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 Wed, 01 Apr 2015 13:00:07 +0000 MEMO en-gb Egyptian journalist: Saudi to collapse in a month https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/17835-egyptian-journalist-saudi-to-collapse-in-a-month https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/17835-egyptian-journalist-saudi-to-collapse-in-a-month Egyptian journalist Tawfiq Okasha said on Monday that Saudi Arabia "will collapse within a month" if it fails to change its policy regarding dealing with Western states and the United States.

Okasha, who is a candid supporter of the military coup in Egypt, openly called for the killing of protesters and attacking the Gaza Strip, set a certain date for Saudi's expected collapse –May 5, 2015.

Speaking on his own Al-Faraeen TV, he said: "If Saudi Arabia does not immediately change its policies, it would collapse within a month because it has been exposed to horrible treason." He added: "Treason against Saudi stated in an unexpected way."

Regarding the proof of this treason, he said that the Yemeni capital of Sana'a is being besieged by the Houthi militias while it is located in the north of the country.

He said: "Who dares to leave the south of the country and go to encircle the north? It means that the party which is besieging the north is controlling the whole country."

During his coverage of the Arab League summit two days ago, Okasheh warned Saudi Arabia regarding its policy with the West. "Egypt will leave the Decisive Storm coalition because of the relationship of the member states with the US and the UK," he said.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 01 Apr 2015 12:01:50 +0000
The strangling superiority complex of Kuwait https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/17834-the-strangling-superiority-complex-of-kuwait https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/17834-the-strangling-superiority-complex-of-kuwait From the outside, it appears that Kuwait is glowing with prosperity. They pride themselves on the economic development of their tiny country, perceived stability in an increasingly volatile region and most importantly, their sharp progression with women's rights. Every February, the streets of Kuwait are full of people celebrating the month of their Liberation Day. Kuwaitis are generally kept happy, as long as they remain apolitical about controversial issues that are seen to impact national security and talk about the Emir with nothing but praise.

Kuwait's crackdown on freedom of speech has however reached new levels of extreme in recent months. On 18 March Tareq Al-Mutairi, head of the Civil Democratic Movement (CDM) in Kuwait, was jailed for insulting Saudi Arabia on his Twitter account. He was approached by plain-clothed state security forces on his way home and was detained. The Kuwaiti Interior Ministry in a statement admitted to the incident, but did not disclose the content of the tweets that led to the arrest of Al-Mutairi. His arrest sparked outrage amongst CDM members, as many of them believe that the arrest was orchestrated to intimidate them. A week prior to this, Hakem Al-Mutairi, leader of the Islamic party Al Ummah was also arrested but for criticising the UAE in an interview on a state television channel. The basis for his arrest was that citizens insulting any of Kuwait's allies can potentially jeopardise bilateral relations. Amongst these allies are all of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, including Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, who Kuwait supported when he orchestrated a coup against the democratically elected former President Mohammed Morsi.

The crackdown on freedom of speech has resulted in protests by members of opposition parties, which the Kuwaiti police have responded to harshly. On 23 March, a nonviolent protest of 800 people calling for the release of jailed activists including former MPs Mussallam Al Mubarak and Saad Al Ajimi took place in Kuwait City. Both MPs were arrested for criticising the Kuwaiti monarchy and Al Ajimi wrote an online article exposing government corruption. Kuwaiti Special Forces detained 16 people, including a prominent Kuwaiti human rights activist, Nawaf Al Hindal.

Foreign Kuwaiti residents are not exempt from this crackdown. In early June 2014, the Kuwaiti government announced the deportation of an Egyptian immigrant for commenting on domestic Egyptian affairs. When giving a talk at a Mosque, Imam Sayed Faraj Abu Halima referred to the post-military coup Egyptian elections as 'rigged' and said that he believes the low turnout was because the Egyptian people knew Al-Sisi's elections would be forged, regardless of their vote. He, his wife and two children were sent back to Egypt, with little regard as to how he would be punished for the comments by Al-Sisi's regime which is known for its brutality.

In addition to threatening their freedom of speech, the Kuwaiti government is denying its foreign residents many basic rights, such as limiting their rights to work as a part of their racist "Kuwaitisation" process. There is no protection from abuse by employers of expat workers and they lack basic rights. Cases of expat employees being raped, beaten and kept against their will after the confiscation of their passports are not uncommon. Even non-Kuwaiti residents who have been in Kuwait for generations are not only denied the right to citizenship in the country their grandfather was born in, but they are as other immigrants; reliant on finding a Kuwaiti sponsor to file their visas.

The extreme measures that Kuwait is using against both its own citizens and foreign residents are what can only be imagined in an Orwellian type world. The past few years have shown the Kuwaiti government dismiss even basic human rights. The international community has been silent on the matter. This silence is a betrayal of Kuwaiti human rights activists who face daily persecution and risks, but also of non-Kuwaiti residents who are forced to live with constant insecurity.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Lizzie Wright) frontpage Wed, 01 Apr 2015 11:56:51 +0000
Kuwait pledges $500m to Syrian people https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17833-kuwait-pledges-500m-to-syrian-people https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17833-kuwait-pledges-500m-to-syrian-people Kuwaiti Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah said on Tuesday that his government, along with Kuwaiti NGOs would pay up to $500m of humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, according to Palestinian newspaper Alresalah.

Al-Sabah stated that he would expose the tragedy of the Syrians to all, hoping that his country's contribution would help to lessen the sufferings of the Syrian people.

Speaking in the Third Donor Conference for the Syrian people, the Emir said: "The two previous conferences were successful because of your contributions, which registered more than 90% response. This secured the demands called for by the UN. We also hope success for this conference."

The Emir also mentioned data from an international organisation, showing that the Syrian economy has already and completely collapsed and its losses crossed $200bn. The data also showed that unemployment rate reached to 57% and the age rate decreased to 55 years.

He also noted the high poverty rate and that there are now 4 million Syrian refugees. This is the largest refugee nation, the Emir said.

"These horrible facts put the international community before a historical responsibility that necessitates serious work to end this disaster, which became a threat to the international safety and security as Syria became the haven for terrorists," Al-Sabah expressed.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 01 Apr 2015 11:54:17 +0000
Israel's nuclear arsenal highlights Western paranoia over Iran https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/17832-israels-nuclear-arsenal-highlights-western-paranoia-over-iran https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/17832-israels-nuclear-arsenal-highlights-western-paranoia-over-iran The Israeli media has publicised a declassified Pentagon document detailing Israel's covert nuclear programme. The report, dated 1987 and titled "Critical Technological Assessment in Israel and NATO Nations", describes Israel's nuclear infrastructure development and research throughout the 1970s and 1980s. According to Israel National News, the state had refrained from publicising its nuclear programme "to avoid a regional nuclear arms race"; it deems the US as having "breached the silent agreement to keep quiet on Israel's nuclear powers".

However, this is not the first time that America has made such a disclosure. On 27 October 1989 the New York Times published an article regarding Israel's cooperation with apartheid South Africa to develop a medium range missile. The article also includes references to the 1987 report which is being discussed currently as if it is a new revelation, which it isn't, although the document is the only one known so far to have acknowledged Israel's nuclear status which has been the source of much debate. It claims that Israel's nuclear research laboratories in the 1970s and 1980s were "equivalent to our Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge National Laboratories."

The current discussion has been mainly centred on the timing of the report's release, with the Israeli media criticising the move as retribution for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address to US Congress, where he criticised possible negotiated nuclear frameworks with Iran. Additionally, the media is incensed at the fact that sections pertaining to Italy, West Germany, France and other NATO countries have been redacted, turning the focus of the report solely on Israel.

As the ambiguity retained by Israel over its nuclear capabilities collapses thanks to the publicity given to the declassified report, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty should once again be under scrutiny, as well as the constant hype disseminated by mainstream media about Iran's nuclear programme. The alleged fear in the West of an "Iranian bomb" has led to Iran being subjected to sanctions and diplomatic moves to limit its nuclear research and development, despite Tehran's insistence that its programme reflects only peaceful purposes. However, the West has exhibited none of the same paranoia with regard to Israel, despite overwhelming evidence which demonstrates that the essence of the settler-colonial state is to sow discord in the region, impose a war agenda upon Iran and continue to expand its never-stated borders on Palestinian land. In that sense alone, the US report serves to highlight that paranoia and the double standards employed by the West in such matters.

According to Netanyahu, quoted in the Times of Israel, "The agreement being formulated [between the US and Iran]... sends a message that there is no price for aggression and, on the contrary, that Iran's aggression is to be rewarded." Unlike Israel, Iran has so far not even articulated any aggressive ambitions. However, Tehran's refusal to recognise Israel – a position that other countries should emulate - is apparently enough for Netanyahu to conjure up hypothetical threats. In his warped assessment of the Middle East, the Israeli prime minister classifies Israel as one of "the moderate and responsible countries" that stand to face the repercussions should a deal be reached with Iran. However, even if previous mentions of Israel's nuclear capabilities were erased from the collective memory through official propaganda, no amount of posturing and haranguing about Iran can now disguise Israel's nuclear ambitions, intentions and capabilities.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Ramona Wadi) frontpage Wed, 01 Apr 2015 11:50:00 +0000
US imposes sanctions on Syrian official https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/17831-us-imposes-sanctions-on-syrian-official https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/17831-us-imposes-sanctions-on-syrian-official US Treasury Department imposed on Tuesday sanctions on a Syrian official and three front companies it said were helping the Syrian government, which has been engaged in a bloody civil war, Reuters reported.

The department targeted Batoul Rida, an official of the Central Bank of Syria; one Syria-based company and two companies in Lebanon for working with the Syrian weapons agency according to the Scientific Studies and Research Centre.

According to the US Treasury, these companies had connections to Syria's chemical weapons programme.

"We are determined to use our financial tools to raise the costs to the Syrian government of its illicit activities," said Adam Szubin, Acting Undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

Szubin expressed his opinion on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government, saying that it is a "gross violator of human rights" and engages in "dangerous weapons proliferation."

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 01 Apr 2015 11:45:25 +0000
Hamas: Opportunities and risks in a volatile region https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17830-hamas-opportunities-and-risks-in-a-volatile-region https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17830-hamas-opportunities-and-risks-in-a-volatile-region Since the beginning of March of this year, Hamas has conducted a series of political phone calls in various diplomatic directions. Head of the Hamas Political Bureau Khaled Meshaal met up with the Iranian Parliamentary Chairman Ali Larijani where the two men discussed the Palestinian issue and the siege on Gaza. Meshaal then gave his condolences to both Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, for the loss of his mother, and Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei, for the death of his sister.

However, the relationship between Hamas and Iran has yet to return to normal; Iran has yet to ssure Hamas that it will provide it with the financial and military support it needs to improve the quality of life in the Gaza Strip. The main reason for this is that Iran is still placing certain preconditions on Hamas despite the fact that Hamas has made many concessions in Iran's favour in recent months. Hamas has publically praised Iran in many national ceremonies and has even sent letters of condolences to the country expressing their regret for the deaths of Iranian leaders in Syria. Yet, Hamas' attempts have done very little in terms of giving the group what it wants by means of financial and military support.

Although the current relationship between Hamas and Egypt is not at in its best state, the Egyptian government filed an appeal on a verdict issued by the Cairo Criminal Court, which designated Hamas as a "terrorist group". The decision to go forward with this verdict has had several negative consequences on Egypt, primarily when it comes to its regional role. Therefore, the appeal is an essential step which is needed to repeal this historical sin made by Egypt.

It appears as though the Egyptian government's decision to repeal its classification of Hamas as a terrorist group was a political decision and this is due to Egypt's desire to keep the Palestinian card in its hands because it affords Egypt the chance to play a strategic role within the region. Perhaps the Egyptian government has realised that it would not be in its best interests to antagonize Hamas should it want to maintain its claim over its prized position in the region. Hamas has expressed its belief that the Egyptian government has made a mistake that needs to be amended and that it seeks to repair the bilateral relationship between both parties. Moreover, Hamas also emphasised that it does not and will not interfere in the internal affairs of any other Arab country, especially Egypt.

A paradigm shift in Hamas position toward Egypt occurred when a statement was made by one of Hamas' prominent leaders whereby he announced that the organisation was looking to build a good and stable relationship with the Egyptian regime regardless of its political orientation. These changes in Hamas' attitudes toward Egypt imply that the organisation has turned the page and moved on from the possibility of the Muslim Brotherhood's return to rule. Hamas has yet to implement any of these sentiments on the practical level simply because the Egyptian government is intent on controlling the entire country. In fact, the Egyptian government has asked Hamas to take a firm and rational political stance, which would be embodied by its cooperation with al-Sisi, rather than an emotional and ideological one.

One of the factors that can be attributed to easing the tensions between Hamas and Egypt is said to be Saudi Arabia's decision to pressure Cairo following Al-Sisi's visit to Riyadh. During his visit, Al-Sisi listened to Saudi Arabia's demands to ease Egyptian restrictions on Hamas mainly because Saudi Arabia has entered a new political era and no longer considers Hamas a terrorist group. Saudi Arabia's re-classification of Hamas as a Palestinian resistance faction has encouraged the organisation's leadership to announce that there seems to be a Saudi shift on the horizon.

Saudi Arabian circles have yet to deny or confirm reports speculating that there is coordination between Hamas and Riyadh because Saudi politics like to work away from the media. Yet, Hamas sees Riyadh's approach as a satisfactory development and the two parties are not in a hurry to issue press statements, which may sour the relations that are currently being conducted on the backburner, especially since Saudi Arabia feels the dangers of Iran approaching its borders after the Houthi takeover in Yemen. Saudi Arabia has been committed to the formation of a "Sunni Axis" that would be strong enough to confront the "Shiite Tide". All of these factors will more than likely reshape the dynamics in the Middle East in a way that would work against Iran.

If Saudi Arabia succeeds in making Hamas a cornerstone in its axis, they will then pull the trump card from under Iran because of how Hamas is viewed in pan-Arab public opinion. Hamas, as a movement, has confirmed that it is not in anyone's pocket and that it does not establish relations with any single party at the expense of another therefore confirming that it seeks to establish balanced relations with all countries.

Finally, the obstacle that may stand in the face of Hamas and its struggle to return to normal relations with Iran is not only Tehran's regional expansion and presence in Syria, Iraq and finally Yemen but also Saudi Arabia's decision to carry out a series of air strikes against Houthi hotspots in Yemen. Therefore, Hamas finds itself torn between the many intersections of regional polarisation in the region: Should it go to Tehran while it continues to hug Turkey and Qatar and converge with Saudi Arabia? This would not be acceptable in the language of alliances and Hamas may risk losing the support of one camp as it seeks to gain the favour of another.

Translated from Felesteen newspaper, 30 March, 2015

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Dr Adnan Abu Amer) frontpage Wed, 01 Apr 2015 11:38:18 +0000
British Foreign Policy and the Arab Spring https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17829-british-foreign-policy-and-the-arab-spring https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17829-british-foreign-policy-and-the-arab-spring Why did the British government respond in the way it did to the Arab Spring? 
Some analyses have argued that Britain's inconsistency demonstrates that Britain's policies toward the Middle East in the wake of the uprisings in 2011 was hypocritical. Indeed while Britain condemned government violence in Syria, took military action in Libya it offered only muted comment on brutality in Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen.

A negative consequence of this apparent inconsistency of this was that British policy-makers' use of human rights language was interpreted to be little more than a cover for pursuit of self-interest rather than genuine concern. In a new article recently published in the academic journal Diplomacy and Statecraft, Dr. Jamie Gaskarth (an expert on British Foreign Policy at the University of Plymouth) and I, analyzed these issues.

We took the emergence of the 'Arab Spring' to mean specifically the protests that occurred between December 2010 and December 2011 in 18 of the 22 states that comprise the Arab League. And our investigation found that simply labeling British actions as hypocritical does not fully explain the nuances of Britain's policy in this context. Instead we sought to dig deeper and discover what was the underlying logic for Britain's response.

What we found was that out of a range of variables the could have impacted British Foreign Policy in the Middle East and North Africa – including economic ties, civil society pressures, elite interactions – the only really significant factor involved in the UK's response was that of its perceived security relationships with particular, long standing, allies.

Moreover, while this investigation brought to light the fact that British Foreign Policy makers did see themselves as pursuing a range of policies that fit with a coherent rationale, our closer examination of how these policies played out suggests that such an explanation may actually be better interpreted as merely rationalization.

Underlying logic

When the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition came to office after the 2010 elections the new Foreign Secretary William Hague set out his vision of how he saw Britain's role in the world. This, he described, was that Britain would have a "networked foreign policy" in a "networked world". This meant, he explained, that the world effectively comprised "networks of states with fluid and dynamic patterns of allegiance, alliance, and connections."

In other words, British foreign policy would largely be focused on country-to-country links that would be flexible and adaptive to changing contexts. This explanation might go some way to explaining some apparent inconsistencies in policy. Indeed, according to this view, rather than being a product of policy errors or hypocrisy, some inconsistence would actually be a logical result of a deliberately flexible policymaking approach.

