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Middle East Press ( 11 Nov 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Middle East Press On Amy Coney Barrett, Kamala Harris And Saudi Arabia’s Image-Building: New Age Islam's Selection, 11 November 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

11 November 2020

• If (Only) Amy Coney Barrett Was A Muslim

By Azeezah Kanji

• The Symbolism Of Kamala Harris’ Election Viewed From The Gulf

By Dr. Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg

•  Saudi Arabia’s Image-Building Efforts Suffer Another Setback

By Julia Legner

• Why Does The Media Fail To Hold Violent Men To Account?

By David Challen

• Israel Approves Normalization With Bahrain, Advances Ties With Sudan

By Rina Bassist

• Trump Is Gone, Netanyahu Is Next

By Marwan Bishara

• Palestinians Cautiously Optimistic After Biden Win

By Daoud Kuttab


If (Only) Amy Coney Barrett Was A Muslim

By Azeezah Kanji

9 Nov 2020

From beginning to end, Donald Trump’s presidency exposed and exploited structural flaws deeply embedded in the world’s self-proclaimed “oldest democracy” (more accurately classified as a “plutocracy,” according to some academic studies).

Such flaws include, for instance, the organisation of the electoral college with the original aim of upholding the interests of slaveholding states; the concentration of power in the hands of White propertied men (whose property derived in the first place from anti-Indigenous dispossession and genocide); the extension of abusive executive powers without judicial check; and the vulnerability of the courts to political manipulation and control.

Yet in the dysfunctional system that produced the spectacle of the Trump presidency, it is Islam and Muslims that continue to be upheld as the paradigm of illegitimate politics. Once again, in the opposition against new Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a popular rhetorical tactic was put on display: Condemning her extremely conservative ideology by likening her to a Muslim.

Since the 18th century, comparisons to Muslims and Islam have been treated as the ultimate insult in American political discourse. In law, judicial despotism is often emblematised by the trope of “kadi justice” – the image of a “kadi [Muslim judge] under a tree” dispensing judgements according to individual whim, an Orientalist figment plucked not from reality but directly from the pages of 1001 Nights.

Founding Father Benjamin Franklin went so far as to wonder in 1741 whether it was considered “worse to believe in Mahomet [Muhammad] or the Devil?” Of course, the fixation on “Mahomet” conveniently distracts from the “devils” embedded in the US’s own nationalist ideology, founded on church-sanctioned colonial genocide and enslavement.

The continuing replication of centuries-old modes of thinking would, in Muslims, be cited as a sign of stunted historical growth, one more piece of evidence that Islam remains “trapped in the past”. Yet in American politics, the demonising invocations of Islam persist, even among ostensible progressives – indicating the deep entrenchment of Islamophobic structures of thought.

Incensed about the legal assault on abortion rights? Call it “Christian sharia”; never mind that actual Islamic law was less oppressive and provided greater access to abortion.

Outraged about Donald Trump’s unchecked abuses of power? Denounce him as a “caliph” and his officials as “mullahs”; forget that the caliph, in Islamic legal theory, was not considered above the rule of law.

Infuriated by Trump’s regressive policies? Accuse him of waging a “jihad,” on everything from clean energy to immigration to Obamacare to absentee ballots. Funnily enough, the word crusade – which unlike “jihad” actually does mean “holy war” – is frequently used to connote something commendable; while the suggestion that “jihad”, literally “struggle,” might have any positive meaning elicits outrage.

To label these as caricatures of Islam would be a misnomer since caricature suggests a core of truth that is exaggerated. Rather, they are projections: Displacements of one’s own negative features and anxieties onto a denigrated other.

As the confirmation of Justice Barrett to the Supreme Court affirms, the characteristics commonly attributed to the Islamic legal tradition – its alleged irrationality, ideological rigidity, and subservience to authoritarian power – are in fact reflective of the American system itself.

While Muslim jurists were historically independent of the state, judges in the US are political appointees – a reality emphasised by the nakedly partisan political turf war of Supreme Court placements. Justice Barrett has been rammed through onto the bench with 52 Republican votes but zero Democratic votes; previous Trump-nominated Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch were backed by similarly one-sided Republican support.

The result is a court deeply polarised along ideological lines. Justices increasingly engage in “forms of judicial behaviour [that] constitute advocacy, rather than judging”, according to a 2019 study from Northwestern and Loyola Law Schools.

