Wednesday, September 27, 2006

My Response to Askanazi

This post is about my responses to the e-mail queries of Evan M. Askanazi, a student at Ohio State University.

(Note: Q stands for Askanazi's Question while A stands for my Answer)

I noticed on your blog your apparent interest in Middle East affairs.

First of all, I would like to stress here that my academic interest is more into the politics and society in South Asia, especially India. Middle East affairs just happened to be one of those affairs in international politics that attract the attention of most of political scientist or political analysts. I fall into the category of those political scientists/commentators who are interested in this Middle East affairs but do not consider myself as the specialist in this matter.

Anyway, being a student of political science, I would like to share the knowledge I’ve learned in the classroom in the hope of spreading the knowledge to wider audiences.

Just wondering, do you see the Israel-Palestine conflicts as entirely the fault of Israel or do you feel Israel, Palestine and Hezbollah share responsibility?

Talking about responsibility, I see the responsibility lies in the hands of all the participants in this conflict (Israel – Hezbullah conflict). All parties are responsible for the humanitarian tragedy inflicted upon the population in the region. These innocent people, regardless of their nationalities and religions, are the ones who suffer the most in this conflict. They were, and still are, trapped in the conflict of interest of those greedy personalities who disregard the value of human lives.

Bigger players in international politics like the US and its European allies also share this responsibility. In my opinion, it is these governments that created the mess in the first place. Israel and Hezbullah are like the peons in a chess game. They are forced to fight against each other while the big boys standing in the periphery, waiting for the tragedy to unfold.

As for the Israel – Palestine conflict, I see it as something slightly different from the Israel – Hezbullah conflict. Israel was created by the victors of the WW II in the land that belonged to the Arab Palestinians (both Muslims and Christians), justifying the move as the implementation of the Biblical description of the Promised Land.

In my opinion, Israel was a mere puppet state created by these victors to wash out their hands from the responsibility of the Holocaust tragedy. If they really wanted to repay the mistake they made for letting the European Jews to be killed mercilessly in the Holocaust during the WW II, they should have integrated the Jewish people back into the society they belonged to instead of creating an exclusively Jewish state in the heart of the Middle East and in doing so, they robbed the fundamental rights of the Arab Palestinian people to live peacefully in their own land. The creation of a Jewish state of Israel in the Middle East was not the correct solution to the problem and instead it created more problems in the region. The subsequent Israeli – Palestinian conflict is the outcome of this shortsightedness, or I may say that it was purposely designed to serve the greed and interest of these powers?

Do you think Israel has a right to exist, but simply disagree with their policies, and protect itself, and how do you think Israel should have responded to the kidnapping of its soldiers?

Every human being has the right to live. Both Palestinians and Israelis have this same right. We have to respect this fact. And since we cannot turn back the time, I see there is no problem for Israel to exist. At the same time, Israeli government should have no problem for an independent state of Palestine. Don’t you think that the Palestinian people have the same right to create an independent state of Palestine in their own land?

As for the kidnapping case, if Israel is really a “democratic” state, they should conduct dialog and negotiation to solve the problem instead of using their superior military prowess to kill innocent people in the region. I think dialogue is the best way forward to achieve a meaningful solution to the problem. What is your take in this matter? How Israel should have responded to the kidnapping of its soldiers?

Do your Indonesian friends on a whole support or condemn Israel? Does the divide between support and opposition occur solely on religious grounds or are there Indonesian Muslims who support Israel and Indonesian Christians who condemn Israel?

Indonesia is an independent state. Indonesian Constitution firmly rejects all kind of occupation and colonialism. If it is true that Israel is wrongfully occupies the rightful territories of the Palestinian people, it is justifiable if Indonesia condemns Israel.

I cannot say much about the personal views of my fellow Indonesians as a whole. But if you want to know about it, you can browse the Indonesian blogosphere to see the reaction yourself. Religion, apart from this national philosophy, is, I believe, also plays a part in the reaction to this conflict.

I should add as a disclaimer that my opinion of the Middle East is influenced as well, being of Jewish heritage and the son of holocaust survivors. I feel Israel's apparent hostilities toward Hezbollah are due to the fact the Jews were loaded onto trains and put into ovens the last time they tried appeasing their enemies. Personally see Israel as in a fight for its survival; to me it seems that if Palestinians lay down their arms, there is no more war but if Israel lays down its arms, there is no more Israel. Moreover, I don't see Israel's conduct as being fundamentally different from other countries and find it has been actually mild compared to how countries like Indonesia, Algeria, Pakistan, the
Sudan and China conduct themselves militarily.

About the conduct of the Indonesian military, I should say that they made mistakes in the past. A lot of human right abuses have been done by the military in conflict areas like Aceh or the erstwhile Indonesian province, the East Timor. But you have to understand that these mistakes occurred during the military regime of General Suharto and with tacit approval from Washington. Just like what the Israeli government is now doing with the clear approval from President Bush.

One thing should also be cleared here that the case in Indonesia is different from Israel. Indonesia was under an authoritarian rule, a military regime, while Israel follows democracy. Aceh is a rightful territory of the Indonesian state. The military was used by the government to curb the separatist group from advocating the independence of Aceh from Indonesia. East Timor is a total mistake. It was against the Indonesian Constitution.

At present, Indonesia is a democratic state and the military is under the leadership of a civilian leader. The current Indonesian military is different from the one under the Suharto regime.

What about Palestine and the suffering of the Palestinian people? Would you comment about it?