Narrowing the framework

Even from a first look at British actions in response to the Arab Spring, there are some obvious steps we can take to make the discussion more focused. For example rather than look at all the protests equally we separated the protests into six different categories. Essentially this looked at the events of the protests along two intersecting axes: the severity of the protests and the government's response.

Thus we developed a system of categorization that grouped countries together from examples where there were no significant protests – Qatar and the UAE – to those where there a "Significant Rupture in the Structure of Rule" took place. This last category obviously included: Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Syria and Yemen.

We also looked at how and why the British government responded to protests. We drew both on the UK governments' official statements on each case study and the more serious actions including military action. These categories ranged from "Substantial Support for the Protesters" – Libya and Syria – to "Substantial Support for the Regime" – Bahrain. However, for most cases the UK offered "No Substantial Commitment to Either Side".

We found that generally – but not always – the most important determinant was the death toll in each case study.

On the evidence of fatalities alone, it appears that the majority of situations were not serious enough to compel Britain to take a position. However, Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen were notable exceptions where the death toll was high. In these cases, one might expect a firmer British stance.

So out of the cases where there were high death tolls Britain supported the protesters in two cases – Libya and Syria – but it did not commit to supporting either side in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen.

Yet there was another odd-one-out. A country where there was not a particularly high death toll, but Britain inserted itself into the crises none-the-less. This was the case of Bahrain.

Against the regime

In the cases where Britain took a stance against the existing regime we found that there were few obvious commonalities. Indeed, since the rapprochement with the West – symbolized by Blair and Gadhafi's 'meeting in the desert – Britain enjoyed strong economic links with Libya – especially in terms of importing hydrocarbons – and controversial relations with the regime both in terms of elite links and between their respective security agencies.

While in the case of Syria there were few ties. Indeed, despite the much vaunted, but ultimately abortive, efforts to woe Bashar al-Assad in the early 2000s, the regime returned to hostile relations with the West. Preferring instead an alliance with Russia. Though Syria did export some oil to Europe, this was a small amount not seriously comparable with Libya-European trade.

Again, in terms of security ties, though Syria did become more cooperative than it had, during the 'War on Terror' its links to the UK, in this respect, were offset by Syrian support for Hezbollah and – until the uprising – Hamas.


For the states where Britain remained on the sidelines there was a similar range in the kind of long-term relationships. Indeed, the UK enjoyed important trade relations with Egypt as well as historical links and connections to the Mubarak family. Tunisia was a less important trade partner and there were few significant connections otherwise.

Yemen, on the other hand, had been a state of considerable interest and concern for the British government. This was focused, mostly, on the UK's strategic interest in containing potential Iranian influence and also combating the rise of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Thus, in January 2010, the UK had hosted the Friends of Yemen group, an ad hoc network of interested states seeking to promote reform and counter terrorism in Yemen.

Old friends

Bahrain was the only state that Britain was clearly on the side of the regime (though it did cancel some arms exports). While the value of the UK's trade relationship with Bahrain was comparatively low there were significant and long-standing links in terms of elite relations as well as security networks. Indeed, often these relationships overlapped, as a 2011 report in the Guardian noted, "the Ministry of Defence
has helped train more than 100 Bahraini military officers in the past five years at Sandhurst and other top colleges in the UK."

Moreover, security 
and intelligence links remain extensive and include a new British naval base announced late last year. These developments build on a bilateral defence co-operation accord (October 2012) and is evidence of the continued strengthening of this relationship. As we argue:

Any rupture would have major implications for Britain's security interests in the region as Bahrain's hosting of major defence installations allows Britain to project influence, with allies, across the Gulf.


Prima Facie what we found from this analysis is that in determining Britain's actions following the outbreak of the 'Arab Spring' was that security ties trump economic and civil society links. Further, at a deeper level of analysis we found that the despite the controversial links between the UK and Gadhafi's security forces, these were not as important as the much tighter links between the well established allies of Britain and Bahrain.

Finally, we found that if the UK's responses to the Arab Spring were to be taken as representative of the overall 'Networked Foreign Policy' – outlined by William Hague in 2010 – then this policy agenda is itself apparently somewhat confused and incoherent.

Indeed, as we conclude, in reality each of the UK various interests actually "intersect and permeate each other in ways that undermine efforts to co-ordinate any one of them in the service of [the UK's] policy goals" and that "The result is that networked foreign policy, arguably, is no policy at all."

Dr Philip Leech is a visiting research fellow at the Council for British Research in the Levant. He is on twitter and his academic profile is available at academia.edu.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Dr Philip Leech) frontpage Wed, 01 Apr 2015 11:03:42 +0000
Is regional balance starting with Yemen? https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17828-is-regional-balance-starting-with-yemen https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17828-is-regional-balance-starting-with-yemen If you want to know the impact of "Decisive Storm" in Yemen on those who were taken aback by it or those who are afraid of it, and what it is likely to lead to, and what is likely to be its outcome in the region, then listen (do not just read) to what was said by Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of the Lebanese Hezbollah, last Friday. The significance of his words does not spring from his own importance but rather from what he represents as an Iranian proxy in the region and as a spokesperson for the Iranian regime in the Levant.

Three features in Nasrallah's speech reflect this significance. The first is that the speech was made on the second day of the coalition attack on Yemen, and "Decisive Storm" was the only topic discussed. The second was the psychological condition that prevailed on Nasrallah as he was delivering his speech. Right from the start his tongue struggled with the froth between his lips to the extent that he needed more than once to take a drink of water to "resist and deter" the dryness in his throat. This was never the case in any of his previous speeches, and there have been quite a few of them. The third, and most important, feature was that the speech constituted a long defence against "Decisive Storm", stressing the inevitability of its failure, a desperate defence of Iran and a declaration of its innocence. Iran, in the Hezbollah chief's speech, came across as a charitable society, or a band of angelic beings roaming the region bearing honey, roses and all sort of goodies for those in need. Moreover, Nasrallah used abusive language to attack Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Egypt, Sudan and Morocco as part of his fierce and erratic onslaught on Saudi Arabia and its princes, all the while defending Iran and proclaiming it to be honest and decent.

Within this context, he asked several times, with overt defiance and envious audacity, for a single piece of evidence of Iranian intervention in the whole region, especially in Lebanon. In his nervousness, the Secretary General missed out on the ironic fact that his own role in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, as well as his speech, provides the most important proof of this intervention. Can he prove that Tehran did not ask him to deliver his speech or suggest when it should be made? If Iran does not intervene in the region, then what goes on in Yemen should be of no interest to the government in Tehran. Consequently, Nasrallah should not have been so nervous to seem to be out of control. Why did he rush to deliver his speech to defend Iran less than 48 hours after the start of the Saudi-led attack on Yemen? Perhaps he realised, belatedly, that through his speech, his nervousness and his defence did indeed prove what he had been trying to deny through his words.

The fact of the matter is that there was no need for Nasrallah's speech in order to learn about the Iranian position on "Decisive Storm" and Tehran's shock at the intervention by the broad Arab and Islamic coalition to restore political legitimacy in Yemen. The Iranian government must have felt that the isolation of the Houthis by the coalition is the isolation of itself and a barrier imposed on its role around the periphery of the Arabian Peninsula.

Iran has always benefited from divisions in the Arab world and has exploited them to expand its own influence. These divisions plus the collapse of the state in Iraq and Syria, have caused a regional imbalance in Iran's favour. However, it seems that the Iranian leadership has not paid attention to the fact that what has happened in the region in the wake of the Arab Spring revolutions is not a final shift; it is part of a historic and fluid process the end of which nobody can predict. Hence, Iran's surprise at "Decisive Storm". The Saudi-led initiative in Yemen defied all expectations. The dominant belief was that Riyadh's year-long silence about the Houthis' military expansion and capture of Sanaa, as well as the house arrest of President Abed Rabbuh Mansour Hadi and the members of his cabinet, followed by the move on Aden to where Hadi had fled and set up his government, all suggested that Saudi Arabia had limited options, if any at all. It looked as if the balance of power inside Yemen had already been decided in favour of the Houthis and thus, by proxy, in favour of the deposed president Ali Abdullah Saleh through the extension of a regional imbalance that could no longer be rectified easily.

In this sense, the Saudi move is unprecedented, not only in terms of the size of the coalition and the seriousness of the role undertaken in Yemen, but also in terms of it being Riyadh which has taken the lead militarily and politically. Perhaps the element that took everyone by surprise was the return of Saudi Arabia to the known and correct political equation that foreign policy loses its effectiveness and impact at home and abroad without a military capability commensurate with its size and ability to protect its role and interests, and impose its will when necessary. When a state has the military capacity but not the political will to use it, then it loses its effectiveness. However, "Decisive Storm" has proved that the Saudi silence and delay was calculated to await an opportune moment for action.

For Saudi Arabia and the rest of the coalition the restoration of political balance in Yemen was a priority option. They could not accept the possibility of a Yemeni "Hezbollah" on the Saudi border, especially because it would consolidate Iranian influence in another part of the Arab world. The Houthis, and Iran behind them, want to repeat this experience in full. The mistake of Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab countries is that they allowed an imbalance to take place in Lebanon in favour of Hezbollah and Iran. "Decisive Storm" indicates that Riyadh and its coalition partners have learnt their lesson. It will be impossible to have a genuine dialogue in Yemen without some degree of balance between the various forces in the country. The only way such a balance can be achieved is to disarm the Houthis completely and transform them into a political party like all the other parties. Weapons should be possessed exclusively by the state, in which all citizens participate on an equal footing. This is the exact opposite of what Tehran wants, which is for the logic of the militias to prevail and for the state to disappear, just as has been done in Iraq and Syria.

In this sense, and within the context of balance itself, the coalition's military operation in Yemen represents a very smart pre-emptive step to close the door completely on terrorist organisations such as Al-Qaeda, which would otherwise confront the Houthis and proclaim themselves to be the saviours of the Yemeni people. This is what happened in Iraq and Syria as a result of the inaction of the Arab states and regional divisions. What would have happened had the coalition not intervened to arrest the advance of the Houthis? It is most likely that Yemen would have been left wide open for the militias; terrorist organisations such as ISIS would enter under the pretext of defending the Sunnis and Hezbollah would say that it is there to defend the Shia Houthis. This would have been a devastating repeat of the Iraq-Syria experience and the Iranian role played in both.

In order for the strategic aim of "Decisive Storm" to be accomplished, five objectives would have to be achieved simultaneously. For a start, the complete destruction of the Houthis' arsenal would be the means to disarm the group. "Decisive Storm", by virtue of the support it enjoys locally, regionally and internationally, provides the sole opportunity to accomplish this. Failure to disarm the Houthis now will make such a mission very close to impossible in the future both politically and militarily.

The second objective is to send the former president and his son into exile and to retire all of his allies in the army and security establishment, and exclude them all from the political process. What the former president is doing is criminal in that he is endangering the security of Yemen and its future for the sake of his personal ambitions, stabbing Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states in the back in the process with his actions and unstable alliances.

The third objective is to maintain an aerial blockade and put an end to Iranian supply aircraft bringing weapons and equipment for the Houthis. Fourthly, Yemen's ports should be declared to be restricted zones under coalition naval control; all ships entering and leaving should be searched. Finally, the most important objective is for the Yemeni parties to draft a transparent political agenda for everyone, including the Houthis.

These are all entirely achievable objectives which may not require a ground war. The purpose of "Decisive Storm" is not the occupation of Yemen but rather the ending of the Houthis' military capability and paving the way for a political solution.

The timing of the coalition intervention is significant, coming as it does after so much patience in the face of the transgressions by the Houthis and after the attempt to persuade them that the only way to get Yemen out of its predicament is through political concord without resorting to violence. The operation was launched before the Arab Summit at Sharm Al-Sheikh, which is expected to endorse a proposal to create a joint Arab rapid response force to defend regional interests in these troubled times. As a matter of principle, this is a correct proposal, but it should proceed with caution, lest it end up like previous suggestions such as that made following "Desert Storm" in 1991.

The timing also shows that moves to correct the current imbalances in the region may be starting in Yemen. If this is true, should they stop at the borders of the Arabian Peninsula? There are political and intellectual dimensions to consider in all of this.

Translated from AlHayat newspaper, 29 March, 2015

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Khalid Al-Dakhil) frontpage Wed, 01 Apr 2015 10:58:37 +0000
Palestinian Authority economic minister resigns https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17827-palestinian-authority-economic-minister-resigns https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17827-palestinian-authority-economic-minister-resigns Palestinian Authority (PA) Minister of Economy and Deputy Prime Minister Mohamed Mustafa tendered his resignation on Tuesday to the PA's unity government Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.

Hamdallah accepted the resignation, which has been presented to President Mahmoud Abbas for approval.

Anadolu news agency reported a close aide to Mustafa saying the Deputy PM tendered his resignation during the weekly government meeting. According to the source, the decision was related to a personal matter.

Mustafa also served as deputy PM in the Palestinian unity government formed in June last year, which was the 17th Palestinian government. He also served as deputy PM for economic affairs in both the 15th and 16th governments.

In the unity government, he served as the head of the permanent economic committee and was in charge of coordinating economic reform and development across the Palestinian Territories, as well as dealing with PA financial policy.

In a statement from his office in the Ministry of Economy, he thanked the PA for giving him the chance to serve Palestine and the Palestinian people. He also pledged to continue to assist.

Following the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip over the summer, Mustafa headed a committee responsible for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.

He also chairs the Palestinian Investment Fund, an independent investment company which was established in 2003 through PA and international funding. Mustafa was previously the fund's CEO.

Prior to the government meeting, Mustafa said he would ask the government to waive the fuel of the Gaza Electricity Plant from taxes, but the government decided to keep the taxes. He also pledged to bring changes to the economic situation in Gaza.

Sources said the discussion over Gaza caused a row during the government meeting, when the minister announced his resignation. Monitors believe that this is the reason behind his resignation.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 01 Apr 2015 10:39:01 +0000
Amnesty International paints an inaccurate picture of Gaza in its latest report https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/17826-amnesty-international-paints-an-inaccurate-picture-of-gaza-in-its-latest-report https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/17826-amnesty-international-paints-an-inaccurate-picture-of-gaza-in-its-latest-report The efforts of Amnesty International are undeniably significant in monitoring the developments in Palestine and other regions of the world. Nonetheless, Amnesty's latest report on the events of summer 2014 in Gaza Strip does not reflect the context in which Gazans live, nor does it show impartial documenting.

The report argues that the Palestinian armed factions committed war crimes from two perspectives. The first is that it launched rockets randomly against Israeli civilians, and the second is that it launched a rocket that accidently hit Al-Shati' refugee camp in the Strip, which led to the death of 13 Palestinian children, as quoted by an independent munitions expert. The report concludes that the acts of the Palestinian armed factions "demonstrate what is, at best, a reckless disregard for the lives of civilians in Israel, as well as a consistent failure to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians in Gaza from the effects of attacks"; and calls for urgently suspending all transfers of arms, munitions, weapons and military equipment to Israel and Palestinian armed groups.

The question raised by the report's conclusions is; what are the other alternatives for the Gaza Strip under the heavy and indiscriminate Israeli shelling and bombardments? The arguments used are true, but they fail to accurately reflect the broader context and to document the wider scenario. This is especially the case as it fails to differentiate between the occupation and the occupied and calls for suspending arms flow to both. In this report, they did not admit that the Israeli arms industry is a leading world exporter of military supplies and advanced military technologies, and also in fact, the Gaza Strip does not include even a port that does export or import any item.

The organisation's report does not point out to the notable improvement in the performance of the Palestinian resistance, where the majority of the causalities by the resistance rockets were soldiers (63 Israeli soldier according to the Israeli official reports), in contrast to the 2,400 civilian Palestinians killed by the Israeli army during the same events. AI's report refuses to note this fact, thus leaving an inaccurate impression on what the situation on the ground actually looks like.

The report also addresses the need for storing arms, explosives and ammunition in areas that are distant from civilian communities, but it does not suggest where actually, especially taking into consideration that Gaza Strip is amongst the highest population densities in the world. It seems the report is impliedly urging for the disarmament of the resistance forces in Gaza Strip, in facing an inhumane and heavily armed fierce occupation; thus deeming Gazans powerless and subject to further crimes against humanity. Though, if it is possible that this interpretation of the report is a misreading, we would be grateful for further clarifications by Amnesty.

Director of Palestinian Association for Human Rights

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Dr Mahmoud El Hanafi) frontpage Wed, 01 Apr 2015 10:28:12 +0000
UN refuses to comment on Palestine's membership of ICC https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/17825-un-refuses-to-comment-on-palestines-membership-of-icc https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/17825-un-refuses-to-comment-on-palestines-membership-of-icc Deputy Spokesman for the United Nations Secretary General, Farhan Haq on Tuesday refused to comment on the Palestine ICC membership going into effect on April, 1 2015.

During a press conference at UN headquarters in New York, Haq said the Secretary-General will not issue any statements regarding Palestine's effective membership.