Republican presidents select ever-more-radical conservative judges, and Democratic presidents more centrist-to-liberal judges (although the frequent categorisation of Obama, droner- and deporter-in-chief, as a “liberal” indicates how hollow that descriptor has become). Muslim rulers like 13th-century Mamluk Sultan Baybars, in contrast, ensured space for the operation of multiple schools of law – legal pluralism being understood as valuable in and of itself, to offset the inescapable fallibility and contingency of human reasoning.

The combination of juridicial independence and pluralism enabled Muslims and non-Muslims to exert some agency in choosing the school of legal thought that best met their needs – a form of “sharia” development from below. That is until colonial powers codified monolithic law and imposed draconian interpretations, such as Wahhabism, originally rejected by Muslim scholars and communities. As on the US Supreme Court, retrograde ideologies have been entrenched not by popular will but by sheer political force.

Even before Barrett’s appointment, the Court’s pattern of prostration at the altar of corporate and political power was blatantly apparent. Since 2006, the Chamber of Commerce – the US’s largest business lobby group – has prevailed in 70 percent of Supreme Court cases in which it has filed a brief.

Constitutional provisions meant to guarantee legal equality for the formerly enslaved have been twisted to enshrine corporate “personhood” instead. The court has made it easier for corporations to influence elections, but more difficult for the marginalised to vote; easier to criminalise peaceful speech as “terrorism”, but more difficult to hold cops who kill to account; easier for the White House to wield war powers, but more difficult for the victims of US war crimes to access the courts. It has shielded corporations from legal consequences for international human rights violations while permitting migrants to be indefinitely detained.

Judges like Barrett’s mentor Justice Antonin Scalia have cloaked oppressive decisions in the mantle of “textualism” and “originalism”, claiming they were bound by the original meaning of legal texts. Except, notably, when the original meaning conflicts with the desired outcome – whether eviscerating anti-racism measures, expanding gun rights, or ensuring their party’s candidate is declared the election winner – in which case their originalist and textualist methodologies have been inconsistently applied or quietly discarded.

However, as Islamic legal history shows, textualism is not necessarily synonymous with regressivism. The Zahiri and Hanbali schools often characterised as the most textualist adopted certain positions that would today be considered more “liberal” or “progressive”. For example, Zahiris like 11th-century jurist Ibn Hazm rejected harsh punishments for “sodomy” since they were not specified in the Quran, and Hanbali jurists provided women with greater contractual freedom in marriage and prevented the powerful from escaping criminal sanction.

Perhaps “kadi justice” should instead be called “Scalia justice”.

Justice Barrett now joins the cadre of conservative Supreme Court judges anointed by the Federalist Society, the ultra-right-wing legal organisation on a crusade – not a “jihad” – to remake the US judicial landscape.

Hiding behind the unravelling fiction of the separation of law and politics, Barrett adamantly refused to answer questions about her legal positions during her Senate confirmation hearings. But her judicial record speaks for itself: 76 percent in favour of corporations, 86 percent in favour of police, 85 percent against victims claiming discrimination, and 88 percent against immigrants.

The millions of dollars of “dark money” pumped by the Federalist Society into influencing judicial nominations and subverting state judicial elections have been paying off. With Barrett, six of the nine sitting justices on the Supreme Court are members of the Society, and all but eight of Trump’s 51 appellate court appointments have connections to it. Many of these judges will still be on the bench decades after Trump’s presidency is a distant American nightmare. The effects are already evident: Trump-appointed judges proved themselves instrumental in exacerbating voter suppression leading up to the election.

Yet according to the Federalist Society, it is the supposed “spread of sharia law” – not the spread of Federalist Society law – that is imperilling “democracy, economic justice, and security”.

In the Federalist Society’s legal journal, it is asserted that “the Islamic law of the Middle East is the antithesis of Western law”, a quote attributed to former US Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson. But by de-contextualising Justice Jackson’s words, his original meaning – that it is precisely because the Islamic legal tradition differs from America’s that it should be a source of insight and inspiration – is completely reversed. (So much for the Society’s stated commitment to originalism.)

“We should abandon the smug belief that the Muslim experience has nothing to teach us,” Justice Jackson wrote. “We may find divergence in legal experience as instructive as parallelism.”

Instead of reducing Islam to an object of derision, we should be anxious to learn from its history of legal pluralism and independence of jurists from the state.

