الجمعة، 31 يناير، 2014

What About the State of the Globe, Mr. Obama?

What About the State of the Globe, Mr. Obama?

President Obama at his State of the Union Address in January 2014
It is appropriate for the State of the Union (SOTU) address to focus on the “Union,” but this year, as in years past, it ignored its global reach and the anticipation of international communities to hear what the President of the United States has to say and whether the priorities listed will affect their lives. In fact, Obama dedicated the bulk of his speech to the pressing issue of helping the U.S. economy move forward, limiting the wealth disparity, and education. No surprise there, these are what matter most to Americans.  

In last year’s SOTU address, Obama had 42 requests of Congress, but the legislative body only acted on two of them. He has used the SOTU address throughout his presidency to call on Congress to raise the minimum wage, to move on immigration reform, to pass sensible gun controls; to close campaign finance loopholes, among other asks that fell by the wayside. For the President to stop at asking is particularly degrading. He announced in his latest SOTU address, this past Tuesday, that he will use the power of his pen “America does not stand still and neither will I so wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation … that’s what I’m going to do!” This is the least Obama can say at this point in his presidency.

There might be limited opportunity for grand ideas, for sweeping changes in this very contentious political atmosphere in Washington, but not putting up a fight will only prolong the status quo of legislative gridlock in Congress; a Congress that has earned the dubious distinction of being the worst one yet. Surprisingly, Obama announced that he will bypass Congress if he has to, in order to advance his policies through executive orders. Although such orders are limited in scope, they just might stir the political pot enough to get things done. As a result, Congress will attempt to assert itself and prove to its constituents that its members are earning their keep as they face the American people in this year’s midterm elections in November. When and only when he leverages the power of his presidency, might Obama be able to rise up to the slogan he ran to win the imagination of the American people and the White House.

Yes, we can!” was a message of hope and for change. This same message that candidate Barack Hussein Obama intended for American voters, echoed around the world. For the son a Black, Muslim, Kenyan immigrant to assume the highest office in the most powerful country in the world surely would make the whole world a better place. Images of Obama as superman flashed in my mind as I imagined what disenfranchised people around the world must be fantasizing. Indeed, an American superhero would jump out of the pages of fiction to make better the reality of downtrodden, despondent people wherever they may be and his name- Barack Obama.

Unfortunately, this Superman chose to hide behind his cape of justice- isolating himself and retreating, to become a docile president that is obsessed with extracting the U.S. from the realities of an unstable world. All the fights Obama fought were to disengage and retreat; withdrawing the troops from Iraq and Afghanistan is not a strategy but a defeat. Albeit, not a military one, rather a defeat for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, to whom the U.S. promised improvement in their lives. Obama took pride is saying that “Today, all our troops are out of Iraq. More than 60,000 of our troops have already come home from Afghanistan. With Afghan forces now in the lead for their own security, our troops have moved to a support role. Together with our allies, we will complete our mission there by the end of this year, and America's longest war will finally be over.  This is a defeat for the U.S. as it wreaked havoc in the sandbox that is Afghanistan and then, stood by to watch locals scramble to acclimate to the powerful greedy leaders the U.S. helped prop up. Personally I was disappointed and so were many Americans.

The world is too small and the U.S. is too big to pretend that it can avoid global issues; they will come back to haunt the nation if not dealt with. Obama has extracted the U.S. from pressing global affairs to the point that Hamid Karzai is accusing the U.S. of carrying out some of the latest terrorist bombings in his country, including the assault on a Lebanese restaurant in Kabul, knowing full well that the Obama administration will try to appease him before it will try to force his hand. Syria is negotiating from a place of power, denying the basic request of allowing aid to the starving people of besieged Homs. Edward Snowden continues to reveal state secrets at will. General el-Sisi went to the Gulf countries when Obama held off on paying a promised $300million and got billions from them instead. The U.S., during Obama’s tenure, has lost the respect it once commanded.

If Mr. Obama has finally come to the realization that he has the authority and tools to exercise his will beyond the confines and limitations of Congress, he should embrace the fact that he can operate globally outside the constrictive parameters of the United Nations. This option becomes pressing when the world looks to the U.S. for action; Syria comes to mind. Action taken to stop atrocities against civilians should not need U.N. permission. To gain legitimacy, the U.S. can go to the Arab League for authorization. After all, some kind of authority will need to be gained to act globally if the U.S. wants to avoid being viewed as an imperialist power. The U.S. should continue engaging the international community provided no genocide or ethnic cleansing takes place.

To that end, the U.S. has a responsibility to take action where it can, for the greater good, to save defenseless people around the world. It is necessary for Mr. Obama and consecutive presidents to deliver similar speeches at the SOTU address, directed at the global community. This speech should address the global citizen as opposed to the current practice where a president mentions international issues to his American audience. Such a speech must be a roadmap for what the international community should expect from the U.S. Surely, the global citizen would like to know how U.S. policies would affect them, including surveillance, drone operations, energy outlook and trade orientations. The days of government-to-government talks, behind closed doors, are over. The U.S. president needs to talk to the global citizen directly and candidly, but will he do that?

