Saturday, June 13, 2015

BDS and Hamas: The New Partnership - Khaled Aby Toameh

by Khaled Aby Toameh

  • Hamas is pinning high hopes on BDS to pave the way for the destruction of Israel through boycotts, divestment and sanctions. Hamas believes that such tools are no less important than rockets and suicide bombings, which have thus far failed to achieve the goal of wiping Israel off the face of the earth.
  • U.S. universities that allow the BDS activists to disseminate their hate against Israel are unaware that these people are serving as Hamas ambassadors. Moreover, Western governments, above all the U.S., are unaware that Hamas and BDS allies also consider them enemies of the Palestinians.
  • What Bahr is actually saying is that the BDS campaign should be intensified until Israel is forced to surrender and accept all the demands of Hamas, which include, of course, ending the existence of Israel.
  • While the anti-Israel activities of the BDS movement have emboldened Hamas, they have also undermined those Palestinians who believe in peace and coexistence with Israel. If BDS supporters really care about Palestinians, why don't they go to the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian territories to promote reforms, democracy, freedom of speech and the rights of women under the rule of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority? BDS seems to be more about promoting Hamas's agenda than advancing the cause of peace.

Hamas has found new allies: the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have expressed deep satisfaction with the work of the BDS activists around the world. Hamas is convinced that the anti-Israel campaign will ultimately pave the way for the elimination of Israel.

For Hamas, this is not just about boycotting or imposing sanctions against Israel. Rather, it is about delegitimizing and isolating Israel, and turning it into a rogue state that has no right to exist.

That is why Hamas today believes that it shares a common goal with the BDS movement -- namely to destroy Israel. As far as Hamas is concerned, BDS is not about putting an end to Israeli "occupation," but about ending the existence of Israel.

Hamas supports the BDS campaign to boycott Israeli products, companies and academic institutions. But Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel and replace it with an Islamic state, believes that such measures are not enough. Hamas wants BDS supporters to step up their activities so that it can achieve its goal of eliminating Israel.

Hamas leaders have expressed deep satisfaction with the work of the BDS activists around the world.

Now that most of the Arab countries -- including Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia -- have turned their backs on Hamas, the Islamist movement considers the BDS movement its natural partner in the fight against Israel. The leaders of Hamas in the Gaza Strip are rubbing their hands with satisfaction as they follow the anti-Israel activities of BDS supporters on university campuses in the US, Canada, Australia and Britain.

Hamas views these BDS activities as an extension of the campaign to destroy Israel that the Islamist movement has been waging since its founding in 1988. While Hamas has been unable to send its representatives to speak to students and professors at the university campuses, BDS supporters seem to be doing the job on its behalf.

The U.S. universities that allow BDS activists to disseminate their hate against Israel are unaware that these people are serving as Hamas's ambassadors. Moreover, Western governments, above all the U.S., are unaware that Hamas and its BDS allies also consider them enemies of the Palestinians.

Here is what senior Hamas official Izzat al-Risheq had to say about the U.S. 
Administration's public opposition to the anti-Israel BDS campaign: "The attempts by the U.S. Administration to prevent the rise of the political, economic and academic boycott against Israel makes it complicit in the crimes and terror against the Palestinian people."

Heaping praise on the BDS advocates and activists, the Hamas official openly admitted that the ultimate goal of the BDS campaign was to destroy Israel. "We call for escalating the campaign to isolate the occupation and end the existence of its usurper entity," he added.

When Hamas talks about "ending the existence of the usurper entity," it is actually repeating its main goal of eliminating Israel.

Al-Risheq's remarks show that Hamas is pinning high hopes on BDS to pave the way for the destruction of Israel through boycotts, divestment and sanctions.

Hamas believes that such tools are no less important than rockets and suicide bombings, which have thus far failed to achieve the goal of wiping Israel off the face of the earth.

Another senior Hamas official, Ahmed Bahr, also went out of his way recently to applaud the work of the BDS movement in delegitimizing and demonizing Israel. However, Bahr said that boycotting Israeli products and companies was "insufficient." He called for forming a Palestinian and international working team that would coordinate the BDS campaign, intensify efforts to "isolate" Israel and force it to "succumb" to Palestinian demands. He, too, lashed out at the U.S. for opposing the anti-Israel campaign.

What Bahr is actually saying is that the BDS campaign should be intensified until Israel is forced to surrender and accept all the demands of Hamas, which include ending the existence of Israel. Like al-Risheq, Bahr is also optimistic that the work of the BDS movement could eventually help Hamas achieve its goal of destroying Israel.

Last week, Hamas leaders had another reason to celebrate. This time, it was over a decision by the British National Union of Students to boycott Israel. Hamas was the first Palestinian group to applaud the decision and call on other groups in the international community to follow suit and boycott Israel.

While the anti-Israel activities of the BDS movement have emboldened Hamas, they have also undermined those Palestinians who continue to believe in peace and coexistence with Israel. Many BDS supporters are also opposed to any meetings between Israelis and Palestinians, and opposed to security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank. Like Hamas, many in the BDS movement want the PA to boycott not only Israeli products, but also peace talks with Israel.

Until now, the BDS movement has failed to offer the Palestinians anything good. It wants Palestinian workers to boycott Israeli companies, but has not been able to offer them an alternative source of income. If BDS supporters really care about Palestinians, why don't they go to the Gaza Strip and try to promote the rights of women living under Hamas rule? Why don't they come to the Palestinian territories and try to promote reforms, democracy and freedom of speech under the PA and Hamas?

At the end of the day, BDS seems to be more about hating Israel than helping the Palestinians. And BDS seems to be more about promoting Hamas's agenda than advancing the cause of peace in this part of the world.
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Khaled Aby Toameh


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The Upside-Down World of University Human Rights - Denis MacEoin

by Denis MacEoin

  • For the sake of students living in totalitarian state across the globe, we in the liberal democracies are obliged to take advantage of our freedom to debate. But that does not mean allowing ourselves to be swayed by manifest "agitprop," distortion or factual inaccuracy. And it does not permit us to ban opinions on a racist basis (as is the case with academic boycotts of Israeli Jews). There is no sign in the motions you passed of Israeli opinion, just the views on one side.
  • The world you live in us upside down: you claim to act in defense of human rights, but your motions do not reflect this. You give free passage to the worst abusers of human rights -- countries that persecute religious minorities, suppress and kill women, throw homosexuals from high roofs, execute hundreds of dissidents every year, and imprison, torture and slaughter -- without rebuke. Yet you fulminate against Israel, which does none of these things. It does not use torture; it does not execute anyone -- not even Palestinian terrorists who have committed mass murder against innocent civilians and children.
Neither the great many supporters of Israel whom I know personally nor I want anything but the best possible future for the Palestinians. No one I know hates the Palestinians. What we do hate are the organizations that exploit and dominate the Palestinian people, that deny them the right to vote for new governments, the culture of hatred in Palestinian mosques, schools, and political speeches, and the acts of terror and war that have been directed at Jewish, Muslim and Christian Arab Israelis for many decades. It is the hatred and the violence we deplore, knowing as we do that this hurts not only Israelis, but that, since 1948, it has been blocking Palestinians from achieving their true potential.

We believe sincerely that boycotting, sanctioning and divesting from Israel will not bring peace so long as the Palestinian leaderships in Gaza and the West Bank insist that they intend to destroy Israel and take control of its entire territory.

Your latest resolution to boycott Israel is in defiance of historical, geographical, political and legal fact. Your motions are built on a pastiche of lies, misunderstandings, and distortions of reality. That worries me. It worries me because I expect today's university students to be as earnest in their pursuit of truth and fact as I was trained to be when I was in their position. It is not your fault. You study the sciences or philosophy or literature or European history, and you do not have historical, political, or sociological training to equip you to comment or write motions on the situation in the Middle East.

