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General Golan’s Truth Hurts – Avoiding It Will Hurt Even More!: New Age Islam's Selection, 18 May 2016

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

18 May 2016

General Golan’s Truth Hurts – Avoiding It Will Hurt Even More!

By Yossi Mekelberg

How To Prevent Sectarian Backlash From Baghdad Bombings

By Michael Knights

For What Sin Was Maulana Nizami Executed?

By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London

Byy Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Mustafa Badreddine And The Road To Jerusalem

By Diana Moukalled

Sisi’s Failing Egypt Highlights the Crisis of the Middle East

By Dr. John C. Hulsman

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


General Golan’s Truth Hurts – Avoiding It Will Hurt Even More!

By Yossi Mekelberg

18 May 2016

It is hard to tell whether General Yair Golan, Deputy Chief of the Israeli Defence Forces, could have anticipated that his speech a fortnight ago, in a ceremony on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, would cause a gale force political storm. In a very personal and reflective speech, he warned against alarming trends in Israeli society of intolerance, violence and moral deterioration, which undermine the very foundations of the country as a democracy. In response, a chorus of politicians from the right, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, embarked on unsavory attacks on the number two soldier in the Israeli hierarchy. Ostensibly, they were irked that on this poignant day of remembering the murder of 6 million Jews by the Nazis, Golan chose to state in public that “If there is something that frightens me in the memory of the Holocaust, it is identifying horrifying processes that occurred in Europe… 70, 80 and 90 years ago and finding evidence of their existence here in our midst, today, in 2016.”

Golan may or may not have anticipated the tirade of criticism against him. However, accusing him of wronging the Israeli society and cheapening the Holocaust, as the Israeli Prime Minister did, reflects on Netanyahu’s reluctance to address the moral abyss into which he is leading the country. Vocal criticism cannot conceal the need to tackle the substance of Golan’s observations, especially as the country soon will mark the tragic 50th anniversary of occupying Palestinian territories. To be sure Golan received the full backing of the Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, but this was a lone voice of support among the wolves from the ruling nationalist-religious coalition, who were howling for his resignation. Not surprisingly the General’s remarks were embraced by the more liberal progressive-minded in Israeli society, but they are sadly a dwindling commodity.

Golan struck a number of the Israeli society’s raw nerves in his speech, and regrettably it led to overreaction instead of reflection. Zionism and the state of Israel, as its embodiment, have monopolized the memory of the Holocaust and its lessons. Evidently, one has to tread very carefully with any historical analogies, especially one as horrific as Europe and particularly Germany of the 1930s and ‘40s. Yet, at no point was it suggested that the Israeli army behaves like the Nazi one or that the Israeli society is heading towards where Germany was at its darkest time. This would be utter nonsense and counterproductive, as it is simple to refute. Nevertheless, it is legitimate, let alone necessary, to challenge the narrative of the Jewish state as the home of the eternal victims, who could do no wrong.

'Daily Brutality'

There is genuine concern in certain quarters of the Israeli society, and among the military establishment, that democratic values of respecting pluralism, tolerance, accountability and transparency are all on a dangerous downward spiral. In addition to these trends the society is increasingly more violent, one such example thereof is the spread of organized crime around the country. In a country whose military relies on conscription and prides itself that its armed forces are the ‘people’s army’, if the society is beastialized, the army cannot escape a similar fate.

The occupation and its daily brutality alone are a prolonged abuse of human rights. When it carried out, however, by soldiers who have no empathy for the occupied, it ends in even worse human rights violations of the occupied.

