New Age Islam Edit Bureau
December 25, 2015
American Muslims Are Scared
By Fakhruddin Ahmed
Compassion vs. security: What to do with Syrian refugees?
By Matt Hadro
Religion will only keep growing in the future – and here's why
By Kevin J. Jones
Middle East Christians: Caught in crossfire
By Joyce Karam
Returning to the days of military rule in Israel
By Suhad Bishara
Syrian crisis exposes many
By ABDULRAHMAN AL-RASHED
American Muslims Are Scared
By Fakhruddin Ahmed
December 23, 2015
CNN reported that 45 Americans have been killed by Muslim terrorists in America in the 14 years since 9/11. Gun violence has claimed about 11,000 American lives in 2015 alone. Judging by the hysteria accompanying the Paris and San Bernardino massacres, one would think that the statistics were the other way around.
President George W. Bush set the tone for tolerance with his famous "Islam is peace" speech at a Washington, D.C.mosque six days after 9/11: By fanning Islamophobia, Donald Trump and other Republican presidential candidates are preaching intolerance. While offering their supporters a moment of catharsis, they are scaring Americans into believing that the Muslim Americans are the enemy within. They are not.
The Muslim American community is truly scared. After every terrorist attack, they pray: "Dear God, let it not be a Muslim!"
If it is, as in San Bernardino, they know that in the aftermath they will be blamed collectively. Mosques will be vandalized, women and children wearing the Hijab will be harassed, and insults and punches will be thrown at men perceived to be Muslims.
Muslim worry that the politicians' inflammatory rhetoric will inspire deranged gunmen to attack mosque congregations, just as a Wisconsin Sikh temple was mistakenly attacked in 2012, or murder children in Islamic schools. Mosques and schools are issuing urgent bulletins to members instructing them what to do when active shooters are around. These are unnerving times for Muslim Americans, especially their children. Yet, all Muslims want to do is assimilate and be the best Americans they can be.
Because of the lasting damage the terrorists cause to the fledgling Muslim American community, they are the most despised by the community. If Muslim terrorists perpetrate more San Bernadinos, the consequence for the community will be horrendous. Muslim Americans will be on life support.
Since average Americans are generally uninformed about Islam, and probably have never met a Muslim, negative portrayal of Muslims by politicians can easily poison their thinking. Whether they are up to it or not, it remains the responsibility of Muslim Americans to introduce themselves to the rest of America.
The task is not easy.
Of America's estimated population of 320 million, roughly 3 million are Muslim. Most Muslims are city and suburban dwellers, who do meet and socialize with non-Muslim Americans. Muslims are absent from rural America. If rural Americans learn about Muslims from television, especially from Fox News, what they hear may not truthfully portray who Muslims really are.
Beside the slaves, many of whom practiced Islam before they were captured and transported to America, a small number of Muslims have lived in America for hundreds of years. Most Muslims, however, are recent immigrants, beneficiary of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which opened America's door to non-Europeans.
Islam is a hard religion to practice; harder in a secular society. A practicing Muslim has to make time to pray five times a day, fast during the month of Ramadan, donate 2.5 percent of his wealth to charity annually, and save for the Hajj pilgrimage. He is under a severe time constraint.
In America, the Muslim immigrant struggles to adapt to a new culture, language and work environment. He raises kids in a society he does not fully comprehend. As his American-born children go to school and assimilate, at heart the immigrant remains a native of his previous homeland. His children can run rings around him when it comes to the Internet. If ISIS preys on his children, he would be the last to know.
That only religious kids are drawn to ISIS is a fallacy. It is the less religious, smart kid, adept at communicating via social media, who is more likely to be inspired by ISIS's theologically-aberrant ideology. If the murder of 14 civilians can radicalize our politicians, dropping of thousands of bombs and killing of thousands of Muslims in the Middle East can radicalize Muslim youth worldwide. Only a political solution that addresses Sunni grievances in the area will defeat ISIS.
FBI Director James Comey has said that ISIS's social media message is "come" and join the Caliphate, or "kill" where you are. Muslim American community works hand in hand with law enforcement agencies to close both the options for their youth. But, the parents, too, need help. The FBI has interrogated hundreds of youths who have either joined, or attempted to join ISIS. They should share with the Muslim community the signs to look for in their youth when they become "unmoored" or "go dark" and encrypt their communications.
