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Middle East Press ( 29 Oct 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Middle East Press on Erdogan Suing Charlie Hebdo, Islamophobia and Resurgence of anti-Islam Sentiments in Europe: New Age Islam's Selection, 29 October 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

28 October 2020

• Erdogan Sues Charlie Hebdo Over Caricature

By Diego Cupolo

• Islamophobia: Macron’s Desperate Bid For Re-Election

By Ali Saad

• This Is Where Macron Falls Short

By Melih Altinok

• Resurgence Of Anti-Islam In Europe

By Muhittin Ataman

• Tatar: Federation Is Dead And Buried

By Yusuf Kanli

• ICJ Lacking Transparency In Rohingya Genocide Case

By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

• Media Bias And The US Election

By Ray Hanania


Erdogan Sues Charlie Hebdo Over Caricature

By Diego Cupolo

Oct 28, 2020


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan holds a press conference following the weekly cabinet meeting at the presidential complex in Ankara on Aug. 24, 2020. Photo by ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Images.


Turkish prosecutors launched a legal probe into the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo Wednesday after it published a cover containing an insulting cartoon depiction of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Lawyers representing Erdogan submitted a criminal complaint to prosecutors in Ankara, saying the content should be considered “libel” and was “not covered by freedom of expression.” The editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo did not respond to requests for comment.

Turkish presidential communications director Fahrettin Altun also condemned the caricature in a tweet Wednesday, calling its publication a “disgusting effort” to spread “cultural racism and hatred.” In response, French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal told reporters in Paris Wednesday remarks by Ankara officials had been “hateful” in the fallout caused by the caricature.

The developments come amid an ongoing spat between Erdogan and French President Emmanuel Macron, who have traded barbs in recent months over divergent stances in the Libyan war, tensions in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and more recently over fighting in the southern Caucuses.

Erdogan, who said he had not seen the caricature, told lawmakers of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) during a speech in Ankara Wednesday that Western countries mocking Islam want to “relaunch the Crusades,” vowing to stand against insulting remarks made toward Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.

"Unfortunately, we are in a period when hostility to Islam, Muslims and disrespect for the prophet are spreading like cancer, especially among leaders in Europe," said Erdogan.

The statements come in response to comments made earlier this month by Macron, who has increasingly targeted radical Islam in a series of controversial speeches.

On Oct. 2, Macron outlined a number of proposals to integrate Muslim citizens into French secularism, including the regulation of imams and mosques in the country. During the speech, the French leader said Islam was a religion “in crisis,” sparking a backlash from followers of the faith around the world.

On Oct. 16, tensions escalated further when French schoolteacher Samuel Paty was beheaded by Abdullakh Anzorov, an 18-year-old of Chechen origin, after having shown controversial Charlie Hebdo cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad during a class.

The event shook France, deepening the debate over state policies impacting its Muslim minority, with French leaders banning an Islamist group named after a co-founder of the Hamas movement on Oct. 21.

The controversy soon spread to already tense French-Turkish relations Saturday, when Erdogan questioned his French counterpart’s mental health over his statements regarding Muslims. The spat prompted Paris to recall its ambassador in Ankara Sunday, and Erdogan responded Monday by calling on Turkish citizens to boycott French products.

After Charlie Hebdo unveiled its caricature of Erdogan Tuesday evening, the Turkey-France row expanded to broader topics, including freedom of expression.

Lisel Hintz, an assistant professor of international relations at Johns Hopkins University, said that while the magazine has long been known for publishing provocative content, the latest developments allow Erdogan “to stand up as the regional and even global defender of Muslims that he claims to be.”

“This dispute, like any other perceived attack on Islam in Europe or the United States, provides Erdogan with justification for his hostile rhetoric and generally uncompromising policy stance toward the West,” Hintz told Al-Monitor.

She said the magazine cover was “deliberately offensive” in its questioning of the Turkish leader’s commitment to Islam and could be used to serve Erdogan’s political goals.

