Lebanon is a small country whose economy depends almost entirely on two factors. The first is tourism, the second is the investment of foreign capital. Unfortunately, Lebanon is suffering from a $90-billion debt squeeze in addition to underdeveloped services in various sectors. The question that must be asked in this context is the following: Is Hizbollah general-secretary Hassan Nasrallah aware of this?
When Nasrallah openly threatened Israel with war, was he aware of the implications for the Lebanese economy? Did he consider the implications of turning Lebanon, at the expense of the Lebanese people and their livelihoods, into a protective shield for the Iranian mullahs? In my opinion, Lebanon’s current situation is unprecedented. Never in the course of history has it reached such a level of humiliation in which its citizens and politicians are subjected to the whims and dictates of a foreign power. Nasrallah has become the true ruler of Lebanon, taking orders from Tehran while the rest of Lebanon’s politicians are mere puppets. In any case, the real conflict is not between Lebanon and Israel but between Iran and Israel. Iran has made the wiping of Israel off the map its ultimate goal. Iran now knows that it will not be able to remain besieged forever and that it will be forced to come to the negotiating table with the United States. Thus, what Tehran is doing with the help of Nasrallah is being done in order to improve its negotiating power vis-a-vis the United States, especially if Trump wins a second term in the next US presidential election. In other words, Hizbollah’s decisions are actually made by Qasem Soleimani, not Hassan Nasrallah. It is simply unfathomable that in an effort to improve its ability to negotiate, Iran is sending the entire region into war. If the American plan to tame Iran succeeds, Hezbollah will follow Tehran’s footsteps and become nothing more than a lame duck floating in a pool of bilge water. This will be the ultimate vindication for the people of Lebanon.
The Fall of the Tehran-Beirut Corridor
Al-Arab, London, August 30
The glamorous photos coming out of Biarritz, in France, where the G7 nations convened last week, should not deflect our attention from the most interesting thing happening behind the scenes: the language used by the international community in response to the Israeli strikes on Iranian targets in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. US Vice President Mike Pence reached out to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, expressing his country’s full support for Israel’s right to security. This was also done by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who conveyed a warning message to Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri against any Lebanese response to the Israeli action. While the American stance represents an antiquated classical behavior in support of Israel, the silence of the major nations, especially those whose leaders met in France, about the Israeli strikes that spanned from Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea, demonstrates the complete complicity of the international community in Israel’s actions. Under the auspices of the international community, Israel is shaking the strategic corridor that Iran has sought to build in recent years from Tehran to Beirut. The impetus of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to maximize the French efforts led by President Emmanuel Macron to launch a diplomatic backchannel during the G7 meeting is the Israeli message, which was heard loud and clear in Tehran. Any military response against Israel would bring broader and fiercer fire, with the backing of every nation in the world.
In the last few days, Tehran seems to have realized that the key to the survival of its regime is tied to Washington’s position alone, and that the stance of European leaders on the nuclear deal, as well as those of Beijing and Moscow, are nothing but irrelevant promises that hide complete alignment with the US position against Iran. It is clear that Iran is groaning under painful and devastating economic sanctions that it is trying to hide. It also seems to be losing the battle of the Strait of Hormuz. It is clear that the reluctance to resolve the Washington crisis with Tehran allows Israel to buy time and expand its military operations aimed at destroying what Iran has been building for decades. Meanwhile, Trump does not seem to be in a rush. To agree to attend a meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, or to postpone it until “the right conditions” are ripe, is a luxury Tehran does not have. Israel’s military campaign may be driven by Israeli national interests, but it also seems to be serving the interests of other international players.
Israel After the Election: What Might Change?
Waheed Abd al-Majid
Al-Etihad, UAE, September 5
The upcoming Knesset election, which will be held on September 17, raises many questions about Israel’s future, chief among them the likelihood of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu being reelected. It is expected that these elections will be the most complex in the history of Israel after Netanyahu won a plurality of votes with his Likud party in April but failed to form a government. Things will certainly not be easier this time around. This prediction is based on indications that there is little difference in the balance of power from the last campaign…. Opinion polls show that the Zionist right-wing camp, which has been in power for nearly two decades, continues to outperform the liberal camp. Interestingly, one of the most intriguing figures in these elections is Avigdor Liberman, leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party. Although Liberman supported Netanyahu following the latter’s victory in April, the dispute between the two intensified during coalition negotiations, culminating in Liberman’s refusal to join a Netanyahu government.
This discord has grown even stronger during the new election campaign, which focuses on Liberman’s preference for excluding the two main religious parties, United Torah Judaism and Shas, from the next government – against Netanyahu’s will. If the results of the polls are true, it is not unlikely that there will be a change in the Israeli political map. According to the prevailing trend in polls, it is expected that Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc as a whole will get the same number of seats it won in the April elections (65) or even slightly more. This number is enough to form a government and secure the confidence of the Knesset. But things might change at the last minute. Surveys show that Yisrael Beiteinu will increase its power and could reach nine or 10 seats, most likely at the expense of other right-wing parties. In this case, three possibilities can be envisaged, two of which involve a significant change in the political map. The first is the Likud’s transition to the opposition for the first time since 2001, with the formation of a government through an understanding between the new center-right Blue and White list, Yisrael Beiteinu and other parties. A coalition led by Benny Gantz, the head of Blue and White, could then be opened to rotation with Liberman. The second possibility is the formation of a unity government, which Lieberman has spoken about more than once. The viability of this option is unclear given the difficulty of even imagining the participation of the Zionist left-wing parties. It’s also hard to imagine the Likud joining the coalition if Liberman sticks to his refusal to accept Netanyahu as prime minister. The complexity of the situation leads us to a third possibility that will maintain the current balance of power: Likud leaders turn against Netanyahu and agree with Liberman to name one of them to form the next government. Although Netanyahu is aware of this possibility, a coup against him is not totally unlikely since Likud figureheads are quietly beginning to admit that their party’s role is more important than Netanyahu’s political survival. In any case, Israel appears to be at a pivotal moment that might lead to a major change in its political map and the composition of its next government. As always, the Palestinian people as well as the Arab world will have to deal with whatever happens as observers from the sidelines.
Waheed Abd al-Majid
Reframing Our Religious Rhetoric
Al Jazeera, Qatar, August 29
Marxism, one of the strongest doctrines of the European Left, revolved around a deep enmity and hatred of religion as an obstacle to human emancipation. European and non-European leftists often evoked Marx’s famous paraphrased statement, “Religion is the opium of the people.” But more recently, things have almost become the extreme opposite. Leftists have grown to become the biggest supporters of fundamentalist Islamic movements, accusing opponents of hatred of religion or, more specifically, Islamophobia. The alliance between the Islamists and leftists is not limited to Europe but shared by leftists all around the world. They insist that the spread of terrorism is the result of savage capitalism, which led to the disintegration of the great leftist camp (the Soviet Union). What is the secret of this alliance, and what are the motives for this phenomenon? In the beginning, it should be noted that there are two phenomena sweeping the West in the last decade: the phenomenon of Islamophobia and the phenomenon of right-wing extremism.
