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Islam and the West ( 13 Oct 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Palestine: Reaching A Boiling Point: New Age Islam’s Selection From World Press, 14 October 2015

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

14 October 2015

Palestine: Reaching a boiling point


Arabs fail as others advance


A mass murder mystery highlights Turkey’s political fragility

By Dr. John C. Hulsman

Memories of the 1988 Algerian Spring

By Jamal Khashoggi

Understanding the depth of Syrian refugee selfies

By Diana Moukalled

Resurgent Taliban overruns Kunduz

By Mahmood Hasan



Palestine: Reaching a boiling point


Published — Wednesday 14 October 2015

As Palestinian protests against Israeli occupation enter third week there is little evidence that Premier Benjamin Netanyahu is aware of the political and security costs of the cycle of violence that he deliberately unleashed through his brash and poorly conceived policies in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Whether this is indeed a third Intifada or not will become clear in the coming days. The ramifications of Israel’s “iron fist” policy will be dire and answering peaceful protests with live ammunition will prove reckless and short-sighted.

Hamas and some Palestinian officials have dubbed Palestinian protests, which have spread to Israel proper and Gaza Strip in addition to Jerusalem and the West Bank, as an Intifada. Pundits say that what differentiates this from the last two uprisings is that the current Intifada is leaderless; it is spontaneous and reflects the level of anger and frustration that tens of thousands of Palestinian youth feel two decades after the signing of the Oslo accords and the birth of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

In the absence of a genuine political process, Palestinians have lost faith in their leaders as Israel stepped up its plans to empty East Jerusalem of its Arab population, encroach on Al-Aqsa compound and partition the West Bank, while maintaining a ruthless siege over the Gaza Strip. In light of increasing Israeli provocations and horrific crimes carried out by Jewish settlers against hapless Palestinians, it was a matter of time before young Palestinians, most of whom do not belong to any party or group, decided to vent out their anger against their tormentors.

Despite the use of knives and stones against Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers, this has been largely a peaceful uprising. More than 30 Palestinians have been killed, the majority in cold blood, in addition to four Jewish settlers. Over 500 Palestinians have been injured as occupation soldiers were encouraged to use live ammunition against youth throwing stones and fire bombs.

The Palestinian leadership has been unable to take the initiative. President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of escalating tensions but stopped short of carrying out his threats to halt security cooperation or disband the PA.

There is ferment among young Fatah cadre who has little faith in their leadership or in the promise of a two-state solution.

And on the other side, Netanyahu is finding that he has little room to maneuver. His right-wing government is the most extreme in Israel’s history. His coalition partners want him to adopt even harsher measures and send in the army to occupy what is left of the West Bank. Politically he has nothing to offer Abbas even as some observers talk of an attempt by the International Quartet to press for a resumption of peace talks in return for a settlement freeze.

This Palestinian uprising will not be overrun by the Israeli military or by Abbas’ own security personnel. Palestinians are aware that if they relent now there might not be another chance for them to tell the world about their plight and the great injustice they have suffered for many generations. But it is also true that the world is slow to react. The US appears unwilling to engage both parties in an attempt to revive peace talks. The international community is focusing on Russia’s latest gambit in Syria and the Arab countries are occupied with internal and regional crises. The UN and the Arab League are paying lip-service and some Arab leaders would like to see a quick end to this Palestinian uprising.

But it is also true that Israel is finding itself in a difficult position. The protests have spread inside Israel and Netanyahu’s militant response will not end the uprising, as the media is forced to focus on Israel’s occupation and Palestinian despair. One possible way out, as some Israelis suggest, would be for Netanyahu to wage another war on Gaza in order to shift attention from the peaceful uprising in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Netanyahu, his right-wing ministers and Jewish settlers believed that provocations in Al Aqsa would facilitate changing the status quo in the Noble Sanctuary. They would have succeeded too. But Palestinian despair and anger have reached a boiling point. What Israel did not expect, or want, is the flaring up of a third Intifada. With Abbas losing political ground, this new generation of Palestinians has become a ticking time bomb.

Israel has miscalculated when it decided to bury the two-state solution while failing to honor its commitments under Oslo. Now all those associated with that accord are paying the price. This is becoming an important milestone in the history of Palestinian national struggle. It is doubtful that Israel’s iron fist policy or Abbas’s security men will be able to contain what is slowly turning into a widespread rebellion, one that rests on civil disobedience and peaceful rejection of occupation.