It is hence the duty of the security establishment to alert the Israeli society that the lesson for the Jewish people of ‘never again’ is a universal one. In its very narrow Jewish-centred meaning, it is not only wrong, but worse, it is harmful and immoral. An over simplistic narrative has taken hold of Israeli society, as part of its security paradigm, that the genocide of the Jewish people by the Nazis, licenses the state Israel an almost divine right to behave as it sees fit—regardless of international and moral norms. Too many in Israel and the Zionist movement are reluctant to espouse a moral stance, that those who suffered most have a responsibility to be the torchbearers of upholding human rights constantly and unceasingly. Hundreds of years of anti-Semitism culminating in the genocide of six million should have resulted in more sensitivity for the suffering of other people, not the hardening of Israeli society beyond being able to be empathetic with others.

The occupation and its daily brutality alone are a prolonged abuse of human rights. When it carried out, however, by soldiers who have no empathy for the occupied, it ends in even worse human rights violations of the occupied. Senior generals could not and should not stay silent when there is an incident such as the one in Hebron recently, where a Palestinian militant, who stabbed soldiers, was shot in the head whilst he was already lying on the ground injured and seemed to pose no threat. It allegedly appears to be a brutal assassination and not self-defence. It is not an isolated case, there are other ‘unexplained’ cases of killing of Palestinians including children, who were not even involved in militancy. This kind of behaviour could lead the army, if not nipped in the bud, to a complete moral bankruptcy.

Furthermore, as General Golan eluded to in his remarks, as much as the country needs a moral army, the army needs a moral society, which is worth the sacrifice involved in serving in the military. Some of the vile attacks on Golan, highlight the importance and necessity of his intervention. Very few generals show civil courage similar to the valor they show in the battlefield, but they are those who deserve to be revered by the public. Judging by the venomous attacks on Golan, not only will the messenger be most probably overlooked for the position of Chief of Staff, but also the message itself will be buried under piles of patriotic demagogy.



How To Prevent Sectarian Backlash From Baghdad Bombings

By Michael Knights

17 May 2016

Michael Knights is the Lafer Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He specialises in the politics and security of Iraq. He has worked in every Iraqi province and most of the country's hundred districts, including periods embedded with Iraq's security forces.

More than 100 people were killed on Wednesday in three separate attacks in Baghdad, with more than 165 wounded. The most devastating bombing, in Sadr City's Urayba Market, killed more than 25 women and children.

After the attacks, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed responsibility and labelled Sadr City's two million residents as rawafidh (rejectors), signalling that everyone living there is a legitimate target including the women and children.

ISIL, also known as ISIS, has three aims in conducting such attacks - a military one, a political one, and a sectarian one. ISIL is activating bombing cells around the capital as a response to battlefield losses to make the Iraqi Security Forces keep force levels up in Baghdad, denying greater investment of forces in battle zones. On the back of the recent protests in Baghdad this will keep the combined Iraqi Security Forces stretched thin and lacking capacity for the push into Mosul.

As a political tactic, these bombings look to further undermine the government during a period of political gridlock and show that the Iraqi state is a failed one not capable of protecting its citizens and that democracy will not produce peace for Iraqis.

ISIL's message

ISIL is communicating that it can and will continue to horrifically disrupt life for Iraqis even if it loses all its territory and that the Iraqi government, and any international forces, will be unable to prevent it from doing so.

This same message will go to people in Syria and other areas in which ISIL has a presence, drawing a picture of bloody violence where innocent people are the victims in an attempt to spread fear, hatred, and anger.

The sectarian aim is clearly to start a cycle of revenge attacks in response to the idea that ISIL cells are in Baghdad's Sunni neighbourhoods - though they are more likely to be coming from such areas immediately outside Baghdad.

The sectarian aim is clearly to start a cycle of revenge attacks in response to the idea that ISIL cells are in Baghdad's Sunni neighbourhoods...

These latest attacks are unlikely to lead a return to the sectarian violence of previous years, and the anger is largely against ISIL and the security establishment, but a sustained bombing campaign will increase sectarian tensions.

Indeed we can already see the political reverberations of the attacks, which closely followed the overrun of Iraq's parliament and months of escalating anti-government protests.

