Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Story of Arab Apartheid

by Ben-Dror Yemini

The real “nakba,” the Palestinian-termed great “catastrophe” of the creation of Israel, is the story of Arab apartheid. Tens of millions, among them Jews, suffered from the “nakba,” which included dispossession, expulsion and displacement. Yet only the Palestinians remained refugees because they were treated to abuse and oppression by Arab countries. Below is the story of the real “nakba.”

In 1959, the Arab League passed Resolution 1457, which states as follows: “The Arab countries will not grant citizenship to applicants of Palestinian origin in order to prevent their assimilation into the host countries.” That is a stunning resolution, which was diametrically opposed to international norms in everything pertaining to refugees in those years, particularly in that decade. The story began, of course, in 1948, when the Palestinian “nakba” occurred. It was also the beginning of the controversy of the Arab-Israeli conflict, with the blame heaped on Israel, because it allegedly expelled Palestinian refugees, turning them into miserable wretches. This lie went public through academe and the media dealing with the issue.

In previous articles on the issue of the Palestinians, I explained that there is nothing special about the Israeli-Arab conflict. Here’s why:

First, Arab countries refused to accept the proposal of Israel-Palestine partition, and they launched a war of annihilation against the State of Israel, which had barely been established. All precedents on this matter show that the party that starts the war — and with a declaration of annihilation — pays a price for it.

Second, this entails a population exchange: indeed, between 550,000 and 710,000 Arabs fled the area (the most precise calculation is that of Prof. Ephraim Karash, who calculated and found that their number ranges between 583,000 and 609,000). A minority were expelled because of the war, and a larger number of about 850,000 Jews were expelled or fled from Arab countries (the “Jewish nakba”).

Third, the Palestinians are not unique in this story. Population exchanges and expulsions were the norm at that time. They occurred in dozens of other conflict points, and about 52 million people experienced dispossession, expulsion and uprooting (see: ”And the World Is Lying”).

And fourth, in all the population exchange precedents that occurred during or at the end of an armed conflict, or against the backdrop of either the establishment of a national entity or the disintegration of a multinational state and the establishment of a national entity, there was no return of refugees to the previous region, which had turned into a new national state. The displaced persons and the refugees, with almost no exceptions, found sanctuary in the place in which they joined a population with a similar background. For example, the ethnic Germans who were expelled from Central and Eastern Europe assimilated in Germany, the Hungarian refugees from Czechoslovakia and other places found sanctuary in Hungary, the Ukrainians who were expelled from Poland found sanctuary in Ukraine, and so forth. The affinity between the Arabs who originated in mandatory Palestine and their neighbors in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, was, in fact, similar or even greater than the affinity between many ethnic Germans and Germany, sometimes after a disconnect of many generations.

Only the Arab states acted completely differently from the rest of the world. They crushed the refugees, despite the fact that they were their coreligionists and members of the Arab nation. In the words of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader: “The Arab armies entered Palestine to protect the Palestinians from the Zionist tyranny, but instead they abandoned them, forced them to emigrate and to leave their homeland, imposed upon them a political and ideological blockade and threw them into prisons similar to the ghettos in which the Jews used to live in Eastern Europe” (from the official journal of the PLO, Falastin el-Thawra, “What We Have Learned and What We Should Do,” Beirut, March 1976).

They Arab states, not Israel, instituted a régime of apartheid. So, we must remember that the “nakba” was not caused by actual dispossession, which had also been experienced by tens of millions of others. The “nakba” is the story of the apartheid and abuse suffered by the Arab refugees (it was only later that they became “Palestinians”) in Arab countries.

Apartheid in Egypt

Throughout many eras, there was no real distinction between the inhabitants of Egypt and the inhabitants of the coastal plain. Both were Muslim Arabs, who lived under Ottoman rule. According to the researcher Oroub El-Abed, commercial ties, mutual migration, and intermarriage between the two groups were commonplace. Many of the residents of Jaffa (now in Israel) were defined as Egyptians because they arrived in many waves, like the wave of immigration to Jaffa during the rule of Muhammad Ali and his son over many parts of the coastal plain. Inhabitants of the Ottoman Empire, which became mandatory Palestine, did not have an ethnic or religious identity that differed from that of the Egyptian Arabs.

Various records from the end of 1949 show that 202,000 refugees went to the Gaza Strip, primarily from Jaffa, Beer Sheva and Majdal (Ashkelon). That number may be exaggerated because the local poor also joined the list of aid recipients. The refugees went to the place where they were part of the majority group from all standpoints: ethnic, national and religious. Egypt, however, did not think so. At first, back in September 1948, a “government of all Palestine” was established, headed by Ahmad al-Baki. However, it was an organization under Egyptian auspices due to the rivalry with Jordan. The nascent Palestinian government gave up the venture after a decade.

What happened to the people in the Gaza Strip? How did the Egyptians treat them? Strangely, there is almost no research dealing with those days. But it is a bit difficult to hide that not so distant past. The Gaza Strip became a closed camp. It became almost impossible to leave Gaza. Severe restrictions were imposed on the Gazans (the originals and the refugees) in everything connected with employment, education and other matters. Every night, there was a curfew until dawn the next day. There was only one matter in which the Egyptians assisted to the best of their ability: the school books contained serious incitement against Jews. Already in 1950, Egypt notified the UN that “due to the population crowding,” it would not be possible to assist the Palestinians by resettling them. That was a dubious excuse. Egypt thwarted the UN proposal to resettle 150,000 refugees in Libya. Many of the refugees who had fled in the earlier stages and were within Egypt were also forced to move to the giant concentration camp that was forming in the Gaza Strip. In effect, all the settlement arrangements proposed for resettling the refugees were blocked by the Arab countries.

Despite the absolute isolation, there is testimony about what happened in the Gaza Strip during those years. The important American journalist Martha Gellhorn paid a visit to the refugee camps in 1961. She also went to the Gaza Strip. It wasn’t simple. Gellhorn described the bureaucratic ordeal involved in obtaining an entry permit to the Gaza Strip and the days of waiting in Cairo. She also described the “sharp contrast between the amiability of the clerks, and the anti-Semitic propaganda that blossomed in Cairo.” “The Gaza Strip is not a hole,” Gellhorn stated, “but rather one big prison. The Egyptian government and is the warden.” She described a harsh military régime with all the elite of the Gaza Strip expressing enthusiastically pro-Nasser positions. Thus, for example, “For 13 years (1948-1961) only 300 refugees managed to obtain temporary exit visas.” The only thing that the Egyptians gave the Palestinians was hate propaganda.

That is not the only testimony. In 1966, a Saudi newspaper published a letter by one of the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip:

I would be happy if the Gaza Strip would be conquered by Israel. At least that way we would know that the one violating our honor, hurting us and tormenting us – would be the Zionist oppressor, Ben Gurion, and not an Arab brother whose name is Abdel Nasser. The Jews under Hitler did not suffer the way we are suffering under Nasser. In order to go to Cairo or Alexandria or other cities, we have to go through an ordeal.

Radio Jedda in Saudi Arabia broadcast the following:

We are aware of the laws that prohibit Palestinians from working in Egypt. We have to ask Cairo, what is the Iron Curtain that Abdel Nasser and his gang have raised around the Gaza Strip and the refugees? The military governor in Gaza has prohibited every Arab from traveling to Cairo without a military permit, which is valid for only 24 hours. Imagine, Arabs, how Nasser, who claims to be the pioneer of Arab nationalism, treats the wretched Arabs of Gaza, who are starving to death while the military governor and his officers enjoy the riches in the Gaza Strip.

Even assuming that those were exaggerated descriptions in the struggle between Saudi Arabia and Nasser, we are still left with an oppressive régime of two decades. And it is worth noting another fact: when Israel arrived in the Gaza Strip, the life expectancy there was 48 years of age. After a little over two decades, the life expectancy has jumped to 72 years of age, past that of Egypt. More than the fact that this awards points to Israel, it also shows the abyss in which the Gaza Strip found itself during the days of the Egyptian régime.

