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Monday, 21 May 2018 02:14

Good bye “conflict resolution”

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Forty five years passed since the 1973 first Geneva Conference for Peace between the Arab Countries and Israel. A lot of talks took place by then to find a way for the inclusion of the PLO in that Conference directly or indirectly. The Palestinian National Council of 1973, and 1974 eleventh and twelfth sessions were both  an attempt in that direction when they decided to create a “ Palestinian National Authority in any part of Palestine to be liberated”. This program signaled the PLO move from the Liberation of all Palestine strategy, to another one that speaks about liberation in stages, opening the way to the recognition of Israel in the 1988 PNC conference. The 1973-1974 change gave PLO the Arab recognition as the sole representative of the Palestinian people which took place in the Arab Summit held in Rabat in 1974, and it also opened the UN doors to Yasser Arafat to give his famous speech” I came to you with an olive branch in one hand, and a gun in the other. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand”, and he repeated the last sentence. Besides that the PLO started engaging with some European countries like France.

Yet, these changes of the 1973-1974 were not enough for United States and Israel to accept the inclusion of the PLO in the so called” Peace Process”. This inclusion had to wait for the Americans till 1988 when PLO recognized the UN Security Council Resolution 242 during the  PNC 16th conference held in Algeria by then. After that conference an American dialogue with the PLO started, and the American Ambassador to Tunisia Robert Pelleatru was appointed to conduct it. Without delving in too much details, the rest of the story is known starting from Madrid Conference of 1991 when PLO participated as part of a joint Jordanian- Palestinian delegation, followed by eight sessions of “ corridor meetings” aiming to agree on the agenda before interning the negotiations room. These sessions were held in Washington between the Palestinian delegation that was led by the late Haidar Abdel Shafi the well known Palestinian National Personality from Gaza,  and the Israeli one led by Lawyer Elyakim  Rubenstein. The sessions were stopped without entering the negotiations room. This stoppage took place after Oslo Declaration of Principles was released as a result of secret direct talks that took place between Israel and the PLO. Since Madrid conference of 1991, 27 years already passed, and 25 are almost passed since Oslo. Palestinian wise the harvest was bitter.

The colonial settlements grow bigger more than six times, during the “ peace process”. Jerusalem got fully separated from the other parts of the Palestinian 1967 territories, and almost Judaised except the Old City and some other few communities. The Refugees issue is taken in practical terms out of the table by Israel and the United States. Last but not least Area C became De facto annexed to Israel if not De Jure yet, and Jerusalem annexed territory to Israel is still growing by grabbing parts of West Bank, and adding them to Jerusalem. The outcome of all of this is a creeping annexation as it was first called by Moshe Dayan in the end of 1960’s, and the creation of one bigger Israel that have no place for the Palestinians. What will be the next step towards those ignored Palestinians?. Some in Israel are raising their voices calling for their transfer, in other hand the official Israeli Policy is keeping silent about their fate, but at the same time supporting those who call for the transfer of the Palestinians by taking no single step against their statements and actions. 

This is a summary of the bitter harvest so far, which is also an indication that the worse is still to come. Why is that?

The main reason is the formula that was used for peacemaking and conflict resolution  between the Palestinians and the Israelis. I published a long research paper about this formula in the “ International Negotiation Journal” last January 2018, titled “Beyond Exacerbating Asymmetry, and Sustainig Occupation”. Here is a brief summary of the findings about the conflict resolution formula that was adopted by the United States and Israel towards our case: 

First: Despite the grief asymmetry between the two sides( The occupier and the occupied). They were considered to be symmetrical. “ You will get if you give”.  ( Netanyahu).

Second: The process dealt with West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem as the subjects of bargaining and division between the two sides. This approach led to the marginalization of the Palestinian refugees issue, and other issues like the Palestinian rights in West Jerusalem.

Third: The Process was gradual, and incremental, so the discussed details will open the way to other endless kind of details leading as such to the failure of all the negotiations rounds.

Fourth: Instead of agreeing in advance about the end game( The goal of the Negotiations), the final status was kept as an “ open ended”, and the core issues including of Jerusalem, refugees, settlements and borders were left to the permanent status negotiations that its rounds failed one after the other, while settlments were growing in the ground.

Fifth: The mediator was biased to the strong side all the way ahead. In the times of President Donald Trump the mediator moved to a worse position of becoming a partner to Israel in settlement expansion, and in Judaizing Jerusalem.

Sixth: The formula for the negotiations was based on “ Ignoring the past, and looking together for the future”. That was adopted instead of reconciling and solving the atrocities of that past.

Seventh: The formula included a People to people approach which ended up becoming the hub for “ technical” and “ business like” projects with a lot of bearucracy in reporting and the quality of reporting included from the donors side. This was accompanied by an assumption by the donors that the two sides moved to a stable “post- Conflict period” of partnering in making solutions, therefore institutional building became the fashion instead of the continuation of the support for the Palestinian non- violent struggle for self determination and independent statehood. Neo- Colonial tools of control was included as research explicated.

