Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Unraveling Middle East - Part 1


by David Walsh

The Middle East is in the grip of unprecedented upheaval. Libya is torn by civil war. Egypt and Tunisia have seen their long-time leaders ousted. Bahrain, Jordan and Yemen are wracked by protests, as is Saudi Arabia, with more planned in Lebanon and Kuwait. Oman has seen violence, and demonstrations swept Iraq as well. Both Algeria and Morocco are also experiencing unrest.

The causes of these uprisings are varied but unsurprising. Political repression, corruption, and poverty are key issues to the throngs that have taken to the streets. These complaints have been long-simmering, and while the scope of the protests has been surprising, the fact that popular unrest has occurred is not.

What has not been fully foreseen is just what effect these events will have on the balance of power in the Middle East, and across the globe. While the chaos is perplexing, a more disturbing scenario is beginning to emerge. While it might not be directly involved in every case of upheaval, Iran is becoming a clear beneficiary of it. Indeed, it may be that we are witnessing a major shift in the geopolitical balance of world power, one that could pit Iran against the West in a global conflict.

Already, there are signs of Iran’s taking advantage of the situation for its benefit. On February 24, two Iranian warships transited the Suez Canal and docked at the Syrian port of Latakia. Two days later, Iran and Syria signed an accord providing for an Iranian naval base at the port. This is a profound development. An Iranian base in the Mediterranean allows Teheran to considerably expand its naval reach, which has been growing thanks to exercises in the Red Sea. Along with such overt activity, Iran has benefited from developments in Egypt in other ways. The once-tight control Egypt exercised in the Sinai has been seriously weakened. This has allowed Hamas, backed by Iran, to infiltrate from Gaza, and for Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists to break out of Egyptian jails. Thus Iran’s proxies threaten Israel along its long and vulnerable Sinai border, adding to the pressure Israel faces from Gaza and Lebanon. Moreover, the growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in post-Mubarak Egypt, and its close ties to Iran, might see a pro-Iranian state emerge, which would have severe strategic consequences for the West.

To this can be added the upheaval in Yemen. Iran supports Shia rebels in that country, and can be expected to provide support for a new government if the current regime falls. Then there’s Bahrain. With its large Shia population, and given that it is headquarters for the U.S. 5th Fleet, the overthrow of the island emirate would transform the power balance in the Gulf. Already reports indicate that a Facebook group has been formed to call for protests in Qatar for March 16. Among the demands are the closing of a U.S. base and the Emir’s resignation. While there are calls for breaking ties to both Israel and Iran, events in Egypt are showing that Islamist forces—which would be backed by Iran here—can certainly gain stature, reversing any anti-Iranian positions.

The upheaval in Kuwait together with the probability of unrest in Saudi Arabia, would also benefit Iran, since there are large Shia populations in these Gulf States.

These developments would see Iran, by proxy, exercising control over several vital areas. The Red Sea could in effect be shut off to the West. The impunity with which Iranian ships passed through Suez means that even a pro-Western Egypt would be unlikely to return to Mubarak’s policy of blocking such transits. One hostile to the West could see the Canal closed off, with severe repercussions given that 20 percent of the world’s oil and 40 percent of its seaborne trade pass through it. A pro-Iranian Yemen could also jeopardize the Strait of Bab el-Mandeb, gateway to the Indian Ocean. Worse, Shia uprisings in the Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia, would directly threaten the key source of the global oil supply. Given the spike in prices that occurred after the upheaval in Libya, such a development would be catastrophic for the world economy. There is evidence that some of this is occurring. On February 5, Hamas saboteurs blew up Egypt’s main natural gas line to Israel and Jordan, causing massive increases to these countries’ energy bills. A February 26 attack on Iraq’s Baiji oil refinery, its largest, by al Qaeda cells controlled by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, caused severe damage, which could see it closed for weeks. All this helps increase world prices and, more importantly, add to instability in the region.

Such a chain of events could see Iran in a much stronger position than it was just a month ago. Given the messianic views of the current leadership, and its perception that the balance of power is shifting in their favor, a confrontation with the West becomes ever more likely.

(In Part 2, Iran’s military capabilities, together with its ties to proxies outside the Middle East, are examined.)

Original URL: http://frontpagemag.com/2011/03/18/the-unraveling-middle-east/

David Walsh has a Ph.D from the London School of Economics and is the author of book, The Military Balance in the Cold War: US Perceptions and Policy, 1976-85.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Iran's Charm Offensive in Africa


by Anna Mahjar-Barducci

It is worrisome to notice that Iran has a free hand in dealing with Sub-Saharan countries -- largely due to the void of influence left by the U.S. and Europe, whose strategic and economic interests for Africa appear to be dwindling.

Iran has not yet succeeded in fully securing its friendships in the region; a strong response from the U.S. and Europe is needed to deter Iran from getting support from African countries and from continuing to spread its anti-Western propaganda.

Over the past few years, Iran has increased its efforts to break its isolation to soften the consequences of the sanctions imposed by the international community. It did so by looking for new allies in developing countries, especially in the African continent. These news friends were identified among the dictatorial regimes in Africa that could easily be lured into trading political support for some financial aid. However, Iran's charm offensive has been marked by some severe mishaps due to its inveterate habit of meddling into other countries' internal affairs.

Iranian Arms Shipment to Nigeria

In late October 2010, Nigerian officials seized in Lagos' Apapa Port, the largest shipping port in the country, thirteen shipping containers of weapons, including 107mm artillery rockets, rifle rounds and arms. The rockets can accurately hit targets more than 8.5 kilometers away, with a 12-meter killing radius. Terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq have used similar rockets against U.S. troops. China, Iran, the United States, and Russia manufacture versions of the rocket[1]. The seizure came after a twin car bombing on October 1st (Nigeria's Independence Day) in Abuja, which killed at least twelve people and injured many others. The discovery sparked new concerns, as Nigeria presidential elections are set to be held in April 2011.

The investigation that followed quickly showed that Iran was behind this shipment. One of the first hypotheses was that the shipment of arms was destined for the Gaza Strip, however further investigating showed instead that the final destination was Gambia, a small country, totally encircled by Senegal except for a short coastline on the Atlantic Ocean. A French-based international cargo shipper, CMA CGM, has said that one of its ships picked up the containers from Bandar Abbas, a port in southern Iran. "The consignment did originate in Iran," said Nigerian FM Odein Ajumogobia "That has been confirmed from our own shipping documents, and the Iranian authorities have also confirmed that the consignment originated in Iran".

The cargo was labeled "Building Materials," and later transferred to a warehouse in Lagos. Media have reported that the consignee was a Nigerian, and that the goods were originally meant for an address in the Nigerian capital, Abuja. The cargo was intercepted when it returned to the port to be re-exported to a third country, Gambia. Nigeria reported the seizure to the United Nations Security Council.

Two men are facing trial in Nigeria in connection with the seizure of the cargo: Azim Aghajani, an alleged Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and Nigerian suspect Ali Abbas Jega.

Gambia-Iran Relations

In November 2010, in reaction to the that weapons shipment having Gambia as its final destination, the Gambian government cut diplomatic ties with Iran and asked the Iranian diplomats to leave the country within 48 hours. "All Government of Gambia projects and programs, that were being implemented in cooperation with the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran have been cancelled," the Gambian Foreign Ministry stated[2].

Prior to the crisis, Iran and Gambia -- which supported Teheran's right to develop nuclear capabilities -- enjoyed a good diplomatic and economic relationship. Relations between the two states took off after the eccentric Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh, came to power in 1994. The French news agency Afrik reports that their mutual understanding in foreign policy came from a "shared feeling of oppression from the West: Iran under sanctions for its nuclear program and Gambia accused of human rights abuses."[3] In 2006, the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that both nations were under pressure from "bullying" powers, and in November 2009, he visited to Gambia to strengthen ties.

In February 2011, Iran admitted that it had shipped the thirteen containers; disclosed that the cargo was meant to be sent to Gambia as part of a confidential agreement signed three years ago, and that the goods seized were the third of such shipments. Hence, despite four United Nations Security Council sanctions and a ban against Iran's weapon program, Iran admitted to continue supplying arms to African countries, and contributing to the destabilization of the continent.

Iranian Ambassador to Nigeria, Hussein Abdullahi, further stated that "Gambia expelled our diplomat because they felt we had disclosed a confidential agreement which we had." In a press conference, however, when asked why the cache was disguised as building material, he said he did not know, as a private company had handled the shipment.[4] The Iranian ambassador added that Iran did not violate the UN embargo, as the arms sale to Gambia had been contracted in 2008, whereas the Security Council resolution was passed in 2010. However, as reported on the web-based outlet Mianeh, "this argument was redundant as the relevant UN resolution was passed in 2007, not 2010"[5].

Gambian President Jammeh has so far refused to take responsibility for the cache of weapons. It is, however, self-evident that the purchase of grenades and explosives cannot be explained for Gambia's internal security reasons.

Senegal's Reaction

Gambia's neighbor, Senegal, immediately worried about the arms shipment. Dakar feared that, given the Gambian President's alleged relation with Senegal's Southern rebels, the weapons could have ended up in their hands. Senegalese authorities therefore asked Iran to give a clear explanation, as they had reason to think that the final user of the shipment was the "Mouvement des forces Démocratiques de Casamance" [MFDC], a separatist movement in southern Senegal that has been waging a low-level insurgency for independence since the 1980s.

These fears were confirmed when the Senegalese government declared it had evidence that the MFDC rebels were in possession of Iranian weapons. Last February 2011, an outbreak of renewed violence sparked in Senegal's region of Casamance causing the killing of three Senegalese soldiers and wounding another six. The report presented by the Senegalese army chief of staff on the developments in Casamance clearly showed that the MFDC was using sophisticated Iranian arms that had caused the death of Senegalese soldiers. "Senegal is outraged to see that Iranian bullets caused the death of Senegalese soldiers. Therefore, Senegal has decided to sever its diplomatic ties with the Republic of Iran," the Senegalese Foreign Minister, Madické Niang, announced on state television[6].

