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Islam and the West ( 14 Oct 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

It's Time To Challenge The Status Quo In Palestine: New Age Islam’s Selection From World Press, 15 October 2015

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

15 October 2015

It's time to challenge the status quo in Palestine

By Lamis Andoni

The two U.N. speeches that hinted at Israeli-Palestinian escalation

By Yossi Mekelberg

Whether Britain bombs ISIS or not, it will still be failing Syria

By Chris Doyle

West’s options limited against Russian escalation

By Maria Dubovikova

Confusion in Ankara




It's time to challenge the status quo in Palestine

Lamis Andoni

14 Oct 2015

The deafening silence in the international media as the toll of Palestinians injured and killed by the Israeli army is appalling. It seems there is an unwritten consensus that as long as Western governments, mainly the US, do not see a serious threat to "Israeli security" and to "Israeli Jewish lives", it is just another "cycle of violence" that can be suppressed, if not crushed by a well-equipped Israeli army.

What we are witnessing across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is not another "cycle of violence" that needs to be de-escalated but a continued national liberation struggle that needs to be fulfilled.

The term "cycle of violence" itself, even though regretfully repeated by some Palestinian leaders, is meant to obfuscate the settler-colonial situation that keeps Palestinians under Israeli control by brutal force.

It is not about "extremists" from both sides exploiting the failure of a moribund "peace process", but it is about the fact that futile negotiations have consolidated the Israeli occupation and expansion.

Equating Palestinian youth confronting their oppressors with the armed colonial settlers and soldiers is effectively criminalising resistance of the occupation, thus legitimising Israeli killings.

In the name of "peace", Israel continues to wage a daily war against the Palestinians - restricting their movement, demolishing their homes, displacing families, assassinating Palestinians and bombing towns and cities when it sees fit.

It is no coincidence that since the 1991 Oslo Accords, the number of illegal Israeli settlements has dramatically increased. From the very outset, Israel with US backing, refused to abide by international laws and conventions that ban an occupying force from confiscating acquisitioned by force and the transfer of population to that land.

The removal of international law from the framework of all accords signed after Oslo, made the outcome no more than dictats of the balance of military power, allowing Israeli to continue its colonial activities with impunity. Yet at the same time those very agreements created a dangerous appearance of false symmetry putting both Israeli and Palestinian leaderships on "equal footing".

The facts that even the Palestinian president can't travel within or outside the occupied territories and that the Israeli army can routinely raid and kidnap Palestinians meant that the power structure remained intact.

Israeli security requirements, constantly updated and defined by Israel itself, remain the key regulator of a lopsided relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. As a result a leadership that once led the liberation struggle was reduced to an enforcer of Israeli security - expected to subdue Palestinian resistance with the illusion that "good behaviour" will lead to an end of the Israeli occupation.

What started as illusion became an entrenched belief advocated by many Palestinian leaders and elite, as their privileges, including the freedom of movement, and interests have become reliant on their ability to "preserve calm" for Israel.

Preserving "Israeli security", has effectively become the ultimate test of Palestinian humanity - and Palestinians are subjected to this daily test as "violating it" which means punishment that ranges from denying movement to arrests, assassination or all out invasion or war.

It is exactly the right to pursue a simple ordinary life that young Palestinian men and women are demanding -but no ordinary life can be attained without freedom. Unless the West acknowledges this reality, it is doing no more than perpetuating injustice and acquiescing in Israeli crimes.

The young men and women, who are challenging the armed Israeli soldiers, are not relying on a sudden awakening of Western governments' consciousness, but on shaking up the status quo.

Like the generations who fought the first and second Intifadas, of 1987 and 2001, they are showing incredible courage and making sacrifices. What they are not relying on is a false hope of resumed negotiations while the noose of occupation is tightened.

Oslo worked, and for a long time, as a sedative that created a mirage of a just peace. Such sedatives no longer work a fact that the Palestinian realised when in 2001 they rose in the second Intifada.

Sure enough, negotiations resumed after the second Intifada, but so did the building of the segregation wall that increased the pace of Israeli land grab and strangulated and fragmented towns and villages.

The Palestinians are rising again not only against the military apartheid colonial regime, but also placing a mirror in the face of a disgraced Palestinian Authority (PA), and an apathetic world.

