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Middle East Press On Yemeni Children And Their Silent Death, Gender-Based Violence And Rohingya Genocide: New Age Islam's Selection, 3 December 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

3 December 2020

• The World Watches Yemeni Children And Their Silent Death

By Najla M. Shahwan

• The Fight To End Gender-Based Violence Must Happen On All Levels

By Heba Yosry

• Court Throws Out School Discrimination Suit As Israel Tests Nationality Law

By Danny Zaken

• Bangladesh’s Support Of Rohingya Genocide Suit A Welcome Move

By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

• Georgia’s Unexpected Role In Future Of Middle East

By Ray Hanania


The World Watches Yemeni Children And Their Silent Death

By Najla M. Shahwan

December 03, 2020


Two Yemeni children search for food from public garbage in Sanaa, Yemen, Nov. 25, 2020. (AA Photo)


Yemeni mothers are helplessly holding their dying infants and crying silently while the world is watching. This humanitarian scene has been repeated every minute since the catastrophic war began ravaging Yemen for more than five years.

In 2015, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and their regional and international proxies intervened militarily in Yemen. That involvement was a response to the 2014 coup d’etat executed by the Iranian-backed Houthi militias, who overthrew the legitimate transitional government in the country.

Since then, the coalition has expanded its military involvement far beyond this original mandate and exploited control of the air, causing huge infrastructure damage. Worse, it killed countless civilians and formed militias loyal to its own governments, thus ignoring the legitimate government on whose behalf it claimed to be waging the war.

However, the real victims of this war are innocent civilians and children who have had to face dire conditions which caused what the United Nations describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis in the poorest country in the Middle East.

As a direct result of the ongoing and often brutal armed conflict during the past five years, children’s lives in Yemen have been torn apart. Children have faced daily challenges to both survive the conflict and access enough food, safe drinking water and basic health care.

The future for those that survive is uncertain as the number of children who are not attending school has more than doubled during the past 12 months and now equates to nearly half of the school-age population.

Many children have also been psychologically scarred and need significant support to recover from their experiences and to be able to live normal, productive lives in the future.

Worsening each day

A recent analysis from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), the global standard for gauging food insecurity, revealed that in some areas in Yemen, more than one in four children were acutely malnourished. The acute malnutrition rates among children under 5 years old are the highest ever recorded in parts of southern Yemen.

This new analysis puts the number of children suffering from acute malnutrition this year at 587,573, which is an increase of around 10% since January this year.

Nearly 100,000 children are at risk of death and need urgent treatment.

Although the IPC analysis looked at southern parts of Yemen, a forthcoming analysis of northern areas is expected to show equally concerning trends.

UNICEF spokesperson Marixie Mercado said the most significant increase in southern areas was a 15.5% rise in children with severe acute malnutrition, a condition that leaves children around 10 times more likely to die of diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, malaria or acute respiratory infections, all of which are common in Yemen.

World Food Programme (WFP) spokesperson Tomson Phiri said the IPC forecast showed that by the end of 2020, 40% of the population in the analyzed areas, or about 3.2 million people, would be severely food insecure.

As for the devastating food price increases, Phiri stated: “In fact, food prices have skyrocketed and are now on average 140% higher than pre-conflict averages. For the most vulnerable, even a small increase in food prices is absolutely devastating.”

Some families were being displaced for the third or even the fourth time, he said.

“And each time a family is displaced, their ability to cope, let alone to bounce back, is severely diminished," he said.

Lise Grande, the U.N. resident coordinator and humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, said the U.S. had been warning since July that Yemen was on the brink of a catastrophic food security crisis.

If the war doesn’t end now, we are nearing an irreversible situation and risk losing an entire generation of Yemen’s young children,” she said in a statement.

As for the response to COVID-19, Yemen has been hampered by limited testing, lack of health care centers and severe shortages of medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Scores of health care workers, underpaid or not paid at all and with little or no access to PPEs, have left their posts, forcing even more health centers to close.

Efforts to prevent the coronavirus spread and respond to other urgent health needs in Yemen have been severely hampered by heavy restrictions and obstacles that the authorities have imposed on international aid agencies and humanitarian organizations.

The world watches

Despite the magnitude of the humanitarian and security crisis, the international response has to date been wholly inadequate both in terms of funding the humanitarian response and pushing for a political solution.

