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Middle East Press on Morocco-Israel Deal, Iran’s 1988 Massacre and Philosophers Response to Covid-19: New Age Islam's Selection, 14 December 2020


By New Age Islam Edit Desk

14 December 2020

• Morocco-Israel Deal Has Wide-Ranging Benefits

By Zaid M. Belbagi

• Is Egypt Ready To Turn Page On Gulf Crisis With Qatar?

By Rasha Mahmoud

• Time To Bring Perpetrators Of Iran’s 1988 Massacre To Justice

By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

• How Have Philosophers Responded To The Pandemic?

By Santiago Zabala

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Morocco-Israel Deal Has Wide-Ranging Benefits

By Zaid M. Belbagi

December 14, 2020

 

 

The late King Hassan II was indefatigable in his efforts in three main policy areas: Morocco’s claim over the Western Sahara, seeking a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and his kingdom’s relationship with the US. The three issues have continued to characterize Moroccan foreign policy and it is therefore fitting that a deal was last week secured that included them all.

The White House announced on Friday that President Donald Trump and King Mohammed VI had agreed that Morocco would “resume diplomatic relations between Morocco and Israel and expand economic and cultural co-operation to advance regional stability.” A more important facet of their agreement was that the US recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over the Western Sahara, with plans for a US consulate there, following those that have been opened in recent weeks by the UAE and Jordan.

The deal has been lauded as Moroccan recognition of the Israeli state, when in fact it is the resumption of relations that had previously existed. It will see the reopening of liaison offices in Tel Aviv and Rabat — which had shut in 2000, when relations broke down amid the Second Intifada — and the eventual opening of embassies, while Morocco will also grant direct flights to and from Israel for all Israelis. Despite being a vocal and diplomatically active player in support of the Palestinians and a two-state solution through the Fez Plan of 1981, Morocco has an independent relationship with the Jewish people that is exclusive to those which other members of the Arab League enjoy. A large indigenous Jewish population, coupled with as many as 1 million Israelis being of Moroccan origin, is an important facet of the Morocco-Israel relationship, which has familial, cultural and historical significance. Moroccan Jews are the second-largest Jewish group in Israel. Despite Morocco being the only Arab country in which Jewish history is taught in schools, King Mohammed VI remains the chairman of the Al-Quds Committee and a close collaborator with the Palestinian leadership in its struggle for statehood, as well as in the maintenance and protection of the holy Islamic sites in Jerusalem.

Further to last week’s announcement, the Moroccan government has been keen to underscore its commitment to the Palestinian cause. In many respects, this is why its diplomatic activity has not been met with the level of criticism that followed the Bahraini and Emirati normalization efforts. This is, however, separate to and exclusive of its own relationship with the Jewish people, which is long-standing and indeed a critical facet of Morocco’s tolerant society. The multiconfessional and multiracial fabric of Morocco is central to its identity; indeed, the pluralism that other Arab nations are only now trying to encourage has always been a fact of life in Morocco.

Whether through the historic efforts of the Jewish emissaries of Morocco’s many sultans, the Moroccan government in saving its Jewish population from the Holocaust or the modern-day contribution of Jewish entrepreneurs to the Moroccan economy, the relationship is positive and deep-rooted. In fact, the discussions that took place last week even allowed for some remedy of the great tragedy of the Moroccan Jewish experience, which was their mass exodus to Israel in the 20th century. Fearing social strife that never occurred, the experience divided families and caused many Israelis to lose their centuries-long Moroccan identity and privileged societal status — only to then be treated as second-class citizens in Israel on account of their Arab-Berber heritage.