While Israel bears the brunt of the responsibility, it is high time to for the PA to end the farce of the security coordination with Israel, as keeping it makes it accomplice with Israeli crimes.

The West, can choose to continue backing Israel and turn the other way, a new generation, with tears and blood is making sure that Palestinian rights will not disappear.

Lamis Andoni is an analyst and commentator on Middle Eastern and Palestinian affairs.


The two U.N. speeches that hinted at Israeli-Palestinian escalation

Yossi Mekelberg

14 October 2015

One of the most futile exercises that any commentator on Israeli-Palestinian affairs can undertake at the moment is to consider whether we are witnessing the beginning of a third uprising. The resurgence of violence is a sad inevitability when there is no political horizon for a peaceful end to the conflict, nor even hope for a genuine prospect for peace negotiations.

Whether there is already a third Palestinian uprising on its way depends on if we measure it by the intensity of violence or the level of motivation and resentment, especially among young Palestinians.

Both Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s addresses to the U.N. General Assembly provided a sense that neither leader possesses the necessary common ground or ability to avert a new uprising.

They almost brace themselves for the fact that the near future harbors more bloodshed than any prospect for peace. What they mainly share at the moment, and was clearly reflected in their speeches, is a sense of despair.

Unfortunately, their speeches were more of an effort to galvanize their own constituencies at home and abroad, rather reaching out to one another. For those on both sides who resort to violence anyway, these speeches were neither here nor there. They have already made up their minds that the diplomatic route had its day long ago.

Despair and mutual finger-pointing are where the parallels between Netanyahu’s and Abbas’s U.N. appearances cease. Abbas knows he is rapidly losing whatever is left of Palestinian popular support for his leadership and his policies. Despite lapses in his historical account, he came across as the more genuine of the two.

In the twilight of his leadership, not only is the two-state solution that he advocates quickly disappearing, but also his longstanding advocacy of non-violence is left with ever-dwindling support among many Palestinians. The veteran peace negotiator seems to be resigned to the fact that the next phase in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be confrontation on the streets, instead of sitting around the negotiating table.

As for his scathing, and for the most part accurate, criticism of current Israeli government policies, particularly on the issues of settlements and Jerusalem, he sees no salvation but proactive involvement by the international community. However, with his experience he knows that unwillingness, incompetence, and a change of priorities in the region at the moment makes this option remote.


Not surprisingly, Netanyahu devoted most of his speech to attacking the nuclear deal with Iran. It was an apocalyptic and overly theatrical speech that underlined, almost embraced, Israel as a country with very few friends around the world. He knows well that his diplomatic and military options are very limited.

Once again, his legitimate concerns over Iran vis-à-vis long-term verification, support of militancy and the unacceptable threatening language against Israel is falling victim to his own uncompromising approach and hollow rhetoric. His 45-second silent staring at the General Assembly could only be described as awkward and counterproductive.

His concentration on Iran instead of the more urgent issue of relations with the Palestinians exposed, when he eventually referred to it, that Iran is also a convenient diversion from events much closer to home. Even then, he offered only old slogans with little substance.

His call for an immediate resumption of negotiations with no preconditions, immediately followed by two preconditions - a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes Israel as a Jewish state - deserved the skepticism it was met with in many international quarters.

Flawed leadership

Netanyahu prefers to deliver his big vision on Iran and what he sees as the danger to the world from militant Islam, rather than deal with advancing a peaceful solution with the Palestinians. He shows a complete lack of leadership and direction even in managing the conflict.

It took him many months to prohibit members of his own government and the Israeli parliament from entering the Temple Mount, knowing all along that this violation of the status quo on Muslim holy sites provokes tension not only with the Palestinians, but potentially with the entire Muslim world.

He was only prompted to act when violent clashes spread from East Jerusalem to the usually tranquil streets of Jaffa and Nazareth within Israel, and when a confrontation with thousands of Palestinians in Gaza, marching toward the fence separating them from Israel, ended with six Palestinians dead - yet another example epitomizing his reactive and strategically flawed premiership.

