New Age Islam Edit Bureau
19 December 2017
What If We Eliminate Saudi Arabia, UAE From The Map?
By Mamdouh Almuhaini
The Road to Jerusalem
By Aijaz Zaka Syed
Jerusalem Again And Again...
By Christian Chesnot
Whitewashing Of Terrorism Debate Will Harm the US
By Ramzy Baroud
World Criminal Court Should Get Serious About Atrocities
By Thierry Cruvellier
OIC’s Rapid Response to Jerusalem Crisis
By Yasar Yakis
Egypt Should Reconsider Its Relationship with Russia
By Mohammed Nosseir
Looking Into the Eyes of an Assassin
By Murat Yetkin
Did Erdogan Gain More Than The Palestinians At The OIC Summit?
By Semih Idiz
How China Is Buying Its Way to the Top
By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim
Don't Fall For Netanyahu's Dangerous Distraction
By Halim Shebaya
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
By Mamdouh AlMuhaini
18 December 2017
One method to evaluate the influence of a specific country is to delete it from the map and imagine the world without it. I will now eliminate two states, Saudi Arabia and the UAE which have a strong alliance and which play different roles on several fronts.
The first front is confronting extremism. If Saudi Arabia and the UAE do not exist, extremist powers will completely dominate the area as there are no regional powers that are capable of combating them or eliminating their project. It’s also certain that armed terrorist organizations will be more powerful compared with their current torn state. Universities will inevitably be controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood and their affiliates. Dominating the educational field is actually their top priority. The media will be in such a hysterical state, like what happened during the era of former Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi when extremists managed television channels and newspapers and presented shows. In brief, the scene will be bleak and the future will be dark with no hope in the horizon.
So why do we say so?
It’s because both, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have combated extremism as an ideology and terrorism in its form as armed groups. Saudi Arabia has fiercely confronted terror groups until it crushed them. It’s been also confronting extremist rhetoric and those who promote it. Let’s recall Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s words about combating extremist thoughts now and immediately. Extremism did in fact decrease in Saudi Arabia. Those who mobilize people and incite them, and specifically those who used their Twitter accounts to sow divisions, were deterred. Saudi Arabia has for months now lived in an unprecedented state of tolerance and optimism.
The same applies to the UAE which does not allow any extremist rhetoric flourish. The Emirati soil is thus infertile if anyone wants to plant extremist ideas. The country simply does not welcome preachers of hate and strife. What characterizes the Saudi-Emirati alliance in the war against extremism is that it’s real, particularly that they’re both combatting extremism internally first. It’s well-known that many countries exploit war on terrorism to embellish their image and market themselves when in fact they are sealing secret deals and agreements with armed and extremist groups either to be spared of their evils or to work with them towards achieving mutual interests.
In a world where Saudi Arabia and the UAE do not exist, Taliban, al-Qaeda and the Brotherhood will dominate. Therefore, we completely understand extremists’ organized and insulting campaigns against Saudi Arabia and the UAE and their attempts to destabilize their alliance by spreading rumours that there are disputes. This alliance has simply destroyed their lost paradise. Meanwhile, these extremists praise Qatar because it adopts their dangerous project. Dangerous details of this project were further exposed after the boycott decision by the anti-terror quartet. Retired terrorists and retired and emerging preachers all rose to defend Doha which has been funding them and housing them for years.
Significance of Saudi-Emirati Power
Fortunately, the Saudi-Emirati power, which is engaged in a noble war on behalf of everyone against extremist organizations, possesses financial and military capabilities as well strong political will. If you take a look at the map, you will find weak and exhausted states that are incapable of confronting anyone, states that have adopted a defensive position, states that are small and with zero capabilities and others that fund terrorism. There is no exaggeration here when I say “on behalf of everyone.” There are no borders to terrorism and if strong parties cannot confront it, it will easily swallow weak countries and create chaos in faraway countries like Europe and America.
Let’s go back 80 years so the comparison is clearer. Imagine the world without Britain and America during World War II. It would have been easier on Nazism to expand and fully control Europe. However, the American-British alliance buried Nazism as a regime and as an ideology during that immortal historical phase.
The Saudi-Emirati alliance is also cooperating on another significant front which is fighting Iranian interferences that do not only threaten the region but the entire world. The burden has increased following the US troops’ withdrawal during President Barack Obama’s term. It’s easy to imagine how influential Iran will be in a world that does not have Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The power of Saudi-Emirati deterrence is the only power capable of curbing Iranian greed. Without these two countries, borders will be of no value and leaders of Iranian Shiite militias will violate them, just like Qais al-Khazali, the leader of Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, did at the Lebanese borders.
It’s important to remind that the Saudi-Emirati alliance protects the international order which insists on maintaining stability and which was actually based on the 1648 Peace of Westphalia that was approved following the Thirty Years’ War. The Peace of Westphalia prohibits invading other countries and interfering in their affairs. The aim is to avoid wars and bloodshed, create peace and prosperity and enhance the economy. This is how the world developed, wars decreased and the modern world, as we know it today, flourished. Iran and Shiite and Sunni terrorist militias want to destroy this order in the Middle East so the region will resemble Afghanistan or Somalia where the state is absent or failed and the logic of gangs reigns. The Saudi-Emirati alliance is the only one capable of preventing this scenario from happening and without them we will live in such a completely different and bleak world. Most people think that enjoying their freedom to travel, trade and enjoy life is an inevitable result but there are actually kind political powers that created this reality and continuously protects it. Without these powers, this reality will quickly collapse and we will go backwards.
