (like the US and others), its specific features must be considered. Its uniqueness lies in its claims to represent world Jewry – implicating Jews wherever they live, forcing them to take a stand either as supporters of Zionism, or as detractors of a racist ideology and state – as well as in its self-image as the West’s front against Asia and Africa. But it is also unique because it has created millions of Palestinian refugees since 1948, who live in many countries and have gained the support of the local populations. And, by being part of the western global exportation of arms and violence, it has created mass opposition around the world.

 

In short, the Israeli state and its policies towards Gaza and Palestine must be seen in their global context, and in their connection to the rise and dominance of racist western capitalist, colonial, and imperialist policies. They are part of a larger structure that has been at war against the most vulnerable at home and abroad, those who are considered ‘Other’ or disposable, and against nature and its limited resources.

 

So, the future of Gaza-Palestine is part of the future of the world. It is the future of surviving the current conditions, created by the many who have been negatively affected by them, and needs a global framework. In thinking about the possibility of a better future, one is reminded of the concept of asabiyya(social solidarity) defined by the 14-15th century scholar Ibn Khaldun. In his analysis of how societies manage to survive, Ibn Khaldun argued that some form of common feeling is needed among the members of a group. And this cooperation between people is not just an ethical issue, but a practical one.

 

Taking that concept to a global scale, one can imagine the majority of people having in common a respect for human lives, human dignity, equality, fair pay for labour, quality of life, the right to mobility, and a world where natural resources and the environment are respected, without which we cannot survive. For Gaza-Palestine to have a better future, we are responsible for working to create a different and a better world for much of its population.

 

Ran Greenstein

 

Associate professor of sociology at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Among his publications are Zionism and its Discontents: A Century of Radical Dissent in Israel/Palestine(Pluto, 2014), and Identity, Nationalism, and Race: Anti-colonial Resistance in South Africa and Israel/Palestine(forthcoming).

 

For the last 70 years Gaza has been stranded between Israel and Egypt in a state of limbo. Not wanted but not given up; dominated but not subordinated; always controlled from the outside but left to its own devices from the inside; separated from the rest of Palestine but linked to it; incorporated into the system of domination but not integrated socially and politically.

 

Does its future have to look the same as its past and present?

 

To avoid that, it needs to reverse course, to become re-integrated with the rest of Palestine, to overcome the image of the bogeyman it has acquired in Israeli eyes.

 

Why has Gaza been such a problem for its neighbours? It epitomises the Palestinian situation; most of its population are refugees who regard pre-1948 Palestine as their true home after generations of life in exile. Yet, unlike other refugees, its people live within the boundaries of historical Palestine, a few miles away from their ancestral land. For three decades they could hop on a taxi and in an hour find themselves in Ashkelon or Jaffa, able to see the sights and work but not spend the night there, let alone return on a permanent basis. For the last two decades even this symbolic relief has been blocked, increasing the sense of isolation and desperation.

What can be done to change the future? First, Gaza must cease being a bone of contention between rival forces. The PA must stop punishing its people for making the ‘wrong’ electoral choice; Hamas must stop using it as an alternative political centre. Both sacrifice the interests of the people for the sake of power. This is replicated on the broader scene, with regional forces using diplomacy and money to play one faction against another. Internal Palestinian unity is essential for a move forward.

 

Reaching out to Israeli constituencies is another necessary step. Gaza’s only viable future is with the rest of Palestine and that means Israelis are essential to the picture. They must be seen as part of the solution not only part of the problem. A strategy that gathers progressive forces on a platform of individual and collective equality, redress and justice for all, is needed. Only through political dialogues among all population segments can a common solution be developed, aided by global solidarity that is guided by local actors.

 

Richard Hardigan

 

University professor based in California. He is author of The Other Side of the Wall(Cune, 2018). His website is richardhardigan.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @RichardHardigan.

 

The quality of life in the Gaza Strip is appalling. According to a 2017 studyby the Israeli NGO B’Tselem, the unemployment rate hovers at 44% (61.9% for those under the age of 29). 80% of Gazans depend on humanitarian aid, while 60% suffer from food insecurity. 96.2% of the Strip’s water is contaminated and undrinkable. Electricity is cut for all but a few hours every day. Raw sewage is pumped into the sea. And the situation is only worsening. A reportissued by the United Nations in 2015 predicted that the Gaza Strip will be uninhabitable by 2020.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has calledthe situation in Gaza ‘one of the most dramatic humanitarian crises that [he has] seen in many years working as a humanitarian in the United Nations.’

 

The crisis in Gaza is entirely man-made. It is a result of the Israeli blockade of the enclave, which began in 2007 after Hamas’ election victory that followed Israel’s unilateral withdrawal in 2005. Israel insists the purpose of its blockade is to diminish Hamas’ capacity to maintain or increase its weapons arsenal, but a quick scan of the items it bans – which includes such goods as chocolate and potato chips – reveals the mendacity of its claim. In fact, a US diplomatic cable quotedIsraeli officials as saying they wanted to ‘keep Gaza’s economy on the brink of collapse.’

 

Since the imposition of the blockade Israel has also engaged in three major assaults on Gaza, the consequences of which were devastating. Thousands of Palestinians – most of them non-combatants – died; tens of thousands of homes were destroyed or badly damaged; schools, hospitals, factories, farms, mosques, and infrastructure such as power and water plants were hit.

 

Israel’s policy vis-à-vis the Gaza Strip is to raise the level of suffering of the civilian population to such an extent that it will have no choice but to overthrow the Hamas government. But this is a serious miscalculation. Over the last decade Israel’s harsh measures have given Hamas the opportunity to cement its stranglehold on power. Only by easing its restrictions on the embattled enclave and allowing for its reconstruction can it hope to create an environment in which an extreme political movement such as Hamas cannot thrive. If Israel continues on its current path, the civilian population will eventually reach its breaking point. And when it does, the Gaza Strip is going to explode in a paroxysm of violence, the consequences of which will be devastating not only for the Palestinians, but for Israel, as well.

Salman Abu Sitta

 

A writer and activist on Palestinian refugees and the Right of Return. He has authored over 300 papers and articles and five books including the encyclopaedic Atlas of Palestine 1948and the expanded Atlas of Palestine 1917- 1966published in 2010. He is founder and president of the Palestine Land Society, UK, for the purpose of documenting the land and people of Palestine. The society website has a wealth of information at www.plands.org.