The most immediate concern for Israel, and to a large extent for the Palestinians, is if the Palestinian Authority (PA) implements Abbas’s threat at the General Assembly to free itself from the Oslo Accords. It might compromise the security coordination between the two, and place the onus on Israel to run the daily affairs of Palestinians in the West Bank, which as the occupying force it is required to do by international law.

This is not an attractive prospect for either side. Yet the spate of indiscriminate violence on both sides requires more than anything else an attentive political response from all involved, and even more from the international community. Rousing speeches at the United Nations might make those who deliver them feel exonerated, but they do not change the unfortunate facts on the ground.


Yossi Mekelberg is an Associate Fellow at the Middle East and North Africa Program at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, where he is involved with projects and advisory work on conflict resolution, including Track II negotiations. He is also the Director of the International Relations and Social Sciences Program at Regent’s University in London, where he has taught since 1996. Previously, he was teaching at King’s College London and Tel Aviv University. Mekelberg’s fields of interest are international relations theory, international politics of the Middle East, human rights, and international relations and revolutions. He is a member of the London Committee of Human Rights Watch, serving on the Advocacy and Outreach committee. Mekelberg is a regular contributor to the international media on a wide range of international issues and you can find him on Twitter @YMekelberg.


Whether Britain bombs ISIS or not, it will still be failing Syria

By Chris Doyle

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

A leading American commentator at a meeting in London joked not entirely without foundation that if British forces joined those bombing ISIS that would be significant reducing the American share from 93% of all strikes to about 92%. Harsh perhaps but given that 12 other countries have been bombing Syria over the last four years (including lest we forget Syria itself), one has to wonder whether a few Royal Air Force planes will be a game changer in the fight against ISIS.

Yes, for the fourth time since 2010, the British Parliament is faced with a possible vote on intervention in the Middle East. For many, this is far from an easy decision. The British government is keen to get Parliamentary approval for expanding its anti-ISIS bombing in Iraq to Syria joining the French who started on September 27.

The vote is far from guaranteed. David Cameron, the Prime Minister, arguably had his credibility damaged when he lost a vote on intervention in 2013 after the chemical weapons attacks in Syria had killed some 1400 Syrians. On that occasion he was defeated because of 30 rebels from his own Conservative party and a Labour party that refused to back him. Cameron has made it clear that he will not seek approval unless he is assured he will win. Two defeats would be unthinkable.

The new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is staunchly anti-war. He may or may not permit his Labour MPs a free vote. Labour party members voted only in September to support military action only if there was U.N. Security Council authorization, a position Even if not many are inclined to vote in favor. With this in mind, over 50 MPs have had briefings from the Defense Secretary on the military plans. Party whips estimate they need around 35 Labour MPs to vote in favor to offset the probably rebels on the Conservative side.

Many on the Labour side are torn. Broadly speaking they are hugely concerned at the situation in Syria and the expansion of ISIS. Doing nothing is not appealing but they also question just what exactly is the purpose of yet more bombing from on high. Others are nervous about backing another failed military action.

A huge Achilles heel

In sign of significant internal party debate, it appears the Labour leadership could contemplate supporting action without a U.N. Security Council Resolution. Given three Security Council members are significantly engaged in military action for very differing reasons, getting a resolution is currently a non-starter and therefore a hollow position to demand it.

The government has a huge Achilles heel. The proposed military action requires an all-embracing political strategy, a clear definition of success. There is none. Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, felt all too comfortable at the U.N. in stating that Britain will bomb ISIS in Iraq “for as long as it takes.” It is not clear what “it” means nor would it be in Syria.

In private, ministers and officials know perfectly well that merely asking for an aerial intervention looks weak. Where are the ground forces that British planes would be supporting? There is the accusation that they will become merely another air arm of the Assad regime taking out ISIS as Russian forces take out other Syrian opposition forces in the West. Moreover, given ISIS has not buckled after over 7,000 airstrikes so far by the anti-ISIS coalition, it is clear the group has adapted effectively to bombardment.

Another significant grouping in Parliament wants action to end the barrel bombing of Syrian cities either by a No-Fly-Zone or a No-Bomb-Zone. The latter is brought about by prohibiting bombing in declared areas and enforced by deterrent bombing from the sea. Any violation of the zone would bring about shelling of runways. The advantage over the No-Fly-Zone proposal is that it does not require substantive bombing and inevitable destruction to knock out the Syrian anti-air defense system. The aim is to address the biggest killer in this pitiless Syrian conflict – the indiscriminate use of barrel bombs.

