Middle East Monitor - Creating New Perspectives Bringing you the latest and up-to-date news from the Middle East. We go one step further, facilitating a better understanding of the issues facing the Middle East. https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/component/content/frontpage Fri, 21 Nov 2014 18:39:13 +0000 MEMO en-gb UAE's assertive stance will not result in greater stability and prosperity https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/15403-uaes-assertive-stance-will-not-result-in-greater-stability-and-prosperity https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/15403-uaes-assertive-stance-will-not-result-in-greater-stability-and-prosperity Nasim AhmedWatching political opportunism at its crudest is an ugly thing. The most audacious attempts usually generate sarcastic laughter just as easily as disbelief and anger. What is interesting about its most naked form in the latest example is the way that it unites countries and regimes that only recently failed to see eye to eye.

Take the current escalation of violence in Jerusalem; the killing of five Israelis in a synagogue, which Netanyahu has exploited in order to tighten the occupation while imposing collective punishment by demolishing the homes of those suspected of the killing, and the UAE's designation of 83 groups as "terrorist organisations". Both use the deplorable acts of ISIS to justify greater repression while attempting simultaneously to deflect attention from their own failings.

"The streets of the West Bank are run by ISIS" and those carrying out the violence are "from the same family as ISIS" we have been told by Mark Regev. The Israeli prime minister's Australian-born spokesman's comments are another example of the invidious attempt by Israel to shoehorn legitimate Palestinian resistance into the universally-denounced ISIS/terrorist camp and, at the same time, disconnect Israel, with its decades of brutal occupation, death and destruction, racism, systematic abuse and daily humiliation of Palestinians, from the violence.

It's becoming increasingly harder to argue against the point that ISIS presents a great opportunity for many countries in the region to justify repressive measures. In fact, though, the underlying reason for instability in the region is because these regimes are fated to the iron law of oligarchy, recycling one form of tyranny after another.

The symbiotic relationship that exists between ISIS and the more assertive posture of regimes in the Middle East isn't totally lost. Both are only able to advance their cause by pointing at the failures of the Arab Spring. To them there is no middle ground: on the one hand, striving for political reform peacefully through the existing system is tantamount to disbelief — kufr — which "justifies" murder; on the other it is an act of terrorism that puts you in the same league as ISIS.

Extremism can only feed off extremism. The danger, if this cycle continues, is that the entire region will come to be defined by its extremes, if it isn't already.

Since the peoples' uprisings in 2011, only a handful of countries have taken the wind out of anti-government protest successfully through peaceful means. Tunisia and Morocco have been more inclusive, including cooperation with Islamists, rather than excluding them completely; that is the exact opposite of policies advocated by the UAE.

It is not surprising that regimes that have been most reluctant to make concessions in power-sharing are likewise equally united in exploiting the opportunity presented by ISIS. They are also the countries prepared to set new standards in how far they are willing to go to undermine any opposition, peaceful or otherwise, to cement their weakening grip on power.

As argued previously, the battle against ISIS cannot be won by demonising the Muslim Brotherhood and shooting indiscriminately in the dark. The groups listed by the UAE as "terrorists" include those actually engaged in violence like Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra Front and Boko Haram, as well as organisations that have no history of violence or terrorism. These include the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the International Union of Muslims Scholars, the London-based Cordoba Foundation and the charity Islamic Relief.

It is one of the grossest applications of the "terrorism" label ever seen; in casting the net so widely the term has been robbed of all meaning. If anything, it has trivialised real terrorism, which is a scourge and a threat that needs to be confronted rationally and not a label to be exploited for cheap political gains. The UAE list is "farcical," claimed the Cordoba Foundation. "To group [the foundation] and others in the same list as extremist organisations such as Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and ISIS is shameful, and cannot be justified; it is simply another example of a despotic regime seeking to silence any form of dissent."

This is just one of the UAE's many miscalculations about the serious challenges facing the Middle East and the Emirates itself. It is the reaction of a country uneasy with itself, one that is feeling under siege and becoming increasingly insular in politics. The UAE's position during a spat with Qatar, which it has accused of interfering in the domestic affairs of other states, is another example of its growing assertiveness that will expose the country to vulnerability in the future. The spat was sufficiently hostile for the Emirates to withdraw its ambassador from Qatar and make an attempt to scuttle Qatari-Saudi reconciliation.

Observing the different positions adopted by countries in the region towards groups calling for greater power-sharing and inclusivity, it's curious that the UAE should be taking such a uniquely assertive stance. Qatar, a country that is not too dissimilar in its economy and political make-up has continued to stress that its position towards the Arab Spring stems from support for the Arab peoples' call for freedom and democracy and not on any automatic support for a party or organisation.

These tensions highlight a fundamental question about the political organisation of the Middle East, with countries that were either carved out arbitrarily to serve Western interests or have pliant tribal leaders who now run their states like private corporations. Both will continue to face challenges to their legitimacy until they find a way to adapt to the changing context in which they find themselves.

If the challenge for political Islam, which is unlikely to be a spent force, is to chart a peaceful and democratic role for Islam in the governance of Muslim majority countries, the challenge for regimes in such states is, surely, to create the political space through which this can happen. Nations can only be greater than the sum of its parts if those parts are united harmoniously. It does not have to be a zero sum game; it's an opportunity for regimes to gain greater legitimacy, cement their authority and create a stable base for future sustainability.

It is hard to overestimate the UAE's short-sightedness. It has gone to great lengths and demonstrated ruthlessness and moments of extreme duplicity in pursuing its goals. A congressional report which informs legislative debate in the US congress, published in 2014, states that the UAE has become increasingly assertive against extremist Islamic organisations, even to the point of undertaking some military action in post-Gaddafi Libya; this follows the combat missions flown by UAE pilots against the late-Libyan leader.

The UAE has backed moderate Islamist rebel forces in Syria financially and is giving similar assistance to the military-led government of Egypt that in July 2013 ousted the democratically-elected President Mohamed Morsi. In addition, the Emirates government has worked to undermine other Muslim Brotherhood-related organisations in the region, including the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas.

It may be unfair to single out the UAE for the above, but what is unique about its stance is the extent of its overreach as a state willing to subvert regimes and criminalise law-abiding organisations in Britain and America, despite the fact that it is a favoured state with the British government. "There is no relationship the UK has with countries in the Middle East that is more important to us than that with the United Arab Emirates," Britain's ambassador to the Emirates has said.

Why has the UAE adopted this extremely assertive position? Is this, paradoxically, a sign of its diminishing power, which in political terms has a tendency to give rise to a bunker mentality? A tentative answer can be formed by examining its rise as an economic force and its political make-up.

A good explanation for the success of the UAE — economically, at least — has been its historical neutrality, peace-keeping and mediation role. Mixed with development assistance and international charity, the Emirates has created a global brand envied by most in the region. Although much government spending goes on what can rightly be called vanity projects and an extension of soft power, the UAE sets aside 3.6 per cent of its GDP for humanitarian aid projects. Around $70 million has been spent rebuilding Palestinian refugee camps and millions more have been allocated for projects in Iraq and Africa.

Neutrality in conflict and joining peace-keeping forces in Lebanon, Somalia and Rwanda, to name but a few, have also boosted the UAE's conciliatory image. More controversially, the UAE was the only Arab army to join the US war against the Taliban; it was a Muslim presence that, at least on the ground, pacified many Afghans.

Historically, the UAE succeeded in establishing itself as a regional peace-broker by making a number of interventions in the Middle East. It solved a territorial dispute between Egypt and Libya, for example, and also attempted so save Iraq from full-scale invasion by forging an agreement between Saddam Hussain and the ruler of Kuwait.

In many ways the UAE's rise as a ubiquitous global brand is quite phenomenal. Until now it has not witnessed major political challenges. It has avoided internal tension as a classic rentier state, able to buy political acquiescence through very generous welfare programmes. Jobs are subsidised for UAE nationals that are acceptable to their citizens, while foreign labour makes up no less than 90 per cent of the country's 5.47 million population.

Economic prosperity, however, is unlikely to guarantee long-term political stability. The coming collapse of the Gulf monarchies may not be an impending fate for the country but there are many structural flaws which, if they are not reconciled, will handicap severely the progress it has made over the past few decades.

Until now, the UAE has cushioned itself successfully from the friction resulting from the gap between economic prosperity and political inclusivity. The classical theory of modernisation, which is true in most cases, predicts that countries with a rapid economic development will experience a move towards democratic institutions and political representation. The few aberrations in this theory, which include the UAE, cannot claim the longevity of countries in Europe and the US that have married the two successfully and endured for centuries.

The rise and fall of nations, though not an exact science, can nevertheless be attributed to certain core principals at the heart of which are political and economic inclusivity. Professors Daron Acemoglu and James A Robinson have dared to ask the age-old question as to why some countries prosper and some don't, and developed a framework for understanding in their book, Why Nations Fail.

A key argument applicable in the case of the UAE is the premise that economic prosperity alone, without inclusive political institutions, is insufficient for maintaining the long-term viability and prosperity of a country. Successful states are only successful because they create a virtuous cycle of centralised authority, combined with political and economic inclusivity. Failing countries result from the vicious cycle of a strong or weak central authority combined with exclusive political institutions and exclusive economic institutions.

Thus far the UAE has failed to create the virtuous cycle necessary for its long-term success, one that balances power, political legitimacy and good economic policy. On the contrary, it is being dragged into a vicious cycle, which in the case of the UAE looks like an overreaching state, with weakening political legitimacy and growing challenges to its economic prosperity. The framework for Why Nations Fails suggests that the kind of growth experienced by the UAE will ultimately become unsustainable unless the political institutions become more inclusive.

The urge to hold on to power no matter what the consequence may well be a universal phenomenon and the cause of untold misery. It is, nevertheless, always better to serve in heaven than to rule in hell. This is something to which the government of the UAE should give serious thought.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Nasim Ahmed) frontpage Fri, 21 Nov 2014 18:26:53 +0000
Politics aside, youth connect over security and economy issues https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/15402-politics-aside-youth-connect-over-security-and-economy-issues https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/15402-politics-aside-youth-connect-over-security-and-economy-issues Christine PetréAs Tunisia's first free Presidential election is nearing young Tunisians share their thoughts on political strategy and their hopes for the future.

Tunisia, considered a democratic success story, is the only Arab Spring country, which has succeeded in maintaining a relatively peaceful democratic transition since the revolution three years ago ousted former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The Parliamentary Election on October 26 was a democratic milestone, which passed by without major incidents and with approximately 3.5 million, around 69% of the registered voters, visiting the polling stations.

The elections were deemed by both international and national election observers as free and fair. The secular-leaning political party Nidaa Tounes gained the majority of votes, 85 of the 217 parliamentary seats, followed by moderate Islamist party Ennahdha with 69 seats. "I voted for Nidaa Tounes for security," explained Sheyma Arfewi, a 26-year-old teacher.

Since the revolution Tunisia has struggled with an increase of radical violence. There have been a number of militant attacks on the country's security forces and some fear that radical militant groups have gained ground in the Algeria border region of Mount Chaambi. Others worry that Libyan unrest may spill over and disrupt Tunisia's democratic transition.

Security is closely connected to economy, argued 24-year-old Amal Ghadhoum. "One of the reasons I voted for Ennahdha was for their economic program," she explained. "I trust them," she said. Now she is hoping that Nidaa Tounes will work hard to restore security. She would also like to see more cooperation over party lines, hoping Ennahdha would get a second chance to govern. Many Tunisians blamed Ennahdha, which gained the majority of votes in the country's first democratic election in 2011, for the country's economic stagnation and rise of violent radicalism. "But it is very hard to govern in a post-revolutionary era," argued Ghadhoum.

Another Ennahdha advocate, Rhouma Ichrak, a 25-year-old student, is hoping the next five years will improve the country's economy and combat corruption. Tunisia currently has an unemployment rate around 15 percent, which is believed to be the double among the youth. This Sunday she is voting for Moncef Marzouki because "He will assure our country's freedom," she said.

The former human rights activist and current interim president Marzouki is a revolutionary figure and expected to receive the support of most Ennahdha members. He is also believed to be one of the most popular candidates among the youth. However, among the 22 (five have withdrawn their candidacy) candidates Nidaa Tounes leader and veteran politician Beji Caid Essebsi is considered the frontrunner. But concerns have been raised about the party's possible political domination. The party has a mixture of supporters, many who have joined force against another Ennahdha tenure. Members of both former leader Habib Bourguiba and Ben Ali's party RCD have united behind the secular-leaning party. Essebsi himself served as interior minister under Bourguiba and was speaker of parliament during Ben Ali's regime.

"Many of my leftist friends criticised me because I voted for Nidaa Tounes," explained Arfewi. To them a vote for Nidaa Tounes meant a vote for the old regime, a betrayal to the revolution, she explained. Arfewi somewhat agreed, which is why she will now vote for leftist politician Hamma Hammami. "The leftists need some power too," argued Arfewi and emphasised the importance to balance the power. "We need to think about what is best for Tunisia."

But Ennahdha's Ghadhoum is not concerned that Nidaa Tounes will become too dominant. "They made promises to the people and the people will not accept anything less," she said and emphasised that nothing good will come out of polarising the society between Nidaa Tounes and Ennahdha, "I voted for Ennahdha but my cousin voted for Nidaa Tounes," she said and added, "We are all in the same boat."

Many of Ghadhoum's young fellow citizens are disappointed with their country's post-revolutionary development and ask what has really changed. Despite decent overall voter turnout, many of the country's young are believed to have boycotted the democratic process.

"There is no point in voting," argued 21-year-old student Jbeli Hella, and added, "same life, same lies" and refused to even cast a blank vote. Politicians suddenly appear when there is an election, "they are disconnected to us, their people," she argued.

However, Master student Hajer Ben Hamida disagreed.

"I voted because it is our duty," she said and chose to support the rich businessman Slim Riahi and his party Free Patriotic Union, which gained 16 of the Parliamentary seats. Describing his candidature as: "The best of the worst." Ben Hamida is hoping that Riahi's policies could bring the country's economy back on track.

But Hella can't get over the fact that many politicians are middle-aged men. We need the younger generations to take over, she argued. "Essebsi is 87 years old," she cried, questioning what he possibly could know about the youth and laughed at Essebsi's argument that youth is a "state of mind."

"I don't want to have an almost 90-year-old man as president," declared Ben Hamida. Instead Marzouki will get her vote.

If none of the Presidential candidates receive the majority of votes this Sunday a runoff between the two top candidates is expected on December 28.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Christine Petré) frontpage Fri, 21 Nov 2014 18:23:49 +0000
Why is Abbas afraid of going through with the Palestinian reconciliation? https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/15401-why-is-abbas-afraid-of-going-through-with-the-palestinian-reconciliation https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/15401-why-is-abbas-afraid-of-going-through-with-the-palestinian-reconciliation Mahmoud AbbasPalestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas still expresses a firm position on his rejection of implementing the reconciliation which the Arab and Western world are calling for on the ground. In all actuality, it is he who is hindering the progress of the reconciliation and is increasing the divisions between the West Bank and Gaza.

Five agreements and dozens of meetings were held in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Gaza Strip to end the internal Palestinian crisis, but Abu Mazen still hasn't found the political legacy he wants to leave to his people after his death or his departure from the political arena. The statements he makes from time to time push the reconciliation process back to the beginning.

Islamic agenda

Many of Abbas' reasons for fearing the achievement of national reconciliation is because it means the Palestinian political system will be rebuilt on the basis of partnership, which will end his monopoly over authority. This pushes him to cancel his only project, i.e. political settlement.

Political analyst Wesam Afifa believes that Abbas is convinced that Gaza will pose a great burden on him, as it is the resistance's main location and it cannot be controlled and subjugated. He also notes that Gaza will remain rebellious and revolutionary, which will weaken his control over it.

In this context, Othman Mahmoud Othman, a professor of political science at An-Najah University, states that the Gaza Strip is considered a burden on Abbas for two reasons. First, there are strong supporters of the dismissed Fatah leader, Mohammed Dahlan, which is a source of discomfort for him. Secondly, Gaza is home to the strong resistance that does not accept the security coordination with Israel and this upsets the Fatah leadership, which supports security coordination.

According to political affairs experts, the PA president believes that the reconciliation will give Hamas freedom if its conditions are met and will give it power and strength in the West Bank, and because he does not trust Hamas, he believes that the reconciliation will not be a partnership, but part of the Islamist agenda in the region.

Afifa also believes that Abu Mazen, who came up with the theory of monopolising authority, views the reconciliation in terms of victor and defeated. Therefore, Abbas believes that Hamas must submit to his conditions, especially in light of the regional variables and developments, because he wants a reconciliation based on his terms and vision.

Othman's beliefs are not very different than Afifa's, he added in his statement to Al-Resalah net that "Abbas is a helpless man who does not want reconciliation like the other factions because he is subject to what America and Israel want and neither of them will allow for a reconciliation to be implemented on the ground."

He also said that it is likely that the other factors hindering the implementation of the reconciliation are merely justifications and excuses to hold the other side responsible. According to Othman, the reconciliation means that those in power will surrender to those who are not, and therefore achieving the reconciliation requires that they leave the authority. He believes that if the reconciliation occurs without a change in policy and the hierarchy of the PLO, then it is not a true reconciliation, and will soon be gone.