 

Gaza is the symbol of Palestine. Gaza is the part of Palestine which never willingly raised a flag other than that of Palestine. Gaza represents the conscience of the Palestinian people, which can express itself freely (most of the time), unlike in other regions in Palestine, under Israeli rule.

 

Gaza is not only the symbol but the centre of resistance to the occupation of a homeland.  In Gaza, the first commando operations to liberate occupied Palestine started in 1950. In Gaza, demonstrations against settling Palestinians in Sinai in 1954 and 1955 were met with killings and jail sentences. The cry of the people in the streets was ‘we want to return home, not further exile.’

 

In Gaza, the first popular movements to liberate occupied Palestine started just after al-Nakba. Fatah, Arab Nationalists, Muslim Brothers and Communists each vied to find the best strategy to liberate Palestine throughout most of the 1950s.

In Gaza, the first democratically elected Palestine Legislative Council was formed in 1961. From Gaza, the first Palestinian delegation travelled to New York in 1962 to address the UN on behalf of the Palestinian people. All previous representations at the UN had been made by Arab League members.

 

Why is Gaza Strip the most crowded place on Earth?

During the British Mandate on Palestine (1920- 1948), Britain, in contravention of its obligations to bring independence to Palestine, allowed European Jewish settlers to come to Palestine. During this period, the settlers, with British collusion, managed to control only 6% of Palestine. Armed and trained by the British, these Zionist settlers (later called Israelis) depopulated 675 Palestinian towns and villages and occupied by military force 80% of Palestine in 1948/49, after the unceremonious British departure.

Nowhere are the effects more striking than in southern Palestine. The southern half (50%) of Palestine was totally ethnically cleansed by the Israelis and the inhabitants of 247 villages have been pushed into 1.3% of the territory. That is the Gaza Strip. They now live in 8 refugee camps at a density of 7000 people/km2.

 

They literally see their land and homes across the barbed wire. Their land is still empty; the settlers’ density is only 7 people/km2.

The longest standing resolution in UN history since 1948, UNGA resolution 194, calls for the return of the refugees to their homes.

 

Three generations of refugees, as the youngest eloquently demonstrated in April and May 2018, insist on their Right of Return. There can never be any peace in the region without the right of 7 million Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, now occupied by 2% of Israelis.

 

The future of the whole region resides in Palestine. And the future of Palestine resides in Gaza. And the future of Gaza is in the Right of Return. And that calls for justice, well over due.

                 

 

 

Reflections on the June 24th Turkish Elections

27 Jun

Reflections on the June 24th Turkish Elections

 

[Prefatory Note: The following comments on the Turkish election results are written in response to requests from friends and media sources. I am sensitive to the inappropriate hubrisof Americans traveling the world to impart their views on how other societies should be managed and governed. Such postures of criticism and praise is particularly suspect in this time of Trump where a pre-fascist leadership in the United States pursues policies at home and abroad destructive of elemental rights of its citizens and residents as well adopts as an entirely reckless policy agenda that imperils the ethical, ecological, and economic future of not only the country but the world. It is arguable that we Americans should stay at home and devote our energies to fighting on national territory for a better tomorrow. I offer these comments as someone who has come to regard Turkey as a second home, not quite with an expatriate gaze, but as an engaged partial annual resident over a period of almost 25 years dedicated to a benevolent future for Turkey and its most hospitable and lovable people, of course, with the exception of Turks maneuvering their vehicle in traffic!!]

 

In the days before the Turkish elections there were evident clashing fears and hopes mixed with predictions that mirrored these passions, and anticipated some kind of upset of the Erdoğan game plan for the future of the country. The long simmering intense hostility to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan seemed to have finally found its political voice in the person of a former high school physics teacher, Muharram Ince, the CHP candidate with his own gift of inspirational political oratory that created a feverish enthusiasm at his pre-election rallies, and there were reasons to believe and hope that Turskish citizenry was ready for a change after 16 years of AKP governance.

 

The Turkish economy was believed to be in terrible shape as signaled by the international fall of the lira, the pre-election spike in the cost of staple foods, high unemployment, and a dangerous shortfall in foreign capital needed to neutralize the effects of balance of payments deficits. Beyond this there seemed to be present prevalent a kind of political fatigue, a feeling even among former supporters that this controversial leader had held the reins of power far too long for the good of the country, that he badly damaged the international reputations of Turkey by over-reacting to the failed coup of 2016, that he was weakening the secular ethos of the Ataturk legacy while shifting power, influence, and wealth to emergent business elites spread around Anatolia, that he was inflicting an expensive gigantism on the country in the form of a presidential palace, world’s largest airport, proposed Istanbul Canal, giant mosques, a third bridge over the Bosphorus, a generalized urban blight, and that his military campaigns in Syria and Iraq were responsible for a dangerous nationalist fervor as well as rejecting legitimate Kurdish grievances and aspirations, as well as helping to explain the massive refugee infliux of recent years.

 

To evaluate this intensely negative portrayal of Turkey as it has played out in Europe and North America it is essential to take account of the concerted and powerful anti-Turkish international campaign that depicts Turkey as in the grip of evil political forces that made it the most illiberal of democracies led by a brutal and unscrupulous autocrat, making it a totally unsuitable and unreliable NATO ally that even dares to flaunt U.S. alliance leadership. This campaign, not ever acknowledged as such, brought together the Fetullah Gũlen network, anti-AKP think tank Kemalists spread around the West, secular leftists united with militant Kurdish activism, an Armenian movement seeking validation from the present Turkish government for its genocidal victimization of over a century ago, and influential Zionist elements disseminating to its influential supporters a steady stream of anti-Turkish propaganda as evident in the material on the websites of such well-funded U.S. NGOs as the Middle East Forum and Gatestone Institute.

 

This anti-Turkish campaign has been effective in (mis)shaping the outlook of international public opinion and of the liberal governments of the West.  It expressed itself most dramatically when adopting a wait and see approach to the failed coup in 2016, exhibiting a thinly disguised wish in the West for regime change in Ankara that disturbed many knowledgeable people in Turkey, including those in the political opposition.  It also continues to give the most negative interpretation to the Turkish response this violent challenge, even ignoring the evidence by discounting the attribution of responsibility to the Fetullah Gũlen movement, by referring to its as only ‘alleged.’ More seriously, while unreservedly condemning the post-coup roundup of Turks, including many journalists and academics, it never mentions the degree to which the Fetuallah Gũlen movement operates by stealth, and had for years deeply penetrated all public institutions of Turkish society with its devoted cultic followers, including the military, security, and intelligence sectors. These realities in Turkey are usually conceded by even the most ardent of Erdoğan’s domestic adversaries, but are never mentioned in the international discourse, even in such venerable organs of opinion in the West as the New York Times, The Economist, and BBC.

