Friday, January 3, 2014

Mordechai Kedar: May Allah Hide Russia (from Terror)

by Mordechai Kedar

Read the article in the original עברית
Read the article in Italiano (translated by Yehudit Weisz, edited by Angelo Pezzana)

Photo Credit: Wall Street Journal
Two terror attacks within two consecutive days have caused 32 fatalities and left approximately one hundred people wounded in the city of Volgograd (previously Stalingrad) in southern Russia. A few days before, a car bomb exploded in Pyatigorsk killing three people. Doku Umarov - a Chechen who has declared himself the emir of the Islamic Emirate of North Caucasus - was mentioned as being responsible for the current wave of terror attacks meant to ruin the Winter Olympics - scheduled to begin in February in the city of Sochi, which is located in southern Russia - in which Putin is about to invest no less than fifty billion dollars.

Umarov has taken responsibility for a number of mass terror attacks that have been carried out since 2010 in train stations and Domodedovo Airport, where 76 people were killed. In parallel an organization that calls itself "Anonymous Caucasus" threatens to launch cyber attacks against Russia for holding the Winter Games in "occupied Caucasia". The Russians are preparing many and varied means of security in order to defend the participants and the spectators, but terrorists know how to find the weak points even in tight security belts. Besides, Russia is large enough for terror to find opportunities to attack targets outside of Sochi.

When a Muslim wants to say "Allah preserve us" he expresses it with the words "Allah Yustur" - may Allah hide us from misfortune. It seems that these days the Russian Federation must be saying this phrase very earnestly, because Russia is now the center of concentrated Islamist terrorist activity. Islamic terror in Russia is not new: we all remember the mass terror attack on the school in Beslan, located in north Ustia on September 1, 2004 when about twenty Chechen jihadists under the leadership of Shamil Basayev seized it, holding hundreds of people hostage, students, teachers and parents. When the army became involved 186 of the hostages were killed. The drama continued for three days while the whole world stood transfixed, watching the horror that was widely covered by the media. The terrorists had planted bombs throughout the school, which caused many casualties among the hostages and military people.

Back in 1995 Chechen jihadists seized more than 1500 hostages in the city of Budyonnovsk in northern Caucasia, and under the leadership of Boris Yeltsin the state was constrained to capitulate to their demands. This capitulation infuriated many Russians and subsequently helped Putin, who believes in ruling with an iron fist, to replace Yeltsin and wage an all out war against the troublesome Chechen district. This war is divided into two periods. The first, 1994-1996 and the second 1999-2009. The capital city of Chechnya - Grozny - was turned into a pile of ruins, many of the cities and villages of the district were destroyed, thousands of people were killed, and Russian soldiers had no problem kidnapping and torturing women, the elderly and children. Many jihadists are still hiding in the Chechen mountains today, occasionally attacking Russian soldiers and Chechen soldiers who are suspected of collaborating with the Russians.

In 2002 Chechen jihadists seized a theater in Moscow and held 916 people hostage. Approximately 170 men and women were killed in this event. Over the years Muslim terrorists have carried out many attacks in Russia, in revenge for the Russians having oppressed them for many years, beginning with the days of communism, which denigrated Islam as well as other religions. Karl Marx, the spiritual father of communism, had clearly stated that religion is the "opiate of the masses". After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russians were freed from their control of large Islamic populations, and this allowed them to tighten the reins on the Muslims that remained within the Russian federation.

The dissolution of the Soviet Union allowed several Muslim peoples in the south of the country to become independent, and this explains how Muslim states such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Azerbaijan were established within central Asia. Other Muslim peoples - including Chechens, Tatars, Ingush, Pamir, Dagestan, Avar, Azerbaijani, Dargin, Kumyk, Lezgian,  Lak, Nogai, Aghul, Rutul, Tabsaran and Mongols - did not win independence and remained under the control of the Russian boot. Many of these peoples were disappointed, and some are just waiting for the right moment to demand independence.

Out of about 143 million citizens of the Russian Federation, the number of Muslims stands at between 14 to 20 million, which is 10 to 14 percent. Most of them are concentrated in areas south of the Volga River, in North Caucasia and in western Siberia. Many of them migrated to cities and their neighborhoods are now bases for terrorists. The state tries to push them out of the cities, especially after terror attacks, but they return to their employers in the city in order to work, earning a low salary. The Russian army does not publish official data about the religion of its soldiers, but it is estimated that most of the lower ranking soldiers in the Russian military are Muslims.

For seventy years the Soviet Union ruled the state with the slogan "a brotherhood of peoples", which was nothing but a cover for subjugating other peoples to the Russian hegemony. This situation created tension between the Russians and the Muslims, many of whom thought of the Russians as Christians who were ruling over Muslims, a situation that is totally against Islam. As part of the trend of Russification of the population, the Russians transferred millions of Russian speakers to Muslim areas, which also raised the level of tension and hostility between the Muslims and the Russians.

Also, Russians are concerned about the demographic situation that operates against them: the birth rate among the Muslims is much higher than that of the Russians, and many Russians feel that the Muslims are taking over the country. A day does not pass in the cities of Russia without skinheads, drunk on vodka, attacking Muslims that they encounter. [On the other hand, drinking alcohol - which is forbidden in Islam - lowers the Russians' value in the eyes of the Muslims.

