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A Global Message to Fight ISIS: New Age Islam's Selection, 24 May 2016

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

24 May 2016

A Global Message to Fight ISIS

By Samar Fatany

Who Is Influencing Egypt: The Elites Or The Masses?

By Mohammed Nosseir

World Humanitarian Summit and Turkey

By Bulent Aras,Fuat Keyman

Building a Better Future for Syrians in Turkey

By Kamal Malhotra

Humanity Should Learn From Refugees

By Pierre Krahenbuhl

Netanyahu, Lieberman Deal Meant To Derail French Plan

By Daoud Kuttab

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


A Global Message to Fight ISIS

By Samar Fatany

 24 May 2016

The concern of all families, communities and governments today is the radicalization of our youth and the spread of violent extremism. Representatives from 170 cities around the world met in Antalya on Turkey’s, Mediterranean coast to discuss best practices to fight violent extremism and prevent the radicalization of youth.

In the first Strong Cities Network (SCN) Summit held on May 11-12, a global network of mayors, municipal-level policy makers and practitioners shared their experiences in building community resilience and social cohesion to counter violent extremism in all its forms. According to SCN experts, “cities are on the front line of building resilience to violent extremism and they can develop crucial preventive measures against violent extremism”.

They concluded that educational institutions, sports clubs, effective use of social media and national authorities need to work together to create an effective strategy to prevent young people from joining radicalized movements, illegal gangs or others. They stressed the importance of every city building community resilience to fight radicalization and violent extremism.

Representatives stressed that “the fight against violent extremism begins in our own neighbourhoods and in classrooms and workplaces and houses of worship and homes. Teachers, counsellors, imams and parents are on the front lines of identifying the warning signs of extremist influences”.

Our society must show more social cohesion and resilience to eliminate religious strife and the obstacles that stand in the way of building a strong and peaceful environment

The experts stated that “it is in local communities where policies touch people, where basic services can be delivered, human needs can be met, and where families first begin to look for security, and particularly where boys and girls begin to navigate that path to adulthood, to identity, to meaning, and to respect.”

Muslim World Today

The Muslim world today is in crisis. A more serious and effective strategy is needed to fight deviant ideas that justify violence and terror. The lack of an effective religious authority has allowed deviant organizations such as ISIS and other terrorist organizations to grow. Islamic scholars and intellectuals have failed to address the rage and violence that has erupted because of terrorist propaganda.

Our society must show more social cohesion and resilience to eliminate religious strife and the obstacles that stand in the way of building a strong and peaceful environment. Parents and civil society must pay more attention to the needs of young people and provide them with guidelines that protect them from devious cyber-terrorist propaganda.

A new approach of accepting and respecting the differences between all faiths and different ethnic groups is critical. More determined efforts by religious scholars can counter ISIS ideology and terrorist propaganda that threaten the nation’s stability. It is important to maintain tolerance in order to protect our society’s social cohesion.

Saudi political analysts stress the need for qualified and experienced lawmakers who are innovative and can devise constructive policies to reform the educational sector. Social scientists conclude that some extremist teachers have misguided our youth with a militant jihadist ideology. They reject other cultures and people who do not subscribe to their views. The government must scrutinize the performance of educators and the roles of officials in the field.

ISIS and radical jihadists are a threat to all Muslims and are the real enemies of Islam. More and more militants have taken up arms to conquer Arab and Muslim lands. Every city must accept that it is responsible for confronting the enemy within and global instigators who are out to destroy the peace and harmony of Muslim societies around the world.

Nurturing and guiding our youth is the national and religious responsibility of all members of society. Today our youth are either disillusioned by extremists or disappointed by the failure of reformers. Hence, they remain confused and easy targets for radicalization and violent extremism going against the true Islamic values of peace and tolerance.

A new approach and more stringent measures are essential to support a universal Muslim attitude that is humane and moderate so that Muslims everywhere can live with the true principles of Islamic and universal ideals of peace, tolerance and justice for all.

Let us support the SCN initiative and join forces with world cities to reiterate their message that “the ethnic and religious differences that help to define us are not as powerful as the things that actually unite us and bring us together. We are not all the same – that is for sure – but we are absolutely joined together and unified in our commitment and our determination to have a world of decency in which we respect and love peace itself, and where we can raise our children in safety with respect for the rights and dignity of every single human being.”

