Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Turkey appeases US in token gesture on Islamic State battle

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
October 21, 2014

Turkey is “throwing a bone to try to get the US to commit itself against [Syrian President Bashar] Assad,” says Israeli expert.

Smoke and flames rise over the Syrian border town of Kobani after an airstrike, October 20, 2014. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Turkey finally made a token concession to the US in its battle against Islamic State, allowing some Iraqi Kurdish fighters to aid their brethren in the Kurdish Syrian town of Kobani. But it was a move made only for show.

Turkey has rejected aiding NATO in its fight against Islamic State, since Ankara sympathizes with its Sunni jihadist ideology – and because it sees the group as weakening its long time Kurdish foes.

Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that he sees Turkey’s latest move as part of a negotiation process with the US.

Turkey is “throwing a bone to try to get the US to commit itself against [Syrian President Bashar] Assad,” said Inbar, adding that Erdogan’s strategic goal is to oust Assad, which will benefit Sunnis.

“Allowing a few peshmergas to cross their border might only prolong the suffering of the Kurds” he said, pointing out that it is likely to result in more Kurdish fighters being killed, something “that is not inimical to Turkish interests.”

Ankara views the Syrian Kurds with deep suspicion because of their ties to the PKK, a group that waged a decades-long militant campaign for Kurdish rights in Turkey, and which Washington regards as a terrorist organization.

However, by allowing in Kurdish fighters from Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Turkey was able to tamper criticism of its lack of cooperation against Islamic State and seek to appease the Kurds – who have held lethal riots against the government’s policies in the southeastern part of the country.

To read the entire article click here.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

100 Mideast scholars call for academic embargo of Israeli institutions

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
October 3, 2014

In excess of 100 Middle East studies scholars and librarians signed a petition boycotting Israeli academic institutions and submitted it for publication to the Jadaliyya website.

Parisians burn an Israeli flag. (photo credit:REUTERS)

In excess of 100 Middle East studies scholars and librarians signed a petition boycotting Israeli academic institutions and submitted it for publication to the Jadaliyya website.

“We, the undersigned scholars and librarians working on the Middle East, hold that silence about the latest humanitarian catastrophe caused by Israel’s new military assault on the Gaza Strip – the third and most devastating in six years – constitutes complicity,” read the letter.

“World governments and mainstream media do not hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law. We, however, as a community of scholars engaged with the Middle East, have a moral responsibility to do so,” it said.

“The ongoing Israeli massacres in Gaza have been ghastly reminders of the complicity of Israeli academic institutions in the occupation and oppression of Palestinians. Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Bar- Ilan University, Haifa University, Technion, and Ben-Gurion University have publicly declared their unconditional support for the Israeli military.”

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is posted as a logo along with the letter, which is signed by scholars from some of America’s most prestigious academies.

The scholars come from some of the following world universities: Princeton University, Yale, Harvard, University of Michigan, Duke University, Dartmouth College, University of Cambridge, Georgetown University, Columbia University, American University in Cairo, University of California- Berkeley, University of Tokyo, University of Oxford and the University of Toronto.

Prof. Martin Kramer, the president of Shalem College in Jerusalem and the former director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, toldThe Jerusalem Post that “the letter demands that Israeli institutions call on the State of Israel to dismantle settlements and promote the Palestinian ‘right of return.’” “I can think of no more dire threat to the academic freedom of Israeli scholars, than for their institutions to adopt any form of political orthodoxy,” said Kramer.

“Many of the boycotters hail from the Arab Middle East. They wish to impose the same intolerant conformism that rules Arab universities on Israeli academia,” he said, adding, “The effort will fail.”

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Khorasan Group targeted by US in Syria a special unit of al-Qaida

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
October 1, 201

Jenan Moussa of Dubai-based Alaan TV gathered exclusive images and documents from the bombed headquarters of the so-called Khorasan Group in Aleppo.

A Nusra Front stronghold bombed by the Americans in Syria. (photo credit:YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT)

A Dubai-based Arab TV station reported that the Khorasan Group cited by US President Barack Obama as a target of US bombing last week in Syria is really a special unit, called Wolf, of al-Qaida’s Syrian branch, the Nusra Front.

Jenan Moussa of Dubai-based Alaan TV gathered exclusive images and documents from the bombed headquarters of the so-called Khorasan Group in Aleppo.

Based on the evidence, the report concludes that besides the Wolf unit, there were other foreign fighters of Nusra Front staying at the compound.

A paper with 14 names on it was found, 13 of whom are mentioned as part of the Nusra Front “Wolf unit.”

