Tag: Salafists

YOM KIPPUR WAR ANNIVERSARY: AS ISRAEL, JEWISH PEOPLE REMEMBER OCT., 1973, TODAY EGYPT (POST-MORSI) & ISRAEL COOPERATE MILITARILY IN SINAI

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Middle Israel: The Last WarAmotz Asa-ElJerusalem Post, Sept. 13, 2013 — The establishment’s subsequent transition from secular socialists to traditionalists and capitalists; the disappearance of the European-born generation that led Israel in its first three decades; and the passage of the settlement ideal from the kibbutzim’s liberal farmers to the West Bank’s messianic rabbis, make the Yom Kippur War a watershed in practically all aspects of Israeli history.
 
‘Incalculable Consequences’Erol Araf, National Post, Oct 7, 2013 —Forty years ago today, Israel stood on the brink of catastrophe. The day before — Oct. 6, 1973, the Day of Atonement — Egypt and Syria had launched a surprise and spectacularly successful offensive against Israel. Israeli forces were retreating, or being annihilated, at the Suez Canal and the Golan Heights. Faced with the prospect of Arab armies moving into Israeli population centres, the government began to consider unleashing Armageddon on its enemies.
 
Israel-Egypt Forge New Ties Over SinaiGeoffrey Aronson, Al-Monitor, Sept. 13, 2013—Last week, Egypt embarked on its most extensive military operation in the Sinai peninsula in almost half a century. The target of this unprecedented deployment is an array of disaffected Egyptians and jihadi foreigners intent upon defying the seat of Egyptian power and sovereignty centered in Cairo.

Is this the End of the Failed Muslim Brotherhood Project?: Hussein Ibish , The National (UAE), October 5, 2013—Is the Muslim Brotherhood dying? In Egypt and throughout the Arab world, Brotherhood-affiliated parties are suffering an unprecedented series of setbacks that cast real doubt on the long-term viability of that version of Islamist politics.
 
On Topic Links
 
Lessons from the Yom Kippur WarDaniel Greenfield, Front Page Magazine, Oct. 7, 2013  
51 Dead in as Egyptians Celebrate 40th Anniversary of Yom Kippur WarJewish Press,  Oct. 7th, 2013
Who Is Egypt's Next President?Bassem Sabry, Al-Monitor, Sept. 22 2013
 

 

MIDDLE ISRAEL: THE LAST WAR
Amotz Asa-El
Jerusalem Post, Sept. 13, 2013

 
It started at 2 p.m. As if echoing the thunders that once paralyzed their forebears at Mount Sinai’s foothills, 436 Israeli troops scattered in 16 outposts along the Suez waterfront were showered out of the blue with 10,000 shells spewed from 2,000 artillery barrels, while 8,000 Egyptian troops emerged from the water and 240 warplanes descended from the sky. By day’s end, with nearly half of the soldiers in those outposts dead, vast Egyptian armies parked at Sinai, and 1,400 Syrian tanks on the Golan Heights – one fact hovered above the battlefield’s thick fog: Israel had been stunned.
 
Forty years on, the war that cost 2,522 Israeli fatalities, traumatized a generation and profoundly impacted the Jewish state’s society, politics, economy and psyche, refuses to go away.
 
The warriors, now mostly grandfathers, are writing memoirs, holding spontaneous reunions and retrieving diaries, photographs, recordings and even rare footage taken with the era’s bulky 8- mm. Kodaks, in what adds up to a collective quest for closure.
 
The rest of Israel, surveying where it has since journeyed, has reason to proverbially enter these makeshift group therapies, place a hand on the shoulder of each of the Yom Kippur War’s veterans, look them in their wrinkling faces, and quietly tell them Jeremiah’s consolation to Rachel: “There is a reward for your labor.”
 
STRATEGICALLY, the war will be counted among military history’s grand surprises, alongside Pearl Harbor and Operation Barbarossa. Israel was caught off-guard in almost every respect. It underestimated the enemy’s intentions, abilities, weaponry and motivation. The leaders misinterpreted Egyptian president Anwar Sadat as a babbler, the generals did not enlist the reserves, the pilots were humbled by the radar-guided SA missile and the tankists by the shoulder-carried Sagger. Then again, not only did the IDF ultimately prevail, in 40 years’ hindsight it emerged from the war with long-term strategic gains that dwarf the its immediate setbacks.
 
Tactically, the war’s tide was turned on both fronts: on the Golan Heights, the vastly outnum-bered Seventh Brigade managed to fend off the Syrian armored thrust, and thus open the IDF’s path to Damascus; and in Sinai, the Egyptian Third Army was encircled and the Suez Canal was crossed as the IDF reached within an hour’s ride from Cairo. Yet what at the time seemed like heroism that merely decided one war, actually went much farther.
 
First, the recollection of prevailing even under such duress, and of successful improvisations along the entire hierarchy – from foot soldier to general – helped foster a culture of inventiveness from which Israel benefitted in other tests. But far more important, following the Armageddon that included some of history’s largest armored battles, Israel’s enemies never again unleashed on it a conventional army.
 
The realization that Israel prevailed even in a war waged, from the Arab viewpoint, under ideal conditions, convinced Arab leaders to abandon traditional war, and opt for assorted alternatives – from guerrilla and terror wars to peace deals. While far from reflecting a pro-Zionist conversion, the Arab abandonment of the traditional military option is a major strategic gain for Israel, and a direct result of the Yom Kippur War.
 
WHEN THE fighting ended, it turned out that one outpost of those that initially confronted the Egyptian onslaught, the northernmost, endured the entire war. Having emerged from it intact and returned home bewildered, Capt. Motti Ashkenazi went to Jerusalem, stood outside prime minister Golda Meir’s office and demanded that she and her cabinet resign.
 
Ashkenazi was soon joined by thousands who felt a deep sense of disillusionment and were now spontaneously forming Israel’s first effective protest movement. By the time Golda Meir resigned the following year, it was clear that the repercussions of the Jewish state’s Pearl Harbor would exceed the narrow realms of warfare, and include Israel’s politics, society and state of mind.
 
Politically, the future was hinted at in the first postwar election, when the newly established Likud won more of the soldiers’ votes than Labor. In the following election Labor lost power for the first time, and its political hegemony for good.
 
The establishment’s subsequent transition from secular socialists to traditionalists and capitalists; the disappearance of the European-born generation that led Israel in its first three decades; and the passage of the settlement ideal from the kibbutzim’s liberal farmers to the West Bank’s messianic rabbis, make the Yom Kippur War a watershed in practically all aspects of Israeli history.
 
Back in autumn ’73, all protagonists of this gathering transformation shared a sense of crisis and agony, some because they felt they were losing their grip on Israeli society, and some because they could hardly wait to seize it. Gradually, the Yom Kippur War came to be seen as an engine of a great schism.It wasn’t.
 
THE MOST notable realm where Israeli pragmatism and resilience prevailed is the economy. Back when the war ended, Israel was financially strapped. The knowledge that it was won thanks to emergency arms shipments from America; the consequent dependency on American aid; the inflation that began that year and soon spun out of control; and envy of Arab oil wealth which those days cast a shadow over the global economy – all generated an economic pessimism that complemented the overall atmosphere of cynicism and despair.
 
Forty years on, Israel’s is among the world’s strongest currencies, its growth rate is among the world’s highest, its unemployment, inflation and interest rates are among the world’s lowest, and its innovations are the toast of investors from Tokyo to New York. On top of that, for more than 15 years, Israel has no longer been accepting US civilian aid. These accomplishments belong collectively to Israelis of all persuasions and backgrounds, who meet daily in workplaces where they do together what a seriously divided society could never create.
 
The same can be said of Israeli culture, which over the past 40 years has seen the previously unthinkable rise of religious authors and filmmakers, symbolized by novelist Haim Sabato, a rabbi and rosh yeshiva who emerged from the war a prize-winning novelist. In fact, the cultural traffic ignited by the war proved to a two-way street. The sense of perplexity, enhanced by David Ben-Gurion’s death five weeks after the cease-fire, was expressed by the era’s popular songs, three of which became timeless, and inspire a melancholy that moves Israeli hearts to this day.
 
One, penned by songwriter Haim Hefer, a veteran of the War of Independence who wrote some of its most popular hits, now had an unnamed soldier promise his little girl – “in the name of the pilots who thrust into angry battle,” and the gunners “who were the pillars of fire along the front,” and “all the fathers who went to battle and never returned” – that 1973’s would be the last war.
 
A second song, by “Jerusalem of Gold” writer Naomi Shemer, placed “a white sail in the horizon, opposite a heavy black cloud,” and “holiday’s candles shimmering in dusk’s windows,” while asking “What is the sound of war I am hearing, the sound of shofar and drums,” and then praying, “If the announcer stands at the door, place a good word in his mouth, if only all we ask – would be.”
 
The whisper of prayer that both songs shared was the zeitgeist, so much so that it even arrived in Kibbutz Beit Hashita – whose veterans included diehard Marxists and atheists. Tucked in the Jezreel Valley north of Mount Gilboa, where the biblical Saul and Jonathan died in battle, this community lost 11 of its sons in the war.
 
Having lived in their midst at the time of their grief, composer Yair Rosenblum wrote a tune for U’Netane Tokef, the prayer which states that on Rosh Hashana God drafts, and on Yon Kippur he seals, the verdict of every man: “Who will live and who will die, who is in his end and who is not, who by water and who by fire, who by sword and who by beast, who by hunger and who by thirst.”
 
The tune brought together Zionism’s epitomes of the New Jew, the atheist warriors of the kibbutzim, with Rabbi Amnon of Mainz, the prayer’s writer and the ultimate Old Jew, a sage whom legend says was killed without a fight after refusing a demand to convert. Animating the most solemn moments in Judaism’s holiest days, the tune has since come to be sung annually in thousands of synagogues throughout Israel, and has even been performed by some ultra- Orthodox singers and cantors.
]
THE YOM KIPPUR WAR, then, had more effects on Israeli society besides political divisions, and the most decisive of these was humility. The arrogance and swagger that followed the Six Day War were initially followed by anger and acrimony, but what for a moment seemed like despair soon gave way to a sense of appeasement and constructive soul searching. This humility is particularly evident where it is needed most, namely in the way Israeli generals speak and think.
 
Forty years on, it is clear that Israeli society was not debilitated by the Yom Kippur War and in fact, soon resumed its development in earnest.
 
Having left us while the war’s trauma was fresh, one feels like updating Ben-Gurion that since his departure: no Arab army again waged war on Israel; there are two peace agreements; the population has more than doubled and the economy more than quadrupled; there are more Jews here than in any other country; the number of Israeli Jews has just crossed, for the first time, the charged figure of 6 million, Soviet Jewry is here, and the Soviet Union is gone; and Israeli society, while varied and complex, remains intact even when the rest of the region is ablaze with civil wars – and that U’Netane Tokef, as written in medieval Germany and composed in Kibbutz Beit- Hashita, will tomorrow echo from Metulla to Eilat.
 
Contents

‘INCALCULABLE CONSEQUENCES’
Erol Araf
National Post, Oct 7, 2013
 

Forty years ago today, Israel stood on the brink of catastrophe. The day before — Oct. 6, 1973, the Day of Atonement — Egypt and Syria had launched a surprise and spectacularly successful offensive against Israel. Israeli forces were retreating, or being annihilated, at the Suez Canal and the Golan Heights. Faced with the prospect of Arab armies moving into Israeli population centres, the government began to consider unleashing Armageddon on its enemies.
 
Many documents pertaining to the nuclear crises that took place during the 1973 Arab-Israel War remain classified; participants who have written about the war are still vague. Over the years, however, numerous books and studies have been written, ranging from Seymour Hersh’s dubious The Sampson Option, alleging that Israel used the threat of nuclear war to pressure the U.S into sending massive quantities of munitions, to an exhaustive research project by the U.S.-based research group CNA, entitled The Israeli “Nuclear Alert” of 1973: Deterrence and Signaling in Crisis, published last spring. Thanks to these sources, we have enough facts at our disposal to construct a narrative that makes clear that between Oct. 7-25, there were three distinct nuclear crises featuring deceptions, miscalculations, existential panic and missile launches that could easily have triggered a worldwide nuclear war.
 
The first crisis relates to the Israeli nuclear alert itself.
 
In the hours and days after the surprise attack, tank battles fought on the Golan Heights were comparable in size and intensity to the largest such clashes during the Second World War. Not even the indomitable Israeli Air Force could turn the tide. In the north, 177 Israeli tanks stood between Haifa and 1,460 Syrian armoured vehicles. In the south, Egyptian soldiers armed with hand-held anti-tank missiles knocked out 300 Israeli tanks in the first hours of the war. On that day, the ancient lines from the Book of Yom Kippur resonated with apocalyptic portent as reservists were raced to their mobilization centres: “On Rosh Hashanah it is written and on the day of the fast of Kippur it is sealed … who shall live and who shall die … who by water and who by fire … who by the sword.”
 
Howard Blum, in his book The Eve of Destruction, tells how Moshe Dayan, the Israeli Defense Minister, told Prime Minister Golda Meir on Oct. 8, two days into the fighting, that Israel must prepare to fight “to the last bullet” on the streets of Tel Aviv. He also urged the arming of Israeli’s ultimate weapon, code-named Temple. Ms. Meir gave the green light to arm 13 Jericho missiles with nuclear warheads. Nuclear bombs were also loaded onto six Phantom F-4 attack aircraft at the Tel Nof air base.
 
Israel’s actions were quickly spotted, and just as quickly understood. William B. Quandt, who was a member of the U.S. National Security Council staff, confirmed that the U.S. knew that Israel had placed its nuclear arsenal on alert. He wrote; ” It was also conceivable that a nuclear threat might be made if Egyptian troops broke through … None of this had to be spelled out in so many words by the Israelis.” The Americans found out about the nuclearization of Israeli missiles, according to Russell Warren Howe’s book Weapons, when a U.S. Air Force SR-71 spy plane, specifically designed to monitor nuclear activity, flew over Israel. An American KH-11 intelligence satellite also detected missile launchers that had been left in the open specifically to signal Jerusalem’s resolve. The Soviets, too, were monitoring the situation on the ground with their COSMOS satellites.
 
The U.S. reaction to the possibility that Israel might go nuclear was twofold: Henry Kissinger, President Richard Nixon’s National Security Advisor and newly sworn-in Secretary of State, authorized a badly needed conventional munitions resupply effort — after all, the Soviets were arming the Arabs. The U.S. also informed Moscow about Jerusalem’s nuclear alert in an emergency hotline conversation between Nixon and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. The Americans were eager to make sure that there were no understandings that might lead to a nuclear exchange between the superpowers.
 
In response to Israel’s nuclear mobilization, the Soviets decided to deploy their own nuclear weapons, under strict Soviet control, to Egypt, to dissuade Israel from going nuclear. But they didn’t rush things, choosing a deliberately slow deployment to make sure that the Israelis would clearly see their activity, and understand that the Soviets were serious. Kissinger privately warned the Soviets that further Syrian advances into northern Israel, which could cut the country in two, would pose such an existential threat to Israel that the Soviet deterrence might not be sufficient to prevent Israel from going nuclear. The message was clear: Don’t let their early successes spur your allies into pushing so hard that Israel felt it had to strike back.
 
The message was heeded. As Charles Wakebridge wrote in Military Review in 1976, the sudden Syrian halt when they could have advanced into Israel on Oct. 7 and 8 was one of the most intriguing and inexplicable decisions of the war. It is reasonable to infer from the Syrian decision to stop at the Jordan River, when they could have advanced all the way to Haifa, was due to the Israeli nuclear alert. The river was a red line that Damascus would not risk crossing.
 
