الثلاثاء، 18 نوفمبر، 2014

Finally a Good Arabic Movie Worth Watching

I covered the Washington, DC Arab Film Festival first in 1997 for ANA TV an MBC sister company. I was assigned to report on the festival at the last minute as my colleague was suffering from flu like symptoms. I was the junior reporter at the time fresh out of training. The producer gave me a flyer and told me "this is your assignment" and turned walking away. This would be the first time I cover an event in DC without training wheels; any senior reporter or producer to hold my hand. I thanked my lucky stars it wasn't a political event as I wasn't all that familiar with the DC political scene yet. No, this event was a cultural one, the 2rd annual Arab Film Fest of Washington, DC called Arabian Sights.

Driving to the movie theater I imagined a small turnout of mostly new American Arabs congregating in a small community type theater. But as I got there I was impressed by the large venue and fanfare; the excitement was palpable. I interviewed many people there for the report. Surprisingly, a good portion of the attendees were non-Arab. The tapestry of American attendees was made up of people with diverse religions and racial background. Each of the people whom I interviewed expressed, in different ways, their excitement and gratitude to the organizers for allowing them the opportunity to see a different side of the Arab world. Americans typical learned about the Arab world through news reports of destruction and conflict painting an unflattering picture of a people. Enthusiastically, the attendees wanted to complement the narrow reality covered by the media with elements that are difficult to see without traveling to that part of the world.

Diplomats, politicians, academics, movie buffs, first and second generation Arab-American and students from other nations and ethnicities were in attendance. “They want to see the films and appreciate the opportunity to do so in the city they live in and they come back year after year” said Shirin Ghareeb the coordinator of the festival and one of two people who work year long to screen and select the best Arab movies to feature in the festival. As someone who just moved from Saudi Arabia back to the U.S. at that point in 1997 one particular attendee surprised me. Upon asking him on camera why he made the effort to attend the festival, he said that as a Jewish American he was trying to get acquainted with Arab culture as much as he can because Arabs and Jews will have to live together whether they like it or not. He explained further that both people need to take proactive steps to move the nature of the relationship to a more positive one based on better understanding.

It would be narrow for me to consolidate the great contributions Arabian Sights makes every year to the singular point of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The Arab ethos has a much bigger problem to contend with. Political Islamists and the barbaric terrorism of ISIS and Al-Qaeda are challenging the essence of what defines Arab nations. Stories and the arts are the elements that confirm a culture, but apparently the well of Arab creativity has ran dry since Sinbad’s Magic carpet, Aladdin, Ali Baba and other fables and stories that live on beyond time and space. These stories of Arabia are in fact the parts that Arabs should put forward as a source of pride knowing that they permeate political and linguistic barriers gaining global recognition. Disney’s take on these stories is a clear example.

The transcendent narrative a culture puts forth allows its people to shape how others define them. Currently Arabs are allowing the chaotic events of killings, bombing, sectarian genocide, etc. to provide a backdrop for others to paint distorted pictures of who Arabs are. The limited efforts by Arab artist to tell the stories and humanize a culture are falling by the wayside. Arabs are unaware of the benefits they will reap by advancing such artistic forms of expression. For that, I am grateful that a team of two is bringing some of those stories to the big screen in Washington DC at the annual Arabian Sights. Shirin suggests that “These films allow viewers a window into the different Arab regions for them to learn about and figure what is going on there.”  
This year like every year, I will attend a couple of movies and seek out my American and Arab friends hoping that this 19th year of Arabian Sights would not be the last one for us to get together around good Arabic movies.


