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Down with the ‘Bogeyman’: Why Protests and Marches Against Trump Are Missing the Target

 

Women's March

Participants to the Women’s March on Washington, 21 January 2017

 

Tommaso EMILIANI

 

Trump Inauguration Day on the 20th of January was marked by widespread protests around the world, with two millions of pacific demonstrators worldwide taking the streets to rally against the newly installed administration. Political protests reached their apogee with the so-called Women’s March on Washington, which gathered more than 470.000 women (and men) to denounce the President’s worrying agenda on civil rights – starting with the restriction of women’s control over their own bodies.  While protesting against a Weltanschauung so blatantly opposed to the values of gender and social equality is not only a good thing but also a true civic duty, the current mainstream framing of American politics appears quite peculiar.

Liberal media across the world unanimously hailed to the ‘resistance’ opposed by peaceful demonstrators against the advance of right-wing populism embodied by Trump. Media coverage significantly abstained from a firm condemnation of the riots that resulted in at least 217 arrests for the clashes between demonstrators and the police. As if violence were somehow justified by its ultimate target, namely undermining Trump’s legitimacy. In this regard, it is quite interesting to observe reactions of European media to the unrest created by this ‘Black Bloc’ – an expression that is European in its essence, having being invented in Germany in 1980 to label Berlin squatters involved in violent clashes with the police. While, for instance, European liberal outlets had no problems with evoking the Black Bloc threat in occasion of the clashes between the No Border movement and the Austrian police at Brennero, or for the demonstrations against the loi travail in Paris, riots in Washington received a rather different coverage. Burning bins and broken windows were regarded as the product of ‘America’s political division’, and violent perpetrators as ‘American demonstrators’ . Little reference was made to ‘guerrilla-like scenarios’ or ‘Russian infiltrators’ this time. European liberal media seemed to suggest that yes, violent protestors exaggerated, but: “hey, this is what you get when people have enough of dictators”. The ‘Liberal Bloc’, they seemed to say, brings more good than evil to the cause of the free world.

The huge impact of such a narrative appears in all its evidence when one compares audiences’ reaction to two recent viral videos featuring naïve individuals advocating violence in different contexts. In the first one, a Baltimore woman angrily slaps her son in order to remove him from the riots that ensued the death of the African-American Freddie Gray at the hands of the local police department. In the second, a Washington youngster brags about starting a small fire because: “I’m saying ‘screw our President’”. The Baltimore boy was immediately shamed on the internet and on television, while his mother became a celebrity and was praised as ‘mom of the year’. The Washington kid, on the other hand, raised to the status of public hero on social media and was called ‘a legend’ for his actions.

Unanimous condemnation of Trump by liberal media on the left and on the right mirrors the dismay of a Trans-Atlantic political elites that do not miss a chance to express their discomfort with the new President. This transversal alliance against the man considered to be the source of all problems reminds closely of the united front created in the early 2000s in Italy to counter Silvio Berlusconi’s political raise. In both occasions, liberals identified in the ‘anti-democratic’ practices of the leader the biggest threats to an open society. What they failed and keep failing to acknowledge was that acute social crisis brought about by liberal globalism, that disenfranchised wide sections of the middle class throwing them into poverty and moral humiliation.

The liberal world struggles to grasp the nature of the beast. In a desperate search for landmarks, it is waging war against the only enemy it can make sense of, that is, a slightly less liberal version of itself. Hence, the media reaction to Melania Trump’s expression during the Inauguration Ceremony, to the lack of taste of the presidential gift to Michelle Obama, and to the alleged good prospects for Barron Trump to evolve into a “homeschool shooter”.

All this also leaves the awkward impression that there would have been no Women’s March without Trump, nor protests or clashes, as if structural racial and gender inequality in the U.S. would have disappeared with the election of Hillary Clinton. No protests, for instance, surrounded Clinton’s campaign, although she voted for the 2006 Secure Fence Act Mr. Trump refers to when he speaks about building a wall at the border with Mexico.