Technically, Obama has two years in office, but in reality he will become a transitional president after the midterm elections in November,  particularly if the Republicans become the majority in the Senate, in addition to the House of Representatives. He has a mere few months to deliver on his message of hope and change and declare “Yes, we did!

-Walid A. Jawad

الثلاثاء، 14 يناير، 2014

الخير لا يولد من رحم الكراهية

ساءتني مظاهر الابتهاج والفرح بموت إريال شارون ليس من حزن على وفاته ولكن حزنا وألما على عدم استحياء الفرحين بموته من أن يعبروا علانية عن مشاعر الكره والحقد نحو ذلك العدو. لقد أكد هؤلاء على ضعفهم وخذلانهم ليس في ساحة المعركة ولكن في نظرتهم الضعيفة نحو أنفسهم. لم يقبل هؤلاء بانهزامهم أمام شارون وجيوشه في ساحة المعركة فذلك أمر طبيعي، ولكنهم فضلوا أن يأثر لهم عزرائيل من القائد السابق لجيش الأعداء. ولكن عزرائيل لم يأخذ روح شارون انتقاما للشعوب العربية والإسلامية. ثقافة التطبيل لمصائب الأقوام هي أدنى درجات احترام الانسان لذاته بل أنها لا ترقى إلى أي من درجاته. فالظاهرة الطفولية السائدة هذه الأيام هي أن تُرى المصائب أو العواقب غير المرغوبة بها التي تقع في الغير بأنها "عقاب من الله" وإنتقاما لأفعالهم الشريرة، أما تلك التي تقع فينا وعلى من نحب فهي "اختبار من الله" وامتحان ليرى مدى مقدرتنا على الصبر كي يجازينا خيرا في الآخرة - ما أبسط ذلك التعليل الملون بسذاجة التعالي وعقلية الانسلاخ من الواقع.

من كان الإسلام نبراسه فليتذكر أن الرسول الكريم زار جاره بعد أن افتقد القاذورات التي كان يضعها أمام باب منزله دون انقطاع. فوجد جاره مريض فوجبت عيادته ولم يرى مرضه جزاء من رب العالمين له ولما كان يكيله له. كيف يتجاهل الناس هدي الرسول المصطفى ويستسلمون للشيطان ووسوساته مهللين بالمصائب ومرحبين بالمساوئ؟! وإن كانت تلك القصة لا تؤكد على كيفية تعامل المسلم مع عدوه فلا ننسى صلاح الدين الأيوبي ولقائه بعدوه رتشارد قلب الأسو في حروبه الصليبية، حين أدرك مرضه فأرسل له طبيبه وأعطاه فرسين لعجز حصانه. عجبا! ألم يخطر ببال صلاح الدين أن المرض ربما يقضي على عدوه وبالتالي لا يحتاج إلى مواجهته في أرض المعركة؟ من المؤكد أن ذلك كان جزءا من حساباته ولكن محاربة العدو في أرض المعركة لا يعني تجرد الفرد من إنسانيته. لم يختلط الأمر على الأيوبي فكان تعامله مع عدوه في ساحة المعركة من خلال جيشه وسلاحه وأما تعامله خارج ذلك فكان في إطار إنسان مقابل آخر حتى وإن كان ندّا له. إنسانيته قد أوجبت عليه أن يتجاهل حقارة الغدر وأن يبقي على رفعته واحترامه لذاته فبدونها لكان قد اندرج إلى النجاسة والخسة. لقد أدرك أن احترام العدو هو أول خطوة نحو النصر فإن خسر المعركة على الأرض فيبقى احترام الذات منارا ينير الدرب إلى المعركة القادمة.

إن كان الاحتفال بموت شارون هو الخطيئة الوحيدة للفرحين وأن الله عفو رحيم فأذكرهم بأن إسرائيل قد انتصرت في حروبها المتتالية ابتداء من إعلان الدولة الإسرائيلية عام ١٩٤٨ ومن بعدها في ٥٦ و ٦٧ و ٧٣ و ٨٢ وفي غيرها من المعارك. بالإضافة إلى انتصاراتها العسكرية هناك انتصاراتها الدبلماسية بالتودد إلى حملة مفاتيح القرارات الدولية خاصة الولايات المتحدة ومراوغاتها السياسية التي قطفوا ثمارها عبر السنين. الخسارة في هذه المعارك يجب أن لا تحولنا إلى وحوش مصابة بداء الكلب تعوي وتهاجم أيا كان دون فكر ولا غاية.

الدرس الذي يجب أن نتعلمه هو أن استراتيجية الانتظار إلى أن تحل المصيبة في العدو ليست بالاستراتيجية الحكيمة ولن تؤدي إلى إنهاء الصراع الفلسطيني الإسرائيلي. كما أننا نعي جميعا أن الخيار العسكري لن ينتهي بالإنتصار ولن يعيد الأراضي الفلسطينية بل أن خسارة أراضي إضافية هي نهاية حتمية إذا نظرنا إلى جميع المعارك الماضية. من دون نضج فكري وحكمة دبلوماسية وتكتيك سياسي يسعى إلى المصالحة الداخلية والى اتفاق الحل النهائي السلمي مع اسرائيل فلن يكون هناك أي تقدم من أجل فلسطين ويكون بالإضافة إلى خسارة المعركة الحربية والمعركة الدبلوماسية نكون قد خسرنا أنفسنا وانهزمت إنسانيتنا فالخير لن يولد من رحم الكراهية. 

