New Age Islam Edit Bureau
11 February 2016
Next Onslaught in Gaza: Why the
Status Quo Is a Precursor for War
By Ramzy Baroud
The Syrian Regime Has Never
By Khairallah Khairallah
World Peace versus Saudi National
By Jamal Khashoggi
Everyone To Blame For Failure Of
By Maria Dubovikova
Why I'd Vote for Trump, but
By Marwan Bishara
Saudi Lawyers’ Fees Illogical
By Samar Al-Mogren
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Next Onslaught in Gaza: Why the Status
Quo Is a Precursor For War
10 February, 2016
It is not true that only three wars have
taken place since Hamas won parliamentary elections in 2006 in the Occupied
Palestinian Territories. Other wars that were deemed insignificant or
‘skirmishes’ also took place. Operation Returning Echo in March 2012, for
example, killed and wounded over 100 people. But since the death toll, relative
to the other major onslaughts seemed trivial, it was not cited as 'war', per
According to this logic, so-called
operations Cast Lead (2008-9), Pillar of Defense (2012) and the deadliest of
them all, Protective Edge (2014) were serious enough to be included in any
relevant discussion, especially when the prospective new Israeli war on Gaza is
It is important to denote that most of the
media, mainstream or other, adheres to Israel's designations of the war, not
those of Palestinians. For example, Gazans refer to their last confrontation
with Israel as the ‘Al-Furqan Battle’, a term we almost never hear repeated
with reference to the war.
Observing the Israeli war discourse as the
central factor in understanding the war against the Resistance surpasses that
of language into other areas. The suffering in Gaza has never ceased, not since
the last war, the previous one or the one before that. But only when Israel
begins to mull over war as a real option, do many of us return to Gaza to
discuss the various violent possibilities that lie ahead.
The problem of relegating Gaza until
Israeli bombs begin to fall is part and parcel of Israeli collective thinking -
government and society, alike. Gideon Levy, one of the very few sympathetic
Israeli journalists in mainstream newspapers wrote about this in a recent
article in Haaretz.
"The addiction to fear and the eternal
wallowing in terror in Israel suddenly reminded one of the existence of the
neighboring ghetto," he wrote in reference to Gaza and sounding of Israeli
war drums. "Only thus are we here reminded of Gaza. When it shoots, or at
least digs ... (only then) we recall its existence. Iran dropped off the
agenda. Sweden isn’t scary enough. Hezbollah is busy. So we return to
In fact, Israel's exceedingly violent past
in Gaza does not hinge on Hamas' relative control of the terribly poor and
besieged place, nor is it, as per conventional wisdom, also related to
Palestinian factionalism. Certainly, Hamas' strength there is hardly an
incentive for Israel to leave Gaza alone, and Palestinians' pitiful
factionalism rarely help the situation. However, Israel's problem is with the
very idea that there is a single Palestinian entity that dares challenge
Israel's dominance, and dares to resist.
Moreover, the argument that armed
resistance, in particular, infuriates Israel the most is also incorrect.
Violent resistance may speed up Israel's retaliation and the intensity of its
violence, but as we are currently witnessing in the West Bank, no form of
resistance has ever been permissible, not now, not since the Palestinian
Authority was essentially contracted to control the Palestinian population, and
certainly not since the start of the Israeli military occupation in 1967.
Israel wants to have complete monopoly over
violence, and that is the bottom line. A quick scan of Israel's history against
Palestinian Resistance in all of its forms is indicative that the Israel vs.
Hamas narrative has always be reductionist, due partly to it being politically
convenient for Israel, but also useful in the Palestinians’ own infighting.
Fatah, which was Palestine's largest
political party until Hamas won 76 out of the legislative council’s 132 seats
in the early 2006 elections, has played a major rule in constructing that
misleading narrative, one that sees the past wars and the current conflict as
an exclusive fight between Hamas, as political rival, and Israel.
When seven of Hamas fighters were recently
killed after a tunnel collapsed - which was destroyed during the 2014 war by
Israel and was being rebuilt - Fatah issued a statement that appeared on
Facebook. The statement did not declare solidarity with the various resistance
movements which have operated under horrendously painful circumstances and
unremitting siege for years, but chastised the 'war merchants' – in reference
to Hamas - who, according to Fatah, "know nothing but burying their young
people in ashes."
But what other options does the Resistance
in Gaza actually have?
The unity government which was agreed on by
both Fatah and Hamas in the Beach Refugee Camp agreement in the summer of 2014
yielded no practical outcomes, leaving Gaza with no functioning government, and
a worsening siege. That reality, for now, seals the fate of a political
solution involving a unified Palestinian leadership.