Arabs fail as others advance


14 October 2015

It is frustrating and disappointing to see that unemployment in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is rising, while it is falling in the rest of the world.

This depressing news is contained in a recent report from the International Labor Organization (ILO), which also pointed out that economies are stagnating and poverty is on the rise.

Joblessness among the youth in the MENA region is at a staggering 30 percent, more than double that of the 13 percent average in the rest of the world. This undoubtedly means more terrorism, violence and crime.

Our young people are falling victim to the policies adopted by many governments focusing on political gamesmanship and militarization rather than human and economic development strategies.

To the embarrassment of Arabs, the ILO report shows that there is a decline in unemployment in several less developed nations in parts of Africa and the Caribbean.

The question now is what future is there for our young people living in countries where there is little prospect of gainful employment and living dignified and productive lives.

These young people are the victims of marginalization, exploitation and inadequate education, which should be considered criminal acts. No wonder then that they are risking their lives on boats heading for Europe, in a desperate search for a decent life.

The Arab world is in a grievous state. The cancer of terrorism in Syria has infected the entire region and is threatening world peace. It has become a hotbed for thugs and proxy wars.

The slaughter of innocents and the displacement of millions into camps to eke out a living are happening while the Syrian regime looks on coldly. Worst of all, the international community seems unwilling to act decisively, with only intermittent emotional reactions.

Iraq, once a prosperous land because of its oil wealth and most educated populace in the region, has been plunged into what appears to be a perpetual winter with corrupt external powers, in collusion with local politicians, siphoning off its resources.

There is a similar situation in Libya, wracked by a destructive civil war and with politicians and government employees representing no one but themselves, to the detriment of the people.

In Yemen, Iran is trying that age-old colonial tactic of divide and rule, by attempting to split the country into distinct northern and southern regions. Yemenis are barely scraping by, and have been forced to stand in long queues for handouts from international aid agencies.

The region’s economic malaise has certainly increased conflict and terrorism. As the world shifts its attention to other parts of the globe with competitively priced sources of energy, further economic decline in the Gulf and elsewhere can be expected, exposing systemic problems that can no longer be hidden.

The only solution to fight terrorism is to invest in human development. If people have hope they can appreciate life. It is also no longer enough to blame the West for all the region’s problems. Western countries are now only concerned about how to keep refugees out.

The irony is that the United Nations, in reports back in 2012, had predicted political unrest and internal disputes in the region if there was no development in human resources, particularly spending on education, health and job creation.

There were several other reports that reached the same conclusion. How many reports must tell us the same story before we act? It is not too late, but delaying further may result in an irreversible economic tragedy for millions.


A mass murder mystery highlights Turkey’s political fragility

Dr. John C. Hulsman

13 October 2015

This past weekend’s Ankara suicide bombings, which killed at least 128 people attending a peace rally, is the worst terrorist attack in Turkey’s history. There are suspects aplenty. The rally was organized by the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) to demand a halt to the escalating conflict between the increasingly authoritarian Turkish government and the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).

This renewal of a war that had cost tens of thousands of lives was itself due to the last major terrorist outrage - in Suruc, on the Syrian-Turkish border - where earlier this year a suicide bomber probably inspired by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) killed 37 pro-Kurdish activists. Turkish President Recep Tayyep Erdogan used the attack as a pretext to crack down on the PKK as part of his ruthless but clever election strategy.


ISIS has to be the primary suspect in the Ankara bombings. It is in direct conflict with highly effective Kurdish fighters in both Iraq and Syria. Anything that undermined Kurds’ growing political strength in Turkey - where the HDP surprised observers by winning 13 percent of the last parliamentary vote - would be in ISIS’s interest. So it had the motive, means and opportunity to carry out the attack.

However, there are other suspects. Far-right Turkish nationalist groups such as the shadowy Grey Wolves, or elements of the security services - both outraged at Kurdish electoral successes - also had a motive to instigate the attack.

Chaos ahead of parliamentary elections on Nov. 1 could push Turkey to the right, seeing the need for law and order above all else. Such a sea change would ruin the HDP and allow the ruling AK Party (AKP) and other forces on the right to win the contest. This would lead to the emergence of a new strong-arm president, which is what the Turkish right has wanted all along.