"This is the 123rd State party. You're not aware that we've had statements for the previous 122 State parties either, right? So this is in keeping with that!" Haq asserted when asked why the Secretary General will not issue a statement regarding the issue.

The Palestinian Authority submitted a request to join the International Criminal Court on 2 January, as a prelude to prosecute Israeli officials for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Palestinians decision to join the ICC came less than three days after the UN Security Council refused to pass a draft resolution ending the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories by November, 2017.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 01 Apr 2015 10:22:07 +0000
Israel calls for its farmers to keep clear of Gaza border areas https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17824-israel-calls-for-its-farmers-to-keep-clear-of-gaza-border-areas https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17824-israel-calls-for-its-farmers-to-keep-clear-of-gaza-border-areas After an exchange of fire, Israeli forces asked Israeli farmers to remain distant from the borders with the Gaza Strip, Israeli media reported on Tuesday.

Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth said that the call came after an Israeli car was shot at on Tuesday evening.

According to Israeli TV Channel 2, the source of the attack is not known and no casualties were reported.

The Israeli military has not issued a statement on the matter yet, but the Israeli army radio noted that Israeli forces had combed the area after the shooting.

Early on Tuesday, Israeli sources claimed that Palestinians used light weapons to respond to Israeli fire aimed at Palestinian farmers in Deir al-Balah City, central Gaza Strip.

Anadolu news agency reported witnesses saying that the Israeli troops stationed at the eastern borders of Deir al-Balah opened fire at Palestinian farmers working in their farms. No casualties were reported.

Regarding the Palestinian fire reported by the Israeli sources, Anadolu said that a few bullets were reportedly shot from the Palestinian side.

The Israeli military imposes a military buffer zone which ranges between 300 metres to 600 metres along the borders with the Gaza Strip. Palestinians who enter this area risk being shot at or arrested.

The ceasefire agreement reached between the Palestinian resistance in Gaza and Israel on August 26 stipulates that the Israeli buffer zone must be reduced. This pledge has not been fulfilled.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 01 Apr 2015 09:43:55 +0000
Algerian judiciary opens major graft cases from Boutiflika's reign https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/17823-algerian-judiciary-opens-major-graft-cases-from-boutiflikas-reign https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/17823-algerian-judiciary-opens-major-graft-cases-from-boutiflikas-reign Algerian Judiciary on Tuesday announced the dates to start trial of three major graft cases that hit the nation from the reign of President, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Anadolu news agency reported.

The Criminal Court of Algiers announced April, 19 as the date to probe two cases involving senior government officials and foreign contractors.

The first case involves the construction of East- West Highway project which connects the 1200 km distance between the eastern and western parts of the country at a cost of $12 billion. The case involves 16 defendants from the country's security services and senior officials in the public-works ministry accused of bribery and kickbacks.

The second case involves state-owned oil giant Sonatrach including the former Group CEO, Mohamed Meziane, his two sons and eight ex-executive directors of Sonatrach as well as seven officials. They are accused including of conspiracy, embezzlement, money laundering and corruption within procurement OTC with foreign companies; contrary to regulations.

In May 2011, Sonatrach CEO Mohamed Meziane received a two-year sentence in prison for misusing public funds.

Algerian state- run news agency APS, quoted a judicial source as saying that the criminal court in Blida south of the capital announced June, 2015 as the date to begin the third trial involving a businessman who founded a private bank and used it smuggle huge amounts of public money abroad.

In 2003, Abdul Momin Khalifa fled to Britain after investigators revealed that he established a private bank and lured local companies and citizens with high interest rates to deposit their funds at the bank. Khalifa has reportedly stolen the deposited money and transferred it abroad, using a private airline company that he established for this reason.

The Algerian treasury suffered nearly $5 billion in losses in Khalifa's scam, which led to Blida Criminal Court sentencing him to imprisonment in absentia.

The Algerian judiciary extradite Khalifa in 2013 and decided to re- try him.

The three cases are known as the three major corruption cases in the country during the reign of current President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index for 2012 which ranks countries according to the extent of corruption in the public sector, ranked Algeria 105th out of 176 countries, and 12th out of 17 countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

The organization said that although Algerian authorities acknowledge corruption has become a norm in state institutions, they are doing little to change the situation.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 01 Apr 2015 09:11:53 +0000
Brotherhood rejects Iran’s policy and calls for Saudi Arabia to support democracy https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17822-brotherhood-rejects-irans-policy-and-calls-for-saudi-arabia-to-support-democracy https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17822-brotherhood-rejects-irans-policy-and-calls-for-saudi-arabia-to-support-democracy Leaders within the Muslim Brotherhood have confirmed their support for legitimacy in Yemen and their rejection of the Iranian expansionist project in the region. They expressed hope that the military operation will be the beginning of a change in the Saudi position "in support of legitimacy and in support of the choices of all peoples".

Yahya Hamid, the Egyptian minister of investment in the government of Hisham Qandil, said in tweets published on his personal twitter page: "The assault on legitimacy and on the popular will facilitates penetration into the region and undermining its national security."

He declared his support for the operation "Storm of Decisiveness" and said: "We understand and support the Saudi operations in confrontation of the Iranian intervention and the Houthi threats to the unity of Yemen and the security of the Gulf." He hoped at the same time that "the on-going operations will mark a new beginning by the new Saudi Administration in support of legitimacy and the choices of the Arab peoples everywhere."

Hamid wondered how a transgressor against legitimacy like Sisi is allowed to take part in the battle for regaining the usurped legitimacy in Yemen and said: "the Sisi regime ascended to power by means of a bloody coup just like that of the Houthis and should not be allowed to take part in the battle for restoring legitimacy."

Dr. Amr Darraj, a former minister and the official in charge of foreign relations within the Muslim Brotherhood, said in a tweet: "I hope that the campaign will reflect a new successful general inclination by the new Saudi leadership in favour of standing by the choices of the people."

The Muslim Brotherhood issued a statement in which it condemned the meeting of Kings and Presidents in Egypt to discuss how to restore the legitimacy that was usurped by the Houthis in Yemen around a table chaired by the leader of the coup, Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi, who killed people unsupportive of his regime and burgled their legitimacy, describing the matter as "double standards".

The text of the statement issued by the Muslim Brotherhood

'A communique from the Muslim Brotherhood to the Kings and Rulers of the Arabs

To the Kings and Presidents that are meeting in hijacked Egypt today in the presence of a coup perpetrator, a traitor and a killer of the people of Egypt. We address you with a message written by the Egyptian people with the blood of their martyrs accompanied by the cries of those who were shot with the treacherous bullets of the coup and by the steadfastness of the freedom-seeking men and women behind the bars of this butcher who is holding this big Egyptian homeland in prison.

You are meeting today to discuss your measures in the face of the Houthi coup in Yemen against the legitimate president there. But you are, regrettably, meeting as guests of another coup perpetrator and traitor, who betrayed the Ummah, broke his oath, killed the people and seized power with the force of the tank. The Egyptian people see a double standard in this.

Let it be known to the Arab rulers and the world at large that the Egyptian people will impose their will, break the military coup, regain their legitimacy and accomplish the objectives of the glorious 25 January revolution in living, freedom, human dignity and social justice.'

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 01 Apr 2015 09:07:15 +0000
Report: Israel's use of artillery raises risks to civilians https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17821-report-israels-use-of-artillery-raises-risks-to-civilians https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17821-report-israels-use-of-artillery-raises-risks-to-civilians A new report claims that changes in the Israeli military's rules of engagement have increased, not decreased, the risk to civilians in Gaza.

Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), a London-based NGO, examined how the Israeli army has used artillery in the Gaza Strip, including in last year's 'Operation Protective Edge' assault.

AOAV found that "rather than reducing the risk of civilians dying from Israeli explosive weapons", the army's "previously quite strict rules regulating artillery practice have been relaxed since 2005."

While Israeli officials claim significant improvements have been made in protecting civilians from artillery shells, research conducted by the NGO indicted that "when it comes to the use of Israeli artillery on Palestinians there is a wide gap between public rhetoric and the reality on the ground."

The report, 'Under Fire', states that the Israeli army launched at least 34,000 unguided shells into the Gaza Strip in 2014 – "the heaviest use of Israeli high-explosive artillery shells in eight years."

During 'Operation Protective Edge', a daily average of 680 artillery shells were fired into Gaza, almost a doubling of the 348 per day during 'Operation Cast Lead' in 2008-'09.

In 2006 the Israeli army reduced the 'safety distance' dictating how close shells could land next to residential homes from 300 metres to 100 metres. However, the "expected casualty-producing radius of a 155mm artillery shell is close to 300 metres."

AOAV says its "conclusions are stark."

We argue in this report how the changes to military practice made by the IDF over the last decade to regulate their use of heavy explosive weapons have not led to significant and effective civilian protection on the ground.

According to the NGO's Director of Policy Iain Overton, "the IDF is more reliant on [unguided artillery shells] now than they were almost a decade ago. There's no reason why Israel can't stop using such damaging weaponry in populated areas."

Full report available here.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Wed, 01 Apr 2015 08:59:56 +0000
Peace should be enforced before negotiated: It's time for a paradigm shift in EU policies towards the Israel-Palestine conflict https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/guest-writers/17820-peace-should-be-enforced-before-negotiated https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/guest-writers/17820-peace-should-be-enforced-before-negotiated Dr Dimitris BourisOver the past few decades, the European Union has been instrumental in setting up the parameters upon which the so-called Middle East Peace Process was funded and in "feeding" the international community with ideas on what would constitute a fair solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.1

Dr Dimitris Bouris is a Research Fellow at the European Neighbourhood Policy Chair, at the College of Europe (Natolin). He holds a PhD from the University of Warwick and is the author of The European Union and Occupied Palestinian Territories: State-building without a State (Routledge, 2014) for which he was selected as Routledge Politics and International Relations author of the month for February 2014. Dimitris is currently co-editing (with Tobias Schumacher) a book on the Revised European Neighbourhood Policy which will be published by Palgrave in 2015.

He has written scholarly articles in peer-reviewed academic journals such as Mediterranean Politics, European Security, The Hague Journal on the Rule of Law, the Journal of Contemporary European Research and Political Perspectives. Dimitris has also written short articles and op-eds for Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (with Nathan Brown), EU Observer, Gulf News, European Voice and Open Democracy. His research focuses on the European Neighbourhood Policy, the Arab Spring, the European Union's role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as on the broader domains of peacebuilding, state-building, security sector reform and conflict resolution.

Dr Dimitris BourisOver the past few decades, the European Union has been instrumental in setting up the parameters upon which the so-called Middle East Peace Process was funded and in "feeding" the international community with ideas on what would constitute a fair solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.1

For all this time, the EU approach has been that a Palestinian state can only be established through negotiations with Israel. Different formulas have been tried based on the logic that if Palestinians embarked on a state- and institution-building exercise, this would eventually go hand-in-hand with positive developments on the political front and the eventual establishment and recognition of the state of Palestine.

This was the logic behind the 1993 Oslo Accords and when it became clear that the establishment of a Palestinian state was not looming on the horizon, the EU, with the Berlin Declaration, reaffirmed its commitment to "the continuing and unqualified Palestinian right to self-determination including the option of a state". The declaration also expressed the EU's readiness to consider the recognition of a Palestinian State "in due course". The reason behind this declaration was to prevent Yasser Arafat from declaring the state of Palestine unilaterally and thus "jeopardising" the negotiations paradigm.

Following the eruption of the second intifada in 2000 the effort to keep the negotiations paradigm alive was continued with the Roadmap, which required "a clear, unambiguous acceptance by both parties of the goal of a negotiated settlement". The confidence-building logic of the Roadmap, which was based on three phases and envisioned parallel steps to be taken by the Israelis and the Palestinians, did not bring about a Palestinian state by the end of 2005 as originally envisaged.

Following Hamas's victory in the 2006 Palestinian elections, the "West Bank first" strategy was adopted with the hope that negotiations would again lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state by the end of 2008. Instead, not only did a Palestinian state not come into being but Gaza was also subject to a devastating war by Israel.

The international community in general and the EU in particular did not want to see the death of the negotiation paradigm; instead of burying it, though, they decided to put it on a life support mechanism. The help came from the Palestinian leadership (legitimised by the "West Bank first" strategy) and former Prime Minister Salam Fayyad who presented a plan entitled, "Ending the Occupation, Establishing the state". The logic of the plan was similar to that of the Oslo Accords; within a two-year period, the Palestinians would build their institutions and improve the security situation (mainly for Israel rather than for the Palestinians) which would lead to the recognition of a Palestinian state. Billions of euros were disbursed by the international community and the EU to support Fayyad's plan which served as an invaluable bottom-up approach, the progress of which did not go hand-in-hand with top-down negotiations.

The failure of the "proximity talks" orchestrated by the Obama administration and Senator George Mitchell, together with the threat that the Palestinian leadership would be submitting an application to the UN Security Council for recognition of the state of Palestine, prompted the EU, in May 2011, to declare its readiness to recognise a Palestinian State "when appropriate". The declaration was once more an effort to "keep the parties talking" and prevent unilateral moves by the Palestinians; it did not, however, clarify the basis on which the "appropriateness" would be decided. While the Palestinians achieved in the end something less than full recognition through their UN upgrade to "non-member observer state", the parties continued "talking" under the auspices of US Secretary of State John Kerry even while Israel was inviting tenders for building more than 700 housing units in occupied Jerusalem's Gilo neighbourhood. According to a Peace Now report, investment in such illegal settlements grew by at least 38 per cent between 2009 and 2011 while invitations to bid for building contracts in the settlements had tripled since 2013 on average compared to the 2009-2013 period of Netanyahu's previous administration.

The negotiations path that the international community has led for decades now appears to be blocked, if not altogether dead. The negotiation paradigm has taken different forms across the decades and has failed repeatedly. Netanyahu's recent re-election following his comments that there will be no Palestinian state while he is prime minister makes it more than urgent for the EU to rethink its policies and attitudes towards the Israel-Palestine conflict in a manner that will enable a fresh approach. What was left from the negotiation and peace process is now finished and a fresh process should be put into full swing. In other words, using the lexicon of the conflict to-date, the EU should start creating facts on the ground.

One way to do this is by legitimising the state of Israel whilst de-legitimising the occupation. Since July 2013, the EU has put in place the so-called "Guidelines" which prohibit the issuing of grants, funding, prizes or scholarships to Israeli entities that have been established beyond the 1967 borders. This means that EU financial assistance will no longer go to Israeli entities based in the occupied Palestinian territories. Although the "Guidelines" have a very limited impact on the Israeli economy they have symbolic, normative and practical reverberations which cannot be ignored, which is why Israel's response to their publication has been frenzied.

Another way to legitimise the state of Israel and de-legitimise the occupation is the stepping up of efforts to address another key territorial issue, which is the labelling of products originating in Israeli settlements. The effort was led by the former EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, after EU member states such as Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom had already issued similar guidelines to their citizens. While the new labelling regulations were supposed to be enacted by the end of 2013 the process has been frozen, although during her first days in office Ashton's successor, Federica Mogherini, hinted that the EU might use financial "incentives and disincentives" to address the realities on the ground.

Finally, the waves of Palestinian state recognition by governments and parliaments within the EU should swell. In October 2014, Sweden became the first EU member to recognise the state of Palestine. In the months that followed, the British, Irish, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Danish and Belgian parliaments, as well as the EU parliament, all voted in favour of motions to give the state recognition. While such motions are largely symbolic it should not be overlooked that, as David Horovitz has put it, when it comes to the UN arena the EU is seen as the barometer of international legitimacy. British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's recent statement that if Netanyahu rules out a Palestinian state and expands West Bank settlements, "the world, including the British parliament, would have no option, but to recognise a Palestinian state", should be followed by concrete actions and not remain empty rhetoric.

The Israeli general election results look likely to produce a right-wing government in Israel under a prime minister who has done everything possible to destroy any chance of a two-state solution (and who has been committed to building settlements as if there is no tomorrow); a government which will probably include members such as Avigdor Lieberman, who recently proposed the beheading of Arabs who are not loyal to Israel. A change of approach is needed urgently and desperately. While European action might not have much effect in the short-term, the EU's real ability to play a catalytic role in agenda-setting in the long-term and feed the international community with ideas should not be underestimated. What remains to be seen is whether the EU will manage to live up to expectations.


[1] Bouris, D. (2014) The EU and Occupied Palestinian Territories: state-building without a state, Oxon: Routledge.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Dr Dimitris Bouris) frontpage Wed, 01 Apr 2015 06:01:50 +0000
Erdogan says his visit to Iran is still on https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/17819-erdogan-says-his-visit-to-iran-is-still-on https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/17819-erdogan-says-his-visit-to-iran-is-still-on Flag of Turkey

Turkey's president insisted on Monday that he is still planning to visit Iran next week, despite a war of words with the Islamic Republic triggered by the Yemen crisis. Recep Tayyip Erdogan had also accused the government in Tehran of seeking to dominate the region, Agence France-Presse reported. Turkey has said that it supports the Saudi-led operation against Iran's Houthi allies in Yemen to restore order in the country.