Senegal cuts relations with Iran

On February 23, 2011, Senegal decided officially to break diplomatic relations with Iran. In December 2010, Senegal had temporarily recalled its ambassador to Tehran. The cut of diplomatic relations was criticized by the Iranian government; Iranian Foreign Ministry called Senegal's "unjustified and illogical."

After mediation conducted by Turkey, however, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade met with Iranian FM Ali Akbar Saheli, Ahmadinejad's man, and authorized the return of its ambassador to Iran. The normalization of relations was accompanied by a cooperation agreement of $100 million between the two countries. However, when the government found out in February that the three Senegalese soldiers have been killed by Iranian weapons, Dakar decided not to normalize anymore relations and cut definitely diplomatic relations with Teheran.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry in a statement said there was no logical reason behind the cutting of ties; it seemed that Senegal has made the decision under foreign influence[7]. The Foreign Ministry also mentioned that unspecified factors must have been behind Senegal's decision. According to the Iranian government, the weapons cache had been a misunderstanding that had nothing to do with the government[8]. The Senegalese FM reasserted that his country could not maintain relations with a country that was working to destabilize it.

Senegal and Iran used to enjoy a good diplomatic and economic relationship. Ahmadinejad even stated that "countries like Iran, Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Gambia and Senegal have the ability to establish a new world order." In 2002, Iran showed an interest in investing in Senegal, including the areas of phosphates, the modernization of railways and the revival of the Senegalese Chemical Industries (ICS). Four years later, the foundations of a car plant in Senegal's city of Thies, Seniran Auto, was launched: 60% of the plant was to be owned by Iran Khodro, 20% by the Senegalese government and 20% by private shareholders[9]. According to the news agency, Afrik, however: "Seniran Auto remains the quintessential proof of an unsuccessful cooperation between Iran and Senegal. The company has, since its inception, sold about fifty cars to individuals. And by virtue of a taxi renewal operation launched by the government, the car company was able to sell 1000 cars"[10].

Conclusion

Iran's handling of external relations with African countries resulted into a failure as Teheran managed to derail its relationship three West African states. As a result of the crisis, Gambia and Senegal cut diplomatic relationship with Iran, and Nigeria needs to stay on the alert. A few weeks after the seizure of the weapons' cargo, another cargo, containing 130 kilograms of concentrated heroin worth nearly $10 million, also originating from Iran and with Europe as its final destination, was intercepted in Lagos, Nigeria, by agents of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency.

The Iranian government does not seem deterred by the misadventures, however, and seems to keep considering African countries strategically necessary to enable it to receive international support for its nuclear program. Iran's interest in Africa is to build a coalition that will stand up for its right to produce nuclear weapons -- as well as to create a block against "Western imperialism." The regime-run Fars News Agency writes: "Tehran has prioritized promotion of its economic and political ties with the African states and the country is now considered as one of the African Union's strategic partners."[11]

[1] http://allafrica.com/stories/201011130019.html
[2] http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2010/11/23/127126.html
[3] http://www.afrik-news.com/article18480.html
[4]http://www.senegambianews.com/article/Latest_News/Latest_News/Arms_seized_in_Nigeria_were_for_Gambia_Iran_ambassador/19478
[5] http://mianeh.net/article/iran%E2%80%99s-african-misadventures
[6] http://www.jollofnews.com/gambia-government-confesses-to-have-received-iranian-weapons.html
[7] http://www.tehrantimes.com/Index_view.asp?code=236383
[8] http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110224/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_iran_senegal
[9] http://www.afrik-news.com/article19020.html
[10] Ibid.
[11] http://en.iccim.ir/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3869:iran-senegal-broadening-ties&catid=103:iran-economy-bulletin

Original URL: http://www.hudson-ny.org/1974/iran-charm-offensive-africa

Anna Mahjar-Barducci

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Hamas Targets Journalists: Media, Human Rights Groups Silent


by Khaled Abu Toameh

In the past few days, at least eight journalists were severly beaten with clubs or summoned for questioning while doing their job in the Hamas-cointrolled Gaza Strip when Hamas policemen in civilian clothes began attacking demonstrators.

Other journalists have had their cameras and notepads confiscated while covering various events that were deemed "provocative" by the Hamas authorities.

Hamas believes that intimidation of the media will prevent the truth from coming out. Like most Arab dictatorships, Hamas does not tolerate stories that reflect negatively on its radical regime in the Gaza Strip - the reason the Hamas government has been cracking down on local journalists who fail to toe the line.

Although some of the journalists who were assaulted work with international news organizations, many of these foreign media outlets ignored the story, apparently out of fear of retribution by the Hamas authorities.

These journalists who chose to defy Hamas should be supported not only by their foreign colleagues, but also by Western governments and human rights organizations.

Otherwise, the day will come when the world will never know what is really happening inside Hamas's Gaza Strip.

In an attempt to divert attention from its repressive measures, the Hamas government this week issued an apology to all Palestinian journalists who were beaten up during their work.

But the apology is nothing but a ploy designed to absorb growing resentment with Hamas's totalitarian regime in the Gaza Strip.

Some Palestinian journalists have succumbed to the threats and violence by changing their profession; others are continuing to do their job despite the dangers; many Palestinian journalists may soon be forced to go underground out of concern for their safety.

The attacks on Palestinian journalists reached their peak on March 15, when Hamas policemen used force to disperse thousands of Palestinians who had gathered in a public square in Gaza City to demand "national unity" between Hamas and Fatah.

The demonstration was part of a Facebook campaign organized by Palestinian youth with the aim of exerting pressure on the two rival parties to end their dispute and form a unity government.

The Foreign Press Association in Israel condemned the assault of Palestinian journalists and said it was "gravely concerned by Hamas's crackdown on the media."

It said that "on a day ostensibly devoted to Palestinian unity, police brutally attacked photographers and cameramen, beating the, breaking equipment and confiscating photos and video footage. This is the latest in a string of chilling attacks on reporters in Gaza."

But the West sits silent.

Original URL: http://www.hudson-ny.org/1975/hamas-targets-journalists

Khaled Abu Toameh

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

NYT Profile: Qadhi a Peaceful Radical


by IPT News

It doesn't set out to do so, but an exhaustive profile of an Islamic cleric in Sunday's New York Times magazine makes the depth and severity of radicalization among some young Muslim Americans very clear.

Reporter Andrea Elliott devotes nearly 8,500 words to Yasir Qadhi, in the article "Why Yasir Qadhi Wants to Talk About Jihad." It casts a picture of a very conservative but generally peaceful Salafi Muslim. As such, he is cast as the ultra-conservative Muslim antidote to al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is credited with inspiring everyone from Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan and would-be terrorists Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and Faisal Shahzad.

But Qadhi, dean of academic affairs at the Houston-based AlMaghrib Institute, rarely is shown aggressively challenging the radical ideas the fuel violent jihad. If anything, he agrees with them, including a notion that the U.S. is at war with Muslims. That message is considered among the most forceful in radicalizing young Muslims into supporting violence.

Like his students, religion is more than a personal belief system to Qadhi. He would like to see "the world … fully adhere to his faith," the story says. He won't say whether he considers attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to be legitimate jihads.

It is due to a delicate balancing act, the story explains. If he speaks too openly about "what kinds of militant actions are permitted by Islamic law," he risks being labeled unpatriotic and possibly even prosecuted, Elliott writes.

When he tells his students to use the power of their votes and their voices, they push back, wondering if that's enough to meet their religious duties.

A female student criticized Qadhi for providing "wishy-washy nonanswers." And she was not persuaded that there are more peaceful ways to pursue jihad. Elliott described it this way: "Being martyred in the battlefield, she said, is 'romantic,' while 'lobbying your congressman is not.'"

He is shown arguing why the failed Christmas Day 2009 bombing of a commercial airliner was wrong under Islam. "There were even Muslims on that plane!" he said. "I mean, what world are you living in? How angry and overzealous are you that you simply forget about everything and you think that this is the way forward?"

But he acknowledges being hesitant to take on some of his students' positions forcefully out of fear he'll be dismissed from their consideration. His students are well educated and seemingly comfortable economically.

But they struggle with the proper Islamic response when America is waging war in Muslim lands. America is a newly hostile country for Muslims, the story says.

"They have watched as their own country wages war in Muslim lands, bearing witness — via satellite television and the Internet — to the carnage in Iraq, the drone attacks in Pakistan and the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo," Elliott writes. "While the dozens of AlMaghrib students I interviewed condemned the tactics of militant groups, many share their basic grievances."

The Times profile notes Qadhi already is derided as a "sellout" on some jihadist web sites. The result, however, may be that he fails on both sides.

In an example not mentioned in the article, Qadhi was unable to state a clear position on the January assassination of a Pakistani governor who was openly critical of that state's blasphemy laws. In an online posting, Qadhi republished an article by a Pakistani writer.

Salman Taseer's murder by a bodyguard was an issue with "many facets and perspectives to consider, and it is simply not possible for an outsider (as we all are here in the West, even if some of us originate from Pakistan) to fully understand the nuances of the situation," Qadhi wrote.

The Pakistani writer offered a "very balanced" assessment, Qadhi wrote, acknowledging "(t)here are clear elements of truth on both sides and clear elements of exaggeration and extremism on both sides as well."

According to the writer Qadhi cited, the issue should be discussed dispassionately. "Representation from different schools of Islamic thought should be gathered," he wrote, "and, together with legal experts, a solution should be sought whereby, at least, the misuse of this law for personal gain or revenge should be curtailed."

Neither writer came out and called the assassination wrong and unacceptable in a modern, civil society.

