The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information



=>
 TeasersJuan Cole Blogview

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New ReplyRead More
ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
AgreeDisagreeLOLTroll
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Troll, or LOL with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used once per hour.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
The New Islamophobia Looks Like the Old McCarthyism
🔊 Listen RSS

These days, our global political alliances seem to shift with remarkable rapidity, as if we were actually living in George Orwell’s 1984. Are we at war this month with Oceania? Or is it Eastasia? In that novel, the Party is able to erase history, sending old newspaper articles down the Ministry of Truth’s “memory hole” and so ensuring that, in the public mind, the enemy of the moment was always the enemy. Today, there is one constant, though. The Trump administration has made Muslims our enemy of the first order and, in its Islamophobia, is reinforced by an ugly resurgence of fascism in Germany, Italy, Hungary, and other European countries.

It’s hard today even to imagine that, in the late 1980s, the rightwing Christian Voice Magazine published a “candidate’s biblical scoreboard,” urging its readers (and potential voters) to rate their politicians by how “biblically” they cast their ballots in Congress. One key measure of this: Did that legislator support the anti-Communist Muslim jihadis in Afghanistan, a cause warmly supported by evangelist Pat Robertson in his 1988 presidential campaign? Now, attempting to appeal to twenty-first-century evangelicals, President Trump has announced that “Islam hates us.”

The kaleidoscope of geopolitics and Islamophobia is now spinning so fast that it should make our heads spin, too. At times, it seems as if Donald Trump is the anti-Ronald Reagan of the twenty-first century, idolizing former KGB operative Vladimir Putin, but seeing former U.S. allies in the Muslim world like Pakistan as purveyors of “nothing but lies and deceit” — until, that is, with bewildering rapidity, he suddenly gives us the “good” (that is, oil-rich) Muslims again, willingly performing a sword dance with the Saudi royals, seemingly entirely comfortable with the scimitar of the Saracen.

Islamophobes Galore

While the president oscillates between abusing and fawning over the elites of the Muslim world, his true opprobrium is reserved for the poor and helpless. His hatred of refugees uprooted by the horrific Syrian civil war, for instance, stems from his conviction that this population (predominantly women and children, as well as some men fleeing the fighting) might actually be adherents of the so-called Islamic State group (also known as ISIL, ISIS, or Daesh) and so part of the building of a secretive paramilitary force in the West. He’s even speculated that “this could be one of the great tactical ploys of all time. A 200,000-man army, maybe.”

This summer, he also tweeted: “Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!” And a day later claimed it had risen by 10%. Though immigrant communities can indeed produce some crime until they find their footing, the crime rate in Germany, despite the welcoming of two million immigrants in 2015 alone, has fallen to a 30-year low, as have crimes by non-German nationals.

Nor, of course, is there an army of terrorists the size of the active-duty forces of France or Italy among those hapless Syrian refugees. Still, that outlandish conspiracy theory may be part of what lay behind the president’s blatantly unconstitutional 2015 call for a “total and complete shut-down” of Muslims coming to the United States. Consider it a great irony, then, that some significant part of the turmoil in the greater Middle East that helped provoke waves of refugees and an Islamophobic backlash here and in Europe was, at least in part, the creation of this country, not Muslim fundamentalist madmen.

The Islamophobes like to argue that Islam is an inherently violent religion, that its adherents are quite literally commanded to such violence by its holy scriptures, the Qur’an. It’s a position that, as I explain in my new book, Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires, is both utterly false and ahistorical. As it happens, you would have to look to far more recent realities to find the impetus for the violence, failed states, and spreading terror groups in today’s Greater Middle East. Start with the Reagan administration’s decision to deploy rag-tag bands of Muslim extremists (which al-Qaeda was first formed to support) against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s. That set in motion massive turmoil still roiling that country, neighboring Pakistan, and beyond, decades after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Of course, al-Qaeda notoriously blew back on America. Its September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington were then used by American neoconservatives in the administration of George W. Bush — some of whom had served in the Reagan years, cheering on the American-backed Afghan fundamentalists, as well as their Arab allies — to set the United States on a permanent war footing in the Muslim world. The 2003 invasion of Iraq, promoted on the false pretext that Saddam Hussein’s government supported al-Qaeda, kicked off a set of guerrilla insurgencies and provoked a Sunni-Shiite civil war that spread in the region.

Hundreds of thousands would die and at least four million people, including staggering numbers of children, would be displaced over the years thanks to George W. Bush’s boondoggle. The al-Qaeda franchise ISIL (formed initially as al-Qaeda in Iraq in the wake of the U.S. invasion) arose to expel American troops there. Ultimately, its militants made inroads in neighboring Syria in 2011 and 2012 and the U.S. allowed them to grow in hopes of putting pressure on the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.