Arab umbrella

At the regional level, Egypt is still monopolising the reconciliation issue and will not abandon it. This in itself is a problem because the Egyptian government has suspended the issue without taking any action except for pressuring the Gaza Strip and Hamas, which is one of the sides of the reconciliation.

In this context, Afifa says, "the reconciliation is no longer a Palestinian decision; it needs an Arab umbrella that has not been provided yet."

Meanwhile, political science professor Othman explains that the failure to achieve reconciliation serves the PA's interests as it allows it to keep its international and Arab relations. The Arabs are not concerned with the existence of people who do not recognise previous agreements because it puts them in an awkward position, noting that the Arab world and the self-interests of the beneficiaries want the situation to remain as it.

Othman attributes Egypt's monopoly of the reconciliation process to its geographical location, as it is able to pressure Gaza in order to serve the interests of the PA. "Therefore, the Arab governments need to be changed, starting with the spearhead: Egypt," Othman says.

Despite the shuttle tours between Hamas and Fatah aiming to achieve positive goals in the reconciliation file, the issue remains suspended until further notice.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Maha Shahwan) frontpage Fri, 21 Nov 2014 16:50:33 +0000
Syrian students deprived of an education https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15399-syrian-students-deprived-of-an-education https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15399-syrian-students-deprived-of-an-education Syrian child walking through debrisOne of the biggest victims of the war in Syria is schools. While many have been demolished as a result of the bombardment by regime forces, others are bare of students due to parents not wanting to send their children for fear of bombings. This is leading to a whole generation of children being deprived of an education.

The school problem is not limited only by the fear of bombings in areas under opposition control, but also the lack of teaching staff whose salaries have been cut by the regime for their opposition to it or their transfer to areas under Assad control. Furthermore, no funding exists for individual initiatives to establish schools.

The Anadolu Agency reported about one of the schools in the town of Alhbit, on the outskirts of Idlib, which was bombed and is mostly destroyed. Now it is empty and bare except for some stray sheep while children play in the playground, hiding behind the school's crumbling walls.

The agency's reporter Ali Ankir reported that a teacher, who was dismissed by the regime for participating in demonstrations against it, said: "The villages and towns of Hama and the northern suburbs of south Idlib have been suffering from a complete end to all public schools because of the constant bombing by the regime, depriving the children of the most basic of educational needs."

A child in the town said: "We spend our time playing because we do not dare go to school because we are scared of the bombing."

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:23:20 +0000
Journalist: Two million Libyans have fled the country, replaced by 6,000 militants https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/15398-journalist-two-million-libyans-have-fled-the-country-replaced-by-6000-militants https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/15398-journalist-two-million-libyans-have-fled-the-country-replaced-by-6000-militants Libyan journalist and political analyst, Ali Al-Kasih, has said that over 6,000 militants have recently arrived in Libya, adding that these militants contributed to the civil war and to the difficulty in resolving the Libyan crisis.

In an interview on Ahadeeth Magharebia broadcasted on Al-Ghad Al-Arabi TV, Al-Kasih said that over two million Libyans fled the country due to the spread of violence and are staying in neighbouring countries.

Al-Kasih explained that the involvement of several external parties in the resolution of the Libyan crisis has greatly complicated matters more than they already are. He also noted that Egypt has been affected by what is happening in Libya and the spread of terrorist groups.

He pointed out that all of the initiatives presented by neighbouring countries and the African Union to resolve the Libyan crisis have not been successful due to the inflexibility of extremist groups such as Libya Dawn, as well as the lack of trust amongst Libyan parties and the fact that a suitable atmosphere for the resolution of the conflict were not provided.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:21:19 +0000
American judge: PA should be tried for supporting terrorism https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/15397-american-judge-pa-should-be-tried-for-supporting-terrorism https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/15397-american-judge-pa-should-be-tried-for-supporting-terrorism Judge George Daniels (left)"US victims of bombings and shootings in Jerusalem more than a decade ago have cleared a final hurdle to take the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) to trial in New York for supporting the attacks," Reuters reported yesterday.

Federal judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, George Daniels, refused bids by the PA and the PLO to dismiss the long-running $1 billion lawsuit before it is heard by a jury on January 12.

During a court hearing yesterday, Daniels also reaffirmed the decision he made in 2008 in which he found that his court had jurisdiction over claims against the PA and PLO despite changes in the law at the appellate level.

PA lawyer, Mark Rochon, said in court that the PA was "considering whether to seek appellate relief on that issue." However, he declined to comment after the hearing on Daniels' other rulings.

Daniel issued his ruling on the dismissal motion on Wednesday.

The lawsuit seeks $1 billion in compensation on behalf of 11 families who claim that the PLO and PA provided material support and resources for seven separate attacks in Israel that resulted in the death and injury of American citizens.

Kent Yalowitz, a lawyer for the families, said: "We are looking forward to presenting the evidence to the jury."

Should the case go to a jury it would mark a rare trial in a lawsuit under the US Anti-Terrorism Act. In September, under this law, a federal jury in Brooklyn found that the Arab Bank is liable for providing material support to Hamas.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:15:51 +0000
Life sentences restored for two Palestinian prisoners released in Shalit deal https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15396-life-sentences-restored-for-two-palestinian-prisoners-released-in-shalit-deal https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15396-life-sentences-restored-for-two-palestinian-prisoners-released-in-shalit-deal Gilad ShalitThe Israeli authorities restored the previous life sentences issued against two Palestinian prisoners who had been released as a part of the Shalit deal, Felesteen Online news reported on Friday.

One prisoner is from Tulkarem and the other Nablus, in the occupied West Bank.

According to Felesteen Online, the director of the Ahrar Centre for Prisoners Studies and Human Rights, Fuad Al-Khafsh, announced that the Israeli authorities had re-issued the life sentences on the two released prisoners, Ashraf Al-Wawi from Tulkarem and Hamza Abu Arkoub from Nablus.

Since tensions started escalating in the occupied Palestinian territories last summer, the occupation authorities have detained thousands of Palestinians, including re-arresting dozens of former prisoners released as part of the Shalit exchange deal in 2011.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:06:20 +0000
Resilient resistance is a by-product of occupation and oppression https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/15395-resilient-resistance-is-a-by-product-of-occupation-and-oppression https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/15395-resilient-resistance-is-a-by-product-of-occupation-and-oppression Noura MansourFor the entire 66 years of its occupation of Palestine, Israel has burned and demolished countless mosques, churches, libraries, schools and homes. Throughout, there has been a constant targeting of the civilian Palestinian population and infrastructure: children, women and the elderly have suffered displacement, disfigurement and death at the hands of the Israeli military and officials. Not a single Israeli government has ever been held to account.

In Israel's most recent offensive on Gaza, almost 80 per cent of the casualties were civilians; dozens of mosques, schools and other civilian infrastructure were targeted and destroyed, as were 10,000 homes. Not satisfied with destruction on such a scale, Israel refuses to allow the Palestinians in Gaza to heal, by preventing access to any form of construction materials to rebuild their lives. This is a unique situation in modern history.

In the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, illegal settlements have witnessed a 123 per cent increase in construction in the past year alone. Settler violence has also been increasing constantly, beginning with the burning of Palestinian olive trees and property, to senseless provocation at sensitive religious sites such as Al-Aqsa Mosque. Recently, we've witnessed an increase in direct and brutal attacks on Palestinians: 5 year-old Iman Shawkat was rammed by a car and killed; 16 year-old Mohammad Abu Khedeir was burned alive; and 32 year-old bus driver Yousef Al-Ramouni was assaulted and hanged in the very bus he drove (although this, said the Israelis, was "suicide"). Palestinians, no matter where they live, are punished collectively, while as a community, settlers are emboldened and rewarded for their violence.

The situation has been escalating steadily since the political prisoners' hunger strike in April. It doesn't matter whether the current escalation is government-provoked or a natural unfolding of events, the result is an endless cycle of action and retaliation.

Popular resistance takes a new shape

In the first and second intifadas, Palestinians protested in the streets, exercising their democratic right and their moral duty to resist oppression and occupation, rights guaranteed by international law. Back then, the people had the support of the leaders, and the gap between the leadership and people was much narrower than it is now. The Palestinian Authority was more successful in those days at reflecting the will and desires of the people. This was revealed in the words of Yasser Arafat as he was surrounded by Israeli tanks and troops in Ramallah: "They [the Israelis] wish for me to become a prisoner, fugitive or be assassinated... I tell them: a martyr!" The implication was that dying while fighting and resisting occupation is the only option Israel left the late president with.

Since Oslo, the occupation has grown stronger, and more restrictions have been imposed on the occupied territories, in both Gaza and the West Bank. In the Gaza Strip there's an illegal and inhumane siege, while in the West Bank there are almost 700 checkpoints and other obstacles, not including the apartheid wall, of which 85 per cent is built on Palestinian land; there are ever more settlements and almost no geographical continuity between Palestinian towns, cities or neighbourhoods in Jerusalem and its hinterland. It's arguable which is worse: being held captive in an open-air prison or being told you are free but not allowed to move, speak or act.

On the political level, there has been a remarkable yet unsurprising stagnation in the political process on the one hand, and on the other, a successful suppression of any popular resistance in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Guerrilla organisations no longer exist in their traditional form or structure. Most leaders of these groups have either been assassinated or imprisoned, thus creating a situation in the West Bank where the people want to resist, but there are no organisations to shape their resistance. Contrast this with Gaza where the organised resistance groups have matured and now produce their own weapons and cooperate with each other when attacked.

While Israel has managed to destroy all organised resistance in the West Bank (with, it must be said, the cooperation of the PA security services), it has failed to suppress the popular will to resist. Israel has pushed the Palestinians into a corner by stripping them of their right to peaceful protests, their right to assemble and organise, and their right to self-determination. With hands tied behind their backs, Palestinians have resorted to a new kind of resistance, one which is both instinctive and primitive.

In the absence of a political body that represents the people's will effectively; with no organisations providing protection; and no possibility for appeal or protest against illegal Israeli practices, the Palestinians have resorted to self-defence measures and resistance with whatever is available, from stones and kitchen knives, to axes and cars.

These forms of resistance are not calculated or planned. They are usually conducted by individuals and based on instinctive reactions of rage and frustration, with little or no planning or preparation. The men and women who carry out these acts of retaliation answer to no organisation and have no clear game-plan: the target is usually random and undefined; there is no evaluation of the impact and no exit strategy. They almost always end up being killed in the process.

Survival is an instinct shared by all human beings. No matter how hard Israel oppresses, restricts or punishes Palestinians (or any other group of people), they will always develop new techniques and methods to resist and defend their existence. Resistance will keep evolving and changing until people finally achieve their freedom. Throughout history, resistance has always been a by-product of oppression, colonisation and occupation; they go hand in hand.

What can be done?

In order to provide a sustainable and long-term solution, we must deal directly with the root cause, rather than just trying to make the symptoms disappear. That cause is Zionism, a colonial ideology that has been operating an illegal and inhumane occupation in Palestine for almost seven decades. In the process, Zionists have violated countless international laws and rules of war, exhibiting an utter disregard for the values which the international community sought to uphold and protect through their creation; values we disregard when we refuse to impose those same laws.

The international community must play a bigger and more effective role in making sure that such atrocities cease to occur now and prevent the occurrence of similar events in the future. It must act as it did in the past, when the Apartheid regime in South Africa was brought to an end, for example. Oppression is oppression, regardless of who does it. Acting differently now only gives justification to and empowers the oppressors.

Achieving the same success in Palestine isn't going to happen through a recognition of the current "State of Palestine", which will only perpetuate the illegal and unjust status quo. Success will be achieved by placing pressure on Israel to change its policies and practices. Israel and its decision makers must be held responsible and accountable for the frequent violations of international laws, using the legal processes available to the international community.

Occupation is an abnormal situation; normalising relations with abnormality only makes it stronger and further empowers it, which makes every normalising party complicit and indirectly responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The international community must cease treating Israel as a normal state, and make it hard for it to continue committing such atrocities by boycotting, divesting and imposing sanctions, as was done successfully in the case of South Africa.

Until then, we should expect the situation to escalate further. The number of illegal settlements will keep increasing; there will be more creative forms of collective punishment and targeting of civilians, with a greater use of illegal and inhumane weapons; there will be more imprisonment and torture of children; more racist Israeli laws and practices; more abuse from the police and military; and, consequently, more acts of retaliation from the Palestinians. The cycle must be broken, and it is against the oppressor that the world must turn in order to take the vital steps noted above.

Noura Mansour is a Palestinian activist and educator from Acre, 1948 Palestine (Israel), who is currently based in South Korea. She studied Political Science and Education and received a masters in International Relations from Haifa University. She has been involved in development and community work with local NGOs in the West Bank and in 1948 Palestine and worked with international NGOs; she is also politically active locally and internationally. Noura is also a debate trainer who has trained and taught debate in many international forums.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Noura Mansour) frontpage Fri, 21 Nov 2014 12:59:36 +0000
Egyptian government may resort to Zakat funds to cover its deficit https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/15394-egyptian-government-may-resort-to-zakat-funds-to-cover-its-deficit https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/15394-egyptian-government-may-resort-to-zakat-funds-to-cover-its-deficit Egyptian man buying breadA board member of the newly formed Egyptian Zakat and Sadaqah Fund, Momtaz El-Saeed, has confirmed that the government is considering investing Zakat money, and as Al-Araby Al-Jadid news website reported on Thursday, this has raised fears amongst economic analysts and those working in the charity sector that the government will try to seize this money, estimated to be around $2.5 billion, in order to cover the growing budget deficit instead of allowing it to be spent on the poor.

According to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi ordered the establishment of the fund in September under the supervision of the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar. The board members include a number of experts, economists and public figures.

Anadolu news agency had earlier quoted a board member as saying that the board was discussing plans for managing the Zakat funds and investing them in banks that generate revenue. The board member also noted that restrictions would be imposed on the spending of these funds.

Last year, Dar Al-Ifta Al-Misriyyah issued a fatwa allowing the use of Zakat and Sadaqah funds for "projects generating social revenue" for the country. El-Saeed argued that, "these funds must be put to use, rather than leaving them without being invested or granting them to parties that cannot manage them." However, he also noted that it is too early to determine how the money would be spent before a clear vision is formed for the Zakat and Sadaqah Fund's work.

Economic analysts fear that the government will use these funds to cover part of the budget deficit for this fiscal year, which began in July 2014.

Economic analyst Ahmed Ibrahim told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that the government is facing a problem with having liquid assets to cover the budget deficit, especially after exhausting all means of domestic loans and knocking on the doors of Gulf donors.

It is worth noting that Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE have all provided financial aid to Egypt since the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi, support estimated by the Ministry of Finance to be about $11 billion, while the current president says it is over $20 billion.

According to one charity official, who requested anonymity, the government has already started seizing charity funds after it freezed thousands of charities late last year. He also noted that the poor are the ones suffering from the government's policies, especially since there are serious doubts and concerns regarding Zakat money reaching those in need.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 21 Nov 2014 12:43:53 +0000
Jordan arrests senior Brotherhood member following anti-UAE comments https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15393-jordan-arrests-senior-brotherhood-member-following-anti-uae-comments https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15393-jordan-arrests-senior-brotherhood-member-following-anti-uae-comments Zaki Bani IrsheidJordanian security services have arrested the Deputy Comptroller General of the Muslim Brotherhood Zaki Bani Irsheid yesterday following comments he made against the UAE, a security source said.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: "Security services arrested the deputy comptroller general of the Muslim Brotherhood following statements he made against the United Arab Emirates and its regulation of terrorist organisations, which include the Muslim Brotherhood."

The source explained that "Bani Irsheid recently made statements to the press which included criticism of the UAE after it recently included the group in its list of terrorism organisations."

Adding that the decision to arrest him "came in order to preserve the interests of Jordan and its relations, in addition to the presence of a large number of Jordanians in the UAE."

Bani Irsheid is considered one of the most prominent leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, and has held the position for several years.

The spokesman for the Islamic Action Front, the political wing of the Brotherhood, Murad Adayleh, describing the move as an "abuse of the homeland and gagging mechanism", especially as it comes against "a person who is known for being nationalistic and being loyal to his country".

Adayleh continued: "In Jordan, the organisation works according to the law and the constitution, it has been part of the security and stability of the country for more than 70 years."

In comments made last week, Bani Irsheid said the UAE "is the first sponsor of terrorism and practiced the worst kinds of political immaturity".

He added that "the government of the UAE is the first sponsor of terrorism and it lacks legitimacy. It makes itself the exclusive guardian to confiscate the will of the people and this constitutes a breach of the nation's identity and destruction to their interests and it practices the worst kind of political immaturity."

Two months ago, Jordanian security forces arrested Mohammed Saeed Al Bakr, member of the Brotherhood's Shura Council, charging him under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 21 Nov 2014 12:41:42 +0000
Hamas: Israel's demolition of Palestinian homes is a 'racist policy' https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15392-hamas-israels-demolition-of-palestinian-homes-is-a-racist-policy https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15392-hamas-israels-demolition-of-palestinian-homes-is-a-racist-policy Fawzi BarhoumThe Islamic resistance movement Hamas has described Israel's demolition of Palestinian homes as a "racist policy", Anadolu news agency reported on Thursday.

Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesperson for the movement, told Anadolu that Israel's demolition of Palestinian homes in occupied Jerusalem is a racist policy that targets all Palestinians.

Barhoum warned of the repercussions of such demolitions, in addition to what he called "Israel's [other] follies", stressing that these forms of collective punishment will only act to fuel a great battle in Jerusalem, using all forms of resistance.

