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Ed Webb

Israeli politicians prefer chaos over Jewish-Arab partnership - 0 views

  • Assuming that no Knesset member manages to cull 61 Knesset supporters for himself as prime minister within 21 days, Israelis will be dragged to the polls for the third time in less than a year. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that even this bad option was preferable to a government based on Arab Knesset members. Israel’s current kingmaker, Yisrael Beitenu Chair Avigdor Liberman, went as far as to portray the 13 elected Arab Knesset members as a fifth column.
  • unprecedented incitement campaign being waged by the state’s leaders against its Arab minority. The message conveyed by a clear majority of Jewish Israelis to their Arab neighbors — from the far-right Yamina (Rightward) faction to the centrist Blue and White party — is that political chaos is preferable in their view to Jewish-Arab partnership
  • the Arab Joint List is not asking for the defense minister’s portfolio in return for its support, or for any other security-related portfolio. In fact, it is totally uninterested in joining any government. On the other hand, when Hezbollah bombarded Israel’s north and Islamic Jihad launched rockets at its south, the country’s Arab citizens sought shelter just like the Jewish ones. Thus, Israeli Arabs are under similar security threats as their Jewish neighbors, yet all they ask for is recognition of them being part of Israel’s society and politics. They do not ask for ministerial portfolios.
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  • the percentage of Israeli Jews who accept the Arabs as full-fledged members of Israeli society dropped from 69.5% to 61.1%
  • percentage of Jews who recognize the Arabs’ right to live in the state as a minority with full civil rights dropped from 79.7% in 2015 to 73.8% in 2017
  • the Racism Index compiled by the Haifa-based 7amleh – Arab Center for Social Media Advancement, according to which Israeli users issued 474,250 racist and/or violent posts against Palestinians, most of them focused on Israel’s 21% Arab minority. The Joint List and its four constituent parties received the highest number of racist mentions. The leader of the Joint List, Knesset member Ayman Odeh, led the targets subjected to violence and racism with 24,000 mentions, followed by Knesset member Ahmad Tibi with over 20,000. The top five included two Israeli Arab women unrelated to politics — television presenter Lucy Aharish and a contestant in the "Big Brother" reality show, Shams Marei Abumuch
  • a sharp decline in Arab acceptance of the state’s Jewish character: from 60.3% in 2015 to 44.6% in 2017
  • The Arab minority continues to tie its fate to the State of Israel and to fight for an improvement of its status within the state. Arab citizens do not sever themselves from the Jewish majority. Some 60% (compared with 58.8% in 2015) prefer living in Israel to living in any other country, including a Palestinian state, if and when one is established.
  • It is the civil society that must now step in and take the lead. Jews and Arabs alike must speak up in one clear voice for advancing the values and the interests that most of them so yearn for.
Ed Webb

How Mike Pence's Office Meddled in Foreign Aid to Reroute Money to Favored Christian Gr... - 0 views

  • Decisions about U.S. aid are often no longer being governed by career professionals applying a rigorous review of applicants and their capabilities. Over the last two years, political pressure, particularly from the office of Vice President Mike Pence, had seeped into aid deliberations and convinced key decision-makers that unless they fell in line, their jobs could be at stake
  • ProPublica viewed internal emails and conducted interviews with nearly 40 current and former U.S. officials and aid professionals that shed new light on the success of Pence and his allies in influencing the government’s long-standing process for awarding foreign aid.
  • “There are very deliberate procurement guidelines that have developed over a number of years to guard precisely against this kind of behavior,”
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  • USAID regulations state that awards “must be free from political interference or even the appearance of such interference and must be made on the basis of merit, not on the basis of the religious affiliation of a recipient organization, or lack thereof.”
  • In August, as the White House was considering cuts to an array of foreign aid programs, it shielded funding for religious minorities abroad
  • Late in the Obama administration, USAID’s activities in Iraq focused on an effort by the United Nations to restore basic services as soon as cities had been liberated from Islamic State rule. By the end of 2016, the United States had contributed over $115 million to the effort through USAID, and other countries had contributed hundreds of millions of dollars more. U.S. officials credit the U.N.’s work with enabling millions of Iraqis to return to their homes soon after the fighting was done instead of languishing in refugee camps.
  • U.S. officials in Iraq were sensing dissatisfaction among some Iraqi Christians and American religious groups with the U.S. strategy and the U.N.’s work. Trying to head off problems, U.S. officials urged the U.N. in the summer of 2017 to pay special attention to the Nineveh Plains, an ethnically and religiously diverse region of northern Iraq where many of the country’s Christians live. U.N. officials were reluctant, arguing their assistance could go further in dense urban areas like Mosul, as opposed to the Nineveh Plains, a stretch of farmland dotted by small towns and villages.
  • Many career officials at the State Department and USAID supported the broader scope of the U.N.’s work. They acknowledged it wasn’t perfect — it could be slow, and the U.N. was not adept at communicating with local communities — but said the rebuilding had benefited wide swaths of territory that included both Muslims and minority groups.
  • Career officials also expressed concerns at the time that targeting federal funds toward particular minority groups on the basis of religion could be unconstitutional
  • Initially, Pence’s office and political appointees at USAID were focused on helping Christians, with little attention to Yazidis, a small, ancient sect that was targeted in an especially cruel manner by Islamic State militants, said a current official and a former foreign service officer. Over time, career officials “helped educate” political appointees on the extent of the Yazidis’ suffering, in hopes of getting their support for directing some aid at non-Christian groups, the former foreign service officer said. “There was a very ideological focus on Christians, and most of the questions were about Christians,” this person said. “We were trying to get them to focus on others in the minority communities that might need assistance.”
  • While the grant process was being worked out at USAID, Pence blindsided officials in October 2017 when he declared to an influential Christian group in Washington that Trump had ordered diplomats to no longer fund “ineffective” U.N. programs. USAID would now directly help persecuted communities, he said.
  • Mark Green, the head of USAID, expressed discomfort to a colleague about potential interference by Pence into the grant process
  • Pence’s then-chief of staff, Nick Ayers, called Steiger to demand somebody at the agency be punished for the failure to provide aid to Christian groups quickly enough, according to several people familiar with the conversation. Ayers did not respond to requests for comment. Green’s reaction was to remove Maria Longi, a career civil servant and a top official in USAID’s Middle East bureau. Though still on USAID’s payroll, she now teaches national security strategy at the National War College.
  • Concern spread even among Trump appointees that their jobs might be threatened. “What it did instill in the Middle East bureau was fear among the political appointees that they could be thrown out at any time,”
  • Five current or former U.S. officials said involvement in grant decisions by political appointees — particularly by someone as senior as Ferguson — is highly unusual. USAID grants are typically decided by a review committee and a contracting officer, all of whom are career officials.
  • “USAID procurement rules with technical review panels are strict, as they should be, to avoid any political interference on the use of U.S. taxpayer dollars,”
  • Aside from its small size and lack of federal grant experience, Shlama was an unconventional choice for another reason. Last year it received $10,000 in donations from the Clarion Project, a nonprofit organization which researchers at Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative said “advances anti-Muslim content through its web-based and video production platforms.”
  • USAID is now expanding its emphasis on religious minorities far beyond Iraq. In December, a month after his email about White House pressure, Ferguson told USAID mission directors in the Middle East that agency leadership had identified up to $50 million it planned to use in 2019 for “urgent religious freedom and religious persecution challenges,” according to a second email seen by ProPublica. He asked mission directors to submit programming ideas. In a follow-up email in June, also seen by ProPublica, Ferguson wrote that in addition to Iraq, religious and ethnic minority programming was planned for Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia.
Ed Webb