 
By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) In his visit to India, Barack Obama pressed unsuccessfully for India to set specific...
🔊 Listen RSS

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment)

In his visit to India, Barack Obama pressed unsuccessfully for India to set specific carbon limits. Nevertheless, he did get agreement from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the USA and India would pursue vigorously non-carbon energy sources, including nuclear and renewables such as solar.

That was a better outcome than would have been anticipated based on Indian cabinet members’ statements just last spring. They blamed most of the increased CO2 in the atmosphere on the wealthy countries and hinted that it would be unfair to impede Indian economic growth now, given that India had put relatively little of the extra carbon into the atmosphere.

This situation is sort of like if a bunch of people with water hoses were filling an inflatable swimming pool but were tied up so that if the water got too high they would drown. Saying that you didn’t help fill it at the beginning and so should be allowed to put extra water in makes no sense if that policy would drown you.

Modi is known as a proponent of solar energy, though like Obama he has an “all of the above” approach to energy, including an insouciant attitude toward deadly coal.

Alan Neuhauser writes: “Obama agreed to help finance Modi’s planned $100 billion expansion of solar power in the next seven years, from 20,000 to 100,000 megawatts.”

Just for comparison, note that the total US solar installed capacity today is also only 20,000 megawatts.

India was originally planning to double its solar energy by 2020, to 40,000 megawatts. But even before the meeting with Obama, India had decided to go for 100,000 megawatts by 2020.

Obama has pledged help in funding this five-fold increase.

One Indian government project backed by the World Bank will create a 750 megawatt solar facility in Madhya Pradesh, which, when finished, will be the largest such solar plant in the world.

But the fact is that government policy and foreign aid will help along a process that will also grow because of market forces.

By the end of this year, 2015, commercial rooftop solar panels in India will be grid parity or less. That is, it will be cheaper to have solar panels on the roof of a business than to use coal or natural gas. Moreover, you don’t know how much natural gas will cost 20 years from now (especially if India starts using a lot of it), but you can lock in cheap solar rates for 25 years.

Since 2010, the cost of solar panels has declined 62 percent, and similar price falls are likely in the next few years. In sunny India, within five years it will be crazy for people not to put up solar panels.

25% of India still lacks electricity (i.e. some 300 mn. people), and if they electrify with coal that will be disastrous for climate change and human welfare. But if they get it from solar and wind, they will save money and the earth all at once.

The world carbon dioxide output rose to 40 billion metric tons last year. India’s output was up 5%.

But the increasingly cheap solar panels will attract Indian businesses and building owners. Things will change quickly once they begin changing.

——

CNN: “Obama Guest of Honor at India’s Republic Day Festivities”

 
Euronews | — “A Turkish teenager who was arrested at his school on Wednesday for allegedly insulting...
🔊 Listen RSS

Euronews | —

“A Turkish teenager who was arrested at his school on Wednesday for allegedly insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been released from police custody.

The 16-year-old was met by his parents. His mother said: “I’m not ashamed of my son.”

The boy, who has not been named because of Turkish laws that protect the identity of minors, remained defiant.

“We are not terrorists. We gave a promise while taking this path. We said we won’t give up. We said we won’t submit to fascist, hardline oppression.”

Euronews: “Schoolboy arrested for ‘insulting’ Turkish president released”

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Dissent, Turkey 
By Juan Cole | – Satire alert : The hall at the International Criminal Court in the Hague was packed today as the...
🔊 Listen RSS

By Juan Cole | –

Satire alert :

The hall at the International Criminal Court in the Hague was packed today as the trial began of former US Vice President Richard Bruce Cheney [they always give all three names of suspected felons in the newspaper.]

The ICC justices begin with the first charge, that Mr. Cheney ordered the torture practiced by the Central Intelligence Agency on over 100 prisoners, 21% of them later recognized to have been falsely accused. Prisoners were abused anally, waterboarded, slammed against walls, threatened, an arm was broken, one died from exposure. Mr. Cheney denied that these techniques were torture, to the astonishment of sitting senators. And he continues to advocate the continuation of these methods.

Cheney’s attorneys object. “Your honors, there is no evidence that Cheney ordered torture.”

One of the judges leans over the bench. “Is it not true that Mr. Cheney told NBC News on September 16, 2001, “We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will.”?

Attorney: “That is not proof that he ordered torture.”

Judge: “He used the first person plural, “we,” and he used the imperative, “have to.” The very grammar indicts him. Moreover, he said in 2011 that he continued strongly to urge the use of waterboarding on prisoners. He is committed to the dark side.”

Attorney: “Waterboarding is ambiguous.”

Judge: “The US tried and hanged Japanese war criminals for waterboarding.”

Attorney: “Those individuals actually carried out waterboarding. They did not simply advocate their use.”

Judge: “Julius Streicher was quite rightly hanged after the Nuremberg Trials for having done no more than write newspaper articles urging crimes against humanity.”

Attorney: “Surely you are not calling Dick Cheney a fascist and war criminal?”

Judge: “Let us move on to the next charge. Mr. Cheney launched a war of aggression on Iraq, under false pretenses, that was illegal in international law and has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths.”

