New Age Islam
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Middle East Press ( 11 Apr 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Yemen Has a New Chance for Peace: New Age Islam's Selection, 12 April 2016

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

12 April 2016

Yemen Has a New Chance for Peace

By Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi

Why Egypt?

By Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

Five Days That Changed the Face of the Region

By Turki Al-Dakhil

Why the Middle East Needs Saudi-Iranian Rapprochement

By Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

Arab Spring: Unreformed Policing Hampers Transitions

By Yezid Sayigh

Palestinian Lives Do Matter

By Ramzy Baroud

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Yemen Has a New Chance for Peace

By Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi

Apr 12, 2016

Even if their truce is honoured in the breach, the fact that two sides in any conflict have agreed, generally through a third party, to cease fighting for just a temporary period, has to be a cause for hope.

The truce between the Yemeni government of Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and the Iranian-backed Houthi insurgents is therefore to be welcomed, however fragile. The United Nations has brokered the ceasefire and tentative peace talks are to be held in Kuwait later this month.

The Saudi-led coalition of Gulf States, which saved the legitimate government of Yemen from imminent defeat and has thrown back the rebels from Aden, is of course backing this search for peace. President Hadi has made it clear that his forces and their allies reserve the right to respond to any breaches in the ceasefire by the Houthi. Past agreements for the guns to fall silent have tragically failed because of the bad faith of the insurgents.

Yet there is a sense that this truce may be more enduring. The reason is not hard to see. The rebels are split and dejected. While it is true that they still hold the capital Sanaa, there is no disguising the truth that their uprising has failed. They believed the assurances of their Iranian sponsors and have paid a terrible price for their gullibility.

The splits within the Houthi leadership, which emerged almost immediately that the Kingdom launched Operation Decisive Storm last year, have become increasingly apparent. Some Houthi notables continue to insist that theirs is a rebellion that can still succeed. But it is now apparent that more and more ordinary insurgents understand that they face only more defeat, death and destruction. There is a sense that they were conned by the Iranians into a rebellion over issues, which could have been resolved peaceably through negotiation. There is also growing anger against those leaders who insist that the fight must go on.

Very understandably ordinary Houthis are increasingly asking themselves why they should continue to try and defy the Hadi government and the might of its Saudi-led Gulf allies. There seems to be an ever-greater appreciation that this is not really their war but Iran’s war, except that they, the Houthis, are the ones doing the fighting and dying, not the Iranians. It can be expected that hard-line Houthis, rather than face the inevitable outcome of the Kuwait negotiations, will do what they can to undermine the truce. Indeed, they probably will not even dare wait until the UN-staged peace talks begin. It is one of the tragedies of so many Houthis, that their leaders rely on duping them into taking up arms, while they themselves seize whatever they can of the many opportunities to prosper financially from the conflict., while staying well clear of the dangerous fighting.

The message in Kuwait will clearly be that only by accepting the UN Security Council demand to give up the territory they have seized, can the Houthi expect peace. Their rebellion has brought massive destruction to one of the world’s poorest countries. What Yemen needs now is the security and stability that will enable it to rebuild and recover. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies have already committed to playing a crucial role in that reconstruction program. But it is absolutely clear that for that to happen, today’s truce must be converted rapidly into tomorrow’s lasting peace.



Why Egypt?

By Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

Apr 12, 2016

“I know what you’d say! So let me start by saying: Egypt is the biggest Arab country in term of population (90m). So is Indonesia (200m), but we are not as interested. Ok, I see it coming … you’d say Egypt is an Arab neighbor, sister and all. I can count other Arab countries and good neighbors in need of our attention, too. So why Egypt?” asked my vocal student.

We should have taught our young more about Egypt. They have missed a lot about the historical journey we had with her. So, I had to explain what schools had not taught them:

“Let me start 14 centuries ago, when our Prophet, peace be upon him, sent a letter to the King of Egypt telling him about his prophecy and inviting him to Islam. The King honoured the messenger of the Prophet and his message. He sent valuable gifts, including a doctor and an Egyptian woman, Maria. The Prophet (pbuh) married her and she gave him a son, Ibrahim. Since then, the land of the Two Holy Mosques and the land of the Great Nile, were eternally joined.

