Mr. Martin Nesirky, the Spokesperson for The UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, speaking to the UN accredited PRESS, Monday July 15th, ended his daily briefing by saying:
“This morning, the Deputy Secretary-General spoke to a large group of representatives from non-governmental organizations and the private sector on international migration and development. He emphasized the need to establish sustained and strong partnerships between different actors to harness the benefits of migration and improve the situation of migrants. He also commended the role played by civil society in building such partnerships.
He said that the General Assembly was meeting on international migration and development in October, and that this was an opportunity for member States to lay the foundation for improved local, regional and international migration policies.” That’s what I have. Questions, please? Yes, Pam?
This statement relates to full three days of activities right here at the UN Headquarters in New York and across the street in the Church Center – which followed a full year of preparations outside the UN in a process that was started in 2006 when there was a UN General Assembly mandated first “High-Level” Dialogue on this topic and was succeeded by yearly meetings and further regional meetings.
At Rio the recommendations included the removal of the non-producing Commission on Sustainable Development and its replacement with a High-Level Panel that will look into the creation of a system of Sustainable Development Goals that will follow in 2015 after the expiring Millennium Development Goals – and this allows for an unusual opportunity to try for making the avoidance of the need of Migration into a Sustainable Development Goal. But the UN seems to oppose this by all the means it has – and I will explain.
You see – when I walk the streets of New York these days I bump into people. This is because the daily temperature reaches 100 degrees Fahrenheit and people do not walk in a straight line. You must try to anticipate which way they will deviate – and I am as guilty as anyone else – this because global warming and Climate Change are already here with us. Relating to our topic here – MIGRATION occurs now not just because people are attracted by magnets of freedom from dictatorships, from religious or sexual oppression, or because of a chance to better education, but now – more and more – there is the push of hunger – climate change has made it impossible to support populations in their country of origin and this migration has become the highest security issue in our days. If heat and Climate Change is impacting New York, just think what this has done in Mali or Darfur!
The UN is not blind to this. The UN Secretary-General was supposed to be the opening speaker at the Monday, July 15, 2013 event at the meeting at the UN General Assembly with Mr. Vuk Jeremik, President of the General Assembly as Chairman of the session. But Mr. Ban Ki-moon chose to be on a July fact finding tour of Europe that took him to see the effects of glaciers melting in Iceland, and a visit in Paris on Bastille Day with the French troops fighting in Mali.
Both above visits, as well as the meetings in-between, would have made a great story had the UN Secretary-General returned to New York and told on Monday July 15th his impressions to the meeting here. But this seemingly did not cross his mind, and surely this is no reflection on the way Mr. Elliason presented the case. It must be said that seven years ago – at the first dialogue – Mr. Eliasson presided because it was his position of President of the UN General Assembly, so he is well versed with the issues – the roles of Civil Society, Labor Unions and Employers’ organizations, diaspora organizations, and academics. He stressed that the challenge is to reach to the help of the media – “Knowing the facts is the source of wisdom” he quoted.
Mr. Eliasson said he wants to see as a post 2015 program a five year action program in five areas of priority:
What he did not mention is the right of people to avoid migration that was pushed upon them because of changes in the local environment.
Mr. Jeremik reminded us of the Rio vision for the post-2015 as an aspiration to strive for equitable approaches to overcome poverty and inequality.
At the meeting on Monday participated over 200 Civil Society organizations and 80 UN member States.
I sat through the full three days and saw that very good people from all over the globe were present – but by no means was this an objective success.
Starting with the strong Swiss presence I must say that as Migration means Emigration from one place and Immigration to another – this except Migration within the same country, Switzerland is a country of poor record as it does not allow citizenship except when the candidate is weighed in gold – and I am not abstract on this – Just think of the Agha Khan and his Swiss based Foundation. So, when A good looking lady presented herself as a migrant from El Salvador to Switzerland, with dual nationality and diamonds sparkling from her earrings, spoke about the Global Economic Forum backing the economic advantages that come from migration – I had to wonder about what I was hearing. Then let us not forget that simple mortals could not stay in Switzerland when their life was in peril. In general – I was more impressed by the people in the room then by some of the presenters, as in UN fashion – the good turns easily into the trite, and good ideas can produce easily flying meetings that are not free to the introduction of ideas born outside the initiating circle. Trying to introduce the notion that the UN is changing and that MDGs are ending with new SDGs taking their place, and the fact that the UN just opened this month the office for Sustainable Energy – the SE4All concept, and that right now there is an opportunity to talk of migration in context of Climate Change – all that was beyond the interest of the organizers and the moderators – but very much of interest of many of the participants.
Civil Society is surely a mixed bag, and the stress on remittances from the Migrants back to their families in the homeland become very important part of the economies of some oppressive governments – so, indiscriminately stressing the economic value may not be any better idea then using military from countries in trouble in order to beef up the troops of UN Peace-Keeping forces in other countries in trouble, when the pay for this service is income for the government that sends these troops. This comment may have nothing to do with the subject at hand but is important to the understanding of the depth of the problem when you work in he UN context.
Without delving further in depth of what was said, this because the meetings were just an interactive exercise that will generate its own papers, the real news this Monday were not the Civil Society NGOs that were allowed to participate – but rather those organizations that were excluded in total lack of transparency and thus gave a blue eye to the UN institution as a whole.
The subject came up when the United States pointed out that three NGOs were eliminated from participation this last week by being BLACKBALLED by some secret member State. These were three organizations – one registered in the UK and two in Israel and the UN does not release the names of the countries that objected to their participation. TO ME THIS WAS THE REAL NEWS OF THE MEETING – COVERING ON ALL THE GOOD THINGS THAT WERE SAID AT THE MEETING.
After the US, spoke also Israel and the EU, and eventually this became an important part in the summary of the meeting, when at the end it was presented by the Chef de Cabinet to the UNGA President, Mr. Dejan Sahovic, who is also from Serbia like the UNGA President.
Mr. Sahovic explained that this had nothing to do with the organizers of the event but is a UN given. Whenever there is an event at the UN, after Civil Society makes up the list of registered NGOs, these lists are distributed to all governments which have then the veto right against any line on that list.
OK, we knew that China will take out any NGO that is based in Taiwan, but how is it that an observer organization at the International Organization for Migration (IOM), that is competent in the subject matter and is very active, could be eliminated? To make it sound even worse – the UN does not release the name of the blackballing country and the delegate for the EU said clearly that the EU is worried about the lately decreasing importance of Civil Society at the UN.
In this case it was with two NGOs with interest in Human Rights of Women – specifically women in Arab lands – even more specific – in Saudi Arabia – they DID SPEAK UP.
1. The Institute for Human Rights and Business Limited (IHRB) is the British organization.
2. Microfy – “Microfinance for African refugees and migrant workers in Israel” – an Israeli based NGO that provides assistance to African refugees and asylum seekers, many of them who fled the genocide in Darfur. www.microfy.org Clearly a highly ethical organization that might have difficulty being listened to by despots.
3.”The Center for International Migration and Integration (CIMI)” advises governments and NGOs around the world on migration and integration.
New York, 9 July— United Nations Member States agreed today to establish a new High-Level Political Forum to boost efforts to achieve global sustainable development that will improve people’s economic and social well-being while protecting the environment. The decision by the General Assembly follows up on a key recommendation of ‘The Future We Want,’ the outcome document of last year’s Rio+20 Conference in Rio de Janeiro.
The Forum will convene annually at the ministerial level under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council and, every four years, it will bring together Heads of State to provide added momentum for sustainable development.
“Establishing the Forum marks a major step forward in implementing ‘The Future We Want,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “The Forum can provide the political leadership and action-oriented recommendations we need to follow up on all the Rio recommendations and meet urgent global economic, social and environmental challenges. Countries must do their utmost to realize the Forum’s potential.”
“We are simply not doing enough to meet the fundamental challenges of our time: to end extreme poverty in this generation and significantly narrow the global gap between rich and poor, without inflicting irreparable damage to the environmental basis for our survival,” said UN General Assembly President Vuk Jeremi?. “The new Forum must be more than just a meeting place—it must be the place where countries and civil society generate the momentum for change.”
Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said “This is a great opportunity to advance the sustainable development agenda. There is so much that we need to do in concert—to accelerate action on the Millennium Development Goals, to eradicate poverty and promote prosperity, to ensure that everyone has a chance for a better life, while addressing important environmental challenges that threaten progress, such as climate change and biodiversity loss and developing a new set of sustainable development goals.”
The High-Level Political Forum will replace the UN Commission on Sustainable Development. The Commission, formed after the 1992 Earth Summit, helped generate action on a range of issues that led to international agreements or treaties. The Commission was also in the forefront in promoting the involvement of civil society in its work. However, governments and civil society actors came to share a belief that a higher-profile body was needed to guide sustainable development towards the future we want.
The Forum will review progress in the implementation of sustainable development commitments, enhance the integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development—economic, social and environmental –focus on themes consistent with the post-2015 development agenda and ensure that new sustainable development challenges are properly addressed.
The General Assembly resolution stresses the need to enhance the role and participation of major groups of society and other stakeholders, while retaining the intergovernmental character of the forum. The first meeting of the Forum will be held in September, during the Assembly’s forthcoming 68th session.
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On the 46th anniversary of the end of the “6-Day War” Uri Avnery reminisces about the great lost-opportunity by Israel that could have helped the Palestinians get the State that was taken away from them by the Arab Monarchs and Despots.
June 15, 2013
A shorter version of this article was published this week in the Jerusalem Post (June 10, 2013), on the 46th anniversary of the end of the Six-day War.
Triumph and Tragedy
NO OPERA by Richard Wagner could have been more dramatic. It looked as if it was directed by a genius.
It started low-key. A little piece of paper was thrust into the hand of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol as he was reviewing the Independence Day parade. It said that Egyptian troops were entering the Sinai peninsula.
From there on alarm grew. Every day brought menacing new reports. The Egyptian president, Gamal Abd-al-Nasser, issued blood-curdling threats. UN peacekeepers were withdrawn.
In Israel, worry turned into fear, and fear into fright. Eshkol sounded weak. When he tried to raise public morale with a speech over the radio, he stumbled and seemed to stutter. People started talking about a Second Holocaust, about the destruction of Israel.
I was one of the very few who remained cheerful. At the height of public despair, I published an article in Haolam Hazeh, the news magazine I edited, under the headline “Nasser has Walked into a Trap”. Even my wife thought that was crazy.
MY GOOD cheer had a simple reason.
A few weeks before, I had given a talk in a Kibbutz on the Syrian border. As is customary, I was invited to have coffee afterwards with a select group of members. There I was told that “Dado” (General David Elazar), the commander of the Northern sector, had lectured there the week before, and then had coffee. Like me.
After swearing me to secrecy, they disclosed that Dado had told them – after swearing them to secrecy – that every evening, before going to bed, he prayed to God that Nasser would move his troops into the Sinai desert. “There we shall destroy them,” Dado had assured them.
Nasser did not want the war. He knew that his army was quite unprepared. He was bluffing, in order to please the Arab masses. He was egged on by the Soviet Union, whose leaders believed that Israel was about to attack their main client in the region, Syria, as part of a worldwide American plot.
(The Soviet ambassador, Dmitri Chuvakhin, invited me for a talk and disclosed the plot to me. If so, I said, why not ask your ambassador in Damascus to advise the Syrians to stop their border attacks on us, at least temporarily? The ambassador broke into laughter. “Do you really believe that anyone there listens to our ambassador?”)
Syria had allowed Yasser Arafat’s new Palestinian Liberation Movement (Fatah) to launch small and ineffectual guerilla actions from its border. They also spoke about an Algerian-style “popular liberation war”. In response, the Israeli Chief of Staff, Yitzhak Rabin, had threatened them with a war to change the regime in Damascus.
Abd-al-Nasser saw an easy opportunity to assert Egypt’s leadership of the Arab world by coming to the defense of Syria. He threatened to throw Israel into the sea. He announced that he had mined the Straits of Tiran, cutting Israel off from the Red Sea. (As it transpired later, he had not sown a single mine).
Three weeks passed, and the tension became unbearable. One day Menachem Begin saw me in the Knesset lobby, drew me into a side room and implored me: “Uri, we are political opponents, but in this emergency, we are all one. I know that your magazine has a lot of influence on the younger generation. Please use it to raise their morale!”
All the reserve units, the backbone of the army, were mobilized. There were hardly any men to be seen in the streets. Still Eshkol and his cabinet hesitated. They sent the chief of the Mossad to Washington to make sure that the US would support an Israeli action. Under growing public pressure, he formed a National Unity government and appointed Moshe Dayan as Minister of Defense.
WHEN THE bow was strained to near breaking point, the Israeli army was unleashed. The troops – mostly reserve soldiers who had been abruptly torn from their families and who had been waiting with growing impatience for three weeks – flew like an arrow.
I was attending the Knesset session on that first day of the war. In the middle of it, we were told to go to the bomb shelter, because the Jordanians in nearby East Jerusalem had begun to shell us. While we were there, a friend of mine, a high-ranking official, whispered in my ear: “It’s all over. We have destroyed the entire Egyptian Air Force.”
