Thursday, December 18, 2014

Famous Egyptian writer says Hamas is “the real enemy,” not Israel

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
December 18, 2014

Ali Salem says there are currently Israeli factories in Egypt and normalization with Israel is necessary.

Egyptian writer and playwright Ali Salem. (photo credit:MEMRI)

Egyptian Ali Salem, who has a record of peaceful statements regarding Israel, said Israel is Egypt’s “friend” and Hamas is “the real enemy.”

It is not in Israel’s interest for Egypt to suffer from a lack of security, Salem said on Al-Arabiya TV in an interview Wednesday, the Egyptian El-Watan website reported.

The intellectual said Hamas and Islamic State present the most serious threat to Egypt.

Salem has visited Israel and called for the normalization of relations, drawing strong reactions from critics.

The real enemy is also poverty, ignorance, and disease, he said, adding, “Egypt will defeat terrorism no matter how long it takes.”

There are currently Israeli factories in Egypt and normalization with Israel is necessary, the playwright said.

In 2001, the Union of Egyptian Writers expelled Salem. He had “visited Israel several times and published a book on those visits, in addition to several articles supporting normalization, which contradicts the general bent of union members and the resolutions of the general assembly in several sessions,” said a Union statement reported in an article about the writer in The Middle East Quarterly journal in 2002.

To read the entire article click here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Erdogan’s regime becoming more dictatorship than democracy

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
December 17, 2014

The oft-repeated Erdogan quote that analysts cite again and again bears repeating – that democracy is a train that you get off once you reach your destination.

Turkish flag. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to transform his regime into a one-man dictatorship reminiscent of strong-man regimes in the Arab world and far less like a European democracy.

In which direction is Turkey’s government headed – to be more in the mold of European democracies such as England, Germany or Italy, or more like the dictatorships of Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Libya’s former ruler Muammar Gaddafi or Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir? The oft-repeated Erdogan quote that analysts cite again and again bears repeating – that democracy is a train that you get off once you reach your destination.

Sunday’s raids on the Zaman daily and Samanyolu television marked an escalation in Erdogan’s battle with former Islamist ally Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Turkish cleric.

Erdogan’s ruling AK Party as well as large parts of the bureaucracy were penetrated by Gulen’s Hizmet movement.

Erdogan, a Sunni Islamist who, along with Qatar, supports the Muslim Brotherhood regionally – including Hamas – is moving to the next phase. Whereas ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi tried to move too fast, Erdogan has been smartly taking over the country at a slow pace since he became prime minister in 2003.

Since the Gezi Park protests last summer, it seems that Erdogan has become less patient. And the war in Syria has also revealed where Erdogan’s heart lies: seeking President Bashar Assad’s downfall at the hands of the Islamist-dominated opposition and refusing to play a significant role in the US-led campaign against Islamic State.

“Turkey has been on the road to an authoritarian regime for several years as infringements on human rights have gradually increased,” Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar- Ilan University, told The Jerusalem Post.

The longer Erdogan rules, “he becomes more power hungry and his authoritarian personality becomes clearer,” said Inbar, adding, “Nowadays, he arrests even Islamist journalists that are critical of his policies.”

“Turkey never had a political system with checks and balances able to constrain attempts to consolidate power around one politician,” notes Inbar, adding that in recent years, “Erdogan has weakened further the few constitutional constraints against ‘Putinization’ of the Turkish political system.”

Prof. Henri Barkey of Lehigh University and a former member of the US State Department Policy Planning Staff dealing with Middle East issues, told the Post that “Turkey’s democratic past has always been checkered.”

To read the entire article click here.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

In-depth report reveals Qatar’s willful blindness to financing of global terrorist groups

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
December 12, 2014

Expert on Gulf affairs to ‘Post’: US should consider removing its military base from Arab country, "Qatar and Turkey are in Congress’s sights."

(L R) Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal arrive for a meeting in Doha.. (photo credit:REUTERS)

A report released this week demonstrates how Qatar plays a double game with the West – funding terrorist groups throughout the region while acting like an ally and responsible player on the world stage.

The report, “Qatar and Terror Finance: Negligence,” is the first in a three-part series by The Foundation for Defense of Democracies and its Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance.