نشرت في إيلاف ١٤ يناير ٢٠١٤ 

الاثنين، 13 يناير، 2014

Mideast peace deal… and they lived unhappily ever after

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to strike a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians should not be viewed as the final destination of his shuttle diplomacy efforts, rather as the first step toward resolving decades of the systematic weakening of the Palestinian people. The two overarching factors the U.S. should be concerned with are; firstly, whether a peace deal will lead to the fulfillment of Palestinian aspirations and secondly, whether the Islamic and Arab worlds accept the peace process as a just and fair resolution.

U.S. anxiety over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

The internal discussion within the U.S. Department of State, for many years, has been one of “Return On Diplomacy Invested;” will the diplomacy capital expended on shepherding the Israelis and Palestinians toward a permanent peace agreement yield any dividend? The discouraging track record of many consecutive administrations have been evident in the U.S. losing face at major junctures throughout its involvement as it brought the conflicting parties closer together around a shared vision for peace only to find the chasm of contentious disagreement growing even wider. Alas, diplomacy is not for the faint of heart.
President Obama launched a public relations blitz as soon as he took office, confirming his interest in the Middle East conflict by naming former Senator George Mitchell as a peace envoy in one of his first acts as president. He didn’t stop there, he gave his first interview as America’s chief diplomat to Al Arabiya News Channel, refuting claims of America’s hostility toward Islam and Muslims while promising a balanced approached to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Allocating $20 million in financial aid to Gaza within the first two weeks of his presidency rounded up his Mideast trifecta. This gave the impression that his administration is made the Israeli-Palestinian peace deal a priority. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Obama had the Clinton peace process lesson fresh in his mind. Clinton believed that he was able to get enough concessions from the conflicting parties at Camp David II to allow both sides to strike a final deal. But, as we all know, it never materialized. Obama got the moral of the story all-wrong. The lesson is not that striking an agreement is an impossibility, but that U.S. foreign policy priority must be to facilitate an agreement founded on amicability and mutually beneficial dynamics.
To address the issue of justice, individual Palestinians will need to receive a sincere apology and monetary compensations. Obviously this will not right the wrong that has befallen them, but it’s the next best thing
Walid Jawad
Nevertheless, American decision makers pose the question: will a peace agreement over the Palestinian question resolve the conflict? What does it look like and how do we get there? These questions constitute a naive and shortsighted approach to an entrenched complex conflict that predates America’s involvement and is beyond the political four year cycle American administrations are capable of working within. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, and will remain, a work in progress. Yes, Kerry and Obama are imagining a historic photo-op moment when they will preside over the signing of permanent peace agreement; warm handshakes, smiles, victory/peace signs. But if the theatrics of the agreement is what they are looking for then they shouldn’t even start because it’s the wrong end goal. In fact, getting to that photo-op will signal the beginning of a second phase of American’s involvement, which will require an ongoing engagement to ensure the survival of the peace that both parties agreed to.

Damned if you ignore the conflict, damned if you resolve it

When, and if, a peace agreement is achieved, we can be assured that many people will not be satisfied with it no matter how realistic or fair it can be - after all compromise is the only way to bring the two parties to an agreement. Calls for “justice” will ring out. No one can publicly oppose the right of anyone seeking justice even if that justice is a vengeful one. This “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation can be remedied by a dual pronged approach; a tangible one for the Palestinians and a framing/contextual one for the Muslim/Arab world.
To address the issue of justice, individual Palestinians will need to receive a sincere apology and monetary compensations. Obviously this will not right the wrong that has befallen them, but it’s the next best thing. So, if not in adherence to the letter of the principle of “an eye for an eye” it will be in the spirit of fairness, which will take the people of the region much further than a limited justice can ever take them. Despite that, individual fairness is not enough. Palestinians, as a people, will need economic prosperity, collective dignity and national sovereignty. None of these elements should be exclusively shouldered by the U.S., never mind that the U.S. has the most to gain from a peaceful Middle East. If that is not enough of a motivator, the administrator needs to keep in mind that the U.S. has been offering blood and treasure as sacrifice to the gods of ethnic and religious violence in the greater Mideast for decades and thus will need to lead the effort to peaceful coexistence. Furthermore, The U.S. is the sole actor capable of moderating peace talks between the primary (Israelis and Palestinians) and secondary (Arab countries and Islamic world) parties. Although parties to the conflict might not agree with U.S. tactics toward resolving the strife, they’re willing to extend the trust necessary for it to moderate the process.