Arabs constantly complain that America doesn’t understand the Arab world. That might be true, but what are they doing to help Americans learn about their proud history and culture. Arab governments are interested in spending untold amounts of money to sway the thinking of a few American politicians forgetting that such politicians are fundamentally limited in their powers to what the majority of their constituency would not object to. Arabs, governments and people, should be concerned with creating open lines of communications with the American people. Cultural events like the Washington DC Arab Film Fest slowly, but surely, help with forging a better understanding of the Arab world. The one-dimensional stereotypical view of Arabs as violent and barbaric in the American mind is the singular most devastating factor for Arabs; they have no one to blame for it but themselves. As a matter of fact the policies and actions of the U.S. toward the region affect the lives of Arab publics throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Having a highly respected and well attended film festival is one of the many options that Arabs need to encourage, support and advance if should be bold enough to help Americans see them for what they are. Despite this obvious connection, it was doubtful for Arabian Sights to blow out its 19th candle this year due financial challenges. My calculation leads me to believe that the entire cost of the festival doesn’t reach the six digits range. Thankfully, a handful of loyal sponsors stepped up to the plate and donated the necessary funds to make this year’s festival a reality, but what about next year?

الأحد، 5 أكتوبر، 2014

Losing our Arabism at Washington’s Arab Festival - COMPLETE* ARTICLE



Welcome to the Arab Festival of the Washington DC Area brought to you by the heirs of the former Turkish Empire. It is ironic that as soon as I walked through the gates into the festival grounds I see the main sponsor's logo all over: Turkish Airlines. It seems that the irony is lost on the organizers and the sponsors. Arabs and Arab Americans short term memory loss is problematic as they have lost the lesson of how brutal was the Ottoman Caliphate occupation of Arab lands.

With great anticipation I visited the one day festival, Saturday the 27th of September 2014, checking out vendor tents void of any allure for only the handcrafted pottery vendor. I quickly became suspicious of the origin of the art work. “This style doesn’t look Arabic” I thought to myself when the gentleman manning the table started with his pitch. I quickly asked “where was this one made?” he paused for a second and said “Persia.” A smart attempt to avoid saying “Iran” identifying himself and the artwork in a less politically charged affiliation. the score so far: festival 0 for 2. I followed my nose up the hill. I’ve planned my day so to eat my major meal at the festival imagining the numerous variety of traditional tasty Arabic cuisine in an afternoon of culinary bliss. My hopes were dashed realizing that none of the vendors were giving out samples of any long missed tasty Arabic foods.

The longest line was the one forming under the shade of some trees. I wanted to stand in line just to escape the glaring midday sun, but I was curious to check out the half dozen food stands, looking for the most intriguing menu items. Kabob on the grills of a couple of vendors with smoke dancing to a delicious beat of hunger and growling stomach. The first one was a Pakistani restaurant, the second was an Afghani and the last was Indian. Only the first vendor was making Arabic cuisine. Was there anything Arabic about this “Arab Fest”? Sure there was, there was the music echoing from the bottom of the hill, it was unequivocally Arabic. I approached the stage to get a glimpse of the band. It was a Palestinian one made up of five family members of which a little 8 years old girl played the guitar and sang; very endearing. Although, singing Marcel Khalifa’s “Tifl we Teyara” was the antithesis of the festive vibe the gathering was anticipating.

I must respect the Palestinians’ persistence to remind us and the world of their plight. Unfortunately it is not resonating. There is a major disconnect between the Palestinian people and the land of Palestine. The Palestinians over the last few decades have been coming across in an unflattering way. The divide between Hamas and Fath, the rift between the people of Gaza and the West Bank is a major conundrum. Less the Palestinian find a way to unify and become again one people it will remain a challenge for them to gain any real international public support including that of the Arab world. Arabs are unified in their animosity toward Israel, but are by no means pro Palestinians.

Back at the festival my patience was running thin, I was ready to leave. The entry fee was exaggerated, historic enemies were sponsoring the festival, the festival was lacking in festivity, Arab kids were undisciplined and hijab was overcasting an aura of Islamic tint over the afternoon. There is nothing wrong with Hijab or Islam per se, but equating Arab culture with the Islamic faith is troubling. Setting the bar, no pun intended, to adhere to a conservative religious interpretation for the purpose of appeasing the minority is tantamount to catering to the outlier minority among the group. The lowest common denominator approach is the same one that gave us Al-Qaeda and ISIS/ISIL/IS. The outward appearance of the festival wasn’t visually religious, but the festival lacked essential festive and celebrated Arabic signature items such as the Lute and Qanoon, Arab dresses and jewelry, Arab architectural achievement and arts, Arabic inventions and history, and Arabic language, poetry and literature.