Yet skeptics argue, how this can be introduced without Russian consent or an American President willing to stare down his Russian counterpart?

The harsh reality is that nobody has a strategy in Britain or internationally to resolve the crisis in Syria upon which groups like ISIS actually depend. The level of debate frequently plummets to the depths of just opting for Assad or ISIS, analogous to the choice of siding with Stalin or Hitler. Putin’s argument of supporting the Syrian regime to be the foot soldiers against the extremist group has its supporters. But just as toppling Assad does not end the conflict, nor will crushing ISIS.

Still failing Syria

Only an overall new political deal for Syria can work. Only when the international, regional and local actors can unite behind such a deal is there any chance of pulling the country out of the hellhole it now occupies. One of the few advantages of Putin’s high risk gamble in Syria is that the Assad regime is directly dependent on Russian support allowing the Russian President to call the shots perhaps for the first time. But even Putin, who cannot afford a protracted intervention, will need an exit and a political deal is the only key to it. Wise political actors will help him to find it.

Arguably the biggest threat to both the regime and ISIS is an end of conflict. ISIS thrives on the conflict whilst the regime does not have to answer tough questions as long as the fighting continues. With no conflict, local support for ISIS will evaporate. Regime loyalist circles can do little with the leadership when under threat but ultimately they all know Assad and co have failed them and Syria.

The British debate is a perfect encapsulation of the paucity of the international debate on Syria. It is good versus evil, black and white approach, more concerned with posturing and positioning that grappling with the complexities at hand.

International actors are divided between those invested in the war and those who simply have no clue how to end it. Britain is for now in the latter camp. Joining the fight against ISIS in Syria may have the appearance of toughness but all the reality of acute weakness.

Whether Britain bombs ISIS or not, it will still be failing Syria. The bombs may all hit their targets but the aim will not be met.


Chris Doyle is the director of CAABU (the London-based Council for Arab-British Understanding). He has worked with the Council since 1993 after graduating with a first class honors degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Exeter University. As the lead spokesperson for Caabu and as an acknowledged expert on the region, Chris is a frequent commentator on TV and Radio, having given over 148 interviews on the Arab world in in 2012 alone. He gives numerous talks around the country on issues such as the Arab Spring, Libya, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Islamophobia and the Arabs in Britain. He has had numerous articles and letters published in the British and international media. He has travelled to nearly every country in the Middle East. He has organized and accompanied numerous British Parliamentary delegations to Arab countries. Most recently he took Parliamentary delegations to the West Bank in April, November, December 2013 and January 2014 including with former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.


West’s options limited against Russian escalation

Maria Dubovikova

14 October 2015

The Russian offensive in Syria has been ongoing for almost two weeks. Whatever the reactions of the international community, all it can do is make declarations, threaten new sanctions, or appeal for a halt to the operation, none of which will be effective. Russian President Vladimir Putin played the game the international community thrust upon him, and it seems he has won, moving quickly and unpredictably.

Moscow has filled the vacuum created by the West’s unrealistic, unconstructive approach to the Syrian conflict. Its plan is strong, but still dubious in terms of regional and global consequences.

Putin has left little space for any counter-manoeuver by the West - a forceful response would cause World War III. He was sure from the start of the Russian escalation that the West would not reciprocate, but there is still a high risk of a proxy war between the United States and Russia.

This would endanger regional and global stability. There are already signs of a proxy war, including the decision to continue supporting Syrian rebels on the ground. However, such support is unlikely to be tangible, and the Syrian army will likely push back its enemies with Russian help by the time U.S. aid arrives. A lack of support is not good either, as it will hinder the chances of a political transition.

Building bridges or walls?

So the international community is left with two options. Either it works in parallel with the Russian-led coalition, occasionally threatening Moscow with new sanctions in case Russian airstrikes do not target the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Or fruitful cooperation is launched, which would create a counterbalancing system and overcome antagonisms.