When I reached home that evening after driving through the blackout, my wife did not believe me. The radio had said nothing about the incredible achievement. Radio Cairo was telling its listeners that “Tel Aviv is burning”. I felt like a bridegroom at a funeral. Israeli military censorship forbade any mention of victories – the airwaves continued to be dominated by terrible forebodings.
Why? The Israeli government was convinced – quite rightly – that if the Arab countries and the Soviet Union realized that their side was nearing disaster, they would get the UN to stop the war at once. This indeed happened – but by that time our army was well on its way to Cairo and Damascus.
Against this background, when the victory was announced, it looked immense – so immense, indeed, that many believed in an act of God. Our army, which had been formed in the small State of Israel as it was at that time, conquered the entire Sinai peninsula, the Golan Heights, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. From the “Second Holocaust” to miraculous deliverance, in just six days.
SO, WAS it a “defensive war” or an “act of naked aggression”? In the national consciousness, it was and remains a purely defensive war, started by “the Arabs”. Objectively speaking, it was our side which attacked, though under utmost provocation. Years later, when I said so in passing, a leading Israeli journalist was so upset that he stopped talking with me.
Be that as it may, the Israeli public reaction was stupendous. The entire country was in delirium. Masses of victory-albums, victory-songs, victory-this and victory-that amounted to national hysteria. Hubris knew no bounds. I cannot claim that I was entirely untouched by it.
Ariel Sharon boasted that the Israel army could reach Tripoli (in Libya) in six days. A movement for a Greater Israel came into being, with many of Israel’s most renowned personalities clamoring for membership. Soon the settlement enterprise was under way.
But, as in a Greek tragedy, hubris did not go unpunished. The gold turned to dust. The greatest victory in Israel’s history turned into its greatest curse. The occupied territories are like the shirt of Nessus, glued to our body to poison and torment us.
Just before the attack, Dayan had declared that Israel had absolutely no intention of conquering new territory, but aimed solely to defend itself. After the war, Foreign Minister Abba Eban declared that the pre-1967 armistice line was “the border of Auschwitz”.
Since generals “always fight the last war”, it was generally assumed that the world would not allow Israel to keep the territories it had just occupied. The “last war” was the Israeli-French-British collusion against Egypt in 1956. Then, US President Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Bulganin had compelled Israel to return the conquered territories up to the last inch.
The former border (or “demarcation line”) had an inward bulge near Latrun, halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, that cut the main road between the two cities. Immediately after the six days of fighting, Dayan hastened to evict the inhabitants of the three Arab villages there and to eradicate any sign that they ever existed. They have been replaced by a national park financed by the government of Canada and well-meaning Canadian citizens. The writer Amos Kenan was an eye-witness and, on my request, wrote a heart-rending report on the horrible eviction of the villagers, men, women, children and babies, who were made to march on foot under the scorching June sun all the way to Ramallah.
I tried to intervene, but it was too late. I did succeed, however, in halting he demolition of the town of Qalqilya near the border. When I appealed to several cabinet ministers, including Begin, the demolition was stopped. A neighborhood that had already been demolished was rebuilt and its inhabitants were allowed to return. But more than a hundred thousand refugees, who had been living in a huge refugee camp near Jericho since 1948, were induced to flee across the Jordan.
Slowly, the Israeli government got used to the astonishing fact that there was no real pressure on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories. In a long private conversation I had with Eshkol on the morrow of the war, I realized that he and his colleagues has no intention whatsoever of giving back anything unless compelled to do so. My suggestion to help the Palestinians set up their state was met by Eshkol with gentle irony.
Thus the historic opportunity was missed. It is said that when God wants to destroy somebody, he first makes them blind – as he smote the men of Sodom (Genesis 19:11).
The vast majority of today’s Israelis, anyone less than 60 years old, cannot even imagine an Israel without the occupied territories.
On the 46th anniversary of that great drama, we can only wish that it had never happened, that it was all a bad dream.
Transforming the Global Economic Paradigm ASAP.
Rachel’s Network “Green Leaves”
We all know well the challenges facing us. From reversing ecological and economic collapses to meeting the development needs of seven billion (and growing) residents of our planet, we’ve got our work cut out for us.
But what can one person—or one organization—do?
Join me on an adventure to transform the global economic paradigm.
Nations, companies, and NGOs are all seeking a new global agenda. Many of these groups are now coalescing around the United Nations’ work to replace the Millennium Development Goals—the targets set back in 2004 for poverty reduction—that expire in 2015.
I’ve been asked by the King of the tiny Kingdom of Bhutan to help the world shift its development model away from the current approach of increasing the throughput of stuff and money through the economy (as measured by gross national product) to an agenda of increasing human well-being, measured as “gross national happiness.” I’m part of an International Expert Working Group, convened by the King to set forth the intellectual architecture for this new paradigm.
Where do you come in? The Expert Group has created the Alliance for Sustainability and Prosperity, or ASAP for short, to convene the expertise needed to bring genuine prosperity and well-being to everyone on the planet.
ASAP seeks your ideas. The world needs help and its leaders are asking for your answers.
How do we encourage governments, companies, and an economy obsessed with measuring and growing gross national product to shift to maximizing total well-being? For example, a divorcing cancer patient who gets in a car wreck has added to the GNP. Is she any better off? Clearly not. If you stay home to care for your children you add nothing to the GNP, but have contributed significantly of your family’s welfare, and to a healthier society.
Humankind has all of the technologies needed to solve the crises facing us.
Why aren’t we using them? How do we overcome the gridlock of governments, and inspire the best of the private sector to take more of a leadership role?
Explore the ASAP site at www.asap4all.org. The “Articles” section provides pieces written by ASAP members. See, in particular, “Building a Sustainable and Desirable Economy-in-Society-in-Nature,” with lead author Robert Costanza.
The “Public Forum” invites your best thinking. ASAP experts have been working on this for over three decades.
But the state of the world today is a testament to the fact that we can’t do it alone. The radical utopian forecast is that we can sustain business as usual. It’s not going to be like that.
What sort of future do you want to see for the world? How do you think we can achieve it? What is already working that should be replicated more broadly? That has to be fixed? And what’s the purpose of the economy that we’re all a part of? Do we exist to serve it, or can we transform it, instead, to serve us?
If you have a good idea, but no clue how to achieve it, submit it—maybe another of you has the answer you’re seeking.
We believe that it is possible to transform the global economy into one that delivers greater human well-being and happiness, while nestling gracefully into the larger ecosystem that sustains all life. Indeed, doing this is key to ending the global economic crisis. We can’t achieve one without doing the other.
The US Supreme Court just decreed that corporations that are able to improve upon creation can patent their products. We find this an unacceptable compromise and call for an Alan Dershowitz to intervene.
OR IS INSANE A BETTER WORD?
CNN just told us us that “The Supreme Court unanimously ruled Thursday (today) that human genes cannot be patented. But in something of a compromise decision, all nine justices said a synthetic version of the gene material may be patented. Initial reaction from investors sent the stock of ‘Myriad Genetics,’ the company involved, higher.”
To us this sounds like capitalism going rampant with clever future CEOs playing GOD. Recombined genetic material with some changes in it – is still the blood of the INKA – and what Wall Street man is entitled to say that he created something new?
Human brain is commended for helping solve diseases, and can demand pay for its offers – but it cannot patent life – that is beyond anything that ethics allow and this is not an issue of religion. We are appalled if the High Judges did not see the difference. We hope that an Alan Dershowitz will stand up and derail this over-reach.
Syria as the Spain of the 21-st Century: A place were others come to play at war. The alternative is to see that cultures are in a continuous evolution – in some cases turning back to the past may actually constitute progress. But Hezbolllah military, Iran money and Russian diplomacy might help Assad to hang on.
June 8, 2013
Butterflies in Damascus.
DURING THE Spanish civil war of 1936, a news story reported the deaths of 82 Moroccans, 53 Italians, 48 Russians, 34 Germans, 17 Englishmen, 13 Americans and 8 Frenchmen. Also 1 Spaniard.
“Serves him right,” people in Madrid commented, “Why did he interfere?”
Similar things could now be said about the civil war in Syria. Shiites from all over the Muslim world stream into Syria to help Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship to survive, while Sunnis from many countries hasten there to support the rebels.
The implications of this go well beyond the bloody Syrian struggle. It is a historic revolution, region-wide and perhaps world-wide.
AFTER WORD WAR I, the victorious colonial empires carved up the territories of the vanquished Ottoman Empire among themselves. Since colonialism was out and self-determination was in, their new colonies were dressed up as independent nations (like Iraq) or as nations-to-be (like Syria).
European-style nationalism took hold of the new Arab nations. The ancient idea of the pan-Muslim “Umma” was pushed away. The idea of a pan-Arab super-state, propagated by the Baath party and Egypt’s Gamal Abd-al-Nasser, was tried and failed. Syrian nationalism, Iraqi nationalism, Egyptian nationalism and, of course, Palestinian nationalism won.
It was a doubtful victory. A typical Syrian nationalist in Damascus was also a part of the Arab region, of the Muslim world and of the Sunni community – and the order of these diverse loyalties was never quite sorted out.
This was different in Europe, where the national loyalty was unchallenged. A modern German could also be a Bavarian and a Catholic, but he was first and foremost a German.
During the last decades, the victory of local nationalism in the Arab world seemed assured. After the short-lived United Arab Republic broke up in 1961 and Syrians proudly displayed their new Syrian passports, the future of the Arab nation-states looked rosy.
Not any more.
TO UNDERSTAND the immense significance of the present upheaval one has to go back in history.
Two thousand years ago, the modern idea of “nation” was unthinkable. The prevalent collective structure was the ethnic-religious community. One belonged to a community that was not territorially defined. A Jewish man in Alexandria could marry a Jewess in Babylon, but not the Hellenic or Christian woman next door.
Under Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman emperors, all these dozens of sects enjoyed a wide autonomy, ruled by imams, priests and rabbis. This is still partly the case in most former Ottoman territories, including Israel. The Turks called these self-governing sects “millets”.
The German historian Oswald Spengler, in his monumental “The Decline of the West”, asserted that great cultures were like human beings – they are born, grow up and die of old age within a thousand years. Middle-Eastern culture, according to him, was born around 500 BC and died with the decay of the Muslim Caliphate. Judaism, which was born in the Babylonian exile around 500 BC, was just one sect among many.
Arnold Toynbee, the British historian who espoused a similar theory, claimed that today’s Jews were a “fossil” of this obsolete culture.
What happened later was that European societies went through many stages, the latest being that of the “nation”. In Europe, the Jews were a sinister and hated anomaly because they clung to their former existence as a homeland-less, dispersed ethno-religious sect. This was done quite consciously: the rabbis erected a “fence around the Torah”, separating Jews from everybody else, making it impossible for them to eat with non-Jews or marry them. Jews orginally congregated in ghettos because of their need for a Synagogue they could walk to on the Sabbath, public bath (Mikvah) etc.
When the situation of the nation-less Jews in nationalist Europe became increasingly difficult, Zionism was born. By a sleight-of-hand it postulated that Jews were not only an ethno-religious community, but at the same time also a “nation like other nations”. This was a necessary fiction, until Zionism succeeded in creating a real nation – the Israelis.
TODAY WE are witnessing a kind of Jewish counter-revolution. In Israel there is a comeback of the world-Jewish connection, while separate Israeli nationhood is denied. It is a reversal of Zionism.
The events in Syria indicate a similar process. Throughout the region the ethno-religious community is coming back, the European-style nation-state is disintegrating.
The colonial powers created “artificial” states with no consideration to ethno-religious realities. In Iraq, Arab Sunnis and Shiites and non-Arab Kurds were arbitrarily put together. In Syria, Sunnis, Shiites, Alawis (an offshoot of the Shia), Druze (another offshoot), Kurds and diverse Christian sects were put into one “national” pot and left to stew. In Lebanon the same was done, with even worse results. In Morocco and Algeria, Arabs and Berbers are put together.
Now the ethno-religious sects are uniting – against each other. The Syrian civil war has united the Shiites – from Lebanon to Iran – in defense of the Alawite semi-Shia regime. The Sunnis from all over the place rally to the cause of the majority Sunnis. The Syrian Kurds have already created a de facto joint state with the Kurds in Iraq. The Druze, more dispersed and customarily more cautious, are awaiting their turn.
IN THE Western world, the obsolescent nation-state is being superseded by supra-national regional confederations, like the EU. In our region, we may be reverting to the ethno-religious sects.
It is difficult to foresee how this will work out. The Ottoman millet system could function because there was the overall imperial rule of the Sultan. But how could Shiite Iran combine with the majority Shiites in Iraq, the Shiite community in south Lebanon and other Shiite communities in a joint entity? What about the dozen Christian sects dispersed across many countries?
Some people believe that the only viable solution for Syria proper is the disintegration of the country into several sect-dominated states – a central Sunni state, an Alawite state, a Kurd state, a Druze state, etc.
Lebanon was also a part of Syria, until the French tore them apart in order to set up a Christian state. The French created several such little states, in order to break the back of Syrian nationalism. It did not work.
The difficulty of such a “solution” is illustrated by the situation of the Druze, who live in two unconnected territories – in South Lebanon and in the “Druze mountain” area in Southern Syria. A smaller Druze community lives in Israel. (As a defensive strategy, the Druze in every country – including Israel – are patriots of that country.)