This strong and united message from global cities should inspire us to use best practices at home to protect our youth from radicalization and violent extremism that remains a threat and a major concern for us all.



Who Is Influencing Egypt: The Elites Or The Masses?

By Mohammed Nosseir

24 May 2016

People may believe that being part of the privileged social elite naturally leads to steering and influencing the less privileged members of society. Regrettably, this is not the case, at least not in Egypt where the ruling regime cleverly makes use of the needs and dynamics of different social segments to create divisions among them, eventually making it easier for the state to rule the country effectively and to better manipulate its citizens, at the expense, obviously, of true progress.

Egyptian elites appear to be enjoying driving their luxury cars on the country’s congested roads. In reality, they are scared to death of being hit by the heavy trucks or mindless minibuses that literally control Egyptian thoroughfares.

Meanwhile – for the sake of further enhancing citizens’ appreciation of its role – the traffic police whose function is to regulate traffic is deliberately absent, leaving all kinds of vehicles to wrestle one another in a free-for-all. Egyptian traffic police will interfere occasionally to collect fines (to replenish the state’s coffers; not to enforce the law).

Prior to the January 25 revolution, the relationship between the elites and the masses was well defined and accepted by both sides. The streets belonged to the masses, and the elites (protected by the state and served by the masses) hid inside their gated communities. The masses relied on the elites to hire them, and the state favored the elites by offering them exclusive business opportunities to enable them to accommodate the expanding masses. In the meantime, the elites also had another, implicit, mission: to control and restrain the masses, who understood that to encroach upon ‘the realm of the elites’ was strictly prohibited.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which has never bothered to appeal to Egypt’s elites, is known to be the group that dominates over the masses

Egyptian movies portrayed elites as individualistic, laidback, cowardly citizens who met at their exclusive clubs and engaged in destructive discussions, whereas the masses were depicted as patriotic, energetic, heroic citizens, willing to offer their lives in the service of their country.

The two segments of society were completely isolated from one another, enabling the state to govern Egypt more easily – for better or for worse! The 25 January revolution, however, allowed the elites and the masses to join forces and revolt against the state and its ruler.

Revolution and Economy

The revolution’s failure has adversely affected the economic condition of Egypt’s elites and masses, respectively. Nevertheless, the educated elites, quickly and incontestably, reached an understanding with the state, agreeing to abandon the idea of revolution in return for being allowed to keep their wealth and to regain the protection of the state.

With essentially nothing to lose, however, the illiterate masses haven’t settled down yet; they want to hang on to the tiny foretaste of civil rights that they experienced during the revolution – obviously gained at the expense of the elites, and by undermining the power of the state.

The state often enables the masses to express their potential “cruel threats” towards the elites, while at the same highlighting possibly corrupt transactions allegedly undertaken by the elites, thus fuelling each social segment against the other. Maintaining and fomenting social tension, the state applies these same methods to various segments of society; creating fractions among Egyptians helps to empower the state – at the expense of the nation and its citizens.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which has never bothered to appeal to Egypt’s elites, is known to be the group that dominates over the masses! It often works on recruiting the Egyptian middle class, which is talented in manipulating the masses, and capitalizes on the poor performance of different Egyptian governments. Potentially capable of using the masses to revolt against the state, the Muslim Brotherhood will therefore always constitute a disgraceful element in the eyes of the elites, and the number one enemy of the state.

Today, Egypt is left with elites that have willingly accepted their own marginalization and who explicitly bless the state’s use of the harsh measures it deems appropriate in dealing with the masses. Whereas the mindless masses, with nothing to lose, continue to grow in number, making it substantially more difficult for the state to again leash out at them with its outdated methods, rigid mindset and repressive policies. This situation evidently detracts from any attempts to democratize and modernize our country.



World Humanitarian Summit and Turkey

By Bulent Aras,Fuat Keyman

23 May 2016

There are two important reasons for convening the first ever World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul on May 23 and 24. The first is the need to revise and improve the structure of humanitarian aid within the framework of the United Nations.

Put simply, the transition of the UN structure from emergency aid to humanitarian aid falls short when it comes to creating solutions for the increasing number of humanitarian crises.

The second reason for holding the summit in Istanbul is "rhythmic diplomacy", one of the founding principles of Turkish foreign policy in the post-2002 era, Turkey's approach to humanitarian diplomacy adopted in recent years, and the fact that it is home to 2.7 million Syrian refugees.