In brief, a commercial  formula of compromise prevailed either by looking politically for the division of the 1967 occupied territories between the two sides, or by doing business together through the so called” people to people projects”. 

The bitter harvest of this formula is ahead of our eyes. Accordingly it should be said clearly: Goodbye to conflict resolution with all its shortfalls, and look instead for reconciliation. The conditions of the latter do not exist in the ground today, but an international formula of non violent struggle for the emancipation of the Palestinian people can create the conditions for it instead of focusing solely on diplomacy. 

Article published in Akhbar el Balad: http://akhbarelbalad.net/ar/1/6/3944/

Photo credit: AP

In response to the savage massacre committed by the Israeli Army against the “ Marches of Return and Seige Lifting” of yesterday in Gaza, the White House in Washington DC released a statement blaming Hamas for using violence, and supporting the “ right of Israel to defend itself”. Also Mr Jason Greenblat the American Envoy to the Middle East “ Peace process” wrote an article in the Israeli newspaper “ Yisrael Hayoum” accusing Hamas of returning Gaza back to the “ Iron Age”

Till Nine PM yesterday evening, the death toll among Gaza Palestinians participating in the Marches reached the number of 55 (increased to 58 by 1:26 am this morning), in addition to 2410 injured. According to the Ministry of health in Gaza, there are 203 children and 78 women among the injured. 40 of these were in a critical conditions and 76 seriously injured. 1204 got injured by live bullet, and 130 by rubber covered metal bullets. Further than that the Ministry of health report includes calculations about the parts of the bodies that were injured, for instance 79 injured in the neck and the head, 76 in thier chests and stomaches, 164 in different places of their bodies, and 1055 in the lower parts of their bodies. As such many of the injured will be left with permanent disabilities life long.

How comes that these killings and injuries just in one day are merely practiced in the framework of “ Israel right to defend itself”?. How comes that later in the day the USA prevented a UN Security Council Statement approved by the other 14 members of the Council condemning the massacre and calling for the formation of an international committee of investigation about them?.

Beyond the shock from these positions, three issues should be emphasized (among others that there are no enough space for all to be discussed in a short column like this one):

The first among these is that United States is not any more just a supporter to Israel politically and militarily, but moreover United States is a partner in the Israeli ongoing settler colonial project in the ground. A latest research had shown that 15 percent of colonial settlers in West Bank (without East Jerusalem) today are Americans. Sara Yael Hirschhorn from Oxford University presented these results showing that there are sixty thousand settlers in West Bank only ( without the inclusion of East Jerusalem), who are originally Americans. Therfore President Abbas was fully right to describe the move of the American Embassy yesterday to Jerusalem as “ an establishment of an American Settler outpost in Palestine”. This is one.

Secondly, the significant point regarding the move of the American Embassy to Jerusalem yesterday, is that it is about dictation of the final status results  in the ground in contradiction with Oslo Agreement article five text which stated that Jerusalem as a whole ( East and West) is subject to the final status negotiations. In other words Oslo Agreement included what the late Palestinian leader Faisal Husseini was saying all the time till he passed away in 2001, that the Palestinians property rights in West Jerusalem should be negotiated and agreed upon before any political agreement about the city and on how to share two capitals for two states in it. The Americans violated this article and adopted the Israeli position which again makes the American Embassy in Jerusalem of a colonial type as mentioned above. 

Thirdly: The American Administration becoming a partner of the Israeli settler colonial project, will share as well the Israeli position of finding no place to the Palestinians within this project. Accordingly the Palestinians should hide and show no presence, expressed by keeping fully silent towards what is imposed and dicatated, or they will pay the price by getting to be” removed” forcefully when they oppose. In this sense all kind of Palestinian struggle armed and non- armed become illegal according to this perspective because they make the Palestinian visible while he / she is supposed to be invisible. Adi Ophir wrote once and again that the Palestinian is punished not because he made something wrong, but he/she is punished becsuse he/ She is found in a place where the settler colonial project expect him/ her not to be existing in. Gaza wise this means that the Gazan Palestinians should continued acting in impotent way despite the move of the Embassy, and despite the anniversary of 70 years of the Nakba given also that 66 percent of Gaza residents are refugees according to the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics new report released yesterday.

It was James Zughby who wrote yesterday that the the Americans consider the Palestinians as” invisible victims” that do not count anything by themselves, but they merely represent a “ problem to Israel” that the latter has to deal with and solve. Accordingly no attention will be made to the plight of the Palestinians since 1948.

Article published in Akhbar el Balad: http://www.akhbarelbalad.net/ar/1/6/3933/

Photo credit: AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed

Disputes in the Middle East cannot be resolved unilaterally. They can only be tackled collectively, through integrated regional and international cooperation. This applies to challenges such as the Palestinian cause, terrorism, Arab-Iranian conflict and other lesser predicaments.

Some political observers believe that the Arab-Iranian dispute should be addressed even before the Palestinian-Israeli issue. Since 1967, the Middle East has been a hub for the worst military conflicts and wars.

About 22 percent of world’s conflicts have been concentrated in the region during the past three decades. When the eight-year Iraqi-Iranian went on from 1980 to 1988, both countries lost more than 2 million soldiers.