The disintegration of the existing states may be accompanied by wholesale massacres and ethnic cleansing, as happened when India broke apart and when Palestine was partitioned. It is not a happy prospect.
Toynbee, by the way, did not only consider the Jews as a fossil of the past, but also as the harbinger of the future. In an interview he granted my magazine, Haolam Hazeh, he expressed the hope that the nation-state would be superseded by world-wide ideological communities, like the Jewish diaspora. He may have been thinking of the communists, who at the time seemed to be turning into a world-wide supra-national community. That experiment failed, too.
AT PRESENT, a war is raging among Israeli historians. Prof. Shlomo Sand is maintaining that the Jewish nation was invented (like all nations, only more so), and that the concept of Eretz Israel (the Land of Israel) is a Zionist invention as well. Now he also asserts that he is not a Jew, but an Israeli.
Against these heresies, a whole phalanx of Zionist professors is in full cry.
Since I never even finished elementary school, I wouldn’t dare to stick my head out and get caught up in the battle of the professors. I will, however, remark that I, too, object to sliding back into a world-wide Jewish sect and advocate the recognition of the new Israeli nation in Israel.
YES, WE are an Israeli nation, a nation whose existence is bound to the fate of the State of Israel.
This does not mean that those of us who are Jews have to disown our Jewish past, its traditions and values, and our connections with the world-wide ethno-religious Jewish community. But we have reached a new stage in our development.
So, perhaps, have the Arab and other Muslim peoples around us. New forms are in the making.
History shows that human societies are changing all the time, much as a butterfly develops from an egg into a caterpillar, from there to a chrysalis and from there to the beautifully colored adult.
For the butterfly, that is the end. For us, I hope, this is a new beginning.
Assad Could Prevail in Syrian Civil War, Israeli Minister Says, Reflecting Shift in Israel’s Government Assessment.
“Jewish News – JNS.org” – There is a “real possibility” that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “could survive Syria’s civil war and even prevail in it” against the rebels trying to topple him, Israeli International Relations and Strategic Affairs Minister Dr. Yuval Steinitz told a group of foreign journalists in Jerusalem June 10, 2013.
Steinitz’s comments reflect the recent turnaround in Assad’s fortunes, with success on the battlefield thanks to immense military aid from Hezbollah, financial aid by Iran, and diplomatic cover by Russia.
The assessment also underscores the changing nature of the Syrian conflict and Israel’s views on it.
Israeli security officials were initially convinced that Assad’s demise was only a matter of time.
Last July, then-Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the Assad regime was “at the beginning of its end.”
This past January, an article in the influential Lebanese daily As-Safir accused Iraq’s Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of receiving assistance from his “Safavid allies.” After the powerful Sunni Muslim leader, Sheikh Yousuf al-Qaradawi, condemned Iran for its actions in Syria, the Muslim Scholars Association of Lebanon warned that the Sunni Arabs were facing “the spreading Safawi project.”
Indeed, over the last decade, the term “Safavid” has become a commonly used derogatory word among Arab leaders for the Iranians. American journalist Bob Woodward describes a harsh diplomatic exchange in one of his books between King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and a high-level U.S. official about the 2003 Iraq War, in which the Saudi leader states: “You have allowed the Persians, the Safavids, to take over Iraq.” By using the term Safavid, Arab leaders were making reference to the Safavid Empire and imputing hegemonic motivations to the current Iranian government, suggesting that Iran is seeking to re-establish their country’s former imperial borders.
Who were the Safavids and over what territories did they rule? The Safavid Empire was based in Iran and existed between 1501 and 1722. Its founder, Shah Ismail, made Shiite Islam the state religion of Iran and he waged wars against the leading Sunni state at the time, the Ottoman Empire. At its height, the Safavid Empire extended its rule well beyond Iran’s present borders into large parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkemanistan, in the east and covering half of Iraq, including Baghdad and the Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Kerbala, along with the easternmost part of Syria in the west.
The early Safavid leaders imported Shiite leaders from southern Lebanon to help with the propagation of Shiite Islam across Persia. Thus the ties between Iran and Lebanon can be traced back at least to the 16th century. In the south, the Safavid Empire reached the Arabian coastline of the Persian Gulf, while in the north it included what is today Azerbaijan and Armenia. The Iranian leadership today has not formally claimed the borders of the Safavid Empire, but it certainly made statements suggesting they reflected part of their national aspirations.
28 May 2013
Tuesday, 28 May 2013
08.45 – 09.00
H.E. Mr. Michael Spindelegger, Vice Chancellor and
Foreign Minister of Austria
Mr. Pavel Kabat, Director,
Mr. Kandeh Yumkella, Director General, UNIDO
09.00 – 09.15
Two pieces of music
Quartet of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
IIASA Goodwill Ambassador
09.15 – 09.45
Mr. Chad Holliday, Chairman, Bank of America
Ms. Renate Brauner, Vice-Mayor and Vice-Governor of
the City of Vienna
Message from the United Nations Secretary
General, Mr. Ban Ki
Press Conference (in parallel)
09.45 – 11.15
Ministerial and High-Level Dignitaries Segment
Ms. Nisha Pillai
H.E. Mr. Suhail Mohamed Almazroui, Minister of Ener
gy of the United Arab Emirates
H.E. Mr. Heikki Holmås, Minister of International D
evelopment of Norway
H.E. Mr. Edison Lobão, Minister of Mines and Energy
H.E. Mr. Lihua Liu, Vice Minister of Industry and I
nformation Technology of China
H.E. Mr. Anatoly Yanovskiy, Deputy Minister, Minist
ry of Energy of the Russian Federation
Mr. Peter Thomson, Permanent Representative of Fiji
to the United Nations New York and
Chairman of the G77
11.15 – 12.45
High Level Panel I:
Energy in the Post-2015 Agenda
Moderator Ms. Nisha Pillai,
General and Executive Secretary of the United Natio
Economic Commission for Europe, UNECE
Mr. Adnan Amin, Director General, IRENA
Mr. Jose Goldemberg
, Board Member, Sustainable Energy Institute
Ms. Maria van der Hoeven, Director General, Interna
tional Energy Agency
Ms. Rachel Kyte, Vice President, Sustainable Develo
pment, The World Bank
Mr. Gerhard Roiss, CEO, OMV
Ms. Elizabeth Thompson, Executive Coordinator for t
he UNCSD Rio + 20 Conference
Mr. Halil Yurdakul Yigitgüden,
ordinator of Economic and Environmental
12.45 – 14.30
Lunch hosted by OFID and IIASA (by invitation only
28 May 2013
14.30 – 16.00
High Level Panel II:
A New Action Agenda – High Level Group on Sustainab
le Energy for All
Moderator Ms. Nisha Pillai,
Mr. Alexander Bychkov, Deputy Director General, IAE
Mr. Jérôme Ferrier, President, International Gas Un
Mr. Victorio Oxilia, Executive Secretary, OLADE
Mr. N.P. Singh, Adviser, Ministry of New and Renewa
ble Energy of India
Mr. Andrew Steer, President and CEO, World Resource
Mr. Mohammed Taeb, Environmental Coordinator, OPEC
14.30 – 15.30
Special Event: Launch of the SE4ALL Global Tracking
Framework (parallel at Radetzky
Moderator Mr. Kandeh K. Yumkella
, Director General, UNIDO
Ms. Rachel Kyte, Vice
President, Sustainable Development, World Bank
Ms. Maria van der Hoeven, Director General, Intern
ational Energy Agency
Ms. Vivien Foster, Sector Manager, Sustainable Ener
gy, World Bank
Mr. Simon Trace, Executive Director, Practical Acti
16.00 – 16.30
Coffee and Tea Break
16.30 – 18.00
Special Event: Thematic Consultations on Energy (pa
rallel at Rittersaal)
16.30 – 18.00
Plenary Session 1:
Framework for Action – High Impact Opportunities
Moderator Mr. Albrecht Reuter
, Member of the Board, Fichtner IT Consulting
Mr. Albert Binger, Energy Science Advisor, Caribbea
n Community Climate Change Centre
Mr. Christoph Frei, Secretary General, World Energy
Ms. Helen Mountford, Deputy Director, OECD
Mr. Nebojsa Nakicenovic,
Deputy Director, IIASA and Professor of Energy Econ
Technical University of Vienna
Mr. Ebrima Njie, ECOWAS Commissioner for Infrastruc
Ms. Leena Shrivastava, Executive Director, The Ener
gy and Resource Institute
Mr. Arthouros Zervos, Chair of REN21and CEO and Pre
sident Public Power Corporation
Reception hosted by
EnDev and Partnership
29 May 2013
Wednesday, 29 May, 2013
08.30 – 09.00
Summary of the Previous Day
Co-President, Global Energy Assessment
09.00 – 10.00
Ministerial and High Level Segment
H.E. Mr. Marcin Korolec, Minister of Environment, P
H.E. Mr. Sospeter Muhonga, Minister of Energy and M
inerals of Tanzania
H.E. Mr. Ahmed Mostafa Emam, Minister of Electricit
y and Energy, of Egypt
H.E. Mr. Sok Siphana, Advisor of the Royal Governme
nt of Cambodia
Ms. Datuk Loo Took Gee, Secretary General of the Mi
nistry of Energy, Green Technology
and Water of Malaysia
Mr. Raúl García Barreiro, Deputy First Viceminister
of the Ministry of Energy and Mining
of the Republic of Cuba
10.00 – 11.30
Plenary Session 2:
Energy and Green Growth
Moderator Mr. Paul Hohnen
, Founder and Managing Director, Sustainability Str
Ms. Jacqueline Cramer, Director, Utrecht Sustainabi
Ms. Naoki Ishii, CEO and Chairperson, Global Enviro
Mr. Lambert Kuijpers, Co
Chair, Technology and Economic Assessment Panel of
Mr. Heinz Leuenberger, Director, Environmental Mana
gement Branch, UNIDO
Mr. Mark Radka, Head of Energy Branch, UNEP
Mr. Arthur Reijnhart, General Manager, Alternative
Energy Strategy, Shell
11.30 – 13.00
Plenary Session 3 –
Moderator Mr. Joan Clos
, Executive Director, UN HABITAT
Mr. Eddie Bet Hazavdi,
Director, Department of Energy
Conservation at Ministry of Energy
and Water of Israel
Ms. Brigitta Huckestein, Senior Manager, Communicat
ions & Government Relations
Energy and Climate Policy, BASF Group
Ms. Carina Lakovits, Advisor, International Financi
al Institutions, Austrian
Mr. Raj Liberhan, Director, Indian Habitat Centre
Mr. Thomas Madreiter, Director of the Urban Plannin
g, City of Vienna
B. Marré, Head of Division of Water, Energy, Urban
Development and the
Geoscience Sector, Federal German Ministry for Econ
omic Cooperation and Development
Mr. Marcos Pontes, UNIDO Goodwill Ambassador
13.00 – 14.30
Lunch hosted by GEF and UNIDO (by invitation only a
29 May 2013
14.30 – 16.00
Parallel Session 1 –
, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Columbia Uni
Mr. Jan Dictus, GOJA Consulting for Environment and
Mr. Wolfgang Engshuber, Chairman, Principles for Re
Mr. Michael Kelly, Deputy Managing Director, World
LP Gas Association
Ms. Richenda Van Leeuwen, Director, Energy Access I
nitiative, United Nations Foundation
Mr. Pradeep Monga, Director, Energy and Climate Cha
Mr. Lucius Mayer-Tasch, Energy Advisor, GIZ
Ms. Mary Robinson, UN Special Envoy for the Great L
akes Region of Africa
14.30 – 16.00
Parallel Session 2
– Energy Efficiency
Mr. Luis Gomez-Echeverri
, Senior Research Scholar, Transition to New Techno
Mr. Mark Hopkins, Energy Efficiency Expert, United
Ms. Doris Österreicher,
Head of Business Unit Sustainable Building Technolo
Institute of Technology
Ms. Marina Ploutakhina, Industrial Energy Efficienc
y, Unit Chief, UNIDO
Mr. Jigar V. Shah, Executive Director, Institute fo
r Industrial Productivity
Mr. David Shropshire, Section Head, Planning and Ec
onomic Studies Section, IAEA
16.00 – 16.30
Coffee and Tea Break
16.30 – 18.00
Parallel Session 3 –
Renewable Energy as a Tool for Sustainable Developm
Moderator Ms. Christine Lins,
Executive Director, REN 21
Mr. Gábor Baranyai, Deputy State Secretary, Ministr
y of Foreign Affairs of Hungary
Mr. Martin Hiller, Director General, REEEP
Mr. Mahama Kappiah, Executive Director, ECREEE
Mr. Diego Masera, Unit Chief, Renewable and Rural E
nergy Unit, UNIDO
H.E. Ms. Brigitte Öppinger-Walchshofer, Managing Di
rector, Austrian Development Agency
Mr. Jorge Samek, Director General, ITAIPU Binaciona
Mr. Peter Traupmann, Managing Director, Austrian En
16.30 – 18.00
Parallel Session 4–
Technology Transfer and Innovation
Moderator Mr. Omar El Arini,
Honorary Chief Officer, Multilateral Fund Secretari
Mr. Giovanni Federigo De Santi, Director of the Ins
titute for Energy and Transport of the Joint
Research Centre of the European Commission
Mr. Martin Krause, Regional Practice Leader for Env
Mr. David Rodgers, Senior Energy Specialist, Global
Mr. Sidi Menad Si-Ahmed, Director of Montreal Proto
col Branch, UNIDO
M.R. Mr. Pongsvas Svasti, Associate Professor, Tham
Mr. Sven Teske, Director of Renewable Energy, Green
Reception hosted by REEEP
30 May 2013
Thursday, 30 May 2013
08.30 – 09.00
Summary of the Previous Day
Co-President, Global Energy Assessment
09.00 – 10.00
Ministerial and High Level Dignitaries Segment
10.00 – 11.30
Plenary Session 4 :
Financing the Energy Future We Want
Mr. Robert Dixon, Team Leader of Climate Change and
Chemicals Team, GEF
Mr. Faris Hasan, Director of Corporate Planning and
Economic Services, OFID
Ms. Georgina Kessel, Partner, Spectron
Mr. Venkata Ramana Putti, Senior Energy Specialist,
Sustainable Energy Department, World Bank
Ms. Wang Yuan, Senior Advisor, China Development Ba
11.30 – 13.00
Plenary Session 5:
Public and Private Partnerships
Moderator Ms. Irene Giner-Reichl
, President, Global Forum on Sustainable Energy
Mr. Günter Maier, Managing Partner , MG Energy
Mr. Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman, IPCC and UNIDO Goo
Mr. Janez Podobnik, Director General, International
Centre for Promotion of Enterprises
Mr. Alexei Shevlyakov, Acting Director General, Rus
sian Energy Agency
Mr. Thomas Stelzer, Assistant Secretary
General, Policy Coordination and Inter
Affairs, United Nations Department of Economic and
Mr. Harry Verhaar, Head of Global Public and Govern
ment Affairs, Philips
13.00 – 13.30
Coffee and Tea Break
11.30 – 13.00
Parallel Session 5:
Green Mini-Grids Africa –
Sector Transformation Towards Sustainable
Energy For All
Moderator Mr. Steven Hunt
, Energy Advisor, Low Carbon Development Team, DFID
Mr. Ryan Anderson, Head of Section for Renewable En
ergy Advisory Services, Norplan
Mr. Theophillo Bwakea, Principal Engineer, Tanzania
n Rural Energy Agency
Mr. Dean Cooper, Energy Finance Programme Manager,
Mr. Bertrand Deprez, European Affairs Manager, Schn
Mr. Mike Enskat, Senior Programme Manager, GIZ
Mr. Patrick Theuret, Access to Energy Programme, ED
13.30 – 14.30
Adoption of VEF 2013 Declaration: Energy Goals Beyo
Moderator Ged Davis
, Co-President, Global Energy Assessment
Closing remarks by Co-organisers
ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA: Business Partnerships – An effective instrument for development cooperation
How innovative cooperation supports the development of markets for renewable energy
Date – 28 May 2013
Time – 14:30 to 16:00
Location – Rittersaal
This side-event discusses innovative forms of cooperation between the private sector and established structures of development cooperation to develop new markets. Examples from the renewable energy sector show how both recipient countries and companies can utilize the opportunities of business partnerships. Traditional development cooperation faces many challenges, so alternative approaches are required. As business and development belong together, partnerships with the private sector are getting more and more important. Join the discussion on business partnerships and the development of renewable energy markets!