Islamization in Caucasia

Historically, Islamic consciousness has been fairly weak among the residents of Caucasia, and only a few of them were acquainted with the holy scriptures of Islam. This was a result of the fact that most of the Muslims in Caucasia had been forced to convert to Islam or be slaughtered in the days of the Ottoman Empire. In the past twenty years - and especially since the fall of the Soviet Union - there has been an increase in the activity of Islamic propagandists among the population of Caucasia working under Saudi influence and money, and there are local imams who are trained in Saudi madrassas in order to strengthen their knowledge of Islam. In Saudi Arabia they studied Islam according to the Wahhabi, radical version and then returned to their homeland spreading the radical ideas that they had absorbed in Saudi Arabia. Currently Saudi Arabia finances the jihadist activity in Syria, which is against Russian interests.

Russia is not alone in this matter: for many years Saudi Arabia has been fueling the Islamic flames in many countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, North America and South America. It seems to me that of all the continents on the earth only Antarctica has no such Saudi Islamic activity. The Islamic uprising of the Uighurs in western China is also related to Saudi activity.

In recent years, in addition to the Saudi activity, the media can also be used to spread Islam. There are satellite television channels, Internet sites in many languages, and entire Islamic libraries that can be easily downloaded from the Internet free of charge - all of these, which are generously financed, were funded, are being funding and will continue to be funded lavishly by Saudi Arabia, in order to spread Wahhabi Islam to all corners of the Earth.

The distance between Islamization and actively engaging in the struggle for Islam is not great, and therefore it is no wonder that Islam - which had been swept under the rug of the Soviet regime - is surfacing so violently today.

The International Background

In the past three years Russia has been identified with Syria in the cruel and dirty war that the

Sunni Muslim masses are fighting against the heretical Syrian Alawite regime, which is supported by the Shi'ite coalition of Iran, Iraq and Hizb'Allah. Russia has defended the Asad regime in the General Assembly and has prevented the imposition of international sanctions against it. Russia supplies Asad's army with weapons and ammunition, air and naval defense systems, communications equipment and technical consultation.

There are a few Chechen jihadist groups fighting in Syria and their people are known for the cruelty and brutality with which they relate to those of Asad's people that fall into their hands. On the Internet there are some video clips in which Caucasian looking jihadists - one of them a redhead - are seen slaughtering people whom they were told are collaborators with the Syrian regime. In recent days collaboration agreements were signed between the Chechen groups and the Arab jihad organizations that operate in Syria such as al-Qaeda and Jabhat al-Nusra.

A severe problem will be created in Russia if and when the fighting in Syria stops, with the return of these Chechen jihadists to their homeland. There is a fairly good chance that they will not return to the plow and sickle, rather, they may continue the jihad against the Russian state, and the experience that they have accumulated in Syria will stand them in good stead in their war with Russia.

Also, the fact that Russia supports Shi'ite Iran does not raise Russia in the esteem of the Caucasian jihadists who are mostly Sunni. Lately it has become known that there are contacts between Russia and Iran regarding the sale of four nuclear reactors for the production of electricity, in addition to the political defense that Russia grants to the Ayatollahs' regime.

And These are The Names...

In the days of the Soviet Union many names of Muslim people were changed to Russian names, but their origin is clear enough: Kadar became Kadirov, Umar turned into Umarov, Muhammad took on the name Megumadov and Abed al-Latif turned into Labdulatipov. Atiyya became Latayev, Daud is now Daudayev, Sadallah became Sadilayev, Ibrahim is Ibrahimov, and only Ramadhan remained Ramazan because it is the name of the month of fasting.

Few of the Muslim peoples in Russia adopted Russian names, whether because of national and religious pride or because of the fear that the Russians would suspect them of planning to infiltrate the Russian population. There is a claim that the hatred and fear between the Russians and the Muslims in the Russian Federation has also permeated the Russian Jews who have lived in Russia and then migrated to Israel. This is perhaps the source of the claim that the political party Israel Our Home, which is based on immigrants from Russia, is accused of a hostile agenda - even transfer - regarding Arabs and Muslims in the State of Israel.

Regarding this, apparently, the Rabbi of Kotsk said: "more than that it is difficult to take the Jews out of the diaspora, it is difficult to take the diaspora out of the Jews..."


Dr. Kedar is available for lectures

Dr. Mordechai Kedar
( is an Israeli scholar of Arabic and Islam, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. He specializes in Islamic ideology and movements, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena.

Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav with permission from the author.

Additional articles by Dr. Kedar

Source: The article is published in the framework of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. Also published in Makor Rishon, a Hebrew weekly newspaper.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the author.

Removing IDF from the Jordan Valley Would Destabilize Jordan

by Evelyn Gordon

In the run-up to John Kerry’s arrival in Jerusalem today for yet another round of Israeli-Palestinian talks, media attention naturally focused less on real obstacles to peace than on an Israeli bill to annex the Jordan Valley that supporters and opponents agree hasn’t a prayer of becoming law. Yet despite this coverage, the most interesting fact about the bill has been largely overlooked: One of the biggest behind-the-scenes fans of Israel retaining control of this strategic location is none other than the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Last month, the Israeli daily Maariv reported that Jordan has been urging Kerry to support Israel’s demand for a permanent IDF presence in the valley under any deal with the Palestinians. Three months earlier, the Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh quoted a senior Jordanian official’s response when asked in a closed briefing how Amman viewed the possibility of Palestinians replacing Israel along the Jordan border:
“May God forbid!” the official retorted. “We have repeatedly made it clear to the Israeli side that we will not agree to the presence of a third party at our border.”
The Jordanian official claimed this has been Jordan’s position ever since 1967. But it was undoubtedly reinforced by watching the deleterious effects on Egypt’s security of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.