“The holy bond became stronger when Caliph Omar ruled Egypt, and the Pharaoh Land became a minaret of Islamic enlightenment. Al-Azhar University (972 AD) has trained millions of scientist and scholars, for over 1,000 years.

“Egyptian teachers were the first to support our education drive, and Egyptian talents helped our development in every phase, area and direction.

They assisted in managing hospitals, factories, construction companies and civil institutions. Our media, art and cultural organizations were built and maintained with their aid. Till today, over a million Egyptian guest workers are playing a pivotal role in our growth.

“Egypt economy might be down in recent years, but it still is the reservoir of human resources. Where, if not in Egypt, would we find Arab talents in every specialty and profession?

“We need Egypt, as much as they need us. Together we are the wings of the Arab nation, without which we cannot fly. United, we could unite our Ummah and face our enemies. We cannot afford to let Egypt go the way of Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen.

“Our Arab world is in chaos. Iran is spreading hate, war and destruction.

The US-supported Arab Spring had finished what is left and brought us insecurity and disunity. We cannot afford to lose what is left standing.

Egypt is finally getting out of its maze. The new leadership is bringing the country back to economic viability and Arab solidarity. Now, more than any time before, we need to stand shoulder to shoulder and hand in hand with our Egyptian brethren to bring order, peace and security to our firestorm-stricken region.”

My student was mulling over my long and crowded answer to his question. I appreciated his consideration and went on with my class. A week later, he came back with more questions and comments. This time, he did his homework and researched his subject. Most questions were now about the agreements Saudi and Egyptian governments have signed during King Salman’s current visit to Egypt. My answers, it seems, changed his perception.

His next summer holidays, he proudly announced, would be in Egypt.

My last article “Saudi soft power vs. Zion-Iran media,” has generated a heated discussion, like the following comments. Your participation, dear readers, is appreciated.

— As an Algerian, I would like to thank you for your appreciation of us during the Saudi Cultural Week in Algeria, 1984. What you saw then is the true good feelings we have towards our Saudi brethren. I can assure you that all of us are standing hand in hand with you in defence of our holy lands. We are with you through good and bad times. We encourage you to conduct more exhibitions about Saudi Arabia in Arab and Muslim countries and the rest of the world. — Dr. Ali Faghmous

— Being a Pakistani, I have an objection. You wrote: When the Imam of Haram Sharif leads the prayer in Bangladesh, India and Indonesia, millions follow him. True, but you failed to mention Pakistan – the No. 1 ally of Saudi Arabia. Pakistanis are ready to go to any extent to serve and defend the holy land. You should never give priority to India over Pakistan. — Mohammad S. Khattak

— You wrote “…Iran, Israel and Islam’s enemies are using all their propaganda tools to win the argument…” I felt you had an obvious hate towards Iran I am an Iranian drama student and your article raised a serious question for me: Why you think Iranian people are your enemy? Because as an Iranian, I love Arabian culture and civilization. — Davoud Zarif



Five Days That Changed the Face of the Region

By Turki Al-Dakhil

11 April 2016

“The announcement to build the King Salman Bridge between Saudi Arabia and Egypt is the most important Arab decision since World War II.” This was the message I received from an Algerian colleague on Saudi Arabia’s King Salman’s visit to Egypt.

This is not just an important visit but the most important meeting between two Arab leaders as several significant decisions have been made.

The Saudi delegation accompanying King Salman on his five-day visit to Egypt included Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 14 ministers, six high-ranking officials and more than 20 princes.

The decisions taken included demarcating the maritime borders. More than 20 agreements have been reached apart from the projects which will involve both the government and the private sector.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt are the Arab nation’s two poles. They unify and bring Arab countries together thus pleasing friends and displeasing enemies

During his visit, the Saudi king also addressed the Egyptian parliament, visited al-Azhar University and met with Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II.

Regional Support

Most of these Saudi-Egyptian agreements were reached in the presence of Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed, the United Arab Emirates’ national security advisor, and Marzouq al-Ghanim, the speaker of the Kuwaiti National Assembly. This demonstrates that Gulf countries stand with Riyadh in support of Egypt.