The third front is economy or the way of life in general. The Saudi-Emirati alliance adopts a project towards a better future and a modern way of living where the culture of tolerance and moderation reigns and life in terms of entertainment, education and work is better. Life in Saudi Arabia has changed during a short period of time as it’s witnessing massive developmental projects. The UAE has become the best destination for ambitious Arabs and for foreigners who desire to live in a civilized healthy environment where there are the best schools, businesses, streets and markets. This project is the only means towards modernization and towards catching up with the developed world. Without Saudi Arabia and the UAE, there will only be the projects of death presented by al-Qaeda and Hezbollah.
THE US decision to ‘recognize’ Jerusalem as Israel’s capital comes exactly a century (Nov. 2, 1917) after Arthur Balfour, the British foreign secretary and later the prime minister, announced the creation of a Jewish homeland on the Palestinian land. A century separates the American and British perfidy but the underlying sentiment remains the same, giving away something that is not theirs to give away in the first place.
The sheer unjustness and brazenness of this whole business is breathtaking! And you thought colonialism is long dead and buried!
Who are the Americans and the British to give away the Palestinian homeland, homes, holy cities and the very national identity to people born in Europe, Russia and America?
As if the long repression and dispossession of Palestinians in their own land with the blessings of the world powers wasn’t enough, now they must suffer the indignity of being divested of Al-Quds.
Jerusalem is not just another city. Sacred to the followers of all three Abrahamic faiths — Islam, Christianity and Judaism — the ancient city has been at the heart of the Palestinian existence and Islamic identity.
This is why notwithstanding all that has happened over the years as part of the Zionist project to steal Palestine, making Palestinians strangers in their own land, no one, including successive US administrations, ever dared to endorse its designs and aggression against the holy city of Jerusalem.
As the OIC asserted this past week, Jerusalem is the ultimate redline for the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims and no one can cross it.
This is why notwithstanding Israel’s growing claims and antics to Judaize Jerusalem and project the holy city as its ‘capital’, the rest of the world continues to respect the special status of the city, maintaining their diplomatic missions in Tel Aviv.
But then an irrepressible Trump goes, eyes wide shut, where angels fear to tread and says and does things considered unthinkable by his predecessors and much of the West.
Given the chaos and strife reigning in Muslim lands, especially the disunity in Arab-Muslim ranks, Trump and his Israeli friends and allies wouldn’t have been wrong to conclude that there couldn’t be a better time to steal Jerusalem.
Indeed, things wouldn’t have come to such a pass if the Arab and Islamic world had not silently endured the atrocities and humiliation repeatedly inflicted by Israel and its patrons all these years.
Over the past few years, thanks to the efforts of Israel and its allies and the Arab and Islamic world’s increasing preoccupation with conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen and more pressing domestic concerns, the question of Palestine has receded further and further into the background.
Above all, it was the international pressure on the Palestinians to give up “violence” and embrace peace and the so-called two-state solution that brought the Palestinians here — a political wilderness.
More than anything, it was the US, the principal architect of the two-state solution, and its allies that persuaded the Palestinians to end their struggle for the chimera of their own state.
And look where it has got them. Today, Palestinians have no homeland, no freedom and no rights whatsoever. Why they have even been deprived of the very struggle that offered them their self-respect and identity as the Palestinians, keeping Israelis perpetually on the edge!
Having long promised the Palestinians and Arabs a “viable and peaceful Palestinian state, side by side with Israel,” the US has quietly and shamelessly gone back on its decades of commitments.
In doing so, it has violated the historic United Nations resolution of 1980, backed by 14 members of UN Security Council except the US of course, that recognizes the special status of Jerusalem and demands Israel to withdraw from the holy city.
The international community, including America’s European allies, also regards the old city of East Jerusalem as occupied territory and says Jerusalem’s final status must be negotiated, not unilaterally declared
In rejecting all this with casual insouciance, the US has also shown us what it thinks of its historical relations and alliances with the Arab and Muslim nations.
But I guess it is futile to cry over the spilt milk now. After all, there are no permanent friends and foes in the world of international relations, only permanent interests.
The question is, what can the Islamic world do in response?
Not surprisingly, the majority of Muslim nations have been swift in denouncing Trump’s decision. However, the Muslim masses around the world are not likely to be propitiated by these perfunctory statements and resolutions anymore.
The outpouring of popular anger and outrage from Morocco to Malaysia over the past few days calls for credible and effective response. The time for business as usual is past. That is the message from the streets, from Egypt to Indonesia. And the Muslim nations attending the emergency summit in Istanbul seem to have heard it.
The Istanbul communique declaring East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine is historic in this sense. The 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation has emphasize that it considers Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel “null and void legally” and as an attack on the rights of the Palestinian people.
However, the Istanbul declaration, symbolically significant as it is, is hardly enough to alter the geopolitical realities of the occupied Palestine or the greater Middle East. The Palestinians will remain occupied and powerless as ever. The Islamic world would need to go beyond eloquent speeches resolutions to challenge the status quo and confront the Israeli occupation.
In a way, we all ought to be grateful to President Trump for putting an end to this whole circus of “peace process” and talk of “two-state solution”. As Israeli writer Gideon Levy argues, Trump has exposed the grand masquerade that has been going on in the Middle East for the past half a century.
On the other hand, the US action serves as a rude reminder to the Palestinians of the stark reality of their predicament. Long lulled into apathy and inaction by international assurances of peace and justice, the Palestinians have once again been reminded that there is no alternative to their united struggle for freedom and fundamental rights.
The US move should serve as a rallying point for the Palestinian unity and relentless, concerted action until their objective is achieved. The OIC call for action and solidarity with the Palestinians is welcome. However, it must translate into credible action such as the total economic and political boycott of Israel and credible efforts to get Palestinians their due.
Clearly, the two-state solution is dead. Perhaps, it is perhaps time for one state with equal rights for the Palestinians and Israelis.
All said and done, no one can help the Palestinians until and unless they decide to help themselves. They have waited long enough and in vain for international help and action. It is clearly time to take charge of their own destiny.