“The extent to which this can be considered offensive by Turkey's pious Muslims provides Erdogan with precisely the kind of external enemy he can deploy to rally conservative and nationalist voters of various stripes,” Hintz told Al-Monitor.

Charlie Hebdo’s Paris office was attacked by gunmen in January 2015 as retaliation to caricatures the magazine had published featuring the Prophet Muhammad, deemed blasphemous in Islam. The event resulted in the death of 12 people and continues to be the subject of debates regarding free speech in the country.

Following the attacks, Turkish officials issued statements in solidarity with victims of the shooting. Merve Tahiroglu, Turkey program coordinator at the Washington-based Project on Middle East Democracy, said Erdogan wanted to “at least appear on the side of freedom of speech” at the time.

“Today, he no longer seems to value that pretense,” Tahiroglu told Al-Monitor. “He feels emboldened enough to sue that same magazine just days after a man was beheaded for showing a cartoon during a lesson on freedom of expression.”

Tahiroglu noted a large portion of the Turkish public holds unfavorable views toward France following a string of spats between Ankara and Paris, and the AKP government is now poised to exploit such sentiments as it condemns Charlie Hebdo’s latest caricature of Erdogan.

“[Erdogan] knows that in this climate, the Turkish opposition will have a hard time defending Charlie Hebdo’s freedom of expression, lest it appear as a defense of France against Turkey or the Muslim world, and he doesn’t seem to care about what this will cost him vis-a-vis his image in European democracies,” Tahiroglu told Al-Monitor.

On Tuesday, Erdogan also filed a lawsuit against anti-Islam Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders, who described the Turkish leader as a “terrorist” in a tweet earlier this week.


Islamophobia: Macron’s Desperate Bid For Re-Election

By Ali Saad

28 Oct 2020


French President Emmanuel Macron arrives to deliver a speech next to Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin and Seine-Saint-Denis prefect Georges-Francois Leclerc in Bobigny, near Paris on October 20, 2020 [Ludovic Marin/Pool via Reuters]


More than a week after the gruesome murder of French teacher Samuel Paty by a Chechen refugee, France remains gripped by shock, hatred and despair. The terrorist attack, which followed Paty’s decision to show the controversial Charlie Hebdo caricatures of Prophet Muhammad in class, has intensified anti-Muslim sentiments.

Once again, France’s Muslim citizens find themselves at the heart of a debate that holds their religion and its symbols in contempt and smears and vilifies them in the political sphere, mainstream media and social media networks. And once again the ruling elite and a large part of the French society are in denial about the true roots of radicalisation.

But this time around, it seems the head of state is particularly intent on fanning the flames of Islamophobia. President Emmanuel Macron feels his electorate is abandoning him and thinks the only thing he that can save his political career is taking a page out of the far right’s playbook.

Macron’s faltering support

It is worth pointing out that the attack comes as France is suffering from a long-term social crisis that has been made worse by the failed policies of Macron’s government. Popular anger has reached the boiling point and manifested itself in street protests. In the spring of 2018, major public sector strikes took place followed by the Gilets Jaunes (yellow vests) protests in fall.

Then throughout 2019, there were major demonstrations against pension reforms, fuel-price hikes, police violence, and unemployment. The year ended with one of the longest public transportation strikes in French history, which paralysed the country.

This upheaval brought Macron’s ratings from approximately 60 percent when he was elected in May 2017 to 23 percent in December 2018. Before the pandemic mobilised French society earlier this year, the French president had the approval of about 33 percent of the people.

The slight gains Macron made at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis did not help his party in the June municipal elections, where it suffered a crushing defeat by the Greens movement in a number of large French cities.

