Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Reflection 5 - Arab-Israeli conflict

The Israeli-Palestine conflict has been referred as the "Forgotten" conflict because it has been buried under the many issues that have emerged into global politics today, such as terrorist groups like ISIS or the European Migration crisis. While many of these problems are important, the prolonged conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians still needs the world's attention.
Although history has shown past wars and the progression of loss of land from Palestine, but no one seems to talk about the realities of living under Israeli occupation in Palestine and what the people have to experience.

Since 1967, the Palestinians have been living under the occupation of the Israeli military and endured much suffering under their power. Living under military occupation meant random checkpoints and military tanks along roadsides and would be interrogated by Israeli soldiers, even though it would to just to to the supermarket. There would curfews for the Palestinians, which forced people to stay in their homes without being able to used the lights until the Israelis would lift the curfew. People would often be approached by Israeli soldiers for random checks to see IDs and papers. They would especially discriminate towards men, and could subject them to military detention where they would be detained and be held for an unknown period of time. There would be no court date for the detained and would not be offered a lawyer. Power outages happened frequently and was a method of collective punishment, which would punish a whole area if someone from that area was at fault. Peoples' homes could be blown up by the Israeli military for absolute no reason, and Palestinians had to live in constant fear for their lives. Moving around and visiting other cities are inconvenient for Palestinians as they are not allowed to step in Israel as Palestinian citizens. They forced to take back roads that make trips longer, even though it could half the time if they were allowed to cross Israeli border lines. Even mobility is limited and it does not help when much of Palestine's territories are segregated, such that Palestinians from the West Bank want to go to the Gaza strip. Palestinians are also restricted of resources because the shipping ports are controlled by the Israelis, who can deny the imports or exports for the Palestinians. These limitations and restrictions carried out by the Israelis keeps a constant reminder to the Palestinians that they are under occupation.
However, situations became even worse during the First and Second Intifada. The arabic word "intifada" means to "shake", which represents the Palestinians view of unable to tolerate anymore of Israeli occupation and demanded change. They did so by initiating a revolution and resisted against the Israeli military.  During these violent times of revolution, there more frequent curfews and the stricter rules placed on the Palestinians. Stores and businesses were forced to close at 1pm and people were faced with water shortages.
But there some hope for the Palestinians when the Oslo Accords were passed, which allowed the Palestinian Liberation Organization to return and established the Palestinian Authority. While things seem to look up for the Palestinians, the possibility of achieving liberation for them was still far from reality. The Palestinian Authority only held jurisdiction over 3% of Area A that the West Bank. In Area B, 25% of the West Bank territory is shared control of the land between the Palestinians and the Israelis. For Area C, 75% of Palestinian land is given full control to the Israelis. While the majority of Palestinian territory lives under Israeli occupation, Palestinians still have to live as if the Oslo Accords were not passed.

While the root of this conflict dates back to the beginning of the 20th century (and probably even earlier than that), the road to finding a solution has not been easy. There have been many peace talks and resolutions in attempt to resolve the conflict but they have not succeeded the way it was intended or did not succeed at all. There are many factors that feed into this conflict, but one main decision to resolve the conflict would be to provide to states for the two peoples. To confine both people in one state would probably not be an efficient resolution because that is the current situation and both sides are not happy with other. The people need two states just so they have a land that is there own, and this is the ultimate problem that the cause of the whole conflict.

Dr. Zaru's lecture was very interesting and eye opening because there is little to no coverage about the Palestinians that live under Israeli occupation in the media. It is disappointing to listen to the horrible experiences that Palestinians have to endure today and thinking that there people who support the Israelis and their actions in Palestine. But it is important to expose the truths and reality of what is happening in that part of the world and come up with a solution to end this prolonged conflict.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Weekly Report 4 - Israeli-Palestine Conflict

