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 Tue, 01 Dec 2015 09:10:51 +0000 MEMO en-gb Has Russia succeeded where Iran has failed? https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/22571-has-russia-succeeded-where-iran-has-failed https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/22571-has-russia-succeeded-where-iran-has-failed File photo of Russian airforce fighter jetAlthough the Russian experiment may have started badly when two of their planes were shot down – the first a civilian plane that was blown up over Egypt and the second a fighter jet gunned down over Turkey – it seems that Putin is determined to win the battle in Syria. We now see Russia implementing a smart plan that focuses on isolating the Turks, the main player against Bashar Al-Assad’s regime. If they are successful in this, they will have the last word regarding Syria’s future.

Russian fighter jets and rockets have violently bombed checkpoints on the Turkish-Syrian border as well as areas within Syria that the Turks consider under their protection. The Russians say that they destroyed the checkpoints that allow the entry of fighters and trade between the two countries and that they have cut off the sole lifeline that links Syria’s Islamist militias to the world. Jordan has stopped all movement across its borders after the Iranians reached southern Syria, specifically Daraa. In Lebanon, the army, along with Hezbollah, has almost completely closed the border with Syria, just as the Iraqi Kurds did after the battle of Kobane in northern Syria. As for the borders with Iraq’s Al-Anbar province, it remains open but does not give the Syrian opposition a link to the outside world.

Now, after Russia has paralysed Turkey’s capabilities as a serious player in Syria, are we facing the end of the Syrian revolution and the end of moderate armed opposition organisations such as the Free Syrian Army?

In my opinion, this is a temporary setback, and I am not talking from the military operational aspect. I am speaking based on the political and social motivations that are driving the war. The popular incubator for the Syrian uprising is Syria and the Syrian people, not foreign forces as its opponents claim. Al-Assad’s regime belongs to the era of the Soviet Union, the Cold War, and similar regimes across the world that fell or were replaced.

The opposition will continue and their rejection of Al-Assad will endure; the Russians, Iranians and remnants of the regime will not succeed in turning back the hands of time. Without a political solution that gives hope to everyone, the war will not stop even if every border is closed.

If the Russians want to succeed in Syria, they have a valuable opportunity to do so given their relations with most of the main players are good. They can formulate a solution based on combining the non-religious and non-extremist opposition with some popular forces and some of Al-Assad’s icons.

The Riyadh conference will pave the way to forming a front capable of leading the new Syria. It is in everyone’s interest to abandon extremism and the exclusion of others.

Translated from Arabi21, 30 November 2015.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Abdulrahman Al-Rashed) frontpage Mon, 30 Nov 2015 16:28:19 +0000
The Palestinian and Israeli options for the intifada https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/22570-the-palestinian-and-israeli-options-for-the-intifada https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/22570-the-palestinian-and-israeli-options-for-the-intifada Palestinian youth being arrested by Israeli soldier in Al-Aqsa MosqueAt the climax of the intifada’s successive developments on the ground, the political position surrounding the events seem to need much clarification and reading. This is despite the fact that the political vagueness of the forces and parties associated with the intifada is deliberate and is not necessarily spontaneous.

The PA’s hesitation

The official position of the PA regarding the events of the intifada is characterised by hesitation and indecisiveness. We are able to see this in a number of factors, perhaps the most important of which is the refrainment from labelling the events occurring in the West Bank and Jerusalem over the past two months as an “intifada”, and instead calling it “a popular uprising, protests and clashes”.

The PA is probably not lacking in its vocabulary in a manner that keeps it from labelling the clashes between the Palestinians and Israelis as an intifada, but it is certain that adopting this term has political consequences it may not be able to handle, or may not want to handle. Therefore, it is content with using terms that greatly downplay the nature of the events. Perhaps doing so is an effort on its part to maintain a way back with the Israelis.

What is interesting about the PA’s official position is that it has not issued any condemnation of the Palestinian operations against the Israelis, while the Palestinian public and the political factions have completely adopted these attacks. Therefore, it may be difficult for the PA to have a position going against this, and therefore it may need to remain silent; it may neither adopt nor condemn this. By doing so, it would be doing the minimum for the Palestinians, out of fear of Israel accusing it of supporting or encouraging the attacks. Despite this, the PA was not spared from these Israeli accusations recently.

At the same time, the security coordination between the Palestinian security agency and its Israeli counterpart is continuing as usual, even at the height of the intifada and the war and after the death of hundreds and the injury of thousands. This is something Israel admits to and announces on a daily basis, while the PA remains silent in this regard. It seems that they are going by the rule “silence gives consent”. This seems to imply an official Palestinian approach of avoiding armed operations and keeping matters to individual stabbings and hit-and-runs.

It is true that the official Palestinian position may hold a type of contradiction in its dealings with the current intifada, but this is normal for anyone who is familiar with its past positions on the means and methods of fighting against Israel. In the first few weeks of the intifada, the PA might have been able to stop it, as it was a number of individuals who were far apart, but it did not want to stop it. It may be used as a means to pressure Israel to be more flexible in its political negotiating positions and could be an attempt to send a message to the international community that its distraction from the Palestinian issue and attention to other regional issues would mean that matters would ignite in the Palestinian territories.

After the passing of over 60 days since the beginning of the intifada, the death of over 23 Israelis, the injury of hundreds, the lack of a real change in the Israeli position regarding the settlement, and the international community’s continued turned backs from the Palestinian issue due to the sudden developments in Sinai and Paris, some individuals within the PA’s circle have talked about considering the option of stopping the intifada or gradually withdrawing from it during closed meetings. However, it seems that it is too late for this and the PA is unable to stop the intifada, despite its desire to do so.

The issue is no mystery; the PA was able to stop the intifada in its earlier days, but it did not want to at the time. Today, it seems that the PA, or at least some of its members want to stop it, but they cannot. This means that the main objective behind facilitating the outbreak of the intifada and the daily clashes in the West Bank was for this intifada to pave the way to restarting the cycle of negotiations once again. It is not a new era of “liberating” whatever is left of the occupied Palestinian territories, at least in the West Bank.

Israeli politicians and military

When talking about the Israeli position on the events of the intifada, it seems important to make a real and serious, but not delusional, difference between the two Israeli levels: the political and government level and the security and military level. Each side has a point of view and its motives to prove its point on the ground.

The Israeli political level, represented by the government and coalition parties, believes that this intifada is a series of violent acts that must be confronted with even more violence. It believes that whatever it cannot achieve with force against the Palestinians can be achieved with even more force, and this is how Moshe Yaalon, Israeli defence minister, sums up his political opinion. Therefore, only once the oppressive military method no longer works against the Palestinians will they look through their old repertoire of approaches to find another one.

There are many reasons why Israeli politicians have decided to go with tried and proven methods. Those looking closely at the list of Israelis punishments for the Palestinians carrying out any operations and their families would have no trouble recognising these approaches from the first two intifadas in 1987 and 2000. This is especially true for the house demolitions, expulsions, fines and other punishments that have not stopped the outbreak of successive intifadas. However, Israel’s arrogance keeps it from admitting the rights and demands of the occupied nation, and allows Israel’s decision-makers in Tel Aviv to continue with their belief in the logic of power over the power of logic.

As for the Israeli security and military, it is the brutal hand used against the Palestinians on the orders of the political level. It shows a better “understanding” than the other level of the reasoning, rationale, and process of what is occurring in the Palestinian intifada. A number of Israeli army and intelligence officers predicted the outbreak of the popular intifada in the West Bank months before it occurred. Although they were surprised that the knives would be prevalent, the intelligence information they received and the developments on the ground signalled their red flags that the calm prevailing in the Palestinian territories over the past few years hid a buried anger that would inevitably ignite, and it did.

The Israeli generals do not seem to be completely in agreement with their politicians in the government regarding how to deal with the Palestinian intifada, neither in how to deal with it on the ground nor with its political consequences. They have raised recommendations over the last 60 days regarding the need to look for political means more capable of putting an end to these Palestinian attacks than the military. They believe that “violence begets violence” and the death and injury of more Palestinians will definitely fuel the spirit of revenge within their families and relatives.

I have recently found out from foreign diplomats that Israel is getting ready to take a series of political and military measures to deal with the intifada, including the following: committing a complete raid on the West Bank or part of its cities, similar to “Operation Defensive Shield” in 2002, allowing it to last several months in order to manage the crisis, not resolve it. This is despite the fact that there is no need for a large Israeli military intervention of this nature due to the Israeli army’s complete violation of the West Bank, either because of the security coordination with the PA or because of the lack of strong Palestinian military cells that would require a complete or partial raid of the West Bank. However, the decision seems to be more a political show than a practical one.

Fleeing to Gaza

There is another option being considered by the Israelis, or at least which has reached the process of proposals and drafts. This option is a plan for a unilateral withdrawal from some Palestinian cities in the West Bank, similar to the late Israeli President Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005 without an agreement with the PA.

This would be executed by annexing or combining the large settlement blocs, gradually getting rid of some scattered settlement areas, and expanding Area C in the West Bank. This would reduce the geographic area controlled by the PA and would dwarf its role from a pending state to a mini-state or a large municipality. This is expected to be met with widespread Palestinian rejection.

The most expensive option that the Israelis may consider if the intifada is fated to continue is the option of “fleeing forward” by managing the intifada crisis in the West Bank by instigating a military crisis in the Gaza Strip. The Israelis never need an excuse to harass the Palestinians there under the pretext of the presence of a Hamas military leadership in Gaza that direct the incidents and attacks in the West Bank. This would put the spotlight on Gaza and the attention to the West Bank would decline.

This scenario occurred in 2014 when an armed Palestinian group in Hebron kidnapped and killed three settlers. The Israeli war machine immediately attacked Gaza and waged a 51-day war. It seems that the Palestinians in Gaza are aware of this Israeli option and it will definitely be firmly confronted by the Palestinians.

Finally, determining the likelihood of any of the Palestinian and Israeli options to deal with the ongoing intifada is like asking the million dollar question. The answer is only available in the arena on the ground. This arena is capable of intensifying the pace of the Israeli military escalation against the Palestinians, who will definitely respond to this by intensifying their attacks on the Israelis. In this case, neither side can guarantee that the Palestinians’ attacks will remain limited to knives, cars and bullets. Perhaps the Palestinians’ arson is carrying surprises that will not please the Israelis. This will be revealed in the coming days and weeks.

Translated from Al Jazeera, 29 November 2015.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Dr Adnan Abu Amer ) frontpage Mon, 30 Nov 2015 16:15:53 +0000
Egypt’s Coptic Church condemns claims of normalisation with Israel https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/22569-egypts-coptic-church-condemns-claims-of-normalisation-with-israel https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/22569-egypts-coptic-church-condemns-claims-of-normalisation-with-israel Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria

Egypt’s Coptic Church has refused claims of normalising ties with Israel and affirmed that Pope Tawadros II did not meet with any Israeli officials during his brief visit to Jerusalem, according to a statement released today.

Anadolu news agency reported that Tawadros II travelled to Jerusalem in order to pay tribute to Jerusalem Archbishop Anba Abraham who died last Wednesday.

The statement said that the Coptic Pope arranged his entrance to Jerusalem with the Palestinian Authority without obtaining an Israeli visa.

In addition, the statement responded to claims that Tawadros II took an Israeli plane, saying: “That depended on the security arrangements, which the Pope had nothing to do with.”

Tawadros II returned to Egypt on board an Israeli plane, which carried the Israeli ambassador in Cairo to Tel Aviv to spend his weekend.

The Pope’s trip was the first since the Coptic Church banned visits to Jerusalem in 1980. Late Pope Shenouda III banned all Copts from visiting the holy city to protest Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem.

This policy remained in place even after Shenouda’s death in 2012 with his successor Tawadros II reiterating that visits to Jerusalem are forbidden while it is still under Israeli occupation.

The statement reiterated that the stance of the church remains unchanged, stating that the Copts have not changed their opinion of their Pope as they understand that paying tribute to the Archbishop of Jerusalem one of his necessary duties.

Egypt’s Coptic Church has refused claims of normalising ties with Israel and affirmed that Pope Tawadros II did not meet with any Israeli officials during his brief visit to Jerusalem, according to a statement released today.

Anadolu news agency reported that Tawadros II travelled to Jerusalem in order to pay tribute to Jerusalem Archbishop Anba Abraham who died last Wednesday.

The statement said that the Coptic Pope arranged his entrance to Jerusalem with the Palestinian Authority without obtaining an Israeli visa.

In addition, the statement responded to claims that Tawadros II took an Israeli plane, saying: “That depended on the security arrangements, which the Pope had nothing to do with.”

Tawadros II returned to Egypt on board an Israeli plane, which carried the Israeli ambassador in Cairo to Tel Aviv to spend his weekend.

The Pope’s trip was the first since the Coptic Church banned visits to Jerusalem in 1980. Late Pope Shenouda III banned all Copts from visiting the holy city to protest Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem.

This policy remained in place even after Shenouda’s death in 2012 with his successor Tawadros II reiterating that visits to Jerusalem are forbidden while it is still under Israeli occupation.

The statement reiterated that the stance of the church remains unchanged, stating that the Copts have not changed their opinion of their Pope as they understand that paying tribute to the Archbishop of Jerusalem one of his necessary duties.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 30 Nov 2015 16:11:17 +0000
Arab Parliament: Resolving the Palestinian issue will reduce terrorism by 80% https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22568-arab-parliament-resolving-the-palestinian-issue-will-reduce-terrorism-by-80 https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22568-arab-parliament-resolving-the-palestinian-issue-will-reduce-terrorism-by-80 Speaker of the Arab Parliament, Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Jarwan

A fair solution to the Palestinian issue would reduce the sources of tension and terror in the Middle East and across the globe, the Speaker of the Arab Parliament Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Jarwan said yesterday.

“The occupation has violated all agreements that stipulate the punishment of those who carry out ethnic cleansing, and violated international treaties that protect civil and political rights,” Al-Jarwan said in a statement that was made available to the Anadolu Agency.

Al-Jarwan pointed out that “the Arab Parliament has considered Palestine its main cause, naming its current session ‘Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa’ and establishing a special committee to follow up on developments in this issue.”

He demanded that Arab parliaments act regionally and internationally to support the Palestinian people to obtain recognition of the Palestinian state. He also called on the United Nations to assume its responsibility by providing international protection to the Palestinians.

Founded in 1974, the Arab Parliament comprises divisions representing Arab parliaments and Shura councils.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 30 Nov 2015 15:51:55 +0000
80% of femicides in Palestine involve a killer who is known to the police https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22567-80-of-femicides-in-palestine-involve-a-killer-who-is-known-to-the-police https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22567-80-of-femicides-in-palestine-involve-a-killer-who-is-known-to-the-police Palestinian protest in the city of Ramle

Palestinians have staged a protest in the city of Ramle involving the mock funeral of the 11 girls and women killed in the occupied territories in this year alone.

The funeral featured symbolic coffins bearing numbers and banners with slogans condemning violence against women.

The most recent victims, Nariman Maghrabi and her daughter Sondos Shamroukh, were among the Arab community in Israel and were both killed in cold blood in the city of Ramle. The police arrested a suspect and released him later. No progress has been achieved in the investigation into this case so far and the family have publicly stated that they do not trust the police.

As in 80 per cent of such crimes, Ms Maghrabi and Ms Shamroukh’s killer is known to the police, but he has been released back into the community and could potentially commit more crimes. Six weeks before their murder, Shamroukh filed a complaint against a man who issued death threats against her. The police interrogated the man and released him a few hours later. After the double murder, this man was the first suspect, but again he was interrogated for a few hours then released without further follow-up.

Around 100 women have been killed in Palestine and Israel since 2005 but the police have failed to take any serious step to hold the murderers accountable and deter others from committing similar crimes.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 30 Nov 2015 15:50:34 +0000
Raqqa and the future of the Syrian conflict https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/22566-amidst-the-public-uproar-in-the-aftermath-of-the-paris-attacks-commentators-have-been-quick-to-hint-at-a-possible-shift-in-daeshrs-strategy-the-attacks-in-egypt-beirut-and-paris-are-not-merely-a-testament-to-daeshrs-global-reach-but-a-s https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/22566-amidst-the-public-uproar-in-the-aftermath-of-the-paris-attacks-commentators-have-been-quick-to-hint-at-a-possible-shift-in-daeshrs-strategy-the-attacks-in-egypt-beirut-and-paris-are-not-merely-a-testament-to-daeshrs-global-reach-but-a-s destroyed Mosque in Raqqa

Amidst the public uproar in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, commentators have been quick to hint at a possible shift in Daesh’s strategy. The attacks in Egypt, Beirut and Paris are not merely a testament to Daesh’s global reach, but a signal that it has shifted to a globalist jihadi strategy along the lines of its forerunner Al-Qaeda. While this may be true, talk of Daesh’s capacity for global terror attacks has overshadowed a series of remarkable events currently taking place in north-eastern Syria and across the border in Iraq. Daesh is losing crucial territory to a newly-formed coalition of Kurdish, Sunni Arab and Christian forces. The coalition calls itself the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and it is primarily backed by the United States.

These events, which will be detailed below, give rise to two important questions: (1) has the Daesh expansionist period come to an end? And (2) if yes, could this have serious repercussions on the Syrian conflict as a whole? While recent events clearly show that Daesh is losing territory in Syria, commentators have yet to explore the second question.

It is sometimes assumed that the struggle against Daesh is separate from the struggle between the regime and the mix of rebel/Islamist forces on the eastern and southern fronts. But this is wrong - if Daesh loses its grip on Syria, the remaining players may be forced to confront a previously unknown group called the SDF. And this may turn the tide of the conflict in unexpected directions.

It’s important to track the recent developments along the northern Syrian-Iraqi border in order to understand the current military situation in the east. On 13 November, the Peshmerga captured the Iraqi town of Sinjar in a strategic and symbolic victory over Daesh. The town is an important Daesh cross-border route from Syria into Iraq, as it lies 50 kilometres east of the Syrian border. As it is home to the Yazidi minority that has suffered the worst fate at the hands of the Daesh, the liberation of Sinjar is greatly symbolic for the Peshmerga and morally disheartening for Daesh.

Meanwhile, just on the other side of the Syrian border, the SDF have begun their pressing assault to push Daesh out of their remaining bastions in Hassakah province. The coalition secured its first crucial victory by capturing the town of Al-Hawl, located just inside the Syrian border and facing Sinjar on the Iraqi side. Together with the capture of Sinjar, the fall of Al-Hawl is a major disruption to one of Daesh’s cross-border routes that geographically unifies the caliphate. As we speak, the SDF are pushing south toward Al-Shaddadi, a town at the southern end of Hassakah bordering the Deir ez-Zor province. If Al-Shaddadi falls - and there is little doubt that it will – Daesh will virtually be eliminated from Hassakah, and the provinces of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor will come under unprecedented threat.

At this point, it is not clear which route the SDF will pursue after capturing Al-Shaddadi. There are two options: (1) to continue pushing south into the Deir ez-Zor province with the hope of liberating its main city; and (2) to push east toward Raqqa and Aleppo provinces. While these two scenarios are not mutually exclusive, comments made by the SDF leadership suggest that the second route is more likely to be taken. It will include the much-anticipated and, for Daesh, the nightmarish assault on Raqqa city, the capital of the caliphate. Backed by intense aerial bombardment by coalition warplanes, capturing the city is no longer the impossible feat it once was. But it will still be extremely challenging.

The road ahead for the SDF is a long and thorny one. But for a moment let’s assume that it will succeed in taking over Daesh’s Syrian strongholds and forcing the organisation to either withdraw to Iraq or turn into an underground insurgency in Syria. What will the SDF do next, and how might this affect the outcome of the Syrian conflict as a whole?

