Democracy: Western Concept or Universal Value?

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Originally published on my column for UNICEFs Voices of Youth.

There are so many meticulous definitions of democracy, from electoral democracies to flawed democracies to hybrid regimes and liberal democracies that it could be broken down and be infinitely debated on its requisites, pros and cons. In his book, The Spirit of Democracy, Larry Diamond, one of the pioneer advocates of democracy, simplifies his definition of democracy to a distinction between ‘thin’ and ‘thick’ definitions of democracy and suggests that the minimum requirements (i.e. the “thin” definition) for calling a system of governance democratic is the existence of regular, free, and fair elections. When this requisite is met you have an electoral democracy, which in terms of a “thick” definition may, be either liberal or illiberal. This paper will explore how states across the world despite geographical, cultural and economic disparities have the capacity to become liberal democracies fitting to Diamond’s “thick” definition.

The “Thick” Definition

Diamond’s “thick” definition of democracy is quite descriptive and meticulous. According to this definition pure liberal democracies must meet ten key requisites. Firstly, they must provide individuals with “freedom of belief, opinion, discussion, speech, publication, broadcast, assembly, demonstration, petition and (why not) the Internet.” Secondly, All ethnicities, religions, races, and other minority groups “(as well as historically excluded majorities)” must be given the space and freedom to immerse in their religious and cultural norms as well as equal rights to participate in political and social life. Thirdly, all adult citizens must have the equal rights to vote and run for office. Fourthly elections must comprise of “Genuine openness and competition.” Fifth requisite is a constitution that provides legal equality to all citizens, “in which the laws are ‘clear, publicly known, universal, stable, and nonrestorative.’” Sixth is the requirement of an independent judiciary which is neutral and consistent. The seventh is a “process of law and freedom of individuals from torture, terror, and unjustified detention, exile, or interference in their personal lives – by the state or non-state actors.” Eighth is the existence of a process of Institutional checks on the power of elected officials by an independent legislature, court system, and other autonomous agencies. Ninth is the existence of a wide range of sources of information and forms of organization independent of the state giving birth to “a vibrant ‘civil society.’” Last is control over the military and state security apparatus by civilians who are ultimately accountable to the people through elections.” According to Diamond, countries that meet these requirements, at least to a large extent, are liberal democracies. Are these requisites achievable or they merely social and political elements that comply with western culture and political systems?

Is Democracy Incompatible with Non-Western Cultures?

Some argue that the deep faith in religions of certain non- western states is often a barrier to letting liberal democracies take root in them. In the case of China, for example, where Confucianism has had a historical presence and still a great influence in Chinese lifestyle, one could argue that democracy will not fit in well. It is a common argument made with regard to this notion that Confucianism is completely incompatible with democracy since it supports the idea of social hierarchy and disregards the value of equality which is a central element of democracy. This assumption of anti-egalitarianism would mislead some to reject the possibility of democracy taking root in China due to its extreme presence Confucianism . Tan Sor Hoon a professor of the National University of Singapore, in a study of comparative political theory organized by Texas A&M University, argued that “equality and inequality were relevant in instrumental ways to some of Confucianism’s key social and political concerns” and that democracy and equality are not unheard of theories in China. In fact the concept of democracy has been a conversation present in Chinese political literature for centuries. The writing of Yan Fu, the late 19th and early 20th century translator and writer, one of the first writers to introduce ideas of freedom and democracy in China, was quite popular in China. Yan, who was also a realist, debated that democracy and freedom were fundamental in safeguarding​ ​China’s vastly growing wealth and power. Diamond too, quotes Kim Dae Jung in his letter to Lee Kuan Yew that said “although Confucianism lacked a historical experience of democracy per se, … liberal democracies in contemporary East Asian countries like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, has opened up a free space in which Confucianism’s traditions of serious thought can truly come into its own.”

Another non-western religion and culture that is often mistaken to be incompatible with the core requisites of democracy is Islam. In the same study mentioned above, took part Nura Hossainzadeh, a scholar of Islamic thought, examining Persian political ideas. She explored the political writing of Hezbollah Khomeini and other Islamic political thinkers and argues that the Islamic theories of governance are more democratic than the world recognizes. She explains how Khomeni’s theory of governance elaborates on how the guardian cannot give government all that government needs, and that distinguishes that the guardian cannot have the final word, and recognizes the common people as an important element of governance. She argues that Islamic political thought is one that is open to democracy. Diamond too supports the idea that Islamic culture is no opponent to democracy by bring up the fact that Arabian writers and political scientists put together the Arabian Human Development Report which raised their concern in the need for democratization to reach more of the Arab world.

Botswana is a great example of a functioning democracy in Africa. Despite the continient’s commonly seen trend of military coups and authoritarian regimes Botswana has been able to maintain a rule of law that supports democracy. In fact, certain requirements of Diamond’s thick definition such as transparency are achieved by Botsawan at a level that is not present even in some western democracies. Another great example is Aung Saan Suu Kyi, the democrat who a majority of Myanmar voted for, before the military coup took over and had her jailed for decades. She had the choice of leaving her house arrest in Myanmmar and going back to her sons and husband in London, but chose to stay back and continue the fight for democracy since she knew leaving would mean that she wouldn’t be allowed back, and the hopes of her country achieving democracy would leave with her. Her struggle alone is a great example of eastern nations and their aspirations of democracy.

Is Economic Capacity a Necessity for Democracy?

Finally, to further strengthen the argument that democracy is a universal value let us consider if high economic development is a requirement for democracy. Mainly due to there being a higher presence of democracy in Western industrialized countries, the argument that economic development being a necessity for democracy to take root has often been supported by scholars. However, it is important to note that Democratization has been effective even in poor countries like Benin, Mali, and Malawi that belong to the lowest of income, economic and human development categories. Larry Diamond too is a firm believer that high economic development is no requirement for democracy to take root in a country. He uses data from the 1999-2001 World Value Survey findings, which showed that in 80 countries varying from the extremely rich to the extremely poor, “no less than 80 percent of people on average say democracy is the best system.”

Conclusion

The concept and mobilization of Democracy can be subjective from country to country, region to region. However the most core elements of it can be implemented and can be found beneficial to people in all parts of the world, not merely because it is what is considered right, but because it has an appeal to anyone and everyone who believes they should be protected by a safety net of consistent reliable governance. Amartya Sen clarifies this the best: “The distinguishing mark of a universal value is not that it already enjoys universal acceptance but that people everywhere have reason to see it as valuable.”

Bibliography

Larry Diamond, The Spirit of Democracy: The Struggle to Build Free Societies Throughout the World. New York: Times Books/Henry Holt, 2008

Phiippe Schmitter and Terry Karl, “What Democracy is…and is Not,” Journal of Democracy 2, 3 (Summer 1991): 75-88.

The Journal of Democracy, Diamond

Larry Diamond, “Democracy’s Third Wave Today,” Current History November 2011: 299-307.

Amartya Sen, “Democracy as a Universal Value,” Journal of Democracy 10, 3 (1999): 3-17.