The Jewish community is not, however, the only group Morocco’s leadership and government have been keen to deal with in a protective manner. The Western Sahara has been the focus of developmental efforts as the government has sought to reinforce the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion of 1974, which affirmed “legal ties of allegiance between the Sultan of Morocco and some of the tribes living in the territory of Western Sahara” from antiquity. Given the recent outbreak of hostilities following the attacks by Polisario rebels on civilian trucking, many had feared a more widespread escalation of what was actually a greatly promising regional story of economic and human development. Following a diplomatic and at times military struggle that has lasted almost half a century, the US decision to unequivocally support Morocco’s claim is not only important with regard to the North African kingdom, but also to bringing about regional peace and the unity that has long eluded the countries of the Maghreb. For the least-integrated region in the world, a resolution to its most pressing political problem will allow for the economic and political integration for which its countries are desperate.

As he welcomed this week’s deal, Trump warmly noted Morocco’s historic role in being the first state to recognize the fledgling union. This sentiment has also been publicly shared by President-elect Joe Biden, who famously stated during his vice presidency that: “Morocco was the first nation in the world to recognize the United States of America… in December 1777. So I’ve come here to say thank you.”

The US-Moroccan relationship is not dissimilar from Morocco’s ties with the Jewish people or the Western Sahara, as it is rooted in history and also the focus of modern diplomatic efforts. The Morocco-Israel deal is a positive step toward peace on several fronts in a wider region that has been ravaged by conflict. Though resource-poor, Morocco is historically rich — a fact that continues to pay dividends for its modern efforts and, no doubt, future aspirations.

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Zaid M. Belbagi is a political commentator, and an adviser to private clients between London and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Twitter: @Moulay_Zaid

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1776986

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Is Egypt Ready To Turn Page On Gulf Crisis With Qatar?

By Rasha Mahmoud

Dec 13, 2020

After Saudi Arabia and Kuwait recently announced that they had made progress toward ending the dispute Egypt and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have with Qatar, Egypt's Foreign Ministry praised Gulf efforts, particularly those of Kuwait, aimed at bringing an end to the yearlong crisis that has pitted Doha against Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

In a Dec. 8 press statement, Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Hafez expressed his country’s appreciation of the continued efforts made by Kuwait’s emir to heal the Arab rift and settle the crisis that broke out in 2017 between Qatar and the Arab Quartet countries, within the framework of Kuwait’s constant desire for stability in the region.

“We hope that these commendable efforts will pave the way for a comprehensive solution to all the causes of this crisis and ensure strict and serious commitment to what will be agreed upon,” Hafez added.

In a statement carried by the Kuwait News Agency on Dec. 4, Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah expressed his appreciation for the ongoing and constructive efforts being deployed to end the Gulf crisis.

Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah said in a speech broadcast on the official Kuwait TV on Dec. 4 that fruitful discussions had been taking place to resolve the Gulf crisis, which has been ongoing since 2017.

He added that during these talks, “All parties affirmed their keenness to achieve Gulf and Arab solidarity and stability and reach a final agreement on permanent solidarity between their countries in a bid to serve the interest of these countries’ people.”

He also thanked US President Donald Trump for “his support [to end the Gulf crisis], which reflects the US commitment to preserve the security and stability of the region.”

The Kuwaiti foreign minister further said his country's efforts to resolve the Gulf crisis are ongoing based on the directives of the political leadership.

In a press briefing Dec. 10, Timothy Lenderking, the US deputy assistant secretary of state for Arabian Peninsula affairs, lauded Kuwait’s efforts, calling their role “extremely helpful.”

“The Kuwaitis have been the key mediator here and still continue to play that role,” Lenderking said.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic relations and trade and travel ties with Qatar in mid-2017 over its alleged support to terrorism. Doha has repeatedly denied the accusations.

The four countries set 13 demands that Qatar needed to meet for the relations to be restored, including the closure of the Al Jazeera channel, the closure of a Turkish base on its territory and the severing of relations with the Muslim Brotherhood.

On Dec. 9, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told journalist Ahmed Moussa on Sada al-Balad TV that “understandings and contacts have taken place” regarding reconciliation with Qatar, adding that there are suggestions for a new phase that seeks to shun “the negative effects of Qatari policies.”