Comments made by the SDF leadership suggest that the SDF will not cease military activities after having fulfilled its objectives against Daesh in Syria. Hussein Kocher, a leading member of the YPG and prominent commander of the SDF, proclaimed that the battle of Al-Hawl is the prelude to the “liberation of Syria and its people from the radical and suppressive groups.”

Kocher went on to say that “all social components of the region are invited to join the SDF in a bid to liberate the entire Syrian soil” after the liberation of Al-Hassakah from Daesh. Precisely which groups are meant by Kocher’s reference to “radical and suppressive groups” is not entirely clear, though it certainly includes the Assad regime. Kocher clearly stated: “It is time to liberate the entire soil of Syria from the fascist regime as well.” Whether Al-Nusra Front, Ahram Al-Sham, Jaish Al-Islam and other Islamist groups will be the target of the SDF’s campaign is yet to be addressed.

The fact that the SDF has its eye on the regime is significant, and may turn the tide of the conflict in ways that could escalate tensions among regional and international players in the absence of an international agreement to support the SDF. The SDF’s plans to target the regime may be a signal that the US has finally worked out a plausible strategy on Syria, one based on support for a multi-ethnic and seemingly democratic force with the potential of liberating as well as unifying Syria.

But things are never that simple in Syria, and if Kocher’s comments about liberating Syria are seriously entertained, it immediately becomes clear that such a strategy will ultimately fail. By confronting the Assad regime, the SDF will, by extension, confront the Hezbollah-Iran-Russia axis, a scenario that may turn into a direct confrontation between the US and Russia. Neither power wants such a confrontation, and both have thus far exerted their utmost effort to avoid it. Moreover, if “radical and suppressive groups” includes Al-Nusra Front and other Islamist forces, tensions between the US on the one hand, and Turkey and Saudi Arabia on the other, will seriously escalate. But in the long run, it is unlikely that the US would be ready to risk alienating Turkey and Saudi Arabia by directly engaging their proxies militarily.

If Kocher’s plans fail to materialise for the above reasons, that will likely mean that the SDF will cease operations after taking over Raqqa and severely degrading Daesh in Syria. But even this outcome is significant, as it will give the US leverage over Russia during peace negotiations. And this might expedite a comprehensive solution to the conflict.

As complicated as the Syrian conflict may be, the underlying causes that hinder a comprehensive solution are simple, and will continue to threaten efforts toward peace. One fundamental problem is Russia’s refusal to let go of the Assad regime. Another is continuing Saudi and Turkish support to groups that lie on the jihadi spectrum, from Al-Nusra Front to Jaish Al-Islam. The only hope for a successful SDF offensive across different Syrian provinces lies in an international agreement to support it against those groups that are deemed incompatible with the vision of a unified, democratic Syria. That would necessitate Russian, Turkish and Saudi acquiescence, and the abandonment of proxies or their inclusion into the SDF. As things currently stand, this kind of turn of events is still a long shot. And if it fails to transpire, the Syrian drama will continue to unfold, with no end in sight.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Vahik Soghom) frontpage Mon, 30 Nov 2015 15:29:07 +0000
Israeli court sends Swedish national to prison for ‘spying for Hezbollah’ https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22565-israeli-court-sends-swedish-national-to-prison-for-spying-for-hezbollah https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22565-israeli-court-sends-swedish-national-to-prison-for-spying-for-hezbollah Supreme court of Israel

An Israeli court sentenced a Swedish citizen to 18 months in prison on Sunday, Anadolu has reported. Hassan Hizran was found guilty of collaboration with the Lebanese Hezbollah movement.

According to Israel’s public radio, Hizran’s sentence was mitigated because “he did not fully cooperate” with Hezbollah. Israeli law allows an appeal to be lodged against the judgement.

Israeli security forces arrested Hizran on 21 July during a visit to Israel. In August, the state’s internal security agency, Shin Bet, alleged that Hezbollah instructed Hizran to gather information on military installations in order to make use of them in any confrontation that might arise in the future between the militia group and Israel.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 30 Nov 2015 15:09:03 +0000
Gazans oppose violence against women https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22564-gazans-stand-up-against-violence-against-women https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22564-gazans-stand-up-against-violence-against-women Dozens of women in the Gaza Strip participated to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.


Dozens of women in the Gaza Strip participated in the formation of a “human chain” yesterday to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Those participating in the event organised by the Palestinian NGO Network in Gaza carried signs that read “No to violence against women” and “together for a work environment safe from violence against women.”

They also called for ending the occupation as well as the violence and oppression exercised by the occupation against Palestinian women.

The participants called on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to immediately and urgently intervene to protect female Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons.

In a statement issued during the event, in front of the UN headquarters in Gaza city, the PNGOs asked the UN to pressure Israel to respect the dignity of female prisoners and release them. They also stressed the need to release female child prisoners and the need to provide detainees with medical attention and food in accordance with the international conventions.

The statement also indicated that the occupation’s violence is still the main hindrance to Palestinian women, preventing them from continuing their internal struggle against all types of discrimination in society. It is also a hindrance to the development of the society in the direction of democracy, equality and social justice, they explained.

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is celebrated every year on 25 November. It is a day when the UN, governments and international organisations call for the organisation of activities and events that raise awareness regarding this issue.

Images by MEMO photographer Mohammed Asad.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 30 Nov 2015 14:58:51 +0000
Britain’s security dilemma: to bomb or not to bomb? https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/europe/22562-britains-security-dilemma-to-bomb-or-not-to-bomb https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/europe/22562-britains-security-dilemma-to-bomb-or-not-to-bomb Professor Kamel Hawwash

The issue of whether Britain should join the multitude of nations already bombing Syria is one of the most important questions facing parliament for some time. Prime Minister David Cameron made the case for bombing last week and hopes to have convinced MPs of all parties to back him.

The argument is that Daesh is a major security threat to Britain and if proof is needed then the recent Paris atrocities should provide it. Cameron insisted that there is almost an obligation on Britain to support allies already bombing the group in Syria, including France. The Royal Air Force is already bombing Daesh in Iraq, of course, and the territory under its control includes swathes of both Iraq and Syria; the group does not recognise the international border between the two UN member states.

Britain wants President Bashar Al-Assad to step down and believes that the Syrian army is responsible for over 200,000 deaths since the uprising — now a civil war with international involvement — started in 2011. However, Cameron is clear that the air strikes he proposes would only target Daesh and not the Assad regime. He is also adamant that he will not put British Army boots on the ground.

The issue is in danger of splitting the already troubled Labour Party. Leader Jeremy Corbyn has a long-standing history of opposing war. The record shows that he was right to oppose the Iraq invasion and war which brought devastation to the country and a rise in terrorism, with groups like Al-Qaeda flourishing.

Now we have a plethora of armed groups, a “Free Syrian Army” and many states bombing Daesh in Iraq or Syria, or both. And then there is Russia, a recent entry onto the scene under the pretence of attacking Daesh but, according to other states involved in Syria, actually attacking anti-Assad groups.

The world faces a hugely complicated situation requiring both a diplomatic and military plan. In addition, if we have learnt anything at all from the disaster in Iraq, then a post-war plan is a must if the same mistakes are not to be repeated.

Will RAF air strikes make us safer in Britain? I think not, and it is illogical that the government’s answer to this question is “Yes”, not least because it is now very apparent that the Paris atrocities were planned in Europe and not in Syria or Iraq. The answer for me lies in better intelligence gathering. There is a need for greater emphasis on national intelligence gathering and stronger transnational coordination, particularly in Europe.

Britain enjoys far stricter border controls which the Schengen Area countries lack. As such, the chances of terrorist cells entering the UK from Europe are more unlikely. It is also much more difficult — as far as I am aware — for anyone to purchase clandestine weapons in Britain than it is in the rest of the EU.

We are told that the British security services have successfully foiled a number of terrorist attacks this year. My conclusion, therefore, is that air strikes on their own are futile in reducing the risk of terrorist attacks against Britain, but greater and coordinated intelligence can be much more effective.

Should Britain do nothing in Syria? I believe that Britain and all the other states involved in Syria need a plan and suggest that it needs to have the following elements:

  • Establish no fly zones and safe havens inside Syria to stem the tide of refugees leaving the country.
  • Curb sources of funding and arms for Daesh and continue to degrade its ability to sell oil.
  • Work with Turkey to stem the tide of fighters wanting to join the group from outside Syria.
  • Accept that the Syrian regime is there to stay and engage with it, bringing it back into the fold of the international community (see below).
  • Broker a ceasefire between the Syrian regime and the opposition groups as it requires the focus of both to defeat Daesh.
  • Support the Iraqi army and the Kurdish forces.
  • Build a coalition against Daesh to include all of the states currently engaged in Syria, but with the Syrian army and opposition groups playing a central role.
  • Use this improved situation to develop a long-term political solution for Syria. This will include a reconciliation process.
  • Begin the process of an accelerated reconstruction of Syria working with the Syrian government.

I accept that, for many, bringing the Syrian regime back into the fold is a step too far, especially with regards to Bashar Al-Assad, but it is in my view the only entity that could eradicate Daesh on the ground. It does, however, need to shift the focus of its army to fighting the group after having established a ceasefire with the opposition.

The time for war crimes trials can come once Syria and Iraq are stabilised. Until then, the destruction of Daesh as an entity on the ground and as an ideology is of paramount importance.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Professor Kamel Hawwash) frontpage Mon, 30 Nov 2015 14:28:00 +0000
Religion, the scapegoat of the Israel-Palestine crisis https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/22561-religion-the-scapegoat-of-the-israel-palestine-crisis https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/22561-religion-the-scapegoat-of-the-israel-palestine-crisis Al-Aqsa

The sirens had barely stopped wailing before commentators started exploiting the terror attacks in Paris on 13 November, twisting the horrific event to serve a range of varying political agendas. While most of the world mourned in respectful grief, an opportunistic few used the event to begin speaking about issues as varied as climate change, anti-immigration and unrest in the Middle East.

Given his tendency for making tenuous connections between Israel’s plight and disparate foreign events, it’s no surprise that Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was one of the first to climb up on France’s bloodied bandwagon to make hasty links between Paris and present-day Israel.

Without dwelling too long over French fatalities, Netanyahu lamented over his country’s own victimhood, claiming “the terrorists who attack us have the same murderous intent as those in Paris”, saying that world leaders should condemn the “radical Islam” as effected by Palestinians.

“It would be proper for Abu Mazen, who condemned the attack in France yesterday, to condemn ruthless terrorism against innocent people in Israel”, Netanyahu continued emphatically, using a broad brush to paint imaginary connections between religious extremists and Palestinians.

To compare the actions of ISIS with those of dispossessed Palestinians - who are resisting in an anti-colonial struggle against a brutal military occupation - is intentionally deceptive, and appears to be part of Israel’s strategy to elicit global sympathy and support in their prolonged occupation of Palestinian lands.

As explained by Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian Executive Committee, “Netanyahu is attempting to exploit the cruel and inhuman terrorism of Daesh [ISIS] in order to score cheap political points at the expense of the Palestinian people… his statements are not only fraudulent and politically coercive, they are symptomatic of political and moral bankruptcy.”

Netanyahu dismissed Israeli’s expansion of settlements past the 1949 Green Line as a motivating factor for violence, instead portraying Palestinians as inherently aggressive and ideologically-motivated proponents of violence; “It is the terrorists who are to blame for terrorism, not the territories, not the settlements, not any other thing. It is the desire to destroy us that perpetuates this conflict and drives the murderous aggression against us.”

The outlawing of the Islamic Movement in Israel

The Israeli leader’s comments over Paris were delivered less than a week after Israel’s security cabinet outlawed the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, which provides religious and educational services for Israeli Arabs, in a bid to end “dangerous incitement”. Gilad Erdan, Israel’s public security minister, commented on the move saying, “Israel must act as an example and spearhead in the struggle against radical Islam, whose emissaries we saw massacring innocent people in Paris.”

Such statements are indicative of Israel’s continuous tactic to convey Palestinian resistance as a barbaric and religious war where radical Muslims are fighting Jews on ideological grounds, rather than a struggle over land where the occupied are resisting their occupiers. Israel’s claims that the violence is being enacted by religiously-motived radical attackers fuelled by incitement by Palestinian religious leaders, is at odds with claims of Palestinians who are pointing towards a half-century belligerent occupation as the catalyst behind recent unrest.

The struggle over Al-Asqa

The role religion has to play in this on-going violence should not be completely discounted; many media discussions are interpreting the current ‘intifada’ as happening due to disagreements over the holy Al-Asqa site in Jerusalem.

However, as stated by Ali Abdunimah, author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, “the present struggle over Al-Aqsa is the consequence of Israel's use of religious dogma as a cover for its violent settler-colonialism and ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied West Bank since 1967.”

In other vein, religion cannot be considered a completely separate aspect of Palestinian identity or as the singular foundation of violent impulses. For many, the desire to defend Muslim presence in Al-Aqsa isn’t solely based upon spiritual reasoning.

As Hala Marshood, a political activist based in Jerusalem, said: “"I don't look at Al-Aqsa as just a religious symbol. It's a cultural symbol. It's a symbol of our heritage and our Palestinian identity. It's a symbol of our social life. It's a really important place for the Palestinians in Jerusalem and outside of Jerusalem."

The historic roots of the crisis

In another statement issued on 14 November in relation to the Paris attacks and Palestinian violence, Netanyahu said, “militant Islamic terrorism attacks our societies because it wants to destroy our civilization and our values. I call on the entire civilized world to unite to defeat the plague of worldwide terrorism. … It’s only with this moral clarity that the forces of civilization will defeat the savagery of terrorism.”

It is almost impossible to listen to Netanyahu’s antiquated binary of ‘civilized’ and ‘moral’ forces pitted against the atavistic ‘savages’ of mindless violence, and to not hear echoes of imperial rhetoric derived from the collective memory of past empires; the British Empire’s colonial expansion was supposedly justified through the work of Christian missionaries and ‘humanizing’ or ‘moralizing’ ventures. Indeed, it is important to remember that Zionism gained traction at the beginning of the 20th century, when imperialist Britain was looking for an ally to hand over the reins of their mandate.

Few recognize that Zionism originated as a secular movement based around Theodore Herzl’s 1886 publication Der Judeenstaat (The Jew’s State). Herzel stated in a letter to the British imperialist Cecil Rhodes, that Zionism was a fundamentally “political program”, rather than a religious one, and “the Jewish Question is for me neither a social question nor a religious question… it is a national question.” A product of the zeitgeist of the 19th century, the publication dreamed of the creation of a national homeland to compliment a new Jewish identity, one based on a fusion of nationalism, socialism and ethnicity rather than a religious covenant based on ancient promises made in biblical texts. Thus a large aspect of the problem lies in not only viewing Palestinian resistance as being motivated by religious sentiments, but also viewing Zionism as a predominantly religious project too.

Interpreting Palestinian violence as a historic “desire to destroy” which is rooted in religious antagonism negates the political character of Zionism and the complexity of the situation, which is more adequately defined as a conflict over land, dispossession, occupation and colonial settlement, rather than a clash of civilizations over religion. In the same way that it could be argued that it was Bush and Blair who gave birth to ISIS rather than the Prophet Muhammed, the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis lie in texts such as the Balfour Declaration, not the Quran.

Too often religion is used as a scapegoat for conflict that masks underpinning socio-political factors. At a time when Middle Eastern politics appear to become more complicated, many people instinctively turn to simpler narratives. The paradigm of religious extremism is one that is easily understood, and thus the Israel-Palestine crisis is too often reduced to a misleading and rather superficial binary of ‘radical Islam’ verses national democracy.

In this particular case, using Paris as a soapbox to point the finger towards religious radicalism is distracting from Israel’s political agenda, colonial expansion of settlements within the oPt, and prolonged military occupation, which appear to be a more accurate and credible reasons for the current surge in violence.

Megan Hanna is an independent journalist and photographer based in the occupied Palestinian territory; you can follow her on Twitter via @Megan_Hanna_

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Megan Hanna) frontpage Mon, 30 Nov 2015 14:19:49 +0000
2 minors charged and 1 male acquitted of burning Abu Khdeir https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22560-2-minors-charged-and-1-male-acquitted-of-burning-abu-khdeir https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22560-2-minors-charged-and-1-male-acquitted-of-burning-abu-khdeir Mohammed Abu KhdeirTwo minors have been sentenced after being found guilty of burning 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir to death last year, however another defendant was acquitted after being deemed medically unfit to stand trial.

The judge at the Jerusalem District Court acknowledged that 31-year-old Yosef Chaim Ben-David had indeed committed the murder, however he was deemed unfit to stand trial.

According to the indictment, the three hit Abu Khdeir on the head and then burned him alive, killing him. The three suspects claimed they committed the heinous crime to avenge the killing of three settlers in Hebron a month before the crime.

Abu Khdeir’s body was found in a forest in Jerusalem.

Read - Jessica Purkiss: Unequal Justice

The indictment states that the three suspects looked for any Arab to be their victim and that they abducted Abu Khdeir from the Beit Hanina area in Jerusalem after confirming he was Arab. They forced him into their car while he tried to fight them off.

Ben-David was quoted to have ordered one of the minors to “end him”, and one of the minors then strangled Abu Khdeir until he passed out, while the other helped. The group then took Abu Khdeir to a forest in Jerusalem, and Ben-David took a crowbar and pounded Abu Khdeir until he was unconscious. He also kicked the boy several times.

They then poured fuel on him and set him alight. The culprits fled the scene, burnt their belongings and returned to Ben-David's house in the West Bank settlement of Adam, played guitar and went to sleep, the indictment explained.

A date is due to be set for sentencing later today.

Dozens of Palestinians protested in front of the court demanding the harshest punishment to be issued against the killers.

Also Read: Indictment in case of US citizen beaten by Israeli soldiers an anomaly

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 30 Nov 2015 13:39:03 +0000
Saudi diplomat: Serious shifts in KSA, Egypt relations over Sisi’s positions https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22559-saudi-diplomat-serious-shifts-in-ksa-egypt-relations-over-sisis-positions https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22559-saudi-diplomat-serious-shifts-in-ksa-egypt-relations-over-sisis-positions Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi with Salman bin AbdulazizEgyptian President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi lives in a world of “illusions” which has nothing to do with reality, and there is a serious shift in Saudi’s relationship with his government, an advisor to a Saudi ambassador said.

Nawaf Obaid, advisor to Prince Mohammad bin Nawaf, Saudi ambassador to the UK, reported a Saudi diplomatic source as saying: “Saudi Arabia is seriously considering re-evaluating its relations with Sisi’s government in Egypt after revealing startling news concerning Sisi,” adding “the economic situation in Egypt cannot continue and Sisi’s irrational foreign policy will force Saudi Arabia to take another course with him.”

He also quoted a former general in the Egyptian army as saying that “if Sisi did not pay attention to the situation in Egypt and gets rid of his unqualified advisers he will meet Mubarak’s fate soon.”

Obaid commented on these analyses on his personal Twitter account saying: “Sisi’s illusions and his unqualified advisors will turn against him soon. Egypt under Sisi’s leadership will not be ally, friend or partner to Saudi Arabia or the Gulf states.”

Saudi writer and analyst Mehanna Al-Hubail commented on Obaid’s remarks saying the cold relationship between the two countries is due to President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi’s involvement in the Russian-Iranian axis.

Al-Hubail wrote on Twitter: “Nawaf Obaid is a Saudi media adviser in the diplomatic corps and him quoting the personal remarks of a diplomat about strained relations with Sisi is unprecedented.”

“It seems that the diplomatic message leaked by Nawaf Obaid about Riyadh’s dismay with General Sisi’s positions refers to the latter's involvement in the Russian-Iranian axis.”