Rhythmic and Humanitarian Diplomacy

The overlap between humanitarian diplomacy and rhythmic diplomacy is mobilising international organisations and structures in connection with humanitarian crises - while elevating Turkey's profile as much as possible. The cooperative vision of the UN and Turkey is what brought the summit to Istanbul.

The lasting impact of rhythmic diplomacy in foreign policy can be seen by looking at the summits scheduled for the near future.

Actually, the Least Developed Countries (LDC) summit held in Istanbul in 2011 had similar characteristics.

What makes the World Humanitarian Summit different is that the LDC summit included regions in which Turkey was attempting to expand its influence, while this gathering in Istanbul is focused on problems next door and even inside of Turkey.

Turkey is directly involved in the refugee issue, which is at the top of the list of problems the World Humanitarian Summit hopes to resolve.

This summit aims to relieve suffering and to solve problems with interventions in regions where the crises and dramas are unfolding - in other words, the objective is to create a "humanitarian space".

Today, we are talking about humanitarian crises that have dislocated 60 million people, about allegedly safe regions being under constant threat and attack, inaccessible to aid and about a situation that requires $20bn worth of funds annually.

As crises and disasters increase, and the humanitarian space consequently needs to expand proportionately or even more rapidly, we are seeing shrinking humanitarian space and deadlock regarding solutions to these problems.

Humanitarian Sector

This is the setting of the summit, with the purpose of restructuring the humanitarian system, which needs to shape the current problematic structure.

The chairman and chief executive of the International Rescue Committee, David Miliband, outlined the problem that forms the backdrop to the summit in a speech he gave a month ago at Georgetown University, where he used the phrase "humanitarian sector" instead of "humanitarian system".

This system is directed by the UN, the International Red Cross - and Red Crescent - and large international NGOs. The hegemonic structure maintained by the most powerful actors of the system is rigid, and there is a noticeable leadership problem.

The most significant problem is the fact that the expectations of those who receive the aid cannot be me within [the current humanitarian aid] framework. One of the most important dilemmas in the field of humanitarian aid is the general sense of dissatisfaction in regions that receive aid.

The obstacle that the World Humanitarian Summit must overcome right from the start is to define the UN position, and to outline the principles and boundaries of humanitarian aid coordination. Every new actor that enters the system or sector may encounter doubts even if it is just a summit.

This demonstrates the limits of structural transformation. The primary reason for convening the summit and opening the sector up to debate is a visible failure in the field.

A view widely held by individuals and organisations is that there is a need for a proper transition from international organisations and large NGOs to local and national structures.

However, it does not seem like this will be an easy transition. There is a mental barrier and a structural element that is difficult to overcome.

For example, only 0.2 percent of total humanitarian assistance was made available for use by local and national NGOs in 2014.

An example of meaningful work on this issue is the fact that the UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) announced that it will use 20 percent of its funds in 2020 through local NGOs - and the Charter4Change coalition, consisting of 27 international NGOs, will do the same in 2018.

Although a gradual change is projected, it looks like it will be difficult to achieve a transition towards local actors in the short term.

One of the important goals of the summit is to gain systemic acceptance for a "no-one-left-behind" approach. We can predict that this will be a difficult objective to achieve for a structure that provides no place for local actors to render assistance.

Donors naturally want to control the money they offer. It seems unlikely that they will relinquish this control. They want to control the channelling of funds into the system through channels they trust and are familiar with.

The most significant problem, however, is the fact that the expectations of those who receive the aid cannot be met within this framework. One of the most important dilemmas in the field of humanitarian aid is the general sense of dissatisfaction in regions that receive aid.

The Turkish Factor

Turkey has an international humanitarian aid and development policy that it implements through state and civilian capacities - within a framework of humanitarian diplomacy. This is an approach that can be seen more clearly in its Africa opening and its Somali policy.

By hosting first the LDC and then the the World Humanitarian Summit, it has become a candidate for playing a decisive role within a framework that will be restructured in what is - in one sense - a global system. In the meantime, a follow-up meeting of LDC will be held in Antalya at the end of May.

With regard to its policies, Turkey takes an approach that can be described widely as peacebuilding with a broad framework that relies on integrating the tools of diplomacy, humanitarian aid and development.

This approach allows NGOs to reach the masses while organisations such as the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency, the Department of Religious Affairs, and the Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities do work ranging from development and education to infrastructure, while its diplomacy and mediation efforts aim to resolve disputes.

