Monday, November 23, 2009

On the fifth anniversary of Arafat's death

Are Hamas and Fateh the new "notables of Palestine"?

November 11 was the fifth anniversary of the death/murder of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, Abu Ammar. Much has been written about Abu Ammar. Those who loved him thought of him as a saint, the very symbol of Palestinian nationalism, Mr. Palestine. Those who disliked him/hated him blamed the setbacks of the Palestinian national movement, unfairly but squarely, on him. In the last stage of his life, the George W. Bush administration adopted the Israeli view that Arafat is the problem and that that he should not be "isolated." Arafat, with the Arab and Islamic world watching, was held as a prisoner in his compound. Israel barged into his compound destroying and wrecking havoc to shake his resolve. He remained steadfast as he always liked to say, "ya jabal ma yhizak reeh," a mountain is not shaken by strong winds. To the very end, the symbol of the Palestinian national movement, remained steadfast to the principles of the Palestinian struggle - the right of return, the end of the occupation and an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. He died on November 11 in France. Some say he was assassinated, not a far-fetched possibility given Israeli behavior and American official acquiescence to the terrorism of the "butcher of Sabra and Shatila," as Palestinians have come to know Ariel Sharon.

The Post Arafat Period
Five years ago the post- Arafat Palestinian era began. Those who disliked or hated Arafat expected change and promised it in irrational exuberance. They expected that the Palestinians will be crushed by the death of their leader and will take whatever their regional- power occupier, backed by the world's superpower, throws their way. The Israeli thinking was that a segment of Palestinians who have benefited from the Israeli status quo would have a vested interest in pleasing Israel and would sell their people on whatever Israel gives. Settlements continued. Checkpoints multiplied. The collective punishment of the Palestinians continued. Violations of human rights and international law continued. Israel continued the colonization of East Jerusalem and the oppression and gradual uprooting of its people. Israel unleashed more wars on Palestinians. The criminal siege of Gaza was followed by a war designed to break the will of the Palestinians to fight the Israelis, as the Goldstone Report concluded. After years of all these violations of human and international laws the will of the Palestinian people to be steadfast did not weaken. Israel with all its crimes, a world which watches passively while Israel piles abuse over abuse on the Palestinians and a super power giving Israel a de facto veto power in the Security Council did not shake their determination. Even the world's fixation on Israeli prisoner of war Shalit while ignoring the plight and illegal imprisonment of 11,000 Palestinians by Israel did not move them. The world's behavior and Israel's behavior are things the Palestinians got used to. They were not expecting and did not deserve to see their biggest groups Hamas an Fateh act the way they have been acting.

Hamas and Fateh
Every Palestinian who cares about his people laments the travesty that is going on in Palestine. Hamas takes over Gaza and suppresses Fateh, even disallowing the observation of Arafat's anniversary. Hamas begs Israel to negotiate with it and agree to a "long term truce," uses force against those who want to attack Israel from Gaza, suppresses basic freedoms and focuses on curtailing individual freedoms. Their steps to "liberate Palestine" are checking the IDs of men and women seen in public together and forcing female attorneys to wears an Islamic scarf because some of them allegedly "have been wearing clothes clinging to their bodies, walking into court with sunglasses holding their hair and wearing bright colors that might distract male attorneys." The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank is controlled by Fateh. The U.S. and Israel keep pushing Mr. Abbas and his group for more and more humiliating concessions while Israel is marching on with its settlements and massacring of Palestinians. The Palestinian house is beyond disorder.
Always on the Losing Side of History?
The Palestinians are facing a vicious enemy in the Zionist movement, a movement organized and focused to take over all of historical Palestine and remove its rightful owners and native population, the Palestinians. Justice, international law and human rights organizations are on their side. The setbacks and failures of the Palestinians are mostly the result of forces beyond their control. However, the Palestinians can do a lot to strengthen their position for the ongoing conflict with the Zionist movement. Having trusted leaders and functioning institutions is a must in the struggle. It is time to have new elections in Palestine, choose new leaders, and revitalize Palestinians national institutions. Let history not repeat itself. Let us read and act upon the conclusions of Issa Khalaf. Issa Khalaf in Politics in Palestine: Arab Factionalism and Social disintegration, 1939-1948 writes "[T]o the Palestinian notability of the 1940s, politics was a profession of continual conflict and little compromise. They were able neither to unite nor to organize themselves, much less lead their people. Compromise and cooperation were practically unknown, as each man pursued a disruptively individualistic path and jealously guarded his prerogatives." He adds, "[T]hroughout the mandate, the notables were unable to achieve any significant length of time a united political program or to cooperate in effectively creating local autonomous institutions, that would have served as a basis for governing their people. Despite the fact that they were denied legislative councils, the Palestinians could have developed self-governing institutions at the community level at their own initiative. However, the notability worried that such institutions would mean wider participation ad more democratic participation and therefore a weakened grip."