Is democracy a Western idea? Diego Von

 

[1] Spirit of Democracy, Diamond, Chapter 1

[2] Spirit of Democracy, Diamond, Chapter 1

[3] Spirit of Democracy, Diamond, Chapter 1

[4]Texas A&M University, Inter-cultural cross-fertilization of ideas with respect to theories of democracy. https://comparativedemocracy.wordpress.com/

[5] Spirit of Democracy, Diamond

[6] Spirit of Democracy, Diamond, Chapter 1

[7] Spirit of Democracy, Diamond,29

[8] Spirit of Democracy, Diamond, Page 28

Good Governance 101: the road to Democracy

 

1.Where are we now?

Sri Lanka is currently categorized a Flawed Electoral Democracy in most leading  democracy indexes and scales of the world. An electoral democracy is a nation state that meets the minimum requirements of democracy: the existence of free and fair elections. Although there are regular elections held in Sri Lanka, those elections  do not fully meet the conditions of “Free and Fair” elections; (conditions such as the autonomy and freedom of media and expression in conducting election campaigns, neutrality of the state media and not using state funds and institutions in campaigning for the incumbent administration.) The Democracy Index is an index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, that measures the state of democracy in 167 countries, Sri Lanka is ranked 87th.  In 2014 Sri Lanka was demoted to the category “Hybrid regime.” However since the post- election transition of Januray 2015 we are expected to bounce back to the category of Flawed Electoral Democracy.

 2.Where do we want to be?

The ideal next step for a Flawed Electoral Democracy would be to aspire to becoming a fully Liberal Democracy. Larry Diamond, the founder of US National Endowment for Democracy, and  Director of the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law  identifies ten key factors to be addressed for a country to be considered a fully liberal democracy.

For Sri Lanka these ten factors could act as a shopping list to draw a roadmap towards becoming fully liberal democracy.

A Democracy Shopping List for Sri Lanka 

  

  1. “Substantial individual freedom of belief, opinion, discussion, speech, publication, broadcast, assembly, demonstration, petition and (why not) the Internet.
  2. Freedom of ethnic, religious, racial, and other minority groups (as well as historically excluded majorities) to practice their religion and culture and to participate equally in political and social life.
  3. The right of all adult citizens to vote and run for office (if they meet certain minimum age and competency requirements).
  4. Genuine openness and competition in the electoral arena.
  5. Legal equality of all citizens under a rule of law, in which the laws are ‘clear, publicly known, universal, stable, and nonretroactive.’
  6. An independent judiciary to neutrally and consistently apply the laws and protect individual and group rights.
  7. Thus, due process of law and freedom of individuals from torture, terror, and unjustified detention, exile, or interference in their personal lives – by the state or non-state actors.
  8. Institutional checks on the power of elected officials by an independent legislature, court system, and other autonomous agencies.
  9. Real pluralism in sources of information and forms of organization independent of the state; and thus, a vibrant ‘civil society.’
  10. Control over the military and state security apparatus by civilians who are ultimately accountable to the people through elections.”

3.How can we get there?

The 10 ten steps to take in the path to meeting the above 10  requirements:

1. Establishing the Right to Information, Media freedom and freedom of assembly. 

  • Right to information

A Right to Information Bill that enables the public to have access to information from public institutions must be established.

The new administration has taken  an efforts to put together an RTI bill.  Here is a draft of the bill currently available for public feedback.  The draft although a great initiative, could use some revising in terms of clarification and loopholes. (Article19.org had some interesting revision suggestions worth reading)

The bill is expected to be presented to parliament for approval in April.

  • Media freedom:

In the past decade media freedom has been extremely limited, with the level violence against the media having shown an all time high. In 2006, unofficial prepublication censorship on issues of “national security and defense” was imposed by a new Media Center for National Security (MCNS), which assumed the authority to disseminate all information related to  certain fiscal, defense, and security information to the media and the public.  The past administration’s massive censorship movement and attacks on journalists and media outlets, such as the 2009 murder of Lasantha Wickrematunga, then editor of the Sunday Leader, and the January 2010 disappearance of cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda had set a tone of fear of resistance in the Sri Lankan media realm.

New government of 2015 has made efforts to revoke these restrictions to a large extent.

  •  Freedom of Assembly

Freedom of Assembly is a right of every Sri Lankan citizen. (Chapter 3, Article 14 of the Sri Lankan Constitution) However more often than not in the past, protesters, (mostly student protesters) have been the victims of crowd control mechanisms such as tear gas and water cannoning. There have also been incidents in the duration of the former administration,  of physical violence against protesters by police and military personnel. In 2013 for instance, the military opened fire at a crowd of peaceful protesters in Waliveirya who were expressing their displeasure over the contamination of the town’s water system. The shooting killed 3 young protesters. The Sri Lankan Constitution allows all  citizens to  peaceably assemble, petition the Government for a redress of grievances. However it is crucial the terms of these articles be further discussed so the lines could be drawn on when crowd control mechanism will be used;  the clarity of the terms and conditions could help make both the protesters and state accountable for their behavior and actions.

2. Social equality supported by laws against discrimination and Affirmative Action

Laws must be introduced against hate speech, events and activities related to promotion of racism, sexism, and other genres of discrimination.  Policies of Affirmative Action must be introduced to improve opportunities for historically excluded groups (racial, religious and gender groups)

3.   Sri Lanka’s constitution’s rights, competencies and requirements for voting and running for office are similar to those of most developed democracies however for these rights to be exercised free and fair elections have to be conducted.   (which brings us to Step 4)

The Sri Lankan Constitution’s competency requirements become an elector can be found on Chapter XIV – Franchise and Elections  .

4. Genuinely “Free and Fair”  elections.

For an election to be considered “free and fair” the following 3 requisites have to be met.

  1.  An enabling legislative framework that makes cases of election ethic  violations of all levels legally accountable.
  2. The impartial and neutral practices of election administrators, the media and the forces that maintain law and order and
  3.  Acceptance of the competitive electoral process by all the political forces in the country. 

 5.  Transparency of authority has to be improved in order to end the prevailing culture of elite capture and provide equal legal accountability to all citizen equally.

Elite capture is a prominent feature of Sri Lanka’s social spectrum. More often than not laws and authorities can be influenced by thoe who have access to power. This culture could be alleviated through an improved system of transparency between authorities, the state and the public.

 6. Creating an independent, neutral and consistent judiciary. 

The unconstitutional impeachment and swearing in of Chiefs of Justice in the past administration and the Supreme Court’s approval on President Rajapaksa’s running for an unprecedented third term are great examples of consequences of a politically influenced judiciary.  It is crucial that the Supreme Court remains autonomous from political invention as explained in the constitution’s  Chapter XV  

 7. A code of rights for persons of interest and individuals under investigation must be introduced and maintained.

Many allegations of torture, terror, and unjustified detention, exile, or interference of personal lives  have been reported against authorities in the past. A code of ethics and conduct, supporting the constitution’s  Chapter III – Fundamental Rights must be introduced to the Sri Lanka Police, Criminal Investigation Department and other authorities involved in criminal investigation and efforts of national security.

8. Institutional checks on elected officials.

The establishment of the Right to Information Commission as proposed by the RIT bill mentioned in step 1 would be a great place to kick start a culture of transparency promoting autonomous institutional checks through independent agencies.

9.Increasing the capacity and access to information sources available.

Although the narratives of the mainstream media of Sri Lanka  often do not seem to contrast at a substantial level, the internet has created a rise in multifaceted news sources that  cater to large range of social classes. Increasing the access to the internet is a great way to increase the country’s pluralism of information sources. The new administration’s provision of free WiFi at  public places could be considered a step towards this direction.