What is good for the Palestinians is not necessarily good for the Muslim/Arab worlds

Once the U.S. is able to crack the peace agreement code and usher in an era of fairness to the Palestinians it will need to alleviate the concerns of the Arab and Islamic worlds. The prevailing narrative emphasizes freeing al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and ending the occupation of Muslim lands. The puzzle of al-Aqsa Mosque will need a creative and courageous approach by all parties concerned. But for Muslims to be satisfied, they will need al-Aqsa, at a minimum, to be under Muslim administration and Arab control. There is no amount of creativity that will alter the significance of Al-Aqsa as the third holiest place in Islam. Al-Aqsa, and Jerusalem by extension, is a thorny issue that might never be resolved in the traditional sense - a fluid and dynamic approach turning all parties involved into stakeholders instead of observers might be the answer, as long as it satisfies Muslim desire for access to their holy site.
Increasing trade activities between Palestine and Israel will change the nature of the relationship between the two as well as between Israel and countries in the region. After all, for the landlocked West Bank to be a viable and prosperous part of the soon to be Palestinian state it will need to have unfettered access through Israeli borders as a trade destination and as a thoroughfare to Gaza and its port. In affect, a prosperous Palestine benefiting from Israel as trade partner and a regional stakeholder holds the key to a lasting peace and Muslim acceptance of that peace.

The bottom-line

The implication for American procrastination in nudging the conflicting parties toward a permanent peace agreement is a continued strengthening of Islamist political and jihadist grassroots efforts, which wins over new impressionable recruits enlisting as god’s soldiers for the war on Islam in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt etc. Palestine is the focal issue fueling the narrative of twisted jihadist leaders wherever they operate. The U.S. must become cognizant of the implications, scope, and limitation of a narrow final agreement between Israelis and Palestinians; it is not a be-all and end-all to peace. A big picture approach and a commitment to a long-term American engagement that goes beyond the signing of a peace agreement is paramount.
Walid Jawad is a former Senior Policy Analyst at U.S. Department of State and a former Washington, DC correspondent. He covered American politics for a number of TV outlets since 1997. Walid holds an undergraduate degree (B.A) in Decision Science and Management Information Systems and a Masters in Conflict Analysis and Resolution. You can follow him @walidaj
Last Update: Monday, 13 January 2014 KSA 09:21 - GMT 06:21

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الاثنين، 9 ديسمبر، 2013

سمعة السعوديين

الإتصال الخارجي من أمريكا إلى أي مكان في العالم ليس بالمكلف – شكرا لـ "سكايب" و "ماجيك جاك" وغيرهما من الخيارات. ولذلك وفي عطلة نهاية الأسبوع تختفي خطيبتي للتحدث إلى أهلها عبر سكايب لتطمئن عليهم وتسمع إلى آخر الأخبار. من تزوج من، ومن ذهب إلى أين، وماذا فعل فلان، وكيف حال علان. لا، خطيبتي ليس حجازية ولا نجدية ولا حتى عربية من الأساس. نعم هناك نوع من الألفة عندما نقترن ببنات البلد ولكن روح المغامرة تتغلب عندما نجد رفيق الروح في الغريب؛ خطيبتي أمريكية من أصول جنوب أفريقية – السؤال المحير هو: هل هي بيضاء أم سمراء؟ سأترك للقارئ الاستمتاع بالحيرة.

إعتزمنا زيارة والديها الصيف المقبل في بريتوريا لكي أتعرف على  العائلة ولكي تتاح لهم الفرصة ليطمئنوا على إبنتهم. تلقوا خبر الزيارة في محادثة "سكايب" السبت قبل الماضي بسعادة بالغة. ولكن في محادثة هذا الأسبوع "راحت السكرة وبدأت الفكرة" كما يقول المثل فكان السؤال الدبلوماسي الأول من والدتها "ماذا يأكل وليد – لحم خرفان؟" بعد نهاية المحادثة سألت خطبيتي "لماذا سألت والدتك ذلك السؤال؟" بدأت بتفسير السؤال لتشرح أن سمعة السعوديين في جنوب أفريقا ليست بالسمعة الجيدة وأن ذلك ليس أهم شيئ طلما أنها ستقوم بواجب الضيافة بتوفير اللحم الحلال مثلا. استغربْت لكون أن هناك سمعة للسعوديين هناك في الأساس فضغط عليها كي تخبرني عن تلك السمعة.

قالت لي أن العديد من الجنوب أفريقيين يعملون في السعودية ولكنهم – في العموم – يعودون إلى بلدهم محملين بقصص سلبية عن السعودية وأهلها. “مثل ماذا؟" كان سؤالي لها. في الحقيقة لم يعجبني ما سمعت ولن أغوص في تفاصيله هنا ولكن من الواجب علي أن أشارك أبناء جلدتي تلك "الملاحظات" إن جاز التعبير، فلا يمكن للسعودية أن تتقدم دون أن "تواجه شياطينها" كما يقول المثل الأمريكي "face your demons”.

أذكر هنا أن خطيبتي عاشت في الأردن والعراق والكويت بالإضافة إلى زيارات لفترات متفاوتة لدول شرق أوسطية أخرى لكنها لم تزور السعودية قط وأن كل ما تعرفه عن المملكة كان من باب القيل والقال ومن خلال الأخبار والمقالات الصحفية ومؤخرا من خلال معرفتها بي وبعائلتي. على العموم؛ قالت أن   السمعة هي أن الرجال السعوديين متسلطين وظالمين لنسائهم وأنهم متطرفين دينيا وغير منفتحين ذهنيا. ثم بدأت بالمزاح بقولها أن أهلها لا يعلومون ما إذا كانت ستعود إليهم بحجاب أو أنها ستعتنق الإسلام. ثم ذكرتني بأن سمعة التسلط هي السمعة السائدة "لا تنسى أن الناس يظنون بأنكم تستقدمون  الخادمات وتستغلونهم كعبيد كأنهم ملك أيمانكم".