Vague messages from Qadhi are numerous. In the profile, he advises an audience to heed the law of the land. But, Elliott writes, "their 'responsibilities would be different'" if they lived in Palestine or Iraq. "He did not elaborate."

It is not the only time he has advised people to obey the laws of man even if that means tolerating something they might otherwise act against. In a video posted to YouTube in March 2008, Qadhi responds to a British television program which sent undercover cameras into mosques, finding that "a message of hatred and segregation is being spread throughout the UK" by groups considered moderate and mainstream. That included messages "condemning British democracy as un-Islamic and praising the Taliban for killing British soldiers."

Qadhi accused the producers of editing statements to make them look worse than they were. One part apparently dealt with intolerance toward homosexuals. Islam considers that a sin, Qadhi says in the YouTube clip. "It is a crime against Allah… Are we going to do something against homosexuals? No, we are not. This is not our country. This is not our land," he says. "But we're allowed to speak against it, are we not? Our country has promised us the right to freedom of speech."

Elliott does address blatantly radical statements Qadhi has made in the past. That, he tells her, was "the old me." While he maintains an ultraconservative religious viewpoint, he said he moved away from the violent jihadist perspective.

He traveled to Auschwitz and Dachau last summer, telling Elliott the experience compounded his shame over past remarks about the Holocaust.

Elliott makes a point of showing ways in which Qadhi is like most other Americans. He lives in Memphis, "a long way from the centers of Islamic thought ," calls people "dudes," drives a Honda and enjoys Popeye's "popcorn shrimp and gravy-slathered biscuits."

But he still sees the United States as hostile toward Muslims, Elliott writes, saying those like him, "who engage in controversial rhetoric are treading on thin ice" legally. That was Qadhi's reaction to the conviction of a former mentor, Ali al-Timimi, on terrorist-related charges. Days after 9/11, Timimi urged a group of followers to travel to Pakistan for military training from the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Tayyiba so that they might fight U.S. troops as they invaded Afghanistan.

Elliott minimizes the facts in the case, ignoring the Lashkar training and saying the men merely "practiced shooting at a paintball facility." Presiding federal Judge Leonie Brinkema emphasized that connection when she sentenced Timimi to life in prison. "I don't think any well-read person can doubt the truth that terrorist camps are an essential part of the new terrorism that is perpetrated in the world today," she said. "People of good will need to do whatever they can to stop that."

As Elliott's own newspaper reported, Brinkema rejected the argument that Timimi was punished for his words alone. "This was not a case about speech; this was a case about intent," Brinkema said, finding Timimi meant to incite others to violence against the United States.

After the conviction, Qadhi called Timimi "one of the more sophisticated voices of reason representing orthodox Islam in the Western world" and decried his trial as a "witch hunt."

That Qadhi seems to continue believing Timimi did no wrong in inspiring people to commit violence leaves open whether he is an authentic voice in opposing violent jihad.

Also left unanswered is whether his approach to radical Islam is effective. Abdulmutallab attended AlMaghrib's summer institute 18 months before trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airplane with explosives sewn into his underpants. He had access to the teachings of both Qadhi and Awlaki and chose Awlaki's side.

Original URL: http://www.investigativeproject.org/2703/nyt-profile-qadhi-a-peaceful-radical

IPT News

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Israel’s Indivisible Legitimacy


by Caroline Glick

Over the past several years, a growing number of patriotic Israelis have begun to despair. We can’t stand up to the whole world, they say. At the end of the day, we will have to give in and surrender most of the land or all of the land we took control over in the 1967 Six Day War. The world won’t accept anything less.

These statements have grown more strident in the wake of the slaughter of the Fogel family last Friday night in Itamar. For example, on Thursday Ha’aretz columnist Ari Shavit called Israeli communities built beyond the 1949 armistice line the local equivalent of Japan’s nuclear reactors. Like the reactors, he wrote, they seemed like a good idea at the time. But they have become our undoing.

The international community’s response to the Palestinian atrocity in Itamar is pointed to as proof that Israel must surrender. Instead of considering what the savage murder of an Israeli family tells us about the nature of Palestinian society, the world media have turned the massacre of the Fogel family into a story about “settlements.”

Take The Los Angeles Times for example. From the Times’ perspective, the Fogels were not Israeli civilians. They were “Jewish settlers.” They weren’t murdered in their home. They were killed in their “tightly guarded compound.”

And, in the end, the Times effectively justified the murder of the Fogel children when it helpfully added, “Most of the international community... views Israel’s settlements as illegal.”

The Times report was actually comparatively sympathetic. At least it mentioned the murders. Most European papers began their coverage with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s announcement that the government would permit Israelis to build 400 homes in Judea and Samaria.

As for the governments of the world, most were far swifter and more aggressive in their condemnation of Netanyahu’s announcement of the building permits than they were in their condemnation of the murders.

Then there is the US Jewish community.

According to New York’s Jewish Week, there is a new consensus in the American Jewish community that imposing an economic boycott on Israeli communities outside the 1949 armistice lines is a legitimate position. The paper interviewed Martin Raffel, the head of the new Israel Action Network, a multimillion-dollar effort by the Jewish Federations of North America and other major Jewish groups to counter the delegitimization of Israel.

Raffel called the boycott movement misguided, rather than wrong. Then he justified it by arguing, “Being misguided in one’s policies doesn’t mean one necessarily has become part of the ranks of the delegitimizers.”

If that wasn’t enough, Ron Kampeas, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s Washington bureau chief, wrote Tuesday that we shouldn’t rush to conclude that Palestinians carried out the attack.

Kampeas wrote, “We do not yet know who committed the awful butchery in Itamar over the weekend.”

WITH AMERICAN Jews taking a lead role in delegitimizing Israel; with the international media ignoring the massacre of the Fogel family and attacking Israel for its response to the event they didn’t cover; and with the US government united with the nations of the world in condemning the government’s decision to allow Israelis who are Jewish to build on land they own, the despair of a growing chorus of Israelis is understandable.

But while understandable, the notion that Israel has no choice but to surrender Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem to the Palestinians is wrong and dangerous.

Like his fellow defeatists, Shavit argues that Jewish communities in these areas are the cause of international moves to delegitimize Israel. If they were gone, so the argument goes, then neither the Palestinians nor the international community would have a problem with Israel.

The first problem with this view is that it confuses the focus of Palestinian and international attacks on Israel with the rationale behind those attacks. This is a mistake Israelis have made repeatedly since the establishment of the Fatahled PA in 1994.

Immediately after the PA was set up and IDF forces transferred security control over Palestinian cities and towns in Judea and Samaria to Yasser Arafat’s armies, Palestinian terrorists began attacking Israeli motorists driving through PA-controlled areas with rocks, pipe bombs and bullets.

Then-prime minister and defense minister Yitzhak Rabin blamed the attacks on “friction.” If the Palestinians didn’t have contact with Israeli motorists, then they wouldn’t attack them. So Israel built the bypass roads around the Palestinian towns and cities to prevent friction.

For its efforts, the Palestinians and the international community accused Israel of building “Jews-only, apartheid roads.” Moreover, Palestinian terrorists left their towns and cities and stoned, bombed and shot at Israeli motorists on the bypass roads.

Then there was Gaza. When in 2001 Palestinians first began shelling the Israeli communities in Gaza and the Western Negev with mortars and rockets, we were told they were attacking because of Israel’s presence in Gaza. When the IDF took action to defend the country from mortar and rocket attacks, Israel was accused of committing war crimes.

The likes of Shavit said then that if Israel left Gaza, the Palestinian attacks would stop. They said that if they didn’t stop and the IDF was forced to take action, the world would support Israel.

Shavit himself engaged in shocking demonization of the Israelis living in Gaza. In May 2004 he wrote that they were undeserving of IDF protection and that no soldier should defend them because they weren’t real Israelis.

But then the Palestinians and the international community threw Shavit and his friends yet another curveball. After Israel expelled every last so-called settler and removed every last soldier from Gaza in August 2005, Palestinian rocket attacks increased tenfold. The first Katyusha was fired at Ashkelon seven months after Israel withdrew. Hamas won the elections and Gaza became an Iranian proxy. Now it has missiles capable of reaching Tel Aviv.

As for the international community, not only did it continue blaming Israel for Palestinian terrorism, it refused to accept that Israel had ended its so-called occupation of Gaza. It has condemned every step Israel has taken to defend itself from Palestinian aggression since the withdrawal as a war crime.

The lesson of these experiences is that Israeli towns and villages in Judea and Samaria are not castigated as “illegitimate” because there is anything inherently illegitimate about them. Like the bypass roads and the Israeli presence in Gaza, they are singled out because those interested in attacking Israel militarily or politically think are an easy target.

The Arabs, the UN, the Obama administration, the EU, anti-Israel American and Israeli Jews, university professors and the legions of self-proclaimed human rights organizations in Israel and throughout the world allege these Israeli communities are illegitimate because by doing so they weaken Israel as a whole.

If Israel is convinced that it has no choice but to bow to these people’s demands, they will not be appeased. They will simply move on to the next easy target. Israeli Jewish communities in the Galilee and the Negev, Jaffa and Lod will be deemed illegitimate.

In a bid to pretend that the communities in Judea and Samaria are somehow different from communities in the Galilee, proponents of surrender point to the non-binding 2004 International Court of Justice opinion that the communities in Judea and Samaria are illegal.

But Israelis who accept the non-binding opinion as a binding ruling for Judea and Samaria ignore that the opinion also asserted that Israel has no right to self defense.

The same people who think that so-called settlements are illegal also believe that opposition leader Tzipi Livni is a war criminal. The same people who think the so-called settlements are illegal would condemn as a war crime any attempt to enforce the law against irredentist Israeli Arabs.

Israel’s bitter experience proves incontrovertibly that bowing to international pressure just invites more pressure.

SO WHAT can Israel do?