The Arab Festival did not materialize in the way it did in a vacuum. It is a reflection of the Arab world; especially that more immigrants are flooding the U.S. bringing with them ingrained fears and desperation as well as memories of destruction and atrocities. But they also bring with them a more recent Arab experience, dreams and hopes. I believe this is a good time to reflect on Arabhood and on our Arab-Americanism to examine what makes us Arabs. Muslim Americans are mostly non Arabs while being classified as White is a false classification leading successive generations to lose their Arabism, which leaves us in a peculiar place. The only factor that brings Arab-Americans together as it were is our shared grievances. And even that external negative unifier is now being lost seeing how dominant the Turkish and Iranian presence was at this festival. This would have been a different kind of article; one that praises coexistence, forgiveness and tolerance if the festival was in fact a celebration of Arab culture and not just a facade.

Nevertheless, in typical Arab fashion we avoid abundant sunshine by seeking the reprieve of any shade. Although the historic Turkish clouds are dissipating, the Iranian skies are ominously darkening. Nevertheless, Arab Americans have found darker clouds for us to gather under; the NSA, FBI and CIA along with many local law enforcement agencies are resorting to failed profiling tactics. Without their biases and prejudice we would have lost our Arab-American identity.



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* A shorter version of this article was first published on Al-Arabiya http://goo.gl/UlSczG (Oct 5, 2014), but it was edited to be shorter depriving the reader for some essential elements. I hope you find this complete version to be satisfactory 

 

الأحد، 31 أغسطس، 2014

Saudi King Throws Money at Terrorism

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia donated earlier this month another $100 million to the UN’s International Centre to Combat Terrorism. On its surface, it is a sensible approach to find a global solution for a global problem, but in reality global terrorism is a local issue. Three things Abdullah will need to consider to secure a reasonable return on his investment; first, looking inward to address causes leading to grievances amongst his population. Second, reorienting the current security based reactionary approach to terrorism to one that is proactively steeped in social justice. Third, moving away from casting terrorists as religious hijackers by offering a parallel narrative to a swayable population.  

“The goal [of the International Center to Combat Terrorism] is to exchange and pass information in an expedited fashion … to prevent events before they hit” said Abdullah in a frustrated tone a couple of weeks back. Exchanging intelligence is a surmountable challenge as we have realized from the American experience on 9/11 when the intelligence community failed to “connect the dots.” Sharing critical information in a timely fashion continues to be problematic despite restructuring the U.S. intelligence system under the Department of Homeland Security. What are the chances of a successful ongoing exchange of relevant intelligence in real time on a global level? I dare say very limited, at least not more effective than the current established channels of communicating security/intelligence information.

This myopic obsession with countering a tactic, terrorism, with security responses keeps the intelligence community consumed with figuring out the next step on a chessboard of infinite pawns. This reactionary stance fails the test of guaranteed prevention knowing that terrorist are one step ahead. The manpower and budgetary attrition rates will only get worse for the intelligence community and security forces particularly that terrorist can be destructive on the cheap. Security can only be one spoke in the wheel that moves a society away from such destruction.

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has set up a number of security, media and social programs to combat terrorism. One of which is Intellectual Security concerned with what is commonly referred to in Saudi as “deviant thoughts” a euphemism for terrorist ideology. Another is the Commission for Advise to “correct mistaken religious thoughts” according to their mission statement and finally, the After Care Program which is a social and financial program providing services and money to previously incarcerated terrorists. These are smart programs, but none of them address any of the root causes leading to terrorism. Social justice and political inclusion are effective ways to prevent aggrieved citizens from resorting to terrorism to affect political change.

Abdullah was quoted numerous times saying that “terrorist are hijacking Islam.” Putting distance between terrorists and Islam is a matter of religious interpretation. Islam is not being “hijacked” by mostly disheveled Captain Hook lookalikes for religious reasons. Nor are terrorists attempting to spread sharia laws by reviving the Caliphate. Rather Islam provides these criminal leaders with an established narrative that took decades to develop thanks to the rhetoric of Said Qutb and Hassan Al-Banna of the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt. Aggrieved Arabs embraced this narrative and ensuing indoctrination across the region. Focusing on the narrative and offering parallel accounts capturing the audiences’ imagination should be added to the spectrum of tools utilized to complement the concrete action for social justice and political inclusion. Religious based narrative is not what causes citizens to become new foot solders for AlQaeda or Islamic State/ISIS; grievance is.