UN statistics reveal that about 40 percent of the total number of those killed in armed conflicts have fallen in the Middle East since 1980 until the end of 2017. Such conflicts have complicated the political scene and have led to further chaos when the Arab Spring erupted in some Arab republics.

Up to 72 percent of world war toll and military conflict fatalities have been reported in the Middle East. Moreover, the Middle East has the highest levels of terrorist attacks since 2003. Incidents of terrorism increased by 50 percent, leaving many countries behind owing to their impact on economies.

Iran and Arab states are heading toward direct regional conflict that would drive Israel to intervene by targeting some strategic sites in Iran to turn balance of power

– Shehab Al-Makahleh

Balance of power

Many states harbor a strong belief that their main enemy is Iran as it tampers with the stability of Arab countries. This started with Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and Syria. Since no conflict can take place without the pretext, if the root cause is to be resolved then changing the balance of power and the regime in Iran are a must.

As Iran was eying Iraq since 1980s, after regime had changed in Tehran in 1979, a conflict broke out which saw in the Iranian expansionist policies a strategy to rule over the whole region.

The first Iranian step was to control Iraq after American pullout because Iraq is in the north of the Gulf and Iran is located to the east of the Gulf States. 

This is likely to pose a major threat to Gulf states as Iraq is geographically and strategically located between three major powers: The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, Turkey and Iran.

Iranians have sought to play the Iraq card first before moving to play other cards which include sectarianism, the cards of Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. Iran believes that an Arab-Iranian model can be created through the Iraqi gate, with the support of others – such as Russia, Syria – without reaching a compromise between Arabs and Iranians in such a conflict.

There is a firm belief that the Iranian regime should be changed in order for the country’s policies to be changed accordingly. Hence, changing the regime of the Vilayat al-Faqih may be considered a regional and international necessity before the possibility of confluence of Iraq and the other Gulf states in the form of an alliance or to form a new regional system.

No peace deal

But why all previous wars have ended with no peace deal or surrender agreement? The Iran-Iraqi war ended on August 8, 1988 with a truce but without a peace or surrender agreement being signed. The same applies to the two wars against Iraq.

Thus, the answer is simply tacit which bears the seeds of a war that would erupt any moment. Should this happen, Iran will be forced to leave Iraq and Syria to protect its borders.

Iran looks at Arabs, whether Sunni or Shiite, from a heritage perspective. It considers the GCC a springboard backed by the West to besiege Iranian revolution.

On the other hand, Gulf Arabs regard the Iranian revolution as an existential threat. This was exemplified by Khomeini who called on Arabs in the Gulf to stir up revolution.

Iran and Arab states are heading toward direct regional conflict that would drive Israel to intervene by targeting some strategic sites in Iran to turn balance of power. The month of May is very critical where the future of the Middle East region will be at stake. 

Article published in Al Arabiya: https://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2018/05/11/Disputes-over-Iraq-and-Syria-Strategies-and-ramifications.html

Friday, 11 May 2018 17:45

Acknowledgment of the Nakba is required

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This year witnesses the seventieth anniversary of 1948 Nakba. In the 1980’s the Israeli New Historians found out what Walid Al Khalidi and others discovered since 1960’s that the Palestinians did not leave due to calls from the Arab Radios calling them to leave their country. In the opposite they found that the majority of Palestinians who left were obliged to do so due to Zionist attacks. First Benny Morris showed through checking Israeli Archives that 282 villages were evacuated due to Zionist groups attacks. Nur Masalha further found that 292 locations were evacuated due to these attacks, other 87 were evacuated due to fear from Jewish attacks or as a result of the evacuation of neighboring villages, and finally 12 locations were evacuated because of terrifying rumours. Later Ilan Pappe wrote an outstanding book about ethnic cleansing recording and analyzing all its process based also on informations that he got through his access to to the Zionist Archives.

However, the  majority of people in Israel still think that what happened in 1948 is legitimate. They deny the fact that other people were evacuated by force from their country. This denial did not led only to the continuation of the plight of the Palestinian refugees till today, but it was also used as a coverage for the repetition of what happened in 1948 once again in 1967 and after. By checking the official Israeli Archives Nur Masalha found out that in addition to those who left during the 1967 war, other 200 thousand were forcefully evacuated after the war, this include most of the residents of the Morrocan Quarter and Al Sharaf neighborhood  in the Old City of Jerusalem, and the former villages of Yalo, Emwas and Beit Nuba in the Latrun area that were destroyed after the war( Canada Park today). After that war also 850 to 2000 houses were destroyed by Dynamite in Qalqilia city according to different estimations, the same goes for destroying the villages of Beit Awwa and Beit Mirsem close to Hebron, and the village of Jiftlik in the Jordan valley and others. Besides that the Refugee camps of Ein Al Sultan, Nweimeh, and Aqbat Jaber were evacuated.