Attorney: “The vice president feared Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.”

Judge: “Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, and UN inspectors continually said so. In any case, there are only two grounds for war in the United Nations charter: 1) self-defense and 2) UN Security Council authorization of the use of force against a danger to world order. Iraq did not attack Mr. Cheney’s country, and the UNSC did not authorize the use of force.”

Attorney: “The US Congress authorized the war.”

Judge: “Unfortunately for your client, we consider that to be just another war crime by a different branch of government, not exculpatory.”

Attorney: “Mr. Cheney was not the commander in chief and could not order that war. George W. Bush was on top of the issues and in complete control.”

Judge: “Now you are just saying silly things.”

Attorney: “It was worth a try.”

Judge: “They kept Cheney informed of the torture program but not George W. Bush or Colin Powell. This was Cheney’s baby. Not only did Mr. Cheney launch an illegal war of aggression, he set off a chain of further crimes. The Nuremberg judgement observed, “To initiate a war of aggression . . . is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” Mr. Cheney is also responsible for the torture at Abu Ghraib, for massacres of non-combatant populations, and for the displacement of 4 million Iraqis. He made a fifth of the country homeless and created millions of orphans and widows.

Attorney: “There is no evidence that Cheney ordered any of those things.”

Judge: “Did he advocate them?”

Attorney: “Hmm.”

Judge: “Well?”

Attorney: “I’m thinking, I’m thinking.”

Judge: “You are stalling. What about the outing of Valerie Plame, the CIA undercover field officer whose cover Mr. Cheney blew? Did not President George H. W. Bush say, “Even though I am a tranquil guy now at this stage of my life, I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are in my view the most insidious of traitors.”? ”

Attorney: “That was Richard Armitage and Bob Novak.”

Judge: “Cheney was the one who ordered Scooter Libby and other staffers to attempt to out Ms. Plame. They assiduously called journalists with this story. It was materials they left lying around that came to Mr. Armitage’s attention. It was only an accident that Novak ran with the story before one of Mr. Libby’s journalistic contacts could be convinced.”

Attorney: “Outing a CIA officer is not a crime in international law, only in US law.”

Judge: “We’ll be sure to forward the dossier to the US authorities.”

Attorney: “The US authorities already dismissed Ms. Plame’s suit on the grounds that Cheney was just doing his job.”

Judge: “That is why we are holding these proceedings at the Hague.”

—–

Related video:

TheLipTV: “CIA Torture Report Exposes Bush + Cheney War Crimes”

 
Human Rights Watch | – (Beirut) – Egyptian authorities need to take clear action to end the practice of...
🔊 Listen RSS

Human Rights Watch | –

(Beirut) – Egyptian authorities need to take clear action to end the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) following the country’s first trial on the crime ending in acquittals, Human Rights Watch said today.

A trial this month in Egypt centered on the death of a 13-year-old girl in 2013. The doctor who cut the girl and the girl’s father who took her to the doctor were acquitted on November 20. The case highlights the need for serious steps by authorities to end FGM including implementation of the law and a national strategy to raise awareness of the harms of FGM. The public prosecution recently filed an appeal against the acquittal. 

“Female genital mutilation is banned in Egypt but the practice continues possibly because there is a lack of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions,” said Rothna Begum, researcher on women’s rights in the Middle East and North Africa for Human Rights Watch.

FGM involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical purposes. It interferes with the natural functioning of the body and has no known health benefits. The practice may lead to a variety of immediate and long-term health consequences, including severe pain, shock, infection, complications during childbirth affecting both the mother and the child being born, as well as long-term gynecological problems.

On June 6, 2013, 13-year-old Sohair al-Batea died following an FGM procedure after she had an allergic reaction to penicillin. Dr. Raslan Fadl Hallawa acknowledged performing the procedure, but claimed it was for medical purposes and not FGM.  He and Sohair al-Batea’s father came under investigation. The public prosecutor initiated criminal proceedings in March 2014 charging the doctor with manslaughter for causing the girl’s death by negligence, running a medical facility that does not meet medical requirements to treat patients, endangering the girl’s life, and committing the practice of female genital mutilation. The prosecutor charged her father with endangering her life and forcing her to undergo FGM.

Since the law banning FGM was amended in 2008, this single case of prosecution has resulted in a trial. Activists have reported that lack of prosecutions are due to local officials considering FGM to be a private family issue rather than dealing with the crime of FGM itself.

Egyptian authorities need to take steps to ensure effective implementation of the law criminalizing the harmful procedure by ensuring that there is adequate investigation and prosecution of those who carry out the FGM procedure, Human Rights Watch said. The government needs to initiate a national strategy to end FGM by raising awareness of the mental and physical harm it does, and of the law banning it.

“This case was an important test of Egypt’s legislation criminalizing female genital mutilation,” Begum said. “It is clearly not enough to just put a law on the statute books; it must be enforced.”

