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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

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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 muftah.org 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

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.

Love In A Box

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Looking Into Egypt’s Constitutional Changes

I’ve been reading about how democracy would actually translate in Egypt, and whether the structure would suffice in the alleviation of socioeconomic disparity, which has largely characterized the brunt of problems leading to the revolution. Corruption definitely stands out as … Continue reading