Friday, January 10, 2014

Mordechai Kedar: Qaradawi's Last Sermon - for Now

by Mordechai Kedar
Read the article in the original עברית
Read the article in Italiano (translated by Yehudit Weisz, edited by Angelo Pezzana)
Read the article en Español (translated by Shula Hamilton)   

The most obvious example of a country intervening in the affairs of another is Qatar. This principality has been shaking up regimes in the Arab world since the end of 1996, when it launched the al-Jazeera channel

QaradawiPresently, several battles are being waged on several levels in the Middle East. On the global level we see how the battle between the West and Iran is drawing to an end with the brilliant victory of Iran which is supported by Russia and China, and the humiliating defeat of the United States, Europe, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Emirates and Israel. The Iranians’ determination and willingness to suffer during the years of sanctions, as well as the ayatollahs’ dictatorial control of the people, has brought them victory. Compared to Iran, the West seems like a spineless jellyfish.

On the regional level a war with hundreds of thousands of fatalities is being conducted between Saudi Arabia and Iran on the soil of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. This war is the direct historical outgrowth of 1400 years of battle between Sunni Islam, represented by Saudi Arabia, and Shi’a, represented by Iran. Figures such as al-Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusra, which represent the Sunni side, and the Revolutionary Guard and Hizb’Allah representing the Shi’a side, are running across the chessboard.

On the internal-state level internal battles are being conducted in Libya, Sudan, South Sudan, Yemen and Egypt, over the direction of the state and the image of the ruling elite that leads it. Many of the internal struggles are influenced by the regional level and the global level, and countries intervene in each others’ business.

Qatar has been shaking up regimes in the Arab world since the end of 1996, when it launched the al-Jazeera channel

The most obvious example of a country intervening in the affairs of another is Qatar. This principality – the whole thing is nothing but a pimple jutting out from Saudi Arabia into the Persian Gulf - has been shaking up regimes in the Arab world since the end of 1996, when it launched the al-Jazeera channel and began showing the Arab peoples the true faces of the dictators who are controlling them, with an iron fist, a raised arm and dim torture chambers. There were those in the West who called this channel “the CNN of the Arab world”, because they did not understand its true, long-range agenda: overthrowing the Arab regimes in order to bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power.

The Arab world was well acquainted with the goal of the channel: the public has been watching it intently day and night, and its ratings have soared to the skies. The rulers were wary of it and the information that was hidden in its safes, therefore they only rarely dared to shut down its broadcasts and limit the activity of its writers. The rulers preferred to be the subject of negative reports rather than have fatal information released, and the channel kept a balance as well.

One of the means that the al-Jazeera channel has used in order to promote the Muslim Brotherhood’s agenda is Sheikh Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who was born in Egypt 88 years ago, then studied in the University of al-Azhar and afterward joined the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood. Because of the persecution in the days of Gamal Abd al-Nasser he moved to Qatar in 1961 and in the course of time was named mufti of the country. Al-Jazeera is at his disposal and he appears there almost every week in his show Shari’a and Life, where he mixes the Qur’an, the Hadith (the oral tradition), current affairs and politics. It was during this program that he called on the sons of Iraq to attack and eliminate American soldiers, and authorized suicide attacks. Qaradawi was not permitted to visit Mubarak’s Egypt for thirty years.

Beginning in 2010 it seemed that Qatar was succeeding in its goal

Beginning in 2010 it seemed that Qatar was succeeding in its goal: the rulers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen were overthrown, each in his own way, and Islamist groups came to power. In Libya Qatar took an active part in the revolution against Qadhaffi, and flew in weapons and ammunition for the rebels. In February 2011, even before the clouds resulting from Mubarak’s removal from power in Egypt had cleared, Qaradawi made a “comeback” to Cairo’s Tahrir Square, delivered a Friday sermon for millions of listeners and seized the revolution for the Muslim Brotherhood. In that speech he praised the Egyptian army highly for not following Mubarak’s orders to act against the revolution.

Qaradawi promoted Mursi’s candidacy and supported him and his government heart and soul after his election in July of 2012, and Qaradawi became infuriated with the defense minister, Abed al-Fatah al-Sisi who removed Mursi from the presidency in the beginning of July 2013, pressured by millions of Egyptians. Even now, the al-Jazeera channel still characterizes this act as a revolution, in order to delegitimize Sisi’s rule.

Meanwhile something had happened in Qatar, and the Emir – in June of 2013 Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani – passed the rule on to his son, 33-year-old Tamim bin Hamad. Sheikh Hamad gave no reason for his resignation, but it seems to this writer that he had become disappointed with the “Arab Spring”, which he had instigated but which eventually turned the Middle East into a boiling cauldron of blood, fire and tears, and when he felt that his primary project – placing the Muslim Brotherhood in power in Egypt – was about to fail, he stepped down from the stage in order to avoid the shame. He knew ahead of time that Mursi might be deposed, whether because millions of Egyptians planned a demonstration on the 30th of June, the anniversary of Mursi’s rise to power, or from information that apparently came to al-Jazeera that al-Sisi had decided to depose Mursi from the presidency because of these demonstrations, which is what actually happened.