The period from 1948 to 1967 witnessed also several campaigns of evacuating the Bedouins of the Negev to Egypt and Jordan. These campaigns continued till 1959. Also when Gaza was occupied in 1956 for few months several plans for the evacuation of its population mainly the refugees were prepared, also several massacres were conducted leading to the killing of more than 2000 Gazans as Isam Sakhnini wrote. Till 1948 and as the Israeli historian Aryeh Yitzhaki showed 10 big massacres were conducted by the Zionist groups each of more than fifty people killed, and other smaller 100 massacres were also committed.

This brief review showed that the settler colonial project that has no place to the other continued  also after 1967. Some call what is going in the post 1967 territories as a colonial case of occupation. But this description is misleading. What we have here is a settler colonial project that is stretching itself in the ground using the same methods that were used in the pre 1948 period. It is then a matter of time only when the moment of full confrontation between this project and the indegenious population will come if the expansion of this project will continue with the American support, and the European inability to confront it, and the Arab and the Palestinian divisions and internal fights. 

Today we have around 650 thousand colonial settlers in West Bank and East Jerusalem according to the minimal estimations, also the refugees are still in there place, and new numbers of refugees keep emerging, either in the shape of internal displacement (what is going on with the Bedouins in Area C for instance), or by external ones.

The path to confront this is well known, and were written and called for once and again. It is not by waisting the precious time in the diplomacy of seeking for negotiations,  but by creating an international non violent struggle for the freedom of Palestine and the emancipation of its people. Such a struggle should take place in Europe cities, United States, and every were in the world in addition to Ramallah, Gaza, Jerusalem, and the other Palestinian cities. Such a struggle needs to use political, economic, legal, and diplomatic means, and not to be limited to the organisation of marches and demonstrations. The like-minded Israelis are invited to join, but first they need to cross the bridge from dialoguing with the Palestinians to join them in the struggle for freedom. Crossing this bridge can’t be achieved without their one by one recognition first on the individual basis of the plights of 1948 and 1967, and the Israeli responsibility of creating them. By this recognition they create an example for other Israelis to join. Can they have the courage to do so, and come to a position of truth and honesty for oneself and in their relation with the other?.

Article published in Akhbar el Balad: http://www.akhbarelbalad.net/ar/1/6/3920/

Thursday, 10 May 2018 18:09

Russia makes a play for the Middle East

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Article by Shehab and Maria Al Makahleh

The competition between the United States and Russia in the MENA region will be determined after the end of the Syrian conflict.

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is caught between the hammer of the US and the anvil of Russia. Russian-American competition has re-emerged in the region ever since Russian President Vladimir Putin turned his country into a global player in the 21st century. The show of power started with Ukraine in 2014 and Syria in 2015 and has since expanded.

It is difficult to predict the relationship between Moscow and Washington vis-à-vis the conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Libya, and the rift between Sunni Arab states and Iran. The trajectories of each conflict are the factors that will determine the relationship between Arabs and Moscow on one hand, and Arabs and Washington on the other. 

The presence of international powers in MENA is nothing new. Both Russia and the US have been in the region as far back as the 18th and 19th centuries during the time of the Ottoman Empire. In the Gulf, the Americans cemented their relations with Oman in 1833, which led to the inauguration of the American Consulate in Muscat in 1838. However, the US affiliation with the Middle East is different from that of the Russians. Americans entered the region before there was turmoil, while the Russians arrived shortly after. Yet both countries have tried to exploit the current situation of unprecedented sectarianism and discernible regional and international competition. The Russians, however, know that America’s influence is far stronger.

Russians have always looked for access to warm waters. This has been their dream since Peter the Great in the 17th century. On the other hand, the Americans have military bases in the Middle East, mainly in the Gulf region. For example, the US Navy base in Juffair, Bahrain, was established in 1971 and was the first American installation in the region. 

At the time, the Soviet Union had fallen far behind in the Middle East as it was focused on consolidating its gains in Eastern Europe and on rebuilding its empire following World War II. When Western countries established NATO in 1949 to ensure their security, the Soviets established the Warsaw Pact in 1955 for the Eastern Bloc. Soon after, the Americans helped form the Baghdad Pact in 1955 in attempts to thwart the Soviet influence in the Middle East. Since then, the Americans have dominated the region.

Putin Puts Russia on the Global Stage

The return of Russia as a global power is largely attributed to Putin. To achieve this goal, he had to vie for Russian interests and to challenge the American presence in the Middle East. Former US President Barack Obama tried to take a step back from the turmoil in the region as he shifted US foreign policy to focus on Asia. Putin exploited this by consolidating Russian interests in the MENA region because of its proximity to the Russian frontier.

Starting with the “counterterrorism operation” in 1999, Putin regained control over Chechnya. Then he had to confront NATO on Georgia in 2008. These situations were a warning to Washington and its allies: Moscow is back on track to become a global power, and Putin is different from former Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

Accordingly, Putin’s decision to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad came after he considered the collapse of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s regime under a NATO-backed civil war in 2011. Known for taking action, Putin came to the military support of Assad in 2015 as retaliation for the West’s role over unrest in Ukraine the year before.

