It is now 17 years since the Good Friday Agreement brought what seemed to be a definitive end to the decades-long sectarian crisis in Northern Ireland. But, in a case that has repercussions for other peace processes such as Israel-Palestine, one of the architects of the agreement says there is still much work to be done before a line can be drawn beneath the conflict once and for all.
This article was originally published by the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs on 25 February, 2015.
2014, 97 minutes. Nominated for Oscar for best Foreign Language Film.
For an American audience used to war movies with explosions, good guys and bad guys, and finite conclusions, the Oscar-nominated, Mauritanian film Timbuktu is a departure. The violence is never gratuitous, most of the jihadists seem like normal (albeit dangerously misguided) people, and, at the end, the fates of the eponymous city and several main characters are left hazy. The people who would most likely choose to see Timbuktu are already numbed by the constant stream of horrific news out of Syria, Nigeria, Pakistan, etc., so this low-key approach is the perfect strategy. We know about the executions, suicide bombings, and coalition airstrikes. But what we don’t realize is, perhaps, the main takeaway from the film: This type of militant extremism, more than anything else, is soul-crushingly boring for the occupied populations.
Despite much pre-election euphoria among those hoping to bring down the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, a democratic political upheaval towards a new progressive era in Israel remains a receding horizon. And yet one political novelty stands out: the increasing visibility of its Palestinian citizens.
For decades, they had to cope with a life at the margins of both Palestine and Israel, were largely excluded from the ‘peace process’ and were ascribed an ‘identity crisis’ as a people hopelessly stuck in political limbo. For the first time in Israel’s history, this month they voted collectively as Arab-Palestinians for a Joint List, reaching 13 out of 122 seats. Under the widely-respected leadership of Ayman Odeh, this now comprises the third-largest faction in the parliament. With increasing visibility of their grievances amid rising international recognition, their cause stands on solid ground.
The Hizbullah Phenomenon: Politics and Communication. Lina Khatib, Dina Matar and Atef Alshaer. Oxford University Press. 2014.
In The Hizbullah Phenomenon: Politics and Communication, Lina Khatib, Dinar Matar and Atef Alshaer offer a comprehensive analysis of the group’s sophisticated political communication strategy since its inception in 1982. Although they offer no startling insights into the group’s socio-political aims and approaches within Lebanon or its relations with foreign powers, their contribution lies in their detailed analysis of how Hizbullah has continuously sought to legitimise and market itself to domestic and foreign audiences. This is a highly valuable contribution that sheds much needed light on a key causal dimension in the movement’s endurance.
Leaders lie “in the routine performance of their duties,” and “ethical and moral transgressions [occur] across all levels” of the organization. Leaders have also become “ethically numb,” using “justifications and rationalizations” to overcome any ethical doubts. This “tacit acceptance of dishonesty… [facilitates] hypocrisy” among leaders.
These quotations sound like they are ripped from the headlines about some major corporate scandal. But they’re not describing Enron before its collapse in 2001, or firms like Lehman Brothers and Countrywide before the 2008 financial crisis. Instead, they describe one of the country’s most respected institutions: the U.S. Army.