The Israeli army blew up, on Wednesday, the house of Abdel Rahman Al-Shaludi, who was accused by Israeli authorities of deliberately running over Israelis with his car in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of Jerusalem on 22 October, killing two Israeli citizens. He was shot dead by an Israeli security guard who was present at the scene.

An Israeli military source told Anadolu on Thursday that Israel would be demolishing an additional five homes in occupied Jerusalem within the next 48 hours.

The source said that the family houses of Moataz Hijazi, Muhammad Djaabis, Ibrahim Akkari, Uday Aby Gamal and Ghassan Abu Gamal would all be demolished.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 21 Nov 2014 12:39:36 +0000
ISIS waging deadliest attack on Ramadi https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15391-isis-waging-deadliest-attack-on-ramadi https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15391-isis-waging-deadliest-attack-on-ramadi Smoke rises from clashes with ISIS in KobaneIraq's Anbar province police chief said the Islamic State (ISIS) has launched an attack on the four corners of the city of Ramadi in the heaviest strike by the organisation since the beginning of the year.

Major General Mohammed Kazem Fahdawi told the Anadolu Agency that "elements of ISIS launched a major offensive since dawn on the four corners of the city of Ramadi, resulting in violent clashes which are ongoing."

Fahdawi explained that "the security forces and tribal fighters are working together with counter-terrorism groups and the rapid response forces in coordination with the International Airline Alliance and the Iraqi alliance which are all locked into fierce clashes with elements of the organisation, which is still trying to edge further into the city of Ramadi."

He pointed out that "this attack is the deadliest of its kind by the organisation on the city of Ramadi since the start of the year."

Ahmed Al-Sulaimani, the member of parliament for the province of Anbar, said armed ISIS fighters abducting 11 of his relatives, including his brother, in the western city of Al-Qaim.

In a statement to the Anadolu Agency, the MP said that "elements of the organisation raided the homes of his relatives in the city of Al-Karabilah [350 kilometres west of Ramadi] and abducted 11 of them, including his brother and took them to an unknown location."

Al-Sulaimani added: "Elements of the organisation carry extremist ideology which aims to kill all forms and colors of life, and what my family have been subjected to is no different to what the people of Anbar and Iraq are suffering from in terms of kidnappings and murders at the hands of those criminal gangs."

Since the start of the year, Iraqi forces have been engaged in armed battles with ISIS throughout most of the Anbar province. The tensions increased after ISIS gained control of the western districts of the province in addition to areas in the eastern regions and parts of the city of Ramadi.

An US-led international coalition has been launching airstrikes against ISIS positions which controls large areas in neighbouring Syria.

In June the group announced the establishment of what it called the "Caliphate State".

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 21 Nov 2014 12:30:26 +0000
Israel: Hamas planned attack on Lieberman https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15390-israel-hamas-planned-attack-on-lieberman https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15390-israel-hamas-planned-attack-on-lieberman Avigdor LiebermanIsrael's security service, Shin Bet, revealed yesterday evening that it discovered a Hamas plot to assassinate the country's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman during the latest assault on Gaza this summer.

Jerusalem Post reported that four Palestinians from Bethlehem have been charged in a military court to planning to attack the foreign minister's convoy.

The newspaper citing sources from Shin Bet as saying that the three men arrested were: Ibrahim Zir, 37, his brother, Ziad, 35, and another man named Adnan Tsabich, 31.Claiming that the group planned to purchase a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launcher and attack the minister's convoy while he was travelling in his car.

Ibrahim is said to be a senior Hamas activist from the village of Harmala, near Bethlehem, who previously served time in Israeli jails for being a member of Hamas.

"Also involved, according to the Shin Bet, was a Hamas activist from Bethlehem named Yusuf Alsheich, to whom Zir had turned for assistance in obtaining an RPG," Haaretz reported.

Jerusalem Post said the men confessed to attempting to assassinate the minister after undergoing lengthy interrogations, noting that the operation was due to take place in August during the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 21 Nov 2014 12:18:16 +0000
Amnesty calls on international community to support Syrian refugees in Turkey https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/15389-amnesty-calls-on-international-community-to-support-syrian-refugees-in-turkey https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/15389-amnesty-calls-on-international-community-to-support-syrian-refugees-in-turkey Amnesty International logoAmnesty International's researcher on Turkey, Andrew Gardner, said on Thursday that the international community has to step forward and provide further support to Syrian refugees in Turkey, noting that: "Turkey has shouldered a significant part of the financial burden on its own. The reluctance of wealthy countries to take greater financial responsibility for the refugee crisis as a whole and the paltry offers of resettlement are deplorable."

Gardner's statement came during a press conference that was held in Istanbul to announce Amnesty's latest report on Syrian refugees in Turkey, entitled Struggling to Survive: Refugees from Syria in Turkey. The country is currently home to about 1.6 million Syrian refugees.

Gardner explained that the organisation carefully researched the report, including meeting with Turkish government agencies, civil society organisations, the Office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Syrians refugees themselves.

According to the report, around 220,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey are living in "well-resourced camps, which are currently operating at full capacity". However, more than 1.3 million others have sought shelter elsewhere, with only 15 per cent of them receiving assistance from humanitarian agencies and organisations.

"The reality that most Syrian refugees face once they have escaped the ravages of war is grim and hopeless ... Turkey is clearly struggling to meet even the most basic needs of hundreds of thousands Syrian refugees. The result is that many of those who have made it across the border have been abandoned to a life of destitution," said Gardner.

He continued: "The humanitarian assistance offered by the international community has been pitifully low, but Turkey also needs to do more to request and facilitate it," before adding that, "The world's wealthiest nations are dragging their feet when it comes to offering financial support and resettlement."

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 21 Nov 2014 12:15:34 +0000
Saudi detains 35 Egyptian fishermen for entering its waters https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15388-saudi-detains-35-egyptian-fishermen-for-entering-its-waters https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15388-saudi-detains-35-egyptian-fishermen-for-entering-its-waters Saudi flagThirty-five Egyptian fishermen were detained by Saudi authorities yesterday who accused them of "fishing Saudi's territorial waters without a permit", a source said.

The Chairman of the Egyptian Fishermen Syndicate in Suez, Bakry Abu Hassan, said in a statement today: "The Saudi Navy have detained fishermen and a fishing boat called Amr Ibn Al-Aas at one of the Saudi ports overlooking the Red Sea."

"Saudi authorities captured the boat and detained its crew of 35 Egyptian fishermen," he continued.

Abu Hassan pointed out that "Saudi authorities captured the fishing boat for allegedly fishing without obtaining the official permit for the Saudi territorial waters of the Red Sea."

According to the statement, Saudi authorities have held an Egyptian fishing boat called the Pink Pearl for three days. The boat was carrying 38 fishermen who have been charged with fishing without in Saudi territorial waters without the required permits.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 21 Nov 2014 12:14:07 +0000
Majority of Jews in Israel support Ashkelon mayor's decision to ban Arab workers https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15387-majority-of-jews-in-israel-support-ashkelon-mayors-decision-to-ban-arab-workers https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15387-majority-of-jews-in-israel-support-ashkelon-mayors-decision-to-ban-arab-workers A poll shows that a majority of Jews in Israel back Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni's decision to ban Arab workers from constructing bomb shelters in city kindergartens, Israel media reported.

The Times of Israel newspaper cited on Thursday a poll by Channel 10 television that found 58 per cent of Jews in Israel supported the mayor's decision, while 32 per cent opposed it.

Despite this high level of support for what has been widely criticised as a racist policy, Arabs48 news website reported that 67 per cent of those polled felt that discrimination and racism have grown in Israel due to the tense security situation, while 31 per cent believed racism has declined.

Most Israeli politicians have lambasted the proposal, with Israel's Attorney General warning Shimoni against the plan, saying the move would have serious legal ramifications.

But according to the Times of Israel, dozens of Israelis in Ashkelon staged a protest in support of the mayor's decision, while "similar rallies for increased security in kindergartens near building sites employing Arab construction workers" were reportedly held in other cities as well.

The newspaper added that the latest violence in Jerusalem has "set off a wave of anti-Arab sentiment" in Israel, with some employers firing all their Arab workers.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 21 Nov 2014 12:03:40 +0000
Morocco feels betrayed https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/15386-morocco-feels-betrayed https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/15386-morocco-feels-betrayed Abderrahim ChalfaouatIn his 39th Green March anniversary speech, King Mohammed VI of Morocco stressed that his country's approach to the Sahara issue is characterised by a readiness to strengthen bilateral relations with global powers and cooperate with international bodies, especially the UN. This was said within the context of blaming foreign powers for a lack of clarity in mediation policies in the long-standing dispute. Morocco has cooperated with diverse security, political, economic and military projects and initiatives that relate to the Moroccan Sahara or the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region at large. Yet, the wished-for outcome for Morocco seems elusive and the expected reward of holding Algerian support responsible for vitalising the separatist Polisario Front looks less attainable day after day.

Though Algeria denies involvement, its support for the Polisario Front, strengthened by the fall of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, reveals that border disputes with Morocco are part of Algerian foreign policy. Nevertheless, what the king's speech referred to was the meta-support, whether deliberate or unintentional, that the Polisario movement receives as a result of foreign powers' double-dealing in regional hot spots. The US, for instance, praised Morocco as a democratic model in the Arab Spring turmoil whereby many of its despotic allies were ousted. Meanwhile, the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, leads international efforts to extend the capacities of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) to include the monitoring of human rights. This is a direct accusation against Morocco of human rights violations, since the UN mission operates in Morocco, while Polisario's Tindouf detention camps remain "off the radar", according to a Human Rights Watch report.

UN resolutions and drafts, especially the proposal to extend MINURSO's brief to cover human rights, indicate America's interest in playing on Moroccan and Algerian ground. Morocco's anxiety stems from the possibility of being declared to be a human rights violator, but the only one. Since Algeria always refuses to allow UN Special Rapporteur's visits to its territory, violations in Tindouf detention camps — on Algerian soil — cannot be monitored. Algeria further eclipses Polisario and its own human rights violations by banning visits by international NGOs. With the unlikelihood of gathering evidence sufficient to accuse Algeria of providing land, money, media and diplomatic support for the Polisario Front's violations, the most Morocco can offer is extended regionalisation and the self-rule project. Expecting further concessions from Morocco is more like wishful thinking, the king suggested.

To the dismay of the Moroccan public, its diplomacy to please foreign powers merely prolongs the status quo. The changes in the regional scenery have enabled Algeria to gain more ground for the Polisario Front in international bodies. As a result, Morocco seems more isolated. In a previous speech in October 2013, King Mohammed called upon parliamentarians, civil society and the media to participate in Moroccan diplomacy in support of the Sahara issue.

The image that the royal speech tried to draw is that Morocco and Algeria are implicated in a never-ending race to see who serves foreign powers best. Yet, the fact that Morocco today requests a clear stance from the US — or foreign powers generally — indicates the size of the gap between the two.

The dispute between Morocco and Algeria happens on two levels that the Moroccan Sahara fires up. The first are internal challenges. Ever since the onset of the French colonisation of Algeria, the two countries have exchanged internal problems. The shared border and history make such an exchange almost natural. However, with political choices, foreign intervention and diverting paths in international relations, the two countries have engaged in a long-term rivalry. Local developments include cross-border spats. The second level focuses on human rights. Both countries trade accusations of rights violations, but since Morocco allows periodic Special Rapporteur and NGO visits, the international community tends to zoom in on Rabat.

Foreign powers also exploit the dispute that the people of Morocco and Algeria have inherited from the Cold War era. Ever since the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the onset of the war on terrorism, both countries have been on George W Bush's "with us" side. Following the Casablanca terrorist attacks on 16 May, 2003, serious security measures have been taken by Morocco in cooperation with foreign powers. So far, the country has hosted three rounds of the African Lion army training sessions with the US and rumours claimed that Morocco hosted detention camps as part of the war on terrorism. In addition, the US has tried to engage Morocco in mediating in the Palestine-Israel negotiations, albeit in vain.

As far as the European Union is concerned, in addition to economic collaboration, Morocco has agreed to play the role of policeman on the borders of its northern neighbours. It is the first Mediterranean country to sign a joint EU declaration for Mobility Partnership, within which Sub-Saharan immigrants today are granted residence allowances. They include citizens from third party states who have been in transit through Morocco, as well as others "who are caught irregularly entering or residing in the EU", the 2013 Mobility Partnership said.

The king's speech revealed Morocco's weak position in international relations today. It is as if he is saying that Morocco has taken all measures to please foreign allies, with an emphasis on mistakes. He mentioned the amounts of money spent on building Sahara infrastructure, and how economic projects swiftly become bridges for corruption and a culture of profiteering.

Yet, Morocco's unbalanced engagement in the US-led war on terrorism; inefficient official diplomacy; inability to drive the Arab Maghreb Union forward; current breach with France and its untimely escalations pushing an active Saad Eddine Elothmani to step down from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2013; and dependence on foreign silence to contain opposition to corruption and despotism after the Arab Spring, exemplify how bowing to foreign pressure results in political miscalculations.

The Moroccan Sahara is among the few issues that the elites agree upon. Political differences often fade away to prioritise support for territorial integrity. Nevertheless, before seeking fairness from foreign powers, Morocco needs to translate its national consensus into educational and media programmes to deepen general understanding of the problem and gather support for the autonomy plan. Without a deeper and more profound knowledge internally, direct talks with Algeria — possibly within the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation — and a strong foreign policy plus more egalitarian democracy, Morocco risks wasting previous efforts to base legitimacy upon integrity, the loss of more friends and territorial division.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Abderrahim Chalfaouat) frontpage Fri, 21 Nov 2014 11:48:13 +0000
El-Baradei: Egypt is no longer a democracy and needs political rapprochement https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/15385-el-baradei-egypt-is-no-longer-a-democracy-and-needs-political-rapprochement https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/15385-el-baradei-egypt-is-no-longer-a-democracy-and-needs-political-rapprochement Mohamed El-BaradeiFormer Vice President of Egypt Mohamed El-Baradei, previously the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency and an initial supporter of the July 2013 military coup, has admitted that he cannot call Egypt a democratic state, Alamat Online reported on Friday.

El-Baradei also reportedly said, in a lecture titled "A New Global Security System Towards a World Free From Nuclear Weapons" at the John F. Kennedy Institute of Politics at Harvard University, that "Democracy is not like a cough or instant coffee; we cannot become a democratic state overnight."

He also suggested: "What is most important for us in Egypt is learning from our mistakes and looking to the future," adding that all Egypt needs is transitional justice and a complete rapprochement amongst all the country's political parties.

Although Egypt has drafted a new constitution since the coup, the parliamentary elections proposed in the military's "roadmap to democracy" have yet to take place.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 21 Nov 2014 11:45:34 +0000
Al-Sisi's government: A regime desperate to survive https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/15384-al-sisis-government-a-regime-desperate-to-survive https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/15384-al-sisis-government-a-regime-desperate-to-survive Dr Walaa RamadanIn his desperation to control the people of Egypt and prevent them rising up against him or posing a threat to his dominion, Pharaoh ordered the killing of all newborn males every other year. Similarly, in its desperation to control the people and prevent any form of dissent, the regime in Egypt today is quashing all forms of civil liberties and escalating its human rights abuses.

Since the military coup on July 3, 2013, there has been a continuous increase in human rights violations in Egypt. Abuses have not withered or halted over the past 17 months, they have intensified despite international recognition of them. The escalations are characteristic of a regime desperate to hold on to its power despite its obvious demise.

Commenting after the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), barrister Toby Cadman described the situation in Egypt today as a "classic anatomy of a dictatorship, being taken point by point, unfolding daily". The extent of the human rights violations, he said, was such that you can go through "treaties article by article" and see these abuses "occurring consistently" in Egypt.

Indeed, Egypt was given 300 recommendations by the UNHRC by 121 member states to study following the UPR in Geneva, Switzerland, in November. Foremost in the recommendations are that all officials involved in torture and abuse must be brought to justice; an end must be put to the torture and ill-treatment of detainees and all claims of such treatment must be investigated. Other suggestions include an end to violence against women; the release of every individual arrested for practising their rights of freedom of speech and the immediate release of all individuals, including journalists, who defend human rights.

The return of a "police state"

Recent months have shown the Egyptian regime increasingly revealing its true colours, unapologetically demonstrating the extent of the brutality of the police state it wishes to rule.

It is now common practice in the "new Egypt" for neighbours and ordinary people who believe they are "serving their country" to doubt the loyalty of fellow citizens and report them to the police. This is reminiscent of the days of Gamal Abdel Nasser who set a precedent for the Arab world in the 1960s by creating a police state that brutally suppressed dissidents and instilled fear among its citizens.

In Egypt today, any space of freedom of expression that existed following the January 25, 2011, revolution is quickly narrowing. Media outlets owned by pro-Sisi businessmen have instilled a fear in people that anyone that dares to cast any doubt or criticise the status quo or question the competence of the president, the government, the Interior Ministry or the armed forces is automatically considered a supporter of terrorism.

In the hope of avoiding the destiny of countries such as Syria, Libya or Iraq, many Egyptians are desperately supporting this repressive regime. Many do not realise that they have surrendered to a tyrannical succumbed life in a despotic police state which can only but continue in its repressiveness, fuelled by the fear-induced submissiveness of its citizens. The state is slowly clawing back "the hard-earned freedoms gained after the January 2011 uprising" taking "the country back to its pre-January 25 revolutionary state".