The naming of the Khorasan Group has created debate among experts, some claiming that there has never been evidence of such a distinct group, and that it is probably just a cell of al-Qaida in Syria.

To read the entire article click here.

Obstacles loom as Arab parties begin efforts to unite

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
October 1, 2014

UAL-Ta’al doesn’t want to close door on Balad, which has problematic relations with Hadash.

MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL - Ta'al) in the Knesset.. (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Israeli Arab political parties are already jostling for influence despite numerous obstacles, in efforts to unite forces ahead of the next election, as the raising of the electoral threshold to 3.25 percent of the vote coerces them to join forces.

A researcher of Israeli Arab politics, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that the Arab nationalist Balad party “badly needs a coalition with other Israeli Arab parties because they only received 2.6% of the vote in the last election [in 2013].”

“They [Balad] are pushing harder than Hadash or United Arab List-Ta’al for a coalition,” said the researcher, adding that “the chance for unity is not great.”

“Balad is trying to form a coalition with Hadash or United Arab List-Ta’al. There are some in Balad who are calling for a boycott of the upcoming elections,” the researcher claimed.

Hadash is in a similar situation, receiving just 3% of the vote, and “also needs a coalition, but they won’t go with Balad.”

One plan that is being floated is a national poll of the Israeli Arab public, which would decide the make-up of a united Arab list.

A source from the Islamic Movement said United Arab List-Ta’al supports one list.

Balad faction leader Jamal Zahalka previously told the Post that the party seeks a coalition for the upcoming elections due to the raised threshold law that passed in March.

Amal Jamal, head of the International Graduate Program on Political Science and Political Communication at Tel Aviv University, told the Post that “all three parties cannot pass the threshold alone and there is no interest from them to unite with a Jewish party like Meretz.”

“No one would dare do that,” he said.

The Arab public wants a united party or list, he says, and so Balad, Hadash, and United Arab List-Ta’al are limited in their actions. “If one decides to go it alone, they will be blamed for it.”

“A leading politician told me that the most important matter is who invites whom, who initiates,” as that demonstrates “they have the upper hand.”

To read the entire article click here.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Al Jazeera host calls Western-led action against Islamic State a ‘new crusade’

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
September 29, 2014

Meanwhile, Israel, Egypt and other Gulf states have slammed Qatar for supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist movements.

ISIS fighter. (photo credit:REUTERS)

An Al Jazeera TV host writing in the Qatari media, has called the Western coalition campaign against Islamic State a “new crusade,” reminiscent of the one that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The Al-Watan newspaper ran an op-ed on Sunday by Al Jazeera host Ahmed Mansour, who said that the Western media coverage on late has focused on “their industry” of making enemies, namely the Islamic State.

This is being done just as it was in the past regarding al-Qaida, the Taliban, Saddam Hussein, and Osama bin Laden, he said.

Mansour accused the “extreme Right” in Britain of “corresponding” to the Islamic State in terms of extremism.

And just as US president George W. Bush referred to the war on terror as a “crusade,” it is clear now that “the story is not the Islamic State, but the real story is what is happening is a new crusade dressed in new clothing,” he wrote.

This article follows the Qatari position that supports Islamist movements throughout the region, including those in Syria seeking to topple President Bashar Assad.

Meanwhile, Israel, Egypt and other Gulf states have slammed Qatar for supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist movements.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Israeli Arabs: Move to differentiate Christians an attempt to ‘divide and conquer’

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
September 21, 2014

MK Levin: Christians see what is happening to their brethren throughout the Middle East and want change.

Nazareth . (photo credit:Wikimedia Commons)

Israeli Arabs appear annoyed by what they regard as government efforts to “divide and conquer” their community, after Interior Minister Gideon Saar determined that the population registry would recognize a separate Aramean identity for Arab Christians.

Christians who identify with the ancient people can now register as Arameans instead of as Arabs.

MK Hanna Swaid (Hadash) told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that it was astonishing that the Interior Ministry has rejected appeals by Israelis of various religions to be identified on their identity cards as Israelis instead of by their religion, but it accepts Arabs who want to be identified as Arameans.

“It is really ridiculous,” said Swaid, who is an Arab Christian.

“Tomorrow everyone who is registered as an Aramaen will start asking for special rights, education and budgets and so on. Most of them [Christians] are against this, as it is only a project by a few people who have an agenda – it is a joke, and that is how Christians view it.”

Behind last week’s decision is an intention to divide the Arab population and to recruit more Christians to the army, said Swaid.

