It is Still 1948

“The old will die, and the young will forget.” – David Ben Gurion

A lot has happened in 63 years. Empires have come and gone, new states have come into being, while others have faded or dissolved into the annals of history. While the latter is what Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion had in mind for the generations of Palestinians born during and in the years following the 1947-48 Nakba (“catastrophe”) when the state of Israel was created and thousands of Palestinians were expelled from the land of Palestine; on the 63rd anniversary of the Nakba this is far from what has happened. Although global Zionist forces and their patrons and sponsors have conspired and connived to wipe that fateful event from the collective minds and memories of its victims and global consciousness, generations of Palestinians have fought and struggled to hold onto the memory of their forced expulsion.

Do not make the mistake of separating Israeli policy of today and that of pre-1948. They are very much connected, and if anything, have grown more pernicious over the years. Israel’s closure regime, Separation Wall, land annexations, house demolitions, cultural colonization and theft, and population expulsions need to be viewed in the wider context of the Nakba if one wishes to understand the reality on the ground today, which not only affects the Palestinian victims, but millions of Arabs across the world who have suffered in consequence of Israel’s racist and bellicose policies; for the Nakba continues to this very day. Be not deluded, it is alive and kicking. Every day that Palestinians are denied their internationally sanctioned right to return home, every day the blockade continues in Gaza, every day that demolitions and land appropriations continue in Area C of the West Bank, every day that the Separation Wall continues its construction route, every day that settlement activity continues and increases, and every day that Israel has the might and control to alter, dictate, and commandeer the collective destiny of the Palestinian people through a matrix of occupation grounded in Apartheid and ethnic cleansing, the Nakba is resurrected. It was not a single exclusive event, but rather the beginning of an era of oppression, racism and subjugation of an entire people at the whim of another.

However… Although our Zionist antagonizers have been trying to erase and rewrite our narrative, they have inadvertently done something quite marvelous in the process.

Through their ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population, passing of racist laws such as the Loyalty Oath and Nakba Law, oppressing of any form of peaceful resistance, killing of unarmed local and international peace activists, and their absolute and total choking of the lives of every Palestinian man, woman and child, the Zionists have actually ensured the one thing they have tried so maliciously to destroy. They have ensured through their evil machinations and genocidal maneuverings that no one will ever forget the Palestinian Nakba – certainly not the old, and definitely not the young. Their invasive, pervasive and all-encompassing efforts at the eradication of the Palestinian people has been, for 63 years, met with a ceaseless fight on part of Palestinians; a fight which has shown the world that Palestine will not die, and the increasing of oppression by Israel will only strengthen the memory and presence of the constancy inherent in the Palestinian plight for self determination.

It has not been 63 years since 1948.

Don’t let the math mislead you. For Palestinians, it is still 1948 and the horrors of those events continue to this day. To Ben Gurion’s famous quote, our response is: We Shall Not Forget, and We Will Not Die. In our understanding of the depth of our history, the richness of our culture, the splendor of our lands and their fruits, the strength of our hearts and the wildness of our spirits, We vow to outlive your guns and bombs with the sanctity of our right to be better, more beautiful, and more Right.

Forever, and always, we will go on.

– Change in a Box & Love in a Box


The Institutionalization of Insecurity: Soullessness and Immigration In The Middle East

I’ll start off simply and attempt to keep it that way: We have some pretty tiring immigration laws in the Middle East, and they make the entire ordeal of trying to feel a sense of belonging really difficult. The problem is that when you feel you dont belong, you never really invest your soul into the place in which you live, and since the Gulf countries of the region are actually comprised of a majority of expats, the land is cloaked by a heavy air of emptiness despite the glitz and glam which makes up its developing economy. More importantly, if you dont belong, you never quite feel secure, and if you come to the Gulf for a better life from homelands or native origins which are already relatively insecure, then you’re carrying your internal voids with you into a land of baggage.