The West is playing an old game with the minorities of the Orient | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • This is the big door through which we may penetrate into the affairs of the East …. In addition to the big door there is a smaller one. Syria, and the Christian population of Lebanon in particular, have the right to obtain from the Sultan, by virtue of a European intervention, guarantees, and in particular an administrative regulation, which may provide them with protection from the abuse they suffered under different rulers and that may secure Syria against sliding once more into chaos … We believe that it is the duty of the Christian powers, even their honour, to support this approach and push forward toward accomplishing a positive practical outcome
  • Guizot thought that obtaining the consent of Russia and Austria would neutralise Britain and make it less able to hinder the implementation of his project. Russia had been pursuing an expansionist approach within the Ottoman sphere of influence. It had close links with the Orthodox and Armenians of the Sultanate, who – and not the Catholics – constituted the majority of the Christians of the Orient.
  • The new entity would include the Christians of the East, foremost among them the Catholics of Lebanon, and would be placed under the protection of the European powers, particularly France, Russia and Austria
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  • he was seeking to establish an independent, or semi-independent, administrative status in the district of Jerusalem, which was at the time part of the Damascus governorate
  • What is astonishing is that Guizot did not ask if the Christians of the Orient, who were scattered all over the Orient, would agree to emigrate from their historic homelands to live in such a European protectorate. He did not even ask if the Muslims, who were the majority of the inhabitants of the Jerusalem Province and who also sanctified the city, would accept his project.
  • Reflecting the French Revolution’s legacy, and the spirit of state hegemony over its people, Guizot – throughout his long years in the Ministry of Education in the 1830s – endeavoured to spread public education across the country and establish at least one primary school in every community.In the meantime, the French colonial administration had started to secularise management and education in Algeria, which France had been occupying since 1830. If there is a degree of peculiarity in the Christian foreign policy of a secular and liberal minister, it is even more peculiar that Guizot was not a Catholic but a Protestant.
  • Guizot’s policy was not in any way religiously motivated. Nor was it Catholic. Guizot policy in essence was the policy of supporting minorities and using them to reinforce the status of the European powers in the confrontation with the majorities.
Ed Webb

The Post-WWI Migrations That Built Yugoslavia and Turkey Have Left a Painful Legacy - N... - 0 views

  • the religious, ethnic and linguistic diversity that characterized their territories in the Middle East and Eastern Europe no longer chimed with the new world order being organized around nation-states
  • Designing measures such as the Greek-Turkish population exchange of 1923, the League of Nations legitimized demographic engineering policies and made migration an intrinsic part of nation-building. With international encouragement, the states with Muslim minorities in the Balkans devised multipronged policies to push out the citizens they saw as undesirable. Turkey became the only destination for Balkan Muslims, even when they were not Turkish.
  • in 1938 Belgrade and Ankara concluded a little-known agreement to transfer 200,000 Yugoslav citizens to Turkey. The transfer did not materialize because of the start of World War II, but the migrations did eventually take place and continued into the 1950s. For both Yugoslavia and Turkey, new states created in the aftermath of World War I, migration was an important part of nation-building.
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  • took as its model another such deal between Turkey and Romania in 1936 as well as the better-known Greek-Turkish population exchange of 1923
  • Forced processes of homogenization are still part of the repertoire of nation-state building, and continue to shape our understanding of world order. Muslim presence in the southeastern periphery of Europe likewise continues to be viewed as problematic and even dangerous: As Piro Rexhepi observed in the book “White Enclosures,” their integration continues to be desirable for security but impossible racially.
  • Focus on religious identity allowed for a formal incorporation of these rather diverse populations into the Turkish national body. The asylum policy and the settlement laws defined migrants as Turks and those “affiliated with Turkish culture” to encompass all the Slav, Albanian and Greek Muslims, making Turkey­­ a safe haven for Muslim minorities fleeing oppressive regimes.
  • Dispossession, expulsions and massacres of diverse Muslim populations were already a grim reality of nation-building in southeastern Europe in the 19th century, when Greece, Montenegro, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria were carved out of Ottoman provinces. In fact, the conquests of Ottoman Europe after 1699 normalized expulsion and compulsory conversion of local Muslims in the lost territories
  • During the Balkan Wars (1912-1913) Serbia, Montenegro, Greece and Bulgaria invaded the remaining Ottoman territories in Europe. Within several months, an estimated 1 million Muslims vanished, murdered and expelled from the regions taken over by these states. The shocking magnitude of the violence, which continued into World War I, made many Muslims wary of their future in the new nation-states and incited migration to the Ottoman Empire, itself in the midst of conflict.
  • 19th-century definitions of South Slavic brotherhood envisioned Slav Muslims as potentially assimilable, distinguishing between “the Turks” as the non-Slavic Ottomans and “our Turks,” that is, Slav Muslims
  • so-called reform also included the vast properties of the Islamic pious endowments. Schools, mosques and Sufi lodges lost the land and incomes that were used to operate educational, religious and community services. Some land appropriations were symbolic: The 15th-century Burmali Mosque that visually defined Skopje’s main thoroughfare was simply torn down
  • In the 1920s, Catholic missionaries working in neighboring Kosovo, a former Ottoman province inhabited by Albanian Muslim and Christian populations and similarly incorporated into Southern Serbia, sent reports of massacres, assassinations, imprisonment and forced labor in a memorandum to the League of Nations, receiving no response.
  • Ivo Andric, an admired novelist and Yugoslav Nobel laureate, was also one of the highest-ranking Yugoslav diplomats in the interwar period. Eager to finalize the population transfer agreement with Turkey, he advised the government in Belgrade that Turkey was not only interested in the small group of ethnic Turks in Yugoslavia but also populations akin to Turks in their “mentality.” Repeating a constant theme in almost all of Andric’s novels, Muslims were described in his diplomatic correspondence as alien to the Balkans. For Andric, they were “Turks leftover in the territories of our Kingdom.”
  • over 2,000 Bosnians were settled along with Greek Muslims in the town of Izmir.
  • Turkish officials, faced with the constant influx of migrants, pursued agreements with the Balkan states that would offset the costs of migrant settlement. The 1934 Balkan Pact included minority clauses that allowed Turkish citizens to sell their properties in their former homelands. Turkish administrators also considered requesting an estimated payment from the Balkan nation-states to match the value of the properties that Balkan Muslims were forced to leave behind.
  • The Turkish Republic saw population growth as beneficial for economic development and national defense in the long term, as it worked to populate its eastern and western borderlands. Moreover, many of Turkey’s early administrators, as migrants and children of migrants themselves, understood these new waves of migration from a personal perspective.
  • Laws barred those speaking languages other than Turkish from settling in groups and limited the “foreign” presence to no more than 10% of a municipality, though the realities of the period frequently made these laws impossible to execute. The locals took on much of the burden of helping newcomers, begrudgingly sharing public resources. At the same time, the immigrants provided necessary manpower and introduced new methods in agriculture and certain industries. While Balkan languages largely disappeared with the following generation, enduring legacies, such as Balkan cuisine and music evoking the most personal memories of exile, acquired a place in the Turkish national heritage.
  • Today, no official recognition of the violent policies of “unmixing” exists, and barely anyone has heard of Yugoslavia’s attempted population transfer of 1939.
  • the international community’s preferred solutions to “ethnic conflicts” in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo remain equally tied to principles of nationalist homogenization and demarcation. A century after the foundation of modern Turkey and the first Yugoslavia, the legacies of that era’s mass migration and state violence persist.
Ed Webb