 

I share the critical view that the Turkish government used the pretext of security to go after a variety of enemies that had little or nothing to do with the coup attempt, but I also recognize that almost any government would respond strongly, and even rationally, if faced with a penetrating adversary that operates secretly and showed its willingness to stage a bloody coup to seize power. I am old enough to remember the Cold War atmosphere in 1950s United States that obsessed about the alleged Communist tendency ‘to bore from within,’ leading to McCarthyism, a far reaching witch hunt that discredited and severely harmed many innocent and decent persons. I can only imagine the kind of protective measures that the U.S. Government would have taken in that period if the Communist movement had indeed tried to take over state power by recourse to a violent coup scenario, especially if perceived as working in tandem with the Soviet government. This refusal of international observers to contextualize the security challenges facing post-coup Turkey is an unmistakable display of an intense anti-Erdoğan bias that distorts perceptions and exaggerates criticisms.

 

It is in this highly charged atmosphere that the people I know best in Turkey by and large approached yesterday’s elections. There was a mood among the opponents of Erdoğan that his game was about to come to a welcomed end, and this had come to include some highly regarded early high profile advisors and officials who had earlier worked on behalf of the AKP, and its charismatic leader. This mood translated into a consensus prediction that the alliance of parties would get enough votes to prevent Erdoğan from receiving the 50%+ votes he needed on June 24thto receive the mandate to become the president charged with managing the constitutional shift from a parliamentary system to what Erdoğan himself was calling ‘an executive presidency.’ This rejection by more than half of Turkish voters would have meant a second round of voting between Erdoğan and whoever came in second, presumably Ince, to determine who would be the next president of Turkey. The expectation was that if Erdoğan didn’t win a majority in the first round, then he provided a fairly easy target in the runoff election as the opposition parties had agreed in advance to unite if such an eventuality came to pass. =If this had happened, the parliamentary system would have been retained, and the executive presidency never come into being.

 

The second fervent hope of the opposition was that the AKP would go down with their master, undoubtedly winning more seats than any other party, but still falling short of what would be needed to exercise majority control in the Turkish Parliament. It was anticipated that this outcome would be desirable even if Erdoğan was elected as president as it would greatly diminish his capacity to dictate legislative outcomes to Parliament. The more respected public opinion polls also gave credence to these expectations, although there was disagreement about whether Erdoğan might squeak by in the presidential vote, there was a fairly high level of agreement that the AKP, despite its alliance with the far-right MHP, would still not have a governing majority, and hence would be unable to get its way on key issues, including the constitutional revision.

 

The first question the morning after is what went wrong with these expectations. My first attempt at an answer harkens back to my presence in Cairo shortly after the fall of Mubarak in early 2011. For various reasons I had wide contact with a range of influential persons in Cairo almost all of whom were affiliated with the secularized upper middle class. These folks, while offering a variety of analyses of the Egyptian political scene, shared a hope that in the post-Mubarak circumstance an inclusive democracy would be possible and desirable, and this was mainly understood to mean at the time the willing inclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood as a minority presence in the Egyptian Parliament. It was also coupled with the expectation of electing one of their own, Amr Moussa, former Foreign Minister and Secretary General of the Arab League, as the next president when elections were scheduled to occur in 2012. Egypt had a runoff arrangement similar to the one in Turkey, but Moussa never made it to the second round, having won only 12% of the vote, and the Muslim Brotherhood shocked the secular elites by achieving a political majority, initiating a sequence of events that pushed the country back to authoritarianism in a harsher form than what was experienced for 30 years under Mubarak. It confirmed for me the political myopia that often misleads modernized elites living in a dominant city in their country to believe that the future will unfold as they and their friends hope. I have dubbed this tendency ‘the Cairo Syndrome,’ and although less pronounced in these 2018 Turkish elections than it had been in Egypt, it certainly played its part in aligning advance expectations with wishes. In case my assessment is read as exhibiting Orientalist sympathies I can report the same phenomenon as operative in the U.S, just prior to the 2016 presidential elections when Trump’s victory surprised and brought intense grief to almost all the people in my social circle, as well as shame to the national pundits who earn their living by predicting political outcomes often relying on abstruse algorithms to wow the public, and then shamelessly, without admitting their mistaken assessment, pronouncing after the fact why what happened was bound to happen.

 

The more illuminating concern is why with all that seemed to work against Erdoğan he not only won but ran more than 12 percentage points ahead of the AKP, suggesting the persistence of his personal popularity as compared with the weakening of support for his political party. In fact, Erdoğan did not lose any individual support if this election is compared to the prior 12 elections where he had also always prevailed to varying degrees. Part of the explanation is the depth and passion of his base among the poor and pious, and those resident in the non-Kurdish parts of Eastern Turkey or in the interior of the country. The only places where Erdoğan   and the AKP finished second was along the Western coastal fringe of the country, with its lead city of Izmir. Despite the inspirational nationalism and modernizing agenda of Ataturk, and his still robust legacy (his picture is still by far the most imposing and common presence in offices, public buildings, and middle class homes), Turkey was and remains culturally very rooted in Islamic cultural and religious traditions in ways that give Erdoğan an authentic aura that transcends the whys and wherefores of political debate.

 

And then there is the phenomenon of national pride, just as Erdoğan stood up so triumphantly against those who staged the coup, he has stood tall against the world, including the United States and Europe. He has brought much progress in the social and economic spheres to the poor and materially disadvantaged, and helped give Turkey a strong regional and global role that it had never achieved previously in the republican era when its leaders seemed content with their role as a passive junior partner of the West, and in recent decades of the NATO configuration. In a turbulent region and world, Turkey has made some substantial contributions that are rarely mentioned: the civilianization of governance overcoming a deeply embedded military tutelage emanating from the Ataturk approach; an extraordinary refugee policy that has settled 4 million Syrians and Iraqis fleeing their countries (far more than all of Europe combined, which has regressively responded to its much smaller numbers); humanitarian missions to Somalia, Rohingya, and elsewhere that have brought needed world attention to distressed and victimized people otherwise neglected; a high ranking among countries with respect to per capita expenditures for humanitarian assistance; a serious challenge to the geopolitical manipulation of the UN under the slogan ‘the world is greater than five.’