Refugees from mandatory Palestine also lived in Egypt itself. Many of them did not even feel that they were Palestinians and preferred to assimilate. The Egyptians prevented them from doing so. Except for a short period of time that was considered the “golden age,” during some of the years of Nasser’s rule, which did not include the Gaza refugees. Even those who were in Egypt suffered from restrictions on purchasing land, engaging in certain professions and education (for example, there was a prohibition on the establishment of a Palestinian school). The Egyptian citizenship law allowed citizenship for someone whose father was Egyptian, and later, the law was expanded to anyone whose mother was Egyptian. In actuality, however, restrictions were imposed on anyone considered a Palestinian. Even the decision of an Egyptian court canceling the restrictions did not help.

The new régime in Egypt has recently promised change. The change, even if it happens, cannot erase many years of discrimination, which was tantamount to collective punishment. Thus, for example, in 1978, Egyptian Minister of Culture Yusouf al-Shib’ai was murdered in Cyprus by a member of Abu Nidal’s group. In reprisal, the Palestinians suffered a new wave of attacks, and the Egyptian parliament renewed legislation restricting the Palestinians in education and employment services.

Apartheid in Jordan

Precisely like the identification and unity between the Arabs of Jaffa and southern Israel and the Arabs of Egypt, similar identification exists between the Arabs of the West Bank and the Arabs of Jordan. Thus, for example, the Bedouin of the Majalis (or Majilis) tribe from the al-Karak region are originally from Hebron. During the days of the Ottoman Empire, Eastern Jordan was part of the Damascus district, like other parts of what later came under the auspices of the British Palestinian Mandate. According to the Balfour declaration, the area now called Jordan was supposed to be part of the Jewish national homeland.

The initial distress of the refugees on both sides of the Jordan River was enormous. For example, Iraqi soldiers controlled the area of Nablus, and there is testimony about “the Iraqi soldiers taking the children of the rich for acts of debauchery and returning the children to their families the next day, the inhabitants are frequently arrested.” Indeed, Arab solidarity.

It seemed that Jordan treated the refugees differently. Under a 1954 Jordanian law, any refugee who lived in the area of Jordan between 1948 and 1954 was given the right to citizenship. However, that was only the outward façade. Below is a description of the reality under the Jordanian régime in the West Bank:

We have never forgotten and we will never forget the nature of the régime that degraded our honor and trampled our human feelings. A régime that was built on an inquisition and the boots of the desert people. We lived for a long time under the humiliation of the Arab nationalism and it hurts to say that we had to wait for the Israeli conquest in order to become aware of humane relations with civilians.

It should be noted that these statements were published in the name of critics of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in an interview with the Lebanese newspaper Al Hawadith on April 23, 1971.

As in all other Arab countries, Jordan did not do a thing to dismantle the refugee camps. While Israel was absorbing hundreds of thousands of refugees from Europe and the Arab countries in similar camps (transit camps), and undergoing a punishing process of rehabilitation, building new settlements and dismantling the camps, Jordan did exactly the opposite and prevented any process of rehabilitation. During those same two decades, not one institution of higher learning was established in the West Bank. The flowering of higher education began in the 1970s, after the Israelis took control.

Even the citizenship that was given to the refugees was mainly for the sake of appearances. Despite the fact that the Palestinians number over 50% of the inhabitants of Jordan, they hold only 18 seats – out of 110 – in the Jordanian parliament, and only 9 senators out of 55, who are appointed by the king. It should also be recalled that during just one month, September 1970, in one confrontation, Jordan killed many more Palestinians than all the Palestinians who have been hurt in the 43 years of Israeli rule over the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Apartheid in Syria

The first Congress of Muslim-Christian Associations, the first Palestinian Arab conference, was held in Jerusalem in 1919. At the conference, it was decided that Palestine, which had just been conquered by the British, was southern Syria — an integral part of greater Syria. Over the years of the mandate, the immigration from Syria into the British mandate territory increased, for example, the Al-Hourani family, which arrived from the Houran in Syria. The idea of “greater Syria,” which included mandatory Palestine, was also reflected in the growing involvement of Syrians in the great Arab rebellion and in the gangs that arrived from Syria during the War of Independence. The refugees, therefore, were not strangers politically, religiously or ethnically. To the contrary, their fate should not have been different from the fate of other ethnic groups who were expelled to a place in which they constituted the national and cultural majority.

Between 70,000 and 90,000 refugees arrived in Syria, the decisive majority of them from Safed, Haifa, Tiberias and Acre. Thus, in 1954, they were granted partial rights, which did not include political rights. Until 1968, they were prohibited from holding property. Syrian law enables any Arab citizens to obtain Syrian citizenship, provided that his permanent residence is in Syria and he has a proven capacity for economic subsistence. However, the Palestinians are the only ones outside the applicability of the law. Even if they are permanent residents and possess means, the law prevents them from obtaining citizenship.

Only 30% of those who, for some reason, are still considered “Palestinian refugees in Syria” still live in refugee camps. Actually, they should long ago have been considered Syrians for all intents and purposes. They were part of the national Arab identity, they are connected by family ties, they should have been assimilated into the economic life of the country. But despite that, as a result of political brainwashing, they remain in Syria as a foreign element. They daydream about the “right of return,” and are kept perpetually in their inferior status. Most of them are at the bottom of the employment ladder, in the service (41%) and construction (27%) professions. Twenty-three percent do not even go to elementary school and only 3% reach academic education.

Apartheid in Lebanon

In the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians suffered for only two decades because of the Egyptian régime. In Lebanon, the apartheid continues to this day. The result is poverty, neglect, and enormous unemployment. Up to 1969, the refugee camps were under the stringent military control of Lebanon. According to the descriptions of Martha Gellhorn, most of the refugees were in a reasonable situation. Many even improved their standard of living compared with the days before the “nakba.” But in 1969, the Cairo Agreement was signed, which transferred control of the camps to the refugees themselves. The situation only grew worse. Terrorist organizations took control of the camps, which turned them into arenas of conflict — mostly violent — among the various groups.

A new study that was published in December 2010 presents data that makes the Gaza Strip look like paradise compared with Lebanon. Indeed, there was some scant publicity about it here and there, but as far as we know, there was no worldwide protest, not even a Turkish or international flotilla.

In contrast to Syria and Jordan, in which most of those defined as refugees are no longer in refugee camps, two thirds of the Palestinians in Lebanon live in camps, which are “enclaves outside the control of the state.” The most stunning data is that, despite the fact that about 425,000 refugees are registered with UNRWA, the study found that only between 260,000 and 280,000 Palestinians live in Lebanon. The paradox is that UNRWA is receiving financing for more than 150,000 people who are not even in Lebanon. This figure alone should have led to a serious inquest by the financing countries (primarily the US and Europe), but there is no chance that that will happen. The issue of the refugees is fraught with so many errors and lies that one more lie doesn’t really change anything. And so UNRWA can demand a budget for 425,000 people from the international community, while its website has a link to the study that shows that it’s all a fiction.

According to the study, the refugees are suffering from 56% unemployment. That seems to be the highest figure, not just among the Palestinians, but in the entire Arab world. Even those who are working are at the bottom of the employment ladder. Only 6% of those in the workforce have some kind of academic degree (compared with 20% of the workforce in Lebanon). The result is that 66% of the Palestinians in Lebanon live below the poverty line, which was set at six dollars per day per person. That is double the number of the Lebanese.

This dismal state of affairs is a result of apartheid for all intents and purposes. A series of Lebanese laws restrict the right to citizenship, to property, and to employment in the fields of law, medicine, pharmaceutics, journalism, etc. In August 2010, there was a limited amendment to the labor law, but the amendment did not actually lead to any real change. Another directive prohibits the entry of building materials into refugee camps, and there are reports of arrests and the demolition of houses resulting from construction in the refugee camps. The partial and limited prohibition of some building materials imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip stemmed from the firing of rockets at population centers. As far as we know, no prohibition was imposed in Lebanon due to a similar firing of rockets at population centers. And despite that, again, beyond the dry reports of human rights organizations, as part of the outlook that “they are permitted to do as they please,” no serious protest was recorded and no “apartheid week” was held against Lebanon.

