7
Jul

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a condolence call Monday to the father of a Palestinian teenager who was kidnapped and murdered Wednesday in an apparent revenge attack for the killing of three Israeli teenagers last month.

In his phone call to Hussein Abu Khieder, the prime minister expressed his outrage over the “reprehensible” murder of 16-year-old Mohammad Abu Khieder, who had been sitting alone outside his family’s home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat when he was abducted. Six Israeli Jews were arrested Sunday, suspected of his murder for what security officials called “nationalistic” motives.

“We denounce all brutal behavior; the murder of your son is abhorrent and cannot be countenanced by any human being,” Netanyahu said. “We will bring them to trial,” he said of the suspects, “and they will be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law.”

Netanyahu’s call to the Abu Khieder family came as tensions escalated in southern Israel, along the border with the Gaza Strip. In the early hours of Monday, Israel pounded targets in central Gaza in response to more than 25 rockets fired into its territory on Sunday.

Seven Hamas members and two other people were reported killed in the airstrikes. An additional 10 militants were injured. A spokesman of the militant Islamist group Hamas, Sami Abu Zuhri, accused Israel of escalating tensions and said a price would be paid. Israel Radio reported that Islamic Jihad, another radical group in Gaza, also released a statement blaming Israel for the escalation.

On Sunday, Israel reckoned with rising homegrown extremism as it arrested six Jewish suspects who are believed to have burned Mohammad Abu Khieder to death in revenge for the killing of three Israeli teens.

The arrests shocked those on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide — Palestinians because many had assumed Israel would never act against its own, and Israelis because there had been widespread doubt that Jews could have carried out such a heinous crime.

Sunday’s action could help defuse what has been seen as a dangerous swelling of Palestinian anger, with violent protests in East Jerusalem and Arab towns in northern Israel feeding fears of a budding intifada, or uprising. Demonstrators who have called for such a revolt against the Israeli occupation have decried a lack of justice and had bitterly predicted that Abu ­Khieder’s killers would never face trial.

But by arresting the suspects, the Israeli government must confront ­extremist elements within its ­society.

Human rights advocates have long warned of an alarming rise in anti-Arab vandalism and vigilante attacks carried out by Jewish extremists. Such incidents are referred to by their perpetrators as the “price tag” for what they see as Israeli government concessions to the Palestinians.

“This a shock for most Israeli Jews, and I think it’s a kind of wake-up call,” Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said in an interview Sunday evening. “This is something that will change the way people think, and it will lead to a better understanding that we need to act when we see even the smallest signs of incitement, whether it is on Internet sites or price-tag attacks.”

Livni said the conflict is “not just between the Israelis and the Palestinians, it is within Israel between different Israeli citizens, and this is what worries me the most.”

Visiting the home of one of the Israeli teens slain last month after being abducted in the West Bank, Netanyahu said Abu Khieder’s killers would “face the full weight of the law.”

But he also called on the Palestinian Authority, which controls some areas of the West Bank, to go after the killers of the Israelis — Naftali Fraenkel and Gilad Shaar, both 16, and 19-year-old Eyal ­Yifrach. Israel blames the killings on Hamas, and it arrested hundreds of the group’s members during its 18-day search for the teens. But the assailants are thought to ­remain at large.  Read more…

BY RUTH EGLASH, SUFIAN TAHA AND GRIFF WITTE
Published in the Washington Post on 7 July, 2014 http://www.washingtonpost.com
4
Jul

Hollande sets his sights on sarkozy

Written on July 4, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Democracy & Human Rights, Europe, Op Ed

Nicolas Sarkozy was charged on Wednesday for corruption and abusing his position of power

François Hollande had pictured it for years: Nicolas Sarkozy, his vanquished adversary in the 2012 presidential election, slumped in the back of a Citroën saloon, his necktie loosened, his face grey with fatigue, after a gruelling 15-hour interrogation. Sarkozy has been charged with corruption and illegal use of his influence. He now faces, in theory, up to 10 years in jail and a fine of one million euros.

He had faced charges before (the previous ones, accusations that he received money from the L’Oréal billionairess Liliane Bettencourt, were dismissed last year) but this was the first time he, or indeed any former president, had been held in custody for a day. And Twitter went crazy for it.

It has been open season on Nicolas Sarkozy ever since President Hollande was inaugurated on May 15 2012. Never an easy-going, approachable character, François Hollande has a mean, vindictive streak: like Louis XI, he won’t be happy until Sarkozy is in a fillette, one of those small cages that hold enemies in a crouching position. After all, Sarkozy remains Hollande’s most dangerous adversary in 2017. The important thing is to stop him from running: which is why, every time Hollande’s ratings plummet, a new accusation is levied against his predecessor.

