Rage And Diplomacy: Has Israel Lost Its Last Allies In The Muslim World?

Op-Ed: This year’s Arab Spring may soon give way to a winter of discontent. Revolutions in Egypt, Libya and beyond have shifted the region’s balance of power. Stability will depend on how Turkey, Egypt and Israel handle simmering hostility suddenly brough

A May protest in front of the Israeli Embassy in Giza, Al Jizah, Egypt
A May protest in front of the Israeli Embassy in Giza, Al Jizah, Egypt
Christiane Schlötzer

In Cairo, thousands of Egyptians stormed the Israeli embassy. The ambassador had to be flown to safety in a military aircraft. In Ankara, too, Israel's representative was driven out – by the government of Turkey, the host country. The Arab Spring has segued into an incandescent Arab Summer now threatened by a cold snap. New Arabia has slammed up against the old Middle East conflict -- and the epoch-changing times in the Arab world could find themselves getting trapped in the well-worn trenches of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It was to be expected that emotions in Egypt and other Arab Spring countries would roil as soon as there were no more autocrats and club-wielding police to hold such displays in check. For decades, differentiated debate about the Middle East conflict was not possible in these countries due to lack of freedom of the press, but also because of anti-Israeli Islamist propaganda. Peace talk rhetoric never reached Egypt. A cold peace ordained from the top down prevailed with Israel, which has clung to it even after it was clear Mubarak had lost power.

The assault earlier this month on Israel's embassy in Cairo and the Eilat attack that killed eight Israeli soldiers in August confirm the fears of Benjamin Netanyahu's government that Israel could be the loser in the new Middle East. And the situation is not helped by the fact that the intensity of the latest demonstrations in Cairo is rooted in several different causes including frustration at the stalled revolution and unkept promises of democracy and economic upturn.

Erdogan's time

This is fertile ground for radical agitators. In the days of the anti-Mubarak uprising, anti-Israeli rhetoric played no role; protesters knew what they wanted – the fall of the dictator. Now Mubarak, strapped to his hospital bed, is being tried, but Egyptians are still waiting for the payback for their efforts to overthrow him.

Into this vacuum marches a self-described adviser who used to lay stock in coming across as a model of democratic virtue – the Turkish premier. Only now, Recep Tayyip Erdogan plays hothead in the hopes of getting approval from the Arab side. War ships from his country will patrol the eastern Mediterranean more often, and aid convoys headed for Gaza will be protected. And now his trip to Cairo, where he's hoping to win popular approval. Ankara has made assurances that NATO member Turkey is not forging any new flotilla plans against Israel's Gaza blockade. But the relationship between Turkey and Israel has been so damaged that simple appeasements don't count for much.

Responsibility, however, also lies heavily with the government in Jerusalem. To this day it is refusing to apologize for the death of nine Turks killed by the Israeli navy in May 2010 on the Gaza aid ship Mavi Marmara. A bit of the responsibility lay with both sides, but hardliners have prevailed in Israel and no admission to that effect has been made. A fatal error, because right now – post-Mubarak -- Israel needs every friend it can get in the region.

The cold war with Jerusalem is a disaster for Turkey, too. Nothing remains of Ankara's shining foreign policy role. And yet reasonable diplomats and credible negotiators are urgently needed. In a few days' time, the Palestinians will carry their wish to have their own country to the UN table. They can expect a "no" vote from the United States -- President Barack Obama, on whom the Palestinians formerly had pinned high hopes, is no longer supporting them. The Europeans are struggling to keep a united front so that discord doesn't destroy what little remains of their joint foreign policy.

In this charged atmosphere the worst thing would be for the people of Gaza and Ramallah to be frustrated again. Anger could also grow in Egypt and elsewhere in the region if the Palestinians are refused what the Arab revolutionaries are fighting for in their own countries: autonomy, freedom, dignity.

A blind veto on the part of Israel or the United States will not bring the goal any nearer, and the Palestinians will have just as little success if they try to use pressure at the United Nations. Only real peace negotiations bring real peace. If Turkey and Egypt want to continue to play a credible role in this epic conflict then they too have to play by the rules. The first step should be to ask Israel's ambassadors to return.

Read the original article in German

Photo - Gigi Ibrahim

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The Food Truck, A Sign That The White And Wealthy Are Moving In

In San Diego, California, a researcher tracked how in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked dining options, when interesting eateries arrive the gentrification of white, affluent and college-educated people has begun.

Balboa Park Spring Fling Food Truck festival

San Diego Food Trucks via Facebook
Pascale Joassart-Marcelli

SAN DIEGO — Everybody, it seems, welcomes the arrival of new restaurants, cafés, food trucks and farmers markets.

What could be the downside of fresh veggies, homemade empanadas and a pop-up restaurant specializing in banh mis?

But when they appear in unexpected places – think inner-city areas populated by immigrants – they're often the first salvo in a broader effort to rebrand and remake the community. As a result, these neighborhoods can quickly become unaffordable and unrecognizable to longtime residents.

An appetite for gentrification

I live in San Diego, where I teach courses on urban and food geographies and conduct research on the relationship between food and ethnicity in urban contexts.

In recent years, I started to notice a pattern playing out in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked food options. More ethnic restaurants, street vendors, community gardens and farmers markets were cropping up. These, in turn, spurred growing numbers of white, affluent and college-educated people to venture into areas they had long avoided.

This observation inspired me to write a book, titled The $16 Taco, about how food – including what's seen as "ethnic," "authentic" or "alternative" – often serves as a spearhead for gentrification.