Because the average Muslim loathes ISIS, only about 45,000 out of 1.6 billion Muslims have joined them. ISIS does not pose an existential threat to America. They are a bunch of retail terrorists similar to two Muslim terror groups of the past – the "Assassins" who operated in the modern day Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, and the "Thugs" who terrorized the Indian subcontinent. The "Assassins" were obliterated by the invading Mongols, and the "Thugs" were infiltrated and crushed by the British. Like the "Assassins" and "Thugs," ISIS will also pass, but only with outside help.
Fakhruddin Ahmed, D. Phil. is a Rhodes Scholar. He lives in West Windsor.
Compassion vs. security: What to do with Syrian refugees?
By Matt Hadro
Dec 21, 2015
“Americans need to understand that responding to a core tenant of our faith to provide a compassion and care to suffering people like Syrian refugees and maintaining national security are not mutually exclusive – it is not an either or proposition,” said Dr. Susan Weishar, a migration fellow at the Jesuit Social Research Institute who directed immigration and refugee services for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New Orleans for 14 years.
“A rigorous, multi-layered, and lengthy vetting and security clearance procedure is in place to screen refugees,” she said in a statement to CNA. “As the leader of the free world, the wealthiest democracy on the planet – the U.S. must not turn its back on the Syrian refugees.”
However, there are intelligence gaps that could jeopardize the vetting process for refugees, warned Seth G. Jones, who directs the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation.
“I actually think the U.S. needs better intel collection in Syria. So I would actually push more resources to setting up a technical architecture in Syria, and then resources for human collection in Syria,” he told CNA.
An arduous screening process
The Obama administration has announced its plan to accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S. next year. The U.S. has only accepted around 2,000 Syrian refugees total since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011, and 1,682 of those were in fiscal year 2015.
A spokesperson for the State Department acknowledged at a Nov. 23 daily press briefing that “certainly, we’re going to have to ramp up our personnel in order to process these because it’s such a rigorous and long process to get these people processed and placed.”
Many Americans have expressed deep concerns about terrorists and extremists infiltrating the resettlement program, especially after Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris killed 130 and injured several hundred. Several of the attackers are believed to have entered Europe through Greece, though it is not certain if they entered as refugees.
In the wake of the attacks, U.S. Catholic bishops have asked Americans not to scapegoat all Syrian refugees as possible terrorists and to remember their dire humanitarian plight.
“These refugees are fleeing terror themselves – violence like we have witnessed in Paris. They are extremely vulnerable families, women, and children who are fleeing for their lives,” said Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, the auxiliary bishop of Seattle who chairs the bishops' committee on migration, on Nov. 17 at the U.S. Catholic bishops’ fall general assembly.
Over 30 governors have announced their refusal to accept Syrian refugees in their states. The House passed a bill last week to pause the resettlement program for refugees from Iraq and Syria until intelligence agencies could verify their status. Forty-seven Democrats joined Republicans in voting for the bill.
Debate on the policy hinges on whether the resettlement process is itself secure, and whether an increase to 10,000 Syrian refugees in fiscal year 2016 will compromise security standards.
Less than one percent of refugees worldwide are actually resettled. Most remain near their countries of origin, hoping to return home. And of this tiny percentage who are resettled elsewhere, a small portion are sent to the U.S.
For these, priority is given to the most vulnerable persons like victims of torture, female-headed households, or those with severe and pressing medical needs.
There are two ways for a refugee to enter the U.S.: travel to the border and claim asylum upon arrival, or through the refugee resettlement process. The United Nations ultimately determines where refugees will be resettled based on the urgency of their case and where they currently have family.
If they are picked for the U.S., they still must undergo a rigorous security check. It is an arduous 21-step process of interviews and background checks conducted across multiple government agencies that takes 18 to 24 months to complete.
The State Department’s principal deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, Simon Henshaw, called it “the most intensive security screening of any travelers to the United States” in a Nov. 19 special briefing.
The process includes biometric and biographic checks, fingerprinting against FBI databases, and one-on-one interviews with the Department of Homeland Security, which has the discretion to deny admission to refugees on national security grounds. Syrian refugees are also subject to “additional screening,” the State Department has claimed.