The latest report confirm that the Saudi security apparatus is put on high alert after a number of AlQaeda sympathizers sprayed threatening graffiti messages on the walls of a security barracks in Sharorah close to the Saudi-Yemeni boarder two months after a terrorist attack killing a number of Saudi security forces mere miles away. This is a troubling sign as emboldened terrorist flank both northern and southern borders of the country. Banning the Muslim Brotherhood and being vigilant are options exercised by the Saudi government, but until the regime resolves to addressing root causes of freedoms and rights for its people the old strategy of pacifying citizens with hollow gestures will only lead to more discontent, deeper resentment, more grievances and ultimately more terrorists.



الأربعاء، 27 أغسطس، 2014

شيك على بياض من أجل غزة

يتغنى التاريخ العربي بالإبداعات الأدبية والعلمية. لا أدري متى كان آخر إختراع عربي أو إبداع علمي فأنا لا أتذكر لأنه لم يكن هناك أي إبداع يستحق الإطراء طوال حياتي حتى أني بدأت أشك بأن ذلك التاريخ الحافل المتباهي ما هو إلا من قبيل الأساطير والخرافات. في الحقيقة لا يهم إن كانت الإختراعات عربية أم لا ففي النهاية تصب جميع الاختراعات والابتكارات في المخزون الإنساني لنا جميعا ولكن عندما تكون الهوية العربية هي المستفيد الأول والأخير فيكون البخل الإبداعي خلل في العرب أنفسهم. أتدارك لأقول أن ذلك التعميم غير منصف لأن هناك بعض المبتكرين خاصة عندما يتركون العالم العربي ويعيشون في إحدى الدول المنفتحة. 

هذا ليس عتابا وإنما فقاعة حرُقة سبحت مع بقية فقاعات الحزن إلى أعلى غلايّة الألم لتصفّر بصرخات الخذلان والانكسار واليأس تحت لهيب الواقع انطلقت عندما فتحت إيمل من إحدى المنظمات الأمريكية (غير العربية الأصل) الناشطة في انتقاد الحكومة الأمريكية لمؤازرتها العمياء لإسرائيل لأقرأ التالي "وقّع على شيك ببياض يقول للإدارة الأمريكية كفى توقيع شيك ببياض للحكومة الإسرائيلية". يقول الإيميل أن المنظمة ستجمع تلك الشيكات الورقية (ليست ذوات قيمة نقدية فعلية) في أكياس كبيرة وسوف ترمي تلك الشيكات أمام المرشحين لمجلس الشيوخ ومجلس النواب في خطبهم الانتخابية؛ فكرة جميلة تحوّل السؤال والنقد الشفوي الموجه للمرشح إلى شيئ ملموس يُظهر مقدار النقد لقرارات الساسة الأمريكيين في مساندتهم لإسرائيل. نعم، نعم أدرك أنه ليست هناك فرصة مشابهة أمام الشعوب العربية لفعل شيئ مماثل - إلا لرمي الأحذية أثناء الصراخ في وجهة زعماء الدول الزائرة ربما. 