European Commission Joint Research Centre: Creating and sharing knowledge together on African Renewable Energy Sources
Date: 28 May 2013
Time: 16:00 – 17:30
Location: Mittlere Lounge
On the occasion of the Vienna Energy Forum 2013, JRC will release findings from the newest report “The availability of Renewable Energies in a changing Africa”. This report follows and extends the 2011 JRC report “Renewable energies in Africa” and focuses on the climatic, demographic and technological changes expecting to involve Africa in next decades and how they will impact the Renewable Energy production and deployment opportunities in the continent. This side event will explore to what extent climate change has affect the ability of the renewable energy sources to deliver their important resources to this goal and will look at the potential of the available options. Come and join the second report presentation, discuss issues with authors, and test the latest online tool developed to visualize off-grid electricity production options in Africa.
GFSE: Sustainable Energy Solutions for All: Made in Austria
Date – 29 May 2013
Time – 09:00 to 11:00
Location – Trabantenstube
Austrian know-how and technologies have a lot to offer to make inclusive sustainable energy solutions a reality. In this side event, the Austrian experience in the fields of renewable energy and energy efficiency will be presented. The event also seeks to facilitate the identification of cooperation opportunities for different actors in the context of SE4All. It will also highlight the value-added of multi-stakeholder networks in enabling joint action. We would be delighted if you could join the discussion.
IIASA: Multiple Benefits of the Global Energy Transformation Recent Research Findings
Date – 29 May 2013
Time – 09:30 to 13:00
Location – Künstlerzimmer
The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) is organizing the VEF side event “Multiple Benefits of the Global Energy Transformations: Recent Research Findings”. The main global problem areas of research at IIASA – energy and climate change, food and water, and poverty and equity – are among the greatest challenges facing humanity today. The side event will present recent research findings – focusing on energy and technology – and their relevance to the Post 2015 Development Agenda. The Global Energy Assessment (GEA), completed in 2012, was an important component of the energy-related activities at IIASA and some of the new research activities at IIASA are building upon the findings of GEA.
IAEA: Promoting a Sustainable Energy Future: the Role of the International Atomic Energy Agency
Date – 29 May 2013
Time – 10:00 to 12:00
Location – Mittlere Lounge
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) supports its Member States in their efforts towards a sustainable energy future. In this side event, IAEA representatives will showcase the successful contribution of the Agency to build capacity, disseminate information, raise awareness and foster cooperation within and among Member States to help them make informed decisions regarding the most appropriate energy strategies. Topics discussed will include the sustainability of nuclear power as a clean energy solution, capacity building activities, the role of innovative technology solutions and the critical steps to introduce or expand a nuclear power programme.
EUEI PDF: Africa-EU Private Sector Cooperation: Matchmaking for win-win business opportunities in the renewables sector?
Date – 29 May 2013
Time – 11:30 to 13:00
Location – Trabantenstube
The Africa-EU Renewable Energy Cooperation Programme (RECP) is a multi-donor and multi-implementer programme that aims to accelerate the use of renewable energy in Africa. It was launched by more than 35 African and European Ministers at the First High-Level Meeting of the Africa-EU Energy Partnership (AEEP) in Vienna in September 2010. While the programme has already launched a number of support interventions in the area of policy advisory services, this side event aims at reflecting on the types of support interventions necessary to foster an active exchange and linking of African and European private sectors actors, as well as highlighting some of the positive examples where European and African actors have successfully worked together.
Launch of the SE4All Global Tracking Framework
Date – 28 May 2013
Time: 14:00 to 14:45
Location – Radetzkysaal II
Prepared by a team of energy experts from 15 agencies under the leadership of the World Bank and the International Energy Agency, the report provides a comprehensive snapshot of over 180 countries’ status with respect to action on energy access, energy efficiency and renewable energy, as well as energy consumption. As the Millennium Development Goals process has clearly demonstrated, measurable goals that enjoy widespread consensus can mobilize commitments to action, strategic partnerships and widespread support from key stakeholders and whole societies. For many, the Sustainable Energy for All initiative is an illustration of what a Sustainable Development Goal for the energy sector would look like. However, it is well known that measure progress is critical to achieving goals and getting results. The Global Tracking Framework Report is the answer to the challenge of measuring and reporting progress towards achieving the Sustainable Energy for All goals and objectives.. The report’s framework for data collection and analysis will enable us to monitor progress on the SE4ALL objectives from now to 2030.
The Energy Future We Want – Including Water & Food in the Energy Debate
Date – 29 May 2013
Time – 14:30 to 16:00
Location – Radetzky II
The side-event will provide a global platform to discuss recent international undertakings and progress on the water-energy-food nexus. The side-event will stimulate contributions and insights from institutions and individual experts on strategies to include water and food in the energy debate as nations around the world develop new energy policies and evaluate the options they want to follow in response to the SE4All initiative. Contribute to the nexus debate by sharing your experience and expertise with representatives from the private sector, researchers, policy makers and water/energy experts around the world on the intricate links between water, energy and food.
Regional Sustainable Energy Centers in Africa: Creating Regional Markets to Support the Decade of Sustainable Energy For All (SE4ALL)
Date – 29 May 2013
Time – 14:30 to 18:00
Location – Trabantenstube
The Energy and Climate Change Branch of UNIDO, in close collaboration with the ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) and the Global Forum on Sustainable Energy (GFSE), are organizing the VEF side event “Regional Sustainable Energy Centers in Africa: Creating Regional Markets to Support the Decade of Sustainable Energy For All (SE4ALL)”. The side event will facilitate discussions on the added value and possible actions of a south-south cooperation network between regional sustainable energy promotion centers in Africa. It will highlight the roles of the Centers as part of the institutional structure of the SE4ALL initiative. In a learning event, the ECOWAS Observatory for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECOWREX), one of the flag-ship programs of ECREEE will be introduced to the audience. Finally, a new publication on Renewable Energy Status and Trends in West Africa will be presented.
UNIDO: Women’s Leadership on Energy Justice in Productive Sectors
Date – 29 May 2013
Time – 15:00 to 17:00; Networking Drinks from 17:00
Location – Künstlerzimmer
Increasing energy access for productive use will generate opportunities for women to earn a living for themselves and their families, but the debate thus far has been mainly focused on women’s domestic needs. At this side-event, we will look beyond the household door and discuss how to empower women to become active producers, managers, promoters, sellers and leaders of modern energy services for a truly sustainable solution to energy poverty. We would be delighted if you could join us to share your experiences and expertise in this debate.
Register for the event here
Far From Reservation, Sisters Lead Louisville.
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press
Shoni Schimmel (23) with her sister Jude, right, during Louisville’s win over Baylor last Sunday. Louisville then defeated Tennessee to reach the Final Four.
By JERÉ LONGMAN, Published, The New York Times on-line: April 6, 2013
OKLAHOMA CITY — Louisville had just advanced to the women’s Final Four, and the sisters Shoni and Jude Schimmel had helped cut the nets in celebration, a rare achievement for American Indian athletes. But it was not the biggest family news of the day.
Shoni Schimmel leads Louisville in scoring at 14.4 points a game.
As the sisters left the court Tuesday night, their father beamed and their mother waved and flashed her wedding ring. After 25 years of companionship and 8 children, Ceci Moses and Rick Schimmel had been officially married, inspired in part by Louisville’s epic run through the N.C.A.A. tournament, a mother’s deferred dream realized and an accomplishment by her daughters that was as much a cultural triumph as an athletic success.
Although basketball has long been the most popular sport on Indian reservations, seldom has that esteem translated into great performance in the highest college and professional ranks. An N.C.A.A. study indicated that during the 2011-12 academic year, only 21 women and 4 men identified as American Indian/Alaska Native participated among the 10,151 basketball players at the Division I level.
The Schimmel sisters, who belong to the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla in eastern Oregon, are not only participating, but also have become indispensable members of Louisville’s team. Shoni Schimmel, a 5-foot-10 junior guard, leads the Cardinals in scoring at 14.4 points a game and has seemingly unlimited range on her arcing 3-point shot. Jude Schimmel, a 5-5 sophomore, is the team’s steady sixth man.
While Jude is quietly reliable, Shoni is a florid passer with a brash on-court personality. She twice scored more than 20 points and was named most outstanding player of the Oklahoma City regional as Louisville upset Baylor, the defending national champion, and Tennessee, which has won eight N.C.A.A. titles.
On Sunday, Louisville (28-8) will face California at the Final Four in New Orleans. Through Shoni’s influence, in particular, the Cardinals have adopted a more structured version of what many call Rez Ball, an up-tempo style that is joyful, feverish and fearless.
“It’s a very rare position they’re in to excel at this level,” said Ryneldi Becenti, a star at Arizona State in the 1990s who is the only female basketball player inducted into the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame. “I don’t think I’ve heard of any Native American women getting to the Final Four, especially being the biggest part of the team.”
For Tuesday’s victory over Tennessee here in the regional final, Indians from numerous tribes came in support, holding up signs that said “Rez Girls Rock” and “Native Pride” and “Never Give Up.” Many said they viewed the Schimmels as an inspirational counterpoint to the despair of poverty, alcoholism, teenage pregnancy, drug addiction and educational indifference often found on reservations.
Depending on the region of the country, 30 percent to more than 50 percent of Indians do not graduate from high school, according to various studies. And many who do leave for college often feel pressure to return in a culture that finds comfort at home, and fear and suspicion in the outside world.
“This shows you can go to college and you don’t have to drink and have babies,” said Glory Thompson, 48, a Cherokee from Holdenville, Okla. “Every step you want to take to get somewhere, it’s out there. Just because you’re Indian doesn’t mean you can’t go.”