The presidential election is scheduled for April 2022, and the French president is seemingly running out of time to come up with something that can help secure his re-election. His latest desperate attempt at gaining political ground – specifically at the expense of the far right – seems to be his decision to come after the Muslim community in France. He knows that anything that has to do with attacking Muslims galvanises the supporters of the far right and its racist and anti-Muslim agenda, as well as perhaps a good segment of the French left.

Thus, in early October, Macron made a special address to the nation in which he insisted that Islam “is in crisis” and that he was going to “liberate” it from foreign influences.

When the murder of Paty took place less than two weeks later, the French president was quick to seize the moment and declare he was going to take action to eradicate “Islamist extremism” in France.

A kneejerk reaction

In the aftermath of the attack, Macron and his government launched a crackdown on Muslim civil society – or what they called “extremists”. Among the measures they took were “several dozen concrete actions … against organisations, associations or individuals who carry a project of radical Islamism”.

As a result, more than 50 charities – including the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), a mainstream organisation that combats Islamophobia – dubbed by Minister of the Interior Gerald Darmanin as “enemies of the Republic”, may face dissolution.

Throughout the process, Macron and his government have kept up their Islamophobic rhetoric, setting the tone for the public debate on the terror attack.

Thus a chorus of media pundits and politicians across the political spectrum have apparently united in the conviction that the French “values” are under threat and that the general population needs to mobilise for a fight. “It is wartime!” declared one magazine on its front cover. “To arms, citizens” tweeted MP Meyer Habib, deputy chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee at the National Assembly, using a phrase from the French national anthem.

The “weapons” some suggested should be used in this “war” include the rescinding of citizenship, obligation to adopt French first names, the reinstatement of the death penalty, etc.

This belligerent rhetoric did not spare public figures who have come out in defence of the French Muslim community. In a TV debate, writer Pascal Bruckner accused journalist Rokhaya Diallo, whom he identified as a “Black Muslim woman” of having, through her words “led to the death of Charlie Hebdo’s 12 cartoonists”.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, head of the France Insoumise (Unbowed France) party, has also faced a smear campaign since he has been warning against the stigmatisation of Muslims. He has been accused by the political establishment of being an Islamo-leftist in an attempt to undermine the Left by associating it with “Islamism”, which has a very negative connotation in the minds of the French majority.

Coincidentally or not, Mélenchon had emerged as a potential challenger to Macron in the next presidential election. If this character assassination campaign against him succeeds, Macron may have an easier time securing re-election.

The real problem

Amid this cacophony of Islamophobia and electoral scheming, the crux of the matter has not really been addressed.

For well over two decades, the French state has been moving in a vicious circle in its relationship with its Muslim citizens.

The state still does not acknowledge the fact that Islam is a religion of France, that it is not wise to systematically remind or refer to French Muslims by their racial or geographic origins, and that French Muslim issues are inherently French issues.

The state does not want to recognise the fact that there is no empirical evidence to suggest that religion is a primary motivator for violent extremism and that radicalisation is a social phenomenon.

It continues to use terrorist incidents as a distraction from its own failed policies towards French Muslim citizens which have led to the marginalisation and alienation of an entire community.

The state has done little to address job and housing discrimination, police brutality, poverty and everyday racism and yet it accuses the French Muslim community of failing to “integrate” or even of “separatism”.

It has relied on a security-centred approach in which Islam has been systematically perceived as an evil that society should confront, and Muslims as a threat to the way of life and to fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression.

For the majority of Muslims, the most blatant bias is that when it comes to criticising or mocking Islam and its symbols, the establishment’s definition of freedom of expression is universal, absolute and indisputable. While insisting that Muslims embrace criticism and mockery of what is sacred to them, it has very little tolerance for criticism of Israel, Israeli policies and Zionism.

If anything, it appears that it is the state rather than the Muslim citizens that is “separating” itself from a segment of society and is insisting on treating them as outsiders. It clearly does not want to acknowledge that multiculturalism is an integral part of French society and should be embraced as such.

