Saturday, December 30, 2017

إيران: مظاهرات ضدها وأخرى معها

سباق الأخبار- عهد التميمي، الطفولة الموؤودة


Best Person of 2017 by : Ahed Tamimi

Worst Person of 2017 by : Mohammad bin Salman

The Best and Worst Persons of 2017

The UAE’s destructive policies… Why?

Osama Abu Irshaid


In a matter of a few days, the UAE created two diplomatic crises with Turkey and Tunisia. This has been added to its shameful record in the region and its destruction of its structure. It started on Tuesday 19 December, with the Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed’s retweet without a clear context, tweeted by an anonymous user, attacking the last Ottoman governor of Medina, Fakhri Pasha, and accusing him of committing crimes against the people of Medina, stealing their manuscripts and sending them to Istanbul.
The tweet did not stop at attacking and slandering the Ottomans, but ended with the sentence: “These were Erdogan’s ancestors and their history with the Arab Muslims.” Therefore, it is clear that the purpose of the tweet was not to provide historical information, albeit arbitrary and false, but to attack Turkey and its President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is overwhelmingly popular in the Arab world.
However, the UAE’s random arrows, fired in every direction, did not stop there. Barely three days passed before it created another crisis, this time with Tunisia. This crisis occurred after Emirates airline banned Tunisian women, except those carrying diplomat passports or those with residency permits, from flying on its flights to the UAE, claiming the decision was made due to security concerns. Now, they could have claimed that what happened was merely a misfortune with regards to the Tunisian issue, and an accidental miscalculation with regards to Turkey, and the situation could have ended with two apologies and correcting the mistakes. However, so far, this is not what happened, and what did actually happen raises questions about the role of the UAE in the region and the true motives of its rulers today.
I must begin by saying that these two contrived crises are not isolated from all of the UAE’s destructive policies in the region over the past years. These policies manifested in their ugliest forms since the Arab revolutions in late 2010, but they began even before the Arab revolutions. Such destructive policies include the UAE’s involvement in the division that occurred in the Palestinian arena in 2007, as it was one of the countries that sent arms shipments, via Egypt, to the Gaza Strip strongman at the time, Muhammad Dahlan, in order for him to stage a coup against Hamas, which won the legislative elections the year before. Hamas had formed a Palestinian government that did not enjoy a day of stability or calmness.
According to several reports, the UAE’s political path began to shift from a small country concerned with its own affairs to an ambitious state with a regional role larger than its size in 2006. Before that, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, founder of the UAE, had passed away in 2004, and was succeeded by his son Khalifa. Zayed was known for his Arabism, and had a hand in resolving some Arab-Arab conflicts. Furthermore, he played an undeniable role in founding the GCC in the early 1980s. However, it seems that Khalifa was not powerful enough within the ruling family in Abu Dhabi, and his half-brother, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed Bin Zayed, began to shine. His emergence was reinforced by Khalifa’s illness.
The UAE was shaken in 2006 by a fierce right-wing American media campaign, in which members of the Jewish lobby were involved, when Dubai Ports World acquired a British company that operated major American ports. Despite the fact that the acquisition was approved by then-American President George Bush, the issue ended with a humiliating defeat for the UAE. It was then that the UAE became aware of the importance of improving its relations with Israel and its lobby in the US, as well as the US right-wing.
