Monday, November 06, 2006

Four-way occupation in Arab world

Four-way occupation in Arab world -Arab American News-

Ghassan Rubeiz, November 6, 2006

When the UN Arab Human Development Reports appeared a few years ago the authors spoke with sanitized language. When analyzing political tyranny in the region, they dubbed oppressive governance as “freedom deficit”. This medical diagnosis of the “deficit in freedom” treats tyranny as if it is a nutritional lack, a problem in degree, not a problem in kind. The implications are that if we add a bit of freedom in this regime and a bit more in that regime, Arab society will be liberated. The assumption of the Reports is that we just have to wait for the rulers to reform. The authors used the terms “gender deficit” and “Knowledge deficit” to explain men’s cruelty to women and the pathetic status of intellectual life.
I propose a four category analysis of the current Arab society predicament. Arab society is occupied four ways. Rulers occupy freedoms, religious authorities occupy the mind, colonialists occupy borders and local militias occupy the street.
First, let us examine political freedoms. Rulers personify the state. They act as if they own the nation. They are in constant search for legitimacy. They control national elections and guarantee the results ahead of voting.
Second, let us look at religious freedoms. The religious establishment regulates social life and its legal framework. The cleric, the priest and the rabi require strict application of the faith. Despite the openness of the Middle East faiths to reason in principle, in reality, religious authorities emulate political rulers in restricting freedoms of adaptation and interpretation of the scriptures.
Third, consider colonialism. This type of injustice exists in the forms of occupation of territories, annexation of land, external invasions for so called “democracy building” and foreign military presence to protect external strategic interests. There are Occupied Territories in Palestine, a Golan Heights annexed in Syria, a contested Shib’a Farm that is lost to international legalese. There is Iraq under a brutal occupation in the cover of a misguided war on terror. In the Gulf countries a more covert style of colonialism is rampant. The security of the Gulf region is in the hands of external powers. The economy of this oil rich region is run by foreigners. Iran has a hold on Lebanon and Syria. The only region that is relatively free of colonialism is North Africa. But this region is not doing well in provision of domestic freedoms.
No wonder then that we have militias erupt like mushrooms to fill the void of the failing Arab state. Unauthorized armies become a state within a state. They undermine the authority of existing national political regimes. Militias often use force indiscriminately. When these armed groups are focused on liberation of land they are known as resistance movements. When their target is civilians they qualify as terrorists. Labeling militias is a very provocative and subjective endeavor.
To sum it up these four layers of hegemony are run by rulers, religious authorities, colonial powers and militias. These four types of domination overwhelm the silent majority of Middle East societies and turn on their radical minorities. The silent majorities are confused which way to go ideologically and they are not free to speak out. But radical minorities, mostly unemployed youth, are seduced by quick fix solutions of the militias. These four hegemonies are interactive; they operate in society like a vortex system.
The silent majority is sandwiched between the militia power in the street, the power of the regime in the capital and foreign influence on the border. The socio-political situation in the Middle East goes from bad to worse because there is no clear analysis of the problems. Arabs deny what is going wrong domestically and the West denies what agony their policies are costing the less fortunate side of the globe.
The situation of suffering in the Middle East may escalate to a point of a political meltdown. Street power may become too strong; militias across borders may wipe out existing national regimes in a domino sequence. A Pandora‘s box would open up, when US and Israel with panic would respond militarily.
Needed is a new US regional foreign policy to deal with comprehensive territorial injustices and a new economic empowerment program like the Marshall plan. This requires an international effort of peace making with the involvement of responsible stakeholders from the region and the international community.
Second, the region needs an industrial empowerment program that will start labor intensive projects to engage the youth, build the middle class and encourage women in political reform and all walks of life.
Third, a massive educational exchange program should replace military assistance and democracy building initiatives. Middle East international Universities should be funded generously. Scholars from all over the world would work side by side to promote social change and regional cooperation.
Fourth, a new era of awakening in religious education should be developed locally and regionally. Revised standards for teaching religion to encourage respect for intellectual inquiry and respect for other religions are urgent. A new world order requires new political thinking.

The author is an Arab American commentator. His blog is aldikkani.blogspot.com.

14 Comments:

Anonymous Hakim said...

Dear Dr. Rubeiz,
You always diagnose our socio-political diseases with accuracy. It's always eye-opening to read you.
A Ras Beiruti living in America

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