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Middle East Press On Israel-Emirates Peace, Iraqi Sunni Politicians And Iran: New Age Islam's Selection, 28 October 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

28 October 2020

• Israel-Emirates Peace: An Inside Look

By Ben Caspit

• Iraqi Sunni Politicians Organize A New Political Front

By Shelly Kittleson

• Palestinian President Stacks Jerusalem Branch With Loyalists

By Daoud Kuttab

• Lack Of Individual Responsibility Fuelling Rise Of 21st-Century Fascism

By Dr. Theodore Karasik

• Iran And Its Priorities Of Hostility

By Tariq Al-Homayed


Israel-Emirates Peace: An Inside Look

By Ben Caspit

Oct 27, 2020


Erel Margalit, founder and chairman of Jerusalem Venture Partners, visits with members of Israeli high-tech delegation the Dubai Financial Market, United Arab Emirates, Oct. 27, 2020. Photo by KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images.


Dubai is gulping the dividends of the peace with Israel with great thirst. Business people, investors and the top echelons of the Emirati economy are rushing to forge promising Israeli connections, and vice versa. A four-day visit to the emirate this week reveals the intense potential that lies in the recent outing of Israel’s covert relations with the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

“It’s like someone wandering in the desert for years, tired, thirsty and hungry, and suddenly arriving at a perfect oasis,” enthused the director of a major Israeli firm on a Dubai visit with a delegation of Israeli high-tech and cyber experts. “And it’s not one-directional. They need us as much as we need them, there is mutual inspiration without the typical, regrettable condescension on our part [toward Arabs]. Dubai is not some forsaken desert principality thirsting for Israeli technology. It’s an amazing regional hub of investment, high-tech, industry and knowledge, a unique and influential leverage for investment and the connection between us and them could be a profit multiplier for both sides,” the director said on condition of anonymity.

On Oct. 26, a group of five Israeli journalists visited the gold and spice markets of downtown Dubai. One of them stopped suddenly and directed the attention of his colleagues to the fact that they were in an Arab state, in a buzzing market, loudly speaking Hebrew without trying to conceal their identity. On the contrary.

He was right. Israelis have toured quite a few Arab markets and countries, including  Egypt and Jordan that have forged peace with Israel, North African states (mostly Morocco) that allow Israeli tourists limited visits and Turkey (which while not Arab is a Muslim state with a regime hostile to Israel). They have grown accustomed to speaking quietly, to hide Star of David emblems under their shirts, to play down their national identity. In Dubai, the opposite is true. Israelis can behave with their customary loudness, walk around with their heads held high and take pride in their origins.

Israel and the UAE are forging a different kind of peace. A cordial peace that is growing warmer with every passing day. The Israeli delegation that visited the Emirates this week was led by former Labor Knesset member Erel Margalit, a high-tech and social entrepreneur and chair of Jerusalem Venture Partners capital fund. He and the 13 CEOs and other leading business people he brought with him were greeted with enthusiasm. There was no need for small talk to break the ice. Margalit and the delegation members hit the ground running. They have been doing business in the Emirates for several years, but kept a low profile and used various covers. The affair has now burst into the open, big time.

On Oct. 27, Margalit met with Minister of Food Security Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Al Muhairi. He brought with him to the meeting the director of an Israeli firm that is developing hummus that contains 70% protein, and the director of another firm that has developed a sensor that triggers immediate alarms against palm tree pests and enables their elimination before they can cause significant damage.

Margalit told Al-Monitor the meeting “was super exciting and inspirational. The minister expressed her desire to do great things with us. She is a combination of modesty, capability and ambition. The Emirates are a gateway to markets of 3 billion people and they have a tradition of phenomenal trade capacity. I was shocked to realize the extent to which she is familiar with what we do in our cyber centres in the Galilee and Jerusalem. There are 35,000 farmers in the UAE for whom food-tech could be a godsend. I have no doubt that we will do great things together. We have much to learn from them. The government here is an integral part of entrepreneurship to an intense degree.”

“The elephant in the room” did not come up in the Dubai meetings. No one mentioned the shared Israeli-Emirati interest in blocking Iran’s expansion, which is of grave concern to the Sunni Arab states. Among the delegation members was David Meidan, a former senior Mossad official tapped to head the agency after its leader Meir Dagan stepped down. Meidan has been doing cyber-related business in the Gulf states for years and is one of the better known and accepted Israelis in the region.

The delegation also included Israeli cyberwarfare and security experts who held intriguing meetings with their Emirati counterparts. “They are counting on us in this field,” one of them told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “Just like Israel, countries here are exposed to cyberthreats from Iran and they know that Israel has a different level of offensive and defensive cybercapacities. They want our help in this sphere as quickly as possible.”