He made his comments after Iran announced that it had "invited" the Turkish envoy to the foreign ministry for an explanation after Erdogan said last week that Tehran's bid for domination of the region could no longer be tolerated.

"We are keeping the programme of our visit," Erdogan told reporters at Istanbul airport before flying on a visit to Slovenia, Slovakia and Romania. "However, we are watching developments in Yemen as they are very important for us." Upon arrival in Slovenia, Erdogan told reporters that all parties from outside Yemen which are involved "in this attack on its territorial integrity" should leave now.

Hussein Shariatmadari, the editor of the leading conservative newspaper in Iran, Kayhan, said that Erdogan's trip to Iran is an "insult" to the Iranian people and a "betrayal" of the resistance. "An immediate cancellation [of the visit] is the least expected from the ministry of foreign affairs," he insisted.

According to Esmail Kosari, a member of the Iranian parliament's national security and foreign affairs committee, if the foreign ministry does not cancel the president's trip, then parliament will take up the issue next week.

A ministry spokeswoman made a more measured response. "Iran's approach to the region and relations with neighbours is based on peace, stability and cooperation based on mutual respect," she said. "We believe that Iran-Turkey cooperation can meet this goal."

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Tue, 31 Mar 2015 16:56:54 +0000
Egyptian Brotherhood ‘never closed the door for reconciliation’ https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/17818-egyptian-brotherhood-never-closed-the-door-for-reconciliation https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/17818-egyptian-brotherhood-never-closed-the-door-for-reconciliation Headquarter of Muslim Brotherhood.

A senior Muslim Brotherhood official has said that the movement welcomes reconciliation with any Egyptian party except the coup and its leaders. Jamal Abdul-Sattar described the Egyptian coup leaders as "killers".

Speaking to Masr Al-Arabia, Abdul-Sattar said that the Brotherhood has never closed the door for any "serious" dialogue with any of the political Egyptian parties. He set three conditions for any dialogue with the movement: the army has to withdraw from politics and return to its bases; justice must be sought for Egyptians killed by the security forces from 25 January 2011 to today; and the restrictions on freedom must be ended, with the people being given the absolute right to choose their rulers.

The Brotherhood official's remarks came after a report in Al-Masryoon newspaper claimed that reconciliation between the movement and the Egyptian regime, sponsored by Saudi King Salman Bin Abdul-Aziz, has reached a developed stage.

Abdul-Sattar denied this. "Like other Egyptians, we do not have ability to make a decision to go for reconciliation. It is the decision of all Egyptians, who have the right to choose who the ruler of the country is."

Al-Masryoon claimed that the only obstacle ahead of reconciliation is that the Islamic movement is afraid of a negative response from its younger members. As evidence, it cited the presence of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Qatar's Emir Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani in Saudi Arabia in February when Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi was also there. The president and Emir are believed to be sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Tue, 31 Mar 2015 16:51:03 +0000
Farage unveils first general election poster https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/17817-farage-unveils-first-general-election-poster https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/17817-farage-unveils-first-general-election-poster

Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence party (Ukip), declared that immigration has left towns and cities in Britain almost unrecognisable for many people over the last decade. He was speaking at the unveiling of Ukip's first general election poster, an image of the white cliffs of Dover with three escalators running up them.

The Ukip leader said he was making immigration the central plank of his campaign.

According to the Guardian, when challenged about the economic benefits of migration and its contribution to the economy, Farage said: "Even if somebody argues overall our GDP has grown, there is more to this country and the makeup of communities and our way of life frankly than just GDP figures."

Standing in front of his new billboard in a pub car park in St Margaret's Bay, near Dover, Farage argued that immigration does not just put pressure on wages, schools and hospitals but also stressed that immigration is changing the culture of the UK.

When asked if he could name any places changed culturally by immigration, Farage said: "Well, we haven't got time but if we went to virtually every town up eastern England and spoke to people about how they felt their town or city had changed in the last 10 to 15 years there is a deep level of discomfort because when you have immigration at this sort of level then integration doesn't happen."

The Ukip leader also gave a new figure – about 30,000 – for how many migrants he would like to see coming to the UK each year. The party previously promised to cap numbers at 50,000 before Farage abandoned the target and said he would like to see it return to normality, or a range of 15,000 to 50,000.

He also emphasised the party's policy of requiring migrants to have health insurance for the first five years and refusing entry to those with life-threatening diseases.

"There was a hell of a storm over the Aids thing six to nine months ago but at the moment you can come to Britain from anywhere in the world and be tested and get the drugs for Aids. Those drugs are about £25,000 per year, per person. A vast majority of British people don't want that expenditure ... We all want to be good neighbours and friendly with the people in our street but generally we put the interests of our family first," he said.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Tue, 31 Mar 2015 16:32:16 +0000
Egyptian foreign ministry official: Egypt keen to strengthen US ties https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/17816-egyptian-foreign-ministry-official-egypt-keen-to-strengthen-us-ties https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/17816-egyptian-foreign-ministry-official-egypt-keen-to-strengthen-us-ties Egyption flag

An Egyptian foreign ministry official expressed his country's keenness on Monday to strengthen strategic ties with the United States, pointing to Egypt's uneasiness about the "slowing" of US support for Egypt's war against terrorism.

The comments came during a meeting between the Assistant Foreign Minister for North and South America Mohamed Farid Moneib with a number of members of the US Congress in the ministry's headquarters in downtown Cairo.

According to a press statement issued by the Egyptian foreign ministry on Sunday, Moneib listed steps taken by Egypt since 30 June, 2013 towards "the establishment of a state that meets the aspirations of the Egyptian people".

Monieb also spoke during the meeting about the economic reforms undertaken by the Egyptian government in-order to reform the subsidies and taxation systems to "redirect these resources to raising the living standards of Egyptian citizens", the statement noted.

The Egyptian official stressed that the lack of support for Egypt in its war against terrorism would send negative signals which will help in supporting terrorism and therefore harm the region's security and stability.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Tue, 31 Mar 2015 15:56:32 +0000
Iraq and Kuwait sign a joint memorandum of understanding https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17815-iraq-and-kuwait-sign-a-joint-memorandum-of-understanding https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17815-iraq-and-kuwait-sign-a-joint-memorandum-of-understanding Tawke oil field in Iraq, Kurdistan.

Spokesman for Kuwait Petroleum Corporation Sheikh Talal Al-Khaled Al-Sabah said on Monday that his country has signed a memorandum of understanding with Iraq to exploit joint oil fields.

The two sides met to discuss how to develop bilateral cooperation with regard to oil and natural gas in Kuwait on Sunday and Monday. The Kuwaiti side was headed by Acting Undersecretary of the Ministry of Oil Ali Sabt and the Iraqi side was headed by Iraqi Oil Ministry Undersecretary Fayyad Neama.

Al-Sabah said in a press release that the main objective behind the memorandum of understanding is to facilitate negotiations and put in place a framework for cooperation between the two sides.

Iraq has 24 oil fields which are shared with Iran, Kuwait and Syria, including 15 utilized oil fields as well as unexploited fields. The most prominent oil fields shared between Iraq and its neighbours include Safwan, Romaila, and Zubair, which are shared with Kuwait in the south; and Majnoun, Abu Gharb, Barzakan, Fakkeh and Naft Khanah, which are shared with Iran in the north.

Al-Sabah praised the Iraqi side for being cooperative during the negotiations, noting that both sides agree on the importance of strengthening bilateral cooperation and achieving mutual interests.

Kuwait currently produces 2.9 million barrels per day and it seeks to increase its production to 4 million barrels per day by 2020.

Iraq possesses around 132 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves and 150 billion barrels of oil reserves.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Tue, 31 Mar 2015 15:34:31 +0000
Around 500 Iraqi officers dismissed for abandoning duty in Anbar https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17814-around-500-iraqi-officers-dismissed-for-abandoning-duty-in-anbar https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17814-around-500-iraqi-officers-dismissed-for-abandoning-duty-in-anbar Abandoned Iraqi military helmets

As many as 500 Iraqi officers and members of the Anbar local police force were dismissed on Monday after "they abandoned their duty" during the Islamic State militants' attack against the city in June last year, senior Iraqi police officer said.

General Kazim Fahdawi, the Anbar province's police chief, told Anadolu news agency on Monday that: "The Iraqi Interior Ministry dismissed 500 officers and members of the local police after they abandoned their duties in al-Baghdadi city, 90 km west of Ramadi".

Fahdawi added: "Some of the dismissed were stationed in Baghdadi, Haditha and Berwanah cities and the other part was stationed in the capital Baghdad." He noted: "Anbar elders are mediating with the Ministry of Interior to return the dismissed officers to the service."

Meanwhile, Iraqi forces are reported to have retaken control on Monday evening of the government compound south of Tikrit, Salahuddin province, according to a military official.

The Iraqi army colonel who preferred anonymity told an Anadolu Agency reporter that elements of the Islamic State fled towards the presidential palaces near the government compound.

He added: "The Iraqi flag was raised above the Salahuddin province buildings, Sunni Endowment compound and the Directorate of Education, after expelling IS elements."

Iraqi forces, militias loyal to them and the Kurdish Peshmerga are fighting to regain control over areas controlled by the Islamic State in the north and west of the country.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Tue, 31 Mar 2015 15:32:09 +0000
In Egypt, women’s silence increases sexual harassment https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/17813-in-egypt-womens-silence-increases-sexual-harassment https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/17813-in-egypt-womens-silence-increases-sexual-harassment Egyptian women crying

Dunia Albert, a member of Egypt's anti- harassment movement, has said that the Egyptian law is not the reason behind the increase of sexual harassment in the street but rather it is the silence of girls and women who suffer from the harassment.

During a seminar organized at Ain Shams University on Monday, Dunia said that under the new harassment law released on June 5, 2014 offenders can face six months imprisonment and a fine that could reach five thousand Egyptian pounds.

However, she added, women rarely file a complaint against their attackers or they waive their right after filing the complaint.

Albert explained that a survey of 2,334 girls in 2013 found that 99.3 per cent of women in Egypt have been subjected to verbal or physical harassment and 61.3 per cent of the harassers were school or university students.

Albert said that 91 per cent of women in the study said they did not feel safe in the street.

Out of the 99.3 percent of Egyptian women that have been subjected to harassment, around 93 percent of them did not report the assault, according to the study. They cited several reasons for not reporting the crime, mainly their fear of the harasser's reaction or fear for their reputation.

Albert added that civil society pressure and awareness campaigns highlighting the seriousness of the sexual harassment phenomenon and encouraging girls to report violations is the best way to tackle the issue.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Tue, 31 Mar 2015 15:22:55 +0000
PLO confirms ICC probe into Israeli crimes https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17812-plo-confirms-icc-probe-into-israeli-crimes https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17812-plo-confirms-icc-probe-into-israeli-crimes International Criminal Court (ICC)

The Palestine Liberation Organisation's chief negotiator reiterated on Monday that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has already opened an initial investigation into Israeli settlements and alleged war crimes committed last year in the Gaza Strip, Anadolu has reported.

"By signing the Rome Statute," explained Saeb Erekat, "we have already completed the first step." The actual investigation, he added, will begin when Palestine accedes to the ICC fully on 1 April.

Erekat noted that Palestine's status at the UN, as a state under occupation, is a status similar to that of France and Belgium under German occupation during the Second World War, and Philippines and Korea under the Japanese. "This status qualifies us to join 523 international conventions, protocols and organisations," he pointed out. "We have to practice rights."

He laid emphasis on the fact that certain bodies in the international area, "including the United State", have been trying to prevent Palestine from using the ICC as a means to obtain justice. "I tell them that we are the victims and that it is the side which is afraid of accountability which has to stop its crimes. They have to go for the criminal state and pressure it to stop its crimes."

Erekat said that they are preparing all the necessary files regarding Israeli settlements and offensive against Gaza to be ready by 1 April. "This does not mean there are no more files regarding other crimes," he said. "Israeli land confiscation, house demolition, assassination, expulsion and detention are all crimes."

When asked about a report that Israel is using the withheld Palestinian tax revenues as a bargaining tool over the ICC, the veteran negotiator described the freeze as "piracy" which should be stopped. "This measure is a war crime... The Israeli report about bargaining is nothing."

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Tue, 31 Mar 2015 14:50:11 +0000
Saudi forces shot down Houthi missile https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17811-saudi-forces-shot-down-houthi-missile https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17811-saudi-forces-shot-down-houthi-missile missile launchThe spokesman for "Operation Decisive Storm" said on Monday that Saudi Arabian forces have shot down a missile launched by the Houthi militias from Sanaa. Speaking at his daily news briefing in Riyadh, Major General Ahmed Al-Asiri said that the Yemeni government and army are cooperating fully with the forces of the Saudi-led coalition.

"A great deal of intelligence is being gathered to determine the locations of the missile launchers hidden by the militias inside homes and residential areas," Al-Asiri told journalists. "The Houthis are trying to make us attack residential areas."

Although he did not deny that coalition jets had attacked a refugee camp, he insisted that the alliance is making every effort to avoid such incidents.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Tue, 31 Mar 2015 14:41:01 +0000
11 killed and dozens wounded in Fallujah bombing https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17810-11-killed-and-dozens-wounded-in-fallujah-bombing https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17810-11-killed-and-dozens-wounded-in-fallujah-bombing Smoke trails over as Iraqi security forces and al-Hashid al-Sha’bi forces attack against ISIS in Tikrit, IraqMore than 40 people were killed or injured on Monday as a result of the government's bombardment of the city of Fallujah, west of Iraq, Al-Ghad news site reported.

"Since this morning, the hospital has taken in 11 people who have been killed, including three women and five children, and 30 wounded, all of whom are civilians, as a result of the rocket shelling and artillery fire on Fallujah," Rajab Ahmad, a medical official from Fallujah hospital told the news site.

Ahmad stated: "A number of the wounded are in critical condition, and the death toll might rise over the next few hours as we do not have suitable facilities for treating the wounded because of the government's siege on the city and because the required medical aid has been prevented from entering the city."

Fallujah has been under unprecedented air and rocket attack and heavy artillery fire since Friday morning resulting in dozens of deaths and injuries.

Hundreds of families are waiting for a humanitarian corridor to open so they can escape.

Ali Nimaa, a member of the Islamic Relief Organization in Fallujah, said his organisation: "asked the forces surrounding the city why residential areas packed with people and with no elements of the Islamic State group are being bombed, and why they left the borders and outskirts of the city where there are IS militants." He added that they have not received any answers.

"The residents we met said that the army, and militias supporting the army, are bombing residential areas after IS launches any counter-attacks," he noted.

The Iraqi Defence Ministry did not comment on the Fallujah bombardment, but on Sunday it said in a statement that: "50 terrorists were killed and 32 bombs have also been dismantled, and ten vehicles and a rocket launcher have been confiscated during ongoing military operations in Anbar and Saladin provinces."

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Tue, 31 Mar 2015 14:24:06 +0000
Human rights group: Evidence points to Israeli war crimes in Gaza https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/17809-human-rights-group-evidence-points-to-israeli-war-crimes-in-gaza https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/17809-human-rights-group-evidence-points-to-israeli-war-crimes-in-gaza Ben White

The Israeli military likely commissioned war crimes and crimes against humanity during 2014's 'Operation Protective Edge', a leading international human rights NGO has concluded.

The report by FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), a Paris-based body representing 178 global human rights organisations, comes shortly before Palestine's ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which goes into effect tomorrow.

"Trapped and Punished: The Gaza Civilian Population under Operation Protective Edge" is based on evidence collected by a FIDH fact-finding delegation to Gaza, composed of the Legal Advisor for the Belgian League for Human Rights and FIDH's Permanent Representative to the EU.

According to FIDH, "the report compiles examples of indiscriminate and direct attacks against civilians and civilian objects, disproportionate to any concrete military advantage, as well as deliberate attacks targeting medical services, among other potential crimes."

The delegation also investigated other violations of international law by Israel's armed force, including "the refusal of access to humanitarian relief", and "the targeting of...operational healthcare facilities and transport" as well as "life-sustaining civilian infrastructure."

FIDH notes that Israeli "attacks on densely populated residential areas killed an exceptional number of civilians." Around 60 percent of confirmed Palestinian fatalities "were a direct consequence of large-scale, deliberate and systematic military attacks against family homes", states the report.

The report also tackles head on a number of the justifications or explanations offered by the Israeli military for the Palestinian civilian death toll, and finds them wanting. In particular, the Israeli policy of issuing 'warnings', either to an entire neighbourhood, or to a specific building, is condemned as both inadequate and itself criminal.

This report submits that Israel's warning policy in Gaza during the summer of 2014 was not only ineffectively implemented, but was also conceived and applied so inconsistently that instead of protecting civilians, it was used to spread confusion and terror among the civilian population.

The FIDH delegation heard harrowing stories of relatives left behind "in the panic", while those "with mobility difficulties found themselves simply having to sit and await death as those around them fled." The 'warnings', therefore

failed to evidence a credible attempt to achieve the legitimate aim of civilian protection; rather, they suggest an intentional policy on the part of the Israeli State to forcibly displace and/or justify subsequent civilian death.

