Informed Comment Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion 2014-11-21T06:46:52Z WordPress contributors <![CDATA[An Israeli-Arab Spring? 1.6 mn Palestinian-Israelis are Marginalized, Angry and Defiant]]> 2014-11-21T05:54:05Z 2014-11-21T05:42:41Z 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.

Many of the conditions that gave rise to the bloody confrontation with the police on Temple Mount over a decade ago, including the demolition of housing, restrictions on Arab politicians and Knesset members, restrictive citizenship laws, and budgetary discriminatory laws remain in place.

A decade ago the International Crisis Group (ICG) anticipated the widespread negative consequences of discrimination against Israel’s Arab minority and its findings still stand. Perhaps most importantly, the organisation judged the probability of violence to remain high as long as “greater political polarization, frustration among Arab Israelis, deepening Arab alienation from the political system, and the deteriorating economic situation” are not addressed.

In order to avoid large-scale violence, the ICG recommended that the Israeli government invest in poor Arab areas, end all facets of economic, political, and social discrimination against the Arab community, increase Arab representation at all levels in the public sector, and implement racism awareness training in schools and in all branches of government, beginning with the police.

A poor, marginalised one-fifth of the Israeli population perceived as a demographic bomb and a threat to the Jewish identity of the state can only be defused by a serious engagement strategy—economically, educationally, culturally, and politically.

If violence and continued discrimination are part of Israel’s long-term strategy against its Arab minority to force Arab emigration, it is unlikely that the government would implement tangible initiatives to improve the condition of the Arab minority.

Accordingly, communal violence in Israel would increase, creating negative ramifications for regional peace and stability and for U.S. interests in the eastern Mediterranean.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS-Inter Press Service.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

Emile Nakhleh is a Research Professor at the University of New Mexico, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and author of “A Necessary Engagement: Reinventing America’s Relations with the Muslim World.”

Licensed from the Inter Press Service


Related video added by Juan Cole:

AJ+ “Video Captures Israeli Police Killing Arab Man”

contributors <![CDATA[Climate Change already turning China Wetlands into Dust]]> 2014-11-21T04:51:32Z 2014-11-21T05:36:09Z Euronews | –

“Former wetlands in north-west China (Gansu province) have been sucked dry as the climate has changed. It is a stark warning that we can expect other ecological disaster areas like it to develop elsewhere.

With the acceleration of global warming since the Second Industrial Revolution — specifically from 1880 to 2012 — the average temperature planet-wide has risen by almost one degree Celsius — 0.85 [ nearly 2 degrees F].

Heat-trapping gas emissions in our atmosphere are the highest they have been for 800,000 years . . .”

Euronews: “Climate change future looks sandy”

contributors <![CDATA[Right-Wing Media vs. Reagan On Immigration – How GOP lost the Script]]> 2014-11-21T03:20:12Z 2014-11-21T05:31:38Z Media Matters 4 America | –

Right-Wing Media vs. Reagan On Immigration


contributors <![CDATA[Two Different American Futures: With an Iran Deal & Without]]> 2014-11-21T06:46:52Z 2014-11-21T05:25:18Z By Charles Recknagel (RFE/ RL)

As the six world powers and Tehran try to reach a deal in Vienna, there is more at stake than simply ending the crisis over Iran's nuclear program.

Equally important is how the success or failure of the negotiations could set the stage for determining the West's relations with Iran for years to come.

A deal could establish enough trust to reintegrate Iran into the global economy and for possible political cooperation over some of the Middle East's many crises.

But no deal — either by November 24 or after an extended deadline — could bring renewed talk of bombing Iran's nuclear facilities and the risk of sparking a still greater crisis in the region than exists today.

Here is how the world could look depending on the success or failure of the talks.

If There Is A Deal

Reaching a deal would be a big boost for moderates in Tehran who would like to see Iran return to the world community.

"The biggest promise that Hassan Rohani made in 2013 to get elected was the idea that Iran needs to overhaul its foreign policy," notes Alex Vatanka of the Washington-based Middle East Institute. "If there is a deal, then Rohani can turn around and say that when you do talk, even if you don't succeed in overturning the bad blood overnight, at least you are able make incremental steps toward something that might look like normalization."