It is also important to promote the establishment of a large range of civil society groups that could help represent and voice the problems of all  social, racial and religious groups.

10. State’s control over the military

It is important the state administration led by elected individuals have the military and the state security network under their control to improve civil society’s say in the military actions taken within the state. Although State’s control over the military doesn’t assure the majority of the populations approval of all decisions made regarding national security, the state is represented by elected leaders who represent the people, i.e. voters. Voters to large extent have a chance to hold their rulers accountable.  In Sri Lanka the Secretary of Defense is a a civil administration servant and the President has executive power over the defense which helps the State have an eye on the military.  Military coups in West Africa and East Asian countries such as Myanmar were to a large extent, results of the State losing control of the military.

 

Is Globalization leading us to a State-less World?

by Thisuri Wanniarachchi

Has globalization changed the character of international politics in the past two decades? To what extent do various processes of globalization challenge the sovereignty of the state?

 

The term globalization derived from the word globalize, which refers to the rise of an internationally- integrated network of social, political and economic systems. Globalization is the process of international integration arising from the exchange of world visions, consumer products, ideas, and other aspects of culture. Humans have interacted over long distances for thousands of years. The Silk Route that connected Asia, Africa, and Europe is a good example of the lengths our ancestors went to connect with the rest of the world. Global movement of people, goods, and ideas stretched out considerably in the following centuries. in the early 19th century, the development of new forms of transportation (such as the steamship and railroads) and telecommunications allowed for progressively rapid proportions of global transaction. By 2010 more people in the world had access to mobile phones than basic sanitation. In The Consequences of Modernity, Anthony Giddens uses the following definition: “Globalization can thus be defined as the intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa” globalization has increased the interdependency of states and their political, personal, cultural and economic sectors. In this paper, I argue that globalization may eventually reduce the importance of nation states. “Supranational institutions” such as the European Union, the WTO, the G8 or the International Criminal Court replace national functions to facilitate international agreement.

A great example for the declining importance of nation states through globalization, is the relative decline in US power to globalization, particularly due to the country’s high trade deficit. This led to a global power shift towards Asian states, predominantly China, which set free market forces and achieved tremendous growth rates. As of 2011, the Chinese economy was on track to overtake the United States by 2025.

The European Union (EU) is an monetary and political union of 28 states that are primarily located in Europe. The EU functions through a system of supranational independent institutions and intergovernmental discussed decisions by the member states. Institutions of the EU include the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, the European Council, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Central Bank, the Court of Auditors, and the European. The European Parliament is elected every five years by EU citizens.

 

The monetary union was founded in 1999 and is currently made of 18 member states that use the euro as their currency. Through the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the EU has developed an independent role in external relations and defense. It maintains permanent globe-wide diplomatic missions the world and represents itself at the United Nations, the WTO, the G8, and the G-20. Within the Schengen Area, passport controls have been abolished. EU policies aim to ensure the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital, enact legislation in justice and home affairs, and maintain common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries, and regional development.

The EU has developed a single integrated web of a market through a standardized system of laws that apply in all member states. Within the Schengen Area, passport controls have been abolished. EU policies aim to ensure the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital, enact legislation in justice and home affairs, and maintain common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries, and regional development. The EU has a combined population of over 500 million residents, i.e 7.3% of the world population. in 2012 it generated a nominal gross domestic product of 16.584 trillion US dollars, approximately 23% of global nominal GDP which is the largest economy by nominal GDP and the second largest economy by GDP in the world.

The World Trade Organization is an institution whose main purpose is to “supervise and liberalize international trade”. The WTO oversees about 60 different agreements which have the status of international legal texts. Member countries must sign and ratify all WTO agreements on accession. The G8 is another supranational institution that is noteworthy. Together the eight countries making up the G8 represent about 14% of the world population, however they represent about 60% of the World and 60% of the gross world product. Seven are in the top 8 nations for military expenditure, and are in possession of almost all of the world’s active nuclear weapons. In 2007, the combined G8 military spending was US$850 billion. This is 72% of the world’s total military expenditures. Four of the G8 members, the United Kingdom, United States, France and Russia, together account for 96–99% of the world’s nuclear weapons

The International Criminal Court is “a permanent international tribunal to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression”

There are 122 states which are parties to the Statute of the Court. The state include all of South America, most of Europe, most of Oceania and about half the states in Africa. The law of treaties obliges these states to refrain from “acts which would defeat the object and purpose” of the treaty until they declare they do not intend to become a party to the treaty. These institution function similar to state authorities except they serve the entire world as a whole instead of just states.

 

 

Suzanne Burger in her paper Globalization and Politics says that: “The case for a decline of national power and sovereignty in an age of globalization stands on two legs. One is the notion that the magnitude and velocity of international economic exchanges have eroded the state’s capabilities. The other is the argument that the extension of market relations across national borders diminishes the citizen’s attachment to national authority, leading to a decline in the legitimacy of central governments. Contemporary politics in advanced industrial countries provides much evidence of a growing distrust of elected politicians.”

 

Globalization is seen as the advantageous spread of liberty and capitalism. Jagdish Bhagwati, a former adviser to the U.N. on globalization, embraces that, “although there are obvious problems with overly rapid development, globalization is a very positive force that lifts countries out of poverty by causing a virtuous economic cycle associated with faster economic growth.”   Democratic globalization has been creating progressive waves in the 21st century. Democratic globalization is an effort towards an institutional system of global democracy that would give world citizens a say in political

organizations. This expects to , circumvent nation-states, corporate oligopolies, political Non-governmental organizations, political cults and different mafias. Advocates of democratic globalization argue that economic expansion and development should be the first stage of democratic globalization, which is to be followed by a stage of restructuring global political institutions.

Dr. Francesco Stipo, Director of the United States Association of the Club of Rome, backs the possibility of a world of unifying nations under a world government, suggesting that it “should reflect the political and economic balances of world nations. A world confederation would not supersede the authority of the State governments but rather complement it, as both the States and the world authority would have power within their sphere of competence”.

The World Wide Web, supranational institutions and free trade are already on their way to creating a conglomerate yet unified global community. Every day states are becoming less important for their sovereignty and more and more important for their ability to contribute to this global village.

Works cited:

Gobalisation and Politics, Burger (2002)

Sen, Amartya (1999). Development as Freedom. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0375406190.

“China close to have $1 million millionaires”. The Economic Times. 13 April 2011.

Martin Wolf (2004). “Why Globalization Works”. Yale University Press. Retrieved 2013-04-06.

The Consequences of Modernity, Anthony Giddens

Conversi, Daniele (2009) ‘Globalization, ethnic conflict and nationalism’

Cultural Liberty in Today’s Diverse World. UN Human Development Report, 2004.