He added, “If there is a sincere political will to overcome this crisis, Egypt will be seeking consensus and brotherly relations.”

Asked whether the four countries have set demands in order for the reconciliation with Qatar to materialize, Shoukry said in another interview on Ten TV on Dec. 8, “A framework has been developed over the past few days to solve the issues behind this problem, and we always welcome anything that achieves Arab solidarity and defuses tensions. However, the agreement that is being elaborated needs to be comprehensive and should take into account all the factors that led to this current situation.”

Shoukry added that his country is willing to positively deal with any proposal that achieves Arab solidarity and defuses tensions, and stressed that there have been developments over the past few days with regard to efforts to try to solve the Gulf crisis.

While Bahrain has yet to comment on such efforts, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash tweeted Dec. 8 that his country “appreciates the efforts of sisterly Kuwait and the US endeavors toward strengthening solidarity in the Gulf. It also supports, on behalf of the four countries, the sound Saudi efforts.”

US officials say they believe the dispute with Qatar is impeding the establishment of a united Gulf front to confront Iran.

Gargash added in his tweet that the UAE “knows full well that the GCC relations with brotherly Egypt are a fundamental pillar in preserving Arab security and stability in the region, and it is looking forward to a successful Gulf summit.”

The reconciliation efforts also have been welcomed by the secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Yousef Bin Ahmad Bin Abdul Rahman Al-Othaimeen, who in a Dec. 4 statement praised the efforts made by Kuwait to promote Arab and Gulf solidarity and stability.

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/12/egypt-welcome-kuwait-end-gulf-crisis-saudi-arabia-qatar.html

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Time to Bring Perpetrators of Iran’s 1988 Massacre to Justice

By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

December 13, 2020

Since its establishment, the Islamic Republic has committed various forms of human rights violations. One of the regime’s most egregious crimes, which until last week seemed to have been forgotten by the wider world, was the 1988 massacre of tens of thousands of political prisoners, including women and teenagers.

However, a group of UN human rights experts has finally written a letter about the massacre to the Iranian government, pointing out that the regime’s actions “may amount to crimes against humanity.” The letter also called on the global community to take action to investigate the atrocity, including through the establishment of an international investigation.

Amnesty International also weighed in on the issue and is applauding the move. Diana Eltahawy, the human rights group’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said: “The UN experts’ communication is a momentous breakthrough. It marks a turning point in the long-standing struggles of victims’ families and survivors, supported by Iranian human rights organizations and Amnesty International, to end these crimes and obtain truth, justice and reparation.”

Although the letter is a step in the right direction, the UN must do more to hold the Iranian leaders accountable, both due to the heinous nature of the crime and the high positions that some of the officials who played key roles in orchestrating the massacre currently have. Current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was, for example, reportedly aware of the massacre.

For decades, the Iranian regime has tried to systematically cover up one of its greatest crimes. Less than 10 years after its establishment, the Islamic Republic began cleansing prisons of thousands of dissidents and opposition activists. Ultimately, an estimated 30,000 people lost their lives in the brutal massacre. In 2017, Amnesty International released a comprehensive report on the slaughter. The 200-page report stated that the disappeared “were mostly young men and women, some just teenagers, unjustly imprisoned because of their political opinions and non-violent political activities.”

Even some high-ranking officials at the time warned then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini not to carry out the massacre. For example, a shocking audio recording of a meeting between the regime’s second-most-senior official and a number of people involved in the killings was surprisingly disclosed in 2016. In it, Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, who had been named as Khomeini’s successor, says in chillingly blunt terms: “In my view, the biggest crime in the Islamic Republic, for which history will condemn us, has been committed at your hands, and they’ll write your names as criminals in history.” He warned regime officials: “You will be in the future etched in the annals of history as criminals. The greatest crime committed under the Islamic Republic, from the beginning of the revolution until now, which will be condemned by history, is this crime committed by you.”