Similarly, a deal would provide a vote of confidence for U.S. President Barack Obama's policy of seeking to engage Iran despite 35 years of hostility sparked by the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979.

For both Iran and the West, the potential benefits of ending the nuclear crisis and lifting international sanctions on Tehran could be enormous.

Iran, which has seen sanctions dramatically reduce world demand for its oil, not only wants to increase its exports again, it also needs Western investment and technology to revitalize its oil and natural-gas industry, kick-start its economy, and lift its standard of living.

At the same time, many Western energy companies want to return to work in Iran, which holds the world's fourth-largest proven crude-oil reserves and the world's second-largest gas reserves. Many other Western, nonoil, businesses regard Iran — with 80 million people — as a rich potential consumer market.

But nobody expects a nuclear deal to lead to instantaneous changes.

Even with an end to the nuclear crisis, the lifting of Western sanctions will likely be a gradual process, particularly in the United States, where Obama can suspend sanctions imposed by the U.S. Congress but cannot permanently lift them without a vote by lawmakers, many of whom oppose him.

In Iran, too, the progress could be gradual as hard-liners continue to resist dramatic changes in Iran's relations with the West.

Beyond economics, a nuclear deal also could help speed the day when Tehran and Washington openly cooperate over at least some of the Middle East's pressing problems, particularly how to roll back the Islamic State organization in Iraq and Syria.

So far, the nuclear negotiations have proved groundbreaking by providing top U.S. and Iranian diplomats a way to meet regularly, despite the two countries having no diplomatic relations. A nuclear deal could be momentous in helping turn those links into something more routine.

If There Is No Deal

Any final failure to reach a deal would not only leave the nuclear crisis unsolved, it would almost certainly strengthen opinion in both Tehran and Washington that each must take a still-tougher approach toward the other.

"One can imagine a scenario in which the United States would impose very, very harsh sanctions on Iran, something that would amount to a total oil embargo," says Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group. "The consequences of that would probably be an Iranian measure of escalation, something in the range of either withdrawing from the [Nuclear] Nonproliferation Treaty or increasing enrichment levels to beyond 20 percent or kicking out IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] inspectors or something that would really trigger some kind of military confrontation."

But predicting what would happen is complicated by uncertainty over where both sides would set the limits on the escalation of tensions. To date, Iran has been careful to stay under an Israeli-declared red line for military action by keeping its stock of 20 percent-enriched uranium below the level needed to produce a single nuclear weapon if it were enriched further.

Uncertain, too, is whether Israel, a close ally of the United States, would be prepared to attack Iran despite the almost certainty that militant groups allied to Iran would strike Israel in response.

"If Iran were attacked by Israel, you would look for a whole series of asymmetric warfare, not necessarily because Iran directs it but groups will just rise up," says Scott Lucas, an Iran specialist at Birmingham University in Britain and editor of the EA World View website. "Hizballah will come out against Israel, Hamas will come out, as well as Islamic Jihad; you will have a whole series of proxy conflicts that will take place."

Lucas predicts that Israel would not launch a military strike for these reasons and also because Washington would argue that the best way to change Iran's course would be ever-tighter sanctions instead.

Where an ever-tighter sanctions regime might eventually lead is an open question. Proponents would argue it might eventually force regime change while skeptics would argue that Iran's theocracy would be able to benefit from nationalist feeling in the population and survive the pressure.

However, one certainty is that the situation would only add more volatility to a region of the world that is already engulfed in crisis. 

Mirrored from RFE/RL

Copyright (c) 2014. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.