Refugees are “accompanied by resettlement agencies every step of the way,” Weishar said, and are assigned a case manager who is “very hands-on, client-centered.”
“Since refugees go through several interviews, they have to be consistent in their answers,” said Kevin Appleby, director of the Office of Migration Policy and Public Affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, at a Nov. 23 Capitol Hill briefing on refugee vetting and resettlement.
“If there’s inconsistencies, then it’s a red flag. So if they don’t say the same thing to the same question,” he added, “then they’re knocked out [of the process] until something else can be confirmed.”
“If the U.S. doesn’t have complete confidence in the case,” they won’t take it, Weishar added.
“The resettlement program is probably the last program that someone who wants to commit harm would want to try to use to get to the United States,” said Brittany Vanderhoof, policy counsel for the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, at the Nov. 23 Capitol Hill briefing.
The likelihood of someone passing through the program who plans to do harm in the U.S. is “very, very small,” she continued.
And the administration’s planned acceptance of 10,000 Syrian refugees is a “goal, not a requirement,” she said. If refugees have “significant security concerns,” their cases will not be accepted just to meet the goal.
Even with the increase to 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016, the U.S. is “basically hand-picking” the cases, Weishar said, since there have been more than 4 million total Syrian refugees since the beginning of the country’s civil war in 2011. There is even “concern that it [the resettlement process] has been too lengthy,” she noted.
Still, despite migration experts saying the interview process is secure, others are concerned about the lack of intelligence available from Syria and how that intel gap might affect the refugee vetting process.
Biographical and biometric information on refugees is checked against law enforcement and intelligence databases, the State Department has said, but not everyone is confident in the current databases on Syria.
Jones explained that the intelligence collection in Syria is not as good as it has been in other countries like Iraq, and this problem could definitely affect the refugee resettlement process.
“We’re so much more limited on what we know in Syria because we’re not there,” he said. Thus, there is less available intelligence to confirm or contradict details in a refugee’s interview with U.S. authorities.
“The issue is not that somebody is suspicious and they get sent through,” he said, noting that agents would not allow an obviously suspicious individual entry to the U.S.
“The issue is if there’s no information on someone and they get interviewed, so there’s no disconfirming evidence that they’re anybody other than who they say they are, and their background, you can’t disprove it.”
It is normal for there to be intelligence gaps in the refugees’ countries of origin, he noted, but Syria presents an abnormal case with Salafi jihadist groups there plotting attacks against the U.S. homeland. “That is, in my view, what makes this different,” he explained, that there are national security risks in Syria not present in many other countries.
This risk is balanced against the fact that refugees have historically not been responsible for major terror plots in the U.S. “The terrorism threat for refugees has historically been limited. It’s not been zero. It’s been relatively limited, especially with the major plots,” he noted.
“I would say, based on the threat that refugees have historically posed, and based on the risks, I wouldn’t put them high. I’d put them probably in a more medium category,” he concluded.
He also suggested the possibility of a “limited security assessment” of refugees by the FBI or DHS after they have lived in the U.S. for a short period of time – perhaps six months.
Dr. Rochelle Davis of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, who has worked to resettle Iraqi refugees, admitted that the intelligence is not perfect, but said it rarely is for refugees from war-torn and unstable countries.
“We may not know detailed information” about the last 20 years for each person, she noted, explaining that the plentiful intelligence available on Iraqi refugees from the Ba’ath Party archives and the U.S. military presence there was ultimately a “unique situation” in refugee resettlement
However, she noted, the U.S. accepts tens of thousands of refugees each year from Syria and other countries. “We’re not going to know everything about them, but we do spend a lot of time trying to figure out as much as we can about them,” she said.
“We have entrusted our intelligence agencies to do this process,” she said. Since 2011, the U.S. has let in almost 800,000 refugees and “we really have no cases of domestic terrorism being carried out. So clearly they’ve been doing a good job.”
While the debate continues over the resettlement program for existing refugees, there are many other Syrian Christians and Muslims who fled the violence in Syria but are not classified as refugees.
Why? Because they have not gone to the U.N. refugee camps and applied for refugee status. Thus they are not receiving U.N. aid and cannot be resettled elsewhere.