قلت كاسرا لحدة الجدّية "ولا تنسي بئر البترول في الحديقة الخلفية" ثم عاد النقاش إلى الجد لتقول "لا يمكنك أن تلومهم فهم لا يعرفون ولو شخص سعودي واحد وأنهم ليسوا من المهتمين بالمملكة". ذلك صحيح فكون السعودية بلد منغلق على نفسه يجعل من الصعب على أي باحث عن الحقيقة أن يرى جوانب الدولة الإيجابية. كما أن العديد من السياح السعوديين هم أسوأ سفراء للبلد بإسرافهم واستحقارهم لأهالي الدول التي يزورونها. العديد منهم يختلط عليه كرم الضيافة والتواضع فيعتقد أنه يشتري الناس بماله في بلدهم. هؤلاء هم الذين لا يستثمرون الوقت ولا العناء في فهم قوانين البلدان التي يزوروها فيقعون في الخطيئة ويتسببون في الإساءة إلى بقية الشعب السعودي لسذاجتهم وجهلهم أو لعنجهيتهم واستكبارهم.

هذا ليس كل شيئ فأنا  كسعودي لدي العديد من الإنتقادات التي تغوص في أعماق هذا المجتمع وليس فقط في القصص العابرة التي تهدف إلى "شيْطنة" الشعب السعودي. أنا على علم بأن هناك من سيتهمني بعرض "غسيلنا" على الملأ إلا أنني لن أجاهر بالنصيحة هنا، لعلي أقوم بذلك في المستقبل القريب؛ ولكن ليس اليوم.

اليوم؛ سأقول أن لو المشاكل هي فقط تلك التي تدور في فلك السمعة والقصص المشاعة لكانت "محلولة" إلا أن المشاكل تتعدى ذلك إلى عدم وجود دستور (أو ملكية دستورية)، وسوء توزيع ثروة البلاد التي تؤدي إلى تفرقة إجتماعية بناءً على الدخل بين الأغنياء والمغلوبين على أمرهم، وإنعدام النظام القانوني المستقل العادل إلاّ المبني على أهواء القضاة وليس كلهم من أصحاب الحكمة والعقل. بالطبع القائمة تطول ولكن يجب حل المشاكل الهيكلية أولا لأن ذلك سيؤدي إلى إنهاء المشاكل الثانوية واليومية. هل قيادة المرأة للسيارة إحداها؟ بالتأكيد ولكنها مشكلة ثانوية أساسها يكمن في عدم إعطائها الإستقلالية ولا الأهلية.

سؤالي الأخير لخطبيتي "ما رأيك في السعوديين الآن بعد أن تعرفتي علي؟" صمتت للحظة ثم قالت "أنتم شعب ثري بألوانه وأطيافه هناك الكثير من الخير ومجال كبير لإحراز الإنتصارات". نعم ذلك صحيح فمن الصعب أن لا تحرز السعودية تقدما وهي في قاع العديد من القوائم العالمية مثل حقوق الإنسان وحرية التعبير والحرية الدينية إلخ. في النهاية سألتني ضاحكة "إذن أنتم تأكلون غير لحم الخراف؟" قلت لها "أنا آكل بالإضافة إلى لحم الخروف ما يألكه غيري من البشر فسعوديتي ليست إقصاءُ بل إثراءً"

السبت، 16 نوفمبر، 2013

من ليس له قصة ليس له وجود

من هو العربي؟ سؤال طرحه قبل أيام أحد الحاضرين لمهرجان السينما العربي في واشنطن لهذا العام مستعجبا كيف أن الفيلم المغربي "الدار البيضاء حبي" كان باللغة الفرنسية وأن الفيلم العراقي "بيكاس" باللغة الكردية. شرحت أن التعريف التاريخي هو أن العربي أي شخص يتحدث اللغة العربية ولكن ذلك التعريف المبسط أخذ أبعادا جيوسياسية فمثلا غير العربي الذي يقطن في مصر ويتحدث العربية كان يعرف بأنه "خواجه" وذلك كان الحال بالنسبة للمتحدثين بالعربية من أهل الغرب. بالنسبة لي لم يكن الطرح حول العروبة وتعريفها أهم ما أثاره المهرجان؛ ببساطة العربي هو أي شخص يحمل جنسية تلك الدول الأعضاء في الجامعة العربية وكل من تحدّر منها مثل العرب الأمريكيين من الجيل الثاني ومن تلاهم ممن لا يتحدثون العربية. ولكن المهرجان طرح عدة مواضيع حرية بالتأمل والنقاش.