The next stage in the fast-moving relationship between Israel and the UAE is the launch of regular daily flights from Tel Aviv to Dubai, expected within a few months. When this happens, the Emiratis will surely experience a so-called baptism by fire, with an onslaught of Israeli tourists who have made a dubious name for themselves around the world. Nonetheless, UAE tourism has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and is keen to welcome shopping-starved Israelis after long months of being stuck at home.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also scheduled to make an official visit to celebrate the diplomatic achievement to the hilt. Netanyahu has instructed government ministers to avoid visits to Dubai until he himself can conduct the historic trip and cut the ribbon.

Contrary to many past events, this time Netanyahu has earned the credit. True, he did not disclose to the public or his government the green light he gave the United States to sell stealth jets to the Emirates in return for the peace deal, muted the role of his predecessors in laying the infrastructure for the ties and described the deal as “peace in return for peace,” despite the fact that he was forced to set aside his dream of territorial annexation. Having said all this, it is nonetheless a historic, exciting and sufficiently inspiring breakthrough to crown Netanyahu’s positive legacy. Enough has already been said (and will probably be said) about its negative aspects.


Iraqi Sunni Politicians Organize A New Political Front

By Shelly Kittleson

Oct 26, 2020


Sunni Muslim men pray over the bodies of eight Iraqis who were reportedly kidnapped on Oct. 17 and later found shot dead, during their burial ceremony in the Farhatiya area of the Balad region north of Baghdad in Salahuddin province, Oct 18, 2020. Photo by AFP via Getty Images.


A recent massacre of Sunni youths in central Iraq and concerns that sectarian violence may pull the country back into dark times seem to have fostered plans for a new sect-based political bloc and rekindled talk of an autonomous Sunni region.

The names of those involved in the nascent bloc have raised a number of eyebrows due to their alleged ties. Some see the move as potentially divisive for the community.

On Oct. 23, several sources confirmed to Al-Monitor that dozens of Sunni lawmakers were meeting for the purpose of furthering common aims and setting up some sort of political alliance to do so. The gatherings continued over the two following evenings, with at least one of the politicians flying in from abroad to attend.

Some claim that the envisioned political alliance is an attempt to exploit anger within the Sunni community in the name of personal grievances, especially against Sunni parliamentary speaker Mohammed al-Halbusi, and most likely aims to unseat the speaker.

Halbusi was a controversial choice among longstanding Sunni political leaders in many ways from the time he was sworn in and called an “upstart” due to his young age.

Iraq’s prime minister is chosen from the Shiite community, the parliamentary speaker from the Sunni community and the president from among the Kurds. The parliamentary speakership is thus the highest position a Sunni politician can obtain in the country.

The Baghdad-based website Nas News reported that Atheel al-Nujaifi and his brother Osama, the head of the Salvation and Development Front and a former vice president and parliamentary speaker, both attended the meetings that began on Friday and continued through Sunday.

Atheel is a former mayor of Mosul who was sentenced in absentia to three years in prison in 2018.

The Iraqi news site quoted Osama as saying that one of the matters to be discussed was the Oct. 17 Farhatiya massacre in Salahuddin province, where the bodies of eight Sunni youths were found with gunshot wounds and hands tied behind their backs, and that Halbusi was another. The meetings, according to Osama, were to “coordinate positions,” but “it is important that we do not rush to announce an alliance.” At least 30 parliamentarians reportedly took part in the meeting. Various sources reported the names of some of those present.

There are a total of 329 seats in the Iraqi Parliament, for which the last elections were held in May 2018. The next elections are expected to take place in June 2021, according to a timeline drawn up by Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi after he was sworn in earlier this year.

The move to form the new bloc was reportedly led by Ahmed al-Jabouri, a parliament member who governed Salahuddin province from 2013 to 2014 and is more widely known as Abu Mazen. The Sunni politician was one of four Iraqis sanctioned by the United States on July 18, 2019, for working with Iran-based proxies operating outside of state control.

Jabouri, like many Iraqi politicians, has been widely accused of corruption. Earlier this year, Reuters published an in-depth report on what it called a “proxy battle” being waged on Iraq by Iran and said that the neighboring country was able to wield considerable influence over Nineveh, largely due to two Sunni politicians’ efforts, naming Jabouri and the Anbar millionaire-turned-politician Khamis al-Khanjar.

