Friday, October 28, 2011

Libya’s Unapologetic Future Doesn't Bode Well for the Arab Spring

The notorious dictator has been deposed and buried. However, the
prospects for real peace and democracy in Libya are as dim as ever.

By: Riccardo Dugulin

While the images of Muammar Gaddafi’s lifeless body being dragged through the streets continue to shock the world, the future of Libya and the North African region remains bleak. The ousting of a tyrant who oppressed his people for 42 years, openly supported and executed some of the most heinous terrorist attacks, and encouraged despicable criminal acts against his own civilians is certainly is a positive development. However, the aftermath of Gaddafi’s death may have shown some proof that Libya’s long-term future may not bode well for those seeking peace and democracy in the region.

On Thursday October 20th Muammar Gaddafi was shot dead by a disorganized unit of Libyan rebels. As Bernard Henri Lévy remarked in a recent article, revolutions more often than not pass through the violent death of the man in power against whom they are directed.  Louis XVI, Tsar Nicholas II, Benito Mussolini and Ceausescu are notorious examples. Yet in a war that has been presented as the triumph of international law over autocratic despotism, such a killing highlights the real nature of the Libyan conflict. Even Saddam Hussein hanging in a squalid room by Shi’a militiamen had a feeling of justice as he was tried in front of an Iraqi tribunal, in which he had the opportunity to speak for himself and defend his actions.

A number of issues remain unresolved in what is now commonly referred to as the "liberated" Libya. The political form its institutions will take, the country's international standing, or the possibilities of a establishing a lasting stability there are only a few among many other uncertainties. What is clear from now is that the romantic rhetoric that would have seen a candid citizens’ uprising liberate its people from the grasp of a tyrant and then swiftly make the transition to a peace –oriented democracy may not see the light of day, and for a number of reasons.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Is Iran Cornered?

Statements from Iran's political and religious leadership seem to
highlight the growing isolation of the Iranian regime.
This article was featured on Middle East Online, found here.

By: Daniel Nisman

On October 12, the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Qabas reported that Iran had informed Hezbollah that it would cut funding to the Shia militia by forty percent. The source cited the cutback as a result of growing economic sanctions and a diversion of resources to help Bashar Assad in his crackdown on the pro-reform movement. This action, along with several other events suggests that Iran's regional standing may be eroding rapidly.

When the Arab Spring first erupted, it seemed apparent that Iran would gain an advantage over the West, with the first revolutions taking aim against unpopular, western-backed dictatorships. Tunisia's Ben Ali, Yemen's Saleh, Bahrain's Khalifa, and Egypt's Mubarak were all known as western allies and “moderate” leaders, and the popular uprisings against them proved to be an embarrassment to US foreign policy.

Until March, it seemed quite clear that Iranian-backed nations such as Syria and Lebanon would emerge unscathed, allowing Iran to secretly continue its nuclear program as the West focused its efforts on damage control in North Africa.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Reviewing the Islamic Claim to Palestine and its Implications for Peace

The famous Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem is the third holiest site in Islam. The Islamic claim to
Jerusalem/Palestine holds important implications for any future Israeli/Palestinian peace deal
By: Alex Trafton

There have been extensive efforts in the Israeli-Arab conflict to degrade and devalue the historical narrative of the “other,” whether it is over the implications of the 1948 War of Independence, the 1967 Six-Day War, historical residency and settlement of Israel/Palestine, or Israel’s continued presence in the West Bank. Irrefutably, a central issue in this conflict is religion. Regardless of one’s degree of religiosity, it is important to understand that the Abrahamic faiths form an integral portion of the Jewish/Arab cultural and political narrative. One of the most important disputes focuses on the religious significance of Jerusalem and, more significantly, a point which I’ve decided to discuss in my column, today.

Although religion is an important component of the Israeli-Arab conflict, we must, as rational observers, note that religion forms an important part of the two people’s respective cultures. Depending on an individual’s personal cultural and religious background, the claims or narrative of the “other,” are often viewed as silly, irrelevant, or disregarded completely. However, these cultural perspectives hold sacred value for those who adhere to them. For an Israeli Jew it may seem utterly pointless to discuss what Islamic historical value is placed on Jerusalem, yet it is important to understand the narrative of the other side and how important that may be when it comes time to negotiate a political settlement.