Israel's war on the Arabic language - AJE News - 1 views

  • A survey, publicised at a conference at Tel Aviv University in December, found that while 17 percent of Jewish citizens claimed to understand Arabic, that figure fell to just 1 percent when they were asked to read a book
  • those with a working knowledge of Arabic were mostly elderly Jewish immigrants born in Arab countries - a generation rapidly dying off
  • half of Israeli Jews with a western heritage wanted Arabic scrapped as an official language, while the figure rose even higher - to 60 percent - among Jews whose families originated from Arab countries
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  • Israel's Jewish schools barely teach Arabic, he observed, and students choosing it do so chiefly as a qualification for entering Israeli military intelligence.
  • When the head of Israel Railways was questioned in 2012 on why station stops were announced in Hebrew and English only, he replied that adding Arabic would "make the train ride noisy".
  • According to a survey, one in four Palestinian citizens struggle to read Hebrew. Farah, of Mossawa, noted that even when public bodies such as the transport ministry included Arabic, it was often so poorly translated from Hebrew that the information was unintelligible.
  • In February it was revealed that Tel Aviv University had barred Palestinian staff in its tuition department from speaking Arabic to students. The policy was reversed after threats of legal action.
  • Jewish and Palestinian parents in Jaffa staged a protest, accusing the Tel Aviv municipality of breaking promises to include Arabic signs and respect Muslim and Christian holidays at the city's first public bilingual school
  • Sawsan Zaher, a lawyer with Adalah, said the 2002 ruling had been a high point for recognition of Arabic in Israel, with the more liberal court of the time stating that it was vital to the dignity of the Palestinian minority that Arabic be used in public spaces in mixed cities. "In recent years Adalah has been very cautious about bringing more such cases to the courts," she told Al Jazeera. "Given the shift to the right in the intervening years, we are worried that the advances made in language rights then might be reversed by the current court."
Ed Webb

Palestinian in Israel - Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • “I don’t use the term Arab-Israeli,” said the 30-year-old journalist, who was born in the Galilee and now lives in the northern city of Haifa. “We are Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. It’s very important for us, the terms and the terminology we use.”
  • Arab-Israeli—the official media and Israeli government term for the 20 percent of Israel’s almost 9 million citizens who are Arab-Palestinian—is increasingly unpopular among the people it’s meant to describe. Only 16 percent of this population wants to be called Arab-Israeli, according to a 2017 survey by the University of Haifa professor Sammy Smooha provided to Foreign Policy.
  • Last summer’s adoption of the new nation-state law, which demoted the status of both the Arabic language and non-Jewish minorities in Israel, accelerated an ongoing shift in the public identity of the Palestinian population in Israel. It is a political statement to use Palestinian as a modifier—a link to cousins in the West Bank and Gaza and an identity distinct from fellow Jewish Israeli citizens.
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  • the increasingly assertive identity of Palestinians in Israel runs parallel to an ongoing reframing of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a civil rights struggle, both in Israel and the occupied territories
  • Palestinian citizens of Israel—also now referred to as Palestinians inside Israel, ’48 Arabs, Palestinian Arabs, Palestinian Israelis, Arab-Israelis—are part of the communities that remained inside the so-called Green Line drawn between Israel and Jordan after the 1948 war. They include Druze (a religious minority), Bedouins, Christians, and Muslims. This group, in theory, has the same rights as Jewish Israelis. In practice, though, they’ve long faced institutional discrimination, and about half of the population lives in poverty, the highest rate in Israel. Even the Druze, who have historically been the most integrated into Israeli society, including serving in the Israel Defense Forces, are furious that the new nation-state law targets them, too. (Among the different Druze communities, a minority is located in the occupied Golan Heights and still rejects Israeli citizenship and identifies as Syrian.)
  • with talk in Israel and the Palestinian territories of a two-state solution shifting now toward a one-state reality—be it either one binational state or one Jewish state where not all Palestinians have equal rights—some Palestinians inside Israel are asserting these two parts of their identity as the core of a more rights-based discourse
  • one significant finding of Smooha’s data is not simply that Arab-Israeli is an unpopular option but rather that more people are rejecting the Israeli part of the identity all together. Since 2003, about 30 percent of respondents have reported that they prefer the term “Palestinian Arab in Israel.” But while in 2003 just 3.7 percent said they prefer the term “Palestinian Arab” (which doesn’t reference their Israeli component at all), in 2017 that number rose to 17 percent
  • “We are not here nor there,” she said. “They [outsiders] think the ’48 [Arabs] live so well. We are poor! In the West Bank, they think that we ’48 Arabs are like Jews. … And here the Jews say we are Arabs.”
Ed Webb

Arabs Across Syria Join the Kurdish-Led Syrian Democratic Forces - MERIP - 1 views

