Monday, 7 November 2011

I Buy Therefore I Am

Please check out my second publication: http://www.the3rdimagazine.co.uk/2011/11/i-buy-therefore-i-am/

It's about the effects that consumerist culture, specifically advertising have on reversing the feminist movement.

PLEASE COMMENT :)

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Dissertation Published

If you have time and interest in the subject then please have a read of my undergraduate dissertation. The title question is:

To what extent does the issue of water play a role in the Israel-Palestine conflict?

Monday, 3 October 2011

First Publication

Hello,

 Please have a read of my first official publication, the first of many I hope!

http://www.the3rdimagazine.co.uk/2011/10/arab-women-and-their-position-in-society/

It is about Palestine leading the way and acting as a role-model within the women's rights movement across the Middle East and North Africa and how this came to be.

Thank you for your support!

Hollie

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The United Nations: Peacemaker or Homewrecker?­

   
     Because of the failure of the League of Nations in preventing war, it was replaced after the Second World War by a new and stronger upgrade in the form of The United Nations (UN). Since the setting up of the UN in 1945, the membership has increased steadily. At present the UN has 193 member states. Most believe that only official member states of the UN can constitute as being sovereign. However, according to The New Internationalist World Guide there are 243 countries. This shows that many countries such as Palestine are not recognised as being sovereign states and thus their people are not being fully represented within this international institution.

   This is just one of the many criticisms made against the United Nations. The claim that ‘The UN seeks to create a just and prosperous world through common action.’ Has been hindered many times by failures and flaws within the UN.  Let’s continue on with a prime example of UN failure that is the Palestine case. The United Kingdom: an important member of the UN, was the initial leader in establishing the ‘Jewish Homeland’ through the Balfour Declaration that is now officially internationally recognised as the State of Israel.  

   It was only a statement of British Policy initially, but it became legally relevant when it was written into the British Mandate for Palestine by the League of Nations. This is where the root of the issue began as from then onwards there was a large influx of Jews. Many of these immigrants were survivors of the Holocaust and were promised ‘A land without a people for a people without a land’. (Weizman cited in Muir 2008: 55). 

   Yet, it was not a land without a people and the Arab population expressed disapproval in November 1918 at first anniversary celebrations of the Balfour Declaration. They felt betrayed by the British, with whom they had sided during the First World War in the hope of gaining freedom from the Ottoman Empire and forming an independent Arab state covering all Arab areas of the Ottoman Empire. Both ethnic groups were filled with hope of a new and peaceful beginning for their people, however these aspirations were shattered by their hopes for their respective homelands clashing with each other; they felt disenchanted by the reality of the situation. ‘Palestine was not desolate and all the land available for cultivation was already being worked by the indigenous Arab population.’ (Finkelstein 2003: 95).

   When League of Nations came into effect Palestine was not invited to be a member state and was viewed as British Territory. It did not attempt to resolve the conflict and supported the illegal settlements of the Jewish on Palestinian land. The UN did no better when it was established and at the end of WW2 approved the partition of Palestine (Resolution 181). It formally recognised the Jewish state. The Palestinians, who represented 70% of the population and owned 93% of the land, were restricted to 43% of the territory. This is only the tip of the iceberg of the injustices that have been committed against the Palestinians, and in itself proves that the statement that the UN seeks to create a just and prosperous world through common action has been proved to not be the case. 

   Although, there has been many sanctions made by the UN against Israel for crimes against humanity e.g. 1987 sanction ‘Calls on Israel to abide by the Geneva Conventions in its treatment of the Palestinians.’ (US vetoes at the UN Security Council). There have been many others along similar lines, the majority of which, however, have been vetoed by the United States. In total over the 30 years between 1972 and 2002 the United States have used their power with a seat on the Security Council to veto precisely 28 sanctions made against Israel. They have used their veto powers more than all the other countries on the UN Security Council put together. 

   The Security Council is made up of fifteen members, five of which are permanent: the United Kingdom, USA, Russia, China and France. The fact that there are permanent members of the UN Security Council is undemocratic. They are not elected by the UN General Assembly as are the other 10 members. The permanent members also officially have more power than the other members of the Security Council; it is only the non-elected permanent members of the Security Council who can use the power of veto to block decisions in which they do not favour. 