A few weeks ago I wrote in these same columns: “sooner or later, the Palestinian question will reemerge.” No doubt when you least expect it. It was on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. To be frank, I did not think that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would return so hastily and to figure prominently in world affairs.
The announcement of the transfer of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem had at least one major benefit. That of showing the true colours of the United Sates.
The US has undeniably deserted its “honest broker” role for a long time, but this time its position is at least quite clear, it is official. Washington has openly picked a side, that of Israel which has long colonized and monopolized Palestinian land.
This pro-Israel stance presents many challenges. First, at the level of the international community. Through its decision, the United States flouts United Nations resolutions, yet evidently it’s not the first time in history.
In 2003, by declaring the war against Iraq, the American administration has shown little or no regard for international legality, and the UN has never recovered from it. It is high time that the other major diplomatic actors including China, Russia, the European Union along with major emerging countries, etc. slow down Donald Trump’s relentless campaign of destabilization. Obviously, it is no simple task but is there any another alternative?
High Time for Re-evaluations
For the Palestinians, and especially for their leadership presided by Mahmoud Abbas, it is high time for reevaluations. It is time to rethink the whole political strategy: what new forms of resistance? Should the Palestinian Authority be dissolved? How could a new generation of leaders emerge?
By deciding the fate of Jerusalem, Donald Trump has just dealt the Oslo Accords a final blow. So what are, if any, the future possible prospects?
For Israel, Trump has offered a poisoned chalice. The question of Jerusalem will but reignite a cycle of violence be it in the shorter or longer term. The Israelis are betting that nothing will happen, and that the Palestinians are not intending on starting a third intifada, but they are probably committing a grave error of judgment.
The American president has just remobilized the Palestinian street. The Jerusalem affair has not produced an instant uprising, yet it has certainly created a shock wave that will have very serious repercussions.
The United States has rekindled an explosive subject arousing and unleashing the passions of all Muslims and Christians around the world.
Hence, by rushing into the Jerusalem question, Donald Trump seems to be further plummeting ahead, but for what end? America is not only completely isolated on the international scene - reprobation is global - but it has become a foil as well as a discredited actor that is both dangerous and unreliable.
Therein lies the whole paradox, yet Iran and Hezbollah, on the other hand, can offer a very big thank you to Donald Trump! Israeli-Palestinian peace is now pushed back to an indefinite date for who will want now to negotiate with the Jewish state? Indeed, in the light of Trump’s decision, moderates, like King Abdullah of Jordan and Mahmoud Abbas, are humiliated and weakened.
Under George Bush Jr., America had offered a pitiful show of arrogance by proclaiming itself the first world power to attack Afghanistan and Iraq. We all know by now the result of this endeavour that could be, in turn, explained - not justified - by the attacks of September 11, 2001 which traumatized the American psyche.
Today, Donald Trump is undoubtedly inspired by the concept of “constructive chaos” that is so dear to Condoleeza Rice, former secretary of state ... but in its more incoherent version.
The question now is whether the “deep state” of America, or the establishment that runs this country, will be able to restrain and tame this utterly unpredictable president. In this context, calling into question the status of Jerusalem must sound like a warning signal.
Within hours of Akayed Ullah, a Bangladeshi immigrant, allegedly detonating a pipe bomb in New York City on Dec. 11, severely injuring himself and wounding four others, a most comprehensive official and media narrative emerged.
The formulation of the narrative concerning Ullah’s motives, radicalization and assumed hate for the US was so immaculate, one would have thought it took authorities months, not hours to compile such evidence.
However, the exact nature of what truly happened matters little. Not only was Ullah instantly found guilty by the media, in fact all Muslims and immigrants were as well.
Following each attack of this nature, Muslims in the US mobilize to fend off accusations concerning their faith, their values and their allegiance to the country in which they live.
But it is not an easy fight to win. When President Donald Trump is tweeting anti-Muslim propaganda and his administration exploits every opportunity to advance anti-immigrant initiatives, the small, beleaguered community of Muslims in the US can do little to stop the rising tide of Islamophobia.
The media has played a major role in propagating the negative attitudes toward Muslims and Islam, which, in turn, provide much-needed public support for the government to continue with its anti-Muslim measures.
Compare such attitudes with the way in which mass shootings carried out by white American men is communicated by the government and media alike.
Although mass killings by white males have proven to be the deadliest in the US, the discussion generated in the media and official discourses are centered mostly on the mental illnesses of white attackers. In other words, there is a consensus that violence perpetrated by members of the white community is not inherent to that community’s race, culture or religion.
Five years after Adam Lanza killed 20 first graders and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, many are still at work trying to analyze the supposed mental illness that drove him to commit such a reprehensible act.
The fact that Lanza was carrying more than 30 pounds of weapons seemed superfluous. Many pundits and politicians still refuse to engage in a discussion about guns.
The “mental health” argument is also championed by Trump himself.
“Mental health is your problem here,” Trump said in a statement in response to a mass shooting by Devin Kelly, a white male who killed more than two dozen people in a Texas church in November.
Resorting to easy answers when white men kill is now the norm. Killers of other races, skin colors and nationalities, however, get entirely different treatment.
As soon as the news emerged of Ullah’s alleged bombing in New York, the Trump administration moved with full force to target immigrants.
The incessant media coverage and stubborn government targeting of Muslims have led to an unprecedented hysteria which, in turn, has led to numerous incidents of Muslims being targeted because of their faith. Many accounts of Muslims being removed from airplanes, often kicking and screaming, are becoming a fact of life in the US.
When Khairuldeen Makhzoomi was kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight last year for speaking Arabic on the phone, the agent who escorted him reprimanded him for using his mother tongue in public considering “today’s political climate.”