Take City Heights, a large multi-ethnic San Diego neighborhood where successive waves of refugees from places as far away as Vietnam and Somalia have resettled. In 2016, a dusty vacant lot on the busiest boulevard was converted into an outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44. There, food vendors gather in semi-permanent stalls to sell pupusas, lechon (roasted pig), single-sourced cold-brewed coffee, cupcakes and tamarind raspado (crushed ice) to neighborhood residents, along with tourists and visitors from other parts of the city.

Informal street vendors are casualties.

A public-private partnership called the City Heights Community Development Corporation, together with several nonprofits, launched the initiative to increase "access to healthy and culturally appropriate food" and serve as "a business incubator for local micro-entrepreneurs," including immigrants and refugees who live in the neighborhood.

On paper, this all sounds great.

But just a few blocks outside the gates, informal street vendors – who have long sold goods such as fruit, tamales and ice cream to residents who can't easily access supermarkets – now face heightened harassment. They've become causalities in a citywide crackdown on sidewalk vending spurred by complaints from business owners and residents in more affluent areas.

This isn't just happening in San Diego. The same tensions have been playing out in rapidly gentrifying areas like Los Angeles' Boyle Heights neighborhood, Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, New York's Queens borough and East Austin, Texas.

In all of these places, because "ethnic," "authentic" and "exotic" foods are seen as cultural assets, they've become magnets for development.

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

A call for food justice

Cities and neighborhoods have long sought to attract educated and affluent residents – people whom sociologist Richard Florida dubbed "the creative class." The thinking goes that these newcomers will spend their dollars and presumably contribute to economic growth and job creation.

Food, it seems, has become the perfect lure.

It's uncontroversial and has broad appeal. It taps into the American Dream and appeals to the multicultural values of many educated, wealthy foodies. Small food businesses, with their relatively low cost of entry, have been a cornerstone of ethnic entrepreneurship in American cities. And initiatives like farmers markets and street fairs don't require much in the way of public investment; instead, they rely on entrepreneurs and community-based organizations to do the heavy lifting.

In City Heights, the Community Development Corporation hosted its first annual City Heights Street Food Festival in 2019 to "get people together around table and food stalls to celebrate another year of community building." Other recent events have included African Restaurant Week, Dia de Los Muertos, New Year Lunar Festival, Soul Food Fest and Brazilian Carnival, all of which rely on food and drink to attract visitors and support local businesses.

Meanwhile, initiatives such as the New Roots Community Farm and the City Heights Farmers' Market have been launched by nonprofits with philanthropic support in the name of "food justice," with the goal of reducing racial disparities in access to healthy food and empowering residents – projects that are particularly appealing to highly educated people who value diversity and democracy.

Upending an existing foodscape

In media coverage of changing foodscapes in low-income neighborhoods like City Heights, you'll rarely find any complaints.

San Diego Magazine's neighborhood guide for City Heights, for example, emphasizes its "claim to authentic international eats, along with live music venues, craft beer, coffee, and outdoor fun." It recommends several ethnic restaurants and warns readers not to be fooled by appearances.

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against the "urban food machine"

But that doesn't mean objections don't exist.

Many longtime residents and small-business owners – mostly people of color and immigrants – have, for decades, lived, worked and struggled to feed their families in these neighborhoods. To do so, they've run convenience stores, opened ethnic restaurants, sold food in parks and alleys and created spaces to grow their own food.

All represent strategies to meet community needs in a place mostly ignored by mainstream retailers.

So what happens when new competitors come to town?

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

Starting at a disadvantage

As I document in my book, these ethnic food businesses, because of a lack of financial and technical support, often struggle to compete with new enterprises that feature fresh façades, celebrity chefs, flashy marketing, bogus claims of authenticity and disproportionate media attention. Furthermore, following the arrival of more-affluent residents, existing ones find it increasingly difficult to stay.

My analysis of real estate ads for properties listed in City Heights and other gentrifying San Diego neighborhoods found that access to restaurants, cafés, farmers markets and outdoor dining is a common selling point. The listings I studied from 2019 often enticed potential buyers with lines like "shop at the local farmers' market," "join food truck festivals" and "participate in community food drives!"

San Diego Magazine's home buyer guide for the same year identified City Heights as an "up-and-coming neighborhood," attributing its appeal to its diverse population and eclectic "culinary landscape," including several restaurants and Fair@44.

When I see that City Heights' home prices rose 58% over the past three years, I'm not surprised.

Going up against the urban food machine

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against what I call the "urban food machine," a play on sociologist Harvey Molotch's "urban growth machine" – a term he coined more than 50 years ago to explain how cities were being shaped by a loose coalition of powerful elites who sought to profit off urban growth.

I argue that investors and developers use food as a tool for achieving the same ends.

When their work is done, what's left is a rather insipid and tasteless neighborhood, where foodscapes become more of a marketable mishmash of cultures than an ethnic enclave that's evolved organically to meet the needs of residents. The distinctions of time and place start to blur: An "ethnic food district" in San Diego looks no different than one in Chicago or Austin.

Meanwhile, the routines and rhythms of everyday life have changed so much that longtime residents no longer feel like they belong. Their stories and culture reduced to a selling point, they're forced to either recede to the shadows or leave altogether.

It's hard to see how that's a form of inclusion or empowerment.The Conversation


Pascale Joassart-Marcelli is a Professor of Geography and Director, Urban Studies and Food Studies Programs at San Diego State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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