The importance of Turkey is that it is positioned somewhere between the traditional Western donors and groups of emerging actors such as Brazil, India and China.

Turkey recognises the role of the NGOs in a humanitarian system that is different from China and India, but also extensively cooperates with local organisations in a way that Western actors cannot.

However, even though remarkable progress has been made, it is still too early to say that this model is now a success story - as it is still being formulated.

In this sense, the World Humanitarian Summit is an opportunity for Turkey to better understand its aid system, its shortcomings and the process of restructuring.

This summit will also allow Turkey to express its point of view and contribute to the evolution of the humanitarian aid system and sector.

However, the summit has not received the attention it deserves due to factors such as domestic political developments, consecutive elections and the fact that it is taking place immediately after the Justice and Development Party congress.

In addition, dynamic structures such as the Civil Society Forum and the Intellectuals Forum that took place around the LDC summit in 2011, unfortunately, could not be formed for the the World Humanitarian Summit.

These types of dynamic events allowed individuals such as Richard Falk, Ali Mazrui and Fantu Cheru to introduce new ideas critical of the UN system in 2011.

The substitutes are the Academic Forum of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and side events of state and civilian organisations.

In conclusion, it would be wrong to expect the World Humanitarian Summit to assume the mission of solving every problem. But all the concerned actors are in the belief that significant progress will be made.

If Turkey's claims to humanitarian diplomacy are to go beyond hosting summits, it must contribute to the discussions that will take place there.

As the global aid system is being restructured, in the meantime Turkey is attempting to consolidate its own approach, which makes interaction inevitable.

In this regard, it is possible to say that the summit will take both Turkey and the humanitarian aid system to a new level.

But we will have to wait to see what the results of the summit are in order to discuss what the new era will look like.



Building A Better Future For Syrians In Turkey

By Kamal Malhotra

23 May 2016

As thousands leave Syria for safer lands, images of white tents and perilous boat journeys have flooded the world's media.

But there's another side to this story. In Turkey, the host of today's World Humanitarian Summit, only about 10 percent of the approximately 2.75 million displaced people from Syria live in refugee camps (PDF). The rest live in towns and cities like many of us.

Across the country's southeast, Syrians are silently trying to make a living and blend in.

Imagine this: You have new neighbours that you would like to know, but the language barrier and customs make it difficult to reach out. Or you want to find short-term employment, but until recently, obtaining a work permit was nearly impossible. These are real-life situations faced by hundreds of thousands of ordinary men and women.

Syrians now represent more than 50 percent of the population of Kilis and 22.5 percent of the population of Gaziantep. Over the last five years alone, more than 150,000 babies of Syrian parents displaced by the conflict were born in Turkey.

A Long Road For Integration

As the crisis on the other side of the border grows in intensity, Turkey has been implementing much broader measures to help Syrians in need. As of February, the country had spent $10bn on Syrians under temporary protection, providing them with free healthcare and allowing them to attend schools, universities and training courses.

At the beginning of this year, the government passed legislation allowing Syrians to apply for work permits.

The international community needs to look beyond emergency aid and invest in the longer-term planning necessary to create a sustainable and liveable environment for both Turkish citizens and Syrians living here.

But with no end in sight to the conflict in Syria, it isn't clear how the situation will evolve. What is certain is that massive investments will be required in Turkey to build peace, sustain the economy and ensure adequate public services for both Turkish citizens and Syrians.

Ensuring the dignity and quality of life of the displaced, and supporting the environment in which they live should go hand in hand. That includes boosting the labour market, skills and capital, social services and local institutions.

Take access to jobs: Competition for low-skill employment is on the increase. For instance, many Syrians and Turkish citizens work side-by-side in southeast Anatolia in the construction industry and as manual labourers. The region will need to create 260,000 more jobs to keep unemployment down and the economy afloat between now and 2018.

This will require creating new areas of work so the economy can take off, while training both displaced and locals in sectors such as agriculture, food processing and the clothing industry - all of which hold the promise of employing large numbers of people.

Public services will also require a rethink. For instance, the 113,000 Syrians living in camps in Kilis, Gaziantep and Sanliurfa are generating huge amounts of solid waste. Vehicles are constantly on the road, personnel are overwhelmed, and sanitary landfill sites are at full capacity. There is an urgent need for improving rubbish collection and disposal.