Anila Daulatzai was also dragged down the aisle of a plane. She was “profiled, abused, interrogated, detained, and subjected to false reporting and the trauma of racist, vitriolic public shaming precisely because she is a woman, a person of color, and a Muslim,” her attorney told the Washington Post.
While this hysteria plays into the hands of opportunistic US politicians, the facts suggest that violence is hardly a Muslim phenomenon.
Newsweek reported statistics showing that white men have committed most of the country’s mass killings. Since 1982, the “majority of mass shootings — 54 percent — were committed by white men,” the figures show.
Stephen Paddock, the white man who massacred 58 people and wounded hundreds more in Las Vegas in October, was only one of an ever-growing list.
Countless government officials and journalists have fanned out to find out why Paddock would carry out such a heinous act, as if a white man’s violence is a rare event in a country supposedly threatened by blacks, Mexicans and Muslims.
Yet the truth is that the white man’s profile is the most violent in the US. Research conducted by Eric Madfis from the University of Washington argued in 2014 that, in the US, “middle-class Caucasian heterosexual males in their teenage years and in middle age commit mass murder... in numbers disproportionately high relative to their share of the population.”
He ascribed this finding to “white entitlement” and “heterosexual masculinity,” among other reasons.
Still, a whole race, gender or religion are not held suspect; a rule that applies to some and excludes others.
Certainly, anti-Arab and Muslim sentiment in the US has been around for generations, but it has risen sharply in the last two decades. Arabs and Muslims have become an easy scapegoat for all of America’s instabilities and failures. But demonizing and humiliating brown-skinned men and women is certainly not the way out of the economic, political and foreign policy quagmires which America’s ruling elite has invited upon its country.
Such unlawful and undemocratic behaviour may feed anti-Muslim hysteria a little longer, and give fodder for useless efforts in targeting innocent men and women. But, in the long run, it will do the country much harm, damaging its democratic institutions and contributing to the culture of violence, founded on entitled white men touting guns and killing innocent people.
• Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His forthcoming book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’ (Pluto Press, London). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter.
December 18, 2017
The fact that crimes were committed in Afghanistan is hardly in dispute.
Last month, the International Criminal Court opened two investigations, including a sensitive one in Afghanistan, and a call has been made to allow it to intervene in Myanmar. But such a flurry of announcements mainly testifies to the impasse at which the court finds itself.
On Nov. 20, after 11 desperately long years conducting a "preliminary examination," Fatou Bensouda, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, formally requested authorisation to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan thought to have been committed since 2003, after the US-led invasion of the country.
It is a contentious move: Afghanistan recognises the court's jurisdiction, but the United States does not, and the ICC is expected to investigate acts by American soldiers and CIA personnel, along with some by the Taleban and Afghan National Security Forces. The court was controversial from the moment it was created in 1998: Major states, including the United States, China and Russia, opposed its foundational treaty, the Rome Statute.
The ICC has since come under repeated attack for being too slow, too accommodating to powerful states, inefficient and sloppy. It has gone after only Africans, indicted at most a few defendants in each of its eight concrete investigations, secured only four convictions and even botched investigations.
In November, the prosecutor also disclosed that she has opened an investigation into crimes committed in Burundi since April 2015 by state agents and the ruling party's youth wing. Two days after the ICC judges allowed the investigation, Burundi became the first country to formally withdraw from the court. There is meager hope of a significant outcome.
The fact that crimes were committed in Afghanistan is hardly in dispute. The Taleban, the office of the prosecutor wrote, has led "a widespread and systematic campaign of intimidation, targeted killings and abductions of civilians" perceived to oppose them, while the Afghan Army and police showed "systemic patterns of torture and cruel treatment" of war prisoners, including acts of sexual violence. Such acts are also alleged against US agents and servicemen, principally in the 2003-04 period.
The problem is that none of the targeted authorities is likely to cooperate. The Taleban can't be bothered with international justice. Despite being an ICC member state, Afghanistan has shown no sign of commitment to a court that has no means to enforce arrest warrants. The US will at best ignore the ICC or at worst be actively hostile, as it was during the early years of the George W. Bush administration, when it pressured more than a hundred states, including Afghanistan, to sign bilateral agreements not to surrender Americans to the ICC.
In Afghanistan, the most probable outcome is that the ICC will continue to expose its innocuousness and breed cynicism about international justice and the people in charge of it. The court will remain a court of least impact.
If the chief prosecutor is suddenly acting with such zeal, it is because she is under pressure to try to repair the tarnished image of her office and because the court itself is suffering from a major crisis of credibility.
So how can the court be saved from itself? The situation in Libya may be an opportunity to do so. Libya isn't a party to the court, but the United Nations Security Council gave the ICC jurisdiction over the country in February 2011.
A few months later, in June 2011, the court indicted Muammar Al Gaddafi, the former leader of Libya, his son Seif and his intelligence chief, Abdullah Senussi, for killings and persecution of civilians. It has been unable, however, to obtain custody of anyone: Colonel Gaddafi was killed; his son and Senussi were sentenced to death by a Libyan court but now seem to enjoy some freedom.
Yet the prosecutor has shown perseverance by issuing two additional arrest warrants this year. Recently she also reiterated her concern about crimes allegedly committed against migrants, mostly coming from other African countries and transiting through Libya on their way, they hoped, to Europe.
Last month, the French daily Le Monde published harrowing witness accounts of mass rape, notably against men, by rival Libyan factions. Video footage, taken by perpetrators and collected by a former Libyan prosecutor, purports to show men being sodomized with various objects. Survivors who are now in Tunisia revealed that some migrants were used both as victims and perpetrators. In some cases, they were brought to detention centres to be raped by Libyan detainees coerced to act under threat of death. Migrants were also used as perpetrators against female Libyan detainees, with the promise of being freed.