The new Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim, apparently decided to take a less dogmatic and more pragmatic line, mainly because of al-Sisi’s determination and the decisive way that he relates to all open criticism regarding himself and Mursi’s dismissal. In recent months Sisi’s rule has become increasingly well established in Egypt, and the Muslim Brotherhood – the darlings of Qatar and the United states – has been made illegal, they and and their many organizations, having been declared a “terror organization”. They are forbidden to hold demonstrations and gatherings, they are forbidden to distribute flyers, and the police have even become involved in the universities in order to suppress the Brotherhood’s activities.

You may disagree with the Egyptian regime’s behavior and call it “undemocratic”, but you must admit that it has the support of many millions of Egyptians.

You may disagree with Sisi’s and his people’s definition of the Muslim Brotherhood organization as a “terrorist organization”, but you cannot deny that the Egyptian regime is determined to sweep the organization out of the political field, despite the fact that tens of millions of Egyptians identify with them and their goals. You may disagree with the Egyptian regime’s behavior and call it “undemocratic”, but you must admit that it has the support of many millions of Egyptians. You may also condemn the violence used by the Egyptian regime against those who oppose its actions, but you have to admit that in the Middle East there are many more violent regimes, for example, Syria and (democratic!!) Iraq.

Sisi also knows quite well the position of the American government, and specifically President Obama’s negative opinion of the actions taken against the Brotherhood, but he does not get excited about Obama, or John Kerry either, and he is not impressed by Qatar or al-Jazeera.  He does not change his goal and does not retreat from the approach that he takes against the Brotherhood. My heart tells me that Sisi has already stopped returning telephone calls from Kerry or Obama when they phone him, trying to convince him to ease the pressure on the Brotherhood, just as he does not submit to the entreaties to return Mursi to the presidency after he deposed him in the beginning of July 2013. Moreover, Sisi is not deterred from putting Mursi in the defendant’s cage and accusing him of murder, which could bring a death sentence upon him.

They come and say that the Brotherhood is a terror organization? Who here is a terrorist?!? You, people of the military, you are the murderers and the terrorists

But Qaradawi continues in the same way: two weeks ago, in his Friday speech, he attacked Sisi and the military people (my comments are in parenthesis, M.K.) with strong words: “The soldiers of the revolution are murderers and terrorists, and Allah who is great and is the god of revenge, writes down all of their crimes and the ways that they oppress the public, and Allah’s revenge will surely come…They come and say that the Brotherhood is a terror organization? Who here is a terrorist?!? You, people of the military, you are the murderers and the terrorists…A soldier is forbidden to rule over a citizen except in an era of tyranny, and since the military people deposed King Faruk (=in the Officers Revolution of 1952, M.K.) they have been corrupting the political, economic, social and religious life in Egypt… We thought that Bablawi (the prime minister, M.K.) is an economist, but it turns out that he is a very ugly person. All of Egypt is with the Brotherhood… Mohammad Badie (the general guide of the Brotherhood, M.K.) told the entire world that our revolution is a revolution of peace, will remain a revolution of peace, and is stronger than the army’s bullets… Mursi was righteous, his righteousness and Islam have awakened the rage of the Zionists and the enemies of Islam (a hint at Sisi, M.K.)… O Sisi, O Bablawi, O Mansur (the president, M.K.), O Tartur (bum, rhymes with Mansur, M.K.) Allah will ask you (on judgment day, M.K.): Who killed this people! Beware of Allah, beware of Allah, beware of Allah”.

Qatar got a lesson in determination from Sisi, and it may be that Qatar’s policy of public support for the Brotherhood will become less intense.

This speech was the straw that broke Sisi’s patience. He called the ambassador of Qatar and threatened him that Egypt would cut off relations with the Emirates and remove the ambassador if he continues to support the Brotherhood. The new Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim, retreated slightly, and announced to Qaradawi that for the time being he does not permit him to deliver the Friday speech in the mosque. It is not clear if this ban will continue, and it may be that Egypt and Qatar will come to some agreement behind the scenes that will leave the embassies open. Nevertheless, Qatar got a lesson in determination from Sisi, and it may be that Qatar’s policy of public support for the Brotherhood will become less intense.

In the background, there is also Qatar’s failure in Syria: Since the founding of the Free Syrian Army in 2011 Qatar has supported it with funds, weapons and ammunition and in the political sphere as well. During the past year this organization has been losing its strength and the weight of the Salafi organizations – jihadists operating in Syria with Saudi money - is increasing. Qatar’s failure in this sphere as well is another factor that causes Sheikh Tamim to behave with caution in dealing with determined rulers, and Asad - without a doubt – is one of them.

The economic support that Sisi’s regime gets from Saudi Arabia allows it to behave so audaciously towards Qatar that the al-Jazeera channel almost does not operate within Egypt, and the channel accompanies its reportage on Egypt with videos that it downloads from the Internet. Without doubt this is a great humiliation for the channel that shook the Middle East from end to end.

