Whilst the following news story (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jul/21/henry-louis-gates-jr-arrest-harvard) is not directly related to the Middle East I have decided to post it anyway because of a recent debate about racism and as it provides a convenient excuse to revisit the topic on this site. What this short news story suggests is that even though institutional and legally enforced racism is less pervasive today than in previous eras where the slave trade and European colonialism produced racist doctrines premised on the superiority of the white race, there is still a resilience to racial stereotyping and more subtle forms of racism in the US, at least. I would argue that subtle and insidious forms of racism remain pervasive in the modern world more widely than just in the US . The harsh reality is that racism is as pervasive internationally as it was a century or so ago when W.E.B. Du Bois suggested that the issue of race relations would be a defining motif of the twentieth century. The events of the twentieth century have shown us how prescient Du Bois was and how relevant his comments remain as we enter into a new millennium. Today, racial differences (ethnic and religious differences as well) continue to shape the world we live in.
The appointment of Mitchell by the Obama administration as Middle East envoy brings renewed hope of an even-handed approach with regards to a peace settlement. There are, however, several substantial obstacles to overcome.
Like Irish nationalists, Palestinians will never recognize the “right” of another group to discriminate against them. Like Protestant unionists did, Israeli Jews insist on their own state. Israel’s “solution” is to cage Palestinians into ghettos –- like Gaza –- and periodically bomb them into submission just so Israeli Jews, their relative numbers dwindling, can artificially maintain a Jewish state.
If Mitchell is allowed to apply Northern Ireland’s lessons, then there may be a way out. But he goes to Jerusalem with few of the advantages he brought to Belfast. The Obama administration remains committed for now to the failed partition formula of “a Jewish state” and a “Palestinian state” and maintains the Bush administration’s misguided boycott of Hamas, which overwhelmingly won Palestinian elections in 2006. And the Israel lobby — much more powerful than its Irish American counterpart — warps US policy to favor the stronger side, an intransigent Israel committing war crimes. If these policies don’t change, Mitchell’s efforts will be wasted and escalating violence will fill the political vacuum.
Read the rest of Ali Abunimah’s article here.
Raffe just sent me something interesting:
I thought you might be interested in this. As we were talking about the Mutaween several weeks ago they reminded me of a similar Israeli sect of orthodox Jews that are operating in Orthodox neighborhoods.
The first Miss Headscarf contest was judged a couple of months ago in Copenhagen, Denmark. The organisers developed the idea in response to the recent controversy surrounding the Mohammed cartoons and ensuing debates on the appropriateness of Muslim women’s headscarves in Denmark. (Entrants don’t have to be Muslim; anyone can enter by submitting a photo of themselves wearing a headscarf). The contest organisers see MIss Headscarf 2008 as a way to give a much-needed visibility to the views of “all the Muslim women who are seldom heard in the debate.” As one of the contestants said, “it’s about the time the media talked to us, and not about us all the time.” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/denmark/2044680/Miss-Headscarf-contest-for-Muslims-attacked.html)
Over the last few years there’s been some intermittent mainstream interest in transsexuality both in the West and in the Middle East. Although the topic was somewhat taboo in the West until relatively recently, it has been discussed quite openly in Iran for the last 25 years. The relative openess surrounding this topic in the Islamic Republic has aroused the curiosity of the Western media, and reports on transsexuality in Iran such as this article often try to come to terms with the fact gender reassignment surgery is religiously sanctioned (even encouraged) in a country where homosexuality is illegal. Is the 25 year old fatwa allowing ‘diagnosed’ transsexuals to undergo surgery a sophisticated and modern approach to a serious issue that is often not dealt with satisfactorily in even in the West, or is it simply the outcome of an inability to accept homosexuality? Read the rest of this entry »