In this instance, the court has a better chance to have an impact, however symbolic. The prosecutor can build on more than six years of active investigations of Libya and is more likely to be able to act swiftly. It would directly respond to efforts by the Tunisia-based victims groups that have single-handedly gathered evidence in extremely difficult conditions for three years.
One of the key ways for the ICC to regain legitimacy is to be moved by victims' initiatives rather than by states or influential Western-dominated interest groups. It would help reshape the debate on rape as a weapon of war as well as on the barbaric realities of one of the most vulnerable and helpless populations: migrants. It would be the most logical first step toward responding, later, to the current outrage over straightforward slavery in Libya. The court isn't so much a chance to bring some measure of justice to Libya as Libya is a chance for the court to save itself. If the ICC is to be a strictly symbolic court, as it is today, let it be so, but let it have a better focus.
President Donald Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was discussed at an extraordinary meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held last week in Istanbul.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s achievement — in his capacity as the sessional OIC chairman — to convene the summit in such a short time has to be congratulated. Both the level of participation and the tone of the interventions were like in earlier OIC meetings.
Four messages that emerged from the meeting are important: Firstly, the summit renewed its “support for the Palestinian people in their pursuit to attain their rights, including their right to self-determination and the establishment of their independent state on the borders of June 4, 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital.”
This decision further complicates the question of determining what the actual status of the city is. UN Security Council Resolution 181 established Jerusalem as a “corpus separatum” — a separate entity. Jordan occupied East Jerusalem in 1948, Israel declared West Jerusalem as part of the state of Israel the following year and, in 1967, Israel invaded the entire West Bank and extended the occupation to East Jerusalem.
The UN has not rescinded the corpus separatum status of the city or made any effort to establish an international regime for it. Despite this, the UN has never ceased to officially consider Jerusalem as a separate entity.
Until Trump’s decision, the US administration used to refrain from implementing the Congressional resolutions that recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. On the other hand, the US and many other countries, including the UK, consider that the status of the city is to be resolved within the framework of the final settlement.
The OIC final communique brings its contribution to the dilution of the corpus separatum status of the city, declaring “East Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Palestine.” In light of this decision, will OIC member countries now upgrade their consuls general in East Jerusalem to embassy level in an area that is, theoretically, neither Israel nor Palestine?
Secondly, after the adoption of the communique, three opposition parties in Turkey challenged the government by inviting it to upgrade the existing consulate in East Jerusalem to ambassadorial level. Erdogan then announced on Sunday that “Turkey will soon open an Embassy in [East] Jerusalem.” It is not clear how this embassy will function if the Israeli authorities do not agree to cooperate; how the ambassador will take up his/her post if the Israeli occupation authorities refuse him/her access to East Jerusalem; or how the Israeli authorities will explain to the international community the functioning in the territories under their occupation of the embassy of a state that they do not recognize.
The OIC Summit also “considered this [Trump’s] decision, which aims to change the legal status of Jerusalem, null and void and lacks any legitimacy, as being a serious violation of the international law … particularly the UN Security Council Resolution 478.”
Resolution 478 was adopted after the Israeli Parliament amended the “basic law” (constitution) and altered the international status of Jerusalem. It calls those states that have established diplomatic missions at Jerusalem “to withdraw such missions from the holy city.” The US abstained during the adoption of this resolution — in other words it did not veto the resolution when it could have done so. Therefore it now has the obligation to abide by it.
Finally, the summit also decided to “take up this grave violation in the UN General Assembly should the UN Security Council fail to act.”
The UN General Assembly is entitled to adopt decisions with two-thirds majority on important questions such as the maintenance of international peace and the expulsion of members.
Many of the points contained in the OIC’s final communique are a reconfirmation of various points that are already part of the member states’ foreign policy.
An important feature of the summit is that it did not decide to take any action that may alter the situation on the ground. Many decisions adopted in various OIC fora in the past were not implemented.
Both Erdogan and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority emphasized after the summit that there is no future role for the US in the peace process because it lost neutrality by clearly siding with Israel. Of course, no country is irreplaceable in the peace process. However, the important leverage that the US has on Israel should not be ignored either.
It is still unclear whether the OIC will do something different this time.
Forging diverse relations with many countries is an advantage for any nation. However, bilateral relationships that are fair and functioning are certainly of more value than prolonging an existing relationship that could weigh down a nation’s economy.
Egypt’s overextended hand to Russia is draining us politically and economically. The “letters of intent” that we recently signed with Moscow are a reflection of the valueless, fake relationship between the two countries that our government is trying to revive for no apparent reason.
Two years ago, Egypt enthusiastically welcomed President Vladimir Putin to Cairo, with a large horse parade, Russian flags hoisted in Egyptian streets and many other extraordinary signs of celebration, in an effort to bolster and promote future relations with Russia. These efforts were apparently not sufficient to induce Putin to cancel the suspension of Russian flights to Sharm El-Sheikh that he ordered a few months later, after the tragic downing of a Russian plane above Sinai. Russia capitalized on this tragedy and maintained its policy of further pressurizing the Egyptian government, demanding the implementation of unnecessary airport security measures.
The Russian state is neither a global power, an influential player in the Middle East, nor an economic giant. Our government’s insistence on strengthening relations with Russia benefits only Russia — at the expense of Egypt’s sovereignty. Russia is not the same as the US, which has the capacity to operate in many regions and influence multiple nations; thus, it works on strengthening its relationship with a small number of nations that fully adhere to its political terms while dealing with the rest by maximizing its existing benefits.