There is a third possibility. One of the frustrations of assessing the Middle East is dealing with an almost constant barrage of conspiracy theories. My standard line to the region’s observers of my own country, the United States, is that they have been watching too many movies. Politics is more about mistakes made by well-meaning if deeply flawed people, than masterstrokes engendered by highly intelligent Machiavellian forces.

However, in this case there is a conspiracy theory that must be considered: the Turkish government itself. Given the imminence of parliamentary elections, the timing of the attack raises suspicions that pro-Erdogan forces may have been directly involved.

Taking advantage

He is undoubtedly using this tragedy to further his long-term goal of installing himself as an all-powerful president for years to come. That is certainly what the thousands who gathered in Ankara’s main square to mourn their dead comrades think. Chanting “thief and murderer, Erdogan,” the crowd left little doubt as to who they blame.

What is certainly true, and far more provable, is the HDP charge that the government, through its control of the police, failed to protect the rally in the same way they would have for an AKP gathering. By not protecting opposition rallies, the police are at least partly to blame through not doing their job.

Moving quickly and decisively as he often does, following the bombings Erdogan made clear that he was the only force in the country who could be relied on to combat the looming terrorist threat, despite the fact that he had just failed to do so. He called for three days of public mourning for the victims, but said the Nov. 1 election would go ahead.

With press freedoms curtailed ahead of the poll, in an atmosphere of increasing fear and concern for the stability of the state, Erdogan is trying to entice voters to give the AKP a decisive parliamentary majority this time on his law-and-order, security-first platform. It is a callous strategy, but that does not mean it will not work.

With so many plausible suspects in the Ankara bombings, the state is more fragile than it has been in memory, just as the elections clearly amount to a watershed in Turkey’s history. One of the great powers of the Middle East hangs on a knife edge.

Dr. John C. Hulsman is the President and Co-Founder of John C. Hulsman Enterprises (, a successful global political risk consulting firm. An eminent foreign policy expert, John is the senior columnist for City AM, the newspaper of the city of London. Hulsman is a Life Member of the Council on Foreign Relations. The author of all or part of 11 books, Hulsman has also given 1490 interviews, written over 410 articles, prepared over 1270 briefings, and delivered more than 460 speeches on foreign policy around the world.


Memories of the 1988 Algerian Spring

Jamal Khashoggi

13 October 2015

Algerians might say they are alright when they see what is happening in Syria or neighboring Libya. However, like other Arabs they continue to waste opportunities to catch up with the free, developed world. On Oct. 5, 1988, Algerians rose up against their deteriorating living conditions. As usual for Arab authoritarian regimes, the government oppressed its angry people, killing around 500. However, the protests continued and anger rose.

This is the Arab Spring we did not watch on Al-Jazeera, which did not exist then. In the end, Algeria’s then-President Al-Shadli bin Jdid al-Salam chose what was best for him and his people, announcing constitutional, political and pluralistic reforms and free elections, thereby ending one-party rule. Despite this, however, governance failed, and production, the economy, services, education and quality of life deteriorated.

Historians and analysts disagree on the causes of the Algerian Spring. Some consider it a planned movement to settle scores inside the government, while others believe it is the real and transparent result of repression, economic failure and deteriorating services. As a journalist I witnessed the Algerian Spring, and will share some of my memories there without commenting, so the reader can interpret them however he or she wants.

•I was invited to Algeria to attend a seminar right before the famous elections that the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) won. Afterward, the gates of hell opened on Algeria due to a military coup and the cancellation of the election results. The star of the seminar was the late Sheikh Muhammad al-Ghazali, and its subject was “the Islamic future.” I had never seen a crowd that interested in what someone had to say.

I took four Islamists from the audience to my room in the Eurasia Hotel, to learn more about their orientation and their participation in the protests. My room was on the top floor, and the hotel was on a hill overlooking all of Algeria. A young man, leaning against the wall and looking at the capital of his country from the balcony, said: “We couldn’t pass next to the fence of the hotel, and now I’m on the 14th floor above the whole capital. God is the greatest!”

•The hotel gave me an insight into the strict socialist system that prevailed in Algeria. One had to convert dollars at the official bank, and carry the receipt to pay with the local currency as the employee would attach the receipt to a bond he would keep. The menu was limited, and when I complained about my chicken platter to the waiter, he said there was nothing better. His rudeness was not an imported socialist trait, but purely Algerian.