Jens Laerke, the spokesperson for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told the Geneva briefing that Yemen needed help.

“We have been warning for several months now that Yemen was heading towards a cliff. We are now seeing the first people falling off that cliff," he said.

Laerke underlined: “Those are the children under 5 years of age. One hundred thousand of them are at risk of death, we are told. The world can help by supporting the humanitarian response plan.”

A staggering 80% of Yemen’s population – over 24 million people – require some form of humanitarian assistance and protection, including about 12.2 million children. A total of 230 out of Yemen's 333 districts (69%) are at risk of famine.

Despite a difficult operating environment, humanitarians continue to work across Yemen, responding to the most acute needs. However, funding remains a challenge: As of mid-October, only $1.4 billion of the $3.2 billion needed in 2020 has been received.

The U.N.’s Humanitarian Response Plan was only 56% funded in 2015 while this year it currently sits at just 12% of the $1.8 billion required to provide assistance to 13.6 million people most in need.

The relevant U.N. Security Council (UNSC) resolutions, including No. 2216 (2015) and No. 2266 (2016), have so far failed to persuade the parties to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure in accordance with the laws of war.

Furthermore, influential governments, including some permanent members of the UNSC, have chosen to support military action, often directly through the approval of arms sales and the provision of other military support, instead of using their influence to help find sustainable peace.

The consequences have been devastating for Yemen’s children for whom the situation will only get worse unless meaningful action is taken now to end this devastating conflict.

Today, Yemeni children are suffering from the actions of the regional powers who turned their country into an arena for proxy conflicts that have little to do with the actual needs of the Yemeni people, and the world is watching the worst humanitarian crisis with indifference.

"We see a dramatic degradation of the humanitarian situation," U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at a news conference. "And the risk ... of a famine would probably have had no parallel in recent history, except for the famous famine in Ethiopia many decades ago."


The Fight To End Gender-Based Violence Must Happen On All Levels

By Heba Yosry

02 December 2020


Photo: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank


The ongoing coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns has born higher rates of domestic abuse globally and has left many women without support.

In response, the United Nations Secretary-General has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the increased number of domestic abuse cases and work toward ending all forms of gender-based violence, and more specifically to end violence against women and girls.

But outside the home, there is a more systemic issue that must be addressed, and if we are to combat violence against women, it must be done at all levels.

In Doha’s airport on October 2, women on an outbound flight to Sydney – including 13 Australian citizens – were removed from their flight and were forced to undergo a vaginal exam after a newborn was found abandoned in the airport’s bathroom. Women on 10 flights on October 2 were affected by the tests.

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Women weren’t told where they were taken to or what wrong did they do, they were silently ushered by an armed guard to an ambulance waiting on the tarmac. Inside the ambulance, women weren’t told why they had been brought there, instead they were asked to remove their undergarments to be examined.

The examinations were violating and nonconsensual, and further they failed to reveal the new mother. And now, the trauma these women experienced will endure. The victims recently hired a lawyer who was on one of the flights to represent them in an effort to seek justice. Their lawyer spoke of the psychological damage the women need to live with and how some of them resorted to therapy to cope with the incident. To contextualize the level of humiliation these women encountered, in the UK, the NHS reported that 1 in 3 women in the UK avoid cervical exams, an important tool for early cancer detection, because the exam is too embarrassing.

The Qatari government apologized and promised to investigate the incident after the Australian government denounced the treatment of its citizens.

In complete contradiction with the recent incident at Hamad airport, in 2013, sculptures designed by Damien Hirst depicting embryonic growth inside the uterus were unveiled and placed in Sidra hospital in Doha. The sculptures seemed to evoke the Quranic verses from surat Al Mu’minoun verses 12-14 that narrate the creation of the human being. In Arabic uterus literally translates as Raim, a word that is derived from the divine name Al Raeem meaning the Merciful. It is through the divine and merciful qualities of the womb that new life is created and sustained.

I admired the celebration of womanhood, and of the creative and procreative abilities that God has endowed unto the uterus. Didn’t these women deserve some mercy?

But yet there are those who scorn God’s gift to women.