The Soviet Union collapsed a few decades ago, re-emerging as a single nation that has adapted its geopolitics in keeping with its new capacity. Nevertheless, Egypt is, sadly, still influenced by the political thought pattern of the Soviet era; signing a mutual state agreement between two nations at the expense of the private sector in both countries, which could have done a better job. The publicity campaign that was organized to welcome Putin to Egypt indicates that we continue to pursue the same strategy toward Russia that has proven to be of no value. The fact that Russian tourists are not the most generous spenders, combined with their government’s continued resistance to resuming Russian civilian air traffic to Egypt, should have prompted us to explore other potential tourism markets. If the budget spent on the publicity campaign for Putin’s visit had been allocated to promoting our fabulous resorts in other countries, we would have gotten a better return on our investments.
The facts are that Egypt does not need a nuclear reactor (an opinion endorsed by numerous energy experts) and that many advanced nations are dismantling their nuclear facilities. Yet the Egyptian government continues to insist on swimming against the tide — a path that it is pursuing either of its own choice or that we are being dragged toward by the Russian state (we do not know which). In any case, as long as Russia knows that we are in severe need of its tourists, it will continue to work on politically squashing our country.
Aware of Egypt’s solid, long-lasting relationship with the US, the Russian state is quite careful in its dealings with our country. Playing the Russian card is more likely to harm than to strengthen our state. Russia had a previous unpleasant experience with Egypt prior to the October War in 1973, when former President Anwar Sadat expelled Russian military advisers from the country. It now wants to make sure that this unpleasant experience is not repeated.
Egypt needs to abandon the old stratagem of playing two superpowers against each other because, for better or worse, there has only been one world power for a few decades now. We have to do our best to strengthen our relationship with the Western world at large (clearly defined as the advanced, powerful nations) and with China (recognized as a global economic giant), while maintaining good relations with other nations — without burdening ourselves. Any other approach is based on an illusion that only we believe in.
December 19 2017
Exactly a year ago on Dec. 19, 2016, Andrey Karlov, Russia’s ambassador to Ankara, arrived at a photo exhibition aiming to bring Turkish and Russian cultures closer together. The exhibition was taking place at the cultural center of Ankara’s Çankaya District Municipality, close to the U.S. Embassy. While Karlov was delivering a speech at the opening, a man in a dark suit standing behind him - who everyone else in the exhibition hall assumed to be a bodyguard - shot him dead on the spot, shouting slogans in Arabic.
The police special forces immediately sealed the building, as the assassin refused to surrender. A policeman then shot the assassin dead, prompting speculation about why it had not been possible to capture him alive, to question him and to try to learn exactly what was behind the assassination.
The murder took place shortly after Turkey and Russia had started a tentative rapprochement. They were scheduled to meet the next day in Moscow to start a working group with Iran in Astana the following month for a ceasefire process in Syria. The rapprochement process came after a major crisis in relations that erupted after Turkish war planes shot down a Russian jet in November 2015. The crisis started to be settled in June 2016 (with the facilitation of Kazakhstan), just a month before Turkey’s military coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
After the killing of Karlov, the first statement from Moscow vowed that the Syria process with Turkey would continue, thus averting another diplomatic crisis. The focus then turned to the assassin, who turned out to be Mevlüt Mert Altintas, an off-duty member of the Turkish police force.
Turkish and Russian police officers formed a joint group to work on the murder case together but could not yield any satisfying results. Another police officer, Ramazan Yücel, was recently arrested due to his links to the killer Altintas. Yücel had previously been expelled from the police over alleged links to the illegal network of Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-resident Islamist preacher believed to have masterminded the July 2016 coup attempt.
The police also recently found out that Altintas’s e-mail and social media accounts were deleted shortly after the murder through a “virtual computer account,” likely created just for this purpose.
With so many questions still lingering, we are left with little more substantial than the hateful look on the face of the assassin, captured right after he shot Karlov. It was captured thanks to the courageous reflexes of one photographer: Burhan Özbilici, a veteran photo reporter working for the Associated Press in Turkey.
Rather than trying to protect himself, Burhan’s first instinct was to think of his responsibility to show the world the naked truth. He pressed the shutter looking into the eyes of the assassin, who was shouting slogans while still carrying the smoking gun in his hand.
Burhan is an old friend of mine going back years. Speaking one year on about the moment of truth – right at the same spot as where the assassination happened - before giving an interview to Le Monde, he told me he was “just trying to do his job.”
“I was aware of the danger but I stood still, doing my job. A bit of courage is needed for independent journalism; I take as examples Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and the heroes of the War of Independence, including my own father,” he said.
Özbilici swept many international awards in 2017 for those courageous shots he took in the white hot heat of the assassination. He was awarded prizes by World Press Photo 2017, Photo of The Year International, the Deadline Club and the Photojournalism Seminar. His iconic photo hit the headlines of many newspapers across the world the next day and was downloaded more than 18 million times on Facebook, while his photos have become the subject of exhibitions, university classes, seminars and various interviews in newspapers, TV stations, and radio shows overseas. He has also been invited for special programs from Canada to Italy, hosted by figures like the prime ministers of the Netherlands and Austria.
But in his native Turkey, Özbilici has only received the Photo of the Year award from the Contemporary Journalists Association and was invited to speak to students at Ankara’s Gazi University only once. He has been lauded by no big political names, been the subject of no university classes, and given no TV interviews.
There is little need to say anything else. The assassination of Karlov is sad enough anyway.
Time will tell if the Palestinians got anything concrete out of the extraordinary summit of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), held in Istanbul on Dec. 13 following Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s call in his capacity as OIC term president.
Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas seems happy enough with the results of the summit, which in its final communique also declared East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. This was what Turkey also wanted and pushed hard for in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement that Washington would recognize Jerusalem as the undivided legal capital of Israel.
However, Abbas must know that the OIC’s recognition has no meaning until it can be translated into concrete actions that can counter Washington’s Jerusalem decision.
