Gaza situation, whose responsibility is it?

Palestinians have bulldozed down part of the Gaza-Egypt border wall again, hours after Egyptian troops blocked holes recently made by militants

The situation in Gaza is a sign that in politics humanitarian issues are set aside when political interests are of paramount importance. Palestinians have been subjected to collective punishment because of political differences between Hamas and the Israeli government. But it isn’t an excuse to deprive them of the basic necessities like fuel which is of paramount importance in emergency cases like ambulances and operating rooms in hospitals.

Concerning the attitude of Egypt which has started to seal off its borders with Gaza, this shows that Arab “brotherhood” is only a slogan eloquently repeated in forums and Arab conferences. It remains a description on paper. On the ground, there are political matters that come first. So to paraphrase the old proverb, good fences make good brothers. Arab borders aren’t easily open even in times of peace. While the Palestinians in Gaza are met with hundreds of Israeli checkpoints when they try to move into Israel, now in Egypt they are “welcome” by their Egyptian brothers with electric batons, live shots , and water canons.

Egypt is also ready to see the Palestinians plunged into their own troubles in their own territories rather than on its own. The risk for the Egyptian government is that when the Gazans will overstay their welcome in Egypt and become a political force, directly influencing the ordinary Egyptians who will lead demonstrations in their support, demonstrations that can go out of hand. Perhaps Egypt doesn’t want to have Palestinian camps similar to those in Lebanon. In other words Egypt doesn’t want an Israeli raid on its soil should militants from these supposed camps enter Gaza from Egypt to attack Israel and then return to their camps.

Also it isn’t in the interest of Hamas that the majority of Palestinians flock into Egypt and stay there. This will be advantageous to Israel, which will find it easy to surround Hamas forces and politicians. At least these look stronger when surrounded by huge crowds carrying Hamas green flags in a show that looks more a parade than anything else with speeches full of woes and hopes for a better day.

If there is a commitment by Egypt to strop arms getting into Gaza from its territories, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza can end overnight. Rich Gulf states can provide these territories with sufficient amount of fuel and food while the logistic task should be carried by the Egyptians.

The USA is unlikely to put any pressure on Israel at these times of the race for presidency. The international community is used to the frequent strident measures by the Israelis towards the Palestinians either in the form of massive killings as it was in Sabra and Shatilla in Lebanon or in Jennin or in the summer of 1996. Israel seems to be a winner as Fatah (Hamas’s rival) didn’t break off ties with it. The Israelis have a lot of ground to manoeuvre while Hamas and its supporters around the world have a lot of words to condemn the Israeli actions.

There can be different ways to put and end to the humanitarian crisis although the political stalemate is certain to last for years. Starving a whole population isn’t an effective weapon to eradicate radicals among the Palestinians. They are used to hardship of all sorts. But adding the ordinary people to pay for political differences between two irreconcilable sides is an act unacceptable to those with political sense.

As the situation in this region is very complicated, solving it remains problematic. Ironically, what is taking place in Gaza doesn’t stir anyone to take responsibility but to find excuses to shake off all responsibilities!

Listen to part of BBC World Have Your Say on Gaza crisis:

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Teenagers’ hooliganism and crimes

Teenage horrendous crimes are relatively rare in Morocco. Teenage football hooliganism is getting worse, especially in Moroccan biggest city Casablanca. Teenagers get on rampage, damaging properties, especially vehicles (cars and city buses) and shops. So when there is a big match in this city between the major local teams WAC (Widad) and RAC (Raja), this becomes a nightmare for the security forces who become overwhelmed by the uncontrollable rage of the fans.

The other problem facing Moroccan teenagers of different social categories, poor and rich, is drug use. Apart from this, there are also the problems of other crimes like theft and prostitution.

But on the whole, teenagers in Morocco are peaceful. They aren’t as threatening as it can be in some societies. There are rare cases of murder among them. There aren’t armed gangs causing havoc in their neighbourhood, although they practise their misdeeds in other areas. Teenagers can be rowdy but usually outside their neighbourhood. This has to do with the relations between parents who still have some influence on their children. There is still a somewhat kind of neighbourship.

In Morocco, at least, violent teenagers are predominantly from poor areas with poor education and poor or non-existent social services like clubs or equipped open spaces in their neighborhoods that should absorb their energy.

In every society, teenagers need orientation from their surroundings, especially their families. When parents, each according to their role, fulfill their responsibilities towards their children and the local authorities provide them with the means to constructively vent their energy, teenagers won’t think of violence as a means of expression or imposing their identity. It’s the void and the sense of loss that make teenagers consider their violent deeds as a normal thing to do in the absence of the care from those who are older than them.