The second example is found in the UK. The BBC recently reported the sale of virginity tests in some UK clinics. The invasive and medically inaccurate tests are being administered by health professionals who say they have an obligation to their patients’ wellbeing. Some parents, typically in minority communities, request that their young girls be subjected to this humiliating violation to prove their chastity, ensuring that they are “pure” for marriage.

How can these health workers in the West agree and profit from a blatant human rights violation? How can the country that brought to the world the Suffragettes who called for women’s equality and inspired a subsequent global movement of women’s rights be implicated in such a regressive practice? And why is the government silent? Does the sexual violation of young girls, even if sanctioned by the government, make the government look more sympathetic toward it minorities?

No woman or girl should be subjected to violence, and the world – from individuals to governments – must do more to ensure that all forms of gender based violence and discrimination be completely eradicated. The perpetrator sometimes isn’t an individual, but a system that enables it, whether it is in a form of the armed guard standing outside the ambulance or in the form of a medical professional who checks for the purity and chastity of a young girl, justice for survivors becomes more elusive.


Court Throws Out School Discrimination Suit As Israel Tests Nationality Law

By Danny Zaken

Dec 2, 2020

Israel’s 2018 nationality law anchored the Jewish character of the state of Israel. It was first introduced by the Likud and by a few Knesset members of centrist Kadima in 2011, but many legislators were against it, protesting that it discriminated against Israel’s Arab and Druze citizens and also Palestinians. Two years after its adoption, the law continues to evoke bitter debate. In a recent case concerning Arab-Israeli children living in the Jewish-majority town of Carmiel in the Galilee, a judge ruled recently on a petition calling for reimbursing travel to an Arabic-speaking school that the "Jewish character" of Carmiel must be preserved.

The Carmiel case illustrates the fears expressed by the law's opponents. They predicted that it would formalize inequality and discrimination against non-Jewish minorities, including in matters of housing and places of residence.

During the year-long legislative process, the original language of the law was toned down. It no longer said that preference would be given to the creation and support of developments for Jews, since Israel is the home of the Jewish people. The final approved version says, “The state views the development of Jewish settlement [not a reference to the West Bank outposts] as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.”

Adam Shinar of the Interdisciplinary Institute in Herzliya concluded that this section of the law is “not only symbolic, providing a basis for discrimination." He went on, "The value of settlement could already be found in the Declaration of Independence and in documents dating from even before the establishment of the State of Israel. What it says here is that only Jewish settlement has a value (discriminating against all the non-Jewish communities, such as the Druze). Does this mean that the state can only establish new settlements for Jews? Can it limit financial incentives to settle in a specific area to Jews only? That’s a big question. The priority is promoting settlement by one group at the expense of other groups. In a state with limited resources, promotion of one thing will come at the expense of others.”

But there were other readings of the law. Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri determined during a Knesset debate that the clause does not offer any legal or constitutional basis for the establishment of settlements based exclusively on the residents’ Jewish nationality. He contended the statement is only symbolic.

Back to the Carmiel case. On Nov. 30, Judge Yaniv Luzon of the Krayot Magistrate Court used the same article to throw out a lawsuit brought by two Arab children who live in the town of Carmiel. The plaintiffs, brothers ages six and ten, sued the city for the cost of transportation to the faraway schools that they must attend since there is no Arab-language school in Carmiel proper.

Explaining his decision against the plaintiffs, the judge wrote, “The construction of an Arabic-language school or providing transportation for Arab students, wherever and for whoever wants it, could change the demographic balance and the character of the city.” Citing the nationality law, the judge said, “The development of Jewish settlement is therefore a national value, one anchored in a basic law. It ought to be an appropriate and dominant consideration in the array of municipal considerations, including for the establishment of schools and funding transportation.”

Most Arabs in Israel live in towns and cities that are exclusively Arab. A small number lives in historically mixed cities such as Haifa, Acre, Jaffa, Ramle and Lod. Still, a growing number is moving to cities that until recently were exclusively Jewish. One such city is Carmiel. The town was established in 1964 on land expropriated from nearby Arab towns and villages. The city expanded over the years, with the explicit intention of bringing Jews to the Galilee, which then had a growing Arab majority.