Basketball serves a passionate communal purpose and provides an objective measure of success against the bleak statistics of failure on reservations, said Don Wetzel Jr., who operates the Montana Indian Athletic Hall of Fame, founded by his father. Stories abound of cars ringing makeshift courts at night, lights on, boundaries marked with flour, players honing their ball-handling skills by wearing gloves or dribbling over rocks.
“A lot of things are holding the tribes down in a lot of ways,” Wetzel said, “but you cross those lines on the court, and it’s an equal playing field. What these Schimmel sisters are doing is really impacting Indian country. It’s all over Facebook, TV. Everybody is cheering for them.”
For as long as she can remember, Shoni Schimmel said, she was obsessed with basketball. By age 2, she was allowed to dribble freely around the house. At 4, she played in her first tournament. By 10 or 12, she said, she sometimes shot outside until 3 in the morning. Her parents knew she was safe “because they could hear me dribbling.”
“Rez Ball,” Shoni said. “It’s run and gun, shoot whenever you’re open, trust in your heart.”
As Shoni entered her junior year of high school and Jude her sophomore year in 2008-9, however, the family left the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Mission, Ore., for Portland. Moses, now 40, began coaching her daughters at Franklin High School. Rick Schimmel, now 44, who is white and played baseball briefly at Stanford, became the assistant coach.
Shoni Schimmel and her mother and ex-coach Ceci Moses, right, were in a documentary about the family called “Off the Rez.”
Shoni Schimmel in the documentary film “Off the Rez,” directed by Jonathan Hock.
Some relatives resisted, but the move was necessary, Moses said. Her own basketball and track career had been disrupted in high school, she said, when she gave birth to her eldest son at 15. Later, she had to settle for basketball at community college, Moses said, because her coach seemed reluctant to promote Indians to university recruiters.
For her daughters, Moses planned a different outcome. To help them gain exposure, they would play at a city school and showcase their talents against top-flight competition.
“I was afraid,” Moses said. “I love the reservation. But I wanted my babies to have a fair opportunity. Plus, I wanted to show people what I could do. Even though I didn’t want to leave the reservation, I told myself: ‘If I don’t do it, my kids are going to follow suit. They’re going to see, well, Mom never left, why should I?’ I wanted to show the kids that if you really want your dream, sometimes you have to go out of your comfort zone and go get it.”
Urged by her mother not to limit her college possibilities to the West Coast, Shoni chose Louisville in 2010. The Cardinals had reached the national championship game in 2009. They average 9,500 fans a game and have a coach, Jeff Walz, who cultivates a flamboyant, frantic style that suits her. He also provides what she considers a family-style atmosphere. During inevitable periods of homesickness as a freshman, Shoni even baby-sat for Walz’s two children.
“That made her feel comfortable and needed,” said Jonathan Hock, who directed a documentary about the Schimmel family called “Off the Rez.”
To have her sister Jude now joining her “is amazing,” Shoni said, adding, “I’m so glad I can share it with her.”
Still, Shoni can be a challenge to coach. She leads the team in assists (127) and turnovers (123). In a tense 82-81 victory over Baylor last Sunday, Schimmel made a sublime and maddening play at the same time, dribbling behind her back, flicking a blind shot over the 6-8 Brittney Griner, then screaming at Griner and risking a second technical foul.
“I tell her all the time, she’s talented enough to play for anybody,” Walz said of Shoni. “But not anybody can coach her because she’s going to do some things that make you scratch your head.”
Kim Mulkey, the Baylor coach, complained that the referees had lost control and let the game become too personal among the players. Shoni shrugged and said her barking was just an exhale of emotion. She apparently is not the only family member who acts on the spur of the moment.
On a 26-hour drive to Oklahoma City from Portland, Rick Schimmel joked with his wife that Louisville would beat Baylor because the game was on “Easter Sunday, a day of miracles.” O.K., Moses said, “If they win, I’ll marry you.”
On Tuesday, the couple married in a chapel near the county courthouse, records indicate. Their daughters could not attend because of a shoot-around practice. Hours later, after Louisville defeated Tennessee and their parents debated whether to drive to New Orleans and the Final Four, Shoni and Jude greeted about 30 Indian fans who had waited for the team bus.
“It’s a blessing to show other people you can make it; coming off a reservation, you can do whatever you want,” Shoni said. “You’ve got to set your mind to it and believe in yourself. It’s indescribable how I feel that they’re following me and supporting me.”
A cry of Joy from Women in Saudi Arabia: from this April “Energy Fools’ Day” they will be allowed – dressed in abaya and with a male supervisor to their side – to ride circles on bikes in a park out of sight of joung men! Mind it further – bicycles and motor-bikes are meant for pleasure and forbidden as transportation – that would cause losses to the oil indusatry and deserves special remuneration from Western Democracies.
Saudi Arabia follows an ultraconservative – or should we say orthodox – interpretation of Islam, and bans women from driving. Women are also banned from riding motorcycles or bicycles in public places.
Let us see – AP relates from RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — that A Saudi newspaper today, Monday April 1, 2013 – said – “the kingdom’s religious police are now allowing women to ride motorbikes and bicycles — but only in restricted, recreational areas.”
The Al-Yawm daily cited an unnamed official from the powerful religious police as saying women will be allowed to ride bikes in parks and recreational areas – but they must accompanied by a male relative and dressed in the full Islamic head-to-toe abaya.
The newspaper didn’t say what triggered the lifting of the ban.
The official told the paper that Saudi women may not use the bikes for transportation, but “only for entertainment,” and that they should shun places where young men gather – “to avoid harassment.”
THEIR BREAK-THROUGH ACHIEVEMENT WILL NOT IMPACT THE PRICE OF OIL!
Responsible Government is Demanded by 630 MPs from 121 Countries at the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Quito, Ecuador March 27, 2013. Democratic Governance a Must-Have Goal for Post-2015 Development Targets- they conclude.
IPU E-BULLETIN N°21, 28 March 2013
IPU Calls for Greater International Support for Syrian Refugees – In the second resolution on Syria at an IPU Assembly in 12 months, IPU has urged all parties in the country to end violence immediately. It has also called on international and regional parties to help find ways to end the conflict peacefully whilst safeguarding Syria’s territorial integrity and sovereignty as well as the security and human rights of its citizens. The resolution, which followed an emergency debate at the 128th IPU Assembly, focused particularly on the growing refugee crisis involving more than one million Syrians in neighbouring countries. IPU members have expressed concern that some countries may be forced to close their borders to new influxes of refugees. The organization is urging donor countries to fulfill pledges to provide US$ 1.5 billion to fund humanitarian assistance given only US$200 million has been received so far. In a separate development, the IPU Committee on International Humanitarian Law decided to send an urgent assessment mission to Jordan where many of the refugees have found shelter.
Parliaments Must Intensify Efforts to Protect Civilians – Parliaments must do everything they can to safeguard the lives of civilians in conflict, paying particular attention to women and children. A resolution on peace and security adopted on the closing day of the 128th IPU Assembly in Quito calls on parliaments to ensure governments protect their people against genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity through legislation, the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and by overseeing government action to combat terrorism. If national authorities fail to safeguard their population, then collective action should be applied in a timely and decisive manner through the UN Security Council on a case-by-case basis. The resolution also stresses the need for sustained peace-building assistance to post-conflict situations and urges parliamentarians to make sure their governments commit the necessary funds to the reconstruction of countries emerging from crisis.
Democratic Governance a Must-Have Goal for Post-2015 Development Targets – MPs from 121 countries participating at the 128th IPU Assembly have called for democratic governance to be included as a stand-alone goal in a new development agenda to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when they expire in 2015. Defining participation, transparency and accountability as the core of democratic governance, they argued that true prosperity could not exist in any society without respect for the universal values of democracy, rule of law and human rights. Democratic governance should also underpin other future goals. The message came out loud and clear both in statements on the general theme of the Assembly “From unrelenting growth to purposeful development “Buen Vivir”: New Approaches, New Solutions, and from a survey carried out among MPs on the issue. IPU’s membership declared it was more important than ever for parliaments to assert their legitimate place in the decision-making process at national and international levels and for parliaments to be strengthened across the world to allow greater oversight and legislative authority.
Parliaments Urged to Take Tougher Action on Sexual Violence – Parliaments across the world have been urged to take a much tougher approach to sexual violence, in particular to rape. In a statement at the closing session of the 128th Assembly, Fernando Cordero, the President of the Assembly, expressed deep concern at the widespread crime with rape cases increasingly making the headlines in recent months. He called upon parliaments to scrutinize existing laws to ensure tougher punishment for sexual violence crimes, the enforcement of laws, the protection of victims as well as the provision of adequate resources to address the issue. Highlighting a common practice of punishing victims, President Cordero demanded the training of law enforcers so that the response to rape and other forms of sexual violence does not punish or stigmatize women.
Too Many MPs Under Attack and in Danger the World Over – Too many MPs in the world are being targeted, intimidated and harassed as an attack on democracy itself, according to IPU. Countries such as Afghanistan and Maldives are witnessing concerted direct violence against parliamentarians and at times also their families. As the 128th IPU Assembly concluded in Quito, Ecuador, IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians expressed concern at the recent suicide bombing attack on the family of the Speaker of the Lower House of parliament in Afghanistan. As part of a series of resolutions on cases on the human rights abuses of MPs around the world, IPU also voiced serious concern at the level of confrontation between the government and parliament of Maldives. The Indian Ocean Island nation has been in political crisis since February 2012. Significant intimidation and harassment of MPs has led to the IPU Committee following 21 cases of human rights abuses of parliamentarians, including that of Afrasheem Ali who was assassinated last October. IPU has stated its deep concern that despite evidence, no-one has been held accountable for attacks on the MPs and at allegations that MPs may no longer be receiving the security protection they need. The IPU Committee examined the cases of 147 MPs in 24 countries during its latest session, pronouncing resolutions on cases involving 86 MPs in 17 countries.
Colombian Prosecutors committed to resolving murders of Patriotic Union MPs – A mission by IPU’s Committee on Human Rights of Parliamentarians to Colombia this month witnessed new efforts to shed light on the cases of 6 members of parliament from the Unión Patriótica (Patriotic Union) murdered between 1986 and 1994, as well as the death threats which forced fellow MP Hernán Motta into exile in October 1997. Colombia’s Chief Prosecutor and the Attorney General revealed the cases are now a priority with new methodology for gathering evidence developed. The Committee also learnt that the murder of one of the six Patriotic Union MPs, Manuel Cepeda, has been declared a crime against humanity in Colombia. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights concluded in May 2010 that the Colombian State bore responsibility for his murder. The IPU Committee has asked for detailed information from the Colombian authorities as to the exact steps being taken to find the perpetrators of all the crimes. It has called upon members of Congress to do their utmost to help in pursuing the cases.
IPU and Parliaments Should Play Pivotal Role in Advocating Fair Trade – Parliamentarians and IPU are being urged to take the lead in advocating fair trade as a means of ensuring sustainable development. A resolution submitted by the Standing Committee on Sustainable Development, Finance and Trade at the 128th IPU Assembly, appeals to governments and MPs to support fair trade and to include it as an integral component of post-2015 sustainable development goals. In addition, it says parliaments and governments should explore more innovative, open and transparent financing mechanisms to allow for more effective funding of fair-trade projects. The Committee also appeals to governments to do more to combat corruption and to join forces in the fight against tax evasion, crucial to achieving increases in domestic revenue.
Record Number of Women MPs Attend 128th IPU Assembly – A record number of women MPs attended the 128th IPU Assembly in Quito, Ecuador, breaking the 200 mark for the first time ever. The 210 women MPs at the Assembly represented 33 per cent of all MPs attending. It was the first time the proportion of women MPs had been as high. The Quito gathering also witnessed a growing trend of better balanced delegations in terms of gender representation. The trend in women’s representation at IPU assemblies echoed global parliamentary figures which in 2012 saw the highest percentage of women MPs in national parliaments. For the first time, the global average of women MPs broke the 20 per cent to reach 20.3 per cent. The Quito gathering also marked the first time women parliamentarians from Saudi Arabia participated at an IPU event with two newly-appointed women representatives from the Shura Council.
Using Social Media to Enhance Citizen Engagement and Democracy – Delegates to IPU’s 128th Assembly have adopted a resolution that calls on parliaments to both use social media to better inform and engage with their citizens but also to protect the right to freedom of expression on and off-line. The resolution also underscored that a free, open and accessible internet is both a fundamental human right and a tool for citizen engagement. Parliamentarians also needed to take on the responsibility for ensuring citizens’ access to free and secure online communications. The resolution followed IPU’s release of its first ever social media guidelines for MPs and parliamentary staff. Available freely online, it aims to encourage the more widespread and effective use of social media by parliaments and politicians, as well as provide guidance to those responsible for managing social media channels. The guidelines help to define the scope and purpose of social media for parliaments whilst also providing a benchmark for good practice in citizen engagement. The World e-Parliament Report identified that by the end of 2012, a third of all parliaments were already using social media with another third planning to.
Intensify Efforts to Protect Civilians in Conflict Including Syria, Urges IPU
Quito/Geneva 27 March 2013 – The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has called for a set of actions enforcing the responsibility to protect civilian lives during conflict on the closing day of its 128th Assembly in the Ecuadoran capital, Quito.