It links Qatari financiers with the leaders of Islamic State; al-Qaida’s Syrian branch, Nusra Front; al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula; Somalia’s al-Shabaab; the Taliban; and Pakistan’s core al-Qaida and Lashkar-e-Taiba.

It names over 20 people who have been blacklisted by the US or the UN on terrorism- financing charges but have not been dealt with by Qatari authorities.

“Qatar’s terror-finance problem is the result of weak enforcement,” the report says. “It reflects a serious lack of political will and represents a grave threat to US interests.”

“Qatar’s performance in the fight against terror finance tests the notion that it is a reliable friend and ally.”

The report’s author, David Andrew Weinberg, a specialist on Gulf affairs and a senior fellow at the Washington- based think tank, told The Jerusalem Post that besides to Hamas, large funds are heading to Nusra Front and to Islamic State.

“On Tuesday, 24 members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee called on the US administration to sanction any government in the future that provides material or financial support to Hamas,” noted Weinberg.

“Qatar and Turkey are in Congress’s sights, and they apparently run the risk of being called state sponsors of terror – a category that under US law involves serious penalties, such as a possible arms embargo for enabling terror against Israeli civilians by backing Hamas,” he said.

To read the entire article click here.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

US tech firms urged to help combat cyber jihad

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
December 11, 2014

“The removal of a handful of You- Tube videos, Twitter accounts and Facebook pages is hardly a serious solution,” Steven Stalinsky warns.

Picture of Anonymous hacker from social media‏. (photo credit:SOCIAL MEDIA)

A new in-depth study by the Middle East Media Research Institute shows how jihadist groups radicalize and recruit a new generation of Muslims online.

The study, “From Al-Qaeda to the Islamic State (ISIS), Jihadi Groups Engage in Cyber Jihad,” was researched over the past year by MEMRI and its Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor, and published last week, to coincide with the launch of MEMRI’s Cyber Jihad Lab initiative ( Steven Stalinsky and R. Sosnow wrote the report.

The late al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is quoted as praising the cyber jihad: “The wide-scale spread of jihadist ideology, especially on the Internet... [is] a major achievement for jihad.”

Stalinsky, MEMRI’s executive director, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, “The main point of the report is that al-Qaida and now Islamic State and other leading terrorist organizations have launched cyber jihad against the West by utilizing US websites and social media freely.”

Stalinsky points out that Robert Hannigan, the director of the Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters signal intelligence and cryptography agency, stated it succinctly in an article on terrorists’ use of the Internet in the Financial Times last month: “The largest US technology companies” are “the command-and-control networks of choice for terrorists. It is a fact that these companies are the drivers of global jihad and enable al-Qaida and now Islamic State to fund-raise, recruit, indoctrinate, train and disseminate their ideology.”

The Obama administration and Congress must deal with this issue, pressed Stalinsky, arguing that the “long-overdue first step in doing so would be summoning the heads of social media companies and having them clarify what exactly their policies are on their usage by designated terrorist groups and individuals.

“There are several clear models for US policy-makers to follow, and which European governments have begun to implement over the past few months,” he noted.

In October, the European Commission, with ministers from all 28 EU member states, summoned representatives of major US technology companies to a meeting in Luxembourg that dealt with how terrorists are using the Internet. This comes within the context of European worries over jihadists returning to the Continent, going online and targeting their fellow Muslim citizens.

To read the entire article click here.

Pakistani terrorists doing charity in Gaza, report says

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
December 11, 2014

The founder of these charities is Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, a former academic-turned-terrorist leader whom India accuses of playing a role in the November 26, 2008, terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

A Palestinian boy is seen at the Rafah crossing on the Egypt-Gaza border.. (photo credit:REUTERS)

The Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, accused of carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attacks, is now reportedly engaged in charity work in Gaza.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)’s Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor has found evidence that the Pakistani group’s charity arms – Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) – are active in the Gaza Strip.

Tufail Ahmad, director of the South Asia Studies Project at MEMRI, told The Jerusalem Poston Wednesday that “the move by Lashkar-e-Taiba to establish a footprint in Gaza seems to be part of a well-thought-out jihadist strategy from Pakistan.”

It also “validates the global jihadist ambitions of the Pakistani jihadist groups, especially Lashkar- e-Taiba and its charity arms,” he said.

The founder of these charities is Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, a former academic-turned-terrorist leader whom India accuses of playing a role in the November 26, 2008, terrorist attacks in Mumbai, according to the MEMRI report, which was released Monday.

Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation are seen as a branch of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency, says Ahmad, and “their presence in Gaza could pose a long-term security threat to international peace, especially because Pakistan sees its national interest in Palestine.”

Moreover, Pakistan’s army chief Raheel Sharif “recently warned that world peace depends on resolving the Palestine and Kashmir issues,” he added.

On December 4-5, the charity groups’ leaders organized a two-day mass rally in Lahore, where Saeed “called for jihad in support of oppressed Muslims everywhere, but especially in Kashmir,” reported MEMRI.

To read the entire article click here.

Israeli-Arab parties struggle to unite as one electoral list

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
December 10, 2014

Tibi: We are continuing serious talks toward this goal

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

Israeli Arab political parties continue to meet and are working hard to form a united bloc in the upcoming elections, but so far have been unable to overcome differences between them and within their own political factions.

The three Israeli Arab parties – United Arab List-Ta’al, Hadash and Balad – met again on Monday, but were unable to progress toward running together, much less agree on who would lead the new grouping for elections scheduled on March 17.

United Arab List-Ta’al head MK Ahmed Tibi told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that they “are continuing the serious talks with the goal of establishing a single list.”

Israeli-Arab MKs coming from the three parties have confirmed to the Post over the past few days that no agreement has been reached, but that intensive talks are continuing.

The decision to raise the electoral threshold to 3.25 percent of the vote has forced the parties to band together in order to win seats.

A political source with knowledge of the talks told the Post that a main sticking point remains whether to run one or two separate lists. If two lists run, then it would include a vote surplus-sharing agreement.

They are examining which option would bring more votes and gain the most seats in the Knesset, the source said.

Another issue requiring resolution is who would head a united list, or two separate lists.

Asked who should lead the united Arab party, Tibi responded that it should be based on popularity in the Arab sector, according to a primary or a poll because this is the most democratic method.

But Balad head Jamal Zahalka seemed to dismiss deciding things based on polling data or by holding primaries, telling the Post on Tuesday, “The list will be decided only according to the strength of parties and current representation in the Knesset.”

Fayez Eshtiwy, the owner and general manager of the popular Israeli-Arab news website Kul al-Arab at told the Post in an interview “the parties must unite.”

To read the entire article click here.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas tree in Acre central square lights up debate

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
December 7, 2014

Local chief rabbi: There shouldn’t be Christian symbols in city but there’s no need to remove tree; Israeli-Arab writer: Decorations promote pluralism.

Christmas tree in Acre. (photo credit:PR)

The Acre Municipality, headed by Mayor Shimon Lankry, placed a Christmas tree for the first time in a central square of the mixed city, drawing mixed reactions from the city’s Arab and Jewish residents.

Hatem Fares, an Israeli-Arab Christian on the city council, had requested that a tree be placed at Barcelona Square.

The chief rabbi of Acre, Yosef Yashar, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on Sunday that according to Jewish law, there is no place for Christian symbols in the city.

However, he went on to note, “Acre is a mixed city, and to remove the tree at this point would cause disrespect and create a provocation. From the outset it should have been considered whether this was a good idea, but now that [the tree] is there, there is no need to come with force and remove it.”

Next year, they need to rethink how to avoid this, he said.

“We have coexistence here” between Jews, Muslims and Christians, added the rabbi.

Residents who defend the tree’s placement say that Christians, who are taxpaying residents of the city, have the right to publicly celebrate their religion. They note that Hanukka menorahs are often placed in European and American cities without a big fuss.

To read the entire article click here.

Israel strikes against Syria may be linked to Iranian activity

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
December 7, 2014

Syria expert Eyal Zisser to ‘Post’: In the past, no one had any interest in opening up another front said Zisser adding, “Let’s hope that will happen this time."

Alleged IDF bombing of targets in Syria. (photo credit:ARAB SOCIAL MEDIA)

Syrian state television said on Sunday that Israeli jets had bombed targets near Damascus International Airport and in the town of Dimas, near the border with Lebanon.

A Lebanese TV correspondent reported that Israel struck 10 crucial intelligence-linked locations in Syria that belong to Iran. The outlet reported that explosions were heard near the Israeli-Lebanese border, allegedly the result of IDF maneuvers.