First I have to give credit where its due to keep things balanced. Many are grateful and should be eternally more so for the chances provided to them by the labor demand in the Gulf Arab region, and for the opportunities, both financial and career related, made available to them vis a vie petro dollars.  This gratefulness however poses quite a paradox, because although one feels like a better life is waiting in the Gulf, upon arrival, there are direct reminders that the struggle has only begun. Visa’s are a hassle to get for various reasons, all of which stem from the home government’s need to control its demographics in order to ensure the safety of its minority of citizens. Its understandable. What’s not understandable is the shortage of foresight on part of leaders across the region as to the ways in which they can improve security by allocating resources to equalize economic gain and create an economy based on less depravity and more cooperative gain.

There seems to be a profit in renting labor, and a profit from home governments in sending labor abroad. Think about what the means for a second – it means that insecurity is profitable.

But what does one do with more money and no home?

Continuous consumerism has its perks for sure – but will the soul ever flourish if it doesnt land?

Enough on this for now.

– Love in a Box

Al 3ishq Al Mamnoo3: Mahmoud and Khaled

A series of secret rendezvous… A rumored reunion… A raging “partner” threatening revenge… And then finally, the moment all had been waiting for… Reconciliation and retribution…

While the above could be a perfect description of the recent finale of the popular Turkish soap opera, Al-3ishq Al-Mamnoo3 (Forbidden Love), dubbed in Arabic on the Saudi-owned satellite channel, MBC 4, there was yet another finale that came to a dramatic end, or so we hope, on the same day that the star-crossed lovers of Al-3ishq Al-Mamnoo3, Samar and Muhannad, met their doomed fate…

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, and Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas, finally signed a reconciliation pact after 4 years of estrangement. The agreement, signed in Cairo, promises a national unity government and an end to “the black page of division”. The agreement provides for a caretaker government before Palestinian-wide elections are to be held one year from the signing. With only a minor glitch, the important point over whether or not Meshaal should sit on the podium with Abbas when they make the announcement, the agreement was signed without a hitch… Phew!

And to think all it took was a signature, massive protests and upheavals around the region, a defunct “peace process”, embarrassing revelations in the form of the Palestine Papers, a siege, a blockade, and an exhausted and asphyxiated populace sick and tired of their leaders meandering and empty rhetoric. Oh yeah, and the overthrow of one party’s patron in a popular uprising, while the other party’s guy is currently busy quelling and delaying his own ousting…

But wait… There is yet a twist… As any good soap opera would have…

While thousands of Palestinians celebrated jubilantly across the Palestinian Territories and refugee camps of Lebanon, another character in this drama shouted expletives and threw a tantrum condemning the reconciliation. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called the accord “a tremendous blow to peace and a great victory for terrorism”. The Israelis, who have acted as co-overlord of the Abbas regime alongside the now defunct Mubarak regime, have been busy lobbying the EU and US to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority if Hamas joins any new government. They have also taken some self-initiative in their smear campaign and have held up an US$89 million cash transfer to the Palestinian Authority (PA). The subtle fact that this cash is in fact the PA’s cash and not Israel’s is of no consequence, as they only collect tax from the Palestinians and then re-distribute it to the PA – another wonderful souvenir from the Oslo Accords.

What really has Israel’s panties in a twist is the fact that their role is slowly becoming negligible in the wider Middle Eastern socio-political sphere. The recent and continuing Arab upheavals have been arguably a bigger worry to the Israelis than to the local dictators and despots who inspired them. As the cadence and tone of the Arab street, specifically the Cairene street, starts to take on a pan-Arab and pro-Palestinian rhythm, the Israeli government is slowly losing its regional grip. Even their American sponsors have been decidedly ambiguous and external to the recent agreement, aside from the smattering of congressmen pushing for the cutting of US aid to the PA. Furthermore, the Israeli strategy in the region of divide and conquer will only continue to fray as upcoming events, rumored and otherwise, slowly take shape – i.e. the opening of Rafah and the possible unilateral declaration of a Palestinian statehood in September at the UN.