According to the memorandum of the public prosecutor on the case dated March 10, 2014, as available on Shorouk news website, the evidence included a testimony from health inspector Ahmed Mosa, which described that the girl’s genitalia was cut and that she died from shock or circulatory failure. An initial post-mortem forensic report found that the doctor had not tested her for hypersensitivity to the penicillin that was used in the procedure which led to her death. An additional report from an expert committee headed by a senior forensic doctor stated that they could not confirm whether this was a FGM procedure or another medical procedure, as the doctor has claimed. The memorandum also includes investigation notes such as the father’s testimony.  He initially said he took his daughter for the FGM procedure, but then changed his testimony to claim she was experiencing abdominal pain. The public prosecutor concluded from the reports and its investigation that the procedure carried out was female genital mutilation.

The initial charge of manslaughter by negligence was settled out of court, with the doctor paying the family 5,001 Egyptian pounds (around US$700). On November 20, 2014, the minor offenses court in Agga, in Dakahlia governorate north east of Cairo, found the two men not guilty on the remaining charges. Human Rights Watch was not able to obtain the full verdict including the reasoning behind the acquittal.

According to a lawyer from the Women’s Center for Guidance and Legal Awareness, the public prosecutor filed an appeal with the minor offenses appeal court in Mansoura, capital of the Dakahlia governorate. 

In 2008, after the death of an 11-year-old girl following a FGM procedure, the Child Rights Law No. 126 amended the Penal Code to provide that anyone who causes injury through performing female genital mutilation can be sentenced to imprisonment for three months to two years, or fined between 1000-5000 Egyptian pounds (approximately US$700). The Sohair al-Batea case was the first case to go to trial on charges relating to female genital mutilation.

“Egypt may have a law on the books, but the lack of meaningful prosecutions or any convictions for such a widespread problem sends a message that it is okay to carry out FGM,” said Rothna Begum. “The authorities must send a clear message to the police, prosecution and the courts on investigating and prosecuting those who perform FGM.”

Female genital mutilation is a widespread practice in Egypt. A 2008 demographic and health survey found that 91 percent of girls and women aged 15-49 years had undergone FGM. The study also suggested that the practice may be on the decline, with rates among women under age 25 at around 80 percent, compared with women aged 25-49, among whom between 94 and 96 percent were subject to female genital mutilation.

In 2007, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, who is the highest Islamic authority, issued a fatwa (religious edict) that FGM was forbidden in Islam. However, some clerics continue to openly advocate the practice. The 2008 survey found that just under half of all women aged 15-49 believed that FGM was a religious requirement and just over half felt that the practice should continue. Whatever the reasons cited, FGM is an act of violence that is irreversible and without medical justification, and which has a lasting negative impact on girls’ and women’s physical, mental, and sexual health.

“Despite some signs that FGM might be decreasing, it still remains a widespread problem,” Begum said. “If Egypt wants to show it is serious about ending FGM, it must put in place a national strategy in addition to its law, with the inclusion of religious and community leaders, healthcare professionals, teachers, and civil society to raise awareness on the harms of FGM.”

The national strategy should include support for victims of FGM including medical and psychosocial assistance and it should establish official mechanisms to monitor the progress of eradication efforts.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Egypt, Health, Women 
By Andrew J. Bacevich (Tomdispatch.com) | – “Iraq no longer exists.” My young friend M, sipping a...
🔊 Listen RSS

By Andrew J. Bacevich (Tomdispatch.com) | –

“Iraq no longer exists.” My young friend M, sipping a cappuccino, is deadly serious. We are sitting in a scruffy restaurant across the street from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.  It’s been years since we’ve last seen each another. It may be years before our paths cross again. As if to drive his point home, M repeats himself: “Iraq just doesn’t exist.”

His is an opinion grounded in experience.  As an enlisted soldier, he completed two Iraq tours, serving as a member of a rifle company, before and during the famous Petraeus “surge.”  After separating from the Army, he went on to graduate school where he is now writing a dissertation on insurgencies.  Choosing the American war in Iraq as one of his cases, M has returned there to continue his research.  Indeed, he was heading back again that very evening.  As a researcher, his perch provides him with an excellent vantage point for taking stock of the ongoing crisis, now that the Islamic State, or IS, has made it impossible for Americans to sustain the pretense that the Iraq War ever ended.

Few in Washington would endorse M’s assertion, of course.  Inside the Beltway, policymakers, politicians, and pundits take Iraq’s existence for granted.  Many can even locate it on a map.  They also take for granted the proposition that it is incumbent upon the United States to preserve that existence.  To paraphrase Chris Hedges, for a certain group of Americans, Iraq is the cause that gives life meaning. For the military-industrial complex, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Considered from this perspective, the “Iraqi government” actually governs, the “Iraqi army” is a nationally representative fighting force, and the “Iraqi people” genuinely see themselves as constituting a community with a shared past and an imaginable future.