•During my following trips to Algeria, I went to the more prestigious Algeria Hotel, which was once home to the French governor. It was very generous, putting Close Up toothpaste and a Kleenex tissue box in my room. These capitalist brands were prized back then because Algeria did not produce high-quality, simple goods such as tissue boxes and toothpaste.

•I accompanied FIS leader Sheikh Abassi Madani to Mostaganem city in western Algeria during his electoral campaign, which was totally free with no government interference. He drove his car himself, without any escorts or guards. His son Osama was in the car behind us with the famous footballer Osad, who joined the FIS and was arrested with them later on.

The FIS was the party of the Algerian people, as it was very popular and not only Islamic. We passed through fields that were once France’s bread basket. I asked Madani: “Throughout our journey, I’ve never seen in these fields a tractor harvesting or cows grazing.” He answered: “It’s their failing socialism. If they brought a bull and a cow here after independence and let them graze, they would’ve had huge animal wealth today.”

•A huge stadium was filled with FIS supporters - Algerian women and men from all social classes. People cheered and chanted “God is great” and “Islamic state” whenever a speech ended.

•I asked Madani’s permission to come back with one of the Salafist members of the FIS, which was a coalition of Islamist forces that was formed in a short space of time, united by the desire to build a just Islamic state. However, he asked me to come back with him.

I discovered later that there were problems within the FIS, especially when Madani told me about a member: “He grew up in a bad environment, this has distorted his way of thinking.” Madani kept talking about the problems he had with Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood, and asked me not to publish what he had told me. I am free of my promise after a quarter of a century.

Analyzing these events demonstrates Algeria’s situation 25 years ago. Unfortunately, nothing much has changed. Pluralistic democracy is a facade, and elections are pre-determined.

Presidents and governments have come and gone, but the same class still rules, as with other Arab republics. It fails in governance, while succeeding in wasting development opportunities for its citizens.

Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels. Twitter: @JKhashoggi


Understanding the depth of Syrian refugee selfies

By Diana Moukalled

13 October 2015

It should be no surprise why refugees take selfies when arriving in Europe. If I went through an experience similar to theirs, I would document the entire trip using my phone, and if I survived I would post it on social media.

Criticism of refugees taking selfies in Europe has mostly come from those angry at the refugee influx. They claim that the joyous photos suggest these people are not suffering, but have come to Europe by choice for purely economic reasons.

“Do you think that hundreds of thousands of people would leave their homes and embark on this difficult road just because of a selfie with the Chancellor?” asked German Chancellor Angela Merkel following criticism of her appearing in selfies with refugees.

Those who are angry at such selfies ignore the importance of smart phones for refugees, as they contain maps and information about roads and the weather. Taking and posting selfies is also a way of reassuring loved ones that they are safe and well.


Smart phones have become a major means of communications in areas where landlines are not available. Refugees are not necessarily very poor, and those fleeing Syria are not as poor as some may think.

Smart phones have become a major part of the Syrian struggle. Syrians have used them to record videos of their protests, and attacks against them, since the start of the revolution. No media outlets can produce photos as powerful as those Syrians have taken of their lives inside their country during the past few years. When the regime prevented foreign media outlets from entering Syria, the people took charge of their own fate by taking photos.

“We Syrians took photos of every protest and of every massacre,” a Syrian refugee told German media. “We won’t stop taking pictures and sharing them now [that we escaped death]. Migration and asylum are part of our story.”

Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.


Resurgent Taliban overruns Kunduz

By Mahmood Hasan

October 14, 2015

The fall of Kunduz to Taliban is not only strategically significant but is also cause for deep worry for the Afghan National Unity Government. There are reports of fierce fighting in Badakshan, Baghlan and other northern provinces of the country while the Taliban has also captured Warduj district, the gateway to the strategic Wakhan corridor in North East Afghanistan, which connects China. Kunduz, controlled by Taliban, is a threat to Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Since being driven out of Kabul in 2001, this was the first time Taliban forces were successful in overrunning a province and even hold the capital for several days.

The resurgence of Taliban, after the announcement of Mullah Omar's death in July 2015, can be ascribed to several factors - low morale and fighting capability of the Afghan National Army (ANA), the downturn in relations between Kabul and Islamabad, the fractious National Unity Government (NUG), Taliban's new leader Mullah Mansour consolidating his position, withdrawal of the ISAF, and the stalled peace process. 