Adopting resolutions on the Syrian refugee crisis and on the role of parliaments in safeguarding civilian lives, the IPU Assembly urged parliaments to ensure governments protected their people from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity through legislation, the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and by overseeing government action to combat terrorism.
If national authorities fail to safeguard their population, then collective action should be applied in a timely and decisive manner through the Security Council on a case-by- case basis.
Particular focus was put on the need for laws and measures to protect women and children, prevent and criminalize sexual violence and to provide redress for survivors in conflict.
Parliaments should also ensure they support governments in peace-building efforts through the allocation of necessary funds.
In the second resolution on the conflict in Syria in 12 months, IPU called for an immediate end to the violence there. Concerned by the displacement crisis which has left more than one million Syrian refugees seeking shelter and protection in neighbouring countries and stretching resources and capacity there, the Organization is urging donor countries to fulfil pledges to provide US$1.5 billion for humanitarian aid. So far, only $US200 million has so far been received.
IPU’s Committee on International Humanitarian Law in session during the 128th Assembly will send an urgent assessment mission to Jordan which hosts a large number of Syrian refugees.
The Quito Assembly, which brought together more than 1,250 delegates, including nearly 630 MPs from 121 countries, also called for a radically new way of tackling economic growth and sustainable development as the world begins work on an agenda to replace the Millennium Development Goals.
Aiming for human well-being, IPU members highlighted the need for more attention to be paid to the nature of growth, the distribution of its benefits, prioritizing action on youth unemployment and job creation, better management of the world’s resources and eradicating gender inequalities once and for all.
As a result, IPU has called for democratic governance to be included as a stand-alone goal in a new set of sustainable development targets post 2015.
Defining participation, transparency and accountability as the core of democratic governance, the Organization’s membership declared that it was more important than ever for parliaments to be strengthened in their oversight and legislative functions and to assert their place in decision-making processes at national and international levels.
The 128th IPU Assembly also adopted resolutions on the promotion of fair trade and innovative mechanisms for sustainable development and on the use of social media to enhance citizen engagement and democracy.
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COMMUNIQUE DE PRESSE
L’UIP demande que l’on protège davantage les civils pris dans les conflits, notamment en Syrie
Quito/Genève, 27 mars 2013 – A la clôture de sa 128ème Assemblée, qui s’est tenue à Quito, capitale de l’Equateur, l’Union interparlementaire (UIP) a appelé à une série de mesures destinées à faire respecter la responsabilité de protéger la vie des civils pendant les conflits.
L’Assemblée de l’UIP, qui a adopté des résolutions au sujet de la crise des réfugiés syriens et du rôle des parlements dans la protection des civils, demande instamment aux parlements de veiller à ce que leur gouvernement protège la population contre le génocide, le nettoyage ethnique, les crimes de guerre et les crimes contre l’humanité, en adoptant des lois, en ratifiant le Statut de Rome de la Cour pénale internationale et en contrôlant l’action menée par le gouvernement pour combattre le terrorisme.
L’Assemblée dit aussi que si les autorités nationales manquent à leur obligation de protéger leur population, la communauté internationale se doit d’engager en temps voulu une action collective résolue, par le truchement du Conseil de sécurité et, ce, au cas par cas.
L’Assemblée insiste en particulier sur le fait qu’il faut des lois et des mesures pour protéger les femmes et les enfants, prévenir et criminaliser la violence sexuelle et assurer réparation aux victimes des conflits.
Elle appelle en outre les parlements à accompagner les gouvernements dans leurs efforts de consolidation de la paix, en votant les crédits nécessaires.
Par ailleurs, dans sa deuxième résolution en 12 mois sur le conflit syrien, l’UIP appelle à une cessation immédiate de la violence dans ce pays. Préoccupée par les déplacements massifs qui ont fait plus d’un million de réfugiés cherchant asile et protection dans les pays voisins et mettant à rude épreuve les moyens disponibles, l’Organisation engage les pays donateurs à tenir leurs engagements et à fournir 1,5 milliard de dollars E.-U. pour financer l’aide humanitaire. A ce jour, seuls 200 millions de dollars ont été reçus.
Le Comité de l’UIP chargé de promouvoir le respect du droit international humanitaire, qui s’est réuni à l’occasion de la 128ème Assemblée, va dépêcher d’urgence une mission d’évaluation de la situation en Jordanie, où se trouvent actuellement un grand nombre de réfugiés.
L’Assemblée de Quito, à laquelle ont participé plus de 1 250 délégués, dont près de 630 parlementaires de 121 pays, souhaite également que l’on trouve une toute nouvelle façon d’envisager la croissance économique et le développement durable, alors que la communauté internationale s’attèle à l’élaboration d’un programme destiné à succéder aux Objectifs du Millénaire pour le développement.
Ayant à l’esprit le bien-être de l’humanité, les Membres de l’UIP ont insisté sur la nécessité de se soucier davantage de la nature de la croissance, de la répartition de ses bienfaits, de donner la priorité à la création d’emplois et à l’emploi des jeunes, de mieux administrer les ressources de la planète et de mettre fin une bonne fois pour toutes aux inégalités entre hommes et femmes.
Forte de ces convictions, l’UIP décidé de demander que la gouvernance démocratique soit intégrée, comme un objectif à part entière, dans le nouveau programme de développement durable pour l’après-2015.
Les Membres de l’UIP, pour qui la participation, la transparence et la reddition de comptes sont les piliers de la gouvernance démocratique, ont déclaré qu’il était plus important que jamais de renforcer les fonctions législative et de contrôle des parlement et d’associer davantage les législateurs aux processus de prise de décision aux échelons national et international.
La 128ème Assemblée de l’UIP a également adopté des résolutions sur la promotion du commerce équitable et de mécanismes novateurs de développement durable, ainsi que sur l’utilisation des médias sociaux pour accroître la participation des citoyens et renforcer la démocratie.
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UN Watch was never enthusiastic about the UN – it took RITA to show that the Great Hall can also be a place of Peace. Mr. Ahmedine-Nejad – watch the video and enjoy – RITA is an exponent of your Culture and could be an envoy of your Civilization. Why did nobody think of bringing her to Vienna last week for the meeting of the Alliance?
WE WERE AT THAT CONCERT IN NEW YORK CITY TOWN HALL, and in the nearby Bar, NOVEMBER 2012, WHEN AMBASSADOR PROSOR SAW RITA SING AND DANCE IN FARSI, HEBREW, and ENGLISH, and DECIDED THAT THIS OUGHT TO BE SEEN AT THE UN AS WELL. SURELY, HE WAS NOT NAIVE TO THINK THAT IT WILL BE EASY, BUT HE DID IT!!!
Global Music With a New York Edge
rita un review
“Only dreamers can do changes in the world,” Israeli rock star Rita reminded the crowd as she exited the stage after an exhilarating, politically radical, hourlong set for a private audience seemingly composed of dignitaries, their guests and a scattering of media at the United Nations General Assembly hall last night. Her English may have been slightly fractured, but she left no doubt in the tone of her voice. Rita is as big in Israel as Madonna was at the peak of her popularity here in the US; she is just as popular in Iran. Her dream: peace in the Middle East. On one hand, the pressure on her to cave in to partisan politics must be enormous, especially for someone whose family escaped a brutally repressive regime in her native Iran for the democracy of Israel when she was eight. On the other hand, she refuses to give up on that dream. Last night marked the historic occasion that a performer had ever sung in both Persian and Hebrew on the same night at the UN, but it also might have been the first time that anyone ever spoke those two languages side by side in public there. To see ten Israelis onstage singing lustily in Persian – the langauge of their country’s sworn enemy – was radical to the extreme. And this was with the blessing of the Israeli ambassador, who acceded that it had always been his “dream to open for Rita,” and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who described Rita as “A reminder of the role of music to transcend cultures, build bridges and connect people. Instead of global hegemony, global harmony!”
And the audience ate it up! They seemed to know all the words, whether or in Persian or Hebrew, sang along, and by the end of the show there was a lively circle of dancers gathered at the front of the stage. This wasn’t some small posse of peaceniks from the kibbutz hanging out in a cramped Tel Aviv basement: the auditorium was packed with a mainstream, monied Israeli crowd. Nor was the music bland, tepid pop: in Israel, Rita may be top 40, but her band’s closest American musical equivalent is Gogol Bordello. Laughable as it may seem, from an American perspective, to imagine such a cutting-edge, haunting blend of Middle Eastern folk themes and epic art-rock as Rita plays getting airplay on commercial radio, it’s an everyday thing in Israel. That general, mainstream listeners would not only accept but embrace this music makes the idea of dropping bombs on the people of Israel, or the people of Iran, all the more repulsive. Rita self-effacingly hinted more than once that she would have liked to be singing something other than love songs, but it didn’t matter: her message couldn’t have been more clear, or vividly shared.
About the music: it was brilliant. The concert began with a long, plaintively crescendoing improvisation played by Mark Eliyahu on the Persian kamancheh fiddle over an ominous keyboard drone – this is not how Madonna starts her shows. It finally picked up with a lush majesty over a swaying dance beat and in a split second the crowd was clapping along. The show ended with Yeladem Zim Sincha (Children Are a Joy), a feral gypsy-rock romp completely at odds with its saccharine title, the band exploding out of a biting Galia Hai viola solo midway through. In between, Rita alternated between her Hebrew-language hits and the vintage Iranian songs on her most recent album My Joys. The most exhilarating solo moment of the night belonged to Jonathan Dror, playing shivery microtones on a genuine rams-horn shofar on the introduction to Hachnisini Tachat Knafech (Under Your Wing), Rita adding her own spine-tingling, chromatically-charged vocalese solo. She gave energetic vocal cameos to rapidfire accordionist Ariel Alaev and eclectically fiery guitarist Ofer Koren; Dror also energized the crowd with his dance moves late in the set. The biggest hit with the crowd, predictably, was Shah Doomad (The Groom King), an ecstatic but rather ferocious wedding song: this guy is something to be reckoned with! To paraphrase what Edward Said said long ago, there is no discrete, exclusionary Middle Eastern culture: there is only Orientalism. As Rita made defiantly clear, it is possible to be both pro-Israel and pro-Iran: we are all in this together, with her. And who wouldn’t want to be?
Rita with Ambassador Ron Prosor, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his wife, March 5 (photo credit: Shahar Azran)
VIDEO OF UN PHOTO OP AT THE END OF THE CONCERT – by Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN
Hi Pincas. So far I’ve put up this outtake video:
Rita is congratulated by Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor at the end of her UN performance, March 5 (photo credit: Shahar Azran)
and our own older announcement:
Feb 22, 2013 – Matthew writes: Israel Plans UN Concert by Iranian-Born Singer Rita, … the Viva Vox choir, invited to perform a concert at the UN by General …
and even earlier –
THE ISRAELI MISSION MAKES HISTORY AT THE UN WITH A CONCERT BY ISRAELI POP ICON RITA, SINGING IN BOTH PERSIAN AND HEBREW FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER IN THE UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY HALL.
by Irith Jawetz, reporting from the UN Headquarters in New York.
On March 5, 2013 the Permanent Mission of Israel to the UN has hosted a special event and first of its kind in the UN General Assembly hall – a concert by the world-renowned Israeli-Iranian singer Rita Yahan-Farouz. The performance was titled “Tunes for Peace” .
Among the attendees were Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic, ambassadors, celebrities, and Jewish and Iranian community leaders.
H.E. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was the first to speak and he started his speech by greeting everybody with the Hebrew word “Shalom”. He said there is no room like this one and it serves to seek peace among nations, preserve Human rights, but sometimes also for concerts. He praised Rita for her desire to reach many cultures through her music, connect people and he hopes this concert will inspire people to strive for peace, justice and Human rights. He thanked the Government of Israel and especially Ambassador Rom Prosor for enabling this important event.
The next speaker was H.E. Mr. Vuk Jeremic, President of the 67th Session of the UN General Assembly. He also thanked Ambassador Prosor and mentioned his personal special friendship with the Ambassador. He announced that he will be going to Israel soon and will be visiting Yad Vashem, since a few members of his family, who saved Jews during the Holocaust will be honored as righteous among Nations. This announcement brought a huge applause from the audience. He mentioned that music has a very important tool for connecting people and nations since biblical times. Music is a universal language and he shares Rita’s hopes that it will bring cooperation between nations.
After the speeches the General Assembly Hall transformed completely and the concert began. Rita came on stage and the audience welcomed her with huge applause. She has a terrific personality and projected it throughout the whole evening.
The album, which has received widespread international acclaim, interweaves the Iranian melodies of Rita’s childhood with the rich tapestry of contemporary Israeli music. She introduced herself by saying that she was born in Tehran and emigrated with her parents at the age of eight. She credited her mother for her remarkable singing career by telling us that her mother used to sing the whole day long, even while cooking or doing chores around the house.
The concert lasted about an hour and brought the hall to its feet. The audience definitely following Ambassador Proser’s closing words in his speech “Let’s Rock the Hall”.
Let us all hope that politicians will follow Rita’s example!