If you cannot read Arabic or another Islamic language, if you have never studied Islamic history, doctrine, scripture or civilization, if you know little of the modern history of the Middle East from the collapse of the Ottoman empire until today, if you rely entirely on propaganda put out by pro-Palestinian activists, if you refuse to listen to or take on board the views of scholars and others from the Israeli point of view, you are in denial of all the best values of objective enquiry of the academy. I do not meddle in physics, medicine, Chinese affairs, or Latin American politics because I have no expert knowledge of any of them. Ignorance is not a substitute for informed understanding.

By acting as you do, you undermine the most basic principles on which the academy is founded, principles from which you draw the justification for your studies and the worth of the degrees you will at last have, and which you will employ as guarantees of your later success in life. Those principles, without which no university can possess even a shred of authority, include freedom of speech and authorship, open and free debate, vigorous argument built on reason and logic, and, perhaps most importantly, the consideration of both sides to any dispute.

You all know that an essay that uses sources from one side only will be failed. However forceful the argument, if it gives no space to the views of those with whom the writer disagrees, it will -- and should be -- rejected. No doubt, one-sidedness works well as a foundation for political success, not least in the use of propaganda. But it is an insult to the values of academic life.

We in Britain enjoy freedom to present controversial views, unlike the teachers and students in countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, Pakistan, Egypt and a host of other states, where disagreeing with official religious or political views can lead to arrest, imprisonment, and even death.

For the sake of students living in totalitarian states across the globe, we in the liberal democracies are obliged to take advantage of our freedom to debate. But that does not mean allowing ourselves to be swayed by manifest "agitprop," distortion or factual inaccuracy. And it does not permit us to ban opinions on a racist basis (as is the case with academic boycotts of Israeli Jews). There is no sign in the motions you passed of Israeli opinion, just the views of one side.

You make no mention of the extraordinary good Israel does in the world, its medical aid for thousands of Palestinians in Israeli hospitals and clinics, its life-saving surgery for Palestinian children with heart defects, its international aid following disasters around the world -- Haiti, the Philippines, South Sudan and, most recently its provision of the largest medical aid team in Nepal.

You are silent about the Israeli treatment of injured Syrian refugees, the major role it plays in advancing agriculture in Africa and other parts of the Third World, and its growing work with advancing countries such as India and China.

You say not a word about the fact that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, the only country in the region to give full equal rights under law to women and members of the LGBT community, to protect its Christian, Muslim and Baha'i minorities and their holy places, you say nothing [on] its full civil rights for Israeli Arabs, or its strenuous efforts to end discrimination against them.

You criticize Israel, a country that advances human rights, and you are mute when it comes to the egregious human rights abuses in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Sudan, Russia, North Korea, Turkey, Syria, Tibet, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Thailand, Cambodia and elsewhere.

The world you live in is upside-down: you claim to act in defense of human rights, but your motions do not reflect this. You give free passage to the worst abusers of human rights -- countries that persecute religious minorities, suppress and kill women, throw homosexuals from high roofs, execute hundreds of dissidents every year, imprison, torture and slaughter -- without rebuke. Yet you fulminate against Israel, which does none of those things. It does not use torture, it does not execute anyone, not even Palestinian terrorists who have committed mass murder against innocent civilians and children -- and all this while being forced to defend itself against more wars, more terrorist attacks, and more hatred than are suffered by the rest of the world combined.

In one motion, you condemn Israel for its invasion of Gaza in 2014, but say not a word about the simple fact that the war was started when Hamas and Islamic Jihad fired dozens, then hundreds of rockets into civilian areas in Israel's south. It is a plain matter of international law that Israel defended itself by retaliating against its enemies.

You do not even mention two reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International stating that the war crimes were carried out by Hamas, and that many of the Gazan citizens who died were, in fact, killed by Hamas rockets.

Are you proud of yourselves to be involved in a campaign against Israel that is being described by more and more legislatures as a modern expression of anti-Semitism, almost identical to the Jew-hatred of Nazi Germany? Are you unaware that anti-Semitism, a deadly form of racism, is growing in Britain and across Europe, and that much of this is directly funded and fostered by the anti-Israel campaigns?

Do you support people like the marchers in London, Amsterdam, and many other cities who have walked on our streets chanting "Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas"? Is that something that left-wing students in the UK find endearing or proper? Why do none of you campaign against that? Why do you not expel members who subscribe to that philosophy? Are you happy to share your campuses with people who want to kill Jews?

You rightly oppose Islamophobia, but act willingly to foster anti-Semitism, which is by far the larger prejudice. There are many more attacks on Jews in Europe (including the UK) than on Muslims, yet one only ever sees "liberal" students marching hand in hand with Muslims who call for the destruction of Israel and support some of the world's most bloody terrorist groups.

Should your conference not have addressed that degree of bigotry instead of battening on a democracy that can serve as a role model across the region in which it is located?

You support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), yet ignore the fact that many years of boycott campaigns against Israel have proved totally useless. Israel today is a leader in medicine, science, technology, business and humanitarian relief. Other countries flock to it to benefit from its high level of expertise. Growing numbers of the world's major companies from Apple to Google and, very soon, Alibaba, are opening major R&D centers there. Investors from almost everywhere are ploughing money into the staggering list of Israeli start-ups. BDS is a failure. Why should you think your resolution to boycott Israel will make the slightest impression on the sixth largest country, economically, in the world? It is a mere irritant that sends out a false message that tells the world more about you than about Israel.

Your prejudice is as appalling as your refusal to act fairly and honestly. Criticize Israel if you must, but at least learn that it does great good for mankind and that the best hope for the Palestinian people, with whom you express solidarity, does not lie in further acts of terrorism and warfare, nor in defiance of international legal norms, but in encouraging the paths to real peace: free speech for the Palestinians, and freedom from their own barren leaders, who hope to keep their jobs-for-life by deflecting blame for their own corrupt governance onto their neighbor. You could insist on their ending their incitement, which is only radicalizing the Palestinians to turn to the waiting arms of Hamas and ISIS. Why not encourage the Palestinians to accept Israel's frequent offers to help them actually build their infrastructure and economies?

BDS motions do not help. Before your next conference, perhaps you might take on board the informed opinions of people who know their way around the Middle East. Many will condemn Israel, for it is popular to do so, and no one likes to be thought out of fashion; but others will tell a very different story, and it is your duty as college and university students to an equal hearing of their views.

If you do not do this, you can only shame yourselves and the generation of students whom you represent. Please restore our faith in the ability of young people to listen, to be open-minded and to be fair.
* This article was taken from a letter sent to the Executive Council of the National Union of Students (NUS), an umbrella organization representing 600 student unions across the UK, calling them to account for voting to boycott Israel. The NUS, which comprises 95% of higher and further education unions in the country, is heavily politicized and tends to be strongly leftist in orientation. At a meeting of the Executive Council on June 2, 2015, the Council passed a motion to boycott Israeli companies and to affiliate to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
The stage at the National Conference of the UK National Union of Students, June 1, 2015.

Denis MacEoin


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Howard Grief - full interview - The Legal Foundation and Borders of Israel under International Law - GriefIsrael

by GriefIsrael

Hat tip: Jenny Grigg

Howard Grief, an undisputed authority on Israel's rights and legal standing under international law, makes the iron-clad case for Israel's rights to all of its territory under international law.



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

Remembering A Radical Reformer: The Legacy Of Mahmud Muhammad Taha - Alberto M. Fernandez

by Alberto M. Fernandez

The tragedy is that despite the relentless, lavish patronage of extremists, there are still real Muslim reformers and advocates of tolerance and good will who are courageously fighting this ideological battle every day. -- They deserve more than our acknowledgement or admiration.