University grounds have become zones of conflict between security forces and students, instead of being grounds for thought, expression and development. Since the military coup in July 2013, 2,190 students have been arrested, including 400 in the first month of the current academic year; 211 students have been killed, including 22 on university grounds; and 677 students have been expelled.

Egypt has also seen an unprecedented attack against females with the first month of the academic year witnessing the arrest of 28 female students, including six cases of forced disappearance. Al-Azhar University girls' section has seen security forces storm university grounds for the twenty-sixth time since October 11, with random arrests. On November 19, the grounds were stormed for the twenty-seventh time and 20 female students were arrested. Professors and students are arrested randomly and accused of being part of the Students Against the Coup group and part of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

Precautionary arrests and death in detention

On November 9, a 21-year-old Egyptian student was arrested for being in possession of George Orwell's Novel 1984. An Egyptian academic described the event as representing the "epitome of ignorance and backwardness." Meanwhile, on November 16, 23 activists were sentenced to three years in jail for protesting against a law that outlawed protests.

Precautionary arrests are on the increase, with political detainees often kept in custody for months before being presented to the courts. This practice has been termed "precautionary detention". Very often these are renewed for months.

The conditions in Egyptian detention centres are dire and more and more cases of deaths due to neglect are emerging. In the past week alone there have been four reported cases of deaths due to detainees being unable to attain the necessary medical help.

Name Age / Occupation Detention centre Cause of death
Dr Tarek Mahmoud El-Ghandour Professor of Dermatology, Ain Shams University Wadi El-Natrun prison Internal bleeding for 6 hours; suffered liver dysfunction; transfer to specialist hospital denied
Zaki Abu Al-Majd 54 Tora prison Deteriorating health; denied medical care
AbuBakr Hanafy 43 Asyut prison Suffered liver cancer; denied chemotherapy
Mohamed Ramadan 20; Law student Hadaiq Al-Quba police station Tortured to death

In the same week, a letter was leaked from a prison where 55-year-old engineer Salwa Hasanayn is being held. Arrested on January 8, Hasanayn suffered from acute pain however prison authorities denied her access to the necessary medical checks to ascertain the cause. Her health deteriorated until her appendix burst, which led to blood poisoning. The subsequent surgery left Hasanayn with heavy bleeding and in excruciating pain. Hasanayn is accused of writing anti-coup graffiti and resisting and attacking security forces.

A total of 52 individuals have died inside detention centres across Cairo and Giza since January 2014, according to the official Forensic Medicine Authority. A further 80 have died whilst in detention across Egyptian cities between July 2013 and January 2014, according to WikiThawra, an independent observatory that documents fatalities in prisons.

Militarisation of courts

This week, five Egyptian students were transferred to a military court on charges of rioting at a university. This comes weeks after a new law was passed allowing civilians to be tried in military courts on charges of damaging state property. Human Rights Watch (HRW)'s Middle East and North Africa Director Sarah Leah Whitson said: "This law represents another nail in the coffin of justice in Egypt."

She continued: "It's back to business as usual in Egypt. The Sisi government will clearly go to any length to crush domestic opposition, whether secular or Islamist."

In another attempt by the government to use the overwhelming force of its security apparatus to confront what it sees as a threat to Egypt's existence, the Egyptian Army with bulldozers and dynamite began demolishing houses and displacing residents to create a buffer zone to secure its border with Gaza. At the end of October, some 800 houses were destroyed in the crowded neighbourhoods of Rafah and over 10,000 residents displaced.

This came only weeks after reports that Al-Sisi had offered the Palestinian Authority (PA) Sinai as the area for a Palestinian state. This offer served the Israeli interests as it encouraged PA President Mahmoud Abbas to relinquish demands that Tel Aviv withdraw from areas it occupied since 1967.

Where is the international community?

Under the guise of the supposed war on terrorism which Al-Sisi's government is claiming to be fighting, the coup regime has perpetrated, and continues to perpetrate, unprecedented atrocities and deny civil liberties to Egyptian citizens.

The international community has yet to unite in condemnation of the perpetrators of these atrocities, leaving Al-Sisi to apply stricter controls on his people. "There is an urgent need for the international community to take action, and ensure accountability for human rights abuses," barrister Toby Cadman said.

To what lengths will the Egyptian coup regime go to to hold on to its reign of power and control? How long can such a desperate regime last? What will be the damage? How many years will it take to reverse the damage caused by this brutal regime that knows no mercy nor any limits?

There have been several advocacies to raise awareness of the despicable atrocities happening in Egypt, and to what extent the Egyptian coup regime has been going to repress its people and suppress the most basic of civil rights. However, all attempts seem to fall on deaf ears.

How far does the regime have to go before it receives condemnation from the UK and the US? Does the tally of human rights violations not suffice for western governments to change their policy on Egypt? Does the barbaric dictatorial system, through which nearly 90 million people are controlled, abused and killed, not deserve any kind of reprimand, let alone the severing of all economic and political ties? Indeed, how can a military regime and a police state be allowed to exist?

What we can be sure of is that a military state is unacceptable and the free Egyptian people will continue in their revolt until this brutal regime is quashed and they attain their freedoms and are allowed to live a dignified life. Whether or not the West give their support and alter their policies towards this despotic regime, Egyptians will not wait for them to act.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Dr Walaa Ramadan) frontpage Thu, 20 Nov 2014 17:30:24 +0000
Israel to cooperate conditionally with UN Gaza war inquiry https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15383-israel-to-cooperate-conditionally-with-un-gaza-war-inquiry https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15383-israel-to-cooperate-conditionally-with-un-gaza-war-inquiry Israeli flagIsrael has said that it is prepared to cooperate with the UN Gaza war inquiry committee formed by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in order to investigate Israeli attacks on UN facilities during the bombardment and invasion in July and August.

According to Israel Radio, the Israeli ambassador to the UN sent a message to this effect to Mr Ban. The station also quoted sources in the Israeli Foreign Ministry which said that Israel's cooperation "is conditional", although the details of the conditions were not given.

Two weeks ago Israel announced that it would not cooperate with a panel formed by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate possible violations during the war. However, the Secretary General decided to form an internal committee to investigate certain incidents that occurred in the Gaza Strip between July 8th and August 26th.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 20 Nov 2014 17:24:40 +0000
Israeli spokesman Mark Regev: punitive home demolitions are 'price to be paid' https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/15382-israeli-spokesman-mark-regev-punitive-home-demolitions-are-price-to-be-paid https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/15382-israeli-spokesman-mark-regev-punitive-home-demolitions-are-price-to-be-paid Ben WhiteThe Israeli Prime Minister's spokesman Mark Regev has defended the internationally-condemned policy of punitive home demolitions as an appropriate "price to be paid".

Regev's remarks appeared in an article in The New York Times by the paper's Jerusalem correspondent Jodi Rudoren, but were subsequently heavily edited.

In the original article, Rudoren reported Regev as explaining that "Jewish extremists were not treated similarly because Israeli society does not celebrate such attacks in the way that Palestinians often do." The full quotation from Regev was as follows:

There is a culture of support within Palestinian society — these people are put up on a pedestal, they become martyrs, they become heroes, they are praised by the Palestinian leadership, their families are embraced, there are also very practical benefits for the family vis-à-vis financial support. In many ways, an action against the house is evening of the playing field. One is saying that by committing a heinous crime, in this case by murdering a baby, there will be a price to be paid.

The updated version of the piece has Regev justifying the practice on the grounds that "demolitions were a necessary deterrent to offset 'a culture of support within Palestinian society,' citing a report showing that the Palestinian Authority paid families of what it calls martyrs nearly $7 million in 2011."

It is unclear why the original remarks were changed by The New York Times.

Regev's defence of punitive demolitions, especially his talk of a "price to be paid", echoes the rationale for, and slogans used in, so-called 'price tag' attacks against Palestinian communities by far-right Jewish extremists.

Israel's policy of punitive house demolitions has been condemned by Palestinians, Israeli human rights groups, international organisations such as Amnesty International, as well as the U.S. State Department.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Ben White) frontpage Thu, 20 Nov 2014 17:17:22 +0000
36,000 stranded while waiting for Rafah crossing to open https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15381-36000-stranded-while-waiting-for-rafah-crossing-to-open https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15381-36000-stranded-while-waiting-for-rafah-crossing-to-open Rafah CrossingThere are 30,000 humanitarian cases that are in dire need of travel, while 6,000 Palestinians are stranded in Egypt awaiting the opening of the Rafah crossing which has been closed for over four weeks, the Ministry of Interior and National Security in Gaza said.

Speaking during a press conference yesterday, the spokesman for the Ministry of Interior in Gaza, Eyad Al-Bozum, said that those who are considered humanitarian cases either suffer from serious illnesses, have residency permits, are students, or have foreign passports.

He added that the continued closure of the crossing has created a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, as it is the residents' only lifeline and window to the outside world. Al-Bozum explained that many humanitarian aid convoys and solidarity delegations have been unable to enter Gaza, especially after the most recent war which lasted 51 days.

According to Al-Bozum, the crossing has been closed for 208 days this year due to a new Egyptian policy. This has intensified the suffering of the people of the Gaza Strip, who have already been suffering for eight years under due to Israel's siege on the enclave.

He stressed that there is no justification for the Egyptian authorities' closure of the Rafah crossing, noting that the crossing has never been a burden on Egyptian security and there have never been any security violations.

Al-Bozum called on the Egyptian authorities to open the Rafah crossing immediately and to facilitate the passage of people and goods in light of the disastrous conditions suffered by the people of Gaza.

Egyptian authorities closed the Rafah ground crossing completely on October 24 citing the deteriorating security situation in Sinai. It is unknown when it will reopen.

The Rafah crossing is the only crossing that serves the 1.8 million Palestinians living in besieged Gaza which is not subject to Israeli controls.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 20 Nov 2014 17:07:08 +0000
Egypt demolishes 700 houses along Gaza border in two days https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/15380-egypt-demolishes-700-houses-along-gaza-border-in-two-days https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/15380-egypt-demolishes-700-houses-along-gaza-border-in-two-days Dust and smoke rises from the demolition of a houses near the Gaza borderEgyptian authorities are to finish the demolition of houses in the buffer zone along its border with the Gaza Strip; pls48.net reported an Egyptian official in northern Sinai saying yesterday.

Earlier, the Egyptian armed forces announced they would double the buffer zone to one kilometre. Experts said that an empty zone would extend up to five kilometres.

The official source said that 802 houses, inhabited by 1,156 families, had been affected because they are adjacent to tunnels. In addition, the source said that 87 houses contained tunnels and more than 700 houses had been demolished to date.

According to the source, the Egyptian authorities have paid approximately 63 million Egyptian pounds ($8.8 million) in compensation.

Following the demolition of 709 homes, authorities said 93 houses were on the waiting list; they are due to be demolished in the next couple of days.

To justify the extension of the buffer zone, the armed forces said that the tunnels are longer than expected; some were 800 metres.

Pls48.net reported official sources in the coup government claimed that the government pays 1,200 Egyptian pound ($160) compensation per metre for concrete buildings and 700 Egyptian pounds ($90) compensation per metre for other structures.

The website said that the authorities pay the families 900 Egyptian pounds ($126) to rent temporary accommodation for three months.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 20 Nov 2014 17:05:22 +0000
Israel's need to reinvent its illegal existence https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/15379-israels-need-to-reinvent-its-illegal-existence https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/15379-israels-need-to-reinvent-its-illegal-existence Benjamin NetanyahuTwo particular recurring frameworks emerge from the latest Israeli violence against Palestinians in Jerusalem – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's continuation of home demolitions in alleged retaliation against "terror" and demands that the international community condemn "Palestinian terror against Israel". In reference to the recent killings of Israelis while at a synagogue in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said, "I want to see shock, utter denunciation," in reference to the reaction expected by Israel from the international community.

Asserting colonial dominance through violence – an inherent characteristic of Israel – was obliterated from Netanyahu's rhetoric. Accusations of Palestinian incitement allegedly ignited by Palestinian leaders from the PA, Hamas and Islamic Jihad were juxtaposed against demands for Palestinian recognition of Israel – a predictable tactic that continues to shape the settler-colonial state's regurgitated pleas.

Meanwhile, Ma'an News Agency reported that Israeli soldiers carried out further retaliation against Palestinians. Rampages included physical assault, damage to property, beatings, use of tear gas and targeting Palestinians with rubber-coated bullets, ostensibly in the name of "unity" that, according to the Times of Israel, Netanyahu linked to "Jerusalem and the security of the citizens of Israel".

Both of Netanyahu's demands are intrinsic to the current scenario and the colonisation process. Just as "Operation Protective Edge" and other previous massacres were isolated from their historical background in order to sustain the compromised legitimacy granted to Israel by the international community, the current Israeli retaliation against Palestinian resistance has also been discussed within a temporary framework in relation to settlement expansion.

A statement by US State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke emphasised the timeframe in relation to colonial expansion. "We reiterate our clear and consistent opposition to construction activity in East Jerusalem. During this sensitive time in Jerusalem, we would see such activity as inconsistent with the goal of lowering tensions and seeking a path towards peace." Evoking "sensitive time" has been a recurring characteristic of the US' alleged condemnation of Israeli expansion – a necessary clause in rhetoric to ensure both colonial and imperialist domination in the region.

In the same manner, the temporary aspect has been invoked by the Israeli government to persist in its violence through dwelling destruction. The "punitive measure" – a term related to the destruction of Palestinian homes linked to resistance – will provide a screen for the practice constantly employed by Netanyahu and which has been a significant feature consolidating the existence of Israel's illegal presence in Palestine.

Israel has accused PA President Mahmoud Abbas of "distorting reality". The ambiguity within the statement serves Israeli interests. Not giving a context to reality renders such an utterance convenient for the settler-colonial state, as it avails itself of the liberty to append distortion despite the irrelevance of the situation. While Abbas should be held accountable for his distortion of Palestinian memory, history and resistance, which have been marginalised to accommodate Israel's dominant narrative, distortion of the current reality has been perpetrated by Israel – an exercise that, despite its superiority in force compared to Palestine, exhibits a major weakness – that of constantly having to manipulate and reinvent the essence of its existence to ensure its illegal survival.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Ramona Wadi) frontpage Thu, 20 Nov 2014 15:41:59 +0000
Israeli occupation seizes hundreds of dunams of land from Jenin to Tulkarm https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15378-israeli-occupation-seizes-hundreds-of-dunams-of-land-from-jenin-to-tulkarm https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15378-israeli-occupation-seizes-hundreds-of-dunams-of-land-from-jenin-to-tulkarm Israeli soldiersIsraeli occupation authorities have handed a military order to the council of the Zebda Al-Jadida village in Ya'bad, to the west Jenin, to halt all construction and works currently being carried out, claiming that these lands are under Israeli military control.

The head of the village council, Saleh Amarneh, told Al-Quds newspaper that the area commander of the occupation army handed the village council an order, along with a map indicating all the areas that Palestinian citizens are no longer allowed to use.

According to the map, the areas to be seized cover around 200 square kilometres and are located in the villages of Um Dar, Nazlet-Zeid, Zebda, Al-Khuljan, and other areas, all the way over to the town of Qafen in Tulkarm.

Palestinian news agencies quoted the director general of Jenin's Ministry of Local Government, Raed Moqbel, as saying that the occupation authorities had already handed over dozens of notifications to citizens in the villages to the west of Ya'bad, even though they all have official documents proving their ownership of the land.

According to Al-Quds, the order read as follows: "Based on an amendment and a military order issued in 2009, thousands of dunams that are cultivated with olive trees have been confiscated, from the area of Um Dar across 3-4 km through to Zeta in Tulkarm, Baqa Al-Sharqiya and Qafen." The order also states that the owners of the land are prohibited from cultivating it and carrying out any construction work on it.

Moqbel pointed out that this an unfair decision, which aims to seize more land in order to expand settlements, adding that relevant bodies in the Palestinian government are considering taking legal action in order to stop this seizure.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 20 Nov 2014 15:19:46 +0000
Al-Hindi: Islamic Jihad is a Palestinian Sunni movement https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15377-al-hindi-islamic-jihad-is-a-palestinian-sunni-movement https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15377-al-hindi-islamic-jihad-is-a-palestinian-sunni-movement Mohamed Al-HindiThe leader of the Islamic Jihad movement in Gaza, Mohamed Al-Hindi, insisted on Wednesday that his movement is "solely a Sunni, Palestinian and resistance movement", stressing that "it is far from sectarian colours," Anadolu news agency reported.

In a press release sent to Anadolu, Al-Hindi denied the remarks made by Iraqi Shia cleric Sheikh Jalal Al-Din Ali Al-Sagheer, who reportedly described Islamic Jihad as a "Shia" movement.

"These are baseless and false claims," Al-Hindi said. "Such claims defame the speaker who uttered them, because they incite sectarian clashes."

Al-Hindi said the claims are in line with the "attacks on Islamic Jihad, whose eye is on Jerusalem and the dangers of Judaisation after confronting the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip."

According to Anadolu, the Shia cleric recently appeared in a video calling all members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement Shiites.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 20 Nov 2014 15:11:53 +0000
Body of Palestinian worker found in Israeli cemetery https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15376-body-of-palestinian-worker-found-in-israeli-cemetery https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15376-body-of-palestinian-worker-found-in-israeli-cemetery jewish settlersThe body of a Palestinian worker was found by Israeli police yesterday lying between gravestones in a cemetery in Kfar Saba, central Israel.