Francesco Stipo “World Federalist Manifesto. Guide to Political Globalization”

Why do states intervene in some humanitarian crises and not others?

by Thisuri Wanniarachchi

 

Syria’s broadening civil war and the developing conflict in Ukraine have raised new debates about the international community’s responsibility to support humanitarian intervention by states and made the world rethink why states choose to intervene in some crises and not others.   Humanitarian intervention always occurs within a complex structure of conflicting norms and values that decide whether and how it happens. Humanitarian intervention is often supported by influential human rights conventions that have extraordinary control in contemporary global politics. It is often weakened by the moral duties of politicians to protect their state,   in collision with other values states hold close, such as self-determination. Humanitarianism, on its own, never offers a reasonable explanation of an intervention. Only through inspecting the larger picture in which humanitarianism rests, together with state policies, trends and motives, can we begin to understand its effects. In this paper I plan to discuss the the reasons why states selectively intervene in humanitarian crises, by observing the foreign policies and behaviors of two powerful  nations,   China and the United States in the recent past.

The officially stated goals of the foreign policy of the United States, as mentioned in the Foreign Policy Agenda of the U.S. Department of State, are “to build and sustain a more democratic, secure, and prosperous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community.” In addition, the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs states as some of its jurisdictional goals: “export controls, including nonproliferation of nuclear technology and nuclear hardware; measures to foster commercial intercourse with foreign nations and to safeguard American business abroad; international commodity agreements; international education; and protection of American citizens abroad and expatriation.” U.S. foreign policy and foreign aid have been the subject of much debate, praise and criticism both domestically and abroad.

The US is by far the world’s largest humanitarian donor. In 2000, US relief aid totalled nearly $1.2 billion, around a third of all humanitarian assistance.   Due to its philanthropy and extraordinary military, economic and global political power,  in the light of a humanitarian crisis the world turns to the United States.  However the case of Libya always shadows America’s interventionist history.

In 2011 the UN Security Council invoked the “responsibility to protect” doctrine and adopted Resolution 1973, endorsing a no-fly zone over Libya and authorizing member states to “take all necessary measures” to protect civilians under attack from Muammar al-Qaddafi’s government. Western-led air strikes ultimately overthrew Qaddafi from power and provoked criticism from Security Council members like Russia that the R2P doctrine was cover for a regime change strategy. Experts say such sentiments, combined with concern about the way Libya’s upheaval spilled over into the region, have given pause to humanitarian interventions backed by regional or global bodies.

 As an emerging superpower, China’s foreign policy and strategy is significantly different. China officially states it “unswervingly pursues an independent foreign policy of peace.”  the People’s Republic of China, guides the way in which it intermingles with foreign nations.  As is China, carries a huge fire in her belly. Deep-seated resentment over unequal and unfair treatment by Western powers still irks, and there are disputes regarding sovereignty over Taiwan, and border disputes with India and Japan. However by the 21st century China, with the second largest economy in the world, has become a major favor in world economic affairs, and is increasingly influential in Asia and Africa.

 In the recent past, China has shown much interest in fragile economies. Economies with potential but are going through a rough patch due their country’s political instability led humanitarian crises such as Sudan, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan. The two Sudanese states, especially South Sudan are in desperate need of investments for development. With more than US$12.5 billion invested in the petro-sector, much of it in the disputed Abyei and South Kordofan oilfields, China has both substantial leverage and vulnerability. China’s concern for stability is motivated out of pecuniary self-interest, of course, but other factors that make Beijing vulnerable also determine China’s behavior on Sudan.

 

 

Bibliography.

 ForeignPolicy.com, Why China Won’t Save Darfur

China’s Foreign Policy Debates, The Diplomat

 The Ashgate research companion to US foreign policy edited by Robert J. Pauly, Jr.  Burlington, VT : Ashgate Pub. Co., c2010.

 Energy and US foreign policy [electronic resource] : the quest for resource security after the Cold War / Ahmed Mahdi.

 In China’s shadow:  regional perspectives on Chinese foreign policy and military development / edited by Jonathan D. Pollack and Richard H. Yang.

 The Chinese view of the world / edited by Yufan Hao and Guocang Huan.

Publication Info. New York : Pantheon Books, c1989.

Feminist Solidarity in the Middle East through the Lens of Gender

by Thisuri Wanniarachchi

 

In 1965 Elizabeth Fernea is exposed to the life and culture of the Iraqi village El Nahra. She is invited to dine with the Sheik and is introduced to the Sheikh’s Harem. It is through these women and the many others that she meets in El Nahra she is introduced to the gender- grounded social norms of Iraqi society that are vividly surveyed throughout her novel Guests of the Sheik. She takes great pains in this book to debunk the notion of the “passive middle-eastern woman” by portraying how women achieve agency through their cultural beliefs of the “moral woman” (the woman who wears the burka and respects the traditional, religious and familial expectation of a woman.) In the mid 1970’s anthropologist Erika Friedl sets out to Deh Koh, an Iranian village, to study the role of women in Shiite communities of Iran. Thirty five years of research later she writes her essay A Thorny Side of Marriage (1991). Her argument is that opposing the cultural and historically evident norm of having girls wedded in their preteens, often before the onset of puberty, in late 20th century Iran, there is an increasing number of women choosing “autonomy” and freedom through education and jobs, over early marriage. In 2004 Saba Mahmood publishes her book Politics of Piety, a provocative critique of secular and liberal frameworks, based on her research in 1995-1997 Cairo, Egypt. In it she explores the Egyptian woman through a close examination of the women’s mosque movement in Egypt where women are active social agents. In this essay I plan to use the writing of these three anthropologists and their research and views on the power and role of gender in Middle-eastern society, to explore how they all contribute to the construction of a broader argument of feminist solidarity, despite all the baggage and chaos of transitions that surround this most misinterpreted and stereotyped region in the world.

The evolution of Fernea’s impression of the Middle Eastern woman throughout Guests of the Sheik is quite though- provoking on its own. In this stimulating ethnography, Fernea finds herself embracing this new culture and understanding it for what it really is: tradition built on deep rooted, well thought out ideologies of Islamic society. She is impressed by the discipline, and the attention to detail that El Nahra’s culture composes itself with. For example it is dawned on her, through her interactions of other women who chose to wear the abaya, that the abaya, protects females and does not necessarily handicap them or control their mobility. She no longer protested against the segregation of women from men as the typical westerner in her often used to, as she now knew that women themselves have no objection towards it. She came to understand that it was a choice; a well-respected and accepted one.

In a more recent book In Search of Islamic Feminism, she speaks of how Islamic feminism attempts to regain consciousness of a core component of early Islam: devotion to women’s rights. Fernea argues that modern Islam puts in great effort to make the element of the female gender in Islam one of its central “national, cultural and religious” priorities. She also emphasizes on the contrasting natures of western and Islamic feminism. She argues that Western feminism is considered unnecessary in the Middle- east because the outcomes expected from Western feminism already exists in Middle eastern society. “My attempts to talk about a female view point generally drew blank looks until a woman in Saudi Arabia answered, “What’s so new about that? In our society, we’ve