معظم ما طرحه المهرجان من أبعادا هي تثقيفية للجمهور وسياسية بالنسبة للعالم العربي من ضمنها إعادة التذكير بالوضع غير الموزون للفلسطينيين من خلال فيلم "الإرث" وهو فيلم حول حياة أسرة فلسطينية في صراع من أجل الإبقاء على العادات والتقاليد في وجه التحديات اليومية في مجتمع مدني في ظل حرب بين إسرائيل ولبنان. تكاد لا تسمع عن القضية الفلسطينة في الأخبار الأمريكية لولا أن هناك تحركات متثاقلة من قبل الخارجية الأمريكية. في المقابل إسرائيل تتمتع بتغطية إعلامية مستمرة خاصة من خلال الشأن السوري المأساوي. لا أستغرب لو اعتقد المواطن الأمريكي بأن الصراع الفلسطيني الإسرائيلي قد تم حله أو لو تساءل "من هم الفلسطينون؟". إختفاء الفلسطينيين من الساحة الإعلامية الأمريكية هو بالتأكيد خسارة للجانب الفلسطيني في أي محادثات لأن صانع القرار الأمريكي في نهاية المطاف يستمع إلى رغبات وآراء الناخب الأمريكي. الحال الآن أن الناخب الأمريكي يكاد لا يذكر المعاناة الفلسطينية ولكنه قلق على إسرائيل - يا ترى لصالح من سيكون الضغط الأمريكي؟!

مفاجأة المهرجان كانت في فيلم "عن يهود مصر" وهو فيلم وثائقي حطم ذلك الجدار الوهمي الذي يفرق العرب عن اليهود كأصحاب عقيدة. الكثير يستذكرون تاريخ الأندلس مؤكدين على التعايش بين الأديان ولكن التاريخ المعاصر أصدق في أنه يلامس حياتنا بتأكيده على أن مبدأ التعايش لا يعيش فقط في كتب التاريخ على رقعة جغرافية لم يعد الاسلام له فيها مكان بل في أن هناك من يعرفون باليهود العرب الذين كانوا (وقلة مازالت) يعيشون في دول عربية عديدة. بل الخلاصة تؤكد على أكثر من ذلك على أن هناك "يهود عرب" أي عرب القلب والقالب ذوي عقيدة يهودية لم يهجروا مواطنهم عن رغبة منهم ولكنهم رحلوا بعد أن خانهم القادة العرب بعد تكوين دولة إسرائيل. الفيلم خدم كنقطة نقاش حول الفرق بين اليهود كأصحاب عقيدة وبين اليهودية السياسية أي الصهيونية. هناك فرق واضح بين اليهود كأهل كتاب وبين الإسرائيليين كمواطنين (ومنهم الإسرائيليين العرب أي الفلسطينيين الذي بقوا في أراضيهم) وبين الصهيونيين وهم مجموعة ذات فكر سياسي إستعماري.

الطرح الأكثر أهمية لدى الجمهور الأمريكي هو عن تبعات الربيع العربي وكيفية تعامل صناع السينما العربية معها. المهرجان أعطى الإنطباع أن العالم العربي في صراع بين رجعيين يخافون من الآخر فانغلقوا على أنفسهم وبين من يسعى إلى الإنفتاح والتقدم. في فيلم "بيكاس" العراقي الكردي وكذلك في المغربي "الدار البيضاء حبي" كانت أمريكا وهوليوود المحور الأساس في سعي شخصيات البطولة نحو نهاية الفيلم. ولكن أمريكا هنا ليست الدولة بحد ذاتها بل نجم الشمال الذي يستعينون به في مساعيهم من أجل حياة أفضلا. فبالتأكيد لا يسعى هؤلاء إلى الغربة تحديدا ولكنهم يسعون إلى حياة كريمة تتوفر فيها الفرص لكل إنسان لديه عزيمة ورؤيا. بالفعل ذلك كان أحد ما رغبت منسقة المهرجان شيرين غريب العربية الأصل من إيصاله إلى المتلقي الأمريكي؛ أن السعي من أجل الحرية والسعادة هي قيم مشتركة بين الأمريكيين والعرب.

قالت غريب بأن "الهدف من مهرجان الفيلم العربي السنوي هو توفير تلك الأفلام العربية الأهم التي لا تتاح للمشاهد الأمريكي رؤيتها" شارحة أن ثلث الحاضرين هم من ذوي الإختصاص الإعلامي والشرق الأوسطي والثلث من المسؤولين والموظفين الحكوميين والثلث الآخر من المهتمين والممتهنين في الصناعة الفنية تتخللهم مجموعة من المشاهدين العابرين. في كل عام تواجه شيرين تحديات مالية كبيرة تهدد عقد المهرجان ولكنها على مر الثمانية عشر عام الماضية واجهت التحدي واستطاعت طرح المهرجان شكرا للتبرعات الصغيرة التي توفر بالكاد الميزانية الكافية (إنه أمر مزري أنها تواجه تحدي لجمع تبرعات لميزانية بهذا الحجم المتواضع). المضحك المبكي أن غالبية المتطوعين للعمل على المهرجان ليسوا حتى من أصول عربية. يجب أن يحكي العرب قصصهم للعالم أجمع في كتب وعلى الإنترنت وفي الإعلام وعلى شاشات التلفزيون وفي السينما وفي المسارح فمن ليس له قصة ليس له وجود.