The body, which was sent to Jerusalem for an autopsy, was that of a West Bank man who had no permit to enter Israel, according to a police statement cited by Israel's public radio.

Later, Israeli Radio reported unnamed sources as saying the body belonged to a Palestinian from the city of Qalqilia, in the north of the West Bank. The man was named as Mohamed Al-Faraeni.

The station said the man is thought to have suffered a heart attack.

Israeli intelligence organisations have warned that extremist Jews might carry out attacks against Palestinians after the death of four rabbis and a policeman inside a Jewish synagogue in Jerusalem last week.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 20 Nov 2014 15:08:59 +0000
Israel approves 78 new illegal housing units in occupied Jerusalem https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15375-israel-approves-78-new-illegal-housing-units-in-occupied-jerusalem https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15375-israel-approves-78-new-illegal-housing-units-in-occupied-jerusalem Settlment constructionIsraeli occupation's Local Committee for Planning and Building in occupied Jerusalem has ratified the approval of 78 new illegal housing units in the eastern part of Jerusalem.

The move will likely be viewed as yet another escalation of Israel's collective punishment against Palestinians after five Israelis were killed at a Jewish synagogue in the western part of Jerusalem on Monday during a time of increasing tensions in the holy city.

According to Felesteen Online, Israeli public radio reported on Wednesday that: "The committee has approved the establishment of 50 housing units in the settlement of Har Homa, which is built on the territory of Jabal Abu-Ghunaim in the south of Jerusalem, and 28 housing units in the settlement of Ramot in the north of Jerusalem."

This approval is the last stage before the issuance of the municipal's building permits, which are usually issued immediately after such a decision by the local committee is made.

The same committee has approved, in recent weeks, the establishment of hundreds of new illegal settlement units in Har Homa and Ramot, in addition to the settlement of Ramat Shlomo, which is built on the occupied territory of Shu'fat, north of Jerusalem.

The Palestinian Authority and many Arab and Western nations have criticised Israel's continued expansion of illegal settlements, demanding that Israel stop these activities.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 20 Nov 2014 15:03:50 +0000
UAE's role in global war on 'political Islam' https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/15374-uae-role-in-global-war-on-political-islam https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/15374-uae-role-in-global-war-on-political-islam Raja AbdulhaqThe recent decision by the United Arab Emirates to include major Muslim American organisations such as CAIR and the Muslim American Society amongst the other 83 international organisations as terrorist groups is another desperate step towards fighting the Arab Spring, which promises to bring about freedom and independence from Western hegemony.

Since the inception of the Arab Spring, the majority of the Arab governments, fully backed by Western colonial powers, plotted to topple the popular uprisings by all means. One repeated mechanism was the demonisation of "political Islam", namely the Muslim Brotherhood who has been on the forefront of the popular struggle against injustice since the early 1900s.

Beyond the obvious goal of weakening and eventually halting the uprisings, another important goal of demonising the Muslim Brotherhood is creating a religious vacuum that can be easily filled by tyrant-approved scholars, public figures and religious organisations that will assist in continuing the status quo through religious reasoning. With Al-Qaeda and similar groups being rejected by the masses, and with the vilification of the Muslim Brotherhood, the population will be forced to endorse the rhetoric of the tyrants' scholars, resulting in the collapse of the revolutions. This mechanism was used and succeeded in Egypt.

For the purpose of maintaining its political domination and Western hegemony, the UAE has been a leading force of the counter-revolution in the Arab world since 2006 when it funded a militia led by Mohamed Dahlan to overthrow the elected Hamas government in Gaza. Besides funding, training and providing political support to the counter-revolution forces in the region, the UAE has adopted a strategy to advocate a passive, submissive, and colonised version of Islam. Capitalising on the extremism of Al-Qaeda and the bashing of the Muslim Brotherhood, the UAE coined that version a "moderate Islam".

Ever since, the UAE has endorsed and funded some preachers in the region to paint Islam as an experience that doesn't go beyond a personal relationship between man and the creator, one that is expressed through dogmas and rituals, turning Islam to a mere mysticism without any social, cultural or political aspects.

In an effort to battle the International Union for Muslim Scholars, a leading proponent of the Arab Spring, the UAE established the Muslim Council of Elders earlier this year. The membership of the new council ranges from "scholars" who issued fatwas to justify murdering thousands of innocent people in Egypt, to public figures who demanded the youth "sit home, learn the deen [religion], and obey their oppressors." The role of this new council is indisputable: to promote colonised Islam.

The West's colonial agenda and tactics are becoming more discernible than ever, and the recent step by the UAE to label Islamic organisations in the West as terrorists sheds a light on an undeniable fact: there is a global war on the "political Islam" that promotes justice as the essence of Islam.

Raja Abdulhaq is a Palestinian activist and community organiser. Follow him on Twitter @Raja48

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Raja Abdulhaq) frontpage Thu, 20 Nov 2014 14:58:58 +0000
'The battle of Jerusalem': It is personal https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/15373-the-battle-of-jerusalem-it-is-personal https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/15373-the-battle-of-jerusalem-it-is-personal Daoud KuttabIt is not clear whether Israeli prime minister's portrayal of the latest violence as the battle of Jerusalem was a description of what was happening or an electoral wish. Whatever the case, the results of the "battle of Jerusalem", if it is that, will certainly be different from what Israelis predict.

One of the first indications that Jerusalem is different is the personalization of the victims Everyone has a name and the names are given prominence.

More than 2,000 Palestinians were killed in the Israeli war on Gaza, but we know very little about them. In Jerusalem, however, the names of both Palestinians and Israelis who are killed are given much more prominence in media coverage and public discussions.

Mohammad Abu Khudair who was brutally killed by Jewish settlers, and Yusuf Hasan Al Ramuni, the Palestinian driver who operated an Israeli bus and was said to have hanged himself, have become household names.

The Israelis who were killed in the attack on the synagogue also have been named: Rabbi Moshe Twersky, Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, Rabbi Kalman Levine and Aryeh Kupinsky.

Similarly, the press gave the names of the two Palestinian cousins, Ghassan and Uday Abu Jamal, from the Jerusalem neighbourhood of At Tur.

This high visibility of the various victims of the violence in Jerusalem is certain to raise the emotional and political temperature in a city that has been near boiling point since summer.

Israel's planned punishments for the people of Jerusalem will do little to de-escalate the tensions, but will certainly contribute to widening them.

While Israel's prime minister and other ministers and politicians quickly accused the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah and Gaza for what happened, Israel's security chiefs, including the head of Shin Bet (internal security), publicly contradicted their political leaders and blamed the violence on the visit by members of the Knesset to Al Aqsa Mosque and the killing of Abu Khudair, rather than anything else.

The fact is that, unlike other areas in the occupied territories, Israel has full control over East Jerusalem and has created a wall separating Jerusalem from the rest of the Palestinian territories.

Israel uses legal and administrative means to further isolate Palestinian leaders.

Once, Israel used its emergency law to prevent a children's puppet festival in Jerusalem's Hakawati theatre because it was funded by the Norwegian government via the Ramallah-based Palestinian government.

Israel's obsession to cut off East Jerusalem from the rest of Palestine has meant that the Palestinian leadership has no leverage on fellow Palestinians. The result is that the city's 300,000 residents are leaderless political orphans who act as lone wolves that are neither influenced nor directed by any visible leadership.

The political temperature of Jerusalem is also raised when any side tries to shake the strong religious beliefs of the other.

Having Israeli security enter the third holiest mosque wearing their boots, as they did on October 29, is seen by Muslims around the world as a violation of their sacred religion and holy places.

This does not justify killing Jewish worshipers in a synagogue, but it goes to show that what has been happening on the grounds of Al Aqsa Mosque left a deep scar on the population.

Press reports said that the four Jewish worshipers killed Tuesday included dual citizens. Three Americans and Briton were killed.

A Druze soldier who came to their rescue, Zeidan Seif, also died from wounds in the exchange of fire.

The attackers were Muslim Palestinians from Jerusalem.

This multiplicity of nationalities and ethnicities attacked points to the importance of this conflict, especially the Jerusalem part of it. It should be removed from day-to-day politics and be given higher attention by the international community.

The international community along with Arab and Muslim leaders, must act with wisdom and conviction to find long-term solutions to this conflict and to institute policies that guarantee the freedom of worship and the protection of all holy places in Jerusalem.

Leaving an issue as volatile as Jerusalem in the hands of the Israeli settlers who run Premier Benjamin Netanyahu's government will only lead to more disasters.

It is time that the international community act in a decisive way and put an end to this vicious cycle of violence.

The city of Jerusalem does not need to be fought for. It needs to be left as an open city for all the faithful to be able to worship freely.

Making the current violence a battle for Jerusalem is pouring oil on fire and will escalate the violence.

For many people in the city and around the world, when it comes to Jerusalem, it is very personal.

Daoud Kuttab is a former Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University, and the Director General of Jordan's Community Media Network.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Daoud Kuttab) frontpage Thu, 20 Nov 2014 14:54:33 +0000
The battle for Jerusalem https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/15372-the-battle-for-jerusalem https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/15372-the-battle-for-jerusalem David HearstTo be a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem is to suffer from a special form of statelessness. They are citizens neither of Israel nor of Palestine. They cannot vote. They have no official passports and cannot freely cross borders.

They have the right to residency in Jerusalem, but it is a daily battle to keep it. Under the Israeli Ministry of Interior's "center of life" policy, they have to continuously disprove a negative, that their real family life is not elsewhere. This means endlessly collecting receipts as proof of their life in Jerusalem like medical prescriptions and school registrations. Inspectors go as far as counting the clothes in a wardrobe or the food in the fridge, as evidence of the claimed number of children living in the family home.

Obtaining citizenship of any country or spending too long abroad are both reasons for the revocation of the residency status, which cannot be handed down to children. They cannot build onto their houses, and if they do, they have to pay to have the extension knocked down, or knock it down themselves. This is the community from which the two men who shot and hacked worshippers in early morning prayers in a synagogue in West Jerusalem on Tuesday came from.

There is another element peculiar to this attack on a Jewish religious target. Ghassan Abu Jamal, 23, and Odai Abu Jamal, 30, were not members of a religious Palestinian group. They came from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) -- a secular, revolutionary, leftist organisation founded by George Habash, a Palestinian Christian, responsible in the 1960s for a series of aircraft hijackings.

This brings us to the third new element in this attack: The PFLP did not, on the available evidence, order or plan this attack. A statement posted on the group's Facebook page supported the attack and identified the attackers as members of the PFLP, but a press release emailed on behalf of the group omitted any affiliation the men had to the group. The PFLP in Gaza wanted to claim responsibility for the attack, the West Bank did not. This is similar to the abduction and murder of three settler youths by members of Hamas, which Hamas itself did not know anything about.

Ofer Zalzberg, senior Middle East analyst at the International Crisis Group (ICG) put his finger on what is happening here.

"There is no leader to go to that can represent the needs and demands of East Jerusalemites or Palestinians in general. For Palestinians, Abbas does not seem to act, Jordan's actions are limited, while most of the Arab or Islamic world doesn't seem to be mobilising...No one is acting in the face of perceived threats among Palestinians in East Jerusalem and therefore in the absence of leaders, individuals react."

While Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that Mahmoud Abbas' "incitement" was responsible for the synagogue attack, a young woman in Ramallah put a video up lambasting the Palestinian president for condemning it. Kristina Yousef said:

"Mr. President! Where were you a month ago? Where were you when child Turin was killed? Where were you yesterday when Yousef al-Ramouni was strangled to death while on the job? Did you watch the video of his wife when she was weeping and crying? Where are you? Do you watch the news? Where are you?We are not in a state of war. We are in the middle of a massacre. We have lost all hope. These are the ones who lift our heads high while you come out to condemn (them)? Where are the violations of Al-Aqsa? Here is Al-Aqsa. It has only a few years to go. They have been demolishing it. They are digging underneath it. Every day, the women at Al-Aqsa get beaten. Why are you not coming out to denounce this? If you do not want to stand by us, then sit on the side. Believe me, we can do the job instead of you. We can defend our country; we do not need you."

Like it or not, this is an authentic Palestinian voice. Her video went viral. The issue, then, is not the degree to which Abbas condemns or dissociates himself with the Palestinians who carry out these attacks. On this point, the Shin Bet service chief Yoram Cohen bluntly contradicted his prime minister. The issue is the extent to which Abbas, the Palestinian Authority, and indeed all Palestinian factions have lost control of events taking place on the ground. The Palestinians of East Jerusalem are not only stateless, but leaderless too.

Yousef's voice should not come as a surprise. Hers is the product of the generation that has grown up under a policy that has been consistently applied and internationally supported. It is to suppress all political opposition in the West Bank, isolating Jerusalem, to allow Abbas to speak. Abbas' voice comes at the expense of silencing all others.

The policy has been undermined in two ways. Israel collectively has stopped listening to Abbas. And the Palestinian president has stopped being listened to by Palestinians themselves.

The red line in this battle is al-Aqsa in particular and Jerusalem in general. There is no question in the minds of the Palestinians of East Jerusalem but that Israel has already crossed this line. Attacking places of worship has alas become commonplace. Since June 2011, 10 mosques in Israel and the West Bank have been set on fire by presumed right-wing Jewish extremists. No charges have been filed. Over 63 mosques were destroyed and 153 partially damaged in Israel's attack on Gaza.

Ever since the occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, there were Jews who aspired to remove the mosque of al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock and replace it with the Third Temple. There was always a brisk trade in pictures of the Holy City with al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock photoshopped out. But this sort of wish fulfilment remained on the fringe of Israeli political discourse. Now it has entered the mainstream.

Movements for the rebuilding of the Third Temple have gained ground and the religious veto against praying on the Temple Mount has waned. Thirty years ago, Yehuda Etzion, one the movement's leaders, was convicted of planning to blow up the Dome of the Rock. Today, he enjoys right-wing backing. "The Temple will rise on the expense of the mosques, there is no doubt about it," said Etzion.

Just a few hundred meters away from al-Aqsa, the crowded and poor Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan is in the first stages of Judaisation. It is now referred to as the City of David. Just after settlers took over 23 more apartments in Silwan at the end of September, and violent clashes ensued, an advert appeared congratulating the settlers on their Zionist endeavour. "The strengthening of Jewish presence in Jerusalem is our common challenge," went the ad. "With your settlement act, you make us proud."

Who put their names on the front page ad? Nobel Laureate Eli Wiesel; Shlomo Aharonishky, ex-chief of staff of the Israeli Police; and retired general Amos Yadlin, former head of intelligence in the Israeli Defense Forces and a possible contender for the leadership of the Labor Party. As MEE contributor Meron Rapoport noted: "In short, not a bunch of right-wing lunatics, but the flesh and bone of the Israeli establishment."

The settlers of the "City of David" are just the visible part of a broader act of dispossession. Declaring the area a Jewish National Heritage site, despite the fact that no reliable archeological evidence has been found linking King David to the stones uncovered during the excavations, has legitimised the acts of the settlers.

The takeover of Silwan is not a fringe activity. Israel's housing minister Uri Ariel, a senior minister from the Jewish Home party, has looked into renting an apartment there.

Sami Abu Atrash, a colleague of Yusef al-Ramouni, found hanging from a steel bar in the Egged bus he drove summed up the atmosphere in East Jerusalem on Tuesday. He told the Middle East Eye:

"They're against us. They don't want any Palestinians to live on this earth. They want to transfer all the people ...We work for the Jewish people, and help them, all the time, day and night. But the Israelis - and it's not just the settlers - it's the government - they are pushing them to kill us, and destroy our houses. It's the system of the government against the Palestinian people."

What's going in East Jerusalem has forced even the most West-leaning and compliant of Arab leaders, King Abdullah of Jordan to withdraw his ambassador. The king is acting out of pragmatism. He is mindful of the presence of Islamic State supporters in Jordan, to say nothing of the Palestinian majority in the Hashemite kingdom. Abdullah knows that nothing can unify Arabs as quickly as Jerusalem.

Which brings us to the last and perhaps most significant difference between this Palestinian uprising, if such it proves to be, and the last two. If it does materialize, it will be fought by Palestinians inside the walls that Israel has constructed around itself, by the East Jerusalemites and the Palestinians of 1948, who are Israeli citizens. Unlike the previous two intifadas, this conflict will not be contained inside secure borders, such as were guaranteed by strong states, friendly and hostile alike. Egypt's Mubarak has disappeared, and a very large jihadi insurgency is battling for control of the Sinai Peninsula. Bashar Assad's forces no longer control Israel's northern border on the Golan Heights. To make Jerusalem a battle zone, in the circumstances of chaos in the wider Arab world, where four states have failed, is to invite every Arab fighter in.

And Jerusalem will surely become a battle zone, if the public security minister eases controls on gun licenses to Israel's Jewish citizens, East Jerusalem becomes locked down by roadblocks and police patrols, or the response of the government is to demolish Palestinian houses while announcing 78 new settlements.

So Netanyahu, for once, is right. This is a battle for Jerusalem. It will either be the last battle Palestinians will fight before Israeli Jews take East Jerusalem over. Or it is the first battle of a larger struggle -- in which Jerusalem serves as a magnet for militants from wherever they hail -- Sunni or Shia, secular and Islamist, takfiris, jihadis, or nationalists. Netanyahu has picked the one battleground capable of drawing them all in.