  • Led by Kurds, the YPG evolved over time into the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF): a multi-ethnic, multi-religious force in which all the indigenous peoples of the region are represented. Arabs, Assyrians, Armenians, Yezidis, Circassians and Turkmen have fought alongside Kurds to defend their homeland. By 2019, when the SDF had liberated all of Syrian territory from ISIS control, there were some 100,000 fighters (including SDF and Internal Security Forces) under the leadership of SDF commander-in-chief Mazlum Abdi, a Syrian Kurd and former Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) cadre.[2] The majority of his rank-and-file fighters, however, were Arabs.
  • My field survey of over 300 SDF members reveals that there are three main reasons for the SDF’s success in recruiting and retaining Arabs: First, the SDF offered material incentives such as salaries and training opportunities.[3] Second, the existence of a common threat—first ISIS and now Turkey—solidified bonds between Kurds and Arabs and also prompted many to enlist. Third, the survey shows that many Arab members of the SDF support at least some, if not all, of the basic political principles upon which the SDF and the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) are based.
  • In September 2014, a joint operations room was established between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the YPG, known as Burkan al-Firat (Euphrates Volcano).[4] The ISIS siege of Kobane and ensuing US military support cemented the alliance between the YPG and a number of Arab units within the FSA, which led to the emergence of the SDF in October 2015.
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  • the SDF became the main partner force for the United States on the ground in Syria. In order to defeat ISIS, it was necessary to further expand the geographical reach of the SDF to Arab-majority cities such as Manbij, Raqqa, Tabqa and Deir Ezzor. In the course of this expansion, some Arab women were recruited as well. In July 2017, the YPJ (the women’s branch of the YPG) announced the creation of the first battalion of Arab women, the “Brigade of the Martyr Amara.”[5]
  • the expansion of the SDF and self-administration across north and east Syria was not always welcomed by Arab communities. The increase in Arab rank-and-file fighters has not yet been accompanied by an equally significant increase of Arabs in leadership positions, although Arabs have been promoted within both the military and civilian structures of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria. The secular and gender-egalitarian ideology is not embraced by some more conservative members of society
  • In an attempt to undo tribal hierarchies, administration officials are encouraging people to use the term al-raey, which means shepherd
  • during my visits to ramshackle YPJ outposts in Manbij, Raqqa, Al-Sheddadi, Tabqa, Ain Issa, Al-Hasakah and elsewhere, I met many Arab women. They had all enlisted in the YPJ voluntarily, as there is no conscription for women. Many of them were eager to tell their stories
  • name of the governing entity was changed to the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria and the Kurdish term Rojava was dropped in December 2016.[10] Although this decision angered some Kurdish nationalists, it was justified by the expansion of the territory beyond Kurdish-majority areas. The official logo recognizes the linguistic diversity of the region, and is in four languages: Arabic, Kurdish, Syriac-Aramaic and Turkish. Furthermore, in 2018 the de-facto capital or administrative center of the region was moved from Qamishli to Ain Issa, an Arab town
  • By 2019, the SDF was in de-facto control of approximately one-third of Syria. The territory they defend from incursions by ISIS, the Turkish government and Syrian government forces is an ethnically and religiously diverse region. These six regions—Jazira, Deir Ezzor, Raqqa, Tabqa, Manbij and Euphrates—are governed by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, which operates semi-independently of Damascus. The Arabs who inhabit these six regions are not a homogenous group. While some Arabs have protested the policies of the Autonomous Administration, others openly endorse the new political project.
  • Inspired by an eclectic assortment of scholars, ranging from Murray Bookchin to Immanuel Wallerstein, the ideology that emerged is referred to as Democratic Confederalism. The nation-state is no longer a prize to be obtained but is now seen as part of the problem that led to the subjugation of Kurds in the first place, along with that of women and other minorities, and therefore to be avoided.
  • The emergence of Arab Apocis may be one of the many unexpected twists of the Syrian conflict, signifying the appeal of the Rojava revolution beyond Rojava.
  • A co-chair system was established where all leadership positions—from the most powerful institutions down to neighborhood communes—are held jointly by a man and a woman
  • here I focus on Arabs since they now constitute the majority of rank-and-file fighters and yet are frequently omitted from analyses of the SDF. Scholars, journalists, think tank analysts and government officials still incorrectly refer to the SDF as a Kurdish force.
  • joining the SDF entailed risks, especially for women. Anyone who joined the SDF from a city that was under the control of ISIS, or who joined from territory never controlled by the SDF, did so at great personal risk
  • The Syrian Democratic Forces is the only armed group in Syria that has a policy of not discriminating on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion or gender, which has allowed the SDF to develop into a truly multi-ethnic and multi-religious force. This radical egalitarianism clearly appealed to non-Arab minorities who suffered under decades of pan-Arabism promoted by the Baathist regime of the Asad family. Kurds from the far corners of Kurdistan were galvanized by the promise of the Rojava revolution. What is less well appreciated is that Arabs have also embraced these ideals and practices.
  • a large number of Arab respondents rejected the Turkish occupation of Syria and demanded that the land be returned to Syria. Contrary to analysts who portray the conflict as one solely between Turkey and the Kurds, my survey shows that Arab SDF members also view the Turkish incursions and expanding Turkish presence as an illegitimate foreign occupation of Syrian land
  • The SDF faces ongoing threats from the Asad regime, Turkey and ISIS cells. The Turkish intervention in October 2019, however, did not lead to a disintegration of the SDF, or even to any serious defections, as some had predicted.[14]
Ed Webb