The Americans, the Qataris and other Brotherhood supporters will have to decide how they will act, faced with the Egyptian determination: will they totally break off relations with Egypt and leave this country to manage its own weary affairs, or perhaps they will swallow the frog and continue to support Egypt, especially in the civil arena, in order to keep Egypt from seeking new friends in Iran or to return to its old friends in Moscow. In my opinion those who oppose Sisi have yielded and will continue in the near future to submit to his determination and to accept – albeit under protest – his policy.

Any display of weakness only increases the desire for dominance that is inherent in Middle East culture

The State of Israel can draw several conclusions from what Sisi has done to Qatar and to al-Jazeera, and the principal one is that with extortionists like Qatar and al-Jazeera you must show determination, because any display of weakness only increases the desire for dominance that is inherent in Middle East culture. They do not demand democracy or excel in the freedom of speech, rather they believe only in their Islamist agenda and exploit the democracy and freedom of communication that is practiced in Israel and Western countries in order to promote an agenda that is totally opposite from democracy and freedom.
According to the rules of Takiyya, Islamic deceptiveness, they disguise themselves as a regular media outlet and behave as if they are a regular media outlet, but their true intention is to promote the interests of political Islam and to introduce it into every place possible. Sisi told them “That’s the limit”, and showed them the way out so they are cautious with him. The fact that Qaradawi is prevented from delivering the Friday speech is the proof that in the Middle East the only thing that works is determination.


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.

An Open Letter to Secretary of State John Kerry

by Isi Leibler


Dear Mr. Secretary,

Over the next week or so, you will be unveiling a US proposal for a “framework agreement” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority as a prelude to a final status arrangement.

Before you do so, I encourage you to realistically consider the issues that gravely concern most Israelis, and to believe wholeheartedly that Israelis genuinely yearn for peace and will overwhelmingly endorse a plan that separates them from the Palestinians, provided their security is ensured.

Unfortunately, Mr. Secretary, you and the administration you represent are operating on premises that are misguided or false. President Obama has deluded himself into believing that this conflict is essentially about real estate, an idea that has been disproved many times, most clearly when Palestinian Presidents Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas rebuffed Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert’s offers to relinquish 95% of the territories formerly occupied by Jordan.

As befits a mediator, you have lavished praise on President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, and repeatedly stated that both parties are willing to make sacrifices to achieve peace. But alas, this assertion repeated endlessly by all parties including Israelis, is simply false and contributes towards the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ environment surrounding this issue which suppresses reality.

Dismissing political correctness the fact is that our “peace partner” is a corrupt authoritarian regime that brutally suppresses dissent. Over the years, the Palestinians’ corrupt officials have diverted a substantial portion of billions of dollars of international aid to private, offshore accounts. This corrupt entity could collapse at any time, and the constitutional term of office of its President has long expired.

Our “peace partner” is indisputably committed to the elimination of Jewish sovereignty in the region. That is why Palestinian leaders so adamantly refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. President Abbas even denies that the Jewish people have a biblical or historical link to the land.

Our “peace partner” continuously assures its adherents that Israel’s destruction is inevitable. President Abbas has learned that he can better work toward this goal by exerting duplicitous diplomatic pressure on Israel than by engaging in terrorism. Through this deceitful diplomacy, he is attempting to dismantle Israel in stages, a strategy the majority in his government openly supports. Indeed, in the unlikely event that President Abbas finalizes an agreement that waives additional claims and pronounces the end of the dispute, there is little doubt that he will be assassinated.

I urge you, Mr. Secretary, to face the harsh reality that by American and Western standards, through intense propaganda, the Palestinians have engineered what can only be defined as a criminal society. All sectors of Palestinian society—the government, religious networks, the media, the educational system-–engage in brainwashing the Palestinian people, from kindergarten-age up, into regarding Israelis as demonic monsters and sanctifying fanatic Islamic suicide bombers and terrorists as martyrs. Just last week, your colleague, the official Palestinian spokesman, Saeb Erekat, whipped up fervor by accusing Israel of having murdered Yasser Arafat and speculating that we would kill President Abbas.

Mr. Secretary, can you imagine an American government making peace with a neighboring government that provides salaries from humanitarian funds for incarcerated murderers of American citizens, and pensions to their families? Would Americans approve their government negotiating with a neighbor whose leader personally embraced and hailed as national heroes those convicted of barbarically murdering American civilians? Would Americans contemplate making peace with a neighbor who imposes the death penalty on citizens who sell land to Americans?

Bear in mind, Mr. Secretary, that nearly half of Palestine is comprised of “Hamastan,” the genocidal, Islamic fundamentalist entity that occupies the Gaza strip and from which missiles against our cities are still being. Were it not for an Israeli military presence in Gaza, Hamas already would have wrested control of other areas currently under Palestinian Authority control. Hamas remains dedicated to the destruction of Israel, and sanctions the murder of Jews everywhere. Hamas’ Foreign Minister, Mahmoud Zahar, recently proclaimed that “any deal inked between the Palestinian Authority and Israel would be non-binding for the Palestinian people.”