Unfortunately, as long as the French state considers its Muslim citizens a “fifth column” and excludes them from its battle against extremism; and as long as the political establishment uses heinous terror attacks to make political gains ahead of elections, we will continue to be light years away from the Republic’s core principles of social cohesion, civil peace and dialogue.


Ali Saad is a French sociologist and media critic, focusing on the influence of mass media on society.


This Is Where Macron Falls Short

By Melih Altinok

OCT 29, 2020

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has long been the target of far-right and populist politicians in Europe.

Most recently, Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch main opposition party, the far-right Party for Freedom (PVV), shared a cartoon of Erdoğan on his Twitter account that portrays him wearing a hat resembling a bomb on his head, with the caption “terrorist.”

The reason behind the provocations against minorities in Europe by Nazi remnants like Wilders is obvious. Erdoğan is seen as a representative not only of the millions of Turks in Europe but also of all Muslim minorities. When in a tight corner, fascist politicians seeking to garner the vote of the electorate who hates immigrants and citizens of Asian African origin for economic and cultural reasons attack Erdoğan. The Turkish president has been turned into a symbol of the “other.”

Nowadays, they have been joined by the center and left-wing players who pull votes by positioning themselves against this right-wing populist politics in Europe. Some even outcompete entrenched fascists. French President Emmanuel Macron is the poster child for this. Macron was elected by the vote of the electorate whom he intimidated with Marine Le Pen, who could be considered a French equivalent of Wilders and is now an inspiration for fascist politicians.

Macron recently announced that cartoon pictures of the Prophet Muhammad, portraying him as a “terrorist,” in the Charlie Hebdo magazine, will continue to be published in his country.

As expected, after Macron exacerbated the issue; Le Pen, who is poised to face off with him in the elections, has further inflamed racism. Following Macron’s encouragement, the same cartoons, instigating indignation, were projected on public buildings in the country. Far-right figures such as Robert Menard, the mayor of the city of Beziers, have followed in the footsteps of Macron and placed Hebdo's hate-filled cartoons in various parts of the city.

It is not hard to imagine how difficult life has become for the millions of Muslim citizens living in France. It would not be hard to assume that the radical groups and proxy organizations standing to gain from such tensions are in seventh heaven now.

However, Macron, who has gone too far in racism to the extent to compete with fascists in an attempt to influence the center-right electorate, is already trapped.

The belligerence and artificial debates on the polarization of the “secular republic – Islam” that he initiated in French society amid the pandemic are not enough to hide the truth. His adventures in Libya, Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean all ended in fiascos. In addition, he has been defeated at the hands of the same opponent, Erdoğan, at every turn.

Meanwhile, Macron, who makes a mess of everything, has managed to unite the government and opposition in Turkey against France. In a joint statement issued a few days ago by different political parties that make up the Turkish Parliament, the politicians condemned Macron’s “provocative, disrespectful and dangerous rhetoric against Islam, the Holy Prophet Muhammad and Muslims.”

I wonder when Macron will realize that his capacity and experience are suited to more “micro” issues rather than global struggles involving veteran leaders like Erdoğan.


Resurgence Of Anti-Islam In Europe

By Muhittin Ataman

OCT 28, 2020

The current European governments and politicians who face many political, social and economic problems try to use other states, peoples and civilizations as a tool for their own interests. They try to instrumentalise them for their own good, no matter how it might harm others.

They easily blame others for the problems that they experience at home.

For the last two decades, mainstream political parties, especially center-left parties such as socialists, have lost not only their governments but also their influence in most European countries.

European countries have been experiencing the rise of ultra-nationalist movements, far-right political parties and racist political actors. Radical and xenophobic parties began to enter parliaments, and some of them came to power.

Today, European political actors identify themselves based upon otherization and alienation of others and are therefore strongly anti-migrant, anti-Muslim and anti-black.

European political actors especially have been instrumentalising Islam and Muslim countries and peoples for their domestic policies. For instance, most European countries have been directly or indirectly discussing Islam and Muslims during election periods.