More than Genocide - Boston Review - 0 views

  • Mass state violence against civilians is not a glitch in the international system; it is baked into statehood itself. The natural right of self-defense plays a foundational role in the self-conception of Western states in particular, the formation of which is inseparable from imperial expansion. Since the Spanish conquest of the Americas starting in the sixteenth century, settlers justified their reprisals against indigenous resistance as defensive “self-preservation.” If they felt their survival was imperiled, colonizers engaged in massive retaliation against “native” peoples, including noncombatants. The “doctrine of double effect” assured them that killing innocents was permissible as a side effect of carrying out a moral end, like self-defense.
  • By the nineteenth century, the Christianizing mission had been augmented by a civilizing one of the “savage” natives. More recently, this colonial ideology has manifested itself in the project of “bringing democracy to the Arab world,” with Israel designated as the “the only democracy in the Middle East,” the proverbial “villa in the jungle.”
  • Without imperial possessions and the lucrative trade in sugar and other commodities predicated on the Atlantic slave trade, European states would not have generated the surpluses necessary to pay for their military establishments and the bureaucratic apparatuses required to sustain them. And while European powers and settlers in their colonies did not set out to exterminate the peoples they conquered, they killed any who resisted, claiming that their hands were forced.
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  • civilian destruction tends to be greatest when security retaliation reaches the level of what I have called “permanent security”—extreme responses by states to security threats, enacted in the name of self-defense. Permanent security actions target entire civilian populations under the logic of ensuring that terrorists and insurgents can never again represent a threat. It is a project, in other words, that seeks to avert future threats by anticipating them today.
  • The historical record shows that, however terrible, violent anticolonial uprisings were invariably smashed with far greater violence than they unleashed. The violence of the “civilized” is far more effective than the violence of the “barbarians” and “savages.”
  • Throughout the five-hundred-year history of Western empires, the security of European colonizers has trumped the security and independence of the colonized.
  • Jabotinsky’s famous “Iron Wall” argument from 1923, in which the Revisionist Zionist leader argued that Palestinian resistance was understandable, inevitable—and anticolonial. Speaking of Palestinians, Jabotinsky wrote that “they feel at least the same instinctive jealous love of Palestine, as the old Aztecs felt for ancient Mexico, and their Sioux for their rolling Prairies.” Because Palestinians could not be bought off with material promises, Jabotinsky wanted the British Mandate authorities to enable Zionist colonization until Jews, then a tiny minority of Palestine, reached a majority. “Zionist colonisation must either stop, or else proceed regardless of the native population,” he concluded. “Which means that it can proceed and develop only under the protection of a power that is independent of the native population—behind an iron wall, which the native population cannot breach.”
  • to ensure that Palestinian militants can never again attack Israel, its armed forces are subjecting two million Palestinians to serial war crimes and mass expulsion
  • If Western states support this solution for Israeli permanent security—as the United States appears to be with its budgeting of refugee support in neighboring countries under the guise of a “humanitarian” gesture—they will be continuing a venerable tradition. During, between, and after both twentieth-century world wars, large-scale population transfers and exchanges took place across the Eurasian continent to radically homogenize empires and nations. Millions of people fled or were expelled or transferred from Turkey, Greece, Austria, Italy, India, Palestine, Central and Eastern Europe. Progressive Europeans reasoned then that long-term peace would be secured if troublesome minorities were removed. This ideology—which the governments of Russia, China, Turkey, India, and Sri Lanka share today—maintains that indigenous and minority populations must submit to their subordination and, if they resist, face subjugation, deportation, or destruction. Antiterrorism operations that kill thousands of civilians are taken to be acceptable responses to terrorist operations that kill far fewer civilians
  • Indigenous and occupied peoples, then, are placed in an impossible position. If they resist with violence, they are violently put down. If they do not, states will overlook the lower-intensity but unrelenting violence to which they are subject
  • Hamas thus reasons that Palestinians have nothing to gain by conforming to a U.S.-led “rules-based international order” that has forgotten about them.
  • When state parties to the UNGC negotiated in 1947 and 1948, they distinguished genocidal intent from military necessity, so that states could wage the kind of wars that Russia and Israel are conducting today and avoid prosecution for genocide. The high legal standard stems from the restrictive UNGC definition of genocide, which was modeled on the Holocaust and requires that a perpetrator intend to “destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such” (the dolus specialis) in at least one of five prescribed ways (the actus reus). The words “as such” are widely regarded as imposing a stringent intent requirement: an act counts as genocide only if individuals are targeted solely by virtue of their group membership—like Jews during World War II—and not for strategic reasons like suppressing an insurgency.
  • Together, the United States and Russia have killed many millions of civilians in their respective imperial wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Chechnya; so have postcolonial states like Nigeria and Pakistan in fighting secessions. Genocide allegations were leveled in some of these cases in global campaigns like the one we see now, but none stuck, and they are largely forgotten in the annals of mass violence against civilian
  • Adding to the difficulty of establishing genocidal intent is the uncertainty in international humanitarian law about the legality of civilians killed “incidentally” in the course of attacking legitimate military targets. While the majority of international lawyers agree that civilian deaths are acceptable so long as they are not disproportionate in relation to the military advantage sought, others argue that bombing crowded marketplaces and hospitals regardless of military objective is necessarily indiscriminate and thus illegal.
  • They go far in excusing all Israeli conduct in the name of its legitimate self-defense; the US even seems to have demurred on whether the Geneva Conventions are applicable to Palestinian territories. It is thus unsurprising that they have not pressed the Israeli government to explain how cutting off water, food, and power to Gaza—a “war of starvation” as the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor put it—is a legitimate military tactic, one not covered by the UNGC, which declares one genocidal predicate act to be “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.” But if so-called humanitarian pauses are occurring to allow in a little, if grossly inadequate, aid, and the “total siege” is lifted after the military defeat of Hamas (should it happen), it will be difficult to argue in a legal context that Israel’s strangling of Gaza was a genocidal act.
  • the “Dahiya Doctrine,” which, they argue, dictates “disproportionate attacks, including against *civilian* structures and infrastructure.” This is clearly illegal.
  • Excessive reprisals, we should recall, are a staple of colonial warfare and state consolidation
  • Since genocide is a synonym for the destruction of peoples, whether the killing and suppression of their culture is motivated by destruction “as such” or by deterrence, the experience is the same: a destructive attack on a people, and not just random civilians. But the UNGC does not reflect the victim’s perspective. It protects the perpetrators: states that seek permanent security.
  • Unless the conditions of permanent insecurity are confronted, permanent security aspirations and practices will haunt Palestinians and Israelis.
Ed Webb

Syrian opposition group tells U.S. to stay out of internal politics | McClatchy - 0 views

  • “The politics of the United States are very, very bad, very stupid,” said Mohammed Sarmini, spokesman for the Syrian National Council, whose 310 members represent most of the major parties and organizations in exile. “This may be an American project, but it is very offensive to the Syrian people. You should support us on the ground, not get into our politics.”
  • signs that the Obama administration may be out of touch with Syrian exile politics
  • accord in four major areas, the most important of which is probably the plan for a transitional government. The accord calls for an assembly of 300 Syrians, to be held inside the country if possible, to elect the government. Most of the participants would be from the inside, intended to give the legitimacy that many transitional governments do not have.One-quarter of the participants would represent the municipal councils set up to run liberated areas, one-quarter from the armed resistance groups, one-quarter of state bureaucrats who have defected to the opposition and one-quarter from the Syrian National Council.
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  • a new constitution, based on the 1950 constitution, which put heavy stress on civil rights; to institute an election law that provides for multiple parties and a parliamentary system; to institute a new national security administration and to make it a constitutional requirement that the military stays out of politics
  • American officials have been elusive and avoided media inquiries
  • Ziadeh said he was not sure whether the United States had actually drafted the plan for the opposition or had bought into a new plan drafted by Riad Seif, a prominent dissident who left Syria earlier this summer after a decade of house arrest and jail
  • The humanitarian situation in Syria is now one of if not the worst crisis on Earth. Officially the death toll is stated at 30,000 to 35,000. But a European diplomat in Istanbul who closely monitors the war and humanitarian aid efforts estimates the actual death toll at more than 100,000, a number with which reputable Syrian opposition figures agree
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    The US should not be bungling stuff like this. If Washington and its allies want more say in the Syrian transitional process (and why should they?) then they need to be more actively engaged and supportive. But in general they should not be in the game of trying to pick winners among the opposition, even if they are worried about radicals. The latter will only ever be a minority.
Ed Webb