FIDH's report comes as Palestine formally ratifies the Rome Statute of the ICC on 1 April. With that in mind, the human rights group has submitted the report to the ICC, and intentionally interpreted the evidence "through the framework of the Rome Statute."

Thus "potential crimes" identified by FIDH are "qualified under ICC legal norms for individual criminal responsibility."

FIDH makes it clear that last year's assault is not even the whole story, noting how "attacks on goods and assets essential for the survival of the population and Gaza's economy exhibit a systematic character and were perpetrated by Israel in full knowledge, forming part of state policy before Operation Protective Edge and reinforced thereafter."

Commenting on the report, FIDH vice-president Shawan Jabbarin, urged the ICC to "move from a mere preliminary examination of the conflict to a full investigation." The group's president Karim Lahidji, meanwhile, said "impunity" would simply be "an invitation to commit further such crimes."

It's time for international justice to prevail over an unwilling national justice system.

Link to full report here.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Ben White) frontpage Tue, 31 Mar 2015 14:21:43 +0000
Lifta's refugees commemorate Land Day https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17808-liftas-refugees-commemorate-land-day https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17808-liftas-refugees-commemorate-land-day A father and son eat breakfast on their colonised lands. EXCLUSIVE IMAGES

Anti-colonisation actions began on Friday to mark Land Day in Palestine. Land Day - or 'Yom al-Ard' in Arabic - commemorates the killing of 6 Palestinians and the wounding of more than 100 by Israeli forces during demonstrations that broke out amongst Palestinian citizens of Israel on March 30th 1976 in response to Israeli plans to colonise 20,000 dunums (2,000 hectares) of land near the Palestinian villages of Sakhnin and Arraba in the Galilee.

In one of the first Land Day events this year, refugees from the village of Lifta made the 10 minute journey from their homes-in-exile in East Jerusalem across the Green Line to the village from which they were forcibly displaced in 1948. Lifta was amongst the Palestinian villages that were depopulated by Zionist militias before the declaration of the State of Israel.

In 1948, most of Lifta's refugees fled only a kilometre of two in to what later became East Jerusalem after the demarcation of the Green Line during the 1949 Armistice Agreements. Although many later fled internationally, a core group of Lifta's refugees remain in East Jerusalem today, living within a ten minute drive of their village which they are able to visit although denied their rights to return to live on their lands.

Lifta's refugees in East Jerusalem remain deeply attached to their village today, even whilst continuing their life in exile and regularly visit their lands both collectively and individually. Land Day is one of several annual days on which the displaced community organise collective actions in Lifta. This years action included a tour of the village in which Nakba survivors described village life and remembered the people who lived in every house. Later, time was spent in the cemetery cleaning the graves of the refugees' ancestors before the day ended with Friday prayers being held alongside Lifta's historic water spring.

Images by MEMO Photographer Rich Wiles

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Tue, 31 Mar 2015 13:30:36 +0000
Palestine's Ongoing Nakba - Land Day in Wadi Fukin https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17807-palestines-ongoing-nakba-land-day-in-wadi-fukin https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17807-palestines-ongoing-nakba-land-day-in-wadi-fukin A small number of youth reached the top of the hill where lands from Wadi Fukin and also the 1948 depopulated Nakba village of Ras Abu Ammar are being colonised by the expansion of Sur Haddasah settlementEXCLUSIVE IMAGES

On March 30th - the day on which Palestinians officially commemorate Land Day - various events were held both in 1967 occupied Palestine and across the Green Line by Palestinian communities within today's State of Israel.

In the West Bank village of Wadi Fukin near Bethlehem, several hundred activists attempted an olive tree planting event on lands that are threatened due to settlement expansion. The centre of the Palestinian village is surrounded by settlements which are rapidly colonising swathes of the village's agricultural lands.

The event was organised by BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights in coordination with local community-based organisations.

As the tree planting began a small number of young activists reached lands at the top of the hill which are currently being expropriated by the settlement of Sur Hadassah. These upper areas include the lands of Wadi Fukin and the neighbouring village of Ras Abu Ammar which is past the Green Line and was forcibly depopulated during the Nakba.

Palestinian flags were briefly raised on the settlement's construction machinery before Israeli forces arrived en-masse and rained tear gas down on to activists across the hill side. Only a few trees were planted before activists were forced to flee from clouds of toxic fumes.

The history of Land Day and the stories of all those people collectively involved in commemorating the day 39 years later, from Nakba survivors to the youngest members of the refugee community, describe something of the Palestinian struggle against the ongoing Nakba - the forced displacement of Palestinians and colonisation of Palestinian land that began en-masse in the late 1940's and continues today.

Images by MEMO Photographer Rich Wiles.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 31 Mar 2015 13:25:38 +0000
Gaza artists mark Palestine Land Day https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17806-gaza-artists-mark-palestine-land-day https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17806-gaza-artists-mark-palestine-land-day Gaza artists mark Palestine Land DayEXCLUSIVE IMAGES

More than 400 Palestinian artists from the Gaza Strip gathered in Al-Saraya Square in Gaza City on Monday to mark the 39th anniversary of Palestine Land Day. This was the day when the Palestinian population rose up against an Israeli plan to confiscate more than 5,100 acres of occupied territory for use by illegal Jewish settlements.

The Land Day uprising took place on 30 March 1976. The Israelis killed six Palestinian protesters and the people of Palestine have marked the day annually ever since.

The artists in Gaza, most of them less than 20 years old, gathered to use their talents to produce paintings which reflect the suffering of the Palestinians caused by Israel's confiscation of land, the Apartheid Wall, daily attacks by settlers protected by the army and military offensives against civilians.

A number of other activities took place alongside the artists. Young dancers and singers performed several Palestinian folklore plays and songs, wearing traditional clothing.

Images by MEMO Photographer Mohammed Asad.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 31 Mar 2015 12:57:06 +0000
'Decisive Storm' spreads to naval blockade https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17805-decisive-storm-spreads-to-naval-blockade https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17805-decisive-storm-spreads-to-naval-blockade Houthi anti-aircraft fire regularly lights up the night skies above SanaaSaudi-led forces started a naval blockade of Yemen's ports on Monday, five days after the start of the operation dubbed "Decisive Storm" against Houthi rebels, a coalition spokesman has revealed. Speaking at a press conference in a Riyadh military base, Major General Ahmed Al-Asiri said that nobody is allowed to leave Yemeni ports without being stopped and searched.

"Today, all the navy vessels needed for the blockade are in place," explained the Saudi officer. "They are going to monitor all ships entering and leaving Yemeni ports, including those involved in the smuggling of weapons and people."

According to AP, the naval blockade appears to be intended to prevent the Houthis from rearming. The move comes after the coalition forces achieved full control of the skies and bombed a number of Houthi-held airports. It is believed that the Houthi militias are supported and supplied by Iran, but both Tehran and the Houthi leadership deny that this is the case.

Al-Asiri stressed that the coalition is working to prevent the Houthis from moving towards Aden or Yemen's northern border, which it shares with Saudi Arabia.

"They [the Houthis] will not have a safe place and pressure on them will increase in order to prevent them moving or harming the Yemenis," insisted Al-Asiri. He suggested that the militias have been trying to force the coalition forces to target residential areas in order to use this as part of a propaganda war.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Tue, 31 Mar 2015 12:45:14 +0000
A new setback for Egypt https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/17804-a-new-setback-for-egypt https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/17804-a-new-setback-for-egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi

A new setback has hit Egypt at the hands of the coup leader Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi after he signed the Al-Nahda (Renaissance) Dam agreement with Ethiopia, conceding Egypt's historical right to water from the Nile. The price of this setback will be paid by future generations in the form of drought hitting agricultural land, with farmers having neither water to irrigate their land nor fruits of their labours to reap. Egypt, claim some experts, will also lose its wealth of fish stocks.

Despite this new disaster that faces Egypt, there is a strange silence from all of the people who yelled, screamed and attacked the notion of the dam during the short term of the legitimate president, Dr Mohamed Morsi. Many of them threatened military intervention in Ethiopia in order to bomb the dam; they accused President Morsi of disappointing the nation, weakness and idleness, and repeated the weasel words of the rotten elite, opportunistic politicians and corrupt journalists, all of whom are biting their tongues now that Al-Sisi has signed the disastrous deal. Hypocritically, some even cheered and applauded the agreement, considering it to be a great achievement by Al-Sisi to be added to the growing list of his other alleged successes.

One of the people who has applauded the deal is the "strategic specialist" who insisted that Egypt had no other choice but to utilise the military option and bomb Al-Nahda Dam in order to preserve Egypt's historical right to the Nile waters. He also said that if Morsi did not take this step and instead resorted to negotiations he would be a traitor to his land and people and thus not worthy to govern Egypt. That person is not alone in his hypocrisy.

The most dangerous aspect of the dam agreement is that it acknowledges its legitimacy and the Ethiopians' right to build it, even though international laws is clear that building dams requires the approval of all neighbouring countries who will be affected by the construction. This was why the World Bank did not agree to fund the dam in the past; now, though, Ethiopia can get the loan it needs thanks to Al-Sisi.

The coup leader has also lost Egypt's rights in the international courts. For example, if, after Egypt is liberated from the coup, it tries to resort to international arbitration, no court would accept its claims because Al-Sisi has waived such rights. The court does not take into consideration whether the ruler of Egypt was a traitor or nationalist; all that matters is international law and it does not distinguish according to the type of leader who signed the agreement.

What many do not know is that the UAE is part-funding this dam and backing it enthusiastically. Along with Israel, the Emirates is a supporter and is buying land near the site for future investment purposes. Since Egypt has become an Emirati colony, the UAE can order its representative in Cairo, Al-Sisi, to carry out its orders; he obeys his masters. This is why he rushed to Ethiopia and signed the agreement with his eyes closed.

The terms of the agreement have not been released. Neither the Egyptian presidency nor the foreign ministry have issued any official statements or press releases. All we have seen is cheering, partying and applause for the agreement on the pro-coup television stations. The details remain under wraps; no one dares to reveal what they are due to the lack of transparency and the absence of a parliament elected by the people and given custodianship over Egypt's wealth and natural resources which can monitor such agreements and hold accountable those who sign them.

Al-Sisi wanted the agreement to be signed away from the public eye in order to avoid any sort of accountability, or responsibility, even from his own supporters. This tells us why he is delaying the elections, which he really does not want to happen at all. People like Al-Sisi plot their conspiracies and coups in the dark; they are afraid to work in the open, where everyone can see what they do and judge for themselves their honesty and trustworthiness.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Dr Amira Abo el-Fetouh) frontpage Tue, 31 Mar 2015 11:41:17 +0000
What is hoped-for following 'Decisive Storm' https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17803-what-is-hoped-for-following-decisive-storm https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17803-what-is-hoped-for-following-decisive-storm GCC flags

There is no doubt that the conclusion made by Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states that they had to take part in "Operation Decisive Storm" was the toughest they have had to make; not because of the difficulty of implementing the attack but because they know that Arab weapons should not be used in military operations inside an Arab country.

It is also certain that their assessment led them to conclude, albeit belatedly, that there was a growing danger so large that it was threatening their neighbour, Yemen. The childishness of the Houthis, combined with their sense of empowerment and arrogance, did not leave the GCC with many options. It was strange for the man pulling the Houthis' strings to decide to conduct military exercises along the Saudi border. Those taking part were not a regular army; holding the exercises at that very moment was additional proof of the lack of proper management, the absence of wisdom and the failure to realise the repercussions of such provocative actions.

The Houthi militias advanced toward Ta'izz while disregarding totally the wishes of the people in the city who appealed repeatedly to keep their city arms-free and out of any useless battles that could only bring more division, sorrow and harsh living. Then they continued their march toward Al-Anad Military Base on the road between Ta'izz and Aden. At the time I expected the Houthis to stop and be content with the victories that they believed they had accomplished. However, their leaders did not pause for a moment to reflect and assess the cost of the bloody episodes they had been through since the "master" decided that governance could only be in the hands of whoever he alone deemed fit. He has been plotting something else for Yemen and the Yemenis.

For the past four years, everyone has been panting to appease the "master" and win his consent for everything the Yemenis agree on, but he has always lifted the ceiling of his illegitimate ambitions. Whenever his deputies obstructed an agreement that won majority approval everyone would rush to win his pleasure so as to avoid driving the country to the edge of internal wars. Obviously, this situation has filled the young man with arrogance. Never before in his life had he known anything beyond his home town, Saadah, moving between its villages and caves to escape the oppressive campaigns launched against it. He does not understand that countries cannot be run according to personal whims, desires and lusts. He does not comprehend that the use of weapons against his fellow citizens will neither guarantee his own safety nor accord him anything more than temporary acceptance gained through force.

The foolishness of the Houthis has emanated from wrong signals and unstable factors. They failed to comprehend the consequences of the fluctuating signals and factors because those affected by the outcomes end up with altered interests and shifted inclinations. As a result they continued to live with the illusion that everyone on the inside would submit to them by force and that the outside world would deal with them and accept their reckless behaviour. What the "master" did not take into consideration is the fact that the situation may be forced upon the people on the inside but the repercussions that extend well beyond the borders would have to be paid for by the one who did not understand how peoples and countries are run.

I shall not return to the actions of the Houthis and the measures they have imposed on the people. These are already known. Nor shall I talk here about their association with Iran, for this is something they already proclaim. Nor shall I delve into the details of what they should have done and what they should have avoided. Nor, indeed, shall I discuss the role played by former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. What goes through the minds of the Yemenis at the moment is this: when will "Decisive Storm" come to an end and what will happen when it does?

Following the launch of the Saudi-led aerial offensive, people have been divided between those who welcome it and are happy, and those who oppose it and are angry. Regrettably, this split is along sectarian and regional lines. The southerners are glad because of the halt of what they call the Houthi-Saleh campaign. The inhabitants of the Shafi'i regions hope that "Decisive Storm" will end the historic injustice that excluded them from the rights of full citizenship for many decades. Those in the north believe that the destruction inflicted upon them is collective punishment for an act that is rejected by a majority who had nothing to do with it. The dangers of what comes after the "storm" lie in-between these opposing sentiments. Commenting on what has taken place, Maysaa Shujaa Al-Din commented: "The Yemenis should not exaggerate in their zealous reactions to this intervention because it is a legitimate intervention within the context of international norms. In terms of political convention, it is an understandable option following the occlusion in the political horizon caused by a party that practices political futility, that suffers from Gaddafi syndrome and that is in control of a strategic position. The solution here lies in stopping the war by means of internal pressure in the form of popular and organised political action in order to stop the abuse by the Houthis."

There is no war without cost and casualties. The Houthis are the Yemenis who know about this more than most because of their own tragedies. In fact, most Yemenis have experienced destruction and the burial of their dead with each round of political renewal. I am dismayed that they have not learned anything nor remember such chapters in their lives. They keep reproducing them whenever they have the opportunity to do so. The armed tribes in the far north of Yemen in particular take war to be a vocation from which to earn a living. This pattern was established in the years that followed the revolution of 26 September 1962. Should the Yemenis wish to live in peace, the starting point should be the restoration to state authority of the regions seized by the tribal chieftains to develop them and establish the rule of law upon all of the people instead of the rules of the sheikh, the jurist or the master. Only then will disarmament become a natural thing. Inevitably, the confrontation will be hard once "Decisive Storm" is over and when the edifice of the Yemeni army will come to naught and all its equipment is completely destroyed. The fear is that the armed militias will take over and dominate, for they have no fixed bases and no known installations. As such, the next authority will be without any regular, national military authority. Restructuring will require many years because all of the forces that were under the control of the former president and have been used by the Houthis in their recent manoeuvres would have been uprooted.

The other more serious dimension that should be attended to is the recognition that Yemen is at a crossroads between rebuilding on inclusive foundations or on regional fragmentation. It is natural that the majority of citizens wish to stay away from the hegemony of the scared centre in Sanaa. However, this will not happen through the random response to every frantic desire. What is more important is to begin serious dialogue away from the silly behaviour of the past three years and to focus on rebuilding state institutions at the national level. Any talk about dividing the country without the existence of institutions that are in charge of the intended and sought after provinces will be a prelude for renewed conflicts that have so far exhausted the country and consumed its human and natural resources.

When "Decisive Storm" is over it will be mandatory upon the Gulf Cooperation Council states to recognise that Yemen is an integral part of them. It is neither logical nor expected that the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf capitals will forget that this country is their safe prospective human reservoir. They should not need another crisis to remind them of this.

The author is a Yemeni ambassador and writer who also worked as foreign ministry undersecretary. This article was first published on Asharq AlAwsat, on 28 March 2015.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Mustafa Ahmad Al-Numan) frontpage Tue, 31 Mar 2015 11:35:13 +0000
Erdogan in Ljubljana-press conference on ISIS and Yemen https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/17802-erdogan-in-ljubljana-press-conference-on-isis-and-yemen https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/17802-erdogan-in-ljubljana-press-conference-on-isis-and-yemen Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the Turkish authorities have a list of about 12,500 suspected militants who are not allowed to enter the country. They have also captured and deported about 1,250 people on suspicion of their intention to join ISIS.

