Richard Falk embraces one-state solution

I have remained (barely) attached to the two-state solution in Israel/Palestine, because it's always seemed to me that the one-state solution a) does not seem to be desired by either party at the moment b) is a recipe for civil war and c) is fifty years away. But I listen when Richard Falk, an eminent American law professor who is the UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Human Rights, makes the case for one state:

I have been a strong admirer of the Houston Declaration that I think morally, legally, and politically responds in an inspiring and convincing way to the terrible ordeal that continues to confront the Palestinian people and that has been misleadingly diverted by this charade of international negotiations between representatives of the State of Israel, of the Palestinian Authority and the mediation of the United States Government. This is a charade in two different ways. One is that it creates a cruel deception that, somehow or other, there is a sincere search for a just settlement of the conflict. And secondly, it creates the view that the contours of a just settlement involve the establishment of two separate states in the historic Palestine Mandate. That deception is very misleading at this stage, given the encroachment on post-67 occupied Palestine by way of the settlements, by the construction of the security wall, and by a series of house demolitions, imposed residence requirements--all sorts of deliberate undertakings by Israel to make a viable Palestinian distinct state a political impossibility. And yet at the same time Israel, with U.S. backing, pretends that a solution would involve two separate political entities.

My judgment, coinciding with the orientation and the various assertions of the Houston Declaration, is that the genuine search for a just peace at this stage depends on building a strong political and moral consensus in favor of a one-state solution: the state being of secular character, equal to all people living within its borders, comprising the whole of the territory that was constituted by historic Palestine, and bringing human rights and democracy and dignity to both of these embattled peoples.

The whole thing and videos are here.

New numbers on translations into Arabic

The eminent translator Richard Jacquemond spoke last night at the American University in Cairo's downtown campus (as part of the consistently interesting "In Translation" lecture series). Jacquemond has translated many prominent Arab writers, and most notably most of the works of Sonallah Ibrahim, into French. He also ran a French-government-sponsored translation program (from French into Arabic and vice versa) in Cairo in the 1980s. I went to see him speak mostly because I had so appreciated his translations of  شرف ("Charaf ou L'Honneur") and التلصص ("Le Petit Voyeur"). 

It turns out Jacquemond, who has already written a book on cultural politics in Egypt, is writing a new book on "the politics and poetics of translation" into Arabic. 

Jacquemond started out his talk by criticizing the well-known 2002 Arab Human Development Report claim that:

 The Arab world translates about 330 books annually, one fifth of the number that Greece translates.

The cumulative total of translated books since the Caliph Maa'moun's [sic] time (theninth century) is about 100,000, almost the average that Spain translates in one year. (AHDR 2002, p. 78)

These claim have been disputed, by Jacquemond and others. Critics have also pointed to the way they have been simplistically used to make the argument that if only Arabs had access to Western knowledge and values, they could solve their development problems. 

I agree with this point--there is something condescending, perhaps not in the report itself, but in the ways its claims have been parroted (no one laments the absence of translation from Arabic); and that comparison to Spain has been tiresomely repeated. On the other hand it's impossible to deny that there is a crisis in the creation, access and dissemination of knowledge in the Arab world; that translation (like many forms of cultural production) often requires state support and that all states have agendas. Personally, regardless of the state policies behind it or the media discourse surrounding it, I consider every (decent) translation a gift to someone, somewhere. 

In any case, Jacquemond estimates the number of books that have been translated into Arabic with the funding of foreign governments (mostly the US, Russia and France) and of national initiatives at 10,000 and the number of books translated by the market at 30,000. He estimates that today somewhere between 1,500 and 2,500 books are translated into Arabic every year (that number is a big increase over the past, and over the Arab Human Development Report's estimate of 330). 

Obama blew it in 2009

I don't often post on things that are not Mideast-related, but this article by John Judis really captures Obama's missed opportunity for radical policies:

To succeed requires some knowledge of the task at hand, which Hoover did not have; it also requires a vulnerable opposition, which Franklin Roosevelt had, and which Obama certainly had in the first months of his presidency, when Republicans were in disarray and Wall Street was disgraced. Two things are then required of a president: bold and unprecedented initiatives that address the underlying economic problems, and a populist—and sometimes polarizing—politics that marshals support for these initiatives and disarms the opposition. Obama failed on both counts: His economic program—no matter how large in comparison to past efforts—was too timid, as many liberal economists recognized; and Obama proved surprisingly inept at convincing the public that even these efforts were necessary.