Are Fateh and Hamas the new notability unwilling to compromise and leading Palestine to more setbacks and failures in the epic confrontation with the Zionist movement?

Major Hasan and the revival of American exclusionary ideals

Fort Hood shooting and the redefining of American identity

The crimes that Major Hasan stands accused of have rocked the nation. A fellow soldier, a doctor, went on a rampage killing his fellow soldiers. It is not unheard of that a soldier would open fire on fellow soldiers. But this is the country which is fighting a "war on terror" and two external wars in Muslim-majority countries. The nationality, religion and religio-political views of the alleged perpetrator became relevant.

In times like this we Arab and Muslim Americans transform from what Professor Amaney Jamal aptly put it, from invisible citizens to visible subjects. Somehow we are seen as responsible or at least able to explain the behavior of one of us gone bad. If a close friend of mine commits a crime, God forbid, I expect that I would be sought to explain. There is no logic to seeking Arabs and Muslim to explain and account for the behavior of one of more than millions of us. Jamal Dajani, senior director and producer of Mosaic News, spoke for all of us when he wrote in the Huffington Post Don't Ask me about Hasan "…different Bay Area reporters, all wanting to know the Muslim community's reaction about the recent heinous killings of Nidal Malik Hasan… Why did he do it? Apparently, I fit the profile of someone who has these answers: I am a Muslim Palestinian American: I must know what one out of the 1.5 billion Muslims around the globe is thinking at any given time. I'm sick and tired of these kinds of questions from media outlets whenever some kooky Muslim decides to commit a random act of violence...or in this case when a GI psychiatrist goes psycho. At the same time, I'm also sick and tired of self-appointed Muslim experts and spokespersons who jump at every miserable opportunity like this one to try to explain Islam."

Muslims in the armed forces as a "Difficult Issue"?
Right- wing nuts had a field day with the story. Pro- Israel fanatics , right- wing Christian nuts and Hindu fanatics took this as a opportunity to attack the Muslim community they hate, a community they would keep hating even if the newspaper had reported that a Muslim American had discovered a cure for cancer and invented a time- travel machine. We expect such from individuals with known agendas. However, what we do not expect is the mainstream media joining that ugly choir. On 11/9/2009 Yochi Dreazen of the Wall Street Journal wrote "Muslim Population in the Military Raises Difficult Issues": "The deadly rampage at Fort Hood is forcing Pentagon officials to confront difficult questions about the military's growing Muslim population. The military has worked hard to recruit more Muslims since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the number of Muslim troops, while still small, has been increasing. There were 3,409 Muslims in the active-duty military as of April 2008, according to Pentagon statistics." The Fort Hood shootings make all our Muslim soldiers are guilty by association and seen as a threat. All the men that have served honorably don't count.

