The European Commission declared “2008: European Year of Intercultural Dialogue”. What to think about is the fact that the project, born to make the distinctive cultures of the 27 EU Member States known each others, showed very soon its bounds and the need to be partially redirected, in consideration of the complex reality to face. In primis the difficulty to clearly specify the meaning of “national culture” in terms of culture typical to the population living from long time on the territory of each Member State, since, as a matter of fact, those national cultures result today “contaminated” by the others, those of immigrants. Likewise, European Commission declared “2009: the Year of Creativity and Innovation”. The transition from the EYID to the EYCI is very interesting to analyse because culture and creativity play a focal role in promoting both European identity and European citizenship.
Dialogue of Cultures
“The Palestinians support Hamas, but Hamas does not pursue the interests of the Palestinians but rather those of Iran.” Forty-one year old Etgar Keret is one of Israel’s most caustic and anti-conformist writers. An author, a designer and a film director, together with his wife he made the film entitled “Meduzot”, the winner of the Camera d’Or at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival and more recently the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Award. He is now working on his great passion, a collection of short stories and he says, “with the exception of one in which I will address the Middle East issue, because writing and drawing are my way of protesting against the atrocities that poison my country.”
During October the seven financial markets in the Gulf lost a total of over 160 billion dollars in one week. Panic increased due to the spectacular fall in the price of oil. This new situation decreed the end of the financial improvements resulting from the rise in the price of oil over an uninterrupted seven-year period. Generally speaking, the Arab economies are not very competitive, not very productive, and continue to depend on imports. Attempts to form an economy that is not based on oil, such as Saudi Arabia has tried to achieve, and to a lesser extent also Algeria, are far from achieving their objectives. Most Arab countries distribute income from oil rather than investing it in projects for creating wealth.
“One of the evident relapses of the crisis on the G.C.C Countries ( Gulf Cooperation Council ), namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, is that the price of oil will constantly drop as the demand decreases with the slowing down of the ‘industrial wheel’. Furthermore, the coming depression and its impending harsh times will definitely cause a rise in unemployment.” Prof. Ibrahim Oweiss is an Egyptian-born American economist and international economic advisor; he teaches as Associate Emeritus Professor of Economics at Georgetown University and lives between Washington DC and Doha, Qatar. Leading expert in G.C.C economies, he coined the definition of "petrodollar" in 1973, in order to describe the US dollar-denominated incomes of many oil-rich countries, particularly the Opec States of the Persian Gulf region.
The war between Israel and Hamas has divided Jewish and Muslim communities in France. Tension is already running high, considering that the CRIF (Conseil représentatif des institutions juives de France – Representative Council for Jewish Institutions in France) does not accept the UOIF’s position (Union des organisations islamiques de France – Union of Islamic Organisations in France), which describes the Israeli offensive as “an unprecedented genocide of the Palestinian people.” Minister for the Interior Michèle Alliot Marie has summoned the leaders of the two communities for an emergency meeting. The main French newspapers are critical of Israel.
How are Arab Israelis going to vote in the elections of the 10th of February? As the New York Times informed in a recent report in the villages of the North, where the presence of Arab Israelis becomes more evident, these citizens are constantly pending between processes of "Palestinization" and "Israelization". Arab Israelis are part of that 4% that opposed the war in Gaza. Their protests, when not repressed by the police, were damped by their own political leaders.
Israeli Arabs represent 20% of Israel’s population, and according to the National Resilience Survey 2008 carried out by Tel Aviv University, 43% describe themselves as “Arab-Palestinians”, while only 15% consider themselves “Arab-Israelis.” Today, after the suffering experienced during the Gaza war, they are tempted to boycott the elections in spite of the presence of the Arab Movement for Change. They have increasingly become citizens experiencing an identity crisis, accused of ambiguity and betrayal at times by Israel and at times by the Arab people.
Though during centuries thousands of people have been killed in the name of religion, it can not be denied that some religious people like Lord Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. have played a positive role in removing sense of hatred and violence in human culture. Gandhi’s mission was not to politicize religion, but to spiritualize politics, meaning to bind up everyday action in the public sphere with morality. While Gandhi’s familiarity with Islam and his admiration for the prophet Muhammad are no secret, one has to mention also the direct influence of Muslim nonviolent activists like Ghaffar Khan and Maulana Azad on him. The complaint of many in the West since 9/11, that “there is no Muslim Gandhi”, comes from their ignorance of important personalities like Maulana Azad and Abdul Ghaffar Khan.
I hope that Obama appreciates the symbolic and substantive rewards of being sworn in on January 20 as "Barack Hussein Obama." The very prospect of our Hussein's inauguration is raising millions of young Muslims' democratic hopes even higher than America has raised their material and sensual ones. Barack is Arabic for the Hebrew Baruch, meaning "blessed" in both tongues. America's Christian, Jewish, and Muslim prospects are brighter with Barack Hussein Obama than with any of the George Bushes we've known, not to mention with Karl Christian Rove. His campaign did flash intimations of the awful sublimity of the Hebrew God's thundering in history; of the Christian pilgrim's exalted, arduous journey; and of the Muslim ummah's bonds of communal faith.
“The air strikes on Gaza are not the solution. More Palestinian deaths are what Hamas needs to feed its radicalism.” The Czech Republic Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel von Schwarzenberg found himself going back and forth between Bruxelles, Prague, El Cairo and Jerusalem, now that his country is in charge with the Presidency of the European Union. In the last days he has directed all his diplomatic efforts towards the ceasefire. The Italian press tended to present his figure as something new, as he was a newcomer on the international spot. This is far to be true since he has been one of the actors of the Velvet Revolution in Prague during 1989 with Vaclav Havel. At the time he covered the rule of cabinet chair, counsellor and spokesperson. Schwarzenberg was also known to be one of the main figures of the middle-European cultural scene around Vienna, Prague, Budapest and Warsaw.
The conflict in the Gaza Strip came as an unpleasant surprise for the Turkish government. For months Turkey had been trying to gain credit as a great mediator in the Middle Eastern and Caucasus area, and progress was being made on both these fronts. Pressure from Turkish public opinion, and daily protests in support of their “Palestinian brothers,” has forced moderate Islamic premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan to criticise his country’s historical alliance with Israel. He described the bombardments as a “crime against humanity,” while one of his minsters compared Hamas to the PKK. In spite of its embarrassment, Turkey has, however, confirmed its crucial role in negotiations.
Revolted though I am by young American-Jewish fanatics who move to Judea and Samaria because they think God promised it to them, I am no less weary of watching young American writers displace a certain cold rage at suburban America, however well-justified that rage may be, onto Israel as an implantation of that way of life into the Muslim ummah but who never get around to imagining how the human rights and personal freedoms they champion would fare under Hamas or Hezbollah even if every Jew returned to the warm and welcoming bosom of Europe.