These phenomena feed each other. Like the leftists, political Islamists were bitter about their ideological defeat and the failure of their political experiments. They sought to compensate for their ideological loss through non-democratic means. We must remember that this utilitarian alliance is a temporary one, which will soon come to an end. It is also true that it is unjust to judge Islam by the standards of a very few extremists. But we must admit that this phenomenon cannot be ignored, especially given the events of September 11 and the spread in global terrorism. The violent events that swept most of the world, carried out by Muslim fundamentalists, shook the minds of people and caused a deep fear of Islam. I am a frequent advocate of religious tolerance and respectful discourse. But I fear that the term “Islamophobia” will be used as an excuse to silence us and prevent us from reforming our religious discourse in a way that makes it more peaceful and welcoming of all peoples. This is what the revolutionary Islamic movements refuse to do, because a non-violent Islam inherently means the elimination of all movements of political Islam. Reforming religious discourse means stripping them of their most important weapons, through which they seek to fulfill the ambitions of their leaders and masters.
By Raheel Raza – a Pakistani-Canadian freelance writer and recipient of Canadian Ethnic Journalists and Writers Club.
Did US Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib really want to go to Israel? Maybe they never wanted to go but just wanted to create hysteria and garner attention, something at which they are experts. I think it’s the latter, and they got all the chatter.
Omar and Tlaib made it a point in their press conference on this issue to point out that they were “Muslim.” They also said they were going to meet people from both sides and work at “peace.” Yet they have no qualms about slamming the entire country and therefore the entire people – all the time.
Did Omar and Tlaib make a statement condemning the brutal murder of 17-year-old Rina Shnerb without simultaneously justifying anti-Jewish violence?
As a Muslim woman who has been to Israel a dozen times, let me tell them how it’s done. I fully support Israel’s right to exist with Jerusalem as its capital and the right of the Jewish people to be free from orchestrated antisemitic attacks.
In my travels to Israel, I go with an open mind and no pre-conceived notions. I’m well aware of the problems, and I’ve met and spoken to people from both sides of the equation. I’ve met policy-makers, activists and ordinary citizens and heard their stories. It always amazes me how critical Israelis can sometimes be about their own government, but this is what a democracy is all about.
So, I invite Omar and Tlaib to come with me. I will show them what Israel stands for and the beauty of the Israeli people.
Raheel Raza who has written for The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, Khaleej Timesis president of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow. She will speak on non-violent Islamism in the West during the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism’s 19th World Summit on Counter-Terrorism at IDC Herzliya.
ARAB CAUTION AGAINST AMERICA’S FOREIGN POLICY
Kheir Allah, Al-Arab, London, August 23
Six years ago today, the Syrian regime resorted to the use of chemical weapons against its people for the very first time. More than 1,500 civilians were killed in the province of Ghouta near Damascus.
The Obama administration quickly promised to respond to the attack, especially after the US president drew redlines against the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. Then-US secretary of defense Chuck Hagel hastily returned to Washington, where he was preparing a response to Assad’s criminal attack.
But suddenly the US president changed his mind, just as everyone was prepared to deal a blow to the Syrian regime. The Syrian opposition was encircling Damascus and approaching sensitive sites in the Syrian capital, the international community condemned Assad, but Obama backed down. Hagel himself, who resigned from his position, wondered why Obama changed his mind in such a dramatic way.
A few years later it finally became clear: the Obama administration was secretly negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program. Obama did not want to take any steps that could upset Tehran. He allowed the mullahs to kill hundreds, even thousands of Syrians. What he didn’t allow was any attempt to prevent the Islamic Republic from blackmailing the West, including the United States. In the summer of 2015, the G5+1 signed an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program.
The deal was the ultimate goal of the US president, who falsely believed that terrorism comes only from al-Qaeda or ISIS. He forgot, for example, that the ideological roots of al-Qaeda and ISIS came from the Muslim Brotherhood, whose leader Obama supported during the Egypt coup. Thankfully, in the end, the Egyptian street, supported by the Egyptian military and Gulf states, had the courage to defy the American administration regarding Egypt. It is no secret that these Arab countries, led by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait, rushed to support Egypt and provided it with the necessary financial and political support it needed to get back on its feet.
What was unique about the Arab position at this time was not only its caution with the Obama administration, but also its boldness to confront Washington’s foreign policy. Arab leaders witnessed Iran reaping the benefits of its blackmail. Tehran received billions of dollars from the United States and spent a good portion of this money on its expansion project, which spewed violence and hatred through the entire region, including in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
Although President Donald Trump’s administration has been the antithesis of the Obama administration, especially in regard to Iran, in 2019 there is still reason to be cautious and fearful of reliving the 2013 experience. This past summer, the Iranians downed an American drone carrying sensitive equipment worth well over $140 million. The United States prepared to respond to this hostile act, especially after it confirmed that the plane, which was shot down over the Strait of Hormuz, was outside Iranian airspace. But at the last minute, Trump backed down for reasons still unknown to us.
Arab countries have the right to defend their interests regardless of who sits in the Oval Office. Of course, the current US administration knows Iran well. But this knowledge is not enough if one considers the broader American stance in the region. What is America’s policy in Yemen? What is its Syrian policy? What is its Iraqi policy? Last but not least, is there an American position that truly understands what is at stake in Lebanon?
We are living in a turbulent world and we must act with caution. More importantly, we must get answers and assurances from America about where it stands in regard to our security interests. By Kheir Allah
After four decades of Iranian meddling in its neighbors’ affairs, we can now confidently say – based on historical evidence – that Tehran’s actions amount to real war crimes. Sadly, however, the international community has refused to punish Iran. Indeed, the majority of countries who proudly claim to fight terrorism have left Iran unscathed, dealing with the mullahs opportunistically – by embracing them when there is a financial interest and reprimanding them when there isn’t.
No city or village in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco and Sudan, nor some is East Asia, Europe, and Central America have been spared the evils of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Iran’s strength stems from two main sources. The first is its weaponry, whether these were inherited from the Shah’s regime or later obtained from North Korea, Russia and China. The second is the parties, organizations and militias that have been formed by the Iranian regime and used to spread its influence to neighboring countries. These include sleeper cells and proxy mercenaries, which are moved from time to time in accordance with the needs and circumstances of the regime. Thankfully, this status quo, which lasted for some four decades, began to change slowly thanks to US President Donald Trump and his decision to confront Iran. Now, the mullahs face two problems. Their use of battleships, aircraft carriers and intercontinental missiles and satellites have effectively rendered the mullahs’ physical weapons ineffective. Second, Iran’s armed wings in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen can no longer do anything of real military value in support of the regime due to a lack of funding and arms. As for the dormant cells of the regime, their dismantling, one after another, is well under way.
Similarly, international travel has become one of the most difficult things for anyone suspected of association with the Iranian regime. To put it more clearly, all of these Iranian proxies are like flies trapped in a glass bottle, seen by others but unable to hurt anyone but themselves.
They will eventually get burnt out and lose their wings.
IDLIB – WHERE TO FROM HERE?
By Riad Naasan Agha Al-Etihad, UAE, August 17
In Idlib, the last rebel-held Syrian province, nearly four million citizens are trapped, with many fleeing the shelling and destruction that previously forcibly displaced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes throughout the country. Some residents of Idlib might have preferred to avoid the destruction that surrounds them, but the Russians did not keep their promises and turned their backs against the Syrian people.