Instead of fearing that Amy Coney Barrett is like a Muslim, we might hope she will be more like a Muslim – specifically, like the pre-modern Muslim jurists who fiercely refused to serve as pawns of political rulers and issued legal opinions checking power’s abuse.

As Justice Jackson urged, “It is time that we stopped thinking of ourselves as the only peoples in the world who love justice or who understand what justice is.” But the toxic combination of American exceptionalism and legal Orientalism ensures Islam is seen as a benchmark of barbarism, never a model to be emulated – to the detriment of Islamic and American legal traditions alike.


The Symbolism Of Kamala Harris’ Election Viewed From The Gulf

By Dr. Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg

November 10, 2020

It was noticeable that when Saudi leaders congratulated President-elect Joe Biden on winning the US election, they also sent formal letters of congratulations to Kamala Harris, his vice president-elect. In addition to her evident personal qualifications for the post, there was important symbolism in her win, not only as the first woman to claim the position but also for being the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India. That symbolism was not lost in this region, where women and minorities still face an uphill battle to achieve such visible recognition.

On Sunday, a day after US media called the election for Biden and Harris, King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent congratulatory letters to both. In his letter to Harris, the crown prince said that he was looking forward to “continuing the joint cooperation between the two friendly nations.”

Harris is not the first woman in the world to gain such high office. There have been women presidents and prime ministers in many countries, but the high visibility of US politicians and their personal styles have made Harris an instant celebrity and as such she may make greater impact with young people, especially young women who would be undoubtedly inspired by her success.

Women in the US got the vote nationally in 1920. Since then, they have made great strides in public life, but not as much in elected office. In local governments, women represent about 32 percent of mayors and council members of the largest 100 cities. In state legislatures, their share of the seats has grown fivefold since 1970, but is still under 30 percent. The inequality is most pronounced in the US Congress, where less than 24 percent of the lawmakers are women, largely from the Democratic Party (83 percent), indicating the considerable resistance women still face among US conservatives 100 years after gaining the vote.

American women vote in greater numbers than men — 63 percent of women vote on average compared with 59 percent of men. Yet, it took the US 100 years to get a woman to the second-highest office in the country. It is an important milestone, with women making the difference. According to US media, 56 percent of female voters chose the Biden/Harris ticket as opposed to 43 percent who chose Trump and Pence. Most likely having a woman on the ticket contributed to this tilt. Among men, the two tickets were tied.

On Saturday, Harris dressed in suffragette white to deliver her first speech as vice president-elect. Her message to young girls was clear: “While I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”

In addition to empowering women, Harris’ election is important for another reason. Her immigrant heritage resonates with many in this region, and has led to inevitable comparisons, mostly favorable to the US. Xenophobia in the US is, relatively speaking, not as strident or widespread as it is in Europe or for that matter the Middle East and North Africa. It is true that there are pockets of dangerous antipathy toward immigrants and foreigners in general. It is also true that many in the US are indifferent to the injustices that African Americans endured in the past and still suffer today. However, the fact that Americans previously have elected Barack Obama for president and now Harris for vice president speaks volumes on the difference between the US and the Old World of Europe and the Middle East, where it is rare to see an immigrant assuming such high positions.

Starting in the 1960s, the civil rights movement contributed greatly to the cohesion of US society by calling out discrimination, both systemic and social, and created a healthy awareness of the need to address inequalities. As a result, US legislation targeting discrimination is robust and effective. The new administration will need to build on those foundations to restore that social cohesion.

Europe has not had a similar awakening toward more inclusion, and the Middle East and North Africa are light years away on this issue. In the MENA region, including the Gulf, there are growing signs of the opposite — exclusion, antipathy and conflict, usually riding on the back of religious, ethnic, national or regional differences. In Iraq, Lebanon, Libya and Yemen, armed conflicts are fed and sustained by those differences. When women demand equal rights, they are accused of breaking social or religious norms, or blindly following occidental ways. Guest workers have few avenues for social inclusion or political office. Social media have accentuated tribal and other social differences, and singled out immigrants for special abuse.

In a region ravaged by division and turmoil, much of it related to identity, the choice of Harris appears exotic to some but inspiring to others. The idea that a child of immigrants could reach high office in one generation is beyond belief to many. That she is also a woman makes it more far-fetched. But the fact that it has happened in the most powerful country in the world, through a most visible election, should make it less implausible.