The first thing we must do is recognize that legitimacy is indivisible. In the eyes of Israel’s enemies there is no difference between Itamar and Ma’aleh Adumim on the one hand and Ramle and Tel Aviv on the other hand. And so we must make no distinction between them.

Just as law abiding citizens are permitted to build homes in Ramle and Tel Aviv, so they must be permitted to build in Itamar and Ma’aleh Adumim. If Israel’s assertion of its sovereignty is legitimate in Tel Aviv, then it is legitimate in Judea and Samaria. We cannot accept that one has a different status from the other.

Likewise, it is an act of economic warfare to boycott Israeli products, whether they are made in Haifa or Mishor Adumim. Anyone who says it is permissible to boycott Mishor Adumim is engaging in economic warfare against Haifa.

Once we understand that Israel’s legitimacy is indivisible, we need to take actions that will put the Palestinians and their international supporters on the defensive. There are any number of moves Israel can make in this vein.

For example, following the Palestinian massacre of the Fogel family, Netanyahu highlighted the fact that the PA routinely glorifies terrorist murderers and pays them and their families handsome pensions for their illegal acts of war. He also highlighted the genocidal anti-Jewish incitement endemic in Palestinian society.

While all of this is useful, talk is cheap. It is time to make the Palestinians pay a price for their depravity and to put their international supporters on the defensive.

Specifically, Netanyahu should ask the US to cut off all US economic and military assistance to the PA. Two PA intelligence officers were arrested as part of the Fogel murder investigation.

The US is training and equipping the Palestinian intelligence services. This should stop.

Two days after the massacre in Itamar, the PA dedicated a public square in El-Bireh to terror commander Dalal Mughrabi. Mughrabi commanded the 1978 bus attack on the coastal highway in which 37 Israelis – including 12 children – were murdered. The PA previously named a street, a dormitory, a summer camp and a sports tournament after her. Several popular songs have been written to glorify her crimes.

The US is underwriting the PA’s budget. This should stop.

Were the government to go after international aid to the PA, not only would it begin a debate in the US and perhaps Europe about the nature of Fatah specifically and Palestinian society generally, it would force the Palestinians’ myriad supporters to justify their support for a society that is defined by its goal of annihilating Israel.

It is hard to stand up to the massive pressure being brought to bear against Israel every day. But it is possible.

And whether defying our foes is hard or easy, it is our only chance at survival. Either all of Israel is legitimate, or none of it is.



Original URL: http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Article.aspx?id=212716

Caroline Glick

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Al-Shabaab Plagued by Defeats, Desertion


by IPT News

Al-Shabaab's stranglehold over Somalia appears to have weakened in recent months, with the al-Qaida ally suffering an ugly string of military losses to Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeeping force.

Last month, government and African Union forces recaptured the Somali Defense Ministry in Mogadishu from the jihadists, and last week they repelled a coordinated al-Shabaab effort to retake the building. The facility is now a base for Burundian members of AMISOM.

The New York Times reported that ANISOM forces "have spearheaded the fighting, deploying tanks, armored bulldozers and artillery to pound insurgent positions in Mogadishu." African Union forces wrested several city blocks from al-Shabaab, uncovering an extensive system of trenches and tunnels used by the jihadists to stage attacks in the capital.

Al-Shabaab has also suffered losses near the borders with Ethiopia and Kenya. Witnesses describe al-Shabaab fighters fleeing towns that came under siege from advancing Somali and Ethiopian troops. Last week, government-aligned militias drove al-Shabaab out of several villages in southern Somalia near the border with Kenya.

The State Department, which has been sharply critical of the TFG, acknowledges the new reality. "One can no longer say, derisively, that only six or seven city blocks are controlled by AMISOM forces. AMISOM now controls 60 to 70 percent of Mogadishu and continues to make serious and significant headway against Shabaab forces in the area," Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson said Tuesday.

It remains to be seen whether Somali or African Union forces are capable of translating this success into a larger strategic victory over al-Shabaab. The TFG is hampered by corruption and internal division, and ANISOM's effectiveness is limited by rules of engagement that prevent it from carrying out a sustained counterinsurgency campaign against al-Shabaab, said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies' Center for the Study of Terrorist Radicalization. Without a change in strategy, recent battlefield successes by pro-government forces could prove to be "just a short-term victory," Gartenstein-Ross told the IPT.

What's clear is that in recent months, the TFG and AMICOM forces have won a number of victories, while al-Shabaab has lost territory and suffered a series of high-profile defections from its ranks.

On Monday, Somali government officials announced they had captured six al-Shabaab militants, all of them under the age of 18, after the group launched a series of hit-and-run attacks against Somali Army and TFG forces in Mogadishu.

A day earlier, Somali intelligence officials displayed to reporters a 16-year-old boy they said had deserted from al-Shabaab. Adam Abdiwali said he had been kidnapped from his home in September and was trained at an al-Shabaab military camp in southern Somalia.

"I have seen with my own eyes some of my companions being killed by al-Shabaab after they retreated from [the] frontlines because of the extreme bombardments from Somali forces and AMISOM," Abdiwali told reporters in Mogadishu. "They want you to fight until you die."

The youth said he had not contacted his parents for six months and that they had no idea whether he was dead or alive.

It was just the latest in a series of high-profile defections from al-Shabaab. Mohammad Ibrahim Suley, a Somali, said he became disillusioned after seeing commanders send child recruits to the front lines while they stayed out of harm's way. Suley, who spent five years with the group, said he left after a foreign jihadist fighter shot him in the back for stopping to help a wounded friend.

On Dec. 19, the TFG presented six deserters from the group to reporters in Mogadishu, according to a report by the Jamestown Foundation.

The six described how al-Shabaab orders its military commanders to kill fellow soldiers who are seriously wounded in combat and has a policy of killing members who defect if they have served with the group longer than six months. One defector said had been forced to execute his deputy, who had been wounded in combat, on orders from Omar Hammami - an American citizen and al-Shabaab commander also known as Abu Mansour al-Amriki.

Ayanie Abdi, a Nairobi businessman, described the slaying of his brother Muhammad Abdi, a 21-year-old al-Shabaab official. Abdi was shot to death in Mogadishu in November, just weeks after deserting the group. He was recruited to join al-Shabaab in 2007 to fight against Ethiopian forces who invaded Somalia in order to oust the Islamic Courts Union, the Islamist group which dominated Somalia in 2006-2007.

In a desperate effort to replace soldiers lost through combat and desertion, al-Shabaab has been urging Somali mothers to send their children for training at jihadist camps and to register with the group for recruitment purposes. Somali journalists report al-Shabaab has stepped up efforts to recruit and train female suicide bombers.

Although al-Shabaab is reeling from recent setbacks, veteran observers of events in Somalia caution that much more sustained military action will be necessary to defeat the group.

The Somali government and military will continue to require substantial foreign military support from African Union forces for some time to come, and the Ugandan and Burundian governments (which comprise the bulk of ANISOM force and have taken substantial casualties in fighting al-Shabaab) may come under domestic pressure to limit their involvement in Somalia, said Bill Roggio, editor of the Long War Journal.

Analysts say the AU's effectiveness is hampered by rules of engagement that prevent it from carrying out a counterinsurgency campaign against al-Shabaab and by a lack of air support. The United States (which supplies the Somali military and plays a major role in funding ANISOM), could play a larger role in assisting the Somali military through expanded use of Special Forces against al-Shabaab.

Al-Shabaab remains "one of the most successful jihadist products going on in the world right now," Roggio told the IPT. The Somali government will continue to need substantial foreign support, "including a long-term commitment of foreign troops" to continue its recent progress against the group. Roggio believes that, for now, the best-case scenario may be a "stalemate" between the Somali government and al-Shabaab.

Gartenstein-Ross expressed concern that Washington lacks a coherent strategy toward Somalia and al-Shabaab. Pointing to attacks like this July 2010 suicide bombing that killed 74 people in Uganda, Gartenstein-Ross said it is "foolish and myopic" to dismiss the idea that al-Shabaab could eventually become a transnational terrorist threat capable of striking outside Africa.

"Al-Amriki made clear in 2007 that their religious ideology is the same as that of bin Laden and Zarqawi," he said. He added that is in the U.S. national interest to take action to prevent al-Shabaab from keeping Somalia "a training ground for terrorists."

Original URL: http://www.investigativeproject.org/2697/al-shabaab-plagued-by-defeats-desertion

IPT News

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Israel vs. the “Axis of Terror”


by Arnold Ahlert

On Tuesday, the Israeli navy stopped and boarded the “Victoria,” a German owned, French-operated ship flying a Liberian flag that was sailing from Turkey to Syria. It was loaded with weapons the Israelis believe were headed to the Gaza Strip, which is currently controlled by Hamas terrorists. The stop occured in international waters and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took full responsibility for the interception, claiming he had a “solid basis” to believe the ship was transporting arms “destined for terrorist forces in the heart of Gaza.” Netanyahu’s assumption proved true, and countless civilian lives were undoubtedly saved because of it.

“Last night, I granted permission to take over a ship for which we had the basis to think that there were weapons on it destined for Gaza,” Netanyahu said. “The source of the weapons is Iran, which continues to try to arm terrorist forces against Israel. It is our right and duty to stop the smuggling of these weapons,” he added. Mr Netanyahu also pointed out that while the ship’s journey originated in Turkey, that country “was not tied to the incident in any way.”

Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich speculated that this incident was tied to last month’s passage of two Iranian warships through the Suez Canal for the first time since the Iranian Revolution of 1979. The Victoria, which set sail from the Syrian port of Lattakai and then stopped in Mersin, Turkey, was bound for Alexandria, Egypt. From there the weapons were to be transported to Gaza by land. The Jerusalem Post notes that Lattakai was the same port visited last month by the two Iranian warships. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel had been tracking the ship for days, and that the goal of this smuggling attempt “was to harm Israel’s security” and that his country would continue to pursue any challenge to that security “determinedly, and everywhere, to defend the country.”