Today, Carmiel is home to some 46,000 residents, including about 2,500 Arabs. Still, it has no Arabic-language school. Of the more than 500 Arab students in Carmiel, about 150 attend Jewish schools, while the remainder attend schools elsewhere. The Ministry of Education does not obligate local authorities to fund the transportation of students to schools outside of its jurisdiction unless there is no alternative among the schools in its jurisdiction. Arab parents claim that the lack of an Arabic-language school is sufficient grounds to fund transportation for their children, while the municipality claims that it is not.

“I never expected to encounter this kind of racism under the protection of the law,” said Qassem Bakri, the brothers' father. “I fear that this is the first indication of the consequences of this racist and nationalist law, and a foreboding indicator of what will happen to Israel’s Arab citizens. The excuse that this is a Jewish city, as if Carmiel has no other residents. There are Class A residents and Class B residents. It is the fetid consequence of [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and his nationality law.”

Attorney Nizar Bakri, who filed the civil suit on behalf of his nephews, said that he has been an attorney for 12 years. The part of the ruling that cited the nationality law gave him the shock of his career. “The right to live somewhere is a basic right. No one should be afraid that their free choice of where to live will have racist repercussions based on nationality or anything else, for that matter. Of course, we will consider our next steps and appeal the decision. We also plan to join the lawsuit against the City of Carmiel and the Ministry of Education in order to bring about a thorough solution to this issue for all Arab citizens, and not just individual families,” he said.

On the other hand, Barak Medina, rector of the Hebrew University and professor of constitutional law, told Al-Monitor that the ruling is not based on the nationality law per se. The law was rather an end note tacked on to the ruling and not integral to the decision.

Next month, the Supreme Court will hear several cases brought against the nationality law. Attorney Nariman Shehadeh Zoabi from the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights said that the Carmiel ruling shows how necessary it is to overturn the nationality law, which grants legitimacy to racist and discriminatory policies.

The Supreme Court will need to determine whether the attack on equality inherent to the nationality law is justified by Israel being defined as the state of the Jewish people.


Bangladesh’s Support Of Rohingya Genocide Suit A Welcome Move

By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

December 02, 2020

The International Court of Justice genocide suit against Myanmar on behalf of the Rohingya, which was initiated by The Gambia, is garnering increasing support from other nations around the world. An unexpected but very welcome development in recent days was that Bangladesh has become one of those nations.

At last week’s summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Niger, the government of Bangladesh donated $500,000 to The Gambia’s legal effort on behalf of the Rohingya — a move that surprised many observers, but which is a good sign of how Dhaka’s position on the Rohingya situation is evolving.

Bangladesh has taken in more than 1 million Rohingya refugees who fled the Myanmar army’s “clearance operations” against their villages in Rakhine state in the 2016-17 period, plus hundreds of thousands more from previous decades and tens of thousands of new incomers since the height of the crisis. Though the refugee camps in Bangladesh are secluded and relatively poorly provisioned, Bangladesh has done extremely well for a country of its limited means to take in and give refuge and safety to a people fleeing genocide. Its humane response to this refugee crisis puts to shame the response of most Western countries in recent years.

But one of the more disappointing aspects of its handling of the situation was that, up until now, it seemed committed to keeping good relations with the government of Myanmar that carried out the genocide against the Rohingya in the misguided hope that it could eventually return the refugees to their ancestral lands. The Bangladeshi authorities had refrained from strong criticism of Myanmar and put a lot of time and effort into negotiating for the return of the refugees.

After some three years of negotiations and successfully signed agreements, however, it seems that the government of Bangladesh finally understands that Myanmar has not been negotiating in good faith and has no intention of honoring any of its side of the deal. After spending half a century trying to expel the Rohingya from the country of their birth, the authorities in Myanmar were not about to undo all of that work just because the leaders of Bangladesh were asking nicely. So now it appears that Dhaka has accepted the reality that bilateral negotiations with Myanmar will not yield any fruit and is instead shifting its focus to supporting international legal efforts to force justice upon Myanmar for its crimes against humanity.

This is also a very good sign for the well-being of the Rohingya in the short to medium term. So long as Dhaka was pursuing its bilateral negotiations with Myanmar, it could pretend, or perhaps they could try to persuade themselves, that the refugee situation in Cox’s Bazar was a short-term problem that would soon be resolved. And this left the Rohingya in something of a limbo, while the Bangladeshi authorities were trying to keep the refugee population isolated from the indigenous people of Bangladesh.