Thirty years ago, a pro-American Islamist government executed a mild-mannered, peaceful Muslim reformer who advocated a radical reinterpretation of Islamic religious thought and history. The thought, life, and death of Mahmud Mohammad Taha (1909-1985) underscores how much has not changed in the Arab Middle East and what very real challenges remain. 

 A 1936 engineering graduate of Gordon Memorial College (later to become Khartoum University), Taha became involved in politics in the 1940s, founded his own pro-independence party, and was twice imprisoned by British colonial authorities. Several years of voluntary Sufi seclusion and reflection on his part led to his development of a comprehensive theory for the evolution of Islamic legislation.[1] Just as he had been harassed by the British, Taha was to face legal pressure from the authorities, even being declared an apostate by the Khartoum Sharia High Court in 1968 during the coalition government of Prime Minister Muhammad Ahmad Mahgoub.

Scholars like Dr. Abdullahi Ahmed Al-Naim, himself a great advocate for reform and social justice, have explained Taha's reformist philosophy in great detail; essentially, Taha sought to reinterpret the Koran, setting aside centuries of rigid religious interpretation.[2] Taha sought to discern two messages in Islam's founding text – the later, harsher Medina message, and the original and more humanistic and universal "Second Message of Islam" found in the Meccan verses that were first revealed. The Mecca revelations provided space for greater equality and freedom for both non-Muslims and women, and Taha used traditional Islamic techniques well established in fiqh to provide for a modernist re-interpretation appropriate to our contemporary age and to a Sudan that had been wracked by civil war almost constantly since before independence in 1956. Taha also saw roots of both democracy and socialism in these same texts. Under Ustaz Mahmud's radical re-interpretation, neither women nor non-Muslims are second class citizens but full participants in civil society and political life – because, not in spite of, the spirit of the Koran. 

Contemporary film footage of the movement capture some of the flavor of what became known as the Ikhwan al-Jumhuriyun (Republican Brothers), as opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood: a strong Sufi sub-text;[3] open-air gatherings of Sudanese men and women, most in traditional dress, chanting and singing;[4] writing and copying pamphlets on mimeograph machines;[5] a co-educational road trip to promote the thoughts of Ustaz Mahmud;[6] men and women distributing material on the streets talking to people from every walk of life, book fairs, and preaching under the trees.[7] In short, this was activism that was authentic, modest, enthusiastic, and close to the people.

Mahmud Muhammad Taha's humane and tolerant vision of Islam, deeply nourished by the wellsprings of Sudanese Sufism, was to clash with rising pathologies emerging in the Arab world. In 1969, the Sudanese government was overthrown by army officers led by Colonel Jaafar Al-Numeiri. Taha initially supported the "May Revolution," which was an Arab Nationalist and Socialist effort inspired by the political line of Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser. With the Addis Ababa Agreement, Al-Numeiri ended the long simmering war with South Sudanese rebels in 1972, giving his country some long-needed peace and stability. But as he survived numerous coup attempts, Al-Numeiri moved towards both better relations with the West and reconciliation with Sudan's Islamists. Under their influence, he declared shari'a the law of the land, re-igniting the second phase of Sudan's civil war. Western-educated, hardline Islamist Dr. Hassan Al-Turabi, who became Sudan's Justice Minister, is widely blamed by Sudanese for the execution of Mahmud Muhammad Taha. 

Arrested in January 1985, Taha's eloquent and uncompromising court statement sought to turn the argument of the Islamists on its head. He boldly accused the September 1983 imposition of shari'a law to be itself a violation of shari'a and Islam which makes them "repugnant." These laws are used to terrorize people and humiliate them into submission. They jeopardized the unity of the country. The judges implementing these unjust laws have failed to stop the executive's imposition of laws which "violate the rights of citizens, humiliate the people, distort Islam, insult the intellect and intellectuals and humiliate political opponents." He refused to cooperate with a court which allowed itself to be used as a tool to humiliate the people and insult free thought.[8] There is little doubt that the trial was a farce even under current Sudanese law.[9]
While Al-Numeiri pardoned Nuba politician and Anglican priest Phillip Abbas Ghabush and his followers who were on trial for sedition at the same time,[10] efforts by some in the Al-Numeiri regime to spare Taha's life failed, and he was hanged at Khartoum's notorious Kober Prison on January 18, 1985. More than two thousand observers, many baying that the sentence was a victory for Islam, watched his death. Interviewed years later, Al-Numeiri unapologetically stood by the death sentence for Taha.[11] While he was overthrown in April 1985 during a visit to Washington, D.C., the shari'a law he imposed remains in effect. Unrepentant presiding judge Al-Mikashfi later compared the death sentence of Taha to the infamous sentence of apostasy passed against Sufi Mansur Al-Hallaj, executed in Baghdad in 922 by the Abbasid Caliph.[12] Hassan Al-Turabi, after his falling-out with the ruling NCP in Khartoum, has sought to re-invent himself as some sort of "enlightened" Islamist.

Mahmud Muhammad Taha is not forgotten. While his writings were confiscated and remain banned in Sudan to this day, his daughter Asma remains an activist for her father's ideals.[13] She co-edited a volume of his work that was published in Beirut, but that edition is out of print. Friends of Ustaz Mahmud established an Arabic language website,, containing videos and all his writings, lectures and books ready to be downloaded. One young supporter even poignantly set his court testimony to music.[14]

A few months ago, news came from Raqqa in Syria, the de facto capital of the Islamic State (ISIS), of the arrest of Sufi sheikhs for "practicing sorcery," a crime punishable by death. Despite ISIS's rhetoric about killing crusaders and marching on Rome, it is foremost about power and authority in the Muslim world. Historian Jonathan Riley-Smith once noted that "holy war, whatever the religion involved, has the tendency to turn on the society that has bred it." So it is with the various contending supremacist pathologies we see in the Middle East: the Muslim Brotherhood and its various incarnations, its Salafi political rivals, expansionist Shi'a Iran and its proxies, and takfiri jihadist groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda. All are hostile, to a greater or lesser extent, to each other, to the West, and to non-Muslims, especially to Jews, and all of them seek to reign supreme over the Muslims and over any part of the non-Muslim world that they can seek to influence or control. 

In this intense and multi-layered ideological struggle for dominance in the Muslim world, the West seems an unwitting bystander. Bland rhetoric about "Credible Voices" obscures the fact that we are not really involved in this ideological struggle – and we should be, not loudly, but carefully and creatively. This does not mean America and non-Muslims clumsily telling Muslims what they should believe, but it should mean giving succor, both directly or indirectly, to those voices that are broadly like-minded to our own values and aspirations. There is indeed an ideological civil war going on for authority in the Middle East, which will take years to run its course. That process is painful, often horrific, and it is unclear what price the region, and the rest of us, will ultimately bear for its eventual resolution. 