This article was first published by The Huffington Post

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (David Hearst) frontpage Thu, 20 Nov 2014 14:48:35 +0000
Egypt detains senior Brotherhood leader https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/15371-egypt-detains-senior-brotherhood-leader https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/15371-egypt-detains-senior-brotherhood-leader Mohamed Ali BeshrEgyptian security forces detained senior Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Ali Beshr early Thursday, a security source has said.

"Beshr has been detained upon an arrest warrant issued by the prosecution on charges of incitement to violence and joining an outlawed group," the source in the Menoufiya Security Directorate told Anadolu Agency.

The source linked the arrest warrant to calls by Islamists to stage an "Islamic revolution" on November 28.

A source in the National Alliance for the Defense of Legitimacy, the main support bloc of ousted president Mohamed Morsi, earlier told The Anadolu Agency that Beshr, a former local development minister under Morsi, had been detained from his home in Menoufiya province in the Nile Delta.

Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president, was ousted by the military in July of last year following massive opposition protests against his rule.

Ever since Morsi's overthrow, Egyptian authorities have maintained a harsh crackdown on his supporters, detaining thousands and killing hundreds.

Late last December, Egyptian authorities branded the Muslim Brotherhood, the group from which Morsi hails, as a terrorist group.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the biggest Arab financiers of the post-Morsi regime, followed the Egyptian suit.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 20 Nov 2014 14:45:40 +0000
Lebanese parliament fails to elect a new president for 15th time https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15370-lebanese-parliament-fails-to-elect-a-new-president-for-15th-time https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15370-lebanese-parliament-fails-to-elect-a-new-president-for-15th-time Lebanon has not had a president since the end of the mandate of Michel Suleiman [pictured] expired on 25 May 2014.On Wednesday, the Lebanese parliament failed to choose a president for the country for the fifteenth time, extending Lebanon's political crisis.

According to Rassd news agency, Parliamentary Speaker Nabi Berri adjourned the session until 10 December.

According to Lebanon's sectarian political system, the election of a new president, always held by a Maronite Christian, requires a two-thirds majority in the 128-seat parliament.

Most members of the 8 March political bloc, led by Hezbollah and General Michel Aoun of the Change and Reform bloc, have boycotted the parliamentary sessions to elect a new president because they want to agree upon a consensus candidate that can serve both 8 March and its political opponent, 14 March, led by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri of the Future Movement and Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea.

14 March supports Geagea for the presidency; however, after he failed to win a majority in the first round of voting, 8 March subsequently decided to boycott the elections in favour of a consensus candidate. More recently, Hezbollah proposed Aoun's candidacy instead, who heads the largest Christian party in the parliament.

Neither side's candidate is able to win a majority of the votes without the support of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who has chosen his own candidate, MP Henri Helou.

Lebanon has not had a president since the end of the mandate of Michel Suleiman expired on 25 May 2014.

Since the end of Suleiman's term, the government, composed of representatives of the different political forces headed by Prime Minister Tammam Salam, has the powers of the president until the election of a new one, in line with Lebanon's constitution.

The first meeting for the election of the Lebanese president was held on 23 April in the presence of 124 MPs, but no candidate received the majority required to become president.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 20 Nov 2014 14:35:37 +0000
Erdogan: People in the Middle East must control their own fate https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/15369-erdogan-people-in-the-middle-east-must-control-their-own-fate https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/15369-erdogan-people-in-the-middle-east-must-control-their-own-fate Turkey's Tayyip Erdogan with Algerian Premi Minister Abdelmalek SellalPeople of the Middle East and North Africa should control their own fate, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday.

Speaking in the Algerian capital Algiers during the first formal visit by a Turkish president to the country in 15 years, Erdogan said: "The most important question: Big changes that are taking place in the Middle East and North Africa; will these changes be controlled by the people of these regions or, as has been the case in past centuries, will people from outside control them?"

During a joint press conference with his Algerian counterpart Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Erdogan continued: "Each of us knows that when we import solutions for our own problems, we do not solve them."

Sources close to the Turkish president told the Anadolu Agency that during the Erdogan- Bouteflika meeting the two leaders agreed on the importance of maintaining Iraq's territorial integrity. They also agreed that they are against any kind of foreign intervention in Libya.

Iraq has been gripped by a security vacuum since June when the Islamic State (ISIS) stormed the northern province of Mosul and declared what it calls a caliphate state in Syria and Iraq.

Libya has been dogged by political instability since the 2011 ouster and death of long-ruling dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Ever since, rival militias have locked horns, often bringing violence to Libya's main cities, especially to the capital Tripoli and Benghazi.

Speaking about the Israeli attack against Al-Aqsa Mosque, Erdogan said: "Nobody can say the Palestine issue does not concern us."

During the attack last week, heavily-armed Israeli security forces broke into Al-Aqsa Mosque with their boots on and shot rubber bullets at Palestinian worshippers.

"The attack is an attack on Turkey," Erdogan said, as "Al-Aqsa is not only a mosque for Palestinians, it is the mosque for each of us. It is one of the most holy places for each of us."

For Muslims, Al-Aqsa Mosque represents the world's third holiest site. Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the Temple Mount, claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 20 Nov 2014 14:31:04 +0000
Libya's disputed parliament threatens to close Tripoli airspace https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/15368-libyas-disputed-parliament-threatens-to-close-tripoli-airspace https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/15368-libyas-disputed-parliament-threatens-to-close-tripoli-airspace Libyan flagThe Libyan parliament based in Tobruk threatened on Wednesday to close the airspace controlled by the National Salvation Government in Tripoli, Anadolu news agency reported.

In a statement, the disputed parliament said that it would "close the airspace ... in response to the continuous terrorism of the (side) controlling Tripoli."

The parliament in Tobruk controls the eastern part of the country, whereas the government in Tripoli, headed by Omar Al-Hassi, controls the capital and other Libyan cities.

The Tobruk-based parliament, which was recognised by the UN as Libya's official government even though it does not control most of the country, said that it would ask the Global Aviation Administration or the Global Airports Organisation to enforce a no-fly zone.

Earlier this month, the Libyan Supreme Court ruled that the parliament in Tobruk, despite being elected, was in fact unconstitutional and thus invalidated it. This happened after the parliament asked foreign powers to intervene in Libya's political crisis, leading to suspected airstrikes by Egypt and the UAE against Libyan factions, further deepening the political crisis in the country.

According to Anadolu, the disputed parliament's second deputy, Hamid Homa, wrote on Facebook that the statement came after certain parties attempted "to occupy" the airspace monitoring the centre of Tripoli to undermine flights coming into and out of the city.

This act was described as an attempt to divide Libyans. "This step was carried out by Al-Hassi's government and the Fajr Libya group," the statement claimed. "It aims at dividing the country and the people of this country."

The statement also accused Fajr Libya of attempting to kidnap a plane carrying parliamentarians heading to the city of Gat on an official visit. The group reportedly threatened to down the plane.

The government in the capital has so far not commented on the latest developments.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 20 Nov 2014 14:28:54 +0000
Egypt police arrest 25 protesters https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/15367-egypt-police-arrest-25-protesters https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/15367-egypt-police-arrest-25-protesters Egyptian riot police keeping an eye on the protestorsIMAGES

Twenty-five Egyptians who took part in a gathering to commemorate the Mohamed Mahmoud Street events were arrested, the country's interior ministry said yesterday.

Some 400 people took part in the event, the Anadolu Agency said.

Deputy Interior Minister Major General Abdel Fattah Othman said the protesters caused traffic disruptions.

Anadolu reported an official Egyptian news agency saying that Othman announced the arrest of 25 protesters. Othman said that the Public Prosecution was informed about the detention in order to start its probes.

The police used tear gas and chased the protesters in order to disperse them, Anadolu reported. Most people fled into the streets in the surrounding area however a number were arrested, including females.

Other reports said 56 protesters had been arrested while five female detainees were later released.

This protest was one of several planned to take place in commemoration of the Mohamed Mahmoud Street events however, many were cancelled after the police crackdown.

The April 6 Movement had organised a gathering outside the headquarters of the Egypt Journalists Syndicate in the middle of Cairo but it cancelled the event due to "oppression by security forces".

Images by ApaImages

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 20 Nov 2014 14:24:01 +0000
Israeli minister backs plan to ban Arab workers https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15366-israeli-minister-backs-plan-to-ban-arab-workers https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15366-israeli-minister-backs-plan-to-ban-arab-workers Uri ArielIsraeli Minister of Housing Uri Ariel expressed support for sacking Arab workers from their jobs and for the mayor of Ashkelon's decision to prevent Arabs from working in the city.

In an interview with Israeli Army Radio Ariel said sacking Arab workers "is not considered racist".

The mayor of Ashkelon confirmed that the ban only applies to Arabs working in kindergartens and schools, and aims to restore a sense of safety. He said the decision came following pressure from parents.

Reports in Israel said Arab workers would be dismissed from jobs in other areas also.

This morning, Yedioth Ahronoth reported that as a punishment for the latest incident in Jerusalem, local authorities have started to sack Arab workers out of "fear".

The newspaper added that Arabs working in construction in Ashkelon have also been sacked, while authorities in Jerusalem said they would not hire Arabs.

The report pointed out that in recent weeks; large numbers of workers have been sacked from jobs in construction, catering and renovation companies, just because they are Arabs.

An owner of a private venue sacked 17 Arab workers fearing a repeat of the "synagogue operation".

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 20 Nov 2014 14:20:29 +0000
Marzouki calls Egyptian businessman Sawiris an 'anti-revolutionary' https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/15365-marzouki-calls-egyptian-businessman-sawiris-an-anti-revolutionary https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/15365-marzouki-calls-egyptian-businessman-sawiris-an-anti-revolutionary Naguib SawirisTunisian President Moncef Marzouki has accused the Egyptian businessman and founder of the Free Egyptians Party, Naguib Sawiris, of supporting the anti-revolutionary current in the Arab countries, Anadolu news agency reported on Wednesday.

According to the news agency, the head of Tunisia's secular Nidaa Tounes Party, Beji Caid Al-Sebsi, had invited Sawiris to visit the country.

In a conference attended by around 3,000 supporters, Marzouki opened his speech by commenting on Sawiris's visit. "It had its goals and sends a message," he told the audience. "The principal of my electoral campaign told me that an Egyptian television station loyal to Sawiris referred to Al-Sebsi as the temporary president of Tunis."

He added: "Some parties want to ignore the Tunisian voter and the Tunisian people," also noting that his party is not against individuals, but against the ideology of one party and one man.

Sending a message to Al-Sebsi, he said: "Tunisians are independent" and called on his supporters to be the "makers of history and not its victims" on Sunday – the day of the presidential elections.

Previously, Sawiris tweeted about his visit that: "It aimed at congratulating the [Nidaa Tounes Party] for its victory in the parliamentarian elections and to reinforce bilateral relations."

Spokesperson of the Free Egyptians Party Shehab Wajeeh said that Sawiris's visit to Tunisia was part of an effort to set up an alliance between the "liberal" Arab parties in order to confront the religious current, which is aimed at changing the identity of these countries.

Wajeeh called Marzouki's criticism of the visit "bankrupt".

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 20 Nov 2014 14:17:55 +0000
'Terrorist' list destroys integrity of UAE https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/resources/commentary-and-analysis/15364-terrorist-list-destroys-integrity-of-uae https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/resources/commentary-and-analysis/15364-terrorist-list-destroys-integrity-of-uae MEMO CommentaryThe first thing that catches the eye about the newly-released United Arab Emirates list of 83 "terrorist organisations" is its broad sweep. It contains Islamic institutions from across Europe, the United States, the Middle East and Asia. Although patently absurd, the list does possibly have the unintended effect of reinforcing the common myth that all terrorists are Muslims. Not a single Jewish organisation was mentioned, despite the violent campaigns waged by some of the Israeli settlers' groups against the Palestinian inhabitants of occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank, and daily assaults on the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

On one level, the UAE list speaks volumes about those who have compiled it. It tells the story of a country that feels, at best, terribly insecure and, at worst, at peace with neither itself nor its neighbours. Moreover, it suggests a state that is lacking in confidence so much that it sees the modern equivalent of reds under every bed.

In the absence of any tangible and verifiable evidence of a terrorist threat to the UAE, the list appears to reflect a fear of change on the one hand and fixation with its Gulf neighbour, Qatar, on the other. Whereas the latter has openly supported the popular uprisings for democratic change across the region, the UAE adopted the exact opposite stance. It chose, for example, to offer sanctuary to remnants of the Mubarak regime.

In the circumstances, it was only a matter of time before the rulers of the UAE, like their Egyptian clients, launched an all-out attack on the Muslim Brotherhood and groups associated with it. So while the list of 83 groups includes the likes of ISIS and Al-Qaida, the real target is undoubtedly the Islamic movement.

Earlier this year when Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron announced a review of the Brotherhood's activities it was believed widely that this was undertaken in response to pressure from the UAE and Saudi Arabia. In August, the Financial Times reported that the review had concluded that "the group should not be labelled a terrorist organisation and in fact [...] found little evidence its members are involved in terrorist activities." One government source told the newspaper that "Sir John [Jenkins, Britain's ambassador to Saudi Arabia] will say that the Brotherhood is not a terrorist organisation. The Saudis and Emiratis will then be very upset with us."

Since then, there has been a flow of media "leaks", notably to the Daily Telegraph, which asserted that the government was about to enforce measures against 60 British organisations with links to the Muslim Brotherhood. Lawyers acting on behalf of the movement had no doubts that the leaks were all ordered to put pressure on the government to alter the report with a demand that the Jenkins Report be published in full and in its original form. It is in this context that the UAE list appears to be part of a carefully-choreographed attempt to twist the British government's arm.

At this point, the old saying, "people who live in glass houses should not throw stones" looks to be very relevant. While the UAE has compiled its colourful list of "terrorist organisations" it has some explaining to do about its own distinctly murky affairs in Libya, Tunisia and even Oman, a fellow GCC member.

In January 2011 security officials in the sultanate told the Oman News Agency that the authorities had arrested spies "belonging to the state security forces of the UAE targeting the regime in Oman and the mechanism of governmental and military work." In August, The New York Times cited four senior American officials who reported that Egypt and the United Arab Emirates had launched airstrikes against Islamist-allied targets in Libya.

Still more recently Al-Jazeera broadcast a documentary on the assassination of Chokri Belaïd, the Tunisian politician. The programme highlighted a telephone conversation with Belaid's driver moments before he was shot. The call originated in the UAE. Many Tunisians now believe that the politician was murdered to provoke anger and opposition to the then ruling Ennahdah Party; public anger and political opposition were duly provoked.

In the chaotic world of the Middle East it is very easy to play the terrorism card. Leaders, past and present, use it instinctively to silence dissident voices and discredit political opponents. At other times, it is used to cover up internal failures and win western support. As such, it is losing its ability to shock; "terrorist" doesn't really mean anything when it is bandied about so liberally with neither rhyme nor reason.

Indeed, so far, the UAE list seems to have failed to impress even the American and British governments. Both have requested explanations as to why respected civil society groups in their countries have been designated as "terrorist organisations".

It takes no great skill or intelligence to compile a list of alleged terrorists when no evidence has to be produced to justify it. A much more difficult task is to prove that those named on the list have been involved in terrorism or pose a threat to the territorial integrity of the UAE.

If anything, the government in the UAE is looking in the wrong place for such a threat to its sovereignty. According to the Emiratis, the islands of Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb have been "occupied" by Iran since the early seventies; shouldn't the Gulf state be focusing on discussions with Tehran rather than seeking to discredit popular civil society groups? In behaving like a playground bully, the UAE has destroyed whatever integrity it may once have had.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Dr Daud Abdullah) frontpage Wed, 19 Nov 2014 18:08:41 +0000
Although far from perfect, Tunisia's achievements should not be sniffed at https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/15363-although-far-from-perfect-tunisias-achievements-should-not-be-sniffed-at https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/15363-although-far-from-perfect-tunisias-achievements-should-not-be-sniffed-at Samira ShackleThe popular uprisings that swept across the Middle East in 2011 started in Tunisia. When the long-term President, Zine El-Abedine Ben Ali, was toppled after weeks of popular protests, people across the region were inspired to take to the streets. Amid scenes that would once have been unimaginable, leaders were ousted in Libya, Egypt and Yemen.

Three years later, though, much of the optimism that characterised that time has dissipated. Most of the countries that saw uprisings have either reverted to authoritarian rule, as in Egypt, or descended into violence and chaos, as in Syria and Libya.

Tunisia, the place where it all began, has undergone the most successful transition. While the world's attention has focused on the bloodshed in Syria and its overspill into Iraq, or the brutal repression of opposition activists by the military-backed regime in Egypt, Tunisia has gone quietly about the business of securing its transition to democracy. Earlier this year, the country adopted the most progressive constitution in the region. Parliamentary elections were held in October, and passed off peacefully. On Sunday, the country will see its first ever free presidential election. The 26 candidates running for this mainly ceremonial post include members of Ben Ali's ousted regime; in a remarkable victory for pluralism, Tunisia's parliament voted against a ban on members of the old regime running for office. This is despite the fact that many politicians serving today, including members of the Islamist Ennahda Party, were tortured under the previous regime; Ennahda voted against a ban.