Apartheid in Kuwait

In 1991, the Palestinians constituted 30% of the country of Kuwait’s population. Relative to other Arab countries, their situation there was reasonable. Then Saddam Hussein invaded from Iraq. As part of the attempts at compromise that proceeded to first Gulf War, Saddam made a “proposal” to retreat from Kuwait in exchange for Israel’s retreat from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The PLO, headed by Yasir Arafat, supported Saddam’s proposal. That support was the opening salvo in one of the worst events in Palestinian history. After Kuwait was liberated from the Iraqi conquest, an anti-Palestinian campaign commenced, which included persecution, arrests and show trials. The terrible saga ended in the expulsion of 450,000 Palestinians. Incidentally, some of them had settled there back in the 1930s, and most of them had no connection to Arafat’s support for Saddam. Nevertheless, they were subject to collective punishment, a transfer of proportions similar to the original nakba in 1948, which barely earned any mention in the world media. There are endless academic publications on the expulsion and flight in 1948. There are close to zero studies on the “nakba” of 1991.

* * *

These are the main countries in which the refugees are located. Apartheid is also rampant in other countries. In Saudi Arabia, the refugees from mandatory Palestine have not received citizenship. In 2004, Saudi Arabia announced some changes, but clarified that the changes do not include the Palestinians. Jordan also prevents 150,000 refugees, most of them originally from the Gaza Strip, from receiving citizenship now. In Iraq, the refugees were actually given preference under the leadership of Saddam Hussein, but since he fell from power, they have become one of the most persecuted groups. Twice, both on the Libyan-Egyptian border and on the Syria-Iraqi border, thousands of expelled Palestinians lived in temporary camps and not a single Arab state agreed to take them. That was a formidable show of “Arab solidarity,” in making the “Arab nation.” And it continues. Palestinians from Libya, refugees from the civil war, are now arriving at the border of Egypt, which refuses to grant them entry.

Time after time, the Arab countries have rejected proposals to resettle the refugees, despite the fact that there was room and there was a need. The march continues. In 1995, the ruler of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, decided to expel 30,000 Palestinians, just because he was angry about the Oslo accords, about the PLO, and about the establishment of the Palestinian Authority. A Palestinian doctor, Dr. Ashraf al-Hazouz, spent 8 years in a Libyan prison (together with Bulgarian nurses) on false charges of spreading AIDS. In August 2010, before the present uprising, Libya passed laws that made the lives of the Palestinians impossible. It was at precisely the same time that Libya dispatched a “humanitarian aid ship” to the Gaza Strip. There is no limit to hypocrisy.

The following is a summary of the apartheid against minorities in the Arab world in general, and against the Palestinians in particular. But there is a difference. While the Copts in Egypt or the Kurds in Syria are, indeed, minorities, the Arabs from mandatory Palestine were supposed to be an integral part of the Arab nation. Two of the symbols of the Palestinian struggle were born in Egypt – Edward Said and Yasir Arafat. Both of them tried to fabricate their birthplace as Palestine. Two other prominent symbols of the struggle by the Arabs of mandatory Palestine are Fawzi al-Qawuqji (who competed with the mufti to lead the Arab struggle against the British) and Izz al-Din al-Qassam – the former Lebanese and the latter Syrian. There is nothing strange about this, because the struggle was Arab, not Palestinian. And despite that, the Arabs of mandatory Palestine became the most downtrodden and spurned group of all, following the Arab defeat in 1948. The vast majority of the descriptions from those years talks about Arabs, not about Palestinians. Later, only later, did they become Palestinians.

The Arab countries are well aware that their treatment of the refugees from mandatory Palestine was no less than scandalous. To that end, they signed the “Casablanca Protocol” in 1965, which was supposed to grant the Palestinians the right of employment and movement, but not citizenship. Some relief was almost within their grasp. But like other documents of that type, this one did not change a thing. The abuse continued.

Comparatively, it seems that the Palestinian group that underwent the most significant growth is the one that is under Israeli sovereignty — both the Israeli Arabs who received Israeli citizenship, whose situation is far better, and the Arabs of the territories. Despite the harsh living conditions in Lebanon and Syria, and before that also in Egypt and the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians under Israeli rule, beginning in 1967, have enjoyed a steady rise in their standard of living, in employment, in health services, in life expectancy, in the dramatic drop in infant mortality, and in the enormous growth of higher education.

For example, in all the territories captured by Israel in 1967, there was not one institution of higher education. In the 1970s, academic institutions began to sprout one after the other, and today there are at least 16 institutions of higher education. The growth in the number of students has continued for three decades, including during the years of the Intifada in the last decade. Within six decades, the Palestinians — only those under Israeli rule — have become the most educated group in the Arab world.

The same is true in the political arena. After decades of political oppression, it was only under Israeli rule that the Palestinian national consciousness sprang up. For two decades after the War of Independence, the Arabs could have established a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. They did not do so — until Israel arrived and released them from the oppression of two decades. That didn’t make the occupation desirable. It doesn’t mean that there weren’t injustices and dispossessions. There were. But it seems that after the first two decades following the “nakba,” it was actually the era of Israeli rule that caused the enormous flourishing growth in every field. We should, and we must, criticize the negative aspects of the occupation. But we should, and we must, also remember the aspect that is ignored.

In the past decades, the lie has arisen again and again about Israel’s responsibility for the distress of the Palestinians, so it is advisable to set matters straight. The Palestinians went through a terrible experience of uprooting and expulsion. Most of them fled. Some of them were expelled. But, again, that type of occurrence was experienced by tens of millions of others. The difference lies in the fact that all the other tens of millions were absorbed by the countries to which they went. That has not been the case with the Palestinians. They have gone through ordeals of oppression, abuse, and denial of rights. That was the work of the Arab countries, which decided to perpetuate the situation. Many proposals to resolve the problem of the Palestinians and resettle them have been rejected again and again. The open wound has festered. Yet, time after time, the Arabs themselves have claimed that the Arabs are one nation.

The borders between the countries, and of this there is no dispute, are a fiction of the colonial government. After all, there is no difference, either ethnic, or religious, or cultural, or national, between the Arabs of Jaffa and Gaza and the Arabs of El Arish and Port Said, or between the Arabs of Safed and Tiberias and the Arabs of Syria and Lebanon. Despite that, the Arab refugees have become the forced victims of the Arab world. The “right of return,” which is primarily a propaganda invention, has become the ultimate demand. Behind this demand was hidden, and still hides, one single intention: the annihilation of the State of Israel. The Egyptian Foreign Minister, Muhammad Salah al-Din, said back in 1949 that the “demand for the right of return was actually intended to achieve the purpose of annihilating Israel.”

That was also the case at a conference of refugees that was held in 1957 in Homs in Syria, where it was declared that “any discussion of the refugee issue that does not promise the right to the annihilation of Israel will be deemed a desecration of the Arab nation and treason.” There is no confusion here between the “right of return” and the “right of annihilation.” It is the same “right.” Identical words about return, whose purpose is the annihilation of Israel, were stated in 1988 by Sacher Habash, Yasir Arafat’s adviser. So, too, in our day, is the BDS campaign, whose platform supports the “right of return,” and whose leaders, such as Omar Barghouti, explained that the real objective is the annihilation of Israel.

Already back in 1952, Alexander Galloway, a senior official in UNRWA, stated that “the Arab countries do not want to resolve the problem of the refugees. They want to leave them like an open wound, as a weapon against Israel. The Arab rulers don’t care at all if the refugees live or die.” The Palestinian historiography has erased all expressions of this type, just as it has erased the absorption of tens of millions of refugees in other places, and as it has erased the “Jewish nakba,” the story of the dispossession and expulsion of Jews from Arab countries, and as it has erased the story of the Arab apartheid. But the truth must be told. Indeed, there was a nakba, but it is a nakba that is recorded primarily in the name of the Arab apartheid.


