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Outburst of Rage or moral outrage?

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“Failure,” so goes the Chinese proverb, “is not falling down but refusing to get up.” Did the Arab Spring really fail? Ten years after it sprang up in the most inhospitable region for democracy, the jury is still out. History tells us that several “failed” revolutions made far greater impact globally than the successful ones. The Arab Spring ignited great many movements for democracy just as the two   failed revolutions—the 1848 revolution and the 1968 revolution—made even greater impact on the world.

Arab Spring’s “failure” has been fetishised. Political theorist Hannah Arendt famously said, “The point, as Marx saw it, is that dreams never come true.” But some dreams never die. The quest for dignity that the Arab Spring espoused will remain a quest. The Arab Spring didn’t become a global spring but the discontents that it typified are becoming global discontents.

 In 1848 a series of republican revolts against European monarchies took place but all ended in failure and repression. But it was also the year when Marx wrote the Manifesto, perhaps the most influential single piece of political writing. The 1968 revolution too was defeated. No one seized power and yet the world changed. The fire of 1968 may have died down but memory and legacy haven’t. Today, an array of protests across the world by the youth, students, farmers, migrants, women’s groups and climate warriors including ‘collapsologists’(those who abandon  all hope and are learning to die) is rocking the world.

When the 21st century dawned, some geopolitical sages proclaimed that future was already written and that the future had already happened. As we enter the third decade of the 21st century, both the hype and hope of the 21st century are fading fast. We are still struggling to  define the contours of the present century. Is it the “age of mediocrity” or are we living in the “age of anger?” Have we ushered in a “post-truth world” or are we going through “modern primitivism?” A lot is still unfolding and there is a lot more that we don’t know than what we do know.

The spirit of the Arab Spring continues to be a potent force. In fact, a plethora of protests and movements of this decade is already overwhelming the world. As they say, every outburst legitimizes the next. Democracy remains alien to the Arab world. And yet, the region has changed. In fact, democracy may be moving in reverse gear across the world but the anger and the spirit of rebellion of the Arab Spring is pervasive.

Shakespeare in the Merchant of Venice writes, “How far that little candle throws his beams!  The Arab Spring indeed threw its beams far and wide. It will be unwise to dismiss the Arab Spring, the Occupy Movement, Podemos and a host of protests globally as a failure. As Henry Kissinger told the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci in 1972, “The history of things that didn’t happen” has to be considered before passing a verdict on things that did happen.

The second decade began with widespread protests and closed with even wider upheavals. Even the first decade witnessed strong movements which ousted several governments in Latin America. The Piqueteros Movement in Argentina gave an innovative slogan, “Nadienos representa” (No one represents us). It was perhaps the strongest assertion of citizens’ power.

By all indications, the 21st century appears to be an age of rage. We are witnessing extraordinary wave of protests around the world against widening inequality and rising authoritarianism. It is understandable why citizens are angry. But why are political leaders angrier than the citizens? And not just Trump whom The Nation magazine calls a “Merchant of Anger.” Xi Jinping , Putin, Erdogan, Bolsonaro, Modi, Orban and many others are all getting angrier by the day as the citizens refuse to bite Marie Antoinette’s cake. What is worrying is the growing trend of toxic rhetoric shaping politics. Peddlers of lies and conspiracy theorists are having a field day.

How does one explain what Raul Gallegos, political risk adviser to Fortune 250 companies, calls the “global anger pandemic”? Italian political theorist Paolo Gerbaudo says that ‘citizenism’ is the defining belief of the new wave of protests. The world is “angriest it has ever been”, according to a recent Gallup Emotions Report. Christine Lagarde, former managing director of IMF, says that anger is real. She had earlier cautioned that similar conditions preceded many wars. Thanks to the information revolution and the advent of social media, anger has become infectious. The stories and slogans on petitions websites that call for change are enraging people.

Most movements begin as campaigns. And end of campaign is not the end of revolution. Movements need not always be huge. It is not so much their national and global reach but their transformative and organic nature that make them movements. A successful movement rests on the principles of engagement and appeal.

Protest movements may not overpower the governments and regimes but they go a long way in undermining their legitimacy and support base. Not all great movements begin with clearly defined goals.  Whether women’s suffrage movement, India’s freedom movement, civil rights movement, colour revolutions, or the Arab Spring, they all began with powerful banding together against the powerful.