The Slovenian President Borut Pahor welcomed his Turkish counterpart earlier on Sunday in an official reception ceremony in Ljubljana, in which Erdogan later expressed his remarks during a joint press conference between the two leaders. He stressed the need for providing Turkey with the names of people who are suspected of joining ISIS in order to move against them or they would resort to 'stop[ping] every tourist who visits our country and deport them, which would be a violation of human rights'.

When asked about the Operation Decisive Storm against the Houthis in Yemen, Erdogan stated, 'we said previously that we can offer all forms of logistical and intelligence support to the operation.'

For the fifth day in a row, the Saudi-led air forces of Operation Decisive Storm are waging raids on military sites controlled by Houthis - mostly in Sanaa – in response to an invitation by Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi who asked Arab countries to intervene militarily to protect the Yemeni people from Houthi militias. Five Arab Gulf countries (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, and the UAE) are taking part in the military operation along with Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, and Jordan.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Tue, 31 Mar 2015 11:18:33 +0000
Syria: The Downward Spiral of Desolation https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17801-syria-the-downward-spiral-of-desolation https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17801-syria-the-downward-spiral-of-desolation Destruction of a street in Aleppo, Syria

15th March this year marked the beginning of the fifth year of the civil war in Syria. With all the brutality that has been witnessed over the last four years, it seems that the reasons behind the build-up of this bloodshed have become lost in the violence itself.

The people of Syria were initially inspired by a desire for change and political reforms under the influence of the Arab Spring. In their quest for a better future, they engaged in largely peaceful demonstrations against the decades-old and oppressive Ba'ath regime. Their motive was to reject the Assad regime that had long denied them any of the freedom and dignity that every human being deserves.

In this quest, what started as a spark of hope for a better future turned into a nation devastated by war and reduced to rubble. Today, Syria has become a wretched country of ruined cities, towns and desperate people.

As the Syrian war has now entered its fifth year, almost every news outlet ran stories covering the misery of the country and the ineffable human suffering it has witnessed. These are the horrific stories of people, even children, who have to spend their daily lives under the shadow of sniper's bullets. For those living in areas of political stability, it is hard to imagine a child being shot dead in the nursery school where he is taken care of; but in a city like Aleppo, it is not a remote possibility to witness a five-year-old being killed while playing in the nursery playground.

The children of Syria have experienced what no child in this world should ever have to. Traumatised by the sounds of hovering helicopters, explosive-packed barrel bombs, fighter planes, missiles and artilleries has become the norm for their developing minds. The sleep of babies is disrupted by falling bombs. Sometimes, their parents grab them in frantic haste as they are forced to flee to nearby villages for safety.

In most cases, there is no escape from a barrel bomb, a crude improvised explosive device. It is constructed from large oil drums, water tanks or gas cylinders filled with scrap metal, nails and high explosives. Assad's forces routinely carry out barrel bomb attacks during which -according to the UN statistics by February 2014-10.000 Syrian Children killed in civil war. In the Cobar region of Damascus, medics have had to operate on little children with no anaesthesia. In the cities, there are tens of thousands of homeless crammed into the rubble of bombed-out buildings.

Every statistic, every figure, every photograph of Syria and its people are heart-wrenching. Across Syria, there are scores of missile strikes and bombings on a daily basis. Around 210,000 people killed, 1.5 million civilians seriously injured, at least 200,000 detained, 2400 reportedly missing: 10.9 million people have been displaced.

Human rights abuses are rampant on all sides of the Syrian Civil War. War crimes committed by the Assad regime which take place before the very eyes of the world, have been documented by reports and photographs. In a country where the police force and law enforcement have long since ceased to exist, petty crimes also constitute a major problem for civilians in towns and cities.

What was once a home to a texture of cultures, ethnicities and faiths has been entirely shattered in these past four years. On these lands, Sunnis, Shias, Christians, Kurds, Alawites, Yazidis and many other communities that made up the social fabric of the country used to co-exist in peace for centuries. However, the war has torn apart the various sects and communities and turned once friendly groups against one another, making matters even more complicated.

There is also another aspect of the Syrian conflict. Outside Syria there are three million refugees who try to survive in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. In these camps, each day brings a fresh challenge to survival. After having gone through unspeakable afflictions they could only make it to these camps where they now live destitute in difficult and sometimes even inhabitable conditions. Meanwhile a generation of young Syrians has grown up unschooled with only minimal access to information, thus leaving them susceptible to being radicalized.

Syria has become synonymous with human tragedy in the early 21st Century. Sadly, for now is that it seems to have no end. However, until stability is established, the international community must recognize its responsibilities. In this sense, at least our conscience must not fail us in providing the necessary aid to those affected by this brutal, on-going war.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Harun Yahya) frontpage Tue, 31 Mar 2015 11:07:23 +0000
Haniyeh: Hamas not seeking to establish a Palestinian state in Gaza https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17800-haniyeh-hamas-not-seeking-to-establish-a-palestinian-state-in-gaza https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17800-haniyeh-hamas-not-seeking-to-establish-a-palestinian-state-in-gaza Ismail Haniyeh

Hamas Deputy Leader Ismail Haniyeh denied claims that his movement is seeking to establish a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip, Anadolu Agency reported.

"Hamas is not seeking to establish a Palestinian state in Gaza strip but to liberate the whole of Palestine from the Israeli occupation," Haniyeh said during a seminar marking Palestinian Land Day on March, 30.

He added: "Hamas is working to end the siege on the Gaza Strip and rebuild what has been destroyed by the recent Israeli war."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday warned during the Arab League summit of attempts to establish a Palestinian state in Gaza via a long-term truce between Hamas and Israel.

During the seminar, Haniyeh also stressed the need to establish an Arab network to secure political and financial support for the Palestinian cause.

He called on the Palestinian leadership to assume its responsibility and embrace all Palestinian people, without exception.

Islamic Jihad Leader Mohammed al-Hindi said: "relying on Benjamin Netanyahu's new government is useless, because Israel says there is no point in the negotiations while the Palestinian Authority still believes in the two-state solution".

He stressed the need to achieve Palestinian reconciliation by preserving Palestinian national aspirations.

Fatah and Hamas signed a reconciliation agreement in April 2014 after nearly seven years of division. However, the Palestinian unity government did not assume its responsibilities in the enclave due to political differences between Fatah and Hamas.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Tue, 31 Mar 2015 11:03:46 +0000
Abbas advisor denies PA 'secret deal' with Israel https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17799-abbas-advisor-denies-pa-secret-deal-with-israel https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17799-abbas-advisor-denies-pa-secret-deal-with-israel Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas

Nimer Hammad, the political advisor to Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, denied media claims that the PA signed a "secret deal" with Israel to secure the release of Palestinian tax revenues withheld since last January and estimated at $500 million.

In a statement Monday, Hammad described Israeli and Arabic media reports claiming the Palestinian leadership had signed a secret deal with Israel as "unfounded rumours".

Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post revealed on Monday details of what it described as a "secret deal" between the PA and Israel where the PA would suspend its plans to appeal to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague as of April 1 in return for Israel's release of the funds.

Citing "private sources in Jerusalem", the newspaper said the transfer of the funds was conditioned on the Palestinians maintaining their security coordination with Israel and refraining from filing claims against Israel at the ICC.

Hammad pointed out that the main reason behind Netanyahu's decision to release the Palestinian tax revenues was the massive Arab and international pressure exerted on Israel.

Hammad said the PA will continue with the plans for Palestine to become a member of the ICC in The Hague early next month and to hold Israeli leaders accountable for their crimes against the Palestinian people.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Tue, 31 Mar 2015 11:02:05 +0000
Is the Arak Water Reactor a brick in the Iranian nuclear deal? https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17798-is-the-arak-water-reactor-a-brick-in-the-iranian-nuclear-deal https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17798-is-the-arak-water-reactor-a-brick-in-the-iranian-nuclear-deal Iran’s Arak Nuclear Facility

There are many reasons behind the sluggish progression of the Iran nuclear deal, one of which is Iran's Arak Nuclear Facility that has sparked much controversy since 2006 as it consists of the IR-40 heavy water reactors (HWRs) under construction. Although Iran is constantly stating that the reactors are being built for peaceful purposes, there is much criticism among the P5+1 countries (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States and Germany) as they worry the reactors could be diverted to develop nuclear weapons.

Concerns of the West regarding the HWRs?

There are many concerns at present surrounding HWRs at the Arak Facility. Firstly, from 2006 until the Joint Plan Action (JPA), a deal to find compromise on Iran's nuclear activities was signed in November 2013, Tehran had failed to provide the updated and detailed design information in 2009 and the Design Information Questionnaire (DIQ) until May 2013, a form describing the details of the nuclear facility to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Secondly, the HWRs would produce plutonium, which became as issue for not just the P5+1 states, but also for Iran's adversaries in the region as they viewed Iran a potential nuclear weapon state. Thirdly, is the issue with the Additional Protocol (AP) that demands information on the HWRs be disclosed to the IAEA. However, owing to the fact that Tehran had only signed the AP and not ratified the same, the IAEA Safeguards does not currently apply to the IR-40 Reactors. Fourthly, since the HWRs produce plutonium, existential threat of Iran developing nuclear weapons is much higher since plutonium weapons would be lighter and more powerful in addition to its effort to develop sophisticated ballistic missile systems, one of the choicest delivery systems for delivering nuclear weapons.

What Tehran is doing?

Iran insisted that that their nuclear programme is only running for civilian use in addition to them being a stanch believer in their "inalienable" right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes as mentioned in Article 4 of the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Tehran accepted to halt construction of the IR-40 for six months in November 2013 when they signed the Joint Plan Action and also agreed to provide DIQ related to the controversial HWRs. In fact, post nuclear deal, Tehran immediately allowed an IAEA in December 2013 to visit at the Arak facility for the first time in two years. Tehran has also agreed to redesign the reactor to produce one fifth of the proposed plutonium in order to alleviate any concerns and apprehensions of the P5+1 countries on their nuclear program, but has disqualified any plans to attempt to convert the HWRs into Light Water Reactors (LWRs). Therefore, the ideal solution, which could have been the dismantling of the Arak reactor, is also unlikely to be accepted by Iran and they would interpret such a proposal as denial of their rights to NPT. In the meanwhile, since the nuclear deal had struck, Iran has committed not to separate plutonium from spent-fuel, nor construct any new facility. He further clarified that Tehran also has no interest to construct any reprocessing facility (a facility that would be required for production of nuclear weapons).

Possible reasons why Iran supports the HWRs

These HWRs use natural uranium and therefore, there is no hazard of enriching the uranium. Iran claims that it needs HWRs to produce isotopes, which can be used for medicinal purposes especially to treat cancer patients. Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran. He further clarified that the reactor is a "research reactor" and not for producing plutonium and also views this reactor as a "scientific" and "technological achievement."

There is little doubt that Tehran is also vouching to achieve self-sufficiency in nuclear energy to meet its domestic demands. Iran is aware of the restrictions that would be imposed on it for its centrifuge facilities, which would seriously undermine its capacity to produce enriched uranium. On the other hand, given Tehran's claim that it would need nuclear power for electricity generation, lesser quantity of plutonium produced from the HWRs would be needed to generate the same level of electricity than with enriched uranium. Iran's positive progression with the nuclear deal means it would make little sense for Tehran to now be in defiance of the Joint Plan Action, especially since their progression is one of the reasons behind easing the many sanctions imposed on them.

It is very likely that Iran would be firm on the number of gas centrifuges it would allow the West to limit. It is only a matter of time to see if Arak HWRs become a bargaining chip for retaining the number of centrifuges Iran wants to retain.


It would be too early to predispose if the HWRs would be used to develop nuclear weapons. There are HWRs operating around the world, for example, the CANDU, but is not used to produce nuclear weapons and in the case of Arak also, Salehi confirms that the plutonium that would be produced is not "suitable for a bomb."

Debalina Ghoshal is a Research Associate at the Delhi Policy Group, in New Delhi.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Debalina Ghoshal) frontpage Tue, 31 Mar 2015 10:49:08 +0000
Saudi aggression in Yemen will fail https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17797-saudi-aggression-in-yemen-will-fail https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17797-saudi-aggression-in-yemen-will-fail Asa Winstanley

Saudi Arabia and Israel are the two most malign influences in the Middle East. In a region blighted by (mostly western-backed) dictatorships, these two regimes stand out because of their influence. They are what I have termed, the permanent counter-revolution.

Israel is an apartheid regime which institutionalises racism against the native people of Palestine, driving them out by force when it can, and waging constant, bloodthirsty, wars of aggression and occupation against them and the other peoples of the region. It rules millions of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, who have no vote in democratic elections, or any other say in the entirely anti-democratic Israeli occupation regime that rules over them.

Saudi Arabia is an absolutist monarchy which does not even have the pretence of fixed elections. The two regimes are very different in many ways, but similar in some key respects. Both are systematic human rights abusers. Although in rather different ways, both have religious fundamentalism at the heart of their state institutions. Both did their level best to destroy and hijack the democratic uprisings that broke out in the Arab world in 2011.

Both are fêted in Western capitals. And both invade surrounding countries and start wars of aggression - although Israel does this far more.

And so to Yemen, which Saudi Arabia, backed by other regional despots has just launched a murderous war against.

Starting in 2011, Yemen saw a massive popular uprising against the corrupt and dictatorial regime of Ali Abdallah Saleh, which was backed by the US government. Eventually, with armed factions coming over to the sides of the demonstrators, Saleh agreed to hand over power to his Vice President, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, by February 2012.

That February, a rather farcical election was held in which Hadi was the only option on the ballot paper. He won 99.8 percent of the vote - a result which would make even Bashar al-Assad or Saddam Hussein blush.

This transfer of power was never accepted by many of the protesters, or by the Houthi movement, a group that long fought an armed insurgency against the central government in the north of the country. Part of the Zaydi sect, related to Shi'a Islam, the movement fought intermittently against the government from 2004.

In 2010, the Saudis intervened on the government side against the Houthis, who took control of a small part of Saudi territory for a short time. The Houthis basically fought the Saudi army to a standstill and they withdrew, claiming victory regardless.

After months of unarmed, Houthi-led protest against the Hadi government, another armed Houthi uprising in 2014 lead to the capture of large parts of the country. In January 2015 Hadi resigned, but later withdrew his resignation, and he now claims to be the legitimate president. The Houthis meanwhile announced that a council would take over the functions of the presidency so that the country's political future can be negotiated.

Hadi fled the capital to Aden, in the south, which he briefly declared to be the new capital, before the Houthi movement began advancing on the south. Like the Tunisian tyrant Zain al-Din Ben Ali before him, Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia, just as the Saudis began bombing Yemen last week. He backs the Saudi aggression on the country.

Other counter-revolutionary forces in the region back the Saudi aggression on Yemen: Palestinian Authority leader (and Israeli puppet) Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the attack on Yemen (which Egyptian military tyrant Abdelfatteh al-Sisi may also get involved with), and even hinted that a similar Arab regime attack should take place against the Gaza Strip, where Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement still governs.

Much is currently being made of the sectarian aspects of the conflict – but this is overblown. It is true that Saudi Arabia is the worst sectarian agitator in the region (alongside Israel), and it does speaks in sickening terms against Iran (which it accuses of backing the Houthi rebels). But the conflict is far more about power and political hegemony: US hegemony of the world and the regional hegemony of Saudi Arabia (a key US client dictatorship).

As reported by Reuters in January, the Houthi rebellion was coming dangerously close to government ministries that worked closely with US military advisers and spy agencies. To have US "counter-terror" operations in the region threatened was not acceptable to the imperial power (never mind the fact that such operations frequently led to the death of Yemeni civilians in drone bombings).

In a speech on Friday Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizballah (the Lebanese resistance movement against Israeli occupation) reacted to the Saudi war on Yemen in unusually strong terms: "The real reason [for the war] is that Saudi Arabia lost its control and dominance in Yemen and the aim of war is to restore control and hegemony over Yemen. Period."

In his speeches, Nasrallah usually speaks in veiled terms when criticizing Gulf Arab dictatorships, using diplomatic euphemisms such as "some Arab governments." But this time he was taking no prisoners, slamming the Saudi regime and accusing them of creating the "Islamic State" (also knowns as ISIS or ISIL) and sending the car bombs that blighted Iraq for many years, targeting Iraqi civilians of all sects.

He also criticized the Saudis for never lifting a finger to help Palestine, mocking the name of their "Decisive Storm" bombing campaign against Yemen. He said that since Israel was created in 1948 "there has been no decisive storm or even a decisive breeze" to help the Palestinians against Israeli ethnic cleansing and agression.

Nasrallah said that the Saudis would suffer a "humiliating defeat" at the hands of the Yemenis if they didn't allow the political conflict in the country to be resolved through negotiations. He said that history shows that invaders and occupiers are always defeated.

On Monday, Saudi bombers murdered at least forty people in a refugee camp in the north of Yemen.