An integral issue in the debate over the Israel-Palestine issue has been which nation has a more valid historical, cultural, and religious claim to the land of Palestine/Israel. In this never-ending song, the chorus always seems to be the same from the Jewish narrative; that “Muslims have no religious claim to Jerusalem.” However, this is as untrue as it is ubiquitous. There is a clear claim to the land of Palestine and, more specifically, Jerusalem, in Islam’s canonical texts.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Boycotting the Boycott: BDS Means “No” to the Two-State Solution

The BDS campaign against Israel continues to grow, but its efforts are, at best,
misguided and stifle dialogue and, at worst, negate Israel's right to exist.

By: Susan Maishlish

Organizations and private entities supporting a two-state solution would be wise to reconsider their endorsement of boycotts, divestments and sanctions of Israel (BDS)

The Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions campaign against Israel is highly counter-productive, favoring bullying over cooperative activities that promote dialogue and the humanization of the "other." Trust-building initiatives such as joint economic ventures, dialogue groups and cooperative healthcare require a concerted investment of time, resources, and genuine determination; however, the link between action and effect, whereby such activities will result in a tangible benefit for both parties is verifiable. BDS disregards the necessary cognitive shift that must take place within the collective consciousness of Israelis and Palestinians alike - the move from pessimism to hope - for sustainable resolution to be capable of materializing. 

According to the Global BDS Movement website for “freedom, justice, and equality,” Palestinian Civil Society calls for boycotts, divestments and sanctions against Israel until it “complies with international law and Palestinian rights.” The group posits that continuous, punitive measures will force Israel to comply with the demands of the Palestinians and, ultimately, the Arab world. The overarching issue of how Israel would comply with BDS demands is at best ambiguous, and at worst, posits Israel should forfeit its right to exist. The movement discounts the notion that any viable solution should be a negotiated final status agreement, whereby the issues of permanent borders, Jerusalem, economy, freedom of movement, and refugees can be examined in a comprehensive and realistic manner intended for avoidance, rather than provocation of future conflict and accompanying violence.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Welcome Home, Gilad

Nearly 5 years after being kidnapped, Gilad finally shares a phone call
with his family. Israel's captive son has finally been returned. Photo: IDF

Everyone here at Israeli Centrism is excited to witness the release of Gilad Shalit after 1,941 days in captivity. Today is source of great pride and celebration for the State of Israel, and although the long term implications of the prisoner exchange will only be realized in the future, it is an incredible feeling to watch Israel's captive son finally returning home.

To read more about Gilad Shalit reuniting with his family after five years, click here.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Israel Must Learn from Egypt's Sectarian Strife

Egyptian Copts protest the burning of a church in Aswan, just one instance
of growing sectarian strife in Egypt. Source: AFP/Getty Images
By: Daniel Nisman

Israel must act quickly to address similar underlying cultural and socioeconomic factors which caused Egypt's destructive sectarian unrest.

On October 9th, the streets of Downtown Cairo erupted in some of the worst violence since the January revolution. Unlike past instances of politically motivated unrest, the October 9th riots put Egypt’s desperate Coptic Christian community in the crosshairs of an intolerant and unsympathetic Muslim majority, backed up by riot police, state media, and a seemingly apathetic government. This senseless chaos was not the result of a single church burning, as portrayed by Western media, but rather an ongoing and largely tolerated pattern of discrimination that eventually reached a boiling point. If Israel is not careful, it too may face a similar explosion of ethno-religious violence to that which has brought so much shame and embarrassment to the Egyptian people.

The events of October 9th began when prominent Coptic activist groups gathered thousands of followers to march from Cairo’s Shubra district to the Iconic ‘Maspero’ state-telecommunications building on Nile
Water front, only minutes from Tahrir Square. The march was part of an ongoing campaign to pressure the Egyptian government to bring justice to those responsible for an attack on October 2nd on a Church in southern Aswan province. In that incident, a local Christian man decided to turn his guesthouse into a place of worship that subsequently resulted in an attack by hundreds of his enraged Muslim

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Hypocrisy of the Price Tag Campaign Reveals Itself in Tuba-Zangariya

Bedouin-Israeli soldiers training in the Negev. Sadly, the Price Tag campaign
has targeted the very same citizens who risk their lives everyday to protect Israel
By: Ariela Ross

Until recently, Tuba-Zangariya - a small Israeli Bedouin village of about 5,200 residents near the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) - was virtually unknown outside of the local region. The village was recently thrown into the spotlight when the enforcers of the "Price Tag" campaign torched and vandalized a mosque, one of three in the two square kilometers east of Rosh Pina that comprises Tuba-Zangariya - or “Tuba” as it's known among locals. For readers that are unfamiliar with the phenomenon, the Price Tag campaign is carried out as a series of vandalizations and retaliatory attacks committed towards groups considered to be against the Israeli right-wing settlement movement. So far, the campaign's initiators have attacked at least one other mosque, a Peace Now office, Rabin Square, and buildings and cemeteries around Israel, including in the Galilee and Jaffa.