The second crisis occurred between Oct. 17-22, when the Soviet nuclear warheads arrived. Some were conspicuously deployed deep inside in Egypt, to deter any rash Israeli act. But the Soviets also deployed conventionally armed SCUD missiles in the Sinai, where Israeli forces were on the counteroffensive against the Egyptian invaders. The Israelis, quite reasonably, assumed that the Sinai SCUDs were also nuclear tipped. In Jerusalem’s and Washington’s view, this constituted dangerous escalation from a deterrence-based posture to war-fighting deployment.
 
Israel had to respond. The CNA researchers wrote that “[Israeli] Chief of Staff General Elazar ordered the deployment of an Israeli missile battery in an uncamouflaged fashion in such a way that Soviet satellites would be likely to detect the deployment and assume that such missiles were nuclear-capable.” Officials in Washington and Jerusalem were both worried that the Soviets, under pressure from their Egyptian allies, might escalate a conflict that was rapidly, and remarkably, evolving into a major Israeli conventional military victory.
 
On Oct. 22, hours before a UN Security Council ceasefire resolution was set to go into effect, the situation suddenly became even more tense when Egypt launched SCUD missiles at Israeli targets. In his book Inside the Kremlin during the Yom Kippur War, senior Soviet diplomat Victor Israelyan relates that the authority to launch the missiles was given by Soviet Defense Minister Andrei Grechko to the Soviet ambassador in Cairo, Vladimir Vinogradov, in an emergency telephone conversation. “Go the hell and fire it!” was Gecko’s response to the Egyptian request for authorization. The Egyptians fired.
 
Senior officials in Moscow were shocked, and outraged. “A few minutes later there was a call to Vinogradov from Moscow — [Foreign Minister Andrei] Gromyko was on the line,” Israelyan recounts. “‘What did you talk about with Grechko?’ he asked. When he learned of Grechkov’s order, Gromyko was outraged and strictly prohibited Vinogradov from carrying out the order. ‘I am sorry, Andrei Andreyevich, I can’t help it,’ was the reply. ‘The missiles have already been fired.’” The normally phlegmatic Gromyko was profoundly disturbed by this development — he had a bad feeling that things would soon get out of control. He was right. The third crisis was at hand.
 
Forty-eight hours later, the Soviets and Americans found themselves facing the gravest nuclear crisis since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Despite the UN ceasefire having come into effect, the Egyptian Third Army, which had been completely surrounded by Israeli forces, was still fighting, desperately attempting to break out and avoid a humiliating surrender. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was demanding the Soviets save his army. After lengthy deliberations, Brezhnev informed Nixon that the Soviets were considering “taking appropriate steps unilaterally.” The Soviets began mobilizing troops and equipment. In all, 50,000 Soviet soldiers were readied for a possible intervention to save Egypt and, to be sure, a great deal of Soviet prestige.
 
Kissinger was furious with the Israelis for forcing Moscow’s hand, but could not possibly allow the unilateral introduction of Soviet forces into the Sinai. He responded to Brezhnev’s quasi-ultimatum by writing to Soviet ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin. “We must view your suggestion of unilateral action as a matter of grave concern,” he said, “involving incalculable consequences.” After a lengthy National Security Council meeting, the U.S. raised the alert level of U.S. forces worldwide, including its nuclear forces, to Defense Condition [DEFCON] 3. Fifty nuclear-capable B-52 bombers moved from bases in Guam closer to the Soviet Union. Airborne tankers were prepared and dispersed. The carrier USS John F. Kennedy and its battle group sailed into the eastern Mediterranean. The 82nd Airborne Division was put on alert and told to be ready for action in the Sinai.
 
At that point two unrelated developments helped to swiftly reduce tensions: Kissinger demanded that Israel allow essential non-military supplies to reach the encircled Egyptian Third Army and desist from further military action or lose U.S. support at the UN; meanwhile, Sadat, having realized that his call for Soviet intervention had pushed the superpowers to the brink of war, opened direct negotiations with the Israelis. This unprecedented step by an Arab leader led to the establishment of a true peace between Egypt and Israel, and also saved Sadat’s Third Army from annihilation or capitulation. With Israeli forces rapidly driving the Syrians back to Damascus, when the UN ordered another ceasefire, all sides saw fit to end the fighting. The superpowers stood back from the brink.
 
The modern Middle East was changed by the events of 40 years ago. And the Soviet Union, of course, is history. But to those closely following the U.S.-Russian brinksmanship over Syria’s used of chemical weapons and Iran’s drive to develop it’s own nuclear weapons, it’s hard to ignore the similarities between now and then. Moscow and Washington butting heads of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East is nothing new. And Israel, as ever, must remain wary of what its neighbours may be planning.
 
Contents


 

ISRAEL-EGYPT FORGE NEW TIES OVER SINAI
Geoffrey Aronson
Al-Monitor, Sept. 13, 2013

 
Last week, Egypt embarked on its most extensive military operation in the Sinai peninsula in almost half a century. The target of this unprecedented deployment is an array of disaffected Egyptians and jihadi foreigners intent upon defying the seat of Egyptian power and sovereignty centered in Cairo.
 
Israel is a key partner in this Egyptian effort. Ironically, the anarchy in Sinai has prompted a new era of enhanced security cooperation between Israel and Egypt. The promise of the Arab Spring may be uncertain, but the Jerusalem-Cairo axis is one arena where a newly energized system of relations is being forged on the crumbling foundations of the old order. Egypt and Israel are creating a new basis for mutually beneficial relations, in the process ignoring not only key aspects of their historic peace treaty signed in 1979, but also reducing the role of what was once deemed to be the critical actor in that relationship — the United States.
 
For two generations the United States was at the center of a strategic partnership between Cairo and Jerusalem. Washington built its regional security strategy around the rapprochement that followed the October 1973 War and invested heavily in its vitality. Economic and military aid to the two nations dwarfed similar US programs elsewhere. “Investing in peace” established a solid security and political rationale for supplying billions to both Egypt and Israel.
 
An iconic photograph taken at the treaty signing ceremony, showing a beaming US President Jimmy Carter standing between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, their hands outstretched in a tripartite handshake, said it all. The United States was the critical midwife of this relationship, and its support was vital to its maintenance.
 
The photograph is now well into middle-age. It has yellowed and its corners are brittle and worn from use. So too the old order of things that it celebrated. Like the photo, the structure that Washington championed reflects the hope and concerns of a bygone era — one that is not so much collapsing as evolving to accommodate seismic changes in the challenges confronted by a revolutionary Egypt and the new security environment along Israel’s southern border, shared with its troubled neighbor. In this new picture, the United States is no longer at the center of things. In some key respects it is not even in the picture. In a path-breaking departure from past practice, Washington is viewed in both Cairo and Jerusalem as an obstacle to be overcome or ignored rather than a key player in solving the shared problems at the top of their mutual security agenda.
 
Washington was long viewed by all parties as the glue that cemented what was often a bloodless bilateral relationship. True, Washington and particularly Congress, always viewed Egypt as the junior partner in this menage a trois, but today, ambivalence if not outright hostility define the bilateral relationship between Washington and post-Mubarak Egypt. The Obama administration can’t quite decide whether Egypt is friend or foe.  “I don’t think that we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy,” President Barack Obama observed in September last year, soon after violent demonstrations at the US Embassy in Cairo.
 
Today, it is Israel that finds itself in the awkward position of trying to convince Washington’s skeptical political (if not security) class to reaffirm a partnership that it once sponsored. Yet, Washington’s imprimatur is far less important today to the vitality of the Israel-Egypt relationship than it was in the past. Israel and Egypt, first during the short-lived rule of President Mohammed Morsi and now under Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, are redefining their relationship to address the shared concerns of this new era.
 
The lawless region of Sinai and to a lesser extent the Gaza Strip top this list in both Cairo and Jerusalem today. In each of these areas the US-sponsored treaty, constructed to address problems that have not so much disappeared as been overcome by the new realities on the ground, has nothing to contribute. The security situation in Sinai — defined by a local and growing wide-ranging insurgency against the central government — is unlike anything envisioned in the treaty, which was focused on preventing a classic conventional war between Israel and Egypt. The treaty tools available to Egypt to address today’s war are inadequate and unsuited to the task. The treaty does not enhance, but in some respects acts as a break on solving the problems both parties face today. And so it is being ignored by Israel and Egypt alike.
 
In the past few years, Egypt, with Israel’s consent, has deployed almost a division of army forces — close to 5,000 men — to the peninsula to combat the insurgency. Egyptian battle tanks have been transported over the Suez Canal for the first time since the peace agreement. Egyptian aircraft deployed in Rafah fly intelligence missions, careful however not to peek across the border into Israel. Apache helicopters are deployed against local and jihadi forces, and even overfly the southern Gaza Strip on occasion.
 
These deployments are a clear violation of the terms of the treaty that all but prohibited the introduction of regular Egyptian troops across the Suez Canal — a perfect example of how the treaty was designed to prevent the last — October 1973 — war. For years, Israel refused the efforts of Egyptian generals, chafing at the indignity of being denied the right to redeploy its forces in sovereign Egyptian territory.
 
But a new chapter was opened when Israel retreated from the Gaza Strip and ended its control over the border between Gaza and Egypt along the “Philadelphi” border in 2005. By mutual agreement, Egypt and Israel agreed to the introduction of new Egyptian forces in Sinai in numbers that have been progressively increased as the anarchy in Sinai has grown from limited concerns about the transfer of arms from Egypt to Gaza to a systemic loss of Egypt's sovereign control over large parts of the peninsula. The United States has not played a central role in these deliberations.
 
And where it does — notably the deployment of the Multinational Force of Observers (MFO) — the revolutionary transformation of security realities in Sinai, and a sour mood in Washington, call into question the future of the US-led contingent. The troops and experts of the MFO were established by the 1979 treaty to monitor compliance with the terms of the treaty. The force’s creation was both a clear symbol of the US commitment to the new regional security framework and the importance that all parties attached to such a visible US role in maintaining the peace.
 
A decade ago, cost-cutters at the Pentagon, including then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, argued for the MFO's elimination as an expensive and unnecessary expense. Their hardheaded view failed to prevail over those, including leaders in Cairo and Jerusalem, who argued against the signal such a US retreat would send about a reduced US commitment to the strategic alliance.
 
Today, the MFO is hunkered down, focused on force protection in the Wild West that Sinai has become. Its mission to monitor violations to the treaty — when Egypt and Israel have agreed to do so as a matter of policy — is passe. The MFO is hostage, figuratively and literally, to the new environment in Sinai. And what is to be said about the US commitment to the regional security framework that the MFO symbolizes when serious consideration is being given in Cairo and Washington to ending US-Egyptian aid and security ties? The question to be asked is increasingly not whether the MFO will remain, but whether anyone will notice if it doesn’t.
 
Geoffrey Aronson writes regularly on Middle East issues for Al-Monitor.
 
Contents

 

IS THIS THE END OF THE FAILED 
MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD PROJECT?
Hussein Ibish
The National (UAE), Oct. 5, 2013

 
Is the Muslim Brotherhood dying? In Egypt and throughout the Arab world, Brotherhood-affiliated parties are suffering an unprecedented series of setbacks that cast real doubt on the long-term viability of that version of Islamist politics. The blow the Brotherhood has received in Egypt is exceptionally severe. Most of its senior leaders are under arrest, and its ability to mount mass protests appears debilitated. There is a pending court order mandating its disbanding and the seizure of its assets. And none of this seems to bother most Egyptians. It’s not clear when or how the Brotherhood in Egypt can recover from this unprecedented crisis.
 
What is less widely understood, however, is that Brotherhood-affiliated parties across the region – many of which recently seemed to be on the brink of the political successes they have craved for decades – are suffering extreme setbacks. The Brotherhood’s crisis in Egypt may be particularly dramatic but it is also merely the tip of the iceberg.
 
A quick regional survey can show how damaged this movement currently is. In Morocco, the Justice and Development Party might be in the best shape of all, currently occupying the ineffective office of prime minister. But, while ostentatiously praising the King, it is loudly insisting that it is in no sense whatsoever a Muslim Brotherhood party, or affiliated with it at all except insofar as both identify as Islamist. This is untrue. They only find it necessary to disavow Brotherhood connections so vigorously because of how regionally discredited the movement has become.
 
In Tunisia, a coalition of secular political and labour movement forces has forced the Brotherhood Ennahda party government to agree to resignation. Ennahda may still be the largest political party in Tunisia, but it’s unlikely that it could repeat its 2011 parliamentary electoral success since secular and non-Islamist forces are becoming much more organised and coordinated. And it’s always been clear it would be exceptionally difficult for Ennahda to beat a consensus secular candidate in a two-person presidential election or run-off.
 
The Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood, which seemed to be growing from strength to strength a mere year ago, is in utter disarray. The Syrian Brotherhood was the most influential political force in the opposition after the uprising against the Damascus dictatorship began. But now they seem to have virtually no influence on the conflict or its likely outcome. Hamas in Gaza is undergoing an unprecedented crisis. It bizarrely made no effort to convince the new Egyptian government that it was not a hostile force, especially with regard to security in Sinai. It is therefore being treated like one. Egypt has imposed an unparalleled blockade, leaving the economy in shambles. For the first time since 2007, it is now possible to imagine a Gaza no longer under Hamas control.
 
And in those parts of the Gulf in which the Brotherhood has some presence, its affiliates are coming under intense scrutiny and increasing pressure. But all of this hardly means that Islamism across the board is enduring a nadir. In several Arab societies, Salafists are either outflanking Brotherhood groups or reaping the benefits of the Brotherhood’s crises….
 
If the ideology and practices of more moderate Brotherhood parties have proven unworkable and popularly unacceptable in power, that can only apply far more intensively to Salafist groups. The plausibility of Salafist rule in any post-dictatorship Arab society is, for those two reasons, virtually nil. This may not be the end of the Muslim Brotherhood but its region-wide crisis is so severe that significant ideological and practical adaptation will be unavoidable for those flexible enough to learn any lessons. The Moroccan and Tunisian branches are already unhappily compromising to survive.
 
But the Muslim Brotherhood may be dying at least in the sense that what ultimately emerges from the current wreckage will be unrecognisably different. Only a radical change in fortunes across the region is likely to forestall such a process. So during the very period in which many Arabs and westerners alike expected Brotherhood domination in many Arab countries, we may instead be witnessing the death throes of a nearly 100-year-old failed experiment.
 

Hussein Ibish is a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine.
 
Contents

Lessons from the Yom Kippur WarDaniel Greenfield, Front Page Magazine, Oct. 7, 2013—Forty years ago, Israel experienced the most devastating war in its modern history. Israel not only suffered its worst casualties during the Yom Kippur War, but actually came close to being destroyed with Defense Minister Moshe Dayan warning that “The Third Temple is falling.”
 
51 Dead in as Egyptians Celebrate 40th Anniversary of Yom Kippur WarJewish Press,  October 7th, 2013—Deadly clashes erupted in Cairo on Sunday as pro-Morsi marches protesting the military junta rule headed to Tahrir Square, where thousands were cheering the same junta, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the army’s 1973 “victory” against Israel. Confrontations there and outside Cairo resulted so far in the death toll rising to 51, according to Al Ahram, with 268 injured.
 
Who Is Egypt's Next President?Bassem Sabry, Al-Monitor, Sept. 22 2013—If the current roadmap holds, Egypt could see its next presidential elections to select its fifth head of state sometime in the second quarter of 2014. A minority has been calling for holding the presidential elections earlier before the parliamentary polls, but all signs indicate the current administration is adamantly opposed to amending its roadmap.
 