Ben-Dror Yemini
is a researcher, a lecturer and a journalist. He can be reached at

- Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

The Real Egyptian Revolution

by Caroline B. Glick

The coverage of recent events in Egypt is further proof that Western elites cannot see the forest for the trees. Over the past week, leading newspapers have devoted relatively in-depth coverage to the Egyptian military authorities’ repressive actions in subduing protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo, particularly during their large protest last Friday.

That is, they have provided in-depth coverage of one spent force repressing another spent force. Neither the military nor the protesters are calling the shots anymore in Egypt, if they ever were. That is the job of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The proximate cause of last Friday’s mass demonstration was what the so-called Twitter and Facebook revolutionaries consider the military’s slowness to respond to their demand for ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s head on a platter. The military responded by announcing that Mubarak and his sons will go on trial for capital crimes on August 3.

Beyond bloodlust, the supposedly liberal young sweethearts of the Western media are demanding a cancellation of the results of the referendum held in March on the sequencing of elections and constitutional reform. Voting in that referendum was widely assessed as the freest vote in Egyptian history. Seventy-seven percent of the public voted to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in September and to appoint members of a constitutional assembly from among the elected members of the next parliament to prepare Egypt’s new constitution.

The protesters rightly assert that the early elections will pave the way for the Muslim Brotherhood’s takeover of Egypt, since the Brotherhood is the only well-organized political force in Egypt. But then, the liberals said they wanted popular rule.

The Facebook protesters demanded Mubarak’s immediate removal from power in January. They would not negotiate Mubarak’s offer to use the remainder of his final term to shepherd Egypt towards a quasi-democratic process that might have prevented the Brotherhood from taking over.

In their fantasy world – which they inhabit with Western intellectuals – the fates of nations are determined by the number of “likes” on your facebook page. And so, when they had the power to avert the democratic Islamist takeover of their country in January, they squandered it.

Now, when it is too late, they are trying to win through rioting what they failed to win at the ballot box, thus discrediting their protestations of liberal values.

Their new idea was spelled out last week at an EU-sponsored conference in Cairo. According to the Egyptian media, they hope to convince the military they protest against to stack the deck for the constitutional assembly in a way that prevents the Brotherhood from controlling the proceedings. As Hishan el-Bastawisy, a former appellate judge and presidential hopeful explained, “What we can push for now is that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has to put some guarantees of choosing the constituent assembly in the sense that it does not reflect the parliamentary majority.”

So much for Egypt’s liberal democrats.

AS FOR the military, its actions to date make clear that its commanders do not see themselves as guardians of secular rule in Egypt. Instead, they see themselves as engines for a transition from Mubarak’s authoritarian secularism to the Brotherhood’s populist Islamism.

Since forcing Mubarak to resign, the military junta has embraced Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. They engineered the Palestinian unity government which will pave the way for Hamas’s victory in the Palestinian Authority’s legislative and presidential elections scheduled for the fall.

Then there is Sinai. Since the revolution, the military has allowed Sinai to become a major base not only for Hamas but for the global jihad. As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned on Monday, Egyptian authorities are not asserting their sovereignty in Sinai and jihadists from Hamas, al-Qaida and other groups are inundating the peninsula.

Last week’s move to open Egypt’s border with Gaza at the Rafah passage is further proof that the military has made its peace with the Islamic takeover of Egypt. While the likes of The New York Times make light of the significance of the move by pointing to the restrictions that Egypt has placed on Palestinian travel, the fact is that the Egyptians just accepted Hamas’s sovereignty over an international border.

Many in the West argue that given Egypt’s increasingly dire economic situation, there is no way the military will turn its back on the US and Europe. By all accounts, Egypt is facing economic collapse. By summer’s end it will be unable to feed its population due to grain shortages. By November, its foreign reserves will have dried up.

But rather than do everything they can to convince foreign investors and governments that Egypt’s market is safe, the military junta is taking steps that destroy the credibility of the Egyptian market. To please both the Mubarak-obsessed protesters at Tahrir Square and the Muslim Brotherhood, the military refuses to reinstate natural gas shipments to Israel.

Not only is Egypt denying itself hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues by cutting off gas shipments to Israel, (and Jordan, Syria and Lebanon). It is destroying its reputation as a credible place to do business. And according to the New York Times, it is also making it impossible for the Obama administration to help the Egyptian economy. The Times’ reported this week that the US tied President Barack Obama’s pledge of $1 billion in debt forgiveness and $1b. in loan guarantees to the Egyptian authorities asserting sovereignty in northern Sinai. Presumably this means they must renew gas shipments to Israel and fight terror.

The fact that the military would rather facilitate Egypt’s economic collapse than take the unpopular step of renewing gas shipments to Israel ought to end any thought that economic interests trump political sentiments. This situation will only get worse when the Muslim Brotherhood takes over Egypt in September.

AND MAKE no mistake. They intend to take over. As they did in the lead up to March’s constitutional referendum, the Brotherhood is using its mosques as campaign offices. The message is clear: If you are a good Muslim you will vote for the Muslim Brotherhood.

When Mubarak was overthrown in January, the Brotherhood announced it would only contest 30% of the parliamentary seats. Last month the percentage rose to 50. In all likelihood, in September the Brotherhood will contest and win the majority of the seats in the Egyptian parliament.

When Mubarak was overthrown, the Brotherhood announced it would not run a candidate for president. And when Brotherhood Shura governing council member and Physicians Union leader Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh announced last month that he is running for president, the Brotherhood quickly denied that he is the movement’s candidate. But there is no reason to believe them.

According to a report Thursday in Egypt’s Al- Masry al-Youm’s English edition, the Brotherhood is playing to win. They are invoking the strategies of the movement’s founder, Hassan al-Banna, for establishing an Islamic state. His strategy had three stages: indoctrination, empowerment and implementation. Al-Masry al-Youm cites Khairat al- Shater, the Brotherhood’s “organizational architect,” as having recently asserted that the Brotherhood is currently in the second stage and moving steadily towards the third stage.

Now that we understand that they are about to implement their goal of Islamic statehood, we need to ask what it means for Egypt and the region.

On Sunday, Brotherhood Chairman Mohammed Badie gave an interview to Egyptian television that was posted on the Muslim Brotherhood’s English website Badie’s statements indicated that the Brotherhood will end any thought of democracy in Egypt by taking control over the media. Badie said that the Brotherhood is about to launch a public news channel, “with commitment to the ethics of the society and the rules of the Islamic faith.”

He also demanded that state radio and television begin broadcasting recordings of Banna’s speeches and sermons. Finally, he complained about the anti-Brotherhood hostility of most private media organs in Egypt.

As for Israel, Badie was asked how a Brotherhood- led Egypt would react if Israel takes military action against Hamas. His response was honest enough. As he put it, “The situation will change in such a case, and the Egyptian people will have their voice heard. Any government in power will have to respect the choice of the people, whatever that is, like in any democracy.”

In other words, the peace between Israel and Egypt will die of populist causes.

SO FAR, Israel’s responses to these strategically disastrous developments have been muted and insufficient. On Wednesday, the Defense Ministry announced that Israel is speeding up construction of the border fence between Egypt and Israel. The 210-km.-long fence is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2012.

While this is an important move given Gaza’s effective fusion into Sinai with the border opening, it does not address the looming threat from Egypt itself. It does not address the fact that with Mubarak’s ouster, a previously all-but unthinkable outbreak of hostilities with Egypt has now become eminently thinkable.

Facing the prospect of a Muslim Brotherhoodruled Egypt in September, Israel’s government must begin preparing both diplomatically and militarily for a new confrontation with Egypt.

The West’s intoxication with the myth of the Arab Spring means that currently, the political winds are siding with Egypt. If Egypt were to start a war with Israel, or simply support Hamas in a war against Israel, at a minimum, Cairo would enjoy the same treatment from Europe and the US that the Hezbollah-dominated Lebanese government and army enjoyed in 2006. To block this possibility, the government must begin educating opinion shapers and political leaders in the West about the nature of the Muslim Brotherhood It must also call for a cut-off of US military aid to Egypt.

Militarily, the government must increase the size of the IDF’s Southern Command. The Egyptian armed forces have more than a million men under arms. Egypt’s arsenal includes everything from F-16s to Abrams tanks to first-class naval ships to ballistic missiles to sophisticated pontoon bridges for crossing the Suez Canal.