   There is widespread criticism in relation to the use and power of the veto. Many countries are demanding that it be scrapped or at the very least the veto system be amended with limitations on its use. ‘Developing countries protest that the veto often prevents politically sensitive issues from being properly discussed.’ (McGuire and McKenzie 1999; p.149). Critics make the point that it cannot and should not be correct to allow the interests, wishes and opinions of one negative voice within the Security Council and ultimately the General Congress determine UN policy. The United State’s veto of Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s re-election as Secretary-General against the wishes of 14 other countries in the Security Council is one of the best examples to support this point. The veto system therefore proves that the UN cannot seek to create a just and prosperous world through common action as it is often the case that this ‘common action’ cannot be continued against the will of certain powerful states within the Permanent members of the Security Council.

   The arid West Bank has transformed into a sea of Palestinian flags this week, hanging from windows, tied to cars, painted on houses, stuck to the side of buses and pinned up in shop windows. This attempt to show their desperate support for the UN statehood bid is heartbreaking because it’s quite obvious that things are not likely to go in their favour, yet again. The US, although claiming that they ultimately support the two-state solution have made clear that they are ready to veto this statehood bid before it hits the table. And even if Palestine is successful and achieves official international recognition and full membership within the UN will this really lead to real change on the ground? Does anybody really think that the Israeli settlements will be evacuated and given to the Palestinians? 

   The main problem with the UN is that it has no sovereignty or any real ability to implement law by force. ‘The concept of sovereignty is very important, especially to Israel whose foreign policy is tinged with Realism. Within the context of the state, sovereignty is often defined as power which is absolute and unlimited’ (Yates 2006; p.5).  The state stands above all other associations; Thomas Hobbes portrayed the state as ‘Leviathan’ (a gigantic monster). This suggests that as there is no higher authority and power than ‘The State’, and International Law is illegitimate. Many states do not abide by laws set by the UN, especially the most powerful ones, and Israel is very powerful having nuclear weapon capacity and being the loyal sidekick of the hegemonic superpower that is the USA.

   ‘The power and the interests of the state are what matters, and law is either a servant of the powerful or an irrelevant curiosity’ (Baylis, Smith and Owens 2008; p.280). One of the best examples of states acting against the will of International Law would be the United States and the United Kingdom invading Iraq. The invasions went against International Law ‘…the use of force is prohibited by the United Nations charter’ (Tutunjian 2004; p.1), similar to NATO’s intervention in Kosovo, the USA began dropping bombs in Iraq without any legal authority from the Security Council. Thus according to International Law the invasion of Iraq was illegal and illegitimate. However, sanctions could not be pressed against the USA or the UK, due to their presence on the Security Council, any sanctions would immediately be vetoed by either state. Two great powers can get away with breaking International Law, even when they are face with an overwhelming majority of opposition. 

   If the UN intends to be more successful in implementing International Law and forcing states to abide by them than many changes will have to be made. The UN should work on being more democratic so that superpowers cannot dictate decisions made (or decisions prevented) on behalf of the United Nations. The UN cannot be effective until these issues are resolved. ‘Failure to intervene effectively in international disputes has led to much criticism of the United Nations Organisation and an international peacekeeping body. I believe that this Friday’s UN statehood bid will only reinforce this criticism and the Palestinians will again be let down by the international community. 