With the Great Egyptian Comeback on the horizon and the new regional paradigm taking shape, Israel is going to have to start getting used to this once ‘3ishq Mamnoo3’ (Forbidden Love).

Lets hope Mahmoud and Khaled do better than their Turkish counterparts, Samar and Muhannad, did.

– Change in a Box

Connecting the Dots: Apartheid in Palestine

At a bakery near my office in the commercial area of Amman, a conversation with two of my co-workers left me disturbed and almost unable to finish my breakfast. As I sat there in the morning sun, something else began to chill my bones that had nothing to do with the crisp, spring wind. I was in the midst of a conversation with two intelligent people who were asking, no, arguing with me about how I could possibly compare Israel with the Apartheid regime in South Africa. Every muscle, fiber and tissue in my body tensed up instantaneously. I was mad. No, fuming.

As quickly as it took my blood to boil, it was over. We were walking back to the office and my co-workers were laughing and chatting about the upcoming workday. My blood was still simmering. How could you one minute be talking about the reality on the ground of a people’s lifelong fight for freedom, dignity and self-determination, and then the next laughingly bemoan the upcoming workday?

Apartheid is an Afrikaans term meaning separation or apartness and is a method used by one part of a population to institutionalize and legalize the segregation of the rest. Apartheid is thriving in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). It is a fact that many are not aware of, and which few grasp in its entirety. Israeli Apartheid is enforced using an invasive closure regime that has broken up the West Bank and Gaza Strip into enclaves, or Bantustans, the process of which has been called by academics as the Bantustanization of the OPT. The network of checkpoints, the Separation Wall, house demolitions, arbitrary and illegal land annexations, uprooting of trees, Israeli-only highways, curfews, separate license plates and IDs, and many more, has made the possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state an impossible fantasy at best.

For the Palestinian citizens of Israel, Israeli Apartheid is even more apparent. As an article on detailed, Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel has documented over 20 laws in Israel that discriminate against its Palestinian citizens. Just as the Apartheid regime in South Africa had its population registration act, Israel has its Population Registry Law that obligates every citizen to register his or her nationality. This is because rights in the Jewish “democracy” are dealt with on the basis of your nationality, mainly if you are either Jewish or Arab. No one is legally allowed to register “Israeli” as his or her nationality. No, Israel’s Supreme Court would never allow this because then how would the state be able to segregate and discriminate accordingly? One of the many laws that privilege the Jewish population of Israel over its Arab counterparts is the Law of Return, which allows any Jew from anywhere to immigrate to Israel and claim citizenship. Palestinians expelled during and before the Nakba in 1948 are denied this right. Nor are Palestinians allowed to marry Jews, or non-Israeli Palestinians as the Israeli states tries its best to limit the growth of its Arab population. Additionally, it is very hard for Arab Israelis to buy or lease land in Israel as 93% of the land in Israel is reserved for its Jewish citizens.

Nelson Mandela once described the plight of the Palestinians as “the greatest moral issue of our time”. While he meant it as a statement of fact and call for people of conscience to action, the Palestinian struggle has been categorized, re-categorized, annexed, adopted, altered, mutated, blunted, ignited and manipulated by a plethora of people and groups claiming to have the self-righteous moral right and authority to take on the mantle of its Savior. However, the Palestinian issue has always been and will remain a human one.

We can easily be enticed to read reconciliation and fairness as meaning parity between justice and injustice. Having achieved our own freedom, we can fall into the trap of washing our hands of difficulties that others face.

Yet we would be less than human if we did so. 

It behooves all South Africans, themselves erstwhile beneficiaries of generous international support, to stand up and be counted among those contributing actively to the cause of freedom and justice.

Even during the days of negotiations, our own experience taught us that the pursuit of human fraternity and equality – irrespective of race or religion – should stand at the centre of our peaceful endeavors. The choice is not between freedom and justice, on the one hand, and their opposite, on the other. Peace and prosperity; tranquility and security are only possible if these are enjoyed by all without discrimination.