Also, I've heard that in Lebanon, the towns being bombarded are largely towns accused of hiding terrorists; Christian areas have remained untouched. I personally view that as a sign Israel is simply trying to hunt down its enemies. Would your views on Israeli attacks be any different if the civilians being bombed were largely Christian?

Hunting down enemies? Why Israel occupies Southern Lebanon? Whose territory is Southern Lebanon? Christian territories remained untouched? I suggest you to re-check your reference.

The advance of the IDF to the Southern Lebanon in the recent conflict was a total disregard of international laws and the action could be termed as an occupation, military aggression. Just like what Saddam did to Kuwait. What’s your take in this matter?

For me, any attack is inhuman. I would condemn all kind of attack towards any kind of group of people or population, regardless of the region, religion, ethnicity or any background they belong to. Being an integral part of multi faceted societies like India and Indonesia, I am blessed to learn to respect human lives regardless of their creed or skin color.

Lastly, if this is about Muslim solidarity and/or Middle Eastern solidarity, does it also exist for the Sudanese Muslims massacred by Arabs, the Lebanese Catholics massacred by Palestinians in the Lebanese civil war or Kurds and other civilians massacred by Saddam, for instance?

Personally, I should emphasize once again that all atrocities as inhuman and I condemn them all. It is very sad and unfortunate that we have to be a part or to witness these tragedies. I hope that we all can live in peace and harmony.

Interested in your response.

Thank you.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Cowboy Vs Tyrant: Iran or the US?

"Why do you always want to settle world affairs by using force and weapons? This era is finished and we are in the era of thought and culture."
(A response by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran to President George W. Bush of the USA who recently branded him as tyrant and threatened to use force to solve the nuclear dispute)

In diplomacy, words play very important role in conveying messages from one government to another. The diplomats might put the messages in flowery words to disguise their real intentions but often time the words are straightforward and directly targeted. President Bush of the USA and President Ahmadinejad of Iran are examples of diplomats or heads of states that do not mind the use of direct wording in conveying their messages across.

Remember the time when President Ahmadinejad told his supporters that “Israel should be wiped out of the world map” and “the Jewish holocaust by Nazi is a myth”? And remember the day after September 11 attacks of WTC in New York when President Bush said that “either you are with us or against us” as reference to Al-Qaeda? And his recent comments on “Islamic fascists” and description of Iran's leaders "tyrants," compared them with Al Qaeda terrorists and that the world's free nations would not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon?

These are examples of direct use of words in diplomacy that tends to convey some confrontationist and aggressive policy.

It is a public secret that Iran and the US have not been able to get along well ever since the Islamic revolution took place in Iran in 1979. Moreover, the hawkish policy of the US government in the region and towards Muslim countries as a whole has provoked even further the disenchantment between the two governments. The latest is the Iranian ambition to acquire nuclear technology and strong opposition from the US government regarding the matter. Accusing Iran of building nuclear weaponry in the disguise of developing peaceful nuclear technology, the US use all its resources to block the realization of Iranian nuclear program.

Acquiring nuclear technology is the right of any sovereign nation. This is not an exclusive right of certain group or countries to possess the technology. As long as the concerned country is responsible and using the technology for peaceful purposes, there should be no objection to it. Iran, as well as other country like India or Indonesia, is eligible to acquire the technology for peaceful purposes. The increasing needs of energy to sustain the development of these developing countries have urged them to find sustainable source of energy. Nuclear technology is one of the ways to fulfill this energy need and thus they should not be denied of this right to acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

Coming back to the quotation above, it is interesting to see that the president of a country that claims to be the leader of the “world’s free nations” and the oldest democracy in the world used strong and even confronting rhetoric to force its personal agenda of “dominating the world”. The use of “language of force” or threats to solve differences is an opposition to democracy and democratic principles. It is like a cowboy who always pulls his gun whenever and wherever he wants to solve problems he is confronting. In the free world, cowboys only live in movies, not in reality. Instead, dialogue, deliberation, discussion as well as the rule of law are the guidelines that should be followed by all inhabitants to solve problems. The use of force is no longer an acceptable way to resolve problems. On the contrary, the use of force will only add to more problems.

President Bush’s use of language of force in this free world against Iran’s “stubbornness” to defend its right as a sovereign nation is like a cowboy who is eager to pull the trigger of his guns to resolve his problem. Once enemy’s dead, problem’s solved. Simple. But look at Iraq, Afghanistan or Lebanon in recent time. The use of force only added to more misery and complication of problems to the populace in these countries. It did not solve their problem.

Realizing the grave outcome of any use of force, President Ahmadinejad said that the cowboy’s era is finished and “we are in the era of thought and culture”. Iran, a country led by a “tyrant”, is ready to discuss the nuclear dispute between Iran and the rest of the world and listen to the argumentations in order to arrive at the solution to the problem. Iran is against the use of force and weapons and it is against the US and British plans to dominate the world.

Furthermore, President Ahmadinejad last month invited President Bush to a television debate "under the condition that nothing is censored". However, the White House rejected the invitation terming it as a "distraction" from the nuclear dispute. It is an attempt by Iran to “threaten” the US.

Iran’s insistence to conduct dialogue, discussion and negotiation to resolve problems and differences instead of confrontation and the use of force and weapons shows that in the world of free nations even a “tyrant” prefers the peaceful means of discussion and dialogue and the rule of law to solve problems. The era of settling problems and world affairs by the use of weapons and force is over and the era of thought and culture has arrived in which reasons and dialogue rule. It is now “the era of people and nobody should believe that they can sit in their glass houses and rule over the world.”

Who is the tyrant and who is the cowboy? Is it something of two faces of the same coin? Or is it really two different things? The answer is up to you to decide.