Had the Syrian regime presented a clear vision for the future of Syria and engaged the people in direct, genuine dialogue aimed at stopping the fighting, then maybe the bloodshed could have been prevented. But the regime’s insistence on crushing the opposition using military force has only exacerbated the war, threatening to make it last for a few more decades.
A senior Syrian official once asked me, “Why do the people of Idlib hate us?” I said, “Maybe because you never gave them any opportunity for a better future.” Idlib has been deprived of any economic opportunities for several decades, even though more than 93% of its youth hold university degrees. Had it not been for the labor migration to Greece and Cyprus, as well as to some Gulf countries, the people of Idlib would not have been able to find sources of livelihood. What is important is that I do not know what is the plan of Al-Nusra Front, and whether it will succeed in defeating Russia, Iran, and Damascus.
I regret the suffering of the inhabitants of villages and small towns destroyed by hundreds of thousands of raids and bombs. While they are recovering from one massacre after another, the whole world stands idly by, watching. Meanwhile, the Astana peace process is clearly aimed at enabling the Syrian regime to retake Idlib by military force. But the truth is that people prefer to die than to surrender.
The real question, therefore, is whether there is a sincere international initiative that brings life to the Geneva negotiations, opens a new page for the Syrian people, and shelters millions of Syrians from a major humanitarian disaster that is about to happen.
Last week, we found ourselves facing another serious crisis in the region – perhaps one that could ignite fighting in Yemen for at least 10 more years. Thankfully, at this wonderful moment we see that this was avoided by prudence on all sides. Yemen’s Southern Transitional Council (STC) announced its willingness to join a conference in Saudi Arabia to discuss the future of Yemen.
Everyone is going to Jeddah to seek durable solutions. The STC has retreated from its takeover of Yemeni government institutions and issued statements confirming its acceptance of Yemen’s legitimacy as enshrined by the United Nations. Indeed, the STC reassured the Saudis, relieved the UAE of great embarrassment and, more importantly, saved itself and its people, the citizens of the South, and the entire region from more bloodshed.
But the debate, of course, will not stop. I have read articles by Dr. Mohammed al-Rumaihi and Dr. Saad al-Ajmi on the dispute. In short, they believe that the independence of southern Yemen is the best solution. Even educated Saudis believe that the Saudi interest is to carve out two or three Yemeni states, and not one united Yemen.
This is especially true since the experience of dealing with a unified Yemen ruled by the regime of the late president Ali Abdullah Saleh was difficult and harmful for Saudi Arabia. But it is dangerous to tamper with the political entities of states. I tell Dr. al-Rumaihi and Dr. al-Ajmi, these two esteemed Kuwaiti intellectuals, that delegitimizing and dismantling a state recognized by the UN threatens all countries in the region, including Kuwait itself. Accepting illegal separation is exactly the same as illegal annexation!
I am never against the right of southerners who want a separate state or the establishment of a southern republic, but they must achieve it by legitimate means, either by reaching understandings with the Yemeni state when its institutions return to functioning, or through the UN. We can spend the coming days talking about past mistakes, but this would be futile.
None of us truly believe that the southerners can reach a consensus on who should be their leader, let alone on the name of their hypothetical state, its government structure, and its laws. Instead, there are political strongmen with various allegiances fighting over the ability to lead the southerners in their quest for sovereignty. We can only hope that the parties meeting in Jeddah will engage in serious conversation about the nature of their relations with the central Yemeni state, leaving the talk of separation for the future, or assuming control of the narrative through the appropriate international legal channels.
Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla.
“Your Pens Should Be Broken” Journalist Jailed for Social Media Posts
(Journalist’s name withheld)
Charged with national security crimes for his social media posts, journalist Masoud Kazemi has been sentenced to 4.5 years in prison, of which he must serve two years (subject to appeal), his lawyer announced on June 2, 2019.
During his trial, presiding Judge Mohammad Moghiseh told Kazemi, “you people have no right to breath; your hands should be crushed; you should be blown up with gunpowder poured into your mouth; your pens should be broken,” a source with detailed knowledge of Kazemi’s case told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on May 29, 2019.
Kazemi’s lawyer filed a complaint against Judge Moghiseh for his display of bias in Kazemi’s case but the former magazine editor has not been granted a case review.
“The revolutionary court sentenced my client to two years in prison for [the charges of] ‘publishing falsehoods,” two years in prison for “insulting the supreme leader” and another six months in prison for “insulting other officials”,” Kazemi’s attorney Ali Mojtahedzadeh told the state-funded Islamic Republic News Agency on June 2, 2019.
“In addition… the court banned my client from media activities for two years,” he added.
Under Article 134 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, Kazemi, the former editor-in-chief of the Sedaye Parsi (Persian Voice) political magazine, must serve no more than the maximum punishment for the charge that carries the heaviest sentence in cases involving multiple convictions—meaning to two years.
Kazemi, who has worked at major reformist newspapers in Iran including Ghanoon and Shargh, was arrested on November 6, 2018, for tweeting about alleged corruption at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Trade, and questioning President Hassan Rouhani’s presidential adviser Hesamoddin Ashena about the murders of Iranian dissidents in the late 1990s when Ashena was deputy intelligence minister.
He was released on bail five days later but was unable to return to his job, leaving his family in severe financial hardship.
Judge Moghiseh is known in Iran for sentencing peaceful detainees including journalists, activists, and dissidents to lengthy prison terms in politically sensitive cases.
A selection of opinions and analysis from Arab journalists writing from and about the Middle East.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END FOR ERDOGAN Al-Arab, London, June 26
By Kheir Allah Kheir Allah
In Istanbul, Recep Tayyip Erdogan rose to power. And in Istanbul began his fall: a man who believed that he, alone, could change the nature of the Turkish political system and consolidate all constitutional powers in his own hands. Erdogan was able to combine the authority of the president and the prime minister into one position.
He became an autocratic ruler whose power outweighed that of any other politician. But in the recent local elections held in the country, Erdogan lost control over Istanbul for the second time in three months.
Winning Istanbul’s mayorship was of special importance to Erdogan’s party. It was a symbolic victory it needed. But the election of the opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu sent an important message to the Turkish leader: The people of Istanbul reject not only his 16-year rule, but also his Muslim Brotherhood-like politics that have changed the face of Turkish society. Erdogan wanted to show that he could secure Turkey’s expansion in all directions and restore the glory days of the Ottoman Empire. He counted on the Muslim Brotherhood to help him achieve this goal. But in the process, he failed to see that the Brotherhood is nothing more than a weak organization that is incapable of overseeing a modern state and its institutions.
The first time Ekrem Imamoglu won the Istanbul municipal elections, his victory over his rival, Binali Yildirim, stood at 13,500 votes. Between March 31, when elections were held for the first time, and June 23, when elections were held for the second time, this difference jumped to 800,000 votes. If this proves anything, it shows that the Turkish people know perfectly well that Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a failed politician. Erdogan has proved to be just another Brotherhood bully with no limits to his desire to consolidate wealth and power, including within his own party. Erdogan himself, when he was mayor of Istanbul in the 1990s, claimed that “he who loses Istanbul loses Turkey.” He is now on his way to losing Turkey, whose people resisted a clear attempt to impose a new dictatorship on the country similar to the military dictatorship of the 1980s.