MK Yariv Levin (Likud), who has been arguing for allowing identification as Christian, told the Post that historically Israel treated all minorities as one group – as Arabs, and the Muslims ruled over all of the minorities within the society.

Things are changing, and the Christians in Israel want change and see what is happening to their brethren throughout the Middle East, how they are being persecuted, said Levin.

“They want to be independent, not with [MK] Ahmed Tibi.”

Asked about Swaid’s comment that Arab Christians overwhelmingly reject such a designation, Levin responded that “MK Swaid, then, should be relaxed, since if Christians oppose it, he has nothing to worry about.”

To read the entire article click here.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Experts see Qatar making tactical adjustment, not dropping Islamist support

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
September 18, 2014

"Qataris would not encourage Islamists to depart without serious threats from other GCC members."

Qatar's ruler, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, reaches out to German Chancellor Angela Merkel September 17 in Berlin. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Qatar's gesture in reporting seven Muslim Brotherhood members does not represent a major strategic shift, but rather a temporary, tactical adjustment to overcome building pressure on the country, Gulf experts tell The Jerusalem Post.

Qatar had asked the seven senior figures from the movement to leave the country after its neighbors pressed it to stop backing the Islamists, according to a London-based Brotherhood official.

Israel, Egypt and other Gulf states have slammed Qatar for supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist movements in the region.

Qatar bankrolled the Muslim Brotherhood government of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, who was overthrown by the military a year ago.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have since poured in money to support Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who led the takeover in Egypt and has since been elected president after outlawing and suppressing the Brotherhood.

A report in the London-based pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat on Tuesday said that Qatar may move to expel many more Muslim Brotherhood members and other Islamists from the country.

David Andrew Weinberg, a specialist on Gulf affairs and a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Post that “Qatar’s foreign policy gains a lot in the short term from backing radical Islamists, but occasionally it has demonstrated a willingness to temper this support in response to consistent, targeted pressure from the outside.

“The Qataris would not be encouraging members of the Muslim Brotherhood – and now, apparently, Al-Gamaa al-Islamiya [another Egypt-based Sunni Islamist movement] as well – to depart without serious concerted threats from other GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] members,” Weinberg said. “Indeed, if the press reports are an accurate indication of what transpired, Qatar very possibly was facing serious additional sanctions from Saudi Arabia and the UAE leading up to the GCC summit at the end of August.”

The threat from Islamic State persuaded the Saudis to freeze their effort to punish Qatar, but “the handful of Brotherhood leaders who have already started leaving Qatar indicates that Doha didn’t get away without making any concessions,” he said.

“But Saudi Arabia – and especially the UAE, which is focused in on the Brotherhood issue with laser precision – are not going to be satisfied with only cosmetic changes to Qatari policy,” Weinberg argued.

Asked about the Al-Hayat report and possible additional deportations, Weinberg said it is unclear whether Qatar is going to follow through. “We’ve heard rumors of this sort before, but up until now all of the verifiable Qatari concessions on the Brotherhood issue have been insignificant.

“Qatar is making tactical concessions to prevent certain targeted costs that could be imposed by its neighbors,” he said, noting that there are no broader indications of Qatar going through a strategic realignment.

To read the entire article click here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

'Jihadists use the freedoms of Western society in order to destroy it'

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
September 17, 2014

French anti-terror Judge David Benichou noted that radicalized citizens in Europe posed a unique risk.

Judge David Benichou is a speaker at ICT's annual international conference at IDC Herzliya.. (photo credit:KFIR BOLOTIN)

Home-grown jihadists "use the freedoms of Western society in order to seek to destroy it,” French anti-terror Judge David Benichou told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

Benichou, who recently spoke at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism’s annual conference, noted that radicalized citizens in Europe posed a unique risk, since they were fully integrated into society and could legally enter and leave its territory at will. “The big challenge is detecting who they really are,” he said.

Regarding the security of Jews in France, the judge said he would advise against wearing religious symbols in some neighborhoods.

Pro-Palestinian protests this summer in support of Gazans became violent and created a worrisome environment for Jews, he said.

Benichou said that anti-terror cooperation with Israel was “excellent, at least judicially, [as I know from] my experience with them for several years.”

France, like all Western democracies, is trying to deal with the issue of its citizens becoming involved with terrorist organizations both at home and abroad.

Individuals who join these groups abroad are dangerous, he said, because they are able to receive military training and become more radicalized ideologically.

Discussing the ICT conference, which took place at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya last week, Benichou said he had “rarely seen such a concentration of specialists from dozens of countries, such a mixture of businesses, academics, and people from all areas affected by terrorism.”