For decades now, some Muslim governments and wealthy individuals have lavishly funded the most intolerant and extreme versions of political Islam, and have over time moved the needle towards a more literalist, intolerant and dogmatic, and often violent view of Islam across a swath of people from Africa to Southeast Asia and in the Muslim Diaspora in the West. This is the poisonous worldview that tells the African Sufi or syncretistic Muslim with his folk traditions, his saint's tomb, and sacred tree, that "you're not actually a Muslim." This is the Petri dish from which the next ISIS or Boko Haram will spring should those groups be beaten back. When a regional government, allied with the U.S. in the fight against ISIS, gives an award to an extremist like Zakir Naik, one can see some of the dimensions of the problem.[15] Past efforts to address the venom in Saudi or Palestinian or Pakistani textbooks were worthwhile but small-scale efforts to address one part of a deeper issue. The decades-long struggle between Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran that uses political and religious one-upmanship to outmaneuver the other continues to create victims on all sides.[16]
Thirty years ago, a pro-American Sudanese regime executed Mahmud Mohammed Taha because he rejected shari'a law and called for full rights for women and non-Muslims. His death made barely a ripple outside the country.[17] The Sudanese judges cited the judgments of Al-Azhar in Egypt and the Saudi-funded Muslim World League that Taha was an apostate deserving death. The tragedy is that despite the relentless, lavish patronage of extremists, there are still real Muslim reformers and advocates of tolerance and good will who are courageously fighting this ideological battle every day. They do so for their own reasons, not to please us. Whether they are intellectuals of the Koranist interpretation, or Sufis, or plain vanilla secularists or progressives, these are brave individuals who are all too often alone, mostly political and economic orphans, backed by no state and bankrolled by no plutocrat. They deserve more than our acknowledgement or admiration. If we can't get some of our friends to stop spreading their poison, maybe we should at last try to level the playing field for those who seek a more humane and tolerant vision worthy of the best in the Abrahamic religions.

*Alberto M. Fernandez is Vice President of MEMRI.      

[1] Abdullahi Ahmed Al-Naim, "Mahmud Muhammad Taha and the Crisis in Islamic Law Reform: Implications for Interreligious Relations," Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 25:1, Winter 1988.
[2] Mahmoud Mohamed Taha, The Second Message of Islam (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1987), translated and edited by Dr. Al-Naim.
[3], accessed June 11, 2015.
[4], accessed June 11, 2015.
[5], accessed June 11, 2015.
[6], accessed June 11, 2015.
[7], accessed June 11, 2015.
[8], accessed June 11, 2015.
[9] Declan O'Sullivan, "The Death Sentence for Mahmud Muhammad Taha: Misuse of the Sudanese Legal System and Islamic Sharia Law?" International Journal of Human Rights, 5, no. 3, Autumn 2001, pp. 45-70.
[10] W.J. Berridge, Civil Uprisings in Modern Sudan: The Khartoum Springs of 1964 and 1985 (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015) p. 111.
[11], accessed June 11, 2015.
[12], accessed June 11, 2015.
[13] Daily Nation, February 28, 2014.
[14], accessed June 11, 2015.
[15] The New York Times, March 2, 2015.
[16] See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 492, An Escalating Regional Cold War – Part I: The 2009 Gaza War, May 7, 2009. 
[17] The New York Times, January 19, 1985.

Alberto M. Fernandez


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Jews are Excluded from European Universities. Does it Ring a Bell? - Giulio Meotti

by Giulio Meotti

Insidious, but more and more pervasive and lethal, is the academic boycott.

The case of Orange, the French mobile phone company that is considering abandoning the Israeli market, was on the front pages of all major newspapers. But there is a silent boycott of the Jewish State which is more insidious, latent and even more dangerous because it undermines Israel's cultural superiority and cuts Israel's link with the rest of the world. 

In 2002, the year of the beginning of the academic campaign against Israel, Paul Zinger, the head of the Scientific Association of Israel, revealed that more than seven thousand scientific research projects are sent from Israel abroad every year. Dozens of scientific papers were returned that year, with the terse explanation: "We refuse to examine any document from Israel". That phenomenon now seems out of control. 
"The academic boycott is illegal according to all academic organizations in the world," says Professor Zvi Ziegler, a mathematician at the Technion (Institute of Technology in Haifa) and head of the main scientific forum fighting the boycott. "It is against progress, so you will not find universities or European academics who officially boycott Israel. But many do silently, behind the scenes". 

Among the silent measures taken by the boycotters is refusing to participate in conferences held in Israel, ignoring requests to write letters of recommendation for Israeli scholars looking for promotions, and refusing contributions from Israeli scholars.
This happened to Oren Yiftachel, a leftist Ben Gurion University scholar, whose publication, sent to the magazine Political Geography, was refused by their saying that they did not accept anything that came from the state of the Jews. 

The publishing house of St. Jerome in Manchester, specializing in translation and linguistic research, has refused to send academic volumes to Bar Ilan University in Israel. The English magazine, Dance Europe, refused to publish an article about Israeli choreographer Sally-Anne Friedland, Richard Seaford of the University of Exeter refused to review a book for the Israeli magazine Scripta Classica Israelica
Seaford did it by sending the following motivation: "Alas, I am unable to accept your kind invitation, for reasons that you may not like. I have, along with many other British academics, signed the academic boycott of Israel, in the face of the brutal and illegal expansionism and the ethnic cleansing being practiced by your government". 

Chilling is the case of Ingrid Harbitz, researcher of the School of Veterinary Medicine, Oslo, who refused to send blood samples to the Goldyne Savad Institute of Jerusalem. "Due to the present situation in the Middle East, I will not deliver any material to an Israelitic university", was the response of the Norwegian scientist. 
This case is reminiscent of the Oxford pathologist, Andrew Wilkie, who declined a doctoral application from a student of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Tel Aviv, Amit Duvshani, with these words: "Thank you for contacting me, but I don't think this would work. I have a huge problem with the way that the Israelis take the moral high ground from their appalling treatment in the Holocaust, and then inflict gross human rights abuses on the Palestinians because the (the Palestinians) wish to live in their own country. I am sure that you are perfectly nice at a personal level, but no way would I take on somebody who had served in the Israeli army. As you may be aware, I am not the only UK scientist with these views but I'm sure you will find another suitable lab if you look around". 

Students and teachers are banned from European universities just because they are Israeli Jews. Ring a bell?

Giulio Meotti


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Israel Hopes to Use Current Lull to Prepare for Radical Islamic Storm - Yaakov Lappin

by Yaakov Lappin

-- forces that come from the "dark world of the choppy Middle East" are consolidating themselves on Israel's borders, replacing state actors.

IDF photo
If you ask defense officials in Israel today for a short-term security forecast, chances are good that you will hear an optimistic outlook and an expectation of relative quiet and stability.

Yet a longer-term glance at the next four to five years is less rosy, and suggests the approach of storm clouds, driven by violent, radical Islamic winds.

That's why defense chiefs are keen to use the coming years to improve the Israeli military's readiness, build up intelligence and firepower capabilities, and improve civil defenses, while the "sun is still out."
Recent public comments by security figures provide a glimpse into this long-term strategy.

Speaking this week at the 2015 Herzliya Conference, which focused on the issue of Israeli deterrence, retired Maj.-Gen. Amos Gilad offered a mixed message: "Our security situation hasn't been so good in a long time. We are enjoying good deterrence on the northern front." Despite Hizballah's massive rocket and missile arsenal pointed at Israel, the Lebanese terror organization remains deterred by Israel.

That deterrence is based partly on the country's firepower and ground offensive capabilities, and partly on the fact that Hizballah is entangled neck deep in the Syrian civil war, where it has lost an estimated 700 fighters trying to save its ally, the Assad regime.

Following Iranian commands, Hizballah dispatched around 7,000 (of its 30,000) armed members to neighboring Syria, where they fight daily battles against the Al-Nusra Front, Islamic State, and other Sunni terror organizations.  As a result, Hizballah's motivation for opening a new front against Israel has never been lower.

Iran, too, is busy across the region. It is orchestrating the defense of Assad's dwindling regime, and has sent very senior military advisers to Syria to try to rescue it, injecting a constant flow of Shi'ite militias from other countries, money and weapons.

But for Iran, the battle for Syria is already lost. The Alawites, backed by Iran and Hizballah, and who rule Syria through dictator Basher Al-Assad, make up just 10 percent of the population, while 80 percent of Syrians are Sunnis.