Dr. Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg is the GCC Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs & Negotiation, and a columnist for Arab News. The views expressed in this piece are personal and do not necessarily represent GCC views. Twitter: @abuhamad1


Saudi Arabia’s Image-Building Efforts Suffer Another Setback

By Julia Legner

10 Nov 2020

The glory days are over for Saudi Arabia. The announcement that the G20 summit in November will now take place virtually will surely have disappointed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and the Saudi authorities. Without the coveted photo-ops or the chance to roll out the red carpet for foreign dignitaries and business leaders, the prince’s attempts to promote the image of Saudi Arabia as a modernising and progressive member of the international community have suffered yet another setback.

Human rights supporters do not share the crown prince’s disappointment. Instead, this shift provides another opportunity and spotlight to build on campaigns urging G20 governments and delegates not to let the occasion distract them from the kingdom’s long list of abuses, including the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi two years ago.

The path looked brighter when MBS was initially elevated to the position of crown prince in 2017. Immediately, he embarked on a relentless PR offensive to “enhance the image of the kingdom internationally”. His “Vision 2030” project, an ambitious and costly plan aimed at diversifying the country’s economy and attracting foreign investment, was integral to this strategy. The project has included introducing a lavish programme of sports and entertainment – including huge concerts with Mariah Carey, Enrique Iglesias and David Guetta, and mega-sporting events like the Dakar Rally, the Spanish Italian Super Cup and WWE professional wrestling – together with some superficial social reforms, to turn attention away from the egregious human rights abuses that have taken place under his watch.

However, MBS’s rehabilitation project stalled when it became clear that the new gilded sheen of Saudi Arabia was undergirded by the same (if not worse) disregard for the most basic human rights. The war in Yemen, expected by the Saudi authorities to last only a few months, has gone on now for more than five years and created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis; the prince’s “anti-corruption” drive and the Ritz-Carlton arrests of 2017 alarmed foreign investors and led many to pull their businesses out of the country; and MBS’s brutal crackdown on dissent, including the arrests and torture of women human rights defenders and the shocking murder and dismemberment of Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul; sparked an outcry from the international community.

After the murder of Khashoggi in October 2018, the kingdom’s bad press began to snowball. In 2019, a landmark joint statement by 36 United Nation member states addressing the regime’s blatant abuses underlined this turning of the tide, urging the Saudi authorities to “take meaningful steps to ensure that all members of the public, including human rights defenders and journalists, can freely and fully exercise their rights to freedom of expression, opinion and association, including online, without fear of reprisals”. This was soon followed by a second UN statement, while the European Parliament passed resolutions protesting against Khashoggi’s murder and the arbitrary detention and torture of women’s rights activists. As a result, several countries decided to embargo arms sales to the kingdom. The US Congress also proposed ending arms sales, in addition to condemning the kingdom for its human rights violations in Yemen and its abuses against Saudi dissidents and US citizens.

Last year’s announcement that Riyadh would host the G20 this year presented another glorious opportunity to boost the country’s image and woo international friends and investors. But much to the crown prince’s dismay, the international community has not embraced him. To date, more than 220 civil society organisations from around the world have decided to boycott the G20 civil society engagement process, and in response to the NGOs’ campaigning the mayors of London, Paris, New York and Los Angeles pulled out of the U20 summit of global city chiefs.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament, members of the US Congress, and national parliaments of other G20 states have urged their representatives to boycott the meeting, conveying the message loud and clear that we can no longer go back to business as usual. At the UN, pressure has been increasing with a third joint statement demanding genuine reform on human rights; and this October, Saudi Arabia lost its bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, signalling that the international community will no longer tolerate serious rights abuses. Lastly, the election of Joe Biden, who has promised to end arms sales to the Saudi authorities and hold them accountable for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, also means that the Saudi government no longer has carte blanche to act as they please without US scrutiny.

As nations and their stakeholders continue to press upon the dire importance of human rights within the kingdom, Saudi Arabia must learn to understand the cost of upholding personal freedoms.

For now, Saudi Arabia’s presidency of the G20 is no longer the golden PR opportunity MBS dreamed of. And thanks to the tireless efforts of advocates, elected officials and especially Saudi dissidents, MBS and the Saudi monarchy’s calculus – that they can disregard the human rights of Saudi citizens without consequence – may finally be forced to change.