always had female perspective”…I began to wonder if this particular philosophy of Western feminist thinking was ignored in Middle-eastern societies because it was already present there and taken for granted.” 1 In countless means, Fernea explains that, “ours (West’s) is still a cultural feminism – in other words, try not to be too feminine, try to focus on your mind and try not to focus too much on your makeup and clothes.” She argues that when women in the U.S. struggle with body image concerns, struggling to portray an image of a “natural” beauty “that is often artificially defined through marketing schemes”, Middle Eastern women will say: “What’s wrong with being feminine, that’s a road to power.”2
She states in In Search for Islamic Feminism, that since westerners “had no access to the female sphere in Middle Eastern society, they were inclined to exoticize or devalue it.” Largely the observation of the Middle Eastern woman involved a “secluded odalisque” she says, “ a lazy, sexy lady in a harem veiled from all men but her husband.” She states that the current day image is often “of an abused housewife forced by her husband to don a veil. One can trace the stereotype of the passive, downtrodden Middle Eastern, African, Asian woman to the pre-feminist academic world.”3 In all her work she fights to explain to the western reader the common notion that the veil is not barrier that hold middle- eastern women back. “Sometimes this dress gives women extra authority as they struggle to achieve gender equality.”
Erika Friedl’s work observes gender through the lens of marriage, or the process and need for marriage. Although traditional Iranian societies believed in the idea of early marriage mostly due to the top heavy male- female ratio in Iran, Friedl argues that this culture has begun to change in recent times. “More and more demand a voice in whom they are going to marry, or else they choose a marriage partner themselves. More and more young unmarried women are living not at home but in dormitories as students or, if they are working, on their own or with female roommates. Finally, more and more young women who don’t have jobs live at home with their parents throughout their teens and beyond. Divorce is becoming more frequent, as well. ”
Friedl’s work focuses on this new social change that has begun to occur within Iranian women. It is a society of women in transition, a rebellion, if you will, in solidarity, with an understanding of each other’s injustice of being pressured into early marriage. “Although Iran has no official forum for rethinking restrictive assumptions about men’s and women’s nature and about marriage, these assumptions have come under scrutiny. Despite harassment in the streets by men, pressure at home to get married, the need for circumspection in public, sexual urges, and the wish for children, young women now press for what we would call “autonomy” and they call “freedom,” a freedom they don’t easily find in marriage. The casting of marriage as confinement and as antithetical to work and study and to “getting somewhere,” as they say, amounts to a critique from within of this fundamental institution. This trend toward a critical evaluation of women’s fate, as it were, meets with resistance from a great many conservative men and women, who see it as the beginning of the end of life as they think it ought to be lived. But it also meets with hopeful encouragement from many others, who say that their religion implies equality of the sexes and liberation from unnecessarily confining marital practices”

Saba Mahmood‘s ethnography explains the ways in which Cairene women succeeding the mosque movement do not follow a secular-liberal vision of feminist agency and resistance. In disposition of post structural feminism, Mahmood does not assume a Western “resistance in the face of power” but instead evaluates how these women produce an ethic of piousness, and a unique sense of agency, by the process of veiling.
Politics of Piety; The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject critically incorporates the breakdowns of ‘Western’ secular feminism by observing the lives of pious Muslim women in Cairo, Egypt. Mahmood observes and interviews people in three mosques: Umar, Ayesha and Nafisa. She observes that women who visit the Umar mosque are mostly housewives, and working class women on their way home. They come in various forms of dress, but most are in full face and body veil. The Ayesha mosque is located in a poorer neighborhood where there are sounds of birds chirping, street market noise, and school children screaming. the women who attend this mosque are more poorly educated. The Nafisa mosque has the largest female audience of all mosques in Cairo. 500 women attend the weekly lesson, housewives and students. Mahmood’s detail explanations of the women’s broad ranging social classes, economic status, level of educational qualifications, emphasize on the fact that despite all their differences, they found a common ground in their religion and gender; their role of being a Muslim woman. It is this sense of feminist solidarity that leads the way to the Women’s Mosque Movement. Mahmood’s writing and research establishes an important mediation at a point in time when secular feminist discourses are increasingly active across the political sphere in anti-Muslim dialogues around the world.

Mahmood’s, Fernea’s and Friedl’s work deeply explore the element of gender in the Middle East to contribute to the greater argument that the middle-eastern woman, as misinterpreted as she is, is unique, powerful, culturally driven so much so that she goes beyond the expectations of Westertern Feminism, to redefine womanhood and create a more feminine, confident, mutually respected and united womanhood than that of the ideal post-modern, western woman.

Democratic Majorities and the Social Contract: What would Rousseau say to Tocqueville?

In this paper I hope to explain in detail the many ways how Rousseau’s Social  Contract would help address several crucial problems of democratic majority that Tocqueville raises in his writing.  First, I will discuss how Rousseau would respond to Tocqueville’s issue of legislature. Tocqueville states that in democratic majorities “ legislature is, of all political institutions, the one which is most easily swayed by the wishes of the majority.” Rousseau’s response to Tocquerville would be that  that an impartial “law-giver” is needed to give a people its fundamental laws, and this could take away the majority’s advantage in controlling the ways of the states according to their preferences  over   those of minorities.  Second, I will talk about  the issue of Moral authority. Tocquerville states that ”The moral authority of the majority is partly based upon the notion that there is more intelligence and more wisdom in a great number of men collected together than in a single individual, and that the quantity of legislators is more important than their quality.” In this case, Rosseua would argue that morality is defined by rationality, rationality (according to Rousseau) comes into being with civil society, and civil society comes into being thanks to an impartial lawgiver. And finally I will address Tocquerville’s argument of the “Omnipotence of the majority” by using the concept of “general will” brought up in The Social Contract.

Before we start the in-depth analysis of the points mentioned above, it would be helpful to define a few key terms in the context of Rousseau. To better understand  Rousseu’s view on political authority and legislature let’s first define what sovereignty, law, general will, common good freedom and liberty as they mean to him.  To Rousseu, Law  is  a nonrepresentational expression of the “general will” that is universally applicable. Laws deal only with the people as a whole. They are a manifestation of what the people collectively desire. The law keeps all citizens commited and loyal to the sovereign.  The sovereign in the 16th century   (Rousseau’s time),  was typically an absolute monarch. In The Social Contract, however, this word may been given more thought. According to The Social Contract in a healthy republic, Rousseau defines the sovereign as all the citizens acting as one loyal unit.    General will , to Rosseau is the will of the sovereign that aims at the common good. Common good, then is in the best interests of society as a whole. This is what the social contract is meant to achieve, and it is what the general will  focuses on. Each individual has their own desires and preferences. The general will expresses what is best for the state as a whole.  What does freedom and liberty mean to Rosseau? The two terms are synonymous.    The problem of freedom is the inspiration behind The Social Contract. In the “state of nature” (human life without the shaping influence of society.) people have physical freedom;  their actions are not restrained in any way; to act according to their own instincts and impulses. In other words physical freedom is considered the unbounded freedom to do whatever we like, following our instincts and impulses. Civil freedom places is what controls our instincts and impulses, teaching us to think and behave rationally, exposing up to the freedom of thinking for ourselves (a.k.a rationality).  By proposing a social contract, Rousseau hopes to secure the civil freedom that should accompany life in society. This freedom is tempered by an agreement not to harm one’s fellow citizens, but this restraint leads people to be moral and rational. In this sense, civil freedom is superior to physical freedom, since people are not even slaves to their impulses.

In his masterpiece Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocquerville proposes that democratic majorities can become tyrannical and, therefore, threaten individual liberty. One of the main problems with democratic majorities, according to Tocqueville is that the legislature of the state is controlled and adjusted according to the preferences of the majority This, he argues, could lead democratic states to become tyrannical.  (Tocquerville: )“ If to public opinion, public opinion constitutes the majority; if to the legislature, it represents the majority, and implicitly obeys its injunctions; if to the executive power, it is appointed by the majority, and remains a passive tool in its hands; the public troops consist of the majority under arms; the jury is the majority invested with the right of hearing judicial cases; and in certain States even the judges are elected by the majority.”