Submitting to Israel is the worst possible
option. If the Resistance is Gaza was to lay down its arms, Israel would
attempt to recreate the post-1982 Lebanon war scenario, when they pacified
their enemies using extreme violence and then entrusted their collaborating
allies to rearrange the subsequent political landscape. While some Palestinians
could readily offer to fill that disreputable role, the Gaza society is likely
to shun them entirely.
A third scenario in which Gaza is both free
and the Palestinian people’s political wishes are respected is also unlikely to
materialize soon, considering the fact that Israel has no reason to submit to
this option, at least for now.
This leaves the war option as the only
real, tragic possibility. Israeli analyst, Amost Harel highlighted in his
article, “Hamas' Desire to Increase West Bank Attacks Could Trigger New Gaza
War” the reasoning behind this logic.
"To date, Israel and Palestinian
Authority security forces have succeeded in scuttling most of Hamas’
schemes," he wrote, referring to his allegations that Hamas is attempting
to co-opt the ongoing uprising in the West Bank.
In one of several scenarios he offered,
“The first is that a successful Hamas attack in the West Bank will spur an
Israeli response against the group in Gaza, which will lead the parties into a
In most of Israeli media analyses, there is
almost total disregard for Palestinian motives, aside from some random
inclination to commit acts of ‘terror.’ Of course, reality is rarely close to
Israel’s self-centred version of events, as rightly pointed out by Israeli
writer Gideon Levy.
After his most recent visit to Gaza, Robert
Piper, UN envoy and humanitarian coordinator for the Occupied Territories, left
the Strip with a grim assessment: only 859 of homes destroyed in the last war
have been rebuilt. He blamed the blockade for Gaza's suffering, but also the
lack of communication between the Ramallah-based government and Hamas movement
"There are no changes to the
underlying fragility of Gaza," he told AFP, and the situation
"remains on a frankly disastrous trajectory of de-development and radicalization,
as far as I can tell."
Of the blockade, he said, “It is a blockade
that prevents students from getting to universities to further their studies in
other places. It's a blockade that prevents sick people from getting the health
care that they need.”
Under this circumstance, it is difficult to
imagine that another war is not looming. Israel’s strategic, political and
military tactics, as it stands today, will not allow Gaza to live with a
minimal degree of dignity. On the other hand, the history of Gaza’s resistance
makes it impossible to imagine a scenario in which the Strip raises a white
flag and awaits its allotted punishment.
Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20
years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an
author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books
include ‘Searching Jenin’, ‘The Second Palestinian Intifada’ and his latest ‘My
Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story’. His website is: www.ramzybaroud.net.
The Syrian Regime Has Never Negotiated
0 February 2016
It was normal to suspend the Syria talks in
Geneva, considering it was more of a dialogue of the deaf. There is no point
meeting to tackle the crisis amid the absence of agreement among influential
powers, particularly Washington and Moscow, for a transitional phase that
transfers power from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regime.
All solutions that deviate from a
transitional phase are a waste of time, as they overlook the fact that the
Syrian regime has collapsed, and there are no political or military solutions
that can revive it. Do Russia and Iran understand that?
It is impossible to negotiate with the
regime because it does not believe in offering concessions. When it is strong,
even if its source of power is outside forces - as is the case now - it
believes concessions signify weakness. When it is weak, it does not make
concessions due to its need to appear strong.
The regime committed a massacre in Hama 34
years ago, killing thousands of people. It used the Muslim Brotherhood’s crimes
as an excuse. Some of these crimes were true, but the regime attacked the
entire city and destroyed entire neighborhoods. It wanted Hama to be an example
to any Syrian who dared raise his or her head. As time passed, the world
accepted the massacre.
Before that, in 1976, Syrian troops and
apparatuses entered Lebanon in order to control the Palestine Liberation
Organization (PLO) and weaken the Christian presence in the small country. No
Lebanese city or town was spared from the injustice of the Syrian regime, which
first targeted Christian border towns such as Al-Qaa and Al-Ayshya, then Zahle
and Beirut’s Ashrafieh. It also did not spare the Sunni city of Tripoli.
The regime only negotiates to buy time. It
never wished to regain the Golan Heights. Its negotiations were aimed at
maintaining the “no war, no peace” policy with Israel, which served both
Even during the two times when the regime
surrendered, no negotiations were held. In 1999, it expelled Kurdish leader
Abdullah Ocalan when Turkey threatened to invade Syria. Before that, the regime
was adamant that it was not hosting him, despite evidence provided by Ankara in
1998 such as the address of the apartment where he stayed in Damascus, his
phone numbers, and a list of people who had spoken with him.