The Victoria was escorted to the Israeli port of Ashdod where Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Barak and IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz went to inspect the arms cache. The cache was comprised of six C-704 anti-ship missiles made in Iran with Chinese components, two radar control systems manufactured by British company Kelvin Hughes, and thousands of mortar shells for which the design specification had been sold to Iran by Israeli company Soltam in the early 1970s, when the two countries were still allies. Officials put all of the armaments on public display Wednesday. ”To all those who questioned and attacked and criticized Israel for stopping Gaza-bound ships in order to check them, here is the answer,” Mr. Netanyahu said, standing before the cache.

The Prime Minister continued. ”Every day there are efforts by Iran, Syria and terrorist organizations to smuggle weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas,” Netanyahu said. “There is an axis of terror in our region, and we have to confront it if we want to prevent terrorism and create a chance for peace…The weaponry discovered onboard the Victoria prove why Israel needed to prevent ships from sailing freely into the Gaza Strip.”

Iran denied the accusations. ”The Zionist regime’s diet is mixed with lies, lies and more lies,” said Iranian Army Commander-General Amir Ataollah Salehi ”We deny all false reports. The Zionist regime is a usurper. There is an Islamic awakening throughout the Middle East and North Africa that sees the damage…there is no doubt that Israel is calculating its losses since the departure of the Egyptian Pharoah. God willing, they will sink to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea…next year the armed forces of the Islamic Republic will be stronger than ever.” Unfortunately, for the general there was a rather inconvenient piece of evidence revealed with respect to the anti-ship missiles: the missiles themselves were labeled in Farsi, along with the operation manuals explaining how to use them. Farsi is the most widespread language used in Iran.

Israelis believe Iran is testing their country’s resolve in the wake of the various uprisings that have engulfed the region. No doubt they are also seeking to increase their influence as well, following the fall of Israel’s most reliable ally, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Although the Egyptian army claims it intends to maintain the status quo with respect to that alliance, Egypt’s own stability remains in question. Just over a week ago, 13 people were killed and 140 injured in sectarian violence between Muslims and Christian Copts triggered by the burning of a Coptic church.

Saudi Arabia shares a similar concern about Iranian ambitions. They have moved troops into the country of Bahrain to help suppress that country’s anti-government protests, where a Shi’ite Muslim majority population is seeking to remove a government run largely by Sunni Muslims. And while there is no direct evidence of Iranian involvement in the uprisings, their state media was highly critical of the move, characterizing it as ”an invasion” of a country sometimes referred to by the Iranian government as their “14th province.”

Israeli Vice Premier Silvan Shalom spelled out the concerns shared by both Saudi Arabia and Israel. “Iran is trying again to shake up the regimes in the Middle East and to replace the moderate regimes with those that are ideologically close to them,” he said at the Negev Conference in Eilat. ”[Iranians were trying to show who] is in control of the Middle East,” he added. Dan Schueftan, a political science professor at Haifa University and a former adviser to Israel’s foreign ministry went further. ”The Iranians are more confident now. The upheavals in the Arab world are very good for them,” he said. ”The Iranians are trying every way to arm the region, and except for Israel, nobody is trying to stop them. When Egypt is weakened, even if Egypt wants to help Israel, I don’t think there is anyone in Egypt who can do it.”

The ship was intercepted 200 miles off Israel’s Mediterranean coast where its captain gave Israeli commandos permission to board. There was no resistance from the crew, and the commandos were provided with a manifest documenting the cargo, one which claimed the ship was transporting cotton and lentils. Israeli military analyst Ron Ben Ishai expressed the importance of the seizure. ”Had this shipment gone through to Alexandria and then to one of the Palestinian organizations in Gaza, it would have given them the capability that does not exist today, that is, to hit the Israeli navy at a distance of 35 kilometers,” he said.

Israel has been under mounting international pressure to abandon its blockade of Gaza ever since their raid on a ship bound for that region last June resulted the death of nine Turkish activists. The Obama administration, which has yet to publicly comment on the current seizure, waffled with regard to Israel’s attempt to maintain a naval blockade of Gaza back then. “The current arrangements are unsustainable and must be changed. For now, we call on all parties to join us in encouraging responsible decisions by all sides to avoid any unnecessary confrontations,” offered Mike Hammer, spokesman for White House National Security.

No doubt the Obama administration will be equally “even-handed” this time, despite the fact that the so-called “humanitarian” aspect of last June’s attempt to run the blockade was revealed for the unadulterated fraud it truly was. And that’s assuming our terminally distracted president bothers to make any comment at all. Three days after the incident, we still have no idea what Mr. Obama thinks about it. On the other hand, we do know who his Final Four picks are for the NCAA’s March Madness college basketball tournament–even as Muammar Qadaffi exterminates his opposition, Japan is facing an existential threat to its well-being, the Dow is in freefall, food prices have jumped the most since 1974, and housing starts have seen their biggest drop in 27 years. Sadly, the Israelis and their problems would appear to be at the back of a very long line. One for which the Obama administration demonstrates an appalling lack of urgency or prioritization on every item.

Both our allies and our enemies are now witnessing the much-ballyhooed antithesis of George W. Bush’s “cowboy diplomacy.” Our enemies, especially the Islamic thugs who yearn for Israel’s destruction by any means necessary, are undoubtedly the most delighted by this “evolution” in American foreign policy.

Original URL: http://frontpagemag.com/2011/03/17/israel-vs-the-axis-of-terror/

Arnold Ahlert is a contributing columnist to the conservative website JewishWorldReview.com.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

UK Authoritarianism: "Terrified of People Thinking for Themselves"


by A. Millar

"Huge numbers of Britons would support an anti-immigration English nationalist party if it were not associated with violence and fascist imagery," The Guardian reported last week.

In a certain sense, English nationalism has emerged in opposition to the "neo-imperialism" or "neo-colonialism" of a militant wing that refuses to allow minorities to be English, preferring to keep them "minorities" to be used as political pawns. However, the association of English nationalism with anti-Islamism causes the most alarm: in hoping that radical, anti-Western Muslims would prove useful in instigating revolution, the far-Left has long allied with Islamist organizations.

The UK actually does have such a party: the English Democrats. Founded in 1998 by former Conservative Party member, and its current chairman, Robin Tilbrook, it won its first mayoral election in 2009, with Peter Davies elected mayor for the city Doncaster. In line with The Guardian's assertions, Tilbrook also believes his party has reached a "critical mass," and is poised to make further electoral gains.

The sudden interest in, and concern about, the possible appeal of an English nationalist party was almost certainly provoked by a recent Daily Star front-cover story a few weeks ago, in which the tabloid claimed that the English Defence League, an increasingly visible anti-Islamist protest movement, was about to form itself into a political party.

The Daily Star's reporting caused a considerable stir in the media and blogosphere, not least of all as the EDL's leader was quoted as saying only that they were not ruling out becoming a political party – which may have been an off-the-cuff remark. Since then, one of the tabloid's reporters has quit, claiming that the Daily Star peddled anti-Muslim bias and "hatemongering."

The Guardian's report on the potential appeal of an English nationalist party was based on a recently published Populus poll, commissioned by the Searchlight Educational Trust (an "anti-fascist charity" founded to collect data on neo-Nazism). The newspaper claimed that the findings showed "huge support for [the] far right" – even though it was forced to concede that more Asian Britons (39%) than White Britons (34%) wanted immigration stopped, at least until the economy improved. A "new anti-immigration party committed to challenging Islamist extremism," as well a regulations requiring that public buildings fly the English or British flag, would be supported by 48%.

It seems an extraordinary claim, and a gross exaggeration, to suggest that nearly half of the British public is "far-Right." However, hysteria over the EDL, and English nationalism more broadly, is becoming common. When David Cameron spoke at the Munich Security Conference a few weeks ago, Sadiq Khan, the Shadow Justice Secretary, was one among many who pointed out that the EDL had demonstrated in Luton on the same day -- an inference that the Prime Minister had been pandering to the anti-Islamist movement, even though, in this instance, the timing was clearly coincidental. Yet, with the December Stockholm bomber only the latest Islamist terrorist to be traced back to the UK, how could Cameron have left the subject unmentioned, or not have promised to tackle the expanding Islamist movement in the UK?

Why does the idea of an English nationalist party provoke such hysteria?

Robin Tilbrook, observes "Englishness" is now "a more powerful brand than Britishness." He notes that although The Guardian attempted to connect the idea of "Englishness" to the "far-Right," "those who are racist have tended to talk about British nationalism. English nationalism has no history of being racist." Tilbrook believes that tackling Islamism, immigration, and other problems facing the country is "not even Right-wing." "These are things that people on the street are feeling more and more concerned about," he says.

The English Democrats chairman believes Britain is becoming "authoritarian," with citizens now running the risk of arrest for disagreeing with "state orthodoxy" – which has its roots in the militant Left, and evidently intends to use minorities to undermine Western traditions. Unsurprisingly, the English Democrats would like to see a return to "traditional civil liberties."

In contrast, many of those who portray Englishness as "racist" appear to be terrified of people thinking for themselves. Despite constant protestations that racism is growing, English nationalism seems to frighten the far-Left for the opposite reason -- precisely because it is bringing people of all backgrounds together under the banner of the nation and its traditional liberty.

The English nationalist inclusion of minorities shows up in different ways: The flag of the EDL, for example, often incorporates others flags or emblems, such as that of the Sikh religion, the rainbow flag of the LGBT community, and the Israeli flag. Although it has no association with the EDL, the English Democrats has also always been open to people regardless of race or ethnicity, or other personal preferences, and has had several Asian members run as candidates.

Although Tilbrook sees differences between American and English nationalism, he agrees that, "one area where America does provide some inspiration is the idea of national identity. Americans are seen to be very proud of being American, and that, obviously, is not about race." He also says that his party has "been looking with interest at the Tea Party movement. The Anglo-Saxon tradition – whether American or British – of small government, of letting people lead their own lives without too much interference from the state, is something that we certainly treasure."