If adults know how to guide teenagers without making them feel under their authority, they can be peaceful people. Leaving them exposed to bad trends, through what they see on the media or in the street, will make them just copycats whose actions can throw them in total loss, at least in this critical period of their lives.

Is nuclear energy the solution?

Morocco is considering the use of nuclear technology to produce electricity by the year 2017. It will be possible for it thanks to France its key economic and political partner. So the question isn’t if it is good to have nuclear energy, but if it is possible for all countries to acquire it as easily as acquiring any ordinary item.

Nuclear energy is the future for energy thirsty countries that can’t afford the rising oil bill. Currently nuclear energy doesn’t satisfy the bulk of energy needs even for industrialised countries, with the exception of France whose electricity production is mostly nuclear. There can be factories that can use nuclear energy for its production. But country the greatest pollutants, vehicles and planes are unlikely to be run by nuclear energy as the technology has not evolved in this direction yet.

It remains to see how oil lobby will react as declining independence on oil will threaten its future and the futures of the hundreds of workers employed in the sector.

For third world countries, they need political allies in the developed countries to provide them with it. They can buy as much oil as they can without being asked what they can do with it. But acquiring nuclear energy means their being under constant scrutiny for fear of using it for military purposes. Iran is a vivid example, whose nuclear program is at the centre of worries from countries opposed to its regime, mainly the USA.

While nuclear energy can be a solution. It is still a dream to see it totally replacing the other sources, mainly oil. At least when there is an oil disaster, like explosions, fire or leak in the sea, the damage is limited. When there is a nuclear disaster, the damage can be of greater magnitude transcending borders as it happened with Chernobyl.

So acquiring nuclear energy remains both a political and a health concern for the time being.

Racism and prejudice

I sent the following comment to BBC Worldhaveyoursay

Racism still exists in many countries despite attempts to eradicate it through different means including education. Colour still matters despite personal merits. This has to do with inherited attitudes. Many words have become culturally sensitive like “nigger”, which for some is a term used to insult black people.

In Europe, black players were protesting against racist attitudes on the stadiums from the spectators. Some of them like Thierry Henry threatened to go on strike. There were incidents in Spain when the spectators imitated monkey sounds to irritate black players.

There are countless incidents in which racist attitudes have raised controversy, especially when it comes from or directed at celebrities. During 2006 World Cup, Jean-Marie Le Pen called for a French football team which shouldn’t include foreigners, as an allusion to the French players Like Zidane who were of Maghreban and African origins.

It’s rather stupid to judge personal merits on race. When teams of the same colour play, they attribute their results to competence. But when an international match (among players of different continents or countries) is played, racist explanations are sometimes used to account for the results. Players are alluded to racially and not as sports people. If sport fails to eradicate racism through fair competition, it’s likely the echo of racism will continue to resonate on other levels, be it social, political or economic.

Racism is a sad reality. But it shouldn’t flourish to the point of causing deep tensions or having cities turning in flagrantly racially distinct areas that no-go for people from other races.

People suffering from racism should keep their self-esteem. I still remember a statement by former US Secretary Colin Powel. He was asked on CNN by Larry King on how he had coped with racism at the military academy at his young age. He wisely responded that racism wasn’t a problem for him. It was the problem of the racist. Perhaps those who suffer from racism should throw the ball at the court of the racists. And leave it at that. Confronting ignorant racists will just make them linger with more attitudes based on hatred and contempt rather than logic.

My comment was responded to by a contributor VictoK:

Abdelilah: was it chance alone that caused you to limit your examples of racism to Western countries?

The racism of the Arab world is much worse. Let me give you a few instances: the systematic exploitation of ‘guest workers’ from south Asian countries, who cannot – as in the West – hope to become citizens of the gulf states which their labour enriches. The united front presented by the Arab League in defending the racist and genocidal Sudanese government against the possibility of UN sanctions and/or military intervention, while denying the genocidal character of the situation in Darfur. The racist caricatures of Condoleeza Rice that have appeared in newspapers across the Arab world. The continued enslavement of Africans in Sudan and Mauritania. The anti-African riots that took place in Libya a few years ago, during the course of which several Africans were murdered by Libyan racists. The entire history of Sudan over the past 1000 years, which has been a successful race-based Jihad by Arab invaders against the indigenous African population. The evident policy of Arab countries to exempt whites from serious punishment for crimes committed under Sharia law, but to apply the law mercilessly to non-whites (when did you last hear of a European or American being flogged or executed in Saudi Arabia, or anywhere else in the Arab world? We can all remember the risibly light sentence – together with a new bed, courtesy of the Sudanes government – given to the teacher in the Muhammed teddy bear affair). The hysterical anti-semitic (perhaps it would be less confusing to write ‘anti-Jewish’) racism directed against Jews in all Arab countries, and the increasing popularity of anti-Jewish propaganda from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to more recent stuff of Nazi vintage. The oppressive treatment of Copts in Egypt (who are not Arabs, being the descendants of Egypt’s original Pharaohnic population )

I could go on. Yet you could only think of examples of racism drawn from France, Spain and the US? Part of the power of racism stems from the eagerness of many people to deny its existence in their own countries and cultures. Arabs are prime offenders in this respect.