In the second surrender, the regime pulled
its troops out of Lebanon amid protests against it following the 2005
assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Lebanese had no doubt that
the regime was behind the crime.
Failure in Geneva
Based on experiences from the recent past,
it is unlikely that anything will be achieved in Geneva. U.N. special envoy for
Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has become a mere manager of the crisis. His
incapability is not only because he knows nothing about Syria, its people or
the regime, but also because Russia and Iran do not want a solution. Both
countries are willing to provide the regime with cover to annihilate and
displace the Syrian people.
There is no Russian or Iranian war against
the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), only against the Syrian people and
the moderate opposition in an attempt to bolster the regime so the opposition
accepts a national unity government. However, the fact is that most Syrians
reject the regime.
The only positive from Geneva is that the
opposition did not boycott the talks. On the contrary, it reiterated its demand
for a plan for the regime’s departure. The U.S. surrender to Russia over Syria
will not foster progress, but can the status quo continue indefinitely? The
Americans and Russians have no desire to end the crisis. All that can be said
of the Geneva talks, which are set to last for six months, are that they aim to
end Syria itself.
This article first appeared in Al Arab on
Feb. 7, 2016.
Khairallah Khairallah is an Arab columnist who was formerly Annahar’s
foreign editor (1976-1988) and Al-Hayat’s managing editor (1988-1998).
10 February 2016
In the event of victory for Saudi Arabia
and its allies in Yemen, Yemeni politicians - including the Houthis, should
they wish - would return to dialogue to build a country that is not governed by
a dictator or a single political or sectarian faction. However, a
Russian-Iranian victory in Syria will maintain an oppressive sectarian regime that
caused the ongoing revolution, and will threaten global security.
The situation is as dangerous as the Cuban
missile crisis or the 1958 Middle East crisis, imperiling a region that is
important for the global economy. So why can Washington not see that Russia’s
thwarting of negotiations in Geneva, and the continuation of its fierce war in
Syria, constitute a threat to world peace?
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry cannot
be that naïve to believe he can convince the Syrian opposition to partner with
President Bashar al-Assad to fight terrorism. What is wrong with the Americans?
Why do they not listen to Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir when he says
his country will militarily support the opposition if negotiations fail?
Saudi Arabia’s responsibility is to protect
its national security, given that a Russian-Iranian victory in Syria will have
negative repercussions on Saudi internal affairs.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has
made similar statements about his country’s support for the Syrian opposition,
raising speculation in Turkish media about whether Ankara will be part of the
Islamic military alliance announced by Riyadh last month. It is widely known
that both countries reject a Russian-Iranian victory in Syria. The time has
come for Washington to understand that the Saudis and Turks are not bluffing.
Americans would consider Turkish
intervention in northern Syria, or Saudi shipment of surface-to-air missiles to
the rebels, as a threat to world peace. This is how they should have viewed
Russian and Iranian interference in Syria. Washington must take an immediate
firm stance against this.
Saudi Arabia’s responsibility is to protect
its national security, given that a Russian-Iranian victory in Syria will have
negative repercussions on Saudi internal affairs. Luckily, Turkey - another
major regional power - shares the same concern because a Russian-Iranian
victory would lead to their permanent presence south of its borders, allowing
for the expansion of a Kurdish state or zone of influence.
Why is this so unclear to Washington? Is it
because of its withdrawal policy that President Barack Obama will be proud of
when he writes his memoirs and describes how he protected his country from the
sectarian wars of the Middle East? Riyadh must not take U.S. cooperation for
granted. There are opponents waiting for any loophole to allow them to turn the
table on us. Yemen and Syria represent the same battle, for us and them.
What is happening in Syria threatens world
peace. It is leading to the rise of far-right parties in Europe. In Jordan, the
refugee issue is no longer just humanitarian but also political, a source of
concern to King Abdullah and his government. He used the term “boiling” to
refer to the state of his country when dealing with the flood of refugees.
His government said the longer the conflict
rages, the less likely it is that Syrian refugees will return home. It expects
some of them to settle in Jordan, which suffers from a weak economy, while the
rest will not leave for many years. Regardless of who wins the war, and even if
it ends tomorrow, they have no place to go back to.
These painful details should be told to
Washington, which must take part in and keep pace with Saudi political and
military activity in the region. The United States is an important player
because it can face Russia. We should remind the Americans that the Syrian
crisis has crossed regional, European and Asian borders.