 

 

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CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

Ber Lazarus, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

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SYRIAN TURMOIL EMBROILING NEIGHBORS DODGING “ARAB SPRING”, JORDAN’S KING ABDULLAH FIGHTS ISLAMISTS,AS LEBANON-SYRIA BORDER HEATS UP & SALAFISTS OPPOSE HEZBOLLAH

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Jordan’s King Finds Fault With Everyone Concerned: David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times,  March 18, 2013—King Abdullah II of Jordan leads one of the smallest, poorest and most vulnerable Arab nations. But that does not stop him from looking down on many of those around him, including the leaders of Egypt, Turkey and Syria, as well as members of his own royal family, his secret police, his traditional tribal political base, his Islamist opponents and even United States diplomats.

 

The Assir Headache: Michael Young, Now Lebanon, Mar. 15, 2013Is there a more troubling figure than Ahmad al-Assir? The Salafist sheikh is like a protester, who, merely touched by a policeman, will scream that he is being murdered, all to attract attention. For a year and a half Assir has engineered confrontations to rally to his side a Sunni community angry with Hezbollah and the Syrian regime.

 

Syria Warns Lebanon on Border Infiltrations: Jean Aziz, Al-Monitor, Mar. 18, 2013While the Syrian Foreign Ministry sent an official letter to Beirut threatening to bomb Lebanese areas, the Land of Cedars will be without any senior officials in the coming week, as heads of its constitutional authorities travel outside the country. Meanwhile, sources have told Al-Monitor that the situation in the northern border area of Akkar has already begun to deteriorate significantly.

 

Syrian Daily: Jordan, Lebanon Playing With 'Fire': Daily Star, March 17, 2013Lebanon and Jordan are playing with fire by allowing jihadists and weapons to pass across their borders into Syria, the Syrian government daily Al-Thawra warned on Sunday. "The fire of terrorism will consume not only Syria, but could spread to Lebanon and Jordan.

 

On Topic Links

 

 

Ties With Netanyahu Very Strong, Says Abdullah: Jerusalem Post, Mar. 19, 2013

Monarch in the Middle: Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic, Mar. 18, 2013

Syrian Warplanes Strike Lebanese Territory: Patrick J. McDonnell , Los Angeles Times, Mar. 18, 2013
38 Hizbullah Fighters Killed in Syria Buried Secretly in Lebanon: Ya Libnan, Mar. 18, 2013

 

 

 

JORDAN’S KING FINDS FAULT WITH EVERYONE CONCERNED

David D. Kirkpatrick

New York Times,  March 18, 2013

 

King Abdullah II of Jordan leads one of the smallest, poorest and most vulnerable Arab nations. But that does not stop him from looking down on many of those around him, including the leaders of Egypt, Turkey and Syria, as well as members of his own royal family, his secret police, his traditional tribal political base, his Islamist opponents and even United States diplomats.

 

President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt has “no depth,” King Abdullah said in an interview with the American journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, to be published this week in The Atlantic magazine. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey is an authoritarian who views democracy as a “bus ride,” as in, “Once I get to my stop, I am getting off,” the king said.

 

And he said President Bashar al-Assad of Syria is so provincial that at a social dinner he once asked the monarchs of Jordan and Morocco to explain jet lag. “He never heard of jet lag,” King Abdullah said, according to an advance copy of the article.

 

The king’s conversations with Mr. Goldberg, an influential writer on the Middle East and an acquaintance of more than a decade, offer a rare view of the contradictory mind-set of Washington’s closest ally in the Arab world as he struggles to master the upheaval of the Arab Spring revolts. Seldom has an Arab autocrat spoken so candidly in public.

 

King Abdullah appears humbled and even fatigued by the many challenges he failed to foresee when he inherited the throne 14 years ago, describing himself before coronation as a “Forrest Gump” in the background of his father’s long reign. In contrast to his father, King Hussein, King Abdullah promises to move Jordan closer to a British-style constitutional monarchy, and thus to stay ahead of the Arab Spring wave. But he insists that only he can lead the transition to democracy, in part to ensure that democracy will not deliver power to his Islamist opponents.

 

The era of Arab monarchies is passing, King Abdullah said. “Where are monarchies in 50 years?” he asked. But even his own family, with 11 siblings and half-siblings, does not yet understand the lessons of the Arab Spring for dynasties like theirs, he said, adding that the public will no longer tolerate egregious displays of excess or corruption.

 

“Members of my family don’t get it,” he said. “Look at some of my brothers. They believe that they’re princes, but my cousins are more princes than my brothers, and their in-laws are like — oh my God!” he continued. “I’m always having to stop members of my family from putting lights on their guard cars,” he said. “I arrest members of my family and take their cars away from them and cut off their fuel rations and make them stop at traffic lights.” Even his own sons should be punished if convicted of corruption, he insisted. “Everybody else is expendable in the royal family,” he said. “That is the reality of the Arab Spring that hit me.”

 

He blamed his own government’s secret police for blocking his efforts at political reform. For example, he charged that the secret police had conspired with conservatives in the political elite to block his attempts to open up more representation in Parliament to Palestinians, who make up more than half of Jordan’s population.

 

“Institutions I had trusted were just not on board,” he said, naming as an example the mukhabarat, or secret police. He said he had not realized at first how deeply “conservative elements” had become “embedded in certain institutions” like the mukhabarat. “Two steps forward, one step back,” he added. Stopping the Islamists from winning power was now “our major fight” across the region, he said. He repeatedly mocked the Muslim Brotherhood, the pan-Arab Islamist movement behind the largest opposition party in the Jordanian Parliament and Mr. Morsi’s governing party in Egypt, calling it “a Masonic cult” and “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” And he accused American diplomats of naïveté about their intentions.

 

“When you go to the State Department and talk about this, they’re like, ‘This is just the liberals talking, this is the monarch saying that the Muslim Brotherhood is deep-rooted and sinister,’ ” King Abdullah said. His job, he said, is to dissuade Westerners from the view that “the only way you can have democracy is through the Muslim Brotherhood.”

 

The king was also frankly dismissive of the tribal leaders from the East Bank of the Jordan River who have traditionally formed his family’s base of support. “The old dinosaurs,” he called a group of East Bank tribal leaders, including a former prime minister, before a meeting with them in the town of Karak. “It’s all about, ‘I’ll vote for this guy because I am in his tribe,’ ” the king said of their political program.

 

Alarmed at the violence in neighboring Syria, King Abdullah said he had offered asylum and protection to the family of President Assad. “They said, ‘Thank you very much, but why don’t you worry about your country more than you worry about us?’ The monarchy is going to change,” the king vowed. His son will preside over “a Western-style democracy with a constitutional monarchy,” the king said, and not “the position of Bashar today.”

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THE ASSIR HEADACHE

Michael Young

Now Lebanese, Mar. 15, 2013

 

Is there a more troubling figure than Ahmad al-Assir? The Salafist sheikh is like a protester, who, merely touched by a policeman, will scream that he is being murdered, all to attract attention. For a year and a half Assir has engineered confrontations to rally to his side a Sunni community angry with Hezbollah and the Syrian regime.

 

It is a testament to the disarray in the community – thanks largely to the two-year vacuum left by the head of the Future Movement, Saad Hariri – that there are Sunnis pinning their hopes on a sectarian demagogue. In that sense, Assir is not so different than Hezbollah, even if the party’s ability to control its followers is more reassuring.

 

Assir’s latest crusade is against the Lebanese Army, which the sheikh has accused of surrounding the Bilal bin Rabah mosque that he controls in Abra. Much can be said of the army, but Assir’s repeated street demonstrations against Hezbollah and the Shiites in Sidon have hardly endeared him to an institution committed to maintaining civil peace. Assir has put his fingers in the wound of confessional relations, and many now fear a perilous deterioration in Sunni-Shiite relations.

 

The problem is that Assir raises what many consider real problems. When he says that Hezbollah is placing its men in apartments around his mosque, he only plays up to a long-standing perception that the party uses property politics to advance its agenda.

 

Already, quarters around the southern suburbs that once had a Christian majority now have a Shiite majority thanks to Hezbollah’s purported efforts to build buildings and settle families there. In the Beqaa, there have been accusations that Hezbollah militants have rented apartments in Shtaura and its environs, to be able to link the Shiite-majority southern region of the plain with the northern region, if Sunnis ever block the central region in a potential conflict.

 

Are the accusations true? Maybe yes, maybe no, but few Sunnis are willing to give Hezbollah the benefit of the doubt because of the party’s actions in the past eight years. Hezbollah members stand accused of participating in the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, and there has been considerable suspicion as to the party’s role in subsequent killings. In May 2008, Hezbollah militants overran west Beirut and humiliated the Sunnis. And in early 2011, the party precipitated the ouster of Hariri, the principal Sunni representative, and brought in Najib Miqati. All this was against the will of the Sunni community.

 

The results created dry grassland for Assir’s flames. And yet his provocations have targeted not only Shiites. His decision to take a busload of followers to Faraya on the feast of the birth of the Prophet was equally contentious. Assir is entitled to go anywhere he wants in Lebanese, but he knew well that the presence of long-bearded Salafists in the Christian heartland would spark a counter-reaction (no less so than would Samir Geagea’s taking a busload of Lebanese Forces members to Abra). Assir also knew this counter-reaction would be led by Michel Aoun’s partisans. He manufactured a stand-off that he won (thanks to the army he is now attacking), and pranced triumphantly in the snow, proving that he was not a man who could be intimidated.

The big question is who is financing Assir? Some have suggested that he has Qatari funding, which the sheikh has denied. Unfortunately, denials don’t mean much in cases like this one, where funders will insist on anonymity. Wherever Assir gets his money from, and Salafists tend to look toward the Gulf for financial assistance, those helping the sheikh are only ensuring that Lebanese becomes more polarized than ever, with possibly disastrous consequences.

 

Yet the sheikh has more than just bluster and money; he also benefits from the presence in Sidon of the Palestinian camp at Ain al-Hilweh, where Salafist groups are strong. If Hezbollah were to enter into an armed confrontation with Assir, it would have to factor these Salafists into its plans as well. The party has no desire to be dragged into a fight with armed Palestinians on the main road to the south.

 

Ultimately, what is Assir’s program? He does not enjoy unanimous support, even in Sidon, and no matter how deep Sunni anger with Hezbollah and revulsion with Bashar al-Assad’s regime, his brinkmanship is alarming to those who fear a mad drive toward sectarian warfare. While Lebanese’s Salafists are less influential than many believe, it does not take much to spark a conflict. And once that happens, it is easy for the situation to spiral out of control.

 

Some will argue that Assir and Hezbollah are mirror images of each other. Therefore why blame one side and not the other? Hezbollah’s many errors in recent years have, more than anything else, pushed Lebanese to the edge of the abyss. Yet Assir is dangerous in a different way. He is still in the ascendant in a community where the political leadership has left a void. That is why Assir is far more likely to be reckless, and to drag Lebanese down with him, a victim of his hubris.

 

Michael Young is opinion editor of The Daily Star newspaper in Lebanese.

 

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SYRIA WARNS LEBANESE ON BORDER INFILTRATIONS

Jean Aziz

Al-Monitor, Mar. 18, 2013

 

While the Syrian Foreign Ministry sent an official letter to Beirut threatening to bomb Lebanese areas, the Land of Cedars will be without any senior officials in the coming week, as heads of its constitutional authorities travel outside the country. Meanwhile, sources have told Al-Monitor that the situation in the northern border area of Akkar has already begun to deteriorate significantly.

 

On March 14, the Lebanese Foreign Ministry received an official letter from its Syrian counterpart, the first of its kind since the Syrian civil war began. It appeared to be more than a message of blame and accusation, while less than a formal warning or Syrian threat against Lebanese. The letter stated that "during the last 36 hours, large numbers of armed terrorist elements infiltrated from Lebanese into Syria.” It continued, "Syrian forces clashed with them within Syrian territory, and the clashes are ongoing.” The letter noted that "the Armed Arab Forces (the Syrian army) are still exercising self-restraint by not [targeting] the armed gangs inside Lebanese territories to prevent them from crossing into Syria, but this will not continue indefinitely."

 

The letter added that "Syria expects Lebanese not to allow those [elements] to use the border as a passageway because they are targeting the security of the Syrian people, violating Syrian sovereignty, and exploiting the good brotherly relations between the two countries." However, the message clearly mentioned that the Syrian army may be forced to resort to "bombing the gathering places of the armed gangs in Lebanese in the event of continued cross-border infiltrations."

 

Beirut tried to give the impression that it is dealing with the issue seriously, but that doesn’t appear to be sufficient. President Michel Suleiman has been on a 9-day African tour since early last week, accompanied by a large delegation of 93 people. Through a statement from the Ivory Coast, he tried to reassure Damascus that he is taking the new Syrian "message” seriously. Meanwhile, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati and parliament speaker Nabih Berri are preparing to travel on march 17 to Rome to participate in the inauguration of the new pope. As a result, Beirut won't have any of its constitutional powers present, just as its northern border adjacent to the Syrian civil war appears to lack any official security or military presence.

 

In contrast to the official, stated Lebanese position, the situation on the ground seems to be more tense and worrying. In the north-eastern part of Lebanese, clashes have become a daily event on both sides of the border with Syria, particularly in the well-known Sunni-shiite-Alawite triangle.

 

But other developments — which apparently necessitated the writing of the official Syrian letter — took place in the past two days in the area extending from that triangle westwards, in the Lebanese area of Akkar, which is offset from the Syrian side by the Homs countryside to the east and Tartous province to the west. On the Lebanese side, this northern border strip extends along roughly 45 miles, and has a Sunni, Alawi and Christian cross-sectarian population.

 

These days, wherever there are Sunni or Alawite villages or towns along the Lebanese border, insurgents are present. Opponents of the Syrian regime are in Sunni towns like al-Abboudiya, Hikr janine, al-Qashlaq, Wadi al-Hawr, Noura, western Dabbabiya, and Fureidis, up east to the Bekaa valley and Wadi Khaled up to Hnaider and Qarha; meanwhile, supporters of the regime have taken to the upper villages, namely the village of Hikr al-Dahiri, which became the headquarters of Lebanese Alawite politician, former member of parliament Ali Eid, whose son Refaat Eid is leading the battle against Sunni jihadists in the northern capital city of Tripoli.

 

In the midst of the Sunni and Alawite villages, the Christian towns in Akkar seem to be caught in crossfire from both sides of the border. This sectarian-military classification on the ground is what forced the Lebanese army units to gradually withdraw from the tense areas, in the absence of any formal decision on the level of the Lebanese government to control the situation. That led to the remaining Lebanese army forces deploying in the Christian villages and towns. The main army barrack is located in the Christian village of Andaket in Akkar, in addition to another barrack in the Christian village of Chadra. There are other army posts in most Christian villages, such as east Dabbabiya, Manjaz, Kfar noun, Ramah and the town of Kobayat, which is the capital of Christian presence in the area. The second brigade of the Lebanese army is currently deployed in Akkar, supported by a battalion of the eighth brigade, and another commando regiment, an elite army unit.

 

Amid this tension, residents of the border area told al-monitor that since Syria addressed its official letter to Beirut, unusual military movements have been witnessed on the Syrian side. According to eyewitnesses, Syrian military experts dismantled minefields planted by the Syrian army along the border over a year ago to prevent smuggling or armed infiltrations. Other residents confirmed that Syrian military bulldozers were seen on the same line paving border tracks and opening roads. Both procedures suggest the possibility of the Syrian military launching limited military operations or incursions to hunt down its opponents inside Lebanese territories.

 

But diplomatic circles in Beirut rule out the possibility of such an escalation taking place, and instead expect clashes between armed Syrian parties within Lebanese itself, exactly as the situation is in Syria between Jabhat al-Nusra and the free Syrian army. These circles have revealed confidential information that a senior official in the Islamic group visited Damascus days ago, and held a series of meetings with senior Syrian officials there. According to the same diplomatic sources, this indicates that the cards of the Syrian armed jihadist forces in northern Lebanese could witness an unexpected reshuffling. In both cases, the possible scenarios on the Lebanese-Syrian border seem bleak. Lebanese officials openly talk about the presence of approximately one million displaced Syrians in Lebanese, which make up about a quarter of its population. They represent a human tragedy, and a social, economic and security burden whose implications are unpredictable.
 