Local pride also appears to be a feature of English nationalism. Different towns have created their own EDL "divisions," while, Tilbrook says, the English Democrats "would like to see people consider their own [local] community in how they would be represented in constitutional structures."

As a political notion, then, "Englishness" stands for both the modern (multiethnic, and so on) nation, as well as for the concerns of communities. As Tilbrook puts it, "'British' is the state, whereas 'English' is the idea of nation [the people]."

Notably, the English flag is also associated with sports: soccer, rugby and tennis – but mainly because Britain has national teams for England, as well as Scotland, and Wales. The phenomenon appears, then, to have one root in the soccer stadium: in the idea of the team, and being a team player. "I tend to think in terms of community," Tilbrook say, "but a team is a community, isn't it?"

The English Democrats chairman also connects English nationalism to sports, noting that when England won the soccer World Cup in 1966, the crowd waved British flags. Today, he says, you will only see the English flag being waved.

"You are likely to be talking to someone pretty elderly if they are talking about Britishness, rather than Englishness," he says. Sports are not the only reason. "It's partly because Britishness originally had to do with big power politics, and part of imperialism." The term "little Englander," used today to describe English people who are small-minded or xenophobic, derives from the Second Boer War, when it was used to designate those that stood against British imperialism and opposed the British Empire.

Nearly half the nation can be described as "far-Right" -- a number demonstrative of how Leftward Britain has shifted. English nationalism, although not a homogenous or unified movement, highlights that the tide is turning. Probably only the introduction of draconian laws -- making supporting it a crime for example -- could prevent it from growing. In the hysteria that is being whipped up, we might ultimately hear calls for more hate speech legislation, which has the immense disadvantage of preventing warnings – possibly urgent ones -- from being expressed loud and clear. Even this, however, would.

Original URL: http://www.hudson-ny.org/1948/uk-authoritarianism

A. Millar

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Debate Heats Up Over Muslims In France


by Soeren Kern

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has fired a Muslim advisor he recently hired to promote "diversity" after the appointee openly attacked the president's plan to hold a debate about Islam in France.

The dustup reflects growing Muslim resistance to Sarkozy's efforts to protect the secular nature of the French state from Islamic Sharia law, namely by calling for the estimated six million Muslims living in France to be better integrated into French society.

Abderrahmane Dahmane, a Frenchman of Algerian descent, was let go after he spoke out against a plan by Sarkozy's center-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party to hold a debate on secularism and Islam. The debate, which has been scheduled for April 5, is on the compatibility of Islam with the rules of the secular French Republic.

Dahmane, who was appointed to his post only in January, said Muslim members of the UMP should not renew their party membership unless the debate is cancelled. He compared the situation of French Muslims to that of Jews during World War II and said the debate had been planned by a "handful of neo-Nazis." Dahmane also called UMP leader Jean-Francois Cope a "plague for Muslims." Cope has been a strong supporter of government policies that impose secular values in public institutions such as schools.

One of the UMP's leaders, Valerie Rosso Debord, said Dahmane had been removed from his post for "outrageous comments" about Cope and the UMP and for making "odious comparisons" between the debate and racism in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s.

France has the largest Muslim population in Europe. But a growing number of French citizens say the Muslims, who mostly hail from former French colonies in North Africa, are not integrating into French society. In response, the government has been pursuing policies aimed at remedying the problem. These include a recent ban on wearing the full-face Islamic veil in public.

In 2010, the French government passed a law banning Muslim women from wearing face-covering veils, such as niqabs or burqas, in public. The law, which comes into effect on April 11, 2011, imposes a fine of €150 ($200) and/or a citizenship course as punishment for wearing a face-covering veil. Forcing a woman to wear a niqab or a burqa will be punishable by a year in prison or a €15,000 ($20,000) fine. The government says that forcing Muslim women to cover up is "a new form of enslavement that the republic cannot accept on its soil."

French people back the ban by a margin of more than four to one, according to a recent survey published by the Washington-based Pew Global Attitudes Project. Some 82% of people polled approved of a ban, while 17% disapproved.

Picking up on the growing unease over Muslim immigration, Sarkozy on February 10 denounced multiculturalism as a failure. He also said Muslims must assimilate into the French culture if they want to be welcomed in France.

Joining other European leaders, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron, who recently have spoken out against multiculturalism, Sarkozy declared in a live-broadcast interview with French Channel One television: "I do not want a society where communities coexist side by side … France will not welcome people who do not agree to melt into a single community. We have been too busy with the identity of those who arrived and not enough with the identity of the country that accepted them." Sarkozy also said that he does not want Muslims to pray on the streets.

Sarkozy's comments come as his popularity is at record lows just thirteen months before the first round of the 2012 presidential election, and as a new opinion poll shows that growing frustration over Muslim immigration is contributing to the rise of the far-right National Front party in France. According to a survey published by Le Parisien newspaper on March 8, National Front party leader Marine Le Pen, 42, who took over from her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in January, could win the first round of next year's presidential election.

The survey gives Le Pen 23%, two percentage points ahead of both Sarkozy and Socialist leader Martine Aubry. On the basis of this opinion poll, Le Pen would automatically qualify for the second round run-off with one or other of the two mainstream party leaders.

Le Pen, who appeals to middle class voters, is riding high on voter dissatisfaction with the failure of the mainstream parties to address Muslim immigration. Since taking her post three months ago, Le Pen has single-handedly catapulted the twin issues of Islam and French national identity to the top of the French political agenda.

On March 14, Le Pen visited the Italian island of Lampedusa, a 20-square-kilometer island that has traditionally been as a major gateway for illegal immigration into the European Union. She told undocumented immigrants on the island that they were not welcome in Europe.

"I have a lot of compassion for you, but Europe cannot welcome you. We do not have the financial means," Le Pen said. Almost 10,000 mainly Tunisian migrants have arrived on dozens of boats in Lampedusa since the revolt in Tunisia in January -- more than the total for all of 2010.

On March 2, the French minister for European affairs, Laurent Wauquiez, warned that up to 300,000 illegal immigrants could arrive in the European Union from North Africa during 2011. The influx of immigrants from Libya is a "real risk for Europe that must not be underestimated," he said.

Meanwhile, the French Constitutional Court on March 10 struck down key aspects of a new law designed to crack down on Muslim-related urban violence. The court ruled that thirteen articles from security legislation passed by the Sarkozy government in February violated the French constitution. One of the articles removed by the court called for recent immigrants who attack police officers to be stripped of French citizenship.

Over the past several years, France has been the scene of countless Muslim uprisings, usually accompanied by riots and car burnings. Large swaths of Muslim areas are now considered "no-go" zones by French police. At last count, there are 751 Sensitive Urban Zones (Zones Urbaines Sensibles, ZUS), as they are euphemistically called. A complete list of the ZUS can be found on a French government website, complete with satellite maps and precise street demarcations. An estimated 5 million Muslims live in the ZUS, parts of France over which the French state has lost control.

Original URL: http://www.hudson-ny.org/1969/muslims-in-france

Soeren Kern

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

A Jewish-Muslim Alliance?


by Isi Leibler

The proposed public hearings by House Homeland Security Committee chairman Peter King on the extent of radicalization in the American Muslim community and that community's response have created a heated media debate on the role of Muslims in Western countries.

Besides the fact that a society discriminating against minorities almost invariably turns against Jews, the persecution and discrimination we suffered throughout history instinctively compels us to oppose all manifestations of discrimination and persecution.

However, that surely does not require us to defend groups who harbor hostility against us or seek to undermine open society.

This is very relevant in relation to the new global industry of Jewish alliances with Muslim groups purportedly opposing Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. It is exemplified by the highly publicized US launch of a joint Jewish Muslim campaign to combat Islamophobia and anti-Semitism initiated by Rabbi Marc Schneier, head of the New York-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding.

His principal ally and sponsor in this venture is Russell Simmons, the Afro-American hip-hop mogul, who publicly expresses adoration for Louis Farrakhan, the viciously racist anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader.

In Brussels last December, in combination with the World Jewish Congress and the World Council for Muslim Interfaith Relations, Schneier expanded this body to include European representatives forming a Global Coordinating Committee to combat "Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and racism."

This organization has already issued problematic statements, condemning as "totally unacceptable" the absorption of "extremist" right-wing political parties into the mainstream without defining explicitly whom it was targeting. It also made no reference to the greater threats to Jews emanating from far Left and radical Islamist groups.

It also expressed disquiet concerning recent pronouncements of major European leaders, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, conceding that the policy of multiculturalism has proven to be disastrous and failed to integrate some major migrant groups into an open democratic society.

It is surely bizarre for a body including Jews to condemn a long overdue criticism of radical Islam's abuse of multiculturalism, especially since European Jews bore the brunt of the violence generated by the anti-Semitic hostility of these groups.

IT ALSO ill behooves Jews confronted with the current tsunami of violent anti-Semitism to indiscriminately endorse campaigns condemning frequently exaggerated allegations of Islamophobia without referring to the fact that radical Muslims represent the prime dissemination of anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic incitement and violence.

We should call a spade a spade. The majority of vocal Muslims in Europe and to a lesser extent the US, regrettably do not display goodwill toward Jews. Many, who ritually condemn anti-Semitism, simultaneously demonize Israel and distinguish between "Jews" and "Zionists."

And alas, few are inclined or sufficiently courageous to publicly condemn the brutal behavior of Islamic states toward other minorities.

A critical prerequisite of an alliance with a Muslim group is surely that the organization expresses a clear-cut repudiation of the global anti- Semitic filth which pours out of Islamic countries.

And decency also demands that those demanding equal rights for Muslims in Western countries also condemn the persecution, murder, religious cleansing and denial of human rights that non-Muslim minorities endure in Islamic states.