With the IDF no longer there to impede the flow, radical ideology, terrorists, and weaponry began pouring from into Sinai, providing local terrorists not only with enhanced resources (as I explain in more detail here and here), but also with valuable training. As a result, Sinai quickly became a terrorist hotbed that poses a major threat not only to Israel–whose Shin Bet security service now devotes the same resources to monitoring Sinai that it does to the northern West Bank–but also to Egypt itself. A Sinai terrorist group, for instance, claimed responsibility for last week’s deadly bombing in Mansoura.

The last thing Jordan needs is a similar influx of arms, radicalism, and veteran Palestinian terrorists pouring over its border, especially given its large Palestinian population. Already destabilized by a massive influx of Syrian refugees and rumblings of homegrown discontent, such an influx would surely send it over the edge. And unless Israel remains in the Jordan Valley permanently (or at least for many decades to come), that’s exactly what will happen. Allowing the IDF to stay there merely for another few years, as Kerry is reportedly proposing, does nothing but temporarily postpone the inevitable.

Western leaders repeatedly say they want Israel out of the territories because its presence there is “a major source of instability” in the region, as President Obama put it his UN address in September. Yet experience shows that Israeli withdrawals may well be a far greater source of instability. The Gaza pullout certainly turned out that way for Egypt (as well as for Israel), and Amman clearly fears a Jordan Valley pullout would have a similarly negative impact on Jordan.

If the West truly cares about stability, pushing for an Israeli withdrawal that would destabilize Jordan, one of the region’s last remaining islands of stability, seems highly counterproductive. Indeed, given how often Israeli pullouts have had negative results, the West might do better to abandon this paradigm altogether and start searching for a new one. Supporting a permanent Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley would be a good place to start.

Evelyn Gordon


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Will Arabs Have the Courage to Label Muslim Brotherhood a Terrorist Group?

by Khaled Abu Toameh

Buoyed by the Egyptian move, Palestinian and Jordanian political analysts have urged their leaders to to seize the opportunity and crack down in Islamists in their countries.
The ball is now in the court of the Arab League, which is entitled to ask Arab Leaders to enforce the 1998 counter-terrorism treaty that would block funding and support for the Muslim Brotherhood. Jordan's King Abdullah and PA President Mahmoud Abbas can use the treaty as an excuse to outlaw the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The Egyptians authorities have officially labeled the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group, triggering a debate as to whether other Arab countries should follow suit.

The decision was taken in light of Muslim Brotherhood's alleged responsibility for a series of terror attacks against Egyptian civilians and soldiers.

The question being asked today in the Arab world is whether other countries will take similar measures against Muslim Brotherhood groups and branches.

Buoyed by the Egyptian move, Palestinian and Jordanian political analysts and activists have urged their leaders to seize the opportunity and crack down on the Islamists in their countries.

But for now it seems that most Arabs, especially the Jordanians and Palestinians, are reluctant to follow the Egyptians — the reason why this week the Egyptians urged the members of the Arab League to enforce a counter-terrorism treaty that would block funding and support for Muslim Brotherhood.

Badr Abdelatty, spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign ministry, said Arab League members that signed the 1998 treaty should enforce it against the Muslim Brotherhood, which has a presence in most Arab countries.

The Muslim Brotherhood has a large presence in Jordan; while Hamas, a branch of the organization, controls the entire Gaza Strip and enjoys popular support in the West Bank.
"In the eyes of Muslim Brotherhood, we are infidels and an enemy," said Jordanian analyst Fares al Habashneh. "They believe that an Islamic Caliphate is inevitable and seek to destroy our country and national identity."

Habashneh said that the Jordanian authorities should seize the opportunity and take measures against Muslim Brotherhood in the kingdom. "Their ideological and political option have failed," he added. "It is time to reconsider the presence of the Brotherhood ideology and end their incitement and hatred."

But the Jordanian authorities, which have yet to comment on the Egyptian move to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group, do not seem to have the courage to follow suit.

Jordan's Minister for Political Development, Khaled Kalaldah, announced that the Muslim Brotherhood is a licensed organization in the kingdom. He denied that his government had plans to outlaw the group.

Even the leaders of Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood say they are confident that King Abdullah II would not take such a drastic measure against their organization. "We have no fear that that the decision taken by the coup leaders in Egypt would affect us in Jordan," said Zaki Bani Irsheid, a senior Muslim Brotherhood official. "It's not in the interest of the regime in Jordan to support such a move because that would threaten stability [in Jordan]."

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also appears to be reluctant, or afraid, to take a similar decision against his rivals in Hamas. Instead, Abbas is continuing to talk about his desire to achieve "national unity" with the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

For now, Abbas is turning a blind eye to demands from some of his advisors and loyalists to declare Hamas a terrorist group. He and his Fatah loyalists have reacted to the Egyptian move by calling on Hamas to "disengage" from the Muslim Brotherhood – a call that has been rejected by the Islamist movement in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian political analyst Adel Abdel Rahman pointed out that the Egyptian authorities' decision should also apply to Hamas, which he said is a "branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and its partner in terrorist attacks."

Masked Hamas gunmen in Gaza parade in honor of the organization's 25th anniversary, in 2012. (Image source: Facts for a Better Future)

The Palestinian leadership, he added, should issue Hamas with a one-month ultimatum to disengage from Muslim Brotherhood or face the repercussions. "Hamas should be asked to apologize to the Egyptian people and their leadership for all the terror attacks it participated in," he said. "Hamas should also immediately dismantle its armed militia and relinquish control over the Gaza Strip."

Muwafak Matar, another Palestinian analyst, said that Hamas now faces only one option: to disengage from the Muslim Brotherhood and return to the Palestinian people.

Hamas, he said, "represents only a small fraction of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. We rule out the possibility that Hamas would disengage from the Muslim Brotherhood. Instead, it may resort to military escalation with Israel to distract attention from the Egyptian decision."