There is great discontent with Iraq's government and these bombings may become a new focus for that discontent, as the cabinet reshuffle and government reforms are moving slowly and are easily disrupted.

The chronically divided Iraqi political scene is asking why the bombings happened and who is to blame, with some seeking to take advantage of the situation to settle scores.

Some will criticise the prime minister or call for the removal of Interior Minister Mohammed al-Ghabban who, along with Defence Minister Khalid al-Obeidi, has been praised for improving the performance of his ministry and forces.

Diversion of Military Forces

Others will call for a diversion of the military forces allocated to the Mosul campaign to liberate Fallujah, next to Baghdad but probably not the source of the bombs that struck Baghdad on May 11.

Already key figures from the Shia military force leadership such as Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis have sworn to further mobilise the Hashd al-Shaabi in Baghdad's security and promised to liberate Fallujah and secure Baghdad belt areas.

This comes at a time when the Iraqi forces responsible for the International Zone security are seen to have failed badly in preventing a breach of that area and allowing thousands of protesters to enter parliament.

Though the frontline troops are well respected by the nation, the credibility of the Iraqi Security Forces in Baghdad is hanging by a thread.

There will be pressure on the Iraqi government to ramp up arrests of Sunnis, use more sectarian profiling, and make further restrictions on the freedom of movement of Iraqis within their own country.

Any major city suffers terrorist attacks and no city will be fully immune from them. In the context of war-turn Iraq, Baghdad security has been improving, largely because ISIL has been forced to focus its efforts on the battlefields.

Fixing the Problem

As ISIL is forced to become a terrorist group again, fighting from the shadows, the counterterrorism challenge to Baghdad will return with a vengeance.

In reality Baghdad is no better protected against this risk today than it was in 2012 and 2013 when ISIL mounted major multi-target simultaneous bombings every few weeks.

Checkpoints cannot cope with traffic levels - incredibly they still use inoperative bomb detectors - and corruption at these posts remains a problem. Plenty of ISIL collaborators - new recruits, old militants who avoided prison and those released or escaped from prison - live in the Baghdad outskirts.

What is needed is a new Iraqi "surge", backed by the international coalition, to address the risk of strategic terrorist attacks against Baghdad, which could distract the government further, empower urban militias and delay the battle of Mosul.

In the same way that the coalition helped Iraq to urgently address the risk posed by Mosul Dam, there is an urgent need for the coalition to help Iraq tackle the long-standing issue of Baghdad's vulnerability to bombings.

As Mosul Dam could bring a devastating flood of water to Baghdad, the ISIL bombings could yet bring a devastating flood of sectarian attacks and militia rule to Baghdad. Only by fusing the technology, planning and intelligence expertise of the coalition with Iraq's manpower and ground knowledge can the threat be brought under control before radicals on both sides undermine the capital.

Everyone knows the coalition could have done more to help Baghdad's defence in June 2014: this is a second chance, and whether the coalition takes the opportunity or neglects it, Iraqis will remember.



For What Sin Was Maulana Nizami Executed?

By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi

May 18, 2016

The authorities in Bangladesh have recently carried out the death sentence of Maulana Motiur Rahman Nizami, the head of Jamaat-e-Islami, an opposition party in the country. The current regime ignored international pleas to save Maulana Nizami, a former minister and member of Parliament, from the gallows. 

Maulana Nizami was the fifth opposition leader to be executed upon the orders of the highly flawed International Crimes Tribunal of Bangladesh (ICTB), a tribunal created to provide justice and accountability for international crimes but whose legitimacy has been tarnished by its procedural irregularities, political manipulation of trials and legal unfairness. He was convicted of war crimes allegedly committed during the civil war that led to the secession of East Pakistan from United Pakistan and the creation of the new state of Bangladesh 45 years ago. The execution was carried out after conducting mock trials, which lacked even the basic international criteria. The sham ICTB and its proceedings have been declared to be against international legal standards by almost all international rights bodies, such as the United Nations Human Rights Council, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Bar Association and British House of Lords, in addition to several global and local human rights activists, including an American ambassador-at-large and a specialist in human rights affairs.