Related Video added by Juan Cole:

Euronews: “Iran’s nuclear talks with West may go into March as deadline approaches”

Juan Cole <![CDATA[Top 5 Ways Obama Punked the GOP on Immigration; and the 2016 Campaign]]> 2014-11-21T06:45:27Z 2014-11-21T05:04:36Z By Juan Cole | —

The 2016 presidential election will be very different from the 2014 congressional midterms just held. In the off years, turnout is low (this time it was less than 36 percent) and the people who come out to vote are disproportionately older, well off, and of northern European heritage. That is why the Republicans did so well; it was mainly Republicans voting. Only 21% of youth turned out to vote. It was in essence a series of local elections in which core Democratic constituencies couldn’t be bothered to come out (or in some instances faced trouble voting because of GOP voter suppression). In India, the poor vote; in the US, they don’t, in part because of GOP voter suppression and in part because they’ve been given the impression they have nothing at stake.

The 2016 election will be a national election, and the electorate will be very different. A majority of the eligible voters will vote. In a national election, the minorities are key. African-Americans are nearly a quarter of the Democratic Party. The Latino vote for Republicans will likely fall from 36% to only 30% in 2016, while the percentage of Latinos who vote Democratic will likely rise from 62% to 68% overall (what it was in 2012). Obama got a whopping 71% of the Latino vote versus 27% for Romney.

Obama’s freeze on deportations for certain classes of undocumented immigrants (those who have been here all their lives, having been brought as children, and parents of US citizens born in the US who have lived here as law-abiding residents for at least 5 years) throws a pigeon among the cats in several important ways.

1. Obama’s steps certainly matter to Latinos, some 2/3s of whom say that new immigration legislation is important or very important to them. There isn’t any doubt that the Democratic Party just picked up a lot of support in this demographic.

2. As Jonathan Chait and others have argued, Obama is enticing Republicans representing angry white men to denounce angrily and loudly his deportation freeze. The more they cavil against the executive order, they more they signal that their party is unsympathetic to Latinos.

3. Indeed, some Republicans have already been so crazed by the president’s action, which echoes that of Ronald Reagan, that they have gone beyond mere caviling and spoken of the possibility of violence against immigrants. Retiring Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn did this, effectively turning the GOP into the party of skinheads in the eyes of minorities.

The Young Turks: “GOPer Practically Begging For Violent Reaction To Obama Immigration Speech”

4. Florida has a lot of immigrants, and Obama has just shored up the 2016 Democratic position in that state, where people were glued to the television Thursday night and weeping with joy. Many undocumented immigrants have citizen relatives, who can vote and who now have reason to be grateful to the Democratic Party. (Hundreds of thousands of people move to Florida every year, and it is about to overtake New York in population, so it is a very, very different state from the one that existed in 2000).

5. Latino voters have relatively low rates of turnout. In part this is because so many have come relatively recently and they have not developed a sense of civic commitment to US politics. They are working several jobs and busy establishing themselves and their communities. In some instances, they may be chary of having anything to do with the Federal government even if they are citizens and eligible voters because they have undocumented friends and/or family and don’t want to draw attention to themselves. That skittishness may decrease now in some instances, and likely to the Democrats’ advantage.

contributors <![CDATA[Another Domino Falls: Spanish Parliament votes to Recognize Palestine]]> 2014-11-20T04:30:36Z 2014-11-20T05:31:37Z Euronews:

“Spanish MPs have urged their government to recognise the Palestinian state.

The a non-binding resolution presented by the socialists won the backing of all the political groups of the lower house, and would only ask for recognition when the Palestinians and Israel negotiate a solution to their long-running conflict.

“The Spanish Parliament unanimously believe that the recognition of the Palestinian state is the best contribution we can make to achieve peace.”

Euronews: “Spain MPs vote to recognise Palestinian state”

From Wafa Arabic via BBC Monitoring :

“A Palestinian presidency-controlled news agency Wafa website report posted at 0627 gmt says that the Palestinian Foreign Ministry “welcomed the decision of the Spanish Parliament’s majority on the evening of 18 November, calling on the Spanish Government to recognize the state of Palestine. Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki expressed the Palestinian leadership’s gratitude and appreciation of Spain and the Spanish parties which approved this important and historical memo. He said: ‘This recognition reflects an advanced and historical stance of our friend, the kingdom of Spain. It is a step forward in its ties with the Palestinian people. It is in harmony with Spain’s principles and noble values which respect the international law and the resolutions of the international and humanitarian legitimacy’.” The report adds that Al-Maliki called on the Spanish Government to recognize the state of Palestine “in order to initiate serious and successful peace negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis based on the two-state solution.”