Prominent Palestinian editor Abdel Bari Atwan said he now expects the Egyptians to declare Hamas a terrorist group. "After declaring war on the Muslim Brotherhood and arresting its leaders and members, the next step is surely going to be accusing Hamas of terrorism," he said. "The Egyptian authorities see Hamas as belonging ideologically to the Muslim Brotherhood and this is partially true. But the Egyptians will not be able to do the same thing to Muslim Brotherhood groups in Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and Tunisia because the Egyptian authorities cannot reach these groups and strangle them as they are doing with Hamas in the Gaza Strip."

The reluctance of Arabs to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group means that the ball is now in the court of the Arab League, which is entitled to ask Arab leaders to enforce the 1998 counter-terrorism treaty. Jordan's King Abdullah and PA President Mahmoud Abbas can use the treaty as an excuse to outlaw the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Khaled Abu Toameh


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The Jordan Valley is the Answer

by Uzi Dayan

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is visiting our region again. Borders are a core issue and the main component of any framework deal between us and the Palestinians, and Kerry knows that Israel has a proven right -- historically and internationally -- to defensible borders, either through U.N. Resolution 242 or through former U.S. President George W. Bush's letter of recognition in 2004. Members of Bush's own party signed the letter, which discussed America's commitment to "secure, defensible borders, and to preserve and strengthen Israel's capability to deter and defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats."

The need for defensible borders is getting stronger. Israel is not weak, but it is small and narrow and therefore vulnerable: 70 percent of the population and 80% of our industrial manufacturing capabilities are concentrated along a narrow coastal plain controlled from the east by the hills of Judea and Samaria. Considering these geostrategic conditions, the history of hostility toward the Jewish state, the chronic lack of stability in the Middle East and the developments in recent years -- the Arab winter, the Iranian nuclear threat and the unrelenting terrorism -- Israel needs to have some security buffers. 

The first security buffer is basic strategic depth, which has become even more important in an era of missiles and rockets threatening our population centers and hindering our ability to call up our reserve forces. Therefore, we need land and aerial depth, both for the deployment of warning and interception infrastructure and systems and to provide operational room for the standing army, which will have to perform alone for longer until the reserve forces can join -- not only to stop the enemy in its tracks but also to neutralize his ability to launch rockets and missiles at the Israeli home front. The increasing threat posed by regional nuclearization only highlights the need for the strategic depth to deploy warning and interception systems. Is 40 miles, which is the average distance between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, too much to ask for?

Secondly, we must maintain defensive depth, which allows us to wage a defensive battle against outside threats. For years it was claimed that there is no threat, that there is no "eastern front." Today we know the bloody civil war in Syria will go on even if Bashar Assad's chemical weapons stockpiles are destroyed, that in Jordan there are 1.2 million Syrian refugees and a radical Islamist opposition comprising tens of thousands of global jihadist terrorists that have flowed into the region, that the situation in Iraq is an ongoing cause for concern and that Iran is continuing to establish forward operating bases across the globe. Shall we continue to ignore the possibility that an eastern front can emerge?

Finally, we must maintain an anti-terrorism buffer. We see what happened in Gaza and Lebanon after we left "up to the very last centimeter." Only an Israeli presence along the eastern environs of the West Bank will facilitate the implementation of a demilitarized Palestinian entity, which, it is known, is one of the basic conditions put forth by Israel before agreeing to "two states for two peoples."

The Jordan Valley is the answer -- it provides the minimum vital strategic depth, it is a defensive strip against outside threats and allows the fight against terrorism to be effective. Full Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley will negate the need for pointless discussions over security arrangements -- give us sovereignty and we will tend to our security needs. Even those who are prepared for less understand that there is no technological system replacement for a defensive buffer and that we cannot trust foreign forces to protects the lives of our soldiers and be the first to retreat during a crisis. The entire Jordan Valley, under complete Israeli control, is Israel's eastern border.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan is a former IDF deputy chief of general staff and former head of the National Security Council.


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An End to Discrimination against Women in the Middle East

by Michael Curtis

If something goes without saying, it goes even better for being said. A valuable survey of the second-class condition of women in Arab countries appears in the NGO Monitor Report that was issued on December 20, 2013. It makes the important point that the so-called Arab Spring of 2011, beginning in Tunisia in December 2010, aroused expectations of advances towards democracy in the Middle East once the autocratic and authoritarian rulers had been deposed in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya. It was hoped that the mass demonstrations in those and other Arab countries would bring about major reform, especially adherence to human rights. 

The bitter truth is that the Middle East is not, as Raymond Chandler said about his fictional Los Angeles, a very fragrant world. Part of the fetid odor emanates from the continuing discrimination against women and their resulting subordinate status in Arab and many Islamic countries. These countries have refused to abide by the international calls on them to eliminate the inequality of women. Almost equally objectionable is the refusal of many Western organizations and activists supposedly concerned to advance human rights, to recognize the bitter truth as a crucial problem and to demand real, systematic reform.

Those human rights activists should scrutinize the objective analysis in the valuable series of United Nations Arab Human Developments Reports (AHDR), prepared by Arab scholars. Since 2002 these studies have been affirming that undemocratic Arab regimes with their tradition and tribalism have combined to "curtail freedoms and fundamental rights." The studies show the countries in the Arab Middle East region as suffering from three particular shortcomings: freedom, empowerment of women, and knowledge. 