Everyone to Blame for Failure of Syria
International leaders are blaming Russia
for the failure of the Geneva talks on Syria, and the general paralysis of the
peace process. Moscow is blamed for causing an enormous number of casualties
due to its bombings, for increasing the refugee flow to neighbouring countries,
and for blindly supporting President Bashar al-Assad. Russian denials are
unconvincing, which makes such accusations more persuasive.
It is useless to deny that Russia’s purpose
in Syria is not only to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), but
to back the full-scale offensive of Assad’s forces. It is counterproductive to
proclaim that the fight in Aleppo is against ISIS or terrorists, because it is
commonly known that it is a stronghold of Syrian rebels.
There is a strong feeling that all sides
are convinced, but cannot officially admit, that the Syrian conflict can only
be settled militarily.
It is counterproductive to deny civilian
casualties when this is inevitable with any airstrikes targeting populated
areas. Those of the U.S.-led coalition are always causing civilian causalities,
but media coverage of that is scant. It is counterproductive to present a
scenario of righteous fighters against evil, because on the Syrian battlefield
no one is righteous. Such disavowals of evident things undermine reputations
and positions in any negotiation process.
We are living in an era of high-speed
information, where anyone can not only consume information but generate it,
sharing eye-witnesses accounts on social media. What can be more reliable than
proof from witnesses?
Moscow has good negotiating proposals,
which U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledges. However, he has said
fairly that if their purpose is to allow the continuation of Russian
airstrikes, they are useless and no one will agree to them.
Taking into account that Syrian rebels
appear mostly abandoned by their Western allies, and that pro-Assad forces have
been strengthened by Russian airstrikes and weaponry, the complete defeat of
Syrian rebels on the ground seems the most plausible scenario. Under such
circumstances, the Syrian opposition is extremely weakened at the negotiating
Russia’s participation in the war and in
diplomacy does not help talks, but it is not the only one to blame for their
failure. The Syrian opposition has not united its ranks or elaborated a common
position and approach. In addition, the absence of Kurdish representatives in negotiations
due to Turkish opposition is absurd, because the Kurds play a huge role in the
fate of Syria and Iraq, and the fight against ISIS.
Iran pursuing its own interests, on the
ground and at the negotiation table, does not help talks. Neither does Gulf
states’ willingness to launch ground operations against ISIS as part of the
U.S.-led coalition, as they would most likely support Syrian rebels against
pro-Assad forces. No player at the negotiating table is contributing to the
success of the political process.
There is a strong feeling that all sides
are convinced, but cannot officially admit, that the Syrian conflict can only
be settled militarily. The problem is that military means complicate the
situation, especially from a global perspective. Unfortunately, the possibility
of a political resolution has been dramatically undermined by Russian
airstrikes, which are officially against ISIS but have concentrated on rebel
Moscow and Assad will defeat the rebels and
terrorists, but also crush hopes for justice, a political transition and
Why I'd Vote for Trump, but YouShouldn’t
10 Feb 2016
There are at least three reasons why Donald
Trump is leading in the United States Republican primaries, three more why I
would vote for him, and another three reasons why sensible Americans shouldn't.
As he trumps the other Republican
candidates, Trump's popularity figures contradict most predictions of an early
If this outsider who defies all scepticism
maintains his lead into March, the Republican establishment will have no choice
but to embrace the obnoxious New York contractor as one of its own.
Sanders and Trump win big in New Hampshire
This in effect should guarantee Trump the
Republican nomination and set the US, and indeed the rest of the world, on an
unpredictable path comes November.
Causes for Success
The first reason for Trump's popularity on
the right stems primarily from the angry and frustrated white Americans,
especially male voters, who have been screwed by the financial crisis, rising
inequality, and a shrinking middle class.
This malaise on the right, or what former
President Bill Clinton aptly called, white America's "broken heart",
is being channelled in two very opposite directions.
Many of those whites on the left support
Bernie Sanders - apparently more than Hillary Clinton - but unfortunately,
those on the right who have been led to believe that changing demographics,
illegal immigrants and Muslims cause their misfortunes, support Trump.
Those on the right who have been led to
believe that changing demographics, illegal immigrants and Muslims cause their
misfortunes, support Trump.
Second, Americans are increasingly bitter
and disappointed by the Republican and Democratic party establishments, both of
which are at the mercy of "special interests", powerful lobbies, and
On the left, millions of Democrats and independents
have donated an average of $20-plus to support Sanders against Wall Street.
But on the right, the culturally and
economically disenfranchised white Americans seek refuge in Trump the
billionaire, the party outsider, who boasts of his independence of "Big
Business" thanks to his own personal big business. Quite the paradox.