It is especially disconcerting that these radicals chose to attack the residents of Tuba, a village with a long history of close ties and strong relations with the Jewish residents in neighboring Rosh Pina. Mokid Heib, a Tuba native and a Muslim-Bedouin Israeli serving in the IDF, has a strong, familial relationship with several Jewish families in Rosh Pina. Their families barbecue together, children intermingle, and they even host a set of keys to each others' private homes. After forging his mother’s signature to enlist in the IDF’s Golani infantry unit, Mokid has since surrounded himself with a mixture of Jewish Israeli friends, including the wealthier secular elite of Tel Aviv - and he’s far from unique in this regard.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Shalit Release: Making a Deal With the Devil

After five years of captivity, Gilad Shalit is finally coming home.
But what are the long-term implications of the prisoner swap?
This article was featured in The Jerusalem Post, found here.

By: Daniel Nisman and Avi Yesawich

Hamas, Israel and Egypt all benefit initially from the prisoner swap, but it remains to be seen what the repercussions of a rejuvenated Hamas will have on the regional balance of power.

After the breaking news first streamed in over a possible prisoner swap deal on Tuesday, speculation began to run rampant about the motivations behind Hamas and Israel to suddenly arrive to an agreement on Gilad Shalit, especially after years of refusal by both parties to show any leniency on the issues causing the impasse.  

Initially, it seems as though both Hamas and Israel stand to benefit from the deal, despite their last minute compromises. In Israel, the motivations for accepting the deal are quite clear. Netanyahu is facing the worst non-security related crisis in his career, and bringing Shalit home will effectively buy him valuable political clout that he needs to confront Israel's Social Justice movement. The images of young campaign organizers in white and blue "Gilad is still alive" t-shirts praising Netanyahu for his strong leadership come at an excellent, and rather convenient, time for Netanyahu, just days after medical residents staged a dramatic walk out and Israel's Labor Union is poised to declare a general strike.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The US Assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki: Israel, Pay Attention.

The assassination of Yemeni-American Imam Anwar al-Awlaki contains important
insights for future Israeli policy on targeted assassination operations.

By: Josh Mintz

Israel has a long and storied history with aerial drones; from Israel’s decoy drones over Lebanon in the early 1980s to their widespread deployment during Operation Cast Lead, and with targeted killings that take place far from the established battlefield; such as the retributive killings of Mahmoud Hamshari and his cohorts in the 1970s, or the 2010 killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. These operations have always been controversial and have garnered Israel much international criticism, with many detractors resorting to the accusation of illegality.

As such, Israel will surely be closely following the aftermath of the United States’ killing of Anwar al-Awlaki last month in Yemen, as the incident is packed with relevance to the debate. Although he was a known al-Qaeda coordinator and recruiter - having a strong connection to both Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood Shooter, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day Underwear Bomber - al-Awlaki’s killing has generated controversy over two major issues; namely that al-Awlaki was a U.S. citizen, and that his killing took place in Yemen, which is not an established battlefield for the U.S. war on terror.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Myth of a Two-State Compromise?

Visiting delegations from dozens of nations attend the 5th International
Conference for Defending the Palestinian Intifada. Photo: Tehran Times
A shortened version of this article was featured on Ynetnews, found here.

By: Avi Yesawich

Tehran conference shows that the two-state solution and peace with the State of Israel are unacceptable to a powerful minority, no matter the terms.

A dubious conference that was scantly reported in the Western media recently took place in Iran, one that should serve as an unambiguous warning sign for proponents of the two-state solution and the prospects for establishing a lasting peace in the region. The 5th International Conference for Defending the Palestinian Intifada wrapped up this past Sunday and, unlike Tehran’s previous holocaust conference, it boasted a relatively impressive number of high-ranking politicians and scholars from around the world. The motto for this year’s conference? “Palestine, home of the Palestinians.”
Regrettably, the delegations in attendance were not limited to a small group of isolated fanatics from Israel’s typical antagonists in the region. According to Iran media reports, official state representatives attended from the following countries: Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Indonesia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Algeria, Lebanon, Qatar, Iraq, the Comoros, Kuwait, Mauritania, Paraguay, Afghanistan, Tanzania, Kyrgyzstan, Poland, Denmark, and Canada. Furthermore, parliamentary delegations from more than 70 states and independent “scholars” and “academics” from around 100 countries had been invited to the conference.
Putting aside the blatant and deplorable call to armed violence explicitly advocated in the conference’s title, what other type of verbal abominations, radical declarations, and uncompromising positions emanated from the honorable delegations this year? I’ll offer a few choice selections here.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Algeria is North Africa's Last Line of Defense Against Islamic Extemism

Abdelaziz Bouteflicka's regime is corrupt and repressive, but the regime may be the
last stronghold against Islamic reign taking hold in North Africa. Photo: Reuters

By: Daniel Nisman 

Despite its repressive nature, Algeria's Bouteflicka regime is the last remaining obstacle between Islamic extremists and the complete destabilization of North Africa.