It is in this spirit that I have come to join you today to add our own voice to the universal call for Palestinian self-determination and statehood.

(An address by Nelson Mandela at the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, 4 December 1997.)

– Change in a Box

The Counter Revolution Fails

The Egyptian Revolution crosses a historic landmark, with massive implications for the world. The history of revolutions is as full of counter-revolutions as revolutions and commentators were confident in warning that somebody somewhere will definitely be ‘stealing the revolution’ in Egypt (Al-Jazeera commentary). Maneuvering and politicking saw Senators and Prime Ministers visit Taḥrīr Square and drive on to talk with the country’s new caretakers. A new law was mooted to ban demonstrations and strikes. Israel and Saudi Arabian leaders lobbied hard for the return of Mubarak, who was planning to return to power from his compound in Sharm el-Sheikh. That was the purpose of his speech on April 10th when he pleaded poverty in a speech broadcast on Al-Arabiyya TV. As far as he was concerned according to the speech he had no more savings than an average Egyptian businessman, and claimed he certainly had no assets abroad. When the incensed directors of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina responded immediately by demanding the return of $145m taken from funds donated to them by the European Union stolen by Suzanne Mubarak, the new facade immediately crumbled, as previous facades had done immediately after his two other major speeches since the beginning of the revolution.

Reports from Al-Goma’a newspaper had Mubarak and his entourage trying to flee to Saudi Arabia on the following day, April 11th. Sharm el-Sheikh Air Traffic control advised the military authorities of a plan being lodged with them for a helicopter flight from Mubarak’s compound to Riyadh. The flight was disallowed, several attorneys general subsequently visited Mubarak on April 12th and he was arrested on April 13th even though he suffered a minor heart attack and was hospitalised.

But let us start from the beginning. On Tuesday 25 January 2011 – the Day of Anger and Uprising [yawm al-ġaḍab wa al-‘intifāḍa]– the revolution began in Taḥrīr Square. There followed a crackdown which involved the shutdown of the internet and mobile phone networks, attacks by covert police, police snipers on rooftops, and hired thugs, as well as wholesale looting by further hired thugs targeting various residential neighbourhoods to simulate a total breakdown of law and order – a tactic intended both to instil fear and drive protesters back to their homes and provide justification for potential further crackdowns. The people responded in their millions with massive rallies on Friday 28 January – the Friday of Anger [ǧumʿat al-ġaḍab] – The call went out and the message that was read from the Qur’an said:  Think not that Allah doesn’t heed the deeds of those who do wrong. He merely gives them respite against the day when their eyes will stare fixedly in horror [at the consequences of their actions](14:42); meanwhile the call continued for the ‘fall of the régime’ [al-sha‘ab yurīd isqāṭ al-niẓām]. Mubarak – oblivious to the true nature of the events – appoints a hated figure, Omar Suleiman, head of intelligence (and personal friend since he saved his life in an attempt on Mubarak’s life in Addis Ababa in 1995) as Vice President, and hopes that a simple Cabinet reshuffle will quell the revolution. Another confidant of Mubarak, Ahmed Shafiq is appointed Prime Minister. Determined, the millions gathered again for the ‘march of the millions’ on Tuesday 1st February culminating with prayers onFriday 4th February – called the Friday of Departure ǧumʿat al-khulāṣ – setting an immediate deadline for Mubarak’s departure.

The régime was shaken – little did the protesters know it. Some hated figures from the régime, probably selected on the basis that their usefulness had expired, were arrested for interrogation as to corruption and use of force against the protesters. The previous day –Thursday, February 3rd – however, repressive measures had nevertheless led to a day of the greatest losses among protesters. The total figures were by now some 800 deaths and 5,000 injuries. Meanwhile Omar Suleiman opened dialogue with the leaders of the protesters. The pressure was kept up by the protesters with the Coptic community now at the centre of prayers on Sunday 6th February, gathered to say mass over the fallen of the revolution – it was dubbed the Sunday of Martyrs –Aad al-shuhadā. Muslims prayed alongside them. On Friday 10th February Mubarak made another defiant (although less strident) speech, but one that it turned out was actually against the wishes of the Supreme Military Council [SCAF] (hence the lesser stridency – the element of sheepishness). SCAF met without Mubarak or indeed Suleiman in attendance and this was filmed on state TV to introduce the public to the de facto take over bySCAF.