Turkey did not emerge from that dictatorship only to fall under the dictatorship of the Muslim Brotherhood. That is the clear message that the people of Istanbul wanted to convey to the Turkish president. This is the beginning of the end for Erdogan, who turned out to be another Third-World dictator whose thirst for power can never be quenched. Erdogan fell into the trap of the Muslim Brotherhood and set the Turkish economy, its foreign affairs and its social progress decades back. He failed to learn from his mistakes. He became drunk with power and thought he could sweep his failures under the rug. But the elections proved him wrong.
– Kheir Allah Kheir Allah
KUWAIT’S BOYCOTT OF THE MANAMA WORKSHOP WAS A MISTAKE
Al-Anba, Kuwait, June 28
By Saleh Al-Shayi
Why did Kuwait refrain from attending the Manama workshop? Why was it the only Gulf state to boycott the conference? I’m reminded of the Camp David years and the disagreements that soon ensued throughout the Arab world. Arab leaders were divided on how to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. These disagreements resulted in a split within the Arab world between a moderate camp that supported the process, and a hard-line camp that objected to the process.
The latter called itself the “front of steadfastness and confrontation.” Kuwait and a wide host of other Gulf states placed themselves within the moderate camp, while the “the front” consisted of revolutionary states such as Iraq, Libya, Algeria, Syria and South Yemen. The latter believed that Palestine would only be liberated through war. Forty years have gone by and this so-called “front” has slowly disappeared while its leaders evaporated from the world. Needless to say, they did not liberate a single grain of sand of Palestinian soil; they did not fire a single bullet or pick up a single weapon for the liberation of Palestine.
By abstaining from attending the Manama workshop, the Kuwaiti government today is seeking to compensate for what it lost 40 years ago when it failed to join the resistance camp. By defying the Gulf states’ consensus on the workshop, Kuwait is making a political statement. This is a ridiculous attempt to rewrite history and put Kuwait on the correct side of the political map. It would have been much wiser for Kuwait to send a delegate to Manama and shape the conference’s results through talks and negotiations. Boycotting the conference from the very outset only served to harm the reputation of Kuwait and undermine its relations with the United States. I feel very sorry for how Kuwait conducted itself in this instance. It does not line up with its usual policies of moderation and support of collaborative regional efforts.
– Saleh Al-Shayji
Saudi Intellectual: The Palestinians Forfeited An Important Opportunity By Boycotting Bahrain Economic Workshop
Saudi intellectual, writer, and journalist Turki Al-Hamad has in a series of tweets, criticized the Palestinians following their boycott of the recent ‘Prosperity to Peace’ economic workshop in Bahrain that focused on the economic dimensions of the U.S.-led Middle East peace plan known as the “Deal of the Century.”
By refusing to attend the workshop, Al-Hamad expressed that, the Palestinians had forfeited a significant opportunity to advance their cause. The slogans of the past 70 years, he added, have yielded no results, so there is need for a new approach, such as the one represented by the economic plan outlined at the conference.
The following are some of Turki Al-Hamad’s recent tweets:
The Palestinians Have Worked Themselves Into An Impasse And Are Forfeiting A Significant Opportunity
On June 26, 2019, Al-Hamad tweeted: “I think the Palestinians are forfeiting a significant opportunity by rejecting the initiative [presented at] the Manama [Bahrain] conference. This will become yet another in a long series of opportunities that have been missed over more than 70 years. Naturally, there will be talk about conspiracies and about selling out the Palestinian cause, [but] that is [precisely] what has caused us to get caught up in an endless ideological loop. It’s time to cut out [of this loop]…”
Al-Hamad’s June 26 tweet
The Palestinians Must Abandon Their Old Slogans; The Bahrain Workshop Holds Great Potential For Them
“…… it is now necessary to address the Palestinian issue in a different way and from a different perspective, far removed from the slogans of the [last] 70 years… [during which] they did not achieve even a partial result. Today there is a plan which promises an economic revival in the West Bank and the [Gaza] Strip. Some reject it, and that’s their business, but I believe it is suitable, from a practical point of view. For what is the alternative? Continuing [to spout] the same slogans for another 70 years?
“A strong economy is the basis for demanding [that] further goals [be met] for in today’s world, economy comes before politics. Ultimately, a complete rejection of this plan will mean [further] Israeli expansion in the [West] Bank and a dwindling of the Palestinian political demands, alongside the continued [spewing] of slogans, in which case the Palestinians will achieve less than nothing.
“China achieved by economic means what it failed to achieve by political and military means… during the [golden age of] ideologies, and so did Japan and Germany. South Korea made progress by means of its economy, after being at the bottom of [the roster] of nations. The G-20 summits are a message to the world that economy is now the most important parameter of the power of nations.
“The tragedy of the Arabs… is that they grant sanctity to everything – in tradition and politics – and do not distinguish between constants and variables. For example, in light of the current variables, to contend with the Palestinian issue, we need a different paradigm, if we are [in fact] interested in finding a solution. But if [the Palestinian issue] is a goose that lays golden eggs for some, [we can] forget about a solution and about those who demand it.”
A selection of opinions and analysis from the Arab media
This week, Lay Of The Land notes how Arab journalists are increasingly revealing that Iran appears to be imploding from within and is on a direct trajectory to becoming “a failed state”. Whether the mullahs see the writing on the wall or not – Iran’s collapse – perceived by Arab writers in the region – is not a question of “if” but “when”.
Four Decades of Iranian Terrorism
By Mohammed al-Baladi
Al-Madina, Saudi Arabia, May 18
Four decades have passed since the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Forty years in which many waters passed under the bridge of the Arab Gulf, leading to widespread changes in our region. Despite these changes, however, one thing has remained unchanged: the expansionist ideology of the Iranian regime.
Since February 1, 1979, the people of Iran have been robbed of their freedom. Their money has been nationalized and appropriated for wasteful propaganda campaigns, under the Wilayat al-Faqih, throughout the entire world. Thankfully, this indoctrination campaign, despite all the resources being poured into it, will not succeed because it contradicts the most basic principles of Islam: peace and good brotherhood. A long-term strategic goal of the Iranian regime is to become the dominant force and the most influential country in the Middle East, from Iraq to Morocco. The mullahs have not relinquished this aspiration. Despite being boycotted by nearly every country in the world, the belligerent Iranian regime is still promoting itself as the official guardian of Shi’ism. It states that it is the ultimate protector of the interests of the most vulnerable Shi’ites around the world. To play this card effectively, the mullahs frequently use terms and slogans of emotional resonance, such as “Islamic unity” and “Islamic solidarity.” Worst of all, the Iranian regime tries to deceive Arab Shi’ites by portraying the supreme leader as their ultimate religious leader, who must be followed and obeyed even at the expense of betraying one’s own country. This is the most effective means by which the Iranian regime has succeeded in sparking sectarian strife between different groups in the same country. This creates a state of fear and confusion that helps give rise to extremist ideology. This is the strategy on which the Iranian philosophy is based. Iran supports, without limits, well-known terrorist groups such as Hizbullah, the Quds Force, the Houthi militias and Al-Qaida, all of which fuel conflict and spew hatred in countries like Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Gaza, Afghanistan, Somalia, Eritrea and Nigeria. In all of these places, Iran’s influence is a source of concern and tension for the government and a major impediment to development. In the four decades that have passed since the rise of the mullah regime, and despite facing harsh sanctions, Iran has continuously harmed its neighbors. In doing so, the regime has proved that terrorism and aggression are an integral part of its ideology. To defeat this ideology, we therefore have to fight the Iranian regime.