The IDF must expand its draft rolls and increase its force size by at least one division. It must also begin training in desert warfare and develop and purchase appropriate conventional platforms.

With the Iranians now apparently moving from developing nuclear capabilities to developing nuclear warheads, and with the Palestinians escalating their political war and planning their next terror war against Israel, it stands to reason that nobody in the government or the IDF wants to consider the strategic implications of Egypt’s reversion from peace partner to enemy.

But Israel doesn’t get to decide what our neighbors do. We can only take the necessary steps to minimize their ability to harm us.

It’s time to get cracking.


Caroline B. Glick

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

Syria Descends

by Ryan Mauro

In Iran, Neda Soltan became the face of the Green Revolution after video of her bloody death hit the Internet. Now, in Syria, a 13-year old boy named Hamza al-Khateeb has become her equivalent after his tortured corpse was given to his family. The animal-like savagery of the Assad regime is making the Syrian people more determined to be victorious, even as Secretary Clinton complains of the international community’s dithering.

The body of turned over to Hamza al-Khateeb’s family on May 24 was covered in bruises, burns and scars. The injuries indicate electrocution and whippings. His penis was cut off. He was shot in each arm and knee and in his chest. His neck was snapped. After his family made a video detailing the injuries, the father went missing. The incident sparked new protests and intensified current ones. Children and teenagers came out to demonstrate in his name, and Secretary Clinton has made mention of what happened to him. The Syrian regime says it has begun an investigation into the matter, seeking to absolve itself of responsibility.

The regime’s claims of innocence will not be accepted by anyone. The U.N. Children’s Fund says at least 30 children have been killed by gunfire, and there are several videos of killed children that indicate deliberate targeting. This week, a 4-year old girl and another 13-year old boy were killed, according to the Reform Party of Syria. Security agents immediately confiscated the bodies to prevent their deaths from being broadcasted. The arrest of children in Daraa who wrote anti-regime slogans was a major factor in sparking the uprising. They were eventually released with missing fingernails and wounds from being burned with cigarettes.

Testimony from Syrians reveals there is systematic torture of imprisoned protesters and political opponents. Prisoners talk of being cut with scalpels and then being struck on the stitches. People are beaten until they are unconscious and held in over-packed rooms with no clothes on while blindfolded, living among human excrement. One detainee said he was forced to listen to his cousin get burned with a poker. “They enjoy hurting people for the sake it,” one former Syrian military-intelligence agent said.

The international community is failing to respond despite these tales of such inhumanity. Secretary Clinton lamented, “Right now the attitude of the international community is not as united as we are seeking to make it.” She said that countries opposing action against the regime must realize they will be “better off on the right side of history.” Apparently, Russia or China is opposing a U.N. resolution to condemn the regime’s murdering and torturing of protesters. The U.K. is also asking for U.N. action against Syria after the IAEA concluded that a site bombed by Israel in 2007 was “very likely” a secret nuclear reactor.

The Iranian regime continues to work to save the Assad regime. The Revolutionary Guards’ elite Al-Qods Force has been deployed to Damascus to help the regime monitor the online activity of its population. This Iranian aid has helped the regime arrest hundreds of people. The Iranians have also provided equipment to disperse crowds, such as like batons, and there are frequent reports of Iranians and Lebanese Hezbollah members taking part in the violence. A video has hit the Internet of a Hezbollah “guide” seized by Syrians, who details his role in suppressing the protests. Another videotape has the testimony of a captured security agent who says that Iranian personnel are in Damascus and Aleppo, and are helping identify and kill soldiers who disobey the regime.

There are more reports coming in of soldiers refusing to fire on citizens, and of citizens taking up arms to defend themselves. Al-Jazeera has unconfirmed reports of 60 to 70 soldiers disobeying orders, resulting in exchanges of gunfire. The regime then dispatched 3,000 more soldiers to the area of Homs where this took place, and helicopters carried out shootings. Another witness said 200 soldiers and 14 officers defected in Arrasta, and that two tanks clashed there the previous night. Activists have informed the Associated Press of “stiff resistance” by citizens in Tabliseh and Rastan in Homs Province armed with automatic rifles and RPGs.

The Assad regime shows no sign of backing down. The regime has consistently use the threat of Islamists to justify its actions. When the government recently freed 500 political prisoners, the regime announced, “The amnesty includes all members of Muslim Brotherhood and other detainees belonging to political movements.” The regime made similar statements earlier in the uprising when it released 270 prisoners and all but 14 were Islamists.

The prisoner release came as 300 opposition activists met in Turkey to try to form a united front. A 31-member committee was approved to act on behalf of the Syrian opposition, and oversee efforts to assist the protesters. The committee represents both secular liberals and Islamists and all of the minorities. The committee released a statement declaring its commitment to a democratic, secular state with freedom of religion. The group called on President Assad to immediately resign and give power to a vice president while a council to oversee a democratic transition takes power. Parliamentary and presidential elections are to be held within one year after the council takes power.

The U.S. seems very close to calling on Assad to resign. President Obama said in his speech on the Arab Spring that Assad must lead a transition or “get out of the way.” Now, Secretary Clinton says that “the legitimacy that is necessary for anyone to expect change to occur under this current government is, if not gone, nearly run out.” However, the Assad regime is clinging fiercely to power, and the next stage of the conflict is deeply unclear.


Ryan Mauro

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

Al-Qaeda in Sinai

by P. David Hornik

It started early this week when a “senior Egyptian security official” told the Egyptian-based Al-Hayyat TV channel that over 400 Al-Qaeda members had made their way into the Sinai Peninsula. They were said to be composed of Palestinians, Bedouins, and foreign Arabs, and Egyptian security forces were said to be pursuing them since they were “planning to carry out terror attacks in Egypt.”

The official told Al-Hayyat that they had already carried out “attacks against [Egyptian] security forces in the Sinai city of El Arish.”

The report seemed to gain credence on Monday when Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that “Egypt is having a hard time realizing its sovereignty in Sinai. International terror organizations are stirring in Sinai and their presence is increasing due to Sinai’s connection to Gaza.”

Although Netanyahu left it vague, that “due to” can work both ways: terrorists in Sinai, particularly if intent on attacking Israel, can make their way into Gaza, and terrorists in Gaza—especially now that Egypt has opened the Rafah crossing—can make their way into Sinai.

Although it may have gotten a significant boost this week, the problem of Al-Qaeda and other global jihadist forces in Sinai is not new. Last February 5, a gas pipeline to Israel and Jordan was blown up in northern Sinai, and it was blown up again on April 27. The attacks are attributed to local Bedouins, global jihadists, or a collaboration between the two.

Last August, five rockets were fired from Sinai at the Israeli resort town of Eilat; one, the only one to cause damage, instead hit the adjacent Jordanian town of Aqaba, killing one and wounding five. Global jihadists were believed to be behind it. Another rocket, also probably fired from Sinai, had hit Aqaba in April without causing casualties.

Severe bombing attacks have also struck Egyptian targets in Sinai: in 2006, one in Dahab that killed at least 23; in 2005, one in Sharm el-Sheikh that killed 88; and a double bombing at the Taba and Ras al-Shitan resorts in 2004 that took at least 34 lives.

The mounting terror threat from Sinai puts Israel in a difficult dilemma. Under the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, Israel withdrew from Sinai while Egypt agreed to leave it demilitarized, deploying only police and border guards there. But after the first gas-pipeline bombing last February 5, Israel—for the first time since the peace treaty’s signing—allowed Egypt to move military forces into the peninsula.

Though the two Egyptian battalions were supposed to put a lid on the growing anarchy, just days later, Israel turned down an Egyptian request to deploy additional forces, fearing “a complete breakdown of the peace treaty with Cairo.”

Upholding the peace treaty, then, means a growing presence for Al-Qaeda and other global terror in Sinai, without adequate Egyptian—or any other—forces to counter it. Derogating from the treaty means allowing Egypt—in the post-Mubarak era that has seen rising extremism there—back into the peninsula, which borders Gaza to the north and Israel itself to the south, and from which Egypt attacked Israel in 1948 and 1967.