On Friday February 11th 2011, SCAF took power in Egypt after the forced resignation of President Hosni Mubarak (finally). The Council, led by the Defense minister Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, included Air Marshal Reda Mahmoud Hafez Mohamed, Lt. Gen. Sami Hafez Enan, Armed forces chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Abd El Aziz Seif-Eldeen, Commander of air defense, and Vice Admiral Mohab Mamish).

Leadership of the protesters was invited by the SCAF to amend the Constitution and a hurried vote (to the anger of the budding political parties that wanted time to organise) was planned for 19 March. The Muslim Brotherhood, having launched its Freedom and Justice Party, supported the idea of the SCAF for fear of loss of momentum – although they were seen as being self-interested because they were more organised than the others. Fears that there would be a counterrevolution were stoked by the continued presence of Ahmed Shafiq at the helm of government as Prime Minister, the preparations of the NDP for forthcoming elections, and the continued presence of the gathered Mubarak clan in their compound in Sharm El-Sheikh.

Omar Suleiman however, had been dropped from an active role as being too closely connected with Israel to make him credible. More pressure from protesters who signally refused to stop protesting and meeting in Taḥrīr Square despite repeated curfews, warnings, and – on two occasions – attacks by military police this time, led to yet more NDP figures being arrested on charges of corruption and murder, and the growing perception that a popular figure was needed as Prime Minister.

On 3rd March Ahmed Shafiq was removed and Esam Sharaf installed, signally taking his oath in Taḥrīr Square to defend the revolution. The protesters finally had a friend within the ruling body, and this would serve them as events unfolded from now on. The protesters became worried as the NDP continued to organise for elections and the Mubarak clan continued to be gathered in the compound in Sharm El-Sheikh despite rumours the Mubarak was ill and possibly going to Germany for life-saving treatment – all now clearly recognised as disinformation meant to defuse passions on the street and try to gain some measure of sympathy for the old dictator.

A march was planned to go to Sharm El-Sheikh but was disallowed by the military authorities. Military units had been stationed in Sharm El-Sheikh since February 11th in clear violation of Camp David accords which stipulate that the Egyptian army cannot cross the Suez Canal. Clearly, Israel had given its approval for this. On March 22, in view of the successful referendum on the constitution, a meeting took place to review the forthcoming electoral process between all the new political parties and General Hasan Rowaini as representative for the SCAF. The rump NDP was present. The Youth Coalition Movement under the vociferous leadership of Taqadum Al-Khatib accused the SCAF of protecting Mubarak and his friends. Everybody’s attention had been focused by surprising reports from the newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm claiming that someone in government had received a call from Gamal Mubarak in Sharm complaining that no one had consulted the Mubarak clan about the changes to the constitution.

At the March 22 meeting, Hasan Rowaini’s blank refusal to allow Mubarak to be charged with crimes against his people and with grand theft as the Youth Coalition Movement demanded, together with his bad tempered manner, meant that the meeting ended with daggers drawn on both sides.

The protesters threatened further massive demonstrators and were true to their word when on Friday, April 1, dubbed the “Friday to Salvage the Revolution” (ǧumʿat inqadh al-thawra) hundreds of thousands marched while tens of thousands met in Taḥrīr Square itself carrying a massive Egyptian flag in their midst. Chants went up for the return of ‘stolen millions’, for ‘the purification of the country’, warning al-Tantawi of the power of the street, chanting and ‘Marshal, Marshal, all legitimacy stems from Taḥrīr’ (Mushīr, Mushīr al-quwwa min Tarīr). This time state TV and all the newspapers were covering the demonstration, and furthermore they were joining in with protester demands. On Friday, April 8 a further rally was held in Taḥrīr with a mock trial of Mubarak in which his effigy ended up being hanged – also – crucially – covered by state TV.