Tuesday, 13 September 2011

9/11

            September 11th 2001, dominates almost everything we watch, read and hear this week. It is widely argued that the terrorist attacks changed everything dramatically as the world entered a new and frightening ‘age of terror’. However, has the retaliation: ‘War on Terror’ been successful in counteracting terrorism? Many argue that it has not been a success and has in fact had the opposite effect by increasing global terrorism by inflaming anti-Americanism across the Middle East and beyond.
There are vast variations between definitions of the term ‘terrorism’. According to John Pilger the United States government have infringed their own definition of terrorism more than any other state or organisation. Terrorism is a term with no agreed definition among governments and academic analysts. But if such actions are carried out on behalf of a widely approved cause then the term ‘terrorism’ is usually avoided and something more friendly is substituted. As Noam Chomsky states ‘one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter.’  According to Tamir Bar-On and Howard Goldstein in the absence of a worldwide consensus definition of terrorism, the term terrorism has today become a political tool used for propaganda purposes by either state or non-state actors such as with the new breed of ‘Eco-terrorists’ i.e. Radical Environmental Groups. Without this clarity, the concept of a ‘war on terror’ is obscure and unclear. Edward Herman focuses on this point claiming that the core basis of a ‘war’ on ‘terror’ itself is a political problem as the definition of ‘terror’ is selectively and loosely applied and the label ‘terrorism’ is an abstract concept with no objective universal  definition.
The War on Afghanistan was the first stage of the ‘war on terror’. Osama Bin Laden was held responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Al-Qaeda at the time of the attack was considered by most experts to be a small non-state operation, loosely sprawled across the globe and with at most a few thousand operatives. It is clear that such a small and diffuse operation called for an anti-crime and intelligence response, not a war. According to Aiden Hehir’s research in 2007, al-Qaeda groups are now found in 24 states across the globe including the USA and the UK. This reveals that since the ‘War on Terror’ began, this terrorist organisation has spread and grown. ‘The war on Afghanistan, judged purely as an anti-terrorist exercise, has been the worst failure of all.’ (Mahajan). This war has increased political problems; Afghanistan is less stable than it was before the war and al-Qaeda are arguable stronger, despite the capture and death of Osama Bin Laden. Afghan citizens are getting caught in the crossfire which is giving the US and UK bad press, and there is an increase in the intensity of US and UK soldiers killed with no foreseeable end to this conflict. The economic and social state of Afghanistan is deteriorating with not enough funds invested in ‘nation-building’ and reconstruction.
The Iraq Invasion of 2003 was also an important component to the ‘war on terror’ with much opposition. Instead of combating terrorism the war in Iraq has inflamed anti-Americanism across the Middle East, it’s increased the number of people who are willing to die to kill Americans, it created greater sympathy for terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and Hezbollah. In regard to dealing with rogue states it has driven the Syrians, the Iranians and Hezbollah closer together. Syria and Iran are likely to continue supporting Hezbollah, and moreover Iran will probably continue to pursue nuclear weapons, they would be foolish not to given the way the US has been behaving and talking about Iran itself.  According to Mearshiemer and Walt ‘We didn’t make the war in Iraq any better, Iraq as you well know is dominated by Shea, and those Shea in Iraq including the ruling elites are deeply committed or at least have a powerful allegiance to those Shea who compromise Hezbollah. So if anything we have angered our allies in Iraq and that’s definitely not going to make a bad situation better.’
The United Kingdom and United States’ policies have failed in their efforts to combat terrorism through war and have increased the likelihood of a repeat attack. The term ‘war on terror’ in itself is a problem as it is an unclear and even abstract concept. Both invasions have been heavily and widely criticised from all angles but the consensus is that these separate wars aimed at counteracting terrorism and increasing international security have caused many complex political problems and for themselves and for Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Monday, 5 September 2011

Phonetapping


My Palestinian phone began ringing loudly at me last night at about 9pm. I jumped at the sound, still not yet used to the annoying ringtone version of Beethoven’s  ‘Fur Elise’ on my new (well second-hand) phone, which I haven’t yet figured out how to change. I looked at the screen checking it wasn’t that creepy old man again who I now majorly regretted giving my number to- he invited me for tea and I thought I could adopt him as my Palestinian granddad but he seemed to have other ideas.
My phone instead showed a strange number that I didn’t recognise starting with +8. I answered it anyway, too curious not to with my questioning styled “hello??” which I had perfected to answer the phone to unexpected calls from strange numbers. This usually ends up being some desperate call-centre worker from India whose commission won’t cover the cost of feeding her twelve children unless she successfully persuades you to upgrade your phone package. Alas, it was in actual fact my boyfriend, and straight away I asked: “what number are you calling me from?!”  Thinking for a millisecond that he had maybe swanned off with some Beautiful Austrian like-minded bike fanatic he had met at that mad bicycle race last weekend. But he answered “mine of course, why?” And as I explained to him that his number came up with a +8 (which it hadn’t done a couple days before), I also began to notice a strange crackly noise and the phone line was echoing. My boyfriend also claimed that he had heard an unusual series of clicks as the phone call connected. We joked that perhaps the Israeli Authorities were now tapping my phone calls but as soon as we did the crackly echo suddenly stopped.
Perhaps I’m being paranoid (I think I almost definitely am), but nonetheless I googled ‘Israel phonetapping’ and lots of information- call them conspiracies if you may- emerged stating that it was quite commonplace for calls from and to Palestine to be tapped.  
It was only last month when Israel was in the news for being charged with tapping Egypt’s phone network for Mossad. According to Egyptian intelligence services, two Mossad spies: Abu Zeid and Ofer Harari were attempting to intercept international calls coming into Egypt and to transfer them to Israel. Both spies are being tried, Ofer Harari in absentia as he managed to flee the country. If Israel is now attempting to phonetap Egypt, then it is certain that it has managed to do so already in Palestine.
Israel is breaking its own law by phonetapping, however, there seems to be a general Hobbesian mentality in Israel that the ‘Sovereign’ i.e. the Government Secretary (equivalent to the British Cabinet) is above its own self-established laws. Or maybe it’s just corrupt.