Most protests in recent years have been spontaneous. A notable feature of this outburst of anger is its peaceful nature. Harvard professor Erica Chenoweth describes it “a pronounced shift in the global landscape of dissent”. Though many non-violent protests are aimed at the end of a policy or a regime, a large majority of them have the objective of bringing about transformative change and influencing governmental policies. Non-violent protest movements don’t alienate anyone; they seek to bring everyone on board. They also keep the windows of opportunity open to conversation.

This is the greatest strength of the ongoing farmers’ movement in India. The Indian state has often handled the farmers’ agitation in a myopic way. Farmers were earlier dismissed as ‘kulaks’ but never as ‘Khalistanis’( a separatist religion-based movement) and ‘Naxals’(Maoist rebels). Blinded by its electoral gains, the ruling dispensation has kept pouring venom on agitating farmers even while holding talks with them. As thinker and cultural activist G N Devy says, “the nation did not create Indian farmers; the farmers created the Indian nation.” There is no idea of India without the farming community. Gandhi understood this reality when he gave a clarion call to “go to the villages, that is India, therein lives the soul of India”.

Islamophobes, supremacists  and toxic nationalists are never tired of stigmatizing the designated others—immigrants, minorities, farmers. Both market and governments promised El Dorado but provided only a Disneyesque beacon of light and fake optimism to the masses. The populists of all hues have used the economic crisis and the pandemic to grab power by perpetuating false narratives and taming the media and civil society. The sense of frustration and powerlessness among the poor and marginalized masses explains the unprecedented rage among the people.

Pankaj Mishra in his book, The Age of Anger, talks of a “global civil war” between the elites who enjoy “modernity’s choicest fruits” and the uprooted masses who have been cheated of the same fruits. He cites Nietzsche to illustrate his point that ressentiment thrives ‘where the modern promise of equality collides with massive disparities of power, education, status and property ownership’.

The epidemics of protests in all corners of the world, says political scientist Ivan Krastev, are “not against the government, but against being governed”. Citizens rage is also against the current practice of politics and managed democracy. What social psychologists would call “moral outrage,” the tsunami of protests can be explained in terms of concern for justice and fair play and a reflection of guilt of not doing enough.

 The 21st century democracy is fast becoming a democracy of rejection and a contest of power between the top and the bottom, not so much between the left and right. One thing is clear though that the citizens are no longer impressed by political leaders blessed with flawed judgment and impoverished imagination and that they are determined to take back national institutions. Protest movements for democratic rights, dignity and justice are opening new horizons. Henry A Wallace. the 33rd vice-president of the US, described the 20th century as a “century of the common man” which remained a myth. But the 21st century is turning out to be a “century of empowered citizens”, perhaps a century of “angry citizens.” As Gabriel Garcia Marquez warned us, “expect nothing from the 21st century. It is the 21st century that expects everything from you.”

Ash Narain Roy did his Ph.D. in Latin American Studies , Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. He was a Visiting Scholar at El Colegio de Mexico, Mexico City for over four years in the 1980s. He later worked as Assistant Editor, Hindustan Times, Delhi. He is author of several books including The Third World in the Age of Globalisation which analyses Latin America's peculiar traits which distinguishes it from Asia and Africa. He is currently Director, Institute of Social Sciences, Delhi

Middle East

Process to draft Syria constitution begins this week

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The process of drafting a new constitution for Syria will begin this week, the UN Special Envoy for the country, Geir Pedersen, said on Sunday at a press conference in Geneva.

Mr. Pedersen was speaking following a meeting with the government and opposition co-chairs of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, who have agreed to start the process for constitutional reform.

The members of its so-called “small body”, tasked with preparing and drafting the Constitution, are in the Swiss city for their sixth round of talks in two years, which begin on Monday. 

Their last meeting, held in January, ended without progress, and the UN envoy has been negotiating between the parties on a way forward.

“The two Co-Chairs now agree that we will not only prepare for constitutional reform, but we will prepare and start drafting for constitutional reform,” Mr. Pedersen told journalists.

“So, the new thing this week is that we will actually be starting a drafting process for constitutional reform in Syria.”

The UN continues to support efforts towards a Syrian-owned and led political solution to end more than a decade of war that has killed upwards of 350,000 people and left 13 million in need of humanitarian aid.

An important contribution

The Syrian Constitutional Committee was formed in 2019, comprising 150 men and women, with the Government, the opposition and civil society each nominating 50 people.