 

On balance are the election results good for Turkey? It is not an easy question to answer, and a meaningful appraisal must await indications of how the newly constituted presidential system operates and whether the economic challenges can be effectively addressed. It is not encouraging that governing and legislating seem dependent on agreement with the MHP, an ultra-nationalist political formation, hostile to Kurdish aspirations, and militaristic. Also, Turkey faces an array of difficult internal and international problems, especially serious inflation and a weakened international currency, dependency on agricultural imports. These promblems seem to have no short-term fix, and would likely magnify societal tensions if an IMF or EU type of austerity regime were to be instituted. Alternative electoral outcomes would not have generated quick solutions, except the anti-Turkish international campaign might have celebrated and solidified results more to its liking  by pouring capital into the country to meet the deficit, to build confidence in a new compliant political order, and to fight inflation and capital flight, which might have quickly produced a stronger lira.

 

What Turkey does have now, which it has badly needed during the prior AKP years is Muharram Ince, a forceful leader of the CHP opposition who by his showing in the election, running seven points ahead of his party, can create an atmosphere more conducive to the sort of political debate and policy friction that makes constitutional democracy perform at its best. Ince also relies on populist and colorful rhetorical language that matches Erdoğan’s own crowd mobilizing style that may have the effect of creating more democratically oriented negotiations and collaborative solutions within government, especially with respect to the Parliamentary role, in response to national policy challenges.

 

In this world of ‘elected dictators’ let us not demean the impressive democratic achievement of these Turkish elections that belie the irresponsible mutterings of those most disappointed who irresponsibly contend that the outcome was rigged. Surely, a political personality as accomplished as Erdoğan, if exercising the sort of dictatorial powers that his detractors claim, could have done a better job if these accusations were grounded in fact—rigged elections can be usually identified by huge margins of victory, by excluding unwanted parties from qualifying for participation, and by giving the leader the kind of control in the legislative branch that would smooth the work of rulership. The Turkish elections delivered none of the results that are associated with dictatorial rule and the pollinng places were internationally observed—the margin of Erdoğan‘s victory was less than 3%, the Kurdish HDP received 11% of the vote allowing it to cross the 10% threshold that not only meant parliamentary participation but denied the AKP its much desired majority, and the AKP ran significantly behind Erdoğan suggesting a pattern of split voting and a lack of the sort of party discipline that is an unmistakable feature of a true autocracy. Closely contested elections of this sort only occur in societies where proceduraldemocracy associated with the primacy of elections is allowed to function even if flawed in various ways , often giving wealthy donors disproportionate and anti-democratic influence. Of course, Erdoğan had the benefits of long-term incumbency, as well as the fruits of his strenuous efforts to tame hostile media, and this unquestionably tilts the process to an uncertain degree, but is a general feature of party-driven politics and is rarely allowed on its own to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the electoral results.

 

Even if these flaws are corrected, or at least mitigated, procedural democracy is not enough, and one hopes that Erdoğan will use his newly acquired powers over judicial and other governmental appointments wisely. More deeply, we can hope that Erdoğan has learned from the Gezi Park experience that a majoritarianapproach to governance breeds intense internal conflict and embittered forms of polarization that interfere with the pursuit of his signature goals such as economic growth, enhanced regional and international stature, and a cultural appreciation of Muslim values and traditions.

 

At this moment, in the immediate afterglow of electoral victory, Erdoğan does seem to be adopting a more inclusive language, speaking of his commitment to the unity of the nation, a theme echoed in the gracious comments of Ince who unconditionally accepted the validity of the electoral results putting an end to mutterings challenging the results, and pleaded only that the elected leadership now take account of the whole Turkish population of 80 million in the conduct of governance, and not only of those supporting the Erdoğan approach.  If Erdoğan wants to start this new phase of Turkish constitutionalism on a positive note he could not do better than extending an olive branch to imprisoned academics, journalists, and human rights activists through the exercise of his power to pardon, especially if coupled a declaration that the state of emergency will not be further renewed, a move already intimated as a post-election initiative although resisted by AKP alliance partner, the MHP.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The U.S. Withdraws (Again) from the UN Human Rights Council

24 Jun

[Prefatory Note:This post is a slightly edited and corrected text of what was published on this blog site a few days. I owe particular thanks to my distinguished collaborator, Virginia Tilley, for pointing out several shortcomings and misleading formulations in the earlier version. Of course, the essence of the indictment of the U.S. rationale for withdrawal stands as before.]

 

The U.S. Withdraws (Again) from the UN Human Rights Council

 

Explicitly focusing on alleged anti-Israel bias the U.S. withdrew from further participation in the UN Human Rights Council until it reforms itself in accord with the liking of the Trump Administration. The only internationally credible basis for criticizing the HRC is its regrettable tendency to put some countries with the worst human rights records in leading roles, creating genuine issues of credibility and hypocrisy. Of course, I would have expected Ambassador Nikki Haley to refrain from such a criticism as it could only embarrass Washington to admit that many of its closest allies in the Middle East, and elsewhere have lamentable human rights records, and, if fairly judged, the U.S. has itself reversed roles since the year 2000, having itself slipping into the category of the most serious human rights offenders.

 

In this regard, the U.S. ‘withdrawal’ could be most constructively viewed as a self-imposed ‘suspension’ for falling short when it comes to the promotion and protection of human rights, absenting itself until it can protect human rights in its own society at a high enough standard as to make it less laughable than when it lectures the world about the human rights failures of others, naturally America’s current list of adversaries. But Haley is not someone intimidated by reality. In her fiery withdrawal speech she has the audacity to say that the first objective of the U.S. is “Improving the quality of Council membership.” She adds, “(w)hen a so-called Human Rights cannot bring itself to address the massive of abuses of Venezuela and Iran..the Council ceases ceaces to be worthy of its name.” Making such an argument, politically charged at best, raises eyebrows of scorn if one takes note of the deafening silence of Washington with respect to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Egypt to mention just three Middle Eastern allies.

 

Undoubtedly, the U.S. was frustrated by its efforts to ‘reform’ the HRC according to its views  of the UN agency should function, and blamed its traditional adversaries, Russia, China, Venezuela, Cuba, along with Egypt, with blocking its initiative. It also must not have welcomed the HRC High Commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, for describing the ‘zero tolerance policy’ of separating children from their immigrant parents at the Mexican border as an ‘unconsciounable’ policy.