This is because the fight against terrorism encompasses all components of society, he said.

“I spoke on the subject of foreign fighters, particularly French ones found in the ranks of jihadists in Syria, and the challenges that this brings,” said Benichou.

Specifically, a fundamental legal question hangs over the issue: “Should the jihadists be considered criminals or irregular fighters?” Perhaps this should be considered a new kind of war, he suggested, adding that Western democracies needed to reconsider the kinds of methods they used to handle the influx of extremists.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Israeli Arabs overwhelmingly deny support for Islamic State

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
September 15, 2014

Israeli Arabs that went to fight with Syrian opposition are for the most part fighting with other groups, says community leader.

An Islamic State terrorist holds a flag with the group's insignia.. (photo credit:REUTERS)

the Islamic State earlier this month and in numerous conversations with The Jerusalem Post, Israeli-Arabs overwhelmingly rejected the notion that any more than a few individuals support the terrorist group.

Over the last few weeks, the Israeli media has reported about Israeli Arab individuals who have left to fight for Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and about the appearance of the group’s flag in public, but there appears to be no phenomenon within Arab society supporting the al-Qaida offshoot.

Jafar Farah, the director of the Mossawa Center – The Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel, told the Post in an interview on Monday that “Israeli Arabs are against the Islamic State” and that Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the Islamic Movement’s Northern Branch in Israel, spoke out against the group.

“The Israeli media is looking for an enemy where there isn’t one,” and is “telling lies” on this issue, he said, adding that all Israeli-Arab parties oppose the group.

“We know Arab society more than the Israeli media,” he said.

Israeli Arabs that went to fight with the Syrian opposition against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad are for the most part fighting with other groups, not Islamic State, asserted Farah.

Furthermore, noted Farah, “Not everyone who waves the flag is an Islamic State supporter,” saying that the flag contains a verse from the Koran that “anyone can use without meaning that they belong to Islamic State.”

The Islamic State flag contains the words “La ilaha illa-ilah,” which are the first part of the Shahada, the Muslim declaration of faith – “there is no God but God.”

In fact, said Farah, the Islamic Movement uses this phrase as well.

There are a few isolated incidents, but “there is not a story here,” he argued.

Asked about how Arab society views the civil war in Syria, Farah responded that it is divided between supporters of Assad and the rebels.

“The Islamic Movement is against Assad” and believes that the Islamic State does not represent Islam, he said.

Edwar Makhoul, a Christian Arab from the Galilee who studies Middle Eastern history at Tel Aviv University, told the Post that there are few Israeli-Arab Islamic State supporters.

People are not worried about the group because of Israel’s strong army and police, he said.

Christians in Israel think the group is devil-like and anti-Christian, added Makhoul. “Islamic State is dangerous for Christians in the Middle East.”

“Israeli-Arab Christians support Assad because there is no alternative for them,” he added.

To read the entire article click here.

Analysis: Turkey balks at helping West, prefers Sunni jihadists

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
September 15, 2014

Erdogan who supports the Muslim Brotherhood regionally, seeks Syria’s downfall at the hands of the Islamists.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (C) and US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) leave a meeting in Ankara September 12, 2014. . (photo credit:REUTERS)

Turkey is barely lifting a finger for NATO against Islamic State, not because it mainly fears for the life of 49 Turkish hostages held by the group, but because it sympathizes with its Sunni jihadist ideology.

US Secretary of State John Kerry won backing on Thursday for a “coordinated military campaign” against Islamic State from 10 Arab countries – Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and six Gulf states including rich rivals Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Turkey, however, was not one of them.

US officials played down hopes of persuading Ankara to take a significant role in any military involvement, saying Friday’s talks with Turkey focused on issues including its efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters crossing its territory and its role in providing humanitarian assistance.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an Islamist, who, along with Qatar, supports the Muslim Brotherhood regionally – including Hamas – seeks Syria’s downfall at the hands of the Islamist- dominated opposition.

In the regional sectarian confrontation between Sunnis and Shi’ites, Turkey has thrown its support behind revolutionary Sunni movements.

Consequently, that puts the country at odds with its southern neighbors: the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and Shi’ite-ruled Iraq.

Turkey is also concerned about strengthening Kurds in Iraq and Syria, who the US-led alliance is seeking to aid militarily. Turkey’s own Kurdish insurgents waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state and are engaged in a delicate peace process.

Francis Ricciardone, who was until late June the US ambassador in Turkey, said on Thursday that Ankara had supported groups including the Nusra Front, al-Qaida’s Syrian branch, in the fight against Assad, much to the dismay of Washington.