Jean Aziz is a contributing writer for Al-Monitor’s Lebanese Pulse. He is a columnist at Al-Akhbar, a Lebanese newspaper, and the host of a weekly political talk show on OTV, a Lebanese TV station.

 

 

SYRIAN DAILY: JORDAN, LEBANON PLAYING WITH 'FIRE'

Daily Star, March 17, 2013

 

Lebanon and Jordan are playing with fire by allowing jihadists and weapons to pass across their borders into Syria, the Syrian government daily Al-Thawra warned on Sunday. "The fire of terrorism will consume not only Syria, but could spread to Lebanon and Jordan, particularly if these two countries intervene in the situation in Syria, ignoring the flow of armed men and weapons from their territory, or by participating directly in the conspiracy against Syria," the newspaper said.  "Jordan has opened its borders in recent days (allowing) passage of jihadists… whereas before it was satisfied with just facilitating the movement of elements trained on its territory by US intelligence," it added. "As for Lebanon, it is closing its eyes to the trafficking of weapons to Syria, led by elements that are not part of the government."

 

On Friday, a security source in Damascus criticized Jordan, saying the kingdom has "opened its borders and is allowing to cross over (into Syria) jihadists and Croatian weapons bought by Saudi Arabia. This can only intensify the conflict and cause more casualties," the source told AFP in Beirut on condition of anonymity.

 

"There's been a change of attitude because up until now, Jordan had imposed strict controls on its border to prevent the passage of terrorists and weapons," said the source, blaming "pressure by countries that are hostile to Syria" for the change.

 

And on Thursday, Syria's foreign ministry warned that it would retaliate if Lebanon continued to allow "armed terrorist gangs" to infiltrate. "Syrian forces are showing restraint by not striking these gangs inside Lebanese territory to prevent them crossing into Syria, but this will not go on indefinitely," it said in a message to its Lebanese counterpart.

 

Beirut has officially pledged neutrality in the violence engulfing its neighbour, but has found itself increasingly embroiled in the civil war. Lebanon's opposition backs the revolt, which entered its third year on Friday, while Hezbollah and its allies stand by the Syrian regime. Violence has already spilled over into Lebanon on several occasions, causing fatalities, and on Thursday the UN Security Council expressed "grave concern" about cross-border attacks.

 

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Ties With Netanyahu Very Strong, Says Abdullah: Jerusalem Post, Mar. 19, 2013Jordanian King Abdullah in a series of exclusive interviews with American magazine The Atlantic said that his relationship with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is "very strong," and that their discussions "have really improved."

 

Monarch in the Middle: Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic, Mar. 18, 2013As the Arab Spring swirls around him, can King Abdullah II, the most pro-American Arab leader in the Middle East, liberalize Jordan and modernize its economy, without losing his kingdom to Islamic fundamentalists? The stressful life of a king amidst chaos.

 

Syrian Warplanes Strike Lebanese TerritoryPatrick J. McDonnell , Los Angeles Times, Mar. 18, 2013Syrian warplanes bombed an area of Lebanon near the Bekaa Valley town of Arsal along the border with Syria on Monday. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, "This constitutes a significant escalation in the violations of Lebanese sovereignty that the Syrian regime has been guilty of."

 

38 Hizbullah Fighters Killed in Syria Buried Secretly in Lebanon: Ya Libnan, Mar. 18, 2013Al-Joumhouria quoted Free Syrian Army media head Fahed al-Masri as saying that the bodies of 38 Hizbullah fighters who were killed inside Syrian have been sent to Lebanon to be buried secretly. "The corpses were transferred secretly to Lebanon and arrangements for the burial were being made after buying the silence of the deceased's relatives," the newspaper reported.
 

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Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing is available by e-mail.
Please urge colleagues, friends, and family to visit our website for more information on our ISRANET series.
To join our distribution list, or to unsubscribe, visit us at http://www.isranet.org/.

The ISRANET Daily Briefing is a service of CIJR. We hope that you find it useful and that you will support it and our pro-Israel educational work by forwarding a minimum $90.00 tax-deductible contribution [please send a cheque or VISA/MasterCard information to CIJR (see cover page for address)]. All donations include a membership-subscription to our respected quarterly ISRAFAX print magazine, which will be mailed to your home.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

Ber Lazarus, Publications Editor, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org

EGYPTIAN VOLCANO: AS MORSI STUMBLES, ARMY RETURNS, WOMEN TERRORIZED & COPTS, ANXIOUS, ELECT NEW POPE.

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(Please Note: articles may have been shortened in the interest of space. Please click link for the complete article – Ed.)

 

 

Morsi and the General: Daniel Nisman, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 28, 2013In August 2012, it seemed as though Egypt's once-omnipotent military generals had been all but neutered. After a devastating militant attack killed dozens of troops in the Sinai Peninsula, a newly-elected President Mohammed Morsi seized the opportunity to fire Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and a number of other generals.

 

A Warning to John Kerry: Egypt Could Become the Next Iran: Nesreen Akhtarkhavari, Christian Science Monitor, Mar. 1, 2013As Secretary of State John Kerry heads to Egypt March 2 he should be wary of one concerning possibility: Under the rule of Mohammad Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt is in danger of becoming a Sunni version of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Terror in Tahrir: Diana Sayed, Egypt Independent, Mar. 2, 2013Women activists have protested all over the world against sexual violence in Egypt. The protests, which took place in front of Egyptian embassies in 20 capitals worldwide and in Cairo, sent a clear message to the Egyptian government that the international community will take a stand against sexual harassment in solidarity with the women of Egypt.

Egypt's New Coptic Pope Tawadros Faces Religious Tension, Uncertain Future: Joseph Mayton, Washington Report on Mid East Affairs, February 2013In early November, less than a week after Egypt's new Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros had taken over as the newest pontiff in the world's oldest Christian sect, he lashed out on television, accusing the ultra-conservative Salafists of "destroying" the future of the country. 

On Topic Links

 

 

Muslims Attacking Copts in Egypt Over False Rumor: Salma Shukrallah, Al Ahram,  Mar. 2, 2013

Will Violence Erupt in Egypt?: Mike Giglio, The Daily Beast, Mar 1, 2013

Will Egypt’s Democrats Get Serious?: Amir Taheri, New York Post, Feb. 27, 2013

The Egyptian Army is Making a Comeback: Zvi Mazel, Real Clear World, Feb. 25, 2013

 

 

 

MORSI AND THE GENERAL

Daniel Nisman

Wall Street Journal, Feb. 28, 2013

 

In August 2012, it seemed as though Egypt's once-omnipotent military generals had been all but neutered. After a devastating militant attack killed dozens of troops in the Sinai Peninsula, a newly-elected President Mohammed Morsi seized the opportunity to fire Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and a number of other generals. President Morsi was empowered by popular anger following 17 months of incompetent military rule over post-revolution Egypt. But now, six months later, the generals of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) have returned to challenge an increasingly loathed President Morsi—quite possibly laying the groundwork to bring Egypt back under military rule.

 

General Abdel Fattah El Sissi, whom Mr. Morsi chose to replace Field Marshal Tantawi, was originally presumed to be sympathetic to Egypt's popularly elected Islamist leadership. Perhaps it was the notable opposition to U.S. foreign policy exhibited in his past writing, or the traditional Muslim headscarf worn by his wife. To suggest however, that a Brotherhood-sympathizer could have risen to the rank of general under Hosni Mubarak is to ignore the former dictator's unrelenting, decades-long rivalry with political Islam. Gen. Sissi's first move after being appointed was to make a tactical retreat, pulling the military back from the political sphere and restoring the prestige it lost during Egypt's tumultuous transition period. From there, Gen. Sissi has had a comfortable vantage point from which to observe the decline of the headstrong Muslim Brotherhood.

 

It didn't take long for the show to start. Last November, President Morsi plunged the country into violence after issuing a decree to help push an Islamist-backed draft constitution to referendum. During that month-long period of unrest, the fissure between Gen. Sissi's military and the Brotherhood had already begun to reopen. Amid ongoing military attacks against Islamist compounds across the country, President Morsi and his cohorts fumed at the military's refusal to send troops to protect their installations. The Brotherhood's leadership reportedly pressured President Morsi to reject a SCAF offer to mediate dialogue with the political opposition….

 

In January came more civil unrest, ignited by the anniversary of the 2011 uprising, particularly violent in Cairo. By then, relations between the Brotherhood and the military had gone from bad to worse. The Suez Canal region also saw particularly ugly clashes after a court issued death sentences against dozens of Port Said residents for their involvement in a deadly soccer riot last year. The Interior Ministry's failure to restore order to the country's most strategic region forced a hesitant President Morsi to make a request from the military to impose martial law.

 

Ironically, this handed Gen. Sissi a perfect opportunity to side with the people of the Suez Canal cities against President Morsi. Gen. Sissi agreed to deploy to the Canal, but ordered his troops to protect the waterway itself rather than submit to President Morsi's bidding by cracking down on a restive populace. The ensuing scenes of Port Said residents marching in the streets, side-by-side with military troops in defiance of President's Morsi's curfew, bore semblance to those of the 2011 uprising, when military officers were received in Tahrir Square by cheering revolutionaries. Those images emanating from Port Said soon led to whispers of support for a military coup in Cairo.

 

In the Sinai meanwhile, Gen. Sissi has gone ahead and strengthened his position with Washington at President Morsi's expense. The military's unprecedented crackdown on smuggling to the Gaza Strip most recently culminated in a campaign to destroy hundreds of tunnels on the Rafah border by flooding them with water. The military has made sure to publicize each of their seizures in a direct affront to President Morsi's pledges of support for Gaza's ruling Hamas regime.

 

Gen. Sissi has continued to publicly deny any intentions to seize power unless he is "called upon by the people" to do so—a hazy notion which has sparked fears of a coup within the Brotherhood leadership. On Feb. 20, the Egyptian press reported that the SCAF had been holding meetings behind closed doors in the president's absence on matters relating to security and stability. Since then, Egyptian media has been awash with rumours over a possible scheme by the president to sack Gen. Sissi as he did Field Marshal Tantawi…

 

Currently, neither President Morsi nor Gen. Sissi looks to be in a position to overpower the other. But the Machiavellian discipline displayed by the general may just be enough to outlast the Islamist politician. Egypt's secular opposition remains in disarray, unable to prove its worth as a viable alternative to President Morsi's floundering leadership. That leaves Gen. Sissi's increasingly trusted military as the only entity with the influence and organization needed to bring Egypt back from the brink of collapse.

 

Mr. Nisman is the Middle East and North Africa section intelligence director at Max Security Solutions, a geopolitical risk consulting firm.

 

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A WARNING TO JOHN KERRY:
EGYPT COULD BECOME THE NEXT IRAN

Nesreen Akhtarkhavari

Christian Science Monitor, Mar. 1, 2013

 

As Secretary of State John Kerry heads to Egypt March 2 he should be wary of one concerning possibility: Under the rule of Mohammad Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt is in danger of becoming a Sunni version of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Opposition leaders’ refusal to meet with Mr. Kerry over what they perceive to be as unprincipled US support for Mr. Morsi should serve as a wake-up call and warning to Washington.

 

Morsi’s first step after winning the June 2012 presidential election was to create an alliance with other Islamic groups, and sideline seculars and liberals who could derail the establishment of a religious state. Next, he gave himself immunity from legal prosecution and managed to quickly hoard more power than deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak ever dreamed of having. After a number of manoeuvres, Morsi pushed forward a constitution drafted mostly by Brotherhood members and their allies, ignoring the protests of secular opponents, Christians, women, and liberals against the discriminatory language and key articles placed in the new constitution.

 

The new constitution sets the legal ground for creating what could become an Islamic state. It restricts the role of the judicial and legislative branches and stipulates that laws and their interpretations are subject to Islamic jurisprudence. It further gives legal-oversight power on “matters related to the Islamic sharia” to Al-Azhar University, the oldest and highest Sunni religious institution in Egypt.

 

The new constitution and its wide implications for personal freedom and social justice should concern the international community. It explicitly recognizes only the three Abrahamic religions (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism), and leaves other minorities, such as those of the Baha’i faith, without meaningful constitutional protection. Strict adherence to the concept of apostasy prevents Muslims from changing their religion, a crime punishable by death. Blasphemy laws restrict freedom of expression, especially on religious matters, with retributions as severe as death for comments related to the prophet Mohammed or the Koran.

 

According to Sunni jurisprudence, women are subject to male guardianship under which their personal freedoms, social life, and career choices are severely restricted. This restriction is not banned under Egypt’s new constitution. And because the new constitution fails to set a minimum age for marriage and does not criminalize sexual trafficking of minors, children, especially girls, could be forced into marriages at the age of nine with the approval of their male guardians.

 

During the last three decades, Iran, under the control of the Islamic Shiite clergy, was transformed into a religious state with endless human rights violations. In most cases, the world stood by watching. Egypt is learning from the Iranian experience. If the political conditions in Egypt remain the same, Egypt could soon follow Iran’s footsteps…..

 

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Terror in Tahrir

Diana Sayed

Egypt Independent, Mar. 2, 2013

 

Women activists have protested all over the world against sexual violence in Egypt. The protests, which took place in front of Egyptian embassies in 20 capitals worldwide and in Cairo, sent a clear message to the Egyptian government that the international community will take a stand against sexual harassment in solidarity with the women of Egypt.

 

In the midst of all the chaos of the country’s politics, there seems to be one constant: Women are being pushed, figuratively and, in many cases, literally, out of the public sphere. Despite being at the forefront of the revolution that occurred two years ago, women continue to face much the same kind of systematic targeting they faced under the Hosni Mubarak regime.

 

For example, Cairo’s Tahrir Square, seen as the heart of the protest movement, has become a dangerous place for women. On 25 January 2013, the second anniversary of the Egyptian uprising, numerous women reported being sexually assaulted, including many who were raped. Nazra for Feminist Studies, an Egyptian NGO, documented one protester’s story about what happened to her at Tahrir when she was caught in a crowd of demonstrators: “I did not understand anything at that moment … I did not comprehend what was happening … who are those people?”

 

“All that I knew was that there were hundreds of hands stripping me of my clothes and brutally violating my body. There is no way out, for everyone is saying that they are protecting and saving me, but all I felt from the circles close to me, sticking to my body, was the finger-rape of my body, from the front and back; someone was even trying to kiss me … I was completely naked,” she recounted. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned the attacks….

 

In response to such violent attacks, Nazra and other leading Egyptian NGOs, including the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, HarassMap and Al-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, have formed Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment, often abbreviated as OpAntiSH. The coalition has been a prominent critic of revolutionary groups and political parties that have failed to combat attacks on female protesters.

 

Though it is not certain who is behind the frequent attacks, OpAntiSH suggests they are not random. “We believe they must be organized, because they happen most of the time in the exact same spots in Tahrir Square and they use the same methodologies,” the coalition said, adding that testimonies collected were similar to accounts of 2005 attacks thought to have been instigated by secret police. Nazra adds, “We will not be frightened; we will not hide in our homes. Sexual harassment is a social disease that has been rampant for years, used by the regime to intimidate girls and women.”

 

This is not a new problem in Egypt, but it is one that grows more disturbing with each brutal attack. According to a 2008 report by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights, 83 percent of Egyptian women had experienced some form of sexual harassment. The problem is exacerbated by a failure to prosecute the perpetrators.  One activist recently observed, “There is no accountability for these people. They know that they can get away with it again and again.”

