It is nearly three years since we devoted an issue to the Horn of Africa. As Dan Connell notes in his introductory overview, the dizzying geopolitical realignments of the regimes there only make more dangerous the internal, structural crises of national unity, political repression and overwhelming mass poverty. The recent publication of The Ethiopian Revolution by Fred Halliday and Maxine Molyneux provides an excellent opportunity to scrutinize some of these developments. We present, in condensed form, their account of events inside Ethiopia since 1974. This article, along with Patrick Gilkes’ contribution, provide some sympathetic comprehension of the revolutionary turbulence that has beset that country. Our interview with I. M. Lewis offers a balance sheet on Somalia’s socialist period and discusses the regime’s dilemma in coping with conflicting nationalisms in this region of distinct peoples who until recently lived within pre-capitalist, and therefore pre-national, forms of social organization.
We hope to deal more directly in future issues with questions of political democracy in general and the rights of oppressed minorities in particular. These matters are critical for assessing developments not only in the Horn but throughout the Middle East. In this connection, we refer readers to the most recent issue of Latin American Perspectives. Its general and theoretical discussion on the theme of “Minorities in the Americas” helps to clarify some broader issues that may be hard to discern in situations we are more familiar with.
As we go to press, plans are underway for a massive public demonstration in New York to coincide with the Second UN Special Session on Disarmament. We have wholeheartedly endorsed the June 12 rally, and we salute the impressive grassroots campaigns around the country that make this event so promising and significant. The UN session itself, we fear, will do little more that provide a pulpit for “statesmen” like Ronald Reagan and Menachem Begin to divert public attention away from their own murderous designs.
We particularly welcome the invitation of the rally organizers to raise related issues of racism and foreign intervention. We see the Middle East as the most likely “theater” for nuclear war involving regional states or the superpowers. The environment for such a conflict is nourished by the staggering buildup of conventional weapons. The Pentagon wants to sell Israel another 75 F-16s. Jordan’s crown prince was in Washington in late May seeking more sophisticated weaponry, pleading Amman’s “real security needs.” Morocco’s King Hassan was on a similar mission just days earlier. These regimes are indeed threatened, chiefly by the masses of people under their rule. We urge anti-nuclear activists to oppose vigorously all US military sales and aid to Jordan, Morocco, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the region. MERIP readers should work to raise these issues in local organizing efforts. We will be publishing one or more issues this fall on these topics.
MERIP editor Penny Johnson returned a few days ago from the Middle East. She visited the occupied Golan area, where 14,000 residents of four Arab villages courageously maintain the general strike they began on February 14 against the imposition of Israeli citizenship. This entirely unanticipated confrontation of villagers using civil disobedience against the repressive machinery of the Israeli state continues despite a 40-day period when the army sealed off the area, cut electricity and food supplies, denied journalists access, and generally had free rein to terrorize the population. These 14,000 unarmed villagers have clearly done more to stop Israeli expansion than the combined “might” of the Arab regimes.
In the West Bank, where Professor-Colonel Menahem Milson has deposed and arrested several elected mayors, Penny called on Bassam Shaka‘a in Nablus. She found the authorities waging a cruel and relentless war of nerves against him. He is under 24-hour military guard, and is routinely denied visits of family and friends. His family is subject to continual harassment. His own movement is restricted by military orders which change from day to day. We encourage readers to send letters and telegrams of support to Mayor Shaka‘a in Nablus, West Bank via Israel. Similar messages can be sent to Mayors Karim Khalaf in Ramallah, Ibrahim Tawil in al-Bira and Wahid Hamdallah in ‘Anabta.
The task of the professor-colonel is not an easy one. Time recently published an opinion survey, commissioned from an Israeli firm, which shows 98.2 percent of the West Bankers questioned favor an independent state, with 86 percent wanting that state governed solely by the Palestine Liberation Organization. Asked to identify the West Bank leader they most respected, 68 percent named Shaka’a. Karim Khalaf was next, with 18 percent. Mustafa Dudeen, Milson’s anointed leader, scored 0.2 percent. Israeli authorities harassed and intimidated the pollsters, even arresting one. The questions and answers, they asserted, violate military regulations that ban publication of material of “political significance” and forbid “publishing in writing or orally [sic] praises, sympathy or support of a hostile organization.”