Update: To be fair I think the following commentary should also be mentioned.

I also think the guy who put up this site has good points:

NSC killing time, talking about Egypt

Laura Rozen of Politico has gotten us the details of the recent Working Group on Egypt meeting with the National Security Council (including grandees Dan Shapiro, Dennis Ross and Samantha Power) which gives us some ruminations about what new take on democracy promotion the Obama administration might take. Considering it has been consistently ignored when making public (or private) statements I fear this will take the kind of initiative that would be completely unnatural to Washington. I also love Rozen's last paragraph, which suspects that dealing with the Egypt question was merely a form relaxation for a White House that definitely asks a lot of its allies, but never gets anything. In this way Israel and Egypt are similar.

It may also be a sign as well that Ross and Shapiro basically had both time and reason to devote to the issue because the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is currently on hold, and the Obama administration is “looking for a positive agenda in the region to talk about," a participant posited. The Obama administration is also concerned, he suggested, that its previous diplomatic efforts to press Cairo in private conversations and in written statements to repeal its Emergency Law and to accept international elections monitors have been rejected or ignored.

I am rather concerned, though, to see that not was Working Group member Elliott Abrams attending, but also another prominent Israel lobbyist, Rob Satloff of WINEP. I figure these guys will support US pressure on Egypt as a means of getting even more pro-Israel positions from Cairo, which will turn to the Lobby to defend itself if it really gets into trouble with Obama. This is after all what happened when Ariel Sharon was PM.

Links 3 November 2010

  • And he's already calling for a boycott!
    Since there aren't many links today, one might pause on this news, which officially shows what everyone expected anyway. I think it's a little strange of ElBaradei to come out with such a statement before the campaign to collect signatures in his favor is over, and without a real attempt by that campaign to get him on the ballot by judicial appeal or by trying to get the people who signed the petition to get out onto the street. This might simply be another sign of a badly-run campaign, or simply that ElBaradei himself is getting tired of the whole thing and never had the energy in him to campaign seriously. Another possibility seems more likely for now: that this was a slip, and that the ElBaradei factor in 2011 is still an unknown. But it's got to be pretty dispiriting for his supporters to have their leader not stay on message. Even if all he can do is launch a boycott campaign next year, ElBaradei has got to show more enthusiasm, nerve and daring-do about it.
  • English website's Egypt election page
  • Bishara says in Algiers that Arab states run by "cartels".

Six cool things about Morocco

 As most readers of the blog know, Issandr and I spent the summer visiting and reporting from Morocco. What follows is a belated, personal and haphazard list of some cool things I discovered there. 

1. Music. Hindi Zahra, a Berber-Moroccan-French singer-songwriter. 

Hindi Zahra - Stand Up
Uploaded by EMI_Music. - Watch more music videos, in HD!

2. The online magazine Mithly, the first Arabic magazine by and for gay men (Click here to hear my interview with the editor).

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Police on campus

Students and police clash in 2008, Photo by Nasser Nuri/Reuters

Last week, an Egyptian court ruled that the long-standing presence of Egyptian police on university campuses here is illegal and unconstitutional. The ruling has been widely discussed here, with government official promising they will implement it but not giving the most reassuring statements about how that will be done; students and faculty rallying around the ruling and demanding its implementations; and commentator and analysts wondering how the government will get around the ruling and continue to interfere with and monitor campuses. The presence of the police is so endemic and entrenched at universities here (they interfere in appointments, visitors, travel to conferences, student elections, extra-curricular activities) that it's hard to imagine how the state could remove Ministry of Interior forces without losing control to an unadmissible (for it) degree. For more about the ruling and the situation at Egyptian universities this Fall, you can take a look at an article I just wrote for The Chronicle of Higher Education

Links for 30-31 October 2010