Turkey's New Maps Are Reclaiming the Ottoman Empire | Foreign Policy - 1 views

  • an alarming burst of Turkish irredentism
  • Erdogan criticized the Treaty of Lausanne, which created the borders of modern Turkey, for leaving the country too small. He spoke of the country’s interest in the fate of Turkish minorities living beyond these borders, as well as its historic claims to the Iraqi city of Mosul, near which Turkey has a small military base. And, alongside news of Turkish jets bombing Kurdish forces in Syria and engaging in mock dogfights with Greek planes over the Aegean Sea, Turkey’s pro-government media have shown a newfound interest in a series of imprecise, even crudely drawn, maps of Turkey with new and improved borders
  • this combination of irredentist cartography and rhetoric nonetheless offers some insight into Turkey’s current foreign and domestic policies and Ankara’s self-image. The maps, in particular, reveal the continued relevance of Turkish nationalism, a long-standing element of the country’s statecraft, now reinvigorated with some revised history and an added dose of religion
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  • they aren’t maps of the Ottoman Empire, which was substantially larger, or the entire Muslim world or the Turkic world. They are maps of Turkey, just a little bigger
  • while countries like Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, and Hungary brought disaster on themselves by trying to forcibly rewrite their postwar borders, Turkey — under Ataturk and his successor — wisely resisted this urge
  • Erdogan, by contrast, has given voice to an alternative narrative in which Ataturk’s willingness in the Treaty of Lausanne to abandon territories such as Mosul and the now-Greek islands in the Aegean was not an act of eminent pragmatism but rather a betrayal. The suggestion, against all evidence, is that better statesmen, or perhaps a more patriotic one, could have gotten more.
  • Erdogan’s new sectarianism is evident in Mosul, where Turkey has warned of the risks to Sunnis should Shiite militias take control of the city. But the policy’s influence is clearest in Syria, where Turkey has been supporting Sunni rebels aiming to topple the Assad regime (including those now struggling to hold the city of Aleppo). In both Iraq and Syria, however, Turkey’s sectarianism has not been allowed to trump pragmatism. Ankara has been keen to maintain a mutually beneficial economic relationship with Iran despite backing opposite sides in Syria and in the past year has also expressed its willingness to make peace with Assad if circumstances require it.
  • Criticism of Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman foreign policy is now as likely to come from the Arab world as anywhere else
  • The Sultan Murad Brigade, comprising predominantly ethnic Turkmens, has been one of Ankara’s military assets inside Syria against both Bashar al-Assad’s regime and the PKK. Meanwhile, the Turkmen population living around Mosul and its surrounding area has been a concern and an asset for Ankara in Iraq. Turkish special forces have worked with the Iraqi Turkmen Front since at least 2003 in order to expand Turkish influence and counter the PKK in northern Iraq.
  • Turkish minorities in northern Greece and Cyprus have played a similar role. That is, their well-being has been a subject of genuine concern for Turkish nationalists but also a potential point of leverage with Athens to be used as needed
  • Erdogan has also emphasized a new element to Turkey’s communitarian foreign-policy agenda: Sunni sectarianism
  • Government rhetoric has been quick to invoke the heroism of Turkey’s war of independence in describing the popular resistance to the country’s July 15 coup attempt. And alongside the Ottomans, Erdogan routinely references the Seljuks, a Turkic group that preceded the Ottomans in the Middle East by several centuries, and even found a place for more obscure pre-Islamic Turkic peoples like the Gokturks, Avars, and Karakhanids that first gained fame in Ataturk’s 1930s propaganda
  • the points at which Turkey has proved susceptible to irredentism in the past have all come at moments of change and uncertainty similar to what the Middle East is experiencing today. In 1939, Ankara annexed the province of Hatay, then under French control, by taking advantage of the crisis in Europe on the eve of World War II
  • Ankara is all too aware of the fact that the power to do so remains the only rationale for foreign intervention that matters
Ed Webb

To Iranian eyes, Kurdish unrest spells Saudi incitement | Reuters - 0 views

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    States in the region have long used Kurds and other minorities to weaken rivals. That doesn't confirm the truth of Iran's claims here, but does make them plausible.
Ed Webb

Gauging Arab public opinion - Opinion - Al Jazeera English - 0 views

  • Organised by the Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies (ACRPS), face-to-face interviews by Arab surveyors with 16,731 individuals in the first half of 2011 revealed majority support for the goals of the Arab revolutions and notably, for a democratic system of government.
  • by a 15-1 ratio, Israel and the US are seen as more threatening than Iran
  • there's clearly a trans-national, trans-border public consensus when it comes to questions of identity and national priorities
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  • Three quarters of those polled believe that Arab states should take measures to bring their nations closer. An equal percentage believes that states should lift restrictions on free travel and 67 per cent are not satisfied with Arab-Arab co-operation
  • 73 per cent of those polled see Israel and the US as the two most threatening countries. Five per cent see Iran as the most threatening, a percentage that varies between countries and regions
  • 84 per cent believe the Palestinian question is the cause of all Arabs
  • 84 per cent reject the notion of their state's recognition of Israel and only 21 per cent support, to a certain degree, the peace agreement signed between Egypt, Jordan and the PLO with Israel
  • Less than a third agree with their government's foreign policy
  • 55 per cent support a region free of nuclear weapons
  • While people are generally supportive of democracy, a minority doesn't truly understand or accept its main tenets. A relatively high 36 per cent wouldn't support those they disagree with in their political platform to take power, a percentage that doesn't bode well for democracy. This shows that while there is an intention to move towards pluralism among most people, there is resistance to pluralism and diversity among a certain minority.
  • an annual sequel to this poll, as promised by ACRPS, is indispensable for better understanding of Arab thinking beyond mood swings and abrupt changes
  • To what degree Arab respondents express their minds freely and without any fear remains to be seen. However, for the first time in decades, people seem more willing and able to share their political sentiments, thanks to the revolutions.
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Ed Webb

Here's the Movie That Egyptians Just Stormed the U.S. Embassy Over - Max Fisher - The A... - 1 views

  • protesters in Cairo are gathered at the U.S. embassy compound, where some have scaled the walls and pulled down the American flag
  • protesting an American film that insults Prophet Mohammed
  • The movie is called Mohammed Nabi al-Muslimin, or Mohammed, Prophet of the Muslims. If you've never heard of it, that's because the few clips circulating online are dubbed in Arabic. The above clip, which is allegedly from the film (I haven't been able to confirm this) is one of the only in English. That's also because it's allegedly produced by Florida Pastor Terry Jones (yes, the asshole who burnt the Koran despite Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' pleas) and two Egyptians living in the U.S., according to Egyptian press accounts. The Egyptians are allegedly Coptic, the Christian minority that makes up about a tenth of Egypt
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  • some members of Egypt's sometimes-raucous, often rumor-heavy media have been playing highly offensive clips from the highly offensive film, stressing its U.S. and Coptic connections
  • an American-Coptic plot
  • it appears to compare Mohammed to a goat and Muslims, according to one translation, to "child-lovers."
  • The movie, like Terry Jones himself and his earlier Koran-burning stunt, have received attention far beyond their reach, which would be modest if not for obsessively outraged media. And yet, here the movie is, not just offending apparently significant numbers of people, but producing real-world damage. That damage is apparently limited to one American flag (CNN at one point reported that it had been torn, rumors continue to circulate that it was burned) and presumably the evenings of the U.S. embassy staff, but the U.S.-Egypt relationship is tense enough, and Muslim-Coptic mistrust has already produced scant but horrifying violence against the Christian minority. That doesn't mean this incident will become anything more than a bizarre moment of cross-cultural misunderstanding (the protesters seem to assume that, as in Egypt, movies must secure the state's approval), but that it could go so far is yet another reminder of the tensions jsut beneath the surface in Egypt.
Ed Webb