Many European politicians consider Muslims as the main threat to their way of life and the main source of the troubles they face. These views are shared by many European politicians.

French President Emmanuel Macron is a typical example of ambitious, shallow arrogant European politicians. He uses the same political language and political discourse that Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz use.

Recently, Macron made several statements insulting Islam and Muslims. First, he claimed that “Islam is a religion that is in crisis all over the world today.” Then, he ordered the cartoons insulting the Prophet of Islam to be projected onto government buildings in Paris. Considering the rise of anti-Islam sentiment, Macron and France are not alone. Many other politicians and countries increasingly pursue similar policies.

The Muslim world immediately condemned Macron and France over the treatment of Islam, especially after the cartoons insulting the Prophet of Islam were projected onto governmental buildings in France. Many Muslim individuals, non-state actors and state officials demanded a boycott of France from their respective governments.

Many social media campaigns were announced by different political groups to boycott French products. Several Arab trade associations and many companies withdrew French products from supermarkets in response to Macron’s comments on Islam and Muslims.

Many countries reacted to Macron’s spread of hatred. Different states such as Turkey, Kuwait, Pakistan, Qatar, Iran, Jordan, Morocco, Algeria, Palestine and Tunisia made official explanations against France and decided to impose sanctions against French products.

Only officials from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia made pro-France explanations, mainly due to their fierce anti-Turkey stance. For example, an adviser of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ) and a professor of political science, Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, tweeted: “The equation is simple and clear: know that when (President Recep Tayyip) Erdoğan attacks Macron, Macron is right.”

Abdulla knows well that Macron’s explanations are not about Erdoğan but about the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, peace be upon him. Abdulla, however, still prefers not to condemn Macron or France and blames Erdoğan for what is going on. Abdulla’s tweet demonstrates two important factors.

One, it is a clear indication of anti-Islam sentiment by the UAE regime. The regime officials give open checks to all anti-Islamic actors worldwide. Second, anti-Erdoğanism made the UAE officials blind to regional and global developments.

Similarly, Muhammad Abdulkarim al-Isa, an adviser of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and also secretary-general of the Muslim World League, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) funded by the Saudi government, did not hesitate to show his support for Macron. He called Muslims living in non-Muslim countries not to react to political developments.

On the other hand, Europe stood by Macron, and many European politicians preferred to criticize Turkey and its leader Erdoğan. Erdoğan questioned Macron’s mental health and said that the French president has “lost his mind.”

The European Union's Foreign Policy Representative Joseph Borrell said Erdoğan’s words were “unacceptable” and called on Turkey to stop “this dangerous spiral of confrontation.”

Similarly, Vice President of the European Commission Margaritis Schinas said that EU values prioritize “liberties.”

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that “hate speech targeting France by the Turkish leadership is unacceptable (and) fuels religious hatred.” In other words, they do not question Macron’s hatred of Muslims and Islam.

Even though Muslims believe that any depiction of the Prophet Muhammad is blasphemous and they do not want the insulting cartoons to be shown or published, Europeans have been insistently using caricatures/cartoons drawn years ago. That is, the problem is not the discussion of freedom, but the political language that Europeans prefer to speak nowadays.

Europeans do not care about the concerns of Muslims worldwide. It should not be forgotten that their use of radical and negative political discourse against Islam and Muslims will be counterproductive because their claims do not reflect reality but rather their misperceptions.

Today, Islam is the only belief system in the world that the European colonial powers could not change. Therefore, ambitious, shallow and arrogant European politicians such as Macron have been trying to initiate a reform process in Islam.

In other words, they intend to demolish the basic source of dynamism in Islam. They have been trying to do the same thing with different instruments and with different methods. France or Macron cannot achieve much in the Middle East depending on the personalistic regimes, namely the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The peoples of the Middle East as well as French Muslims will continue to react to French hostility toward Islam and Muslims.