Kunduz has been under siege by Taliban since the departure of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) by the end of 2014. In the last week of September 2015, around 1000 Taliban fighters along with fighters from Central Asia and Pakistan mounted an offensive on Kunduz, and swiftly occupied major installations of the city. The 7000 fighters of ANA troops failed to defend the city. Taliban released 600 fighters from Kunduz jail, who also joined the fight. Reinforcements were sent and with US jets bombing Taliban positions, the ANA was able to regain the city center, but the periphery is still under insurgent control.

Interestingly, Mullah Mansour, in an open letter, assured Kunduz residents that Taliban would not repeat its atrocities of the past.

Head of the US Forces in Afghanistan, General John Campbell, said that the 350,000 soldiers of the Afghan army spread thin across the country, suffering from low morale and unable to fight alone without assistance of foreign allies. Its chain of command is weak, and desertions and defections are frequent when the going gets tough. The intelligence network is terrible while commanders are reportedly corrupt and inefficient. More time will be needed to ensure that these soldiers are combat ready.

Since coming to power, President Ashraf Ghani made attempts to have a good workable relationship with Pakistan. In July 2015, Pakistan brought NUG and Taliban to the table for a peace deal. But when Pakistan revealed that Mullah Omar, Taliban's spiritual leader was dead, Kabul balked and the process stalled. Suspicious of ulterior motives, Kabul now distrusts Islamabad. 

Pakistan has always considered landlocked Afghanistan as its strategic depth in case of conflict with India. Because of its rivalry with India, Pakistan has always wanted an amenable government in Kabul. Co-funded by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence in the early 1990s, Pakistan continues to support Taliban despite mounting international pressure.

Analysts say that Taliban's offensive on Kunduz is a result of fallout of relations between Kabul and Islamabad. Many are of the opinion that ISI masterminds were behind operation in Kunduz, to demonstrate that Taliban is not a defeated group but a credible fighting force and Mullah Mansour was effectively in-charge. This was done to compel Kabul to agree to negotiate a peace deal with Mullah Mansour.

Bad governance, which stems from poor and ineffective administration from the novel arrangement in Kabul, is the foremost problem for Afghanistan. The presidential elections of June 2014 produced a deadlock between two political rivals, Dr. Ashraf Ghani (Pashtun) and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah (Tazik), both claiming to have won the elections. The stalemate was resolved by a US-brokered deal that led ultimately to a power-sharing agreement known as the National Unity Government. Ghani became president and Abdullah was made the CEO. This bizarre setup has created tensions between the two rivals, along tribal lines and over demarcation of responsibilities.

Afghanistan is notorious for tribal allegiance. The two men play out their differences through their tribal militias and warlords in the provinces. Kunduz was the stage where the two doctors created an administrative mess and made way for the Taliban to take over the city. 

The ruling elites' endemic corruption, ethnic patronage, exclusionary politics and abusive governance had alienated the people where the Taliban found secure refuge. Talks are openly held in Kabul about the collapse of the government. Abdullah has asked Ghani to resign because of incompetence. Rivalry between the two men has made the Unity government dysfunctional while strengthening the insurgency.

Taliban's attack on Kunduz has laid bare the failure of America's “war on terror” in Afghanistan. Even after 14 years of ISAF military operations, the insurgency is nowhere under control. America has spent billions of dollars to train the Afghan army and equip them, which even Americans say have gone waste. Americans have abandoned Ghani and Abdullah, and are leaving Afghanistan without developing state institutions to deal with the Taliban. If another provincial capital falls to Taliban, which is not unlikely, it may bring down the NUG.

Pakistan's predicament is that it has created a Frankenstein's monster in the form of Taliban in Afghanistan. ISI's hypocritical role in sponsoring Afghan Taliban and bombing Tehrik-i-Taliban has posed serious internal security issues for Pakistan. A Taliban government in Kabul is no solution to Pakistan's security dilemma.

To resolve the insurgency, the Unity government needs to ensure good governance and a serious attempt to work out a peace deal. Pakistan can help that process by giving up its dangerous Afghan policy. Islamabad is well aware that there will be no peace in Pakistan if there is no peace in Afghanistan.

The writer is a former Ambassador and Secretary.