Source: Palestinian news agency Wafa website, Ramallah, in Arabic 0627 gmt 19 Nov 14

contributors <![CDATA[In Iran, US Choice is a Negotiated Peace Now or the Risk of War]]> 2014-11-20T04:48:03Z 2014-11-20T05:28:08Z By Carlyn Meyer

In 2012, Israeli PM Netanyahu stood before the UN General Assembly with a cartoon representation of an “Iranian bomb.” It was filled with red paint (uranium) up to a thick black line representing the ‘point of no return’ where Iran could produce a nuclear bomb within a few months. Or so we were told.

If Mr. Netanyahu were to return with the same graphic this year, however, the cartoon bomb would be empty, the red paint erased or dissolved. The negotiations of the P5+1 (permanent member states of the UN Security Council plus Germany) with Iran have already accomplished more than anyone thought possible a year ago. Signed last July, the Interim Agreement required Iran to deplete or convert its store of highly enriched uranium that Mr. Netanyahu warned us about. It prescribed more intrusive inspections and put more inspectors on the ground in Iran. Essentially, Iran’s nuclear program was put on hold.

Should the Interim Agreement expire November 24 with nothing to replace it, a historic achievement for nuclear nonproliferation would be nullified. Most nuclear and nonproliferation experts believe Iran can maintain a civilian nuclear program, as the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty allows, with enough transparency, restrictions and oversight from UN inspectors to cut off each of several pathways it could possibly use towards producing a bomb — a bomb even US intelligence says Iran hasn’t decided to craft.

Yet fierce opposition to the resolution of this issue stems from three sources. The right-wing in Iran does not believe their country should even be talking to the West. Critics in the American Congress have tried to impose new sanction, after Iran ‘cried uncle’ and started negotiating in good faith, that would derail the deal. And Israel, which is not a signer of the NTP, believes Iran should be barred from even civilian enrichment.

The American and Israeli critics don’t realize they are in danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. If a negotiated Permanent Agreement doesn’t replace the Interim accord or if the talks are not extended, Iran will resume producing highly enriched uranium. The new inspectors would leave and tighter inspector regimens would die. A historic achievement for nuclear nonproliferation would be nullified.

This does not make sense. An agreement is within reach.

The important of these talks transcends the immediate nuclear issue and gets to the heart of how we as a nation conduct foreign policy. Do we prefer one that keeps lurching towards military action far away from our shores or one that underscores diplomacy as the pillar of world cooperation, nonproliferation and peace?

Carlyn Meyer, former editor of the blog Read Between the Lines, writes on politics from her home in Chicago.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

Press TV: “Rouhani: Iran united on key issues, goals pursued in talks”

contributors <![CDATA[How human-emitted Carbon Dioxide Circulates in Earth’s Atmosphere (NASA)]]> 2014-11-19T22:06:27Z 2014-11-20T05:27:04Z NASA Goddard | —

“An ultra-high-resolution NASA computer model has given scientists a stunning new look at how carbon dioxide in the atmosphere travels around the globe.

Plumes of carbon dioxide in the simulation swirl and shift as winds disperse the greenhouse gas away from its sources. The simulation also illustrates differences in carbon dioxide levels in the northern and southern hemispheres and distinct swings in global carbon dioxide concentrations as the growth cycle of plants and trees changes with the seasons.

The carbon dioxide visualization was produced by a computer model called GEOS-5, created by scientists at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Global Modeling and Assimilation Office.

The visualization is a product of a simulation called a “Nature Run.” The Nature Run ingests real data on atmospheric conditions and the emission of greenhouse gases and both natural and man-made particulates. The model is then left to run on its own and simulate the natural behavior of the Earth’s atmosphere. This Nature Run simulates January 2006 through December 2006.

While Goddard scientists worked with a “beta” version of the Nature Run internally for several years, they released this updated, improved version to the scientific community for the first time in the fall of 2014.”

NASA Goddard: “NASA | A Year in the Life of Earth’s CO2″