Above all, the situation underlines the fragility of the peace-process paradigm, which has become axiomatic in international diplomacy and assumes that Israel can gain peace in return for territorial concessions.

As long as the Mubarak government—which, while violating almost all the other terms of the peace treaty, never militarily attacked Israel—ruled Egypt, it could be claimed that the paradigm was at least succeeding in the Egyptian case. Today, with Sinai becoming a terror haven that threatens both Egypt and Israel, and with Israel rightly judging that letting Egyptian forces enter it is even more dangerous, the days—1967 to 1979—when Israeli forces controlled Sinai can only be regarded with nostalgia.


P. David Hornik

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The New Egypt Does Not Care About The Gaza Strip

by Khaled Abu Toameh

Egypt's decision to reopen the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip is aimed more at improving the image of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces than at helping the Palestinians.

Already on the first day that the terminal was reopened, Palestinian travelers discovered that Egypt's ruling military council was exploiting the event as a publicity stunt.

First, the Egyptian authorities limited the number of Palestinians who were allowed to travel through the border crossing to only a few hundred each day.

Second, the Egyptians banned many Palestinians from the Gaza Strip from crossing the terminal for "security reasons."

These restrictions are not really different from those that were imposed on the 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip by the former regime of Hosni Mubarak.

The Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the Hamas government were among the first in the Arab world to welcome the downfall of the Mubarak regime. But in wake of the new-old travel restrictions, they are beginning to realize that the joy over the success of the Egyptian "revolution" was premature.

Some Palestinians believe that the military council's restrictions are the result of a visit to Cairo by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The Palestinian Authority fears that the reopening of the border crossing would bolster Hamas's standing and tighten its grip on the Gaza Strip. Despite the Egyptian-brokered reconciliation agreement reached in Cairo last month, Abbas continues to relate to the Islamist movement as a political rival and not as an ally or partner.

The Palestinian Authority is said to be upset by Egypt's decision to exclude its representatives in managing the border crossing. Abbas loyalists who used to run the border crossing under the supervision of European monitors were forced to stop when Hamas seized full control over the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007.

The Egyptians also have their own reason for keeping the Gaza Strip closed.

The military council in Cairo is afraid that lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip would strengthen not only Hamas, but also the Muslim Brotherhood organization in Egypt. Although some of the military officers running the country have displayed sympathy toward the Muslim Brotherhood, they still do not want to see Egypt fall into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood organization.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces will try to stay in power for as long as possible despite its promise to hold elections before the end of the year.

Further, the Egyptian authorities fear that an open border with the Palestinians would appear as if Egypt is once again responsible for everything that happens inside the Gaza Strip – a role that the Egyptians have been avoiding fulfilling since 1967.

It is now obvious that Mubarak's successors also want the Gaza Strip to be seen as Israel's responsibility alone.


Khaled Abu Toameh

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

What 'Arab Spring'?

by Cal Thomas

Upheaval in Yemen and the possibility that al Qaeda might take over, turning that country into a stronger terrorist base than it already is, should give pause to American and European policy in the Arab world. At its recently concluded G-8 meeting of industrial economies in Deauville, France, Western governments pledged $40 billion to "newly democratic" nations in North Africa and the Middle East. One might as well throw money at Chicago and hope for electoral reform so the dead are no longer allowed to vote on Election Day.

In spring, one usually cultivates a lawn so that new vegetation can take root and grow. In the Arab world where this money is targeted, the only roots you'll find are the roots of oppression and terrorism.

If Western nations think what is happening in Tunisia and Egypt will lead to real democracy, where competing political parties, ideologies and faiths have a fair and equal opportunity of being debated, they are seriously deluded. The money would have a better chance of financing a winning streak in a Las Vegas casino.

If these countries were seriously pursuing democracy and needed only money to complete their transformation, there is plenty of money in the region that could be used to help them.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, OPEC income is expected to rise this year above the $200 billion increase of 2010. That would be around $833 billion, the Energy Information Administration forecasts.

That's money the United States and the rest of the G-8 have paid oil-producing nations at prices ranging from $4 to $7 a gallon, depending on the country.

If money alone could foster democracy in North Africa and the Middle East, there are plenty of Arab countries with loads of it -- chiefly Saudi Arabia. Yet the Saudis have shown very little interest in an "Arab Spring," preferring to remain instead in the doldrums of an Arab winter.

Democracy doesn't spring up of its own accord. It must have a base from which it can blossom. That was a point made by Timur Kuran, a professor of economics and political science at Duke University, in a recent op-ed column for the New York Times entitled "The Weak Foundations of Arab Democracy."

Kuran wrote:

"Democracy requires checks and balances, and it is largely through civil society that citizens protect their rights as individuals, force policymakers to accommodate their interests, and limit abuses of state authority. Civil society also promotes a culture of bargaining and gives future leaders the skills to articulate ideas, form coalitions and govern."

None of this exists in any of the nations to which the G-8 has pledged its support. In Egypt, supposedly the most progressive of the Arab states, fundamentalist Muslims still persecute Coptic Christians.

The radical Muslim Brotherhood, which at the start of the revolution claimed no interest in political power, is now active in its pursuit of victory in the upcoming election and hints that it might revoke Egypt's peace treaty with Israel.

The problems in North Africa and the Middle East can't be solved by money. What's needed is a change in outlook. Radical Islam forces women into second-class status; it is rooted not in optimism, but in pessimism.

Radical Islamists appear to serve an angry god who commands them to kill those who do not believe as they do, but this belief will do little to lift the Arab world out of the religious and political deep freeze that holds it back from true progress.

In C.S. Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," Narnia has been transformed by a white witch into a land where it is "always winter, but never Christmas."

That pretty much describes the lands of North Africa and the Middle East where the "white witch" is radical Islam and spring will never arrive as long as it holds sway over the minds and hearts of the people.


Cal Thomas

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

Jonathan Spyer: The Strategic Significance of Damascus

by William Aquilino

A briefing by Jonathan Spyer

Jonathan Spyer began by stating that as revolution spread across the Middle East, the Assad regime maintained belief that its citizenry would be loyal to the regime. When protests erupted in Syria, however, the Assad regime resorted to force and terror—including the use of artillery against population centers—in an attempt to quell the uprising. Global opinion also seemed to be quelled, with journalists unwilling to risk their lives against Syrian artillery, the U.S. and E.U. content with using sanctions to influence the Assad regime, and neighboring countries unwilling to press Syria to reform.

According to Mr. Spyer, factions within Syria have also diluted the potency of the protests—including an amorphous rebel leadership structure and Islamist groups in the pockets of Assad. Given the reality of the situation, Mr. Spyer believes the regime has a solid chance of survival.

More worrisome are the strategic implications in the region, especially vis-à-vis Iran. Syria's alignment with Iran remains a core feature of Syrian policy, an "insurance policy" that protects Assad from paying the price for his regime's activities. Tehran's tutelage, combined with Western hesitancy, insures that the Assad regime continues to survive. Moreover, the success of Syria's alignment with Iran—and the simultaneous toppling of U.S.-backed governments—has shown Middle Eastern regimes the relative safety of Iran's sphere of influence and the risks associated with aligning with Western powers.

During the question and answer session, Mr. Spyer voiced confusion as to why the United States launches missiles at Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi—an isolated eccentric of the region—while refusing to send the Air Force against the greater threat of the Assad regime. Mr. Spyer descried the weakness of E.U. and U.S. actions against Syria, warning that Iran's skill at using "proxy military forces as a tool for building political influence" will continue unabated as Syria allows Iran to funnel materiel through its borders to support Hezbollah and Hamas.


Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center in Israel, a columnist for the Jerusalem Post, and author most recently of The Transforming Fire: The Rise of the Israel-Islamist Conflict (Continuum, 2011).