Julia Legner is Head of Advocacy for the London-based NGO ALQST and independent human rights consultant.


Why Does The Media Fail To Hold Violent Men To Account?

By David Challen

10 Nov 2020

Claire Parry was strangled to death by Timothy Brehmer, 41, in a UK car park in May this year. Claire was a nurse who helped many people in a career of over 20 years. She was killed by a man who wanted to silence her. A loving family member and a doting mother, Claire, 41, leaves behind two young children.

That is how Claire Parry’s death should have been reported. Instead, UK headlines read: “Woman strangled by PC lover plotted his downfall” (BBC News ); and “Accused said he’s ‘not a bad person'” (Bournemouth Echo).

Following a fervent public backlash, the BBC changed its headline. Public complaints about it were reviewed by the broadcaster’s Newswatch programme, where the editors addressed readers’ opinions, stating that the “headline included a quote that was read out in court as evidence”.

Parry and Brehmer – a former police officer – were having a long-term affair. On the day of the killing, Parry took hold of his phone before sending a text message to Brehmer’s wife revealing their relationship. Brehmer said he had strangled her during a “kerfuffle” in his car. He admitted manslaughter, but was acquitted of murder in October, and sentenced to 10 and a half years in prison.

This is the latest in a string of reports in the UK this year that have led to outrage from domestic abuse charities and campaigners like myself about how the media reports fatal domestic abuse, where reports victim-blame dead women and skirt the cause: male violence. The stories beneath these headlines focus on the actions of the victim that lead to the killing and proceed to eulogise the good character of the perpetrator who is apologetic for his actions.

Around the world, as cities and nations have gone into lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19, victims of domestic abuse have been put at risk. Trapped at home with their abusers, reports to domestic violence services have started to flood in. Brazil, France, China and the UK reported increases in calls for help at above 60 percent. At the height of the lockdown in April, three women were being killed each week in the UK.

The pandemic has shone a light on the experiences of victims of domestic abuse but also exposed the media’s long-held reluctance to name male violence as the cause. In April, one such headline in the UK’s Daily Mail went as far as to label the lockdown as a reason for the killing: “Retired decorator, 71, struggling with lockdown stabbed wife to death then killed himself in coronavirus killings.”

Ensuring the narrative of fatal domestic abuse is reported responsibly and male violence is named is something I have personally advocated for in my work as a domestic abuse campaigner. Last year, I campaigned to free my mother, Sally Challen, in a landmark court case that recognised the lifelong coercive control she had suffered from my father. We argued that the abuse she experienced had led to a loss of control that resulted in her killing him. Her conviction was quashed and she was later convicted of manslaughter and released, after serving almost a decade in prison.

Our campaign not only sought to recognise the abuse my mother suffered but to rewrite the false and harmful media narratives at the time of the original trial in 2010 that depicted her as a “jealous wife”. For myself, it was essential to name male violence as a contributing factor.

In Bangladesh, sexual assault and rapes cases have surged in recent months to as many as 630 recorded cases between April and August. These figures sparked thousands to take to the streets to protest and to call on the authorities to take action. A core issue with tackling this violence is the cultural taboo and inability to name male violence as the cause, a problem exacerbated by a victim-blaming culture across society that instead chooses to ask what a woman was wearing.

The media’s failure to responsibly recognise male violence in stories of violence against women has a devastating effect not only on victims but their families. In 2012 Sarah Gosling, 41, was fatally stabbed with a kitchen knife by her boyfriend, Ian Hope, 53. The UK media reporting at the time gave prominence to the killer’s voice, something Sarah’s brother, Andrew Bernard, found difficult to understand, looking back. Bernard, who now teaches teenagers about domestic abuse, said: “A person who is a defendant in a murder or manslaughter trial is already ahead because they’re here. They have the opportunity to put their side of the case.”

This was highlighted recently when the BBC was forced to remove and apologise for releasing a trailer for its upcoming documentary series The Trials of Oscar Pistorius after it failed even to name Reeva Steenkamp, the 29-year-old woman Pistorius was convicted of killing in 2014. Instead, the two-minute trailer and press release gave voice and focus to the killer, Pistorius, hailing his story as “remarkable” and his achievements “inspirational”. June Steenkamp, Reeva’s mother, expressed her upset at the film which gave him a platform and said she was “disturbed by no one saying anything about my daughter. She was the one who died … her life was worth everything.”