With the appointment of Yousef Al-Otaiba as ambassador to Washington in 2008, Mohammed Bin Zayed’s camp began to steer the UAE away from its Arab and Muslim surroundings in order to create alliances with the neo-conservative camp, which destroyed Iraq and the region. It also made alliances with the Jewish lobby and Israel. Of course, we all know the rest of the story and it was further revealed with the leaking of Yousef Al-Otaiba’s emails.
Referring back to the two current crises with Turkey and Tunisia, as I said before, they are just two links in a long series of Emirati attempts of sabotage in the region. The fact that the UAE stood against the Arab revolutions in late 2010 is no secret, as well as the fact that it, along with Saudi Arabia, funded the military coup in Egypt in 2013 and continue to do so. It is also no secret that the UAE and Saudi Arabia are contributing the most in supporting the counter-revolutions and their forces, such as in Tunisia and Libya. We can say the same about the UAE’s role in meddling in the internal Palestinian affairs in favour of their man, Dahlan, against PA President Mahmoud Abbas, as well as its sabotaging role in Yemen and its military occupationof some of its ports and islands, and even turning the country into a large prison for its people. The UAE also aborted several opportunities afforded to the legitimate forces to defeat the Houthis.
In addition to this, its escalations with Qatar are not isolated from the context of all of these incidents, especially since American intelligence reports confirmed that the piracy and hackingof the Qatar News Agency website last May and the fabrication of statements attributed to the Emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, all originated in the UAE.
Even Turkey, a regional super power, was not spared by the UAE. The Turkish media constantly points a finger at Abu Dhabi and accuses it of playing a role in the failed coup attempt last summer.
Even Saudi Arabia itself was subject to Emirati conspiracy, and documents revealed by WikiLeaks in 2010 clearly show the extent of Mohammed Bin Zayed’s contempt and hatred for Saudi Arabia and its officials. While Bin Zayed made attempts to support Prince Mutaib Bin Abdullah’s camp, when his father was king, in order for him to be the crown prince, he quickly shifted his support to Prince Mohammed Bin Salman when his father took the throne in 2015. Al-Otaiba’s leaked emails spares us from having to remind everyone of the role the UAE playedin promoting Bin Salman and revolting against the governing equation in Saudi Arabia.
In short, the UAE is trying to play a regional role bigger than its size, and it is standing against any Arab democratic transitions. However, it is aware of its limited powers, and therefore, it is relying on two things. First is its wealth which it uses to buy agents, proxies and soldiers, such as the American Blackwater mercenaries. Without  mercenary, the UAE does not posses the manpower needed to spread destruction in the region, not even to protect its leaders’ seats. This is especially true as it is fighting against two major regional countries; Turkey and Iran. The second thing it is relying on is the alignment of its policies with that of the US and Israel in the region, and turning into a servant implementing their agendas. If the Emirati policies contradicted the American and Israeli agendas, then it would not have been able to carry out a tenth of what it has, even with the presence of its mercenary and even if Saudi Arabia is on the same page as it.
This leaves one question, which does not seem to have an answer at this time, and it is regarding what is behind the hostility some of Zayed’s sons, especially Mohammed and Abdullah, have towards every genuine Arab and Muslim. Mohammed Bin Salman seems to share this hostility with them. What is the reason for this hatred and aversion to Arabism and Islam and those who promote them? It may not be long before this question is answered. I will end by saying that a country is not shamed for its small size or lack of abilities, but rather it is shamed for becoming a wrecking ball in the hands of its enemy against its nation.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 29 December 2017