Rivalry in the Middle East

Putin has pledged to challenge Western interests in the Middle East. Many countries in the region have started to regard Russia as an ascending power that can play a pivotal role in resolving regional issues. Recent visits to Moscow by the Jordanian monarch, the Saudi king and the Qatari emir, among others, are a clear signal that Russia is back on the block.

While Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has visited the US on recent occasions for talks on arms deals, Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani took a trip to Moscow in February where discussions included military cooperation. Many from the Middle East are heading to the Kremlin to buy Russian weaponry, including the S-400 air missile systems.

All of this is a sign of Russia’s influence. Russian ties with the Gulf Cooperation Council have also progressed significantly in spite of the diplomatic crisis over Qatar. The rivalry between Iran and some Sunni Arab states has pushed Russia into the driver’s seat as the Americans negotiate mega arms deals — mainly with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The American-Russian rivalry over the Middle East chessboard will be determined shortly after the end of the Syrian conflict. By then, there will be one of two scenarios: Either the Americans will have regained the influence they once had or it will be the Russians who take over.

Article published in Fair Observer: 

The 21st century presents Arabs with many challenges that affect their existence and identity for many years to come. Many scholars are now concerned about how to maintain their  cultural identity without being dependent on the West who have the upper hand in terms of influence regarding educational and media systems due to the pervading globalisation which cannot be stopped or controlled.

Though many Arab intelligentsias have written many articles and books about the need for independence in the face of the West’s superiority; however, the risks of westernisation of Arab and Islamic culture are uncontrollable and the influence will be directed against Arab-Islamic heritage and national cultural identity. Though globalisation can be viewed as positive, many scholars consider it negative as a sign of colonialism and cultural invasion, which threatens people’s identity and cultural individuality. Thus, the creation of Daesh in Iraq and Syria as well as al-Qaeda aimed not only to destroy the two countries’ armies but rather to destroy their cultural and historical heritage which leads to deconstructing national identity as well. Why Daesh has destroyed historical sites in Iraq and Syria?

The Arabs and Muslims are living in the middle of the world. Thus, they are under the influence of power polarisation or polarity. One would notice that Arabs at present are living in a state of displaced, intellectual dispersion, cultural disparity or a state of cultural reliance.

Nowadays, the youth are thinking of recreating the old glory and dignity of the caliphate era as they consider they have lost their identity in the so-called “conflict of civilisations”. They wanted to reconstruct a new state which unify them all under the slogan of Islam. This has been the trap for many of them by Daesh and al-Qaeda which have netted a web that misled the youth who fold-blindly followed the path of radicalism to revive the era of the caliphate.

Arabs and Muslims, mainly the youth, due to the high levels of unemployment, are thinking crystallising an ideological and intellectual project that accommodates them to revive their ancient glories. This message would overlap between Arabs and Muslims in terms of originality and modernity because many of the youth, if asked, would say that the past of the Arabs and Muslims was much better than the present era as they were influential and had a say and now they are influenced and have to obey what other nations dictate on them. Thus, they believe the way out is by getting back to the foundations of Islamic religion, though it is restricted by many conditions and determinants in our today’s world to better shape their political and economic future.

In other words, Muslims and Arabs are torn apart between Islamic identity and modern identity. They seek to follow the Islamic teachings and no to relinquish modern civilisation’s blessings. The principle of Islamic identity is one of the Islamic principles. It has enabled the nation's prosperity. Thus, to understand how the young seek extremism, one should know why they follow the teachings of Jihadist leaders in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Nigeria and elsewhere.

In Samuel. P. Huntington's thesis “The Clash of Civilizations”, the West will try to rule the world by permeating their notions and morals in other countries.  Thus, the rejection to these plans comes from the young generation in the Arab and Muslim worlds as they are not bound to adhere to Western soul and ethics. Such rejection leads to a state of radicalism and a state of counter-acting against the interests of the west in the Arab and Islamic worlds or anywhere else. What turns the young Arabs and Muslims to be extremists then terrorist is the conflict between the West and their civilization in various terms including culture, economy, military, political and educational systems, values, beliefs, norms and traditions in addition to religion. Such difference are conducive to counteractions which would drive them to act against interests of the West, to insulate their communities from being penetrated by other civilizations not only the West, and to work on producing arms and weaponry that would create a deterrent power against any external threat such as the case with Daesh and al-Qaeda which both have their tactics and techniques to produce local-made arms.

Thus, linking historical identity with national interests is very significant to determine the moral perspective of extremists’ strategies and their way of thinking. Though political relations of conflicts, alliances and understandings between nations in the 21st century are important, Daesh and its affiliates as well as al-Qaeda and its affiliates do not consider this very important as long as they believe in unity of destiny and beliefs.

What Arabs and Muslims are facing now is their cultural identity issue at the global level. Jihadists realised that the main source of conflict in the next new world will not be political ideology or economics alone but also cultural. That is why they destroy all the ancient sites in the countries they take over. Therefore, the major conflicts will take place, according to the beliefs of these fanatic groups, between nations and groups belonging to different civilizations. It is a battle of civilizations to draw the new borders.