This is my response to his comment

To VictorK,

My comment about racism was general. I didn’t seek to focus just on the West. I just used racism in the West as an example as the debate was set off based on an incident between Australians and Indians and the relationship between Indians and black people.

I tried just to limit my example s of racism. As I said there are countless of incidents of racism. It is true that racism exists everywhere, including the Arab world. Even the Arabs can exercise racism on each other based on nationality. In the Gulf States, all the workers are subject to cases of inhuman treatment, be it Arabs or Asians. In Kuwait total population is 2.4 million with 800,000 Kuwaiti citizens 1.5 guest workers and 100,000 Bidoon are without Kuwaiti nationally although they have been in Kuwait for decades. Neither they nor their offspring born in Kuwait are considered Kuwaiti citizens. They’re commonly called in Kuwait Bidoon which in Arabic means ‘without nationality’. This is in my view worse than racism as this category doesn’t legally have equal rights of the rest of the population. In Europe, at least people born from migrant parents are granted citizenship, although they are left to face racial attitudes that can’t be controlled by the force of the state. Westerners living or travelling in Arab countries are relatively respected because of the power of their governments that can forcefully intervene in case of harm to them.

It seems that racism has no borders. It’s everywhere. It has to do with people who historically were organised as tribes from very early times. Tribalism still has its residue in its people which manifests itself in nationalism, regionalism, which can be OK. But at worst, it manifested itself in racism. Sometimes names make one take attitudes falsely. In your case, reading a comment by a person called Abdelilah was a stir for you to respond on the Arab origin of the name without having met the owner of the name in person. That is also one of the reasons that makes people come to make judgements based on stereotypes.

Stability or Democracy?

There was a debate on WHYS on September 12th, 2007 about benign dictatorship or bad democracy – what’s better? Today the same theme returns with a different nuance: When is stability more important than democracy? It seems that dictatorship can be equated for some with stability while democracy serves only to stir what should be at rest for “the general interest” or “common good”

The question which to prefer, stability or democracy is that both are complimentary. Being convinced in democratic rule conducted by rulers with competence and full integrity is what helps political stability in any country. Social unrest culminating in violence is the result of the regimes that can’t have a clear vision of what their people need. People in nature are sociable. They resort to violence only when there is a feeling of injustice.

In many countries, there are minorities that are oppressed waiting just for moments to vent their anger and to claim their rights. An iron fist can outwardly make society look stable but beneath there is discontent. The former Soviet Union was one of the most secure societies in the world. Crime and violence were rare but the Soviet regime wasn’t up to the expectations of people. It had to go. Current Russian President Vladimir Putin is enjoying popularity in Russia because his era is a contrast with the overwhelmingly repressive Soviet regime.

Today, there are the cases of two countries in Africa. There is Zimbabwe whose president Mugabe is exercising utmost dictatorship to defend his principles rather than the welfare of the Zimbabweans. There is Kenya which has looked stable until the recent bloodshed due to disputes over presidential election results. In Zimbabwe, people can’t openly and violently protest because of Mugabe’s ruthless armed forces that can use any repressive measures to quell unrest. In Kenya, there were fatal casualties because of uncontrollable anger.

The seeds of instability are in mismanagements. People can be poor and yet peaceful. There are the cases of many poor countries like Mali that are rarely in the news; other countries have never been heard of in the news and consequently barely known to the international audience like Seychelles except in travel agencies. It is when there is great disparity and the loss of trust of the rulers and their laws that violence spark with intensity.

There were cases of countries that were violently unstable for years like Liberia. Thanks to the settlement of differences between the warring factions and the accepted election of its president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the country is breathing an air of peace despite the scars from the past.

Prioritising stability over democracy is an insult to the intelligence of the people, that some see as a herd that should be led without caring to ask what they want. It’s true that democracy is a gradual phase for countries that have never witnessed it because of the dominance of a ruler or an oligarchy, but step by step, people can learn how to manage their affairs locally to have the power and the wisdom of who they should put at the top. The political elites should also learn to rotate power. Each should be given a chance to rule through the ballots. They should work together to correct each other’s mistakes and not to take advantages of their weaknesses to eliminate one another altogether by imprisonment or killing.

Using stability as a pretext to erode democratic principles serves just a minority which has no alternative but to keep to power through whatever means. People in their countries strive to keep their dignity. Being kept in the cage of their rulers who cites security concerns as a pretext for their repressive measure just kills democracy.

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