Perpetrators’ voices have overwhelmingly become the commanding voice in stories of male violence, something newsroom editors must recognise and stop giving prominence to.

In an effort to tackle this, UK feminist organisation Level Up successfully developed media guidelines to help combat undignified reports of fatal domestic abuse. Adopted last year by the UK’s two leading press regulators, IPSO and IMPRESS, they have offered an important framework for responsible reporting on fatal domestic abuse. Janey Starling, campaign director of Level Up, now offers hope to the media who have the power to responsibly report male violence.

“Journalists have the power to drastically reduce the number of women killed, but only if they start changing the framing of these deaths,” she said. “Dignity for the victim must be central to any reporting on fatal domestic abuse, and perpetrators should be held accountable for their actions. Don’t seek to frame a murder based on a woman’s actions that supposedly triggered it.”


David Challen successfully campaigned to free his mother Sally Challen in a landmark appeal recognising the lifetime of coercive control she suffered in February 2019. He continues to speak out against violence against women, coercive control and recognising women’s experiences in the criminal justice system. He is a Prison Advice and Care Ambassador (PACT) and a Freedom Programme Ambassador.


Israel Approves Normalization With Bahrain, Advances Ties With Sudan

By Rina Bassist

Nov 10, 2020

Israel’s parliament approved by an overwhelming majority tonight the normalization of ties with Bahrain. Sixty-two Knesset members voted in favor of normalization, while 14 from the Arab Joint List opposed. Almost 80 speakers took the podium prior to the vote. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that "A strong Israeli brings other Arabs states closer to it. There will be more countries that will join the peace circle." Netanyahu hailed the US-mediated Abraham Accords and said that "Together we will stand as a wall opposite Iranian-led radical Islam." Hinting at more normalization deals with other Arab countries, Netanyahu said that members of the Joint List would get another chance to rectify their negative votes.

Also addressing the Knesset, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said that his Bahraini counterpart, Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, is planning to visit Israel in the near future. He will be the first minister of his country to visit Israel publicly.

The agreement will now return to the Cabinet to be validated.

In a parallel development, a first official business delegation of heads of business organizations in Israel is set to leave this week for Dubai. The delegation will include the president of the Association of Chambers of Commerce, the president of the Manufacturers’ Association and chairman of the Israel Agricultural Association. Its goal is to lay the groundwork for cooperation between the business sectors of the two countries.

Israeli carrier Israir Airlines announced yesterday it will launch direct flights to Bahrain starting Jan. 31. At first, the company will operate two flights a week. The announcement came a few weeks after Israel and Bahrain signed an aviation agreement.

While advancing ties with Manama, Israel is also advancing ties with Khartoum. According to a report by Reuters, a first Israeli official delegation is set to arrive in Sudan on Sunday to discuss the normalization of ties between the two countries.

On Oct. 23, leaders of the United States, Israel and Sudan announced in a joint statement that Khartoum and Jerusalem had reached an agreement to normalize relations between them. Shortly after the announcement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that an Israeli delegation will head to Khartoum, but he did not specify a date. An Israeli, non-official delegation had already visited Khartoum in October, ahead of the Oct. 23 announcement, to discuss rapprochement between the two countries.

Israeli media said that in addition to the small official delegation that will head to Khartoum on Sunday, a second, larger professional delegation, will travel to Sudan in the coming weeks. The second delegation would focus on possible bilateral cooperation in the fields of water management and agriculture. Some agreements in these domains could also be signed in the near future.

Other reports said that Israeli authorities have submitted a request to Sudanese authorities for enabling Israeli planes to regularly pass through the country’s airspace. On Nov. 6, El Al Israel Airlines announced that its first commercial flight through Sudanese airspace will depart from Tel Aviv on Sunday. The flight was set to depart empty toward Uganda’s international airport, bringing on its way back to Tel Aviv 153 Ugandan nationals invited by the Foreign Ministry to learn about Israeli smart agriculture.


Trump Is Gone, Netanyahu Is Next

By Marwan Bishara

9 Nov 2020

No one is as devastated by President Donald Trump’s defeat as Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Not even the crown princes of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

These Gulf leaders may have been dependent on Trump for pursuing regional mischief and are sad to see him go, but compared to them, Netanyahu has lost much more than a partner in crime: he lost his soul mate, his American alter ego.