Anyway, I’m sure that whatever Mossad spy (of which there are thousands), was listening to my conversation, utterly bored. Perhaps expecting some top secret information from a contact in Britain and they got me and my boyfriend talking about furniture for our new flat. 

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Cycle of Abuse

I have arrived in the hot and hectic Middle East and already much has happened that I need to write about, but before I see to this I have some catching up to do. I want to first tell you about my trip to Auschwitz last week.
How to begin? Well what better place than the end? The trip was concluded by visiting a memorial monument which wasn’t very impressive to be honest. It was erected in the 1960s- the worst architectural era in my opinion, and this ‘monument’ (which was basically a pile of big black bricks stacked on top of one another) only reinforced this judgment. However, underneath this sub-standard structure lay many plaques in different languages which all offered the same poignant message: 'Forever let this place be a cry of despair and warning to humanity, where the Nazis murdered about one and a half million men, women and children, mainly Jews from various countries of Europe'. 
Unfortunately, only by glancing at the newspaper headlines we can see that many have yet to learn this lesson, especially and most surprisingly so Israel itself which was born from the genocide that was the Holocaust.
Someone once made an interesting observation to me during one of those rambling political discussions that  o' so often seem to get myself into. This unnamed person stated that the ‘cycle of abuse’ i.e. when a child is abused they often go on to become abusers when they themselves have children, could be applied to the Palestine-Israel relationship; the Jews have been oppressed by the Nazis and now they have themselves gone on to oppress the Palestinians. Child Psychologist Lisa Dunning states ‘many abused children become abusers themselves. One would think the exact opposite would be the norm, but we are what lived and if a child grows up with abuse, they are more likely to become abusers themselves.’ (http://www.lisadunningmft.com/child_abuse_cycle.htm)
But could I be so brave as to apply this theory on a national scale? Well why not? Noami Klein did it with her theory where she identified a link between electro-shock therapy on an individual scale and disaster capitalism on a national scale in her international bestseller ‘The Shock Doctrine’ so why can’t I do something similar? Or is this statement just too controversial for people to digest?
In actual fact, I’m not the first to make the link. After much delving and seeking (well mostly googling in all honesty) I came across an article that was written by holocaust survivor Susan Weiss entitled: Israel’s apartheid: Making the Palestinians pay for Hitler’s crimes’. She argues that although there exist obvious differences between the holocaust and the occupation of Palestine, there are some striking similarities such as the ghetto walls, the genocide, the strategic starvation and depravation and the daily humiliations. Yes it’s true that Israel has no gas chambers and fundamentally Israel’s objective is not to exterminate all Palestinians for the sake of religion or ethnicity but to take the Palestinian’s homeland and property and it does so through abusing their human and civil rights. ‘Every case of oppression is unique, but the struggle for justice is indivisible. As we then fought for freedom for European Jews, we now call for freedom for the Palestinians.’ (http://www.almoltaqa.ps/english/showthread.php?t=15768)
But how does Israel get away with it? Aside from the sensationalist propaganda that is channeled through most major Western media outlets, the Jewish Israelies often play the victim role to justify their actions through utilizing holocaust memories.
Yes, the Jewish people have been persecuted throughout history and have suffered horrific oppression and injustice, but does this justify the diet coke version of Auschwitz that Israel has created with the remaining pockets of Palestinian territory? Should this fascist manifesto that they have adopted through their imperialistic and militaristic policies to ensure Israel as an exclusively Jewish state acceptable in the world we live in today?