 

In evaluating this latest sign of American retreat from its prior role as global leader, there are several considerations that help us understand such a move that situates the United States in the same strange rejectionist corner it now shares with North Korea and Eritrea:

 

            –the fact that the U.S. withdrawal from the HRC occurred immediately after the Israeli border massacre, insulated from Security Council censure and investigation by a U.S. veto, is certainly part of political foreground. This consideration was undoubtedly reinforced by the HRC approval of a fact-finding investigation of Israel’s behavior over prior weeks in responding to the Great Return March border demonstrations met with widespread lethal sniper violence;

 

            –in evaluating the UN connection to Palestine it needs to be recalled that the organized international community has a distinctive responsibility for Palestine that can be traced all the way back to the peace diplomacy after World War I when Britain was given the role of Mandatory, which according to the League of Nations Covenant should be carried out as a ‘sacred trust of civilization.’ This special relationship was extended and deepened when Britain gave up this role after World War II, transferring responsibility for the future of Palestine to the UN. This newly established world organization was given the task of finding a sustainable solution in the face of sharply contested claims between the majority Palestinian population and the Jewish, mainly settler population.

 

This UN role was started beneath and deeply influenced by the long shadow of grief and guilt cast by the Holocaust. The UN, borrowing from the British colonial playbook, proposed a division of Palestine between Jewish and Palestinian political communities, which eventuated in the UN partition plan contained in the 1947 General Assembly Resolution 181. This plan was developed and adopted without the participation of the majority resident population, 70% non-Jewish at the time, and was opposed by the then independent countries in the Arab world. Such a plan seemed oblivious to the evolving anti-colonial mood of the time, failing to take any account of the guiding normative principle of self-determination. The Partition War that followed in 1947 did produce a de facto partition of Palestine more territorially favorable to the Zionist Project than what was proposed, and rejected, in 181. One feature of the original plan was to internationalize the governance of the city of Jerusalem with both peoples given an equal status.

 

This proposed treatment of Jerusalem was never endorsed by Israel, and was formally, if indirectly, repudiated by Tel Aviv after the 1967 War when Israel declared (in violation of international law) that Jerusalem was the eternal capital of the Jewish people never to be divided or internationalized, and Israel has so administered Jerusalem with this intent operationalized in defiance of the UN. What this sketch of the UN connection with Palestine clearly shows is that from the very beginning of Israeli state-building, the role of the international community was direct and the discharge of its responsibilities was not satisfactory in that it proved incapable of protecting Palestinian moral, legal, and political rights. As a result, the majority of Palestinian people have been effectively excluded from their own country and as a people exist in a fragmented ethnic reality that is sustained by Israel’s apartheid regime of control. This series of events constitutes one of the worst geopolitical crimes of the past century. Rather than do too much by way of criticizing the behavior of Israel, the UN has done far too little, not mainly because of a failure of will, but as an expression of the behavioral primacy of geopolitics and naked militarism;

 

            –the revealing stress of Ambassador Haley’s explanation of the U.S. withdrawal from the HRC gives almost total attention to quantitative factors such as the ‘disproportionate’ number of resolutions compared with those given to other human rights offenders, making no attempt whatsoever to refute the substantiveallegations of Israeli wrongdoing. This is not surprising as any attempt to justify Israeli policies and practices toward the Palestinian people would only expose the severity of Israel’s criminality and the acuteness of Palestinian victimization. The U.S. has also long struggled to be rid of so-called Item 7 of the Human Rights Council devoted to human rights violations of Israel associated with the occupation of Palestinian territories, which overlooks the prior main point that the UN is derelict in its failure to produce a just peace for the peoples inhabiting Mandate Palestine, and the least that it can do is maintain a watchful eye.

 

            –withdrawing from international institutional arrangements, especially those positively associated with peace, human rights, and environmental protection has become the hallmark of what be identified as the negative internationalismof the Trump presidency. The most egregious instances, prior to this move with regard to the HRC, involved the repudiation of the Nuclear Program Agreement with Iran (also known as the JCPOA or P5 +1 Agreement) and the Paris Climate Change Agreement. As with these other instances of negative internationalism this departure from the HRC is likely to hurt the U.S. more than the HRC, reinforcing its myopic willingness to do whatever it takes to please Netanyahu and the lead American Zionist donor to the Trump campaign, Sheldon Adelson. Only the provocative announcement of the planned unilateral move of the American Embassy to Jerusalem last December was as explicitly responsive to Israel’s policy agenda as is this rejection of the HRC, both initiatives stand out as being contrary to a fair rendering of American national interests, and hence a show of deference to Israel’s preferences. Despite this unabashed one-sidedness the Trump presidency still puts itself forward as a peacemaker, and promised to produce ‘the deal of the century’ at the proper moment, even enjoying the cynical backing of the notorious Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, who seems to be telling the Palestinians to take what the Trump team offers or forever shut up. Knowing the weakness and shallow ambitions of the Palestinian Authority, there is no telling what further catastrophe, this one of a diplomatic character, may further darken the Palestinian future. A diplomatic nakbamight be the worst disaster of all for the Palestinian people and their century-long struggle for elemental rights.

 

 It should also be emphasized that the U.S. human rights record has been in steady decline, whether the focus is placed on the morally disastrous present policies of separating families at the Mexican border or on the failure to achieve acceptable progress at home in the area of economic and social rights despite American affluence (as documented in the recent report of Philip Alston, UNHRC Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty) or in the various flagrant violations of human rights committed in the course of the War on Terror, including operation of black sites in foreign countries to carry on torture of terror suspects, or denials of the most fundamental tenet of international humanitarian law (Geneva Conventions) in the administration of Guantanamo and other prison facilities;

 

            –it is also worth noting that Israel’s defiance of internatonal law and international institutions is pervasive, severe, and directly related to maintaining an oppressive regime of occupation that is complemented by apartheid structures victimizing the Palestinian people as a whole, including refugees, residents of Jerusalem, the Palestinian minority in Israel, and the imprisoned population of Gaza. Israel repudiated the authority of the International Court of Justice with respect to the ‘separation wall’ that back in 2004 declared by a near unanimous vote of 14-1 (U.S. as the lone dissent) that building the wall on occupied Palestinian territory was unlawful, that the wall should be dismantled, and Palestinians compensated for harm endured. There are many other instances concerning such issues as settlements, collective punishment, excessive force, prison conditions, and a variety of abuses of children.