Tatar: Federation Is Dead And Buried

By Yusuf Kanli

October 29 2020

Ersin Tatar, the new President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), has given a message to Ankara, which was not surprising or out of the blues. In two sentences, we can sum up all that he said: “The Federation is dead and buried. We have not been able to live together, we have not reconciled in more than 50 years of talks, and now it is time to discuss how we can live side by side in two separate states.”

President Tatar, who I had been able to chat with for a long time at the hotel where he was staying, was determined more than I have ever seen, and he was very fit. The image of a politician in need of support during the election period has been replaced by a determined practitioner who feeds on one source. He has seen and accepted the fact that he was elected with the support of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and believes that with this support, he can comfortably overcome the big problems ahead.

The government will conduct the upcoming National Unity Party (UBP) congress to discuss matters for assigning the seat of chairperson that Tatar vacated when he got elected as the president and the immediate tasks for the government to take ahead. A meeting with Greek leader Nicos Anastasiades, albeit within a “social framework,” was also high on Tatar’s agenda.

What happens with UBP? Tatar was tightlipped about it. Finally, all five competing candidates have been comrades for a long time. However, it is the will of most, not just Tatar, to choose someone who will work harmoniously with the president and with Turkey, perhaps contribute to the recreation of the balances dissipated during the election process, or manage a consensus approach that might even help setup of a grand coalition with socialist Republican Turks’ Party (CTP) of Tufan Erhürman. Such a coalition might have sufficient parliamentary strength to make a constitutional amendment and carry the Turkish Cypriot state to presidential governance.

We are together

As a matter of fact, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who will visit the TRNC after a three-year break on Nov. 15, will do some political engineering as well as attend anniversary ceremonies and a picnic in Varosha. His meeting with Erhürman could be very important. Erdogan, who stayed away from the TRNC because of tensions with former President Mustafa Akıncı, might deliver some good news at his Nov. 15 TRNC anniversary celebrations speech. Reportedly there will be some good news for the growing Turkish Cypriot budget deficit, offsetting increased current needs and deferred infrastructure investments due to the epidemic. “We will deal with whatever is needed. One of us, we are together,” Erdogan expressed, which shows how happy he is upon Tatar’s election as the president.

The Varosha visit may also raise the issue of the announcement of perhaps the second step in the opening of the closed city. Neither Ankara nor the TRNC has any idea of opening the region immediately to anyone other than the citizens of the region. When the region ceases to be a military zone by government resolution, it is planned to call on its former residents to return to their property in accordance with U.N. resolutions. Yet, the region will remain to be a part of North Cyprus territory.

Of course, it is no coincidence that some important Greek Cypriot figures have been in contact lately, both with the Turkish Cypriot authorities and Turkish authorities in Ankara.

Time to talk about new things

Tatar was very clear. He stresses that the must-haves of the Turkish Cypriot people are well known and cannot accept arguments about them. The Greek side insists that Turkey’s military presence in Cyprus and nullifying Turkish guarantor status are indispensable conditions of an agreement. However, he said his people have voted for him to hold these values high, their principles and basic posture, and defend them under all circumstances. “I’m not going to back down,” Tatar said. The new president stressed that the people rejected Akıncı and his defeatist and surrenderist politics and demanded from him that their rights be defended.

What are all these? The most important is Turkey’s guarantor status, which includes the right to unilateral intervention.

Tatar said that the Turkish Cypriots were subjected to major criminal and genocidal attacks between Dec. 21, 1963, and July 20, 1974. “Visitors to mass graves will see the answer to this question why Turkey’s guarantor status is a sine qua non for us. A step back from guarantorship would mean saying yes to Cyprus becoming a second Crete, where Turkish people were either annihilated or forced to migrate Turkey. It is out of the question.”