Judge after judge has initiated proceedings. These are for anything from dodgy party financing, to authorising bribes relating to the sale of French warships to Pakistan two decades ago, to taking money from Libya’s then dictator, Colonel Gaddafi, for his victorious 2007 election campaign.

Whenever one case became unstuck, another one started up. Judges authorised the tapping of Sarko’s phone, as well as his lawyer’s, for eight months – officially to follow up on the Libyan accusations. This yielded nothing; but soon other judges started dropping by to listen to the tapes, “trawling at random for interesting stuff”, one told Canard Enchaîné, the well-informed satirical weekly, never friendly to Sarkozy, months ago. This yielded the recordings that led to Tuesday’s interrogation.

Sarkozy himself has called such methods “Stasi-like”, and it would be logical to see such tainted evidence – collected indiscriminately, without a specific warrant – thrown out of court. He is accused in this instance of trying to bribe a senior judge with promises of a plum job in the Monaco judiciary in exchange for information on the state of his case in the Bettencourt accusations. The senior judge was unconnected to the case, and as it happens did not get the Monaco job.

Sarkozy is also accused of trying to obtain protected information. The irony is that a good deal of the Sarkozy tapes, supposedly protected by the same confidentiality, have been published by the Mediapart investigative website, headed by a respected former Le Monde journalist, Edwy Plenel, who happens to be a long-time personal friend of Hollande’s.

Sarkozy’s friends will also point out that one of the two judges conducting the current investigation, Claire Thépaut, is an active member of the most Leftist judges’ union, the Syndicat de la Magistrature. She signed an anti-Sarkozy column during the 2012 campaign, describing herself as a “personal foe” of the president’s, while formally supporting Hollande’s challenge. Yet now she will decide whether the former president will go to trial over the latest accusations – at the risk of making him look more and more like a martyr to his partisans.

There is a wealth of additional cases to bring: so if not this time, something may yet stick to Sarkozy. At least this is what the Hollande crowd hopes, because Sarkozy, like Freddy Krueger in the horror movies, is just getting angrier and angrier – and he will get back at them if he ever wins again.

By Anne-Elisabeth Moutet

Published on 3 July in the Telegraph , http://www.telegraph.co.uk

3
Jul

The jihadist insurgent group ISIS, or as it now prefers to be called, the Islamic State, appears well on the road to achieving its stated goal: the restoration of the caliphate. The concept, which refers to an Islamic state presided over by a leader with both political and religious authority, dates from the various Muslim empires that followed the time of the Prophet Muhammad. From the seventh century onward, the caliph was, literally, his “successor.”

The problem with this new caliphate, which, an ISIS spokesman claimed on Sunday, had been established under Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, an Islamist militant leader since the early days of the American occupation of Iraq, is that it is ahistorical, to say the least.

The Abbasid caliphate, for example, which ruled from 750 to 1258, was an impressively dynamic and diverse empire. Centered in Baghdad, just down the road from where ISIS is occupying large areas of Iraq, the Abbasid caliphate was centuries ahead of Mr. Baghdadi’s backward-looking cohorts. Abbasid society during its heyday thrived on multiculturalism, science, innovation, learning and culture — in sharp contrast to ISIS’ violent puritanism. The irreverent court poet of the legendary Caliph Harun al-Rashid (circa 763-809), Abu Nuwas, not only penned odes to wine, but also wrote erotic gay verse that would make a modern imam blush.

Centered on the Bayt al-Hikma, Baghdad’s “House of Wisdom,” the Abbasid caliphate produced notable advances in the sciences and mathematics. The modern scientific method itself was invented in Baghdad by Ibn al-Haytham, who has been called “the first true scientist.”

With such a proliferation of intellectuals, Islam itself did not escape skeptical scrutiny. The rationalist Syrian scholar Abu’l Ala Al-Ma’arri was an 11th-century precursor of Richard Dawkins in his scathing assessments of religion. “Do not suppose the statements of the prophets to be true,” he thundered. “The sacred books are only such a set of idle tales as any age could have and indeed did actually produce.”

It is this tolerance of free thought, not to mention the supposed decadence of the caliph’s court, that causes Islamist radicals to hark back to an earlier era, that of Muhammad and his first “successors.” But even these early Rashidun (“rightly guided”) caliphs bear little resemblance to jihadist mythology. Muhammad, the most “rightly guided” of all, composed a strikingly secular document in the Constitution of Medina. It stipulated that Muslims, Jews, Christians and even pagans had equal political and cultural rights — a far cry from ISIS’ punitive attitude toward even fellow Sunnis who do not practice its brand of Islam, let alone Shiites, Christians or other minorities.

How did this ideological fallacy of the Islamist caliphate come about?