 

The Egyptian Railways Authority announced last week that it would enforce women’s-only train cars on several popular routes to and from Cairo in a move to try and curtail the rampant sexual harassment. However, it’s a move that some activists say addresses the symptoms and not the cause of the attacks. The issue frequently happens in the shadows of more well-documented news events surrounding Egypt’s journey toward democracy. It is clear that Egypt is a nation in desperate need of stability that is safeguarded by institutions established to guarantee human rights.

 

It’s not easy bringing in democracy after generations of dictatorship or to change mindsets that have been entrenched for so long. But if the new Egypt is to emerge stronger and better than the one of the past, women must be permitted to safely participate in political dialogue. They must be able to walk down the street or into areas of protest safe from fear of attack.  If the revolution of Tahrir Square is to take hold permanently, all Egyptians — men and women, alike — must be able to participate to ensure that every Egyptian lives with dignity and enjoys democracy.

 

Diana Sayed is Human Rights First’s Pennoyer fellow and an advocate and researcher in the Human Rights Defenders Program.

 

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EGYPT'S NEW COPTIC POPE TAWADROS

 

FACES RELIGIOUS TENSION, UNCERTAIN FUTURE

Joseph Mayton

Washington Report on Mid East Affairs, February 2013

 

In early November, less than a week after Egypt's new Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros had taken over as the newest pontiff in the world's oldest Christian sect, he lashed out on television, accusing the ultra-conservative Salafists of "destroying" the future of the country. His comments are unlikely to go over well with a majority of Egyptians, who have turned even more toward their Islamic faith since the January 2011 uprising that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak from power.

 

Nevertheless, Pope Tawadros, like the Coptic community, is forging ahead, asserting their identity despite fears of a conservative backlash that has already threatened Egypt's social fabric. The new pope's ascension comes at a time when relations between Muslim and Christian Egyptians are strained at best. Reports of girls having their hair cut off on public transportation by Salafist (Islamic puritan) women in niqab, the full-face-covering veil popular among the ultra-conservatives, or of a teacher cutting students' hair for failing to cover their heads with a hijab are just the tip of the iceberg.

 

In an early November incident, a group of Salafists occupied a plot of land on the outskirts of Cairo owned by the Coptic Christian Church and attempted to turn it into a makeshift mosque. It took police a full day to arrive. Luckily for residents, violence and clashes did not break out, but it would not have been the first time Christians and Muslims have battled.

 

The average Egyptian Christian is uncertain which way the church will go under Pope Tawadros. As George Zaki, a young man studying to become a Coptic priest, says, right now "it is really up in the air" in which direction the church will head. Zaki wants a strong leader who is willing to speak his mind, but doesn't feel that immediately lashing out at the Salafists is a good move. "Many of us are definitely fearful of the Salafists, even my Muslim friends," he explains, "because we all fought and protested for a new Egypt that wouldn't see religion be part of the political make-up."

 

Prior to Pope Tawadros' appointment on Nov. 4, the Muslim Brotherhood began talking about working with the new pope, and those who cover religious issues on the ground say they support the status quo. "What the Coptic community doesn't need is someone who will anger the Islamists in government right now," says Yussif Qandeel, a reporter at an Egyptian Arabic daily who regularly covers Christian issues. Judging by his conversations with members of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP)—the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing—Qandeel says "they want to see someone be pope who they can work with, which means continuing the [late Pope] Shenouda tradition." Not everyone in the Coptic community may agree, however. Although Pope Shenouda, who died on March 17, was extremely popular, many Copts considered him weak in standing up for the community's rights and ability to function in Egyptian society.

 

Still, overall the Christian community is inclined to support the new pope, who already has demonstrated his ability to combine the strengths of the Shenouda era with distancing himself from what many perceived to be Shenouda's willingness to acquiesce to the Mubarak regime. Certainly it will be difficult to replace a man who presided over the Coptic community for more than four decades, as Shenouda did. Despite the growing internal struggle within the church, however, most are optimistic, including Zaki, who believes the future will find the Coptic Church stronger than ever.

 

"We are a strong people, a strong group of Christians and we have been through a lot in the past years," he explains, "so I think the future of the Church will not be determined by one choice, but by the strength of our own community and by our people as Egyptians." Fears of anti-Christian sentiment received a reprieve earlier this year when the country's leading Islamic institute, al-Azhar, called for a Bill of Rights to be adopted before a constitution is drafted. The idea, simply, would be to establish certain "inalienable" rights for all Egyptians, including freedom of speech, assembly and, most importantly, freedom of religion. The proposed document received massive popular support from activists, liberals, Islamists, intellectuals and Christians alike. Nevertheless, the implementation of these "inalienable" rights remains to be seen.

 

In the process of drafting a new constitution, the Constituent Assembly was consumed with the question of shariah, or Islamic law, leaving many Egyptians wondering what happened to the proposed Bill of Rights.

 

For its part, the Coptic Church has historically avoided advocating separation of church and state, despite the inclination of the greater Coptic community, which has long demanded that the government end its preferential treatment of Muslim Egyptians. This was evident a few years back, when a Coptic woman had to fight numerous court battles in order to retain custody of her two children, who grew up Coptic but whom the government reclassified as Muslims after their father converted to Islam. Although its views on religion in Egypt are becoming more liberal, the Coptic Church has long preferred a separate set of laws for Egypt's Muslim and Christian communities to a unifying concept of freedom of religion.

 

While the Coptic community is hopeful about the future of Egypt and the social and political roles it will play, they must have reservations about how far the Christian community can realistically advance. Not only do Coptic Egyptians have limited mobility and limited parliamentary representation, but the country's turn toward conservatism may well be a major impediment to creating a robust civil society that treats Coptic Christians with equal weight. The new constitution undoubtedly will provide the first look at just how much unity and freedom its citizens, Muslim and Coptic alike, will enjoy in the new Egypt.

 

Joseph Mayton is a free-lance journalist based in Cairo.

 

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Muslims Attacking Copts in Egypt Over False Rumor: Salma Shukrallah, Al Ahram,  Mar. 2, 2013A rumour has spread in the Upper Egyptian city of Kom Ombo that a divorced Muslim woman in her mid-30s was kidnapped by the Coptic Church and converted to Christianity. In an area divided by tribal and religious allegiances, the story has fuelled violence against the area's Christian minority.

 

Will Violence Erupt in Egypt?: Mike Giglio, The Daily Beast, Mar 1, 2013On the night of December 7, Ahmed Abdel Hamid sensed violence coming. A 35-year-old Salafi activist with a rugged black beard and a pro wrestler’s build, he and a few thousand of his hardline religious comrades had massed outside the futuristic compound in western Cairo known as “media city,” the heart of Egypt’s expanding TV-news universe. They waited for word from the capital’s east.

 

Will Egypt’s democrats get serious?: Amir Taheri, New York Post, Feb. 27, 2013Two years ago, the popular narrative on Egypt was all about a nation getting rid of a despot and heading for a golden future. Today, we have a litany of woes depicting Egypt as a wayward ship in a stormy sea. But what if both narratives miss the point?

 

The Egyptian Army is Making a Comeback: Zvi Mazel, Real Clear World, Feb. 25, 2013Never has Egypt been so close to civil war and today it seems that only the army can prevent the worst from happening. The Muslim Brothers and the opposition are both doing their utmost to bring the army to their side, with little success so far: Field Marshal Abd el-Fattah El-Sisi, the defense minister, never loses an opportunity to state that the army is taking no part in the political struggle and devotes its energy to protecting the country – while adding that it will not let it plunge into chaos.

 

 

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AS “ISLAMIC SPRING” REINFORCES POWER-DRUNK HAMAS, ISRAEL’S HOSPITALS HEAL GAZAN, P.A. CHILDREN

Download Today's Isranet Daily Briefing.pdf 

 

Contents:                          

 

The Long-Term Implications of the Israel-Hamas Clash: Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Nov. 21, 2012 —This clash did not begin with rocket fire but with ramped-up terror activity on the Israel-Gaza border, including the detonation of an explosive-filled tunnel that had been dug into Israeli territory and the firing of an anti-tank missile at an IDF jeep on a border patrol.

 

The Children Given Life In The Midst Of War: Nicky Blackburn, Israel 21C, Nov. 20, 2012— Mohamed is from Betlahia in Gaza, and his operation is taking place in Israel in the midst of a bitter and dangerous conflict that has seen both sides bombing each other continually for seven days.

 

Hiding Jewish Origins is Futile and Pathetic: Rabbi Dov Marmur, Canadian Jewish News, Nov. 15, 2012—The formal notice of the passing of  Walter Carsen, the renowned Canadian patron of the arts who died last month shortly after his 100th birthday, stated that he was “of German origin.”…In fact, he was Jewish, as are his two children, which they only found out from their mother when they were in their teens.

 

On Topic Links

 

New Jewish Museum to Open Next Year in Warsaw: Dr. Catherine Chatterley, Winnipeg Jewish Review, Oct. 25, 2012

Why Was There War In Gaza?: Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, Nov. 22, 2012

The Truth About Gaza: Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, Nov. 19, 2012

 

 

THE LONG-TERM IMPLICATIONS OF THE ISRAEL-HAMAS CLASH

Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi,

Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, November 21, 2012

 

The current clash between Israel and Hamas has been continuing in a mode of static warfare, marked by ongoing missile fire at Israeli communities from Gaza and Israeli aerial attacks on terror targets….This clash did not begin with rocket fire but with ramped-up terror activity on the Israel-Gaza border, including the detonation of an explosive-filled tunnel that had been dug into Israeli territory and the firing of an anti-tank missile at an IDF jeep on a border patrol.

 

These attacks, part of a long series of shooting and explosive-charge incidents along the border, showed how Hamas’ strategy had changed over the past two years. In Hamas’ view, the Arab Spring, which has become an Islamic Spring in the Middle East, has altered the balance of power between the Arab world and Israel.

 

Egypt, in the past a close U.S. ally and supporter of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah led by Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), is now Islamist and led by the Muslim Brotherhood movement, the parent-movement of Hamas. Egypt’s new Islamist government regards Hamas as a strategic partner in the struggle against Israel. It musters all its political power to help Hamas in the international arena, including harnessing the Arab League to this mission. Indeed, it is through Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood regime that Hamas now enjoys the possibility of dialogue with the United States and Europe.

 

Hamas has also drawn great encouragement from its political achievements. Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh was received as a head of state in visits to the Arab Spring countries and Iran, and the emir of Qatar made the first state visit to Gaza and bestowed Arab legitimacy on Hamas’ rule.

 

The power-drunk mood is evident in the statements of senior Hamas officials over the past two years. In the past, Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin predicted Israel’s destruction by the end of the third decade of this century, and other senior Hamas figures said the next generation would be the one to witness the liberation of Palestine. Today, though, the tune has totally changed. Liberating Palestine “from the river to the sea” is portrayed as a fully realistic goal for the present generation thanks to the Islamic Spring, which has redrawn the map of the Middle East, and in light of the decisive role of the jihad-ready Muslim masses in giving the region its character.

 

Conversely, Hamas views Israel as floundering in growing strategic distress as Turkey and Egypt become major, bitter enemies within the Arab world’s new vision of its struggle. The Hamas leadership sees Israel’s political and military options, including the exercise of its right to self-defense, as increasingly limited.

 

In the context of the new balance of power, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal asserted that Israel can neither swallow Gaza nor eject it; that is, it has no real way of coping with the challenge Hamas poses to its security and, in the long term, existence. It was this that led Hamas to adopt a new, bolder and provocative policy that seeks to substantially and systematically erode the “rules of the game” that prevailed in the informal ceasefire understandings between Israel and Hamas, whereby the Palestinian armed struggle was kept on a low flame.

 

Although, in hindsight, Hamas made a tactical error regarding Israeli policy, its basic approach has not changed: it views each round of armed conflict with Israel as a stage in a long-term war of attrition…At the same time, Hamas sees these armed clashes as a means of inflaming the West Bank, thereby opening a further front against Israel and wresting rule from the Palestinian Authority….

 

Despite the military blows it has suffered, Hamas is coming out stronger from this round of conflict with Israel. Neither Egypt nor Turkey, nor any of the Arab League countries, has condemned Hamas’ rocket fire on Israeli communities, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, as a war crime. On the contrary, Hamas enjoys wall-to-wall backing in the Arab world, and the current crisis has highlighted Egypt as Hamas’ new patron since the closing of the group’s offices in Damascus. The financial aid that will flow into Gaza will enable Hamas to rebuild and even further develop its military infrastructure for the next round.

 

“Blockaded” Gaza is not blockaded at all. Its border with Egypt is open, for all intents and purposes. Hundreds of thousands of people pass through it, along with commodities at a rate of millions of dollars annually, together with enormous quantities of weapons, as the latest clash has made evident. This de facto open border with Egypt gives Hamas an important advantage in rehabilitating its capabilities and developing its military infrastructure.

 

The new Middle East has not brought tidings of democracy with Western values of human rights. Instead democracy has provided a one-time means for the Muslim Brotherhood and other movements to take the reins of power. The real aim is to institute shari’a law in stages – in the view of the worldwide Muslim Brotherhood movement, the only real form that democratic values can take….

 

Although Hamas has tried to conceal Iran’s role in building the military infrastructure in Gaza, that role has been confirmed and officially acknowledged by Islamic Jihad. Fajr-5 missiles and other weapons have been ferried from Iran and Hizbullah to Hamas and the Palestinian terror organizations, and Iran has given much assistance in training the Palestinian forces for battle.

 

Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood are prepared to cooperate with Iran even though it is actively supporting the Assad regime in Syria – which, over the past two years, has been committing war crimes against the Sunni population that reach the level of crimes against humanity and genocide.

 

The Iranian role reveals more than anything else the supreme common denominator between radical Shiite Islam and radical Sunni Islam. The two sides are able to overcome their profound differences and cooperate on the basis of a shared sphere of interests: the struggle against Israel, the continuation of the revolutions of the Islamic Spring, and the ejection of Western influence from the region.

 

Gaza’s transformation into a terror entity, with an extensive military infrastructure and advanced weaponry, removes the basis for any claim that territory is no longer important in the missile era, and demonstrates the vital need for continued Israeli control of key areas of the West Bank that, under any scenario, would give it even minimally defensible borders. A withdrawal to the 1967 lines would likely result in Israel facing yet another military and terrorist front that could, by linking up with regional actors such as Iran, Egypt, and Hizbullah, threaten Israel’s continued existence….

 

Once again, radical leftist organizations have come out in support of Hamas. In Toronto, for example, Canadian leftist activists have upheld Hamas’ “right of resistance” as evidenced in the current hostilities, ignoring the fact that international human rights organizations define such tactics as war crimes. The unwritten alliance between the radical left and Hamas rests on common demands that the West change its policy in the Middle East, stop supporting “illegitimate” Israel, and instead opt for cooperation with the rising Islamic forces.

 

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THE CHILDREN GIVEN LIFE IN THE MIDST OF WAR

Nicky Blackburn,

Israel21C, November 20, 2012

 

Mohamed Ashgar is bored. The 11-year-old, who suffers from rheumatic heart disease, has been at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon for a week waiting for surgery, but it was delayed because of poor blood test results. Now he just wants to have the operation and get back home quickly to his parents and his four brothers and sisters. His dream when he is finally well again – to go back to school. Ill health has kept him out of class for over a year already.

 

Sitting on the end of his bed in hospital pajamas, Mohamed has a cheeky face and a sweet, wide grin. He tells ISRAEL21c that he’d like to be prime minister when he grows up – maybe. It’s all so completely normal, except for one thing: Mohamed is from Betlahia in Gaza, and his operation is taking place in Israel in the midst of a bitter and dangerous conflict that has seen both sides bombing each other continually for seven days.

