Middle East Monitor – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Sun, 28 Feb 2021 05:42:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.16 Could the Int’l Criminal Court Curb Israeli War Crimes against Occupied Palestinians? https://www.juancole.com/2021/02/criminal-occupied-palestinians.html Sat, 20 Feb 2021 05:03:49 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=196235 By Belal Yasin | –

( Middle East Monitor ) – On 5 February the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a ruling in which it agreed to investigate possible war crimes by the Israeli occupation in the Palestinian territories and decided that its jurisdiction extends to the territories controlled by the Israeli occupation since the June 1967 war.

The decision was made based on the recommendations made by ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, in December 2019, in which she declared that there is a “reasonable basis” to open an investigation into the war crimes committed by the Israeli occupation in Jerusalem, the Israeli military wars in the Gaza Strip, as well as the Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank. However, she asked the court to determine if it had territorial jurisdiction before pursuing the case. It is worth noting that the ICC prosecutor has been conducting preliminary studies of the criminal situation in Palestine since 16 January 2015.

The ICC ruling was welcomed by the Palestinian government, with Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh considered it a victory for justice and humanity, and justice for the blood of the victims and their families. He also considered it a victory for the court itself, which thwarted Israel’s attempt to politicalise its deliberations. Therefore, Shtayyeh called on the court to speed up its judicial procedures in the cases brought before it, which include the crimes committed by Israel during its three wars on the Gaza Strip, in addition to the prisoners’ and settlement cases.

As for the Israeli side, it denounced the ICC decision, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once again accusing the ICC of being a political body and not a judicial institution. The Israeli Foreign Ministry also issued a statement describing the ICC decision as anti-Semitic and affirming that it is a democratic state with an independent judiciary, and the ICC has no jurisdiction whatsoever in this matter.

The US State Department objected to the ICC decision; State Department spokesperson Ned Price expressed his country’s concerns about the court’s attempt to exercise its jurisdiction over the Israeli military, and said: “We have serious concerns about the ICC’s attempts to exercise its jurisdiction over Israeli personnel. The United States has always taken the position that the court’s jurisdiction should be reserved for countries that consent to it, or that are referred by the UN Security Council.”

Why are the Israeli authorities rejecting the ICC ruling?

There are many reasons that prompt the Israeli authorities to reject the ICC ruling and to describe it as a political body.

First, the decision is considered a clear condemnation of war criminals, including Israeli military and political leaders and settlers. Therefore, the Israelis fear the issuance of arrest warrants against them, and extensive security prosecutions, followed by the obligation of the Israeli occupation state to pay large financial compensation to the families of Palestinian victims.

Second, the ICC ruling confirms the legal status of the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem, as Palestinian lands that are still occupied, and that the sovereignty of Israel, the occupying power over these lands, is temporary and de facto.

Third, it refutes all the Israeli and American allegations that challenge the State of Palestine’s membership in the ICC and their belief that the measures it takes in relation to the court are considered illegal.

Fourth, it nullifies the Israeli decisions to annex the occupied Palestinian territories, including the occupation’s decision to annex the city of Jerusalem, impose its legal sovereignty over it, and declare it a unified capital for Israel. In doing so, it also invalidates former US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the transfer of Washington’s embassy to it.

Fifth, it clarifies the false mental image of Israel and its marketing in the Western and international forums as being the only democracy in the Middle East. It instead reveals its true image as a colonial, criminal, uprooting occupation that committed war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and genocide against the Palestinian people.

ICC ruling brings hope for Palestine, dismay for Israel – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Although six years have passed since the start of the preliminary studies undertaken by the ICC prosecutor of the situation in Palestine, her ruling was moral justice for the Palestinian people and their cause that has been ongoing for more than 70 years. The decision is also a historic opportunity for the PA and human rights organisations to present thousands of documents condemning the Israeli occupation for the war crimes it committed in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and Jerusalem.