جمال خاشقجي: أزمة الخليج عناد شخصي وسببها معاداة السعودية للربيع العربي


اعتبر الإعلامي السعودي المعارض المقيم في الولايات المتحدة الأميركية، جمال خاشقجي، أن أزمة الخليج سببها معاداة السعودية للربيع العربي، مبديا عدم تفاؤله بحدوث انفراجة في الأيام القادمة للأزمة "لأن الذي لم يتغير حتى الآن هو سيادة سياسة اللامنطق" على حد تعبيره.

وربط خاشقجي، في مقابلة تلفزيونية مع قناة "دويتشه فيله" الألمانية، عدم تفاؤله بانفراج قريب للأزمة بـ"الشخصنة الشديدة والقاسية في الأزمة التي نشهدها في التشاتم والتسابب، والذي الكثير منه للأسف يأتي من بلادي"، معتبرا أن "هذا أمر مؤلم"، وأن السعوديين لم يتعودوا "مطلقا على هذا المزاج".

وأوضح الإعلامي السعودي، الذي منع من الكتابة في السعودية، أن "هذه الشخصنة توحي بأن أي حل يطرحه أي شخص لن يُسمع له لأن المسألة هي مجرد عناد شخصي".

وألمح إلى أن "الأمر الآخر الذي يجعلني لا أتفاءل، إلا بدرجة قليلة، هو استمرار الرأي أو الموقف السعودي المعادي للربيع العربي، وقطر تمثل للسعودية وحلفائها النافذة الصغيرة التي تسمح للربيع العربي أن يتنفس من خلالها، وهم يعتقدون أنهم نجحوا بالقضاء على الربيع العربي وخنقه".

وأضاف خاشقجي: "يعتقدون أن لديهم القدرة على إغلاق هذه النافذة. لذلك أنا غير متفائل بأن 2018 ستشهد خروجا جميلا لنا جميعا من هذه الأزمة العبثية".

وقال إن "ما يجري في بلادي وفي الخليج عموماً هو سياسات غير منطقية لا تتفق مع المصلحة التي يعرفها أو يجب أن يدركها أي شخص خبير في الاستراتيجيا".

وأردف "يجب أن يكون هنالك استراتيجيون حول المسؤول السعودي يساعدونه في التوجه نحو المسار الصحيح. فسياسة اللامنطق لا تزال هي السائدة".

Friday, December 29, 2017

فوق السلطة - عام القاف .. والقطروفوبيا

2018: The morning after the night before

After a year of breathless drama, those who thought they could rearrange the Middle East in their image and to their profit are only just waking up to the headache they have given themselves

By David Hearst


Three events defined the Middle East in 2017. Each was declared a military victory or a bold act of reform. Success went like pure alcohol to the victor's head but their euphoria was short lived. Each in turn triggered an unchartered shift in regional alliances.
Putin is learning that it is one thing to chase America and Saudis out of Syria. It's quite another to become the owner of a second-hand civil war
A year on, the morning after looks somewhat less inviting to the movers and shakers of this brave new Arab world than the night before.

A war of choice

The first victory of the year went to the Russians, who retook Aleppo in the last days of 2016. Russian President Vladimir Putin marked his inauguration as Syria's new imperial ruler by walking in front of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president whose skin he had saved, at a victory parade at the Hmeimim base in Latakia. It's a scene Putin might have unconsciously copied from a Roman proconsul.
For Putin, Syria was a war of choice. Russia shared no border with the Arab state and could have allowed Damascus to fall without Russia being touched. Enter Putin with a military force dismissed by Nato as unfit for purpose. 
He had a point to prove not just about his air force but also about the new world order, too: that America no longer possessed a monopoly of military action, nor a veto on anyone else's. And he did prove that. 
The rise of a new Saudi tyrant in bin Salman, with ambitions to become the regional hegemon, has re-energised the Qatari camp, which now has military backing from Turkey and Sudan, and logistical support from Iran
But the strategic consequences of that intervention were not as straightforward as a shrunken Russia, a shadow of the global military force the Soviet Union once was, could cope with on its own. Putin soon found he needed allies.
Assad now has two masters: Russia and Iran, whose interests diverge, particularly over the question of the Syrian leader's fate. In this, Assad is scarcely following in his father's footsteps.
Hafez al-Assad kept strong relations with Iran and America simultaneously, helping George H Bush against his Baathist rival Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War. The father preserved his country's independence. The son surrendered his. Hafez al-Assad emerged as a strong ruler. His son is a crippled one.
Putin has two permanent bases on the shores of the Mediterranean, but he also now finds himself handcuffed to a ruin called Syria. If the Soviet Union spent money in the Middle East, the Russian Federation is there to earn it.
For this, Putin's bomber planes are of no use to him. He needs stability, a commodity neither he nor Iran can readily provide to millions of Syrians who sought to end the Assad dynasty's rule and who have lost everything in this war.
Plates bearing portraits of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (R) and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin (L) displayed at a handicrafts shop in the Syrian capital, Damascus (AFP)
For that, Moscow and Tehran need Turkey. Iran needs Turkey to balance Russia and to reach out to the Sunni world. At the same time Iran is trying to mend fences with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood in Turkey after the damage done by its presence in Syria. 
If it is to get a return on its Syrian investment, in the form of arms sales and nuclear reactors, Russia too has to straddle the sectarian divide. 