حسنٌ، ولكن ما قولكم عندما تقوم مجموعة مؤثرة من القساسوة بالصوم من أجل الفلسطينيين أو عندما يخصص طلاب الجامعات حول أمريكا ليلة محددة لإيقاد شمعة والصلاة من أجل الضحايا (هناك أكثر من ١٥٠٠ جامعة). ألا يستطيع الأئمة في العالم العربي أن يخصصوا صلاةً من أجل فلسطين أو أن يصوموا جميعا ليوم أو إثنين أو ثلاثة. أو ربما يعتكفوا لأسبوع في مساجدهم راكعين ساجدين من أجل السلام؟ هذه ليست أفكار جديدة ولكنها أفكار لم تجد من يحوّلها إلى حقيقة كغيرها من الأفكار الخلاّقة التي لم ترى النور. الإعلام آلة فاعلة ولكن التاريخ العربي الذي أذكره لم يستطع أن يستفيد من هذه الآلة النهمة التي تعمل من أجل تسليط الضوء على وضع كالوضع القائم في غزة الآن. بل أن ما أذكره هو خطف الطائرات في السبعينيات (في الحقيقة لا أذكر تلك الحوادث لأني كنت طفلا حينها ولكن ذلك لا يعني أن العالم نسيها بل أن العالم أسبغ صفة الهمجية على أصحاب قضية عادلة وكل من يؤازرهم). في ذلك الوقت كان المناصرون لإسرائيل يؤكدون على أن اليهود هم الضحية ويحولون قصص المحرقة إلى أفلام مؤثرة. أرجوا أن لا يقول أحدهم أن اليهود يسيطرون على هوليوود لأن هوليوود تستجيب للمادة ومن يريد أن يستثمر في أي فيلم كان فسيجد في هوليوود أصدقاء كثر. وبالمناسبة أعلن في الأونة الأخيرة الكثير من أهل هوليوود عن تأييدهم لفلسطيني غزة.

إذن المشكلة ليست في المادة ولكن في الشجاعة والإبداع؛ ألم يحن الأوان للعرب أن يحولوا تاريخا فاخرا من الاختراعات والابتكارات من أجل الإنسانية إلى حقيقة؟ 


سعودي – أميركي
خبير تحليل الصراع وحل النزاع
- See more at: http://www.elaph.com/Web/opinion/2014/8/935108.html?entry=Writers#sthash.uEdGaVg1.dpuf

