Saturday, March 26, 2016

Weekly Report 4: The Arab-Israeli Conflict

The Arab-Israeli conflict is one of the many major conflicts that face the modern Middle East. The birth of the Conflict traces back to the early 19th century and the creation of Zionism. The Jewish Virtual Library defines Zionism as “the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel (Levine).” The secular movement originated due to anti-Semitism and the persecution of Jews throughout Europe. Zionism brought solidarity to Jews because it created the goal of restoring Israel as their common homeland. That ideology, combined with a tiredness of being Europe’s scapegoat, eventually led to the migration of tens of thousands of Jews to Palestine. In November of 1947, the United Nations passed Resolution 181 which disproportionately divided the land, angering the Palestinian people. Numerous wars and revolts have taken place since then. It is important to understand that the issues Arabs have with Jews and the state of Israel have nothing to do with religion; rather, they have to do with land. Hebron, a city within the West Bank, has been at the center of much of the conflict in more recent times. This week, an Israeli soldier was stabbed by two Palestinians. Both of the terrorists were killed at the scene. One of the Palestinians was originally only wounded and was lying face down on the ground until an Israeli soldier executed him by shooting him in the head from point blank range. Both the Jerusalem Post (Israeli) and the Ma’an News Agency (Palestinian) wrote articles about the occurrence.
The Jerusalem Post published two very short articles about the event. In the first article, it simply gave a brief summary of what happened. At a checkpoint in Hebron, it said that two Palestinian terrorists wounded an IDF soldier. Following the attack, other soldiers at the scene shot and killed the two terrorists. The wounded soldier is in light-to-moderate condition from the stab wounds in the shoulder and hand. However, shortly after, a video was released showing the second Palestinian man being shot in the head while being face down following the attack. The Jerusalem Post interviewed the soldier who killed the man. The soldier does not regret his actions, believing that he did the right thing and assured that nothing else would happen. He also told the interviewer that the Palestinian man was wearing a coat and that he feared that the man would blow himself up. The soldier was placed into custody following the incident, and will remain there until the conclusion of the investigation.
The Ma’an News Agency released a lengthier article. It provided the same background information, even recognizing the fact that the Palestinians attacked the Israeli soldier. However, it goes into more detail about the execution. The wounded man was left lying on the ground, surrounded by armed soldiers. One of them walked up to him and shot him in the head at close range. The video shows that none of the soldiers reacted to the fatal shot. An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed that an investigation will be opened, which is very encouraging to Palestinians. Amnesty International wants the incident to be prosecuted as a potential war crime because a wounded/incapacitated man was shot and killed unjustly. Israel has taken a lot of criticism for what many have termed a “shoot-to-kill” policy adopted against Palestinians (Mulder). This was not the first killing of that sort. It is encouraging to Palestinians that the soldier has been placed under investigation. Violence on both ends is simply unacceptable in order for this conflict to end. 

Amir, Noam, Maariv Hashavua, and Tovah Lazaroff. “Soldier Who Shot Subdued Terrorist: ‘I Did the Right Thing, at the Right Time.’” The Jerusalem Post. Jpost Inc., 24 Mar. 2016. Web. 26 Mar. 2016.
Lazaroff, Tovah. “Two Palestinian Terrorists Stab, Wound IDF Soldier in Attack near Hebron.” The Jerusalem Post. Jpost Inc., 25 Mar. 2016. Web. 26 Mar. 2016.
Levine, Jason. “Zionism:  A Definition of Zionism.” Jewish Virtual Library.

Mulder, Emily. “Israel Opens Probe after Soldier Shoots Wounded Palestinian in Head.” Maan News Agency. 25 Mar. 2016. Web. 27 Mar. 2016.


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Reflection 4: ISIS

“ISIS is a virulent, nasty organization that has gained a foothold in ungoverned spaces effectively in Syria and parts of western Iraq. We have to take it seriously. They've shown in Paris what they can do in an organized fashion, and in San Bernardino what we've seen is their ability to proselytize for their perverted brand of Islam and spur small-scale terrorist attacks.”                                                                                              - U.S. President Barack Obama