 

In conclusion, by purporting to punish the Human Rights Council, the Trump presidency, representing the U.S. Government, is much more punishing itself, as well as the peoples of the world. We all benefit from a robust and legitimated institutional framework for the promotion and protection of vital human rights. The claim of an anti-Israeli bias in the HRC, or UN, is bogus diversionary politics. The truer focus would be upon the daily violation of the most basis rights of the Palestinian people. This is the tragic reality that the UN has been unable to overcome. This is all we need to know.

 

22 Jun

The U.S. Withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council

 

Explicitly focusing on alleged anti-Israel bias the U.S. withdrew from further participation in the UN Human Rights Council. The only internationally credible basis for criticizing the HRC is its regrettable tendency to put some countries with the worst human rights records in leading roles, creating genuine issues of credibility and hypocrisy. Of course, such a criticism would never be made by the U.S. as it could only embarrass Washington to admit that many of its closest allies in the Middle East, and elsewhere have lamentable human rights records, and, if fairly judged, the U.S. has itself reversed roles since the year 2000, itself slipping into the category of the most serious human rights offenders. In this regard, its ‘withdrawal’ can be viewed as a self-imposed ‘suspension’ for falling short when it comes to the promotion and protection of human rights.

 

Undoubtedly, the U.S. was frustrated by its efforts to ‘reform’ the HRC according to its views  of the UN agency should function, and blamed its traditional adversaries, Russia, China, Venezuela, Cuba, along with Egypt, with blocking its initiative. It also must not have welcome the HRC High Commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, for describing the separation of children from their immigrant parents at the Mexican border as an ‘unconsciounable’ policy.

 

In evaluating this latest sign of American retreat from its prior role as global leader, there are several considerations that help us understand such a move that situates the United States in the same strange rejectionist corner it now shares with North Korea and Eritrea:

 

            –the fact that the U.S. withdrawal from the HRC occurred immediately after the Israeli border massacre, insulated from Security Council censure and investigation by a U.S. veto, is certainly part of political foreground. This consideration was undoubtedly reinforced by the HRC approval of a fact-finding investigation of Israel’s behavior over prior weeks in responding to the Great Return March border demonstrations met with widespread lethal sniper violence;

 

            –in evaluating the UN connection to Palestine it needs to be recalled that the organized international community has a distinctive responsibility for Palestine that can be traced all the way back to the peace diplomacy after World War I when Britain was given the role of Mandatory, which according to the League of Nations Covenant should be carried out as a ‘sacred trust of civilization.’ This special relationship was extended and deepened when Britain gave up this role after World War II, transferring responsibility for the future of Palestine to the UN. This newly established world organization was given the task of finding a sustainable solution in the face of sharply contested claims between the majority Palestinian population and the Jewish, mainly settler population.

 

This UN role was started beneath and deeply influenced by the long shadow of grief and guilt cast by the Holocaust. The UN, borrowing from the British colonial playbook, proposed a division of Palestine between Jewish and Palestinian political communities, which eventuated in the UN partition plan contained in General Assembly Resolution 181. This plan was developed and adopted without the participation of the majority resident population, 70% non-Jewish at the time, and was opposed by the independent countries in the Arab world. Such a plan seemed oblivious to the evolving anti-colonial mood of the time, failing to take any account of the guiding normative principle of self-determination. The Partition War that followed in 1947 did produce a de factor partition of Palestine more favorable to the Zionist Project than what was proposed, and rejected, in 181. One feature of the original plan was to internationalize the governance of the city of Jerusalem with both peoples given an equal status.

 

This proposed treatment of Jerusalem was never endorsed by Israel, and was formally, if indirectly, repudiated after the 1967 War when Israel declared (in violation of international law) that Jerusalem was the eternal capital of the Jewish people never to be divided or internationalized, and Israel has so administered Jerusalem with this intent operationalized in defiance of the UN. What this sketch of the UN connection with Palestine clearly shows is that from the very beginning of Israeli state-building, the role of the international community was direct and the discharge of its responsibilities was not satisfactory in that it proved incapable of protecting Palestinian moral, legal, and political rights. As a result, the majority of Palestinian people have been effectively excluded from their own country and as a people exist in a fragmented ethnic reality. This series of events constitutes one of the worst geopolitical crimes of the past century. Rather than do too much by way of criticizing the behavior of Israel, the UN has done far too little, not because of a failure of will, but as an expression of the behavioral primacy of geopolitics and naked militarism;

 

            –the revealing stress of Ambassador Haley’s explanation of the U.S. withdrawal from the HRC gives almost total attention to quantitative factors such as the ‘disproportionate’ number of resolutions compared with those given to other human rights offenders, making no attempt whatsoever to refute the substantiveallegations of Israeli wrongdoing. This is not surprising as any attempt to justify Israeli policies and practices toward the Palestinian people would only expose the severity of Israel’s criminality and the acuteness of Palestinian victimization. The U.S. has also long struggled to be rid of so-called Item 7 of the Human Rights Council devoted to human rights violations of Israel associated with the occupation of Palestinian territories, which overlooks the prior main point that the UN is derelict in its failure to produce a just peace for the peoples inhabiting Mandate Palestine.

 

            –withdrawing from international institutional arrangements, especially those positively associated with peace, human rights, and environmental protection has become the hallmark of what be identified as the negative internationalismof the Trump presidency. The most egregious instances, prior to this move with regard to the HRC, involved the repudiation of the Nuclear Program Agreement with Iran (also known as the JCPOA or P5 +1 Agreement) and the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Unlike these other instances of negative internationalism this departure from the HRC is likely to hurt the U.S. more than the HRC, reinforcing its myopic willingness to do whatever it takes to please Netanyahu and the lead American Zionist donor to the Trump campaign, Sheldon Adelson. Only the provocative announcement of the planned unilateral move of the American Embassy to Jerusalem last December was as explicitly responsive to Israel’s policy agenda as is this rejection of the HRC, both initiatives stand out as being contrary to a fair rendering of American national interests, and hence a show of deference to Israel’s preferences. Despite this unabashed one-sidedness the Trump presidency still puts itself forward as a peacemaker, and promised to produce ‘the deal of the century’ at the proper moment, even enjoying the backing of Saudi Arabia, which seems to be telling the Palestinians to take what is offered or shut up forever. Knowing the weakness and shallow ambitions of the Palestinian Authority, there is no telling what further catastrophe, this one of a diplomatic character, may further darken the Palestinian future. A diplomatic nakbamight be the worst disaster of all for the Palestinian people and their century-long struggle for elemental rights.