Khanjar, one of those who took part in the meetings, left Iraq in the 1990s and only returned in recent years. On Dec. 6, 2019, he was sanctioned by the United States along with three leaders of Iran-linked armed groups including Asaib Ahl al-Haq, which was allegedly involved in the Oct. 17 massacre.

This Al-Monitor correspondent reported frequently from the Salah al-Din governorate during and since the fight against the Islamic State. Many of the local armed groups in the province openly spoke about receiving support from Iran after their attempts early on to get backing from the United States failed. The situation is starkly different from that in Anbar, the population of which is also predominantly Sunni.

Some of the same men who once fought as part of the US-backed Sahwa, or Arab Awakening, against al-Qaeda in Salahuddin over a decade ago are now instead with local Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) that have received support from Iran.

In numerous reporting trips to Anbar in recent years, this reporter has seen increasing distrust of Iranian-linked and Shiite-led armed groups in general there.

One of the local tribal PMUs operating in the strategic border area of al-Qaim, Aaly al-Furat, was trained by the Danes at Iraq’s Ain al-Asad base in western Anbar and equipped in part by the United States. The faction has also received support from the prominent parliament member Mohammed al-Karbouly. Most of the fighters in its ranks are from the Karbouly tribe, of which the lawmaker is a member.

This reporter has interviewed the commander of the PMU several times before, during and after the liberation operations for their native area of Western Anbar as well as the parliamentarian.

In an interview with him in his Baghdad home in January, Karbouly said that he had been the one to strongly encourage Mohamed al-Halbusi to run for parliament speaker in 2018.

In response to questions via Whatsapp, Salahuddin representative Muthanna al-Samarraie told Al-Monitor that he refused to take part in the talks for the potential bloc, saying, “I believe these are attempts to achieve personal aspirations that have nothing to do with reform and are instead merely a reaction to differences of a personal nature” and not “conflicting visions about how to manage and reform the legislative institution as claimed.”

He added that the gatherings “include people accused of corruption and some have more than 200 cases against them,” mostly involving “the plundering of public money.”

Samarraie stressed that the political movement “reflects a much larger conflict at both the local and the regional levels” and is “a tool in this struggle and is not independent of external influence.”

He also noted that although he hopes for a Sunni autonomous region “in line with the law and the constitution,” the lawmaker lamented “the lack of a unified, clear and solid vision on how to form such a region, how to manage it and what should be its future.”

He added, “I also believe that its formation on a sectarian basis will lead to more complications in an already complex situation,” which instead needs “wise leaders, mature mindsets, ambitious visions and sincere and constructive wills.”

Iraq is a Shiite-majority country with mostly Shiite populations in the southern and central regions. Sunni-majority provinces are for the most part further west and north and suffered particularly badly during the years of IS occupation and from the damage wrought by the fighting to retake them.

It is unclear for the moment whether the move to bring together several Sunni political factions will unify or divide and distract an already fractured sect-based part of the Iraqi political scene.


Palestinian President Stacks Jerusalem Branch With Loyalists

By Daoud Kuttab

Oct 27, 2020

As the possibility of Palestinian elections becomes more real, new and unexpected conflicts are propping up. In addition to the expected hurdles that Israel might put up, as well as the need for Fatah and Hamas to find common ground, an unexpected problem has arisen.

Disagreement over the leadership of the Jerusalem branch of Fatah blew up in late September as the central leadership appears to have tried to railroad a list of local leaders totally loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas, a Fatah source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. The source insisted that the reason for intervention was the desire of the Fatah leadership — especially Abbas — not to give supporters of the renegade Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan any foothold in Palestine, and especially in the proposed Palestinian capital of Jerusalem.

Jamal Muheisen, member of the Fatah Central Committee in charge of membership and mobilization, announced on his Facebook page Sept. 30 the confirmation of the Fatah committee that he said was selected by consensus. He said that 22 individuals nominated themselves Sept. 16 and when seven of them withdrew the next day, the remaining 15 won unopposed by acclamation. A few days later, on Oct. 4, Muheisen met with the newly selected committee and witnessed the consensus on Shady Mutawar as secretary for the Jerusalem branch.

The confirmation of the new committee on Sept. 30 and the choosing of the local secretary triggered an angry response by many Fatah cadres who felt that their voice was dismissed and that Ramallah gave priority to loyalty over all other issues.

Dimitri Diliani, a former member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, told Al-Monitor that the disagreement about how the election process took place is entirely an organizational issue. “The problem is between those who abide by the internal bylaws of Fatah and those who insist on the need to organize the conference that would select an elected council, versus those who abide by the decision of the president [Abbas] to bypass the bylaws of the Fatah movement.”