 

On Sunday, Mohamed and his grandfather Dahud, 58, who accompanied him into Israel, were in the hospital when a siren went off. They and the other children on the ward – many of them crying and scared — were hurried to the shelter, a room at the end of the corridor that doubles as a nurses’ cupboard with boxes of stationery and spare pajamas on the shelves.

 

The missile from Gaza was intercepted by the Iron Dome, but fragments of it fell a few meters from the hospital, causing a car to burst into flames. Another part of the shell was later found inside the hospital.

 

Mohamed is in Israel thanks to the Israeli charity Save a Child’s Heart (SACH), a non-profit organization based at Wolfson that provides children from developing countries, often those ravaged by war, with heart surgery and follow-up care.

 

He’s not the only child at the clinic from Gaza right now. There are also two baby girls – Remas, and Leen, who has Down syndrome — and a six-year-old boy, Salah, who arrived with his mother on Sunday during the siren. In the midst of some of the fiercest fighting, they managed to come by car from Khan Yunis to Gaza City, and then by ambulance to the Erez crossing, where they were met by Israelis and brought to Wolfson.

 

There are Palestinians from the West Bank too, including six-month-old Losen, who was in surgery when the sirens went off. Her father, Ahmad Faygan, 30, a municipality worker from Tul Karem, said the only thing he could think about as the sirens blared was whether the surgeons would abandon his daughter to take to the shelters. They didn’t. There are five Iraqi children, and 18 others from Kosovo, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zanzibar – all mixed in together.

 

SACH is the largest program of its kind in the world. Aside from bringing children to Israel for lifesaving surgery, the organization trains physicians, goes on missions abroad to operate on kids, and has a weekly clinic on Tuesdays for children in the West Bank and Gaza. The 70 to 80 medical staff involved in the program all work voluntarily. All medical costs for most of the patients are covered by SACH.

 

The organization was conceived by US immigrant Dr. Amram Cohen, and founded in 1995 by Cohen and Dr. Sion Houri, now head of the pediatric intensive care unit at Wolfson. It began with Ethiopian children and broadened to include children from 44 countries. Cohen died in 2001 in a climbing accident on Mount Kilimanjaro.

 

Some 3,000 children have had surgery at Wolfson through SACH, of which about half are Palestinian, and 70 percent of these from Gaza. SACH also sends Israeli doctors to train cardiologists and treat patients in the developing world. In addition, SACH personnel at Wolfson train medical practitioners from developing countries — so far, nearly 80 doctors, including about 20 Palestinians – and work intensively with doctors in Tanzania and Ethiopia….

 

Does being in a conflict with Gaza make a difference to the staff? “From outside it might look strange, but here it’s routine,” says Houri, as he walks the wards of the pediatric department greeting patients, parents and nursing staff in a mix of Hebrew, Arabic and English. “It’s Middle East logic: At the same time we are bombing each other, a mother comes with her son from Gaza for surgery. Missiles are falling, but we carry on as usual. For us it’s normal to be so abnormal….

\

For the parents and children from Gaza right now, it’s no doubt a surreal experience. Their leadership is at war with Israel, militants are firing hundreds of missiles at Israeli cities and towns, and their own families are sheltering from Israeli retaliation. But here in Israel they are treated warmly and compassionately, and – most important of all – their children are being given vital surgery. “We are very glad to be here for the operation, but we really feel for our family back home,” says Dahud. “We aren’t frightened for ourselves; we’re frightened for them in Gaza. We feel more protected here.”

 

“We have family in Gaza and we’re very much afraid of what’s happening there, but we aren’t nervous about being here in Israel,” says 26-year-old Anfam Faygan, mother of Losen. “We have some anxieties about being hit by a missile, but we don’t feel any different from the other parents in the hospital. They treat our daughter as they would their own.” It’s her daughter’s second operation at Wolfson. Her first was at the age of 10 days. Her final corrective surgery was on Sunday. “The parents and children feel very safe in Israel,” remarks Houri, whose son is now serving in the Israel Defense Forces. “You can see they feel good, by their smiles.”

 

He remembers an incident some years ago when two Israeli soldiers in Ramallah were lynched by a mob of Palestinians. At the same time a Palestinian mother was at Wolfson with her child. “She was sitting outside the ward and she was completely white,” says Houri. “I had to calm her down. Here, now, people don’t seem to be in much anxiety. Their main concern is that people at home might get hurt, not that they are here amongst Israelis.”

 

Does all this work with Gaza have an impact on the situation? “Judging by the amount of missiles that have fallen on Israel, it doesn’t seem to,” says Houri ruefully. “We just have to do what we can. People know the reality. It’s not just one child from Gaza that we’ve operated on, it’s not something that can be hidden away. We’ve operated on hundreds of children. We’ve had all kinds of reactions over the years. At Wolfson, Palestinian and Israeli mothers sit down and talk to each other for the first time.”…

 

In the meantime, Mohamed is still anxiously waiting for his turn. If his blood tests improve, the operation should go ahead next week. His grandfather, who worked for 40 years in Israel, hopes that one day the situation between Gaza and Israel will improve.

 

“I used to travel all over the country for work and then go home afterwards,” he says passionately. “I’m hoping that these days will come again.”

 

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HIDING JEWISH ORIGINS IS FUTILE AND PATHETIC

Rabbi Dov Marmur

Canadian Jewish News, November 15, 2012

 

The formal notice of the passing of  Walter Carsen, the renowned Canadian patron of the arts who died last month shortly after his 100th birthday, stated that he was “of German origin.” He’s said to have described himself as “European.” In fact, he was Jewish, as are his two children, which they only found out from their mother when they were in their teens. Carsen’s parents were murdered in Auschwitz. For much of his life, he was estranged from his brother who had escaped to South America, perhaps because the latter had affirmed his Jewishness.

 

In a lengthy obituary by Paula Citron in the Globe and Mail on Oct. 13, [2012], we read that Carsen was born in Cologne into a family of assimilated Jews, fled to England to escape the Nazis and was deported to Canada as “an enemy alien” together with other Jews, many of whom came to play and important role in this country.

 

But when another deportee, Eric Koch, was preparing his book about the deportation, Carsen refused to be interviewed. Citron remarks, echoing a statement by Carsen’s daughter, that “his inability to come to terms with the Holocaust continued throughout his life.”

 

Like for so many assimilated Jews, “kultur” seems to have become for Carsen a substitute for religion. The universal nature of the arts may have appealed to him as a tool in his delusion that patronage would submerge his Jewish identity. Even his real surname, in the words of the obituary, “became part of his lost history.”

 

The story of Walter Carsen brings to mind countless others, among them Robert Maxwell, the British politician and media baron. He was born in what later became Czechoslovakia into a Yiddish-speaking family.  Virtually all of its members perished in the Shoah.  For a long time, he tried to conceal his Jewish origins and was even said to read the Lesson in the Anglican Church close to his stately home.

 

Encouraged by his non-Jewish wife and probably provoked by antisemitic slurs as his business empire began to unravel, he came to acknowledge his roots by promoting Holocaust education and supporting Israel. He was buried on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. One of the eulogies was delivered by then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, in which he hinted at Maxwell’s services to Israeli intelligence….

 

Unlike Carsen, who by all accounts was a very successful and highly respected businessman, Maxwell turned out to have stolen countless millions from his company. This and his alleged involvement with Israeli intelligence gave rise to many speculations about how he died.

 

In her memoir,  A Mind of My Own,  his wife, Elizabeth, explores the complexity of her husband’s character and his burning desire for acceptance. She seeks to fathom what it does for a person’s identity when it’s coupled with an insatiable urge for wealth and recognition, and manifest in the mistaken – in Maxwell’s case – the belief that having survived Hitler makes you invincible….

 

The late Chaim Bermant, a distinguished British-Jewi8sh journalist and author, wrote about Maxwell: “The fact that he had fought in the war and been decorated for valour by Montgomery, that he had a stately home in Oxford, was a member of Parliament and was married to a Christian woman who was every inch a lady, did not, however, make him an English gentleman.”

 

Canada is more accommodating to ambitious immigrants. The fact that Carsen had given away most of his fortune to the arts, that he was the recipient of numerous awards, including the Order of Canada, and that several institutions and funds bear his name did make him the Canadian equivalent to a British gentleman.

 

But it’s tragic that in the process he should have tried to conceal his Jewishness.  Had he acknowledged his origins with pride, it’s very likely that he would have died no less honoured but very much happier. Carsen and his ilk remind us that hiding one’s Jewishness is both futile and pathetic.

 

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New Jewish Museum to Open Next Year in Warsaw: Dr. Catherine Chatterley, Winnipeg Jewish Review, Oct. 25, 2012 —The new Museum of the History of Polish Jews is scheduled to open in Warsaw in early 2013. Designed by Finnish architect Rainer Mahlamäki …the museum is built on the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto facing the famous Rappaport monument depicting the Ghetto Fighters.

 

 

Why Was There War In Gaza?: Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, Nov. 22, 2012—Why was there an Israel-Gaza war in the first place? Resistance to the occupation, say Hamas and many in the international media. What occupation? Seven years ago, in front of the world, Israel pulled out of Gaza.

 

The Truth About Gaza: Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, Nov. 19, 2012—I was wrong to support Israel's 'disengagement' from the Strip in 2005. The diplomatic and public-relations benefit Israel derives from being able to defend itself from across a "border" and without having to get into an argument about settlements isn't worth the price Israelis have had to pay in lives and terror.

 

 

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing is available by e-mail.
Please urge colleagues, friends, and family to visit our website for more information on our ISRANET series.
To join our distribution list, or to unsubscribe, visit us at http://www.isranet.org/.

The ISRANET Daily Briefing is a service of CIJR. We hope that you find it useful and that you will support it and our pro-Israel educational work by forwarding a minimum $90.00 tax-deductible contribution [please send a cheque or VISA/MasterCard information to CIJR (see cover page for address)]. All donations include a membership-subscription to our respected quarterly ISRAFAX print magazine, which will be mailed to your home.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

Ber Lazarus, Publications Editor, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org

HISTORY’S MOVED ON: ARAB WOUNDS SELF-INFLICTED, WHILE IRAN’S BOMB, NOT GAZA, IS ISRAEL’S PROBLEM

Contents:                             Download Today's Isranet Daily Briefing.pdf 

 

 

In the Shoes of an Israeli : Charles Bybelezer, Front Page Magazine, Nov. 22, 2012 —It is an abstract exercise to envision, however inadequately, but I have often wondered: what would it be like to live amid a constant barrage of rockets, dashing for shelter with every renewed blast of the siren?

It’s about Tehran, not Gaza: Mike Evans, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 21, 2012—As missiles supplied to Iran’s proxy Hamas fly over the nation of Israel another source for concern hovers at the back of the minds of Israel’s leaders: Iran’s nuclear program.

 

Will the Arab Spring Deliver for Hamas?: Fouad Ajami, Wall Street Journal, Nov. 20, 2012—Mr. Morsi didn't rise to power to carry the burden of the Palestinian question. Egyptians could rightly claim that they had paid their dues for Palestine. Enough was enough…

 

Arab Columnists Criticize Hamas: MEMRI, Nov. 20, 2012—Alongside the official Arab condemnations of Israel's attack on Gaza, and the popular protests against it in some of the Arab countries, there has also been criticism against Hamas. This criticism is mainly voiced in the countries of the moderate Arab camp (headed by the Gulf states, the PA and elements in Egypt), which opposes the resistance camp (headed by Iran, Syria and Hizbullah)..

On Topic Links

Israel’s Gaza Options: Prof. Frederick Krantz, Isranet, December 31, 2009

Palestinian Ambassador: Hamas Must Go: Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz, Nov.21, 2012

Human Rights Hypocrisy in Gaza: Gerald M. Steinberg, National Post, Nov 20, 21012

Hamas Violence Forcing Israel to Defend Itself: Joel Lion, The Montreal Gazette, Nov. 21, 2012

Behind The Scenes: Israel's Decision to Accept Gaza Truce: Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz, Nov.22, 2012

Israel's Pillar of Defense Achieved its Goals: Aluf Benn, Ha’aretz, Nov. 22, 2012

 

 

IN THE SHOES OF AN ISRAELI
Charles Bybelezer

Front Page Magazine, November 22, 2012
 

I often try to place myself in the skin of an Israeli southerner. It is an abstract exercise to envision, however inadequately, but I have often wondered: what would it be like to live amid a constant barrage of rockets, dashing for shelter with every renewed blast of the siren? But never did I conceive actually taking a small step in their shoes.

 

Such was the case last week, as the “Code Red” early warning rocket alarm system blared throughout Tel Aviv for the first time since the Gulf War in 1991. As I looked out my window, the tension was palpable. Nobody so much as flinched. It took 30 seconds—what seemed like a small eternity—for the enormity of the situation to sink in. As people regained their senses, panic set in, sending everyone racing for cover.  And then the explosion.
 

The whole surreal sequence lasted all of 45 seconds—less than one minute to find shelter; not a bomb shelter, mind you, as there simply is no time, but rather any enclosed space, devoid of windows of course, preferably a hallway or staircase. Fourty-five seconds. Count it out. In Israel, it can be the difference between life and death.

 

Tragically, three more Israelis fell victim to this harsh reality last week, after their apartment building in Kiryat Malachi was struck by a rocket fired by Gaza-based Palestinian terrorists, The missile was one of approximately 1000 fired towards Israel from the Strip between Wednesday and Sunday, following the launch of Operation Pillar of Defense, a military offensive which saw the Israel Air Force strike an equal number of terror targets in Gaza over the same period.

 

It is important to keep this in mind as accusations of “disproportionality” inevitably begin to be hurled from all directions at Israel. It is hogwash. The Jewish state cannot be faulted—but rather should be hailed—for investing billions of dollars to develop a technological miracle: Iron Dome. By intercepting in the last week upwards of 300 rockets destined for Israeli civilian centers, the anti-missile defense system saved countless Israeli lives. Likewise, it also saved Palestinian lives, which surely would have been lost in the event the IDF was forced to retaliate to a direct hit, say, on Tel Aviv.
 

This is in stark contrast to Hamas’ practice of concealing weaponry in residential buildings, schools, hospitals and mosques thereby guaranteeing the unnecessary loss of life despite the precision of Israeli strikes.  On this point, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s statement to the foreign press at the outset of Pillar of Defense was particularly poignant:

“Seven years ago, Israel withdrew from every square inch of Gaza. Now, Hamas took over the areas we vacated. What did it do? Rather than build a better future for the residents of Gaza, the Hamas leadership, backed by Iran, turned Gaza into a terrorist stronghold.  I’m stressing this because it’s important to understand that there is no moral symmetry; there is no moral equivalence, between Israel and the terrorist organizations in Gaza. The terrorists are committing a double war crime. They fire at Israeli civilians, and they hide behind Palestinian civilians.”

 

The fact of the matter is that Israel had no choice but to act, given that residents of the south have been living in a state of paralysis for nearly a month. The mission, after all, was initiated only after Palestinians fired over 150 rockets into southern Israel from November 9- 11; mass terror attacks which came on the heels of the more than 100 rockets fired from Gaza into the Jewish state in a span of 24 hours in late October.

 

But with restraint comes consequences, and the bitter truth is that, even with this temporary ceasefire in place, it may be too late to defuse the Gaza ticking time bomb. The geopolitical conditions in the region have changed, and Hamas’ newfound assertiveness is the direct outcome of the emergence in Egypt of its progenitor and patron, the Muslim Brotherhood….

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi made this clear by recalling Egypt’s ambassador to Israel at the onset of the “brutal assault” on Gaza. Last Friday he vowed that “Cairo will not leave Gaza on its own. Egypt today is not the Egypt of yesterday.” In a further show of solidarity, an Egyptian prime minister for the first time travelled to the Strip; the visit was, in Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh’s words, “a message to the occupation.”