Many are afraid to go to U.N. camps because of security concerns, said Michael La Civita, chief communications officer of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.
They fear attacks within the camps themselves, “reprisals” from terror groups like ISIS, who “absolutely detests” refugees for fleeing their caliphate, he added.
Others simply don’t have the necessary identification documents and passports for resettlement because they had to leave their homes under threat of sudden death, he said.
As a result, a whole group of persons are living in “limbo” in countries neighboring Syria like Lebanon and Jordan. The men are unemployed and the families are dependent on relatives, friends, or local churches for aid. In Lebanon, some mothers have resorted to prostitution just to feed their families.
“Their world has comhe to an end,” La Civita said. “These are very, very tight-knit communities that were shattered overnight.” Families are fearful of their own neighbors and of the general security situation where they are living. For many, moving to another country is simply a “pipe dream.”
Religion will only keep growing in the future – and here's why
By Kevin J. Jones
Dec 21, 2015
The numbers of people without a religious affiliation are increasing in some countries. But some demographers project that the global population will be more religious, not less, for one simple reason: religious believers tend to have more babies.
The growth in the religiously affiliated population is “largely about having relatively high fertility rates,” Conrad Hackett, a demographer at the Pew Research Center, told CNA Dec. 15.
“There is such rapid growth expected in parts of the world that currently really have little to no unaffiliated presence, Africa in particular. India is another place where a lot of population growth is expected,” he said.
The religiously unaffiliated population is growing in some countries such as the U.S., where they have been nicknamed the “nones.” However, the largest populations of the unaffiliated are in Japan and other countries with aging populations that are not replacing themselves.
“Therefore the global story is that the unaffiliated are expected to decrease as a share of the world's overall population,” Hackett said.
Hackett is one of the authors of the study, “The future size of religiously affiliated and unaffiliated populations,” published April 2 in the journal “Demographic Research.” Researchers' projections took into account factors such as a population's religious composition, differences in fertility rates, age structure, and patterns in changing to and from religious belief.
The researchers projected that in the year 2050 the religiously unaffiliated will make up 13.2 percent of the world population, a decline from 16.4 percent in 2010.
“The religiously unaffiliated are projected to decline as a share of the world's population in the decades ahead because their net growth through religious switching will be more than offset by higher childbearing among the younger affiliated population,” the paper said.
Religiously unaffiliated have both low fertility and an old age structure. While this population segment is projected to grow in North America and Europe, it will decline in the populous Asia-Pacific region.
The researchers projected that in the year 2050 the religiously unaffiliated will make up 13.2 percent of the world population, a decline from 16.4 percent in 2010. They noted that the median age of women with a religious affiliation is six years younger than that of unaffiliated women. The 2010-2015 total fertility rate for those with a religious affiliation is 2.59 children per woman, compared with 1.65 children per woman without a religious affiliation.
Hackett told CNA that in the West younger women, who are more likely to have children, are also more likely to be unaffiliated. At the same time they are likely to have fewer children than women who affiliate with a religion.
The religiously unaffiliated percentage of a population can keep pace with the religious in certain countries also because they benefit from switching between religious affiliation and non-affiliation. In countries like France and the U.S., their numbers benefit because people have been changing their self-identification from Christian to non-religious.
Hackett and his researcher colleagues also published a related report for the Pew Research Center, “The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections 2010-2050.”
He said one surprising finding of the report, which received significant media coverage earlier this year, was “the degree to which Muslims are expected to outpace the world’s overall population growth.”
The researchers projected Muslims to grow from 23.2 percent of the population in 2010 to 29.7 percent in 2050, an estimated increase in population size of 73 percent. By comparison, the Christian percentage of the world population is projected to remain stable at 31.4 percent, with an estimated increase of 35 percent in population size.
Middle East Christians: Caught in crossfire
Thursday, 24 December 2015
Sheltered within the rocks of Kadisha valley in Northern Lebanon, the Hamatoura monastery has become a destination for monks escaping the war ravaged lands of Iraq and Syria. Their story is that of a minority trapped between the horror of radicals and indiscriminate bombing of the regime, bringing about Christianity’s largest exodus from its birth-land in recent history.
For Daniel, one of the new comers to Hamatoura that I met last summer, leaving his monastery in Homs was not a choice. "We didn't want to take sides between the regime and the opposition, we wanted to be left alone." But neutrality in civil wars comes at a high price, and could mean life or death in Syria and Iraq.