So why has the democratic transition been easier in Tunisia than in neighbouring countries? Part of the reason is simply good luck. Tunisia had been under dictatorship for many years, but it had not suffered the collective trauma of years of military rule, as Egypt did, or of a gruesome civil war, like Algeria. It is also a homogenous society, largely free from the sectarian schisms that plague Yemen and Syria.

In addition to this good luck, there is also the fact that the country's post-revolutionary leaders have been moderate and pragmatic. The Islamist Ennahda is the largest and most well-organised party in the country; it dominated politics after the fall of Ben Ali, but resisted the impulse to centralise power that other Islamist movements – like Mohamed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt – succumbed to. The party's leaders were very conscious of fears in the west and elsewhere in the region about Islamist governments, and stressed the movement's moderate and democratic credentials. When tensions were high last year after the murder of two opposition politicians, Ennahda disbanded its government to make way for a technocratic cabinet that could ensure free and fair elections.

Writing in the New York Times ahead of the presidential election this weekend, Rashid Ghannouchi, the leader of Ennahda, said that the battle in the Middle East is not "between Islamism and secularism, but between democracy and despotism". He continued: "Islamists are not only diverse in type, but have also evolved over the last century. Whereas their primary focus was once on protecting religious freedom and defending an identity that had undergone repression, many Islamists have come to participate in political parties whose principal focus is economic and social programmes aimed at protecting individual rights and achieving social justice."

In the October election, the more secular Nidaa Tounes Party won the largest share of parliamentary seats. It has several ex-regime officials within its ranks, but promises that its victory will not mean a return to the old order. Whatever the outcome of the presidential elections, the priority must be for the new government to continue to rule by consensus.

Tunisia has made impressive progress but, of course, things are not perfect. The 2011 revolution was triggered by outrage over economic conditions. Living standards haven't really changed much in the intervening period. The economy remains stagnant. Decades of corruption and the aligning of business and political interests have left a damaged economic system that will take considerable effort and political will to overhaul. Particularly in the more deprived southern part of the country, unemployment is high. Another sign that all is not well is that a significant number of Tunisians (estimated to be around 3,000) have gone to fight in Syria; they are thought to make up the largest contingent of foreign fighters in the conflict.

All of this goes to show that Tunisia is not immune to the problems afflicting the rest of the region. However, the progress that it has made so far, implementing a pluralistic and fair constitution, and working towards a genuinely inclusive political system, is a significant achievement that should not be sniffed at. Now, all political actors must continue to work together in order to build a new future, free of the problems left by years of dictatorship.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Samira Shackle) frontpage Wed, 19 Nov 2014 18:06:35 +0000
Combining contradictions does not work https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/15362-combining-contradictions-does-not-work https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/15362-combining-contradictions-does-not-work Hani Al-MasriDuring this month, perhaps on the 29th day, which marks the anniversary of the decision to divide Palestine and is the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, the Jordanian representative at the UN is scheduled to represent the Palestinian people and the Arab Group to request that the Security Council vote on a draft resolution demanding an end to the occupation within a specified timeframe.

Regardless of the fate of the request and whether or not it will receive the nine votes required for it to be passed, or if the US will veto it or abstain from voting, especially if modifications are made to the resolution that are approved or rejected by the Arabs, I find it useful to review the course of the so-called "peace process" since the failure of Camp David.

Since May 1999, which marks the end of the period specified by the Oslo Accords to reach a final peace agreement, and after the failure of the Camp David Summit, the Second Intifada, which was desired by the Palestinian and the Israeli sides in order to achieve their objectives, broke out.

Ehud Barak began the aggression, following Sharon's provocative visit, which was the spark that ignited the Intifada, and committed a massacre during the early days of the Intifada. Yasser Arafat also supported the Intifada because he saw it as a means to improve the conditions for negotiations in a manner that would allow for reaching an agreement that would reinforce the Camp David summit.

After Arafat was assassinated by means of poison, President Mahmoud Abbas tried to take a different path in an attempt to achieve what Arafat was unable to. Abbas reproduced the process of bilateral negotiations under US auspices and showed flexibility that surprised everyone. He also unilaterally applied the international Road Map without conditioning its application by Palestinians on Israel fulfilling its obligations. In addition to this, Abbas agreed to participate in the Annapolis Summit at the end of 2007, and engaged in negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert without his commitment to stop settlement activity and without a clear and binding reference for negotiations. Olmert ultimately fell due to the corruption scandals that caught up with him.

Abu Mazen also agreed to resume direct talks after the Washington Summit in 2010 after he partially and temporarily froze settlement activities. Then "exploratory" negotiations were conducted in Amman at the beginning of 2011, and now John Kerry has been trying his luck at resuming negotiations for the past nine months, in vain.

Successive Israeli governments have been behind the failure of the negotiations because they do not want to settle. Instead, they want to impose a racial settlement expansionist solution that has no place for the establishment of a Palestinian state. Meanwhile the Palestinian side continues to fulfil its political, security and economic commitments, even during times when negotiations were stalled and during the aggressive Israeli military attacks on the Gaza Strip in 2008- 2009, 2012 and 2014. The secret meetings continued in an effort towards making the negotiations work, but they, along with the public negotiations, failed.

During this long period, settlement expansion multiplied, reaching the point where the number of settlers was over 750,000 and Israel adopted racist policies and laws that deepen its occupation. Israel also went on to Judaise Jerusalem, violated its sanctities, and took various measures aiming to expel the Jerusalemites. It also began the process of separating the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1991, resulting in deploying its troops and maintaining a blockade on Gaza, reserving the right to wage wars, raids, carry out assassinations and commit all sorts of crimes whenever it pleases. It continued to dismember the country and construct a wall in the West Bank.

All the above has driven Abu Mazen to think of and initiate other options without ruling out the option of bilateral negotiations. He refused to resume negotiations after Kerry's mission failed because attempts to resume the negotiations are ongoing. In 2011, Abbas requested Palestine be granted full membership in the UN from the Security Council. However, when the request was not granted because it did not receive the nine votes required, even though even if it had the US would have vetoed it, Abbas then made a request to be granted observer state status and 138 countries voted for Palestine to become recognised by the United Nations as a state. This provides Palestine with political and legal privileges that must not be underestimated, but it does not allow for the establishment of an actual state on Palestinian land.

This goal cannot be achieved without ending the occupation, and ending the occupation can only be achieved by changing the balances of power, making the occupation costly for Israel and those supporting it, especially the United States of America.

The symbolic achievements represented by international resolutions that advocate for the Palestinian cause and recognise a Palestinian state that have been issued or will be issued are important, but cannot lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state. On the contrary, they may, if they are not part of a new comprehensive approach that differs from the approaches that have been adopted in the past, provide a cover for the current complete liquidation of all Palestinian rights occurring on the ground. This is a much more dangerous matter than the establishment of a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and it includes actual forfeiture of any actual possibility to embody national Palestinian entity on Palestinian land.

The main flaw lies in the belief in the possibility of achieving a settlement that fulfils the minimum Palestinian rights through negotiations and peaceful and diplomatic means, as well as counting on the United States, which is linked to Israel due to their shared strategy that serves their interests and objectives. The flaw also lies in the fact that only one side exhibits good behaviour and remains committed to the shared obligations.

The flaw cannot be changed by combining contradictions or by making simple reforms and changes. This poses a threat to the national reconciliation which must be treated as a necessity and not an option that is used tactically to improve the conditions for the resumption of negotiations. This flaw also cannot be changed by means of making threats of popular resistance or boycott, while, at the same time, announcing refusal to resort to an Intifada. It cannot be changed by submitting a draft resolution to the Security Council several months ago, but failing to immediately join the International Criminal Court and put an end to the security coordination with Israel as part of a plan that aims to liberate Palestine from all the Oslo commitments, including the recognition of Israel without Israel recognising any Palestinian rights, including the right to establishing a Palestinian state.

The starting point is cutting the umbilical cord that still connects the leadership, and specifically President Abu Mazen, to the Oslo Accords, bilateral negotiations, and American attempts to resume them, despite the fact that Israel has violated this agreement since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, if not before. Israel wants to use bilateral negotiations to cover up its imposition of a colonial and occupational fait accompli and also to stand in the way of adopting other options and opposing boycott, divestment, and sanctions.

We cannot combine heaven and hell or the Oslo Accords and changing the balances of power. What we need is not a simple change that can be achieved in a matter of weeks or months; we need a long-term multi-faceted struggle that would take years in order to be effective enough to cause fundamental changes that would make reaching a settlement possible.

Another very important point is that we must give priority to the efforts made towards ending the division, the restoration of unity, and changing the rules adopted to achieve this because postponing core issues such as the PLO, the political and security programme, political participation, as well as having the leaders of every party working alone and excluding other parties or treating them as a minorities does not achieve unity. Instead, it threatens the possibility of achieving it. In order to achieve this goal, as well as all the Palestinian goals, strong popular pressure capable of imposing popular will on the disputing parties is required.

The third important point is that multiple strategies must be adopted and implemented side by side and simultaneously, so that working towards the recognition of the Palestinian rights and state continues, either with countries acting individually or collectively to achieve this, while, at the same time, work is being done to implement international resolutions that support the Palestinian cause and to issue new resolutions.

Meanwhile, international agreements should be being signed and international institutions being joined, especially the International Criminal Court, and preparations should be being made to participate in negotiations that will be held in an international context and on the basis that the negotiations are openly aimed at ending the occupation, establishing a Palestinian state, and restoring all the rights stipulated in international law and international resolutions.

Everything I have mentioned will be of no real and tangible value if strategies aimed at providing the elements of steadfastness and Palestinian presence in Palestine are not adopted and if such strategies are not capable of uniting the efforts and energy of the Palestinian people wherever they are in the context of a resistance that upholds the right of Palestinians to resistance in all forms necessary.

The Palestinians must be prepared for the critical moment in which a comprehensive Intifada capable of achieving victory will break out. What we need is to provide the conditions of victory for the next Intifada, including the prevention of this Intifada slipping into chaos by providing political, economic, and organisational leverages instead of warning against them. If the Intifada breaks out without leadership, a goal, organisation, or a national front, it will not realise its objective.

Translated from masarat.ps, 18 November, 2014

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Hani Al-Masri) frontpage Wed, 19 Nov 2014 18:02:27 +0000
Shock and horror at killings, but not when victims are Palestinians https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/15361-shock-and-horror-at-killings-but-not-when-victims-are-palestinians https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/15361-shock-and-horror-at-killings-but-not-when-victims-are-palestinians Yvonne RidleyI wonder how many people have heard of Mohammed Siyam? While the Western media went into overdrive over the tragedy of the synagogue killings in Jerusalem, little Mohammed lay gasping, fighting for his life on an operating table in Turkey.

As two crazed men, armed with knives, unleashed a brutal, indiscriminate attack on the unsuspecting Jewish congregation, the 14-year-old was just one of many Palestinian children who had already had his limbs sheared off in a brutal, indiscriminate attack.

That the 14-year-old had survived this long was a miracle in itself. He lost both of his legs during Israel's war against the civilians of Gaza in the summer; the Israeli airstrike also blew 12 members of his family to pieces with bombs deliberately designed to kill and maim human beings. The courageous youngster, an innocent child who had already survived three wars in his short life, finally gave up his struggle and was pronounced dead on Tuesday during yet another operation; this one was on his lungs and respiratory tract.

There was no media present at his burial, no headlines as his body was lowered into the grave. In that he was no different to the 570 other Palestinian children from Gaza who were killed by Israel's summer blitz; his passing went unnoticed.

The Western media, it seems, is not interested when the dead come from the Gaza Strip where 2,140 Palestinians paid the ultimate price this summer alone for having the misfortune to live in the world's largest open air prison. While death and destruction destroyed the sanctity of one place of worship in Jerusalem there was little outrage vented in the West when even worse rained down in Gaza just months earlier. That the Israeli onslaught destroyed 73 mosques in 51 days, while 205 others were partially destroyed, barely registered in the Western media.

Other statistics brushed aside by the media routinely during Israel's war included the 11,000 who were injured, many of them women and children. According to the UN, Israel's bombs destroyed or damaged thousands of civilian buildings, including the only power plant and more than 220 schools, many run by the international body. The much fewer Israeli casualties, almost all of them soldiers, received far more media exposure.

Probably one of the worst offenders of the "Ostrich approach" to Palestinian casualties is the BBC, which has a global reputation for gold standard reporting, except when it comes to the Middle East. BBC News online headlines screamed, "Bloody attack at Jerusalem synagogue" with breaking news being updated in a live blog every few minutes followed by detailed analysis and the ubiquitous Israel spokesmen. Sky News also went in to overdrive and before long most TV and online media were relaying images of bloodied prayer shawls and ambulances and the general chaos associated with such an atrocity.

Interviews at the scene followed and blurred video footage taken by a passer-by was also shown. As a journalist with more than 35 years in the business it was, I would say, a job well done. What makes me despair at the standard of journalism, though, is the lack of coverage of similar atrocities carried out by Israelis against Palestinians; they barely make it into the mainstream.

Look at the following observations compiled by the excellent NGO Friends of Al-Aqsa, of which I'm a member:

  • Palestinian bus driver Hassan Yousef Al-Ramouni, believed to have been lynched by Israeli settlers, was not mentioned at all by the BBC until the attack on the synagogue, when his death was mentioned only in reference to a Hamas statement about events at the synagogue. AFP and major Israeli outlets reported Hassan's death.
  • On November 11th, the BBC reported the killing of 22-year-old Imad Jawabreh using quotation marks around "shot dead by the Israeli army" as if there was any conflicting report over who had killed the young man. By the fourth paragraph of the BBC report, there was mention of attacks against an Israeli soldier and civilians in an attempt to contextualise the killing. By contrast, the article on the synagogue attack contains no reference to killings of Palestinians by Israelis, which might have added some context to the attack. Unlike the story about the synagogue, there was no live blog and no use of evocative imagery; instead, a generic image of an Israeli jeep was the backdrop.
  • The BBC only reported once on the killing of Khayr Al-Din Hamdan, shot dead by Israeli police while his back was turned. The incident was caught on camera, but the BBC has not followed up on this clear example of police brutality against Palestinians.

Long ago as it was, I still recall as a trainee being told that every life is precious and there is no room for discrimination when covering an atrocity. It was drummed into us aspiring young journalists that not only must we be impartial but we must also be fair and just. It appears that those standards are no longer applicable in the BBC when it comes to Palestine.

If you needed proof, tell me in all honesty if you had heard Mohammed Siyam's name before you read this article; or even that a little Palestinian boy who had lost both his legs and 12 members of his family in the summer war had now lost his life? If you had, it is almost certain that it was no thanks to the BBC and other mainstream media.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Yvonne Ridley) frontpage Wed, 19 Nov 2014 17:59:41 +0000
Israel & Gaza: Behind the media veil https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/component/content/article/63-other/15360-israel-a-gaza-behind-the-media-veil https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/component/content/article/63-other/15360-israel-a-gaza-behind-the-media-veil Israel & Gaza: Behind the media veil

Pre-Order today and save 33%

The essays in this book examine media coverage of Israel's war on Gaza during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014. Looking through a wide lens, they cover mainstream and social media, and draw attention not only to the lack of objectivity in coverage of the war but also the way that traditional media sources are being overtaken by new media as audiences search for the truth behind the headlines.

Editor: Ibrahim Hewitt
Publisher: MEMO Publishers
Launch Date : 1st December 2014
ISBN: 978-1907433160
Retail Price: £7.50 (+£2.50 P&P)
Pre-Order Price: £5.00 (+£2.50 P&P)

Pre-Order today for just £5 and receive the book on launch day

What others have said

In these pages there is a good reminder of the structural habits in Western media that for more than half a century have helped Israel to maintain its increasingly violent dominance over the Palestinians without much challenge from opinion in the West.
Victoria Brittain
Author, journalist and a former
Associate Foreign Editor of the Guardian

Two things went wrong with Israel's attack on Gaza: the Israel forces did not expect the resistance they encountered, and western reporters did not find that the Gazan support for resistance wavered. The spotlight of world attention was reflected back on Israel itself . This collection of essays charts how Israel lost control of the narrative revealing darker truths about real intentions, such as the emergence of “permissible genocide” as a mainstream thought in Israeli discourse, or the idea that all Gazans were guilty because they elected Hamas in 2006. There is still a long way to go before a public relations disaster becomes a political one, but this essential testimony takes the first step.
David Hearst
Journalist, former Lead Writer at the Guardian and Editor of Middle East Eye

Pre-Order today for just £5 and receive the book on launch day

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 19 Nov 2014 17:05:11 +0000
Can ISIS mint its own currency? https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/15359-can-isis-mint-its-own-currency https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/15359-can-isis-mint-its-own-currency Designs for ISIS' coinsLast Thursday, the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) announced that they will be minting their own currency, together with design mock-ups of how the coins will look.

According to a statement issued by the group's treasury department, Bayt Al-Mal, the currency will exist separate from "the tyrannical financial system" which use "satanic usury" and have been "imposed upon Muslims" which serve to "enslave and impoverish" them.

"Based on the directive of the Emir of the Believers in the Islamic State, Caliph Ibrahim, may Allah preserve him, to mint currency for the Islamic State, as it is far removed from the tyrannical monetary system that was imposed on the Muslims and was a reason for their enslavement and impoverishment, and wasting the fortunes of the Ummah, making it easy prey in the hands of the Jews and Crusaders, the Treasury Department studied the matter and presented a comprehensive project, by the grace of Allah, to mint a currency based on the inherent value of the metals gold and silver." (translation by Site Intelligence)

The value of the coins will be based on the market value of gold and silver, which we know is extremely volatile and, as such, it is unclear how products and services in ISIS controlled territories will be priced – how many coins will a loaf of bread cost?