Arguably, each of these propositions once contained a modicum of truth.  But when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 and, as then-Secretary of State Colin Powell predicted, broke the place, any merit they previously possessed quickly dissipated.  Years of effort by American occupiers intent on creating a new Iraq out of the ruins of the old produced little of value and next to nothing that has lasted.  Yet even today, in Washington the conviction persists that trying harder might somehow turn things around.  Certainly, that conviction informs the renewed U.S. military intervention prompted by the rise of IS.

So when David Ignatius, a well-informed and normally sober columnist for the Washington Post, reflects on what the United States must do to get Iraq War 3.0 right, he offers this “mental checklist”: in Baghdad, the U.S. should foster a “cleaner, less sectarian government”; to ensure security, we will have to “rebuild the military”; and to end internal factionalism, we’re going to have to find ways to “win Kurdish support” and “rebuild trust with Sunnis.”  Ignatius does not pretend that any of this will be easy.  He merely argues that it must be — and by implication can be — done.  Unlike my friend M, Ignatius clings to the fantasy that “Iraq” is or ought to be politically viable, militarily capable, and socially cohesive.  But surely this qualifies as wishful thinking.

The value of M’s insight — of, that is, otherwise intelligent people purporting to believe in things that don’t exist — can be applied well beyond American assumptions about Iraq.  A similar inclination to fanaticize permeates, and thereby warps, U.S. policies throughout much of the Greater Middle East.  Consider the following claims, each of which in Washington circles has attained quasi-canonical status.

* The presence of U.S. forces in the Islamic world contributes to regional stability and enhances American influence.

* The Persian Gulf constitutes a vital U.S. national security interest.

* Egypt and Saudi Arabia are valued and valuable American allies.

* The interests of the United States and Israel align.

* Terrorism poses an existential threat that the United States must defeat.

For decades now, the first four of these assertions have formed the foundation of U.S. policy in the Middle East. The events of 9/11 added the fifth, without in any way prompting a reconsideration of the first four. On each of these matters, no senior U.S. official (or anyone aspiring to a position of influence) will dare say otherwise, at least not on the record.

Yet subjected to even casual scrutiny, none of the five will stand up.  To take them at face value is the equivalent of believing in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy — or that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell really, really hope that the Obama administration and the upcoming Republican-controlled Congress can find grounds to cooperate.

Let’s examine all five, one at a time.

The Presence of U.S. Forces: Ever since the U.S. intervention in Lebanon that culminated in the Beirut bombing of October 1983, introducing American troops into predominantly Muslim countries has seldom contributed to stability.  On more than a few occasions, doing so has produced just the opposite effect. 

Iraq and Afghanistan provide mournful examples. The new book “Why We Lost” by retired Lieutenant General Daniel Bolger finally makes it permissible in official circles to declare those wars the failures that they have been.  Even granting, for the sake of argument, that U.S. nation-building efforts were as pure and honorable as successive presidents portrayed them, the results have been more corrosive than constructive.  The IS militants plaguing Iraq find their counterpart in the soaring production of opium that plagues Afghanistan. This qualifies as stability?

And these are hardly the only examples.  Stationing U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia after Operation Desert Storm was supposed to have a reassuring effect.  Instead, it produced the debacle of the devastating Khobar Towers bombing.  Sending G.I.’s into Somalia back in 1992 was supposed to demonstrate American humanitarian concern for poor, starving Muslims.  Instead, it culminated in the embarrassing Mogadishu firefight, which gained the sobriquet Black Hawk Down, and doomed that mission.

 
By Emile Nakhleh | – WASHINGTON, Nov 20 2014 (IPS) – The recent killing of an Arab youth by the police in...
🔊 Listen RSS

By Emile Nakhleh | –

WASHINGTON, Nov 20 2014 (IPS) – The recent killing of an Arab youth by the police in the Israeli Arab village of Kafr Kanna, outside Nazareth, the ongoing bloody violence in Jerusalem, and the growing tensions between the Israeli security services and the Arab community in Israel could be a dangerous omen for Israeli domestic stability and for the region.

Should a third intifada or uprising erupt, it could easily spread to Arab towns and cities inside Israel.

Recent events clearly demonstrate that the Arabs in Israel are no longer a quiescent, cultural minority but an “indigenous national” minority deserving full citizenship rights regarding resources, collective rights, and representation on formal state bodies.

Foreign media is asking whether Palestinians are on the verge of starting a new intifada in Jerusalem, the Occupied Territories, and perhaps in Israel. Ensuing instability would rattle the Israeli body politic, creating new calls from the right for the transfer of the Arab community from Israel.

As Israeli politics moves to the right and the state becomes more Jewish and less pluralistic and inclusive, the Palestinian community, which constitutes over one-fifth of the population, feels more marginalised and alienated.

In response to endemic budgetary, economic, political, and social discrimination, the Arab community is becoming assertive, more Palestinian, and more confrontational. Calls for equality, justice, and an end to systemic discrimination by “Israeli Arab” civil society activists are now more vocal and confrontational.