Within recent weeks, France have tried to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talk by this summer. By initiating a peace talk, France claims they will not automatically recognize Palestinian statehood, as they had previously claimed before in the past. Because of the increasing, recent violent attacks occurring since last October that left 188 Palestinians and 28 Israelis dead, France have decide to initiate a peace talk to avoid further escalation of violence. While Egypt expressed their appreciation of France for stepping in and initiating a talk, which "guarantees the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people", the Israelis reacted opposingly towards the French efforts of a talk and claim that the Palestinians would come unable to compromise.
While French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault sought support from Arabs states to revive peace talks, an unnamed French diplomate was report to claim that this on-going conflict was "a powder keg waiting to explode" in reference to the increasing violence in Israel and Palestine. Since 2014, the US have also attempt to make efforts in resolving this conflict with the two-state solution. The unknown French diplomate is skeptical that the issue can be resolved in three months.
The French hopes to find some sort of resolution, creating a "two-state solution" to end this conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, which can only be resolved by recognizing Palestine as a state. France will attempt to convince the international community to recognize two states.
France have also pushed the US to proceed with the peace talk, which the US so far have not dismissed. The White House has reported that they were working on negotiations and outlines of a resolution plan before President Obama's presidential term ends.

France 24
Israel Hayom

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Reflection 4 - Radical Islamist groups and their impact on the world

Since 9/11, the talk of Islamic extremist groups and terrorism has been on the rise in the international community and states have struggled to find effective solutions to stop their terrorist activities. One group that has been more exposed in the new within recent year is ISIS, a Islamic terrorist organization. ISIS stands for "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" and has claimed them as an Islamic state based in Iraq and Syria. ISIS initially pledged its allegiance to al-Qaeda in Iraq after the US sent troops into Iraq in 2003 and has gradually gained more attention throughout the years. In 2014, ISIS separated itself and proclaimed themselves as an independent group. However, there have been many terrorist groups that have come from the Arab world, but it seems ISIS has gained more attention and has become more of a threat to the world than any other terrorist group within recent years. 
Why is this, and how did this happen? 
While ISIS is only one of the many terrorist groups today, they are the first from the Arab world to bring violent extremism from the margins of the issue into the spotlight. Although the majority of the international community view their actions as horrific criminal acts, since they continually violated basic human rights by slaughtering many innocent lives, ISIS defends their actions by claiming that they are acting on behalf of Allah. As ISIS state that Islam is the reason for their actions, many have  blamed the religion of Islam for terrorist attacks and have began to generalize anyone who is Muslim as a terrorist. Obviously, this stereotype and thinking of Muslims are false and it is necessary to understand that Islam is not the fundamental ideology that stands behind terrorist groups like ISIS, but it is actually their interpretation of Islam and its teachings. As ISIS carry out more terrorist attacks around the world, such as the mass bombing in Brussels, Belgium today, more reaction and fear is produced from the international community. 
It is complicated of how ISIS gained much support and a developed platform for their organization because of the many factors that contributed to the emergence of this terrorist group. ISIS is claimed to be a support platform of the Sunni Muslims, who make up the mass majority of the Arab world. Although they are the majority of the Muslims in the Arab world, they are treated as the minority and have faced brutal discrimination and persecution from the Shiites. Feeling humiliated and oppressed, ISIS extremist were able to feed on the Sunnis' negativity against the Shiites to gain their support by proclaiming they were in support of the Sunnis and all their hardships. At the rise of the Arab spring, particularly in Syria, ISIS was able to recruit supporters from Syria while they where in their most valuable state when their country was in a stage of instability. 
The comeback of ISIS was also affected by the actions of many state actors. Iran had passed foreign policies that contributed to the radicalization of Shi'a organizations in the state, which gave ISIS more supporters and lead to an emergence of Secularism. The Gulf monarchies spent much of its oil money recklessly, which unfortunately ended up in the hands of ISIS. The Western states, especially the US,  have played a major role during the development of ISIS by letting issues escalate and their actions became a breeding ground for terrorist activities. Because of the actions made in the early 2000s of the Bush administration, terrorist group al-Qaeda was able to be created and lead into a 10+ year war that accomplished little. The US even supplied military weapons to Osama bin Laden before he was killed. While Russia claims to sent help over to Syria, they have also been reported to send support to ISIS. 
Although the news of ISIS gaining power seemed immediate and their terrorist attacks shocked the world, it can be seen that their potential of power has been built gradually by many contributing factors. They gain their support by feeding off on secularism, the fear and feelings of angered persecuted Sunnis, economic failures, and the falling state governances. 
Members of ISIS are very young and often join not because they believe in their ideologies specifically, but that they feel they do not fit within their community. Before ISIS, many members were seen as typical wild, young people as they partied or did drugs. They did not want to conform to their parents' traditions or heritage. However, right after their "wild, party stage", they would very quickly change their whole persona and was "born again" to join ISIS. They immediately start carrying out terrorist activities. Even though an Islamic group, members are clueless are about the religion itself ironically. 
But how can we stop ISIS?
With so many contributing factors in the creation of ISIS, it is hard to determine a solution to destroy ISIS. The issues are not as black and white as some individuals perceive it to be. But one issue that must be approached is the persecution and discrimination of Sunni Muslims. By doing so, Sunni Muslims will no longer to have restore to ISIS for solutions, and then ISIS may be unable to persuade Sunnis to support them. But that is only one factor among many. The international community must come together in hopes of coming to a resolution in solving this problem. While many have suffered of the actions of ISIS, such as those in Paris, Istanbul, and Belgium, it is important to take action before ISIS gains more power and cause many more to suffer.