Jean Jaques Rousseau ‘s social contract  suggests that Legitimate political authority, comes only from a social contract agreed upon by all citizens for their mutual preservation. The  social contract is an agreement with which a person enters into civil society. The contract essentially binds people into a community that exists for mutual preservation. In entering into civil society, people sacrifice the physical freedom of being able to do whatever they please, but they gain the civil freedom of being able to think and act rationally and morally. Rousseau believes that only by entering into the social contract can we become fully human.

Rosseus’ response to Tocquerville’s claim of legislature being dominated by democratic majorities is quite clear.  To a substantial degree, it is the commitment (contract) to live under certain recognized laws that defines the social contract. In his writing, we can easily differentiate between civil and physical freedom, he explains that we give up the latter and gain the former when entering into civil society.  soverign, as Rossue suggests, would help maintain the unity of a republic as a people, and have all individual’s rational needs addressed and represented through the law-giver.

The next crucial point raised by tocquerville in his writing is problem of  moral power being held predominantly by those of the majority.  “The moral power of the majority is founded upon yet another principle, which is, that the interests of the many are to be preferred to those of the few. It will readily be perceived that the respect here professed for the rights of the majority must naturally increase or diminish according to the state of parties. When a nation is divided into several irreconcilable factions, the privilege of the majority is often overlooked, because it is intolerable to comply with its demands.”

According to Rousseu’s very own civil religion that has it’s own moral definitions of life, by entering into civil society we learn to restrain our instincts and to act rationally. When we leave our “natural state” (defined above), we recognize that we need reasons to justify our actions. This rationality is what defines our actions as moral.  So it is only by becoming a part of civil society that we become human. The community is superior to the individual because it is a community of humans and the individual is just a solitary animal. Rosseua breaks away from the need for majority to preferences to construct a definition for what is and isn’t moral, and creates his own definition/ civil religion.

“The omnipotence of the majority” is one of tocquervilles main problems with democratic majorities. “Unlimited power is in itself a bad and dangerous thing; human beings are not competent to exercise it with discretion, and God alone can be omnipotent, because His wisdom and His justice are always equal to His power. But no power upon earth is so worthy of honor for itself, or of reverential obedience to the rights which it represents, that I would consent to admit its uncontrolled and all-predominant authority. When I see that the right and the means of absolute command are conferred on a people or upon a king, upon an aristocracy or a democracy, a monarchy or a republic, I recognize the germ of tyranny, and I journey onward to a land of more hopeful institutions.”

This claim of Tocquerville, in Rosseu’s eyes could be solved by the concept of General will. The general will expresses what is best for the state as a whole.  The problem resolved by the social contract is how people can bind themselves to one another and still preserve their freedom. The social contract explains how each individual must surrender themselves unconditionally to the community as a whole. Rousseau appeals three insinuations from this definition:  one is that since the state of affairs of the social contract are the same for each person, each of them will feel the need to make the social contract as smooth as possible for all. Secondly,he implicates that as people surrender themselves unconditionally, the individual has no rights that can oppose or pose a threat to the state. And finally when all are equal, people maintain their natural freedom by entering into the social contract.

Rosseu ‘s world looks down upon the idea of a democratic majority and the idea of believing one is greater that the other as a whole. As he would put it  “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. Those who think themselves the masters of others are indeed greater slaves than they.” His ideology has is the solution to all malfunctions of democratic majorities that toqcuerville speaks of.

 

How realists see the Cold War.

Over the past decade, realists have been repeatedly attacked for failing to predict the end of the Cold War. Beyond noting that their critics did not predict it either, structural realists have responded that they never intended to explain or predict change. As Waltz put it, a decade before the fall of the Berlin Wall, his theory “explains continuities . . . recurrences and repetitions, not change” (1979: 69). The end of the Cold War has made many people more aware of the limitations of this focus on continuity. But structural realists do have a point when they complain of being attacked not for what they have done but for what they have not tried to do. While they have failed to predict its end, Realism offers intellectual justification for America’s actions during the Cold War.  By the mid-1950s realism had become the leading paradigm in international relations and persisted so until the collapse of the Berlin Wall.    Realism, to this day, arguably remains a leading frame of reference for policymakers.

The Cold War was a sustained state of political and military tension between powers in the Western Bloc (the United States with NATO and others) and powers in the Eastern Bloc (the Soviet Union and its allies in Warsaw Pact). Historians have not fully agreed on the dates, but 1947–1991 is common. It was “cold” because there was no large-scale fighting directly between the two sides, although there were major regional wars in Korea and Vietnam. The Cold War split the temporary wartime alliance against Nazi Germany, leaving the USSR and the US as two superpowers with profound economic and political differences over capitalism and democracy. A deliberately neutral grouping arose with the Non-Aligned Movement founded by Egypt, India, and Yugoslavia; this faction rejected association with either the US-led West or the Soviet-led East.

 The two superpowers never engaged directly in full-scale armed combat but they each armed heavily in preparation of an all-out nuclear World War III. Each side had a nuclear deterrent that deterred an attack by the other side, on the basis that such an attack would lead to total destruction of the attacker: the doctrine of mutually assured destruction or MAD. Aside from the development of the two sides’ nuclear arsenals, and deployment of conventional military forces, the struggle for dominance was expressed via proxy wars around the globe, psychological warfare, propaganda and espionage, and technological competitions such as the Space Race.

 The first phase of the Cold War began in the aftermath of the end of the Second World War. The USSR consolidated its control over the states of the Eastern Bloc while the United States began a strategy of global containment to challenge Soviet power, extending military and financial aid to the countries of Western Europe (for example, supporting the anti-Communist side in the Greek Civil War) and creating the NATO alliance. The Berlin Blockade (1948–49) was the first major crisis of the Cold War.

 With victory of the Communist side in the Chinese Civil War and the outbreak of the Korean War (1950–53), the conflict expanded as the USSR and USA competed for influence in Latin America and decolonizing states of Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Meanwhile the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was brutally crushed by the Soviets. The expansion and escalation sparked more crises, such as the Suez Crisis (1956), the Berlin Crisis of 1961, the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. Following this last crisis a new phase began that saw the Sino-Soviet split complicate relations within the Communist sphere while US allies, particularly France, demonstrated greater independence of action. The USSR crushed the 1968 Prague Spring liberalization program in Czechoslovakia and the Vietnam War (1955–1975) ended with a defeat of the US-backed Republic of South Vietnam, prompting further adjustments. 

By the 1970s both sides had become interested in accommodations to create a more stable and predictable international system, inaugurating a period of détente that saw Strategic Arms Limitation Talks and the US opening relations with the People’s Republic of China as a strategic counterweight to the Soviet Union. Détente collapsed at the end of the decade with the Soviet war in Afghanistan beginning in 1979.