The efforts made by the Saudi-Egyptian coordination council have yielded results in this longest visit of a Saudi king to a country. This visit has also been the most important in the region’s history.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt are the Arab nation’s two poles. They unify and bring Arab countries together thus pleasing friends and displeasing enemies. To show how valuable Egypt is to the Saudis, it is enough to recall King Salman’s tweet upon his arrival to Cairo.

“Egypt has a special place in my heart. We, in the Saudi Kingdom, are proud of it and of our strategic relationship which is significant to the Arab and Muslim worlds. May God protect Egypt and its people,” he said.


Why The Middle East Needs Saudi-Iranian Rapprochement

By Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

12 April 2016

A prominent Iranian clergyman living in the West recently told me US Secretary of State John Kerry told him he was willing to visit Tehran.

I replied that I would be happier to hear that the Saudi foreign minister wanted to visit Tehran - that would be more helpful given the regional situation. While a visit by Kerry is possible, it certainly would not happen in the near future.

Currently, implementation of the nuclear deal is the biggest challenge for the government of President Hassan Rowhani, and most Iranians blame Washington for the difficulties.

Hope for rapprochement following the deal has been dashed by the supreme leader and his supporters, who believe the United Sates poses the biggest threat to them.


With this mentality, and confrontational behaviour toward Iran’s neighbours, achieving meaningful diplomatic progress over Yemen and Syria looks difficult. Last week, Kerry called on Tehran to help bring peace to both countries, but what help can Rowhani give when he is under pressure from hardliners? His priorities are implementing the nuclear deal and improving the economy.

While everyone wants an end to the bloodshed in Syria and Yemen, there are no direct contacts between Iran and Saudi Arabia - both major regional players - to discuss these issues

Washington and its Western allies can help Iran play a productive regional and international role by boosting its economy. However, they cannot influence its relations with countries in the region amid mutual animosity and accusations of meddling in each other’s internal affairs.

Restrictions on buying Iranian oil have been lifted, but there is little room in the market if Saudi Arabia will not decrease production. Iran’s oil minister has vowed to increase production, but this will drive prices down, to the detriment of both countries.

While everyone wants an end to the bloodshed in Syria and Yemen, there are no direct contacts between Iran and Saudi Arabia - both major regional players - to discuss these issues, since Riyadh severed ties in January following attacks against its diplomatic missions in Iran.

Regional peace is unlikely without both countries resolving their differences. They have never had excellent relations, not even during the shah’s reign, but at least there was mutual understanding and respect at the time.



Arab Spring: Unreformed Policing Hampers Transitions

By Yezid Sayigh

11 Apr 2016

The fifth anniversary of the uprisings that challenged autocratic rulers in six Arab states in 2011 has generated many retrospective reflections.

Some commentators insist that analysis of ongoing social and political processes cannot be reduced to simple "success or failure", as these terms understate the transformation of every dimension of the region's politics.

Others conclude that the uprisings and their aftermath should be re-labelled an Arab Winter, rather than Spring. Instead of delivering on hopes for political reform and social justice, most governments have responded with "more war and violence", as Amnesty International summarised it, "and a crackdown on people who dare to speak out for a fairer, more open society".

State Brittleness

Renewed repression of dissent stands in stark contrast to the eruption of pent-up anger in 2011, which focused on abusive police forces and internal security services.

But while most thoughtful commentators agree that authoritarian rule has intensified in all cases except Tunisia, they also note the severely degraded institutional cohesion and capacity that is bringing into question the resilience and very survival of several Arab Spring states - and of others that underwent earlier forms of transition following armed conflict and occupation.

Governing political structures are more closed to dialogue and their coercive agencies harsher than ever, blocking any meaningful reforms, but the states they run are also more brittle.

Government legitimacy is determined by its ability to repress political or social actors that are seen as threatening ... resulting in a restoration of authoritarian practices.

Nowhere is the connection between intensified authoritarianism and state brittleness more evident than in what we loosely label policing: law enforcement and the maintenance of public order.

Policing, along with the related formal criminal justice system, was already in serious disrepair even before 2011, but has degenerated far further amid tumultuous transitional politics.