The Israeli military, police, and security services would find it difficult to contain a civil rights intifada across Israel because Arabs live all over the state, from Galilee in the north to the Negev in the south.

The majority of Arabs in Israel are Sunni Muslims, with a small Druze minority whose youth are conscripted into the Israeli army. The even smaller Christian minority is rapidly dwindling because of emigration.

The vast Muslim majority identifies closely with what is happening at the important religious site of al-Haram al-Sharif or Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The Islamic State’s territorial expansion in Iraq and Syria and the rise of Salafi groups in Sinai and Gaza will surely impact the Arabs in Israel.

In addition to Arabic, Palestinians in Israel speak Hebrew, travel throughout the country, and know Israel intimately. A potential bloody confrontation with Israeli security forces could wreak havoc on the country.

Israeli Arab Spring?

Based on conversations with “Israeli Arab” activists over the years, a possible “intifada” would be grounded in peaceful protests and non-violent civil rights struggle. The Israeli government, like Arab regimes during the Arab Spring, would attempt to delegitimise an “Israeli Arab Spring” by accusing the organisers of supporting terrorism and Islamic radicalism.

One Palestinian activist told me, however, “The protests are not about religion or radicalism; they are about equality, justice, dignity, and civil rights.”

Analysis of the economic, educational, political, and social status of the 1.6 million Arabs in Israel shows not much improvement has occurred since the bloody events of October 2000 in which 13 Arabs were killed during demonstrations in support of the al-Aqsa intifada. In fact, in welfare, health, employment, infrastructure, public services, and housing the situation of Israeli Arabs has retarded in the past decade.

For years, the Arab minority has been called “Israeli Arabs” because they carry the Israeli citizenship or the “’48 Arabs,” which refers to those who stayed in Israel after it came into being in 1948.

Although they have lived with multiple identities—Palestinian, Arab, Islamic, and Israeli—in the past half dozen years, they now reject the “Israeli Arab” moniker and have begun to identify themselves as an indigenous Palestinian community living in Israel.

Arab lawyers have gone to Israeli courts to challenge land confiscation, denial of building permits, refusal to expand the corporate limits of Arab towns and villages, meager budgets given to city and village councils, and limited employment opportunities, especially in state institutions.

In the Negev, or the southern part of Israel, thousands of Arabs live in “unrecognized” towns and villages. These towns often do not appear on Israeli maps! Growing calls by right-wing Zionist and settler politicians and their increasingly virulent “Death to Arabs” messages against the Arab minority have become more shrill and threaten to spark more communal violence between Jews and Arabs across Israel.

Deepening fissures in Israeli society between the Jewish majority and the Arab minority will have long-term implications for a viable future for Arabs and Jews in Palestine.

The Arab community expects tangible engagement initiatives from the government to include allowing Arab towns and villages to expand their corporate limits in order to ease crowding; grant the community more building permits for new houses; let Arabs buy and rent homes in Jewish towns and ethnically mixed cities, especially in Galilee; increase per capita student budgetary allocations to improve services and educational programmes in Arab schools; improve the physical infrastructure of Arab towns and villages; and recognise the “unrecognised” Arab towns in the Negev.

Depending on government policy and regional developments, Israeli Arabs could be either a bridge between Israel and its Arab neighbours or a potential domestic threat to Israel as a Jewish, democratic, or multicultural state. So far, the signs are not encouraging.

The Islamic Movement, which constitutes the vast majority of the Arab community, is also becoming more cognizant of its identity and more active in forging links with other Islamic groups in Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem.

The growing sense of nationalism and Islamisation of the Arab community is directly related to Israel’s occupation policies in the West Bank, continued blockade of the Gaza Strip, and refusal to recognise the Palestinians’ right of self-determination. Long-term government-minority relations in Israel, whether accommodationist or confrontational, will also affect American standing and national interest in the region.

Although secular activists within the Arab community are wary of the Islamist agenda, they seem to collaborate closely with leaders of the Islamic Movement on the need to assert the political rights of Israeli Arabs as full citizens.

In 2006-07, Arab civil society institutions issued three important documents, known collectively as the “Future Vision,” expressing their vision for the future of the Palestinian community in Israel and its relations with the state.

The documents called for “self-reliance” and described the Arab minority as an “indigenous, Palestinian community with inalienable rights to the land on which it has lived for centuries.” The documents also assert the Arabs in Israel are the “original indigenous people of Palestine” and are “indivisible from the larger Palestinian, Arab, Islamic cultural heritage.”

Arab activists believe that recent Israeli policies toward the Palestinian minority and their representatives in the Knesset are undermining the integrationist effort, empowering the Islamist separatist argument, and deepening the feeling of alienation among the Arab minority.

Way forward

Recent events clearly demonstrate that the Arabs in Israel are no longer a quiescent, cultural minority but an “indigenous national” minority deserving full citizenship rights regarding resources, collective rights, and representation on formal state bodies.