William Aquilino is an MEF intern

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In Egypt, Muslims' Attacks on Copts Increase

by N. Shamni and L. Azuri

Since the January 25, 2011 revolution, Egypt has seen several clashes between Muslims and Copts, and attacks on Coptic churches have increased. In early March, clashes broke out in the village of Sol, in the Helwan Governorate, over the demolition of a church there. On March 23, in the Upper Egyptian city of Qena, Salafists attacked and cut off the ear of a Copt suspected of having relations with a Muslim woman. Qena also saw mass demonstrations by Muslims over the appointment of a Coptic province governor, ultimately leading the authorities to suspend his appointment for a period of three months. In April in the town of Abu Qarqas, a quarrel over a building put up by a Copt, which obstructed traffic, sparked clashes that ended in numerous arrests and dozens of injuries, with the homes of several Copts torched. Violence also erupted on May 19 in the Cairo suburb of Ain Shams, when Muslims demonstrated against the government's decision to reopen the Church of the Virgin there, which had been closed for three years.

The clashes peaked on May 7, when a fight broke out outside the Mary Mina Church in the Imbaba neighborhood of Cairo, in the Al-Giza Governorate, leaving 12 Copts and Muslims dead and hundreds of others wounded. Violence was sparked off when hundreds of Muslims gathered outside the church, demanding the release of 'Abir Tal'at Fakhri – a young Coptic woman who, according to her Muslim husband, was being held there against her will after having converted from Christianity to Islam.

Since then, Copts have staged numerous demonstrations throughout Egypt, as well as a prolonged sit-down strike outside the state television building in Cairo, demanding protection of their rights and the prosecution of those responsible for the violence. It should be noted that in recent years, there were a number of similar incidents in Egypt involving young Coptic women who were reportedly held captive by the Church after converting to Islam.

In the Egyptian press, Muslim and Coptic writers pinned responsibility for the events on various elements. The Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces was held largely responsible, on the grounds that the security forces were failing to respond with sufficient urgency and resolve against the attackers. Some blamed the previous regime, stating that its supporters were trying to create chaos in order to pave the way for a counterrevolution. There were also those who blamed Egypt's Salafists, who, they said, have been intimidating the country's residents, Muslims and Copts alike, since the revolution. Others faulted the Coptic Church, claiming that it has placed itself above the law, and that the young women in question converted to Islam in order to escape the church's rigid divorce laws. Yet others said the events were a result of the sexist attitudes of Egyptian society.


N. Shamni and L. Azuri

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

Move the US Embassy to Jerusalem

by Ken Blackwell and Bob Morrison

To understand the question of Jerusalem's status, we should first ask ourselves where the capital of Russia is. Everyone knows it's Moscow. That's where the U.S. Embassy, Spaso House, is located. It's in Moscow because Vladimir Lenin, the Bolshevik revolutionary, moved the capital from the St. Petersburg of Tsar Peter the Great back to the interior of Russia, to that medieval fortress, the Kremlin.

Does the U.S. State Department think it's odd that our American Embassy is located in the capital city designated by the bloody dictator, Lenin? He was a man who dedicated his life to overthrowing the free world -- including us.

Not odd at all. We never considered not having our embassy in the city first designated by the Soviets as their capital.

Now, let's think about Berlin. Berlin was Germany's capital until May 7, 1945. That's when Nazis surrendered unconditionally to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Ike was the Supreme Commander Allied Powers Europe (SCAPE). Ike's staff actually feared Adolf Hitler might hunker down in a mountain redoubt in Bavaria and it might take years to root him out. But he didn't. He shot himself in his Führerbunker, far beneath the flaming, rubble-strewn streets of Berlin.

Afterward, for fifty years, the peaceful little Rhineland town of Bonn was West Germany's capital. The Federal Republic of Germany, as it was called, became an economic powerhouse and a mainstay of our NATO alliance. Following reunification in 1990, the German parliament (Bundestag) voted to transfer the capital back to Berlin. So, in 1999, Germany's democratic lawmakers returned.

The United States Embassy to Germany, of course, dutifully packed up and carted everything to Berlin. We never thought of not doing so.

So, what's up with Jerusalem? Jerusalem has been Israel's capital since Bible times.

All over the world, for three thousand years, Jews have prayed to remember Jerusalem.

The Pslamist wrote: "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy" Ps. 137:5-6).

Jerusalem was a great capital city a thousand years before Paris, before London, and certainly before Washington was thus dignified. Yet, Jerusalem is not where the U.S. Embassy to Israel is located. That's in Tel Aviv. And if your American child is blessed enough to be born in this Holy City, her birth certificate will read "Jerusalem," yes, but not Jerusalem, Israel.

This is because the Obama administration does not want to antagonize the Arabs. The Arabs deny the existence of Israel. Their rejection of Jerusalem as Israel's capital is a key part of their stony negotiating stance. To appease them, Mr. Obama goes the extra mile.

President Obama went to Egypt two years ago this month. He gave a famous speech in which he "reached out to the Muslim world." He chose Al-Azhar Mosque, a nest of Muslim Brotherhood activity, as the site for his speech.

Since that speech, the authoritarian Egyptian ruler, Hosni Mubarak, has been overthrown. His shaky thirty-year peace with Israel is evaporating, like water in the desert. Mubarak's predecessor, Anwar Sadat, won a Nobel Peace Prize for making that peace pact with Israel. The Muslim Brotherhood assassinated Sadat in broad daylight in 1981 for doing so.

So far, the Muslim Brotherhood is the only group to benefit from the Obama outreach to Muslims. The "Arab Spring" in which his administration places such great stock is bringing them to power in Egypt and possibly Libya, too. Still, President Obama wouldn't dream of not sending the U.S. ambassador to Cairo, in Egypt.

Obama policy in the Mideast is a barren fig tree. It has yielded nothing. It's time to try something different: Let's tell the Arabs that the United States' Embassy in Israel is moving to Jerusalem. And all birth certificates for Americans born in that ancient capital city will henceforth read, Jerusalem, Israel.

The President should tell his Muslim friends that Israel has taken risks for peace, only to be rewarded with renewed terrorist attacks. By moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, the president will show that he is sincere in his determination to stand by Israel in her hour of need. President Obama should appreciate the importance of this gesture; after all, his own birth certificate says: "Honolulu, Hawaii." He knows why these things matter.


Ken Blackwell and Bob Morrison

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

Arab Leaders Betray the Palestinians -- Again

by Leo Rennert

It was only a few days ago that, amid great fanfare, Egyptian authorities announced the reopening of the Rafah crossing at their border with Gaza. The move was hailed as a major victory for the Hamas terrorist group, which rules Gaza, and a blow to Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip. It was also viewed as a radical switch by Egypt's military rulers away from the more cooperative stance Hosni Mubarak displayed in his relations with Israel.

But in the Middle East, perceptions and conventional wisdom often turn out to be wrong. It took only a few days for Egypt to dash Palestinian expectations.

According to a June 1 report by Reuters and Haaretz, the Cairo-Hamas honeymoon has turned sour. The number of Palestinians allowed to cross into Egypt has turned into a mere trickle -- from 565 last Saturday to 404 on Sunday to 631 on Monday, to 227 on Tuesday and to fewer than 100 by late Wednesday.

"Following the joy that swept most of our people, movement at the crossing yesterday and today was disappointing," a Hamas official told reporters. And no wonder. The much touted reopening of the Rafah crossing was starting to look more like the familiar eye-dropper pattern during Mubarak's regime, when the number of Gazans occasionally allowed into Egypt was more symbolic than for real.

Meanwhile, on the West Bank, Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority also has been running into big-time difficulties with its supposed supporters in the Arab world.

According to a June 1 dispatch from maannews, the Palestinian news agency, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad reported that the PA has been plunged into a major financial crisis, unable to meet its bills and payrolls, because Arab regimes were not delivering all the money that they had pledged -- the massive contributions that drew earlier headlines.

Fayyad bemoaned a "serious shortfall" in the PA's exchequer, blaming Arab countries, including oil-rich regimes, for delivering only a combined total of $52.5 million a month since the beginning of this year -- "much less than they committed for."

Contrast this with the European Union and Uncle Sam, who actually deliver what they promise.