– Mohammed al-Baladi (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)
HE MULLAHS’ REGIME IS BOUND TO FALL
By Muhammad al-Sheikh
Al-Jazeera, Saudi Arabia , May 17, 2019
The survival of the mullah regime in Tehran will be impossible in the long run, so long as its formal objective remains to use all of its resources to fulfill the will of its founder, Khomeini, and reinstate the ancient Persian Empire.
I am not trying to suggest that the era of empires is completely over. This is a reality that one can hardly argue with, especially given the rise of the caliphate established by Islamic State.
I do, however, believe that [former] US president Barack Obama, for a mysterious reason that goes beyond me, saved the mullah regime from total collapse when he signed the catastrophic nuclear deal with Tehran. In doing so, Obama lifted the siege on Iran and provided its regime, which was very close to falling, with a $100 billion lifeline.
Whatever ideology is guiding the mullahs, their regime simply cannot keep up with the contemporary world. It stands against everything humanity stands up for today.
Even domestically, the people of Iran have realized that they have been led astray by their leaders for several decades. Internal grudges and anger are growing with each passing day.
This enormous Iranian public will eventually reach a boiling point that the regime will be unable to control. No matter how oppressive, cruel or coercive the mullah regime will be, it will eventually be forced to capitulate and collapse.
Needless to say, modern countries derive their political and military power from their economic power. The stronger their economies are, the more they can grow and develop, the more legitimate they are on the international stage, and the more they can withstand crises.
A look at the Soviet Union, which neglected its economic might and relied on socialism for its survival, will suffice to understand how failed economies can lead to political disintegration and collapse.
This is certainly the case in Iran as well. The mullahs can spend money spreading their ideology, ignore economic growth and impose their doctrine on others, without any hesitation to crush dissidents. Ultimately, however, their regime will be a failure.
Therefore, whether the mullahs admit this or not, Iran is on a direct trajectory to becoming a failed state. This tendency will only increase with time. Then, as many experiments in history have already taught us, the mullahs’ regime will collapse. It is simply a matter of time.
– Muhammad al-Sheikh
The Inevitability of a Clash with Iran
By Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed
Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, May 18
All possibilities with Tehran are currently on the table. It is possible that we will witness a massive military campaign against Iran, a limited and targeted attack, or no strike whatsoever. However, regardless of how the current stand-off between Washington and Tehran devolves, there is no doubt that the mullah regime will eventually fall. Just like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi disappeared from the world arena, the Iranian leadership, consisting of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, will eventually be crushed. There is no way to circumvent this reality. Every extremist regime we’ve witnessed in history ended up collapsing after it exercised enormous aggression. The ability of such regimes to survive and maintain their stability rests on their willingness to deploy force and violence on others. Once they engage in this kind of behavior, it only gets worse. Rarely, if ever, can the wheel be turned backwards. Therefore, there is no reason to believe that the mullah regime in Tehran will act any differently. Just like the Hitler regime fought until its bitter end of self-destruction, so, too, the Iranian regime will fight to its death. For too many years, the countries of the Middle East have swallowed the bitter Iranian pill for fear of facing war with Tehran. But now this scenario seems inevitable. If we look at the mullahs’ previous modus operandi, we can see that whenever they faced external pressure, they only toughened their positions. Some have suggested that this is due to the ill-advised American policy devised by President Donald Trump or National Security Adviser John Bolton. Others point fingers at Israel as the culprit. But the reality is very different: The Iranian regime, ever since the days of former US president Jimmy Carter, has sought to deploy violence in order to promote its political goals. This has been the case regardless of which president was sitting in the Oval Office. Instead of inventing conspiracy theories, we would be better off looking reality in the eye and understanding that the Iranian threat against stability in the Middle East is likely the most serious threat to our region today. The mullah regime in Iran has proven its evilness time and again. Its actions in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen are a clear case in point. Those who defend Iran live in deep denial. It’s time to muster the courage and stand up to the regime in Tehran. Otherwise, we will pay a heavy price for our complacency down the road.
Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)
Two decades ago, the big question in Brussels and Ankara was, “Will Turkey one day become a full member of the EU?” A decade ago, it was, “How soon can Turkey become a full member?” Today, the question is simpler: “Will it be Turkey or the EU that puts an official end to this opera buffa?”
In March, the European Parliament forcefully reminded the West’s Turkey hopefuls that they are wrong. In a non-binding vote, the assembly recommended to suspend accession negotiations with Turkey (370 votes in favor, 109 against with 143 abstentions.) An EU press release after high-level talks with Turkey in Brussels confirmed that accession talks were at a standstill and said that the “Turkish government’s stated commitment to EU accession needs to be matched by corresponding reforms.”
There are plenty of reasons – all open secrets – why Turkey does not qualify to become a member, according to the assembly: ongoing human, civil, and due process rights violations; concern – over Ankara’s lack of respect for minority religious and cultural rights;
-the state’s “shrinking space for civil society,”
-its arrests and suppression of journalists;
-its dismissal of dissident academics,
-its treatment of Middle Eastern migrants within its borders;
-the government’s abuse of due process rights of its own citizens under the guise of terrorism suspicions;
-its intimidation of its own citizens;
-and Turkey’s fractious relationships with neighboring states such as Cyprus and Greece, as well as (the lack of) normalization of diplomatic relations with neighboring Armenia.
The European Parliament said:
Respect for the rule of law and fundamental rights, including the separation of powers, democracy, freedom of expression and the media, human rights, the rights of minorities and religious freedom, freedom of association and the right to peaceful protest, the fight against corruption and the fight against racism and discrimination against vulnerable groups are at the core of the negotiation process.
Alparslan Kavaklıoğlu a member of Erdoğan‘s AKP and head of the parliament’s Security and Intelligence Commission, said in 2018: “Europe will be Muslim. We will be effective there, Allah willing. I am sure of that.”
The EU and Turkey each have their own interest in endlessly prolonging this opera buffa. But the audience is growing increasingly bored.
Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based columnist. He regularly writes for the Gatestone Institute and Defense News and is a fellow at the Middle East Forum. He is alsoa founder of, and associate editor at, the Ankara-based think tank Sigma.
MAY 1, 2019 19:21
SRI LANKA AND THE 100-YEAR BATTLE
Asharq al-Awsat, London, April 23
Here we are again, coming to terms with yet another ghastly terrorist attack waged against innocent civilians. This time, terrorism struck Christian worshipers in Sri Lanka. Prior to that, it struck worshipers in New Zealand. And beforehand, it struck Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Europe, America and a wide host of other countries.
I am convinced that this battle – the battle to eradicate terrorism – is going to be a long one, spanning maybe even an entire century. The world has been combating terrorism for over three decades, yet the problem persists. Every time we defeat one organization, another one rears its head. The wars of terrorism are more dangerous than tribal and state wars, because they are rooted in deep-seated ideology. They are the products of antiquated doctrines that have been reinvigorated in distorted ways and have made their way into modern society. The weapons of this war are quotations from holy books, propagated using modern technology that enables these ideas to be published at nearly no cost.