 
1. Morocco has announced that the first of a planned five solar mega-plants will go operational in 2015. The North...
🔊 Listen RSS

1. Morocco has announced that the first of a planned five solar mega-plants will go operational in 2015. The North African country, which is poor in hydrocarbons, has awarded the bid to a Saudi-based company. Morocco intends to generate 2 gigawatts of energy from solar, in an ambitious program that will cost $9 bn. It hopes to export some of that electricity to Europe. Morocco is ideal for solar energy, having enormous reserves of sunlight. Morocco plans to get 42 percent of its own energy from renewables like wind and solar by 2020.

2. India has announced plans to add 15 gigawatts of solar-generated power by 2019. Andhra Pradesh alone plans to set up a solar power plant that will generate 1 gigawatt of electricity annually.

3. Solar will likely be the world’s largest source of electricity by 2050, when some 26% of world energy will come from solar panels.

4. 86% of people in Tanzania, east Africa, lack electricity and many are forced to resort to expensive diesel generators. Increasingly, rural Tanzanians are putting in solar panels to generate electricity. Solar panel installations in Africa have doubled every year starting in 2009.

5. Mexico aims at generating 35% of its energy form solar by 2024 and so has solar-friendly policies. A plant that will generate 250 megawatts of solar electriciy is expected to see 45.


MSNBC: Cost of Solar Panels Falling”

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Coal, Economy, Energy, Environment, Featured 
By Sam Bahour (Ma’an News Agency) When I asked my colleague in Gaza about her biggest dream, her answer made an...
🔊 Listen RSS

By Sam Bahour (Ma’an News Agency)

When I asked my colleague in Gaza about her biggest dream, her answer made an impression on me: “I dream of what life would be like with 24-hour electricity.”

This was the answer of a single, mid-career, Western-educated, professional woman who lives in the more affluent part of Gaza City. Her response suggests the depth of despair among Palestinians throughout Gaza.

Day-to-day life in Gaza between Israeli attacks is unworthy news for Western mainstream media. As a result, few people are aware that electricity in Gaza is a luxury, with blackouts lasting 16-18 hours — every day.

This bitter reality has warped people’s lives for years now, as they must plan their daily activities around the 4-6 hours when they anticipate electricity, even if that means waking up to put laundry in the washing machine in the middle of the night.

Contrary to common belief, the severe under-supply of electricity in Gaza is not new, and not a result of the latest military aggression.

Gaza has not had uninterrupted electricity since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994. In an attempt to compensate for the Israeli disruption of Gaza’s power supply, the Palestinians established their first power generation plant in 2004.

Ever since, Israel has regularly limited the supply of electricity and industrial fuel needed to operate this only power plant in Gaza. Israel’s ability to deny families in Gaza the energy they need is nothing less than collective punishment of Palestinians — punishment whereby an entire community is made to pay for the acts of a few.

Separating Gaza’s electricity supply from the political conflict is a step long overdue. Access to electricity — a basic necessity that much of the world, including Israeli citizens can take for granted — should not be conditional upon outcomes of future negotiations.

Continued darkness in Gaza serves no one.

During Israel’s military aggression on Gaza this past summer, Israel again bombed the sole power plant in Gaza. (Israel bombed the same plant on June 28, 2006.)

In a July 29, 2014 article about the latest destruction, the Guardian quoted Amnesty International which stated, “the crippling of the power station amounted to collective punishment of Palestinians.”

Amnesty went on to note that, “the strike on the plant will worsen already severe problems with Gaza’s water supply, sewage treatment and power supplies to medical facilities.”

On September 14, 2014, less than 50 days after the Israeli strike on the plant and less than a month after the cessation of fighting, the Middle East Monitor reported that the CEO of the Gaza Electricity Company, Walid Sayel, announced that Gaza’s power plant was ready to work, pending fuel supply.

“The Turkish minister of energy,” the item continued, “had said that his country is ready to send a floating 100 megawatt power plant to Gaza after obtaining the necessary permits (from Israel).” As Palestinians in Gaza try to move on, none of the players involved in the latest debacle, foremost among them Israel, is being held accountable.

The barrier is not simply being without fuel for the power plant. The issue is much more complex and calculated.

If Turkey were serious about helping, their floating power station would already be in Gaza’s territorial waters even if they had to face down the Israeli navy and risk an international incident to bring electricity to Gaza. If the Palestinian Authority were serious, we would not have to witness the CEO of a Palestinian power plant begging for the funds needed to get the power plant running.

And most importantly, Israel has the capacity to provide Gaza with continuous electricity immediately. According to international law, as the occupying power, Israel has sole responsibility to remedy this issue immediately.

To the governments and leaders who just returned to Cairo for another round of ceasefire negotiations with no timeline or end in sight, I challenge them to first focus on this basic and humane step: Give the people of Gaza access to electricity.