The rest is history.

On April 7, Zakariya Azmi, Mubarak’s chief of staff and most trusted aid, was arrested.

On April 10 Ahmed Nazif, Mubarak’s last Prime Minister before the revolution, was arrested

On April 11 Safwat El-Sherif; the president of the Shura council and NDP General Secretary, was arrested;

On April 13 in the morning Hosni Mubarak was arrested, then Fathi Soroor, the Speaker of the Parliament, then in the evening Gamal Mubarak and Alaa Mubarak;

On April 14, heirs of the late influential NDP member Kamal Shazly were blocked from accessing the family fortune

On April 19, the NDP was declared an unlawful organisation, their assets confiscated and their main building given over the Human Rights Watch as offices

Charges are being drawn up for the arrest of Suzanne Mubarak for the theft of $145m from the Bibliotheca Alexandria.

After the chief medical officer indicated that the hospital prison in Tora jail was not equipped to receive Mubarak, some preparations have since been made and the attorneys general in charge of his case have decided to move him there when the preparations have finished.

The name Mubarak is coming off all public spaces now.

There were two factors that have led to the success of the revolution: the discipline of the Youth Coalition Movement and the quite separate actions of the Muslim Brotherhood. What the ‘international community’ including commentators failed to recognise about Egypt was that (as was the case in the final days of the soviet empire) the age, lack of energy of military leaders and the divisive nature of its organisational structure, designed to deter young officers from rising in the ranks and taking power from within, was making the military impotent in the face of raw street power.

The organisational restructuring of the Egyptian army instituted under the aegis of Mubarak and his US paymaster meant that its vital force – the vibrancy of youth was deliberately cut away. The quicksand under the military castle was accentuated by the fact of conscription in Egypt which doesn’t make for a clear dividing line between ‘soldiers’ and ‘people’. Every male in Egypt has been in the army and has contacts in the army if he is not still in it. Furthermore, Tantawi the Chief of the Supreme Military Council is a retiring figure put in the position of ultimate power by Mubarak specifically because he had the opposite character to Abu Ghazala, the previous chief and hero of the 1973 war, who had been primus inter pares ruler of Egypt until Mubarak sidelined him with the help of the US for being too independent (following the Condor incident).

Given the new status of the armed forces, where there are no new young officers to take over, finding a safe military pair of hands for the US, for Israel or for Saudi to make a deal with wasn’t going to happen. That is why it was important for those powers that Mubarak and his sons stayed on. The fact that clan Mubarak remained in Sharm el-Sheikh in their compound unable to predict the dangers facing them was entirely due to the confidence they had in their ability to make a comeback, based entirely on the assessment of the support from the US, Israel and Saudi. Normally, during the years of public quiescence in Egypt such an assessment may have been sensible – today however, obviously not. That the Mubarak clan is in Tora jail has clearly shocked every one of them (looking at their faces on TV when they were arrested), and their foreign backers.

International politicians trying to avert this situation had no understanding of what they were dealing with. The nature of the Egyptian people is something they haven’t fathomed – after all, having been so quiescent for so long – what’s up with them now? Actually his was a revolution that was brewing for some time – since the Camp David accords. The extraordinary brutality of the régime is evidence of the continuous pressure on it from the people. Finally the dam burst. But there was one element which commentators could not understand about the situation of the Egyptian people. Conscription, which was actually instituted after the 1967 war to prepare for the 1973 war and which was continued as a way of controlling the population, has led to the perverse result – from the point of view of the régime – that the ‘people’ had acquired a militarised mindset. This was what was behind the Youth Coalition Movement’s success. The ‘peaceful’ demonstrations in Egypt are a counterintuitive result of the discipline inculcated into Egyptians through the years of conscription.

Violent demonstrations would on the contrary have been symptomatic of the kind of indiscipline which one would associate with uneducated tribal behavior.

