Monday, May 23, 2016

'Son of Hamas' tells Jerusalem Post conference: Islam is the problem

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
May 22, 2016

Mosab Hassan Yousef – the “Green Prince” – who worked as an Israeli spy, said “the Jewish nation is dear to me and when I see nations fighting against the Jewish people it hurts me.”

Speaking at The Jerusalem Post’s annual conference in New York on Sunday, Yousef noted that at one point he was working for and being paid by Israel, the US, the PA and Hamas, all at the same time.

Yousef, the son of West Bank Hamas leader Sheikh Hassan Yousef, helped the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) thwart attacks from 1997 to 2007. He later went on to write an autobiography published in 2010 titled Son of Hamas.

He converted to Christianity and fled to the US where he was granted political asylum.

Yousef mentioned that he first became acquainted with the Post when he was in an Israeli prison 20 years ago and he wanted to learn English and ended up gaining knowledge about the Jewish and Western world.

“I speak with the authority of experience, it is not from the books, it is not a second-hand knowledge that I got from somebody. I don't represent government or politicians - I represent myself," he continued, before wading into problems he sees in the Palestinian and Islamic world.

He mentioned that he was raised to believe that Jews are the enemies of humanity and the Palestinians.

However, he continued, that was “until I came to experience what the Jewish nation really is...through witnessing the true democratic model in an ocean of darkness.”

Yousef recounted how he had witnessed a Palestinian mother send her five children on suicide attacks and how she would bless each one. The former Israeli spy said the mother did this to gain respect in society.

The collective mind of society is representing something, an ideology, a culture, a state of consciousness that is stuck in the 6th and 7th centuries in a tribal lust for power, he said.

“We cannot fool ourselves,” he continued, but “there is an Islamic problem,” going on to mention various radical Islamic terrorist groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, Boko Haram and Islamic State.

“All of them are killing by the name of Allah,” he said adding that other religions do not act in such ways. “There is an Islamic problem and I think humanity needs to stand against this danger.”

Political correctness means to bury your head in the sand, but "the truth is that we are afraid and we are trying not to provoke them more, we are trying not to create a religious war. But there has been a religious war whether you like it or not.”

This threat needs to be faced with “courage,” said Yousef.

"To tell them no, Islam is a religion of peace. We just create the perfect climate for terrorists to keep on growing." Islam is a belief system and the world should unify against it just as it did against Nazism, he went on to argue.

Sisi call to moderate Israel-Palestinian talks not changing minds in Egypt

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
May 19, 2016

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi after addressing the 70th session of the UNGA, September 28,
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi after addressing the 70th session of the UNGA, September 28, 2015. . (photo credit:REUTERS)
Egyptians view President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s speech this week calling for a new effort to reach an Israeli-Palestinian agreement as not such a big deal, a Cairo-based columnist for the Al-Arabiya News website told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

“People who are against him are using it to show that he is against Islamic and Arab concerns, and those that support him say that the idea supports regional stability by seeking to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said Abdallah Schleifer, who also is a professor emeritus at the American University in Cairo.

In other words, both sides are finding what they want in the speech, he said.

Sisi said on Tuesday, “I ask that the Israeli leadership allow this speech to be broadcast in Israel one or two times, as this is a genuine opportunity... We are willing to make all efforts to help find a solution to this problem.”

Egypt helped broker the cease-fire ending the 2014 Gaza war (Operation Protective Edge) between Israel and Hamas.

Schleifer went on to say that with Islamic State running rampant in the region as well as other domestic and regional problems, Sisi feels this is the moment to introduce something positive.

Asked whether Sisi is looking to draw attention away from domestic economic and terrorism crises, he responded that he does not see it that way since the initiative will be unable to make Egyptians forget other difficulties.

As for the average guy on the street, the Cairo-based writer observed that he “probably doesn’t care that much, but is more concerned about food prices.”

Mentioning an op-ed by MP Emad Gad in the Al-Masry al-Youm newspaper equating Sisi’s speech with that of president Anwar Sadat’s 1977 address to the Knesset in Jerusalem, Schleifer responded that it is “overstated, a way of praising the president.”

Ramy Aziz, an Egyptian political analyst, opined that the initiative “will not achieve any tangible progress as some think, because Egypt as a nation is no longer influential on various Palestinian factions as it was before.”

He noted that Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told the parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee earlier this month “that Egypt is not a leader in the region, and does not seek to achieve leadership.”