Therefore, we may witness hundreds of Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people coming to an end if the ICC’s decision results in practical steps that pursue offenders committing crimes in previous wars and place them on the international terrorism list. This would make this ruling an important step towards the right to self-determination for the Palestinian people in accordance with UN Resolutions 242 and 338, and the return of Palestinian refugees in accordance with UN Resolution 194.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

Via Middle East Monitor

This work by Middle East Monitor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Occupied Thoughts: Israel/Palestine & the ICC — Sawsan Zaher with Peter Beinart

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As Israel aims for 1 mn. Squatters on Palestinian Territory, Settler Violence against Indigenous Palestinians Spikes https://www.juancole.com/2021/02/palestinian-indigenous-palestinians.html Thu, 18 Feb 2021 05:03:58 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=196206 By Osama Othman | –

( Middle East Monitor) – Terrorist attacks by Israeli settlers have become more frequent in the occupied West Bank. One of the latest victims was Bilal Shehadeh Bawatna, 52, from Al-Bireh, who was killed last Friday when he and his companions were run over by a car driven by a settler in the northern Jordan Valley. Those with him were wounded in the deliberate attack.

According to the secretary of the Fatah movement in Tubas and the Jordan Valley, Mahmoud Sawafta, the men were walking on a nature trail on the side of the road at the time. The settler was driving his car on the other side of the road when he turned and drove straight towards them and ran them over. Bawatna was killed and two others were seriously injured. It has been reported that the settler was “speeding” along the road.

Bilal Bawatna was a member of a hiking group, which started a few years ago in order to educate people about Palestine, its geography, and its history, as well as to increase young people’s awareness of the importance of preserving the land in the face of Israeli colonial expansion. This kind of tourism has become very popular.

Last Wednesday, Azzam Jamil Amer from the village of Kafr Qalil near Nablus, was killed after being hit by a settler’s car near the town of Haris in the Salfit governorate in the northern West Bank. Amer was on his way home from work and wanted to cross the street at a red light when a settler drove straight at him and killed him with his car. The attack took place near the large colonial-settlement of Ariel.

READ: Several Israelis arrested for alleged terror attack against Palestinians

These and other attacks are intended to instill fear in the Palestinians so that they start to think about leaving their land. They also highlight the existence of Israel’s illegal settlements and settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories. Ariel alone is home to more than 20,000 illegal settlers.

The security infrastructure imposed across the West Bank by the Israeli occupation authorities is intended to make life as difficult as possible for the indigenous Palestinians. The settlers do a similar job in their own disruptive and deadly way. On many occasions, settler-terrorist attacks take place while they are protected by Israeli soldiers and police. Only very rarely do the troops step in to stop the terrorists; when they do, it is because they fear the wider consequences of the settlers’ actions, not because they have any particular concerns about the pain and suffering inflicted on local Palestinians. The settlers themselves are in breach of international law simply by living on occupied land. It follows, therefore, that their actions of this nature are also serious breaches of international law.

Settler-terrorists target Palestinian property and farms as well as individuals. This can be seen during the olive harvest, which is central to Palestinian life and the economy. Every season the settler-terrorists destroy and burn hundreds of ancient olive trees. They are so filled with hate and anger that they cannot abide seeing Palestinians living and working in harmony with the land and celebrating the harvest.

The terrorist settlers also target Palestinian homes — who can forget the deadly arson attack against the Dawabsheh family in 2015? — as well as mosques, churches, and cars. They pose a very real threat to anyone travelling on West Bank roads and seek to disrupt Palestinian life in this way.

Aisha Al-Rabi, 47, from Bidya in the Salfit governorate, was killed in 2018 when a settler hit her in the head with a stone as she was traveling with her husband. Even the Israeli Ministry of Security admitted that this was a result of a “hostile act” carried out with ideological and racist motives towards Palestinian Arabs simply because they are Arabs.