More specifically, Arab women suffer from inequality with men and are vulnerable to discrimination both in law and in practice. The AHDRs indicate that nowhere in the Arab world do women enjoy equality with men. Women experience discrimination and restrictions in most fields: lack of education; illiteracy (more than half of Arab women are illiterate); polygamy (in almost all Arab countries, including the region under the Palestinian Authority); divorce, child marriage or forced marriage (legally sanctioned in many countries starting at age eight in Yemen); severe control over dress; inheritance (women get about half that of men in a number of countries); legal testimony (again, worth half that of a man); and political activity.

The 2002 AHDR clearly states that if Arab countries want to develop they must strive for the complete empowerment of Arab women. The 2005 AHDR explains that one of the main reasons for inequality of women is that "the prevailing masculine culture and values see women as dependents of men." Moreover, legal codes uphold this inequality by "claiming to be acting in defense of obedience or 'honor' of women."

Further objective amplification of the status of women is found in the Global Gender Gap index, issued by the World Economic Forum in October 2013. Of the 136 countries studied, the Arab states are at the bottom of the gap in the fields of education, political participation, economic opportunity, and health. The lowest ranked country was Yemen, and close to the bottom were Syria, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Iran, and Egypt. 

According to the general conclusion of the 2010 Freedom House no Arab country can be regarded as wholly free. Women face systematic discrimination due to report "deeply entrenched societal norms" and religious practices such as conservative interpretations of and judgments based on Islamic Sharia law. These factors explain the discrimination in personal status laws and family codes that regulate marriage, divorce, child guardianship, and inheritance. 

Instead of benefitting from an Arab Spring, women have seen their problems worsen as extreme Islamists have become more influential in a number of countries. No major improvement has taken place in the lives of women. Gross inequality still exists largely because of the impact of Sharia law. Women are subordinated to their fathers and husbands. In some countries women can only marry with the consent of their fathers or male relatives. They are forbidden to marry non-Muslim men. 

Domestic violence against them is rarely punished in any real way. Arab legal codes, such as those in Iraq and the United Arab Emirates, allow men to use violence against women. Similarly, those guilty of rape are rarely punished. Female genital mutilation is common: 91% of women on Egypt have undergone such mutilation. 

Honor killings, supposedly to defend "family honor" are prevalent in a number of countries, including the Palestinian Authority. The NGO Report and the country reports of the U.S. Department of State indicate the nature of some of those murders: beheadings, burning alive, forced self-immolation, torture, stoning to death for sexual or moral offences. 

The role of women in public life is still limited or nonexistent. In some of the countries women are segregated in public institutions, and their freedom of movement is greatly restricted not only within a country but also abroad because women may need permission of a guardian to obtain a passport. 

All this is contrary to international declarations that call for recognition of men and women as equals. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (adopted in December 1966 and entered in force March 1976) Article 3, states that the parties "undertake to ensure the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all civil and political rights set forth in the Covenant." Article 23 prohibits discrimination concerning marriage, divorce, and child custody.

A similar statement was made in the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) that was also adopted in December 1966 and entered in force in January 1976. Article 2(2) says that the parties "undertake to ensure the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all economic, social, and cultural rights set forth in the Covenant."

The NGO Report discusses the issues concerning discrimination against women. It correctly blames Western human rights organizations, such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, for their lack of sustained advocacy on behalf of women's rights and for their refusal to give the question of women's rights the prominence it deserves. Instead of concentrating on issues of freedom and equality for Arab women these human rights organizations eagerly pounce on alleged abuses of democratic nations -- the Western countries and the State of Israel. 

Human rights activists have painted themselves as concerned with inequality in the Arab countries by focusing on relatively minor issues and bestowing excessive praise when minor reforms put in place. But they have not tried to tackle the elephant in the room, the elimination of systematic discrimination against women. The time is long overdue for them to do so.

Michael Curtis is author of Jews, Antisemitism, and the Middle East.


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Really, Where's the 'Cancer'?

by Nadav Shragai

It's good that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas decided on Tuesday to join the ranks of those fighting against "settlement cancer." Much to Israel's embarrassment, the radical Jewish Left -- including Peace Now director Yariv Oppenheimer, attorney Talia Sasson and their clique -- readily accepted Abbas' racist prognosis on the conflict. 

The fact that Abbas decided to jump on the "settlement cancer" bandwagon affords a golden opportunity to offer some insights into the settlements, insights which will perhaps reveal where the real cancer and toxic metastasis lie in the conflict. 

You'd be surprised, but most settlers do not glorify land over humanity. They are not hard at work breeding martyrs. Their textbooks do not systematically advocate hatred of Arabs. Settlers neither deny the rights of Arabs to dozens of their own countries nor do they reject the rights of Muslims to Islamic countries. 

Settlers have children, but they do not send them to blow themselves up on buses in central Nablus. A sizable majority of settlers neither exhort their children to throw stones at Palestinian vehicles nor encourage them to hurl firebombs at passers-by. They do not goad them into stabbing Arabs on the street. The people living within this "cancerous tumor" do not conspire to uproot Arabs from their own legal or illegal "settlements." And, contrary to the prevailing urban legend, the vast majority of settlements were established on rough, rocky terrain, previously untilled and uninhabited. 

Much like the Palestinians, the individuals living inside the extensive "metastasis" -- hundreds of thousands of people -- raise children, go to work, get married, talk, squabble, get angry, give birth, cry, laugh and are mostly proud to be a part of this incredible project of ushering the nation of Israel back to its land in places customarily referred to as the cradle of the Jewish people -- Hebron, Beit El and Shilo.

They accept the existence of an Arab minority living in Israel, while Abbas is not willing to accept the existence of a Jewish minority, however small, which chooses to stick to its land, continuing to reside on territory that Israel may one day have to relinquish to the Palestinians. 

Let's face it, Abbas wants to transfer tens of thousands of Jews, but he's outraged by the prospect of transferring tens of thousands of Arabs (which is, truthfully, a scandalous idea).