Diliani, who recently declared himself spokesman for the Democratic Reform Current, a reformist wing of Fatah led by Dahlan, said the problems in the Jerusalem branch of Fatah have to do with Dahlan. “The selection was done to ensure absolute loyalty because they were afraid that true elections were not guaranteed to provide them with that loyalty to the president. The leader — Mohammed Dahlan — had nothing to do with what happened.”

Diliani said that the problems occurred in Jerusalem because it is the only place that the arms of the Palestinian security forces can’t reach the activists as they can in the rest of the West Bank. Diliani was referring to the fact that Israel prevents the Ramallah-based leadership or its security agents from publicly working in Jerusalem. In some West Bank locations, activists have been arrested for their opinions, activists insist.

The way that the Jerusalem committee was selected produced angry reactions by Fatah cadres who felt that the process was railroaded to ensure the results that were produced. Protests took place in different locations and in different forums. A letter was submitted to the Fatah Central Committee Oct. 2, and an anti-settler activity took place.

Hatem Abdul Qaderm, a former member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a senior Fatah leader in Jerusalem, suggested compromise solutions including suspending the newly elected council or adding 10 members to it, but neither suggestion worked.

Not finding any acceptable solution, the protesting Fatah cadres decided on a series of actions to express their opposition. They took place outside the offices of the Fatah Mobilization and Organization office demanding that a full-fledged conference take place according to the movement’s bylaws. The protest activities culminated in an open hunger strike in Ramallah Oct. 24. The protests didn’t last long as Fatah Central Committee Secretary Jibril Rajoub visited the protest tent and assured the Jerusalemites that their problem will be solved within 96 hours. According to the spokesman of the protesters, Yasin Rayan, they agreed to bring down the protest tent and end the protests based on the promises of Rajoub.

It is not clear whether the intervention of a senior leader like Rajoub will in fact produce the desired reversal and will allow for a full-fledged conference for Fatah cadres to meet and select by secret vote the leadership of Fatah in Jerusalem.

The importance of this process, however, is not limited to Jerusalem; many are looking at this argument to see if they can make similar demands in the way local cadre leaders are selected. A more democratic primary process of sorts will go a long way in ensuring that the actual general elections will be democratic and genuinely representative of what Palestinians aspire to in the next generation of leaders.


Lack Of Individual Responsibility Fuelling Rise Of 21st-Century Fascism

By Dr. Theodore Karasik

October 27, 2020

Fascism in the 21st century should not be a problem, but it is because of a number of factors: Social issues, religious divides, political venom, and a multi-year pathogen. The US and other countries around the world are increasingly seeing the word “fascism” used in life generally, not just in politics. Societies with long histories of racism and misogyny are more prone to fascists being able to organize themselves.

America is facing an extraordinary moment. The results of next week’s presidential election could be decided in the Supreme Court and might even lead to violence. Meanwhile, the exploitation of social media by various actors is well established.

In the 1930s, much of Europe’s political scene split between fascism and communism amid the liberal internationalism and post-First World War globalism. In Germany, Adolf Hitler used a 1933 arson attack on the German parliament to launch legal procedures that established emergency rule, which formed the foundation of the Nazi dictatorship. This pathway to power brought with it key elements of fascist behavior, including division, absolute rule and political suppression, sometimes deadly and onerous. The German example of this time served as a model that spread globally, influencing other countries such as Italy and Japan.

Fascism as an affliction is based on hate. Understanding how this hate begins is important. Some argue that there is a conceptual space regarding a mythical homeland or future ethno-state. Cyberspace communities feature meeting places for an array of subcultural groups, from the right but also the left. “Alternative fact” narratives animate those who read and accept such material as the truth. The manner in which fascism was communicated in the 20th century is far different from how fascism is today. Fascist “lifestyle themes” are important to recognize, as are symbols and other social markers.

Around the world, the trends of 21st century fascism are disturbing. What we see today in Hong Kong and Belarus is the ebb and flow of a type of fascism accelerated by media trends and the use of urban suppression tactics. Leaders’ use of terms such as “law and order” is appealing or dismaying on several levels. Fascists like to use terms such as “enemy of the people” in order to draw attention to a particular group. In the 21st century, social media quickly amplifies such attitudes and counter-attitudes, further dividing and polarizing societies. What is going to give? The tensions are palpable. After French President Emmanuel Macron’s Islamist commentary in the wake of the beheading of a French schoolteacher evoked a wave of responses and ignited a firestorm of accusations in much of the Islamic world, there is more trouble ahead.