Sadly, without an international coalition fighting terrorism in its ideological roots – nipping it in the bud – radical ideas will continue to spread around the world, threatening the entire future of mankind.
The way we have been confronting terrorist organizations is by trying to defeat them militarily or financially. We destroy their secret hideouts or restrict their ability to pay for their operations. But the strongest fuel that feeds the terrorist engine is the scores of people who promote their radical agendas. Terrorism, therefore, lives in the minds of people. The problem is that we live in denial.
In the aftermath of the attacks last week, Islamist organizations were quick to deny their involvement. They attempted to sow confusion about the perpetrators. Then they sought to justify the attack. Then they claimed responsibility. Throughout the process, they used the same old explanations and excuses: “Islamic State never had a physical foothold in Sri Lanka”; “the attacks must have been foreign nationals”; etc. However, Islamic State does not require a physical infrastructure in Sri Lanka in order to carry out an attack. It simply needs to live in the minds of people.
The battle on the ground may continue, but the ideological battle is just beginning. Unless we change our mind-set, new organizations will come to life as soon as their predecessors are destroyed.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla.
FIGHTING FOR OUR PAST TO PRESERVE OUR FUTURE
Al-Ittihad, UAE, April 22
The fire that consumed Notre-Dame de Paris was a tragic event and a great humanitarian shock for everyone who understands the value of human history. It is therefore not surprising that the fire received widespread media attention across the world.
One thing shared by all mankind is our collective care for our history and archaeology, the construction of museums and the preservation of physical and intangible signs of our heritage. No nation that respects itself can ignore its cultural and civilizational symbols.
This has been especially true in the UAE, where history-preservation efforts have been under way for several decades. This national project has been led by Sheikh Zayed, who sought to document and preserve the history of our region.
But preserving cultural and religious artifacts in the Middle East is no easy feat. The political situation in the region has not been serene, to say the least. Fundamentalist religious organizations such as the Taliban movement in Afghanistan have systematically destroyed all artifacts associated with ancient civilizations. For example, the Buddhas of Bamyan, carved into a sandstone cliff in the Hazarajat region of central Afghanistan, were dynamited and destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. Similarly, Islamic State detonated and destroyed the Temple of Bel, a Mesopotamian temple dating back to 32 CE. It also destroyed the Roman theater at Palmyra, which dates back to the second century CE. These sites represented thousands of years of civilization. Losing these monuments is a true loss for humanity.
The important question that arises from the Notre-Dame fire is, therefore, why does the Western world care so much about a cathedral in France but not about monuments located in the Middle East? What about the history that is being erased before our eyes by radical organizations located in our midst? These are no less important than Notre-Dame.
But the responsibility is also ours. We must build a tolerant Muslim society and reshape the cultural discourse surrounding the cultural artifacts found in our countries. The companions of the holy prophet entered many countries in the Arab and Muslim world during the period of the so-called conquests in the era of the caliphs. They did not destroy any statues or monuments. The holy prophet himself passed through many cities that housed non-Muslim monuments. He did not destroy any of their ancient relics. Such barbarity must never be tolerated.
The events in Paris are a stark reminder to all of us. They are a reminder that we must take care of our historical monuments and protect them at any cost – not only as tourist destinations, but also as a fundamental part of our cultural legacy. This is a battle we have no choice but to win, not only for the sake of our past, but also for the sake of our future.
Ali Hussein Bakir
Ali Hussein Bakir is a Jordanian researcher specialized in international relations. He currently works for the International Strategic Research Organization “ISRO-USAK” (Turkey). He worked as an economic editor and researcher at Al-Iktissad Wal-Aamal Group AIWA (Lebanon) and was a research associate at Al Jazeera Centre for Studies (Qatar) and the Geo-Strategic Group for Studies. Bakir has many publications in a number of other prominent Arab think tanks such as the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, the Gulf Research Centre, the Middle East Studies Centre, the Shebaa Centre for Strategic Studies, Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre, and The Arab Centre for the Humanities. Since 2007, Bakir has authored and co-authored various number of publications and books on Turkey, Iran, Arabian Gulf, and China.
A selection of opinions and analysis from the Arab media
To enable readers across the world to freely make up their minds based on accurate and broad-based coverage on the Middle East, LOTL provides a platform to what Arab journalists – in their own words – are writing about the region.
Palestinians: The Other Peace Deal
by Khaled Abu Toameh • March 21, 2019 at 5:00 am
Hamas is now accusing the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah of exploiting the economic crisis in the Gaza Strip to call on Palestinians to overthrow the Hamas regime. Fatah, for its part, is accusing the “dark forces” of Hamas of acting on orders from outside parties to establish a separate Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip.
The US administration says it will publish its long-awaited plan for peace in the Middle East, known as the “Deal of the Century,” after the general elections in Israel on April 9. Perhaps it would be a good idea if the US administration came up with a plan to make peace between Palestinians and Palestinians before attempting to make peace between the Palestinians and Israel.
What is clear, meanwhile, is that the Fatah and Hamas leaders are more interested in warring with each other than improving the living conditions of their people. The two groups have already rejected the upcoming “Deal of the Century”: for now, that is the only deal they seem ready to make.
Hamas and Fatah, the two major Palestinian parties ruling the Gaza Strip and West Bank respectively, have been at war with each other for the past 12 years. They disagree on many things, but when it comes to repressing and violating the human rights of their people, Hamas and Fatah have proven that they are comrades-in-arms.
In the past week, Fatah has been launching scathing attacks on Hamas for using excessive force to suppress Palestinians protesting economic hardship in the Gaza Strip. Fatah says that hundreds of Palestinians, including political activists and journalists, have been arrested or severely beaten by Hamas security forces.
The charges against Hamas are not baseless. Photos of wounded Palestinians have surfaced on social media. Some had black eyes and bruises over different parts of their bodies, while others appeared to have had their legs and arms broken by Hamas security officers.
What Happened To The Yazidis Is A Shame On All Of Us
“They are not taken into serious consideration by the international community,” writes Abdul Basit Sidama in Al-Arab,UK, March 10
Cecilia Oden, a veteran Swedish journalist, has focused her media and research efforts on the Middle East, where she lives almost permanently, moving between many capitals and places there. It was a few days ago in Qamishli and the Hull camp, where she interviewed a wide host of Yazidi girls and women who were victims of a sadistic torture campaign at the hands of the Islamic State (ISIS). Many of those Oden spoke with recounted their stories in painful details. One woman witnessed her father and husband slaughtered in front of her and her young children. She then began to recount the details of her journey of suffering with slavery and sexual exploitation, and the cruelty she was subjected to. Sadly, this is not the only story. There are hundreds of accounts just like this one.