Aziz continued, “This confirms that Egypt in this case can’t put any pressure on the various parties to accept a settlement. The initiative is an attempt to divert attention from the deteriorating domestic situation in order to present Egypt as a regional power again and to achieve some of political and economic gains.”

He cited a reaction in an article in Al-Ahram by Moustafa Elsaeed which said that Sisi’s initiative comes under the guidance of Saudi Arabia, which seeks to set up an Arab-Israeli coalition, but is looking for some progress on the Palestinian issue so as to justify the alliance to Arabs. The article added that if the alliance would materialize, it would increase Israel’s “control” over the region.

Samuel Tadros, an Egyptian expert and research fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, told the Post that Egyptians’ perceptions of Sisi’s speech have “fallen along the existing lines of the country’s divide.

“Egypt is currently a deeply divided country with no common agreement among its people on the country’s past let alone on its future, so reactions have largely followed where one already stands on the map,” he said.

To read the entire article click here.

ISIS threatens global war with Israel

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
May 19, 2016

ISIS militant threatening Israel in Hebrew
ISIS militant threatening Israel in Hebrew. (photo credit:YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT)
Islamic State threatens Israel in an article in its weekly newsletter this week, saying that unlike Hamas, the “war on Israel will not be limited by geographical boundaries or by international norms.”

According to the article in the Al-Naba newsletter identified by the Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor of MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute) and shared with The Jerusalem Post, Israel feels threatened by ISIS because of the “collapse” of neighboring states and the Sunni terrorist group’s advance toward the borders of the Jewish state.

For this reason, Israel has started to fight against Islamic State in Sinai and Syria, it says, adding that the entire world is now an arena for the fight against all the “polytheist combatants, including the Jews,” who are legitimate targets. Israel is using jets to attack Islamic State in Sinai, the article claims.

“The collapse of the Sykes-Picot statelets, which were tasked with protecting the Jewish state; the approach of ISIS mujahideen toward its borders; [Israel’s] fear of the spread of its [ISIS’s] methodology among the oppressed Muslims inside those borders [i.e. fear that ISIS ideology is spreading among Israeli Arabs]; and the manifest failure of the Crusader states who protect the Jews to win the battle against it [ISIS] – all these are factors that caused the Jewish state to not sit idly by in face of this danger,” it says.

Islamic State also says Israel is using drones and spies to collect intelligence against it, adding that this will lead to further Israeli “entanglement” with the group.

This war is not going to be like those waged by secular, nationalist or communist movements, or by those that “falsely attribute themselves to Islam [referring to Hamas], since those battles were fought within the framework of the international order, the article says.

However, it continues, Islamic State “rejects this ‘international order,’” and its war against its enemies “has no boundaries other than those which Allah prescribed on the Muslims in their jihad to make the polytheists submit to Islam’s rule – the entire world is an arena for its jihad; all the Muslims are potential soldiers in its army; and all polytheist combatants on earth, and the Jews among them, are legitimate targets for it.”

To read the entire article click here.

Analysis: The Syrian war has exposed Hezbollah to assassinations

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
May 18, 2016

hezbollah Qalamoun
HEZBOLLAH MEMBERS carry the coffin of Adnan Siblini on Tuesday, who was killed in the Qalamoun region, during his funeral in al-Ghaziyeh.. (photo credit:REUTERS)
Shi’ite Hezbollah’s war in Syria to prop up President Bashar Assad’s regime against Sunni rebels is leaving its leadership in the country exposed to assassinations, in what appears to be intelligence infiltrations into the organization’s activity there.

With no end to the civil war in sight and with Islamic State and other groups controlling what is in effect a partitioned Syria, Hezbollah should expect the liquidation of more senior commanders in the future.

The assassination last week in Syria of Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine is only the latest in a line of leaders killed in Syria.

Some of the other names include Jihad Mughniyeh, who also was killed in Damascus in January in what foreign media reported was an Israeli air strike. And his father, senior Hezbollah official Imad Mughniyeh, was reportedly taken out in a joint Mossad-CIA operation in Damascus in 2008.

Now the London-based Asharq al-Awsat is reporting that Mughniyeh’s son, Mustafa Mughniyeh, will take over from Badreddine. It may be only a question of time before the son suffers a similar fate.

In addition, there are growing casualties among Hezbollah fighters and Iranian forces deployed in the country, while the Syrian regime’s army is suffering from a manpower shortage and difficulty in recruiting.

However, these negative outcomes are probably not going to be enough to change Iran and its ally Hezbollah’s calculus in Syria, especially now that it has the support of Russian forces, which tipped the balance of the war in their favor.