الأحد، 3 أغسطس، 2014

ليست هناك قضية فلسطينية


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هل فعلا القضية الفلسطينية هي قضية العرب الأولى؟ هل هي معركة شرف من أجل تحرير الأراضي الفلسطينية ورفع الظلم عن أهلها؟ أنا لا أعتقد. القضية الفلسطينية بالنسبة للعالمين العربي والإسلامي هي قضية وهمية وأداة في يد حكامها مقارنة بالمعاناة التي يتكبدها الفلسطينيون على أرض الواقع في كل يوم وفي كل ساعة. لا يوجد أي تفسير غير ذلك إذا أمعنا النظر في الخطاب الديني والوطني والسياسي حول هذه القضية لأن الواقع لا يوافق الخطاب. الواقع هو أن فلسطين الدولة ليست بسمؤولية دينية لأن الدول والحدود هي بالحداثة بمكان يستثنيها من التعاليم الإسلامية، فليس هناك حكم بخصوص إصدار تأشيرة السفر ولا للجمارك ولا لنقاط العبور وبالتأكيد ليس للحدود السياسية الجغرافية. فلسطين الدولة مثلها كمثل الأندلس الذي يتغنى به الحالمون بوهم لن يعيشوه فلا مسؤولية إلهية ولا سنة تقضي بها. ولكن ربما تكون هناك مسؤولية دينية تجاه أولى القبلتين؛ المسجد الأقصى. ومع ذلك فالمسؤولية لا تجعل القتال من أجل "فلسطين" فرض عين ولا حتى فرض كفاية لأن المسجد الأقصى ليس بالضرورة أن يكون من ضمن دولة فلسطين ولا أن يكون جزءا من أي دولة. الفاتكان هو مثال جيد يبدد الصرخات التي تساوي بين المسجد الأقصى ودولة فلسطين. الفاتيكان يقع في "إيطاليا" ولكنه مستقل وذو سيادة أي أنه ليس جزءا منها. وما يحدث لإيطاليا ليس بالضرورة يفيد أو يسيئ إلى الفاتيكان. تلك البقعة "الدينية" في إيطاليا غير معنية بالتأرجح السياسي أو الاجتماعي للإيطاليين. فلماذا إذن تحرير الأراضي الفلسطينية أصبحت علة دينية نساوي بينها وبين المسجد الأقصى.
ولكنها علة وطنية، أو ربما تبدو كذلك. إنها علة وطنية فقط لأنها في مواجهة مع إسرائيل. هناك العديد من أراضي "الوطن" العربي التي تعيش فوضى الحرب والظلم والضغينة من خلال القمع والقتل والسجن والتعذيب ولكن لا يوجد من لديه الشجاعة بأن يساوي بين ما يحدث هناك وبين فلسطين، هل هناك من يقارن بين داعش مثلا والإسرائليين أو بين الأسد ونتنياهو مع المعذرة لإسرائيل ونتياهو في هذه الحالة لأن داعش والأسد أسوأ وأحقر. لن أدرج قائمة بأسماء القادة الذين يعتقدون بأن الدول التي يقودوها هي ملك خاص لهم ولن أجرؤ بأن أقول أنهم أخذوا شعوبهم من ضمن البيعة كعبيد أو أتباع؛ هل تقرؤون يالمالكي والسيسي و … سوف أحتفظ لنفسي بأسماء البقية كي لا أوضع على قائمة الممقوتين أو المستهدفين.
فإذا كانت "الوطنية" مبدأ هلاميا لا يمكننا الاتكال عليه فيمكننا القضية الفلسطينية في خانة الكرامة. نعم عندما أطلقت "الكرامة" على المعركة بين الأردن وإسرائيل في عام ١٩٦٨ (بالرغم أنها نسبة إلى قرية الكرامة ولكنها مناسبة في هذه الحالة) كانت بالفعل كذلك من أجل الكرامة. بالرغم من الإنتصار الأردني (التاريخ له أكثر من قصة ونهاية لتلك المعركة) إلا أن معظم المعارك العربية قد انتهت بانهزام الجيوش العربية بجلالة قدرهم وعدتهم وعتادهم أمام دولة حديثة وصغيرة. في نظري أنه كما يجب أن يتحلى المغلوب في المباريات بالروح الرياضية فعلى المغلوب في الحروب التدميرية أن يمتنع عن الشكوى لأنه انهزم فالهزيمة هي الهزيمة، والحرب مكر وخداع وليست فقط قوة. لو أن الحكام العرب في حينها قد أعلنوا عن رحلة سياحية مدفوعة الثمن للشعوب العربية إلى شواطئ "فلسطين" - دون أي أسلحة - لكانوا قد أخذوا فلسطيين من الإسرائيلين بمجرد تخطي الملايين للحدود الإسرائيلية مشيا على الأقدام متسلحين بالنظارات الشمسية وملابس السباحة؛ نعم حتى الإسلامية منها.