Armenians in Syria and Lebanon: Displaced again | The Economist - 0 views

  • Hagop looked bewildered when asked if he had heard of such a massacre. He says no one was killed—a statement repeated by Anjar’s mayor, Sarkis Pamboukian.The Armenians accuse an old foe for their woes. Scenes of mass panic on the day the town fell were sparked largely by rumours of a Turkish invasion, reopening wounds in the collective memory of the Armenians, victims of what is widely recognised as a genocide at the Turks’ hands in 1915. “I heard explosions, so I called friends, who said there was an attack from the Turkish border,” says Hagop.No Turkish invasion materialised, but Anjar’s residents are adamant their historic adversaries were the masterminds behind the attack. “This is a continuation of Turkey’s project to take Kassab,” says Mr Pamboukian. “The rebels couldn’t have entered without their [Turkey’s] permission,” says Hagop, repeating claims made by non-Armenians too. Turkey’s foreign ministry says the accusations are “entirely baseless”.There are around 100,000 Armenians in Syria, which has been a safe haven for minorities and displaced people including thousands of Palestinians, who are now finding themselves uprooted once more. Partly for this reason, Syrian Armenians and their Lebanese brethren in Anjar share quiet support for Syria’s Assad regime. 
Ed Webb

Could We Have Stopped This Tragedy? | Foreign Policy - 5 views

  • President Barack Obama erred when he jumped the gun in 2011 and insisted “Assad must go,” locking the United States into a maximalist position and foreclosing potential diplomatic solutions that might have saved thousands of lives
  • Obama’s 2012 off-the-cuff remark about chemical weapons and “red lines” was a self-inflicted wound that didn’t help the situation and gave opponents a sound bite to use against him
  • More than 200,000 people are now dead — that’s approaching 100 times as many victims as 9/11 — and numerous towns, cities, and villages have been badly damaged, if not destroyed. There are reportedly some 11 million displaced people either internally or out of the country, about half Syria’s original population. A flood of refugees and migrants has landed in Europe, provoking a new challenge to the European Union’s delicate political cohesion and raising the specter of a sharp increase in right-wing xenophobia. The carnage in Syria has also helped fuel the emergence and consolidation of the so-called Islamic State, intensified the Sunni-Shiite split within Islam, and put additional strain on Syria’s other neighbors
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  • is it possible that those who called for swift U.S. intervention several years ago were right all along? If the United States, NATO, the Arab League, or some combination of the above had established a no-fly zone and stood ready to intervene with ground forces, might the Assad regime have fallen quickly and spared Syria and the world this bleak and open-ended disaster?
  • I still believe intervening in Syria was not in the United States’ interest and was as likely to have made things worse as to have made them better. I take no pleasure in my conclusions; it would be more comforting to think that even seemingly intractable problems can be solved.I take no pleasure in my conclusions; it would be more comforting to think that even seemingly intractable problems can be solved
  • The Limits of Air Power. Proponents of “no-fly zones” typically exaggerate their impact and in so doing overstate the capacity of air power to determine political outcomes.
  • Assad’s “Gamble for Resurrection.” From the very start, a key problem in Syria was the lack of an attractive exit option for the entire Assad regime. As the titular leader of the Alawite minority that has dominated Syria since 1970, Assad and his followers saw relinquishing power as a mortal threat.
  • What About the Jihadis? Intervening to push Assad out faced another obvious objection: It might open the door for al Qaeda or other violent extremists. This concern also complicated proposals to arm anti-Assad forces like the Free Syrian Army. How could Washington ensure U.S. weapons didn’t end up in the wrong hands?
  • only thing worse than a truly awful government is no government at all
  • Face It: The United States Is Toxic. The ineffectiveness of U.S. training efforts and other forms of advice may be partly due to the negative opinion most people in the Middle East have of U.S. policy. America may be admired for its democracy, its achievements in science and technology, and the friendliness of its people, but U.S. Middle East policy is widely reviled.
  • Whose Interests Are Truly Engaged? There is a clear humanitarian interest in ending the Syrian civil war. But neither great nor minor powers typically run big risks or bear large costs for strictly humanitarian reasons.
  • the least bad option at this point would be a re-energized effort to end the fighting. The United States should stop insisting Assad must go, and listen carefully to the other powers with a stake in the outcome, including Russia
  • I don’t know if it will be possible to reconstitute a unified Syrian state; if not, then an organized and internationally supervised partition plan will have to be negotiated and implemented
Ed Webb

The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment | The New York Review of Books - 2 views

  • They had imbibed some of the defining values of American Jewish political culture: a belief in open debate, a skepticism about military force, a commitment to human rights. And in their innocence, they did not realize that they were supposed to shed those values when it came to Israel.
  • For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead
  • Every country manifests some kind of ideological divide. But in contemporary Israel, the gulf is among the widest on earth
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  • while American Jewish groups claim that they are simply defending Israel from its foes, they are actually taking sides in a struggle within Israel between radically different Zionist visions
  • In 2006, Foxman called an Amnesty International report on Israeli killing of Lebanese civilians “bigoted, biased, and borderline anti-Semitic.” The Conference of Presidents has announced that “biased NGOs include Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Christian Aid, [and] Save the Children.” Last summer, an AIPAC spokesman declared that Human Rights Watch “has repeatedly demonstrated its anti-Israel bias.” When the Obama administration awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson, former UN high commissioner for human rights, the ADL and AIPAC both protested, citing the fact that she had presided over the 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. (Early drafts of the conference report implicitly accused Israel of racism. Robinson helped expunge that defamatory charge, angering Syria and Iran.)
  • Hebrew University Professor Ze’ev Sternhell is an expert on fascism and a winner of the prestigious Israel Prize. Commenting on Lieberman and the leaders of Shas in a recent Op-Ed in Haaretz, he wrote, “The last time politicians holding views similar to theirs were in power in post–World War II Western Europe was in Franco’s Spain.” With their blessing, “a crude and multifaceted campaign is being waged against the foundations of the democratic and liberal order.” Sternhell should know. In September 2008, he was injured when a settler set off a pipe bomb at his house.
  • Israel’s vice prime minister, Moshe Ya’alon, called the anti-occupation group Peace Now a “virus.” This January, a right-wing group called Im Tirtzu accused Israeli human rights organizations of having fed information to the Goldstone Commission that investigated Israel’s Gaza war. A Knesset member from Netanyahu’s Likud promptly charged Naomi Chazan, head of the New Israel Fund, which supports some of those human rights groups, with treason, and a member of Lieberman’s party launched an investigation aimed at curbing foreign funding of Israeli NGOs.
  • by downplaying the significance of Avigdor Lieberman, the settlers, and Shas, American Jewish groups allow these older Zionists to continue to identify with that more internally cohesive, more innocent Israel of their youth, an Israel that now only exists in their memories
  • America’s Jewish leaders should think hard about that rally. Unless they change course, it portends the future: an American Zionist movement that does not even feign concern for Palestinian dignity and a broader American Jewish population that does not even feign concern for Israel.
  • In a more recent report on how to foster Zionism among America’s young, Luntz urges American Jewish groups to use the word “Arabs, not Palestinians,” since “the term ‘Palestinians’ evokes images of refugee camps, victims and oppression,” while “‘Arab’ says wealth, oil and Islam.”
  • In the world of AIPAC, the Holocaust analogies never stop, and their message is always the same: Jews are licensed by their victimhood to worry only about themselves. Many of Israel’s founders believed that with statehood, Jews would rightly be judged on the way they treated the non-Jews living under their dominion. “For the first time we shall be the majority living with a minority,” Knesset member Pinchas Lavon declared in 1948, “and we shall be called upon to provide an example and prove how Jews live with a minority.”
  • the dilemmas you face when you possess dozens or hundreds of nuclear weapons, and your adversary, however despicable, may acquire one, are not the dilemmas of the Warsaw Ghetto
  • a challenge as momentous as any in Jewish history: to save liberal democracy in the only Jewish state on earth
Ed Webb