The IAF has struck Syria several times since the start of the three-year conflict, mostly destroying weaponry such as missiles that Israeli officials said were destined for their longtime foe Hezbollah in neighboring Lebanon.

Last week, the Lebanese Daily Star reported the army said it had fired anti-aircraft guns at an IDF drone flying low over the eastern part of the country.

“The Israeli enemy committed aggression against Syria by targeting two safe areas in Damascus province, in all of Dimas and near the Damascus International Airport,” state television said, adding that there were no casualties.

An IDF spokesman said he would not comment on “foreign reports.”

At Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel was following developments in the Middle East with great interest, because “a great deal is happening.”

“We will remain constantly with our hand on the pulse, and we will deal with these threats and challenges because they do not take a time-out,” Netanyahu said.

“We will deal with them with the same degree of responsibility that we have done up until now.”

Prof. Eyal Zisser, an expert on Syria from the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday, “Israel’s policy is clear. It does not interfere in the war and has no interest to attack [Syrian President] Bashar Assad and its army, or to topple the regime.”

However, he said that “Israel took advantage several times in the past of Assad’s weakness and acted against arms shipments on their way from Syria to Hezbollah.”

In the past, no one had any interest in opening up another front and everyone acted to contain the fallout, said Zisser, adding: “Let’s hope that will happen this time.”

To read the entire article click here.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Israeli Arab parties seek unity for upcoming elections

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
December 2, 2014

Balad head Jamal Zahalka and United Arab List-Ta’al head Ibrahim Sarsur say their parties seek joint list.

Haneen Zoabi and Jamal Zahalka. (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The Knesset's three Israeli Arab parties – United Arab List- Ta’al, Hadash and Balad – met on Tuesday to discuss running as a united bloc in the upcoming elections.

A statement from Balad following the meeting said the party had stressed the importance of unity in response to the Right, which it claimed had tried to damage Arab representation by raising the electoral threshold.

“Those who did not want 11 [Arab] MKs will get 15,” read the statement.

The party’s chairman, MK Jamal Zahalka, said he was “optimistic” and that there was “a high chance of reaching a joint list. It is important to emphasize that nobody said no to the idea of unity.”

The decision to raise the electoral threshold to 3.25% of the vote forces the parties to band together in order to win seats.

UAL-Ta’al head Ibrahim Sarsur told the Post that his party’s position, as presented at the meeting in his party’s faction room at the Knesset, was the same as Balad’s.

Balad MK Haneen Zoabi told the Post on Tuesday that the purpose of the meeting was to develop a strategy to counter the “Jewish State” bill, but that the issue of early elections had of course been discussed.

“We talked about the need to unite our political power and create a political consensus that will struggle against the raging racism and violence that is intensifying on the extreme Right,” she said.

Zoabi asserted that the Arab parties needed to think outside the box. “We have to abandon the classical tools of our struggle and develop other ones that are based on consensus and united Arab political power.”

To read the entire article click here.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Sisi regime shows confidence as ‘deep state’ returns to Egypt's political landscape

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
December 1, 2014

Expert: ‘The court’s decision pours oil on the fire of this struggle.’

Supporters of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak celebrate after hearing the verdict of his trial in Cairo November 29. (photo credit:REUTERS)

The acquittal of former president Hosni Mubarak, his sons, and other close aides demonstrates that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has settled comfortably in power and marks the return of the deep state.

The term “deep state” refers to a group of powerful nondemocratic leaders who, though they may be concealed under layers of bureaucracy, are actually in control of the country.

To be sure, Sisi has smartly led the important Arab state from the depth of riots, terrorist attacks, economic crisis and outside pressures, but the style and makeup, if not the policies, of the government are reminiscent of Mubarak’s regime.

The fact of the matter is that the Mubarak trial was bound to be based not on a strict reading of the evidence but on the wishes of the regime in power.

Muslim Brotherhood spokeswoman Wafaa Hefni admitted as much, saying that if former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi were in power, the ruling would have been different, the Daily News Egypt reported.

Arab politics is a matter of winner take all, and the court verdicts can be considered as Sisi’s coattails.

In March, Robert Springborg argued in an article for the BBC that the Mubarak era personalities were key to Sisi’s consolidation of power.