The paradox is that an anti-Trump front composed by a mainly white, educated bourgeoisie takes the street to protest against that fraction of America’s (female and male) white, economically privileged population that Trump embodies, with both sides completely forgetting that many of Trump’s voters are to be found among those discriminated people that liberals claim to support. The Women’s March – with, on the one side, female CEOs subsiding employees’ attendance and, on the other side, Black Lives Matter activists recusing the initiative – accounts as a perfect example for the paradox. Very few representatives of the African-American and Latin communities, as well as the so-called ‘white trash’, could be found among the pussy hats that demonstrated for equality.

While liberals worldwide fight against what Donald Trump represents, they keep ignoring who he does represent. Which is, to a great extent, large sections of a deluded middle class that globalisation and thirty years of neo-liberal policies have pushed down to the redneck ranks. These people will hardly listen to those who preach social inclusion and offer an historicised and literate version of feminism. Rather, they found in Trump’s assertive campaign those promises of enduring resilience to globalisation they were denied by the Republican and Democratic establishment alike.

By demonising the Donald Trump parvenu and neglecting the structural issues affecting U.S. society, organisers of protests and marches that look up at the French strike model may be missing the target. Instead, they might look at Spain for inspiration. The Iberian country is one of the few in the West to have so far escaped from the rise of a strong right-wing populism. Among the other factors, analysts have identified a lack of fundamental conflict between natives and non-natives over welfare resources to account for the absence of a significant racist rhetoric in politics.

A fairer redistribution of resources among the population – this was the notable stone guest at the Washington protests.

 

Tommaso Emiliani is an IRD Academic Assistant at the College of Europe in Bruges and an alumnus of Falcone & Borsellino promotion at the College of Europe in Natolin.

The author wishes to thank the ‘Militant’ collective for the inspiration to write this article.

Much Ado about Labeling: EU’s guidelines on the products imported from Israeli settlements

 

Israeli minister Ofir Akunis said Europeans lost sight of "terrorism of extremist Islam" by focusing on boycotting Israeli goods.

Israeli minister Ofir Akunis said Europeans lost sight of “terrorism of extremist Islam” by focusing on boycotting Israeli goods.

Sante FIORELLINI 12/01/2017

 

In November 2015, the European Commission issued an interpretative notice on the “indication of origin of goods from the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967”. The document, formally related to customer protection, is drafted so as to sound non-political and unbiased; yet, it bears a remarkable diplomatic weight. It is in fact aimed at responding to Benjamin Netanyahu’s government policy of building Israeli settlements outside Israel’s recognized borders, an agenda widely regarded by the international community as being in stark contrast with international law and already condemned by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2234 as recently as December 2016. This intervention will cover the main points of the document and its consequences for the EU-Israel relations.

In spite of its ambitious political intentions, it is appropriate to start with highlighting the (limited) scope of this interpretative notice, which is, giving guidelines to the Member States on how to apply existing EU legislation on product labeling. In other words, the EU recommends avoiding the label “Made in Israel” for goods produced in the occupied territories should be avoided, in favor of expressions such as “Made in the West Bank (Israeli settlement)”. However, the responsibility to implement said indication rests solely on the member states. It is worth noting that United Kingdom, Belgium and Denmark had adopted similar rules even before the the issuing of the Commission guidelines.

Second, the document only concerns those goods produced in the settlements to be exported to the EU (mainly grapes and dates, wine, poultry, honey, olive oil, and cosmetics). According to the Israeli Ministry of Economy, their value amounts to a mere €45 millions, a drop in the ocean of the €30 billions total value of Israeli exports to the EU.

Third, the EU identified as occupied territories the Gaza Strip, the West Bank including East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. Interestingly, the latter, annexed from war-ridden Syria, were not mentioned by the above mentioned UNSC Resolution. Commentators close to Israel, such as Eugene Kontorovich, felt that the mention of the Golan Heights accounted for clear evidence of EU’s real intention, namely, to indiscriminately sanction the state of Israel.

Finally, and most importantly, labeling products from the settlements is not the same as declaring them illegal, as the EU is not imposing a ban on their import.

It is clear that the document has a mere symbolic value: it neither affects Israel’s economy, nor it changes the existing agreements between the two parties, or really affects the situation on the ground.