In the final analysis, the OIC only repeated the obvious, as there is not a single OIC member that has not accepted East Jerusalem as the de facto capital of Palestine, pending its de jure recognition following a settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute.
Put another way, there is no Islamic country that will try to open an embassy in East Jerusalem to fulfil the ultimate implication of the OIC declaration. Looked at realistically, the OIC response to Trump’s move was the minimum that could be achieved because none of its members, including Turkey, are prepared to impose sanctions on the U.S.
OIC members could accept this declaration without any reservation because it places no burden on them, and does not force them into any new commitment.
Regardless of what the Palestinians got, it is clear is that Erdogan got what he wanted out of the OIC summit. He is now using this to press ahead with his desire to become a pre-eminent Islamic leader pushing for the liberation of Jerusalem from Israeli occupation. In pursuing this mission he is also using his familiar rage and pouring vitriol on Israel.
Of course, Erdogan cannot be too happy with the rebuke he got from Moscow after the OIC summit for calling Israel “a terrorist state,” when Putin’s spokesman said they did not agree with Ankara with regard to Israel.
Nevertheless, he still managed to raise his profile among his domestic and international supporters in the region, at a time when he needs diversions to draw attention away from political and economic problems at home.
Aware of this, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), which also claims to be an avid supporter of the Palestinians, is challenging Erdogan to put his money where his mouth is by upgrading the level of the Turkish Consulate in East Jerusalem to full embassy status.
Erdogan’s rhetorical response is that this will be done once Jerusalem is no longer occupied. Even if he wanted, however, he could not do this today given that the consulate in question is part of Turkey’s official diplomatic mission to Israel.
Prior to the OIC summit Erdogan also suggested that Ankara could downgrade the status of its representation in Israel over Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem. However, there are no indications at present suggesting he will do this.
Erdogan has been down that road before and in the end was forced to normalize ties with Israel - due to a host of unavoidable considerations - without gaining much in return for the Palestinians. It seems he is not prepared to take that path again. He has instead opted to simply huff and puff against Israel, which seems good enough for his supporters, who are generally not prepared to question whatever Erdogan says or does.
So the OIC summit appears to have served Erdogan’s purpose for the moment. The Palestinians, on the other hand, will have to wait and see what concrete results they have actually gained from the summit, which Ankara has lauded as a historic turning point brought about by Turkey regarding the Jerusalem question.
17 December 2017
On a recent visit to Pakistan I was surprised to find a great deal of infrastructure development going on: new bridges, roads, airports, ports, the works. The amount of economic development was staggering – to say nothing of quite inconsistent with our image of Pakistan as rather backwards and impoverished and chronically corrupt. Inconsistent even with my knowledge of the place which I owe to my family ties to the country.
But the mystery is soon elucidated. All the projects have the same brand to them. They are all part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Because of the lack of security, the endemic corruption and the frailty of the rule of law, no one in international capital markets would lend to the country on this scale. Frankly, I would not trust the government in power to have the imagination to try to borrow to invest in their country’s development.
Luckily, Pakistan happens to be just where China needs to build its trade infrastructure towards the West. The price China is willing to pay to avoid having to trade through the treacherous waters of the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca far outweighs even all the problems and costs associated with investing in Pakistan. So far, China has committed $62 billion to the Pakistan section of their New Silk Road, and are likely to invest much more in the future.
The benefits that this investment brings to the people of Pakistan cannot be overstated. They will reap much of the rewards of that investment. And China has shown in the past, for example in Africa, that it is a good partner to local populations, building not only infrastructure and productive facilities where they employ locals, but also schools and other public utility facilities. To underline their ambitions in Pakistan, Chinese academic Prof Yiwei Wang proposed at the Warsaw Security Summit that China’s investment in the country will make Pakistan fully energy independent by 2020 – this will be a first in the country’s history.
The salutary effects of Chinese involvement in the country are such that they are also recognised across the board by almost all the political parties in this fractured, divided country – even the militant religious ones. They, along with the powerful Army and intelligence services are all in agreement that Pakistan’s relationship with China is the most important strategic relationship the country has, and must be preserved and advanced.
New Silk Road
And Pakistan is not the only country where this is true. Myanmar is also edging ever closer to China due to Chinese investment in another branch of the New Silk Road across the country. The central Asian former Soviet republics are also on board. And before long, Russia too will be firmly within China’s sphere of influence, especially when the natural gas pipelines between the two countries open and the Russian state’s revenues will be increasingly dependent on Chinese largesse.
All this points towards China’s inexorable rise as the world’s pre-eminent superpower. And if things continue along the current trajectory, it seems like China will be able to achieve this entirely through peaceful means: something no other dominant power has ever achieved in history.
Even as we look forward with trepidation to the rise of China and the relative decline of the West, if China achieves their rise entirely by peaceful means, that will still be something we have to respect. Just as we have to respect the fact that, in the words of Prof Wang again, China is having much more success eliminating poverty in the New Silk Road areas than Western-imposed Washington Consensus economics and Western sweatshop investments have done. China’s power grows by winning over hearts and minds: and it is winning them for good reasons.
Donald Trump's Jerusalem decision revived an interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, after seven years of Arab revolutions and armed conflicts taking centre-stage.
There is something about the Palestinian people's predicament that still deeply moves Arab hearts and minds, as well as global supporters of justice. As Palestinian-American historian Rashid Khalidi wrote, "Whatever Arab dictators and absolute monarchs may tell the Americans they depend on, the Arab peoples are unanimous in supporting the Palestinian position on Jerusalem."
Consensus on Jerusalem and Palestine makes the Israeli governments uncomfortable. And what does a successful strategist and "public relations expert" like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu do in an uncomfortable situation?
He changes the subject.
The Iran Obsession
Netanyahu has no interest in a peace process that brings about an independent and fully sovereign Palestinian state. This is why he loves to talk about Iran.