The rival camp

Turkey on the other hand needs both Russia and Iran, now that it has cut itself adrift, at least psychologically, from America. The jockeying between all three will continue. Each pursue different agendas in Syria, but for the time being their fate is bound by common enemies.
Putin is learning that it is one thing to chase America and the Saudis out of Syria. It's quite another to become the owner of a second-hand civil war. The rebels have been subdued by Russian air power, but the embers of the conflict are still burning under the ashes. 
The second victory was notched up by the rival camp - Saudi Arabia, the Emiratis, Israel and America. This was the ovation that Donald Trump received in Riyadh. It was supposed to herald a new alliance of "moderate" Sunni Arab states against Iran, political Islam and any domestic dissident or rival prince who challenged their tyranny. 
On paper this alliance holds all the cards: the largest sovereign wealth funds, the biggest armies, Western bodyguards and hackers and the backing of Israel. In reality, the alliance of new-age tyrants is blinded by clouds of self-delusion.

What could possibly go wrong?

The plan, like their wealth, was on a grand scale. Not just to replace a retreating America as the regional hegemon for the 21st century but to dominate communications and trade around the Sunni Arab world through ports, islands and trade routes running from the Gulf of Oman, westwards to the Suez Canal, and southwards to Africa - a true recreation of a 16th-century-style seaborn empire.
Mohammed bin Salman was able to win over the US administration in his power struggle with his cousin Mohammed bin Nayef (AFP)
Trump's visit triggered a rush of blood to the head: first the siege of Qatar, then the ousting of Mohammed bin Nayef, Mohammed bin Salman's elder cousin; then the purge of the princes; then an order to the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to resign; then instructions to the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to surrender East Jerusalem and the right of return, or move aside for someone who will.
Each throw of the dice revealed the totalitarian mindset of men who wanted to dominate the region. Public opinion, accountability, history, religion, culture, identity did not matter to them. These men were there to rule, to own and to order. Everyone else existed only to obey them.

The Trump Declaration

And so to the third and final event. One hundred years after the Balfour Declaration, Trump waded in with a declaration of his own - to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. If the first two events produced tremors, the third one provided the energy for an earthquake.
Jordan and Abbas, two of Washington's longest-serving allies, jumped ship publicly. Jordan reached out to Turkey, Syria and Iran, while Abbas declared the US unfit to be a mediator. The silent war between Turkey and the Emirates became a loud one.
A shouting match erupted over a retweet. The Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan retweeted a post accusing Fahreddin Pasha, the Ottoman governor who defended Medina against British forces, of stealing the property of the locals and the sacred relics of the Prophet Muhammad's tomb.
To which Erdogan replied: "When my ancestors were defending Medina, you impudent (man), where were yours?"
Erdogan kept up the rhetoric in Sudan, which he visited on Monday. Here Turkey announced a series of far-reaching strategic, military and economic deals. 
Sudan is crucial to Egypt. It's a big country, a gateway to Africa, and it had been trying to mend its relations with Saudi Arabia for the past two years. Over this period, it had stopped co-operating with Turkey and Qatar, and the consequences of that were felt by Islamist militias all over Libya. Today Sudan is changing sides once more.

A Sudanese message

As I reported previously, Sudan is tiring of its role in providing the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen with its largest number of ground troops. There are unofficial reports that the Sudanese pull-out of troops from Yemen has already begun. 
A few days before Erdogan's visit, Sudan informed the UN of its objection to the Saudi-Egyptian naval border agreement, by which Cairo agreed to cede the two uninhabited Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir. The agreement also stepped on Sudan's toes. In it Saudi recognised the disputed border area between Sudan and Egypt, called the Halayeb triangle, as part of Egypt.
Erdogan's visit was an opportunity for Sudan to send a message to Riyadh and Cairo. The Turkish president announced he had been allocated the island of Sawakin in the eastern Red Sea to develop. This is a ruined Ottoman naval port of no strategic use to a modern navy now.
But the military agreement formed on the same visit between the chief of staffs of Turkey, Qatar and Sudan is of importance.
Sudan's message was not lost on the Saudis. The Okaz newspaper called the decision to allow Turkey to rebuild the island "an overt threat to Arab national security".
The newspaper said: "Turkey is seeking to impose its hegemony on the Horn of Africa region by offering military aid and establishing bases for itself in the countries of Africa."
"The establishment of military bases in Sudan represents an explicit threat to the Egyptian state, on the backdrop of the tense relations between Cairo and Ankara and the escalating Egyptian Sudanese dispute over Halayeb and Shalatin."