Saturday, 6 August 2011

Neo-Marxism


Don't shy away at the theoretical title; Neo-Marxism is an easy concept to get your head around- pinkie promise!  It’s also an extremely fascinating perspective from which the Arab-Israeli conflict can be viewed and is completely different from all other theoretical frameworks. 
With a Neo-Marxist underpinning, popular academics such as Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein claim that Israel is completely Neo-Conservative in its interests; the economy is the driving force behind all government actions. From this perspective, security is not the principal interest behind the conflict as the realists and traditionalists would argue. Israel's economy is built upon homeland security technologies and it therefore serves them to be involved in constant conflict with the surrounding Arab populations; their existence relies on it. Therefore, their need for secure resources and occupy territory and their justification of being involved in conflicts as a result, is not driven by security concerns, but by economic interests. “Israel’s political situation is disastrous, but its economy has never been stronger, with 2007 growth rates rivaling those of China and India... Israel has crafted an economy that expands markedly in direct response to escalating violence.” (Klein 2007: 433).
 Klein states that Israel is currently developing the I.D. card system that is planned to be introduced into the UK (a multi-billion dollar contract) alongside developing most modern surveillance and network systems used in the majority of airports worldwide. Israel is ‘the most tech-dependent economy in the world.’ (Klein 2007: 434). They rely on their security and military technology exports to prevent other states from criticizing their policies; strong trade relations always act as a great diffuser of political criticism:

 Italy: “Listen mate, I'm not happy about all this genocide and oppression stuff with the Palestinians recently, I think you should change your behaviour, you're becoming a bit too imperialistic.”

Israel: “Yeah maybe, but anyway I was thinking that I could give you a 50% discount on security cameras for your new airport? As a sign of our friendship of course… I know you're struggling a bit to pay back those loans to the IMF and World Bank. ”

Italy: “Aw that would be amazing, your such a great friend! Listen, just forget what I said earlier about the whole genocide stuff, it doesn't matter that much.”

Israel: “No problem, just trying to help, us Westerners should stick together!”

Israel also rely on a constant conflict and threat from neighbouring countries (Palestine in particular) to sustain their economy which is greatly dependent on homeland security technologies. “United Nations observers believed that Israeli actions frequently violated UN agreements and were intended to provoke retaliation and justify their accusations of Arab hostility. (Smith 2007: 409).  

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Israel’s Need to Secure Water Resources

Mismanagement, occupation and overuse of already scarce water resources in the Middle East are increasingly becoming one of the main contributing factors towards conflict in this region. Most especially, in respect to the conflict between Israel and its neighbouring Arab countries. Usually conflict in this region is associated with religion, terrorism and oil, however, it is becoming gradually more apparent that one of the major driving forces behind heightened conflict in the Middle East is resource scarcity. Fresh water resources, in particular, are becoming a crucial aspect in the tension and any future resolution of the conflict.
Israel’s need for securitising water is not a recent phenomenon and can even be traced back to before the Balfour Declaration. This need to achieve environmental security for its people, by occupying land and restricting Arab access to water is having devastating effects on water resources in the region. It’s not only effecting the environment, the Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza strip ‘are receiving well below the recommended 100 litres per capita daily recommended by the World Health Organisation (WTO).’ (Amnesty 2009: 4). This inequality of access to water is created and controlled by Israel, who uses it as a way of achieving security when, in fact, it is only likely to inflame widespread anger towards Israel and its policies. This could in turn increase the hostility towards Israel amongst Arabs and create greater sympathy for terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. Israel’s quest for water security is essentially positioning them in further risk of conflict and even war.
Fresh water is the most essential resource on the planet; fundamental to all ecological and societal activities, including food and energy production, industrial development, transportation and sanitation. However, fresh water resources are unevenly and unfairly distributed, and some regions of the world suffer from significant water-shortag
 Water-shortage can have a direct link to conflict, as access to basic resources can trigger violence as human populations increase, standards of living increase and environmental changes affect water-supply and create future uncertainty. Regions where water is scarce can often generate competition and conflict for limited resources; nations view access to water as a matter of national security. ‘Issues of water security have played a role in regional instabilities.’ (Giordiano and Wolf 2002: 293).
 One of the longest ongoing water disputes relating to resource scarcity and resource dependence is the Arab-Israeli conflict, especially in relation to the water resources in the Jordan River. 
  The importance of this issue is under-researched; the continued occupation of the West Bank guarantees the State of Israel control over vital water resources that originate in the West Bank but are consumed in the most part by Israel. This is a non-negotiable prerequisite for the survival of a Jewish national homeland, a fundamental pledge of the Zionist movement. Concerns for economic viability of a Jewish state in arid Palestine drove the World Zionist Organization to be adamant that it was “of vital importance not only to secure all water resources already feeding the country, but also to be able to conserve and control them at their sources.” (Kelly and Homer-Dixon 1995).
This reveals the importance of water control to Israel, it exposes one of the major, if not the main reason as to why Israel will not surrender control over the territory. Israel’s survival is dependent on its occupation of the West Bank. Relinquishing control of the territory could potentially be an act of suicide for the State of Israel.