In the late 19th century, Arab nationalists were great admirers of Western societies and urged fellow Muslims, in the words of the Egyptian reformer Rifa’a al-Tahtawi, to “understand what the modern world is.” Many not only admired Europe and America but also believed Western pledges to back their independence from the Ottoman Empire.

The first reality check came when Britain and France carved up the Middle East following World War I. Disappointed by the old powers, Arab intellectuals still held out hope that the United States, which had not yet entered Middle Eastern politics in earnest, would live up to its image as a liberator.

But after World War II, America filled the void left by France and Britain by emulating its imperial predecessors. It avoided direct rule but propped up a string of unpopular autocrats. This resulted in an abiding distrust of Western democratic rhetoric.

Then there was the domestic factor. The failure of revolutionary pan-Arabism to deliver its utopian vision of renaissance, unity and freedom led to a disillusionment with secular politics. At the same time, the corruption and subservience to the West of the conservative, oil-rich monarchs turned many Arabs against the traditional deferential model of Islam.

Out of this multilayered failure, which often included the brutal suppression of both secular oppositionists and moderate Islamists, emerged a nihilistic fundamentalism, which claimed that contemporary Arab society had returned to the pre-Islamic “Jahiliyyah” (an “age of ignorance”). The only way to correct this was to declare jihad not only against foreign “unbelievers,” but also against Arab society itself in order to create a pure Islamic state — one that has only ever existed in the imaginations of modern Islamic extremists. These Islamists misdiagnose the weakness and underdevelopment of contemporary Arab society as stemming from its deviation from “pure” Islamic morality, as if the proper length of a beard and praying five times a day were a substitute for science and education, or could counterbalance global inequalities.

The wholesale destruction of Iraq’s political, social and economic infrastructure triggered by the American-led invasion created a power vacuum for these “takfiri” groups — first Al Qaeda and then the more radical ISIS — to fill. Despite the latter’s recent battlefield success, however, there is little support for the jihadists or appetite for their harsh strictures among the local populations, a fact reflected by the 500,000 terrified citizens who fled Mosul.

Even in the more moderate model espoused by the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist dream of transnational theocratic rule appeals to a dwindling number of Arabs. Only last week, Moroccan women showed their contempt for the conservative prime minister, Abdelilah Benkirane, by converging on Parliament armed with frying pans after he’d argued that women should stay in the home.

Rather than a caliphate presided over by arbitrarily appointed caliphs, subjected to a rigid interpretation of Shariah law, millions of Arabs strive simply for peace, stability, dignity, prosperity and democracy. Three turbulent years after the Arab revolutions, people still entertain the modest dream of one day having their fair share of “bread, freedom, social justice,” as the Tahrir Square slogan put it.

Khaled Diab is an Egyptian-Belgian journalist based in Jerusalem.

Posted on 2 July in http://www.nytimes.com

2
Jul

There is a Sarajevo somewhere in Jordan. It lies well outside Amman, somewhere in the hostile terrain to the east or the north. Were the armed ISIS extremists — who now call themselves representatives of the Islamic State and soldiers of the new caliphate — to cross this line, the current conflict that engulfs Syria and Iraq would likely explode and grow more complex and costly by quantum degrees. This is not the sort of red line that is the product of an ill-considered, halfhearted burst of presidential bravado. This is the type of red line that triggers historic change and is worth considering as we mark the epoch-making events in Sarajevo that spawned World War I 100 years ago.

For now, the wars in Syria and Iraq seem almost to be inviting the United States to remain more or less on the sidelines. Once an amorphous mess, it has seemed to take on something of a shape and symmetry. In both countries today, alliances featuring the ruling governments working in collaboration with Iran and Russia are taking on the extremists. With the announcement this weekend of Russian planes and munitions being shipped to the government in Baghdad, the orchestrated bombings last week of ISIS targets by Syrian jets in Iraq, and the active role of Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in both places, it almost seems like a traditional conflict with two sides vying against one another.

Further, with Moscow and Tehran willing to take up the fight against ISIS, it might be tempting for Washington to effectively sit this one out. After all, if the United States wants promises of political reform and the Iranians and Russians clearly don’t require it to intervene, the Iraqis will be even harder for America to deal with. Intransigent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki may simply opt for the support of Tehran and Moscow, as well as a tacit alliance with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, avoiding the hard work of creating a truly representative Iraqi government — which also happens to be the most self-serving possible choice. Unfortunately, for the world, the route of “letting others fight our battles for us” might be “easier” — but it’s exceptionally dangerous.