As predicted, Israeli firms were barely touched by the Commission policy: since it was implemented only Ahava, a multinational cosmetics company, decided to relocate out of the West Bank – and the correlation with the EU labeling policy is dubious at best, as it was already facing financial difficulties prior to the issuing of the Commission notice, and it ended up selling its shares to a Chinese investment group soon afterwards.

Still, Israel’s response was quite assertive, to the point of chilling down diplomatic contacts with the EU. Amongst other reasons, Netanyahu, acting as interim Minister of Foreign Affairs, lamented EU’s double standard vis-à-vis Israel compared to other conflicts. A questionable argument, as the EU, simply does not have “one standard” and decides its position on a case-by-case basis, taking into account both international law and political opportunity. For instance, it can be argued that, on the one side, it quietly acquiesced to Moroccan’s control over Western Sahara, and it is not involved in the Chinese-Tibetan issue, while, on the other side, it banned any import of goods from Crimea and Sevastopol carrying the label “Made in Russia”.

Nevertheless, Netanyahu’s decision to play hardball over the document paid off, as he won the diplomatic standoff. In fact, more than a year later, EU’s expectations crushed under the weight of pragmatism and political divisions. If anything, the document served an unintended purpose: highlighting and exacerbating EU’s internal rifts. The majority of the member states essentially ignored the guidelines, while Hungary, Czech Republic and Greece openly opposed them. With these premises, in February 2016, the EU and Israel resumed talks through a phone call between Netanyahu and Federica Mogherini. The High Representative stressed that the implementation of the guidelines depends exclusively on the member states: implicitly, the EU admitted that it doesn’t have the political power to propose further restrictive measures. Overall, if the objective was to put pressure on the settlement policy, it certainly failed.

At the time of writing, only one country implemented the guidelines: France, in November 2016.

The Israeli-Palestinian peace process goes into 2017 with no progresses between an increasingly assertive Israeli government and an increasingly weak Palestinian leadership, with the issue slowly fading out of the international agenda. The EU, for its part, after the labeling guidelines’ blunder, is in search of a new role: a first indication of the Union’s intentions will come from the Middle East Peace Conference, to be held in Paris on January 15.

 

Sante Fiorellini is an IRD student from the Keynes Promotion.

 

SOURCES:

Vince Chadwick, Maia De la Baume, “How one phrase divided the EU and Israel”, Politico, 04/01/16, available at: http://www.politico.eu/article/best-before-1967-how-the-eu-labeled-israels-occupied-territories-food-labels-european-commission/

Eugene Kontorovich, “The ‘true origins’ of the E.U.’s Israel labeling policy”, The Washington Post, 16/11/2015https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/11/16/the-true-origins-of-the-e-u-s-israel-labeling-policy/

Hugh Lovatt, “EU differentiation and the push for peace in Israel-Palestine”, European Council on Foreign Relations, 31/10/16, available at: http://www.ecfr.eu/publications/summary/eu_differentiation_and_the_push_for_peace_in_israel_palestine7163#a4

Steven Schefer, “Israel fumes over planned EU labeling of ‘settlement’ products”, Reuters, 10/11/15, available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-israel-eu-labelling-idUSKCN0SZ21120151110

A la source de la radicalisation: comprendre les causes, imaginer des solutions

Tommaso Emiliani, 1 September 2016

Post originally published on ForYouth.

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Students from the Chopin Promotion at the College of Europe taking part to the project “EUnited against Extremism”

Un concept qui échappe une définition univoque. L’Europe contemporaine vit quotidiennement l’échec de ses services de sécurité et d’intelligence vis-à-vis de l’élaboration d’une stratégie efficace de prévention des attentats. Une des raisons principales reste dans la difficulté de définir le processus de radicalisation des aspirants terroristes et d’identifier les conditions et les sujets aptes à faciliter la réussite de ce processus. Cela s’explique par le fait que la radicalisation ne se suffit pas à elle-même, mais existe selon un contexte déterminé par des facteurs sociaux, politiques et économiques.
Dans le cadre de l’Europe, le radicalisme actuel peut être mieux décrit comme un développement progressif de croyances extrêmes et d’idéologies qui remettent en question les valeurs et le régime politique au nom de l’islam politique. Si à cet aspect plutôt théorique s’ajoute une composante pratique – ce qu’on appelle « extrémisme » – le chemin vers l’acte criminel est marqué.