And so we come to yet another similarity between Saudi Arabia and Israel. The Saudis were beaten once by the Houthis in 2010. The Israelis were fought to a standstill by Hamas in Gaza this past summer. Both armies are terrible when it comes to fighting ground wars against indigenous fighters defending their lands. Both are good at one thing only: executing war crimes against civilians, carried out with high-technology.

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

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Asa Winstanley) frontpage Tue, 31 Mar 2015 10:34:30 +0000
Israel launches tartan charm offensive in 'enemy territory' https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17796-israel-launches-tartan-charm-offensive-in-enemy-territory https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17796-israel-launches-tartan-charm-offensive-in-enemy-territory Yvonne Ridley

Scotland might be one of the smallest nations in the world but its reputation for hospitality is matched only by its undiluted courage for standing up to bullies. As the Romans discovered when the invasion of "Britannia" began in 43AD, the people in what we now call Scotland were not ready to accept domination by Rome without a fight. Although the land has more Roman marching camps than almost any other, there were no permanent Roman towns and settlements built north of Hadrian's Wall, which ran between Wallsend to the east of Newcastle upon Tyne across to the Solway Firth, more than 70 miles away to the west.

The Romans failed to conquer "Caledonia" despite building the Antonine Wall, more of an earthwork really, between the Firth of Forth and River Clyde. It was abandoned after just 20 years. Many stretches of Hadrian's Wall still stand, serving as a stark reminder of the weakness or fallibility of those who seek to occupy and oppress other people.

Had they arrived in these islands as visitors – like their Italian descendants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries - and not aggressors I reckon that the amiable Scots would have extended the hand of friendship. The Scottish-Italian community is thought to be around 100,000 strong today and living proof that Scotland is a great place to set up home for those fleeing persecution and hard times elsewhere.

Since then the little country which makes up the northern part of the United Kingdom has had a tumultuous history for standing up to aggressive outsiders and injustice but never lost its reputation for hospitality. No one knows that better than Scotland's long-standing Jewish community, which arrived largely during the 17th century, although it is thought that the first Jews may have come centuries earlier to escape persecution in neighbouring England.

Those who found a safe haven north of the border went on to build Garnethill Synagogue in Glasgow, regarded as the "cathedral synagogue" of Scotland, in 1879-81, two decades before the ideology of political Zionism was conceived. This is very important to note as those who try to conflate anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism ignore such important, historical time lines.

Judaism is a great God-given faith more than 3,000 years old and Zionism is a man-made invention from the late 19th century. The former has always been practised freely in Scotland, which is the only country in Europe where there is no record of state persecution of the Jews; that's a record of which we are all proud. I say "we" because I have also settled in Scotland and I am now proud to call myself a Scot.

Scotland has little time for Zionism, though; while the powerful Friends of Israel lobby has infected all of the mainstream parties in Westminster with its pernicious influence, no Zionist groups have been able to influence the Scottish government or members of the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh.

The Church of Scotland gave a strong and unambiguous reaffirmation recently of its brave 2007 statement of opposition to the pro-Israel religious claims of Christian Zionism; it advised its members to reject them. The national church, which is by far the largest church or religious group in Scotland, is on record for criticising Christian Zionism within a wider repudiation of European colonialism in general. The church rejects any use of the Hebrew Bible to dispossess the Palestinian people.

The Church of Scotland also restated its support for Palestinian human rights, including the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland or be compensated should they, and they alone, decide otherwise. This is in line with Scottish and international public opinion as well as UN resolutions and international law.

Attempts by Zionists to unsettle the established Jewish community in Scotland and urge Jews to flee in the event of Scotland ever gaining independence have also failed. If anything, open support for the Zionist state of Israel is scarce. This point must have hit home in Tel Aviv, for the Israeli government appears to be gearing up for a battle it simply cannot win; using all of its powers of political persuasion (which in Britain are virtually non-existent beyond the Westminster lobby) it has decided to base a diplomat in Scotland.

Israel's man in question is Ishmael Khaldi, a Palestinian Bedouin who visited Scotland while he was serving as an advisor to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Yes, the same Lieberman who has called for the mass murder of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails and said recently that Palestinian citizens of Israel who oppose the state should be "beheaded"; he is said to be furious by Scottish attitudes towards his country.

Lieberman hopes that Khaldi will persuade some that Israel is not a state built upon the notion of Jewish superiority, ethnic cleansing and genocide in Gaza, despite all of the evidence to the contrary. South Africa's ousted apartheid regime used the same tactic by persuading some Black Africans to be co-opted in the fight against the anti-Apartheid movement; it failed to convince anyone who had an ounce of concern about human rights and justice.

At one time Lieberman could have counted on his friends in Westminster to rally round and slap down the belligerent Scots but the political landscape is changing fast, and there's a General Election looming. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's First Minister and the Scottish National Party's dynamic new leader has pledged that the SNP will reform the "discredited Westminster system" for ordinary people, wherever they live in Britain.

She told a gathering of party faithful in Glasgow at the weekend that a shake-up was needed to bring positive change. The latest polls suggest that the SNP is on course to win most of Scotland's 59 Westminster seats and that Labour and the Conservatives – many of whose candidates are already signed up to their respective Friends of Israel lobby groups - will fail to win an overall majority in the House of Commons in May.

The Scottish nationalists could, therefore, be power brokers in the event of a hung Westminster parliament. The rise of the SNP is certainly a concern to the people in power in Israel, especially those who could once rely on old friends like Tony Blair and Gordon Brown for support. However, with Blair's already doubtful credibility hanging in the balance and Brown stepping down as a Member of Parliament neither can exert the sort of influence needed by the pro-Israel lobby. Both remain patrons of the Jewish National Fund, though, which buys land in occupied Palestine for use solely by Jews; even outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron sought to distance himself from the JNF by quitting as a patron in 2011.

The arrival of a full time Israeli diplomat in Scotland has been greeted with scorn by several pro-justice groups, including the vocal Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign. The SPSC's founder and former chair Mick Napier commented: "Pro Israel activists in Scotland have tried bullying and intimidation to roll back the rising commitment to Palestinian freedom. It didn't work with the Church of Scotland which remains committed to supporting the Palestinian right of return and opposing Christian Zionism and it didn't work with the Scottish Trade Union Congress, which supports a full boycott of Israel."

According to Napier, Ishmael Khaldi will claim to represent proof that Israel is not an apartheid state. "However, a country whose biggest city [Glasgow] has Mandela Place in the city centre knows very well that the South African apartheid regime was able to co-opt black figures into co-operating with the regime and had some fighting against the liberation struggle."

Khaldi, continued the veteran campaigner, is a "highly paid stooge", whose posting to Scotland follows an Israeli diplomat's lament that any official representative of Israel in Scotland will be there because the country is regarded as "enemy territory".

"Our Jewish fellow citizens," added Mick Napier, "are an integral part of Scottish society, as are Scottish-Italians. Zionists and Mafiosi are, however, a very different matter, both being supporters of theft, murder and full-spectrum criminality." Ishmael Khaldi, it is obvious, will have a very difficult job to convince the majority of Scots otherwise.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Yvonne Ridley) frontpage Tue, 31 Mar 2015 18:18:39 +0000
Senior Hamas leader killed in Syria’s Yarmouk refugee camp https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17795-senior-hamas-leader-killed-in-syrias-yarmouk-refugee-camp https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17795-senior-hamas-leader-killed-in-syrias-yarmouk-refugee-camp refugees seeking shelter at Yarmouk refugee camp

A senior Hamas leader was killed in the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk in Syria, the group said on Monday.

"Hamas mourns martyr Yehia Hourani, who was assassinated Monday in Palestine Hospital in the Yarmouk refugee camp," Hamas said in a statement.

The statement said he was killed while carrying out his "humanitarian duty at the hospital".

Hourani was active in relief and humanitarian work, helping to train hundreds of paramedics and nurses, the statement added.

It is estimated that around 166 people have died in the camp as a result of the lack of food and medical care available since the Syrian regime besieged the camp in July 2013, the Friends of Humanity organization said last month.

Relations between Hamas and President Bashar al- Assad's regime deteriorated after the movement refused to support the regime against Syrian rebels following the outbreak of the Syrian revolution in March, 2011.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Tue, 31 Mar 2015 10:12:18 +0000
University of Southampton cancels Israel conference, citing 'health and safety' https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/17794-university-of-southampton-cancels-israel-conference-citing-health-and-safety https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/17794-university-of-southampton-cancels-israel-conference-citing-health-and-safety University of SouthamptonThe University of Southampton has withdrawn permission for a conference next month on Israel and international law, citing "health and safety" concerns.

The university has been under significant pressure from pro-Israel lobby groups in the UK to cancel the conference, despite legal obligations to protect free speech.

Conference organisers confirmed Tuesday morning with "extreme astonishment and sadness" that Southampton authorities have pulled the plug on the gathering.

We were told that the decision was taken on the grounds of health and safety: a number of groups may be demonstrating for or against the conference which could present risks to the safety of the participants, students and staff. The University claims that it does not have enough resources to mitigate the risks, despite a clear statement from the Police confirming that they are able to deal with the protest and ensure the security of the event.

In their statement, organisers say that they are "extremely dissatisfied with the risk assessment conducted by the University", where "high risks remained high even when seemingly effective mitigating measures were put in place."

Organisers claim that the "security argument" has been used "to rationalise a decision to cancel the conference that has been taken under public pressure of the Israeli Lobby", calling it a "sad decision for freedom of speech."

Conference organisers say that they will now "explore legal emergency measures to prevent the University from cancelling the conference, to reverse its decision and to properly collaborate with the police so that the demonstrations can be managed."

UPDATE (15.09 BST March 31st, 2015): MEMO's Ben White is leading calls for the University of Southampton to uphold free speech and allow the conference to proceed via a petition to be submitted to the university. Sign it to urge the university to fulfill it's legal obligation to protect free speech and academic discussion.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Tue, 31 Mar 2015 09:05:21 +0000
Palestinians in Israel, 20% of the population, receive 5% of new housing units https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17793-palestinians-in-israel-20-of-the-population-receive-5-of-new-housing-units https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17793-palestinians-in-israel-20-of-the-population-receive-5-of-new-housing-units new housing jewish settlements constructed in West Bank

Palestinian citizens of Israel face systematic discrimination in housing policy, according to new figures from legal advocacy organisation Adalah released in a new study to mark 'Land Day'.

According to the Haifa-based group, just 4.6% of Israel's housing tenders are published in Arab towns and villages, even though Palestinian citizens constitute 20% of the population.

The study is based on official statistics from Israel's Land Authority for marketed tenders for land and housing units in 2014.

In 2014, the ILD published tenders for the construction of 38,261 housing units (not including so-called 'mixed cities', where only a small minority of the Palestinian population lives) – out of which only 1,844 units were published in Arab communities.

Moreover, the Israeli authorities published tenders for the construction of 36 industrial zones in Jewish communities during the year (including five in illegal settlements) – while no tenders for industrial zones were published for Arab communities.

This means that over a five year period, from 2009-2014, the ILA published 328 tenders for industrial and commercial zones in Israeli Jewish communities, but only 13 in Palestinian communities.

The discrimination faced by Palestinian citizens of Israel is particularly striking when compared to the situation in illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

In 2014, the ILA published tenders for 3,163 housing units in Jewish settlements, compared to 1,844 units in Palestinian communities in Israel – even though the population of the latter is double that of the former.

Adalah also pointed to the ILA's sale in 2014 of 77 properties belonging to Palestinian refugees as further evidence of the state's "racist and discriminatory policies."

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Mon, 30 Mar 2015 17:22:18 +0000
University of Sussex students overwhelmingly endorse BDS https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/17792-university-of-sussex-students-overwhelmingly-endorse-bds https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/17792-university-of-sussex-students-overwhelmingly-endorse-bds Students at the University of Sussex

Students at the University of Sussex have voted to endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, in an overwhelmingly referendum result published Friday.

The week-long referendum concluded with 68% voting 'Yes', and 32% voting 'No', after a total of 1,292 votes were cast. As a result, the Students' Union at Sussex has endorsed BDS.

Commenting on the result, Sussex student and 'Yes' campaigner Roua Naboulsi told Middle East Monitor that they were "very fortunate to have so much support on our campus", including from candidates running for parallel student governance elections.

"A lot of the people we talked to on campus had already voted yes, and there was a positive vibe all week as we campaigned in Library Square."

The endorsement of BDS at Sussex took place a few weeks after students and staff at SOAS endorsed an academic boycott of Israel in their own campus referendum.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Mon, 30 Mar 2015 17:03:13 +0000
Palestinian reconciliation: prospects and challenges https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/17791-palestinian-reconciliation-prospects-and-challenges https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/17791-palestinian-reconciliation-prospects-and-challenges File photo of a Palestinian women holding Plaestinian flagOn Thursday 26 March, a conference titled 'Palestinian reconciliation: Prospects and Challenges', was sponsored by the Zaytuna Centre for the study of the Middle East and Africa in Crowne Plaza Hotel- Beirut. It was attended by well recognised thinkers and strategists that specialise in either Palestinian or global affairs. Focusing on the prospect of Palestine reconciliation and the challenges being faced, it was divided into four individual sessions; one the first day and the three on the second day.

Conference attendees dedicated much of their time to promoting a positive atmosphere for change that would prove beneficial to Palestinian politicians as well as policy strategists among other specialists on the Palestinian question. Some of the attendees included conflict resolution experts from South Africa, who have a great deal of experience in resolving national disagreements of this kind as well as individuals who are able to implement change via their involvement in think tanks and other institutions involved in developing the current status quo for Palestinian civil society.

At the beginning of the conference, Dr Muhsin Saleh, President of the Zaytuna Institute highlighted that the current situation in Palestinian stressed the imperative need for national reconciliation and that reorganising the Palestinian home was a matter of crucial importance that can no longer be delayed. Dr Saleh also emphasised that any further delay of potential Palestinian reconciliation could soon risk the loss of what is left of Palestine and further Israel's Judaisation project as well as jeopardising the Palestinian Right of Return.

In one of the opening speeches of the conference, Dr Naim Gina, president of the Centre of the Middle East and Africa, asked whether the people of South Africa were willing to help the Palestinians achieve their liberation and help bring an end to the Palestinian struggle. Gina stated that many are observing Palestinian division from afar and that they are aware of the reasons behind this division; however, she also emphasised that the recent re-election of an extreme right-wing government in Israel adds extra urgency to the plight for Palestinian reconciliation.

The first session moderated by Dr Saleh, addressed the stances taken by Palestinian factions with regards to reconciliation and ways to implement the prospects of future national unity. The papers discussed during the session were by Dr Nabil Shaath, a member of the central committee in Fatah delivered on his behalf by Hossam Zumlot, Deputy Commissioner for External Relations in Fatah, as well as Osama Hamdan's, Foreign Relations official in Hamas. Dr Maher al-Taher's paper, member of the Political Bureau of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine was also discussed.

The second session of the continued the theme of the first and was led by Mr Maen Bashour, a prominent thinker on notions of Arab nationalism. Representatives from Islamic Jihad in Lebanon presented papers, including Abu Imad Al-Rifai. Other papers included those of Suheil Natour, a member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Dr Jamil Hilal, a University lecturer specialising in Sociology.

The third session highlighted questions of global reconciliation and transitional justice. The session was moderated by Dr Naim Gina, the Executive Director of the Centre for the Middle East and Africa. It included a paper by Dr Steven Friedman, Director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy at Rhodes University and the University of Johannesburg, Dr Habib Balkoush, Director of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights and Democracy in Morocco and Mr Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, a standing member of the Irish parliament and the Sinn Féin party in Ireland.

The fourth session discussed cases and disputes of reconciliation if it was to happen in today's political climate. Aziz Pahad, the Special Envoy of the President of South Africa to Israel and Palestine moderated the session. The papers discussed during this session included one by Mrs Fadwa Barghouti, a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council and Dr Farid Abu Duheir, a Professor of Political Science and Journalism. Other papers were presented by Dr Jaber Suleiman, a founding member of the group Ai'doon, a centre for refugee rights in Lebanon and Dr Nasser Abdel Jawad, a deputy in the Palestinian Legislative Council.

The fifth session discussed internal influences on Palestinian national reconciliation and was moderated by Dr Azzam Tamimi, Director of the Centre for Islamic Thought in England. The session featured papers by Mr Munir Shafiq, the coordinator for the Islamic National Conference and former Director in the Department of Planning in the Palestine Liberation Organisation. Others included Dr Saeed Ahmed Nawfal, a Professor of Political Science at Al-Yarmouk University in Jordan, Hani Masri, general manager of the Palestinian Centre for Policy Research and Strategic Studies and Dr Ghada Karmi, a lecturer at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies in Exeter University and former Vice-President of the Council of Arab-British Understanding (CAABU).