These stories once again call into attention the horrendous crimes perpetuated by the ISIS, not only physically but also psychological. It destroyed a legitimate Syrian revolution that sought to bring down a regime of tyranny and create a democratic and pluralistic state that guaranteed all Syrians—without exception—freedom, justice and a decent life. The tragedy of the Yazidis is painful. Its horrific details evoke all the anger and reveal the savage side of the human being who is stripped of all values, while hiding behind the veil of religion. The Yazidi community is a peaceful society by nature, devoted to the affairs of its daily life without interference in the affairs of others. Their suffering continues to unfold. Their territory is still occupied by various militias. The Yazidis continue to live in the most difficult conditions, in camps that are not suitable for daily living. Most sadly, they are not taken into serious consideration by the international community. Nobody is fighting for their right to return to their homes and to pursue their normal life in a peaceful manner as they have always done. This is a shame on all of us.
Abdul Basit Sidama
Palestinians: “No Place for the Zionist Entity in Palestine”
Hamas and Islamic Jihad should be given credit for their clarity and honesty regarding their ambitions. The two groups are clearly saying that their ultimate goal is to see Israel removed from the region and replaced with an Islamic state. As far as they are concerned, the conflict with Israel is not about a settlement, a checkpoint or even Jerusalem. Instead, it is about the presence of Jews in what they regard as their own state and homeland.
What will happen the day after a Palestinian state is established?
The answer, according to Hamas and Islamic Jihad (and other Palestinians) is that they will use it to continue the “armed struggle” until the liberation of the supposedly occupied cities of Tel Aviv, Nazareth, Tiberias, Haifa and Ashdod. Under these current circumstances, a Palestinian state will pose an immediate existential danger to Israel.
The Islamic Jihad threat to turn Israeli cities into “hell” by firing missiles at them needs to be taken seriously by those who are working on the upcoming US peace plan. Any land that is given to Abbas and his Palestinian Authority in the West Bank will be used in the future by Hamas and Islamic Jihad as a base for launching rockets and missiles at Israeli cities. Then, the terror groups will not need accurate, long-range rockets to achieve their plan to destroy Israel’s population centers: they will be sitting right across the street from them.
A Palestinian terror group says that its engineers have developed “accurate and destructive” missiles that can reach the “occupied” cities of Tel Aviv, Netanya and Jerusalem. Abu Hamza, spokesman for the Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Iranian-funded Islamic Jihad organization in the Gaza Strip, threatened that his group’s “rocket unit” would turn Israeli cities into “hell.”
“There is no place for the Zionist enemy on the land of Palestine,” Abu Hamzasaid. “Either they leave this blessed land, or they will be dealt one painful strike after the other.”
Islamic Jihad is the second-largest Palestinian terror group in the Gaza Strip, after Hamas. Neither group recognizes Israel’s right to exist. Both say they are committed to the “armed struggle until the liberation of all Palestine, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.”
The leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad see Israel as one big settlement to be uprooted from the Middle East.
For them, there is no difference between a Jewish settlement in the West Bank and any other city inside Israel. As far as they are concerned, Tel Aviv, Ashdod, Haifa and Nazareth are all “occupied” cities. Palestinian weather forecast bulletins often publish names of cities inside Israel on a map that does not mention the word Israel.
The Palestinian leaders say that the conflict with Israel will end only when Israel is annihilated.
“We won’t give upon one inch of the land of Palestine,” said Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. “We will continue to fight until all the refugees return to their homes” — meaning areas in Israel within the “green line” 1949 armistice borders.
In 2017, Hamas published a document of “General Principles and Policies,” in which it claimed that it was ready to accept a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines (West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem) — but without Hamas recognizing Israel’s right to exist or Hamas “giving up all of Palestine.”
In other words, Hamas is saying that it would not oppose the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem; it would use these territories as a launching pad to “liberate the rest of Palestine.”
The Hamas document clearly states that “no part of the land of Palestine shall be compromised or conceded, irrespective of the causes, the circumstances, and the pressures, and no matter how long the occupation lasts.” It affirms that Hamas “rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea.” The document also states that Hamas will never recognize the “Zionist entity” or relinquish any Palestinian rights.
Although Hamas says in the document that it is ready, for now, to accept a Palestinian state alongside Israel, it nevertheless considers “Palestine, which extends from the River Jordan in the east to the Mediterranean in the west, and from Ras Al-Naqurah in the north to Umm Al-Rashrash [Eilat] in the south, an integral territorial unit. It is the land and the home of the Palestinian people.”
The Hamas document has been misinterpreted by some Westerners as a sign of moderation and pragmatism on the part of the terrorist group. Reuters, for example, claimed in a May 1, 2017 dispatch that Hamas has “dropped its long-standing call for Israel’s destruction.”
This claim is completely false. Reuters, like several other Western media outlets, ignored those parts of the Hamas document that mentions the need to eliminate Israel. Here are other parts of the document that reveal Hamas‘s true intentions:
“The Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas is a Palestinian national liberation resistance movement. Its goal is to liberate Palestine and confront the Zionist project. Palestine is an Arab Islamic land. It is a blessed sacred land that has a special place in the heart of every Arab and every Muslim. There shall be no recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist entity. Whatever has befallen the land of Palestine in terms of occupation, settlement building, Judaization or changes to its features or falsification of facts is illegitimate. Rights never lapse.”
Worse, some Westerners have gone so far as describing the document as the “new Hamas charter.” Again, that claim is false.
The Hamas charter, which was published in 1988, continues to exist; it has never been changed or amended. This charter states :
“… the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings and presidents, neither any organization nor all of them, be they Palestinian or Arab, possess the right to do that…
“Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious. It needs all sincere efforts. It is a step that inevitably should be followed by other steps. The Movement is but one squadronthat should be supported by more and more squadrons from this vast Arab and Islamic world, until the enemy is vanquished and Allah’s victory is realised.“
For the past three decades, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been major players in the Palestinian arena. They are not splinter factions than can be dismissed as irrelevant. The two groups control nearly two million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. Each group has its own political leadership, as well as militias that possess various types of weapons, including rockets and missiles. The two groups also have thousands of militiamen in the Gaza Strip who consider themselves “soldiers” and “freedom fighters” in the war to eliminate Israel and kill Jews.
Those who think that Hamas and Islamic Jihad will vanish one day are living in an illusion. The two groups continue to pose a real threat, not only to Israel, but also to Mahmoud Abbas‘s Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank. Were it not for Israel’s security presence in the West Bank, Hamas and Islamic Jihad would have toppled Abbas’s regime long ago. Hamas and Islamic Jihad despise Abbas and consider him a traitor because of his purported support for a two-state solution.
Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar was recently quoted as saying that when his movement “liberates Palestine,” it will bring Abbas to trial for betraying the Palestinians.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad should be given credit for their clarity and honesty regarding their ambitions. The two groups are clearly saying that their ultimate goal is to see Israel removed from the region and replaced with an Islamic state. As far as they are concerned, the conflict with Israel is not about a settlement or a checkpoint or even Jerusalem. Instead, it is about the presence of Jews in what they regard as their own homeland and State.
Any Middle East peace plan that ignores what Hamas and Islamic Jihad are saying is doomed to fail. Moreover, ignoring the two groups will pose a massive threat to security and stability in the region. The US administration, which says it will unveil its plan for peace in the Middle East after the Israeli elections in April, ought to think and think again about the plan’s possible repercussions.
This is what members of the US administration needs to ask themselves: What will happen the day after a Palestinian state is established? The answer, according to Hamas and Islamic Jihad (and other Palestinians) is that the Palestinians will use this state to continue the “armed struggle” until the liberation of the occupied cities of Tel Aviv, Nazareth, Tiberias, Jaffa and Haifa. Under the current circumstances, a Palestinian state will pose a clear and present existential danger to Israel.