For the World Jewish Congress (which did dissociate itself from Schneier's attacks on King's inquiry into the radicalization of the American Muslim community) to be party to such initiatives without demanding such commitments from its Muslim partner is a lamentable example of Jews being more concerned about their political correctness than acting to protect Jewish interests.

The majority of Muslims in Western countries, especially in America, are law-abiding. But that does not invalidate the reality that cries of Allah akbar accompany most terrorist attacks, many of which are directed against Jews.

IT IS thus deplorable to see Jews engaged in campaigns seeking to deny profiling of people undergoing security checks. The reality is that while Muslims only represent 1 percent of the American population, 80% of all terrorist convictions since 9/11 were motivated by Islamic extremism, and homegrown Muslim terrorists are emerging in greater numbers. The facts demonstrate beyond doubt that there are certain profiles that are more inclined to be associated with terrorist attacks. Refusing to implement profiling thus not only represents an appalling form of political correctness, but endangers innocent life and lacks any moral justification.

If even a handful of rabbis had encouraged second-generation Jewish immigrants in Western countries to initiate bombings and suicide attacks against non-Jews, the most vociferous demands for action against such deviants would be emanating from the Jewish community itself.

Yet, the perception is that while most Muslims distance themselves from the radicals, they are often reluctant or fearful of exposing them. Some purportedly "respectable" American Muslim organizations have actually urged their members not to collaborate with the FBI.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations is the largest US Islamic umbrella organization and has access to high-level government officials. Yet the FBI had cause to expose its founders for having ties to a Muslim Brotherhood created Hamas network.

Last year a Justice Department official reaffirmed that no new evidence had emerged "that exonerates CAIR from the allegations that it provides financial support to designated terrorist groups".

And when Schneier provocatively proclaims, "Today, I am a Muslim, too," he should ask himself whether he and Jews in general should really be expressing solidarity with all Muslims, including the majority who reside in states which deny freedom of worship and persecute and murder infidels.

We are obliged to fervently oppose discrimination or persecution of law-abiding Muslims and collaborate with genuinely moderate Muslim leaders. But there is no justification for us to champion the rights and display love to those who seek to harm us or are indifferent to our destruction or refuse to expose and condemn extremism within their ranks. Failure to insist that such groups take a stand on "sensitive" issues will not only alienate our genuine friends, it will also strengthen extremist Muslims who despise, but happily exploit, bleeding heart Jews to gain a cloak of respectability while they promote their evil objectives.

We should seek out and encourage alliances with courageous Muslim moderates who share our commitment to an open and democratic society and avoid patronizing or providing respectability to groups who either endorse or refuse to condemn the local and international excesses of Islamic extremism.

Original URL: http://wordfromjerusalem.com/?p=2865h

Isi Leibler

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Morocco's Berbers and Israel


by Bruce Maddy-Weitzman

In recent years, small groups of Moroccan Berber activists, particularly younger people, have challenged the enforced silence regarding Israel, expressing an interest in both the state of Israel and Jewish history, including the Holocaust. They even linked this interest to the alleged historic connections between Jews and Berbers in ancient times, including the initial resistance to Arab conquerors by the Kahina, a supposedly Jewish-Berber queen, and the multilayered, more recent relations existing until the mass departure of Jews for Israel in the 1950s and 1960s from Berber villages and towns.

The Berber flag represents the pre-Islamic indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. In pre-Islamic times, there were Christian, Jewish, and polytheist Berbers. Most present-day Berbers are Muslims.

How has this extraordinary phenomenon come to pass, and what are its possible consequences? In the past, Berber activists maintained a strict separation between their struggle for political and social rights and the Arab-Israeli conflict even if there were those who quietly admired Israel's achievements. By contrast, some members of the present generation of activists and intellectuals view Israel as a partner in adversity—a vibrant, anti-pan-Arab force mirroring their own opposition to Arab-Islamic hegemony and the subjugation of the Berber language and culture—which could help, however tacitly, in their struggle for official recognition and against Morocco's burgeoning Islamist movement.

Islamist Currents and Public Opinion

Notwithstanding Morocco's benign and positive image in the West, polling data in recent years shows considerable support for Islamist and anti-Western positions. While only a small percentage of Moroccans expressed support for al-Qaeda's attacks on U.S. civilians, and 64 percent held a favorable view of the American people, most Moroccans believed that the United States was seeking to weaken Islam and spread Christianity in the region, with 72 percent supporting al-Qaeda's goal to force U.S. withdrawal from Muslim countries. Almost the same number of people believed that the United States or Israel, rather than al-Qaeda, was responsible for the 9/11 attacks, and large majorities approved of attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Persian Gulf.

In addition, 76 percent of Moroccans favored the imposition of strict Shari'a or Islamic law; 64 percent supported keeping Western values out of Islamic countries; and 61 percent stated that being Muslim was their most important identity as opposed to only 25 percent who declared their Moroccan identity most important. Eight-five percent of people stated that their primary reaction when watching a movie about the Holocaust was resentment over the sympathy that it generated for Israel and Jews at the expense of Palestinians and Arabs; over 50 percent believed that Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons would be a positive development for the region while only a small percentage thought that the outcome would be negative.[1]

This Islamist current, embodied by both the Justice and Development Party (PJD), which accepts the supremacy of the Moroccan monarchy as enshrined in the country's constitution and holds 14 percent of the seats in parliament, as well as the officially banned but grudgingly tolerated Justice and Charity movement, seeks the Islamization of society and, ultimately, of the state.

The Berber Movement and the Jews

The other side of the ideological divide is comprised of a variety of political parties and civic groups, some with explicitly Western-liberal orientations, others less so. One of them is the Amazigh (literally "free men") or Berber culture movement, which advocates the recognition of the Berber underpinnings of Moroccan culture and calls for remedial steps, including constitutional change, particularly with regard to recognizing their language, Tamazight, as an official state language. An estimated 40-45 percent of Morocco's 32 million-strong population speak one of the three main Berber dialects; in Algeria, the estimated numbers are 20-25 percent; in Libya, 8-9 percent; in Tunisia, 1-5 percent.

The Berber component of Moroccan identity has already been given official recognition by the state as it seeks to address at least some of the movement's symbolic and material grievances in order to maintain a balance of forces within the Moroccan political fabric. Islamists and pan-Arabists have repeatedly clashed with Berber activists in recent months, mainly through polemical exchanges in a variety of media outlets. The specifics have varied, but they have had a common theme: Jews and Israel.

From the Islamist and pan-Arab perspective, this should come as no surprise. Hostility to Zionism, which all too often has morphed into anti-Semitism and Holocaust belittlement and even denial, has long been instrumental for many opposition groups and Arab regimes seeking to mobilize public opinion.

The Berber engagement in the debate, by contrast, is far less self-evident given their past evasion of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Initial indications of these changing attitudes were afforded by the 2007 announcements of plans to create two complementary Berber-Jewish friendship associations in the Souss region of southwestern Morocco, the region where, according to tradition, Jews first settled after the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE. Their purpose, said one of the founders, was to promote the various aspects of Morocco's cultural heritage—Berber, Jewish, African, and Arab; disseminate the culture of coexistence and respect of the "other" while rejecting violence and intolerance toward others; give real standing to the Berber and Hebrew languages inside Morocco, in order to make it a homeland for all, and to build bridges with Moroccan Jews, both inside the country (approximately 3,000) and overseas, particularly "Amazigh Jews in various countries."[2]

Although support for contacts with Israel was not explicitly expressed, the announcements immediately provoked sharp reactions from a number of Moroccan associations supporting the Palestinian cause and opposing U.S. actions in Iraq. They also prompted a heated debate on Iran's Arabic-language al-Alam television channel between the veteran militant Berber activist Ahmed Adghirni and an Algerian writer hostile to both Israel and North African Jews, whom he claimed were utterly foreign to the region and eager collaborators with French colonialism.[3]

One year later, another Berber-Jewish friendship association, "Memoire Collective," was founded, this time in Morocco's northern coastal city of al-Hoceima. Led by Muhammad Moha, the association's declared focus was the need to struggle against anti-Semitism in Morocco as part of the larger need to promote individual rights, tolerance, and democracy. Moha was prompted to create the association in response to attacks by leftist, pan-Arab, and Islamist groups when his daughter and another Moroccan teenager participated in an international youth seminar at Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum. The association's creation drew further harsh responses, including the intimidation of the family of the other teenager who had joined Moha's daughter in Jerusalem. Moha was demonstratively expelled from the leftist group to which he had belonged, al-Nahj al-Dimuqrati (Democratic Path), for "crossing all of the party's red lines in contributing to the normalization [of relations] with Israel" while al-Tajdid, the newspaper of the Islamist PJD, even accused Moha of receiving €300,000 from Israel in order to set up the organization and called for acts of violence against him.[4]

Berberist Views on Israel

Israel's military operation against Hamas forces in Gaza in the winter of 2008-09 sparked another round of polemics and mutual invective between Morocco's Islamists and Berber movement figures. A commentator in al-Tajdid castigated Amazigh associations for not joining in the series of demonstrations held in solidarity with the Palestinians, wondering what was behind their failure to condemn Israel. One of the Berber movement's leading intellectuals, Ahmed Asid, replied caustically that no one had the right to question their identification and solidarity with the Palestinians, yet with the Islamist and pan-Arab currents in Morocco having a complete monopoly on organizing the demonstrations, the Berbers had no choice but to avoid them, not least since the protests had contained both anti-Jewish as well as ethnic Arab themes, which the Berber movement completely rejected.[5]

In November 2009, Yad Vashem became a more explicit site for Berber activism against the prevailing pan-Arab and Islamist currents in their own society and in the region when an 18-member delegation of the movement's educators and advocates participated in a week-long educational seminar there. One of their declared purposes was to begin incorporating the study of the Holocaust and its lessons into the Moroccan school curriculum, a subject that has been almost entirely neglected.[6] Beyond that, though, it was clear that the visit was designed to openly challenge the conventional taboos regarding contact with Israel.