But now that the reality of the situation has sunk in and that Dhaka has seemingly given up its faith in its counterparts in Myanmar, it surely understands that the Rohingya will remain in Cox’s Bazar in large numbers for a long, long time. Even if the international community does eventually manage to get the Rohingya back to their ancestral homelands, it is going to be a very long and arduous process — it may take at least a generation or two.

So now the rational calculation for Bangladesh on the best way to interact with the million-plus Rohingya refugee population must surely change. This means that more infrastructure will have to be built around Cox’s Bazar to sustain the large population; it means economic activity will have to be encouraged in the camps so as to slowly evolve them into a proper city; and it means it would be beneficial for economic relationships between the camps and the rest of the country to develop, so that the Rohingya people become an increasingly self-sufficient community and even actively contribute to Bangladesh. If they will be allowed to, the Rohingya can become an asset to Bangladesh. And what better way for the Rohingya to thank their hosts for their kindness and humanity?


Dr. Azeem Ibrahim is a director at the Centre for Global Policy in Washington, DC.


Georgia’s Unexpected Role In Future Of Middle East

By Ray Hanania

December 02, 2020

Although it is clear that Democrat Joe Biden easily defeated Republican Donald Trump in last month’s US presidential election, the fight to control the Senate remains undecided, with the results of the two final seats in the state of Georgia still outstanding.

If the Democrats win January’s Georgia runoffs, Biden will have the power to implement policies that impact everything from domestic American issues to the Middle East. If they lose, however, Biden will be forced to rely on directives that have limited impact on existing laws, while also reversing Donald Trump’s executive orders. The direction of the country could remain in limbo and its Middle East policies will be the subject of more heated rhetoric and fierce debate, plus only short-term changes.

After last month’s election, Democrats control 222 seats in the House of Representatives and Republicans 206, nine more than prior to the vote but not enough to undermine the Democratic Party’s control of the House. In the Senate, however, what happens in Georgia’s two runoffs will determine whether or not Biden will have the power to implement his agenda or be forced to do what Trump has largely done and run the country by issuing limited-power executive orders.

Republican incumbents Sen. David Perdue and Sen. Kelly Loeffler each failed to win more than 50 percent of the votes cast on Nov. 3. This means they will face runoffs against their respective Democrat challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock on Jan. 5.

The Democrats currently hold 48 of the Senate’s 100 seats, with the Republicans on 50. If the Democrats can win the runoffs in Georgia, it will create a 50-50 split, with any tied votes being broken by the ballot cast by Vice President Kamala Harris, effectively giving Biden control. Without control of both the House and the Senate, Biden will face the same partisan divisions that held Trump back.

When Trump campaigned for president in 2016, the issue of executive orders was a major topic. Trump harshly criticized President Barack Obama for issuing them rather than getting laws passed by Congress. During his eight years in the White House, Obama issued 276 executive orders to circumvent the paralysis caused by the House and Senate being controlled by different parties. Trump asserted that Obama lacked the skills to bring Democrats and Republicans together.

However, Trump later found himself in the same situation and was unable to get Democratic support for his agenda, so he was forced to run the government by issuing executive orders. He has so far issued 195 of them, with many more expected before he leaves office on Jan. 20.

The passage of a law is the most effective way to change policies in America, but that requires a simple majority in favor in both the House and the Senate. Some laws, like those changing taxation, require a supermajority. This is why the Georgia races are so important.

What does an executive order do if a law cannot be passed? Basically, it gives the president the power to direct federal government offices to withhold services. For example, although Trump planned to repeal the Affordable Care Act passed by the Obama administration — aka “Obamacare” — his inability to pass a law forced him to issue an executive order that only weakened the national healthcare legislation, rather than killed it off.

Another executive order issued by Trump placed a temporary ban on entry to the US for citizens of seven nations: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Trump was also able to block the distribution of funds to the Palestinians and close the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s office in Washington.

In January this year, Trump unilaterally authorized the drone strike assassination of top Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani.

Without control of both houses of Congress, Biden will not be able to pass new laws on immigration or healthcare or make substantive decisions on the Middle East or any other major issue in his platform. How the Biden administration moves forward on all of those issues will come down to the Georgia runoffs and individuals whose names have, until now, had little to do with the fate of the Middle East.


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



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