The morning after

What, then, does the new shape of the Arab world look like after a year of breathless drama? Saudi Arabia's sphere of influence has shrunken. It started the year at the head of six Gulf states and summoned 55 leaders of Muslim-majority countries to hear Trump lecture them on radical Islam.
It ends the year with a haemorrhage of that support. Saudi has lost Lebanon altogether.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shakes hands with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani in Doha on 15 November (AFP)
As one Sunni politician said, if Iran had spent billions of dollars trying to sway public opinion in Lebanon against Saudi Arabia, it could not have done a better job than the Saudis themselves have done by trying to force Hariri to resign. 
Mohammed bin Salman thinks that as long as he has Trump and Israel on his side, it does not matter. But there are three flaws in that calculation.
The first is the assumption that Trump will continue as president of the United States. This is something Steve Bannon, for one, disputes. He told Vanity Fair that he only gave Trump a 30 per cent chance of avoiding a premature end to his first term either through impeachment or removal by the cabinet invoking the 25th Amendment. Without Trump, bin Salman's grand plan is in tatters.
The next president, whoever he is, will not follow the same disastrous path.
The second is Israel, a shrewder reader of Washington politics than the neophyte Saudis. Which is why it is rushing to create more facts on the ground and put in place the last bricks in the wall of settlements it is constructing around Jerusalem.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a man in a hurry. He not only wants to get the annexation of greater Jerusalem done, but to get Trump to sign off on it while he is still in power.
The third flaw in bin Salman's plan is Jerusalem. Overnight, the Trump Declaration placed the Palestinian conflict, which had been displaced by the Arab uprisings of 2011 and the counter-revolution which followed, once again back as the core issue of the Middle East. Syria is no longer the main issue.
As a consequence, the Palestinians will have no other option but to start a third intifada. Israeli security chiefs are already warning their political masters of the mood on the ground. Tensions in Gaza, they said, were reminiscent of those on the eve of the 2014 Gaza conflict.
This is what awaits in 2018. The rise of a new Saudi tyrant in bin Salman, with ambitions to become the regional hegemon, has re-energised the Qatari camp, which now has military backing from Turkey and Sudan, and logistical support from Iran.
The Palestinian cause is back centre stage, and the centre of differences between the two camps. Political islam is returning as a strong player. Having run out of cards in Yemen, both Mohammed bin Salman and Mohammed bin Zayed are courting the leaders of Islah. Political Islamists also showed their strength in demonstrations in Jordan and around the Arab world over Jerusalem.
The year started as a slam dunk for those who thought they could rearrange the Middle East in their image and to their profit. They are only just waking up to the headache they have given themselves.
- David Hearst is editor-in-chief of Middle East Eye. He was chief foreign leader writer of The Guardian, former Associate Foreign Editor, European Editor, Moscow Bureau Chief, European Correspondent, and Ireland Correspondent. He joined The Guardian from The Scotsman, where he was education correspondent.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

سيناريوهات- هل تستمر تهديدات أميركا للأمم المتحدة؟

The Saudi art charade

By Mark LeVine


Last month's purchase of Leonardo da Vinci's painting, Salvator Mundi, for $450m by an associate of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) rocked the art world. It also called into question an already suspect anti-corruption drive launched by bin Salman in the weeks before the purchase. MBS' earlier purchases of a $500 million yacht and a $300 million French chateau haven't helped his cause either. 
Whatever bin Salman's aesthetic proclivities, it's not surprising that Saudi leaders are attempting to use art to signal a major change in the country's culture and, less so, politics. In the past few months, Saudi authorities have permitted concerts and reopened cinemas, pledged to allow women to attend sporting events and even drive.
All this, along with the recent announcement of the creation of a new art institute under the sponsorship of MBS' foundation, is part of a clear regime strategy to rebrand itself not just as a major patron of the arts, but as a society in the process of opening itself up to the world after a century of religiously motivated obscurantism.
Abu Dhabi, home to the newly opened franchise of the Louvre (where the Salvator Mundi will be housed), as well as Saudi Arabia's Gulf adversary, Qatar, have long used museums and Western educational institutions as markers of cultural and religious modernity and moderation. Along with gaudy Dubai, the Gulf emirates have also used their ultra-modern skylines to demonstrate their mastery of modern engineering and architectural aesthetics.
Jordan doesn't have the wealth for such displays, but it's recently become home to one of the Middle East's most vibrant art scenes.
Across the Arab world, the Moroccan monarchy has promoted for decades music festivals which have become huge tourist attractions. Rabat has used music as the centrepiece of its self-promotion as a leading exponent of "moderate Islam" and of an ostensibly moderate and modern political system.
There is little hope that the crown prince's patronage will have any wider political impact beyond legitimising his rule to local and foreign elites.