A culture eroding
As the monks gather ahead of sunset prayers, questions about the Levant’s dark days linger. Will their Church that survived the Mamluks and the Ottomans overcome ISIS and the sectarian inferno? Or will the flames of the barbarians and the indiscriminate bombing of the Assad regime completely wipe out their culture and heritage?
Neither the Iraq war nor the Syrian or the Libyan conflicts were sought by the Christian minority, yet and from the early stages of those wars, they became a target. In Iraq, the rise of sectarian militias since the U.S. invasion in 2003 and after ISIS took Mosul in 2014, have practically emptied old Mesopotamia from its Christians. Today, more than 50% of Iraqi Christians are displaced or have left the country. Two bishops Boulos Yazigi and Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim were kidnapped in Syria in 2013, one year before ISIS proclaimed its so-called Caliphate, and others against the regime like Father Paolo were forced out only to be abducted by ISIS later. Local sources speak of Christians leaving in droves Aleppo and Homs. In Libya, this year witnessed killing of 21 Christians in cold blood by ISIS, as other Coptic Christians where persecuted at night.
Staying on the margins of the conflicts has not protected the community. The choices for many Christians in those countries are between exodus and submission, between living under ISIS and paying the “Jezya”, or leaving behind their life and their culture and attempt to resettle in Europe. Across the Middle East, some Christians strike a sentimental tone when talking about the days of Saddam Hussein, and express a great deal of anxiety when envisioning a post-Assad Syria. Whether the fake stability of the autocrats could have held longterm is a debate that many in the minority choose not to have.
Caught in crossfire
Today, the Christians in the Middle East are by in large caught in conflicts they neither triggered nor have decisive leverage over, but whose outcome will shape their own existence in the region.
The Sunni-Shiite war that's being partially fought and fueled in Iraq and Syria will not spare the minorities. Its radicalized fighters and mercenaries from ISIS to Asaib Al-Haq militia consider nothing sacred, and are pursuing sectarian dominance and borderline ethnic cleansing. Even in Lebanon, where the highest office Christians assume in the Middle East (the Presidency) has been vacant for 18 months due to the dysfunctional Sunni-Shiite split and internal Christian divisions.
In Iraq only 275000 Christians remain, and in Syria, at least 37 churches have been bombed. Within the region, Christians are fleeing to Lebanon or the Kurdish areas of Iraq and Syria. But given the dire economic and social conditions for those displaced regionally, thousands have taken the longer journey to Europe.
West looks away
One of the ironies of current struggle of Christians in Middle East is the fact that it was triggered by the same powers who historically claimed to protect and speak for the minority. It was U.S. President George W. Bush ill-fated invasion of Iraq that unleashed the sectarian radicals, followed by the international failure on Syria that magnified the crisis.
Now, the West and Russia are readjusting to the new regional fire, trying to put bandage through aerial bombing of ISIS and resettlement of refugees to what has become a disaster by all proportions. This strategy will fail because it ignores the fundamental political problems that gave rise to ISIS, and that continue to fester today.
The plight of the Christians in Syria and Iraq cannot be seen in isolation of the larger political crisis in Damascus and Baghdad. Saving the Assyrian or the Armenian heritage from being wiped out will not materialize through airstrikes, or arming of sectarian militias. The current strategy, whether through Russia’s alignment with Shiite militias or Turkey’s with radical Sunni groups, is only feeding the sectarian divide. As long as this narrative continues, it will empower the radicals on all sides, and will backfire on the minorities by playing into the hands of ISIS.
Tonight, Christmas bells will go silent again in Raqqa, Nineveh and many corners of Aleppo and Tripoli. Yet, the minority that has endured many cycles of oppression since the 5th century, still finds hope rooted in history that it will outlive this horror, even as the West looks the other way.
Joyce Karam is the Washington Bureau Chief for Al-Hayat Newspaper, an International Arabic Daily based in London. She has covered American politics extensively since 2004 with focus on U.S. policy towards the Middle East. Prior to that, she worked as a Journalist in Lebanon, covering the Post-war situation. Joyce holds a B.A. in Journalism and an M.A. in International Peace and Conflict Resolution. Twitter: @Joyce_Karam
Returning to the days of military rule in Israel
24 Dec 2015
For the first time in Israel's history, a political movement has been declared an unlawful association on the basis of government claims that are not grounded even ostensibly in security rationales, but instead are based on ideological reasons.