Such attacks by settlers are increasing, despite the decision of the International Criminal Court to include within its jurisdiction crimes committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and despite the fact that the very presence of settlers in settlements is the biggest case to be put before the ICC. However, settlers and those who support them believe that they are above international law. With their extremist religious ideology and closed minds, they are not open to reason.

It is their ideology of hate which sees Israeli settler-terrorists using religious texts to justify attacks against non-Jews, particularly the indigenous Arabs. They have no value for human life apart from their own, and Palestinian blood is cheap in their eyes. The racist Chief Rabbi of Safed, Shmuel Eliyahu, was last year “one of several prominent right-wing rabbis to call for the acquittal of a Jewish Israeli convicted of murdering three members of a Palestinian family in a terror attack.” He is well known for his criticism of the secular government in Israel and his frequent anti-Arab racism.

The shift to the extreme right in Israeli politics encourages settler-terrorist attacks against the Palestinians. Israel’s Minister of Settlement Affairs, Tzachi Hanegbi, has said that the government wants to get more than a million Jews to live in settlements across the West Bank. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has aligned himself with extremist settler groups and thus could be said to be complicit in the murderous terrorist attacks. He has been indicted on corruption and fraud charges, so needs all the support he can get in the General Election next month if he is to form another government.

It is a matter of public record that Donald Trump gave Israel everything that it asked for. What will his successor Joe Biden do? It is almost certain that he will continue to protect Israel at every level, and ignore its contempt for international law. Israel’s settler-terrorists have been emboldened by such political backing. That is unlikely to change now. In fact, it will probably continue to escalate.

This article was translated and edited for MEMO from Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 14 February 2021

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

This work by Middle East Monitor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Btselem: “Palestinians protesting outpost driven out by Israeli settlers and soldiers, 18 Dec. 2020”

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Targeting Iran, Trump added Israel to the US Mideast Military Command; How will the Arab World Respond? https://www.juancole.com/2021/02/mideast-military-command.html Sat, 13 Feb 2021 05:01:49 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=196113 By Nasim Ahmed | –

( Middle East Monitor) – A major reorganisation of US military operation in the Middle East was announced last month in a momentous decision reflecting the seismic geo-political shifts underway in the region. The move, the last of many gifts granted by Washington to Tel-Aviv under former President Donald Trump, saw Israel’s inclusion inside Central Command (CENTCOM). The decision means that for the first time in history the Zionist state will co-ordinate military operations alongside its Arab neighbours inside what is considered the most important US command unit in the world.

CENTCOM – an Arab NATO if you like – is one of 11 unified combatant command units within the United States Department of Defence that have been installed to combat threats. For critics however, the role of such command units is the preservation of US hegemony around the world. Spanning every region of the globe, together they coordinate American led military operations. Member states within a specific command unit carry out a range of operations including combined military exercises, offer security assistance and share information.

Israel until now was part of US military’s European command, EUCOM. The rationale for this strategic gerrymander was over concerns that with Arab states not recognising the state of Israel, they would be reluctant to co-operate fully if Central Command officers were in regular contact sharing sensitive information with counterparts in the occupation state. The recent normalisation of relations between Israel and a number of Arab regimes however has calmed these concerns and opened a path to major geo-political shifts.

Announcing the new military arrangement, the US Department of Defence said: “in a sign of the changing political environment in the Middle East, the United States military will move Israel from the U.S. European Command’s area of responsibility to that of the U.S. Central Command.”

READ: Europe will redefine itself despite the political shift in the US

It mentioned that the “easing of tensions between Israel and its Arab neighbours subsequent to the Abraham Accords has provided a strategic opportunity for the United States to align key partners against shared threats in the Middle East.”

Set up in 1983 by the administration of Ronald Reagan, CENTCOM was added to Washington’s ever-increasing command units around the world, with responsibility for co-ordinating all US military CENTCOM in the Middle East as well as Central Asia and parts of South Asia.