So important is this process that when a group of young metalheads were convicted of Satan worship in 2003, the government overturned the convictions. Morocco's heavy metal and hip-hop scenes have flourished since.
A decade later, however, when a young rapper named L'Haqed (the spiteful one) began releasing songs highly critical of the government as part of the Kingdom's Arab Spring moment, he was arrested, beaten and sentenced to three years imprisonment before being forced into exile. And the treatment L'Haqed received is the norm for anyone who challenges the Moroccan king, and most every other regional autocrat for that matter.
Political art created by and for ordinary people (often with extraordinary skills) has long been repressed by those in power, precisely because it offers an alternative and usually critical view of societies' political and cultural realities. Its importance has never been greater than today, as demonstrated by the centrality of musicians, singers, poets, graffiti and other artists like L'Haqed to the early successes of the Arab uprisings.
recent report from the anti-music censorship organisation Freemuse demonstrates how art has become "a space of possibilities… represent[ing] an act of resistance to challenge political oppression as well as breaking the boundaries of what is allowed to be said and dealt with."
The problem is, the more authoritarian governments begin to sponsor artistic production, the less opportunity it has to perform this vital function; to speak truth to power and provide a critical voice from below against the excesses from above. Rather than being an incubator or accelerator of change, art produced, distributed and consumed under the watchful eyes and purse strings of authoritarian governments or wealthy patrons serve to wash away, or at least distract from, ongoing repression, violence, exploitation and even extremism.

Muslim feminism beyond driving

Rafia Zakaria
by Rafia Zakaria
In Egypt, where I write these lines, Ramy Essam, the "singer of the Revolution" was forced into exile after the 2013 military coup, while the hip-hop groups who penned some of the most searing commentary of life under toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak have largely been silenced under the current regime. Only the burgeoning working class "mahraganat" scene is able to touch on politics, but only in broad strokes without attacking the regime directly.
Turkey, whose art scene exploded with creativity in the early years of Recep Tayyip Erdogan's rule, is now experiencing repression not seen since the worst days of the country's military dictatorships. Even Syria had seen a controlled opening up of its creative scene in the years before the civil war. But once protests began in early 2011, artists were ruthlessly repressed, with those not imprisoned, or worse, fleeing into exile.
In Morocco, where the king has bought off many of the Kingdom's major pop and rap artists, some of the world's biggest music stars played at the 2014 Mawazine Festival(under the patronage of the king) while L'Haqed was imprisonedNone of the people I approached at the festival spoke out on the issue, even when pressed. Sadly, even as leading artists like Bono and Sting have joined campaigns of major human rights organisations, hardly any fight for the rights of their colleagues in the region, especially if doing so might jeopardise lucrative concerts or commissions.
Israel, which tries to push an image of a country promoting freedom of expression and the arts, routinely represses Palestinian artists. While the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement just scored a major victory with the singer Lorde's cancellation of a concert in Tel Aviv next summer, the Israeli government continues to be one of the region's pioneers in "artwashingits own abuses through the legitimation provided by the numerous artists who still regularly perform in the country.  
In the case of Saudi Arabia, there is little hope that the crown prince's patronage will have any wider political impact beyond legitimising his rule to local and foreign elites. The contradiction inherent in a repressive autocrat engaging in a murderous war while opening the "leading platform for grassroots cultural production, diplomacy and exchange" (the stated goal of MBS' Misk Foundation, which is behind many of the new initiatives) is simply too great to ignore - at least for anyone with a conscience.
Indeed, while the Salvator Mundi was being purchased and senior Saudi royals were being detained in one of history's greatest shakedowns, blogger Raif Badawi, and his lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair and numerous other activists continued to languish in jail. Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh is still serving an eight-year jail sentence in a Saudi prison, accused of blasphemy and apostasy. Saudis and poor foreign workers continue to be beheaded, their bodies crucified in parking lots, with nary a word of criticism from the global arts community.
MBS might be encouraging a "cohabitation of the traditional and the modern", but it's the worst elements of both that he's bringing together. As long as artists have no space to challenge the dystopian and exclusive vision of the future offered by him and other regional leaders, the Middle East and North Africa will remain mired in authoritarianism, poverty and violence.

