The political landscape of the Arab world has been fundamentally transformed by the events of 2011. After decades of sterile politics and engrained authoritarianism Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria have embarked on a courageous journey aimed at fostering inclusive societies based on the rule of law and accountable governance. While we are only at the beginnings of what will be a long and arduous process, it is hard to believe that things will ever go back to the way they were. To imagine a return to the political apathy that characterised many countries in the region before December 2010 would be to ignore the groundbreaking social implications of the "Arab Spring" and the spectacular return of people power to the region.
On 31 October, a clear majority of UNESCO members voted to welcome Palestine as a full member in the UN body. As a result both UNESCO and the Palestinians are punished hard by the US and Israel. Why this anger? And what next for Palestine’s UN membership bid? The vote was held in Paris where the headquarters of the UNESCO is located. Only 173 out of the 194 member states of the UN body came to the vote. Of these, a clear majority of 107 voted in favor – amongst them France, Spain and heavyweights Brazil, Russia, China, and India – 14 voted against (Israel, US and Germany) and 52 abstained. This was a clear victory for the Palestinian Authority (PA) which was thus granted the majority needed to become a full member of the UN organization.
On 20 September Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority (PA), will personally deliver a request to the UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon for the “State of Palestine” to be granted full membership status at the UN. The resolution is expected to be passed on to the UN Security Council, whose rotating presidency for September will be held by Lebanon. In the likely event of a US veto, the PA has stated its intention to refer the question of Palestinian independence to the UN General Assembly, where another Palestinian ally, Qatar, will chair the presidency of the Assembly.
The Algerian government is walking a tightrope. With Libya engulfed in conflict, Tunisia and Egypt in the midst of uncertain political transitions and the monarchy in Morocco seemingly intent on relinquishing some its executive powers, Algeria is the only North African country not been directly affected by the Arab Spring. Popular protests did erupt in Algeria at precisely the same time as they were enveloping neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt, but the demands of the protesters never coalesced into a unified movement calling for the demise of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in power since 1999.
Described by many as the “dark heart” of the Israeli occupation, the city of Hebron represents one of the most tragic realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Once a bustling trade hub on the road from Cairo to Damascus, Hebron - the largest Palestinian city in the southern West Bank and a major pilgrimage site for all of the monotheistic faiths - encapsulates the worst traits associated with military occupation.
Two men, one dream: justice, peace and coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians. Both dedicated their lives to this dream and both ultimately had theirs taken in its pursuit. April has been a tragic month for all who fight for reason, dialogue and humanity in the face of injustice and oppression. On 4 April, Juliano Mer-Khamis - an Arab-Israeli political activist, director and actor - was brutally gunned down in Jenin. Ten days later, Vittorio Arrigoni - an Italian journalist and peace activist affiliated with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) - was abducted and later executed by a fringe group of Salafi militants in Gaza City.
Almost four years have passed since J Street’s founding as a non-profit corporation and a registered lobbying organisation in Washington, DC. Calling itself “the political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans”, J Street has positioned itself as an alternative to the more traditional, right-leaning, Jewish lobbying organisations and is today slowly emerging as a new force within America’s Jewish community.