Since its inception, CENTCOM spearheaded every major US military intervention overseas including the two Gulf wars and in recent years the war on terror. The Command unit coordinates operations stretching from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen in the West to Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, and Pakistan in the East. The easternmost reaches of this combatant area butt up against India, China, and Russia.

The advent of CENTCOM’s early version however is traced back to former US President Jimmy Carter’s State of the Union address in January 1980, which subsequently came to be referred to as the “Carter Doctrine.” Responding to the Soviet Union’s intervention in Afghanistan in 1979 President Carter proclaimed: “any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force”. The Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force marked the first formal commitment to the Carter Doctrine followed by CENTCOM’s succession three years later.

Pro-Israel groups that for years called on the Pentagon to include Israel within CENTCOM have welcomed the move. The Washington Institute for Near East for instance, which works to align US foreign policy with Tel-Aviv, said that Israel’s inclusion in Eucom was a “mismatch with the existing organizational boundaries.”

READ: Reviewing US policy on Palestine, with Professor Rashid Khalidi

The pro-Israel group argued that the new arrangement would help CENTCOM respond to “common threats in a comprehensive manner”. Another influential pro-Israel lobby group, The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) also welcomed the decision. “Moving Israel to @CENTCOM marks an important recognition by the Pentagon that Israel is truly a part of the Middle East” tweeted AIPAC. “As the U.S., Israel and our Arab allies confront a dangerous Iran, this move will strengthen the growing cooperation among our regional partners.”

Up till now Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestine and its many human rights abuses hindered its formal inclusion within CENTCOM. This shift marks the culmination of the ongoing process of normalisation between the Zionist state and its Arab neighbours. Military normalisation has now been added to the political, diplomatic and economic normalisation with the biggest strategic gain for Israel. Moving Israel into Central Command’s area of responsibility will facilitate military cooperation in the confrontation with the Zionist states’ biggest foe, Iran.

On its website, deterring the Islamic Republic is listed by CENTCOM as its number one priority followed by supporting a political resolution in Afghanistan; “maintaining Defeat-ISIS Campaign in Syria and Iraq;” “Countering the UAS Threat” and “Weaponization of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and Refugees.”

Given CENTCOM’s list of priorities, Israel’s inclusion in the command unit was the obvious next step following last year’s normalisation with the UAE and several other Arab states, especially as such cooperation existed unofficially. Tel Aviv is said to have coordinated attacks on Iranian targets with CENTCOM, especially in the final year of the Trump administration when there was an escalation of hostilities with Tehran. Israeli intel, for instance helped the US assassinate the head of the Quds Force, Gen. Qassem Soleimani last year in Baghdad airport.

Israel was also accused by Tehran of killing Iran’s top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. The head of Iran’s Organisation of Defensive Innovation and Research (SPND), was targeted by an explosion and machine gun in December. In all likelihood such operations would have involved some form of co-operation with CENTCOM.

While it’s too early to say if Israel’s in-corporation into the command unit will increase the likelihood of hostile military operation, the shift as Benny Gantz, the Israeli defense minister said “will further boost cooperation between the IDF and the US Armed Forces in confronting regional challenges, along with other friends with whom we share interests.”

It signals a stronger desire to create a united front against Iran and, with the support of the Sunni block of countries, a willingness to take a tougher position against the Islamic Republic and its allies in the region.

As for the question of Palestine, with the Arab states now integrated with Israel militarily, there will be no incentive for Tel-Aviv to abide by international norms and grant Palestinians their right to statehood. For decades Arab leaders have insisted that the price of full normalisation with Israel and its integration into the Middle East was its withdrawal from the occupied territories and the creation of a Palestinian state.

There is of course the potential that this could end in tears for the Arab countries. What would happen if their relation with Israel were to deteriorate or fail completely? This by no means is an unlikely scenario in the shifting sands of Middle Eastern politics.