In respect of the bogeyman of the West – the Muslim Brotherhood – it surprised everybody by both embracing the Copts in all of its policies and actions, thus unifying the country, and also rupturing with Saudi Arabia. The medieval kingdom, the key Western and Israeli ally in the region, was, it was pointed out a major destabilizing force in Egypt using and funding Salafis in Egypt to cause unrest by attacking Sufi shrines and desecrating Coptic Churches. This divide and rule Saudi tactic is widespread in the Middle-East, nevertheless the Muslim Brotherhood openly opposed Saudi policy, by rounding on Salafis, and helping to rebuild churches for the Copts which the Salafis damaged. Furthermore, when the Muslim Brotherhood launched their new Freedom and Justice parliamentary party, they opened competition for all jobs including the top job, to Muslims and Christians alike.

The commentators are now confident that the ‘Arab Spring’ is slowly winding down. Maybe in Libya, Yemen, and Bahrain, but not in Egypt (and Tunisia). Whatever happens in Libya, Yemen and Bahrain now doesn’t take from the reality that the ‘Arab Spring’ is ongoing. All it needs is one foothold.

Cultural Mutancy in The Hot New Middle East

I’ve talked about this concept with friends for years, chatted about it with colleagues who often looked at me with bewilderment, and mulled over it as I read political theories which budded, blossomed and gently faded away into that dark night of confusion over why exactly – precisely, ultimately – the Middle East seems endlessly riddled with spheres of unabated volatility. What is that element that other English-speaking states in the Northern hemisphere of the international political order have, which keeps them within relatively controlled margins of social upheaval? The element we so desperately miss out here.

We’ve discussed post-colonialism, the game theory, balance of power, the fact that those same English-speaking countries have control over Glorious Free Trade, Islamism, local corruption, dictatorship – and all of the above is absolutely true, and crucial to include in the amalgam of reasons behind the Middle East’s web of regression, violence and dependence on other economies and militaries. One more reason I’d like to give a shot at thinking about is something called cultural mutancy.

I have friends from Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Egypt, India, Korea, the US, the UK, Canada, and friends from other countries, as well as some of those countries all combined into one individual. We all grew up together in an international high school in the Gulf Arab region, and some of us were raised with a religious upbringing, and others with no religion at all (not one that came be named at least), and others still with a mystical understanding and mixture of several religions all in one. Each and every single one of my friends and larger circle of acquaintances, hands down, has a hard time answering, in a simple straightforward manner, the question: where are you from? what religion do you believe in?

Understandably, the latter question does not generally bequeath a straightforward answer in various places across the world. but generally, the former question might. Many of them have abandoned involvement in the current political affairs of our region simply because its tiring or overwhelming or seemingly loaded with bull crap. But all of us, in one way or another, are politicized by the fact that the countries that flow through our veins are reflected by the wars and tyrannical regimes and foreign domination that takes place in the outer world — even if we don’t read, tweet or FB about it. Or more poignantly, even if we do, we still carry on with our days and our socializing with groups of old friends who hold within them the beauty of mutancy. What if that mutancy were to speak for itself? What if it had a platform? An organized representation in the political order of things? What if Gray mattered? Would a middle ground be reached? A middle ground for the hot new middle east? A middle ground that is very much real, and very much alive, and very much neither Bush or Bin Laden; neither bland, white-washed Democracy nor unabashed orientalist Autocracy.

This lens is the one I primarily use to view the revolutions taking place across our region – most of them at least. They are revolutions for the right to self understanding, and to awareness of the reality on the ground of our countries in the geographical location termed the Middle East, and the identities that are strewn across them. This self understanding is the cornerstone to true autonomy – it needs to take place, and that is perhaps the main reason behind why so much international effort is thrown behind the suffocation of that understanding; despite the appearances of quite the opposite.

Globalization as well must be noted here – an acceleration of the world’s interdependence, and the blending of nationalities and intermingling of people and technology; it all contributes to our mutancy as well. And it seems to me that the trick is to look beyond black and white.