The CAIR roundup of "illiberal ascendancy"
On 11/12/2009 I received an email from CAIR Council on American-Islamic Relations documenting national responses to the Fort Hood Shootings:
'CAIR: U.S. Leaders Should Reject Anti-Muslim Rhetoric Prompted by Fort Hood Shootings
Pat Robertson says American Muslims should be treated as ‘members of some Fascist group’
CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad cited a number of statements by anti-Muslim extremists seeking to exploit the Fort Hood attack to generate hostility to Islam and to marginalize American Muslims.
Tunku Varadarajan, a professor at NYU's Stern Business School suggested that the term “going postal” be changed to “going Muslim.”
Television evangelist Pat Robertson said Muslims should be treated as communists or fascists. Robertson told his “700 Club” audience: "Islam is a violent -- I was going to say religion -- but it's not a religion. It's a political system. It's a violent political system bent on the overthrow of governments of the world and world domination…I think you should treat it as such and treat its adherents as such. As we would members of the Communist party and members of some Fascist group."
Dave Gaubatz, author of a Muslim-bashing book, called for a “backlash” against American Muslims. Gaubatz wrote on a right-wing Web site: “Now is the time for a professional and legal backlash against the Muslim community and their leaders.”
Widely-syndicated conservative columnist Cal Thomas said the Fort Hood shooter’s “preference for Muslim clothing” should have alerted authorities “that he might be a time bomb waiting to go off.”
The American Family Association has called for a ban on Muslims in the military. In an article titled "No More Muslims in the U.S. Military," the group's Director of Issues Analysis Bryan Fischer wrote: “It is time, I suggest, to stop the practice of allowing Muslims to serve in the U.S. military. The reason is simple: the more devout a Muslim is, the more of a threat he is to national security.”
Oklahoma writer Timothy Rollins echoed the call to exclude all Muslims from the military. He wrote: "What [the Fort Hood] attack does is further strengthen the case for the honorable discharge of all Muslims from the United States Armed Forces, regardless of the degree to which they may adhere to their faith."'

American Muslims need to Alter their view of US Citizenship?
It is understandable that the motives of a perpetrator of a crime be studied. Motive is important in a crime. The second reason is learning so polices can be developed to possibly prevent future outbreaks. Fair enough. But it did not stop there. The issue became Muslims in the US and particularly those serving in the armed services. What explains this and other mainstream media doing the same? Is it Islamophobia as CAIR puts it? Is it the "clash of civilizations" or the eternal hatred of the West for islam as Bin Laden, his crew propose It is useful in such time to read or re--read Rogers M. Smith book Civic Ideals: Conflicting Visions of Citizenship in US History. The publisher synopsis of the book is: "Is civic identity in the United States really defined by liberal, democratic political principles? Or is U.S. citizenship the product of multiple traditions - not only liberalism and republicanism but also white supremacy, Anglo-Saxon supremacy, Protestant supremacy, and male supremacy? In this powerful and disturbing book, Rogers Smith traces political struggles over U.S. citizenship laws from the colonial period through the Progressive era and shows that throughout this time, most adults were legally denied access to full citizenship, including political rights, solely because of their race, ethnicity, or gender. Basic conflicts over these denials have driven political development in the U.S., Smith argues. These conflicts are what truly define U.S. civic identity up to this day. Smith concludes that today the United States is in a period of reaction against the egalitarian civic reforms of the last generation, with nativist, racist, and sexist beliefs regaining influence. He suggests ways that proponents of liberal democracy should alter their view of U.S. citizenship in order to combat these developments more effectively."

American Muslims and American Fading Moments of "Liberal Ascendancy"

A review of the book by Michael McCann of U of Washington Smith’s challenge to the "hegemonic liberalism" thesis runs deeper yet. In short, he argues that liberal democratic values have historically been at a decided disadvantage in mobilizing support from constituents. The reason is that liberal values ask much of people --to be rational, industrious, self reliant, and respectful of others-- while offering them little sense of distinctive membership in a larger group. By contrast, ascriptive norms both rationalize inherited patterns of privilege and offer individuals the prospect that, "regardless of their personal achievements and economic status, their inborn characteristics make them part of a special community" that is "distinctively and permanently worthy" (p. 38). Smith acknowledges that liberal commitments have "checked" the appeal of ascriptive doctrines and inspired democratic reform at various historical junctures, most dramatically in the last half of the twentieth century. But such moments of liberal ascendance are generally short-lived and we can see about us today much evidence for the continuing allure of exclusionary ideals.
The response of America to the Fort Hood shootings tells us more about America than about the shooter or out community. The sooner we recognize this the better we will be able to deal with the crisis that we find imposed on us.