 

The nature of that message was repeatedly conveyed throughout Hesham Kandil’s trip—the beginning of which was supposed to usher in a three hour ceasefire—with the launching of fifty rockets at Israel, including two at Tel Aviv. That Egypt’s new Islamist government backs Gaza’s terrorist rulers was expressly confirmed by Hamas’ armed wing, which claimed responsibility for the attack on Tel Aviv while Kandil was still in the coastal enclave….

 

The point is this: when strategic threats are permitted to fester, they inevitably intensify. In this respect, for far too long one million Israelis living in the south were left to endure inhumane conditions. The eventual outcome of inaction in the face of terror was entirely predictable: what was tolerated in Sderot became the norm in Ashdod and Ashkelon, and then in Beersheva. Now, the rockets are being fired at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, as the front lines of the Arab-Islamic war against Israel shift to the heart of the country.

 

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IT’S ABOUT TEHRAN, NOT GAZA

Mike Evans

Jerusalem Post, November 21, 2012

 

As missiles supplied to Iran’s proxy Hamas fly over the nation of Israel another source for concern hovers at the back of the minds of Israel’s leaders: Iran’s nuclear program. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency almost 3,000 machines used to produce nuclear fuel have been mounted at the underground military facility near the city of Qom. This move doubles Iran’s ability to generate medium grade, or 20 percent enriched, uranium in the months ahead.

 

What is the global significance of this action? By March or April 2013, Iran’s military could possess enough uranium for one viable atomic weapon. At that point, the fanatical Muslim leaders in the country will have reached the “red line” indicated by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu [at the UN]. It is at that point Israel’s leaders must determine not if, but when to take action to protect its populace….

 

Leaders in Tehran continue to assert that Iran’s nuclear program is only for domestic use. According to sources, Iran’s stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent amounts to 232 kilograms of which approximately 96 kilos could be used in the production of a weapon. Knowledgeable experts assess that another 120 to 150 kilograms would be needed for the production of a nuclear bomb.

 

With the Qom plant fully operational, and by restructuring the centrifuges, Iran could easily convert the store of uranium to weapons-grade within months. The changes at the facility in Qom are of particular concern to IAEA negotiators, to the United States, to Europe, and particularly to Israel. It is feared that the nuclear installation in Qom is invulnerable to attacks by air.

 

Thus far, United Nations Security Council talks with Iran’s officials have produced no discernible outcome, and frankly why should they have? Despite the 80% drop in the value of the Iranian currency, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have seen nothing to make them believe the US or its European allies would make any move to stop Iran’s forward motion….

 

Also of great concern to the Israelis is a report that a freighter is en route from Bandar Abbas to Gaza with a payload of 220 short range and 50 Fajr-5 missiles with larger warheads and greater range than those Hamas possessed at the beginning of Operation Pillar of Defense.

 

The cargo on the freighter would replace the dwindling stockpile of missiles fired into Israel since November 10. To cover its tracks, the ship has changed names and ownership several times since its launch. She departed Bandar Abbas as the Vali-e-Asr under the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines. On the South Pacific Island of Tuvalu, its name was changed to the Cargo Star and hosted a Tuvalu flag….
 

Intelligence sources have also revealed that Revolutionary Guard Units from Iran are serving as advisers to the Gaza terrorists.  What better way for Iran to conceal its determination to distract Israel, and the world, from its nuclear program than to begin a skirmish with the Jewish nation?

 

The writer is a New York Times bestselling author. His latest book is Seven Days, a new fiction book telling the riveting story of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

 

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WILL THE ARAB SPRING DELIVER FOR HAMAS?

Fouad Ajami

Wall Street Journal, November 20, 2012

 

'Egypt of today is entirely different from the Egypt of yesterday, and the Arabs of today are not the Arabs of yesterday." So said Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi after Friday prayers last week, adding: "We will not leave Gaza alone."

 

And Gaza will not leave Mr. Morsi alone. As in decades past, Egypt is playing mediator between the Palestinians and Israel—but Mr. Morsi finds himself in a more precarious position than his predecessors. He has been involved in a delicate balancing act since his election in June, mindful of his indebtedness to the Hamas-allied Muslim Brotherhood that brought him to power and of his need not to alienate his foreign-aid benefactors in Washington….

 

Mr. Morsi didn't rise to power to carry the burden of the Palestinian question. The 18 magical days of protests in Tahrir Square that upended the military regime, and the elections that followed, weren't about pan-Arab duties. Egyptians could rightly claim that they had paid their dues for Palestine. Enough was enough—the last of Egypt's four wars with Israel (in 1973) appeared to deliver a binding verdict: Egypt would put behind it the furies and the dangers of the struggle of Palestine. Yet here was Mr. Morsi indulging the radicalism and ruinous ways of Hamas when even the Palestinians have fed off  that diet for far too long.

 

It is commonplace to observe that the Arab Awakening of 2011-12 has remade the region, that the rise of Islamist governments in Egypt and Tunisia, and the rebellion in Syria, have brought a new balance of Arab forces. The men of Hamas could see this new landscape as favorable to their kind of politics. Hamas fought a fratricidal war against its rival, Fatah, and the prize in 2007 was Gaza's virtual secession, under Hamas rule, from the Palestinian National Authority in the West Bank. The established Arab states had cast their lot with the "legitimate" order of Fatah, and Hamas was left to the isolation of Gaza….

 

But the Arab rebellions suddenly gave Hamas a reprieve from this dilemma. The secular regimes toppled, and political Islam began riding what looked like an irresistible historical wave. Gone was the Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak, who had been a partner of Israel in the blockade that isolated Gaza. Hamas could read his demise as evidence that 'collaborationist" regimes aren't destined to last.

 

The ascendancy of the Muslim Brotherhood in Tunisia and Egypt only added to Hamas's conviction that history was breaking its way. Throughout their modern history, the Palestinians have looked for a redeemer—a man, a power—that could spare them the rigors of a compromise with their Zionist adversaries…

 

Then, as luck would have it, there was the emir of Qatar, eager for a role beyond his small principality. He has vast treasure and sway over the Qatari-based satellite channel al-Jazeera. He bet big on the Libyan revolution against Moammar Gadhafi and on the Syrian rebellion, and he had some sympathy for Hamas. Last month, the emir made a highly publicized visit to Gaza, bringing aid of $400 million and the promise of more.  So an Egyptian-Turkish-Qatari alliance formed….

 

On Sunday [Nov. 18] in Egypt’s leading official daily, Al-Ahram, I came upon a daring column by one of that paper’s writers, Hazem Abdul Rahman. The solution lies in the development of Egypt, not in Gaza, he observed. He minced no words: President Morsi wasn’t elected to serve the cause of Palestine—his mandate was the “pursuit of bread, freedom, and social justice.” The popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood has eroded, but it cannot find salvation in foreign policy: “That road is blocked, the other players are ill-intentioned, including Hamas, Syria, Hezbollah, Iran, even the United States.”

 

Mr. Abdul Rahman didn’t think much of Mr. Morsi’s decision to withdraw the Egyptian ambassador to Israel after its counterattack against Hamas began last week. Egypt needed its ambassador there to conduct its own diplomacy, the columnist said, and this was nothing more than grandstanding.

 

The Palestinians ignore a fundamental truth about the Arab Awakenings at their peril. These rebellions were distinctly national affairs, emphasizing the primacy of home and its needs. Indeed, the Palestinians themselves have bristled in indignation that the pan-Arab media have zealously covered Syria while all but ignoring Palestine, which was the obsession of the 1960s and 1970s.

 

History has moved on, and Arab populations have gone their separate ways. They caught on to the sobering conclusion that the cause of Palestine had been hijacked by military regimes and tyrants for their own ends. As they watched the Syrian fighter jets reduce so much of the fabled city of Aleppo to rubble, they understood that their wounds are self-inflicted, that their political maladies have nothing to do with Israel. Hamas better not press its luck. Palestinian deliverance lies in realism, and in an accommodation with Israel. Six decades of futility ought to have driven home so self-evident a lesson.

 

(Mr. Ajami is a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution and the author most recently of "The Syrian Rebellion" (Hoover Press, 2012)

 

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ARAB COLUMNISTS CRITICIZE HAMAS

MEMRI, November 20, 2012

 

Alongside the official Arab condemnations of Israel's attack on Gaza, and the popular protests against it in some of the Arab countries, there has also been criticism against Hamas. This criticism is mainly voiced in the countries of the moderate Arab camp (headed by the Gulf states, the PA and elements in Egypt), which opposes the resistance camp (headed by Iran, Syria and Hizbullah). The following are excerpts from some of the articles: 

 

Egyptian Columnists: Hamas's Actions Have Devastating Consequences

 

Gamal Al-Ghitani, editor of the weekly culture supplement of the Egyptian government daily Al-Akhbar, claimed in an article that Hamas's policy is never intended for the good of the Palestinian interest, and expressed fear that this policy would be used by Israel as a pretext to occupy Sinai: "There is nothing that makes our hearts bleed like the pictures of the martyrs killed in Gaza as a result of Israeli fire and the mistakes of Hamas, which hijacked the [Gaza] Strip and its residents and forced them to accept its control and the control of its allies, in order to carry out a worrying policy that caused dire results. The most dangerous [result] is transforming the Palestinian cause from a national cause based on land and people to a religious issue…

 

"Hamas's plans… are never meant to benefit Palestine and the Palestinian cause. On the contrary, they grant a golden opportunity to the Israeli extremists to initiate a war against the defenseless Palestinian people… Hamas and its dangerous policy… place the entire homeland under a threat, the most minimal devastating consequence of which would be granting Israel a pretext to invade Sinai and recapture it in response to military operations launched from Sinai by factions associated with jihad organizations like Al-Qaeda and with [organizations] linked to Hamas… We must act wisely and reconcile the national and pan-Arab interests.”

 

Ibrahim 'Issa, editor of the independent Egyptian daily Al-Dustour Al-Asli wrote: "It is our human, religious, and national duty to support the Palestinian people in Gaza without any bargaining. Avoiding [this duty] is a weakness and a disgrace. Notice that I call [to support] the Palestinian people – not Hamas – since Hamas's decisions can sometimes be useful and correct, but can sometimes be disastrous for the people… This is a movement that has not conducted new elections to demonstrate the people's consent or opposition to its policy, [even though] seven years have passed since the elections [that brought it to power], which were the first and last [elections it ever won]…"

 

Columnists: Gaza Is A Pawn On Iran's Chessboard

 

Lebanese journalist Khayrallah Khayrallah wrote on the liberal website elaph.com that the Gaza war is a result of Iran's wish to demonstrate its control over Gaza and the Muslim Brotherhood. The hope that Iran and Egypt would come to the Palestinians' rescue, he said, only reflects the breakdown of the Arabs' powers of reasoning: "The Palestinian people and their cause are nothing but a bargaining chip for Iran. Sadly, some Palestinians believe that Iran is on their side and that it will [help them] get back Jerusalem. Some Palestinians also believe today that Egypt can be counted upon to start a new war in the region, when Egypt… [actually] has other worries having to do with overcoming its deep political, economic and social crisis…
 

"The Palestinians still dream that some Arabs and Iranians will leap to their rescue. They do not understand that the Iranian missiles in their possession are merely a tool – [a means] by which Iran can [demonstrate] that it has the first and last word in Gaza and that it controls key parts of the Hamas movement, as well as some small [Gazan] organizations… This is a breakdown of Arab reasoning, which fails to grasp that the war currently raging [in Gaza reflects] Iran's desire to show the Arabs that it can use the Muslim Brotherhood to realize its goals…”

 

Egyptian journalist 'Imad Al-Din Adib wrote an article titled "Look For Iran In All That Happens" in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat. He stated: "Iran plays a devastating role in the Arab arena while exploiting the regional tensions during the Arab Spring revolutions in order to heat up the region and harass Tel Aviv and Washington, which could eventually lead them to agree to negotiate with Iran on Iran's own terms… The Iranians follow a simple philosophy: 'Start a fire in the region until the world complains about the flames and [world leaders] come to you asking for your intervention. Then you can bargain with them and receive what you want'…

 

"Iran wants [to bargain for] three main things: recognition of its nuclear capabilities; the lifting of the trade and economic embargo; and the restoration of its [relations with the world]  and admission into the international community on all levels… "The countries burned by the fire Iran started now see it as the 'Great Satan,' which ignites the fires of tension in the region… We are [merely] a pawn on the Iranian chessboard, and Iran does not care if the region is set on fire, if its economy is ruined, or if everyone is standing on the brink of a devastating war."

 

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Israel’s Gaza Options: Prof. Frederick Krantz, CIJR Isranet, Dec 31, 2009 —Hamas is a Sunni Islamic radical terrorist organization whose primary raison d’etre, clearly expressed in its founding covenant, is the destruction of Jewish Israel.  

 

Palestinian Ambassador: Hamas Must Go: Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz, Nov.21, 2012 —As the Israel Air Force continued to pulverize Gaza and Hamas fired rockets at the south of Israel last Monday, an Israeli ambassador telephoned his Palestinian counterpart. Both officials have served for several years in the capital of the same major country.

 

Human Rights Hypocrisy In Gaza: Gerald M. Steinberg, National Post, Nov 20, 21012—Human rights and international law, or at least the accompanying rhetoric, are an integral part of 21st-century warfare. In Iraq, Afghanistan and whenever Israel acts to defend its citizens, a cacophony of United Nations ideologues and their allies in groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch automatically condemn the use of force as a “war crime.”

 

Israel's Pillar Of Defense Achieved Its Goals: Aluf Benn, Ha’aretz, Nov.22, 2012 —Its objectives: to reinstate the Gaza cease-fire with Hamas, which had unraveled in recent months, and to stabilize the peace with Egypt now that the Muslim Brotherhood is in power.

 

Hamas Violence Forcing Israel To Defend Itself: Joel Lion, The Montreal Gazette, Nov. 21, 2012—But while suffering is of course universal, the symmetry that has been played over again and again is only an illusion. A closer examination of the facts paints a different picture, one that is far from symmetrical.

 

Behind The Scenes Of Israel's Decision To Accept Gaza Truce: Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz, Nov.22, 2012—The Israeli decision to accept the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire deal was made after two days of fierce disputes among the triumverate of top Israeli ministers that led the operation in Gaza, as well as the broader forum of nine.

 

 

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing is available by e-mail.
Please urge colleagues, friends, and family to visit our website for more information on our ISRANET series.
To join our distribution list, or to unsubscribe, visit us at http://www.isranet.org/.

The ISRANET Daily Briefing is a service of CIJR. We hope that you find it useful and that you will support it and our pro-Israel educational work by forwarding a minimum $90.00 tax-deductible contribution [please send a cheque or VISA/MasterCard information to CIJR (see cover page for address)]. All donations include a membership-subscription to our respected quarterly ISRAFAX print magazine, which will be mailed to your home.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

Ber Lazarus, Publications Editor, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org

MORSI, MUSLIM BROTHERS, & THE CAIRO EMBASSY ASSAULT

 

 Contents:

 

Articles:

Egypt’s Veiled Islamic Rivalry

No One Puts Morsi in a Corner

Muslims Need To Find A Better Way To Protest

 

On Topic Links

A Raw Salafist Power Play

Egypt's Interpol Seeks Warrant Against Anti-Islam Filmmakers

Demanding justice from Libya, Egypt and Pakistan

Amending Treaty With Israel 'A Matter Of Time

 

 

EGYPT’S VEILED ISLAMIC RIVALRY

Tony Badran,

NOW Lebanon, September 20, 2012

 

The Obama administration is insisting that the assault on the US Embassy in Egypt, and the subsequent riots and attacks elsewhere in the Middle East, were “absolutely” about an obscure film, The Innocence of Muslims, that to date has only appeared in highly abridged form. Meanwhile, critics of the administration are blaming this week’s violence on a policy of appeasement. The truth is, a better guide to the causes of the recent assault on the US Embassy can be found in the public spat between a Salafist preacher and Egyptian movie star, Ilham Shahin.
 
