SLENDER THREAD IN PALESTINE...
Panama City, Fla.
Neve Gordon's "An Antiwar Protest Grows in Israel" [Feb. 25] on the reservist protest is the most encouraging news to come out of Israel in months.
...AND IN AMERICA...
In "A New Current in Palestine" [Feb. 4] Edward Said asks, "Where are American liberals?" Said's certainly right that outside of "a tiny number of Jewish voices," far too few Americans of any stripe are protesting the Israeli occupation. Those few Jewish voices belong, by and large, to Tikkun magazine, a progressive Jewish critique I help edit.
Tikkun has published Said and other Palestinians, along with the remaining voices of the Israeli peace movement, like Uri Avnery, David Grossman and Tanya Reinhart. Some of our strongest pieces against the occupation are by our editor, Rabbi Michael Lerner, who argues that the occupation hurts the state of Israel by undermining core Jewish values. Because of this position we have received hate mail, and Lerner has received death threats. We are trying to mobilize an activist force to lobby US and Israeli leaders to end the occupation and to support Palestinians in nonviolent action. Please check out Tikkun on the newsstands or at www.tikkun.org.
JO ELLEN GREEN KAISER
...EVEN IN LA
Thank you for publishing Amy Wilentz's "In Cold Type" [Feb. 11]. Its reference to Al Jadid is perhaps the first mention that this Los Angeles quarterly, devoted to Arab culture and arts, has had in a mainstream US publication, although it has been published for several years now. Many of Al Jadid's contributors are Americans of Arab origin, and they represent a good segment of the Arab-American intellectuals and their community. If Al Jadid has been ignored, it is not because it has not been actively trying to communicate with other Americans but probably because mainstream American intellectuals are too concerned with their own "niche obsessions" (Wilentz's term for the concerns of some publications like Al Jadid). US intellectuals and others should pay more attention to minority publications if they want to have a better knowledge of those who share the country (and the world) with them. I commend Wilentz for commenting positively on Al Jadid (despite its "painful" review of her novel).
ISSA J. BOULLATA
PARADIGM SHIFT: DOES DUBYA GET IT?
Benjamin Barber remarks ["Beyond Jihad vs. McWorld," Jan. 21] that the September 11 attacks have produced a paradigm shift in government ideology: The old realpolitik has been replaced by a policy with rights and democracy as its goals. But though the tiger may have changed its stripes, we might well suspect it is still the same old tiger. The focus on democratic principles may make it easier to gain the support of fellow Western democracies, but these values can still be regarded as secondary to economic interests and the pursuit of empire as the dominant goals of US foreign policy. Such suspicions are strengthened by noticing the governments the United States is eager to take as allies in the struggle against terrorism: Pakistan and Uzbekistan, among others.
More persuasive is Barber's point that our newly recognized global interdependence offers the opportunity to work with international movements and the organizations representing them that have sprung up in the past half-century: the green and environmental movements, internationally oriented rights and labor movements, debt-reduction and literacy projects and many others. Arguably such grassroots activity has always been the most important source of social progress. The immense potential for progressive change inherent in these movements can give hope even in these politically regressive times.
I am not nearly as sanguine as Benjamin Barber about our government's ability or willingness to view the world through a new prism. When our leader declared "war" against the new world menace, I knew there would be a supreme effort to fit the new demons into the old cold war textbook. Barber suggests that "the myth of our independence can no longer be sustained." I do not believe the Administration understands that. In the same way that "realpolitik" protected our national interests against those of foreign nations, we will now protect our ideals and ideas against those that are foreign. The variety of foreign ideas that could fall under the rubric "evil" will allow for continuous conflict. Barber asks, "Do we think we can bomb into submission the millions who resent, fear and sometimes detest what they think America means?" Unfortunately, yes--we will force our ideology on the rest of the world with "for us or against us" absolutism. We will arm nations to insure that they can police dissent within their borders.