It's a new chapter in an old story -- Arab leaders are most generous in aiding Palestinians with fulsome rhetoric, but when it comes to concrete actions, including hard cash, they turn tail.


Leo Rennert

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

Syria to Target Gas Rigs in Next War, Warns Vilnai

by Gil Ronen

Minister of Home Front Defense Matan Vilnai described an exceedingly harsh scenario of the next war between Israel and its Arab neighbors Wednesday. Speaking to the heads of vital industries, Vilnai said that the next war will last at least a month and that Syria will target Israeli offshore gas fields.

Details of Vilnai’s speech were published by Globes.
In the next round of fighting, he said, hundreds of missiles with half-ton warheads will strike central Israel daily.

In a conflagration with Hamas, the terror organization "will try very hard to hit Tel Aviv,” he assessed. “Not everything will reach here [Tel Aviv] and most will fall on the way, but some rockets will strike here too.”

Accurate Syrian missiles will target Israeli economic interests like the offshore gas fields, he warned. “The Syrians do not need to fire dozens of missiles at these facilities,” Vilnai explained. “Their systems are accurate enough that by firing a few missiles – everything goes up in the air. The offshore facilities are a soft underbelly.”

“The Arabs know how to learn lessons,” said Vilnai. “They are not cowards and they do not run away like we were all taught in the past. They know they cannot defeat the IDF in the field of battle so they intend to hit the heartland with missiles.”

“We need to prepare for a war with Syria, with Hizbullah and with Hamas,” he told the industrialists. “In an all-out war, most of your employees have been called up to the various fronts, and simultaneously, hundreds of missiles fall in central Israel. Not thousands, hundreds. We checked this and measured it. We calculated how many missiles they have, how many we can destroy in attacks we initiate, how many we can intercept in mid-flight and more. They will fire thousands of rockets and missiles daily and hundreds will hit central Israel. And this will take at least a month, including Fridays and Saturdays, without rest.”

The minister’s meeting with the heads of industry was coordinated with Industrialists’ Association chief Shraga Brosh, in preparation for a large scale home front drill that will include the vital industries.

The drill – Turning Point 5 -- will take place in three weeks’ time and will include nighttime air raid sirens. Turning Point 4 took place in 2010, and Turning Point 3 in 2009. Both were the largest civil defense drills held in Israel to date.


Gil Ronen

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IHH Warns Israel: Don't Touch the Flotilla

by Chana Ya'ar

The terrorist-linked Turkish IHH organization is warning Israel not to try to stop the group's second flotilla when it attempts to breach the maritime blockade of Gaza.

A news conference was held Monday aboard the Mavi Marmara ship, where nine terror activists last year died after attacking IDF naval commandos who boarded the vessel to redirect it to Ashdod port. Speaking to reporters, IHH spokesman Huseyin Oruc asserted confidently, “They will not attack. We don't believe they will repeat the same big mistake against humanity.”

The vessel was docked at a port in Istanbul after having been returned to Turkey by Israel following last year's incident. “It is the Mavi Marmara, it is a peace boat and the other 14 boats are also peace boats,” Oruc claimed.

Activists aboard the Mavi Marmara last year wielded iron rods, clubs, knives and other weapons, as they fell upon each soldier who landed on the deck from a helicopter hovering above. The Israeli soldiers were equipped solely with paintball guns and small pistols. Several were badly injured.

It was later discovered that of the six flotilla vessels allegedly carrying “humanitarian aid” to Gaza by sea, the Mavi Marmara carried nothing at all, other than terror activists prepared to attack Israelis.

Despite the video evidence of what occurred aboard the vessel, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Reuters on Monday it was up to Israel to avoid a repeat of the incident.

Davutoglu added that Israel should end its “illegal” blockade of Gaza, and said his government could not stop its citizens from attempting another flotilla to the region.

“No democratic country can think they have full control over these NGOs (non-governmental organizations), he said.

Israel's deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, meanwhile, warned in response that any flotilla would be stopped.


Chana Ya'ar

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“Tsunami of September”

by Ryan Mauro

The Israeli Defense Minister is warning of the “tsunami of September” when the U.N. will vote on recognizing an independent Palestine. Spain will recognize a Palestinian state even before then. International pressure against Israel is ratcheting up, and at the same time, Fatah has buried the hatchet with Hamas and seeks to do the same with Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Dozens of countries support recognizing an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, including Russia, China, India, South Africa and the countries of the Arab League. Most of South America has already formally recognized a Palestinian state, and now Spain intends to join them before the September vote at the U.N. takes place. If a member of the U.N. Security Council blocks the recognition of a Palestinian state, there will be an international uproar. It is very possible that a stream of countries will follow in Spain’s footsteps and independently recognize a Palestinian state. This may encourage the Palestinians to unilaterally declare statehood, setting the stage for war.

The Palestinian Authority will submit a request for full membership in the U.N. to the Secretary-General by mid-July. The request will then go to the president of the Security Council, which is Germany. Luckily, Germany opposes a U.N. vote on Palestinian statehood. The Security Council then forms a committee to evaluate whether the Palestinians meet the requirements for U.N. membership. A conclusion must be reached at least 35 days before the General Assembly opens, which is August 10. It is likely that the push for membership in the U.N. will be stopped at this juncture as the U.S., U.K. and France hold veto power. At that point, the General Assembly can recognize a Palestinian state on its own but not grant it U.N. membership.

Israeli intelligence believes that the U.N. General Assembly will vote in favor of Palestinian statehood based on the 1967 borders. Prime Minister Netanyahu is striking a confident tone on the issue, saying it is “destined for failure.” He also mocked the legitimacy of the General Assembly’s vote, saying, “No one can stop the United Nations General Assembly from recognizing the Palestinian state in September. The U.N. can also adopt a resolution that the world is flat.”

The Palestinians are presenting a united front ahead of the push at the U.N. Fatah and Hamas have signed a reconciliation agreement. This forms a unity government and ends Fatah’s fight against Hamas. This effectively ends the peace process as Hamas is committed to Israel’s destruction. As President Obama said in his speech about the Arab Spring on May 19, “How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?” Prime Minister Netanyahu likewise said, “The Palestinian Authority must choose either peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. There is no possibility for peace with both.”

Now, Fatah is even extending a hand towards Palestinian Islamic Jihad. President Abbas has met with the Secretary-General of the Islamic Jihad in Cairo, who came from Syria. The topics of discussion were the Palestinian Authority’s operations against Islamic Jihad networks in the West Bank, and a possible release of the terrorist group’s members from prison. An alliance against Israel is apparently the objective, as Islamic Jihad said the meeting was about “confronting future challenges and Israeli threats.”

It is significant that the meeting between Abbas and the leader of Islamic Jihad took place in Cairo. The Egyptian military regime has become increasingly friendly to Islamists. It is trying to improve relations with Iran, and has permanently opened the crossing into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. A general is admitting that the military conducted “virginity checks” on female protesters arrested on March 9. Last Friday, the Muslim Brotherhood and the military regime were on the same side in opposing protests by liberal demonstrators.

Hamas says it is trying to convince Fatah to join its jihad. “What is needed today…is to have resistance in all forms, armed and public ones,” said the terrorist group’s leader. Hamas has also said it will give Israel an additional year to agree to a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital, but says war won’t necessarily follow if the demands are not met. Of course, Hamas will not settle for anything less than the destruction of Israel. One of the group’s leaders said in June 2010, “Our plan for this stage is to liberate any inch of Palestinian land, and to establish a state on it. Our ultimate plan is [to have] Palestine in its entirety.”

Tension between the Israelis and Palestinians is increasing in the lead-up to the effort at the U.N. The Israeli military is preparing for a repeat of the Nakba Day provocations on the June 5-June 10 anniversary of the Six-Day War. “Activists” in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan are already organizing online for the event.

As Defense Minister Ehud Barak said a “diplomatic tsunami” is headed towards Israel and its defenders. This September, the West must remember Israel is the shining light of the Middle East and stands on the frontlines in the war against radical Islam.


Ryan Mauro is the founder of, the National Security Adviser for the Christian Action Network and an analyst with Wikistrat. He can be contacted at

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