Though the Palestinian issue may not be high on the agenda of the regions many unelected leaders and absolute monarch, Israel’s ongoing occupation and human rights abuse has the potential to deeply sour relations under a new geopolitical reality. It’s worth remembering that the most influential Gulf Arab state, Saudi Arabia, has yet to normalize relations with the Zionist state.

One thing is certain. Having aligned their security interest with Israel, Arab states will now find it extremely difficult to disentangle themselves from the many hostile and belligerent operations of the Zionist state, thus exposing themselves to blowbacks from US and Israeli military adventurism.

This article first appeared in Politics Today on 11 February 2021

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

Via Middle East Monitor)

This work by Middle East Monitor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Al-Monitor from late January: “Top US general in the Middle East visits region”

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City-State or Empire? The United Arab Emirates Seeks dominance in the Horn of Africa https://www.juancole.com/2021/02/empire-emirates-dominance.html Mon, 01 Feb 2021 05:01:49 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=195880 By Usman Butt | –

( Middle East Monitor) – Since the 2011 Arab Spring the United Arab Emirates has been taking an active role in a number of hotspots from Egypt, Libya to Yemen. The Gulf nation has spent $26 billion annually on its defence budget since 2016 and this is expected to increase to $37.8 billion by 2025, according to Research and Markets.

A growing security and war industry with military deployments abroad, US generals often refer to the Sheikhdom as ‘Little Sparta’. As of 2020, The UAE has military bases in Eritrea, Djibouti and Somaliland, which further indicates the importance of the Horn of Africa to Abu Dhabi. The region offers excellent access to the Red Sea, the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Aden, all of which are vital to the Emirates’ economic future as a global trading hub. The military bases ensure Abu Dhabi can see off threats to its interests and secure its influence over East Africa at a time when it is expanding its income streams away from the petrodollar.

The 2015 war in Yemen and the 2017 blockade of Qatar have seen Abu Dhabi take a more aggressive role in East Africa.

Countries in the Horn of Africa have by and large welcomed growing ties with the Arab World, but in 2017 following the breaking of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt with Qatar, countries across the world were pushed to take sides.

Somalia

Although the 2017 Gulf Crisis now looks like it is coming to an end, the countries in the Horn of Africa have already paid the price for it. Somalia found itself at the unwelcome end of the dispute.

Like other Horn of Africa countries, the Somali government adopted a neutral stance towards the Qatar dispute. The UAE, however, saw Mogadishu as silently in the pro-Qatar camp and Abu Dhabi was not pleased.

In 2017, as President Mohamed Abdul lahi Farmaajo assumed office, reports circulated that Qatar and Turkey had funded his campaign and further claims of officials appointed to prominent positions within Farmaajo’s administration having ties to Doha and Ankara unnerved Abu Dhabi.

The Somali government alleges the UAE is now actively destabilising the country, accusing it of funding opposition forces. These suspicions intensified after Dubai Ports World, DP World, bypassed the central government of Somalia and signed a deal with the semi-autonomous region of Somaliland to develop and operate Berbera port. DP World even brought in Ethiopian investment and gave Addis Ababa a stake in the port.

Mogadishu declared the deal illegal and tried to block it by taking out a complaint with the Arab League. Somaliland leader, Muse Bihi Abdi, said Farmaajo’s government was declaring war by attempting to block the deal. Under the deal, Somaliland stands to get investments of up to $442 million and a separate agreement with Abu Dhabi to allow the UAE’s military bases in the region could bring in a further $1 billion, according to the International Crisis Group.

Decades of civil war and the presence of extremist groups makes Somalia a very fragile country, fears UAE involvement could harm the country are a cause of constant concern for Mogadishu.

Sudan

In 1989, Omar Al-Bashir, a military commander, launched a coup and seized political power in Sudan. By 1993, he declared himself president and his political party, the National Congress, became the dominant political force. The National Congress is Muslim Brotherhood aligned and as such was generally treated with suspicion by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. However, in the 2010s, Al-Bashir’s regime began distancing itself from the brotherhood in order to improve its relations with the GCC countries.