The outbreak of the so-called "revolutions" of the Arab Spring, which erupted in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria, and the resulting identity struggle in an unprecedented manner, have led to hundreds of thousands of deaths and the migration of millions of citizens from their countries of origin to Europe, fleeing the inferno of “searching for an identity”, which none of those fighting for has a clear understanding what he is fighting for or who is he fighting.  Syria may be a model for the bloody identity struggle, exacerbated by the battles of the superpowers and their deep rivalry over political influence.

In the end, there are social, cognitive and religious situations that may remain in the structure of a society and culture, and may provoke some clashes from time to time. However, at a historical moment and for multiple reasons, it could lead to a sudden abrupt transition from a state of equilibrium to a situation of bloody conflict between multiple parties in a bid to search for an identity.

Extended version of the article published in Arab News: http://www.arabnews.com/node/1295386

Campaigning began on Saturday ahead of the Iraqi parliamentary elections, which will be held on May 12. Some 7,000 candidates have registered to stand and will compete for 329 parliamentary seats. But how will the elections affect Iraq’s relations with its Arab neighbors?

For the first time since the rise of Daesh, Iraqis across the country will be able to cast their votes at the ballot box. Voters will elect the representatives they want to guide the country out of its political, economic and security quagmire. Many candidates hope to return Iraq to its pre-1991 era, when the country led the Arab world in various fields. And with many countries in the Middle East supporting different candidates and blocs, regional players will be hoping for a result that best serves their interests.

After the US intervention in Iraq in 2003, many Arab countries chose a state of non-interference in Iraqi affairs, but they may have paid a heavy price for this policy of self-restraint, as it allowed Iran to extend its influence in Iraq. In spite of this, key regional players like Saudi Arabia are now seeking to reactivate the relationship between the two countries in an effort to achieve common political, security and economic goals. 

Iraq’s Arab neighbors are possibly seeking to take advantage of the opportunity brought about by strained US-Iranian relations under the Trump administration in order to restore the days when they had a presence in Iraqi politics. They hope to regain influence in Iraq to protect their interests and security, since the country has become an almost exclusive arena for Iranian influence.

In security terms, Iraq is now ruled by opponents of the regime of Saddam Hussein, most of whom have returned from exile in Iran. The country’s neighbors may now seek to strengthen their relations with the Iraqi government in order to protect their borders and to limit Iran’s ability to influence factions against their interests.

Many candidates hope to return Iraq to its pre-1991 era, when the country led the Arab world in various fields.

– Maria Dubovikova

The Iraqi governments since 2003 have disrupted their relations with neighboring Arab countries in favor of Iran. Iraq has suffered a lot through sectarian wars, the proliferation of violence and terrorism, and the conflict between its rival political camps, depriving the country of stability and development. Now, Iraqi leaders believe that a development of the relationships with its neighbors will positively affect Iraq and pave the way for it to regain its status among Arab countries.

The Iraqi government is almost entirely isolated in the Arab world because of the Iranian influence in its politics and military. Therefore, Baghdad hopes to develop bilateral relationships to obtain an effective regional presence. Prime Minister Haider Abadi, in particular, is seeking gains to reflect positively on his future and against his rivals.

Iraq is also suffering from the negative effects on its economy of the continued restrictions on its borders with Saudi Arabia and Syria. Iraq’s poor infrastructure and the deterioration of its economic conditions have impacted the social stability of its citizens and their relationship with the government. The more stable Iraq is, the more economic benefits its people will gain from open borders with their direct neighbors.

But challenges may hinder the development of Iraq’s relations with its Arab neighbors, some of which may be constrained by the negative image created during the recent past that Iraq is under the influence of non-state actors and Iran. The presence of armed militias loyal to Tehran is a major challenge.

Relations between Iraq and the rest of the Arab world are still in the process of normalization, reconciliation and the resolution of problems. Confidence-building measures would be welcome, as well as developing and strengthening their cooperation. The development of Iraqi-Arab relations depends largely on Baghdad’s post-election desire to develop these ties and reduce the influence of Iran within its borders.

Article published in Arab News: http://www.arabnews.com/node/1287166

The thesis of this short column, can be summarized in the message that the leaders of the underdog party in a protracted and intractable conflict cannot be expected to act all the time rationally( as versus to emotions as the term is unusually used in the political discourses), regardless of the context and its history. And also regardless of the General and the overall positions of those leaders.

On this basis, one can look to the last statement of the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the opening of the Palestinian National Council of the PLO ( The PNC) in the 30th of last April considering the “ Jewish usuary” as the reason for their hate and therefore the successive killings in Europe.

This statement was reviewed and received as separate from the context( The status of the conflict), the personality of Mahmoud Abbas as a man of peace who also presented his last peace plan to the UN General Assembly In the fall of last year, followed by presenting it in his speech to the EU in Brussels last January this year, then to the Arab Summit in Dhahran of Saudi Arabia in 15th of April, and last but not least in the PNC meeting few days ago.

His plan included a call for an international conference to be held under the international legitimacy and run by an international collective mechanism to reach a solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

The plan was strongly welcomed by the EU, Russia, China, Brazil, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, most of the non- aligned countries, and finally it was adopted by the Arab last Summit, and last PNC Conference, and became part of their resolutions.