The two wars that have spilled into one another do not represent a simple two-sided conflict. In Syria, not only is the opposition still fragmented, containing extremist groups like Jabhat al-Nusra that are themselves bitter enemies (usually) of ISIS, but it also involves more moderate groups, like the Free Syrian Army. You remember them? That’s the collection of rebels the United States has effectively resisted supporting thus far because it was uncertain of their allegiances or trustworthiness. Three years later, of course, now that ISIS has gone from terrorizing northern Syria to marauding across Iraq, the United States has somehow discovered that it is possible to “vet” suitable partners among them and start offering training and aid. The $500 million that Barack Obama has pledged to this effort is a good thing, though it’s diminished by its lateness. Meanwhile, in Iraq, it is not just Sunni extremists versus an out-of-touch Shiite regime in Baghdad. There are more moderate Sunnis who don’t relish the prospect of living in ISIS’s 13th-century self-declared caliphate. And there are the Kurds who seek and deserve independence — a fact not appreciably advanced by the declaration of support they received over the weekend from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is not exactly the ally of first resort you want in that neck of the woods.

Perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that in its current configuration — and absent a constructive move toward effective political resolutions in Iraq or Syria — the conflict offers a panoply of unappetizing potential conclusions.

It is fine to pit Assad and Maliki plus Iran and Russia against ISIS, except under the following circumstances: Either side wins or, alternatively, there is a draw.

ISIS winning and establishing control over Iraq, Syria, or a large zone encompassing parts of Iraq and Syria would be a catastrophe that could haunt the region and the world for decades to come. Were Assad and Maliki to triumph with big debts owed to the Iranians, it would not exactly be a formula for regional stability, and it promises further insurrections and abuses to come. The most likely outcome, a draw, doesn’t look much better. Northwestern Syria will be a region of nominal governmental control, with the help of sponsors; some portions of Syria and Iraq will get an ISIS caliphate, a hot zone of extremist mayhem that will likely infect much of the region and from which more global terrorist efforts will emanate. Partition-by-default is a formula for unending conflict.

This frames the problem of staying out or disengaged. The United States might mitigate risk by leaving the messy business of a distant war to others with more skin in the game. And, it has to be admitted, this might work. All parties might deplete themselves, wear each other down, stay focused on fighting each other, and leave U.S. interests more or less intact. But this also raises the chances that the United States may get outcomes over which it has little or no influence — that may someday (possibly very soon) require of the country much riskier, more dangerous action, whether it wants to be involved or not.

This brings us to that red line in Jordan. Go find a map. Now you determine where this red line might be. You might say it is right at the Jordanian border because any breach of the sovereignty of such a valued ally and bastion of moderation in the Middle East would be intolerable. Jordan has been so dependably helpful to the United States and its interests, so constructive in the peace process with Israel, and such a pillar of the moderate and reforming path in the region that even the U.S. Congress, champions of inertness and the black hole of democracy that they have become, would likely demand American intervention. Read more…

By David Rothkopf

David Rothkopf is CEO and Editor of the FP Group. His next book, National Insecurity: American Leadership in an Age of Fear is due out in October of this year.

Published on June 30 in foreignpolicy.com

 

30
Jun

We recently had the pleasure of hosting Kirit Patel, IE Master in International Relations (MIR) alumnus who now works at the United Nations Secretariat. He is just one of the many who seize their time at IE to make a career change. Even though he studied economics in his undergraduate, and he worked for FTI Consulting in London for a few years, he realized he wanted to do something with a larger social component. While studying at IE he found out about the U.N.’s Young Professionals Programme, and quickly applied.

He is now an Associate Economic Affairs Officer, dealing with diplomats daily, speechwriting and serving as a focal point for Palestine. In his talk at IE, Kirit gave an informative presentation about the U.N. and its work, and then answered the questions posed by the audience. He pointed out some differences between the U.N. and the private sector, such as the exceptionally collaborative work environment and the people’s passion to make a positive impact in the world. On the other hand he admitted bureaucracy can sometimes be frustrating, but he emphasized it does not hamper the organization’s efforts severely. Bureaucracy is a necessary evil that facilitates all the good that comes from the field work the organization does.

Kirit shared some tips with the students on how to bolster their CV before they apply for a position at the United Nations and NGOs. The importance of volunteering in order to show a strong commitment to the field is paramount. He suggested the students volunteer as much as they can and offered a portal from which to find opportunities to do so. Besides volunteering, languages are a big plus, and according to Kirit French is currently most in demand, as work in Sub-Saharan Africa often involves dealing with French speakers. If you are looking for a way to get started on French right now, there are many options available, including Duolingo, or IE- born Bussu

By Borja Arino; Published on June 30, 2014

Reproduced with permission from http://careers.blogs.ie.edu/2014/06/career-changers-kirit-patel-from-financial-consulting-to-social-projects-cambios-de-carrera-kirit-patel-de-la-consultoria-financiera-a-los-proyectos-sociales.html