And last, by supporting Trump the political
outsider, more and more Americans are expressing their bitterness, hostility
and downright disgust with the Washington establishment, and its so-called
beltway politics and its political paralysis over the past decade. For lack of
horses, Republicans are saddling dogs, better yet, a bulldog.
The Perils of a Trump
Trump is dangerous. But contrary to
conventional wisdom, his potential danger lies not in his political or
ideological extremism but rather his vulgar populism.
What seems like off-the-cuff spouts of
racism against Latinos, Asians or Muslims is in fact a carefully considered
appeasement of white angry Americans? If America is somewhat in the middle of a
"nervous breakdown", expect this racist demagogue to make more false
promises to gain traction or get validation.
Second, Trump's paranoiac reflections and
solutions bring out the worst in Americans. His explicit support for torture,
banning Muslims, breaking international agreements and reversing healthcare,
among other things, doesn't bode well for the future of the US or its role in
And third, as Trump gains momentum and
moves centre-stage, his neo-fascist demagogy and racism become the new norm on
the Right and eventually an acceptable discourse in the US.
What thus far had been the political
rhetoric of the fringe, has been amplified by the electoral process, and is
growing into a regressive force in US politics and culture. Indeed, by way of
food for thought, this McDonald offers more of the same mass, fast and cheap
recipes for disaster.
Bearing in mind…
So why, in light of the above, would I vote
Well, first because I usually tend to bet
on the losing horse. Be that a movie director in the Oscars, a company stock, a
team, or any racehorse, metaphorically speaking. My preference is like a spell,
a curse on the ill-fated.
Second, at the risk of sounding
disingenuous, I assume that if I publicise my support for Trump, it might -
just might - create certain doubt in the minds of the insecure, the
short-sighted and the ignorant bigots who are not 100 percent sure about Trump.
And last, what does it matter who I'd vote
for when I can't or don't vote.
Marwan Bishara is the senior political analyst at Al Jazeera.
Feb 11, 2016
I DON’T think it is acceptable or
permissible to fetch a lawyer from an Arab country to take up a case in a Saudi
court. Suppose this is permissible, then the fee charged by this expatriate
lawyer, along with the charges for his travel and stay, would not even be one
quarter of the exorbitant and illogical fees charged by a Saudi lawyer.
I think it is high time that we looked into
lawyers’ fees and started regulating them. It is also high time that we enacted
a bylaw that would set official rates for legal services. Leaving the matter in
the current absurd and random state invites a lot of personal judgments that
may lead to people being conned.
What draws one’s attention is the fees
charged by law offices. They differ completely from one firm to another. This
is due to fees for legal services being unregulated. Furthermore, there is no
floor or ceiling for a lawyer’s fees in a legal case.
A woman wrote a letter informing me that
her lawyer demanded fees for her divorce case that exceeded her dowry, which
she had to return to her ex-husband according to the judge’s order. So where is
the supervision over lawyers’ firms or offices?
The lawyer’s fee is one of his rights.
However, when this fee exceeds a reasonable, logical level, then it has gone
beyond his financial dues, which he deserves for representing a client. I know
there are people who will say that the absence of a bylaw specifying lawyers’
fees is due to the differences between cases.
But this is not a difficult matter. If the
authorities concerned list the cases being heard in courts, then they can enact
a bylaw establishing lawyers’ fees within appropriate criteria. The cases can
be grouped into categories evaluated according to the reputation of the lawyer
or law firm and the lawyer’s experience. It is also unjust to set the same
charges for legal services provided by an experienced lawyer having an
excellent reputation and a newly qualified lawyer.
This classification and regulation of
lawyers’ fees is important, as it would protect lawyers and plaintiffs alike.
The fees should not be left in the current chaotic manner, allowing some law
offices to charge whatever they like for representing clients in court. This is
a humanitarian profession in the first place and its first objective is to
defend the client’s right. How can a lawyer searching for the truth deny his
client the right to pay a just fee that suits the case?
It is true that the legal profession is
nascent in the Kingdom. Everything at its start is considered to be in an
experimental stage in which there are both positive and negative results, but
this should not prevent the existence of a bylaw that protects all from some
people’s greed or attempt to profiteer from humanitarian issues.
The exorbitant fees set by some law offices
contradict the lofty message of the legal profession. Some people are forced to
relent on a lawyer’s demand for an illogical fee in return for assistance to
get a verdict that pleases them. This cannot happen if we revere this
The matter cannot be left to personal judgment.
Without a bylaw governing lawyers’ rates and a practical body to supervise it,
this profession will be lost amid the trade-off and greed by some lawyers.
Hence, our happiness over the existence and spread of this profession in our
society won’t be complete.