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 30 Nov 2015 13:22:43 +0000
Israeli relations with UAE will not be a ‘secret love affair’ https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22558-israeli-relations-with-uae-will-not-be-a-secret-love-affair https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22558-israeli-relations-with-uae-will-not-be-a-secret-love-affair Benjamin NetanyahuIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday praised the Director-General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry Dore Gold on the occasion of the opening of an Israeli office in Abu-Dhabi, QudsNet reported.

Gold, who spoke to Israeli radio, said that relations between Israel and the UAE would not be a “secret love affair” but would follow “official” channels.

Despite the repeated denial of the UAE, Gold reiterated that the Israeli flag will be raised in its representative office and the pictures of the Israeli PM and president will hang inside, considering this an achievement for Israel.

At the opening of the weekly meeting of the Israeli ministerial council, Netanyahu said: “This reflects the evaluation that Israel has got in many different fields, including technology, inside and outside the Middle East.”

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, “the UAE and Israel currently do not have formal diplomatic relations and Israeli passport holders are prohibited from entering the Gulf country; but the two countries have reportedly held secret discussions about warming ties for several years.”

The newspaper added: “In January 2010, Uzi Landau became the first Israeli cabinet minister to visit the UAE when he went to participate in the International Renewable Energy Agency conference in Abu Dhabi.”

“One month later, a senior Hamas militant Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh was assassinated in Dubai in an incident blamed on the Mossad and which caused worldwide outrage.”

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 30 Nov 2015 13:17:41 +0000
Hamas: UN needs to correct its mistake regarding partition of Palestine https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22557-hamas-un-needs-to-correct-its-mistake-regarding-partition-of-palestine https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22557-hamas-un-needs-to-correct-its-mistake-regarding-partition-of-palestine NakbaOn the 68th anniversary of the partitioning of Palestine, Hamas has called on the UN to correct its “oppressive historical mistake” in the passing of UN resolution 181, Felesteen newspaper reported on Sunday.

In a statement, Hamas’s refugee department said that the resolution, which was issued on 29 November, 1947 and put an end to the British Mandate via the partition of Palestine, was a “historical mistake”.

“After 68 years of conflict in the Middle East caused by this oppressive resolution, which stepped over all humanitarian traditions, international laws and even the UN Charter, history proved that this was a mistake,” a statement from the department said.

“This decision would have not been issued without the support of the great world powers, including the United States and the UK,” the statement added.

The statement pointed to regional issues and instability that have plagued the Arab world since the date of that resolution, stressing the historical support of world powers to Jewish militias who carried out massacres against Palestinians in the land of historical Palestine nearly 70 years ago.

In addition, the statement noted that the Balfour Declaration, which was made by the British foreign minister in 1917 and promised to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine, set the scene for the current conflicts in the Middle East.

According to the statement, the consecutive uprisings and revolutions of the Palestinians, are testament to the steadfastness of the Palestinian people in the face of ongoing historical persecution and oppression.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 30 Nov 2015 13:13:47 +0000
MCB: Airstrikes in Syria will be ‘another recruiting sergeant for the terrorists’ https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/22556-mcb-airstrikes-in-syria-will-be-another-recruiting-sergeant-for-the-terrorists https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/22556-mcb-airstrikes-in-syria-will-be-another-recruiting-sergeant-for-the-terrorists Dr Shuja ShafiDaesh is an “evil entity, opposed by the vast majority of Muslims around the world”, a senior member of the Muslim Council of Britain declared today.

In the statement, Dr Shuja Shafi, secretary-general of the MCB, added that any effective action against Daesh will enjoy “widespread support from British Muslims”.

This support however does not include the belief that intensified airstrikes in Syria will be effective in curtailing the violence in the region but instead will prove to “be another recruiting sergeant for the terrorists and their odious ideology”. As Daesh seeks more Western military intervention in the region “to corroborate its hateful narrative”, the statement explained.

Shuja urges the government “to deploy its considerable diplomatic influence to create the political, economic and strategic conditions for Daesh to be rendered impotent.”

The MBC has also urged the government to “pressure all states in the region, particularly Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey to resolve their differences and re-focus their energies against Daesh” and to apply greater financial penalties and sanctions against states actively or indirectly funding Daesh.

British Parliament is set to debate whether to extend airstrikes to include Syria this week.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 30 Nov 2015 13:03:49 +0000
Is Libya on the brink of a humanitarian crisis? https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/22555-is-libya-on-the-brink-of-a-humanitarian-crisis https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/22555-is-libya-on-the-brink-of-a-humanitarian-crisis File photo of a Libyan Dawn fighter

As the conflict and violence in Libya persists, the situation on the ground is deteriorating. Libyan citizens continue to struggle with price increases for basic commodities, while at the same time many experience delays in state salary payments.

“Six months ago you could buy 15 bread rolls for 1 Libyan dinar, now all you get is 7 or 8,” explains Monsour, a government employee in Tripoli. He is worried about inflation and how it has affected food prices, as well as the charges for medicine; there has been a 100 per cent increase in the price of, for example, basic products such as paracetamol and cough medicine for children. “And babies’ nappies,” he adds. Even the insulin injections for diabetics have gone from being free to cost about 20 dinars. For Monsour and his family, commodities such as snacks and soft drinks have become luxury items, a result of an import ban by the Tripoli authorities earlier this year which also covers sanitary products, pasta and olive oil in an attempt to save hard currency.

Due to the foreign currency shortage, while the official exchange rate is 1.40 Libyan dinars to $1, the rate for many Libyans on the parallel market is around 4 dinars. Libya’s black market is not new, however; since the revolution which ousted Muammar Gaddafi the difference in rates has been booming. The exchange rate also differs within the country, where it is higher in Tripoli than in Tobruk.

At the same time state employees complain about delayed and unpaid salaries. Monsour explains that he is lucky to have received his salary, but there have been times when he hasn’t been able to withdraw money from his account due to the lack of hard currency. For Libya’s half a million teachers the situation has been worse; Tripoli recently saw schools closing down due to strikes after teachers suffered with two months’ salaries unpaid. It is not just teachers who have been affected; all state employees, such as cleaners and airport staff, face similar issues. As of today, there is no labour union in Libya to represent the employees’ demands in a formal way. In addition, since the revolution salaries have risen significantly, by up to 300 per cent. “However, politicians in the country did not curb the inflated figures as it serves them well in terms of public popularity,” argued Libyan economist Amr Omran Farkash. He estimates that, unless the situation changes, Libya is prone to see more of these strikes in the coming period.

Meanwhile, the General National Congress, the Tripoli-based government, suggested recently to double state salaries, despite the fact that the Audit Bureau alerted ministers that more than twice the national income is already being spent on salaries and subsidies for basic food commodities and fuel, which alone amount to about one third of the government’s public spending. According to the congress, the increase would benefit 95 per cent of state employees and narrow the gap between the highest and lowest paid. However, warned the Audit Bureau, 33 billion dinars would this year be allocated on state wages and subsidies, while the income is estimated at 15 billion, suggesting that at this rate it will take Libya just two or three years to finish its reserves and go bankrupt.

The non-payment of salaries is mainly due to Libya’s strained public finances that are struggling after the loss of oil revenue. “The current oil sales do not cover even half of the salaries,” explains Libyan political commentator Mohamed Eljarh. The result has been a delay in public salaries and cuts in subsidies. Libya, which holds the largest crude oil reserves in Africa, is dependent on its oil revenue. Oil and gas production has amounted to about 65 per cent of Libya’s GDP, 98 per cent of government revenues and 96 per cent of exports. However, due to the conflict, oil production has gone from 1.5 million barrels of crude oil per day to about 300,000. Adding to that difficulty is the fall in oil prices. “Practically, it means that Libya needs to double or even triple its pre-revolution export levels to compensate for the international oil price fall,” explains Farkash. The export levels plus the shortfall in prices mean that the state budget will suffer from a deficit for the near and medium term future. Together with the Libyan Central Bank, the National Oil Corporation makes up the key pillars of the Libyan economy. Reports suggest, though, that the National Oil Corporation in Tobruk is attempting to sell oil independently which, according to Eljarh, could divide the country even further. “If they manage then there is no longer a united institution,” he says.

“Libya is on the verge of economic and financial collapse,” said the former UN Special Envoy Bernadino Leon in April when talking about the country’s economic situation. The UN estimates that 2.4 million Libyans are in need of humanitarian assistance and about 1.3 million are at risk of being food insecure. “The situation is only going to get worse,” predicted Eljarh. At these desperate times there are also those who argue that Libya should sell its gold reserves in Bayda. “Without calculating what the long-term consequences of such decisions may be,” he argues.

In an attempt to improve the situation, the Central Bank has imposed restrictions on cash withdrawals from local banks. According to Farkash, the priority should be to use national ID numbers to make salary payments, as there have been cases of duplicate cash transfers. The Central Bank also has to fight the black market and the gap between the currency rates, and there needs to be attempts to control corruption and enhance mechanisms for accountability and transparency, he concluded.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Christine Petré) frontpage Mon, 30 Nov 2015 12:27:18 +0000
Saudi Arabia and Egypt share mutual interests and grey policies https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/22554-saudi-arabia-and-egypt-share-mutual-interests-and-grey-policies https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/22554-saudi-arabia-and-egypt-share-mutual-interests-and-grey-policies Khalid Al-Dakhil

It is agreed almost unanimously that Saudi-Egyptian relations are dominated by ambiguity of the type that serves neither party. Each tells the other what it wants to hear, yet when it comes to action they only do what they see fit. Egypt is anxious about anything to do with the Muslim Brotherhood; Saudi Arabia is a lot less anxious. Ambiguity prevails over the two regional powers of the Arab world despite the many mutual interests they share and the positive remarks they both make. Why the ambiguity? Is Saudi Arabia the cause of this or Egypt?

I believe that Egypt is the cause. It is the one which wants to keep the relationship with Saudi Arabia rather vague, potentially encompassing one position and its exact opposite. The reason is a role which Egypt has lost and is dreaming about regaining, but cannot find a way to achieve it. Cairo says that its security is an integral part of Gulf security. That is true, but it is adopting stances that contradict this interest. The security of the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf is Egypt's security too. That's how things were in the past and that's how they still are, especially during this period of turmoil, the likes of which the Arab world has never experienced before. When Saudi Arabia stood by Egypt immediately before and after the 2013 coup, it only did so out of profound realisation of the danger of instability and lack of security in Egypt in the aftermath of the fall of Iraq and Syria. The Saudis cannot afford to see Egypt slide into instability. Should this happen, the burden would fall principally on the shoulders of the government in Riyadh. This is a responsibility that no one single state can bear on its own.

Nearly all Egyptian writers on this matter also attribute the ambiguous relationship with Saudi Arabia to Cairo’s stance; not because they believe the Saudi position to be sound, but because they blame the Egyptian leadership for diminishing their country’s role. Here is where the predicament lies amid the current regional circumstances. The cultured elite would like to see Egypt regain its leading role in the region, as it had in the early 20th century.

The official Egyptian position vis-a-vis the crises that shake the region express the same vision. Yet, its vagueness also expresses a sense of frustration that the potential for regaining that leading role is no longer available. Egypt under President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, as it was during the brief rule of his predecessor Mohamed Morsi, is not the same Egypt that existed during the monarchy or when Gamal Abdel Nasser was president. The region is also moving further away from the Arab world that existed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is obvious that Egypt's restoration of its leading role requires a change within Egypt itself before anywhere else.

No one objects to Egypt's restoration of its leading role, but political ambitions and leadership cannot be accomplished through mere wishful thinking and nostalgia. Egypt is lagging behind in economics, politics, development and science. The age of Egypt's giants is over. The state in Egypt is suffering from what many other Arab states are suffering. It acknowledges that it has changed (as has the region and, indeed, the rest of the world), yet it is expecting this change to adapt to Egypt rather than taking the initiative to adapt Egypt to suit the changes and their requirements. The amazing thing is that it is still in denial that the situation is pushing it further away from the role it wants to regain.

What is even more astonishing is that Egypt realises that in the aftermath of the collapse of Iraq and Syria the region cannot be salvaged except through cooperation with Saudi Arabia. Such cooperation requires a common vision of the solutions and means of deliverance from the current predicament. However, it would seem that Egypt in its current difficult political and economic situation fears reaching a common vision with Riyadh and doing what it takes in terms of cooperation that may result in regional recognition of a Saudi leadership role at its own expense. It may also end up bolstering the magnitude and extent of the change that has befallen Egypt and the region. This is a probability. Egypt's anxiety vis-a-vis such a probability expresses the change that has touched it before touching anyone else.

Egypt wants financial support from Saudi and the Gulf but does not want to have to do anything in return as part of the quid pro quo equation of exchanged Arab interests. For example, in the aftermath of all the destruction he has unleashed upon Syria, does keeping Assad in power constitute a Syrian interest or an Arab interest? Egypt fears that the fall of Assad might lead to a Muslim Brotherhood takeover in Syria which, in turn, would weaken the Syrian army in favour of a civilian state. Such an eventuality would place the Egyptian army, and its central role in the country, in an embarrassing position.

In contrast, the Egyptian leadership does not seem to realise that the establishment of an inclusive civil and secular (rather than military or religious) state will put pressure on Saudi Arabia and that the ramifications of such a development may compel it to adapt and effect reforms that will not be easy to avert. Hence, the price tag will not be borne by Egypt alone. Why, I wonder, does Saudi Arabia seem more prepared — despite being the most conservative by virtue of its Wahhabi legacy — to accept such a possibility and what it might entail politically and intellectually, than Egypt, out of which the enlightenment in the Arab world is supposed to have sprung more than a century ago? This question embodies the magnitude of change and what this enlightenment has led to.

Is it in the Arab interest to allow, or to be tolerant toward, Iran’s policy of spreading the idea of a sect-based militia as a rival to the state in the Arab world under the fake slogan of “resistance”? This is what Iran has been doing in Iraq and in Syria, and what it did in Lebanon, Yemen and Bahrain. Isn't it an Arab interest before being a Saudi interest to confront this destructive Iranian role? Some writers in Egypt don't see things that way. The most prominent testimony to this is what the renowned journalist Mohamed Hassanein Heikal told Lebanon’s Al-Safir newspaper about why Hezbollah is fighting in Syria. “It is doing this for its own survival and in defence of itself and of what it is doing in Lebanon,” the veteran writer asserted. By doing so, he added, it is asserting its legitimacy as a resistance group and not as a component within the Iranian project. “Iran may benefit from this and so does Egypt, although we do not acknowledge that. We do indeed benefit from every suspended resistance point in favour of a comprehensive settlement at a moment when the Arab world is so weak and in a state of collapse.”

I do not think I would be exaggerating if I were to say that this is old and irrelevant rhetoric. It is rather strange that it should come from someone like Heikal. The man is too clever and too knowledgeable to need to say something like this. Furthermore, he is supposed to be an Arab nationalist and a Nasserist. Nationalism in its very foundations hinges on the concept of the state, one that is national and nationalistic, and it gives it utmost priority. Would Heikal accept the emergence of a similar militia in Egypt?

What is still more astonishing is his assertion that Hezbollah is fighting in Syria in order to assert its legitimacy and that it is not part of an Iranian project. In saying so, he contradicts himself. The party is religious, its leaders and cadres are religious and its frame of reference, both religious and political, is in Iran and not even in Lebanon or in Syria. Moreover, Hezbollah is funded and its cadres are trained and armed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. Is Iran doing all of this like a charitable society as a favour to the Arab resistance? The reality is that the party is fighting in defence of a bloody regime that has been murdering its people for decades, long before the eruption of the Syrian revolution. It is doing this only because the head of the regime is a Shia and an Alawite and because his presence is needed as a barrier to hinder the rise of the Sunni majority to power in Syria. This is because the ascendance to power of this majority might force Iran out of Syria; Heikal was among the first people to point this out. How then does the party's involvement in the fighting inside Syria become an expression of its independence and legitimacy?

Heikal’s position does not necessarily represent the vision of those who govern in Egypt. However, the vagueness of their stance vis-a-vis such vital matters gives the impression that the two positions somehow concur without necessarily being identical. This confirms, first, that the clash of political visions with acknowledged interests end up engaging certain mutual interests with others and producing grey policies that serve no one. It also confirms the inability of the Arab states to form a coalition among themselves on the basis of a common strategic vision. It is through this gap that foreign interventions penetrate in order to undermine the region's capabilities. Egypt demands that we wait for it to regain its leadership role. Can it ever achieve this while failing to escape the cloak of the military for more than a century?

Translated from Alhayat, 29 November 2015.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Khalid Al-Dakhil) frontpage Mon, 30 Nov 2015 12:10:52 +0000
Two killed and dozens injured in Israeli crackdown on Palestinian protests https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22553-two-killed-and-dozens-injured-in-israeli-crackdown-on-palestinian-protests https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22553-two-killed-and-dozens-injured-in-israeli-crackdown-on-palestinian-protests Clashes between Plaestinians and Israeli forces

Yesterday, Israeli forces killed two Palestinians during a crackdown on protesters across the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, Palestinian media sources said.

Witnesses said that the Israeli police shot dead 38-year-old Baseem Salah near Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate.

According to eyewitnesses, the Israeli police shot Salah at least 11 times, and left him bleeding to death on the ground.

IDF soldiers also shot tear gas and live bullets at protesters during an evening demonstration in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan.

The Jerusalem Intifada?

Rising tensions in the Occupied Territories have led to dozens of deaths and hundreds of clashes.
Learn more about the Jerusalem Intifada

One of the protesters, identified as 17-year-old Ayman Al-Abbasi, was shot with a live bullet by an Israeli soldier, immediately killing him. An Israeli army spokesperson has said that the IDF will investigate the incident.

Meanwhile, Palestinian sources said that at least 12 Palestinian civilians across the occupied West Bank were suffered various kinds of injuries ranging from light to moderate, while a further 14 required treatment for excessive tear gas inhalation.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 30 Nov 2015 11:27:15 +0000
International conference in Algeria to discuss Libyan issue https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/22552-international-conference-in-algeria-to-discuss-libyan-issue https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/22552-international-conference-in-algeria-to-discuss-libyan-issue Flag of Algeria

Algeria announced yesterday that several North African countries would hold the seventh conference in Algiers to discuss the latest developments in Libya.

The Algerian Minister of Maghreb Affairs, African Union and Arab League Abdelkader Messahel said that the conference is due to be held on Tuesday.

“As previous ones, this meeting will allow the neighbouring countries and representatives of regional and international organisations to inquire about the situation in Libya and the region and analyse the latest developments,” Messahel said.

He added: “It is an opportunity for Algeria to reiterate its support to the ongoing process sponsored by the UN to speed up the formation of a national unity government, which is able to complete the transitional period and take up the multiple challenges facing the country, particularly terrorism.”

The previous conference was held in the Chadian capital of N’Djamena last June.

The countries and organisations due to take part in this conference are Egypt, Sudan, Niger, Chad, African Union, Arab League and the EU, in addition to Libya and the UN envoy to Libya Martin Coupler.

On Saturday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced that there is no exact timeframe set to form a national unity government in Libya to resolve the civil conflict that has raged the country since the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 30 Nov 2015 11:06:28 +0000
Qatar sponsors Lebanon-Nusra hostage exchange deal https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22551-qatar-sponsors-lebanon-nusra-hostage-exchange-deal https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22551-qatar-sponsors-lebanon-nusra-hostage-exchange-deal Al-Nusra front fighters

A Lebanese security source said the operation to swap Lebanese military personnel abducted by Al-Nusra Front in August 2014 started yesterday in the town of Arsal, Lebanon, under Qatari auspices.

Turkey’s Anadolu Agency reported the unnamed source as saying that under the terms of the agreement, Lebanon will swap 17 Lebanese soldiers abducted by Al-Nusra Front with a number of detainees held in Lebanese prisons.

The source pointed out that the deal does not include the six Lebanese soldiers abducted by Daesh.