Push factors et pull factors. Dans la différence de cas particuliers, le trait commun à l’origine de la radicalisation semble être une prédisposition des individus aux sentiments de frustration par rapports à leur vie, à la société qui les entoure ou au système politique qui les incube. Les mouvements extrémistes sont capables d’intercepter ce mécontentement et d’offrir, selon le besoin, un « sens » et une « mission » aux jeunes désorientés; une réaction à l’ « injustice » vécue ou aperçue; un sentiment d’appartenance aux membres de communautés désormais atomisées.
L’impossibilité de dresser un profil unique de l’« extrémiste potentiel » et l’incapacité de cerner les motifs individuels au cœur de la quête radicale sont justement à la base de l’inefficacité de la réponse portée par les autorités européennes.

Des facteurs de risque différents pour des profils personnels variés. L’action de persuasion des mouvements extrémistes vise un public vaste et mélangé. Les jeunes à la recherche d’un sens existentiel trouve dans l’extrémisme violent cette dimension utopique – plutôt eschatologique que religieuse – qui manque à leur vie. C’est le « grande récit » dont parle O. Roy, qui offre une lecture simplifiée et manichéenne de la réalité. Ainsi s’explique le changement soudain opéré par la radicalisation sur des sujets occidentalisés et peu croyants auparavant, qui se transforment en prédicateurs de l’Apocalypse en très peu de temps.
Sur un autre front, plusieurs jeunes cultivés, issus de familles relativement aisées et bourgeoises, sont motivés par le désir de redresser les « injustices » de la société contemporaine. Que ce soit l’oppression de l’héritage colonial en Afrique et Moyen-Orient, l’« impérialisme » américain en Afghanistan et en Irak ou la situation de la Palestine actuelle, ces injustices provoquent un élan de révolte radicale que seul les mouvements extrémistes semblent comprendre et apaiser.
Enfin, un autre segment social constituant le squelette des groupes terroristes est représenté par des individus marginalisés à l’intérieur de leur communautés et qui cherchent un point de repère dans la « camaraderie héroïque » typique des bandes vouées à l’(auto)destruction. Ces jeunes, qui agissent souvent sans l’appui ou la connaissance de leurs familles et groupes d’amis, sont très loin de ce que l’approche culturaliste de certains média définit comme « exemples de la population musulmane radicalisée ». Bien au contraire, il s’agit de sujets qui – n’étant pas intégrés dans le réseau des mosquées et dans les pratiques sociales communautaires – choisissent de s’échapper de la société pour essayer de la détruire et prendre ainsi leur revanche.

Raffiner l’étude de la radicalisation: fondamentalisme ≠ djihadisme. Toute stratégie de prévention de menaces terroristes de la part des autorités publiques doit tenir compte de la différence existante entre le salafisme doctrinal et l’action politique terroriste de soi-disant djihadistes.
Le fondamentalisme enseigné par certains imams érudits, qui prévoit une approche littéraliste à la lecture du Qu’ran et une stricte observance des mœurs et rituels traditionnels, exprime sans doute une vision anti-moderne et ultraconservatrice de la société. Cependant, très rarement ce courant religieux trouve une débouchée politique dans l’action radicale violente. En effet, la pratique de l’exposition à la mort, les attaques médiatisées et les techniques employées par les extrémistes sont eux même des éléments trop modernistes pour le fondamentalisme. En outre, le salafisme requiert une connaissance et une maîtrise du texte sacré qui requiert des années d’étude, et qui s’adapte mal aux profils des jeunes occidentales radicalisés décrits plus haut.
Le djihadisme, par contre, travaille sur le plan de l’action. Charmés par la dimension totalisante de l’aventure radicale, les jeunes « moudjahidins » ne passent pas par l’étude approfondie du Qu’ran – souvent ils parlent très peu d’arabe – et se dédient plutôt à la « lutte ». C’est le cas de tant de jeunes combattant parmi les troupes de DAESH en ce moment : ils font la guerre à leurs « ennemis », s’occupant très peu des questions religieuses, et se mêlant encore moins au contexte de la société civile locale. Si le fondamentalisme procède par « endoctrinement », le djihadisme travaille par « embrigadement ».
Cependant, il serait naïf de ne pas reconnaître un lien entre le deux phénomènes. En effet, lorsque les jeunes radicalisés se vouent au djihadisme, un certain degré de fondamentalisme apparaît – et cela complique ultérieurement la situation et rend le travail de prévention et réaction encore plus difficile.