The Iran-led axis is essentially fighting now to set up a statelet, made up of sections of Damascus, and a corridor leading from the Syrian capital to the west of the country, to the Latakia area that is the center of gravity for the pro-regime Alawite community.

"I would like to announce the death of Syria," said Gilad, now the director of the Defense Ministry's Political-Military and Police Bureau. "Assad still gets a salary as president, but he governs a third of Syria. Southern Syria is under al Qaida; northern Syria is controlled by ISIS. There is nothing there and it has no future. Assad will continue to diminish."

As the vacuum in Syria grows, radical Islamic forces – both Sunni and Shi'ite - move in to fill it. The Islamic State is expanding in Syria, but it is not getting closer to Israel's borders at this time. Hizballah and Iran already tried to build a terrorism base on the Syrian Golan, near the border with Israel, but an air strike in January foiled that effort.

Meanwhile, to the south, Israel's enemies are also preoccupied.  In the Gaza Strip, Hamas is busy rehabilitating its armed wing, restocking on domestically-made rockets, and digging new tunnels.

Hamas is trying to take the pressure off itself and ease its isolation. It is keen to kick start civilian reconstruction programs after last year's war with Israel.

Renewed conflict does not seem to be in Hamas's current interest, as it would disrupt its military reconstruction efforts and jeopardize its rule in Gaza.

In fact, Israel is looking to help grow the Gazan economy, a development that could further restrain Hamas.

Unconventional threats on Israel, meanwhile, are decreasing. Syria gave up its chemical weapons program, and Iran's nuclear program is temporarily frozen, though Tehran might be tempted to try to covertly break-out to nuclear weapons production.

"The quiet is pretty amazing compared to all the turbulence around us," Gilad said in his speech.

But how long will it last?

Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, the former head of Israel's National Security Council, attempted to answer that question in a major new paper he published at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, at Bar Ilan University.

Amidror noted that forces that come from the "dark world of the choppy Middle East" are consolidating themselves on Israel's borders, replacing state actors.

They include: Radical Salafi-jiahdis in the Sinai Peninsula and the first signs of Islamic State forces rising in this vast desert Egyptian province; the armed wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and its ally, Islamic Jihad, in Gaza, and Hizballah in Lebanon, which is "the strongest terror organization in the world. It is in possession of advanced military force, over 100,000 missiles and rockets, surface to sea missiles, surface to air missiles, and tens of thousands of armed, well trained fighters, some of whom have gained combat experience in Syria."

Syria, Amidror said, is divided and ruled in part by extreme Sunni entities, while Assad's regime is kept alive by Iranian and Hizballah assistance (alongside quiet Russian help).

"Israel is surrounded by terrorist organizations that have considerable offensive capabilities, from almost every direction. Their ability may not be the same as those of official militaries (Hizballah is the exception, due to its firepower capabilities), but because of their character, we must take into account the need to go from routine times to combat against them in a very short time frame, and without prior warning," Amidror cautioned.

Israel will, in the coming years, have deal with non-state, armed, radical Islamic organizations that are gaining strength around it, he said.

This development is part of a larger trend: The rise of radical Islam in the Middle East. Future rounds of fighting with such forces will almost definitely not be followed by peace, he predicted.

Israel must be ready to engage terrorists operating in the midst of civilians who either support them or are indifferent to their presence. The very presence of these noncombatants complicates combat and harms the IDF's ability to act freely.

Despite their differences, rivalries, and feuds, all of the radical Islamic groups have a common, fundamental attribute: They all believe that Islam must rule the world, Amidror said.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, speaking to visiting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey on Tuesday, noted the existence of no fewer than "30 terrorist organization in Syria that we will have to deal with. They are not dealing with us now, and we are not involved in what is happening there, yet the moment can come when that will change. In such a situation, we must strike them with force."

As a result, senior IDF officers say now is the time to focus on intensive training and building-up the power of the air force, navy, ground forces, and civil defenses.

Now is the time to increase readiness, because in five years, many of these threats could bear down on Israel in a very direct way, according to the officials.

The Israel Defense Forces, under the command of a newly appointed chief of staff, Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, has begun to train in earnest.

The Israel Air Force is in training to increase its ability to strike all of Hizballah's known targets – thousands of them – in just four to five days. Navy and ground forces have to be able instantly launch large-scale operations. The entire military must prepare for multi-front conflicts, with an emphasis on northern battle arenas – Lebanon and Syria. All IDF units must improve their combat skills in built-up areas.

Reserve military forces have begun training for two straight weeks – double the previous training times. In the coming year, the reserve units will be free of operational missions, to enable them to focus purely on training.

The IDF is stocking up on advanced Namer armored personnel carriers, and Merkava Mk 4 tanks, both of which come with active protection systems against missiles and mortars, enabling them to safely travel into Hizballah or Hamas-ruled areas rife with shoulder-launched missile ambushes.

With cyber-attacks becoming an ever-increasing threat, the IDF might launch a new cyber warfare division in the coming months.

In the long run, the most dangerous threat, however, remains Iran, according to the Defense Ministry's Amos Gilad.

"Iran is like a Greek god with two heads," he told the Herzliya conference. "One says it wants negotiations [with the West], the other is working to build a Shi'ite empire," he said.

Therefore, Israel must prepare for the potential of direct confrontation with Iran, too.

Yaakov Lappin


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

Jihadist attack on Syria's Druze population could spur Israel to act - Paul Alster

by Paul Alster

“We do not plan to sit idly by while our brothers are being slaughtered in Syria.”
- Ayoob Kara, Israeli official and Druze

Syria's Druze population has been estimated at 700,000, and has long enjoyed the protection of the Assad regime. (Reuters)

The latest religious minority to be caught in the Syrian crossfire are the Druze, who have long enjoyed the protection of the Assad regime, but now find themselves under attack from the Al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front and could soon look to Israel for help.

The slaughter Wednesday of more than 20 members of Syria's Druze community, a monotheistic religion that incorporates elements including philosophy, Judaisim, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism, could signal a coming humanitarian crisis, according to officials in Israel, which has a sizeable Druze population of its own. With embattled President Bashar al-Assad pulling forces back to defend Damascus, the nation's estimated 700,000 Druze have no protection should the terrorist groups fighting to take over the nation turn their attention to them, as they have Christians and Kurds.

"What is going on just now is intimidation and a threat to the very existence of half a million Druze on the Mount of Druze which is very close to the Israeli border," said Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at a press conference of the potential humanitarian crisis.

Wednesday's attack on Druze in Qalb Lawzi, in the northern province of Idlib, came after a Tunisian leader of Al Nusra seized the home of a Syrian Druze soldier loyal to Assad, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. A crowd gathered and the Al Nusra leader was killed under circumstances that remain unclear.

“Reinforcements [took over] the village,” the Observatory reported. “After that, Al-Nusra opened fire on the civilians, leading to the death of 20 people.”

Some reports now suggest up to 24 were killed, including a young girl and several elderly villagers.

The incident occurred as Al Nusra continues to gain ground in the north, and set alarms off among Syria’s large Druze community living in the south of the country. They fear being left on their own to face ISIS and other jihadi militias in the Golan Heights that border Israel, a country that itself has more than 130,000 Druze residents, many of whom have family members across the border.

On Friday, members of Syria's Druze minority fought with Syrian government forces to help repel an Al Nusra attack on an army base.

ISIS has made large territorial gains in the south despite fierce opposition, weakening both Syrian forces and Hezbollah, both of whom are backed by Iran. Reports suggest that ISIS is increasing its hold over the strategically crucial Syrian side of the Golan Heights that look across to northern Israel.