 

 It should also be observed that the U.S. human rights record has been in steady decline, whether the focus is placed on the morally catastrophic present policies of separating families at the Mexican border or on the failure to achieve acceptable progress at home in the area of economic and social rights despite American affluence (as documented in the recent report of Philip Alston, UNHRC Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty) or in the various violations of human rights committed in the course of the War on Terror, including operation of black sites in foreign countries to carry on torture of terror suspects, or denials of the tenets of international humanitarian law (Geneva Conventions) in the administration of Guantanamo and other prison facilities;

 

            –it is also worth noting that Israel’s defiance of internatonal law and international institutions is pervasive, flagrant, and directly related to maintaining an oppressive regime of occupation that is complemented by apartheid structures victimizing Palestinian refugees, residents of Jerusalem, the Palestinian minority in Israel, and imprisoned population of Gaza. Israel refused the authority of the International Court of Justice with respect to the ‘separation wall’ that back in 2004 declared by a near unanimous vote of 14-1 (U.S. as the lone dissent) that building the wall on occupied Palestinian territory was unlawful, that the wall should be dismantled, and Palestinians compensated for harm endured. There are many other instances concerning such issues as settlements, collective punishment, excessive force, prison conditions, and a variety of abuse of children.

 

In conclusion, by purporting to punish the Human Rights Council, the Trump presidency, representing the U.S. Government, is much more punishing itself, as well as the peoples of the world. We all benefit from a robust and legitimated institutional framework for the promotion and protection of vital human rights. The claim of an anti-Israeli bias in the HRC, or UN, is bogus, the daily violation of the most basis rights of the Palestinian people is a tragic reality. This is all we need to know.

Affirming the Normative Imagination (up to a point!)  

16 Jun

Affirming the Normative Imagination (up to a point!)

 

While struggling with the challenges posed by writing a memoir during the endgame of life, conceptual cleansing seemed essential if I was ever to convey my identity with even a slight feeling of authenticity. The mystery at the core of my personal and public existence is how I came to trust my sense of moral purpose in life enough to act upon it despite shyness, a contemplative nature, and a strong dislike of self-promotion? It would hardly be a mystery if social norms led most people to reflect their sense of moral purpose in their relationships, career, and sense of self. We would say it was an aspect of the human condition, moving on to search for some other defining feature of a lived life. As my form of engagement with moral purpose runs against the current of mainstream opinion I have paid the price of marginalization, although validated by inner convictions and affinities with those who are likeminded.

 

Of course, having a moral purpose should not be confused with claiming moral superiority. The latter depends on a range of qualities associated with dutifulness, integrity, honesty, generosity, kindness, empathy, warmth, and forgiveness among other qualities that relate to living-with-and-amid-others. Moral purpose relates to how we live-in-the-world, with what kind of primary identity, our relations with collective entities (state, family, church) as well as with individuals. There is some overlap, and some areas of tension. We never stop growing inwardly, while the body decays creating false outer impressions.

 

Although my early professional work often involved a focus on international law, I realized while still in law school that law was an instrument rather than an end in itself. It could be used to do good or to uphold evil, to promote or to obstruct justice. To praise international law as an achievement of the West without saying much more about its problematic historical role in the colonial era or its fundamental present alignments with geopolitical interests, is to succumb to the lure of power, wealth, and status.

 

Even before I understood my own political stand in the world I saw that the social domain of the international law profession, both for academics and practitioners, were by and large far too beholden to vested governmental and corporate interests and standard careers to question nationalist or capitalist values on principled grounds. Even as I was myself inducted into such privileged ranks while a young academic, I felt nervous and ambivalent, as if I had crashed a party to which I had been mistakenly invited. This self-doubt was partly due to my early struggles as a student. I experienced adolescence as a mediocre under achiever in the midst of talented over achievers, and even through my college years lacked a coherent sense of moral purpose or even a normal degree of self-confidence. Sports were then and even now remain my most reliable comfort zone.

 

When the Vietnam War came along, it quickly became evident to me that American policy rubbed against the grain of contemporary international law, and that a critical legal discourse was useful in the court of domestic public opinion, but more than this. In this instance, international law was finally on the right side of history throughout the bloody twilight of colonialism and if reasonably respected, international norms might inhibit Cold War warmongers from running wild, oblivious to the dangers of the nuclear age.

 

Yet I also realized that those who clung to arguments about the wrongfulness of the war and were appalled by the way the United States was behaving in Vietnam, held a rose-tinted view of international law as invariably on the side of the angels. Some of these liberals believed that if only governments, especially our government, could be persuaded to uphold the law in all its external facets, the world would be peaceful and grow prosperous. Questions of equity in global settings were pushed to one side, out of sight. For elites the catchphrase was ‘the management of interdependence.’ For idealists, it was ‘world peace through law,’ an ethos that never attracted me and seemed mechanical and naïve because of its apolitical advocacy. I also felt that this legal utopianism had not the slightest prospect of being acted upon given the way the world was organized, and if due to unanticipated developments, it were to be acted upon it would likely end up as a globally centralized tyranny, almost a necessitated outcome, given the gross inequalities of circumstances between the developed and developing worlds, as reinforced by the refusal of the rich and powerful to make sacrifices to help the poor and vulnerable unless pushed to do so by credible revolutionary threats.

 

My early views after finishing law school and during my six teaching years at the Ohio State College of Law (1955-1961) did not depart from the political underpinnings of this legalist consensus as applied to Vietnam. I believed that refighting the war lost by the French, who had lots more at stake in Indochina than the United States ever did, was foolish from a realist interpretation of national interests. My views at that stage were similar to those of such eminent commentators on world events as George Kennan and Hans Morgenthau both of whom came to vigorously oppose the Vietnam War as a serious mistake of American foreign policy.  I knew personally and intellectually admired both of these important intellectual and political figures, and in the late 1960s teamed with Hans to run twice for lead positions in the American Political Science Association on an unabashed anti-war platform. Morgenthau ran the first time as presidential candidate, and the following year we reversed positions on the ballot, but with the same outcome, narrow losses to the official slate that opposed our effort that was claimed would ‘politicize’ the APSA.