Des recommandations stratégiques. Le ton martial récemment assumé par le président français Hollande et nombre de ses collègues reflet le choix européen en faveur d’une politique contre-terroriste strictement sécuritaire. Le risque reste en la
mise en scène d’une guerre des identités, dans laquelle l’islam est censé être l’ennemi antisocial. C’est-à-dire que l’on provoque ce que DAESH attend: que l’Europe s’en prenne à l’islam afin de sortir le djihadisme du cercle restreint des individus actuellement concernés.
L’incapacité de distinguer entre fondamentalisme et djihadisme mène à l’insistance sur la nécessité de surveiller (ou même fermer) les mosquées. Mais comme l’on voit souvent, les groupes extrémistes recrutent en dehors des mosquées et sur internet. S’en prendre aux mosquées, c’est aussi méconnaître les dynamiques locales de surveillance qui existent entre les celles-ci et les autorités publiques locales.
D’autre côté, attribuer une importance excessive à l’ « asocialité » et au « nihilisme » des djihadistes, comme le fait Roy, implique une déresponsabilisation des gouvernements européens par rapport à l’échec de leurs stratégies d’intégration sociale qui ne joue pas en faveur d’une approche préventive et efficace à la menace terroriste.

Certaines actions doivent être mise en place au plus vite possible. Premièrement, dans nos sociétés, l’islam n’est pas suffisamment encore un objet de savoir. A présent, il est enseigné dans les manuels scolaires comme un objet de croyance, notamment à travers des mythes fondateurs, mais il n’est pas expliqué ni aux croyants ni aux non croyants. Cela n’alimente pas simplement le fondamentalisme islamiste, mais également les préjudices occidentaux qui renforce l’attrait de l’offre djihadiste. Deuxièmement, la réponse sécuritaire doit s’accompagner de moyens et d’actions sur le long terme dans des secteurs clefs comme l’éducation civique, l’emploi, l’enseignement et la cohésion sociale. Le chemin pour faire face à la radicalisation est long et difficile, et l’Europe a sans doute un rôle à jouer.

Bibliographie
Burgat, François, Réponse à Olivier Roy : les non-dits de « l’islamisation de la radicalité », Nouvel Observateur, http://rue89.nouvelobs.com/2015/12/01/reponse- a-olivier-roy-les-non-dits-lislamisation-radicalite-262320
Deroubaix, Christophe, Raphaël Liogier : « Le risque est de provoquer ce que l’on veut éviter », L’Humanité, http://www.humanite.fr/raphael-liogier-le-risque-est-de- provoquer-ce-que-lon-veut-eviter-590011
Lamlili Nadia, Rachid Benzine: « Pour faire face à Daesh, il est temps de nettoyer l’imaginaire islamique »,  Jeune Afrique, http://www.jeuneafrique.com/279520/societe/rachid-benzine-faire-face-a-daesh-temps- de-nettoyer-limaginaire-islamique/
Puwels, Lieven et Fabienne Brion (coord.), « Comprendre et expliquer le rôle des nouveaux médias sociaux dans la formation de l’extrémisme violent », Etudé commissioné par la Police Belege Fédéral (BESPO), 2013
Roy, Olivier: « Le djihadisme est une révolte générationnelle et nihiliste », Le Monde, http://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2015/11/24/le-djihadisme-une- revolte-generationnelle-et-nihiliste_4815992_3232.html#RcSp4GwHwRUJKmOL.99
Torrekens, Corinne, Comprendre le basculement dans la violence jihadiste, La Revue Nouvelle, http://www.revuenouvelle.be/Comprendre-le-basculement-dans-la- violence-2835

Tommaso Emiliani is Academic Assistant in the Department of EU International Relations and Diplomacy Studies at the College of Europe, Bruges. He is an alumnus from the Falcone&Borsellino Promotion, Natolin.