The relatively low profile of the US-led coalition air strikes and training of rebels only reinforces the belief from the Iranian-Russian axis that the dragging out of constant, fruitless negotiations will buy it more time to slowly make progress on the ground.

If the tide turns against them at some point in the future, they can always decide to be more amenable to a political settlement with the opposition and their supporters. A political settlement would likely be temporary and would partition the country according to the current divisions on the ground, allowing Assad to hold on to his stronghold in the coastal region.

Ali Alfoneh, an independent Iran expert based in Washington, shared with The Jerusalem Post his latest tally of Hezbollah casualties in Syria, identifying a total of 904 Lebanese Hezbollah fighters killed in combat from September 2012 until this month.

According to Alfoneh’s survey of open-source data, 18 Hezbollah fighters were killed last month and so far only two this month.

Hezbollah does not provide statistics of combat fatalities in Syria, but Alfoneh systematically collects data from Hezbollah-affiliated websites, noting each time a funeral service is held for a “martyr” killed in Syria.

“I suspect the real number of Hezbollah combat fatalities in Syria is slightly higher than the names I have collected in my database,” he said.

Among the 904 death and funeral notices, 52 were presented by Hezbollah as “martyred commander” or “martyred field commander.”
To read the entire article click here.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Israel’s Islamic Movement: Overcoming obstacles

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
May 15, 2016

Leader of the northern Islamic Movement Sheikh Raed Salah
Leader of the northern Islamic Movement Sheikh Raed Salah gestures after leaving the district court in Jerusalem October 27, 2015.. (photo credit:AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
Just over six months since the government outlawed the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, shutting down 17 affiliated charities and organizations, its leader, Raed Salah, began a nine-month jail sentence this week for incitement – his third stint in an Israeli jail. Yet, despite the steps against the organization, it remains immensely popular in the Arab sector.

As one intellectual associated with the movement told The Jerusalem Post, the ban and the jailing of Salah have become a rallying cry, and the movement’s narrative compares the measures to the banning of Islam and the way of life it dictates.

In the wake of the government’s decision last November to ban the group – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu charged it with inciting violence and cooperating with Hamas in order to topple the state and replace it with an Islamic caliphate – personalities involved with the Islamic Movement announced a new party in Nazareth last month in what appeared to be a way to circumvent and continue political and charitable activities.

The new entity – the Trust and Reform Party – is not registered with the state and does not intend to run for the Knesset, Israel Radio reported at the time.

The head of the party is Husam Abu Leil, who was the second deputy head of the Islamic Movement’s Northern Branch.

Muhammad Barakei, the leader of the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee and former Hadash chairman, was present at the event in Nazareth and welcomed the new party.

The committee, which coordinates Arab political action, is made up of Arab MKs, municipal leaders and other community figures.

Almost the entire spectrum of Arab leaders has rallied around the Islamic Movement and Salah, the former three-time mayor of the Arab town of Umm el-Fahm.

The group has wide-ranging grassroots support, and many of the poor have benefited from the group’s social welfare network.

Tawfek Mohammad Jabarin, a representative of the Islamic Movement’s media arm based in Umm el-Fahm and the former editor of the northern Islamist Movement publication Sawt al-Haqq wal-Huriyyah (The Voice of Freedom and Justice), which has since been banned, told the Postthat “there is no way to make an idea illegal.”

“The sense on the street is that Raed Salah has more support now than before the arrest,” he said.

“Netanyahu always looks for an enemy,” claimed Jabarin, noting that the prime minister has been talking about the Iranian threat since the 1990s.

“Today, he is looking for a new enemy,” he said, referring to the domestic arena.

You can’t outlaw the group’s principles, argued Jabarin, adding that people are not intrinsically connected to the brand or name of the Islamic Movement per se, but to the principles it stands for.

“The way of life – the religion of Islam – can’t be banned,” he stressed.

Asked to comment on the overwhelming support for Salah and the Islamic Movement in Arab society, Jabarin replied that after the ban “all Arab political parties united behind the Islamic Movement.”

Questioned about the new political party, Jabarin claimed there is “no Islamic Movement connection to the new party.”

They are separate entities, and from what he has gathered, the party will not take part in Knesset elections.

Shlomo Daskal, a researcher of Arab media in Israel, told the Post: “The Islamic Movement is not worried about Salah going to jail. It is not a big deal.”

Daskal noted an interesting shift in Salah’s rhetoric over his going to jail, pointing out that over the years he has created a correlation between himself and al-Aksa; however, it has now reached the point “where one might think al-Aksa itself is going to jail, not just Salah.”