 

I also held in these years what I would call ‘a world order’ view that the UN Charter should be respected with regard to peace and security issues as I was alarmed by the prospect of war between the Soviet Union and the United States, and believed that the UN deserved respect even if it was not strong enough, nor was it ever meant to be, to preserve the peace in the face of geopolitical conflict. Granting the veto to the Permanent Members of the Security Council was the clearest possible signal of true character of the UN as a modest undertaking, a perception confused, and somewhat contradicted, by the visionary language of the Preamble to the UN Charter. It was obvious even before the Cold War got going that it would be crazy for the Soviet Union to engage in even limited ways if the UN if the Western majority could control the decision process in the Security Council. The League of Nations had taught the West that it was worthwhile having the Soviet Union participating as a Member of the UN even if it meant weakening the authority or capabilities of the organization with respect to the control of the behavior of its members. Idealists hoped that the wartime alliance would persist in peacetime, while the realists thought and acted as though postwar stability was as dependent as ever on balance of power geopolitics, containment, and deterrence. It was one thing to join forces to defeat Hitler’s Germany. It was quite another to overlook geopolitical rivalries as fueled by competing ambitions, ideas, and fears. Such rivalries quickly surfaced during the peace diplomacy of the victors in World War II, especially exhibiting sharp differences over the postwar future of Europe, particularly Germany.

 

It was in this Cold War period that I became more overtly aware that moral purpose was my transcendent guideline both as a university teacher and as an engaged citizen, which for me was a dual reality that were best realized when merged. In this context, it was also obvious that international law had very little to offer, although it was relevant as a means of opposing colonialist and post-colonialist moves in what was being called the Third World.  My moral purpose became more associated with avoiding war and siding with the vulnerable. I came to believe that the military dimensions of the Cold War were irresponsibly dangerous, caused massive suffering, diverting resources that could be far better spent at home and abroad making lives better. Again international law was morally illuminating and political useful in some contexts of conflict, including opposition to military intervention and support for a level international economic playing field.

 

I came to understand that these larger quests were associated with a recognition that human interests deserved priority over nationalinterests when they clashed. This also meant that the empowerment of peoplewas a more emancipatory force than the consolidation of state power. In this regard, the anti-war movement in the United States, especially after 1965, provided the inspirational basis for my first trip to North Vietnam in 1968. Going to talk with ‘the enemy’ transformed my whole perception of why I opposed the war—it led me to identify with the nationalist struggle of the Vietnamese people against this post-colonial colonial futile and anguished effort that was confused with the imperatives of the Cold War by American leaders drunk with their own intoxicating ideology of freedom, which came to mean the promotion of markets more than the wellbeing of people. Meeting with Vietnamese leaders and witnessing the realities of the people of Vietnam and their struggle led me to view the American war effort as worse than a serious mistakeof judgment, in the manner of Morgenthau and Kennan, and having the character of acriminal enterprise. In retrospect, I appreciate the visionary underscoring of this shift of normative assessment from mistake to crime that was given its most comprehensive rendering in the two sessions of the Bertrand Russell Tribunal, chaired by Jean-Paul Sartre, held in 1967.

 

After I returned from Vietnam in 1968 the media were rather interested in my views on whether Hanoi was ready to make peace, but when I declared my sympathy for the Vietnamese struggle and opposition to relying on modern warfare to devastate a peasant society there was a total absence of interest even on the part of several influential liberal journalists who made no secret of their own opposition to the Vietnam War.  At first, I could not fathom this indifference toward what had been transformative in my experience, but soon I realized that most people did not view issues of war and peace through such a humanistic prism of awareness. Their calculus was winning and losing, and if losing, then cutting losses.

 

This cosmopolitan understanding of what seemed so decisive for me did involve a refusal to pass judgment and reach conclusions on the basis of national patriotism or ethno/religious identity. I think this way of looking contributed to my response to Palestinian victimization. The mere fact of being Jewish seemed more important for most others I knew than for myself, either others praised me for looking beyond my tribal identity or damning me for doing so, the whole false consciousness bound up in the nasty and defamatory accusation of being a self-hating Jew. I have come to understand that I am neither self-hating, nor self-loving. Being a Jew is a hereditary fact of my beingthat has not been very relevant in my becoming, although I am not oblivious to the horrifying tragedy inflicted upon the Jewish people of Europe during the period of Nazi ascendancy, and what my fate, and many of those I loved, would have been had I been caught in that genocidal maelstrom. Yet I never believed that the Zionist escape from the genuine horrors of anti-Semitism should be or needed to be achieved at the expense of another people or that a Jewish homeland in a non-Jewish society was the proper response to the long history of Jewish persecution.

 

Human solidarity took precedence. I am well aware that most others whether consciously or not proceed from a communitarian outlook that privileges the part over the whole. The migration challenge and response exhibits both sides of this reality—the tragic migrant loss and protection of community and the  communitarian rejection of asylum and hospitality via exclusions, deportations, walls. Statelessness, undocumented immigrants are also expressions of statist control over the security of the individual in the modern world. In this regard, there is as yet no practical way to affirm humanidentity because there is neither the institutional foundations nor existential reality of human community. We all remain crucially dependent on the questionable humanity and problem solving capacities of state structures even if we claim to be ‘world citizens.’

 

My own effort over the course of the last twenty years to delineate a new form of engaged citizenship is based on the possible futureemergence of human community, and the commitment to seek that kind of desired reality as a goal without pretending it to be a present reality. I identify such a future-oriented engagement by the label ‘citizen pilgrim,’ the pilgrim being defined as someone on a journey to a desired future. My mature publicsense of moral purpose is associated with thinking, feeling, and acting as a citizen pilgrim to the extent possible, not in a New Age spirit of self-contentment, but in concretecircumstances where the relevance of a shared humanity is given precedence. This helps explain my disposition toward solidarity with the poor, vulnerable, marginalized, and my suspicions toward the rich and powerful.

 

Such a way of acting in the public sphere is undoubtedly reflected in the intimacies of the private sphere, and vice versa, and so affirms the slogan ‘the personal is political,’ and its correlative ‘the political is personal.’ Love of partner, of children, and of friends strengthens the capacity of the citizen pilgrim to live happily in mostly alien worlds, although the separations of these spheres is more a matter of mental disposition than of experience. In this central respect my guiding moral purposeis to love and be loved, which means eroding the public dimensions of moral purpose, a choice I manifest each time I ignore a beggar on the street.

 

Of course, maybe I am making too much of my freedom to be and to choose. Perhaps what I am articulating is a thin gloss over genetic programming, as affected by social and cultural conditioning. If there is one distinctive feature of my deference to moral purpose it is a willingness not to fit in, yet also a prudential set of restraints that make me stop well short of being an outlawor a revolutionary warrior.

 

This little essay is but a sketch drawn to help me address the often questionable enterprise of a memoir, presented as a sort of reflective selfie to invoke an idiom of our age. I would benefit from comments and criticisms, and promise on my part to listen attentively.