In addition, the construction of new hospitals and the addition of medical and non-medical workers to staff them could add some 18,000 jobs locally, while new schools could help recruit another 20,000.

Much More Needed

The European Union, the governments of the United States and Kuwait, the United Nations Development Programme and others are trying to do that. They've established training programmes to help displaced women and men and those in local communities find jobs.

These include Turkish language courses to boost economic opportunities. They are also helping cities redesign their public services to cater to large numbers of people, starting with ambitious waste and recycling programmes.

But much more needs to be done. The international community needs to look beyond emergency aid and invest in the longer-term planning necessary to create a sustainable and liveable environment for both Turkish citizens and Syrians living here. By the same token, it would help create a more secure and peaceful environment for all.

Across the world, the average length of time a displaced person spends away from home is now 17 years. Think about the 10-year-old Syrian girl and her 10-year-old Turkish neighbour. If this average timeframe holds true, they may still be neighbours as young adults.

So let's not leave them behind. The Syrian crisis has resulted in huge amounts of suffering and need. The Istanbul Summit will be an opportunity to help the next generation get back on its feet.

Turkey can and should also capitalise on the talent, skills and life experiences of displaced Syrians to build a bright future for Turkey.



Humanity Should Learn From Refugees

By Pierre Krahenbuhl

23 May 2016

From the battlegrounds of the Middle East come exemplary stories of courage and resolve that we must all listen to and learn from.

Batoul, a 14-year-old Palestinian refugee, has known conflict and war for much of her life. During her flight from Syria, her father and brother were killed.

When I met her in Ain el-Helweh camp in Lebanon, I was moved beyond words. Despite the trauma, she was the highest performing student in her school. In tragedy, she preserved dignity and drew energy from despair.

"Education is what gives me hope," she says.

Batoul exemplifies how deeply Palestinians value learning and developing skills, often against all odds, and how they seek to rebuild after so much has been lost.

Drawing Lessons

As the World Humanitarian Summit begins in Istanbul, there are many lessons that leaders and participants can draw from Batoul's story.

None is more important than giving a new lease on life to political action aimed at resolving armed conflicts. Nothing will make a greater difference to Batoul and Palestinian refugees - not to mention millions of other civilians - than bringing about political solutions to end their plight.

Batoul's experience also highlights the immense value of investing in humanity. The summit will emphasise the importance of leaving no one behind, and yet, it will take very hard work to ensure that all children truly realise their right to education, even in contexts of conflict and crises.

Our teachers become shelter managers during times of crisis and later return to being teachers.

As workers on the ground, we are all too aware of the enormity of the challenge. United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) provides education to 500,000 Palestinian girls and boys in 692 schools in Gaza, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

The story of Batoul is also the story of the specialists, teachers and school principals that stand on the frontline, delivering the education she values.

I have the deepest respect for their determination and dedication. They operate in some of the most challenging environments one can imagine, and we in UNRWA have lost too many colleagues in recent years: 16 in Syria since the conflict began, with 28 missing, and 11 in Gaza during the 2014 war.

The Toll Of Conflict In The Region

At the Istanbul summit, UNRWA is unveiling a new report with deeply disturbing findings. Our study, titled Schools on the Frontline, which is due to be published, reveals that 44 percent of UNRWA's 692 schools across the Middle East - that's a staggering 302 - have been directly impacted by conflict and violence in the last five years.

In Syria, at least 70 percent of 118 UNRWA schools have, at some stage of the war, been rendered inoperative, either because they were impacted by violence or because we have used them as centres to house the displaced.

Our report is equally bleak about the impact of conflict on UNRWA schools in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Eight-three UNRWA school buildings were damaged during the 2014 Gaza conflict. Ninety UNRWA schools were used as designated emergency shelters for almost 300,000 displaced Palestinians, including at least 150,000 children.

Six of these school buildings were struck by artillery shells or other munitions, causing deaths and injuries. Weapons components were placed by armed groups in three other schools.

In the West Bank, UNRWA's delivery of education services after nearly half a century of Israeli occupation has been facing increasing challenges in a context marked by Israeli security force operations, including the frequent use of tear gas, student delays at checkpoints, and school closures.

This has been exacerbated with the upsurge in violence since last October. I join Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in condemning attacks on all civilians.

As for Lebanon, periodic outbreaks of violence have forced 36 UNRWA schools to suspend classes for up to a week at a time on different occasions. More than 50 percent of all our schools in the country have been impacted at one time or another.