It is unfortunate that the Bangladesh government did not pay any heed to these criticisms and appeals. It instead continued targeting opposition leaders against whom no charges of war crimes were framed by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of the nation of Bangladesh, during his rule from the beginning of 1972 until his assassination on 15 August 1975. Rahman even pardoned Pakistani soldiers, 195 in number, who were charged with war crimes. This amnesty was made under a tripartite agreement signed by India, Pakistan and Bangladesh in New Delhi. This pact called for reconciliation among the parties, and subsequently led to the establishment of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Bangladesh. All of this was based on the principle of “forget and forgive”, as well as the famous words of Rahman, who said: “Let the world know how Bengalis can forgive.”

In her first tenure as prime minister of Bangladesh from 1996 to 2001, Sheikh Hasina, daughter of Rahman and leader of the Awami League party, never called for a trial of those who are now being tried and executed for war crimes. This shows that the ulterior motive of Sheikh Hasina in holding these trials is to further weaken the opposition by eliminating its leaders so that she can establish a single-party dictatorship in Bangladesh.

Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League party came to power again in 2008 in alliance with leftists who were the archenemies of her father. During this period, she established the so-called ICTB for trying suspects of war crimes allegedly committed during the civil war. In fact, there is nothing international about this tribunal except its name. Also, the tribunal does not have any international judges. Moreover, no international lawyers have been allowed to appear to defend war crime suspects.  

Toby M. Cadman, a renowned international barrister and an expert on war crimes tribunals, was even denied entry into Bangladesh and was deported immediately after landing at Dhaka airport. Local lawyers were put in embarrassing situations when they came forward as defense lawyers. Charges were framed against one of these lawyers while another one was threatened and forced to withdraw his offer to defend the war crimes suspects.

Maulana Nizami, who was the holder of a higher degree in Islamic studies from Dhaka University, was elected to Parliament for two terms and served as minister of agriculture and minister of industries. His trial fell short of international standards and norms. For instance, the tribunal gave the defense lawyer only 20 days to conduct the case proceedings in favor of his client while the prosecution was given a period of nearly two years. Similarly, the court allowed the public prosecution to call as many as 26 witnesses while the defense lawyer was permitted to call only four witnesses. All of this indicates that the trials were politically motivated.

There is no doubt that those involved in this tribunal and its verdicts which have led to the execution of several innocent people will find a place in the annals of history. This tribunal has been instrumental in inflicting a severe blow not only to Bangladesh’s judiciary system but also to the reputation of the founder of the country, who pardoned war crimes suspects during his rule. He also pardoned those who collaborated with the Pakistani army on the basis of the principle of “forget and forgive.”

Finally, I would like to draw attention to the observations of Toby M. Cadman, posted on the website of Huffington Post, in which he emphasized that Maulana Nizami was executed in an absolutely unfair way. Cadman says in the article: “A simple reading of the sentences by the ICTB and the Supreme Court permits one to conclude that Nizami, like the other defendants before him, was not afforded a trial consistent with international standards of justice. This is the position adopted by a number of leading international legal scholars in a public statement issued two days before the execution in which it stated that by ‘explicitly removing constitutional and fair trial protections from those due to appear before the BICT,’ the government had ‘undermined its effectiveness and its legitimacy from the outset, and further, set the tone for what was then to develop.'” The statement was signed by an independent group of prosecutors, judges and academics.



Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London

By Abdulrahman al-Rashed

17 May 2016

In a sign of great tolerance, and despite what extremists have done to Muslims’ reputation across Europe, the people of London elected a Muslim, Sadiq Khan, as mayor. He has nothing to do with religious activities - he won by presenting a civil agenda in which he promised better security, municipal services and housing conditions.