ISIS first began in Iraq following the U.S. invasion of 2003. ISIS, a descendant of Al-Qaeda, is made up of members from different countries throughout the world. ISIS continues to advance, bringing violence to the center of worldwide attention on a daily basis, something no other terrorist organization has ever been able to achieve. The organization drives on political instability, marginalization, and intellectual decline. ISIS thrives in areas of political instability, because in situations of political turmoil there is usually a group that is being marginalized. In the case of ISIS, the marginalized group is the Sunnis. Sunnis are becoming radicalized due to the injustice they face in countries such as Iran and Syria. Iran, the leader of the Shia world, contributes greatly to the division between Sunnis and Shias through the discrimination of Sunnis socially and governmentally. The Sunni majority feels like a minority, and after suffering many setbacks, are searching for any inspiration and voice, even one of havoc. As we all know, ISIS thrives off of this because they are equipped with the resources to create means of violence. The solution to this issue would be to engage with all groups, because differing opinions create a stronger democracy. Also, if all groups are involved and feel that their voice is being heard within their governments, it will be much tougher for radical groups to gain support. It will be impossible to defeat ISIS if the Sunni problems in the Middle East are not addressed.
Intellectual decline has also played a major role in contributing to the situation of the modern Middle East. There is an intellectual decline in the Arab World due to the idea that critical thinking equates to trouble, and that an educated populous will revolt. Therefore, education is weak and only supports the viewpoints held by those in power. An example of this is occurring right now in Israel. A state-funded, independent education system has been established by the ultra-Orthodox Shas party. The Shas schools have obtained greater resources than state schools, encouraging parents to send their children there even if they are not ultra-Orthodox. The percentage of students enrolled in these schools has risen from seven percent to roughly thirty percent over the past twenty years (Levy, 2011). This has a major effect on Israeli society, as the schools teach a very narrow, religious-based curriculum, which does not prepare students to participate in the modern economy nor does it integrate the students with the Muslim and Haredi population, who make up a majority of the population in Israel. Therefore, the students who graduate from these schools will not understand how to interact with these different types of people. This paradox can be applied to the Arab World as a whole: when education fails to deliver in terms of broadness, baseness, and the inclusion of all groups, the society not only fails to combat radical groups, but also fails to understand one another. That failure is at the fault of systems of education, and greatly contributes to the rise of ISIS.
In regards to the ideology of ISIS, its goal is to create a firm state in the areas where they have already gained control, like Northeast Syria and portions of Iraq. Both of these areas were neglected by their regimes, allowing ISIS to come in and take control. ISIS is not interested in taking over the world, a myth many Westerners believe in today. ISIS claims to speak on behalf of the marginalized Sunnis, despite the fact that most Sunnis are against ISIS and their actions. ISIS also has little to offer governmentally and structurally, supporting an anarchical system of government.

There are numerous political actors who play distinct roles in the conflict with ISIS. Iran is pumping money and resources into Syrian President Assad and his regime in an effort to defeat ISIS. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, is attempting to contain Iran through any means necessary. The Gulf Countries, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain, have recklessly spent their oil money in an attempt to combat ISIS. However, some of this money has ended up in the hands of ISIS, allowing them to obtain resources and weapons. Russia is also supporting Assad and battling ISIS with ground forces and bombings. The United States is also bombing ISIS, but not doing much else. The United States needs to do more, and acknowledge that it played a role in the development of ISIS by invading Iraq in 2003.
Dr. Boukhars discussed the profiles and characteristics that many of terrorists of ISIS exemplify in their previous lives. First of all, most members of ISIS have a criminal background, usually in drugs. They live an immature lifestyle, spending lots of times in clubs, chasing women, and doing drugs. Suddenly something changes; those who seem to be on the wrong path rapidly convert to Islam. They become obsessed with their faith. A few months later, we see these people on the news following an attack they carried out. Their family is always stunned, and we hear the same story over and over again. No one sees it coming; no mother would expect her son to become a member of ISIS.
Hence, Dr. Boukhar’s lecture was very interesting. It is important to understand ISIS and its roots, along with the types of people they are recruiting, in order to defeat them.

Levy, Daniel. "Same Netanyahu, Different Israel." Foreign Affairs. 24 May 2011. Web. 24 Mar. 2016.

"Video And Transcript: NPR's Interview With President Obama." NPR. NPR, 21 Dec. 2015. Web. 24 Mar. 2016.


Thursday, March 3, 2016

Reflection 3: Concert and Lecture with Massamba Diop

“Music is an elegant survival tactic; no civilization has ever survived without music.” - Tony Vacca

Attending the concert and lecture led by Massamba Diop was one of the most engaging experiences I have partaken in during my time at McDaniel College. Massamba Diop, Abdou Sarr, and Tony Vacca are the most unique entertainers I have ever seen. It was impossible to not smile and dance during their performance. It was truly remarkable.

Massamba Diop is considered by many to be the best tama-player in the entire world. The Senegal, West Africa native has played in venues all over the world including the 2012 London Olympics and the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremonies. The tama, or “talking drum,” is a small, hourglass-shaped drum that mimics the sound of a voice when struck. In fact, the drummers consider the music created by the tama to be their voice, using it as a form of communication throughout villages in Senegal.

Abdou Sarr, another member of the group, is a dancer from Senegal, West Africa. Taught by his mother, he has been dancing for as long as he can remember. Through dance, he allows his body to tell beautiful stories. Tony Vacca, a New Jersey native, is a percussionist and proud child of the 1960s. His music is an expression of the energies he embraces from diverse areas of the world.

During the in-class lecture with the trio, we discussed aspects of African culture and the role of Islam in their daily lives. All three mentioned that Griots, storytellers who understand the past or the “dictionaries” of Africa, are being lost due to the advancements of modern media. People would much rather use Google or Wikipedia to find the answers they are searching for rather than ask an elder Griot about their storied history. In regards to Islam, Massamba Diop, a practicing Muslim, had the major takeaway. He started with the fact that Prophet Muhammad was greeted by singers and drummers when he arrived to Medina. Moreover, he mentioned that being a Muslim is not about the appearance of your clothing; rather, it is about what is in your heart and the daily actions you take. In short, if you are a Muslim in your heart, than you are a true Muslim.

Hence, I thoroughly enjoyed the concert and lecture led by Massamba Diop. His riveting music, accompanied by his distinct cultural knowledge, made for an incredible experience. I hope that they are able to come back to McDaniel College in the years to come.