Israel, whose Druze community is generally well-regarded, has so far stayed out of the Syrian war. But recent events have prompted speculation that Israel could move to aid Syria's Druze population considering the faith's status in the Jewish State.

“We are the only non-Jewish minority that is drafted into the military, and we have an even higher percentage in the combat units and as officers than the Jewish members themselves,” Israeli Druze poet Reda Mansour, currently Israel’s ambassador to Brazil, said in 2008. “So we are considered a very nationalistic, patriotic community.”

It was a Druze police officer, Zidan Saif, who fought and died trying to save the lives of four rabbis who were killed in a Jerusalem synagogue last November by a Palestinian gunman. In an unprecedented move that followed the killings, the chief rabbi of the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community from which the murdered rabbis came insisted that a fleet of buses be commandeered to take the religious Jews to the Druze cemetery in the north – something normally forbidden in Jewish law – to pay their respects to the fallen officer.

Druze tradition encourages loyalty to whichever state offers them residency and allows them freedom to practice their religion, a religion that originally stemmed from Islam but which is seen as heresy by radical Islamists. Any intervention by Israel, either by sending arms to Syria’s Druze to defend themselves or by opening the border to grant then sanctuary, could draw Israel into the ever-widening regional crisis.

Most Israeli officials have been tight-lipped about the situation north of the border, but Ayoob Kara, an Israeli Druze member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing Likud party and currently a deputy minister for regional cooperation, said the Israeli Druze community will defend its Syrian brethren.

“We do not plan to sit idly by while our brothers are being slaughtered in Syria,” Kara told Israel’s NRG website.

A U.S. official told Reuters the Druze community in Israel is lobbying hard for arms shipments to help the Syrian community defend itself against a possible onslaught from the jihadis.

“The Druze of Israel have been raising it with Israel, with the U.S., with Jordan - everyone,” the official told Reuters.

Paul Alster is an Israel-based journalist. Follow him on Twitter @paul_alster and visit his website:


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

Islamic State: The Myth of a Baathist 'Hidden Hand' - Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi

by Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi

The common notion of a Baathist-Islamic State "alliance of convenience" is mistaken.

Originally published under the title, "Enemy of My Enemy: Re-evaluating the Islamic State's Relationship with 
 the Ba'athist JRTN."

The Washington Post calls former officials of Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime "the hidden hand behind the Islamic State."
Since the full-blown revival of Iraq's Sunni insurgency at the beginning of 2014, there has been much misunderstanding of the relationship between the Islamic State and insurgents of Baathist orientation, principally represented by the Jaish Rijaal al-Tariqa al-Naqshabandiyya (JRTN).

Much of the discourse on this subject attempts to tie the JRTN to the Islamic State, arguing that a so-called "alliance of convenience" between the two groups has been key to the Islamic State's maintenance of power in areas outside of government control. Linked to this theme is the portrayal of the Islamic State as somehow Baathism reincarnated, most commonly noting the former careers that many leading figures in the group had in the security apparatus of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's government.

The common notion of a Baathist-Islamic State "alliance of convenience" is mistaken.
As such, it is worthwhile to trace the relationship between the JRTN and the Islamic State from the initial emergence of the former until the present day, primarily focusing on the aftermath of the United States' military withdrawal from Iraq at the end of 2011, in order to highlight that the common notion of the "alliance of convenience" is mistaken and that there is a clear dividing line between the two groups.

Whatever coordination took place in mid-2014, in particular, soon dissipated as the Islamic State consolidated power and local territorial control at the JRTN's expense, so that the JRTN has largely descended into irrelevance. Consequently, whatever the veracity of claims by Shia militias that the JRTN leader and former aide to Hussein, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, was killed in mid-April 2015, the JRTN's impact on Iraq's security situation in the face of the wider Islamic State threat is minimal.

Ideology and Beginnings

The JRTN was founded at the end of 2006 following Hussein's execution in December, officially as part of a Douri-led coalition called Al-Qiyadat al-Ula lil-Jihad wal-Tahrir, or the Supreme Command for Jihad and Liberation (SCJL). Although the coalition nominally included other groups, at least in the beginning, in practice the JRTN has become interchangeable with the SCJL.

JRTN leader Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri was reported killed in April.
The goal of the JRTN can be summed up as aiming to resurrect Iraq's Baathist state that existed before the US-led invasion in 2003. The Sufi religious aegis of the Naqshbandi order, deriving from the cultivation of the sect during the Hussein era, should be viewed as secondary, though it does help to separate the JRTN from the Salafist-jihadist ideology of the Islamic State, as will be discussed subsequently.

The primacy of Baathist ideology is illustrated by the JRTN's pan-Arab logo portraying a unified Arab world, as envisaged by Baathism, as well as the first point of the JRTN's creed as stated on its official website, "Our army believes that Iraq is an Arab, Muslim state that cannot be separated from the Arab Islamic Ummah."

The term "Arab Islamic Ummah" is a key part of Iraqi Baathist discourse, reflecting not only the classical pan-Arabism but also the Islamic face that Hussein tried to give his regime following the 1990-91 Gulf War. Also in keeping with official Baathist ideology is a superficial anti-sectarian stance, reflected in point 16 of the JRTN creed, which states, "Our army believes in the outlawing of the establishment of sectarian, racist, and regionalist blocs and parties and their possession of weapons." Indeed, the JRTN even claims non-Sunni members, describing itself in a July 2014 statement as an "extension of the prior national Iraqi army," with members from all sects and ethnicities, including Arabs, Kurds, Shia, Sunnis, Turkmen, and even Christians, Mandaeans, and Yezidis.

Linked to this point is a rejection of any notion of dividing Iraq, which implicitly entails the repudiation of concepts of federalism by sect that has gained increasing popularity among Iraq's Sunni population, especially the more 'moderate' sections of the pro-insurgency movement, such as the Islamic Army in Iraq (IAI). The IAI set up an activist wing after the US withdrawal - named Al-Hirak al-Shaabi al-Sunni - to work for the goal of a Sunni federal region. In contrast, therefore, the JRTN stands out as an inherently rejectionist and revolutionary actor in Iraq's Sunni insurgency.

The fact that the IAI showed itself to be more amenable to compromise within the system was also demonstrated by the large number of its fighters and commanders who ended up joining the Sunni Awakening (Sahwa) movement from the beginning of 2007 onwards, which proved key in driving back the Islamic State's predecessor, the Islamic State in Iraq (ISI).

JRTN operations have been relatively unsophisticated, with no suicide attacks, coordinated VBIED attacks, or sustained territorial assaults.
However, there is much less evidence of extensive JRTN participation in the Sahwa. Consequently, by the time of the US withdrawal, one could affirm with reasonable confidence that the two main Sunni insurgent actors in Iraq were the ISI and the JRTN. Partly on the basis of the consistent shared rejection of the post-2003 Shia-dominated political order in Iraq, allegations emerged from security officials even in this period of collaboration between the JRTN and the ISI, with the JRTN reportedly assisting the ISI in carrying out vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attacks in various parts of Iraq, including Kirkuk, Ramadi, and Tikrit. Although unverified, the reports are somewhat credible as during 2010-11 the ISI was a weakening organisation under heavy security force pressure and was unable to impose its will over other groups in the same way the Islamic State is currently able. By comparison, the type of JRTN operations officially advertised by the group's own media always tended to be much less sophisticated than those of the ISI, with no suicide attacks, coordinated VBIED attacks, or sustained territorial assaults.