Emad Hajjaj's Cartoon

من يشبهك من يا يمن ؟!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

الحصاد-فلسطين.. ضم وتهويد وإجراءات أخرى

Carlos Latuff: Greek Orthodox Church Patriarch Theophilos III sells land in West #Jerusalem to #Israel

What options does Abbas have after that General Assembly vote?

Professor Kamel Hawwash

Professor Kamel Hawwash 

As the dust settles on a significant week at the UN, in which America’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was rejected roundly by the international community, the Palestinians have made a commitment not to engage with the US in any future peace talks. Where, though, can the Palestinian President turn to next? What options does Mahmoud Abbas have?
A divided, and in some cases apathetic, Arab world has been experiencing political turmoil since the confrontation emerged this year between the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt on one hand, and Qatar on the other. As young pretenders to their respective countries’ thrones experiment with war and politics, the US and Israel can take a back seat in the hope that Arab states will weaken each other without any interference on their part.
Palestine is no longer a priority for some Arab countries, except where they can exert pressure on the weak leadership in Ramallah to please Washington and, in turn, the Israelis. Like turkeys voting for Christmas, they believe that they will be protected from Iran if they can deliver the complete submission of the Palestinians to Israel’s wishes.
The EU, which rejected Trump’s decision on Jerusalem, saw some of its own members abstain in the vote in the UN General Assembly. The Russians and Chinese, important members of the Security Council, also have limited, if any, influence on Israel or the Palestinians when compared with the Americans. The Palestinian President’s options for an alternative “honest broker” that Israel will accept are thus non-existent.
It has taken Mahmoud Abbas over two decades to admit that the US is so biased in favour of Israel that it cannot play an even-handed role in the search for a just peace. Why it has taken him so long to realise this so obvious fact is a mystery. Successive US administrations have taken their lead from Israel on this issue. It was always the case that any “offer” to the Palestinians would be put to the Israelis first, and that only after they had applied their “security” test to it and given the green light would it be put to the Palestinians.
This formed the core of an exchange of letters between former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and George W Bush in 2004. “In light of new realities on the ground,” wrote the then US President, “including already existing major Israeli population centres, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.” He added that, “The United States reiterates its steadfast commitment to Israel’s security, including secure, defensible borders, and to preserve and strengthen Israel’s capability to deter and defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats.”
While Bush referred in his letter to UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 as forming the basis for negotiations, the Israelis worked hard to ensure that the talks which followed were not referenced to any such international decisions.

