By Adam Hanieh

The events of the last weeks are one of those historical moments where the lessons of many decades can be telescoped into a few brief moments and seemingly minor occurrences can take on immense significance. The entry of millions of Egyptians onto the political stage has graphically illuminated the real processes that underlie the politics of the Middle East. It has laid bare the long-standing complicity of the U.S. and other world powers with the worst possible regimes, revealed the empty and hypocritical rhetoric of United States President Barack Obama and other leaders, exposed the craven capitulation of all the Arab regimes, and demonstrated the real alliances between these regimes, Israel and the USA. These are political lessons that will long be remembered.

By Afro-Middle East Centre

Although the Egyptian uprising might not give rise to a domino effect in the region, it will have substantial regional implications. Na'eem Jeenah, executive director of the Afro-Middle East Centre, writes in the Mail & Guardian that profound changes are occurring and will occur in the Middle East as a result of the uprising. He discusses the effect on opposition groups in other countries in the region, arguing that the events in Tunisia and Egypt have served to embolden people and has given them greater confidence to make demands on their governments. Also, significant ramifications of the revolution in Egypt are likely to emerge in terms of the power balance between Israel, the Palestinians and the United States. This is exacerbated by the revelations in the 'Palestine Papers' which had already placed serious doubt on the intentions of the Palestinian Authority. The most far-reaching implications the Egyptian revolution will have is on Israel, both in regards to the Camp David Accords and Egyptian collaboration with Israel. If a new Egyptian government results from the uprising, and is one that is neither friendly to the US and its interests nor to Israel, this will adjust the balance of power between Israel and the Palestinians, and may change the entire status quo. For the full article click here.

By Afro Middle-East Centre

Expectations were low for US President Barack Obama’s first visit to Palestine-Israel. In light of a frosting of relations between him and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, especially after Netanyahu endorsed Obama’s presidential rival Mitt Romney in last year’s US presidential election, and a tacit acknowledgement that the so-called ‘peace process’ had stalled, the trip was more an affirmation of the avowed support of the USA for Israel than a hope for anything more significant.

By Juan Cole

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week in Toronto that, in the wake of the G20 conference, Turkey will no longer routinely give Israeli military aircraft permission to fly in Turkish airspace. The announcement came as Turkey forbade an Israeli military air-plane (taking officers on a visit to the sites of Nazi death camps for Jews in Poland) to fly over its territory. The Turkish press denies that the destination of the plane influenced the decision. Future Israeli military overflight permission will be granted on an ad hoc basis.

From the Guardian: 'Israel's Ynet news website reported that other military flights had also been quietly cancelled. "Turkey is continuing to downgrade its relations with Israel," an unnamed official told Ynet. "This is a long-term process and not something that began just after the flotilla incident. We are very concerned." '

The Afro-Middle East Centre (AMEC) will convene an international conference to explore the place of Israel, as a Jewish state, within today’s cosmopolitan world, as a case study for the question of the place of ethnic states within a cosmopolitan world. The conference will interrogate the key concepts of nationalism, nation-state, ethnic nationalism and Jewish nationalism. It will, furthermore, explore the myths and invented traditions that shape Jewish nationalism, as well as the discourse that legitimates it. The conference will attempt to grapple with the question of whether Jewish nationalism and the notion of an ethnic Jewish state have a legitimate place in a modern cosmopolitan world which seeks to recognise multiple identities beyond simply ethnicity, and which seeks to define statehood, citizenship and human rights in inclusive rather than exclusive terms. Can an ethnic and ethnocentric state, and the nationalist ideology which undergirds it, persist within a strengthening culture of individual human rights and inclusivity, or is it an unworkable fallacy?

The idea of “the nation” is not new. Some of the earliest written accounts of differentiated human communities can be traced back to Hindu scriptures and the Hebrew bible, where links between land, language and kinship have strong resonance. The concept of “the nation-state” is, however, relatively novel, and has its roots in eighteenth century Europe. The nation-state came internationally to be recognised as a political entity with its own sovereignty within a system of similar states; with control over a definite geographical territory; with an independent, domestically generated, and relatively centralised administrative apparatus; having a distinct political structure, legal code, economy, currency, division of labour and educational system; and being characterised by a culture, defined by language, arts, customs, religion and / or ethnicity, that may be enormously varied but which generally has a dominant hegemonic strain that is adopted by urban elites. The last aspect of this characterisation is, arguably, the most important since, implicitly, it refers to contestation. Thus, the bureaucratic composition of the nation-state must, of necessity, be differentiated from the ideology that legitimates it; this ideology that is generally referred to as nationalism.

Nationalism has had diverse expressions but can also be generally characterised in terms of a universal struggle between cultures of exclusion and inclusion. Exclusion is marked by authoritarianism, militarism and the evasion of law; racism, discrimination and injustice; and marked asymmetries in access to livelihoods and resources. Inclusion demands pluralism, diversity, democracy, freedom, participation, justice, and tolerance. With specific reference to the state of Israel – which defines itself as a “Jewish State” – these normative antinomies have become the source of conflict that separates Israelis from Palestinians.

In exploring these questions with regards to Israel, the conference will also seek to address the issue of what lies in store for an ethnic Jewish state in the future, in terms of prevailing and emerging global political cultures.

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