Mr. Secretary, you have put pressure on us to make outrageous concessions under absurd conditions. You have forced our hand in releasing mass murderers in order to “induce” a hostile neighbor to agree to commence negotiations. Can you morally justify freeing terrorists convicted of killing women and children? Could you visualize the response of Americans to an outside party who pressured their government to act in this manner?

Mr. Secretary, during your numerous visits to the region, you have insisted that you would never be party to a policy that undermines Israel’s long-term security. But this is precisely what you are proposing.

You do not take any account of the unpleasant reality that our “partner”, the corrupt PA could collapse or be taken over by Hamas any time should the IDF totally withdraw from the area.

But setting that aside Mr. Secretary, you are now suggesting that more sophisticated technology combined with an international, possibly American force, replace the IDF in sensitive areas.

Israel has never asked America or any other country to fight on its behalf. We are profoundly conscious of the fact that we can rely only upon ourselves in the event of military attack. It is inconceivable for us to contemplate sub-contracting any aspect of our security to a third party, including the US.

Nor can technological advances alone protect our borders. While UN Resolution 242 implicitly provides for secure, defensible borders, adherence to the1949 armistice lines, which give Israel a mere nine- to fifteen-mile wide waistline, will place future generations at peril. And it is imperative that we retain depth and an IDF presence in the Jordan Valley. These border issues are absolutely fundamental to Israel’s security.

In addition, Mr. Secretary, I find it difficult to comprehend your knee-jerk responses to housing construction for Israeli citizens in Israel’s capital and areas over the Green Line that will always remain part of Israel. This issue appears to weigh more heavily on your mind than the carnage and sectarian violence taking place throughout the Mideast region with hundreds of thousands of people brutally killed in within Syria which borders us.

The Oslo Accords never precluded settlement construction. And whilst Israelis are divided over construction in isolated settlements in disputed areas, they are pained that our American ally contributes to the global hysteria around this issue - even when the construction in question is taking place in Jerusalem’s Jewish suburbs.

Many long-standing friends of the US currently believe that the Obama administration has contributed to our regional chaos. Many of your staunchest Arab allies have lost faith in you. We pray that we may be wrong, but to us and many others, the US gamble with Iran appears an impending disaster.

I respectfully suggest, Mr. Secretary, that you pause before advising Israel on what is in her best interest. (Imagine where we would be today had Israel shared your optimism about Syrian President Bashar Assad and taken your advice to cede the Golan Heights.)

Israel’s relationship and friendship with the US is profound and based on genuine shared values. We are also deeply reliant on American military and diplomatic support, and greatly appreciate that the military aid provided by the Obama administration has exceeded that of its predecessors.

But we believe that the American people understand that Israel cannot afford to continue to make unilateral concessions, to accept the Palestinians’ stubborn refusal to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state, to accede to their unrelenting demand for the right of return, or to compromise on long-term security issues.

Mr. Secretary, please do not attempt to score an unattainable foreign policy achievement. In the absence of Palestinian concessions on critical issues, a solution simply is not possible and should your initiatives undermine Israeli security, you will leave a legacy as the US Secretary of State who abandoned the one and only genuine democracy and US ally in the Middle East.

We hope that you will concentrate on seeking interim solutions, encouraging mutual economic projects to improve Palestinian living standards and maintaining the channels for dialogue so that progress can be achieved should a more accommodating Palestinian leadership emerge.

I urge you to set aside conventional political correctness to appreciate that our concerns are for the lives of our children and grandchildren, the future of our nation. I pray that you will contribute to our realization of the biblical vision of Prophet Isaiah, and enable Israelis and Palestinians to set aside their weapons, and work together for the social and economic betterment of all inhabitants of the region.

The writer’s website can be viewed at
He may be contacted at
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom

Isi Leibler


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

Barry Rubin: You Still Don’t Understand Islamism, Do You?