This larger group established the 45-member small body, which consists of 15 representatives from each of the three sectors.

For the first time ever, committee co-chairs Ahmad Kuzbari, the Syrian government representative, and Hadi al-Bahra, from the opposition side, met together with Mr. Pedersen on Sunday morning. 

He described it as “a substantial and frank discussion on how we are to proceed with the constitutional reform and indeed in detail how we are planning for the week ahead of us.”

Mr. Pedersen told journalists that while the Syrian Constitutional Committee is an important contribution to the political process, “the committee in itself will not be able to solve the Syrian crisis, so we need to come together, with serious work, on the Constitutional Committee, but also address the other aspects of the Syrian crisis.”

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Middle East

North Africa: Is Algeria Weaponizing Airspace and Natural Gas?

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In a series of shocking and unintelligible decisions, the Algerian Government closed its airspace to Moroccan military and civilian aircraft on September 22, 2021, banned French military planes from using its airspace on October 3rd, and decided not to renew the contract relative to the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline, which goes through Morocco and has been up and running since 1996–a contract that comes to end on October 31.

In the case of Morocco, Algeria advanced ‘provocations and hostile’ actions as a reason to shut airspace and end the pipeline contract, a claim that has yet to be substantiated with evidence. Whereas in the case of France, Algeria got angry regarding visa restrictions and comments by French President Emmanuel Macron on the Algerian military grip on power and whether the North African country was a nation prior to French colonization in 1830.

Tensions for decades

Algeria has had continued tensions with Morocco for decades, over border issues and over the Western Sahara, a territory claimed by Morocco as part of its historical territorial unity, but contested by Algeria which supports an alleged liberation movement that desperately fights for independence since the 1970s.

With France, the relation is even more complex and plagued with memories of colonial exactions and liberation and post-colonial traumas, passions and injuries. France and Algeria have therefore developed, over the post-independence decades, a love-hate attitude that quite often mars otherwise strong economic and social relations.

Algeria has often reacted to the two countries’ alleged ‘misbehavior’ by closing borders –as is the case with Morocco since 1994—or calling its ambassadors for consultations, or even cutting diplomatic relations, as just happened in August when it cut ties with its western neighbor.

But it is the first-time Algeria resorts to the weaponization of energy and airspace. “Weaponization” is a term used in geostrategy to mean the use of goods and commodities, that are mainly destined for civilian use and are beneficial for international trade and the welfare of nations, for geostrategic, political and even military gains. As such “weaponization” is contrary to the spirit of free trade, open borders, and solidarity among nations, values that are at the core of common international action and positive globalization.

What happened?

Some observers advance continued domestic political and social unrest in Algeria, whereby thousands of Algerians have been taking to the streets for years to demand regime-change and profound political and economic reforms. Instead of positively responding to the demands of Algerians, the government is probably looking for desperate ways to divert attention and cerate foreign enemies as sources of domestic woes. Morocco and France qualify perfectly for the role of national scapegoats.

It may be true also that in the case of Morocco, Algeria is getting nervous at its seeing its Western neighbor become a main trade and investment partner in Africa, a role it can levy to develop diplomatic clout regarding the Western Sahara issue. Algeria has been looking for ways to curb Morocco’s growing influence in Africa for years. A pro-Algerian German expert, by the name of Isabelle Werenfels, a senior fellow in the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, even recommended to the EU to put a halt to Morocco’s pace and economic clout so that Algeria could catch up. Weaponization may be a desperate attempt to hurt the Moroccan economy and curb its dynamism, especially in Africa.

The impact of Algeria’s weaponization of energy and airspace on the Moroccan economy is minimal and on French military presence in Mali is close to insignificant; however, it shows how far a country that has failed to administer the right reforms and to transfer power to democratically elected civilians can go.

In a region, that is beleaguered by threats and challenges of terrorism, organized crime, youth bulge, illegal migration and climate change, you would expect countries like Algeria, with its geographic extension and oil wealth, to be a beacon of peace and cooperation. Weaponization in international relations is inacceptable as it reminds us of an age when bullying and blackmail between nations, was the norm. The people of the two countries, which share the same history, language and ethnic fabric, will need natural gas and unrestricted travel to prosper and grow and overcome adversity; using energy and airspace as weapons is at odds with the dreams of millions of young people in Algeria and Morocco that aspire for a brighter future in an otherwise gloomy economic landscape. Please don’t shatter those dreams!