Russia is not expected to join the international coalition as it considers it illegitimate, and there is no use imposing anything or threatening Moscow. With the ongoing operation, Russia has already shown its military might, and the costs involved are not a problem. Storing weapons is also very expensive, while using them proves their capabilities, and provides the country’s military-industrial complex with new orders and opportunities.

Russia has shown that it is back on the world stage, with a strong will to fight for its interests and counter the challenges it faces. Moscow has changed its military and foreign policies, and the West has to deal with that. The current manoeuvers of NATO and Western powers show that they will likely do so by building walls instead of bridges, thus increasing tensions. Syria is likely to be the catalyst.

Maria Dubovikova is a President of IMESClub and CEO of MEPFoundation. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations [University] of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia), now she is a PhD Candidate there. Her research fields are in Russian foreign policy in the Middle East, Euro-Arab dialogue, policy in France and the U.S. towards the Mediterranean, France-Russia bilateral relations, humanitarian cooperation and open diplomacy. She can be followed on Twitter: @politblogme


Confusion in Ankara



Hours after Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu pointed at the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as the prime suspect in the Ankara twin bombings on Oct. 10 which claimed the lives of at least 97 people (some who were heavily wounded are still in critical condition) the United States started on Oct. 12 to air drop 27 container loads of weaponry to the armed forces of the Syrian-Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) to be used in the next advance on the ISIL stronghold of Raqqa in Syria.

Yesterday, on Oct. 13, Turkey strongly protested the U.S., its ally in NATO and in the coalition against ISIL for giving arms to the PYD. A similar protest was to be given toRussia because of announcing the PYD as a legitimate force in Syria against ISIL. Davutoğlu told a group of journalists yesterday in Ankara that if those weapons given by the U.S. to Syrian Kurds were to be used against Turkey, that would have serious consequences. It is not a secret that the PYD is affiliated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been carrying out an armed campaign against Turkey since 1984 that has claimed some 40,000 lives so far. Despite that, the Turkish government has not listed the PYD as a “terrorist organization” officially, though President Tayyip Erdoğan and PM Davutoğlu have said numerous times that they consider the PYD to be one. Erdoğan said that he considered the PYD to be the same as ISIL and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

That has been a growing difference in the stances between Ankara and Washington. Erdoğan insists that a joint effort should focus on all of them and he is almost the only leader to say that. The rest think in a first-things-first manner and consider ISIL the immediate threat on which all the forces should concentrate.

Russia and the U.S. agree on ISIL being the first target but differ on the aftermath. Barack Obama of the U.S. thinks a new Syria would not be possible under al-Assad any longer, but at the same time he sees that it is difficult to attract all opposition groups to focus on ISIL while al-Assad holds power. Vladimir Putin of Russia, together with Hassan Rouhani of Iran, is a staunch supporter of al-Assad.

After the colossal failure of - probably the last - train-and-equip program of the so-called “moderate” Islamist forces against al-Assad, the U.S. managed to convince a group of Arab forces to team up with the PYD to walk on Raqqa and that is the point where Erdoğan and Davutoğlu became infuriated.

Despite declaring ISIL the prime suspect of the bombing, people close to government circles have been spreading the thesis for the last two days that even if the attackers were found out to be ISIL members, that would not necessarily mean it was only ISIL who attacked the peace rally in the Turkish capital; it may well be that the PYD or thePKK had collaborated with ISIL, the very enemy they have been fighting for the last two years in Syria. There is no substantiation to the thesis except from the assumption that both are terrorist organizations and both are against the Turkish government, so they could have acted together. 

That thesis may sound crazily out of proportion, but it is just a reflection of the confusion in Ankara. There are still people there who think if they could tell people that all enemies of the Turkish government have united, then Kurds would not vote for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) so that it could not exceed the 10 percent threshold in the Nov. 1 reelections, like they did on June 7, could not send deputies to parliament and Davutoğlu’s Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) would regain power in parliament, stay in power and not object to Erdoğan ruling the country single-handedly, even without bothering to change the constitution.

This has already turned into a dangerous power game. And if it escalates by a PYD advance on Jarabulus for example, instead of Raqqa, putting fuel on Turkey’s concerns about a Kurdish strip along its southern borders, a military intervention should not be totally ignored, which could jeopardize the elections in Turkey as well. That would really be a worse scenario for Turkey and the region.