So what made their relationship so special and what does the future hold for Netanyahu now that Trump is passé?

A match made in hell

Trump and Netanyahu saw eye to eye on almost everything, starting with their hatred for Barack Obama and the Obama-Biden administration, which they expressed with much venom.

For four years, they did everything possible to undo all that Obama left behind, starting with reversing his decoupling of the US and Israeli regional strategies and exiting the Iran nuclear deal.

They demonised the Iranian leadership, praised Arab dictators, and worked diligently to establish a new strategic partnership between these autocrats and Israel in order to confront the Arab people and Iran.

Trump and Netanyahu criticised and even humiliated Europe for upholding its liberal values and honouring its foreign policy commitments, especially for abiding by the Iran nuclear agreement.

And they held similar contemptuous and hostile views towards the United Nations and its various international agencies.

Most outrageously, they ganged up on the Palestinians, who have been suffering under Israeli occupation for decades, blackmailing their leaders and stripping them of all aid and stature to force them to submit to their dictates.

In this, they were aided by Trump’s son-in-law and Netanyahu’s family friend, Jared Kushner, the sneaky arriviste who made sure that both egocentric leaders remain on good terms.

A Zionist extremist, Kushner is the architect of Trump’s infamous “deal of the century”, which adopted Netanyahu’s racist colonial logic in Palestine.

But that is not all that made the Trump-Netanyahu bromance so eerie. As I wrote earlier this year, there are other more disturbing personal similarities between the two cynics.

Both are known to be serial liars; both have a history of adultery and have been divorced twice; and both have faced charges of misuse of public office for personal and political gain.

And still, both have been able to command the support of religious fanatics who have come to consider the two morally challenged sinners as God’s vessels, serving, albeit unintentionally, a divine purpose.

Indeed, Trump has embraced the same ultra-nationalist, even racist, agendas that Netanyahu has long championed in Israel and the Middle East.

Both men are populist showmen, rallying their right-wing constituencies around their populist personas even when they proved incompetent in managing their countries’ worst crises, including the coronavirus pandemic.

Netanyahu in Trump’s footsteps

After driving itself to the edge, America gazed into the abyss and decided to pull back last week.

The majority has rejected four more years of Tsunami Trump, fearing he would end up destroying their democracy and national unity.

Instead, they voted for the restoration of the country’s democratic and liberal institutions, and for healing the nation’s wounds.

But just as Trump has tried to undo everything Obama, Biden is about to reverse Trump’s reversals, and perhaps more.

He is set to rejoin the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Iran nuclear deal, the World Health Organization and probably UNESCO, among other agreements and institutions Trump has challenged or abandoned. He has also vowed to end the travel ban from Muslim-majority countries.

And he seems set to bring relations with the Palestinians back to their Obama-era level, resuming aid, reinstating the Palestinian Liberation Organization office in Washington, rejecting annexation, pursuing a two-state solution, etc.

This will not be enough to change the situation in Palestine, let alone end the occupation and bring about an independent Palestinian state.

Biden, who once boasted of being a non-Jewish Zionist, is not about to project his hostility to the Trump-Netanyahu axis onto US relations with Israel.

He will not veer too far from traditional US policy on Israel, regurgitating the old mantras about preserving Israeli security and regional military superiority. But there are things Biden can and should do to put Netanyahu in a bind.

Time for a reset

Biden could deny the embattled Israeli premier any of the customary support and courtesy afforded to Israeli leaders. And he may not tolerate any of the prime minister’s humiliating outbursts or hostile criticisms, which became his habit during the Obama era.

Likewise, Biden could reject Netanyahu’s unilateral moves in Palestine, or in the region, if they are illegal and are made without prior coordination with Washington.

So, in short, Biden could make the coming months debilitating, inhibiting, and outright humiliating for the Israeli prime minister.

He may even turn his back on Netanyahu and make him persona non grata at the White House.

Bibi, as the prime minister is called in Israel, is already facing trial on three charges of corruption that carry prison sentences, making it a matter of time before his coalition or party turns on him.

That is why Biden needs to go beyond Netanyahu and deliver a clear message to the Israeli right.

He needs to back his verbal opposition to Israel’s settlement and annexation policy with action, notably by leveraging US aid to pressure the Israeli government into doing the right thing.

This is indispensable to reset the US-Israel relationship that has gone awry during the Trump administration.