London has suffered from Muslim extremists, while its Muslim citizens’ reputation has been distorted by the crimes of terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Extremist preachers who incited against others were present in the city for many years, although it was London that saved them from hunger and fear. These people later turned against the city and incited violence.

Khan may adopt a stricter policy than his predecessor in tackling extremism. He has firm stances against Hezbollah and Hamas, and said he will lead a campaign against the spread of extremism among Muslim youths. Khan calls for tolerance, and has visited temples and churches. At a Hindu temple, he promised to lead a delegation of British businessmen on a trip to India.

Khan’s election interested people in the Arab world, as many commentators considered it a sign of tolerance despite extremism and terrorism in Europe


The mayoral elections were diverse in terms of candidates. The Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith, who came second behind Labour’s Khan, is from a prominent Jewish family. His sister Jemima was married to Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan, who became a politician in Pakistan but failed to become prime minister. The far-right British National Party garnered less than 1 percent of the vote.

Khan and Goldsmith come not just from two different religions but from two different classes. The former is the son of a bus driver, while the latter’s father is a millionaire. Khan’s election interested people in the Arab world, as many commentators considered it a sign of tolerance despite extremism and terrorism in Europe.

While Londoners elected a Muslim mayor, U.S. Republicans chose Donald Trump as their presidential candidate despite his hateful rhetoric. Electing Khan reveals Londoners’ liberal orientations. Their city is one of the world’s most important - a leader in thought and culture.



Mustafa Badreddine and the Road to Jerusalem

By Diana Moukalled

17 May 2016

After Mustafa Badreddine was killed, Hezbollah’s media department distributed his biography and released photos and videos of him. It was the first time we saw them. Before that there were only rare photos of him, while records about his life were barely enough to know anything about him.

Badreddine was shrouded in mystery, especially during the past decade, despite being in the limelight for being wanted by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL). Hezbollah refused to turn him in to the STL, which indicted him for the killing of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

The distributed photos showed Badreddine outside in broad daylight speaking with companions, smiling and enjoying his freedom. He seemed comfortable, not like he was being pursued by the Lebanese judicial authorities.

The photos did not suggest he was serious about remaining in hiding, or concerned about only moving at night. Far from living a secret life - as we assume wanted men do - he lived an ordinary one, to the point where we might have run into him on the streets of Beirut.

Badreddine was shrouded in mystery, especially during the past decade, despite being in the limelight for being wanted by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon

The photos and biography that Hezbollah disseminated showed him as a man who lived and died as a fighter against Israel. His biography ended with a statement that he was murdered in Syria, where he was fighting jihadists. It did not mention the death sentence issued against him in Kuwait in the 1980s for his role in bomb attacks. It did not mention the international accusations against him, such as those related to Hariri’s assassination.

The STL accused Badreddine of masterminding the assassination, buying the truck of explosives, and fabricating the video of a man called Abu Adas claiming responsibility. The biography did not mention Badreddine’s role in solidifying the authority of the criminal Syrian regime. We are required to believe only his heroism and alleged struggle against Israel.


Those who repeat allegations that he was a hero do so automatically, as seen in the reactions of media outlets affiliated with the ‘axis of resistance.’ Hezbollah supporters who always bring up Israel as such do so to negate the role of politics and logic, and to portray him as innocent of the hideous crime of assassinating Hariri and other Lebanese, and of the even more hideous crime of supporting the Syrian regime, which is murdering its own people.

Similarly, the experience of late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad has taught us that he could not have governed the country without spreading the illusion of the Palestinian cause in order to deprive people of their rights. We are supposed to continue believing this illusion.

The circumstances of Badreddine’s murder remain mysterious, like his story. Syrian opposition factions and Israel deny involvement in his murder.

Badreddine was one of Hezbollah’s top military commanders, and he was wanted on several charges. He is the fourth Hezbollah official to be killed in Syria, and we are supposed to believe that this happened while he was on his way to Jerusalem!