Salah has used charges that Israel is endangering al-Aksa Mosque to rally the Arab public in Israel.

“He is taking advantage of the event in order to use even stronger language,” said Daskal, adding that his comments have been relayed and spread in various media outlets in the Arab world.

Asked if the ban on the group has had much of an impact so far, he noted that he is not knowledgeable of all the details on the ground, but it appears the group continues to function much like before the ban.

For example, members and supporters of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement continue to be interviewed in Israeli-Arab media, Daskal noted.

Another interesting point, continued Daskal, is that Salah’s statements have set a framework placing himself against Netanyahu. “And because of this, more moderate Arab leaders have found themselves trapped, since if they don’t support Salah, they will be perceived by the Arab public as siding with Netanyahu.”

Upon going to jail, Salah was quoted by Army Radio as stating, “If they force me to choose between prison and the surrender of Jerusalem and al-Aksa Mosque, then I will go to jail.... I go to jail because of the will of God and not the will of Netanyahu. It is an honor to me.”

Even Arab members of the communist and supposedly secular Hadash party have been fully backing Salah and the Islamic Movement. For example, Barakei has been defending the group.

The banning of the Islamic Movement and its organizations and charity NGOs “is not just a local issue,” the former Hadash MK told the Post after a Tel Aviv press conference in January, which criticized the ban. The crackdown against the Islamic Movement “will eventually target everyone,” Barakei warned.

Daskal went on to argue that “Barakei can’t go against Salah at all, or else he would be seen as supporting Netanyahu.”

“Salah is untouchable,” he said, explaining that since he is honest and not corrupt and supports charities in the sector, he has high popularity.

To read the entire article click here.

A quiet alliance: Jordanian and Israeli cooperation on the rise

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
May 13, 2016

Benjamin Netanyahu
Jordan's King Abdullah walks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (photo credit:REUTERS)
Despite the fact that much of the Jordanian population sees Israel as the enemy, cooperation and people-to-people relations are quietly and slowly growing.

The second batch of 500 Jordanian day workers was recently approved to work in hotels in Eilat, and the government hopes to eventually reach 1,500 Jordanian workers in the Red Sea city.

Deputy Regional Cooperation Minister Ayoub Kara (Likud) has been pushing for expanded relations with Israel’s neighbor including a “Jordan Gateway” project, which would include a new bridge between Israel and Jordan as part of a shared industrial zone in the northern Jordan Valley.

Following his visit to Jordan, where he was on hand to promote the project, Kara revealed that the process to construct the bridge has begun, with tenders being issued for building.

“The final preparations to start the work are being made,” he told The Jerusalem Post.

The ultimate goal, Kara explained, is to open the border between the two countries.

As such, talks are under way to open a new border crossing with Jordan near the Dead Sea to ease tourist travel and bring in more Jordanian workers to replace illegal African migrants.

Dr. Abdullah Sawalha, director of the Amman-based Center for Israel Studies, is keen on facilitating cooperation projects of this nature.

For example, Sawalha, who frequently visits Israel, is spearheading a partnership between the Amman Center and the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University. The agreement, signed last summer, sent the first delegation of Jordanian students to Israel on May 1.

Some of the students study in the Hebrew department at Yarmouk University, which is located in the northern Jordan city of Irbid, noted Sawalha.

The students will travel throughout the country and learn a narrative they have perhaps never heard.

“Part of our mission and commitment is to educate our people about Israel,” said Sawalha, who mentioned that a group of Israeli students is planning to visit Jordan in September and meet with Jordanian students.

In addition, there is a plan to translate from Hebrew into Arabic a book by former Israeli ambassador to Jordan Prof.

Shimon Shamir, who is at the Moshe Dayan Center. The entire project to translate the book will take place in Jordan and will be the first time a center in Jordan translates an Israeli book, said the think tank director.

The center’s director, Uzi Rabi, is a firm believer that academic cooperation is a conduit to promoting relations between the two countries.

Noting the strong opposition to such cooperation in Jordan, Rabi is optimistic in the long run that relations will continue to improve.

Sawalha also pointed out that there has been dialogue between his think tank and the Jerusalem Institute for Israeli Studies about how to defuse tensions on the Temple Mount.

“The aim is to redefine the status quo, because Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians each have their own perspective about what that is,” he explained.

The Center for Israel Studies, which is seeking US government funding, began only a year ago and is off to a fast start with a flurry of activity.