Montazeri was talking to senior members of the “death committee” in Tehran, the likes of which had been set up across the country to oversee the massacre of political prisoners. He had written letters to Khomeini, urging clerical rulers to refrain from committing a crime that should now rank alongside the Srebrenica massacre. Enraged, Khomeini removed Montazeri as his heir apparent. The audio tape was disclosed by Montazeri’s son, Ahmad, a moderate cleric who posted the confidential recording on his website, but was ordered by the intelligence agency to remove it.

Ironically, almost all of the people Montazeri was addressing in the audio clip currently or have recently enjoyed high-ranking positions in the regime. For example, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, who was a representative of the intelligence ministry at the notorious Evin Prison at the time, served as justice minister from 2013 to 2017 under the so-called moderate President Hassan Rouhani. Ebrahim Raisi was a public prosecutor in 1988 and is now chief justice for the whole of Iran. Hussein Ali Nayeri was a judge and is now a deputy of the Supreme Court of Iran. In his memoir, Montazeri wrote that he told Nayeri to stop the executions at least in the religious holidays during the month of Muharram, but Nayeri said: “We have executed so far 750 people in Tehran... we get the job done with (executing) another 200 people and then we will listen to whatever you say.” Pourmohammadi has in recent years defended the commission of the massacre and said he was “proud” of his role in the killing of political opponents.

The foundations of the current regime’s power structure, with Khamenei as leader, were built on that massacre. The world must know that the authorities now in charge of Iran showed their true allegiance and unwavering fealty to the fundamentalist regime and its goals by having no qualms about ordering and implementing one of the greatest political crimes of the 20th century. The international community must do more to identify those Iranian officials who committed crimes against humanity and hold them accountable.

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Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1776791

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How Have Philosophers Responded To The Pandemic?

By Santiago Zabala

13 Dec 2020


In her message to mark World Philosophy Day 2020, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay underlined the exceptional nature of this year’s celebration.

“This day is particularly meaningful this year,” she said. “It gives us the opportunity to celebrate much more than an academic discipline or a human science, but a certain way of being in the world made all the more necessary by the context in which we live today.”

The context Azoulay was referring to, of course, is the coronavirus pandemic that has touched every aspect of our lives. Indeed, from Barcelona to Baghdad, COVID-19 has radically altered the daily routines of everyone, that is, their “being in the world”.

Unlike the September 11 attacks and the 2008 financial crisis – the first two supposedly global events of the 21st century – this pandemic has not spared anyone anywhere, and its consequences will continue to be felt for decades in every corner of the world.

The global nature of this emergency has compelled everyone to contribute to the efforts to end it either professionally or in a personal capacity. While immunologists, doctors, and nurses became indispensable in the quest to develop vaccines and assist patients, others contributed simply by wearing masks and offering to help their vulnerable neighbours during lockdowns.

But how have philosophers contributed? Can “the love for wisdom”, as it is classically defined, make any difference in a pandemic?

As Karl Marx once pointed out, “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” Something we learned this year, however, is that this truism must be reversed.

The pandemic is a direct consequence of the imperative for growth at all costs, especially through extractive wealth-concentrating capitalism, and at the expanse of the environment. This should make us all think whether any of us have spent enough time interpreting the world around us, and whether our actions have been preceded by thoughtful consideration and debate.

The recent US presidential election, in which the isolationist “America first” candidate experienced a crushing defeat, signalled a growing consensus that this unprecedented global emergency requires a global solution. If this is indeed the case, then philosophy can contribute in a great way to the resolution of this crisis. After all, unlike “experts” who often have a narrow focus and offer localised solutions, philosophy always aspires to address problems from a global perspective.