Wrong Type of Reforms

The challenge now is to rebuild and reform security sectors - police, security, and paramilitary agencies and others such as customs departments - that have retreated into sullen passivity or else retrenched in aggressive hostility towards citizens and activists.

But the generic frameworks through which Western governments and international organisations conventionally approach the task are inadequate.

These focus heavily on providing security sectors with technical training, management skills, codes of conduct, and procedural rules to ensure "democratic governance" and "civilian oversight" through financial transparency and legal and political accountability.

These outcomes are indisputably desirable, but remain highly nebulous in practice.

Indeed, the overwhelming emphasis on technical approaches risks improving the security sector's ability to deploy coercive tactics and equipment more efficiently, while reducing still further any incentives to comply with the rule of law and respect human and citizens' rights.

In a context in which the social contract, national identity, and the state itself are broken or being renegotiated - often amid intervention by regional and international powers - the very nature and purpose of policing, which is a defining function of modern states, are in doubt.

Dilemmas Ahead

Three kinds of dilemmas stand in the way of security sector reform.

The first is "hyperpoliticisation": Every aspect of transition becomes a zero-sum contest between rival political camps, paralysing governance.

For large numbers of citizens, government legitimacy is determined by its ability to repress political or social actors that are seen as threatening - rather than on its readiness to deliver democracy, rule of law, and human rights - resulting in a restoration of authoritarian practices.

As a result, violence becomes the "currency" through which both governance and opposition are exercised.

The high financial cost of modernising and professionalising security sectors poses a second, "political economy" dilemma.

Trimming grossly inflated security sectors affects unemployment negatively, adding to social strains. But ending the extensive involvement of security sectors in corruption and criminal economic activities poses a greater challenge.

These trends evolved from more than two decades of crony economic liberalisation and predatory privatisation, but have intensified sharply as transitions in Arab states weakened regulatory frameworks and oversight mechanisms, "democratising" corruption.

And finally, Arab transitions have revealed the divergence of views and expectations within society regarding the purpose of policing.

We think of the police mainly as crime fighters and guardians of public peace in the streets; but more important is their role in maintaining the dominant social and economic order and curbing dissent.

The breakdown of social contracts and manipulation of constitutional order has deepened divergences within society over the values and moral economy to be upheld by the police, and prompted growing resort to informal providers of security and customary law, including so-called Islamic and tribal forms.

Restoring effective policing is crucial in order to rebuild social peace, resume economic development and growth, and reintegrate deeply divided political systems and broken state institutions - anchoring them in credible constitutional frameworks.

But as these dilemmas show, divergences over what constitutes an acceptable social order, moral economy, and shared national identity have become fundamental.

Unless they are bridged and enable genuinely reformed policing, Arab states in transition are condemned to descend into ever deepening civil strife.



Palestinian Lives Do Matter

By Ramzy Baroud

12 April 2016

An Israeli Jewish man, who joined large protests throughout Israel in support of a soldier who calmly, and with precision killed a wounded Palestinian man in Al-Khalil (Hebron), said, “Whether he made a mistake or not, is a trivial question.”

The protesting Jewish man described Palestinians as “barbaric,” “bestial,” who should not be perceived as people.

This is hardly a fringe view in Israel. The vast majority of Israelis, 68 percent, support the killing of Abdel Fatah Yusri Al-Sharif, 21, by the soldier who had reportedly announced before firing at the wounded Palestinian that the “terrorist had to die.”

The killing scene would have been relegated to the annals of the many “contested” killings by Israeli soldiers, were it not for a Palestinian field worker with Israel’s human rights group, B’Tselem, who filmed the bloody event.

The incident, once more, highlights a culture of impunity that exists in the Israeli Army, which is not a new phenomenon. Not only is Israeli society supportive of the soldier behind this particular bloody incident, almost a vast majority is in support of field executions as well.

In fact, the culture of impunity in Israel is linked both to political leanings and religious beliefs. According to the latest Peace Index released by Tel Aviv University’s Israel Democracy Institute, nearly 67 percent of the country’s Jewish population believes that “it is a commandment to kill a terrorist who comes at you with a knife”.