Mona Eltahawy - Mona Eltahawy on Switzerland's ban on minarets - washingtonpost.com - 1 views

  • Bigotry must be condemned wherever it occurs. If majority-Muslim countries want to criticize the mistreatment of Muslims living as minority communities elsewhere, they should be prepared to withstand the same level of scrutiny regarding their own mistreatment of minorities. Millions of non-Muslim migrant workers have helped build Saudi Arabia. Human rights groups have long condemned the slave-like conditions that many toil under, and the possibility of Saudi citizenship is nonexistent. Muslim nations have been unwilling to criticize this bigotry in their midst, and Europeans should keep in mind that Sunday's ban takes them in this direction.
Ed Webb

Why the Islamic State is the minor leagues of terror | Middle East Eye - 2 views

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    "The sole advantage the Islamic State has when it comes to this country is that it turns out to be so easy to spook us."
Ed Webb

After a New Massacre, Charges That ISIS Is Operating With Assad and the Russians - 0 views

  • In all, 273 Druze were killed and 220 injured, Druze officials told us.They strongly suspect that the attack by ISIS was carried out in cooperation with the Russian-backed Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, and this is corroborated to some extent by ISIS prisoners we have interviewed who are being held by U.S.-allied Kurdish forces here in northern Syria.  The Druse politicians and officials came here to try to forge an alliance with like-minded Kurds for mutual self-protection, which is when they told us the details of the massacre.
  • As the ISIS massacres in the Sweida region began just after dawn, mysteriously, telephone land lines and electricity in the area had been cut off. But the news spread by cell phone, and well-armed Druze men came out in droves to defend their population. “The big battle started around noon and lasted until 8 p.m,” said one Druze official who joined the fight. According to the Druze politicians we talked to, there were approximately 400 combatants from ISIS, or Daesh as they are called here, facing thousands of individually armed Druze who rose to fight — and who did not take prisoners. “Currently 250 Daesh are dead,” one Druze official told us. “There are no injured [ISIS fighters]. We killed them all and more are killed every day in ongoing skirmishes in which the Daesh attackers continue to come from the desert to attack. Every day we discover the bodies of injured Daesh who died trying to withdraw. Due to the rugged terrain, Daesh could not retrieve them with their four-wheel-drives. We have no interest to bury them.”
  • The Druze officials said that the Syrian authorities are demanding any surviving ISIS captives be turned over to them, but the Druze are refusing to do so
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  • People in the Middle East constantly speculate about the machinations of their governments and political parties, and rumors are taken seriously since verifiable facts often are hard or impossible to come by. But the Assad regime and ISIS at this moment have a coincidence of interests that is hard to mistake. Assad currently is readying his troops and Russian- and Iranian-backed allies to attack the jihadist militants in Idlib, and the Druze leaders we talked to feel that their people were directly punished for not agreeing to join the Syrians in that operation.
  • Assad’s alleged complicity with ISIS is long, gruesome, and well documented. Recently he has had a policy of allowing armed militants to escape from cities in busses, ostensibly to reduce the risk of civilian casualties. ““It is known that Daesh militants in the suburbs of Damascus have been displaced to the east of Sweida in green buses by an agreement with the government: 1,400 Daesh were moved this way to the area east of Sweida and near the Tanf base of the Americans,” one of our Druze sources told us.
  • “Adding to that, 1,000 combatants of Daesh came in a discreet way from the Yarmouk area [a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus] to join the local Daesh, estimated at 2,000 to 3,000 combatants," said one of the Druze officials who talked to us. "We know this by internal sources of the Syrian army. There are still some Druze of the army who leak this information to us.”
  • “On the 24th of July most of the official checkpoints of the Syrian army around Sweida were withdrawn—all around the villages where the massacres occurred,” this Druze official told us. “They hit at 7 a.m., but at night something else was happening. Where the villages are—facing the Daesh area—the Syrian army withdrew the local weapons from the local protection militias. No one knew why. They also withdrew their checkpoint in the area and cut the electricity and local phone service. The regime was a spectator to the massacre.”
  • One of the 10 captured ISIS attackers admits on an interrogation video shared by the Druze leaders that in the village massacres a man from the Syrian government guided them from house to house, knocking on the doors and calling the inhabitants by name so they would unwittingly open their doors to the ISIS attackers.
  • ISIS sold grain and oil to the Syrian government while in return they were supplied with electricity, and that the Syrians even sent in experts to help repair the oil facility in Deir ez Zour, a major city in southeast Syria, under ISIS protection. Early in the the revolution, Bashar al-Assad released al Qaeda operatives and other jihadists from his prison to make the case that he was fighting terrorists, not rebellious people hoping for democracy. One of those jihadists he released, known as Alabssi, was one of the ISIS leaders in the battle in Sweida.
  • U.S.-led coalition forces say that in the area patrolled by Americans and their close allies, around 1,000 ISIS militants are still at large. And an estimated 9,000 ISIS militants are still roaming free in Syria and Iraq. And in both places heinous attacks continue to occur.
  • “To safeguard our community and to protect the diversity in the future of Syria, we need to create a crescent against aggressors,” said one of the politicians. Running from north to south, including parts of Iraq, it would protect the Kurds, the Yazidis, Christians, and Druze. “The minorities are looking to the Coalition as the only credible force in the area,” he said, adding, “The crescent strategically speaking would also cut the Iranians from access to the regime.”
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