The Palestinians fell into this trap by failing to insist on international law and Security Council Resolutions as the basis for any talks. This included the last “serious” attempt to bring peace by Barack Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry in 2013, which not only failed to bring peace but was also immediately followed by the 2014 Israeli war on Gaza. Kerry persuaded the Palestinians to return to talks lacking in any reference to international law.
Before leaving office, Kerry laid much of the blame for the failure of the talks he had initiated on the Israelis after, of course, reminding everyone of Obama’s “deep commitment to Israel and its security”. His explanation for the Obama administration’s abstention on UN Security Council Resolution 2334 concerning the illegality of Israel’s settlements — instead of the usual veto of anything critical of Israel — was that the vote was about “preserving” the two-state solution. “That’s what we were standing up for: Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living side by side in peace and security with its neighbours.”
The incoming Trump administration disassociated itself from Resolution 2334, with the president-elect himself promising that “things will be different” when he entered the White House. He has certainly been true to his word. While asking Netanyahu to “hold back on settlements”, Trump moved away from the US position on two-states: “So I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.”
Trump’s pro-Israel advisers have spent months meeting with the two sides to the conflict. While promising to put a deal on the table soon, this came to a halt when Trump announced on 7 December his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and intention to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv.
Following the US veto of a Security Council resolution rejecting its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and then a large majority voting to pass the same resolution in the General Assembly, Abbas announced last week that he is severing his ties with the US when it comes to the peace process. The Palestinians, he declared, will not “accept any plan from the US” due to America’s “biased” support of Israel and its settlement policy. He also said that the US plan — Trump’s much-vaunted “deal of the century” — “is not going to be based on the two-state solution on the 1967 border, nor is it going to be based on international law or UN resolutions.”
In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to state that, “Abbas declared he was abandoning the peace process and did not care which proposal the United States brings to the table.” Putting a spin on it that is incomprehensible to the rest of the world, Netanyahu told his weekly cabinet meeting, “I think that once again, something clear and simple emerges: The Palestinians are the ones who do not want to solve the conflict.” He will do or say anything to distract us from the glaringly obvious reality that it is Netanyahu’s far-right government that is fully to blame for the lack of peace.
As for Mahmoud Abbas, he has to choose between acknowledging his failure over 23 years to advance the cause of the Palestinians, or going back to the drawing board, assessing the strengths of the Palestinian people and looking for ways to raise the cost to Israel of its military occupation of Palestine. The higher the cost, the quicker that Israel will address the Palestinians’ grievances as they seek to attain their rights.
The Palestinian Authority President’s starting point should be to develop a liberation strategy that excludes reliance on non-Palestinians for its delivery, whilst making it supportable by others, both governments and citizens alike.
The elements of such a strategy should include the following:
  • The development of options for raising the cost to Israel of the occupation.
  • A declaration that the Oslo Accords are null and void. Israel has done this in all but name.
  • To demand UN Security Council protection for the Palestinian people.
  • To end the PA’s security coordination with the occupation, as it is both immoral and a free service to Israel that brings no benefits whatsoever to the Palestinian people.
  • To ask the UN to set up a coordination mechanism for necessary interaction with Israel on humanitarian matters.
  • To ask the Arab League to withdraw the Arab Peace Initiative immediately.
  • To restate that the Palestinian refugees’ legitimate right of return is non-negotiable.
  • To demand that any future negotiations with Israel are based on equal rights for all who live between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea, and acknowledge that this is the only way to achieve real peace.
  • To call on the UN Secretary-General to adopt the ESCWA report — “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid” — that he has withdrawn.
  • To launch cases at the International Criminal Court against Israel and Israeli officials immediately, starting with the illegal settlement issue.
  • To offer unqualified support for the entirely peaceful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and call for its escalation.
  • The immediate lifting of all sanctions imposed by the PA in Ramallah on the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
  • The implementation of the reconciliation agreement with Hamas.
  • An escalation of the peaceful and popular resistance movement in Palestine.
  • The launch of a reformed and inclusive Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).
  • A serious engagement with Palestinians in the diaspora and a move towards elections to the Palestinian National Council.
Many of the points listed above should have been guiding principles in the past, but were overlooked in the PA’s pursuit of a pointless “negotiations first and last” policy which has failed by any measure.
Such a strategy will come with a price. It will bring isolation to the Palestinians and will have an impact on them in ways that will make their lives even more difficult. However, the alternative is that they continue to be oppressed with no end in sight if the current policies remain in place. The Palestinians have shown on numerous occasions that they are prepared to pay the necessary price for liberation but they must be told how this will be achieved by a leadership that they have had the chance to elect.
Any objective assessment will conclude that the current leadership is incapable of delivering what the Palestinians deserve and to which they aspire. It must therefore stand aside and allow the younger, talented generation of Palestinians come to the fore and lead their people. The New Year cannot be allowed to bring more of the same at the hands of Abbas and his team. He has other options; he must exercise them.