Wednesday, 27 July 2011

'Oh Dear-ism'

As we move into an age of ‘Oh Dear-ism’ otherwise known as the phenomenon of ‘distant suffering’ where we become so overloaded by global issues like war in the Middle East, Earthquake in Japan, piracy in Somalia, HIV epidemic in South Africa, Genocide in Zimbabwe etc, etc, etc….. that we just don't feel anything anymore when such images of hollow-eyed depressed African children covered in flies with swollen bellys' are broadcast across our TV screens; our TVs may be switched on but we have switched off. 

The concept of ‘Oh Dearism’ was pioneered by the ever controversial Adam Curtis he argues that we have become immune to bad news because we are exposed to it daily- It leaves many of us feeling helpless and depressed to which our response eventually becomes a simple: ‘Oh Dear’. 
Although ‘Oh Dear-ism’ has been recently identified and labeled by Curtis, it is not a recent development, it actually began in the late 1960s with the rise of the counter-culture movement. This apathy has since escalated and suffering in media leaves us apathetic and unable to act on problems we are exposed to. Suffering usually provokes a feeling of pity or at least indignation yet the effects have steadily dulled and have lost their intensity.
I have never had an ‘oh dear’ reaction to this form of news or media (although maybe this is because I don’t watch or read enough news). I have always had an intense cocktail of feelings brewing inside me made up of: anger, intense sadness, anxiety and sympathy. Although I have to admit that these feelings are intensified by my feeling of helplessness in many cases but I am a firm believer that “what’s the point of me doing anything, I’m only one person” is the WRONG attitude. The problem behind this clich├ęd mentality is that it easily spreads hand-in-hand with ‘Oh Dear-ism’ and results in nobody doing anything except direct all their focus on developing their own selfish lives built around the consumerism trap: ‘I buy therefore I am’. This only intensifies problems via the environmental costs of the materialist Western lifestyle which usually puts strains on the Global South who are reaping the negative effects first.
Anyway, the thing that I’m doing to make a change (as insignificant as it may be in the bigger picture) is working in a community centre in Palestine offering free lessons to children- many of whom are from a neighbouring refugee camp. I was lucky enough to attend one of the best schools in Europe due to the generous charity of others and I would like to give back in the same respect. Education opens doors for many of these children who have nothing and is the only opportunity presented to them as a way to elevate themselves out of poverty. English is particularly useful as the Palestinian economy is in tatters as a result of strict occupation and it means that they could work for foreign companies and organizations (of which there are many inside West Bank Palestine especially).
I’m not doing this to make myself feel like a better person. Anybody who has known me for the past three years could see that I was quite depressed on the return from my previous trip to Palestine, all the stories of suffering and pain are quite difficult to deal with and I carried this round with me for a long time, feeling like the ghost of Christmas Future. It would be much easier for me to shut my eyes and switch off BBC News at six like so many others do to stay happy but I don’t want to take that route, it’s the long and hard path for me…. tally ho!