What do US comedian Jon Stewart and Hamas Chief Khaled Meshaal have in common? What does Stewart have in common with Syrian President Bashar al Assad or outgoing Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva or Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for that matter?
For starters, they’re all sick of waiting for the American government to do something useful. And just as critically, they are pretty tired of the “you’re either with us or against us” theme too.
Watching Jon Stewart speaking to more than 200,000 Americans who had traveled far and wide to attend Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” two weeks ago, I was struck by some themes that I repeatedly heard throughout the Middle East this summer.
In August during an <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sharmine-narwani/khaled-meshaal-on-hamas-a_b_738758.html” target=”_hplink”>interview</a> in Damascus, Hamas Chief Meshaal described a new trend in the Middle East where certain leaders and states were rejecting the notion of being stuck in “blocs” or political camps, always warring with the other side:
<blockquote>Why should we be dividing ourselves into two blocs — either being against America and the West, or acquiescing 100% to them? We do not want to wage a war against the world. Or to sever relations with countries. So the nations and the people of the region want a state model based on self respect — without any enmity with the world.</blockquote>
Not that we would know this back home. The divisive media that Stewart and Colbert rail against for partisan politicking in Washington is on hyper-drive when it comes to the Middle East — creating more fear, more hate than is good for us. It paralyzes our ability to act and ensures that we will have zero policy breakthroughs.
I am fairly sure that Stewart was not thinking about Meshaal when he said “we can have animus, and not be enemies,” but I am equally certain the core of his sentiment — the promotion of the kind of political maturity we used to see in politics where foes could sit around a table, break bread and try to find common ground — is absolutely relevant to our foreign policy breakdown, too. (more…)