Could not have a federation, let’s live side by side

Tatar said the elements that form the basis of the concept of federation include sharing management, resources, sovereignty and responsibilities on the basis of political equality. “Greek Cypriots never ever wanted to share sovereignty, administration or resources with Turkish Cypriots. They always suggested to the Turkish Cypriot people that they accept some minority rights within the Greek majority. It’s not something that can be accepted, that can be considered serious. We couldn’t live together. Now we want to talk about the conditions for friendly living side by side, the two-state solution. We’re sincere. We want a solution. Turkey agrees with us on the same assessment.”

Equal share in island resources

Tatar reminded that the Turkish Cypriots have equal rights in hydrocarbons and other resources of the island and its exclusive economic area as much as the Greek Cypriots, under the 1960 agreements and the constitution of the partnership during 1960 state, which has become part of the rule of international law.

Tatar stressed that the international community should not accept the Greek Cypriot usurpation of Turkish Cypriot rights obtained under the founding agreements and constitution of Cyprus, “We will not give up our rights under any circumstances.”

He said Turkish Cypriots made many offers to the Greek Cypriot side to share, on the basis of equality, the resources of the island. But in a spoiled attitude, all the calls fell on deaf ears. “We shall not give up our rights. Turkey will not let anyone usurp our rights and get away with it,” he said.


ICJ Lacking Transparency In Rohingya Genocide Case

By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

October 28, 2020

The Gambia has this week taken the next step in its action against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice for the Rohingya genocide by filing a “Memorial” of some 500 pages, plus appendices. This new step is to be celebrated, even though it also serves to highlight some of the shortcomings of the UN’s system of justice.

In recent months, there had been cynical and dismissive noises around the legal action taken by the Gambia: That it was an effort aimed at generating publicity above anything else, and that the action would not be pursued to its ultimate conclusion. Critics highlighted that the Gambian minister who initiated the action at the ICJ, Abubacarr Tambadou, recently quit his role in the government of the Gambia to take up a position with the UN. They jumped on this development to argue that the whole exercise was carried out primarily as a springboard for his career.

However, with this new submission, those fears have been put to rest. The work by the government of the Gambia on the Rohingya genocide case continues unabated and the amount of evidence submitted to the court even at this early stage suggests it is serious about pursuing this action to its conclusion. The Gambia is, without any shadow of doubt, a genuine human rights hero in this story.

Unfortunately, the story does take an unfortunate twist in another of its aspects. We do not get to see any of the evidence or arguments the Gambia has just submitted to the court. Nor will we get to see the response we expect from Myanmar next year. It is a feature of the proceedings of the UN legal bodies that in cases such as this the evidence, at least at this stage, will only be available to the parties directly participating in the legal process — which is to say, only to the governments that are actively prosecuting or defending.

This is extremely unfortunate. No nongovernmental organizations or indeed the very victims of the genocide, the Rohingya themselves, will have the opportunity to review the evidence or to augment it with their own testimony, experiences, and relevant documentary resources. Other minority groups in Myanmar that continue to be assaulted by the federal military of the country will not get to compare their own experiences with those documented by the prosecution. And we all have to simply trust that the process, hidden as it is, is nevertheless fully fair.

On the other hand, it is also not completely unreasonable that, as a default position, defendant states that enjoy the presumption of innocence until proven guilty by the court should not suffer the reputational damage that might come from observers reading allegations by a prosecution as an established fact.

Though that principle is sound, it is well established legal precedent in most countries that there are many cases in which this principle is set aside. This usually happens when the alleged perpetrator may have victimized others who should feel encouraged to come forward with their own evidence and experiences, or when the original victims are believed to still be under immediate threat from the accused or some of their associates. In those cases, a judgment is made, on the balance of harms, that all aspects of a trial should be made public so as to protect suspected victims from further aggression and to encourage anyone else with relevant information to come forward.