“Turkey’s lack of cooperation with NATO and the West is nothing new,” Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, told The Jerusalem Post.

“Ankara adopted policies that vary greatly from NATO preferences,” he said, adding that “it supports Hamas, it circumvents sanctions against Iran and against Russia, and plans to buy a Chinese anti-aircraft and missile system.”

To read the entire article click here.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The trend of breakaway Islamists

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
September 8, 2014

Arab tribes have been fighting and allying with each other for centuries. And tribes also tend to unite against an invasion by outsiders.

ISIS fighter on a street in the city of Mosul, June 23, 2104.. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Islamic State, which broke off from al-Qaida, has distinguished itself by higher levels of ruthlessness and on-the ground results – conquering and administering territory in the heart of the Arab world – outshining its mother movement.

Though the two Sunni jihadist groups are not too dissimilar ideologically, it is the power Islamic State has achieved in practice that sways the masses of Muslims to its side.

It was Osama bin Laden himself who foresaw his organization’s demise: “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse.”

Lee Smith uses this statement by bin Laden in his book, The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations, explaining, “The wars waged between Arabs according to the strong horse principle make the Arabic-speaking peoples of the Middle East a much graver threat to themselves than they are to anyone else.”

Arab tribes have been fighting and allying with each other for centuries. And tribes also tend to unite against an invasion by outsiders.

The ruling al-Saud family defeated or allied itself with other tribes in order to take and form Saudi Arabia.

In terms of Islamic State, the current strong horse in the Islamist world, it has a similar long term goal as other Islamist groups, the main ones being al-Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood – of conquering the world under the rule of an Islamic Caliphate.

All three have different strategies on how to get there.

The Brotherhood, which is the basis ideologically for its two jihadist predecessors, al-Qaida and Islamic State, is a more pragmatic, patient group that prefers to bide its time, building followers from the ground up through its social welfare networks of schools, clinics and charities, before waging jihad.

Sayyid Qutb, the Brotherhood writer that led the way for the emergence of al-Qaida, wrote in his book, Milestones: “Indeed, Islam has the right to take the initiative. Islam is not a heritage of any particular race or country. This is Allah’s din [law] and it is for the whole world. It has the right to destroy all obstacles in the form of institutions and traditions that restrict man’s freedom of choice.”

Al-Qaida did not have the patience to build up support at the grassroots level, but wanted to strike its Arab and Western enemies immediately. And now Islamic State has paved the way for further radicalization.

Caliph Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi and his mentor Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and Qutb, have a similarity in that they all moved the ideology of their followers in a more extreme direction, though holding different roles.

Daniel Pipes, the president of the Middle East Forum, told The Jerusalem Post he agrees with that statement.

“These are similar processes of radicalization. The Islamic State appears to be the ultimate radical group, but who can say for sure these days?” says Pipes.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Israeli Arab town goes on strike in show of solidarity with murdered school principal

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
September 1, 2014

"The Jerusalem Post" spoke with residents of the city who appeared upset and complained about the lack of security.

Closed school gate in Taibe. (photo credit:Ariel Ben Solomon)

The Israeli Arab city of Taiba went on strike on Monday, keeping schools closed on the opening day of the school year, in solidarity with the high school principal murdered a week ago.

The Jerusalem Post spoke with residents of the city who appeared upset and complained about the lack of security in the city, many putting the blame on the police.

“Youth walk the streets carrying handguns and even large automatic weapons,” said a worker at a local market across from city hall, who did not want to be identified.

“Just the other day a kid shot at the police, and he escaped without being caught,” said the worker, adding that when one calls the police over a burglary, the police fail to act.

A masked gunman shot and killed Yussuf Haj Yahya, the principal of a Taiba high school, a week ago before a horrified group of teachers.

Yahya was speaking to a group of teachers at a meeting in his office when the assailant walked in and shot him several times in the head and chest before fleeing on foot.

Paramedics rushed Yahya in critical condition to Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, where he was pronounced dead shortly afterward.

The strike was kept quite strictly, especially when compared to other strikes observed by thePost in other Israeli Arab cities, which were called for more national issues such as Land Day.

But this murder was taken personally by many in the city who did not even know the successful school principal personally.

United Arab List-Ta’al MK Ahmed Tibi criticized the police and told the Post that there is “discrimination against Arabs – both living and dead.”

“If someone would use a weapon against the state, the person would be caught immediately,” argued Tibi. “The police are not solving crimes and this encourages criminals to engage in criminality and murder.”