Images released by JRTN in 2014
Rather, JRTN operations entailed more basic hit-and-run guerrilla operations, particularly the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), rockets, and mortars. One operational video, for example, dated 25 November 2011, features an IED attack purportedly targeting a vehicle of "the American enemy" in northern Baghdad. In this video, the JRTN claims the IED was manufactured locally "and with [the] co-operation of members of the government army," referring to the new Iraqi army of the Baghdad government. The fact that the group might have had local sympathisers in the security forces at this stage is not surprising. Despite the US withdrawal, most officially advertised JRTN video operations post-2011 continued to portray attacks as targeting "the American enemy", as though the perceived occupier was somehow still present. This was probably related to the fact that in the immediate aftermath of the US withdrawal, the Sunni narrative of Iranian influence over a supposed "Safavid" - a pejorative term used in Sunni discourse to mean an Iranian client - government in Baghdad did not yet have sufficient currency to give credibility to attacks on Iraqi government forces that might end up harming civilians through collateral damage. The available videos on JRTN operations indicate a reach across predominantly Sunni areas of Iraq, ranging from Diyala province in the east to Anbar province in the west, and from the Baghdad area and surrounding belt all the way to Ninawa province in the north.

However, to understand further where JRTN influence was particularly strong, it is best to examine the JRTN's activist front organisation, known as Intifada Ahrar al-Iraq (IAAI), or the Uprising of the Free People of Iraq.

IAAI and Protests in Iraq

The link between the IAAI and the JRTN is demonstrated by numerous lines of evidence, despite the fact it was initially denied by IAAI spokesperson Dr. Ghazi Faisal. First, the IAAI regularly shares official JRTN statements on its official and linked social media pages, while declining to do so with other insurgent groups. Second, IAAI discourse exactly mirrors that of the JRTN, using the same revolutionary rhetoric, the same forms of address in its statements, and the same superficial anti-sectarian messaging. Third, it is notable that the same areas where the JRTN was seen as traditionally strong became strongholds for protests organised by the IAAI in 2013.

Protests that broke out in 2011 were nationwide on the model of the Arab Spring demonstrations and tended to focus on popular grievances such as the provision of public services, government corruption, and calls to end the US occupation and perceived foreign interference. In this context, the IAAI announced itself on 24 February 2011, urging a "violent/tremendous revolution against the occupation, oppression, and tyranny", and calling on "Iraqis from Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Sunnis, Shia, Muslims, Christians, and the rest of the other religions, sects, and ethnicities" to rise up. Playing on the notion of nationwide grievances and resentment at the US occupation, the first IAAI statement made the US presence in Iraq the focus of its anger, rather than sectarian-tinged talk of the "Safavid" government.

Still frame from an IAAI video showing a May 2011 protest in Rawa, western Anbar province
The IAAI also launched a video channel at this point, filming and uploading footage of some of the protests. Among some of the demonstrations captured on camera by the IAAI and shared on its channel was a local protest held in Rawa, in western Anbar (currently controlled by the Islamic State), in May 2011 featuring a banner reading, "The tribe of the people of Rawa rejects foreign intervention and demands the departure of the occupier", and chants of "Iran, out, out. Iraq will remain free. With blood, with soul, we sacrifice for you oh Iraq." The IAAI undoubtedly hoped to capitalise on the wave of popular protests, but little ultimately came out of the 2011 demonstrations.

The IAAI would have to wait until the beginning of 2013 for its status to become prominent. Unlike the 2011 protests, these demonstrations had a distinct Sunni sectarian element, focusing on grievances such as de-Baathification legislation introduced in May 2003 - seeking, at a minimum, its total repeal - and the detention of friends and relatives by the security forces. However, the IAAI used the protests to push its revolutionary agenda, for example releasing a song in March 2013 entitled "Our people want the downfall of the government". Other familiar JRTN themes came out in other songs released by the IAAI in this period, such as the song "The People have Revolted", featuring lyrics including, "We won't stop until Baghdad, bringing down the ruling system and the constitution" and "we reject all rule of division". At IAAI protests, there was a familiar JRTN slogan - "Qadimun ya Baghdad", or "Coming, oh Baghdad" - in reference to the notion of retaking the capital and overthrowing the government. The most prominent IAAI protest sites were at Hawija in Kirkuk province, and the cities of Mosul and Tikrit, with notable influence also in Diyala and Fallujah - which gained notoriety for the presence of some protesters waving ISI flags.

It was clear that the IAAI was not going to be reconciled to the system, whatever concessions the government might make. Rather, its aim was to revive a full-blown insurgency through confrontation, and the government played right into the IAAI's hands with the Hawija massacre in April 2013, which resulted in the killing of dozens of apparently unarmed protesters by security forces. Following the incident, the JRTN's military spokesperson released a statement invoking the traditional Quranic justification for defensive jihad, while emphasising that the "patience of this oppressed people will not last and the peacefulness of their demonstrations and sit-ins will not continue". The immediate aftermath of the massacre led to an apparent upsurge in JRTN activity, with reported attacks at Mosul airport, and in Abu Ghraib, east Mosul, Fallujah, the Hamrin Mountains, the Tariq camp near Fallujah, Tikrit, and Tuz Khurmato. The JRTN also briefly seized control of the town of Sulaiman Bek.

ISIL exploited the new level of instability in Iraq arising from JRTN actions in 2012.
Subsequent violence in Iraq has never dipped below pre-Hawija massacre levels, so the incident, the wider Sunni demonstrations, and the JRTN's involvement in the post-incident escalation can be interpreted as a key turning point in the revitalisation of Iraq's Sunni insurgency. At this stage too, focus on the "Safavid" angle becomes more apparent in the JRTN's propaganda, with an official JRTN video on the "operations of liberating Sulaiman Bek" featuring an "assault on the Safavid militias and destruction of a tank". Similarly, a JRTN video from the Fallujah area on 25 April 2013 is entitled "Bombing of a base of the Safavid militias in Fallujah." However, evidence is lacking of co-ordination in this upsurge between the JRTN and the ISI - which had become the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in April 2013 following the decision by emir Ibrahim al-Badri (alias Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) to expand into Syria and attempt to subsume Jabhat al-Nusra. Furthermore, in the protests themselves, the issue of people showing up with ISI/ISIL banners was a localised problem in Fallujah and Ramadi, and not one affecting IAAI protest sites in particular.

What can be said with certainty though is that ISIL, having already intensified operations in 2012, exploited the new level of instability in Iraq - which had arisen thanks in no small part to the actions of the JRTN - to accomplish some of its most daring operations yet. The most notable of these was the Abu Ghraib prison break in July 2013, in which hundreds of jihadi veterans of the insurgency against the US were released, significantly strengthening ISIL's ranks. To better scrutinise any seeming alliance of convenience and co-ordination between ISIL and the JRTN, it is necessary to more closely examine the events of late 2013/early 2014, as the security situation in Iraq descended into a full-blown insurgency with the loss of government control over significant cities, beginning with Fallujah and culminating with Mosul, Tikrit, and other towns in the north and west of the country in the summer of 2014.

Descent into Chaos

The fall of Fallujah from government control in early January 2014 can be ascribed in large part to failures on the part of then Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, who decided to dismantle the Ramadi protest site by force in December 2013 on the grounds that it was a base for ISIL, despite the fact that ISIL militants had only occasionally appeared when the site was largely empty and the protests were dissipating on their own. Later that month, security forces arrested Sunni member of parliament Ahmad al-Alwani, killing his brother and five of his guards during the operation, causing widespread anger across Anbar province.

In an attempt to ease tensions, the army was ordered to withdraw from Fallujah and Ramadi in the hope that the local police could deal with the situation, but the result was that ISIL - in co-ordination with other insurgents, including the JRTN - exploited the security vacuum to seize control of Fallujah and parts of Ramadi, although Ramadi was re-taken by security forces and pro-government militias several days later. Media coverage at the time tended to portray Fallujah as having fallen under ISIL control, when in reality a variety of Sunni militant groups had taken over the city in conjunction with ISIL, including the JRTN, the IAI, Jaish al-Mujahideen, and the 1920s Revolution Brigades.