While the world continues to focus on the implications of a destabilized Libya, Algeria has been working diligently to prevent a resurgent Al Qaeda from toppling its regime in its quest to install an Islamic Caliphate in the Maghreb region of North Africa. Since the Libyan conflict first broke out in February 2011, a wave of terror attacks has hit Algeria as the result of an increasingly porous border and the absence of Gaddafi, perhaps Bouteflicka's most important ally in its war on terror.

For the past two decades, the secular regime of Abdelaziz Bouteflicka has been the target of local Islamic extremist groups that have recently extended their fight beyond Algeria, setting their sights on North Africa in its entirety. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) traces its roots back to a failed revolution attempt which began in 1992 when Algeria's military government canceled the second round of parliamentary elections since it seemed evident that an Islamist coalition would take power. In the years that followed, Algeria descended into a bloody civil war as extremist groups led by the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) killed tens of thousands of civilians in their efforts to topple the government.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Afghanistan: A Decade of War with No End in Sight

Al Qaeda has been decimated and the Taliban weakened, but a decade of war
has left Afghans and NATO forces exhausted and hopeless as violence persists
This article was featured on Middle East Online, found here.

By: Scott Tankel

In October 2001, the United States executed Operation Enduring Freedom. From the onset of the invasion, President Bush made clear that the main objectives of US military action in Afghanistan were to capture or kill senior Al-Qaeda leaders, destroy the organization’s infrastructure, and remove the Taliban from power. The US government repeatedly stated that its military would not distinguish between terror groups and the governments that harbored and supported them. Enduring Freedom was the comprehensive military campaign launched in response to the horrifying 9/11 attacks, and as we look back on a decade of war in Afghanistan, it is worthwhile to reassess NATO’s battle against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

For all intents and purposes, the Al-Qaeda responsible for 9/11 in Afghanistan has been decimated and is on the verge of defeat. The organization has lost its ability to operate internationally, no longer focusing its efforts on planning attacks on American or Western soil, but safeguarding its daily survival. The U.S. military campaign toppled the Taliban government in less than 90 days and killed thousands of Al-Qaeda fighters in the opening weeks. 

Though Al-Qaeda’s ideology continues to persist and generate new recruits to the insurgency, a decade of unceasing military pressure, Obama’s increased preference for targeted assassinations using unmanned drones, and the treasure trove of information following the raid on Osama bin-Laden’s compound have seriously damaged Al-Qaeda’s operational abilities and functionality. Al-Qaeda offshoots exist in a number of sympathetic countries and failed states and will continue to pose a threat to Western interests, but the organization has suffered tremendously in the areas of financing, logistics, intelligence, military training and operational capabilities.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Rabbinic Racism in Israel Must be Confronted

Rabbi Dov Lior of Kiryat Arba possesses a long history of
making controversial remarks towards non-Jews in Israel
A shortened version of this article appeared in Ynetnews, found here.

By: Avi Yesawich

It’s difficult not to maintain a sense of warped admiration for some of the radical Orthodox rabbis here in Israel. The ignorance they display in social, political and military affairs is certainly disconcerting at times. It seems that their indissoluble faith in God, Judaism and the Torah grants them the profound audacity to make declarations that surpass any statement that a well-educated, secular individual would have the courage to say even in the privacy of their closest associates, much less to the international media. If anything, it would be unfair to call them disingenuous. Maintaining such unquestionable faith in an age of logic, reason and immense scientific achievement is an aptitude that I personally lack.

Last week, Dov Lior, the Yesha Council head and chief rabbi of the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, called for the IDF to impose “collective punishment” on rioters in response to the death a father and son whose car flipped over after a rock was hurled at them by rioters in the West Bank. Just recently, Lior also claimed that Israel’s growing isolation and hatred of the Jews worldwide is punishment for the demolition of three meager shacks in the Migron outpost a few weeks ago. He called the Arabs “evil camel riders” that should be expelled from the Land of Israel and given a right of return to countries like Saudi Arabia