One key issue is fascism’s impact on young people. People born in the 2000s are on the road to becoming the leaders of tomorrow but the combination of fascist tendencies and a worldwide pandemic is leading to uncertainty. The youth are seeking their moment in the sun and it is not occurring. The virus stops much of the activity that is required to stay away from the ideologies of hate, fear, and power. Everyone is suddenly at risk of becoming an extremist and ultimately a fascist. The ideas of political correctness are being criticized for their “wokeness,” which increases the probability of continuous fascist assaults on institutions and people. The battle over points of view is what drives the continuous collision of warped ideas.

In the current toxic environment, many are assailing other people based on their race or religion. The fascist mentality relies on surveillance, spying, and entrapment within the communities that are marked as afflicted by “extremism.” That label runs two ways, so that the one who is accusing another of being an extremist is himself guilty of extremism. The internet — and the dark web in particular — offers a forum for sheer hatred for everyone. Terrorism, militia behavior and violence are not down to color, they are human, so individual responsibility is what is missing. Doxing, or outing fascists in this case, exposes more ills than cures because the exposure can quickly turn the subject into a victim. Doxing is commonplace in many societies as a form of civil or vigilante justice.

In America, the tensions between anti-fascists and right-wing extremist groups like Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys are escalating as a result of the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, which began following the death of George Floyd in May. The rapid-fire nature of current events is creating an atmosphere filled with hatred on all sides. There is also increasing confusion over what it means to be anti-fascist. Maybe a better definition will appear next month.


Dr. Theodore Karasik is a senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics in Washington, D.C. He is a former RAND Corporation Senior Political Scientist who lived in the UAE for 10 years, focusing on security issues.


Iran And Its Priorities Of Hostility

By Tariq Al-Homayed

October 27, 2020

During the end of the 1970s, the region was faced with two sharp contradictory models: the Egyptian-Israeli peace, and the Khomeinist Revolution creating a “turban” state and transforming politics in the region from the art of possible into a fatwa of halal (permissible) and haram (forbidden.)

At that time, the Arabs boycotted Egypt in defense of the Palestinian cause, but they found themselves boxed in with fetters around them as the Khomeini regime unleashed his ambitious political Islam coupled with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and that was labeled then as “jihad.”

At that time, the region was facing an Iranian revolution that claimed to be Islamic, the resurgence of political Islam, the jihad in Afghanistan, the Iraqi-Iranian war, and the trading with the Palestinian cause.

It was a distinctive phase, dealing a big blow to political rationality and it continued until the fall of Saddam’s regime, and before that, there was the wave of international terrorism, sponsored by Tehran. But Iran did not fight Israel, in fact, it didn’t even fire a single bullet. On the other hand, Iran invaded our region with militias, unleashing the hateful sectarian virus.

Iran encircled the Gulf with unnatural border issues with regard to Iraq and Yemen, and created an outlet for itself along the Mediterranean through Hezbollah’s weapons, and despite all that, Iran has not fired even a single direct bullet at Israel!

But what happened was quite the opposite. Iran was filling the void of every Israeli withdrawal with groups and militias in Lebanon and Gaza, and trying to do in the West Bank too. Despite all this, Iran did not fight Israel, because it does not want to confront the enemy, but it rather used it as an excuse to expand in the region.

The reason for this is the Iranian conviction that this expansion would force Israel and the West, as did former President Obama, to negotiate and divide the region.

Of course, Iran does not want any Arab-Israeli war, because that weakens its position. Likewise, Iran does not want any Arab-Israeli peace process, because that amounts to the encirclement of Iran. Hence, it is in its interest to keep the region in a state of no war and no peace that would allow it to go out and outbid the Arab countries.

All of the above are glaring facts and not analytical reading. The tumultuous period was followed by the Arab Spring and the Iranian-American nuclear agreement, the straw that broke the camel’s back. It led to a strategic shift in a region that was confused about its real enemy, Iran, or Israel?

The answer is clear today in positions taken by countries in the region, and not in the analysis. As for the Palestinians, their fatal mistake was always to allow themselves to be used as cards in the hands of Iran, Gaddafi, Saddam, and now Erdogan and the Qatari childish ambition.

Therefore, Iran’s options are now limited — either cooperate with Turkey to attack the region — and this is costly — or achieving peace with Israel, which will end the legitimacy of Tehran and its militias in the region.

And Iran cannot stand alone. Consequently, Iran’s logical choice is to achieve an agreement with the US, but for that, there is Israel between it and the US. In fact, the region is changing and expanding the areas of peace and normalization. In a nutshell, Iran does not have any easy options, which proves that the rope of lies in our region is a long one.



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