Al Jazeera reported that Qatar sponsored the deal, adding that the exchange process will take place in an area outside the Lebanese authorities’ control.

It also revealed that Al-Nusra Front requested the Syrian regime to release two Syrian families.

A number of Lebanese soldiers were abducted during clashes that broke out between the Lebanese army and armed groups from Syria, including Al-Nusra Front and Daesh in August last year.

At least 17 Lebanese soldiers were killed in the clashes and 86 others were wounded. Al- Nusra Front detains 17 Lebanese soldiers while Daesh captured six.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 30 Nov 2015 11:05:13 +0000
Abbas furious with Palestinian Journalists Syndicate over Dahlan aide https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22550-abbas-furious-with-palestinian-journalists-syndicate-over-dahlan-aide https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22550-abbas-furious-with-palestinian-journalists-syndicate-over-dahlan-aide Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas. [File Photo]

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is said to be furious with the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS) following reports that an aide of the dismissed Fatah member Mohammed Dahlan will join the syndicate’s delegation to the Arab Journalists’ Conference in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, the Safa news agency revealed.

The agency reported sources saying the delegation includes PJS chairman Abdel-Nasser Al-Najjar and Nasser Abu Bakr as well as the general supervisor of the audio-visual media network which belongs to Dahlan, Yousef Al-Ustath.

According to the sources, outrage prevailed in Abbas's office after he learned of the news prompting the office to form a commission of inquiry.

A former commission of inquiry chaired by Tayeb Abdel-Rahim revealed relations between PJS officials and Dahlan.

Al-Ustat,h who has been living in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, for nearly three years, runs the Al-Kitab satellite channel which was launched on 11 November.

Palestinian and Egyptian sources have recently revealed that Abbas rejected the mediation of his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi, to reconcile relations with Dahlan.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 30 Nov 2015 10:59:19 +0000
Netanyahu: Ban on Islamic Movement will remain despite protests https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22549-netanyahu-ban-on-islamic-movement-will-remain-despite-protests https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22549-netanyahu-ban-on-islamic-movement-will-remain-despite-protests Head of Islamic Movement in Israel,  Sheikh Raed Salah

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday that his government will not revoke a decision to ban the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement led by Sheikh Raed Salah despite protests.

“I have lately heard voices rising from certain segments of the population against the decision, but it will not change the decision by a millimetre. We are adhering to this decision, just as we are determined to pass that nationality law that will clearly delineate Israel as a Jewish democratic state, as the national home of the Jewish people,” Netanyahu said at the beginning of the Cabinet meeting.

Arab cities in Israel witnessed demonstrations in protest against the Israeli government’s decision to outlaw the Islamic Movement which came into effect on 16 November.

Netanyahu also said he does not intend to hand over any territory to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

“There won’t be any transfer of territory to the Palestinians, not 40,000 [dunams or 10,000 acres], not 10,000 and not even one metre,” he said.

Israeli media reported that Netanyahu intends to “unilaterally” hand over land to the Palestinian Authority.

Netanyahu is scheduled to leave Israel today heading for Paris, France, where he will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Francois Hollande as well as the prime ministers of Japan, Canada, Australia and Poland.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 30 Nov 2015 10:53:56 +0000
Israel suspends EU role in peace process over labelling https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22548-israel-suspends-eu-role-in-peace-process-over-labelling https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22548-israel-suspends-eu-role-in-peace-process-over-labelling illegal Israeli settlements

Israel has responded on Sunday to an EU move to label goods from illegal settlements by moving to suspend its role in the Palestine-Israel peace process.

The Times of Israel quoted a Hebrew-language Foreign Ministry statement saying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had ordered a suspension of diplomatic contact with the EU with regards to the peace process. It did not however extend to individual member countries of the EU.

Israel had previously threatened such a move in response to EU guidelines requiring the labelling of goods produced in settlements in the occupied West Bank, as opposed to in Israel itself.

After the guidelines were approved by the EU on Nov. 11, Israel's Foreign Ministry called them "discriminatory”.

Previously, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said in an interview with the Times of Israel in September that labelling settlement goods would be a "red line" for Israel.

She warned that the EU could be excluded from the peace process and that economic ties could also be downgraded. She added that Israel would try to convince major European countries to ignore the guidelines.

“We see it as a boycott of Israel for all intents and purposes. We view it as a slippery slope. It’s simply a sweeping disqualification of Israel," she said.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 30 Nov 2015 10:37:38 +0000
Libya’s Tebu, Tuareg breach ceasefire agreement for second time in one week https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/22547-libyas-tebu-tuareg-breach-ceasefire-agreement-for-second-time-in-one-week https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/22547-libyas-tebu-tuareg-breach-ceasefire-agreement-for-second-time-in-one-week The Libyan Tebu and Tuareg tribes on signing of a reconciliation agreement brokered by the State of Qatar in November 2015

A ceasefire agreement between Libya’s Tebu and Tuareg has been breached for the second time after it was signed last week under Qatari auspices, Turkey’s Anadolu Agency reported.

A military source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “Clashes renewed this morning between members of the two tribes in the city of Ubari in the second breach of the reconciliation agreement.” He added that “gunshots can be heard in different parts of the city.”

A medical source at the Ubari field hospital told the news agency that, yesterday, the hospital received four people from the Tuareg tribe who were wounded during confrontations and were transferred to the capital Tripoli for treatment.

A reconciliation agreement was concluded between the Tebu and Tuareg tribes on Monday last week ending a year of violent clashes. Witnesses said the agreement was breached only 24 hours after it was signed.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 30 Nov 2015 10:23:17 +0000
Report: Daesh executed 3,590 in Syria since declaring caliphate https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22546-report-daesh-executed-3590-in-syria-since-declaring-caliphate https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22546-report-daesh-executed-3590-in-syria-since-declaring-caliphate Daesh Soldiers

Daesh has killed as many as 3,591 people in Syria since it announced its caliphate state in June last year, a new report revealed.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it documented the execution of 53 people last month, 35 of them being civilians, including four women as well as six Daesh members and three fighters from other factions, in addition to at least nine members of the Syrian regime’s forces and militants loyal to them.

The executions took place in the governorates of Hasaka, Deir ez-Zor, Raqqa, Aleppo and Homs for alleged apostasy, blasphemy, witchcraft, corruption, murder, banditry, homosexuality, adultery and other reasons.

Taking in to account last month’s executions, the total number of civilians and fighters killed by the group now stands at 3,591 since June 2014.

The group executed 1,945 civilians, including 77 children and 103 women.

According to the report, Daesh committed three massacres in the provinces of Deir ez-Zor, Aleppo and Hama where it executed more than 930 citizens in east Zour, 223 civilians in Kobani and the village of Barkh Botan and 46 civilians in the village of Al-Maboujah.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Mon, 30 Nov 2015 10:21:56 +0000
Reclaiming Palestine: How Israeli Media Misread the Intifada https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/22545-israeli-commentators-yaron-friedman-of-ynet-news-and-haviv-rettig-gur-of-the-times-of-israel-are-clueless-about-the-driving-force-behind-the-palestinian-mobilization-and-collective-struggle-in-two-recent-articles-and-with-unmistakable-conceit-th https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/22545-israeli-commentators-yaron-friedman-of-ynet-news-and-haviv-rettig-gur-of-the-times-of-israel-are-clueless-about-the-driving-force-behind-the-palestinian-mobilization-and-collective-struggle-in-two-recent-articles-and-with-unmistakable-conceit-th Ramzy BaroudIsraeli commentators, Yaron Friedman, of “Ynet News” and Haviv Rettig Gur, of the “Times of Israel” are clueless about the driving force behind the Palestinian mobilization and collective struggle. In two recent articles, and with unmistakable conceit, they attempted to highlight what they perceive as the failure of the current Palestinian uprising, or ‘Intifada’.

Gur argues that 'the terrorism' of the Palestinians is not a surge of opposition to Israel but a “howl against the pervasive sense that resistance has failed”. He reduces the Intifada to the mere act of alleged stabbing of Israelis, and points out to the painful truth that the Palestinian Authority 'elites' are paying lip service to the 'martyrs', while “simultaneously acting with determination on the ground to disrupt and stop attacks”.

In his long-winded article, “Losing Palestine”, Gur essentially claims that the current struggle against Occupation stems mostly from internet fervor and is more a deceleration of defeat than a strategy for victory, and that no Palestinian leader dares to be the first to accept this.

Friedman, on the other hand, describes the 'knife Intifada' as a 'fire without coal'; that the “insane actions of the stabbers” is designed to ignite religious fervor, ultimately aimed at blaming the Jews.

Those who launched the Intifada “have no real internal or external support (financial or with weapons) and it broke out at a time when the nightmare of all the Arab world's leaders is the social protests turning into anarchy,” he wrote.

There is little sense in arguing against the unsympathetic approach Zionist commentators use to describe Palestinians or their insistence on seeing Palestinian collective action, violent or otherwise, as an act of ‘terror’; on their refusal to see any context behind Palestinian anger or on how they inject a religious narrative at every turn, and lob ‘anti-Semitic’ accusations unfairly, whenever they see fit.

But what is particularly interesting about the Israeli take on the Palestinian Intifada, as presented by Friedman, Gur and others in the media, including from within the Israeli political establishment, is the attempt to display an exaggerated sense of confidence, that unlike other uprisings, this one is a farce.

In fact, the Israelis are certain that the uprising is likely to deflate once the limited tools at its disposal are contained. This supposition has led Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Tzipi Hotovely, to meet with representatives of YouTube and Google “to discuss ways to cooperate in what she calls the fight against ‘inciting violence and terrorism’,” reported MEMO, citing Israeli daily, ‘Maariv’.

This hasty self-assurance among Israeli state officials and media is predicated on several suppositions:

First, while the PA has not yet moved to take part in crushing the Intifada, it has done its utmost to thwart the people’s effort at mobilizing Palestinians beyond the limited confines of the ruling Fatah faction and its worthless promises of peace and statehood.

The PA knows well that if the Intifada escalates beyond its current scale, it could undermine - if not entirely challenge - the PA itself, which has served for many years as a line of defense for the Israeli Occupation. Thanks to the ‘security coordination’ between the Israeli army and the PA, Palestinian resistance in the West Bank has, until recently, been largely contained.

Second, Hamas, although it has openly called for an escalation of protests against Israel, is swamped in its own problems. The siege on Gaza, tightened further with the closure of the Rafah border and the desperate need to rebuild what successive Israeli wars have destroyed, makes it difficult for Hamas to take part in any effort that could open up another war front with Israel.

One must recall that the Israeli war on Gaza in the summer of 2014 was, itself, an Israeli attempt at redrawing the battle lines. At that time, a momentum for an Intifada was taking shape in the West Bank following an increase in Israeli army and settler violence against Palestinians. The war on Gaza managed to change the narrative of that budding conflict into an Israeli war aimed at defending its own borders, as Israeli hasbara dictated. Israel is now relying on the assumption that Hamas would avoid, at least for now, a repeat of that scenario which cost Palestinians over 2,200 lives and thousands of wounded and maimed, let alone the massive destruction of the already impoverished Strip.

Third, Arabs are consumed with their own regional fights, whether for political or sectarian domination. Almost every Arab country is somehow, either fully or partially, involved or is affected by the various wars and conflicts under way in Syria, Libya, Egypt’s Sinai, Iraq and Yemen. The supposedly successful Tunisian model is suffering its own fallout, too, from militant violence, whether homegrown or that which spills over from violent borders.

Previous intifadas succeeded, or so goes the Israeli logic, because of Arab backing. But the most that Arabs have done is to pay lip service and nothing more. In fact, if the PA itself is keen on spoiling popular Palestinian initiatives, little can be expected of the Arabs, who are busy fighting one another.

However, the Israeli argument is, as has always been the case, narrow-minded in its view of history, or it conveniently applies history to fit whatever political argument Israeli officials or mouthpieces deem handy. Just a few weeks ago, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, absolved the Nazis from the idea behind the Holocaust and pinned the blame on the Palestinian Mufti instead.

Previous intifadas, but more importantly the 1987 ‘Intifada of the stones’, was not constructed as a strategy for liberation, but was a spontaneous reaction to a series of Israeli provocations, and the adjacent failure of the Palestinian leadership, all positioned within the larger context of the ongoing Israeli occupation.

Palestinians do not revolt when ‘the time is right’ for them to do so, but whenever their collective suffering has culminated to the point that they cannot be silenced anymore.

Those, whether Israeli or even Palestinian intellectuals, who opine about the need for the intifada to do this or that, change directions or tactics, stop altogether or move forward, are simply unable to understand that the momentum of a collective struggle cannot be dictated from above.

This is not to argue that a grassroots, genuine Palestinian leadership that operates outside the confines of fatalism and defeat as demonstrated by the PA is not a necessary step needed to galvanize the popular efforts. But that is a decision to be taken by the youth themselves, and its timing and nature should be determined based on their own reckoning.

The Israelis are counting on their shoot to kill policy. The Palestinian leadership is waiting for the anger to fizzle out before resuming its endless quest for a frivolous peace process and financial handouts. The Intifada itself, however, operates on the basis of an entirely different arithmetic: a collective spirit that can neither be intimidated by violence nor procured by funds.

In fact this is precisely why the Intifada started in the first place and, as long as the factors that led to its inception remain in place, it, too, is likely to continue and escalate, not for the sake of liberating Palestine through some magic formula, but for the urgent need to regain national initiative, redefine priorities and a new sense of collective, as Palestinian first and foremost.

– Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books include ‘Searching Jenin’, ‘The Second Palestinian Intifada’ and his latest ‘My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story’. His website is: www.ramzybaroud.net.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Ramzy Baroud) frontpage Mon, 30 Nov 2015 10:05:26 +0000
I know Isis fighters. Western bombs falling on Raqqa will fill them with joy https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/22544-i-know-isis-fighters-western-bombs-falling-on-raqqa-will-fill-them-with-joy https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/22544-i-know-isis-fighters-western-bombs-falling-on-raqqa-will-fill-them-with-joy Ambulance and police at the scene of the Paris attack.

Since the Paris attacks, western politicians have been walking open-eyed into a trap set by the terrorists – just like they did after 9/11. They retaliate with bombs, even though bombs are one of the main reasons why we are facing terrorism in the first place: because bombs predominantly kill innocent people, and thus help to create fresh recruits for the terrorist cause.

As I learned from spending time interviewing Islamic State members in Syria and northern Iraq, George W Bush’s “war on terror” turned out to be a classic terrorist recruitment programme of this kind. In 2001 there were roughly a couple of hundred terrorists in the mountains of the Hindu Kush who posed a threat to the international community. Now, after the war on terror has claimed what some estimate to be as many as one million Iraqi lives, we are facing some 100,000 terrorists. Isis was created six months after the start of the invasion: it is Bush’s baby.

How can it be that leading politicians learned nothing from 14 years of counterproductive anti-terror wars? How can it be that they still believe that the best way to get rid of an infestation of wasps is to batter the nests with a sledgehammer?

The Syrian city of Raqqa, which is now populated by only 200,000 citizens, has become one of the favourite targets of the French president, François Hollande. American, Jordanian, Russian and Syrian military jets have been reinforced by French bombers. British ones could soon be joining them, dropping their deadly load on what remains of the city’s foundations – even though out of 20,000 Isis fighters who used to hide in the city, only a couple of thousand remain at most. The majority have long ago fled to Mosul, in Iraq, or to Deir Ezzor, also in Syria.

France is currently bombing everything that looks like camps or barracks: small factories, communal buildings, hospitals. The majority of the Arab world has seen photos of dead children in Raqqa – Isis is doing everything it can to spread them. And for every murdered child, there will be new terrorists. War is a boomerang, and it will come to hit us back in the form of terrorism.

Of course, Hollande has to react. But no one is stopping him from reacting with a bit of brains. As a head of state he should know that urban guerrillas cannot be defeated with bombs. He should know that Isis fighters only march in tight orderly lines or drive in convoys in their propaganda videos. Off camera, they avoid hanging around in large groups and spend their time among the local population, preferably in apartment blocks that house families. That’s the very first chapter in the dummies’ guide to terrorism.

Look at Mosul: this is a city that is home to 1.5 million people, and at most 15,000 Isis terrorists. If you wanted to get rid of Isis in Mosul, you would have to flatten the entire city.

In October 2014 I was the first western journalist to spend time with Isis and return safely. During my stay, we were repeatedly targeted by American fighter jets and drones. It’s hard to overemphasise how quickly our Isis escorts managed each time to disappear among the local population. While driving through the territory of the “Islamic State” with three cars – one of which was usually a decoy for the drones – there was always a 10km distance between the vehicles. We frequently switched positions. The mantra of the Isis fighters was: never be a target.

A bombing strategy employed by France – which, potentially, will now be joined by Britain – will above all hit Syria’s population. This will fill Isis fighters with joy. Hollande could only make them happier if he were to send in ground troops as well: western boots on the ground in Syria is the ultimate Isis dream. Instead of mainly killing Muslims, they are desperate to live out their imaginary apocalyptic showdown between good and evil, in which they can at last fight against the US, the UK and France – on the ground.

They would have a good chance of winning battles there too. These fanatical fighters have excellent military training and love death. Western soldiers love life. The west cannot beat Isis with military means.

But there are ways to beat Isis. First, America has to stop Gulf states delivering weapons to the terrorists in Syria and Iraq.

Second, the west has to help Turkey seal its long border with the “Islamic State”, to stop the flow of new fighters joining Isis.

Third, Isis can only exist because it has managed to ally itself with the suppressed Sunni population of Iraq and Syria. They are the water that carries the Isis project. If the west managed to bring about a national reconciliation in Iraq and Syria, and integrate Sunnis (which in Iraq would have to include former Ba’athists) into political life, Isis would be finished, like a fish out of water.

Is it really so hard to see that the attempt to defeat terrorism with wars has failed? That we have to rethink the war on terror? That we have to finally start treating the Muslim world as true partners, and not as a cheap petrol station we can raid when we feel like it? Bombing civilians will recruit new terrorists. Again and again.

This article was first published by theguardian.com

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Jürgen Todenhöfer) frontpage Mon, 30 Nov 2015 10:02:53 +0000
No, Turkey has not started WWIII; think about the Syrians https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/22543-no-turkey-has-not-started-wwiii-think-about-the-syrians https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/22543-no-turkey-has-not-started-wwiii-think-about-the-syrians Russian Foreign Minister,  Sergei Lavrov

The international community watched in shock at what happened above the Syria-Turkey border this week when a Russian SU-24 jet was shot down by the Turkish air force for allegedly violating Turkish airspace while conducting airstrikes in Syria. The two sides differ in their versions of events, notably over where the Russian bomber was when it was hit. Many are speaking that this may be the start of World War III, but direct, long-term military confrontation between Turkey and Russia is very unlikely. However much the situation may affect Turkey and Russia's territorial integrity, security and economy, overall, the reactions to the downing of the SU-24 have really only resulted in more suffering for Arab and non-Arab civilians living in Syria.

The Turkish narrative is that the Russian aircraft left Syria airspace and entered Turkey’s, and that the Turks warned the Russians 10 times in five minutes that they had entered Turkish territory; the voice recording of this has been released. When the Russians apparently did not take the Turkish warnings seriously and continued on their flight path, Turkey’s defence procedures swung into action and the SU-24 was engaged and shot down.

The Russians, though, deny flying into Turkish airspace. At first, they claimed that it was the Free Syrian Army which shot down the aircraft, but that accusation melted away as the truth became more apparent. Russian President Vladimir Putin then admitted that it was Turkey which fired the missile at the SU-24 and described the attack as "backstabbing" his country; he remained adamant that it had not entered Turkish airspace. Although claiming to have evidence to this effect, Moscow has not yet produced it.