Living within these so-called metastasizing, cancerous cells are the settlers, educating their children to love their fellow humans while condemning and despising terrorists, including Jewish terrorists. In Abbas' realm, despite all that, the powers choose to glorify terrorism. They name their streets, schools and urban centers after terrorists who murder the elderly, women and children. They direct plays in which child actors long for the fates of such martyrs. 

And now the Europeans have decided to label and boycott products manufactured in the "cancerous" settlements. Sooner or later, they're going to mark all the individuals designated for extraction, much like the fate of cancer cells. 

The Palestinian media also routinely declares Haifa, Acre and Lod "settlements." And Palestinian textbooks have expunged all Israeli territories from Palestinian Authority maps. Danger -- cancer.

Nadav Shragai


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Confidence-Destroying Measures

by Elliott Abrams

Working toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, negotiators always seek "confidence-building measures," which are supposed to show good faith and convince the other side to undertake equal steps, or perhaps even more important to show the other side's good faith.

Today the negotiations led by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry use prisoner releases as one such measure, designed mostly to keep PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas at the conference table. But the prisoner releases are not confidence-building measures, they are confidence-destroying measures. With some American pressure, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has released a third tranche of long-serving security prisoners -- murderers, to be exact.

The first thing this does is diminish confidence in the United States. After all, Americans never do this, never release murderers or terrorists from U.S. prisons for political reasons. Expecting Israel to do so teaches Israelis that the U.S. will ask Israel to take risks it would not take, and that it does not fully understand the security situation they face.

And the releases certainly diminish confidence in the Palestinians as peace partners. The London Daily Telegraph explains why:

"Twenty-six inmates incarcerated since before the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords were given a hero's welcome in the West Bank city of Ramallah after being freed from Israeli custody early on Tuesday. They were the third of four batches of prisoners Israel agreed to release last July, as part of the price for re-starting long-stalled peace talks with the Palestinians. But scenes of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, kissing and hugging each prisoner after their release provoked revulsion in Israel, with critics complaining that most of the inmates had been convicted of murdering Israelis. 'Each one of us sees this and we ask ourselves, can we make peace with these people, who welcome murderers with flowers as if they were heroes,' Silvan Shalom, the Israeli regional development minister, told Israel Radio. 'If these are their heroes, if this is what they show the young generation, that these loathsome murderers are heroes, can we make peace with them? What kind of education is this for children?'"

Who is being released? Here are some, from the Jerusalem Post:

"Damouni Saad Mohammed Ahmed will be released to the Gaza Strip this week, more than 20 years after he was convicted of taking part in the brutal lynching of IDF reservist Amnon Pomerantz, who took a wrong turn into a refugee camp in the coastal territory in 1990 -- he was beaten to death before his car was set alight by firebombs.

"Shakir Alifu Musbach Nufal will be released to his home in the West Bank this week, some 27 years after he was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the kidnapping and murder of then-21-year-old IDF soldier Shaltiel Akiva on Passover night in 1985.

"Two Fatah terrorists, Samarin Mustafa Kalib Asrar and Kra'an Azat Musa Musa, were convicted in the 1992 abduction and murder of Israeli soldier Tzvi Klein in the West Bank in 1992.

"Yosef Mahmad Haza Haza was only 17 when he and a friend murdered hikers Leah Elmakayis and Yossi Eliyahu at a forest on the Gilboa mountain range in 1985. Abed al Raba Nimr Jabril Issa is also set to be released following his conviction for the murder of hikers Revital Seri and Ron Levy in 1984.

"Fatah member Abu-Dahila Hasan Atik Sharif will be released to the West Bank 21 years after his arrest for the murder of Avi Osher, who employed him for 15 years at his Jordan Valley farm before Sharif beat and stabbed him to death.

"The list includes Amer Massoud Issa Rajib, one of those convicted in the murder of Ian Feinberg, who was hacked and shot to death in April 1993 in the Gaza Strip, where he had been working on economic revitalization plans for the area."

One can perhaps forgive a murderer's family for greeting him with kisses; one cannot forgive the highest authorities of the PA and PLO for doing so, and Silvan Shalom is right in asking what lesson this teaches all Palestinians. Palestinian leaders refuse to make any moral distinctions, not separating those who committed crimes of violence from those who did not, nor even -- the very least that might be expected -- separating those who killed soldiers from those who killed civilians.

The official Palestinian glorification of those who murdered Israelis is now the backdrop to Kerry's arrival in Israel today to advance "peace."

From "Pressure Points" by Elliott Abrams. Reprinted with permission from the Council on Foreign Relations.

Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.


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

Where Are the Other Replica Security Walls?

by John Allan

An Anglican church together with some would-be 'fashionable yet politically aware' types, unveiled an installation in London's city center last week, a mock-up of the walled part of Israel's security barrier -- and invited members of the public to write what the organizers presumably anticipated would be anti-'Zionist', anti-Israel graffiti on it. The wall is the main attraction of the church's ideologically poisoned Christmastime festival "Bethlehem Unwrapped," which runs until January 5, 2014. 

One of the commenters under Robin Shepherd's piece in The Commentator on Thursday suggests posting 'pictures of Israeli victims of terror on the wall at St James's Church with a placard saying "These lives would have been saved had the security barrier been in place."'

Anyone who travels to see this exercise might also like to take along the information below: a lengthy (though probably incomplete) list of security walls, barriers, and fences around the world, most of them maintained to prevent terrorism, amongst other rampant evils, yet none of them obsessively given attention by media outlets and by celebrity demagogues like Jeremy Hardy and Mark Steel.