The issues of terrorism and the extremists that came from Arab world is one topic that I have little knowledge on, but Dr. Boukhars's lecture on radical Islamic groups really opened up my eyes about the terrorism issues of the world today and painted an authentic picture of the progression of Islamic groups such as ISIS. It was really interesting to hear the development of this important problem and the background of contributions that has allowed it escalated to such a large scale. 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Reflection 3 - Drumming with Massamba Diop

Massamba Diop is an international famous drummer from Senegal, who is most well-known for playing the 'Talking drum'. He has played all over the world for many cultural events, such as the 2012 London Olympics, Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies, and even for Nelson Mandela. Born into a family of Griots, Massamba Diop grew up in Senegal playing the talking drum and in the culture of story-telling. He describes his family of Griots as "the dictionary of Africa", meaning that the history of his family and people are passed down from generation to generation through an oral tradition. Their history is not written down so the only way to learn about their history would be to go ask a Griot, who has memorized all the history of their people. Not only griots, but Massamba Diop explains how his people plays the tama drums, or 'talking drums', which is played as a way of expression and communication. By playing different beats or sounds on the talking drum, messages can be transmitted through the music throughout the town, and this is serves as their method of communication. Massamba Diop tells the story of how he announced his marriage to the town, in which the morning after his wedding at 6am, he played his talking drum for the town to hear that he has found a wife.  Out of the girls he did not choose to be his wife would hear that he had picked another girl and they would understand that he did not pick them.
He also explains play the talking drum as a source of happiness and good for a person's overall well-being. The talking drum is played for celebratory occasions and should be able to raise people's spirits. Massamba Diop is a master of the talking drum and has been playing for a majority of his life and that it has kept him young in his mind and body. Playing the talking drum is also his way of connecting to God. As a Muslim himself, he explains that music is a method of survival tactic for people and it can be another method for call for prayer.
As modern media becomes more developed and accessible to the world, the tradition of playing talking drums and griot culture are at a decline. T.V. has been regarded as the "uninvited guest" to communities since its influence has taken away the attention of the younger generation from their traditional and older cultures of their ancestors. As generations go by, less and less are interested in the culture of their past and are playing the talking drums. As the older generation begins to die off, their culture and history will be harder to preserve. Massamba Diop and his band heavily emphasized on how people should learn and understand their history and past, where they came from in order to understand themselves as person. They make an argument that human race all came from a common ancestor and share a common history, so it is important to understand our history in order for humans to live together and help one another, as it should be