The Israeli defence minister's administrative order outlawing the northern branch of the Islamic Movement on November 17 did not cite any charges that the movement was involved in terrorist activities, financing terrorist activities, receiving funds from dubious sources, incitement to terror and violence, or incitement to racism, as government officials repeatedly claim.
Instead, the order simply stated in one brief sentence that the measure was necessary for the protection of the "security of the state, public safety and public order".
In an interview on the Arab station Radio al-Shams, Gilad Erdan, the Israeli public security minister, explained the reasons for the government's decision to ban the Islamic Movement, which was executed through a law known as the Defence (Emergency) Regulations of 1945.
Erdan did not mention anything related to security grounds in a proven and substantiated manner. He explained instead that "an organisation does not need to carry out terrorist acts itself in order to be declared an illegal organisation".
Erdan stated that he views the movement's ideological platform and activities as problematic, particularly its "false campaign" on behalf of the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which he claimed causes "people to go astray and decide to go off on terrorist missions".
He noted that the Islamic Movement funded transportation for worshippers to al-Aqsa, claiming it did so "in order to shout and create friction with security forces, tourists and visitors".
He also said that the movement funded Maharjans (festivals) during which it called on people to protect al-Aqsa with their bodies. Erdan said the mosque was not in need of protection.
"This activity harms coexistence" he added. Of course, Erdan's view of "coexistence" is one in which Palestinians accept the reality of occupation, racism and oppression in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
His attempts to justify the government's decision cannot conceal the fact that there is a huge and extremely problematic gap between the government's "accusations" against the Islamic Movement, and the government's choice of using a repressive administrative measure to outlaw a major political and religious movement.
The decision taken by the government to circumvent this gap - despite the opposition and reservations of Israel's General Security Service - demonstrates that the ideology and ideologically based activities of the Islamic Movement are the sole basis for the order.
The government's accusations are instead merely a facade for an arbitrary political decision designed to suppress a legitimate political and religious movement that represents a broad section of the Palestinian population in Israel.
Israel's legal framework contains numerous laws that are designed to punish those who call for and employ violence in all forms.
For example, the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance prohibits any activity that supports or is identified with an organisation designated as a terrorist organisation, the Prohibition of Terrorist Financing Law prohibits the giving or receiving of funds to or from terrorist organisations and activities, and the Penal Code determines that incitement to violence and terrorism, incitement to racism, and prohibited association and gatherings constitute criminal offences.
Despite these numerous laws - which certainly require investigations, collection of evidence, filing indictments, and a trial - the Israeli government decided to employ a highly draconian and arbitrary tool, the Emergency Regulations, which dates back to the colonial British Mandate of Palestine.
The government invoked this law while voicing very laconic and general accusations, without granting the movement or its leaders the opportunity to defend themselves and their right to freedom of political and religious expression.
The result was an act that outlawed a civil, political and religious movement without trial and due process, and without any evidence or history of security offences that could justify the measure.
In the past, Israeli defence ministers have indeed outlawed the extremist Jewish organisations "Kahane Lives" and "Price Tag" through the Emergency Regulations without justifying the use of the administrative and draconic tool.
However, unlike with the Islamic Movement, ministers' declarations were based on the organisations' direct connections with violent and criminal acts. For example, the "Kahane Lives" movement was involved in the massacre by Baruch Goldstein against Palestinians praying in the Ibrahimi Mosque/Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron in 1994, while the "Price Tag" movement was associated with continuous acts of violence and vandalism against Palestinians, both inside Israel and in the Occupied West Bank.
The decision to ban the Islamic Movement must, therefore, be understood in the historical context of the use of the Emergency Regulations.
Besides the fact that these regulations were drafted by the colonial British authorities in order to suppress Palestinian resistance in Mandatory Palestine, and the fact that they serve as a principal tool for sustaining the Israeli occupation in the West Bank, they were employed by Israel for the expulsion of thousands of Palestinian citizens and residents of Israel from their villages following the Nakba of 1948, as well as during the 1950s by designating their villages as closed areas.
