by Alaa Tartir, Program Director, Al-Shabaka:The Palestinian Policy Network
Source: Huffington Post
Sadly, once again, the post-war recovery experts, their international consultancy firms, an international aid industry, and the donor community are ramping up for another Gaza reconstruction exercise. Another war, and another salvage effort for the besieged coastal strip. An international donors’ conference, a carbon copy of the 2009 Sharm El-Sheikh donor conference, is due to take place in Norway this September. There seems little doubt that conference participants will pledge another $5 billion (which may or may not be paid), in an effort that seems destined only to cover up the failure of the international community to stop the destruction before it started.
The donor conference does present an opportunity, however, to forge a new paradigm of aid politics. As a first step, Hamas must be invited to attend this round. Exclusion would only lead to repeated mistakes. It is time to re-evaluate the decision to exclude the party. (more…)
In the last week much has been made of the purported failings of Mursi the President, and Mursi the politician. He tried to do too much, or did too little, he took too much power (for his party), or not enough (from the military and security services). He went too fast, or not fast enough. Some identified a failing as his lack of charisma, comparing him to “the more charismatic Khairat El-Shater” or lauding the “charismatic, chisel-jawed Sisi” – as if charisma is a substitute for principled leadership, or political legitimacy.
We need only look to the United States and to Israel to see what unprincipled leadership charisma is capable of delivering, including on electoral promises. Remember the closure of Guantanamo and the reduction of unemployment promised by US President Barack Obama, remember Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s promise to appoint former communications minister Moshe Kahlon as chairman of the Israel Lands Authority. And remember both of these leaders’ unstinting terrorism at home and abroad.
Mursi the man, by contrast, is who the majority of the Egyptian people elected in internationally-recognised free and fair elections, not for his charisma but for his humanity.
Mursi the man, unassuming, imperfect, humble, human – and Muslim.
Mursi the Muslim man, who bared his chest at his inauguration to show that he was not wearing a bullet-proof vest, to demonstrate his trust and faith in the Egyptian people. Some of whom are now betraying him, and them.
Mursi the Muslim man, who in 2005 led demonstrations supporting independence for all judges. Some of whom are now betraying him, and them.
Mursi the Muslim man, who was in and out of jail under the Mubarak regime “due to his constantly firm stance” against its repressive measures and oppressive practices. The remnants of which continue to betray their people.
Mursi the Muslim man, trying to lead his country out of 30 years of corruption and an enormous public debt, by transforming the machinery of the Mubarak dictatorship into “an executive branch that represents the people’s true will and implements their public interests,” according to Islamic principles of justice, equality, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, labour, perseverance – and forgiveness.
Mursi the Muslim man, who did not seek, but was propelled to, the presidency of Egypt – by his party and by the majority of the Egyptian people. Most of whom are still behind him.
Mursi the Muslim man – deposed and detained.
For what? For being democratically elected by the people of Egypt? What greater disincentive could there be for future presidential hopefuls… if indeed there were to be another free and fair electoral process now that Egyptian democracy has been so ignominiously usurped.
For failing to do in one year what no leader anywhere or any time has ever achieved – a 12-month complete turnaround of a decades-old corrupt and embedded system?
For dealing fairly and openly with another democratically-elected – and Islamic – political party, Hamas? The rumoured charges pending against him strongly suggest this.
For opening the Rafah border to his brothers and sisters in the besieged Gaza Strip to enable a breath of life to enter, and the foul stench of Zionist oppression to escape and turn the stomach of the world? The quick closure of the Rafah crossing, and the barely-restrained glee of the Israeli administration, equally strongly suggest this.
Mursi the Muslim man stands guilty of two things – being elected president of Egypt, and being principled.
The first was not by his choice.
The second is what it is to be a Muslim, and a man.
How should he plead?
Guilty, with honour.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan might now be pondering on his own advice to Syrian President Bashar Assad, to listen to his people, before he finds himself and his government similarly beset.
There are three main issues here – the short-sighted sacrifice of one of the few green public spaces in Istanbul to private enterprise, the use of the state apparatus to repress legitimate protest by the use of excessively disproportionate force, and the certain loss of government legitimacy through the loss of popular support, and confidence.
In a world facing ecological disaster caused by the irresponsible abuse and degradation of the environment by corporate interests, in communities facing social disaster caused by the irresponsible destruction of the social fabric by ill-conceived town-planning that places profits before the needs of current and future generations, there is little the ordinary citizen can do to defend what few leaves remain to cover them BUT protest, and occupy the public spaces which, by definition, belong to THEM, the public.
This park in the middle of Istanbul may not completely suffice as the lungs of the city, but it is one of the few that serve as such, and its loss will be significant, both ecologically and socially.
Prime Minister Erdogan has the opportunity to demonstrate his environmentally- and socially-friendly credentials as a president with a commitment not only to today’s citizens, but also to those of the future. He could begin by ensuring policies such as the mall construction have had a rigorous environmental impact report – which includes social AND ecological impact – and by listening to the people affected, through consultative processes.
Use of Force
The use of state force to respond to popular protests against a government policy, especially given events in the region over the last two years, is little short of suicidal. If there is one lesson to be learnt from the so-called Arab Spring, it is that such a response usually has only two outcomes for a government – rule by force not favour, or falling.
While it is commendable that Erdogan has pledged to investigate the use of excessive force, the question must be asked – why use force at all? Surely consultation, rather than repression, has more potential for an outcome acceptable to all? Witness the governance style of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who put all contentious policies to public referendum – cumbersome, perhaps, but a recipe that produced constructive social participation rather than protest.
Again, given events in the region in the last two years, it is incomprehensible that any government that wishes to remain in power with the support and confidence of the people would respond to an incident such as the park protests in such an oppressive fashion.
As the escalation shows, it takes little to ignite an uprising from a relatively minor incident, particularly when there are undoubtedly many outside of Turkey who would like nothing more than to see Erdogan and his government fall, and who will be doing their best to capitalise on these protests for their own agendas, as is unfolding in Syria.
There is a vast difference between maintaining public order and repression, between a peaceful protest and a violent unruly mob. A statesman can tell the difference, and knows when force is needed and how much – a politician doesn’t much care.
Erdogan must decide which he will be – a statesman with the best interests of his country at heart, or a politician with an eye only for electoral success.