 The early 1980s were another period of elevated tension, with the Soviet downing of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 (1983), and the “Able Archer” NATO military exercises (1983). The United States increased diplomatic, military, and economic pressures on the Soviet Union, at a time when the communist state was already suffering from economic stagnation. In the mid-1980s, the new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev introduced the liberalizing reforms of perestroika (“reorganization”, 1987) and glasnost (“openness”, ca. 1985) and ended Soviet involvement in Afghanistan. Pressures for national independence grew stronger in Eastern Europe, especially Poland. Gorbachev meanwhile refused to use Soviet troops to bolster the faltering Warsaw Pact regimes as had occurred in the past. The result in 1989 was a wave of revolutions that peacefully (with the exception of the Romanian Revolution) overthrew all of the Communist regimes of Central and Eastern Europe. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union itself lost control and was banned following an an abortive coup attempt in August 1991. This in turn led to the formal dissolution of the USSR in December 1991 and the collapse of Communist regimes in other countries such as Mongolia, Cambodia and South Yemen. The United States remained as the world’s only superpower.

After Republicans won the Congress in the 1946 elections, President Truman, a Democrat, made a dramatic speech In March 1947, he requested that Congress appropriate $400 million in aid to the Greek and Turkish governments, then fighting Communist subversion.  Truman pledged to, “Support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” This became known as the Truman Doctrine. Portraying the issue as a monumental butting of heads between “totalitarian regimes” and “free peoples,” the speech marks the adoption of containment by the United States. Congress appropriated the money. This is often used to mark the beginning of the Cold War.

Realism is a theory that explains how nations relentlessly struggle for power and security, prestige and most of all autonomy. Realism is a custom of international theory based on four factors.  One: realism believes that the international system is anarchic;  there is no actor above states capable of regulating their interactions; states must arrive at relations with other states on their own, rather than it being dictated to them by some higher controlling entity. The international system exists in a state of constant antagonism. Three: states are the most important actors.  Two: all states within the system attain as many resources as possible.  Three: the primary concern of all states is survival.  States build up military to survive, which may lead to a security dilemma .  And four: all states within the system are unitary, rational actors that tend to pursue self-interest.

Americans believe that the United States, is a highly moral country and that she works according to a different code of conduct than most other states. In the eyes of the United States, the Cold War had good guys and bad guys.  The US was the good guys and the Soviets were the bad guys or in Truman’s words: “totalitarian regimes” and “free peoples”. Liberal internationalists, often tend to look at conflicts in this manner.   Realists, on the other hand, don’t discriminate between “good” states and “bad” states.  To realists, all states are just states. A realist explanation of the Cold War would say that the United States and the Soviet Union were both equals, and they behaved according to the same guidelines, because the framework of the system left them with no other options. Thiss a viewpoint that most non realists flinch at.

Under unipolarity, realism predicts that states will band together to oppose the hegemon and restore a balance of power. Although all states seek hegemony under realism as the only way to ensure their own security, other states in the system are incentivized to prevent the emergence of a hegemon through equalizing.

The vital point to remark was that during the Cold War the Soviet counterweight worked as a source of self-control—i.e. it functioned to discipline United States’ policy in vital ways.  Kenneth Waltz  the American Political scientist  wrote in 1979: “one may fear the arrogance of the global burden-bearers more than the selfishness of those who tend to their own narrowly defined interests” the disappearance of the Soviet  counterweight has created a certain imbalance. It is possible America has  become too powerful for the world’s good, and probably for its own good as well

Bibliography

Waltz, Kenneth N. Man, the state, and war; a theoretical analysis.

New York, Columbia University Press, 1959.

Ending the Cold War [electronic resource] : interpretations, causation, and the study of international relations / edited by Richard K. Hermann and Richard Ned Lebow.

New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2004..

Kaplan, Robert D., 1952-

The coming anarchy: shattering the dreams of the post-Cold War / Robert D. Kaplan. New York : Vintage Books, 2001.

Author Craig, Campbell, 1964 Glimmer of a new Leviathan [electronic resource] : total war in the realism of Niebuhr, Morgenthau, and Waltz / Campbell Craig. New York : Columbia University Press, c2003.

Realism reconsidered [electronic resource] : the legacy of Hans Morgenthau in international relations / edited by Michael C. Williams.  Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2007.

The grass on the other side.

Using the Dual Narrative approach to educate Israeli and Arab children about each other’s national political histories. Efforts taken, efforts in progress and efforts in vain.

how are children growing up in prevailing conflict zones in the world, such as the Israel-Arab conflict educated about their national conflict? What do they read in their textbooks?

A dual narrative is a form of narrative that describes a story in two different perspectives, usually two different people. It is used to show parallels or emphasize differences in the experiences or points-of-view of different places and time periods.  Why does a writer choose to use a dual narrative?  Usually it is to show parallels between the two storylines (and time periods) and to enrich the reading experience with alternate points-of-view.

In this essay I want to discuss the use of the dual narrative technique to explore the Israel Palestine conflict, most importantly to educate children in Israel and Palestine. In an issue as critical as this, where the choice of words, perhaps the choice of a definitive article can shape the course of events, the choice of narrative is perhaps equally important. This essay will discuss how this technique has often helped in creating a platform to create answers to this complex problem, and the reasons for why it should be used in Israeli and Palestine history textbooks.

The Palestinian schools in Israel use more or less the same syllabus as the Jewish secular public schools, and this comprises the teaching of the Jewish cultural legacy and Israeli history from a Zionist perspective, while the teaching of Arab, Islamic or Israeli history from a Palestinian perspective is deliberately prevented by the Israeli Ministry of Education. As for its Palestinian citizens, Israeli educational policies, to some level, take after    British educational policies from the Mandate era.

Under the impression of the second intifada and the collapse of the Oslo process, the Palestinian educational scientist Sami Adwan from Bethlehem University and the Israeli psychologist Dan Bar On from Beer Sheva University jointly founded a bi-national non-governmental organization called PRIME ( stands for Peace Research Institute in the Middle East)  in 2002.  With PRIME, they assembled a group of teachers and historians from the West Bank and Israel to develop a textbook for middle and high schools, treating the history of the Israel- Palestine conflict from both perspectives.

This idealistic educational project focuses on teachers and schools as the long-term critical force for changing deep-rooted and deeply-diverged attitudes on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As Adwan explains, “The way a conflict or history is taught can either support that conflict or support coexistence. The project aims to break down stereotypes and build nuanced understandings.” Adwan and Bar-On describe PRIME’s project as “the disarming of history” a struggle to bridge the gulf of understanding between both sides and future generations.

Different from the officially licensed history textbooks used on either side, the one created by PRIME offers and wide-ranging analysis of the crucial stages of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict all through the 20th century from the Balfour Declaration until the Oslo years, and it calculatingly   considers all    these subjects from a Palestinian nationalist and a Zionist Jewish- Israeli perspective.

The combination of two competing nationalist narratives within one textbook that is intended to be used in Israeli and Palestinian schools alike, is meant to inspire critical self-reflection among students concerning the contingency of their own narrative and to promote their awareness of a diverse kind of historical truth existing alongside their own.  Along this logic, learning about the existence and the view-points of the other regarding the common history of both peoples will eventually lead to mutual recognition and acceptance.

In the development stage, two separate sub groups, a Jewish –Israeli and a Palestinian one created the textbook. “Each group was ultimately responsible for its own narrative, but both met regularly in bi-national location in order to discuss and review the texts, all of which were made available in Arabic, Hebrew and English” says PRIME explaining   development process of the textbook.  As a result of their discussions the two sub-groups often adjusted their own narrative in order to be less offensive to the respective other side.  The book The Telling of Peace Education by Sedi Minachi   explains how some controversial terms like terrorist or martyrs were replaced by less emotional ones, without altering the content of the PRIME textbook.