Sisi’s Failing Egypt Highlights the Crisis of the Middle East

By Dr. John C. Hulsman

17 May 2016

Traditionally since the time of Nasser, Egypt – based both on its demography and military might – has been first among equals in the Middle East, a perennial great power without which regional stability would not be possible. However, following the chaotic final years of the Mubarak era, and the shambolic interregnum of the Muslim Brotherhood that followed, Egypt has slid off the economic map, endangering its status in the region.

The numbers don’t lie

Things have gone from bad to worse under the comically inept rule of President el-Sisi and the economic numbers tell the tale. Starting a business in Egypt requires permits from 78 different agencies, hardly worth the bother. Tourism receipts, the lifeblood of the Egyptian economy, declined to $7.8 billion in 2014, down 22 percent from Sisi’s first year in office and 40 percent from the last year of Mubarak’s reign.

As of September 2015, the country’s foreign reserves declined to a miniscule $16.4 billion, enough to cover only three months worth of imports. In early October 2015, Egypt’s official jobless rate stood at an unhealthy 12.7 percent and was an alarming 35 percent in terms of youth unemployment. As over half the population falls into this fragile demographic, Egypt’s endemic and crushing economic woes will make it perennially unstable.

Egypt’s public debt is about 90 percent of GDP, way too high for an Emerging Market. Likewise, its budget deficit is an utterly unsustainable 11 percent of GDP. The only way the country has been able to subsist is due to help from Saudi Arabia, which has given Cairo billions worth of loans to prop up the feckless regime.

There is no sign of these loans ending, nor is there any sign they will ever be paid back. What has happened is that the greatest perennial regional power has become a mendicant.

If the Sisi government can come to see capitalism as more than a state piggy bank designed to keep his military cronies sweet, the endless potential of the country could yet be realized

It doesn’t have to be this way

But there is one huge bright spot on the horizon, a possible game changer that could just yet right Egypt’s present trajectory into irrelevance. At the end of August 2015, the Italian oil firm ENI announced the discovery of a vast gas field off the Egyptian coat. According to a number of estimates, the Zohr field has the potential on its own to turn the country from a net importer to a net exporter of gas by 2020.

So as ever, this maddening, fascinating country is engaged in what seems to be a perpetual race between realizing its mammoth potential and falling victim to its own self-inflicted wounds. If the Sisi government can come to see capitalism as more than a state piggy bank designed to keep his military cronies sweet, the endless potential of the country could yet be realized, and Egypt can regain its natural place as the most important country in the region. However, given the economic illiteracy of the Sisi regime up to now, don’t bet on it.

Balance Of Power

It became clear over 2015 that the regional balance of power has been shifting relatively in the region. There are two major and important outliers, with Turkey supporting one side and Russia the other.

With the relative demise of Egypt, this roughly evenly divided balance of power has shifted. The recent island controversy roiling Cairo illustrates the power difficulty. Cairo is in the process of returning two islands it has had jurisdiction over to the Saudis, their rightful owners. This seemingly unremarkable swap has generated intense controversy in Cairo, precisely because of Egypt’s weakness and dependence.

The charge has been levelled at the Sisi government that they are giving back the islands in lieu of repaying their debts to Saudi Arabia. While this is entirely untrue, it does show the degree of wounded pride in Egypt at its fall from grace. Due to both its demography and its military tradition, Cairo has long been seen by outsiders as the most important military and political power in the region. Its dizzying economic fall from grace has dramatically affected the balance of power in the region.

Answering the sphinx’s riddle of whether Egypt can right itself is a pivotal question not just for the country itself, but for the region. For a Cairo that regains its place as a great power would provide balance for the Middle East as a whole.

An Egypt that economically drifts into irrelevance means that the regional balance of power is likely to remain volatile, which is dreadful news for all of us who wish the long suffering Middle East a better day.