by Barry Rubin

Around 2007, I gave a lecture at the Defense Department. One of the attendees presented a scenario suggesting that the “problem of Islam” was not political but a problem of verbiage.
There was a secret debate happening in the Defense Department and the CIA in which some people thought that all Muslims were a problem, some believed that only al-Qa’ida was a problem, and still others thought the Muslim Brotherhood was a problem.
The main problem, however, was that all Islamism was a political threat, but it was the second position that eventually won over the Obama administration. Take note of this, since 2009, if you wanted to build your career and win policy debates, only al-Qa’ida was a problem. The Muslim Brotherhood was not a threat; after all, it did not participate in September 11. This view was well known in policy circles, but it was easy to mistake this growing hegemony as temporary.
Actually, it only got worse.
A Muslim Foreign Service officer recounted how some U.S. officials were trying to persuade the powers that be that al-Qa’ida was split from the Muslim Brotherhood. Imagine how horrified he was. Still other officials told me that there was heavy pressure and there were well-financed lobbyists trying to force officials into the idea that al-Qa’ida was the only problem. Some high-ranking defense department officials–for example, one on the secretary of defense’s level–were pressured to fire anti-Muslim Brotherhood people. I know of at least five such incidences.
For example, I was asked to participate in a contract and co-direct a project for the federal government, and my paper was to be on the idea that all Islamists posed a threat. To my surprise, I was told that my paper was rejected. Shocked, I asked to speak to the two co-contractors on the telephone. Isn’t it true, I said on the phone, that I was to have co-direction of this project? The response was yes it was, nevertheless, a more junior member of the press could not prevail. By the way, this co-director, who likely became interested in the Middle East in large part because of me, was very rude. I then told him that though the project had originally been my idea, I was going to walk away from it and not demand compensation.
In another incident, a high-ranking CIA official posited a paper that the Muslim Brotherhood was not a threat, only al-Qa’ida was, and U.S. policy should therefore depend on the Brotherhood.
In another case, a U.S. official made a statement at a public function that neither Hizballah nor Hamas posed a threat to U.S. interests.
By 2013, this sprouted in a few people’s arguments that Iran could be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. The theoretical situation to government officials was thus clear: If you wanted to make some money in Washington, you would have to toe the line that the Muslim Brotherhood was not a threat. If sanctions ended against the Muslim Brotherhood or Islamists, including Iran, this could also lead to trillions of dollars in potential trade deals. Note that in 2009 and 2010, an attempt was made to build such a model with Syria, despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of people were being murdered in a civil war.
But Iran was a far more valuable state. In fact, Tehran was a far easier target because it had far more money and could possibly be bought simply by agreeing not to build a nuclear weapon.
Following is what I predicted in my 1980 book Paved With Good Intentions: The American Experience and Iran:
United States-Iranian relations could not possibly have been worse in the months following November 4, 1979. From the American point of view, the central problem was obtaining the release of fifty-three American diplomats being held hostage at the American Embassy in Tehran. To the Iranians the capture of the American Embassy and its occupants marked a successful end to one revolution and the opening shots of a second. For Iran, like Russia in 1917, was to undergo both a February and a November revolution–the first a political struggle to unseat the old regime, the second a social, economic, and cultural revolution to build a new Islamic society.
In Iran’s case, it was the fundamentalist mullahs and their Islamic Republican Party who were seeking to achieve what the Bolsheviks had done in Russia–monopolize power. Like Lenin, Khomeini would in time turn against moderate segments of the revolutionary coalition and purge their members from positions of authority; like the Bolsheviks, the fundamentalists, once in power, would refuse to compromise with those ethnic movements that had aided the revolution; and like the Leninists, Khomeini’s supporters would try to create a totalistic structure, subsuming into their ideological framework all aspects of national life, from the courts to the schools, from the military to the conduct of commerce, and even the daily behavior of the citizenry.
Thus, the United States and Iran, two countries whose friendship had begun with such high expectations and whose relations had included fine moments of selfless cooperation as well as many shameful episodes of corruption and insensitivity, were now the bitterest of enemies.
In 2014, I am convinced that the leadership of the Iranian Islamist regime still feels the same way, just as American policy makers still don’t understand that nice verbiage has not changed anything. Note that President Ronald Reagan sending the Iranians a key-shaped cake–supposedly to symbolize the “opening” of U.S.-Iranian relations–also demonstrated little understanding of Iranian extremism.

Barry Rubin


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

Possible Repercussions From Turkey's Corruption Scandal

by Abigail R. Esman

On Dec. 17, the Turkish public watched the largest government corruption scandal in their history unfold before their eyes. Bribery schemes, gold-for oil-trades, and shoe boxes stuffed with $4.5 million dominated news coverage. Within a week, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had fired or reassigned dozens of law-enforcement officials, and four members of parliament resigned or were dismissed.
One former minister called for Erdogan to resign, too. "What I did, I did with his complete knowledge and approval," he said.
While the prime minister has no intention of stepping down, his command over the country has been visibly shaken. And as investigations continue – despite Erdogan's efforts to thwart them – more questions emerge about his future, and that of the Turkish Republic.

Yet the debates and discussions have centered not on the question of whether crimes have been committed, but on who ordered the investigation, and on the mad, paranoid rants of Erdogan and his one-time ally-turned-adversary Fethullah Gulen. Now living in self-imposed exile in America, the Turkish-born Gulen oversees a global, conservative Muslim organization with several million members, including a large number of Erdogan's constituents. Gulenists, too, occupy high offices in Turkey's police departments and ministries of the interior and judiciary.

Look more closely, however, and the scandal reveals larger, more important stories – about profound corruption in the Turkish state; about Iran's unquenchable power in the Middle East; about the way the Turkish people (and probably most of the Middle East population) view America; and about the standards by which religious Muslim voters measure their lives and, ultimately, build their states.

Turkish Gold

Among the first of the 52 people who were arrested on Dec. 17 were the sons of three cabinet members – Interior Minister Muammer Guler, Economy Minister Zafir Caglayan, and Urbanization Minister Erdogan Bayrakter – all on bribery charges. Alongside them, police arrested Suleyman Aslan, general manager of the state-run Halkbank (and in whose home the shoeboxes stuffed with cash were found) and Iranian-born business tycoon Reza Zarrab. Both are accused of money laundering and trading several billion dollars in gold to Iran in exchange for oil, a violation of international sanctions.