Many renowned philosophers, such as Judith Butler, Achille Mbembe, and Giorgio Agamben, have written about the pandemic and the lessons all peoples of the world could learn from it, but there are two thinkers whose global perspective can especially help stem our obsession to change the world without taking the time to interpret it first – Slavoj Zizek and Bruno Latour.

Zizek and Latour do not necessarily agree on how we can overcome this pandemic, but they both offer new ideas and questions that might at least prepare us for the next global emergency.

Zizek asserts that the way we deal with this pandemic “ultimately depends on our basic stance toward human life”. This is why he believes this emergency, more than it has changed the world, has brought to the fore those issues – such as extreme inequality, the commodified digitisation of our lives, and institutional disregard for the environment – that were raging beneath the surface all along.

The fact that there are billions of people, from refugees to those trapped in extreme poverty or in war zones, for whom COVID-19 is a comparatively minor issue is an indication that we are not “all in the same boat” as many suggest.

This is also evident for those who cannot work from home, in safe isolation, and must instead spend their day working in supermarkets, distribution depots, factories and on the streets, protected only by whatever safety measures their employers care to offer them. In order for some to survive in their private quarantine, Zizek explains, many have to risk their lives for nothing more than the smooth functioning of the world capitalist market.

According to the Slovenian thinker, the pandemic not only reveals these devastating consequences of capitalism, but also presents an opportunity for the reinvention of communism. He is not talking about a possible rebirth of the old-style communism of the Soviet Union, but rather a “reorganisation of global economy which will no longer be at the mercy of market mechanisms”. Alongside the viral pandemic, Zizek calls also for a confrontation with the pandemic of inequality and ecological degradation – a reconsideration of our entire stance towards life and nature.

This reconsideration is also at the centre of Bruno Latour’s response to the pandemic. The renowned French philosopher of science suggests that the coronavirus emergency should be understood as a “dress rehearsal” for the ongoing ecological crisis.

The coronavirus epidemic, he explains, is not simply a stand-alone health crisis but part of a much bigger problem, a moment within the ongoing global ecological annihilation.

While it might be true that we have now acknowledged the need to fight this virus collectively, this acknowledgement did not expand to the ongoing ecological crisis, as not many have drawn the connection between the continued degradation of the environment and the outbreak of this sickness.

According to the French thinker, the pandemic calls for a new definition of society that is not limited to “humans among themselves” but also includes other actors who do not have human forms such as “microbes, [the] internet, the law, the organisation of hospitals, the logistics of the state, as well as the climate.”

When this pandemic is over, Latour believes, it will be our obligation to demand from politicians that economic recovery does not bring back the climate policies that created this condition in the first place. The fact that we managed in a few weeks to put our economic system on hold everywhere is a demonstration that it is possible to instantly stop the so-called capitalist train of progress and create an alternative. “If I could change one thing,” as he recently said, “it would be to get out of the system of production and instead build a political ecology.”

Both Zizek and Latour, as well as other philosophers who have publicly reflected on this pandemic, concur that this is the time to reconsider our “way of being in the world”. For too long we have changed the world too rapidly without thinking carefully about the consequences. This is why both Zizek and Latour welcome the lockdowns that forced many into a kind of retreat to think, question, and imagine new ways to create a better future.

While Zizek’s call for “a reorganisation of global economy” and Latour’s desire for “political ecology” might sound unrealistic even during this pandemic, even merely thinking about these ideas could exert enough pressure on us to reconsider our “way of being in” and interpreting the world.

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Santiago Zabala is ICREA Research Professor of Philosophy at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona. He is the author and editor of, among others, 'Why Only Art Can Save Us (2017), 'Hermeneutic Communism' (2011, coauthored with G. Vattimo), 'The Future of Religion' (2005), all published by Columbia University Press and translated into several languages. His work can be seen here. His latest book is Being at Large: Freedom in the Age of Alternative Facts (2020). He has written for The Guardian, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Review of Books.

https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2020/12/13/how-have-philosophers-responded-to-the-pandemic

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