It will also be an important lesson for the next prime minister of Israel who, judging from the list of potential candidates, may be as bad as, if not worse than, Netanyahu.

It is indeed high time that the president of the US abandons appeasement, which has long proven counterproductive, even destructive, in favour of pressure or “tough love”, as they like to say in Washington, which by contrast has proven effective with Israel and beneficial for peace and security.

Netanyahu has spent a lifetime in politics telling Israelis not to worry about US reactions because he knows how to deal with Washington.

It is time he is proven wrong.

Biden has already defeated America’s Netanyahu; it is time he takes on Israel’s Trump.

Goodbye Donald, bye Jared, and bye-bye Bibi.


Palestinians Cautiously Optimistic After Biden Win

By Daoud Kuttab

Nov 10, 2020

While the Palestinian leadership was slow in congratulating the declared winner of the US presidential elections, the press has been eager to acknowledge him. The largest-selling daily, Al-Quds, announced on Nov. 7, “Biden at the steps of the White House,” with a stock photo of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and former US Vice President Joe Biden.

A source in the Palestinian presidency told Al-Monitor that the official hesitation was out of fear that an unstable electoral loser could do further harm to Palestinians.

The silence was broken on Nov. 8 with a two-paragraph report on the Wafa news site that Abbas has offered his congratulations to Biden. “President Abbas said he was looking forward to working with the president-elect and his administration to strengthen the Palestinian-American relations and to achieve freedom, independence, justice and dignity for our people, as well as to work for peace, stability and security for all in our region and the world.”

Ziad Abu Zayyad, a Jerusalem-based attorney and former Palestinian legislator, told Al-Monitor that he hopes for a resumption of Palestinian contacts with the elected US leadership. He said, “Palestinians need to resume contacts with the new administration and bring it to recognize the State of Palestine and call on the president-elect to stand by his promise to reopen the US Consulate in east Jerusalem and recognize east Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.”

Abu Zayyad, who is also the publisher and co-editor of Palestine Israel Journal, wrote in his weekly Al Quds column on Nov. 9 that Biden's victory gives the Palestinian leadership the opportunity to ease off. “There is no doubt that the Biden victory will extend the life of the Palestinian Authority for a short period, because it was on the verge of collapse if Trump had stayed in power. Hope for a solution that will end the occupation and establish a Palestinian state is the only justification for the continuation of the [PA] in power,” he wrote.

While some high hopes for Biden, Hamadeh Faraneh, a member of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), explained another reason for Palestinian elation. “Joy has spread in Palestine because of the loss of Trump, who had been a fierce enemy of the Palestinian people, insulting Palestinians and attempting to deny their legitimate national rights,” he wrote in his column for Ad Dustour Nov. 10.

Faraneh also wrote that the re-election of Palestinian-American Rashida Tlaib and a number of local state representatives of Palestinian origins was also a source of pride and expectations that the tide is turning in the United States.

Former Bethlehem mayor and PNC member Vera Baboun told Arab News Nov. 8 that with Biden's win, the international conference suggested by Abbas will now have a chance to become reality.

Along with Palestinian official's caution and the public's elation, there have also been voices of concern. Jamal Dajani, former spokesman of Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, was among those who cautioned against high expectations. Dajani said in late October that Palestinians must look inward and get their house in order. “I am not sure if Biden as president will be able to undo the damage done by Trump,” Dajani said while calling on the Palestinian leadership to “stop banking on the United States.”

Many Palestinians are hoping that the Biden win can help produce a solution to the stalemate over the Palestinian taxes collected by Israel and not delivered in full to the Palestinians. Israeli and Palestinian media reports are talking about potential solutions to the problem, which would have been compounded by Israeli annexation of 30% of the West Bank. Sources in the Palestinian government were quoted in the Israeli media as saying that it is likely that a solution will be found soon that will lead to the delivery of some three billion shekels (nearly $900 million) to the Palestinian coffers. Returning to security coordination may be palatable to the Palestinians now that the danger of annexation appears to have receded with Trump soon to be out of power.

There appears to be cautious optimism that under a Biden administration, Washington will return to internationally accepted norms. In addition to the possibility of opening a Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington and a US mission in east Jerusalem, Palestinians are hoping that Biden will abide by the anti-settlement UN Security Council Resolution 2334 approved in the last days of the Barack Obama administration.



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