While several of the bribe allegations against cabinet members and their families underscore the interdependency between Erdogan's Islamist AK Party and Turkey's newly-rich religious right – many of whom earned their millions in construction and development – the gold trade may hold the largest potential global repercussions, especially for America.

According to investigators, reports Mustaf Sonmez of Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, members of parliament and Halkbank's Aslan collaborated with Zarrab, who facilitated complex gold transactions on behalf of the state in exchange for "citizenship, residence, and business permits" for himself and his family.

The scheme worked something like this: because Western sanctions on Iran made it impossible for Turkey to pay for Iranian gas directly, Turkish officials worked with Zarrab to organize a complex system of gold imports and exports to disguise the oil trades. Iran would be paid in Turkish lira, which it would then use to purchase gold from Turkey.

Turkey, in turn, would import the gold from Switzerland. In order to further disguise the transactions, Turkey also set up exports to the UAE, which then transferred the gold to Iran. According to Sonmez, Turkey exported $27 billion in gold between 2010 and 2013, $15 billion of which was used to purchase Iranian natural gas. Allegedly, Halkbank, through Zarrab, effected the majority of these exchanges. In return, according to Al-Monitor, Zarrab allegedly paid out $49 million to Economy Minister Zafer Caglan and $7.7 million to Aslan over two years.

It's worth noting that, after Reuters broke the story in October on gold-for-oil trades, the U.S. expressed concerns that Halkbank was working with Iran in violation of U.S.-led sanctions. If true, the deals would seem to confirm what many have long whispered about the current Turkish government: that far from being a "moderate Islamist" leader as frequently portrayed in the American press, Erdogan is doing more and more to cement close relations with the Islamic Republic. It seems inconceivable that such trades could have taken place without his knowledge, and he has never attempted to deny that.

American Power

As he did during the uprising in Gezi Park last summer, Erdogan has blamed "foreign forces" for the crisis, accusing the "interest lobby" (aka Jews), former ally Fethullah Gulen, and America for instigating the investigations. He discharged prosecutors and investigators from their positions and even proposed giving the executive branch oversight of the judiciary. In the end, he settled on Gulen and the U.S. as those culpable for what he called "a political assassination attempt" and efforts to undermine "democracy" and the Turkish state.

Unsurprisingly, the nearly 50 percent of Turks who support him agree the blame lies with America. He has had a tougher time, however, convincing his followers of his charges against Gulen, since millions of AKP voters are themselves Gulenists. This fact is sure to affect the AKP's standing in future elections as the Erdogan-Gulen rivalry continues. There is widespread suspicion that Gulen instigated the crisis for the purpose of tipping the local elections scheduled for mid-March, but since Gulen himself represents no political party, no one is quite sure why.

What is intriguing is the take of the Westernized secular elite, who view the accusations against Gulen, Israel, and America as just more evidence of their prime minister's paranoia and corruption. "He keeps blaming America," my friends all said during a recent visit to Turkey. "He's nuts."

"So who do you think it is?" I asked them. And as if in one voice, they all replied, "America. 

Of course."

Among Islamists, leftist radicals, secular intellectuals and even journalists, it is accepted as truth that Turkey is basically America's 51st state. "Your president is our president," I recall a Kurdish hotel worker in Istanbul telling me years ago. "America created Erdogan," a prominent Turkish businessman asserted over dinner recently. America put Erdogan in power, the legend goes, and when it learned how dictatorial he really was during the Gezi riots, America decided to remove him.

Are the Turks right? Certainly America has its history of installing and supporting dictators. But America viewed Erdogan as a reasonable Islamist when he won parliamentary elections in 2002, someone who could successfully meld Islamism and democracy – not a dictator. Moreover, it's unlikely that America would have supported any Islamist candidate in secular Turkey – however "moderate" he appeared – at a time when the U.S. had declared war on Islamism. And Erdogan, who has spent 12 years bringing Turkey further from the West and closer to Iran, hardly behaves like a puppet of the United States. The idea gets even more bizarre given ongoing allegations of ties between Erdogan, his son Bilal, and Yasin al-Qadi, until recently listed as a "specially designated global terrorist" by the United States.

Ultimately, the truth doesn't matter. In politics, perception is everything. And in Turkey, the perception is nearly universal: when it comes to all things Erdogan, America is either to credit or to blame. Consequently, with Erdogan now facing the greatest challenge yet to his power – and to the power of the AKP overall – any indication that America is involved is certain to have global impact. And should the crisis continue to have adverse effects on the Turkish economy (the lira has reached record lows since the 17th of December), that, too, will be seen as America's fault.

This situation has potentially serious ramifications. Conspiracy theory or not, America's perceived position in all of this leaves it vulnerable to the vengeful rage of more than just religious fundamentalist supporters of the AKP. Along with them march the Kurdish terrorist PKK, widely believed to be responsible for the 2008 attack on the American consulate in Istanbul which killed six people, and with whom Erdogan has effectively been negotiating peace. According to some reports, Erdogan has already looked to the PKK for support in the current crisis. The end of AKP power could well jeopardize progress of these talks.