Both these criteria are clearly applicable in this genocide case. There remain some 300,000 Rohingya in internally displaced people’s camps in Myanmar, under the most precarious of conditions. The military of Myanmar could start massacring these people on a moment’s notice. And there are many other ethnic minority groups, especially in border areas, that are currently seeing their civilian villages and towns shelled by the military in ways that are reminiscent of how the Rohingya villages were razed three years ago. This makes a strong case for why the ICJ should look to make public as much of the evidence and the proceedings as possible, as soon as possible.

In the end, for justice to be served and satisfied, justice must also be seen to be done. That is why we must continue to call on the ICJ to open up the proceedings and make them transparent.


Dr. Azeem Ibrahim is a director at Centre for Global Policy in Washington, D.C.


Media Bias And The US Election

By Ray Hanania

October 28, 2020

Four years ago, a succession of American newspaper polls predicted Hillary Clinton would easily win the presidential election and defeat Donald Trump. On election day, Trump proved them all wrong. How?

In part, Clinton took Trump for granted, in her own arrogant and entitled manner, disparaging his supporters by pejoratively describing them as a “basket of deplorables.” Another reason was that much of the news media also took Trump for granted, refusing to take him seriously and attacking him at every turn, every misstep and every spoken stumble.

What Clinton and sections of the mainstream media failed to grasp was how her attack on Trump and his supporters would solidify them as a loyal base. Calling them “deplorables” so insulted them that, rather than look at Trump, they vented their anger on Clinton and the media. That Clinton arrogance and media bias ultimately made Trump the victor. The “hate divide” that split the country into two resulted in a base that would not be swayed.

In the four years since, not much has really changed. The political attacks on Trump are vicious — far more vicious than they were to the US’ first African American President Barack Obama — and the unrelenting perception of media bias continues to fuel his support base.

Polls have been accurate about one thing over the years: That the public distrusts the news media. A recent survey by Gallup and the Knight Foundation found that nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of Americans see too much bias in the media as a “major problem.”

Sections of the media continue to blame the hate divide on Trump. But the president leads his own communications, makes his own shoot-from-the-hip pronouncements and continues to deal directly with the media outlets that have savaged him during his time in office.

However, the hate divide literally means that the country is divided, with about half supporting the president no matter what and half opposing him no matter what. This means that the brutal battles on the campaign trail will probably not persuade anyone to switch sides.

Following his recent interview on the popular CBS News program “60 Minutes,” Trump’s performance was portrayed as below par. The worst part was that the media unfavorably compared his interview to his rival Joe Biden’s. In truth, Biden stumbled several times, but these were generally ignored by the media. At one point, interviewer Norah O’Donnell even corrected something Biden said as if it was nothing.

O’Donnell asked about foreign policy and the biggest challenges. In his response, Biden said: “What happens now is you have the situation in Korea, where they have more lethal missiles and more capacity than they had before.” O’Donnell quickly corrected him, saying “North Korea,” making the mistake irrelevant. Biden responded by confirming, “North Korea.” Had Trump made that mistake, the media would likely be going berserk, writing about how the president’s rhetoric could have started a nuclear war with a friendly ally rather than a crazed foe.

After the interview, Biden’s staff also had to correct a figure he quoted. It was explained that the Democratic nominee “misspoke” and that the cost of free public college education could be twice as much as the $150 billion he told O’Donnell. The media would have had a field day had that been Trump.

However, it is the perception of media bias — exaggerated by his supporters and marginalized by his critics — that could carry Trump to victory. The president’s followers are not focused on his leadership as much as they are on the perceived bias against him.

Why were the polls all wrong in 2016? Because the “deplorables” were angry at being vilified by Clinton. So, when the news media calls them to ask how they will vote this time, how many Trump supporters hang up the phone and how many lie to avoid being criticized?

If you want to know what is happening in next week’s election, don’t pay attention to the mainstream US news media. Instead, watch for the results as they come in from four states: North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Florida. Then you will know who is winning, and I think Trump continues to hold an edge in all four.


Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist.



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