The sixth session dealt with contemporary external influences on Palestinian reconciliation and was moderated by Mr Alaal Nhlapo, former South African Special Representative to the Great Lakes region of Africa as well as the former South African ambassador to the United States and Ethiopia. Papers were presented by Dr Nitham Barakat, a Professor specialising in Israeli Studies, Mr Jawad al-Hamad, Director General of the Middle East Studies Centre in Amman and Shafiq Shuqayr, a researcher who specializes in Islamic movements in the Middle East and Dr Gareth Looper, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Pretoria.

The final session included discussions on solutions and future prospects, moderated by Mr Nafez Abu Hasna, current Director of Palestine TV. The session featured the papers of Mohammed Shtayyeh, member of the Central Committee in Fatah, delivered on his behalf by Rafat Shanna, a Fatah secretary in Lebanon. Mr Sami Khater, a member of the Political Bureau in Hamas, Mr Kayed Al-Ghoul, a member of the Central Committee of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Dr Mustafa Barghouthi, Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative also delivered papers.

In the concluding session, Gina and Saleh highlighted some of the important points that were raised during the conference and stressed the importance of debating these contemporary issues. They also noted that both centres, the Zaytuna Centre and the Centre for the Study of the Middle East and North Africa are committed to expanding upon the strategies and visions that were discussed.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Al Zaytouna media) frontpage Mon, 30 Mar 2015 16:21:20 +0000
Hamas in the mockery of the Egyptian judiciary https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/17790-hamas-in-the-mockery-of-the-egyptian-judiciary https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/17790-hamas-in-the-mockery-of-the-egyptian-judiciary Islamic Resistance Movement - Hamas

Since the brutal military coup in Egypt, the media outlets have resorted to demonising the Islamic Resistance Movement - Hamas. They accused them of storming prisons with canons and machine guns and allowing the prisoners to escape, as well as looting the contents of the prison during the January 25th Revolution. They were also accused of killing protestors in Tahrir Square, as well as killing the policemen and soldiers in Sinai, in addition to numerous other accusations.

According to the media, they are basically behind any disaster in Egypt. It even reached the point of the pro-coup journalists calling on the coup-led government to militarily intervene in Gaza to eliminate Hamas. One journalist even saluted Netanyahu on his recent attack on Gaza and wished him luck in his attack.

All the tables have been turned in Egypt since the coup and the compass has been directed in the wrong way. The nation's historical enemy has become a friend, ally and blood brother, despite the fact this is the enemy we should be fighting against.

This is the new situation imposed by the coup in Egypt which has pleased Israel, especially after the coup-led government's judiciary ruled in favour of labelling Hamas a terrorist organisation. Joy spread through Israel and Israel used this move as evidence that their position of classifying Hamas a terrorist organisation is valid. Israel also used this as proof that it was not fighting the Palestinian people, rather it was fighting terrorism and it urged the international community to follow in Egypt's footsteps and classify Hamas as a terrorist organisation.

This measure sparked the anger and wrath of the Arab and Muslim nationals who have not been corrupted and brainwashed by the Egyptian media and who view Hamas as the pride and glory of the Arab nation. Meanwhile Hamas valiantly and courageously fights on. However, we are in a time during which the tables are turned and resistance is considered shameful, treacherous and a form of terrorism, while submission and surrender is considered a virtue.

Due to the fact that the Egyptian judiciary has been politicised and takes its orders directly from the coup leader, who dictated the ruling regarding the classification of Hamas as a terrorist organisation, an appeal judge has now been given orders to cancel this ruling. Now Hamas is no longer considered a terrorist organisation.

What type of judiciary issues rulings based on the desires of a leader? Why has the coup leader changed his position on Hamas? Because the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdul Aziz firmly warned against the ruling and because Saudi Arabia is the source of the coup leader's funding and the reason behind his ability to remain in power. Therefore, the coup leader must obey his orders and correct his error against the most honourable resistance in history.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Dr Amira Abo El-Fetouh) frontpage Mon, 30 Mar 2015 16:14:30 +0000
Why we should vote for Palestine in the UK general elections https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/europe/17789-why-we-should-vote-for-palestine-in-the-uk-general-elections https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/europe/17789-why-we-should-vote-for-palestine-in-the-uk-general-elections Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC)

On 7 May, the British public will cast their votes in the UK general elections. Groups such as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) are trying to ensure Palestine is a key issue in the elections and are encouraging voters to vote for candidates who support the freedom and self-determination of the Palestinian people. For many voters who may not understand why the issue of Palestine should be one to consider in a UK domestic election, it is imperative that we look at Britain's historical and moral stake in the conflict.

In 1917, Lord Balfour, the then British foreign secretary and former prime minister, sent a letter to Baron Rothschild, one of the leaders of the Zionist movement in an unprecedented display of solidarity. He promised British support for the Zionist programme of establishing a "national home for the Jewish people" in Palestine; this promise became known as the Balfour Declaration.

The Balfour Declaration contrasted sharply with the assurances of Arab independence Britain had made only a few years earlier: that if the Arabs rebelled against the Ottomans, the fall of the empire would bring them independence. Unbeknownst to them, Britain and France secretly agreed to divide up the area between them in a treaty known as the Sykes-Picot agreement. This agreement was made a year prior to the Balfour Declaration, and when the Ottoman empire finally fell, the British Mandate in Palestine was established as Britain took unilateral control over the territory.

The Mandate lasted until 1947, when Britain relinquished control to the United Nations. The UN proposed dividing the area into a Jewish and Arab state, with Jerusalem placed under UN administration. This was agreed on by the UN General Assembly and on 14 May, 1948 the state of Israel was born. During the Mandate years, Jewish immigration to Palestine was encouraged and the numbers of Jewish settlers on Palestinian land rocketed. Meanwhile, opposition to British control from the native population was brutally crushed – with the authorities attempting to crush Palestinian national sentiment along with it.

It was Clement Attlee's post-war Labour government that oversaw the end of the British Mandate and the birth of Israel. Attlee was not considered a friend of Zionism and was pressured by his US counterpart Harry Truman for preventing Jewish emigration to the Holy Land in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Underground Jewish militant groups, such as the Irgun, waged a violent campaign against the British, and the final years of the Mandate were marked with blood, destruction and the beginning of the Palestinian mass exodus. By allowing the establishment of Israel under such circumstances, Britain neglected to observe the Declaration's final clause: "that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."

Since then, successive UK governments have supported Israel. Attlee's leadership came to an end and Winston Churchill, who served his first term during WW2, took over – a bust of him was recently unveiled in Jerusalem to thank him for his "staunch and unwavering support for Israel". While some have criticised Churchill for stemming the flow of Jewish refugees escaping to Palestine during the war, others see him as a man who made the Balfour promise a reality.

As the current prime minister, David Cameron, was vying for leadership in 2010, he gave a speech at a conference organised by Conservative Friends of Israel a mere six months after the end of Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli military attack on Gaza in 2008-2009 which claimed nearly 1,500 Palestinian lives. Cameron ignored the ramifications of the recent Israeli assault on Gaza, and instead – as renowned journalist Peter Oborne noted – "went out of his way to praise Israel because it 'strives to protect innocent life'."

Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) is one of Britain's largest lobbying groups. Some 80 per cent of all Tory MPs are members of CFI, including most Cabinet ministers. Every year, lobbying groups such as CFI or its counterpart Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) take a significant number of parliamentarians to visit Israel. In total, CFI spent £63,608 on sending MPs on trips to Israel from 2011 to 2014. Over an estimated 15 per cent of Conservative and Labour MPs have visited Israel since the last election on trips funded and orchestrated by such lobbying bodies.

Since becoming prime minister, Cameron has maintained a similar pro-Israel line. During the 2012 Gaza conflict, he told Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu that Hamas "bears the principal responsibility" for the violence in southern Israel and Gaza, and that the frequency of rocket attacks was the "immediate cause of the situation". During the latest bout of violence – a massive military assault on Gaza launched by Israel in the summer of 2014 and dubbed Operation Protective Edge – Cameron not only defended Israel's right to self-defence throughout the conflict, but also resisted calls to condemn Israel's actions as "disproportionate" or to suspend arms trade despite a threat to review arms sales to Israel. In 2013, Israel received around £8bn in the form of 400 arms licenses from the UK ; weapons which were undoubtedly used in the recent Gaza war.

A few months prior to the start of Operation Protective Edge, Cameron gave a speech to the Israeli Knesset in which he called his belief in Israel "unbreakable". He condemned the international boycott movement and commended the UK and Israel on their trade relations. UK-Israel trade relations for the first half of 2014 increased by 28 per cent compared with the same period in 2013, reaching a record high during the summer's attack on Gaza and seemingly in spite of mass public outrage at the scale of the violence. While on paper British policy on Israel-Palestine supports a two state solution, Cameron abstained on the symbolic vote in October 2014 to recognise Palestine as a state.

But rather than being an anomaly, Cameron is simply following in the footsteps of a long line of British prime ministers in his support for Israel. Thatcher, for example, was the first British prime minister to visit Israel in person. She was not, however, uncritical of the Jewish state – in fact, she voiced anger when Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982. Nevertheless, on the occasion of her death, Netanyahu commented that: "She was a staunch friend of Israel and the Jewish people. She inspired a generation of political leaders." Gordon Brown (who is also a member of Labour Friends of Israel) was criticised in 2009 for opposing the arrest of Tzipi Livni for war crimes and pledged to work to change the law that allowed it – at the time, he informed Livni that she "would always be welcome" in the UK.

The historic meeting between Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann and the Conservative prime minister Balfour in 1905, during which Weizmann convinced Balfour of the case for a Jewish national state, created an "unbreakable" partnership, to use Cameron's words, between the two countries. Over a century has passed since the founding of that special relationship, and successive British governments have strengthened this bond while steadfastly ignoring Israel's treatment of Palestinians and disregard for international law. PSC is currently creating a database of how candidates in all 632 constituencies in England, Wales and Scotland feel on the issue of justice for Palestinians – from their views on Israel's illegal settlements to ending the UK's arms trade with Israel. Voters will be able to access that database and use it to vote for the candidate in their constituency who has said they will stand up for Palestine. Let's hope they do so.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Jessica Purkiss) frontpage Mon, 30 Mar 2015 15:55:05 +0000
Khashogji: King Salman will work with the Muslim Brotherhood in order to stem the Iranian expansion https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17788-khashogji-king-salman-will-deal-with-the-muslim-brotherhood-in-order-to-stem-the-iranian-expansion https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17788-khashogji-king-salman-will-deal-with-the-muslim-brotherhood-in-order-to-stem-the-iranian-expansion Jamal Khashogji

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashogji, who has close ties to the decision making circle within the Kingdom, has tweeted that King Salman bin Abd Al-Aziz will strike a deal with the Muslim Brotherhood group, if he deemed it useful with stemming the Iranian expansion in the region.

In an attempt to justify the Kingdom's policy of dealing with the military coup in Egypt, although the coup authorities have been persecuting the Muslim Brotherhood there, Khashogji said: "King Salman has inherited the Egyptian condition", pointing to the legacy bequeathed by King Abdullah bin Abd Al-Aziz. He added: "Let us say that so much water has passed under the bridge in Egypt and that there is a certain status quo."

Some observers have concluded that if Khashogji's remarks do indeed express the conviction of the Saudi Authorities, this may be regarded as an attempt by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to evade bearing moral and international responsibility with regard to the undemocratic toppling of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Khashogji went on to say: "King Salman bin Abd Al-Aziz has, since assuming responsibility, been pumping a new policy in the region." He stressed that the King is preoccupied with two main issues: arresting the deterioration in the condition of the Arab east and putting an end to the Iranian hegemony across the region.

Khashogji added: "Stemming the Iranian hegemony and preventing it from spreading further in the Arab region requires freezing all disagreements with the current of political Islam." He pointed out that should dealing with the Brotherhood be useful for excluding the Houthis and restoring stability to Yemen, Saudi Arabia would do it; and if needed, he would do it in Syria too.

In an attempt by the Saudi writer to evade answering for the double standard exercised by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in dealing with the coup in Yemen and the coup in Egypt, Khashogji said: "Leave the Egyptian case aside, because King Salman inherited the Egyptian condition as it is, and this is not a Saudi priority at the present time."

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Mon, 30 Mar 2015 15:06:45 +0000
The UK Foreign Office is flying blind https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17786-the-uk-foreign-office-is-flying-blind https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17786-the-uk-foreign-office-is-flying-blind Alastair Sloan

You might, very reasonably, expect the UK's Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) to speak the language of the countries their policy affects. Or that when they brief politicians on crucial issues, that they have "immersed" themselves deep within foreign populations to understand fully the impact any new measures might have. Or that FCO security measures are strict enough to keep officials safe – but not so strict that they strangle any meaningful contact outside the embassies.

In recent years, any observer expecting these basic requirements will have been disappointed. In 2012, it was discovered that just one in forty diplomats spoke the language of the country where they are posted. Though critics have pointed to troubling deficiencies in the FCO's Russia coverage (officials entirely failed to predict events in Ukraine after most of the Russia desk was suddenly disbanded), it is in the Middle East – that most crucial, complex and sensitive of regions, that the FCO's recession of expertise is being keenly felt.

Just three out of the sixteen Middle Eastern ambassadors can reportedly speak Arabic. Two Parliamentary investigations have now noted an "alarming" shortfall in the numbers of Arabic speakers at all levels of seniority. A recent Parliamentary report into FCO activities in the Gulf found that one in four staff had "low levels of Arabic proficiency," while 40% had language skills which "had not reached the required standard for their grade." It doesn't help that the pass mark for Foreign Office language exams has also dropped to less than thirty percent.

This has very real effects. In Afghanistan, the controversial decision to extend British military activity into deepest Helmand was orchestrated almost entirely by officials in London. Whereas, nineteenth century reforms had required that a majority of the "Indian office" in Whitehall consist of people who had served in India for at least a decade, the Afghan section of the FCO in London, as late as 2010, included no-one who had actually served on a posting in Afghanistan. What few FCO officials were operating in-country had spent "almost no time living amongst Afghan rural communities, did not speak Pashto, and had only a superficial understanding of Helmand's families, culture and history." Dr Kim Howells, former Minister at the Foreign Office, recounted to the House of Commons Defence Committee last week that in order to acquire any "on ground" exposure to the situation in Afghanistan, he had to break the FCO's strict safety rules and hitch a ride on an American plane to Helmand.

In Iraq, American civilians took leave once every six months; while British diplomats were owed a two week holiday every six weeks. Thanks, once again, to overly protective security restrictions, they largely remained in their compounds, isolated from the local population. There was a "serious failure to reach out to people who understood Iraq and the area." In 2011 the FCO closed the British Consulate General in Basra. By Spring 2014, shortly before Daesh's meteoric expansion, there was no Defence section in Kurdistan, no Development office in Iraq, and the political section of the British Embassy in Baghdad consisted of three relatively junior, ("although extremely able") employees on short-term deployments. Having royally messed the country up – the Foreign Office has now withdrawn.

The current Coalition government have, since coming to power in 2010, made cutting the national budget deficit a key pledge. Most of these cuts were laid out in the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review, and those levied on the FCO have been, proportionally, some of the greatest imposed on any Government department. The cuts mandated a ten percent cut in expenditure, but with much of the departments spending tied up in international agreements, "conflict & peacekeeping" budgets, and other ring-fenced activity – it is the core operations budget, which includes staff salaries, travel and language training – that has now seen a nearly thirty percent reduction. By next year – mandarins have been told they must cut another five hundred jobs (equivalent to roughly ten percent of the current manpower). A compounding effect has been that after a decision by Gordon Brown to shut down the in-house language school in 2007, language skills were already fast deteriorating. The school was out of action for six years, until the former Foreign Secretary William Hague re-opened it in 2013. Its closure had been dubbed "moronic" and "profoundly mistaken" by Foreign Office insiders at the time.

You may not like the decisions the Foreign Office make in the Middle East, especially its backing of dictatorships, its cavorting with ruthless monarchs, or its post-colonial air of amoral superiority - but gone are the days of expertise. To save just a few million pounds per year, the past two governments have taken dangerous steps towards Britain having as its ambition a strong place in world affairs, but having its capability largely an illusion. With this new-found blindness - British and Arab lives are at stake – and have been lost as a result of a disorderly and irresponsible savaging of Foreign Office budgets. The cuts should be reversed.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Alastair Sloan) frontpage Mon, 30 Mar 2015 13:43:43 +0000
Tehran, Ankara tensions over president’s remarks https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17785-tehran-ankara-tensions-over-presidents-remarks https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/17785-tehran-ankara-tensions-over-presidents-remarks Marziyeh Afkham

Iran's foreign ministry summoned Turkey's charge d'affaires to voice protest over comments made by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan which accused Iran of trying to dominate the region and of meddling in regional developments.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham said on Sunday that Tehran has summoned Turkey's charge d'affaires in the absence of the ambassador to express its protest and regret at Erdogan's "unconventional and inappropriate" remarks.

"The strategic approach of the Islamic Republic of Iran toward the region and relations with the neighbours is founded on peace, stability and cooperation on the basis of mutual respect," Afkham said.

She said Iran has called for a "clear and convincing" explanation from Turkey.

noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Fakir) frontpage Mon, 30 Mar 2015 12:24:58 +0000