Closer relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE had a price. In 2015, Riyadh formed a coalition to intervene militarily in Yemen. In 2011, the Yemeni government led by Ali Abdullah Saleh faced mass street protests known as the ‘Arab Spring’, the pressure would force him to step down in 2012. The power vacuum led to large parts of the country being taken over by the Iranian-backed Houthi group. The Saudi-led coalition aimed to crush the Houthis and declared war on them. Sudan became an important member of the war coalition.

In 2018, a popular uprising took place against Omar Al-Bashir and in April 2019 the military forced him from power. The military then formed a new government with civil opposition groups with the aim of transforming Sudan into a fully-fledged democracy and the UAE moved to minimise the potential damage to its interests caused by the revolution.

However, the fall of Al-Bashir means the UAE’s position in Sudan is not guaranteed and some fear the Emirates could try to subvert Sudan’s democratic transition.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia seems to have benefitted hugely from its partnership with the UAE, as the East African country has emerged as a big investment opportunity.

In February 2020, the UAE agreed to invest $100 million to support micro, medium and small scale projects across the country. Additionally, the UAE has pledged to build an oil pipeline between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which will provide the landlocked nation much needed energy.

Indeed this energy deal is possible after the UAE engineered a peace treaty between Eritrea and Ethiopia in 2018. The peace agreement was held up as an example of the UAE’s prowess. Ethiopia managed to gain these benefits while avoiding the polarising effects of the Qatar blockade.

In November 2020, armed conflict broke out in Ethiopia’s Tigray region between government forces and a powerful regional rebel army. The rebels’ leader openly accused the United Arab Emirates of carrying out a drone strike on Tigray, from its base in Eritrea, at the behest of Addis Ababa. While evidence has yet to emerge of the strike, it does indicate there is some local anxiety about the role Abu Dhabi might be playing in this potentially explosive situation.

Ethiopia could cause issues for the UAE and Saudi Arabia, as another close ally of the Gulf States, Egypt, has expressed anger at Addis Ababa’s dam across the River Nile. The Renaissance Dam built by Ethiopia reduces Nile water levels in Egypt, harming its energy, economic and environmental needs. Negotiations to find a solution keep breaking down and regional tensions are high.

The Horn of Africa is the playground for rising UAE aspirations and is a microcosm of what the UAE aims to replicate across the African continent. Much of this is driven by the decline of US influence globally, new regional alliances and powerhouses are emerging to manage international security. However, the UAE does not exercise total control over East Africa and is still in the early stages of developing its reach and influence. The Horn is full of flashpoints and the UAE could either help stabilise or destabilise the region.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

Via Middle East Monitor

This work by Middle East Monitor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

MEMO: “UAE: The scramble for the Horn of Africa”

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Can President Biden end the Catastrophic Yemen War? Only if he Acts without Delay https://www.juancole.com/2021/01/president-catastrophic-without.html Thu, 28 Jan 2021 05:02:07 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=195797 By Tasnim Nazeer | –

( Middle East Monitor) – US President Joe Biden could end the war in Yemen if he acts without delay. Democracy was at the core of his election campaign during which he pledged, inter alia, to end his predecessor’s discriminatory policies, such as the “Muslim ban”. Biden also pledged to end US support to Saudi Arabia in its relentless war on Yemen. However, he has the ability to go one step further and call for an end to the war itself.

Yemen is experiencing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis; the UN estimates that hundreds and thousands of children will die within months due to the impact of the war. Saudi Arabia began its assault on Yemen in March 2015, after the Houthis ousted the internationally-recognised government in the capital Sanaa a few months earlier.

More than 80 per cent of the population — that’s 24 million people — now rely on humanitarian aid. The crisis has been made even worse by the coronavirus pandemic, with aid unable to reach many of Yemen’s most vulnerable civilians. It is estimated that 20 million Yemenis lack sufficient food and access to clean water resulting in severe malnutrition in children under five years old.

