Thursday, July 14, 2016

Calling on Arabs to Speak Out

I wrote those comments in response to this article (on a Middle East academic email list):

I have four comments about this article:
1)       The reference to the sense of optimism around the time of the first ADHR is phrased in quite an interesting language.  It speaks of Israeli “withdrawal” from Lebanon and Gaza, implying that Israel just simply committed acts of charity that went unanswered by Arabs.  The reference does not mention that Israel was forced to withdraw due to long years of armed resistance (by Lebanese communists and later Islamists of Hizbullah) and that Israel continues to occupy lands in South Lebanon and that its violations of Lebanese sovereignty never stopped after 2000.  It also does not mention that Israel withdrew from Gaza only in name and that the strip has been suffocated and besieged by the state of Israel (although the author wants us to cheer those two developments).  Curiously, the author refers to the succession of tyrants by their children in Jordan, Syria and Morocco as positive developments, and even cheers a municipal election in Saudi Arabia (elections in Saudi Arabia are as credible as…elections in UAE or Bahrain or in Syria). 
2)       The author talks about those development reports as “written by Arabs for Arabs”.  I don’t know what that means.  Yes, the Gulf tyrants now provide funding for those reports, and if that is the definition of authenticity or of local native effort, then it is.  But if those are written by Arabs for Arabs how come they all adhere to terms and concepts that sometimes don’t even have Arabic equivalents (translators had to scramble to find an Arabic word for “empowerment” when the reports were first unleashed).  The author does not mention that Arabs also produced critiques “for Arabs” of those reports which were flawed on so many counts.   And are authors who deviate from the standards IMF/World Bank neo-liberal “consensus” permitted to contribute to those reports, or is that “liberal” litmus test necessary and sufficient for “empowerment of Arabs”?
3)       The author makes a passing reference to a “liberal mindset” but he does not mention that the “liberal mindset” in the Arab context is a code word for services to the GCC regimes and for the Sisi regime.  I am less excited about the “liberal mindset” than he is.  Saudi regime media are now filled with “the liberal mindset” which calls for democracy in Syria and Iran…only.
4)       If the author is calling on Arabs to speak out why is he speaking to them in English in Western media, I wonder?