Some of our older postings on RITA in NEW YORK:
Feb 22, 2013 – Matthew writes: Israel Plans UN Concert by Iranian-Born Singer Rita, … the Viva Vox choir, invited to perform a concert at the UN by General …
Nov 14, 2012 – RITA from Israel, last Sunday night at the Town Hall in New York City, … Such as In 2006, Rita put on a show called One (in English) which ran …
Amazingly, it took 40 years since the Stockholm 1972 Conference on the Human Environment to make finally UNEP into a Global Organization – a home for all of Humanity – all UN Member States and complete Non-Governmental participation as well.
Now the questions are – will UNEP speak for Science and the Global Environment rather then bow, as until now, to the few leading Member States interested in keeping it low and far?
Back in 1972 it was sent off to far away Nairobi so it would not impact the ongoing in New York or Geneva. The result was indeed that the Environment continued to be left out from discussions of the Development and Social Agendas.
The UN celebrates now: “United Nations Environment Programme Upgraded to Universal Membership Following Rio+20” and that is not funny. They also say now:
Will ECOSOC – the Economic and Social Council – be allowed now to embrace this newly empowered UNEP and be upgraded to a body that is UNIVERSAL as well, and deals with Sustainability including all three legs of SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT – the Environment, Social Development and Economic Development? This at a time that sees the closing of the useless Commission – the UN CSD?
Will the new UNEP be charged to promote SUSTAINABLE ENERGY in the UN effort to provide Energy-4-All, the post RIO+20 other effort that will have its hub in Vienna? Sustainable Energy and the Global Environment are the twin pillars that will hold our arch to Future Generations.
NEW – Rabbi Schneier’s weekly column in the Huffington Post.
The Making of Modern-Day Miracles: Hanukkah With the Chief Rabbi, Imams and Barack Obama.
Hanukkah, the eight day holiday which the Jewish people just observed, is first and foremost, about miracles. Hanukkah commemorates both the miracle of the victory of the Jewish people led by Judah Maccabee in their uprising against their Greek oppressors in 165 B.C.E. and the miracle that the menorah in the reconsecrated Temple in Jerusalem burned for eight days, even though there was only enough oil to light it for one day.
To be sure, miracles have always played a major role in Jewish history; indeed, the very survival of the Jews as a people, despite nearly 2,000 years of exile and persecution, is the greatest miracle of all. Yet, in the Talmud, our sages remind us that one must not rely on miracles. Yes, miracles can happen, but one has to work terribly hard for them.
There is an enormous human component that goes into the making of a miracle.
Over the past six years, I have been privileged to take part in a modern-day miracle: the establishment of a global movement of Muslims and Jews committed to communication, reconciliation and cooperation. Two weeks ago, as I wrote in my last column, I was one of several rabbis invited to take part in the opening of the King Abdullah International Center for Interfaith Dialogue in Vienna, an institution created by the King of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, to strengthen dialogue between world religions — very much including Islam and Judaism. On Dec. 10, the second day of Hanukkah, together with my friend and esteemed colleague, Imam Shamsi Ali of the Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens, the largest mosque in New York City, I organized a festive Hanukkah meal at the SOLO kosher restaurant in midtown Manhattan featuring the Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger and eight prominent New York area imams and Muslim leaders.
As I noted in my remarks at the luncheon, such an event would have been unthinkable a few years ago; and many people might assume, should have been all but impossible in the wake of the exchange of missile fire between Israel and Gaza last month. However, thanks to the ongoing step-by-step work in which I have been engaged with Imam Shamsi Ali and other visionary Muslim and Jewish leaders around the world; arranging hundreds of mosque-synagogue exchanges every November during our annual International Muslim-Jewish Weekend of Twinning and bringing together European, North American and Latin American Muslim and Jewish leaders to stand together against Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, we have managed to build a framework that allows us to celebrate each others’ holidays together, and to work productively in concert with each other, even at a time of conflict in the Middle East.
That willingness to build ties of cooperation and understanding very much includes Chief Rabbi Metzger, who has made it a point to reach out to imams and Muslim leaders, both within Israel and the Palestinian territories and around the world. Pointing out that through the greater part of the past 1,300 years, Jews and Muslims lived and worked closely together, the Chief Rabbi invoked the miracle of the long burning menorah of Hanukkah to appeal to the New York imams to join with him and like-minded Jews in “spreading the light of Jewish-Muslim understanding.” Responding on behalf of his fellow imams, Shamsi Ali emphasized that “the Middle East conflict is not a Jewish-Muslim conflict but a human one and we have a shared human responsibility to intervene. We don’t have the luxury to become discouraged and give up on the situation; rather we must remain optimistic and keep building our network of contacts.”
Presiding over this historic gathering, the first time a chief rabbi of Israel has sat down together with American Muslim leaders, I reflected that its very occurrence showed about how far Muslims and Jews have come together in six short years and the great opportunity we now have to work together for the betterment of both communities — including helping to bring peace to the Middle East. Indeed, thanks to the efforts in which we have been engaged, there is greater reason for optimism about Muslim-Jewish relations than has existed in a long time.
Several days later, on the evening of Dec. 13, I was privileged to participate in the menorah lighting ceremony at the White House. Listening to President Obama’s eloquent words at that event, I reflected that he is a man of conviction and principle whom I deeply admire.
Yet, as someone who has been in the vanguard of strengthening black-Jewish relations in America for a quarter of a century, being in Barack Obama’s presence at a Hanukkah celebration at the White House also evoked another miracle that continues to amaze and inspire me: the first-ever African-American President of the United States.
Like the remarkable progress we have achieved in Muslim-Jewish relations, the triumph of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the election of President Obama 40 years later, are also examples of miracles that good people worked terribly hard to make happen. The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and other milestones of that movement would never have occurred without the tireless efforts of Americans of diverse backgrounds who came together in support of the struggle of African-Americans for freedom and equality. In fact, as I have noted in my book “Shared Dreams: Martin Luther King and the Jewish Community,” there was no segment of American society which provided as much and as consistent support to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as did the Jewish community.
Among the modern day Maccabees who sacrificed their lives were Jewish civil rights activists Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, who together with their African-American co-worker James Chaney, were brutally murdered in the swamps of Mississippi.
Other brave Jews who joined that struggle included Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched alongside Dr. King from Selma to Montgomery, and countless other rabbis who were arrested and beaten during the Freedom Rides of 1961.
As I stood in the White House and witnessed the first African-American President light the Hanukkah menorah, I felt that the President’s solidarity with the Jewish community that evening was so very fitting given the seeds of the black-Jewish alliance that were planted in the Civil Rights struggle of half a century ago.
As I left the White House that evening, I reflected on the miraculous accomplishments of the Civil Rights movement, confident that we can achieve the miracle of Muslim-Jewish reconciliation as well. Both of these movements remind us of the enormous human effort that goes into the making of a miracle.
Rabbi Marc Schneier is President of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and Vice President of the World Jewish Congress. Schneier is co-authoring a book on Muslim-Jewish relations entitled Sons of Abraham, with Imam Shamsi Ali of the Jamaica Muslim Center, New York City’s largest mosque, to be published by Beacon Press in the Fall of 2013.
But lest we are accused of not considering all evidence, I must bring up also the OpenDemocracy column we read today:
Turkey, the end of Islamism with a human face.
Kerem Oktem 20 December 2012
Turkey’s AKP government has over a decade promised a new model of governance: progressive and reformist, Islamist and democratic. But a series of developments, including the expanding power of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, is now exposing the party and its policies to ever-deeper scrutiny, says Kerem Oktem.
For eight decades after the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, the dominant ideology and political model was one of authoritarian secularism. In November 2002, the election victory of the Justice & Development Party (AKP) brought with it a double promise: to accommodate growing demands for inclusion (from both Turkey’s majority Muslim population and the country’s subordinated ethno-religious minorities), and to marry Turkey’s mainstream Islamist tradition and conservative political right with a programme of modernisation geared towards accession to the European Union.
The prospect of historic change struck a chord far beyond Turkey, especially among liberals in Europe and the United States but also across the middle east. The culture wars unleashed by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida and George W Bush’s administration had both polarised world opinion and created longing for a new reconciliation between “Islam” and “democracy” (or more accurately, between Islamism and popular sovereignty). Many read in the Turkish result a sign of hope.
The AKP’s ambition could hardly be exaggerated: to reconcile conservative religious values and modern politics in a way that resembled the achievement of Christian Democrat parties in late-19th century Europe when they carried Catholic voters and Christian values into democratic politics. The party, after several false starts and legal sanctions from a still confident and intimidatory state, had built a broad coalition of old Islamists, moderate nationalists and new liberals. It seemed a strong foundation for a change-making project inspired by the notion of “Islamism with a human face”.
The AKP’s election breakthrough of November 2002 was the prelude to an exciting decade-long political roller-coaster ride where impressive economic growth, progressive legal reforms, empowerment of civil society and modernisation of infrastructure was counterbalanced by growing nationalism and chauvinism, spreading machismo and untamed neo-liberal restructuring. Amid many setbacks and frustrations, the ride more often than not seemed to lean towards the former. Now, however, Turkey’s politics appear to have come full circle. The country’s Kurds are even more antagonised than during the highpoint of the Kurdish war of the 1990; the non-orthodox Alevi community (which numbers at least 10 million) feels more disenfranchised even than under Kemalist dictatorship; and virtually all societal groups that diverge from the AKP’s notion of the “Islamic middle-class family” experience a sense of exclusion as a result of state attitudes.
It is a good time to take stock, and re-evaluate the actors and dynamics which have reshaped Turkey over these ten years. In particular, to ask: why has the human face of Islamism appears to have gone missing; why has the country’s political realm experienced a puzzling a loss of decency; what do these developments mean for the people of Turkey and the country’s overlapping neighbourhoods; and what are the available alternatives?
A discredited legacy
Turkey shares with other middle-east regimes a tradition of secular authoritarianism whose combination of rigorously controlled institutions, populist nationalism and repressive security systems enabled it to remain in power for decades. Turkey differed from countries such as Egypt, Syria or Tunisia not in the underpinnings of power, but in its state legacy and geostrategic environment. The Republic of Turkey, which had its foundations in the Ottoman empire’s modernisation of the late 19th century, was able to avoid the colonial domination that was to shape the experience of modern Arab statehood. Moreover, at the onset of the cold war, Turkey’s political elites were able to secure a place for the country in the western security alliance, thanks above all to its geographical proximity to western Europe and its status as a frontline state vis-à-vis the former Soviet Union.
Throughout the second half of the 20th century, this place facilitated the maintenance in Turkey of a semi-democratic hybrid regime which kept a balance between some socio-economic and ethno-religious groups while repressing and/or denying the existence of others (especially the Kurds, a middle-eastern nation with a long history of local statehood and a distinct literary tradition). The reality of the Armenian genocide, on which the relative religious homogeneity of modern Turkey as a Muslim majority state was built, was also denied.
At heart, Turkey over these decades was a deeply unjust society marked by profound ideological and ethno-religious divisions, which came to the fore particularly in the years of near civil war (as in the 1970s) and was then controlled by the extreme security state established after the coup d’etat of September 1980. By the early 2000s, however, the version of modernity projected by the Kemalist regime – so-called after the state’s founder, Kemal Atatürk – was looking anachronistic, reminiscent as it was of the leader-worship, mass events and orchestrated nationalist fervour of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany; while political and social developments in Turkey had massively undermined its claim to represent the country.
The Islamist movement, partly supported by the generals of the 1980 coup as a prophylactic against socialist infiltration, had matured significantly. The leading cadres within Turkey’s Milli Görü? (National View) movement, the mainstream Islamist tradition from whom the AKP’s leading cadres hail, had come to embrace non-statist, globalised economic thinking and to accept the need to work within the parameters of the secular state. Islamic networks such as Fethullah Gülen’s HIzmet, which combined conservative social values with successful educational enterprises and trust-based business networks, facilitated the emergence of internationally successful industrial establishments in medium-sized towns and cities in the Anatolian heartlands. These flourishing “Anatolian tigers” in central Turkey – led by a new “Islamic bourgeoisie” whose hard work and focused business ambition even attracted the sobriquet “Islamic Calvinists” – created what Cihan Tugal calls a “passive revolution” which integrated Islamists into capitalism and municipal politics, thereby keeping radicalisation at bay.
The Kemalist model was also exposed by the dirty war against the Kurdish guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Kurdish civilian population, which by the 2000s had left more than 30,000 dead and up to 2 million Kurds internally displaced. The loss of legitimacy was shared: among a series of weak coalition governments, among the “deep state” that effectively co-opted them, and among the Kemalist modernisation project as a whole.
Thus, by the time the AKP came to power in 2002, Turkey was over-ready for a change – and change it did. In a relatively short period, and at breakneck speed, the government embarked on an ambitious programme of legal and institutional reform. The prospect of accession negotiations with the European Union unleashed a frenzy of liberal initiatives: the enacting of a progressive civil code, the opening to scrutiny of the repressive institutions of the post-1980 era (including the Higher Education Council, devised to keep unruly universities under control, and the National Security Council, which did the same for the country’s politics).
All vestiges of the ancien regime were open to consideration. The media brimmed with public debates about hitherto unspeakable taboos: from the repression of the Kurds and the marginalisation of Alevis to the denial of the many crimes against humanity which the Turkish nationalist modernisers committed in the dying days of the Ottoman empire and the early ones of the Turkish republic. This liberal moment was framed by high levels of economic growth and a tripling of GDP per capita, which allowed the government to reorganise public services and infrastructure. Significant portions of the public gained unprecedented access to healthcare, with visible results on public health (particularly in underprivileged areas like the Kurdish provinces). This aspect of neo-liberal adjustment came with better services and a more courteous public administration.