The only two countries who strongly reject Abbas peace plan are the United States, and Israel.
Obviously all know the answer of why is that?. Briefly both of them do not have a peace plan that is capable to achieve peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. The details are known and were discused through an immense number of articles written by many observers.

The writer of this column has his reservation on Abbas peace plan, based on the fact that instead of just demanding the world for it’s implementation, we should first create our comprehensive and continuous Non- Violent Intifada in order to make the world adopting the plan. Nevertheless the striking question for this column is: Why Abbas “ irrational” statement was stripped from its links to the history of the conflict, its context today, and also from the personality and the history of Abbas himself as a man of peace?.

This question is two-fold: In one hand, why this “ Stripping” process came out as a consensus among the world major powers?. Why as a result there were a series of strong statements against Abbas without mentioning( at least by those that supported his peace plan), even that he is a man of peace, and putting his “ mistake” Within this overall “ evaluation” of him?.

The answer for these questions, goes to the Western conceptualization of “ who is the moderate” among the underdogs in the conflicts, presented all the time as the person who is completely rational, and as a one that is not expected to do even any single “mistake” of following his/her emotions. If he or she did that mistake, even once, it will be then enough to start the process of his/ her Politicide by legitimizing him among his/her people and internationally.

This takes us to the second part of this question, which is why the two former charismatic leaders of the Palestinians were deligitimized at the end?. These two are The Mufti Haj Amin Al Husseini, the head of the Pre- 1948 Arab High Commitee( and later the Arab High Commission), and the second is Yaser Arafat.

The first escaped detention by the British in the 1930’s due to his role in the 1936 revolution in Palestine by escaping to Iraq, and then to Iran when the British Forces were back to Iraq during the World War Two, and finally he found himself escaping from Iran to Berlin the capital of the Nazi Germany when the British occupied Iran. He found a shelter in the Nazi Germany but all the respectful and non demagogic studies will tell that he did not become an advocate to the Nazi ideology. So why he was deligitimized?. The same goes to Yaser Arafat the signatory of Oslo Declaration of Principles of 1993, and the man of peace together with Yitzhak Rabin. After his rejection of 2000 Camp David American offered deal, he found himself imprisond in his compound in Ramallah by the Israeli right wing Government , till he died.

One to think of these two cases, and then speculating: Are the Palestinian leadrs are expected to follow all the time to line of the great power, and to expect punishemt and ousting from the “ moderation” category when they do not do? Are we accordingly witnessing the process of delegitimizing now Mahmoud Abbas after he showed his objection to the American” Ultimate plan” that do not solve any of the issues of refugees, Jerusalem, settlements, borders, and others?. Is this a formula to move him out of the “ moderation” category? Is it the fate of the Palestinians to continue having an ethnocide combined with a politicide of their political leadership through all their modern history?. Will be there a real peace plan to be implemented so this fate to be transformed?.

In the same Line: Are the statements against Abbas stripped from all what mentioned helpful in path to prevent the delegitimization of Abbas? are they rational by themselves, or just reactions of anger by some , and instruments to deligitimize Abbas by others? what are the level of “ tolerance” given to the underdog in a conflict by those who are” stereotyping” him/ her?, and when the patronizing part of this stereotyping will be removed?. Finally how these condemnations to Abbas will not objectively leads to the strengthening of the Israeli settler colonial project on the expense of the Palestinians?

Special to Akhbar Elbalad

Saturday, 21 April 2018 16:19

To be a Palestinian Jerusalemite these days

Written by

The Arab Summit held in Saudi Arabia in the 15th of April, passed this year without attracting the media attention. Strong decisions about Palestine and Iran, and a deep split regarding Syria.These are in general the summit resolutions.

Jerusalem wise the summit was called by King Salman as “ AlQuds Summit”, with 150 million dollars allocated by Saudi Arabia to the Islamic Endownment in the city, and other 50 million allocated to the UNRWA. As happened with the previous summits financial support decisions, one has to wait and see if these will find their way to implementation this time. The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a letter to the summit after its end, calling for a mechanism to implement the summit decisions. We will wait and see.

In Israel, there were almost no response to the Arab Summit resolutions. The Israeli plans in regard to Jerusalem continued as if nothing happened. Besides that some Israeli voices who consider them seleves as “ Peace makers”, moved from their previous patronizing position of giving “advisory opinions” to the Palestinians about alternatives to what is called as “ the failure of the Palestinian strategies for Jerusalem in the last fifty years”, to a new worse position of creating a list for joining the Israeli upcoming municipal elections of this year. This participation is taking place in the framework of the Israeli annexation to the city, and practically recognizing it, by looking for the improvement of the daily life issues of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem through this system instead of working to support the creation of Palestinian facts in the ground towards Palestinian self determination. Interesting enough this new “ project” is presented under the slogan of “ the people democratic right to vote”, as if this democratic participation cannot be achieved by bringing back the Palestinian Municipality that was dissolved illegally by Israel in 1967, and by allowing for the Palestinian munici elections in
West Bank and Gaza Strip to be inclusive to East Jerusalem the capital of Palestine.