With this catastrophic impact in mind, it is paramount for Biden to fulfil his promises and take immediate measures to bring about an end to the war. Washington can and should put pressure on the Saudi government to end its attacks on Yemen. If this happens, there is some hope for the people and their future. The US president should also put pressure on the Houthis to pull back from their coup and stop their role in the destruction of their own country.

If the Biden administration can do this, it will, at a stroke, fulfil its objective to restore America as a leader in international affairs. If it can’t, or won’t, then it has no right to claim global leadership in anything.

The war in Yemen cannot be allowed to continue, unless the world wants to see an entire generation of Yemenis wiped out. An immediate ceasefire is the first step. Pick up that telephone, President Biden; make that call to Riyadh.

Peace will be followed by opportunities to rebuild Yemen, which will benefit its citizens as well as regional players. The people of Yemen deserve the chance for a better future of the kind envisaged by Joe Biden in his inauguration speech, unless he meant that only the people of America are so deserving of the best. Now is the time and opportunity for the president to demonstrate that his words were intended to have a positive effect on everyone, regardless of where and who they are. Stand by what you said, Mr Biden, and make that call.

Tasnim Nazeer is an award-winning journalist, author, and writer. Tasnim is also a Universal Peace Federation Ambassador for Peace.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

Middle East Monitor

This work by Middle East Monitor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

AP: ”
US suspending some sanctions on Yemen rebels”

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Will the Pandemic help Shift the world from Oil to Green Energy? https://www.juancole.com/2021/01/pandemic-shift-energy.html Tue, 26 Jan 2021 05:01:30 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=195768 By Elif Selin Calik | –

( Middle East Monitor) – It is crucial to an understanding of the global consequences of the coronavirus pandemic to consider the transition to alternative energy sources for the benefit of future generations. Covid-19 is affecting people all over the world, but a year ago it was just another public health issue. That has all changed, and it actually affects every aspect of our lives as individuals and as nations.

Diplomatic relations between countries have changed, for example. This is evident by the way that the pandemic hastened the disconnect between Asian and Western economies and powers. Similarly, we have witnessed a decline in multilateralism as countries sought to address the crisis by themselves. By the end of 2020, the World Health Organisation was even warning against the lurch towards “vaccine nationalism”.

The pandemic has forced governments to restrict social interaction and business operations. With countries under lockdowns and travel bans, meaning almost empty roads and skies, Covid-19 has crushed the demand so hard that crude oil prices fell below zero for the first time ever last year. Here, it must be remembered that the transport industry accounts for 50 per cent of global oil sales and when transport grinds to a halt the oil industry also grinds to a halt. The latter is not just going through another demand shock as it did in 2008 or 1998.

Today, the oil industry is suffering its worst ever blow after years of energy transition that had just started to curb demand, and which has happened against the backdrop of a Saudi-Russia price war that resulted in boosting production in an already oversupplied market at $39 per barrel. In the US, about 60 per cent of production has become uneconomical. Hence, so called US energy independence is now under serious threat to the extent that America may be better off importing Saudi oil again. The repercussions of this unprecedented price collapse have the potential to be a watershed moment for oil producing countries.

READ: Israel’s apartheid regime is the work of a callous rogue state

Significantly, the worst hit countries include major producers like Venezuela and Nigeria, as well as Iraq and Kuwait and all of those which never managed to diversify their economies away from extractive fuel. For some oil majors, the situation could also become a matter of long term survival. A new business model has to be found.

Before the pandemic, the industry was geared to carrying on, paying debt, ramping up dividends and investing in cleaner energy, all at the same time. However, in a market where prices are under $30 per barrel, producers cannot continue at a profitable rate while reducing costs and maintaining dividends. They could consider disposing of their mature assets, but we know that selling assets at the time of a downturn is not the most attractive option.