In Syria, we are still able to offer daily classes to some 45,000 students - many of whom achieve results above the national average.

Through our innovative Education in Emergencies programme, we deliver classes to more than 50,000 children in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, through UNRWA TV broadcasts and interactive distance learning modules.

In Gaza, the majority of our schools for quarter-of-a-million children reopened within weeks of the 2014 war ending.

And, as in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank, hundreds of specifically trained psycho-social counsellors work with deeply traumatised children to recover and move on with their lives.

'Grand Bargain'

At the summit, we will highlight UNRWA's major investment in dignity, human development and a measure of stability for Palestinian refugees, who represent 40 percent of those in the world's protracted refugee situations.

Development action and emergency aid are expected to be a big theme at the summit, and live side-by-side under one roof in UNRWA. Our teachers become shelter managers during times of crisis and later return to being teachers.

At the summit, we will join initiatives such as the "Grand Bargain" on humanitarian financing between donors and humanitarian organisations in a collective effort to work together more efficiently and effectively, and deepen the resource base for humanitarian action, including for Palestinian refugees.

Ban underlined that necessary means needed to be mobilised in order to preserve and improve our investment in education for hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugee children.

It is their future and their humanity that is at stake and, as the UN secretary-general's report reminds us, there is but "one humanity".

Batoul has shown the courage to act. We must act equally decisively to help her and hundreds of thousands of UNRWA students realise the dreams they are working so hard to keep alive.



Netanyahu, Lieberman Deal Meant To Derail French Plan

By Daoud Kuttab

24 May 2016

If the French diplomatic machine had a hard time scheduling a conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry, it will soon find out that its effort to arrange an international conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be that much harder. In a three-day spat, a behind-the-scenes effort by Kerry and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to move the Israeli government toward peace backfired.

The plan included Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog joining the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to give it more muscle against right-wing settler ideologues. To make it more acceptable, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, one of the more popular Arab figures in Israel today, gave a pro-peace speech and said he was willing to help. Netanyahu and Herzog were supposed to head to Cairo to meet with Sisi.

However, instead of adding 25 members to his one-seat parliamentary majority, the prime minister offered the Defense Ministry to settler Avigdor Lieberman, whose right-wing Jewish Home party only won six seats in last year’s elections. This turn of events produced many reactions in Israel, including in the army, but the biggest potential loser in this cabinet reshuffle will be the French plan to hold an international conference.

Israel is sceptical about the multilateral event, preferring to keep control of peace talks bilaterally. Palestinians, who have tired of 20 years of direct talks that produce nothing but photo opportunities, have for some time vowed to shun a process that gives Israel a PR badge without producing any results.

The sudden Israeli cabinet shift further to the right has not lessened French enthusiasm. A revisit to Kerry’s schedule produced a window on June 3, and the preparatory meeting is back on, irrespective of the changes in Israel’s government. Israel and the Palestinians are not invited to the meeting, which aims to consolidate the will of the international community.

Political Will

The problem is that while there is general agreement on what needs to happen and the framework of a solution to the conflict, there is an absence of political will and muscle needed to force Israel to take the peace process seriously.

What made the Iran nuclear deal possible was tough sanctions by the international community. Nothing of the sort is on the table regarding Israel. In fact, the international community - including France - is fighting tooth and nail against attempts by their own citizens to divest from companies that deal with Israel and help perpetuate its occupation and settlements regime.

If the French are serious about their peace effort, they must not allow yet another conference without teeth

Boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS) are what caused South Africa to end its apartheid system, but the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe are violating freedom of expression by trying to criminalize BDS efforts against Israel.

The absurdity of this position was best exposed in a Twitter exchange between Palestinian-American Ali Abu Nimeh and an EU official opposed to BDS. The exchange ended with a logical question to the official: What form of resistance to the occupation will be accepted by the international community?

If the French are serious about their peace effort, they must not allow yet another conference without teeth. Former French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabious had said if Israel balked at peace, France would recognize Palestine. However, that statement was retracted by his successor Jean-Marc Ayrault.

It will take much more than a shy, hesitant threat of recognizing Palestine to make the forthcoming peace conference work. Paris needs to understand that if occupation and settlements are illegal under international law, their perpetuation must have consequences. Until and unless Israel has to pay a price for its actions, there is no chance for any process to bring about true peace in the Middle East.




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