By focusing on the "existential threat", he is able to divert attention from the settler-colonial status quo, with its apartheid regime and ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian population.
Iran is, in a sense, an easy target. The Islamic Republic has a dire record when it comes to human rights violations, and its intervention in the Syrian civil war in support of the Assad regime did not serve in bolstering its image in the Arab world and beyond.
Despite the nuclear deal signed in 2015, Iran has not yet fully normalised its relations with the international community and is still subject to US and EU sanctions. Furthermore, Iran has long been seen as an aggressive meddler in Arab internal affairs. Israel is thus exploiting this common hostility with Iran to push for further collaboration with Arab states.
In short, focusing on Iran leads to common ground with some Arab states. In stark contrast, if the discussion is solely focused on Palestine - as we have seen in the last three weeks - Israel is exposed for what it is: an occupying, oppressive state imposing an apartheid regime and disregarding Palestinian lives within its settler-colonial enterprise.
Now, Netanyahu understands the importance of presenting complex issues in neat and consumable bundles for the media. As Colin Shindler, Emeritus Professor at the University of London, wrote in his book, The Land Beyond Promise: "Netanyahu was the long-awaited answer to Israeli problems in this area, since he was both presenter and spin-doctor. Netanyahu believed that language and ideas in the media circus shaped foreign policy - and particularly in America."
Netanyahu is thus very comfortable discussing Iran. However, it is much harder to be a successful "presenter and spin-doctor" when it comes to oppressing Palestinians.
This is why a sustained refocus on Jerusalem and Palestine is necessary.
In other words, if the iconic image of the 16-year old boy - bruised face, blindfolded and surrounded by Israeli armed soldiers - becomes the focus of the world, where can Netanyahu hide his face when Israel's disproportionate violence is on wide display for the world to see?
And if news about the extrajudicial killing of a young man - who lost his legs in the Israeli bombing of Gaza in 2014 - by an Israeli sniper captures the interest of the world, how can the Israeli government divert attention in order to avoid a discussion about their utter disdain for Palestinian lives?
Enter Iran - and enter Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the United Nations.
Iran And The Yemen Crisis
On December 14, Haley tried to convince the world that Iran, not Jerusalem, should be under the international media spotlight once again.
Less than two weeks after Trump's decision, Haley presented "evidence" that Iran transferred weapons to the Houthis in Yemen, including missiles. A lot of doubt was cast on Haley's allegations, and not just by Iranian media and officials.
But let's proceed, for the sake of argument, on the assumption that her claims are true.
When it comes to the Yemen crisis, are we really supposed to go along with Haley and agree that the Houthi missiles should be the main focus of the discussion?
Should we forget the calls of Amnesty International just one month ago for the US, UK, and France to "immediately cease supplying arms to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting in Yemen, which is impeding humanitarian assistance, including items indispensable to the survival of civilians"?
Or should we ignore Human Right Watch's call for an international inquiry last September and its demand for the UN to "immediately return the [Saudi-led] coalition to its annual 'list of shame' for violations against children in armed conflict"?
None of the above is in defence of Iran and its aggressive actions in the region. Two wrongs will never make one right.
The point here is clear and simple. The obsession with Iran suits Saudi Arabia and Israel, each for different reasons: the former in relation to the armed conflict in Yemen, and the latter to deflect attention from Palestine. And US President Donald Trump seems happy to oblige, in order to be seen as the "anti-Obama".
However, the obsession with Iran does not make sense for those who are genuinely interested in reaching an end to the Yemen crisis, as well as a just resolution for the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
In the case of the latter, Iran is not the main impediment to peace with the Palestinians. It suffices to recall John Kerry's remarks that Israeli leaders don't want peace with the Palestinians, who "have done an extraordinary job of remaining committed to nonviolence".
Keep Talking About Palestine
Media attention on Jerusalem and Palestine is now as important as ever.
Indeed, Israel has always been at least three steps ahead of the Palestinians and Arabs in advocating for its cause, especially in the West. It has enjoyed the aid and complicity of governments and media giants who like to focus on Palestinian "violence" to further the Israeli narrative that Israelis are living in a region where "self-defence" (an all-encapsulating term used by the Israelis to justify their violence, oppression, apartheid regime, violations of international law, illegal settlements, etc) is necessary to survive.
Against this backdrop, it was extremely saddening to read Robert Satloff's account of his visit to Saudi Arabia, which he titled "Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS) does not want to talk about Jerusalem."
Satloff wrote: "on Israel itself, he [MBS] struck an unusually positive note. Unlike what I heard from Saudi leaders on past visits, he said nothing about Israeli expansionism, Israeli arrogance, Israeli unfairness, or Israeli encroachment on Muslim rights in Jerusalem. Instead, he spoke of the promising future that awaited Saudi-Israeli relations once peace was reached and, operationally, he committed himself to bringing that about".
To be fair, Saudi Arabia's King Salman condemned Trump's announcement, although with legitimate questions remaining about the extent of Saudi coordination with the Trump administration prior to the announcement.
Ultimately, the Palestinian people should decide on the best ways to resist the occupation - bearing in mind their right to use "all available means" as UN resolutions state.
In this regard, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) is widely seen as an effective tool of resistance, in that it draws attention to the Israeli occupation and provides concerned individuals with a way to express solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Until the time when there is a united Arab Hasbara devoting all its media and intellectual efforts to support Palestine, we should keep talking about Jerusalem and Palestine, each according to his or her means.
As simple as it sounds, its importance cannot be overstated, especially at a time when the interests of the Trump administration, Israel and Saudi Arabia seem to be perfectly aligned when it comes to the Iran obsession.
If now is not the time to have an enhanced, united focus on Palestine, when is it?