Killing Palestinians as a form of religious duty goes back to the early days of the Jewish state, and such beliefs are constantly corroborated by the country’s high spiritual institutions, similar to the recent decree issued by the country’s Chief Sephardic Rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef. While 94 percent of ultra-Orthodox agree with the murder edict of Yosef, 52 percent of the country’s secularists do, too.

In fact, dehumanizing Palestinians — describing them as “beasts,” “cockroaches,” or treating them as dispensable inferiors — has historically been a common denominator in Israeli society, uniting Jews from various political, ideological and religious backgrounds.

Rabbi Yosef’s decree, for example, is not much different from statements made by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and other army and government official, who made similar calls, albeit without utilizing a strongly worded religious discourse.

Using the same logic, the quote above describing Palestinians as beasts is not divergent from a recent statement made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “At the end, in the State of Israel, as I see it, there will be a fence that spans it all,” Netanyahu said in February. “In the area that we live, we must defend ourselves against the wild beasts,” he added.

While pro-Israeli Pundits labour to explain the widespread Israeli perception of Palestinians — and Arabs, in general — on rational grounds, logic and commonsense continues to evade them. For instance, Netanyahu’s last war on Gaza in the summer of 2014 killed a total of 2,251 Palestinians — including 1,462 civilians, among them 551 children, according to a report prepared by the UN Human Rights Council. During that war, only six Israeli civilians were killed and 60 soldiers. Who, then, is truly the “wild beast”?

However, Palestinians are not made into beasts because of their supposedly murderous intent for, not once, statistically, in the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict did Palestinians ever kill more Israelis, as opposed to the other way round. The ailment is not the number, but a common Israeli cultural perception that is utterly racist and dehumanizing.

Nor is the Israeli perception of Palestinians ever linked to a specific period of time, for example, a popular uprising or a war. Consider this eyewitness account from August 2012, cited in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, years before the current uprising in the West Bank and Jerusalem:

“Today I saw a lynch with my own eyes, in Zion Square, the center of the city of Jerusalem … and shouts of ‘A Jew is a soul and Arab is a son of a —,’ were shouted loudly and dozens of youths ran and gathered and started to really beat to death three Arab youths who were walking quietly in the Ben Yehuda street,” the witness wrote.

“When one of the Palestinian youths fell to the ground, the youths continued to hit him in the head; he lost consciousness, his eyes rolled, his angled head twitched, and then those who were kicking him fled while the rest gathered around in a circle, with some still shouting with hate in their eyes.”

Imagine this graphic account repeated, in different manifestations, every day in Occupied Palestine, and consider this: Rarely does anyone pay a price for it. Indeed, this is how Israel’s culture of impunity has evolved over the years.

According to Israeli human rights group, Yesh Din, “approximately 94 percent of criminal investigations launched by the IDF against soldiers suspected of criminal violent activity against Palestinians and their property are closed without any indictments. In the rare cases that indictments are served, conviction leads to very light sentencing.”

And no one is immune. Israel’s 972Mag wrote in December 2015 about the hundreds of violent incidents of Israeli forces targeting Palestinian medical staff. Palestinian rights group, Al-Haq, documented 56 cases in which “ambulances were attacked,” and 116 assaults against medical staff while on duty.

How about violence meted out by illegal settlers whose population in the Occupied Territories is constantly on the increase?

In case one is still fooled by the “rational” argument used to justify the murder of militarily occupied, oppressed and besieged Palestinians, Batzalel Smotrich, from the Jewish Home Party, which is part of Netanyhu's ruling coalition, protested via twitter that his wife was expected to give birth in the same hospital room where Arab babies are born.

The likes of Smotrich, and the majority of Israelis are morally blind to their own wrongdoing. They have long been sold on the idea that Israel, despite its brutality is a “villa in the jungle.” According to a recent Pew survey, nearly half of Israelis want to expel Palestinians Arabs — Muslims and Christians, from their ancestral homeland.

The danger of impunity is not merely the lack of legal accountability, but the fact that it is the very foundation of most violent crimes against humanity, including genocide. This impunity began seven decades ago and it will not end without international intervention, with concerted efforts to hold Israel accountable in order to bring the agony of Palestinians to a halt.