Add to that the Marxist DHKP/C, or Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front, whose anti-U.S. stance and fury at any American involvement with Turkish politics are suspected of provoking its suicide attack on the American Embassy in Ankara last February. What effect the government shakeup might have on its members is anyone's guess, but the group is certain to hold America responsible for any outcome that goes against their vision.

The potential threat is not limited to Turkish terror groups. Iran, too, is strongly invested in keeping the current government in place, having apparently profited handsomely from Turkey's financial largesse. According to the Daily Beast, "the Halkbank oil-for-gold deal may only be [the] start of more uncomfortable disclosures about Iranian dealings in Turkey." Iranian capital backed one of six companies that invested in Turkey last year, according to the Daily Beast report, which noted further that Turkish government data showed 2,072 Iranian firms operating in Turkey in 2012, up from 1,470 in 2011 and 319 in 2002. And "earlier this year," according to the Daily Beast, "Iran reportedly placed $7-8 billion in cash in a Dubai-based fund earmarked for investment and the acquisition of companies in Turkey."

Corruption and the Moral Muslim

Tragically, what emerges is the sense that what is best for the United States may be what is worst for those hoping for a free and democratic Turkey: that the AKP remain in power, with or without Tayyip Erdogan to lead them.

And for the moment it appears that is how it will end – and not just because of Erdogan's remarkable talents as a politician and campaigner. Recent polls reveal that another, even more significant factor is also involved – one that the West would be well advised to heed. For many conservative Muslims, according to Ersin Kalaycioglu, political science professor at Sabanci University, "corruption is not necessarily a high moral issue." In an interview with Hurriyet Daily, Kalacioglu elaborated on the ascent of the AKP and the conservative wave. "In their argument, those who were secular had nothing to do with religion and having nothing to do with religion make them amoral, if not immoral, by definition," he said. "Therefore, it is in their nature to be corrupt, whereas the AKP is religious and, by definition, cannot be corrupt. Now AKP voters have something to think about."
So do the rest of us.

Abigail R. Esman


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

Barefaced lie from Kerry about Saudi Initiative

by Dr. Aaron Lerner

Here is a barefaced lie from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry:

One of the reasons I'm going to Saudi Arabia is that Saudi Arabia's initiative holds out the prospect that if the parties could arrive at a peaceful resolution, you could instantaneously have peace between the 22 Arab nations and 35 Muslim nations, all of whom have said they will recognize Israel if peace is achieved. Secretary of State John Kerry, Jerusalem, January 5, 2014

Now take a look at the Saudi initiative he is referring to:

The Arab Peace Initiative, 2002 ...2. Further calls upon Israel to affirm: I- Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the June 4, 1967 lines as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon.

That's right.  Cutting a deal with the Palestinians doesn't gain Israel "instant peace" unless Israel also withdraws from every square centimeter of the Golan Heights and what the Arab Peace Initiative terms "the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon".


Which is worse?

Option #1: That Mr. Kerry and his huge team of experts are so recklessly shallow in their familiarity with the simplest of details of major documents relating to the "peace process" that they honestly did not notice that the Arab Peace Initiative requires full Israeli withdrawals  not associated with the Palestinians.

Option #2: The Americans know and are following the time honored tradition that “the ends justify the means”.

And since we are already talking about the Arab Initiative, Mr. Kerry is reported to be lobbying for the Initiative to be amended to recognize Israel as a Jewish State with the caveat that this recognition does not infringe on the equal rights of the Israeli Arabs.

That caveat is anything but innocuous.

it should be kept in mind that the position of the Israeli Arabs is that the Law of Return, which opens Israel to immigration of Jews around the world, infringes on their rights as it does not apply, by its very nature, equally to Arabs and Jews.

Back in 2007 this position gained documented expression in a proposal for a constitution that limited immigration to humanitarian cases.

The proposal was also designed to prevent most Jews now living in Israel who have non-citizen status from becoming citizens.

Here is the text:

The Democratic Constitution proposed by  Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. February 2007 ... Citizenship 15. The laws of citizenship and immigration will be established on the basis of the principle of anti-discrimination and will define the arrangements by which the State of Israel will grant citizenship to:

Dr. Aaron Lerner

Source: IMRA

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

Israel Looks Beyond the Blue EU Horizon

by Michael Curtis

For many years it has been obvious that the European Union (EU) does not wear Israel in its heart's core or enfold it in its arms. If its members have not totally subscribed to the Palestinian Narrative of Victimhood, they have been sufficiently swayed to impose a partial boycott against Israel. The EU in June 2013 published "guidelines" for its member nations saying that it would not confer grants, scholarships, prizes, or financial loans on Israeli entities operating outside the so-called Green Line (the 1949 armistice lines), including east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Any Israeli entity seeking funding from the EU must submit a declaration that it has no direct or indirect links to the West Bank. 