Russia reacted almost immediately, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov cancelling his proposed trip to Ankara and urging all Russian citizens to do the same; he compared the incident to Daesh shooting down a Russian civilian airliner over Sinai last month. The Russian air force also reacted, with strikes on the Syrian port of Latakia. It also deployed the S-400 anti-missile system to protect its base; the system has to the potential to destroy any military aircraft within a range of 400 km. Latakia is near the Turkish border and is also home to the Turkmen, an ethnic group of Turkish origin who live on the mountains bordering the two countries. Russia intensified its existing aerial operations in north-western Aleppo, during which, report local sources, an aid convoy delivering food to refugees was hit. It is important to note that in the first month of Russia’s military involvement in Syria, it allowed Daesh to strengthen its presence in north-western Aleppo, which is a rebel stronghold.

Moscow has now announced economic sanctions against Ankara. On Thursday afternoon, the Minister for Economic Development, Alexei Ulyukaev, said that there is a possibility that one of the consequences of downing the SU-24 would be that the proposed natural gas pipeline through Turkey and the Akkuyu nuclear power plant projects would be halted. This would affect both the Turkish and Russian economies, as the power plant is a $22 billion project and was expected to have been finished by 2020, saving Turkey $14 billion in energy costs. In total, the two projects could have resulted in bilateral trade between the two countries worth $100 billion by 2023. In effect, therefore, Moscow isn't only sanctioning the Turkish economy, it is also sanctioning itself. Turkey and Russia have mutual economic interests, which have evidently played out, but this does not mean they have compromised their political tensions as a result.

NATO has not yet unified its response. The evidence presented by Turkey and the stability of its narrative, compared to Russia's lack of evidence and constant changing of the minutiae of its version means that the Turkish account of what happened on the morning of Tuesday 24 November is more plausible. It must be remembered, though, that Turkey did not notify NATO of its action, which it is compelled to do as a NATO member. For now, it seems like NATO is focusing less on Turkey's actions and more on securing the future of the security pact. It is not in NATO's interests or those of its member states to be dragged into a war with Russia; it is likely, therefore, that NATO will use as much diplomacy as possible to de-escalate the situation.

For the moment, then, the repercussions for Turkey of shooting down the Russian aircraft appear to be based on soft power. All military reactions by Russia have, in the usual fashion, been conducted via proxy on the ground in Syria. For now, there is no real need to emphasise the potential for WWIII; rather, we need to look at how the wider conflict is further complicating the situation in Syria, drowning out the prospect of a ceasefire, let alone a peaceful resolution.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Diana Alghoul) frontpage Mon, 30 Nov 2015 09:20:34 +0000
EU seeks Turkey's help to stop refugee flow https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/22542-eu-seeks-turkeys-help-to-stop-refugee-flow https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/22542-eu-seeks-turkeys-help-to-stop-refugee-flow Donald TuskEU heads of government want Turkey to stem the flow of refugees into Europe in exchange for money and political concessions.

"The most important one is our responsibility and duty to protect our external borders," European Council President Donald Tusk told reporters in Brussels ahead of a EU-Turkey summit, which will be attended by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

"Without control on our external borders Schengen will become history," Tusk added.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said ahead of the summit that he is confident "the Turkish authorities will do whatever [they] have to do in order to decrease the flows [of refugees]".

According to a draft agreement, seen by Anadolu Agency, the EU aims to implement visa freedom for Turks travelling to the EU in Oct. 2016 if Ankara meets certain criteria specified in an agreed roadmap.

EU has offered Turkey €3 billion [$3.1 billion] in funding to meet the needs of Syrian refugees in the country.

"If the refugees in Turkey receive work opportunities, education and social benefits, then more of them will stay inside the country," Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told reporters.

The draft agreement also states that both the EU and Turkey have agreed to re-energize accession talks and the opening of chapter 17 on the economy in December.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Sun, 29 Nov 2015 14:09:06 +0000
Tiffany’s supplier funds IDF unit accused of war crimes: jewellery industry awash with blood diamonds https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/americas/22541-tiffanys-supplier-funds-idf-unit-accused-of-war-crimes-jewellery-industry-awash-with-blood-diamonds https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/americas/22541-tiffanys-supplier-funds-idf-unit-accused-of-war-crimes-jewellery-industry-awash-with-blood-diamonds DiamondsThe hypocrisy and double standards that permeate the jewellery industry when it comes to blood diamonds is laid bare when one examines the ethical credential of Tiffany’s diamonds, one of the world’s most prestigious jewellers.

Given Tiffany’s extensive corporate social responsibility endeavours, complete with reassuring soft-focus video, few would question the ethical provenance of the company’s diamonds. However, even cursory due diligence exposes the fact that one of Tiffany’s main diamond suppliers, Beny Steinmetz Group Resources, has, through the Steinmetz Foundation, “adopted” a unit of the notorious Givati Brigade of the Israel Defence Forces.

The Givati Brigade was responsible for the massacre of the Samouni family in Gaza in January 2009. One hundred members of the extended family were corralled at gunpoint into a house and bombed by the Israelis, killing at least 21 men, women and children. The massacre was described as a war crime by the UNHRC.

The Steinmetz Foundation funded and supported the Givati Brigade during the 2008/9 Israeli offensive – Operation Cast Lead - which killed at least 1,387 Palestinians. Those killed were mainly civilians; over three hundred of them were children.

Tiffany’s Sustainability Report 2014 outlines the measures that the company has in place to ensure the ethical integrity of its diamonds. Lurking behind the clouds of information, though, lies the reality that the Steinmetz Company funds and supports an army brigade guilty of gross human rights violations in Palestine.

Furthermore, the report reveals that Tiffany’s sources 25-35 per cent (by value) of its polished diamonds from third-party suppliers who comply with the World Diamond Councils’ System of Warranties (SOW). The SOW is a bogus scheme introduced to create the illusion that regulations governing the trade in rough diamonds extends to the cut and polished trade. They don’t. There are no laws or regulations banning the trade in cut and polished diamonds that fund regimes guilty of human rights violations.

While Tiffany’s has voiced support for those protecting human rights linked to the diamond industry in Zimbabwe and Angola, the company’s collaboration with and funding of a mining company that funds and supports suspected Israeli war criminals undermines its credibility and the claim that, “Tiffany’s has been aggressive about ensuring respect for human rights in its supply chain.”

It was, therefore, ironically appropriate that members of the international diamond regulatory body - the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme - gathered last week in a plenary session in Angola. The hypocrisy could hardly be more glaring. The body set up ostensibly to end the trade in blood diamonds is chaired in 2015 by Angola, where government forces are accused of grievous human rights violations linked to the diamond industry.

Also Read: $83 million diamond default: Sotheby's and Israeli war crimes

Earlier this year, the Angolan government prosecuted the award-winning journalist and author Rafael Marques de Mores for writing a book, Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola, which exposes numerous examples of murder, rape, mutilation, torture and corruption associated with the diamond mining sector.

According to data published by the Kimberley Process (KP), Angola exported $1.3 billion of rough diamonds in 2014, making it the world’s sixth largest producer of diamonds. Despite being linked to bloodshed and violence, diamonds from Angola are fully compliant with KP regulations which ban “conflict diamonds”; diamonds that fund violence by rebel groups. Bizarrely, there are no regulations banning blood diamonds used to fund rogue regimes guilty of human rights violations.

The much lauded, but woefully defective, Kimberley Process provides the perfect cover for the blood diamond trade. As a result, blood diamonds worth billions of dollars are laundered legally through the jewellery industry each year and sold to unsuspecting consumers as conflict-free gems.

In 2011, the refusal of the KP to broaden the definition of a “conflict diamond” to include blood diamonds which fund human rights violations by government forces, resulted in diamonds from the Marange area of Zimbabwe, where the military is reported to have killed 200 diamond miners, being allowed on to the international market. The NGO Global Witness withdrew immediately from the KP at the time.

The diamond industry trumpets loudly and consistently the benefits of the Kimberley Process, but no one should be fooled by this diversionary tactic which blinds consumers and journalists alike to the ongoing trade in blood diamonds. Such diamonds from Africa are mostly uncut rough diamonds but their bloody history doesn’t end there. As they move along the supply pipe, through grading and polishing centres, to the high value retail end, many of them are processed in Israel where they generate revenue for another rogue regime, one which ranks among the world’s worst human rights offenders.

African blood diamonds thus go on to fund a second wave of bloodshed and violence in occupied Palestine. However, the jewellery industry and NGOs turn a blind eye to these super blood gems.

Although Israel has no diamond mines of its own, it is a leading trading and polishing centre with exports worth $19.4 billion gross ($10 billion net) in 2013. The value of Israel’s net diamond exports is almost ten times that of Angola’s gross diamond exports and multiples of that for Zimbabwe and the Central African Republic (CAR) where revenue from diamonds also funds bloodshed and violence. Blood diamonds coming through Israel account for approximately 30 per cent of the global market share in value terms.

In October, it was reported that a proposal from the World Diamond Council to broaden the KP definition of a “conflict diamond” in order to ban diamonds from countries guilty of human rights violations, not just in the mining sector but in trading and polishing as well, was vetoed by Israel because, “It could be disastrous to trading centres, and especially to Israel.”

Amnesty International issued a report recently detailing how blood diamonds from the CAR are entering the legitimate market. The World Diamond Council and Kimberley Process dismissed the report and invited Amnesty to join their cosy cartel.

The human rights body has documented numerous examples of the slaying of innocent Palestinians by trigger-happy Israeli forces. In the past two months alone, over 100 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli occupation forces and illegal settlers.

Read: Israel's unscathed diamond trade contributes to Palestinian oppression

During the recent Kimberley Process meeting in Angola, the Civil Society Coalition (CSC) in the KP, led by Partnership Africa Canada, announced it would boycott the process in 2016 when the United Arab Emirates will occupy the rotating KP chair. The CSC boycott arises from concerns over lax controls in Dubai which facilitate the smuggling of blood diamonds from the CAR as well as transfer pricing (the undervaluing of diamonds from African countries to evade export taxes).

While the CAR report from Amnesty and the boycott of the KP by the CSC are welcome developments, their silence, and that of the jewellery industry as a whole, about the trade in blood diamonds from Israel is a grave disservice to society and a betrayal of Palestinians under the cosh of a brutal, diamond-funded apartheid regime that murders, maims and terrorises with impunity.

Sean Clinton is a human rights activist from Ireland. He has written a number of articles exposing the links between the global diamond industry and the Israeli occupation and war crimes in Palestine.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Sean Clinton) frontpage Sun, 29 Nov 2015 13:41:11 +0000
Thousands rally across UK against Syria airstrikes https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/22540-thousands-rally-across-uk-against-syria-airstrikes https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/22540-thousands-rally-across-uk-against-syria-airstrikes Protestors gather in London against bombing SyriaIMAGES

Thousands gathered across the UK on Saturday in rallies organised by the Stop The War coalition to stand against British Prime Minister David Cameron's proposal for airstirkes in Syria.

The main protest took place at Downing Street in Central London.

Protestors carried signs that read "Don't bomb Syria", "We say no bombs listen this time," referring to the previous British involvement in the 2003 Iraq war.

Labour Party MP Diane Abbot was at the protest to support the party leader Jeremy Corbyn's stance towards the conflict.

"David Cameron has not made the case at this point for bombing Syria. At this point, I do not believe bombing Syria will make it safe anymore than bombing Iraq made Iraq safe, "Abbott said in a short speech at the demonstration.

The opposition Labour Party, which has not announced its position on Cameron’s plans, is publicly divided on the issue after party leader Jeremy Corbyn announced he would not personally back them.

"I do not believe the Prime Minister's current proposal for airstrikes in Syria will protect our security and therefore cannot support it," Corbyn told party colleagues in a letter sent Thursday evening.

Lindsey German, who organized the Downing Street protest for Stop the War had a message for MPs s in parliament, "You have made a disastrous mistake in 2003 when you voted for war. Do not make the same mistake again."

Syria Solidarity UK published a statement on its website saying that they did not support the demonstrations.

"Syria Solidarity UK and Stop the War have very different concerns regarding Syria: Syria Solidarity is concerned with ending the suffering of Syrians under the Assad dictatorship; Stop the War with opposing any UK military involvement regardless of consequences for Syrians," said the statement.

Britain has been striking Daesh targets in Iraq from the air since September 2014, although Cameron has long wanted to broaden the mission to include the northern Syrian city of Raqqa. Such a move would require parliamentary approval.

Britain cannot wait for a representative government to emerge in Syria and must launch immediate airstrikes to eradicate Daesh, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has said in a statement at House of Commons on Thursday.

Parliament is expected to vote next week.

Images by Anadolu Agency.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Sun, 29 Nov 2015 13:19:45 +0000
Abu Dhabi office approval shows that Israel ‘is not living in isolation’ https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/22539-abu-dhabi-office-approval-shows-that-israel-is-not-living-in-isolation https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/22539-abu-dhabi-office-approval-shows-that-israel-is-not-living-in-isolation UAE Abu Dhabi SkylineIn an obvious celebration of the decision, Israeli officials are looking at Abu Dhabi’s approval for the Zionist state to open a representative office in the Emirates as a sign that “it is not living in regional isolation”.

Speaking on Saturday’s weekly “Yuman” news programme on Israeli television’s Channel One, the chairman of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, Tzachi Hanegbi, said: “The Abu Dhabi decision shows that the strong and firm policy adopted by our government against the Palestinians does not bar some Arab states, who do not have diplomatic relations with us, from showing interest in widening the scope for recognising us and showing readiness to cooperate with us.”

He clearly regarded the Abu Dhabi decision to be a victory for Israel under the policies adopted by the right-ring government led by Benjamin Netanyahu. “This accomplishment offers the government an opportunity to provide further evidence to the Israeli public that its political and security agenda serves the national interests of the state of Israel,” he stressed. Indeed, according to Hanegbi, the go-ahead for the office in the UAE is an “appropriate response” to the claims made by left-wing and media elites inside Israel who accuse the Netanyahu government of undermining Israel's standing through its policies against the Palestinians.

Ehud Yiaari, the Arab affairs commentator on Israel's Channel Two TV, implied that the Abu Dhabi decision is the tip of the iceberg in relations between Israel and the UAE; communication and cooperation is, it seems, nothing new. The decision to open the Israeli office in the UAE, he suggested, simply moves the relationship into a public, rather than secret, phase.

Pointing out that some of the Gulf media elites are no longer reluctant to call for bolstering relations with Tel Aviv, Yiaari noted an article that was published on Friday in one of the local newspapers in which the writer called for the Arabs not to regard Israel as an “enemy state” on the grounds that it has never occupied Gulf territories.

On Hebrew radio last Thursday, Israel’s Minister of Public Security, Gilad Erdan, was quoted as saying that the Abu Dhabi decision was “an important political and propaganda achievement for Israel.” He pointed out that the decision is contrary to the general trend against Israel within world politics. “This helps us in our fight against international sanctions because this decision is saying to the BDS movement and those who stand behind it that you cannot be more royal than the king himself,” he explained. “So, if the Arabs are keen on communicating with us, whatever you do is of no value.”

On a related note, the International Judo Federation announced recently that the Israeli team will participate in the World Peace Judo Championship to be held in Abu Dhabi next year.

Translated from Arabi 21.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Dr Saleh Al-Naami) frontpage Sun, 29 Nov 2015 13:10:35 +0000
Turkey’s Justice and Development Party deserved its win even if many are unhappy https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/europe/22538-turkeys-justice-and-development-party-deserved-its-win-even-if-many-are-unhappy https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/europe/22538-turkeys-justice-and-development-party-deserved-its-win-even-if-many-are-unhappy File photo of Ahmet Davutoglu addressing AK Parti supporters after their election win on November 1, 2015I do not recall a single election in any democratic country during the past ten years that created so much media discourse and aroused so much debate around the world as the recent poll in Turkey did; the exception may be Barack Obama's first bid to be president. The difference, of course, was that the 2008 US presidential election was a historic vote on whether or not the US was likely to have an American of African origins in the White House while racism was still rife across US society. In Turkey, it was not an issue of black nominee versus white, nor was there a new party or one with an odd political agenda. The election focused on whether the Justice and Development Party could win, given that it had thus far won in every single national or local election and in every referendum since 2002. So, the question was whether it could rise again after its minor slip in this year’s June election and could once again form a government on its own. However, the debate over the November poll took a mostly different path. Instead of finding the result of the June election surprising - because despite the defeat incurred by the Justice and Development Party (JDP) it continued to possess the biggest parliamentary bloc - those who wanted it to be defeated again were taken aback by its success in the second election this year that brought it back to government on its own.

The problem with the rhetoric about Turkey, in which liberals and secularists, Arabs, Westerners and Turks, and nationalists and mystics are engaged, is that it has largely been a product of wishful thinking. It was not a realistic discourse that stood on solid ground with proper knowledge of the history and politics of the country and the mood and inclinations of its people. As such, it was not surprising at all for the Economist, the most influential weekly within Western political and financial circles, to use its lead article on the eve of the elections to call on the Turkish people not to vote for the JDP. Such a problematic approach is not confined to Turkey. Since the 3 July 2013 coup in Egypt, and what followed the decision by Ennahda Party to give up governance in Tunisia, many commentators and experts have rushed to adopt the “end of political Islam” discourse. When the June election in Turkey revealed that the JDP could not maintain the level it achieved in 2011, it seemed as if that thesis had absolute proof.

How could certain political forces achieve in 2011 and 2012 around 50 per cent of the votes, as the JDP did, or slightly less in the case of Ennahda Party and Egypt’s Freedom and Justice Party, and then reach the end of their political life in 2015? The question, of course, does not pertain to the lack of logic and sensibility in such assumptions but in allowing wishful thinking to overwhelm solid facts.

Most of what the scholars and sensible commentators who specialise in Turkish affairs wrote after the November election was accurate. In June, the Turkish people wanted to send a clear warning message to the ruling party after the JDP was afflicted with sloth and some of its leaders and ministers were smeared with corruption allegations; in fact, it seemed that the party was carelessly overconfident about winning another electoral majority. However, it looks as if the people only wanted to send a warning to the JDP but not prevent it from governing alone. During the five months that separated the two elections, Turkish voters witnessed the uselessness of the coalition government and sensed the danger likely to be posed by a future coalition. They still remember the experiences they had with coalition governments during the 1990s. The Turks could also see the damage inflicted upon the country's economy and its role regionally and internationally by the anxiety and loss of political confidence. Not only did the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) return, after a rather short-sighted reckoning, to terrorism, but Turkey’s US ally was also no longer much bothered about Ankara’s sensitivities over Syria, especially with regard to the provision of military aid to the PKK branch within its troubled neighbour.

In the early November election, therefore, the voters decided that the Justice and Development Party had heard and listened to the June electoral message and that it was necessary to maintain stability within the country and preserve its role and standing.

Such a reading of the situation, and all the attendant details, are accurate to a large extent. However, there is still something beyond all of this. What was clear during the November election was not only that the JDP achieved a major victory and that its share of the votes was restored to the level of fifty per cent of the electorate as in 2011, but also that the major losers were the two nationalist Turkish and Kurdish parties: the Turkish Nationalist Movement Party and the PKK-linked Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party. Together, the two parties lost about five million votes compared to what they obtained in the June poll.

This loss is quite significant, first because it indicates that the unexpected popular support both parties received during the June election appears to have been purely a protest vote against the JDP, and second because the Turkish people soon realised the potential danger posed to the state and the country's unity and stability by the extremist nationalist visions of both parties. This is not just a Turkish lesson. It should by now be understood that the people's mood across the region is not inclined toward supporting the agendas of radical and nationalist forces; such agendas are deemed to be threatening and potentially divisive. The mood is, in fact, more inclined toward building bigger blocs that go beyond narrow nationalist or ethnic dreams.

