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 Negotiated
By Khairallah Khairallah
World Peace versus Saudi National Security
By Jamal Khashoggi
Everyone To Blame For Failure Of Syria Diplomacy
By Maria Dubovikova
Why I'd Vote for Trump, but YouShouldn’t
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
By Ramzy Baroud
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 se.
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 considered.
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 Gaza."
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 confrontation.”
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 in Gaza.
"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
By Khairallah Khairallah
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 parties.
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).
World Peace versus Saudi National Security
By Jamal Khashoggi
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 Diplomacy
By Maria Dubovikova
10 February 2016
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 table.
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 strongholds also.
Moscow and Assad will defeat the rebels and terrorists, but also crush hopes for justice, a political transition and diplomatic resolution.
Why I'd Vote for Trump, but YouShouldn’t
By Marwan Bishara
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 demise.
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 primary
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 big money.
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 the world.
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 for Trump?
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.
Saudi Lawyers’ Fees Illogical
By Samar Al-Mogren
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 respectable profession.
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.