Given the existing state of affairs of the two mutually exclusive nationalist historical narratives taught in Israeli and Palestinian schools alike, the dual narrative approach is a significant innovation and a model for teaching history in a conflict situation, where no bridging narrative yet exists. “The particular set up for the project –a civil society initiative that creates bottom up pressure on politicians by juxtaposing conflicting historical narratives in a collectively authored textbook designed for use on both sides of the barricades, has the potential of becoming a point of reference in the field of peace education.” says Samira Alayan, Achim Rohde and, Sarhan Dhouib in their book The Politics of Education Reform in the Middle East: Self and Other in Textbooks and Curricula

However, its potential should not be overvalued. Realistically speaking neither the Palestinians nor the Israeli Ministry of Education has licensed the textbook and in the predominant political climate programs such as PRIME are viewed with suspicion on both sides.    Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip mostly reject cooperation with Israelis as illegitimate as long as the occupation continues.

A several Israeli high schools have requested permission to use the PRIME textbook in their curriculum. Sha’ar Hanegev High School near Sderot, Israel is one such school.  To the students of the Sha’ar Hanegev High School, who are fighting to incorporate in their curricula a textbook that comprises both Israeli and Palestinian narratives, the fact that the book holds Palestinian narratives does not necessarily create a change in their views of the conflict. They believe that “it is the opportunity to challenge their perceptions that is being compromised” The students spoke to Haaretz Newspaper regarding this matter:

“[We want to] hear personally an explanation as to why we cannot use this book. We cannot understand the education ministry’s deep fear of this book, which presents two positions on the dispute, Israeli and Palestinian. The ministry’s claim that it has not given authorization is self-serving: It doesn’t have any intention to provide such authorization, and there isn’t any other book that provides the Palestinian version.

“The Education Ministry is showing cowardice. It does not want to change anything in history studies, lest, heaven forbid, we learn about values it opposes. The Education Ministry apparently believes that if we learn the Palestinian narrative, we will think that the Palestinians are right. That demeans our intelligence, and it’s a little insulting to say we will believe anything we read. The same thing could be said about using Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf‘ in history lessons. It doesn’t work that way.” [Haaretz Newspaper]

In my personal experience I believe the best way to implement the dual narrative approach is through parents. Parents and family members are often children’s first and most important teachers. Students come to school with knowledge, values, and beliefs they have learned from their parents and their communities. Thus parental stances may be an inhibiting factor to peace promotion. As complex as these conflicts are, sometimes the solutions are as simple as the saying goes, “Peace at home, peace in the world.”

Bibliography

Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education , Nurit Peled-Elhanan

Side by Side: Parallel Histories of Israel-Palestine, ed: Adwan, Bar-On, & Naveh

The Israel-Arab A History of Israel from the Rise of Zionism to Our Time by Howard M. Sachar

A History of Modern Palestine by Ilan Pappe

The Politics of Education Reform in the Middle East: Self and Other in Textbooks and Curricula ,Samira Alayan, Achim Rohde and, Sarhan Dhouib

History Education and Post-Conflict Reconciliation: Reconsidering Joint …

edited by Karina V. Korostelina, Simone Lässig


http://www.haaretz.com/

Why do states intervene in some humanitarian crises and not others?

Syria’s broadening civil war and the developing conflict in Ukraine have raised new debates about the international community’s responsibility to support humanitarian intervention by states and made the world rethink why states choose to intervene in some crises and not others.   Humanitarian intervention always occurs within a complex structure of conflicting norms and values that decide whether and how it happens. Humanitarian intervention is often supported by influential human rights conventions that have extraordinary control in contemporary global politics. It is often weakened by the moral duties of politicians to protect their state,   in collision with other values states hold close, such as self-determination. Humanitarianism, on its own, never offers a reasonable explanation of an intervention. Only through inspecting the larger picture in which humanitarianism rests, together with state policies, trends and motives, can we begin to understand its effects. In this paper I plan to discuss the the reasons why states selectively intervene in humanitarian crises, by observing the foreign policies and behaviors of two powerful  nations,   China and the United States in the recent past.

The officially stated goals of the foreign policy of the United States, as mentioned in the Foreign Policy Agenda of the U.S. Department of State, are “to build and sustain a more democratic, secure, and prosperous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community.” In addition, the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs states as some of its jurisdictional goals: “export controls, including nonproliferation of nuclear technology and nuclear hardware; measures to foster commercial intercourse with foreign nations and to safeguard American business abroad; international commodity agreements; international education; and protection of American citizens abroad and expatriation.” U.S. foreign policy and foreign aid have been the subject of much debate, praise and criticism both domestically and abroad.

The US is by far the world’s largest humanitarian donor. In 2000, US relief aid totalled nearly $1.2 billion, around a third of all humanitarian assistance.   Due to its philanthropy and extraordinary military, economic and global political power,  in the light of a humanitarian crisis the world turns to the United States.  However the case of Libya always shadows America’s interventionist history.

In 2011 the UN Security Council invoked the “responsibility to protect” doctrine and adopted Resolution 1973, endorsing a no-fly zone over Libya and authorizing member states to “take all necessary measures” to protect civilians under attack from Muammar al-Qaddafi’s government. Western-led air strikes ultimately overthrew Qaddafi from power and provoked criticism from Security Council members like Russia that the R2P doctrine was cover for a regime change strategy. Experts say such sentiments, combined with concern about the way Libya’s upheaval spilled over into the region, have given pause to humanitarian interventions backed by regional or global bodies.

 As an emerging superpower, China’s foreign policy and strategy is significantly different. China officially states it “unswervingly pursues an independent foreign policy of peace.”  the People’s Republic of China, guides the way in which it intermingles with foreign nations.  As is China, carries a huge fire in her belly. Deep-seated resentment over unequal and unfair treatment by Western powers still irks, and there are disputes regarding sovereignty over Taiwan, and border disputes with India and Japan. However by the 21st century China, with the second largest economy in the world, has become a major favor in world economic affairs, and is increasingly influential in Asia and Africa.

 In the recent past, China has shown much interest in fragile economies. Economies with potential but are going through a rough patch due their country’s political instability led humanitarian crises such as Sudan, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan. The two Sudanese states, especially South Sudan are in desperate need of investments for development. With more than US$12.5 billion invested in the petro-sector, much of it in the disputed Abyei and South Kordofan oilfields, China has both substantial leverage and vulnerability. China’s concern for stability is motivated out of pecuniary self-interest, of course, but other factors that make Beijing vulnerable also determine China’s behavior on Sudan.

 

 

Bibliography.

 ForeignPolicy.com, Why China Won’t Save Darfur

China’s Foreign Policy Debates, The Diplomat

 The Ashgate research companion to US foreign policy edited by Robert J. Pauly, Jr.  Burlington, VT : Ashgate Pub. Co., c2010.

 Energy and US foreign policy [electronic resource] : the quest for resource security after the Cold War / Ahmed Mahdi.

 In China’s shadow:  regional perspectives on Chinese foreign policy and military development / edited by Jonathan D. Pollack and Richard H. Yang.

 The Chinese view of the world / edited by Yufan Hao and Guocang Huan.

Publication Info. New York : Pantheon Books, c1989.