There appear to be no replicas in London of these 50+ other walls or barriers, which nevertheless, according to St. James's Church website '...divide and confine peoples, restricting free movement and dominating the imagination of those who live behind them.' (The remainder of the paragraph sounds like a parody of Roger Waters himself: 'We believe that bridges not walls are the only lasting foundation for peace. ...We join with people of all faiths in praying for the day when the Wall will come down.')

Saudi Arabia, for example, is almost entirely walled in (all seven of its land borders and two of its three coastlines) and nobody bats an eyelid. The Channel Tunnel between the United Kingdom and France incorporates a range of security measures that includes surveillance, electrified fencing, and a permanent military presence on its French site, in order to root out potential terrorists, smugglers, and illegal immigrants; no-one is suggesting that such measures are anything apart from plain common sense.

Common sense evidently is in short supply, however, when it comes to the New Age socialists in charge of St. James's Church. One can add further illustration of the point simply by quoting various passages from the recent output of the Church's rector, Lucy Winkett:
Occupation is coercive, usually weaponised, territorial, economically demanding in terms of taxation and, importantly, imposed. The terms of occupation under which Jesus lived have been familiar to generations of people who have lived in countless militarised societies, including those who live in Bethlehem and Galilee today.
We [Christians] approach, we dare to invite the transgressive, unarmed, poetic spirit that we celebrated at Pentecost, knowing that our own capacity for land grabs is persistent and strong. When we are the occupiers, we are armed, we are under authority, we are concerned with restoring and maintaining order. But we know we are in lands that are not ours.
Christianity is not only about personal spiritual reflection on the inner occupation that we might live under; it is political. But neither is it an imposable blueprint for a political state.
Challenging a political reality, such as the Wall that imprisons the inhabitants of Bethlehem, or advocating justice for Palestinians suffering terrible indignities in a militarised society is not of itself part of the history [of Christian anti-Semitism] expounded in this article. Vigilance about individual motivation is always necessary, but fear of being labelled anti-Semitic by others often keeps Christians silent on this contemporary political issue.
The European Union, which, like Winkett and St. James's Church, falsely asserts that there is legally and/or in practice an occupation by the state of Israel of territory belonging to another party -- actively supports three disputed occupations that involve militarized walls/barriers (the Turkish occupation of Northern Cyprus, the Spanish occupation of Ceuta and Melilla, North Africa, and the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara); as well as the disputed Armenian occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh in the South Caucasus; and illegal Arab expansion in Oslo Area 'C' of the Judea and Samaria regions of Israel (EU 'intervention' strategy and funding documents here and here).

The EU has been the main funder of the construction and reinforcement of the Ceuta and Melilla barriers, which primarily are designed to prevent illegal immigration from the Moroccan mainland into these pene-exclaves dating from the Spanish and Portuguese colonial era. At the same time, it hypocritically buys a narrative that accuses the Jewish democratic state of being a nefarious example of modern-day imperialism; while in any case Palestine (now Israel) was in fact conceived of as, and has become (although imperfectly, and despite the best efforts of many), just two things, neither of them in any sense 'imperialist': a haven for Jewish refugees, and a source of opportunities for advancement and enrichment benefiting regional, non-Jewish communities -- both inside and outside its borders.

Here, then, is an instructive question: why is there no art installation decrying the EU's 'apartheid' security barriers on the Spain-Morocco border? What about the human rights of impoverished Moroccan and sub-Saharan African illegals, who surely deserve a temporary monument in a major capital city (and an accompanying festival) at least as much as jihadis determined to infiltrate Israel and murder innocent men, women and children, deserve one? Perhaps such a project will be next on the agenda for the baleful coterie of trendy British priests and fading, 'socially conscious' media figures currently assembled at St. James's Church.

A list of security walls, barriers and fences around the world
1. USA-Mexico
2. Santa Marta (Botafogo neighbourhood, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
3. Russia-Chechnya *
4. Russia-Finland
5. Russia-Norway
6. Russia-China
7. Russia-Mongolia
8. Russia-North Korea
9. Poland-Russia
10. Hungary-Russia
11. Loyalist-Republican areas of Northern Ireland (UK) *
12. Channel Tunnel (UK-France)
13. Via Anelli quarter (Padua, Italy)
14. Spain-Morocco *
15. Turkey-Cyprus *
16. Turkey-Syria
17. Morocco-Western Sahara *
18. Botswana-Zimbabwe
19. South Africa-Zimbabwe
20. South Africa-Mozambique
21. Egypt-Gaza strip
22. Sharm el-Sheikh (Egypt)
23. Saudi Arabia-Iraq
24. Kuwait-Iraq *
25. Saudi Arabia-Kuwait
26. Saudi Arabia-Qatar
27. Saudi Arabia-Jordan
28. Saudi Arabia-Yemen *
29. Saudi Arabia-Oman *
30. Saudi Arabia-UAE *
31. Saudi Arabia-Red Sea
32. Saudi Arabia-Persian Gulf
33. Oman-Yemen
34. UAE-Oman *
35. Dhofar province (Oman)
36. Turkmenistan-Kazakhstan
37. Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan
38. Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan *
39. Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan *
40. Uzbekistan-Tajikistan
41. Uzbekistan-Afghanistan
42. Pakistan-Afghanistan
43. Iran-Afghanistan
44. Iran-Pakistan *
45. India-Pakistan *
46. India-Bangladesh *
47. India-Myanmar
48. Myanmar-Bangladesh
49. Thailand-Malaysia
50. Brunei-Malaysia
51. China-North Korea
52. South Korea-North Korea *
(*security barrier(s) located [wholly or partially] in legally disputed space)