Shahin, a famous Egyptian actress who was staunchly supportive of former President Hosni Mubarak during last year’s revolution that eventually toppled him, was recently accused by a Salafist preacher of “adultery” over some romantic scenes she’d been in. The attack on the Egyptian film star raised fears about the clout of radical Islamic forces in post-Mubarak Egypt. Where was Egypt’s newly elected president from the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammad Morsi, in this important debate? To the ire of the Salafists, Morsi asked his spokesman to call the actress and express his full support.
 
This episode highlighted the rivalry that exists between Morsi and, more broadly, the Muslim Brotherhood on the one hand, and the Salafists on the other. What we witnessed last week with the siege of the US Embassy in Cairo, with all its violence and demagogy, was an expression of this simmering rivalry. In other words, despite the appearance of a showdown between Islamic societies and the West, it was rather a classic manifestation of local inter-Arab power politics.
 
There’s a perception in Egypt, one that extends beyond the Salafists to secular nationalist and left-liberal circles, that Morsi has a de facto agreement with Washington. Former editor of al-Dustour Ibrahim Issa summed up this view last week. The unwritten agreement, Issa wrote, involves a commitment on the part of Morsi to maintain relations with Israel and safeguard its security, including keeping Hamas on a leash and under Egypt’s umbrella. It also involves containing the Salafists and protecting the Copts.
 
Put differently, Morsi risks being regarded as the Muslim Brotherhood version of Mubarak. This makes him a vulnerable target for Salafist populism. As several analysts have pointed out, it was Morsi’s Salafist opponents who had called for moving on the US Embassy well before news of the video had even surfaced.
 
These groups saw an opening to embarrass the Egyptian president by outbidding him on Muslim causes, thereby presenting him with a choice of either standing up for the prophet of Islam, or for his relations with the US, and thus appear as another American quisling like Mubarak.
 
That this indeed was the underlying dynamic was evident in the back and forth between Salafist and Muslim Brotherhood politicians. For instance, Jamal Saber, campaign manager for Salafist politician and one-time presidential candidate Hazem Abu Ismail, chided the Brotherhood for wishing to deal with the matter “only on a political basis.” Stated differently, Saber was contending that the Brotherhood was prioritizing politics—i.e., diplomatic ties with the US—over the honor of the prophet.
 
In contrast to what Saber described as Morsi’s accommodation, Mamdouh Ismail, vice president of the Salafist al-Asala party, claimed that “the Salafist call was the strongest Islamic entity defending the prophet.” Another official in the Salafist al-Nour party noted that he offered the Brotherhood's leadership an opportunity to participate in the rally, but they never responded. The Salafist were attacking Morsi’s Islamic credentials.
 
The response of officials from the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party was essentially to charge that the protests were aimed at “embroiling” the government—read: the Brotherhood—in a diplomatic crisis with the US. This retort and Morsi’s delayed, or initial lack of, response to the assault on the embassy suggest that the Egyptian president may have tried to have it both ways. On the one hand, he could not simply cede the platform of Islamic pride to the Salafists. On the other hand, he cannot have them sabotage his relationship with the US.
 
Indeed, there are other landmines that the Salafists planted for Morsi in the lead-up to the attack on the embassy. As the Algerian daily al-Jaza’ir News put it in a sharp news analysis piece,  the scene at the US Embassy was merely one “battleground between the Salafists and the Muslim Brothers.” Since Morsi has assumed office, the two sides have clashed on a host of issues ranging from the position on Islamic law to standing by the actress Ilham Shahin.
 
However, as al-Jaza’ir News noted, “The most important arena of conflict is the military operations conducted by the Egyptian Army in order to purge the Sinai of Islamist extremists.” This was in reference to the operation that Morsi conducted in the wake of an attack in Sinai last month that killed 16 Egyptian border guards.
 
Egyptian policy in the Sinai is a highly sensitive issue since it is seen as perhaps the defining marker of the difference between the new government and the Mubarak regime. Hazem Abu Ismail, the Salafist figure, contended that Morsi's maneuver in Sinai, dubbed Operation Eagle, was illegal. Perhaps even more significantly, none other than Ayman al-Zawahiri also attacked Morsi for the Sinai campaign. Zawahiri’s criticism preceded the assault on the US Embassy during the Cairo demonstrations, where his brother Mohammad was notably present. 
Zawahiri lashed out at Morsi in a statement timed to coincide with the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, charging that his government was “guarding Israel’s borders.” He then called on the “honorable, free officers in the Egyptian Army, and they are many, not to be guards for Israel’s borders, or defend its borders, and not to partake in the siege of our people in Gaza.”
 
Zawahiri’s language unmistakably hearkens back to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah’s tirade against Mubarak during the Gaza war of 2008-09. Nasrallah similarly appealed to the officers of the Egyptian armed forces, not to “guard the borders of Israel” and to open the Rafah crossing.
 
The Salafists, therefore, have systematically sought to paint Morsi as the reincarnation of Mubarak. Their move was calculated to show him as someone lacking Islamic credentials, an American lackey, and an upholder of the previous regime’s relationship with Israel. What’s more, it followed a well-established tradition in Arab politics. Throughout the twentieth century, Arab states and political actors have framed their various civil wars and struggles for power as a fight against external enemies, be they Britain, Israel or the US.
 
Attacking the US Embassy was a perfect way to embroil Morsi—the equivalent of a bank shot in a game of pool. The anti-Islam video was just an instrument that served these local dynamics. The new Egyptian political class was simply conducting politics as usual. If the US is going to navigate the terrain of post-Arab Spring politics, it needs to recognize these dynamics of inter-Islamist and inter-Arab competition for power and prestige. (Top)

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NO ONE PUTS MORSI IN A CORNER

Steven A. Cook

Council on Foregin Relations, September 18, 2012

 

Last week after the attack on the U.S. embassy in Cairo, American officials, political candidates, and pundits were asking, “Where is Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi? How come he hasn’t made a strong statement about the attacks on our embassy? Why has he been so elusive?” After a couple of days, Morsi did release a statement, but it was equivocal at best, falling well short of what Washington and the policy community deemed necessary. Yet from Morsi’s perspective it was the politically rational thing to do. Indeed, there are no easy answers to this question except to say: given what is at stake in Egypt broadly and, in particular, for Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian president was never going to meet Washington’s expectations to denounce the protests in the way that satisfied Americans.

 

I am not sure whether these expectations are a function of a blind spot because the United States is the big kid on the block or because of an unacknowledged neocolonial strain that permeates the American foreign policy establishment (to wit, the oft used “We must get Egypt right,” circa March 2011). I hope it is the former, but I fear it is the latter. Either way, Americans consistently fail to recognize that Arabs have their own politics and have the ability to calculate their own interests independently of what Washington demands. As a result, whenever a crisis erupts that presents Egyptian leaders with a choice of kowtowing to Washington or protecting their political position at home, domestic politics will win virtually every time. There continues to be an odd cognitive dissonance affecting much of Washington when it comes to Egypt: There is recognition of the major changes that have occurred since February 2011, but there is a desire to do business pretty much as usual. The problem is that business pretty much as usual was based on a deal with authoritarians who agreed to carry Washington’s water in exchange for political support, diplomatic recognition, and aid. That deal greatly narrowed the constituencies that Mubarak and Sadat before him had to please.

 

Morsi, in contrast to his predecessors, has a more complex and multi-layered challenge to ensuring and maintaining domestic political support. To be sure, the Brothers had a significant edge over other groups in a more open political environment given their 80-year head start, credibility, and vision, all of which have helped Morsi to consolidate power. Still he is not master of the Egyptian political universe—at least, not yet. He still has to deal with the remnants of the old order, legions of which make up Egypt’s vast bureaucracy, a police/intelligence apparatus that distrusts the President and the Muslim Brotherhood, and a weak but dedicated opposition. And even though Egypt’s electoral outcomes (parliamentary and presidential) suggest that a lot of people like the Brotherhood’s answers about how Egyptian government and society should look and function, they are not the only answers.

 

Indeed, since Mubarak’s fall, the most dynamic part of the Egyptian political spectrum has been the Islamist one. Lest anyone has forgotten, over the last 18 months, the sheikh of al Azhar, Ahmed el Tayyeb, has weighed in on debates concerning both important issues of the day and Egypt’s future trajectory in forceful ways. In response to the “Innocence of Muslims” and the attack on the U.S. embassy, Tayyeb called for an international ban on attacks on Islam. Salafis of varying stripes have also engaged in the debate about Egypt’s future and the Nour Party, which represents part of Egypt’s Salafist movement, is a potentially powerful political competitor to the Brothers’ own Freedom and Justice Party.

 

The embassy protests were a response to the call of a Salafi preacher, Wesam Abdel Warith, for Egyptians to defend Islam. Indeed, within the debate about the institutions of the Egyptian state, the best means to achieve social justice, and Egypt’s place in the region, is a competition over who speaks for Islam. This is fraught political territory for the Muslim Brothers because if they don’t manage these debates and challenges correctly, they leave themselves open to the kind of ontological attacks that the Brotherhood leveled against Sadat and Mubarak. It would not have been unreasonable for the Salafis to expose the Brothers as not Muslim enough and bad nationalists if Morsi had responded to the protests in the way that Washington demanded.

 

As I have written before, it is going to be some time before Egypt sorts itself out. The Egyptian political arena is ideologically rich and thus highly contested, especially in a new, more open environment. As a result, it is important for observers to understand Egyptian foreign policy from the “inside-out,”—in other words, foreigners need to be cognizant of the Egyptian president’s domestic political imperatives and the complexities associated with navigating Egypt’s political arena. It’s banal to say that context matters, but Egypt is too important to react in a way that puts Morsi in a corner by making demands he cannot possibly meet. (Top)

___________________________________________________________

 

MUSLIMS NEED TO FIND A BETTER WAY TO PROTEST

Mirette F. Mabrouk

Egypt Independent, September 20, 2012

 

In 1987, the American artist Andres Serrano won an award from the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art for his photograph entitled “Immersion (Piss Christ).” It depicted a small plastic crucifix submerged in what appeared to be a yellow liquid. Serrano later said the liquid was his own urine.

 

The photograph wasn’t displayed in public for another two years, and when it was, it predictably set off a storm among devout Christians. Complicating what was already a volatile issue was the small matter that the US$15,000 award had been partly sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, a United States government agency that offers support and funding for artistic projects. In other words, the US taxpayer had helped fund a picture of Christ in a glass of urine.

 

There was an outcry throughout the US — Serrano received hate mail and death threats and, when the photograph was exhibited abroad, it was vandalized both in Australia and France.

But no one died. The US embassy was not torched in either country, despite the American government being a sponsor of the work.

 

Western galleries and cinemas are full of art and films denigrating Christ, God and various other tenets of the Christian faith. Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” offered what many thought was an incredibly unflattering portrait of Jewish characters but while there was much anger, irate Jews did not scale his garden walls setting fire to his shrubbery. Or put a bounty on his head.

 

Last week, US embassies were attacked in Benghazi, in Cairo, in Tunis and Khartoum. While the facts remain unclear, it appears that the attacks were originally instigated by Salafis, hardline Muslims with their own agendas. What is clear is that the storming of the embassy in Libya led to the deaths of four people, among them the ambassador, Christopher Stevens, by all accounts an Arabist who was attached to Libya and its people.

 

The initial reason given for the attacks was that Muslims were livid over a film, “Innocence of Muslims,” that mocked the Prophet Mohamed, allegedly made by an Israeli-American named Sam Bacile. It later transpired that the film is little more than a trailer with astonishingly bad production values and the actors involved claimed they had been duped, not realizing they were making a film about Islam. And according to reports Bacile is apparently Californian, an Egyptian Copt, with a criminal record to boot.

 

By now it has become a cliche to say that the riots weren’t really about the film, but rather about other domestic grievances. This is almost certainly true; there are multiple facets as to who was demonstrating and why, but that’s another discussion. For the purposes of this discussion, however, one fact is very clear: there is no doubt that the film produced precisely the reaction that its makers must have intended. Once again, Muslims around the world reacted violently to someone expressing an opinion which runs contrary to theirs. In Egypt, Islamist President Mohamed Morsy, the first Egyptian president who actually has to take public opinion into consideration, played populist politics.

 

Assessing that parliamentary elections might be around the corner, he pandered to popular opinion. It took him over a day to denounce the attacks in Cairo. Egypt’s consul general in New York tweeted that the president had asked that the American authorities take legal action against the filmmakers. This move could only be a populist one since the president must be perfectly well aware that there are no legal measures to be taken. The first amendment of the American constitution protects freedom of expression and religion. Hate speech may be reviled, but it’s legal. The only exception is if the speech is likely to directly incite violence.

 

The timing of the attacks is horrific (or excellent, depending on one’s viewpoint), coming as they do on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks and so close to the American presidential elections. There are few things which limit an administration’s ability to exercise diplomatic leeway like an election. And apart from the abhorrent nature of the attacks, they have handed Islamophobes cutlery and a napkin. The Arab Spring, they say, has accomplished nothing more than exposing the true, barbaric face of religious extremism. The eyes of the world are upon us and we’re not a pretty sight. While the situation is anything but simple, there are a few facts that we need to grasp.

 

The first is that no one owes us anything. Non-Muslims do not have to automatically understand, or appreciate, that some Muslims are so devout that they would die, or worse, kill, for their religion and their Prophet.

 

The second is that holding governments responsible for the actions of individuals is both reductive and counter-productive. Every time there is an Islamist terrorist, we expect non-Muslims to understand and appreciate that these are the actions of an isolated fanatic few, from among a global population of 1.6 billion Muslims. If one follows this line of reasoning, why would we hold the United States ransom for the actions of a convicted criminal? Or indeed, for any Islamophobic speech, incident or film? If the National Endowment for the Arts gave a prize to a photograph depicting Christ submerged in urine in a country where Christians make up approximately 75 percent of the population, what entitles Muslims to demand the criminalization of what they consider to be blasphemy?

 

And finally, no one is suggesting that we don’t make a stand. When the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten printed 12 cartoons depicting the Prophet in 2005, the Pakistanis bombed the Danish Embassy. The Syrians, Lebanese and Iranians, among others, started fires at embassies in their countries. In Egypt, we stopped buying Danish butter — a far better idea.

 

Objection and protest is often at its most effective when it is non-violent, as proved by Gandhi and the US civil rights movement. If Muslims object to any form of misrepresentation they have a duty to object. They also have a duty to do so in any number of ways which will not insult the faith they treasure. It is doubtful that any of those perpetrating violence to defend the Prophet’s honor remember that he insisted on not harming or insulting those who had harmed or insulted him.

 

In less esoteric terms, Muslims have a duty to object in way which will not bring the roof crashing down on the heads of Muslim minorities. We do not have a monopoly on vilification. And the sooner we develop thicker skins and start dealing with the fact the better it will be, for everyone.

 

Mirette F. Mabrouk is a non-resident fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at The Brookings Institution. (Top)

On Topic

  • Gatestone Institute, September 20, 2012
    Michael J. Totten

A Raw Salafist Power Play

  • Egypt Independent, September 19, 2012
    Al-Masry Al-Youm

Amending Treaty With Israel 'A Matter Of Time'

  • Egypt Independent, September 20, 2012
    Al-Masry Al-Youm

Egypt's Interpol Office Seeks Warrant Against Anti-Islam Filmmakers

  • Washington Times, September 19, 2012
    Senator Rand Paul

Demanding justice from Libya, Egypt and Pakistan

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