Due to the sensitive nature of his projects, Sawalha has found himself serving as a shadow diplomat of sorts, doing things that would land the country’s official diplomats in hot water with Jordanians who oppose normalization. Sawalha dismisses any official connection with the government, but says there is a great need to “create public opinion that supports this kind of cooperation.”

“Both countries have a mutual interest and common threats so we have to develop these relations,” he added.

“If you are talking about the environment, energy or agriculture, these problems don’t recognize borders. We need to find a new approach and we have a peace treaty, but as you see, people in Jordan still think Israel is our enemy,” explained Sawalha.

The common belief in the Arab world is that Israel exists in this region even though it is regarded as an enemy, but “there is a growing opinion that there is a need to cooperate with Israel because of mutual interests.”

“We have to change the public opinion in Jordan,” he said, adding that he is now trying to conduct public opinion polls in Jordan to know exactly who is against Israel and who is for it and under what conditions Jordanians would agree to work and cooperate with Israel.

“We don’t have statistics,” he realized in discussions with his colleagues in Jordan and Israel, adding that “it is not healthy to only hear angry rhetoric from parliament members or newspapers that Jordanians are against Israel.”

As a result, a polling company is being sought to conduct the survey as well as funding.
To read the entire article click here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Bin Laden’s son calls to target Jewish, US, Western interests

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
May 10, 2016

AN AL-QAIDA video released yesterday features a recorded message by Hamza bin Laden
AN AL-QAIDA video released yesterday features a recorded message by Hamza bin Laden. (photo credit:MEMRI)
Hamza Bin Laden, the son of former al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, is calling for the targeting of Jewish and Western interests and the building of an army to “liberate Jerusalem.”

According to a new al-Qaida video discovered by the Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor of MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute) and shared with The Jerusalem Post, Hamza praised the stabbing attacks by Palestinians against Israelis and called on Muslims from around the world to join the fight to defend Jerusalem, urging them to “participate in the intifada” of their Palestinian brethren by “killing the Jews and attacking their interests everywhere.”

In addition, Hamza called for Muslims to attack the interests of US and Western countries in the Muslim world because of their support for Israel.

The supporters of the Jews “must pay the bill in their blood” and must feel what Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere have been feeling, he said.

According to the report, Hamza stressed the obligation of jihad upon every Muslim in order to defend al-Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount and Muslim women, who he claimed are being killed by Jews in cold blood.

He also suggested building a mega army based primarily in Syria to “liberate Palestine.”

“The best arenas that are prepared for such a great task [of building that army] is the blessed arena of Al-Sham [Syria],” he said.
To read the entire article click here.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Analysis: What is behind the distorted media view of the Middle East?

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
May 9, 2016

The groundbreaking article in The New York Times Magazine published on Thursday revealed that journalism covering the Middle East is mired in deeply rooted problems.

The White House manipulated a pliant press to push its narrative in order to build support for the Iran deal negotiations.

“We created an echo chamber,” Ben Rhodes, Barak Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, was quoted as saying. He explained that clueless reporters “were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.”

“All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus,” Rhodes said.

“Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

Israeli and Western media covering the region often suffer from the same problems due to a lack of expertise or spin and a dependence on certain NGOs, governments, or local media which is of dubious credibility.

For the Israeli media, the lack of access to the Arab world and Iran has led to media coverage that is far removed from reality on the ground and is often based on sketchy media reports coming from outlets that are biased since they are supporting one of the parties in the regional upheavals.

“There are certain circumstances where media spin works, and one of which is when journalists are dealing with faraway places,” Prof. Zvi Reich from the department of communication at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on Sunday. There is a Jewish saying, noted Reich, that states, “If someone wants to lie, he will distance his testimony.”

“Spin is not an independent phenomenon, it happens in a specific media context. I cannot spin you about the neighborhood you live in, but only about places you know less about or which are out of your sight,” he continued.

Other factors that facilitate spin is when there is a lack of access like in Iran and the fact that many journalists covering the White House these days are generalists and are not specialists in the various subjects involved in actual White House policies.

This has come about as news rooms and budgets shrink, resulting in less in-depth background stories on foreign countries of interest, said Reich, who previously worked as an editor at Yediot Aharonot.

“Today, journalists are demanded to do more with less: less time and expertise and more areas to cover,” he said.

In the past, remarked Reich, editors would give a journalist time to work on a story, but today that is far less common with the 24-hours news cycle.

Another factor that contributes to a shallower media is what has been termed “Click-economics of the media,” where the news media “looks for audience-engaging stories – an event driven news as opposed to more analysis and deeper pieces,” he explained.
To read the entire article click here.