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Middle East

Breaking The Line of the Israel-Palestine Conflict

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The conflict between Israel-Palestine is a prolonged conflict and has become a major problem, especially in the Middle East region.

A series of ceasefires and peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine that occurred repeatedly did not really “normalize” the relationship between the two parties.

In order to end the conflict, a number of parties consider that the two-state solution is the best approach to create two independent and coexistent states. Although a number of other parties disagreed with the proposal, and instead proposed a one-state solution, combining Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip into one big state.

Throughout the period of stalemate reaching an ideal solution, the construction and expansion of settlements carried out illegally by Israel in the Palestinian territories, especially the West Bank and East Jerusalem, also continued without stopping and actually made the prospect of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian crisis increasingly eroded, and this could jeopardize any solutions.

The attempted forced eviction in the Sheikh Jarrah district, which became one of the sources of the conflict in May 2021, for example, is an example of how Israel has designed a system to be able to change the demographics of its territory by continuing to annex or “occupy” extensively in the East Jerusalem area. This is also done in other areas, including the West Bank.

In fact, Israel’s “occupation” of the eastern part of Jerusalem which began at the end of the 1967 war, is an act that has never received international recognition.

This is also confirmed in a number of resolutions issued by the UN Security Council Numbers 242, 252, 267, 298, 476, 478, 672, 681, 692, 726, 799, 2334 and also United Nations General Assembly Resolutions Number 2253, 55/130, 60/104, 70/89, 71/96, A/72/L.11 and A/ES-10/L.22 and supported by the Advisory Opinion issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2004 on Legal Consequences of The Construction of A Wall in The Occupied Palestine Territory which states that East Jerusalem is part of the Palestinian territories under Israeli “occupation”.

1 or 2 country solution

Back to the issue of the two-state solution or the one-state solution that the author mentioned earlier. The author considers that the one-state solution does not seem to be the right choice.

Facts on the ground show how Israel has implemented a policy of “apartheid” that is so harsh against Palestinians. so that the one-state solution will further legitimize the policy and make Israel more dominant. In addition, there is another consideration that cannot be ignored that Israel and Palestine are 2 parties with very different and conflicting political and cultural identities that are difficult to reconcile.

Meanwhile, the idea of ​​a two-state solution is an idea that is also difficult to implement. Because the idea still seems too abstract, especially on one thing that is very fundamental and becomes the core of the Israel-Palestine conflict, namely the “division” of territory between Israel and Palestine.

This is also what makes it difficult for Israel-Palestine to be able to break the line of conflict between them and repeatedly put them back into the status quo which is not a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The status quo, is in fact a way for Israel to continue to “annex” more Palestinian territories by establishing widespread and systematic illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Today, more than 600,000 Israeli settlers now live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In fact, a number of resolutions issued by the UN Security Council have explicitly and explicitly called for Israel to end the expansion of Israeli settlement construction in the occupied territory and require recognition of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of the region.

Thus, all efforts and actions of Israel both legislatively and administratively that can cause changes in the status and demographic composition in East Jerusalem and the West Bank must continue to be condemned. Because this is a violation of the provisions of international law.

Fundamental thing

To find a solution to the conflict, it is necessary to look back at the core of the conflict that the author has mentioned earlier, and the best way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to encourage Israel to immediately end the “occupation” that it began in 1967, and return the settlements to the pre-Islamic borders 1967 In accordance with UN Security Council resolution No. 242.

But the question is, who can stop the illegal Israeli settlements in the East Jerusalem and West Bank areas that violate the Palestinian territories?

In this condition, international political will is needed from countries in the world, to continue to urge Israel to comply with the provisions of international law, international humanitarian law, international human rights law and also the UN Security Council Resolutions.

At the same time, the international community must be able to encourage the United Nations, especially the United Nations Security Council, as the organ that has the main responsibility for maintaining and creating world peace and security based on Article 24 of the United Nations Charter to take constructive and effective steps in order to enforce all United Nations Resolutions, and dare to sanction violations committed by Israel, and also ensure that Palestinian rights are important to protect.

So, do not let this weak enforcement of international law become an external factor that also “perpetuates” the cycle of the Israel-Palestine conflict. It will demonstrate that John Austin was correct when he stated that international law is only positive morality and not real law.

And in the end, the most fundamental thing is that the blockade, illegal development, violence, and violations of international law must end. Because the ceasefire in the Israel-Palestine conflict is only a temporary solution to the conflict.

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