الحكام العرب لم يرغبوا يوما في تحرير فلسطين. ففيما بينهم كانت مسألة القومية العربية المسألة السياسية الأهم لأنها ستفضي إلى تحويل الحكام العرب من أنداد إلى كتلة واحدة ذات حاكم له الأولية في تمثيلهم وتغليب رأيه ورغبته عليهم. ومع ذلك لم يتجنب الزعماء النداء من أجل الوحدة العربية كل منهم يخاف من غدر الآخرين فيعمل على التغلب عليهم. لقد كان تحرير فلسطين نداءً فاعلا من أجل القومية العربية التي ألهمت خيال الشعوب العربية وألهتهم عن النظر في وضعهم وحالتهم السياسية المزرية في الدول التي ينتمون إليها. مطالب كل شعب من حكومته لم تكن لتصل إلى حد الإنتفاضة الشعبية. قبض الحكام العرب على عروشهم بقبضة من حديد ضد أي مواطن نطق بكلمة عتاب أما البقية فكانت تحلم بالإنتصار على إسرائيل وتتغنى بالقومية العربية فجلس كل زغيم عربي بارتياح على كرسي الحكم. أما الحرقة التي كانت تلهب ضمائر الشباب فكانت فأل خير لهؤلاء الحكام الذين فتحوا لآلاف الشباب الحالم الباب إلى أفغانستان ومن ثم البوسنة كي "يحرروا" ويناضلوا ويحظوا بالشهادة. بالطبع جميعنا يعرف كيف أن قصر النظر أدى إلى تكوين القاعدة ودولة الإسلام وغيرها من الجماعات الدموية المشرذمة.
إمتناع الزعماء العرب من المناداة بتحرير فلسطين والتأكيد على حرمة المسجد الأقصى أتى بعد أن نال منهم ذلك الخطاب الكثير فقد تكون منه جيش من المنتحرين المغرر بهم الذين أصبحت قبلتهم القتل والترهيب ولكن ليس للأعداء الذين يحددهم الحاكم العربي بل الحاكم العربي نفسه والنظام السياسي السائد بالإضافة إلى الشعوب العربية التي لم تنضم إليهم في مهمتهم السوداوية للإنتحار والقتل. منذ انتهاء ذكر تحرير فلسطين بدأ الشعب العربي في النظر في مرآة حاله ليجد الضغية تفيض من جنباته. سرقات الحكام وسطوتهم وعدم اكتراثهم بالشعوب التي يحكمونها أدت إلى الربيع العربي. تلك الانتفاضة المؤقتة التي تركت فراغا سياسيا ملأه أشخاص من نفس الطينة التي كانت تجلس على كرسي الحكم. بل أن هذا الجيل من حكام الربيع أسوأ من سابقيه إما لأنه أقسى أو لأن الفراغ السياسي استضاف الفوضى والمزيد من القتل والدمار والخراب في لعبة كراسي موسيقاها دوي الرصاص والتفجيرات. ذلك ما أدت إليه عقود من التغني بتحرير فلسطين ولكن أين هي فلسطين مما عليه العالم العربي الآن.
القضية الفلسطينية هي قضية إنسانية وليست قضية العرب كما أنها ليست قضية إسلامية ولا وطنية ولا حتى قضية كرامة. هذه القضية الإنسانية جوهرها وأساسها هو الفرد الفلسطيني وليس التراب الذي تتحكم فيه إسرائيل وليست المفاتيح لأبواب صدئة لم يعد لمعظمها وجود وليست الحجارة التي يتكون منها المسجد الأقصى فتلك قضايا سياسية وهناك آليات لحلها والتعامل معها مع أني لست متفائلا في ظل هذه المعمعة الإستنفارية لمرحلة ما بعد الربيع العربي. أما الإنسان الفسلطيني فهو من يحتاج لمن يحارب من أجله، وليس بالسلاح بل بمحاربة الفقر والآفة وألم الشتات. اللاجئون الفلسطينيون في كل مكان هم سجناء الحالة. كما أن فلسطيني غزة يعانون من جرائم إسرائيل وجميعنا ينقهر ويغضب إلا أن اللاجئين في كل بقاع العالم العربي معذبون دون ذنب اقترفوه. يجب على الحكام العرب أن يفيقوا من استخدام القضية الفلسطينية أو الإنسان الفلسطيني كأداة سياسية وأن يدركوا كما أن الخطاب السياسي الذي انتهجوه في الزمن الماضي لتأجيج الضمير العربي إنقلب عليهم ليصبح كابوسا يعيشونه يوميا فإن الإبقاء على اللاجئين الفلسطينيين في سجون مفتوحة في أماكن متفرقة حول العالم العربي هي وضع لا يغتفر سواء كانوا في ملاجئ أو بإقامات خاصة في دول عربية. يجب أن يجد الحكام العرب أدواة ضغط سياسي أخرى غير الإنسان الفلسطيني لتحقيق أهدافهم أيا كانت وفقط حينها عندما يغضب العالم العربي لجرائم إسرائيل بحق أهل غزة من قتل وتفجير للنساء والأطفال كما يفعلون في حربهم الحالية فسيغضب العالم معنا وعندها سنكون أقرب إلى أن نوقف إسرائيل عند حدّها. حان الوقت للإنسانية أن تكون نبراسا لحكامنا ولنا. وليبقى الفلسطينيون مرفوعين الرأس في الأوطان العربية لأننا لن نقف شامخين مرفوعين الرأس طالما أننا نطأطئ رؤوسنا حرجا في حضرتهم لأننا من جعلهم أذلاء فالأعداء تلك غايتهم أما الأهل والعشيرة والإخوة فليس لديهم عذر.

وليد جواد
كاتب سعودي أمريكي
خبير تحليل الصراع وحل النزاع


نشرت أولا في إيلاف ٣ أغسطس ٢٠١٤

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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