Monthly Archives: February 2011

Dictatorship or Democracy

They are now moving onto the question and answer period. However, my battery is about to die so I will not be able to cover it now. However, I will do my best to provide a summary of the Q & A at a later time.


Dictatorship or Democracy

Dr. Maha Nassar (my current professor): Palestine.

Parallels with Palestine. Need to reexamine many of our assumptions about dynamics in the Middle East and who is capable of bringing about real change to the region.

Recently, more vocal calls for more effective and representative leadership in light of the release of the Palestine Papers, which cover the last decade of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations released by Al Jazeera Arabic and English. Contrary to popular belief about the need for both sides to make painful concessions, in fact Palestinian leadership had made very painful concessions, including on key principals. Led to questioning of how effective leadership is and calls for a more renewed election of a legislative council that would be entrusted with a more representative mandate to represent Palestinians in future negotiations that would lead to a just peace.

Palestinian Authority is increasingly taking a page from the authoritarian rule books of its neighbors by banning protests in support of fellow Arabs in Tunisia and Egypt. PA security forces came in wielding batons and clubs and broke up the demonstration.

Having an added layer of an authoritarian regime in addition to the oppression of Israel does not sit well with them. They are watching what is happening on Al Jazeera, facebook and Twitter. The sources of change that will be coming, and who we need to look to for future leadership is not in the old guard – it’s coming from the youth who do not have clear ideological agendas, but seek freedom, independence, democracy and a sustainable future.

Gaza Youth Breakout created a facebook page a few weeks ago and published the manifesto for change: fed up with Israeli occupation and blockade, and fed up with Hamas government and their abuse of power. They simply want freedom, democracy and liberty. This is a theme running throughout the region.

Dictatorship or Democracy

Dr. Faten Ghosn: Lebanon

Situation will be similar to Jordan. It’s different than what’s happening in the rest of the region. But this crisis is not new. It’s been going on since 2005 since assassination of Prime Minister. The pro-Western camp contains 5 major political parties – Sunni, Druze, Phalange, Maronite and Maronite military and some other smaller parties. Pro-Syrian coalition: major party is Hezbollah, but includes 15 other political parties. Christian parties won about 60% of the seats of this coalition.

It’s not people vs. government, it’s government split down two separate camps.

Dictatorship or Democracy

Dr. Asher Susser, visiting scholar in Modern Israeli Studies

Jordan: Is Jordan next? No. The situation in Jordan is different in very many respects. It’s smaller (only 6 million people), and the opposition in Jordan is not even asking for the removal of the regime. The opposition asked to remove the government, which the King did. Changing governments in Jordan is nothing new (it happens once a year on average). This is not a great revolutionary act. But who replaced who? Palestinian population – it is traditionally believed that the Palestinian population is the main opposition to the government. Because of economic crisis and implementation of neoliberal policies, there are similar economic issues as Egypt. Population is becoming increasingly deprived – this is happening more to the “original” Jordanians than the Palestinian population. The “Jordanian Jordanians” are suffering more. When they are upset with the economic situation, it would be a good idea to put in office a “Jordanian Jordanian.” This to ensure that the regime won’t do too many favors for the Palestinians of Jordan.

Muslim Brotherhood: Change the constitution and reduce the role of the monarchy in Jordanian politics. If this happens, this will be a dramatic change in Jordanian politics. This is the issue at hand in Jordan. In Jordan, the changes are pretty much more of the same, and a lot depends on how things will finish up in Egypt. We don’t know yet what is really happening in Egypt. We don’t know the outcome. When it becomes clear and we see who will emerge on top, then it will be easier to conclude what the potential ramifications will be for Jordan.

Dictatorship or Democracy

Dr. Scott Lucas: Yemen

Dr. Lucas studied Arabic in Yemen. It’s a very beautiful country, very hospitable people, extremely generous (like the Egyptians, audience laughter) but a little more so. But the only time Yemen is in the news is when something horrible happens there. Reiterates it’s a wonderful country. 44% of the population is under 18, high unemployment. President has been in power since 1978. A protest of 20,000 yesterday in the capital (population of 2 million). There was also a pro-regime rally – there is a lot of support for the President in Yemen. Political liberalization is low on the pressing needs of Yemen. It has no rivers, no desalinization plants, and in many places, including large cities, water gets trucked in only once a month. They are also running out of oil.

High unemployment due to 1 million expats being sent back to Yemen from (Iraq or Kuwait? Didn’t quite catch that) after Iraq invaded Kuwait.

The south unified with the north in 1990, the north got everything – this led to civil war in 1994. US primary concern is al Qaeda, which has relocated to central Yemen, where there are no paved roads (but apparently there is Internet access because they publish their weekly magazine online).

Also, there is no clear successor to the President. This is a big issue. Last thing to keep in mind is that tribes are still big in Yemen.

Dictatorship or Democracy

Parvaneh Hosseini, PhD Candidate: Topic: Iran.

What lessons should we take from the 1979 revolution, and the 2009 Green Revolution?

People should keep on owning the revolution, and should never assume that they have done their job and leave the process of democratization up to others. They should make sure there is a diverse variety of people forming the new democracy. If a single person gets violated by the new state, it’s every one’s responsibility to oppose it before it’s too late. Taking lessons from the ’79 revolution, is not just making sure you don’t fall into the same trap (Islamist state).

Green Movement comparison to Egypt: people are out, want democracy – people hate violence as much as they hate dictatorship. But the sad part is that the governments are finding similar ways to suppress them – arrests, threatening, banning journalists, cutting internet, and bring out so-called “pro-government” forces out so that the people begin fighting each other. All of this was much more severe in Iran – foreign journalists were banned – students were arrested, threatened and tortured. Foreign support was much less in the case of Iran than for Egypt.

People should not get paralyzed by the fear of disagreement among their own people, nor should they deny disagreement. We need support from democratic countries, human rights organizations, and other people in the region. The recent unity shown among people in the region shows how powerful people can be.

Dictatorship or Democracy

Dina Jadallah: PhD candidate (and my beloved Arabic teacher)

She stands in solidarity with her people. This is how people will make their own history, instead of having it imposed upon them. US hypocrisy in the Middle East – democratic rhetoric often clashes with stability. What Tunisia and Egypt are exposing is what lies at the heart of the revolution/democracy dichotomy. Egypt project external hegemonic influence in the region. US exerts policy based on Israel’s security (maintaining Camp David) and maintaining War on Terror. The leaders do not represent the will of the people. The US fears a domino effect from this. The wall of fear has been broken. The number of demonstrators is growing, despite the repression and brutality of the regime. We are witnessing the birth of the mobilization of large swaths of society. There is the insistence of unification regardless of creed, and this is a secular movement. The regime’s policy of terrorizing the people is too blatant to ignore. The horse and camel show that we all witnessed exposed this corruption unquestionably. There is a clear foreign policy evident in the slogans being chanted: they show the people know whose interests the regime really has in mind. The uprising calls into question U.S. policy of neoliberalization, and that stability can be maintained by supporting oppressive regimes.