The matter quickly became public knowledge and provoked a number of articles in the Moroccan press, many of them negative. But space was also given to delegation members to defend themselves, an indication of Morocco's increasingly pluralist and competitive press. One of them, Boubker Outaadit, a Berber activist for more than fifteen years, who had been involved in the formation of one of the Berber-Jewish friendship associations, was interviewed by a Moroccan weekly news magazine against the backdrop of the Israeli, Moroccan, and Amazigh flags, a picture that was worth a thousand words. Defending the educational and humanitarian value of the seminar, he declared the participants' readiness to answer those critics who "traded in foreign problems … such as the Palestinian issue," which could not be classified as a Moroccan national problem. The Arab-Israeli conflict, he declared, could have been settled sixty years earlier had the Arab side not rejected the right of the Jewish people to return to their land and defend it.[7] Another, Abdellah Benhssi, justified the delegation's visit in terms of furthering the promotion of tolerance and universal brotherhood and the rejection of fanaticism and racism, universal values which, he said, both the Amazigh and Israeli cultural systems shared.[8] In a lengthy and trenchant analysis, the Moroccan scholar Muhammad Elmedlaoui, who actually deplored what he viewed as the Yad Vashem visit's use of the Holocaust for political purposes, nonetheless characterized the anti-Amazigh diatribes emanating from certain Moroccan urban nationalist circles as constituting an updated version of the older, unfair branding of Berbers as collaborators with French colonialism. These attacks, he said, were essentially an alibi being used to promote a certain cultural vision for the country.[9]

Anti-Semitism Rears Its Ugly Head

Recent months have been marked by a number of incidents that further sharpened the contours of the debate. On March 17-20, a high-profile conference designed to promote the memory and heritage of Moroccan Jewry as part of the larger Moroccan fabric was held in the southern coastal town of Essaouira. One participant was Andrei Azoulay, one of Moroccan Jewry's most prominent figures, an Essaouiran native son and long-time financial adviser to both the late King Hassan and his son, King Muhammad VI. Currently the president of the Anna Lindh Foundation, Azoulay, a self-defined "Arab Jew," has been active for decades in promoting Palestinian rights within the context of overall Arab-Israeli peace.[10] Ten days later, members of the local branch of the Moroccan Association for the Defense of Human Rights (AMDH) organized anti-Israel demonstrations that included a brazen, verbal attack on Azoulay, chanting "Hada Ar, Hada Ar, Khwi l'Blad Ya Mustashar" (Shame, shame. Leave the country, counselor). This was not the first time that the king's adviser had been charged with disloyalty to Morocco: Some months earlier, during the visit of former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni to the Tangier MedDays 2009 conference, Khalid Soufyani, a lawyer and self-promoting president of the National Association for the Resistance in Iraq and Palestine, had declared that Azoulay had to choose between being Moroccan and being "Zionist."

Similar slogans were voiced against a local Israeli-Moroccan businessman, Noam Nir, who responded with a letter of complaint to AMDH, which was ignored.[11] Following an additional confrontation in late July, Nir filed a defamation suit against three AMDH officials, accusing the organization of anti-Semitism, particularly in light of the attacks against Azoulay. Further demonstrations were held outside of Nir's restaurant, in which he was accused of espionage and personally threatened, and another round of press attacks on him ensued. AMDH vigorously denied the anti-Semitism charge. However, as is often the case, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are easily conflated in the Moroccan discourse, a fact that an AMDH official himself acknowledged to an American journalist. For example, Soufyani has led a number of anti-Israeli protests in which demonstrators chanted "Khaybar Khaybar Ya Yahud, Jaysh Muhammad Sa-ya'ud" (Khaybar, Khaybar, O Jews, Muhammad's army will return), referring to the Qur'an's account of Muhammad's destruction of the Jewish community of Khaybar. And in late May 2010, Soufyani headed up a new organization in Morocco, made up of a cross-section of Islamists and pan-Arabists, which rejected all forms of normalization with Israel and reportedly circulated a black list of some twenty-five Moroccans who supported normalization.

The authorities and the Moroccan Jewish leadership adopted a low profile regarding the affair. But Berber activists in the area, some of whom had participated in the visit to Yad Vashem, came to Nir's defense, organizing a small solidarity demonstration in Essaouira and publishing articles in support of his actions and in condemnation of AMDH and its parent political party, the left-of-center Socialist Union of Popular Forces. The Simon Wiesenthal Center also voiced its concern, calling on the governor of Essaouira not to respond to AMDH's calls to halt the judicial proceedings.[12]

The Fight for Berber Rights

The coda to this account of the ongoing contestation between Berber activists and their opponents was actually triggered by the author of these lines. In August 2010, the Portuguese Institute of International Relations published an analysis of mine on the prospects and limitations of Israel's relations with the Maghreb states.[13] It included a brief mention of the Berber factor in Morocco and the Maghreb in general, including the affinity among some members of the movement toward Jews and even Israel. It also referred to its primary opponents, the Islamist and pan-Arab currents, for whom rejection of any semblance of normalization with Israel is a sacred principle.

This academic analysis was picked up in a wildly distorted form by the pan-Arab and Moroccan media, from al-Jazeera television to al-Quds al-Arabi, and the Istiqlal Party's al-Alam, which announced the existence of an Israeli "plan," drawn up by the Moshe Dayan Center (this author's home institute at Tel Aviv University) to promote Israel's "penetration" of the Maghreb through the manipulation of the Berber movement.[14] The reports touched off yet another round of heated exchanges in the Moroccan press and various Internet talk forums. To its credit, one liberal French-language Moroccan weekly, Actuel, sought me out for a response and printed the full text of my answers to their questions.[15] A special section of the monthly Le Monde Amazigh included the interview, translated into Arabic, along with a number of articles rebuffing the accusation that the Berbers were a tool of the Zionist movement. The real purpose behind the campaign, said Berber activists, was to divert attention from a concurrent damning report by the U.N.'s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Issued on August 25, the committee took the Moroccan state to task for its failure to recognize the Berber language as an official language and called on it to ensure that the Berbers would not be subject to discrimination, particularly in the areas of employment and health services. It also recommended that the state give special attention to the development of Berber-inhabited regions and ensure that Moroccan Berbers have the choice to give Berber names to their children, a long-running issue for the Amazigh movement.

However amorphous, the Berber movement's core demand in both Morocco and Algeria is clear-cut: state recognition of the Berber demographic, historical, and cultural underpinnings of North Africa; constitutional recognition of Tamazight as an official language of the state; and remedial economic, social, cultural, and educational measures to begin redressing decades of neglect and injustice.

In both countries, the authorities have made some gestures toward the movement with the Moroccan monarchy, in particular, legitimizing Berber culture as an integral part of the Moroccan patrimony even as it tries to contain it within acceptable parameters. Given that the essential parameters of Moroccan political life remain circumscribed, these competing movements are engaged in a kind of para-politics, limited in their capabilities but nonetheless energetically pursuing the reshaping of Moroccan society in their preferred images. It is in this context that the debates regarding Israel, Zionism, and the status of Moroccan Jewry, both past and present, are taking place. However secondary to the main issues facing Morocco, they are clearly hot button subjects for political activists, being useful as a mobilizing tool, especially for the Islamists while Berber militancy has now reached the point where activists are willing and able to verbally give as good as they get. With Morocco's evolution toward greater political openness moving forward, however unevenly, this public dynamic of contention will bear watching.

[1] "Muslims Believe US Seeks to Undermine Islam," WorldPublicOpinion.org, Apr. 24, 2007. Data drawn from a 2007 survey published by worldpublicopinion.org and the University of Maryland/Zogby International 2010 Arab public opinion poll.
[2] Magharebia.com, Sept. 14, 2007.
[3] Al-Alam TV (Tehran), July 21, 2007, trans. Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Washington, D.C.
[4] TelQuel, Mar. 3, 2008; "The Past Two Months Were Hell," Jungle Word, Apr. 3, 2008.
[5] Hassan Bouikhf, in al-Tajdid (Rabat), Jan. 15, 2009; Ahmed Asid, in Bayan al-Yawm (Casablanca), Jan. 23, 2009, quoted in "Berbers, Where Do You Stand on Palestine?" MEMRI, Special Dispatch no. 2262, Feb. 26, 2009.
[6] Arièle Nahmias, "Moroccan Educators at Yad Vashem," International School for Holocaust Studies, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, Jan. 2010.
[7] Maghrib al-Yawm (Casablanca), Nov. 27, 2009.
[8] Al-Watan al-An (Casablanca), Oct. 25, 2010.
[9] Muhammad Elmedlaoui, "Al-Karru Ba'da al-Farru Fi al-Masalat ath-Thaqafa al-Amazighiyya fi al-Maghrib," Ahewar.com, Oct. 27, 2010.
[10] See interview with Azoulay, al-Mushahid al-Maghribi (Casablanca), Nov. 12-25, 2010.
[11] AHN Global News Agency (Washington, D.C.), Aug. 26, 2010.
[12] "Wiesenthal Center Urges Moroccan Authorities to Act against Antisemitic Insults, Threats, and Intimidation," Simon Wiesenthal Center, Los Angeles, Aug. 19, 2010.
[13] Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, "The Limits and Potential of Israel-Maghreb Relations," IPRIS Maghreb Review, July 2010, pp. 15-8.
[14] Sept. 5, 7, 8, 2010.
[15] "Israel ne soutient pas les Amazighs," Actuel, Sept. 18-24, 2010, pp. 47-8.

Original URL: http://www.meforum.org/2853/morocco-berbers-israel

Bruce Maddy-Weitzman is the Marcia Israel Senior Research Fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University. His book The Berber Identity Movement and the Challenge to North African States will be published by the University of Texas Press in 2011.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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