ISIL of course would have an interest in downplaying the presence of the other smaller factions, and vice-versa. On account of the other factions, though, ISIL initially had to adopt a more conciliatory approach, not targeting the families of local police. In line with its approach in Syria whenever it entered an area where other factions were present, it also set up a Virtue and Vice Committee/Islamic court. Gradually, ISIL began to subsume its rivals through a mixture of co-option and coercion, providing incentives to pledge allegiance, so that by May-June 2014 it had become the dominant group in the city. Evidence for the JRTN's presence in Fallujah was found on the IAAI's media channel. For example, on 10 January, the IAAI uploaded a video featuring insurgents in Fallujah, one of whom proclaimed that its aim was to conquer Baghdad, and that they were not members of Daesh, a pejorative term for ISIL based on its Arabic acronym.

Still frame from a 2014 IAAI video showing a purported Shia tribal council in Karbala. Note the portrait of Ali to emphasize a Shi'i identity.
Throughout the beginning of 2014, the IAAI also released videos of self-proclaimed "Military Councils for the Revolutionaries of the Tribes" in a variety of locations across Iraq, playing on typical JRTN themes of superficial cross-sectarianism, including supposed Kurdish and Shia tribal councils. In mid-January it also announced the formation of a unifying body known as the General Military Council for Iraq's Revolutionaries (GMCIR), which features a political wing where the participation of the JRTN is openly acknowledged. It is also clear that the GMCIR includes other insurgent factions ideologically close to JRTN, such as the 1920s Revolution Brigades.

Like the fall of Fallujah, the capture of cities in the north of Iraq - above all Mosul and Tikrit - was not the work solely of ISIL, which changed its name to the Islamic State in June 2014. Indeed, the wider insurgency beyond the Islamic State initially seemed ecstatic about the lightning offensive across northern and western Iraq. However, rather than a case of co-dependence between the Islamic State and other factions, as had been the case for some time in Fallujah, it is clear these advances against the government were being spearheaded by the former - which by then represented by far the most powerful insurgent force in the country - and the other factions were trying to ride this wave in a bid to carve out their own spheres of influence. However, the Islamic State was no longer in the business of compromise and issued a charter for Mosul in mid-June, shortly after capturing the city, making clear that not only had the era of "Safavid" government passed, but also that of Baathism.

By mid-2014, JRTN was visibly marginalized even in Tikrit, the spiritual heartland of Baathism.
Furthermore, in a statement issued by its newly formed "Committee to Administer the Affairs of the Mosques" in Mosul, the Islamic State explicitly affirmed that it would not tolerate any other group displaying banners. Within approximately one month, following on from the group's declaration of a caliphate on 29 June, a sophisticated administration was emerging within Mosul, with various declared diwans (Islamic State departments), such as the Diwan al-Taaleem, issuing examination timetables for Mosul University's various colleges.

A similar pattern of the marginalisation of the JRTN and other non-Islamic State militants emerged even in places where the JRTN would be expected to have had more influence, including Tikrit - the spiritual heartland of Baathism - with other groups pushed out to the rural peripheries. The fate of JRTN forces in places such as Mosul was best summarised by an account given to IHS Jane's in late December 2014 by a Mosul resident, "They are present but have no influence; some of them gave allegiance, some of them were detained, and some of them fled." Were the 'alliance of convenience' more than a short-term, pragmatic gambit, the Islamic State might have made some concessions to JRTN sensibilities, but in fact the group indulged in all its worst excesses to the anger of the JRTN, including the destruction of shrines and heritage sites - which was particularly offensive to the JRTN's Sufi image - the genocidal targeting of Yezidis, and the displacement of Christians from Mosul.

Consequently, the JRTN distanced itself from these Islamic State actions in its statements, while sticking to its standard practice of not mentioning the Islamic State by name and blaming its deeds on supposed agents of the Baghdad government and Iran.

JRTN Decline

As the JRTN's influence declined in the face of the Islamic State's local dominance, the group tried to portray itself as defiant on the path of the so-called 'revolution' despite its clear distancing from the Islamic State's worst actions. In mid-to-late 2014, unverified local reports emerged that the US-led international coalition against the Islamic State was reaching out to the JRTN in a bid to form a local Sunni force to combat the Islamic State - although this has since been denied by US ambassador Brett McGurk. In a statement circulated on JRTN social media pages, but not its official website, this outreach was portrayed as a sign of desperation and a list of JRTN demands was posted, reflecting the US' inherent inability to come to an understanding with the JRTN.

JRTN has become totally marginalised and reflects a bygone era of Iraq's once-diverse Sunni insurgency.
The actual party in desperation was the JRTN, however, which in the past six months has tried to turn to Saudi Arabia and aligned Arab states in a bid to bolster its position - largely through the provision of funding. This has been reflected in effusive praise for the deceased Saudi King Abdullah as a champion of the cause of the "Arab Islamic Ummah", congratulations extended to the new monarch King Salman, and a eulogy to the Jordanian pilot Muaz al-Kasasbeh who was burnt alive by the Islamic State, portraying him as a "martyr" carrying out the obligatory duty of defending the "Arab Islamic Ummah" and its heritage. Most recently, the JRTN has declared its firm support for the Saudi-led coalition's Operation Decisive Storm against Zaidi Houthi militant group Ansar Allah in Yemen, hailing it "the great historic operation" to halt Iranian expansionism. The IAAI also released a song praising the operation.

In an audio message attributed to Douri in April, prior to reports of his claimed death, he clearly distances himself from 'takfiri' thought - a reference to the Islamic State - and hails the old pan-Arab nationalism of former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, while trying to tie his cause to that of Saudi Arabia. The veracity of his claimed killing is now readily in doubt following another audio message released in May. As far as dating the speech goes, it is almost certainly from after the reported claims of his killing, as he makes reference to a controversy postdating his alleged death over the status of the town of Nukhayb in Anbar province. In this recording, the denunciation of the Islamic State is even clearer, as he condemns the June 2014 massacre of Shia security forces by Islamic State militants at Camp Speicher in Tikrit and makes clear that there is no alliance between the JRTN and the Islamic State, stating about the latter, "They declare the Baath to be kuffar [disbelievers]." Undoubtedly part of this speech reflects justifiable pushback against portrayals of the Islamic State as Baathism resurrected. It also seems that Douri is not under any illusions about the Islamic State's strength relative to his group, as he speaks of the current fighting in Anbar and how 90% of the province is under the control of the Islamic State and affiliated "armed men".

In conclusion, therefore, the JRTN cannot be seen as the local Sunni force that will turn the tide against the Islamic State. It has become totally marginalised and reflects a bygone era of Iraq's Sunni insurgency, which used to be much more diverse. Now is the era of the Islamic State, and policy-making and analysis must do away with notions that the Islamic State is maintaining localised power and territorial control in Iraq because of any 'alliance of convenience' with Baathists, or that the Islamic State is somehow Baathism in disguise. The fact that senior figures within the group might have had a past in Saddam Hussein's security apparatus does not automatically make those figures Baathists in secret alliance with the JRTN. Rather, the true ideological forerunner lies in the Islamist and Salafist ideas that gained currency in the last decade of Hussein's rule thanks to the regime's efforts to seek an Islamic facade, fused with the brutal jihadism brought to Iraq by the founder of the ISI's predecessor Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and his contingent following the US-led invasion.

Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi is a research fellow at Middle East Forum's Jihad Intel project.


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