This issue was central to the months of negotiations between the EU and Israel on the latter's participation in the EU's Horizon 2020 project. This project, the EU's largest research and innovation program to last six years with a funding of 80 billion euros, was launched on January 1, 2014. After prolonged and tense negotiations a compromise formula was reached making it possible for Israel to participate fully in the project, the only non-European country to do so as a full partner. Israel is expected to contribute between 600 million and one billion euros to Horizon 2020, and in return its universities, researchers, and companies can compete for grants and other funding from the EU.
This is not the first instance of collaboration between the two sides in research and development. In 2012 the Israeli Migal-Galilee Technology Center received a $4.4 million grant from the EU for research on environment, health, and aging. The new agreement enables Israel to be involved in scientific collaboration in the most advanced research and development in the world. 

However, the agreement came with a compromise formula in two appendices. The EU stated that the June 2013 guidelines regarding the Israeli settlements reflected European policy and would remain. Israel wrote it did not accept the validity of the guidelines but it will abide by the arrangement that no scientific funding by the EU will go to the disputed areas. Israel's position is that the fate of those areas will be decided by final status negotiations. Israel noted the two sides disagreed on the settlements but it insists that acceptance of the appendices on the EU guidelines does not constitute a legal or political precedent. 

Cutting off ties with the EU would be detrimental to Israeli scientific research. But can the agreement be regarded as capitulation by Israel and acquiescence in the EU's partial boycott? Warning signs are already there in at least three cases where European firms have succumbed to the pressure of the Palestinian boycott campaign.

In Holland, the large water company Vitens in December 2013 cancelled its contract with Mekorot, the Israeli water company which supplies water to Israeli cities in the West Bank. Perhaps hypocritically, Vitens nevertheless cooperates in the Gaza Strip with a water company controlled by Hamas, which even the EU has designated a terrorist body. Another Dutch company, Royal Haskoning DHV engineering company, has cancelled building an Israeli sewage plant because it was across the Green Line. 

The transport division of the French multinational company Veolia had participated in the building and maintenance of the Jerusalem Light Rail system, owned a 5% share in the rail company, and had a contract to build eight lines across the city. Bowing to Palestinian pressure and EU guidelines, Veolia has withdrawn from all Israeli transport and sold its rail shares. 

It is clear that Israel cannot reduce trade ties with the EU or discontinue scientific cooperation. The EU-Israel Association Agreement in force since June 2000 is the legal basis for trade between the two. That trade is and will remain considerable: in 2011 it amounted to almost 30 billion euros. The EU is Israel's major source of imports (34.5%) and the second largest market for exports (26.1%) behind the U.S. Since January 2010 an agreement on agricultural products and fish has been in force. 

But, ignoring the advice of Irving Berlin's song, Israel cannot put all its eggs in one basket. There is a world elsewhere, especially countries that are unlikely to succumb to BDS pressure and do not treat the Palestinian issue as the world's most significant cause to which they should pay obeisance. Israel has recognized it must strengthen trade, scientific, and hopefully political, relations with other states beyond Europe. It is now doing so with China, India, and Russia. 

In contrast to the cautious approach of the nations and businesses in the EU, China has been eager to enter into negotiations with Israel. It is more interested in Israeli technology that in alleged problems of Palestinian rights. A Chinese-Israeli agreement has been reached for the creation in 2014 of the Nanxun Innovation Industrial Park in the city of Huzhou. The park will be concerned with research and development in a number of fields: energy conservation and environment protection, medical instruments, electronic information, and clean energy. Already, cooperation between the two countries exists in the Water Industrial Park in Dangguan. 

A Chinese-Israeli task force for economic growth has been set up that will be concerned with issues of agriculture, water management, global transportation, and heath care. Though China did not establish normal diplomatic relations with Israel until 1992, it now has closer links. Bilateral trade in 2005 was $3 billion; in 2012 it increased to $8 billion, and is forecast to increase substantially.

Israeli trade with India has also been increasing: in 2013 it amounted to $6 billion. 

Industrial relationships have been strengthened, particularly with the establishment of an industrial investment fund with Gujarat in Northwest India. These initiatives add to the existing cooperation in solar and thermal power, pharmaceuticals, water recycling and desalination, and in advanced agriculture technologies. The two countries are working towards a Free Trade Agreement.

Similarly, Israel is increasing trade with a considerable number of other countries, especially those with high growth. With Russia trade is relatively small, amounting to $2 billion, half of it in diamonds a year; Russia is interested in Israeli technology and intellectual property and negotiations for a free trade treaty are now continuing. 

Israel is involved with Mexico in high-tech irrigation and cyber security. The EU might note that the Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, through his telecommunication company America Movil, is investing $60 million in Mobli, the Israeli photo and video sharing platform startup company. The EU might also note that investors in Mobli, who include Leonardo DiCaprio and Serena Williams, have not succumbed to Palestinian pressure to boycott any Israeli places or businesses. 

Now that relations between Israel and the Obama administration have become less warm than in previous years, Israel is adroitly cultivating political as well as economic ties with countries in different parts of the world, including Russia, Asia, the Gulf states, and Saudi Arabia.The partner nations in this harmonious peaceful process advantageous to all sides put to shame those countries, including EU member states, and organizations within them, whose deference to anti-Israeli elements has prevented or restricted similar harmonious relationships. Those latter countries and organizations not only have succumbed to foreign pressure; they have also limited their own financial growth and development.

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


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