Barber's other main premise is that democracy and shared values will define friendship among nations in this new order. I suggest that it may be capitalism and globalization that will bring us together, but it will not be democracy--at least not in the short run. We will be hard pressed to promote democratic values abroad as we dismantle them at home. Both political parties appear to be moving away from expanding the franchise. Propaganda and secrecy assure an ill-informed electorate. Electoral reforms inspired by the 2000 election are not happening, and money still buys public policy. Interest in politics is shrinking--people have figured out that they have no real choice. And 2000 showed that the election can be rigged. Incumbency and special interest money will assure a favorable climate for free trade and unregulated capitalism. Our ethic will continue to be greed and consumerism. Words for the idea that we should sacrifice some of our bounty to help the poor of the world are not in our vocabulary. Ideas like cooperation, sharing, temperance, community, sustainability and reverence for the diversity of nature have no relevance in bottom-line, short-term thinking. As long as money equals redemption, our values will continue to clash with "primitive" cultures and with our own metaphysical yearnings for what we have lost. Interdependence may be realpolitik, but self-sufficiency and sustainability trump dependence and should be the defining goal of the world's communities.
J. RUSSELL TYLDESLEY
New York City
Both letters are pessimistic about the capacity of this Administration to absorb the lessons of the new realism. I am not exactly sanguine myself, but my object was not to persuade readers that George W. Bush had converted overnight to multilateralism--only to suggest that multilateralist interdependence is today a mandate of political realism. Whether or not prudent long-term realism can offset the seductions of "short-term thinking" remains to be seen. Realism does not describe what people do; it suggests what they should do when they heed the lessons of politics and history. What has changed for now is not US policy but the status of democracy--no longer a daydream of idealists but a prudent multilateralist instrument for securing the safety of Americans in a world in which, realistically speaking, independence is a myth and unilateralism a recipe for defeat.
UZBEKISTAN: JIHAD'S COUNTRY?
I take exception to Raffi Khatchadourian's portrayal of Namangan and the Fergana Valley as steeped in "radical Islamic fervor" ["Letter From Uzbekistan," Jan. 21]. I lived in Namangan for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer and in different areas of Uzbekistan for another three years. While the general population is taking on more religious beliefs than before their independence in 1991, I would not go so far as to describe them as Khatchadourian has done. Sure, there are the exceptions like the IMU's Juma Namangani, and of course there are human rights abuses by the government.
My experiences on the ground, however, were very positive. I worked closely with the local population. I came in contact with all social classes in Namangan, from "privileged" college students to collective farmers in the outlying villages of Qora-Tepa and Chinobod. Generally, I found the local citizens to be moderate in their religious views, social mores and political feelings.
New York City
I portrayed the Fergana Valley (a place The Economist describes as a "tinderbox") using firsthand experiences and interviews with local human-rights activists, journalists and religious leaders. A man I called Azizov offered evidence that "radical Islamic fervor has become inseparably interwoven with growing popular discontent," because the repressive regime of Islam Karimov is aggravating the very problem it is trying to stamp out by driving people to the only alternative to state terror--radical Islamic movements. Azizov, who has worked with the New York Times and the Washington Post and who would be in danger if I revealed his real name, is an Uzbek who has lived in Namangan for more than forty years and has interviewed founding members of the IMU.
Another source was Azizulla Ghazi, who works in Osh for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, which released a report last year containing many on-the-ground interviews. I sought out members of the banned Hizb-ut Tahrir radical Islamic movement, who told me its numbers are growing. I suggest reading journalist Ahmed Rashid, who has written about this subject for The New Yorker and in his book Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia. In the January 29 edition of Jane's Intelligence Review Tamara Makarenko observes that "developments over the past four months may actually result in the growth of political violence in the region."
As for my portrayal of Namangan, I believe it's fair to say that "poverty and unemployment are rampant" and that it is a place of "intense social conservatism and piety." These characterizations have been widely reported; neither suggests that everyone in Namangan is a burning jihadist.
Progressive Voices is creating a national directory of progressive, community-based organizations to better bring us together as a movement--a formidable though very fulfilling task. We have been able to identify more than 1,000 progressive community groups through various media and personal contacts, but if this project is to be successful, we must find a way to reach progressives in even the most rural locations, to reach those with the most modest technology. Nation readers, please send us the names, contact information and basic description of any groups that fit the criteria.
6469 Ral Mar
Rockford, IL 61109