The Emergency Regulations were also the basis for the establishment and rule of Israel's military government over Palestinian citizens of the state, which lasted until 1966.
In 1964, the Palestinian Al-Ard political movement was proclaimed an unlawful association through the regulations. The government's justification at the time was based solely on security reasons; but it later became apparent during deliberations before the Supreme Court that, in fact, the reasons for this measure were purely ideological.
Now, some 60 years later, the tool that survived Israel's purported "constitutional revolution" of the 1990s continues to be employed as a doomsday weapon in the ideological war between the Jewish state and the Palestinian people, both against Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinian residents of the territories occupied since 1967.
Suhad Bishara is the Acting General Director of Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.
Syrian crisis exposes many
25 December 2015
Syria's tragedy exposed the real faces behind the masks worn by many in the Arab political arena. Samir Qantar, one of Hezbollah’s stars, was recently killed there. No one cared about him, although Hezbollah hailed him as a martyr and held a massive funeral for him.
Before that, Hezbollah had made him a hero because he was jailed by Israel. Those who celebrated their “martyr” were employees from among Hezbollah’s members who are assigned to issue statements on the deceased — statements that no one wants to reprint or publish anymore.
Hezbollah’s statement said Qantar was killed by the Israelis. This is unconvincing because the Israelis do not have a motive to kill someone who is fighting on their behalf and far away from their borders, in Rif Dimashq. Some reports said Qantar was mistakenly killed by Russian airstrikes, while others went as far as saying he was betrayed by Hezbollah.
The only reasonable claim is the Syrian opposition’s — that it buried Qantar under the rubble of a six-story building it shelled. No one really cares about who killed him because he died defending Iran, the Syrian regime and Hezbollah.
The indifference regarding his death may wake up Hezbollah and similar organizations to the fact that it is time to end this black comedy of resistance against Israel and defending occupied Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian territory. No one believes this narrative anymore. The image that Hezbollah drew for itself, and which most Arabs and Lebanese have believed, is now shattered, except maybe for those in southern Lebanon as they have paid a high price.
Syria’s tragedy and regime atrocities shocked millions of Arabs, who now wonder whether those they viewed as heroes were really heroes or agents for foreign plans. They wonder whether there is anything real about what they have been told for years. Was it all a myth? Does Qantar deserve heroism because he killed three members of an Israeli family, including a child, or is he a criminal because he participated in the murder of 300,000 Syrians?
Look back 10, 20, 30 years ago, and you realize they are all chapters of one book in which Syria is the end. “Resistance” is the title of a detective story. When looking at this history, we see that evidence was concealed and facts were forged. The term “confronting aggression” aimed to seize the Lebanese state. The term “resistance” was created to cancel real resistance — this front was formed as an alliance with Tehran to control the region.
We read news separately, but if we read it as one story we understand that he who has killed a third of a million Syrians is the same man who assassinated dozens of Lebanese figures 10 years ago. He killed them as part of his plan to eliminate rivals, from Rafik Hariri to Gebran Tueni, George Hawi and others. Before that, his men attempted to assassinate the late emir of Kuwait, and to target Gulf and Arab tourism and airline companies.
We can understand the story when we reread it chronologically. In the 1980s, Iran and Syria decided to engage in the narrative of confronting Israeli aggression. This was an excuse to stay in Lebanon, carry arms and kidnap foreigners after they got rid of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which was competing with the Syrian and Iranian regimes.
Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 following an assassination attempt against the Israeli ambassador to the UK. Damascus and Tehran were the biggest beneficiaries, as they adopted the resistance project and used it to solidify the occupation of Lebanon, obstruct its institutions and threaten the world via organizations they run.
It is in the name of Palestine that Iran and Syria dominated Lebanon, and opened camps to train other Arab nationals to fight in Iraq, the Gulf, Yemen and Syria. This was the beginning of Iran’s regional plan.
Today, it is no longer possible to continue selling the story of resisting Israel. I do not know if Iran, Hezbollah and Damascus are aware how Syria, which has experienced the most hideous massacres in the region’s history, has launched a new history that will not be easy to overcome and forget. The story of resistance, which was never true, is now over. Their exploitation of the Palestinian tragedy is over.