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الأحد، 27 أكتوبر، 2013

The three-ring circus of American politics

The three-ring circus of American politics
The circus that was the partial government shutdown and debt ceiling debate in the U.S. Congress was hard to watch. The ring master, John Boehner the Republican speaker of the House, commanded the three rings of the House, Senate and White House and mistook the jeers of the American people for cheers and the hysterical laughter of shock and amazement for support until the very last possible moment before the tent of the U.S. economic structure was about to tumble down onto everyone’s head.
The absurdity of what happened in Congress over the budget; i.e. debt ceiling and partial government shutdown, might be a preview for what’s to come. For the past three years the Republicans have been pushing for their legitimate ideology in a twisted fashion as the Party’s leaders tried to capitalize on the Tea Party movement. Instead of co-opting the grassroots movement, the Republican leadership had to pander to the movement’s vocal minority; enter Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul.
Cruz, although vocal, was unable to impose his will on the Democratic controlled Senate, so he played the role of the Wizard of Oz. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the fable, Oz proclaimed wisdom, knowledge and power, but in reality he was a buffoon. Dorothy, the duped heroine, sought out the wizard for help only to find a trickster playing the role of a wizard. As such, Cruz professes to have the answer the American people are seeking; how to strike the right balance for an effective and efficient government working for all citizens within the constitution. Obviously, this is a tall order, or just about impossible to achieve. The fact of the matter is that efficiency and effectiveness mean different things to different people. This inherent illusiveness of the goal has only made the country stronger over the years, but it is no longer the case today with the likes of Cruz and his Tea Party caucus.

Holding the nation hostage

Disagreeing with politicians’ tactics does not necessarily detract from the honor of public service nor does it make them less patriotic than the politicians we agree with or support. But the failed Republican attempt to defund the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, by holding the nation hostage is raising some doubts over their intentions and loyalty to the nation. Senator John MacCain described some of his Republican colleagues as “wacko birds,” he further said in the aftermath of the budget debate that “it’s one of the most painful chapters that I’ve seen in the years I’ve spent here in the Senate.” It is rare for members to publicly criticize their own Party, but McCain is not the exception. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said about the extremist voices in his Republican party: “A number of us were saying back in July that this strategy could not and would not work, and of course, it didn’t.” This was echoed by Senator Lindsey Graham who said, “I think the tactical choice that [Boehner] embraced hurt our party,” he further pointed to the fact that the Republican “ brand name’s at the lowest ever.” Indeed, independent polls show the Republican Party stooping in popularity to the lowest levels ever recorded.
This path where the actual loyalty to country and people is second to self-interest fueled by a prepackaged, hollow motto of working-for-the-people is delusional at best and treasonous at worst
Walid Jawad
The minority Tea Party faction of the Republican Party is not heeding the calls of the majority. Cruz stated post-shutdown that “what I intend to do is continue standing with the American people to work to stop Obamacare.” It is hard to comprehend how he and his rowdy minority are willing to threaten the wellbeing of the nation for their narrow political goals. In fact, they are willing to bring down the American economic tent, leading to a destruction of the United States. The similarities between the Tea Party and emerging democracies can’t be overlooked. We’ve seen a number of emerging democracies with newly elected governments either turning their backs on the system that brought them to power or being ousted by another group all in the name of advancing the will of the people; which people, I ask. This is exactly what Cruz has proclaimed, doing this “for the people.” This path where the actual loyalty to country and people is second to self-interest fueled by a prepackaged, hollow motto of working-for-the-people is delusional at best and treasonous at worst. Either way it is indeed a “suicide pact” as Republican strategist Charles Krauthammer had described it. I have no problem with the Tea Party committing to a suicidal pact, but they have no right to cause a complete destruction of the system. As it stands, the equation is that these ideologues are committed to having it their way without regard to country and people; their way or the highway, and this highway leads to the end of the American way of life.

What next?

The American people now understand what this group is capable of doing, but what are they going to do about it. Typically, the American people are able to correct the course of the nation in the following election cycle; midterm elections are scheduled for Nov. 4, 2014. At that time, all 435 members of the House of Representatives are up for reelection as well as a third of the 100 Senate seats, not to dismiss the 38-member governorship and other public offices. Today, the Republicans control the House of Representatives. I would venture to say that if the midterm elections were to be held today that the Republican Party would have serious challenges to keep their majority in the House. But the American people don’t have to wait that long to signal their discontent with the Republicans. In less than two weeks, on Nov. 5, the limited off-year election of 2013 will be held. The race that is of significance is the Virginia race for Governorship (gubernatorial races) where a win for either party is a bellwether for what is to come in the 2014-midterm elections.
Elections cannot come quick enough for the American people to have their say at the ballot box. Likewise, a grassroots effort will take time to pick up steam and cause the desired effect. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the levelheaded Republicans in Congress to reign in the extremist faction in their midst and prevent further harm to the U.S. economy. I am encouraged by Senator Graham’s reassurance that tactics leading to government shutdown are a thing of the past and that the Republican party should demand of Cruz: “Don’t do this again, Ted.” If for some reason by Jan. 15, when the government will run out of money, we have a repeat of the circus in congress, the American people will make Republicans pay the ultimate political price in midterm and presidential elections.