So I cant help but feel that, while Palestine struggles to throw Israel and its US sugar daddy off its back, and while Bahrain fights against economic disparity resulting from religious prejudice, while Egypt shimmies with military rule and stands up for social revolution, while Tunisia demands representation and economic development, while Lebanon calls for a fair government, period, that all of us and all our problems have seeped over boundaries. All of us and all our problems have transcended simple state structures. All of us and all our power have been waiting for a chance to be activated, stated, accepted and put to the test of suffrage. Now if we could only all sit down at a table without Uncle Sam, I wonder, could mutancy be our new sugar daddy?

– Love In A Box

Abu Dhabi 2030

Abu Dhabi’s significant economic expansion over the past five years, ushered primarily by its 2030 development plan, has proven to be a watershed in the history of one of the world’s richest, and simultaneously most culturally-conservative capitals. With an annual increase of over 6 percent in GDP per capita since the launch of Abu Dhabi’s 2030 Vision in 2008 – comparable to leading economies Norway, Ireland and Singapore – the emirate’s aspirations of global economic prowess seem untethered. However, the more subversive and yet critical elements behind the success of socioeconomic development, such as culture and individual consciousness, may prove to be the oil-giant’s greatest challenge.

Abu Dhabi has collaborated with some of the world’s leading public and private financial institutions to devise the mechanics aimed at delivering a vision of Abu Dhabi’s evolvement towards economic and cultural preeminence in the international arena. Spearheaded by three main government bodies – namely the Department of Economic Development, The Abu Dhabi Council for Economic Development and the Executive Council – the 2030 plan focuses mainly on alleviating the emirate’s reliance on oil. Currently, the UAE’s capital owns just under 10% of global oil reserves and 5% of the world’s natural gas resources. One of the government’s stated central motivations behind creating its 2030 Vision is to safeguard its country’s future against a monolithic economy and the consequences that would have on its society’s growth in an increasingly competitive global atmosphere.

Abu Dhabi’s 2030 Vision is broken down into distinct five-year plans, all of which are geared towards creating an open and regulated economy attractive to international capital, and emphatically, a society prepared to receive it. The plan stipulates methods to encourage small and medium sized enterprises as a move away from Abu Dhabi’s historically heavy state-centric apparatus, and to overhaul the legislative system in preparation for more business-friendly laws. The plan also states that human resource development is one of its top priorities, and aims to increase its human development index further by building stronger and more sustainable educational and healthcare infrastructures.

So far, Abu Dhabi has stuck to form. Recent reports have stated that the emirate’s nonoil and gas GDP has outdone the energy sector by constituting 64% of the Emirate’s total GDP this year.  Investment arms in the emirate, such as government-run TDIC and privately-owned Aldar, have cumulatively initiated some of the largest projects yet, with the Louvre and Guggenheim museums, the world’s first carbon-free Masdar City and Ferrari World being only a few to mention. Yet, plans are being delayed, postponed and restructured by 5-15 years on average for most of the largest projects. Masdar City alone may take 15 years longer to complete than initially planned, and other sectors, such as communications and media, have taken hits with companies being shutdown or merged with government entities, and hundreds of employees displaced. A brunt of the reasons attributed to the setbacks center around hindrances with resource allocation, stemming primarily from the conflict between the financial preparedness for such intense growth, and the cultural capacity to absorb it in a relatively short amount of time.

Although Abu Dhabi’s 2030 Vision expresses the intention to veer from large state-owned enterprises, it is also the government’s abundant financial resources which will support the growth of the private sector. Privatization’s success entails trusting businesses to implement a government-sponsored vision, and trusting the capacity of the collective human resource to carry the vision through. Perhaps more time is needed, and more focus on human development is required for a balance to be reached between the government’s vision and the reality of the strength of codependency between state and citizen. However the best of intentions have been made clear, and time will eventually tell how much further Abu Dhabi is set to grow.

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