The second lesson derived from the November election in Turkey is that none of the opposition parties is qualified to replace the JDP. By winning in 63 out of the 81 Turkish provinces, the party proved once again that it is the only party that represents all Turks and speaks for the plurality of Turkish ethnicities and cultures; it is the only political force that is capable of occupying the centre, or the backbone, of the republic. This is a solid reality and has very much to do with the collapse of the political centre of the Turkish Republic since the mid-1970s and throughout the 1990s, as well as with the cultural and socio-political changes that have taken place within Turkish society during the past half century. The recent elections are not the only pointer to this fact. It is difficult to comprehend the sweeping success made by the JDP in the 2002 election, only one year after its creation, without taking these changes into consideration. In one way or another, this is also what precipitated in the conscience of the Turkish majority. In a society where one of the supplications made after each congregational prayer has, for many centuries, been “O God Save the Religion and the State”, the JDP emerged rapidly as the sole political force capable of safeguarding the Turkish centre.

Ultimately, and no matter what, the major victory in the November election places a heavy burden on the shoulders of the next Justice and Development Party government; a burden that has to do with reform and the Kurdish problem as much as it has to do with regional and neighbourhood crises. In the democratic system, though, there exists no political party that enjoys sanctity or permanent immunity. If the JDP manages to meet the challenges facing Turkey with competence and wisdom, it may well achieve another victory towards the end of 2019. Should it fail, the people will bring it down, even if a convincing alternative is not then available.

Source: Translated from Arabi21, 26 November, 2015

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Dr Basheer M. Nafi) frontpage Sun, 29 Nov 2015 13:07:21 +0000
Are Zionists at the heart of the Tory bullying scandal? https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/europe/22537-are-zionists-at-the-heart-of-the-tory-bullying-scandal https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/europe/22537-are-zionists-at-the-heart-of-the-tory-bullying-scandal Yvonne RidleyA political scandal which has rocked the British government, forcing the resignation of a Conservative minister, also reveals the powerful influence of pro-Israel Zionists at play.

Grant Shapps has already quit his post of international development minister after damning evidence emerged of bullying following the death of a young political activist. It seems that the former Conservative Party chair failed to act over allegations of bullying, sexual harassment, drug taking and the blackmailing of some MPs, according to media reports. The focus of the allegations is Mark Clarke, who was appointed by Shapps as the director of the Road Trip election campaign last year. The appointment is said by some media reports “to have baffled many in the party.”

While Middle East political observers may regard the fall out as nothing more than a domestic spat, they couldn’t be more wrong, because snippets of information are beginning to come out which reveal the dirty tricks of Zionist influences at the heart of David Cameron’s troubled government.

Former Cabinet minister Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, once regarded as the most powerful Muslim figure in British politics, was targeted ruthlessly by Tory bullies in an unprecedented, vindictive campaign to have her marginalised. Despite standing up to the bullies, Warsi’s pleas for back-up and help were ignored by Shapps, leaving her even more isolated.

The campaign against her was unleashed after she resigned from the British government during the height of last year’s Israeli military offensive against the people of the Gaza Strip. Warsi was almost immediately catapulted into political oblivion after quitting her Cabinet post over the Conservative-led coalition government’s foreign policy on Palestine and its refusal to condemn Israeli actions during the 51 day war in which hundreds of Palestinian children and their mothers were killed.

In her resignation letter Warsi wrote: "I always said that long after life in politics I must be able to live with myself for the decisions I took or the decisions I supported. By staying in Government at this time I do not feel I can be sure of that."

Her principled stand was explained further in an interview with award-winning journalist Mehdi Hassan where she explained: "The British government can only play a constructive role in solving the Middle East crisis if it is an honest broker, and at the moment I do not think it is."

At the time of her resignation she tweeted: "With deep regret I have this morning written to the Prime Minister & tendered my resignation. I can no longer support Govt policy on #Gaza."

As far as political observers were concerned, Sayeeda Warsi had virtually withdrawn from British politics but a series of tweets at the centre of the bullying storm which led to Shapps’ resignation tells a different story.

The original bullying claims were made in a letter penned by Elliott Johnson before the young Conservative took his own life. They centre on the Tory Party’s youth wing and, in particular, senior campaign activist Mark Clarke. While Clarke denies any accusations of wrongdoing it has now emerged that Warsi was also targeted by him on social networks when he implied that she was anti-Semitic following her principled resignation over Israel’s war on Gaza.

The two had clashed previously during Clarke’s failed 2010 General Election campaign when he stood as a candidate in Tooting against Labour’s Sadiq Khan. After that election, as the then Conservative Party chair, Warsi established a candidates’ committee to rule on whether problematic candidates could stand again for the party. Clarke was removed from the candidate list.

“During my time as chairman, Mark Clarke was never involved in any initiative that I was involved in, or in any campaigning. He was effectively persona non grata as far as I was concerned,” says Warsi in a Guardian newspaper report on the scandal. “He was always a disaster waiting to happen, and this was common knowledge.”

In January this year the chairman of a local Conservative Party branch tweeted that Warsi had made, “A diatribe against Israel and a pro-Hamas speech.” The tweet was picked up by Clarke, who then went one step further and tweeted: “So @SayeedaWarsi is now slagging off the Jewish Tory party chairman… who was offended by her speech.”

Warsi’s response to Clarke on Twitter was short and to the point: “Bullying for silence”

It appears that Clarke continued trolling Warsi on social media and, clearly exasperated, in March she responded by asking: “[Is this] just one of your regular pathetic slurs!” On another occasion she wrote: “And a final word of advice @MrMarkClarke, to make your mark in politics focus on being principled rather than being a poodle :-)”

By this time Warsi had already written to Grant Shapps, who had replaced her as Conservative chair in 2012, complaining about Clarke’s behaviour. “I raised my own concerns about Clarke with Grant Shapps and never received a satisfactory response,” she claims.

Warsi wrote and told Shapps about the online bullying and the defamatory remarks Clarke had made accusing her of being anti-Semitic: “It’s worth noting that until this moment neither I nor anyone else involved was aware of [the local party chairman’s] religion nor had any reference been made to ethnicity, race, religion. As a result of the above I received a number of abusive messages including accusations of antisemitism.” She concluded: “I look forward to hearing from you what action you intend to take against both [the local chairman] and Mr Clarke.” Anyone who has ever made public their support for the people of Palestine will be able to empathise with Baroness Warsi over being accused of anti-Semitism; it is a common tactic of the Zionist, pro-Israel lobby.

Shapps ignored her letter for two months. It was only when the leader of the House of Lords, Lady Stowell, intervened that Shapps finally acknowledged Warsi’s letter. “I was sorry to hear from Tina [Stowell] that you’d not received a reply to your letter from earlier this year and wanted to get back to you, I appreciate you getting in touch and making me aware of the situation,” he wrote. “I will be sure to raise this with the relevant individuals at [Conservative Central HQ] and look into the issue.” That was the first and last she heard about her complaint.

Quite why Grant Shapps seems determined to protect Mark Clarke remains to be seen but it is a question to which Baroness Warsi and the parents of Elliott Johnson want an answer. It will also be interesting to see if any more evidence of Zionist influence leaks out. In the meantime, Prime Minister David Cameron is under pressure to hold a full inquiry into the bullying allegations made by Johnson, Warsi and others who have also complained about the hectoring culture within the ranks of the Conservative Party. Let’s hope that he doesn’t bottle it, for the sake of Elliott Johnson’s parents and everyone else keen to remove rotten apples from the core of British politics.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Yvonne Ridley) frontpage Sun, 29 Nov 2015 12:45:32 +0000
Iraq: KRG gas 'enough for needs of Turkey and Europe' https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22536-iraq-krg-gas-enough-for-needs-of-turkey-and-europe https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22536-iraq-krg-gas-enough-for-needs-of-turkey-and-europe Gas Processing PlantNatural gas resources in the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) are enough to meet the needs of both Turkey and Europe, the head of the KRG’s Parliamentary Committee for Industry and Energy said on Sunday.

KRG natural gas is planned to be delivered to Turkey and Europe by 2017.

Gas reserves in Irbil, Duhok and Sulaymaniyah are estimated to stand at more than 5.7 trillion cubic feet, but will reach up to near 8 trillion cubic feet if the disputed areas between the KRG and the central Iraqi government in Baghdad, including Kirkuk, joins forces with the regional government.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Cevdet Circo, said that Turkey and KRG hold a strategic agreement with regards to the delivery of gas in 2017.

"Kurdish gas will reach Europe via Turkey. The Kurdish region can fill the gap created by Russia's gas cut-off to Europe," Circo said.

Additionally, head of Energy Committee of Sulaymaniyah, Galip Muhammed, said Sulaymaniyah is the richest province in the region in terms of gas reserves, holding 5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas alone.

"Sulaymaniyah has almost 80 percent of the natural gas reserves of the KRG," he said.

Muhammed also claimed that Sulaymaniyah's gas has the best quality in the region but has not been evaluated yet.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Sun, 29 Nov 2015 12:37:49 +0000
Israel defies international law by holding bodies of slain Palestinians https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22535-israel-defies-international-law-by-holding-bodies-of-slain-palestinians https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22535-israel-defies-international-law-by-holding-bodies-of-slain-palestinians File photo of Israeli forces gathering around the body of 18 year old Fadil Qawasmi, killed by an Israeli settler on Oct 17, 2015 in HebronAs part of its collective punishment policy against the Palestinian people, Israel has refused to deliver the bodies of 38 Palestinians killed in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Since the beginning of what some are calling a new Palestinian Intifada (uprising), Israel has held the bodies of 48 slain Palestinians, 38 of which remain at the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute morgue in Israel.

Maisa al-Khateeb is the mother of 17-year-old slain Palestinian Mustafa Al-Khateeb, who was executed in cold blood by the Israeli army near the El-Isbat (Lions) Gate in East Jerusalem last month.

She told Anadolu Agency that she has not been able to see her son since he was killed.

“My heart is bleeding everyday when I realise that I am warm and my love Mustafa is cold inside a morgue,” Maisa said. “This fact wrenches my heart.”

“I want the body of my son to be returned so I can bury him with dignity,” she said, with tears flowing down her face. “I want to hug and kiss my baby, who was stolen from me by the human monsters.”

The Palestinian National Committee for Retrieving Bodies of Martyrs said Israeli authorities are refusing to hand over the bodies under the pretext that their families will hold funerals for them, which will serve as a catalyst for “Palestinian violence.”

The Jerusalem Intifada?

Rising tensions in the Occupied Territories have led to dozens of deaths and hundreds of clashes.
Learn more about the Jerusalem Intifada

“Israel is using a humanitarian issue for political gains and that reflects the racism of the Israeli occupation amid the silence of the international community,” Salem Khalleh, the group’s coordinator, said. “The world has to pressure Israel to adhere to international human rights laws and the Geneva Convention, which obliges contracting states to respect war victims and to ensure they are honourably interred by family members.”

According to official Palestinian figures, Israel is still holding the bodies of 325 Palestinians and Arabs killed during several wars, in addition to the 38 bodies of Palestinians killed in recent weeks.

The dead are buried in two Israeli facilities, each known as the Cemetery of Numbers. The first, located in the Galilee area in northern Israel, holds 243 bodies. The second facility in the Jordan valley holds 92 bodies.

The Israeli government considers the cemeteries closed military areas and prevents Palestinian and Arab families from accessing them.

The Israeli cabinet last month approved Likud-Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan’s proposal to refuse to return the bodies of Palestinians killed by the Israeli army.

The Palestinian families realise that Israel may want to use the bodies of their loved ones in future negotiations in exchange of the bodies of two Israeli soldiers held by Hamas since the last Gaza war.

Mahmoud Ellian, father of 22-year-old Baha Ellian, who was killed last month, told Anadolu Agency that the “Israeli occupation is mistaken in thinking that it can blackmail us by using this card.”

“All the families of detained slain Palestinians are in agreement to sacrifice the corpses of their loved ones if the price is the freedom of Palestinian prisoners,” Ellian said. “We will fight and win our battle against the racist Israeli occupation and we will retrieve the bodies of our sons.”

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Sun, 29 Nov 2015 12:33:06 +0000
LIVE: How the Israeli Apartheid Negatively Impacts the Caribbean https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/media-review/event-review/22534-live-how-the-israeli-apartheid-negatively-impacts-the-caribbean https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/media-review/event-review/22534-live-how-the-israeli-apartheid-negatively-impacts-the-caribbean Jerusalem

Watch the live stream from Barbados, of a public meeting organised by Caribbean Against Apartheid in Palestine (CAAP). The meeting aims to raise awareness in the Caribbean of the negative impacts of Zionism, both in Palestine and in the Caribbean.

Watch the live stream from Barbados, of a public meeting organised by Caribbean Against Apartheid in Palestine (CAAP). The meeting aims to raise awareness in the Caribbean of the negative impacts of Zionism, both in Palestine and in the Caribbean.

Speaking at the meeting will be Lalu Hanuman, Secretary of CAAP; David Denny, from the Caribbean Network for Humanity; and Shaheera Mohammed, who will share stories from her trip to Palestine.

The stream will start at 11.30pm GMT on November 28th, 2015

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Sat, 28 Nov 2015 23:05:56 +0000
Fanon in Palestine part 3: The institutions of capitulation https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/22533-fanon-in-palestine-part-3-the-institutions-of-capitulation https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/22533-fanon-in-palestine-part-3-the-institutions-of-capitulation Franz FanonIn part two, the historical development of the Palestinian National Movement (PNM) was traced, from its break with the paternalist hold of the Arab world, through the years of Sumud, to the historic compromise of the Oslo Accords. Through recognising Israel at the Madrid Conference, the PNM had achieved recognition, but on behalf of its colonial oppressor and the broader hegemonic ideals of the contemporary international system. Through recognising Israel, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) had also granted tacit approval to the former’s founding principles of ethnic cleansing and land maximisation. Oslo and its accompanying Paris Protocols entrenched the socioeconomic dynamics of a settler-colonial project, enshrining the Palestinian Authority (PA) as its outsourced management. In order to conceptualise how Oslo birthed the institutions of capitulation which play a large role in upholding the infrastructure of occupation, land expropriation and displacement, it is important to turn again to how Frantz Fanon forewarned about the development of neo-colonialism after independence.

Fanon’s prophesy

By 1958 Charles De Gaulle had increased France’s military presence in Algeria whilst coaxing former colonies away from the unfolding drama in Algeria through membership of the Francophone community; this tactic placed diplomatic and military pressures on the National Liberation Front (FLN). During this time, Fanon’s critique of the national bourgeoisie as an impediment to the development of a truly de-colonial revolutionary praxis began to crystallise into a coherent polemic. Some of his thoughts were laid down in “A Dying Colonialism”, but it was “The Wretched of the Earth”, published posthumously, that became Fanon’s political testament. This incendiary text is a field manual for indigenous guerrilla movements as well as an exposé of the particular spirit which drove the de-colonial movements of the sixties. Fanon’s examination of the emergent bourgeois leadership in Africa, and his relentless broadsides against their betrayals, echo loudly when paralleled with the post-Oslo Palestinian leadership.

Fanon notes that a revolution differed by a myopic conception of nationhood can lead to “the confusion of neo-liberal universalism to emerge, sometimes laboriously, as a claim to nationhood.” The development towards recognition folds revolutionary components of nationalism in on its particularities, stymying the development of a truly revolutionary dialect. In the bid to gain recognition, the national leadership will take up the positions vacated by the departing coloniser, and becoming “not even the replica of Europe, but its caricature”. This caricature, for Fanon, is defined by a rapacious desire to line pockets, and attract economic power from the former colonial overlords and the world powers. With razor sharp clarity, Fanon notes how the economic programme of the post-independence leadership attracts foreign investment for industrial projects, which are built from the “tête-a-tête” negotiations leading up to the withdrawal of the coloniser. Hedonistic projects are developed to mask the leaks in their economic plans, which do little to develop the nation, and before long, the national bourgeoisie become mere managers and intermediaries of foreign investment.

Fanon’s polemic draws up three institutions which seem applicable to the Palestinian context:

  1. The party: A political machine emptied of its revolutionary potential, merely a symbolic and bureaucratic mechanism of the neo-colonial system.
  2. A national bourgeoisie of capital managers and bureaucrats.
  3. A foreign-advised army, called on increasingly to step in when the contradictions of post-independence solicit widespread protest.

Fatah and the PA

Founded by Yasser Arafat in 1959, Fatah was once uncompromising on the merits of armed resistance popularising the re-conquest of Palestine through the deployment of sophisticated and popular imagery and execution of armed actions. It’s dominance within the PLO and popularity within the refugee camps endowed it with authority over all other factions after 1967. However, by the time of the first intifada (uprising) in 1987, the once revolutionary zeal of Fatah was subsumed by the Palestinian committees and grassroots organisations. Finding itself surplus to requirements, the Fatah-dominated PLO accepted the Oslo Accords and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, sidelining the popular appeal of mass movements of the intifada.

Fanon notes that the party’s mission after independence changes to give the people instructions “from the summit”, with party branches “completely demobilised”. Instead of a dialogue between the people and the party, from the bottom up, the party becomes a block between the masses and the leader. Fatah’s rallies and political meetings, emptied of any praxis or tactic, vindicate Fanon’s warnings of the lethargy which demobilises the party. Mahmoud Abbas’s amassing of political power, and embedding of Fatah into the institutional framework of the Palestinian state institutions, is also telling. Once the vehicle of the revolution, Fatah is now caught between its revolutionary phantoms of yesteryear, and maintenance of a status quo which benefits its apparatchiks and party bureaucrats. The result has been a divided party, reactionary towards rivals, sporadically condemning the occupation but on the terms of the international system.

The Palestinian bourgeoisie and the international community

The Palestinian national bourgeoisie has become an intermediary for global capitalism, but in a way that supports the infiltration of western “humanitarian capital” facilitating a humanitarian structure which buttresses the human rights and development regime of the west. The Oslo Accords created a system in which its “logic” informed the development of institutions engineered for “statehood”. The conflict was dramatically reframed after Oslo, from an ongoing anti-colonial struggle to a depoliticised development-orientated industry of “capacity building”. Capacity building would usher in the development of an NGO sector which would forge institutions for “statehood” whilst managing the material impacts of the occupation.

Since Oslo, the Palestinian economy has been dependent overwhelmingly on foreign aid, which is transferred through a complex web of NGOs. Staffing these organisations are the Palestinian leadership, intimately wedded to the Palestinian Authority, often with ties to Fatah as well. The “NGO-isation” of Palestinian politics has spawned a complex bureaucracy which works hand-in-hand with the PA to develop institutions which do little to enhance an economy stricken by the detrimental effects of Israel’s military occupation. A Gulf-based transnational capitalist class joins these intermediaries of neoliberal state funding logic. This class controls major banks, industrial and manufacturing companies and telecommunications firms, and facilitates the regional dominance of Gulf conglomerates. The Palestinian economy has developed through NGO funding and direct investment into the economy from the Gulf, but this has had little trickle-down impact on ordinary Palestinians. Instead, it has given birth to an out of touch NGO/transnational capitalist class whose members reap huge benefits from investment into an economy which only seems to service a select few.

Collaborative security

Fanon parallels the poverty and stagnation of the post-independence nation with the growing dependence of its leadership on a foreign advised and funded military. However, in Palestine it is not an army which has grown to become one of the largest post-Oslo institutions, but the cooperative paramilitary security establishment, the actions of which the PA coordinates with Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency.