A new balance
True, even at the time, there were signs of an undercurrent of religious chauvinism, and an element of Islamist “revenge” for the reprisals inflicted upon them throughout the republic (and particularly after the “mini-coup” of 1997). From 2005, the country witnessed an almost inexplicable nationalist backlash in which prominent liberal public intellectuals such as Orhan Pamuk and Elif Shafak were publicly assaulted and subject to a barrage of court cases. These campaigns of psychological warfare against Turkey’s faint but vital liberal voice were supplemented by targeted violence whose victims included the Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink (murdered in January 2007) and several Christian priests and missionaries.
The operations of the deep state, a remnant of Nato’s “stay behind” forces that went viral during the Kurdish war, had been supported (unknowingly or cynically) by parts of the secular establishment and the Republican People’s Party (CHP). The latter’s efforts extended at times into a form of brinkmanship aimed at deposing the AKP government, preventing the AKP foreign minister Abdullah Gül from competing for the presidency, or even (via the constitutional court) attempting to shut down the governing party. All of these manoeuvres failed; though they did succeed in polarising the political space and galvanising support for the AKP government, which could rightfully accuse the Kemalist establishment of undemocratic conduct. They also opened the door to a direct popular election of the president.
There were other worrying signs. An amended anti-terror law in 2006 significantly expanded the definition of terrorism to make the expression of ideas that happen to be shared by terrorist organisations a punishable offence. At a stroke, demands for education in the Kurdish language or for regional autonomy became a security matter. In tactics reminiscent of Israel’s tactics in the occupied Palestinian territories, Turkish security officers abused demonstrating children in Diyarbakir and other Kurdish cities and imprisoned them for minor offences like hurling stones or carrying placards with the insignia of the PKK. The legal attacks against pro-Kurdish parties and politicians – established tools of governance since their emergence in the 1990s – continued. In the late 2000s, a legal battle was unleashed upon the whole domain of Kurdish politics, with hundreds (and soon thousands) of Kurdish politicians, activists and employees of municipalities run by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) taken into detention, sometimes under humiliating circumstances.
A successful referendum initiative in September 2010 then broke the hegemony of Kemalist judges in the high courts and made possible the prosecution of the hitherto protected leaders of the 1980 coup. This fuelled the zeal of prosecutors close to the government in their undeclared war on the old establishment, which involved bringing charges against former and serving chiefs of the general staff and leading figures in the media and politics for alleged involvement in a series of (averted) coup attempts. Turkey’s history of military interventions made the accusations not unreasonable, and they helped the government to scare the military into full cooperation. Yet if the court cases against the BDP were aimed at marginalising the AKP’s main rival in the Kurdish provinces, those against the military and secularist figures were directed against the Kemalist establishment as such, not necessarily at any actual acts individuals might have engaged in. The ever-growing number of those detained, and the mounting incidents of half-baked evidence, secret witnesses, and (in line with Turkish judicial tradition) fantastic indictments, gradually eroded the legitimacy of the prosecutorial assault.
But prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an and his government had been able – at least until the 2010 elections – to counterbalance such highhanded moves with more benign ones in other policy domains. TV and radio broadcasts in Kurdish were legalised, and Kurdish education gradually phased in. This led to multiple contradictions: as the first university degree programmes for Kurdish teachers began, for example, detained Kurdish politicians were charged for insisting on defending themselves in their mother tongue. This doesn’t diminish the importance of the fact that Kurdish, denied its very existence throughout the entire history of the republic, is now a recognised subject in state schools and universities.
The court proceedings cannot be defined as anything but “exceptional justice”. There is little doubt, though, that the Kemalist establishment (including the CHP) had been deeply implicated in dodgy dealings with the deep state to overthrow or at least weaken the ruling AKP. Turkey’s visibility in its neighbourhood, and its seemingly successful foreign-policy activism, also helped to convince a global audience that the AKP government was still engaging in a struggle to defend the popular will against the machinations of the authoritarian Kemalist establishment and the deep state.
An authoritarian shift
So, what changed after the 2010 elections, which returned the AKP to government for a third time and with almost half of the popular vote? Many secularists argue there was no such change: rather, that the cadres of this Islamist party had artfully manipulated the public in Turkey, the European Union and pretty much everybody in the world in order to subvert the military and then rule supreme. They now had the strength to fulfil their “real” motive, to create a sort of theocracy. Some liberals, and even more reflective Islamist actors, would make a different case, based on Lord Acton’s dictum that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Indeed, ten years in government is a long time.
Both explanations have a grain of truth, though the proponents of the first might recall that the secular establishment has played a major role in cornering the AKP elites and socialising them into the very exceptional use of force which the government and its supporters in the judiciary and bureaucracy is now engaged in. The flipside of the secularist explanation hence suggests that the Kemalist state has managed to shape the Islamists in its own image, turning them into the same kind of authoritarian modernisers and social engineers; the difference being that the core reference-points are now Islam, Ottomanism and neo-liberalism rather than Turkish ethno-nationalism. In the government’s defence, its apologists proclaim that Erdo?an wants to attract the nationalist vote with hawkish policies in order to ensure his election as president, insinuating that he might become more moderate when that is achieved.
Geostrategy has also helped. Turkey happens to share borders with states that are vilified by the western security establishment. In the past, it was the Soviet Union; then Iran, followed by Iraq, and lately Syria. The United States needs Turkey as an ally in its middle-eastern policy, no matter what shape this policy may eventually take. It is not a good time to criticise Turkey – and thanks to geostrategy, the time never seems to be just right. The rebranding of Turkey as an economic powerhouse and model of Muslim democracy, professionally and aggressively conducted globally by civil-society organisations and pro-business Islamic networks, also remains potent. Turkey is still able to depict itself, albeit in a far less convincing way than before, as a model for the democratic transitions in the Arab world.
A political faultine
If the AKP government is now in more or less full control of the Turkish state, unconstrained by foreign-policy pressures, and able to benefit from a relatively well-performing economy, what exactly is it doing? The answer is that it is concentrating extreme power in the hands of the prime minister, and conducting remorseless policies without a modicum of balance. There are thousands of Kurdish activists and hundreds of university students in jail, who are by any definition political prisoners; they are joined by critical journalists who are often held on terrorism charges. The judiciary is cracking down on pretty much any individual who dares to question the legitimacy of “Islamism with a human face” and of Turkey’s neo-liberal restructuring. Critical academics such as Bü?ra Ersanl? and P?nar Selek have been imprisoned or face charges. Some campuses, like that of the Aegean University in Izmir and now that of the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, are subjected to a state of emergency, where police snatch away protesting students and intimidate intervening faculty members.
The balancing-act between neo-liberal adjustment and redistribution was one of the great success stories of earlier AKP governments. Now that the economy is slowing, redistribution has become harder and industrial action more pronounced. Turkish Airlines is a showcase for intelligent management, brand consolidation and growth thanks to high levels of productivity. Yet working conditions are harsh, and when a few hundred employees staged a short strike earlier in 2012, all of them were dismissed (via SMS) after an angry intervention by Erdo?an. Istanbul’s skyline is slowly being destroyed by what will soon be called the Turkish property bubble; the prime minister himself, usually not responsible for urban planning, is pushing through plans for the largest mosque in Turkey on a hilltop overlooking Istanbul, and for an ill-advised plan to “beautify” the city’s heart around Taksim Square. All of these projects have been finalised behind closed doors, with no regard to public consultation.
Erdo?an’s is a sad story, especially in relation to the promise he represented as a child of poor immigrants to Istanbul who rose to the top echelons of power via the municipality of greater Istanbul, along the way defying the Kemalist establishment and enduring a jail term. Now, he has become a choleric figure who lectures the world about all and sundry; plays down the Armenian genocide (while accusing China of the same crime against the Uyghur people and maintaining cordial relations with Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, whose regime is accused of genocide in Darfur); lambasts Israel (rightly) for its brutal occupation regime, while failing to apologise for the killing of thirty-four Kurdish civilians in an airstrike near the village of Roboski; tells Turkish women how many children to have (three) and threatens to rescind relatively liberal abortion laws.
That socially conservative politics would eventually close in on the female body and, as Deniz Kandiyoti suggests, attempt a “masculinist restoration”, is probably not so surprising. That Erdo?an now even seeks to have a popular TV series on Suleiman the Magnificent banned, because it depicts the Ottoman Sultan as a man concerned more with his harem than with conquest, however, is. Could Erdo?an be approaching the threshold to ludicrousness?
A contested hegemony
The hegemonic aspect of Turkey’s new governing system is a case of the phenomenon different from Egypt’s, where Andrea Teti and colleagues view Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as non-hegemonic actors that consequently face widespread protests that contest their power-base. The foundations of post-Kemalist hegemony run deeper, as they have been built gradually and in a more deliberate manner. In ten years, the AKP and sympathetic Islamic networks have succeeded in educating a new generation of administrators, judges and foreign-policy experts in private schools and new universities, who approximate in mindset and persuasion to what Erdo?an calls a “pious youth”. The part of the population which has benefited from the AKP’s economic growth and redistribution policies is incomparably larger than in Egypt; and Turkey is much richer now than it was in 2002-03.
The infinitely self-confident Erdo?an is not without possible challenge, however – though not from the main opposition party, which is failing to unite its two main factions into a progressive social-democrat coalition (the division is between a nationalist and anti-Kurdish Kemalist establishment, and a more liberal left-wing faction with a strong Alevi component). The challenge, rather, comes from two other sources. The first could emerge from within the Islamist movement and the Islamic networks, which have played a key role in mobilising their constituencies for the AKP in the preceding elections. Many people here regard “decency” as not (or not exclusively) a matter of piety and modest dress. Some wonder whether their longstanding struggle really was for a Turkey with more mosques, shopping-malls and high-speed trains, ruled by an autocratic dictator who gasps for even more power than he already holds. The extent to which they will be able to revoke the implicit agreement between Islamists not to compromise a fellow brother, and to find a voice in the AKP (or beyond) will be decisive for the future of Turkey’s politics and of Erdo?an himself.
The second challenge may come from Turkey’s current president, the much less divisive Abdullah Gül, who enjoys considerably more approval for a second term in office than Erdo?an does in his bid for the presidency. The two are now in open conflict over a wide range of policy issues. This struggle will unfold over the next year.
In the meantime, Turkey veers ever closer to an abyss of multiple crises on different geographical scales: in its neighbourhood, in Syria, in its own Kurdish regions, in its higher-education system, its courtrooms, and in its inner cities. If there is anything like “path dependence”, the possibility of Erdo?an returning to the politics of decency, with which he initially captured the hearts and minds of the electorate in Turkey, can be precluded. For now, Turkey’s experiment of “Islamism with a human face” seems to have come to a tentative end.
That this is happening at the same time as the Muslim Brotherhood’s grip on Egypt seems to be slipping, and unrest is mounting in Tunisia, might offer some hints about the future of this ideology. Olivier Roy’s repeated insistence that Islamism is nearing its end might still be unfounded. The Turkish experience, however, suggests that its neo-liberal, pro-American version cannot provide credible or sustainable answers to the needs of complex modern societies, and certainly not to the demands for social justice and inclusive governance.
Similar difficulties exist in Israel and they will not be resolved by the January 2013 elections.
The up-shot is thus that lot of hard work is needed to make the needed miracles of civil co-existence happen.
Up to 800.000 darker skin people are today slaves in Mauritania – a country of 3.5 million. Mauritania was now elected to Vice Presidency of the UN Human Rights Council – the official warden of the Declaration of Human Rights. A Medal of Shame to the voting Africans at the UN!
As Revolutionary as saying Good Morning: To Save Congo, Let It Fall Apart. The continuing legacy of colonialism in Africa is to be found in the largest artificial States it left behind and at the UN where dictators are honored and supported.
WHY DOES NOT SOMEONE SPEAK THE TRUTH TO THE UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY AND ITS SECURITY COUNCIL?
THE LARGEST STATES OF AFRICA MUST BE BROKEN UP IN ORDER TO ALLOW THE PEOPLE CREATE THE GOVERNMENT THEY NEED SO THEY CAN THRIVE FROM THE HUGE RESOURCES THESE COUNTRIES POSSES. ANYTHING ELSE IS SIMPLY THE CONTINUATION OF COLONIALISM BY PROXY EMPIRES.
SUDAN FOR INSTANCE HAS FINALLY BEEN ALLOWED TO BREAK INTO TWO – BUT EVEN SO IT IS TOO LARGE TO BE GOVERNED OUT OF ARAB KHARTOUM. CONGO IS JUST AS BAD AND HIDING BEHIND THE WORDS DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC IS NOT EVEN A FIG LEAF OVER ITS NAKEDNESS.
The New York Times Op-Ed Contributor
J. PETER PHAM writes – Congo isn’t too big to fail; it’s too big to succeed. Rather than striving to hold it together, we should let it break up.
To Save Congo, Let It Fall Apart
By J. PETER PHAM