“At present, [Sisi] he is relying on the military, other elements of the deep state and Mubarak-era technocrats to manage his campaign, thereby suggesting he hopes to rule as a sort of presidential version of King Abdullah II of Jordan or King Muhammad VI of Morocco, balancing off the various political parties and forces under him while relying on the deep state for the essence of his rule.”

“The Mubarak trial was a classical political trial,” Prof. Yoram Meital, chairman of the Chaim Herzog Center for Middle East Studies and Diplomacy at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, told The Jerusalem Post.

“It was impossible to separate the trial and the political context in Egypt,” he said.

To read the entire article click here.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Analysis: Middle Eastern states struggle to maintain current order and control of territory

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
November 28, 2014

Regional expert: The main impetus for Mideast developments is indigenous rather than external.

ISIS militant. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Divided sectarian societies with traditional tribal culture, Arab uprisings, non-state actors such as Islamic State and al-Qaida, social media and even world powers, are contributing to the weakening of states in the Middle East. All this is increasingly significant as they struggle to build fences, put down uprisings and maintain their territorial integrity.

The definition of a state is “a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory,” according to Max Weber, in his 1918 lecture “Politics as a Vocation.”

How many Middle Eastern states can claim to meet such criteria? Not many. Perhaps Israel, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and some others can say that they monopolize the use of force in their states.

Others such as Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Yemen, Iraq and Egypt are wracked with internal divisions and violence from opposing groups, and it seems to have gotten worse since the “Arab Spring” began.

However, even within the states that are deemed stable for the most part, controlling the use of force in their territories, violence and disputes are still on the fringes.

For example, even Israel persistently deals with controlling its territory, building a fence on its southern border with Egypt to stem the tide of illegal immigrants and other terrorist infiltrations.

Egypt is dealing with a similar problem on its side of the border, and its battle against an Islamist insurgency in Sinai that has spread into other cities perpetually tests the state.

Saudi Arabia has increased its forces on its northern border with Iraq and is strengthening its fence system there. In addition, tensions are emanating from its Shi’ite population and Islamist groups.

Islamic State’s control of swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, the growing independence of Iraqi Kurdistan and porous borders between Syria and all its neighbors, are just some of the recent evidence of the weakening of the Middle Eastern states.

Israel continues to consider building hi-tech guarded fences along its other borders, though it still seems vulnerable to tunnels penetrating from Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in the North.

Attacks and rockets by terrorist groups as well as riots by Israeli Arabs test Israel’s hold on absolute power, but do not threaten it.

To read the entire article click here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

68% of Israeli Arabs oppose recent wave of terrorism, poll finds

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
November 25, 2014

81% believe Israel is trying to harm status quo on Temple Mount.

A bullet hole in a door of the Jerusalem synagogue where two Palestinian terrorists killed four rabbis and a police officer, November 19, 2014. (photo credit:REUTERS)

An overwhelming majority of 68 percent of Israeli Arabs opposes the recent wave of terrorist attacks, while 77% prefer to live under Israeli rule rather than Palestinian, according to a recent poll by the Statnet research institute.

The poll, commissioned by Channel 10 and published on its website, also found that 84% of Israeli Arabs support Knesset members who condemned the attacks in Jerusalem, while fully 81% believe Israel is trying to harm the status quo on the Temple Mount.

Just 16% opposed the condemnation of the attacks by Arab MKs.

Yousef Makladeh, CEO of shared with The Jerusalem Post on Monday previously unreleased data, which broke down Arab support according to religion.

Of the Israeli Arabs who oppose the terrorist attacks, 88% were Druse, 80% Christian, and 64% Muslim.

Of the percentage of Arabs who prefer to live under Israeli rule: 70% were Druse, 57% Christian, and 49% Muslim. And those that preferred to live under the Palestinian Authority: 2% were Druse, 5% Christian, and 18% Muslim.

Makladeh said the poll was conducted from Thursday to Sunday and included phone interviews of 405 Israeli Arab citizens nationwide, not including east Jerusalem. The survey was conducted in Arabic and 39% of the respondents were men and 61% women.

The survey found that 42% of Arabs feel that they suffer from strong racism; 44% moderate racism; and 14% light racism.

Only 9% feel the state treats them equally; 52% semi-equally; and 39% not equally at all.

Prof. Sammy Smooha, a sociologist from the University of Haifa, told the Post that the survey’s findings appear reasonable.

To read the entire article click here.