Published on AlArabiya.net on Oct 27, 2013 here http://goo.gl/WyWfvW

الاثنين، 14 أكتوبر، 2013

Is America turning into a failed state?

Is America turning into a failed state?
The United States might not make the 2014 list of Failed States, but it might as well try if Congress and the president don’t stop playing a game of chicken with the country’s future. The current partial shutdown of the U.S. government is an unfathomable concept even for citizens of failed states. It is true that governments in those failed countries are incompetent, but most are facing staggering odds should they act on behalf of their citizens. This is not the case for American politicians; at the time of the government shutdown some two weeks ago, the country was in a healthy state and was getting stronger.
There are many ways to observe the fallout of a government shutdown. An increased number of people are in coffee shops spending the day sipping on drinks and reading the news because they have been furloughed. In fact, around 800,000 government workers have been forced to take an unpaid leave of absence or to work without pay during this time. Coffee shops become a haven for many as national parks are off limits. If you should drive down 17th street between the Washington Monument and the Abraham Lincoln Memorial, for instance, you will find metal barricades fending off tourists and locals from walking onto the different national sights.
Pandering to the extremist voices within one’s own party and engaging in a do or die game strikes an eerie similarity to new democracies grappling with the golden rule of democracy: compromise
Walid Jawad
But that pales in comparison to more serious government functions, such as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that should have been investigating a Washington DC Metro Rail accident where a worker was killed over the weekend in what was reported to be routine maintenance work. We will have to accept the Metro system’s own conclusions, which will be arrived after an investigation conducted without the NTSB’s oversight. This is the same dilemma for many other services connected with different government agencies. The spillover extends to services used by people located overseas, such as “digital” services. Visitors to NASA’s website will read the following message: “Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available.” I guess stargazers will have to look up at the sky for now.
The staring contest in Congress between the two parties, the Republicans and Democrats, was so compelling to the leaders of both sides that they lost sight of their responsibilities toward the American people. No side wants to show their perceived weakness if they compromise. The blame is not equally distributed though. The Republican Party had their chance a couple of years ago to oppose the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act they dubbed as “Obama Care,” when it was debated in Congress. Believe it or not, American’s are not provided public health care. Some 40 million Americans are uninsured while those who are pay high premiums for the privilege of fighting insurance companies to receive the health services they signed up for. In the end, the Democratic Party, the president’s party, won the day and got the bill passed and signed into law. The program, which goes into affect on January 1, is designed to lower the cost of health care and guarantee medical insurance to all Americans. The Republican Party decided to use the power of the purse; i.e. the appropriation bill to fund the government, to prevent Obama Care from taking effect.

Congress learns from new Middle Eastern democracies

A small group of Republican “Tea Party” members have been emboldened by an over represented, very vocal, electorate that demands less government spending. The Republican majority leadership in the House of Representatives acquiesced to this unyielding minority leading to the current shutdown. Perhaps its understandable as part of political posturing as the Republican Party jockey for a favorable position in their bid to win major U.S. elections, specifically the presidential race of 2016. But, the more hardline positions they take, the worse their chances become.
Pandering to the extremist voices within one’s own party and engaging in a do or die game strikes an eerie similarity to new democracies grappling with the golden rule of democracy: compromise. In Iraq, as in and Lebanon and Libya for instance, political challengers are eliminated in the most extreme way; forcefully. In other places, such as Egypt, the military took over and excused the legitimate president of the country, Mohammad Mursi. None of these examples have allowed for the democratic process to take its course. In reality, they all sidestep the established system to gain an unearned advantage. Although American politicians are not sidestepping the democratic process, they are taking the country down a road that would end with a complete meltdown of the economic system, which amounts to a betrayal of the trust the people placed in them. Without trust democracy becomes just another word for tyranny. Sad is the day when the oldest functioning democracy takes its cues from dysfunctional democracies in the Middle East.

A game of political chicken: A government default

President Barack Obama and his democratic party’s unconvincing resolve encourages the Republicans to engage in a game of chicken. The game is afoot when two drivers race toward a cliff, the looser is the first to swerve or apply the brakes. In this high stakes game of political chicken both the Republicans and Democrats are speeding toward the cliff of default.
Not to make things more complicated, but the shutdown, which I talked about above, is one thing and the default is another issue all together. The U.S. government will not be able to pay its bills if the debt ceiling is not increased by October 15 when the U.S. Treasury would run out of money to meet its financial obligations. The most probable result of such a default is a complete meltdown of the international financial system forcing a global recession. The U.S. government currently has a debt ceiling of around $16 Trillion, which is roughly just over its annual budget.
On Thursday, the Republicans offered Obama a plan to increase the debt limit through November 22; i.e. pushing back default deadlines to fight another day. If this Republican made crisis is not averted they will be blamed, but so will the Democrats to some extent. Politicians are elected to do the hard work on behalf of the people, but currently Americans do not think Congress is doing a good job. Overall, Congress’ job approval fell to 11%, according the latest Gallup survey. It is hard for their job approval rating to get any worse. If they don’t pull their act together and find a way to stop playing childish games with the future of the country then the American people will be better served with a complete shutdown of the government. It is easier to deal with the aftermath stemming from incompetence than from selfish and malicious acts. 

Published by Al-Arabiya.net on October 14