It would be a basic step in easing the stresses of life in Gaza where loved ones can’t check in with one another when cell phones can’t get charged, email and Skype calls are not predictable, and having back-up generators for hospitals is literally a matter of life and death.

As what was intended to be a five-year peace process crawls into its third decade, an entire generation of Palestinian children in Gaza who were born in the early 1990s are now turning 16, 18, and 20 years old. Their generation has never known a time that didn’t require candles to be able to study after dark due to intermittent electricity.

Israel has the capacity to stop power interruptions today. Sympathetic nations have the influence to insist that Israel does this. If international leadership cannot agree that providing electricity to the people of Gaza — a very achievable goal — should be an immediate priority, how can we possibly imagine that the larger political issues can be resolved anytime soon?

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect Ma’an News Agency’s editorial policy.

Sam Bahour is a business consultant living in Ramallah. He serves as a policy adviser to Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network and blogs at www.epalestine.com.

Mirrored from the Ma’an News Agency

———

Related video added by Juan Cole

PressTV: “Electricity crisis brings dark times for patients in Gaza”

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Israel/Palestine, Palestine 
By Juan Cole Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu delivered a speech at the UN to a half-empty hall in which he...
🔊 Listen RSS

By Juan Cole

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu delivered a speech at the UN to a half-empty hall in which he tried to exemplify the most logical fallacies in a short period of time.

Netanyahu’s message is that all political Islam is equivalent. Thus, if ISIL is a danger to the west, then the Hamas movement in Gaza is as well. And both of them are equivalent to Iran.

Hamas is a movement of political Islam that has often deployed violence, which it terms resistance to occupation and which Israel and the US see as terrorism. But the US State Department was quick to put distance between it and Netanyahu’s views, dissenting from his crazy quilt of equivalencies.

Here are the top 5 differences between Hamas and ISIL:

1. Hamas has foresworn attacks on the United States and other Western countries, presenting itself as a national liberation movement against Israeli military occupation (an occupation that has lasted since 1967 in Gaza). ISIL on the other hand has called on radicals to attack the US and Europe.

2. Hamas has joined a national unity government with the PLO. Some Hamas legislators hold that this step automatically results in an implicit Hamas recognition of Israel, insofar as Hamas delegates will be bound by PLO rules of discourse, and the latter recognize Israel. In contrast, no high-profile member of ISIL has done anything but attempt to foment more violence and to break all political deals.

3. Hamas has not concertedly attacked non-Muslims, and, in fact there has sometimes been good cooperation between it and the Eastern Orthodox church. In contrast, ISIL attempted to ethnically cleanse the Yazidis and has threatened Christians and other minorities.

4. Hamas has concluded ceasefires with Israel, however imperfect on both sides. ISIL was kicked out of al-Qaeda for declining ever to make a truce even with its own allies.

5. Hamas has a civilian wing that ran for elective office in 2006 and won the Palestine elections. ISIL has no civil wing and is profoundly opposed to holding elections by party.

Hamas is a horrible fundamentalist organization (created in part by Israeli conniving and by the horrible conditions under which Palestinians in Gaza are made to live by the Israeli government), but it isn’t ISIL. And neither is like Iran, which is a Shiite state (Hamas and ISIL are hard line Sunni fundamentalists). Netanyahu comes close to racism in painting all Muslims with an extremist brush that is for him invarying. His own Likud movement was perfectly willing to turn to terrorism when it did not get its way, but not all Zionists or all Israelis would have approved. Netanyahu is doing propaganda and so cannot afford insightful oppositions.

—–

Related video:

AJ+ “Why Windows Aren’t Being Repaired In Gaza”

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Featured, Israel, Israel/Palestine, Palestine 
Juan Cole
About Juan Cole

Juan Cole is Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. For three decades, he has sought to put the relationship of the West and the Muslim world in historical context. His most recent book is Engaging the Muslim World (Palgrave Macmillan, March, 2009) and he also recently authored Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). He has been a regular guest on PBS’s Lehrer News Hour, and has also appeared on ABC Nightly News, Nightline, the Today Show, Charlie Rose, Anderson Cooper 360, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, the Colbert Report, Democracy Now! and many others. He has given many radio and press interviews. He has written widely about Egypt, Iran, Iraq, and South Asia. He has commented extensively on al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the Iraq War, the politics of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Iranian domestic struggles and foreign affairs. He has a regular column at Truthdig. He continues to study and write about contemporary Islamic movements, whether mainstream or radical, whether Sunni and Salafi or Shi`ite. Cole commands Arabic, Persian and Urdu and reads some Turkish, knows both Middle Eastern and South Asian Islam. He lived in various parts of the Muslim world for nearly 10 years, and continues to travel widely there.


PastClassics
Are elite university admissions based on meritocracy and diversity as claimed?
The sources of America’s immigration problems—and a possible solution
The evidence is clear — but often ignored
What Was John McCain's True Wartime Record in Vietnam?