John Allan is a Connecticut-based lawyer and occasional op-ed contributor


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

Egypt Airs “Terror Confession”

by Asharq Al-Awsat

Interior Ministry says Hamas has provided logistical support to Muslim Brotherhood terrorists
An Egyptian policeman stands guard at the scene of an explosion at a police headquarters building that killed at least a dozen people, wounded more than 100, and left scores buried under the rubble, in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura, 70 miles north of Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, December 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Ahmed Ashraf)
An Egyptian policeman stands guard at the scene of an explosion at a police headquarters building that in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura, 70 miles north of Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, December 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Ahmed Ashraf)

Cairo, AP—Egyptian authorities produced on Thursday what they said was a confession by the son of a top member of the Muslim Brotherhood, trying to bolster accusations that the Islamist group has links to Al-Qaeda-inspired militants who have claimed responsibility for deadly attacks on police and other targets in recent months.

The country’s Interior Minister aired the recording said to be a young Yahia Mongi, son of a Brotherhood lawmaker, in which he says he joined the Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis, or Champions of Jerusalem group, that claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing of a police station last month.

The charge that the Brotherhood has links to Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis is central to the government’s case for labeling the Brotherhood, the group from which ousted President Mohamed Mursi hails, as a terrorist organization. The confession is the first purported piece of hard evidence produced by authorities to make the link.

Human rights advocates say that police frequently use torture and other means of coercion to produce confessions, relying on them in lieu of other evidence to convict defendants in both ordinary criminal and security trials.

Since Mursi’s ouster, suicide bombings, ambushes and drive-by shootings by suspected Islamic militants have escalated. They have mainly targeted security forces and troops in the Sinai Peninsula, but they have also spread to Cairo and other parts of the country. The deadliest bombing yet was on December 24, when a suicide car bomber hit a security headquarters in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura, killing 16 people, almost all policemen.

The announcement came shortly after an Egyptian court set January 28 as date for a new trial of Mursi, who along with 130 other defendants is charged with orchestrating a 2011 jailbreak with the help of foreign militants. This is the third set of charges against Mursi.

The Brotherhood denies that it practises violence and accuses police of plotting the attacks to find a pretext for a heavier crackdown on its members.

In a lengthy press conference, Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim aired what he said was Mongi’s confession. Ibrahim said Mongi’s role was surveillance and host the group’s leader.

He listed names of Muslim Brotherhood members alleged to have crossed to the Gaza Strip and received training from militants from Hamas, which rules the territory. When they returned to Egypt, the minister said, they carried out a number of other attacks including shooting anti-Islamist protesters.

After the 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, Ibrahim said the group “expanded their base across the country, and sought to strike alliances with extremist factions to use their elements in executing antagonistic plots.”

He added that the group “opened channels” with Hamas, which allegedly provided “logistical support” training and developed technology such as devices to jam planes’ detection systems.

He did not provide any evidence for the claims of training. The Brotherhood does have longstanding ties with its offshoot Hamas, and did ally politically with more radical groups during Mursi’s time in office, including some ex-militants in groups that attacked police, Christians, and others in the 1990s.

According to military chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi, who led the July coup against Mursi, the Brotherhood’s deputy leader Khairat El-Shater threatened during Mursi’s final days in office that removing the president would prompt militants to take up arms against the state.

Since Mursi’s ouster, the military-backed interim government has cracked down hard on the group. It has arrested and charged its leaders, freezing members’ resources, and clamping down on its social network that helped it secure grassroots support and dominate every election that Egypt held since its 2011 uprising, including the presidential vote that Mursi won in 2012. Its leaders face a raft of charges, many punishable by death. And hundreds of its supporters were killed in a bloody crackdown on a protest camp.

Among its latest measures, a judicial official said Thursday that a government inventory committee decided to confiscate the assets of an additional 152 Muslim Brotherhood businessmen, bringing the total number of the group’s members and allies whose assets have been seized to more than 800.

The same committee also confiscated assets of more than 1,000 non-government organizations for allegedly having links with the Brotherhood, and tightened control over scores of schools owned or run by the group.

Meanwhile, the Cairo Appeals Court announced on Thursday that it set January 28 for Mursi’s trial along with 130 others, including 22 still on the run. Among the defendants, more than 70 of them are Palestinians and two are Lebanese, as well as top Brotherhood figures such as the group’s spiritual guide, Mohammed Badie.

Symbolically, the trial date falls on the third anniversary of the day after which Mursi and more than 30 others from his Muslim Brotherhood group, who were jailed at the time, escaped from the Egyptian prison of Wadi Al-Natroun. They were some of the more than 20,000 inmates who fled from prisons across Egypt, including members of foreign militant groups such as Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian militant Hamas.

The prison breaks—which remain one of the mysteries of the 2011 uprising—came as Mubarak’s security apparatus collapsed.

The other charges against Mursi range from conspiring with foreign groups, to inciting violence that led to the killings of protesters during his year in power.

Authorities claim the jailbreaks were part of an organized effort to destabilize Egypt. The investigation into the case started in April, and prosecutors said it showed the Brotherhood had plotted with foreign groups to “destroy the Egyptian state and its institutions.”

According to the prosecution, the Brotherhood allegedly recruited about 800 militants from the neighboring Hamas-run Gaza Strip to attack police stations and at least three prisons in Egypt, breaking out thousands of prisoners and killing police officers and inmates.

Rights groups have called for an independent investigation into the chaotic events, saying they hold the police responsible for the pandemonium around the jailbreaks.

Mursi was Egypt’s first freely elected president. The military toppled him in a coup that followed demonstrations by millions calling for him to leave office.

Asharq Al-Awsat


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