As the Palestinian economy has faltered and the Israeli occupation increases its disregard for the rights of the Palestinians, the Palestinian security sector has stepped in, clamping down on popular protest and pre-empting resistance activity through coordinated preventative measures with the Israelis. This cooperative security nexus enjoys international support with a budget of more than $8 million each year from the EU Police Mission for the Palestinian Territories. Meanwhile, Britain has allocated £76 million to the PA for security reform, much of which has been channelled towards the Presidential Guard intelligence service and the Preventive Security Force, both of which are headed by Fatah strongmen. Many of these institutions, trained indirectly by the US, follow what is known as the Dayton doctrine, in which an obedient “esprit de corps” is installed throughout the chain of command. They have been found complicit in the torture of Hamas and Islamic Jihad members, as well as the arbitrary detention of protestors. Former PM Salam Fayyad championed the collaborative security system as a key institution to assist with the development of a “Palestinian state”.

This posture echo’s Fanon’s understanding of the pitfalls of national consciousness when it is pegged to recognition on the terms of the coloniser. The security sector is not protecting the nation, but a specific bourgeois model of it, which benefits the class and bureaucratic privileges of the bourgeois elites. Perhaps the most candid representation of this was in 2007 when a faction within Fatah, with Israeli and western backing, attempted to launch a coup d’état in the Gaza Strip to dislodge the Hamas-led Palestinian government after it won the 2006 legislative election.

The institutions of capitulation in Palestine are laid deep, and many are rooted in a number of international structural factors external to the control of the current leadership. Furthermore, the political stagnation, economic strangulation and general immobility with regards to the “Question of Palestine” begins and ends with an intransigent, unaccountable Israeli occupation. However, the Palestinian leadership, once intertwined cognitively with the broader Palestinian people, especially those in forced exile, have narrowed the horizons of the PNM dramatically. Part of this is due to their pursuit of recognition, but they are also emulating the rapacious attitudes of their coloniser. This has led to institutions which obfuscate the asymmetric power of the current occupation, placing legitimacy in a political project which has failed, and serves no one but a tiny clique.

Read: Fanon in Palestine Part 2: From Sumud to Surrender

Fanon in Palestine Part 1: Palestine through the lens of Frantz Fanon

Nick Rodrigo is a research associate at the Afro-Middle East Centre in Johannesburg; his writing has appeared in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Nick Rodrigo) frontpage Sat, 28 Nov 2015 17:01:54 +0000
Syriza's U-turn on Israel is now complete https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/inquiry/22532-syrizas-u-turn-on-israel-is-now-complete https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/inquiry/22532-syrizas-u-turn-on-israel-is-now-complete Alexis Tsipras with Benjamin NetanyahuSyriza was a popular leftist political party which was swept to power in Greek elections on its promise to end years of IMF-and EU-imposed austerity.

By now, though, the party's leadership has sold out its principles, implementing the very same austerity it was elected to oppose, even after a massive "No" vote in a summer referendum on a new bailout that came with further severe austerity conditions.

This led to the departure of Yanis Varifakis, the finance minister, and a big split, with many leaving to form a breakaway party. Tsipras did manage to come back to power in new elections though, albeit on a reduced mandate.

As I have written before, in power the Syriza-led government has reneged on other promises too, such as those of its once anti-militarist foreign policy. Their electoral manifestos once included the promise of "abolition of military cooperation with Israel." In power, their government in fact continued the joint military exercises with Israel that began under the conservative government in 2009.

During a visit to Israel in July, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias even said that Greeks needed to "learn to love Israel" and disgracefully called Israel part of a "line of stability" in the region – something that will some as news to the friends and relatives of those 551 Palestinian children murdered by Israeli during its summer 2014 war against the civilian population of the Gaza Strip.

This was a climb-down by the Syriza-led government on previously decent Syriza policy, much as it has made fundamental reversals of policy in domestic economic matters.

But Syriza as a leftist movement put some distance between itself and its government's contacts with Israel: Defence Minister Panos Kammenos was from the Independent Greeks (a right-wing coalition partner) and Kotzias is an independent.

Or it did put such distance until this week. As of now, the Syriza U-turn on Israel is complete.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras went on his first ever visit to Israel this week. And it constituted far more than what some may argue was necessary diplomatic contact (though I'd disagree with even that, personally). Tsipras went to discuss increasing economic links with Israel, including the export of recently-discovered offshore natural gas to Europe.

Tsipras also reinforced Zionist mythology by claiming that "our peoples are very ancient." In fact, Israel was founded only in 1948, on top of the mass graves of Palestinians killed during the Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine from its native inhabitants: the Nakba, or Catastrophe. Israel is, in essence, a European settler-colonial state, which latches onto Bible stories to use as foundational myths for its illegitimate state.

Tsipras met with accused war criminal Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, in a jovial press conference, in which both sides gushed about " a natural affinity between the Israelis and the Greeks."

Perhaps most disgustingly of all, Tsipras went even further in his grovelling to Israel than any other European leader by recognising the illegal 1967 Israeli annexation of Jerusalem (which was formalised in 1980). Tsipras signed the guest book of Israeli President Reuben Rivlin saying it was a "great honour to be in your historic capital".

In fact, the annexation of Jerusalem is illegal under international law and no state in the world recognises its legitimacy. Even states that do have diplomatic relations with Israel maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem, in recognition of this fact.

That Tsipras went above and beyond in this regard is shameful. Israeli diplomats were quick to recognise this, with one calling it "unprecedented, especially for a European leader."

By now, considering everything that has happened in Greece, perhaps this should come as no surprise. But it is disappointing, nonetheless, for many in Greece and in Europe, who had even a small degree of hope that Tsipras and his party would bring something new and genuine to the world of politicians and parliaments.

The whole sorry story is a precautionary tale for those of us – certainly including myself – who have invested some degree of hope in Jeremy Corbyn and a newly revitalised Labour party. The situations in Britain and in Greece are very different in many ways, and Labour is certainly not a new party like Syriza.

Nonetheless, these matters do bring to the fore fundamental questions and contradictions relating to the influence that popular movements can have governments and mainstream political parties. When politicians and unelected cabals like the EU and the IMF increasing overturn the clearly-expressed democratic will of the people, it is no wonder that people are fundamentally sceptical about their governments and states.

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London and an associate editor with The Electronic Intifada.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Asa Winstanley) frontpage Sat, 28 Nov 2015 15:28:56 +0000
Putin's threat to Saudi Arabia https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/22531-putins-threat-to-saudi-arabia https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/22531-putins-threat-to-saudi-arabia Vladimir PutinWe ought to take seriously the implicit Russian threats in an article in Pravda newspaper calling for Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to be punished before they cause a third world war by supporting ISIS. This is what the newspaper, which is quite close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, claims. A former adviser of Putin called insolently in the Moscow Echo for military positions and oil installations in Saudi and Qatar to be targeted. Yes, Putin is stupid and bloody. Furthermore, he cannot be trusted. And I believe he also hates the Saudis. Indeed, we should take such threats personally.

Since he took over in the Kremlin fifteen years ago, posing as Russia's strongman, Putin has endeavoured to base his popularity upon provoking nationalist sentiments and pride. He ignited semi-fascist flames in Russian minds in a bid to compensate for his economic failure and cover-up the massive wealth gap between the poor and middle classes, and a scandalously rich ruling minority.

Putin pushed ahead from victory in Chechnya, where he oversaw massive destruction and mass murder, to the Ukraine where he annexed Crimea in stark violation of international law. However, we happen to be living in the time of Barack Obama, the US president who needs someone to translate the Arab proverb, “I poured insults on them while they walked away with the camels.” The West protested, fumed and boiled but eventually accepted the new status quo. Then Tsar Putin came to the Arab world claiming that he has “vital interests” therein. He entered without permission and sat cross-legged while forging an alliance with a sectarian minority, joining it in the pursuit of murder and oppression and imposing his own fait accompli.

He is even trying to rearrange the Muslim house. He travelled to a destination where a minority of his liking exists, taking along with him a historic copy of the Qur'an written in Russia. He sat before Ayatollah Khamenei, the Iranian leader, just as a disciple would sit before his guru, delivering to him the gift he brought with him and rubbing his hand in full submission in a symbolic gesture that cannot escape a prudent person. He meant to say, “Here is the authority, here is Islam” while at the same time daring to attack what he described as the policy of “Islamisation” in Turkey. It is just a matter of time. He'll soon attack Saudi Arabia and hold it responsible for the sins of the past and the present altogether.

Putin has lived through a series of victories that together form a necklace, which he intends to wear on the day that he receives allegiance as the possessor of the force dominating a region that extends from Crimea to the Levant. His dream has been interrupted only by the stubbornness of three countries that oppose his project and refuse to succumb to him. Step forward Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.

This was revealed clearly on Tuesday morning when the Turkish air force shot down a Russian fighter jet that fell to earth amid cheers and shouts of “Allahu Akbar” by the Syrian revolutionaries on the mountains close to the Syria-Turkey border. Those few moment were sufficient for laying the foundations of a new political game in the Middle East.

Putin changed the rules of the game when he took his aircraft to join the Iranians and the Syrian regime in their war on the people who want their freedom. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has now changed Putin's rules and the world is awaiting the latter's reaction to see whether he will accept the new rules or turn the table once more on everybody.

The Russian jet incident may well be repeated. We are nearly in a state of war with the Russians despite all the visits, meetings and smiles. Sooner or later Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey will appear in Putin's eyes to overlap with the Syrian opposition. Once he fails to defeat this opposition he will start looking for someone to blame, and he will find no one but us.

Then, once the upcoming Vienna negotiations fail (and they will most likely fail), the conflicting parties inside Syria will find no route other than that of escalating the confrontation in a bid to accomplish decisive victory. This will lead to the emergence of two distinct camps: the free Syrian people and their allies on the one hand, and the sectarian anti-freedom trio and their allies on the other.

There may even be another confrontation prior to Vienna. The SU-24 incident was a slap to Putin's image as Mr Invincible, and to the image of his dreaded Russia. This will undoubtedly undermine his position domestically, especially with the return of the first body bags of the Russian soldiers embroiled in their first entirely foreign war since their defeat in Afghanistan. Perhaps he will challenge the Turks once more and that challenge will result in the downing of another Sukhoi, or perhaps a MiG. He will then go mad. The Russian president has now launched indiscriminate bombings of the Syrian Turkuman regions. This is not a war, it is an act of revenge. Who can guarantee that another Sukhoi will not be shot down, this time by a ground-to-air missile? The bear will be filled with more rage. He will accuse Saudi Arabia or Qatar or both of supplying the revolutionaries with the missile and will hold them responsible. The deterioration of his economic position also adds to his anger. His economy has lost its position as the 8th ranking in the world and is now lagging behind Spain and North Korea, both of which surpassed him in Gross National Product. At this juncture he may just accuse Saudi Arabia of causing the fall in oil prices.

Can we meet the Russians half way in the middle of a Syrian road so as to avert a disastrous result? I think that this is highly unlikely. If we were to define our project in Syria and in the region, it would be a project that does not involve intervention but is based on its full independence and the establishment of a pluralistic democratic system of governance in Damascus. If we were to define the Russian project, though, we would find it based on minority rule and foreign intervention under the guise of staged elections and fake democracy similar to the version in Russia, where public liberties are in retreat while the state is growing bigger and bigger; where the press is scared because the price of doing ones job is a bullet in the head fired by persons unknown.

These two projects stand in stark contradiction to one another in Vienna. Due to their huge differences they will never agree. They will also clash on Syrian territory until one defeats the other. Just as it is impossible for the Kingdom to accept a permanent Iranian influence in Syria, Turkey will not want, from a strategic point of view, Russian influence on its southern border. It will be inevitable for us to clash. Since Putin lacks any notion of chivalry, he will not concede defeat and back down in the spirit of a sportsman; he will, most likely, continue in the confrontation. He will escalate the situation militarily and try to drive a wedge within our ranks, for there are indeed gaps there that he will seek to exploit. Our situation is similar to that of Al-Hussein Bin Ali, may Allah be pleased with him. We have allies whose swords are with us but whose hearts are against us (I have deliberately reversed the wordings so as to agree with the context). These are the ones who agree with Putin in some aspects of his project, namely the regeneration of despotism in Syria in the guise of a deformed democratic system that does not bear the Assad head but lives with his claws. They are not unhappy with the Iranian-Russian expansion in Syria but are displeased to see Saudi Arabia rise as a regional leader. They have even shown more displeasure toward the Saudi alliance with Turkey and are unhappy to see such ties expand day after day as they plan together for the future. Should the balance of power in the region tilt in favour of Putin's camp, they will uncover their true colours and side with the tsar.

Lastly, will Putin dare carry out dirty operations in Saudi Arabia, Qatar or Turkey, such as those called for by Pravda and his former adviser? Will he, for instance, target a certain site and claim that it is a training camp for terrorists or that it is a warehouse of weapons destined for Syria where it would pose a threat to “world peace” and the safety of Russian pilots? These are dangers that should be taken into consideration. They call for the necessity of activating Saudi foreign policy in cooperation with the Turks and the Qataris in order to persuade the Europeans that adopting silence as a strategy vis-a-vis Putin will, as with every other dictator, only increase his appetite. The man is behaving like an arrogant bully and not as a prudent politician, but this should not be a surprise. After all, he is the graduate of the old Soviet school of intelligence and will, therefore, not hesitate to pursue the dirtiest of methods, such as the assassination of a former Chechen president who took refuge in Doha in 2000 or the liquidation of a political opponent in London in 2006 using poison in the most horrid way. Nor have presidents of republics escaped his wrath. He poisoned a former president of Ukraine as part of his efforts to make it submit to Russia. That led to the rigging of elections and then to a popular revolution that eventually turned into a civil war that is still raging to this day. It’s a lousy record, yet Putin remains important and it is necessary to deal with him, not least because he leads a superpower.

I do not mean to weaken anyone's resolve. Nor am I suggesting that we cannot handle him. All I am saying is that we should expect the worst and, therefore, should be careful. Furthermore, we are on the defensive and cannot withdraw from the Syrian arena. Our support for the Syrian revolution is an act of defence on behalf of our own country. What matters is that we take care as we find ourselves compelled to walk through the Russian forest.

Jamal Khashogji is a Saudi writer and journalist. Translated from AlHayat, 28 November, 2015

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Jamal Khashogji) frontpage Sat, 28 Nov 2015 15:24:27 +0000
France denies Turkey criticism claim at NATO meeting https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/22530-france-denies-turkey-criticism-claim-at-nato-meeting https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/22530-france-denies-turkey-criticism-claim-at-nato-meeting Jens Stoltenberg France’s Permanent Representative to NATO, Jean-Baptiste Mattei, has refuted reports that he had suggested that Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian Su-24 jet undermined “Operation ISIS”, Anadolu reported on Friday.

"I, like all the allies,” explained Mattei, “called for the respect of Turkey’s territorial integrity and underlined the necessity of preventing any escalation.” He also said that the situation is “extremely worrying.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has insisted that the Russian jet did not enter Turkish airspace. However, Turkey released an audio recording of the warning directed to the Russian fighter, telling it to leave immediately.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the alliance’s assessment of the incident is consistent with information provided by Turkey, and that the Russian aircraft had violated the NATO member’s airspace.

Read: NATO backs Turkey after downing of Russian warplane

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Sat, 28 Nov 2015 15:18:07 +0000
Israel’s army is no longer a deterrent, even to Palestinian children https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/22529-israels-army-is-no-longer-a-deterrent-even-to-palestinian-children https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/22529-israels-army-is-no-longer-a-deterrent-even-to-palestinian-children File photo of Palestinian children confronting Israeli soldiers at a protest near Nabi SalehFollowing the three Israeli wars waged on the people of Gaza between 2008 and 2014, dozens of political, strategic and military analysts acknowledged what is a bitter pill for the Israeli army to swallow: it is no longer a deterrent to the Palestinian fighters in the beleaguered coastal territory, not even the children.

Writing after the end of the 2008/9 Israeli offensive, David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said, “Israel believes its deterrence was lost in that war.” During last year’s 51-day Israeli war on Gaza, when more than 2,260 Palestinian were killed, Israeli columnist Shlomi Eldar wrote, “Israel lost its power of deterrence and the leaders of the strongest state in the Middle East are in a quandary.”

The senior researcher of the Washington Institute and the Israeli columnist reached their conclusions after looking at the outcome of the conflicts, where Israeli soldiers faced armed Palestinian fighters. It has to be remembered that these were asymmetrical in terms of the armaments and personnel available to the two sides.

The current uprising - intifada - in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem has also been notable for the Israeli army losing any deterrent factor that it once had. The image of the Israeli soldier has changed from one who is “invincible” to one who is weak and scared.

This new image is depicted in several examples of footage showing little Palestinian boys and girls running after well-equipped Israeli soldiers in attempts to stab them. Their weapons are clearly small kitchen knives, which would probably have difficulty cutting very thin string.

A 12-year old Palestinian boy from Jerusalem, Mo’awiyeh Alqam, was arrested last week in an alleged stabbing attempt. He appeared handcuffed and surrounded by several armed Israeli policemen while smiling, demonstrating to what extent this little boy belittles such hollow individuals.

On Tuesday, the Israeli Police Commander of the occupied West Bank, Shlomi Michael, resigned just nine months after taking office. He did not explain why he was resigning, but observers pointed out that he had served in the elite Israeli security services and did not want to damage his reputation by being unable to deter a wave of civilian protests.

The Jerusalem Intifada?

Rising tensions in the Occupied Territories have led to dozens of deaths and hundreds of clashes.
Learn more about the Jerusalem Intifada

One elite commander made it clear that the Israeli army has nothing to deal with the current wave of Palestinian protests, waged mainly by young people with stones as their weapons. He acknowledged that this is a challenge. “It is a very big challenge with the current terror [sic],” Paratroop Brigade Commander Colonel Nimrod Aloni told Army Radio on Thursday. “There is a great deal of confusion over how to deal with it.” Is there any chance to win, he asked rhetorically. “I think this is very much not a military question, it is very much tied to political decisions.”

According to a Palestinian specialist in Israeli affairs, Dr Saleh al-Na’ami, Colonel Aloni’s remarks are a new slap in the face for Israeli politicians. He also believes that the old image of the Israeli soldier has gone forever. “The invincible image is no more,” he concluded.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Motasem A Dalloul) frontpage Sat, 28 Nov 2015 15:02:51 +0000
Israel considers expelling families of Palestinian fighters to Gaza https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22528-israel-considers-expelling-families-of-palestinian-fighters-to-gaza https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22528-israel-considers-expelling-families-of-palestinian-fighters-to-gaza File photo of protestors in the Occupied West Bank clashing with Israeli troopsIsraeli TV Channel 10 reported on Friday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supports a proposal to expel families of Palestinian fighters in West Bank to the Gaza Strip. According to the Sawa news website, the programme claimed that the idea has been proposed by Israel’s Defence Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, as a response to the attacks carried out by the fighters as they try to resist the military occupation of their land.

The Jerusalem Intifada?

Rising tensions in the Occupied Territories have led to dozens of deaths and hundreds of clashes.
Learn more about the Jerusalem Intifada

During a visit to the illegal Israeli settlement block of Gosh Etzion in the occupied West Bank, Netanyahu and Ya’alon asked military field commanders to study the viability of such a proposal. Expulsion would be employed in addition to the demolition of family homes, it is believed.

The television report noted that several government legal advisors object to the proposed expulsions because collective punishment is prohibited by international law. A number of Israeli security officials also object, just as they oppose house demolitions, not only because it constitutes collective punishment but also because it is largely ineffective as a deterrent.

Read: Israel might double arrests and increase expulsions to Gaza

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Sat, 28 Nov 2015 12:29:57 +0000
Turkey advises its citizens to delay trips to Russia https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/22527-turkey-advises-its-citizens-to-delay-trips-to-russia https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/22527-turkey-advises-its-citizens-to-delay-trips-to-russia Turkey's Ataturk International Airport [file photo]Turkey's foreign ministry has asked its citizens to delay trips to Russia amid strained relations between the two countries.