The Islamic Jihad threat of turning Israeli cities into “hell” by firing missiles at them needs to be taken seriously by those who are working on the upcoming US peace plan. Any land that is given to Abbas and his Palestinian Authority in the West Bank will be used in the future by Hamas and Islamic Jihad as a base for launching rockets and missiles into Israeli cities. Then, the terror groups will not need accurate, long-range rockets to achieve their plan to destroy Israel’s population centers: they will be sitting right across the street from them.
Bassam Tawil is an Arab Muslim based in the Middle East.
A selection of opinions and analysis from the Arab media
To enable readers across the world to freely make up their minds based on accurate and broad-based coverage on the Middle East, LOTL provides a platform to what Arab journalists – in their own words – are writing about the region.
The Mullahs’ Disillusionment Will Lead To Their Downfall
Al-Anba, Kuwait, February 1, 2019
Has Iran entered a deadly cycle of both internal and external chaos, which may result in the demise of mullah state? Observers of Iranian politics will all agree that the Iranian leadership is in deep state of turmoil that requires it to balance the demands of a disgruntled public at home with those of the international community abroad. Consider, for example, the recent speech delivered by Iranian President Hassan Rohani who spoke recently about the economic difficulties that Iran has faced for the last four decades, ever since the 1979 revolution. Rohani claimed that the main
driver behind this problem is the United States, not the Iranian government, and that the Americans have lost their political and legal war against Iran, so they resorted to economic war. Rohani simply ignores reality and creates imaginary narratives about the dire state of his country’s economy. Iran, for all its wealth of natural resources, which could have fueled its economy, is home to one of the world’s most impoverished populations. Instead of spending money on education and welfare, the Iranian government is funding militias and terrorists. This is why the Iranian public has long realized that it is a victim of the ayatollahs. The demonstrations we’ve witnessed in the streets of Tehran are targeting a regime that humiliates its own people. It is beyond clear to the Iranian public that the so-called causes created by the mullahs, such as the liberation of Palestine, are no more than shallow attempts to deflect attention away from the regime. In late December, speaking to France’s Le Pen magazine, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif denied Iran’s existential threats to Israel. It is perfectly clear to all of us that Zarif’s statements contradict the truth. The Iranian regime is committed to wiping Israel off the map, and it has gone to lengths to do so. Sadly, the mullahs continue to insist on exporting their radical ideological revolutionary model not only to their neighbors in the Gulf, or the Middle East, but also to the rest of the world. Have you heard the statement of Hassan Abbasi, one of the most prominent theoreticians of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, about his country’s plans to turn the White House, Versailles Palace and Buckingham Palace into Shiite forts? The regime in Tehran is disillusioned and we can only hope that it is entering its last downward spiral before its ultimate crash. – Amil Amin
HEZBOLLAH AS A MARKER OF ARAB DISILLUSIONMENT Al-Okaz, Saudi Arabia, November 5,2018
[Launched in 1960, Okaz is an Arabic Saudi Arabian daily newspaper located in Jeddah with offices all over Saudi Arabia.]
“Arab youth are growing increasingly disillusioned with their regimes. Political ideas that once galvanized the masses are now subject to mockery and ridicule. This is certainly the case in Lebanon where Hezbollah, previously a popular party led by a charismatic leader, is viewed by growing swaths of the public as a pariah.
“2006 marked a pivotal year for Hezbollah, as the Shi’ite organization went to war against Israel and managed to convince Lebanese citizens that it stood for the defense of Lebanon and the protection of the Palestinian people. Since then, however, the Shi’ite organization’s true motive has been exposed: it is loyal to Iran. Its popularity has plunged in parallel with this growing understanding in Lebanon and, more broadly, across the region. Even young Shi’ites today refrain from openly supporting the party, believing that doing so will further damage Lebanon’s sovereignty.
“While Shi’ite and Sunni extremism are both equally dangerous, they are also quite different as the former is promoted by a state – the Islamic Republic of Iran – that seeks to spread its toxic ideology throughout the Middle East. Make no mistake: This is the only reason for Hezbollah’s existence and the Arab public is well aware of this. As Arab societies finally begin to recover from the massive political upheavals that swept through their capitals in 2011, men and women are no longer enchanted by empty promises of rogue regimes.
“As a result, Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah seems like nothing more than a messianic zealot overseeing a marginal group of followers who seek to destroy Lebanon by turning it into an Iranian proxy. The Arab people have had enough of this and wish instead to build a better future for themselves. It is only a matter of time until the likes of Hezbollah and Islamic State lose every last drop of the credibility they once enjoyed and finally disappear from the face of the earth.” – Yehiyha al-Amer
Will Iran Fall Together With Venezuela?
Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, February 8
On February 1, 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned from France after 14 years in exile, becoming the first supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Ten days after Khomeini’s arrival, the Shah’s government collapsed. On April 1, Iran was officially declared a republic. But the hundreds of thousands who received Khomeini at the airport were not aware that he was planning to establish an authoritarian religious regime. At that time, they wanted to get rid of the Shah without knowing what Khomeini was carrying in his bag. According to Shiite tradition, there are only 12 imams. Khomeini became the imam of the revolution and the imam of the Islamic Republic, and immediately eliminated anyone whom he knew from his past, even his closest confidants, chief of which was Sadiq Qutbzadeh, Khomeini’s so-called “spiritual son,” who helped spread Khomeini’s sermons on audio cassettes. Iranians, even those who dislike the regime he created, still venerate Khomeini because of his strong personality. Their veneration is similar to that of the Chinese Communists who remember Mao Zedong. To mark the 40th anniversary of the revolution, Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s National Security Council, claimed that Hamas and Hizbullah are ready to open the gates of hell for the Jewish state. “Hundreds of kilometers of tunnels have been dug under Israeli feet. The resistance forces in Gaza and Lebanon have high precision rockets and are ready to respond to any foolish Israeli behavior,” he recently said in a televised address. Shamkhani did not mention Syria, where Iranian forces and bases are subjected to Israeli destructive strikes on a weekly basis. Nor did he mention the Hizbullah tunnels destroyed by Israel in a sudden attack. What is ironic is that as the Iranians seek freedom, they observe the people of Venezuela risk their lives for freedom. One cannot help but be reminded of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who signed a secret strategic cooperation agreement with former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2010, aimed at building a joint Iranian-Venezuelan
missile base in South America to target the United States – just like the Soviets were planning to do in Cuba during the early 1960s. Iran paid the initial costs for this program, estimated at tens of millions of dollars, in cash. According to Iranian officials, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps also established cover companies in Venezuela, meant to help Tehran get a hold of enriched uranium. The leaders of Iran and Venezuela have long praised the strong strategic relationship between the two countries. However, Iran, once again, played some bad cards. It hedged its bets on an oppressive regime that is now coming under fierce fire both domestically and internationally. I can’t help but wonder if this Iranian-Venezuelan love affair, which has spanned several decades, is coming to an end. More importantly, will the regime in Tehran soon end up like the one in Venezuela? Will the two regimes, which rely on each other deeply, find their end together? –Hada al-Husseini