This development in the year of moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem, will only create within the existing asymmetry an inclusion process of the Palestinians in the Israeli system, that it besides creating fragmentation among the Palestinians instead of supporting by practical means their right to self determination and independence.

The problem to the Palestinian Jerusalemites with the Arabs are those of that they are making slogans about supporting, but practically speaking the Arab support is fragmented, compitative between different Arab Countires, and also the support that arrives is very small.

The problem of the Palestinian Jerusalemites with the State of Palestine Authorities is about the latter inability to start acting as a Palestinian State in the ground, with East Jerusalem as its capital, which will include the implementation of practical economic and community based programs in Jerusalem, and also include the creation of a long term nonviolent resistance. Now the Jerusalemites are looking to the Palestinian National Council of the 30th of April to make a crucial steps in that direction. Can it?

The big problem for the Palestinian East Jerusalemites will still to be the ISRAELI OCCUPATION, and its ongoing plans for the deepening of the Israeli settler colonial project in the city. Reading the mentioned list for municipal elections program one will find that occupation is not mentioned, and as well the right of the Palestinians to have back their dissolved 1967 Municipality is not mentioned. Moreover the list program ignores the fact that most of the decisions regarding the Israelization and the Judaization of Jerusalem are taken in the Israeli Ministerial level rather than the municipal level. Do they want to be “ witnesses” ( if they succeeded in the municipal elections) on the settlements expansion and the humiliation against the Palestinians in East Jerusalem, including for example the humiliation taking place in the offices of the Israeli Ministry of Interior in East Jerusalem?

Yet, this is not all the story, but there is an ethical side of it that still to be tackled: Opposite to relativism which considers every point of view as merely an “ Opinion”, and therefore considers all opinions as all legitimate and equal regardless of the divide, the Israeli so called “ Peace activists” are called to make the courageous move from this “ Neutrality”, to the position of the the ethical support of what their Palestinian partners struggle for. Without this move, talking about struggling together become impossible, and the joint ventures become like a waste of the Golden time in controversies and arguments on the expense of taking actions.

Finally, despite all these pressures and others not mentioned on the Palestinian East Jerusalemites, there are lights in the horizon, the last was the decisions of the economic conference in Istanbul last week, and others. More importantly there is the Palestinian strong sense of integrity, and the resilience and the ongoing community development in the East Jerusalem communities, which make the Palestinian East Jerusalemite steadfast, continue and prosper despite all the odds.

Article published in Akhbar Al Balad

Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images

Who benefits from a chemical attack such as the one reported to have taken place in Douma last weekend? Is it Russia or Syria? Hardly. It was already clear that any such attack would provoke a tough response from the US and its allies — direct military involvement in Syria with the aim of punishing Bashar Assad, his forces and allies, and ultimately toppling the regime.

The alleged attack raises many questions, the most important being the timing; there was no reason for the Assad regime to carry it out. The Syrian and Russian armies had recaptured most of Eastern Ghouta. Russia was in talks with the militant group Jaish Al-Islam over a deal to allow their fighters to leave Ghouta for Idlib. Civilians trapped in Ghouta had been released. 

Videos reporting the supposed attack do not stand up to scrutiny. One shows a reporter filming as he goes down into the shelter where it took place, but without taking any precautions or wearing any protection. Later, another White Helmet appears with a mask, and says the place is full of gas. Is this logical? Then the White Helmet puts on a mask, but with his bare hands, in ordinary clothes and with his neck uncovered. If there was a chemical attack, how is this possible? 

The White Helmets also reported that most of the victims of the attack were in an underground shelter. But Assad was accused of dropping barrel bombs filled with toxic gas. If this were true, most of the victims would have been at ground level. In addition, Russian military personnel in Douma were not affected by any kind of chemical poisoning, and an investigation by the Russians found no traces of chemical weapons. 

An investigation should be carried out first by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and other independent international bodies. The stakes are enormous because for Assad to carry out such such an attack would be to commit suicide. He is surely not naive enough to fall into this trap.

There are genuine concerns about what happens next. Any military retaliation without a detailed investigation, on the sole basis of reports from the White Helmets, would be an attempt to change the course of recent developments in Syria, and deprive Russia and Turkey of their achievements on the ground.

The ramifications are enormous, and the price of military intervention may be too much to bear. The examples are clear: The military intervention in Iraq cost hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, and led to the emergence of Daesh. The operations to liberate Mosul and Raqqa also cost thousands of civilian lives. We can hardly calculate how many lives would be sacrificed if the West’s aggressive declarations were followed through, or how long that road to hell would be. 

A full-scale attack, as was the case with Libya, would lead to terrorist and extremist gangs spreading all over Syria and the region, leading to chaos and anarchy. Furthermore, we would stand on the brink of a direct confrontation between two nuclear powers, Russia and the US. Nobody would be able to count the innocent victims of such a confrontation.

Article published in Arab News: http://www.arabnews.com/node/1283061

Photo credit: Anadolu

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