"Within the framework of the recent developments in Turkey-Russia relations, it has been observed that our citizens have been having some difficulties with their trips to the Russian Federation and their residence within the said country as of November 24,” the ministry said in a statement Saturday.

"Until this situation is cleared, we advise our citizens to delay non-urgent and non-significant trips to the said country," it added.

At least 26 Turkish businessmen were taken into police custody in Russia's Black Sea city of Krasnodar late Wednesday, according to Turkish diplomatic sources.

Five of the group returned to Turkey on Saturday morning, Anadolu Agency reported.

The Turkish embassy in Moscow has issued an advisory to its citizens in Russia, requesting them to carry their passports and ensure their visas and permits are valid.

The embassy also reiterated that they should "meticulously obey the rules in Russia and warnings from the Russian authorities."

However, Russia has recommended its citizens in Turkey return home.

Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said late on Thursday that it wanted its citizens not to travel to Turkey because of a perceived "terror threat".

"We recommend our citizens residing in Turkey for special reasons to return to Russia," the ministry said in a statement.

Russia also decided on Friday to unilaterally suspend its visa exemption for Turkish citizens starting from Jan. 1, 2016, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov saying the suspension was "for the sake of security of Russia and its citizens."

Two Turkish F-16 fighter jets on an aerial patrol intercepted an unidentified warplane on Tuesday within engagement rules when it intruded into Turkish airspace on the Syria border.

The intruding aircraft was warned about the violation 10 times within five minutes before it was shot down.

The Russian Defense Ministry later announced that one of its SU-24s had been shot down. It crashed in the Syrian region of Bayirbucak, close to Yayladagi district of Turkey's southern Hatay province.

NATO confirmed the accuracy of the information shared by Turkey about the violation.

It was not the first time Russian fighter jets had violated Turkish airspace. In early October, Russian warplanes breached Turkish airspace. Russian officials apologized and pledged that no such incident would be repeated. Turkey had also renewed its warning on engagement rules, including a military response against violations of Turkish airspace.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Sat, 28 Nov 2015 12:27:39 +0000
Kerry’s obsolete rhetoric https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/22526-kerrys-obsolete-rhetoric https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/22526-kerrys-obsolete-rhetoric John KerryEvery time US Secretary of State John Kerry visits Jerusalem and Ramallah, initial encouraging signs rapidly dissolve into a perpetual descent towards “a pivotal point”. Besides the constant alienation from the ramifications of colonisation, decades of diplomatic jargon have also rendered the significance of many of America’s words obsolete in the Palestinian context.

The recent meetings last Tuesday between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas followed a predictable itinerary. After asserting that “Israel has every right to defend itself from terrorist attacks,” Kerry went to Ramallah where, according to Palestine News Network, he held “a long, very constructive and serious conversation” with Abbas and was handed files pertaining to recent Israeli state and settler terror attacks by Saeb Erekat.

The files contained details regarding the Palestinian civilians murdered since October, as well as demands for the return of the bodies of Palestinians that are routinely held by Israel under the pretext of security concerns. Ma’an news agency reported that during a Knesset meeting held on 4 November, Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon declared Palestinian funerals an incitement against Israel and called the policy delaying the return of the bodies “consistent and prudent, and takes into account moral and security considerations.”

The Jerusalem Intifada?

Rising tensions in the Occupied Territories have led to dozens of deaths and hundreds of clashes.
Learn more about the Jerusalem Intifada

Kerry reiterated that the aim of the visit was “to help contribute to calm and to restore people’s confidence in the ability of a two-state solution to still be viable.” It is evident that the US and Israel’s concept of priorities are incompatible. Netanyahu insisted upon further settlement expansion while Kerry distorted the differentiation between the oppressed and the oppressor, declaring that Israel “has an obligation to defend itself”.

Palestinian resistance movements, notably Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), denounced Kerry’s remarks and called upon the PA to boycott Kerry, who, they declared, intended to “thwart the intifada”.

Besides the obvious approval that the US has always expressed with regard to Israel’s violent and repressive tactics, Kerry’s rhetoric constructs additional, false narratives intended to stifle direct Palestinian expression. The PA has long exposed itself as a willing collaborator, with Israel collecting statistical data with the sole objective of rendering itself subject to the complex intricacies of international law. Negotiations and insistence upon the two-state solution, however, has continued to divert attention away from Palestinian anti-colonial struggle. It has become difficult for Palestinians to articulate the dimensions of their struggle owing to the torrent of premeditated distortions enforced upon the population. The result is dissociation between the immediate, most visible resistance, and the precedents that led to a struggle that, despite its foundations on unification and land reclamation, has yielded to a scattered, reactive defence against different forms of Israeli violations.

Given this neglected reality, Kerry’s statements that “the situation” would spiral out of control without compromise can only be taken seriously by anyone gullible enough to even ponder the possibility of acquiescence as a solution. It is through constant international impositions and Palestinian leaders’ compromises, notably post-Oslo, that each violation committed by Israel is treated as a solitary gesture, rather than a continuation of earlier colonial intentions.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Ramona Vassallo) frontpage Sat, 28 Nov 2015 12:24:43 +0000
The week in pictures https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/in-pictures/22525-the-week-in-pictures https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/in-pictures/22525-the-week-in-pictures The last 7 days in pictures.

HATAY, TURKEY: A Syrian refugee is seen at a house in the Reyhanli district of Hatay. Syrian refugee families who fled their country due to the ongoing civil war try to hold on to life as they live in rented houses, tents and storehouses.

ISTANBUL, TURKEY: A dental group visits a refugee camp to help children.

GAZA CITY, GAZA STRIP: Palestinians take part in a photo gallery.

GAZA CITY, GAZA STRIP: Palestinian children take part in a festival to mark World Children's Day.

ISTANBUL, TURKEY: The setting sun illuminates the clouds silhouetting the minarets of Hagia Sophia.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Sat, 28 Nov 2015 11:58:19 +0000
Cameron’s case for bombing Syria is more political grandstanding than comprehensive strategy https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/europe/22524-camerons-case-for-bombing-syria-is-more-political-grandstanding-than-comprehensive-strategy https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/europe/22524-camerons-case-for-bombing-syria-is-more-political-grandstanding-than-comprehensive-strategy David Cameron at a weekly session of Prime Ministers Questions (PMQs) at the House of CommonsI was probably not alone in wanting to be surprised by British Prime Minister David Cameron as he made the case for air strikes against Daesh/ISIS in Syria to a packed parliament on Thursday. I was hoping that he would succeed where others have failed by setting out a coherent and plausible strategy for dismantling the terrorist organisation.

However, if anyone was hoping to learn how Britain joining the air strikes against Daesh would make a difference to the overall strategy to destroy the group, remove Bashar Al-Assad and ease a transition to peace in Syria, they would have been left bitterly disappointed. Despite his efforts, the speech was more political grandstanding than a cohesive, comprehensive strategy. In the end, to paraphrase one Labour Party politician, it all boiled down to, “Britain should bomb Daesh/ISIS because our friends are doing it.”

His marathon performance covered the moral case for air strikes, their legal basis and, most significantly, how participation would make Britain safer from the threat of terrorism. I was particularly attuned to hearing what difference Britain could make that the other three members of the UN Security Council (the US, Russia and France) which are currently bombing Daesh are not. The case for Cameron to make isn’t so much “does ISIS need to be bombed”, but how does Britain joining the dangerously-congested air space over Syria make any difference while making Britain more secure. Either way, I think many people will have been very disappointed by the weak case presented by the prime minister.

In his dossier length 36-page plan, Cameron stressed repeatedly that he wants to avoid the mistakes of 2003, when Britain launched air strikes against Iraq and helped to create a perfect breeding ground for ISIS. Though he avoided much of the hyperbole, his performance was characteristically similar to the drum-beat of war that took Britain into Iraq under Tony Blair’s leadership.

Read: French air force ‘kills 28 children in attack on Iraqi school’

The prime minister didn’t shy away from banalities that sounded more like propaganda than serious arguments for war. “If we don't act now when our friend and ally France has been struck in this way,” he declared, “then allies in the world can be forgiven for asking, if not now when?” Some of the rhetoric was unnervingly reminiscent of Blair, who had demonstrated a deft touch for making the case for war despite it being counterproductive to Britain’s security and interests, not to mention the security and interests of the people who are affected directly by such Western intervention. The clichés did not end there, as he remarked glibly, “It is wrong for the United Kingdom to sub-contract its security to other countries.” With missionary zeal, Cameron even resorted to pitiful political deflection in stressing that “not taking a decision is itself a choice that has consequences.” Such arguments have little or no merit in what should ideally be cold calculations about going to war or not.

David Cameron outlined three main ambitions for Britain’s proposed intervention in Syria: degrade and destroy ISIS; end the civil war; and work towards a transition of power from Bashar Al-Assad to an “inclusive Government that responds to the needs of all the Syrian people with which the international community could co-operate fully to help restore peace and stability to the whole country.” All very noble, I’m sure, but unachievable through air strikes alone.

With the ghost of Iraq hanging over parliament, the prime minister was intent on providing reassurances that this was not Iraq MkII. UN Security Council resolution 2249, which was passed unanimously, approves “all necessary measures” against Daesh/ISIS in Syria; this no doubt assuages concerns about the legality of possible Royal Air Force bombing missions. Like so many other UN resolutions in its vagueness, though, exactly what those “necessary measures” might be is left to each country to interpret to suit its own national interests, as has been argued elsewhere.

The right-wing Conservative Party leader clearly believes that air strikes against “militants in Syria will make us safer” and denied claims that it would make Britain a bigger target for terror attacks. Though his plan involves military, diplomatic and humanitarian action, he ruled out British troops going in on the ground.

The prime minister is being disingenuous when he claims that air strikes will make Britain safer, given that one of the terrorists behind the Paris attacks made it clear that the atrocity was “for Syria”; tit-for-tat; you bomb us, we’ll attack you. The extent to which Britain would become an even greater target is central to the entire debate about air strikes. Whether military intervention strengthens or undermines our security is of paramount importance, stressed the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn. Aside from the fact that British intervention is likely to have little or no effect on the overall situation in Syria, many would say that it’s too high a price to pay for very little return.

Those who agree with David Cameron’s reasoning for joining Britain’s allies in bombing Syria really need to ask some basic questions. Will Britain’s participation make any real difference? Unlikely, given the proposed degree of involvement, which would probably be both symbolic and superficial. Wouldn’t it be better for Britain to take a diplomatic and humanitarian lead instead? Such efforts are equally if not more important for a peaceful transition to a peaceful Syria.

Read: Germany to send reconnaissance aircraft to Syria

What’s going on in Syria is collective, multilateral madness, and the prime minister’s speech gave no hint about how Britain is going to navigate the mess and ensure that we don’t make the situation much worse, at home or abroad. What happens when the air strikes end? Who is to say that groups even more extreme than Daesh/ISIS don’t emerge from the rubble? That’s what happened in Iraq and there are no guarantees that it won’t happen in Syria. Is Britain ready for that? If Daesh/ISIS is indeed the product of a failed state, traumatised society and virulent ideology, how does more bombing address this?

What do the experts say? There is serious doubt about Cameron’s claim that there is a credible military strategy to defeat Daesh/ISIS in Syria as well as Iraq through air power alone. As the Guardian highlighted, a long line of senior US officers have acknowledged frustration with the battle against the group. General John Allen, who was in overall charge of the US campaign in Syria and Iraq, quit after offering his assessment of how the war is going, describing it as a “stalemate”. By the middle of last month, the US-led coalition engaged in air attacks in Syria and Iraq had conducted 7,600 sorties (4,900 in Iraq and 2,700 in Syria). Their main problem, as Allen described it, is finding targets to hit; it’s not about not having enough aircraft to drop the bombs, but simply that there aren’t enough targets on which to drop them.

It’s also debatable whether air strikes actually degrade Daesh/ISIS and arrest its advance, as Cameron alleges. The coalition claims repeatedly that it has shrunk the geographical area controlled by the group by 30 per cent in the past year, but in that same period Daesh/ISIS has advanced on and taken Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria. In any event, the prime minister does concede that air strikes alone cannot defeat ISIS and what is needed is a comprehensive strategy, which again underlines the question as to how adding more aircraft to the bombing makes any difference.

Cameron said that he will hold a parliamentary vote as early as next week if it is clear that he will get a majority of MPs in favour. That’s a prospect that looked very likely until the downing of a Russian jet by a NATO member, Turkey, earlier this week. It may well temper the previous week’s collective urge for air strikes in the immediate wake of the Paris attacks. This again underlines the dangers of politicking over this issue and being led by emotions into a dangerous conflict.

The overwhelming majority of the Conservative Party’s 330 MPs are likely to support air strikes; there will possibly be just 30 or so rebels. The most significant indication that opinions have been softened is the view of Crispin Blunt, the influential Conservative chairman of the foreign affairs committee, who was a rebel against bombing Syria in 2013, but said during the House of Commons debate on Thursday that he now supports military action.

Jeremy Corbyn is isolated within his own shadow cabinet as the majority look set to back the government. He has been very vocal in his opposition to air strikes but the Labour Party as a whole did not rule out military action if Cameron made a convincing case; it seems increasingly likely that Labour MPs will be given a free vote on the matter to avoid a rift within the party, which would be likely if MPs were forced to toe the party line. Dozens of backbenchers are now leaning towards voting with the government and with only 60 or so Labour rebels out of the current 231 required to tip the balance in the government’s favour, a Commons vote sooner rather than later is probable.

The Liberal Democrats have only 8 MPs. The party wants the government’s proposal to pass five tests before it will agree to back the bombing: legality, which it believes is met by the UN resolution; the creation of a post-ISIS plan; work towards a no-bombing zone for civilians; pressure on Gulf States to get more involved; and carrying out a domestic investigation into jihadi funding.

The Scottish National Party (SNP), with 54 MPs, has not taken any formal decision about which way to vote, but it is likely to oppose air strikes. Angus Robertson, the SNP’s Westminster leader, emphasised this when he said: “The fatal dangers of unintended consequences and escalation in Syria are clear for everyone to see. We need more details from the prime minister, including his plans for boots on the ground. All serious observers agree that an air campaign alone will not lead to the ultimate defeat of Daesh on the ground and ground forces will be needed. How many troops and from which countries does the PM have in his plan?”

Whether or not to use military force is one of the most significant decisions that any government takes, David Cameron told the House of Commons. Judging by the frailty of the case he made for going to war in Syria, these comments appear to be nothing more than platitudes. If indeed it is the most important decision, than surely he should present a case that is merited by the importance of the decision and not one peppered with rhetoric and little else. More importantly, the people of Britain need to see a case that explains exactly how it would make things better in Syria without compromising security here in Britain. After all, just as it will be ordinary civilians in the firing line in Syria - the shamefully so-called “collateral damage” - so too will it be the people of Britain who are likely to face an increased terrorist threat. It’s your call, prime minister, but you have to get it right.

Also Read: Labour Party to end G4S contract over human rights concern & Palestine

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Nasim Ahmed) frontpage Sat, 28 Nov 2015 11:17:17 +0000
Ya’alon can’t see end of uprising on the horizon https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22523-yaalon-cant-see-end-of-uprising-on-the-horizon https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22523-yaalon-cant-see-end-of-uprising-on-the-horizon Moshe Ya'alon Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon has said that he does not see an end to the Palestinian uprising on the horizon, Anadolu reported on Friday.

Speaking to Israeli Army Radio, the minister said that the wave of violence might continue for a few days or might last much longer. “We exert efforts, but there is no guarantee that the situation will calm down; it might escalate,” he explained. “These developments need the perspectives of many scenarios.”

The Jerusalem Intifada?

Rising tensions in the Occupied Territories have led to dozens of deaths and hundreds of clashes.
Learn more about the Jerusalem Intifada

Anadolu pointed out that Ya’alon’s remarks were made in the wake of Israel’s announcement that eight of its soldiers were wounded when they were rammed by Palestinian cars in the occupied West Bank.

The Palestinian Red Crescent also announced that two Palestinians were killed by Israeli occupation forces, while its staff offered first aid to more than 470 people wounded across the West Bank and Gaza Strip on the same day.

“The people of Palestine continue to live under very harsh conditions,” commented PA President Mahmoud Abbas. “They are the result of the Israeli occupation.”

More: Abbas warns Israel against turning a political conflict into a religious one

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Sat, 28 Nov 2015 11:12:14 +0000
Kuwait and UK agree on extradition and judicial assistance https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/22522-kuwait-and-uk-agree-on-extradition-and-judicial-assistance https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/22522-kuwait-and-uk-agree-on-extradition-and-judicial-assistance Kuwaiti flagKuwait and Britain have initialled two cooperation agreements regarding extradition and judicial assistance. The news was revealed in a joint press statement issued on Thursday following the seventh session of the Kuwaiti-British Steering Group held in Kuwait City. Both countries welcomed the launch of bilateral cooperation in judicial matters.

The statement noted that Kuwait and Britain discussed coordination and mutual cooperation between their security agencies, especially on issues such as immigration and aviation security. They expressed satisfaction about the existing military cooperation, pointing to Kuwait’s readiness to benefit from Britain’s technology and unique experience in that field.

Furthermore, the governments in Kuwait City and London are reviewing means of reinforcing and upgrading bilateral cooperation in a way that matches the historical relations between the two countries.

The Kuwaiti-British Joint Steering Group was formed during a 2012 visit to Britain by Kuwait’s Emir, Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 27 Nov 2015 16:20:23 +0000
Russia and Iran are not fighting Daesh in Syria, claims Erdogan, they are there to support Assad https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/22521-russia-and-iran-are-not-fighting-daesh-in-syria-claims-erdogan-they-are-there-to-support-assad https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/22521-russia-and-iran-are-not-fighting-daesh-in-syria-claims-erdogan-they-are-there-to-support-assad Bashar Al-Assad meetin Vladimir PutinTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeated his claim that Russia is coordinating its military operations in Syria with the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad, and that Moscow and Tehran are providing all kinds of support to Damascus. “Russia and Iran back Assad,” said Erdogan, “but are they fighting Daesh? The answer is no.”

The Turkish president made his comments during an interview with France 24. He spoke about the latest developments and events in the region, especially the situation in Syria and the shooting down of a Russian air force jet when it entered Turkish airspace. President Vladimir Putin has not returned his call about the incident, he explained, at which he expressed his astonishment at the Russian position. “What does Russia want to know? As a country I have the evidence, the proof, everything is clear; all the data is in my radar stations and I have provided all of this evidence, and we aired it on television.”

Erdogan pointed out that the Syrian regime and its allies always target the Turkman area in Latakia, in the Turkman Mountain Region (Bayirbucak). “Over 300 individuals have been killed,” he noted, “most of them Turkmen. In fact, in the past week alone 20 Turkman were killed, but Daesh is not there. Daesh is in the east, facing no threat from the regime and its allies.”

Responding to Russian claims that Turkey has helped Daesh by buying oil from the group, he said that this was “slanderous”. Those who say such things, he insisted, should provide their evidence. “If they cannot prove it, this shows an incredible lack of respect for the Republic of Turkey.” He added that Turkey is buying natural gas from Russia; oil and gas from Iran; and also buys oil from Azerbaijan, Northern Iraq and Algeria, and liquid gas from Qatar.

In a related context, Erdogan condemned the attack on his country’s embassy in Moscow. Local people threw stones, tomatoes and rotten eggs while the police stood and watched. According to President Erdogan, this was a provocation.

“Such things could have happened in my country, but I would not allow this to happen,” he insisted. “Our law enforcement forces would be sent to the location immediately and would prevent this kind of action around the Russian Embassy because all diplomatic buildings are under our guarantee; we are in charge of the security. If we don’t do it, it would be an error of international diplomacy.”

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 27 Nov 2015 16:01:28 +0000