The ISIS proposed currency will have seven coins called Dinars – two gold, three silver and two copper. The largest value coin will be the five dinar which will contain 21.25g of gold (valued at £525.30 at the time of writing). The lowest value coin will be a 10g copper coin worth about five pence.

Logistically, it is unclear how ISIS will issue this currency. Although ISIS has an estimated daily oil revenue of $1 million, $20 million in kidnapping ransoms and over $2 billion in assets, it is not clear where or how it will acquire the supply of the precious metals it will need to mint these coins.

ISIS' plan to create its own currency aims to bolster its claim that it is a functional nation and not just a terrorist organisation. However, since territories in Iraq and Syria fall in and out of the group's hand, the acceptability of the currency as a payment method won't be widespread or stable.

Not to mention that most foreign investors won't be able to "invest" in this currency without being charged with "providing material support to a terrorist entity".

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Syed Choudhury) frontpage Wed, 19 Nov 2014 16:19:01 +0000
42,000 prisoners start hunger strike in Egypt https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/15358-42000-prisoners-start-hunger-strike-in-egypt https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/15358-42000-prisoners-start-hunger-strike-in-egypt Egyptian flagSome 42,000 Egyptians went on hunger strike inside 76 Egyptian prisons yesterday, Al-Mesryoon newspaper reported.

About 12,000 Egyptian families announced their participation in the action which was called the third wave of hunger strikes to protest the "slow death facing more than 40,000" Egyptians.

Egyptian Revolutionary Council (ERC) described the military authorities, which are ruling Egypt, as the illegal coup power that deteriorated the rights of the Egyptian people. It also said that they regressed on the "Islamic" and "humanitarian" values.

The ERC, which was established by Egyptians in exile, issued a statement today in which they said: "Thousands of prisoners and kidnapped Egyptians have been inside prisons since the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi. Ninety of them were martyred under torture or because of poor healthcare."

These prisoners, the statement said, "teach the whole world the meaning of steadfastness, revolution and defiance of oppression in order to achieve dignity and freedom for themselves, their country and their nation."

In support of the prisoners, the statement said: "Your sacrifices will not go in vain, but it will be the fuel for our steadfastness and revolution."

ERC called the current Egyptian authorities "fascist" and accused them of "dividing Egyptians and spreading fear, terrorism and dictatorship along the whole country after a revolutionary experience that taught the whole world the meaning of freedom, dignity and glory."

The Egyptian revolution, ERC said, "almost made applicable the dream of building a constitutional state that respects the rights, freedoms, democracy and authority transition." However, the "fascists" carried out a coup against this dream, turning it into a "nightmare".

The Supreme Committee for the Prisons Intifada said in a statement issued yesterday that the third wave of hunger strike is an "escalation measure" that came after two previous waves.

The demands for this wave are: "Stopping politicised trials, immediate release of all prisoners, who have not been tried, stopping all forms of torture and physical and incorporeal violations, affording proper healthcare and a complete halt of violations against minors."

Since Morsi's ouster, the statement said, 42,000 Egyptians were arrested, including 60 women who are now in prison and 92 other who died in prison. The number of children now in prisons is 734.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 19 Nov 2014 16:17:21 +0000
Is Oman ready to mourn Qaboos? https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/15357-is-oman-ready-to-mourn-qaboos https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/15357-is-oman-ready-to-mourn-qaboos Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al-SaidIt seems likely that Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said is approaching his final days in this mortal realm. As NPR reported, the 74-year-old leader of the tiny – often overlooked – but by no means insignificant gulf state of Oman is undergoing treatment in Germany for a long-term illness. His absence is even more conspicuous this week as it means he missed Oman's national day yesterday that celebrates the sultanate's liberation from Portuguese rule in the mid-17th Century.

The loss of Qaboos, whether as a result of his passing or his continued withdrawal from public life, seems ever more likely as each day of treatment and absence from the country goes by. Some editorials have hinted that the rupture in the regime's rule is likely to lead to a "nightmare scenario" such as Oman joining Bahrain, Yemen, Syria and Iraq in terms of becoming another site for the Saudi-Iranian/Sunni-Shia proxy conflict.

While it's reasonable to consider the likelihood of interference in a post-Qaboos Oman by its powerful neighbours, such a simplistic conclusion fails to represent the complexity of Oman's political reality. Rather, it would be better to dampen down the hyperbole and instead take a more sober look at the challenges already facing Oman and consider how the loss of Qaboos would affect them.

A tight grip on power

Qaboos took the thrown in 1970 after he deposed his father in a bloodless coup. The coup took place in the context of an internal conflict between the government – which enjoyed backing from the British and the Shah of Iran – and, Egyptian and South-Yemen supported leftist separatists in the province of Dhofar. Upon taking over control, Qaboos gained enough support from his allies to crush the rebellion. This came in the form of more than 1,000 Iranian troops and a deployment of the British Special Air Service.

Unlike his father, who was known for his inward looking stance, Qaboos embraced a more active role in the politics of the region. He maintained strong ties with regional allies including the British and Iranians, even after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Despite maintaining a low profile, Oman remains an extremely important regional actor, particularly as it is on good terms with both Iran and the Saudi-West alliance. In particular, Oman was the only gulf state to recognise the 1979 peace agreement between Egypt and Israel and more recently it has played a significant role in supporting the P5+1 talks over Iran's nuclear programme, including hosting the latest round of talks.

Qaboos brought significant reforms that were designed to cement a genuine form of Omani national independence. These included expanding the oil industry, which became the backbone of Oman's rapid economic advancement. As Business Today - an Omani magazine – pointed out, the country's GDP grew from $256 million at the time of the coup, to approximately $80 billion last year. One other product of these reforms was the consolidation of Qaboos' personal grip on power. Indeed, even today, the Sultan rules through decree and occupies several positions at the top of government.

Yet supporters also note that Qaboos has also embraced some, albeit largely nominal, steps toward modernisation. These include elections for the Majlis a-Shura (advisory council), one chamber of the bicameral Majlis-Oman, in 2007 and 2011 – which led to the election of the first woman, Nema Al-Busaidi – and greater independence for the Supreme Judicial Council. The result of all this is that Oman has managed to cultivate a reputation as the "world's most charming police state".


The overarching structure of Oman's modernisation programme is the Oman 2020 plan, launched in 1995. With the goal of diversifing the economy away from hydrocarbons and increasing the ratio of nationals in public and private employment to 95 per cent, from 68 per cent in 1996. However, these two goals have proven somewhat contradictory.

The high rate of foreign labour in both the public and private sectors has increased since 2009 when a Free Trade Agreement with the US came into force– more than doubling the 2005 figure. High rates of unemployment, low wages and the concentration of wealth among elites aligned to the government were contributing factors to the popular unrest of 2011-12.

Succession concerns

The absence of an obvious successor is a major concern for Omanis. Qaboos remained unmarried and has no heirs. Under a 1996 constitutional provision a council comprising members of the ruling family and senior officials is granted three days from the Sultan's death to choose a successor. If this process fails to provide a clear transition, then a contingency plan would be activated. This, as Qaboos himself told Foreign Affairs in a 1997 interview, would mean that:

"As for a successor, the process, always known to us, has now been publicised in the Basic Law. When I die, my family will meet. If they cannot agree on a candidate, the Defence Council will decide, based on a name or names submitted by the previous sultan.

I have already written down two names, in descending order, and put them in sealed envelopes in two different regions."

Nightmare scenarios?

It is the obvious potential for uncertainty around succession combined with the ineffectiveness of the government's reforms that leads some commentators to warn of such things as "nightmare scenarios" about the expansion of Saudi-Iranian/Sunni-Shia hostilities into the country. While I've argued elsewhere that the basic logic of conflating these two phenomena is not only flawed, but also potentially extremely damaging, in the case of Oman these kinds of arguments are an even more ill-conceived fit.

This is because – even if it were reasonable to argue that sectarian conflict is an inevitable product of Sunni and Shia cohabitation (which I contend is not reasonable) – Oman's demographic make up is dissimilar to that of its neighbours to such an extent that such a "nightmare scenario" would be irrelevant. Indeed, while Oman boasts a relatively diverse population, its dominant religion Ibadism, of which the vast majority of the population are members, is distinct from both major Islamic schools.

More importantly than that however is that – despite being oligarchical and monopolistic – the style of rule imposed by Qaboos has not replicated the kind of harsh utilisation of force that is apparent in many of the more brittle regimes in the region. In other words, if we follow the categorisation of the region's regimes discussed by Henry and Springborg in Globalization and the Politics of Development in the Middle East, we can see that Qaboos' Oman represents an almost completely different approach to government from most other regimes in the region.

Indeed, it reflects neither the kind of practices of a bunker state – associated with rule "through military/security/party structures that are in turn controlled by alliances of these leaders' families and tribes", such as was the case in Salah's Yemen, Assad's Syria or Gaddafi's Libya – nor the kind of "bully praetorianism" which characterised the kleptocratic regimes of Ben Ali's Tunisia, Mubarak's Egypt or the PLO/PA under Arafat.

Moreover, it also differs from the strife riddled monarchies in Riyadh and Manama particularly in as much as the ruling family has not gone out of its way to ostracise, exclude and oppress particular sections of the population. Instead, according to Henry and Springborg, "being the sole GCC ruler without a solid family and tribal base ... [Qaboos' Oman has] been the most assiduous in seeking to build an identity that simultaneously glorifies the Sultan himself".

Real challenges

Rather than painting Oman with the same brush as its neighbours, a better analysis would be that Oman faces a number of pressing, and distinctly Omani-challenges in the immediate and mid-term. The most important of these is concern over the ability of the state to meet the expectations of its coming generations.

This is particularly significant as Oman is one of the youngest populations in the world with 49 per cent of residents under the age of 20 – as a result of its stronger sense of national identity which was encouraged in order to supplant tribal linkages – the pressure on the government to fulfill the role as a social provider is likely to become even greater.

Indeed, some dissatisfaction arose during the height of the uprisings across the region in 2011-12. Though initially it appeared that Qaboos had handled popular protests deftly – through increased public sector spending, and some political reorganisation and an anti-corruption campaign – frustration at the slow pace of reform contributed to strikes by workers at Petroleum Development Oman and protests elsewhere. Authorities countered with arrests and a draconian crackdown on freedom of speech including hacking the social media accounts of intellectuals involved in the protest.

These protests eventually grew to become the largest public demonstrations since the Dhofar war and the impact on the Sultan's image was extremely damaging. As Marc Valari noted at the time:

"[Qaboos] has fallen from his symbolic pedestal ... if anything, the 'Omani Spring' ... marked the de-sacralisation of Sultan Qaboos. This dramatic change in the relationship between the society and its leadership confronts the Qaboos-State with unprecedented questioning and forces the sultan to re-evaluate his legitimation strategies as a whole."

Thus, if Qaboos' passing really is just round the corner, it is more likely to mean the acceleration of a changing dynamic within the sultanate that is already underway, than the kind of hyperbolic, sudden, 'nightmare scenario' that some commentators warn of.

Of course none of this means that there won't be some political struggles between other regional actors over Oman should Qaboos die. But there is also no reason to believe that such a proxy struggle will be the only dynamic worth examining, and certainly no reason to believe that the kind of "cookie-cutter" analysis that assumes sectarian strife is inevitable in all Arab states without strong leadership, is appropriate here.

Rather, the challenges that Oman faces now are real and profound, but there are also uniquely Omani and how they pan out is likely to be very particular to the country's distinct nature too.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Dr Phil Leech) frontpage Wed, 19 Nov 2014 15:09:24 +0000
Netanyahu: We are in the 'midst of a battle over Jerusalem' https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15356-netanyahu-we-are-in-the-midst-of-a-battle-over-jerusalem https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15356-netanyahu-we-are-in-the-midst-of-a-battle-over-jerusalem Israelis gather at the funeral of three of the Israelis who died in the Jeruslaem synagouge attackIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described on Wednesday his government's strict measures against Palestinians in Jerusalem as part of a battle over the holy city.

Speaking after a bloody confrontation that killed five Israelis and two Palestinians inside a synagogue in the western part of Jerusalem, Reuters news agency quoted Netanyahu as saying that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is the one responsible for inciting violence in the holy city and calling the killings, along with a spate of recent attacks, part of a "battle over Jerusalem".

"As a nation we will settle the score with every terrorist and their dispatchers, and we have proved we will do so, but no one may take the law into their own hands, even if spirits are riled and blood is boiling," Netanyahu reportedly said in broadcast remarks.

Over the past few months, tensions in occupied Jerusalem have been rising as extremist Israeli settlers continue their attempts to assert control over Al-Aqsa Mosque with greater numbers and almost on a daily bases.

Meanwhile, Israeli army and police impose strict restrictions on Palestinian worshipers heading to pray at the third holiest place for all Muslims around the world.

Several Palestinians have also been killed during this time, including a 32-year old bus driver, who was hanged to death on Monday. His colleagues said that six extremist settlers killed him.

Abbas severely criticised the attack on the Israeli synagogue.

But despite the Palestinian Authority having extremely limited administrative power or jurisdiction over occupied Jerusalem, Netanyahu still blames Abbas for the recent rise in tensions.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 19 Nov 2014 15:02:49 +0000
Trial of President Morsi on charges of espionage postponed https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/15355-trial-of-president-morsi-on-charges-of-espionage-postponed https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/15355-trial-of-president-morsi-on-charges-of-espionage-postponed Mohammed Morsi in PrisonThe Cairo Criminal Court, headed by Judge Shaban Al-Shamy, decided to adjourn until Wednesday the trial of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and 35 other defendants in a controversial case that charges them with espionage.

According to Egyptian media, the court at the Police Academy heard on Tuesday the representative of the public prosecution, Counsel Tamer Al-Ferjany, who confirmed that the prosecution had now handed over all the physical evidence against the defendants.

However, Lawyer Mohammed Eldamaty, a member of the defence team, has again requested for the court to hear the witness testimonies of police and army officers.

Eldamaty explained that the court had assigned the prosecution to summon these witnesses; however, they never showed up.

The defence team had previously talked to witnesses who were serving along Al-Salam Bridge, Martyr Ahmed Hamdi Tunnel and the ferry points on the eastern and western sides of the Suez Canal, between 25 January and 11 February. The defence demanded to enter the witnesses' testimony and the court assigned the prosecution to summon them, but the defence team was surprised when the court accepted that the prosecution was not able to bring in the witnesses, without giving any reasons for their non-attendance.

The public prosecutor has accused Morsi and the other defendants of "communicating with third parties, disclosing national secrets, committing espionage with foreign organisations and entities outside the country and coordinating with jihadi organisations inside and outside of Egypt in order to stage terrorist operations on Egyptian territory."

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 19 Nov 2014 15:00:33 +0000
Bouteflika seeks closer ties with Morocco https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/15354-bouteflika-seeks-closer-ties-with-morocco https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/15354-bouteflika-seeks-closer-ties-with-morocco Abdelaziz BouteflikaAlgerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika yesterday expressed his commitment to forging closer ties with the Kingdom of Morocco.

Bouteflika's statements came at the peak of the diplomatic crisis between the neighbouring countries.

The Algerian premier sent a congratulatory letter for the 59th anniversary of Moroccan independence to King Mohamed VI. The letter was the first official statement made by Bouteflika after he returned from a trip to France to seek medical attention.

The letter said: "I wish to re-iterate my interest in restoring the fraternal relationship that exists between our two countries on all levels so that our people may benefit from these relations."

"It is with great pride evoked by this precious occasion that I acknowledge the cohesion and fraternal synergy achieved by our two countries during the enormous sacrifices made by our people in our joint heroic struggles against French colonialism, as we struggled to retrieve our sovereignty and independence," Bouteflika continued.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 19 Nov 2014 14:56:07 +0000
Israeli forces impose curfew in Jerusalem https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15353-israeli-forces-impose-curfew-in-jerusalem https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/15353-israeli-forces-impose-curfew-in-jerusalem Israeli forces enforcing a curfewIsrael has imposed a curfew in the Ras Al-Amoud neighbourhood in the occupied city of Jerusalem, Arabi21 reported.

Palestinians defied the Israeli decision and took to the streets of all the neighbourhoods around the holy city. Clashes erupted between Palestinian youths and the Israeli occupation forces. It is reported that several soldiers were wounded.

Marches also took place against Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas who criticised the "operation" in a Jewish synagogue in which worshippers were killed. Participants chanted: "Abbas, you have to leave... Abbas, you are coward, you brought shame to us."

Tens of illegal Israeli settlers gathered around the Central Station in Jerusalem and protested following the death of the four Rabbis and a policeman in the synagogue, following an operation carried out by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

The settlers chanted "death to Arabs" and called for "slaughtering" Palestinian children. They also distributed invitation for the performance of Talmudic rituals at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Today, a number of Jews stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque under military protection.

Twelve close relatives of the Palestinian attackers, who were killed, were arrested and Israeli undercover forces arrested another Palestinian from Jabal Al-Mukabber, Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, the health condition of a Palestinian from Jerusalem was deteriorated after he was shot by Israeli forces in Al-Tur neighbourhood.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 19 Nov 2014 14:45:34 +0000