A man refills his car at a gas station in the Saudi capital Riyadh on 11 May 2020 [RANIA SANJAR/AFP/ Getty Images]

Ironically, the situation could create a huge backlash against the energy transition. It should be noted that the oil majors’ technical and financial capabilities will be an essential contribution to a low carbon economy. Energy transition policies with a view to meeting carbon neutrality by 2050 might actually slow down as a result of Covid-19. There are concerns, though. The first is with the lower price of under $30 per barrel scenario. Fossil fuels with high carbon emissions will offer competitive alternatives to renewable energy sources and that might derail the energy transition process. It will be much more competitive to use fossil fuels with competitive logistics with a high concentration on energy and flexible supply chains rather than developing more renewable capacity. A second concern is the repeat of what we saw at the end of the global financial crisis back in 2008-2010, when the return to business as usual resulted in a significant level of CO2 emissions worldwide.

By 2010, emissions reached record high levels, which is why most of the measures implemented by governments to stimulate their economies were based on an increased use of fossil fuels to kick-start heavy industries, thus leading to high carbon emissions. History could repeat itself in the post-pandemic period and could derail efforts to limit global warming. Continued reliance on fossil fuels can result in temperatures rising by 1.5 degrees or 2 degrees Celsius as early as 2040 or 2050.

READ: Russia, Israel discuss joint production of coronavirus vaccine

A third concern relates to the economic impact of the pandemic which could leave governments so indebted that they would be unable to embark upon new programmes to finance the cutting of emissions and combatting climate change. As a result, energy transition policies may, unfortunately, drop by a few notches on the list of priorities of many governments.

Nevertheless, the pandemic might still act as an accelerator away from past trends, including the fight against climate change, rather than slowing down or stalling the energy transition process. Most EU member states and the International Energy Agency have made it clear that there is no way out of the Covid-19 crisis other than by committing further to the EU’s decarbonisation policy and carbon neutral target. The announcement last August by European Commission President Ursula Van Der Leyen, as well as Germany’s Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, of a large European recovery package is clearly showing the way. The amount of the package, which includes a mix of grants, loans and guarantees, is absolutely mind-boggling at a total of €1.85 trillion committed to kick-start the EU economy. This amounts to close to $2 trillion and is the equivalent in real dollar terms to more than 10 times the 1948 Marshall Plan for the rebuilding of Europe after the Second World War.

In conclusion, it is clear that the Covid-19 pandemic is one of the most severe economic and energy shocks in modern history. Of all sources of primary energy, the novel coronavirus has had the greatest impact on oil production and supplies, due to its dominance in land, air and sea transport. As such, the pandemic could yet be a pivotal turning point and golden opportunity to boost green recovery and climate policies for both governments and energy suppliers.

Via Middle East Monitor

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

This work by Middle East Monitor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Green European Foundation: “European Mobility in the context of Covid-19: Keeping the green steering wheel steady?”

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The Scam of branding Criticism of Israel ‘Anti-Semitic’ is over: B’Tselem says it is an Apartheid State https://www.juancole.com/2021/01/branding-criticism-apartheid.html Fri, 22 Jan 2021 05:02:33 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=195698 By Nasim Ahmed | –

( Middle East Monitor ) – When B’Tselem described Israel as an apartheid state in a position paper last week, it did more than just dispel long held delusions about the Zionist state. In saying that Israel “promotes and perpetuates Jewish supremacy between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River,” the country’s largest human rights group may have rescued the possibility of open and honest discussion from those who seek to stifle free speech under the cloak of combating anti-Semitism.

Such is the goal of those advocating the adoption of the controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism. B’Tselem’s groundbreaking paper and an equally compelling article a few days earlier in the London Review of Books by the American writer Nathan Thrall, exposed the lie at the heart of what is in any case meant to be a “working definition”.

The dispute centres around seven of the eleven illustrative examples that conflate anti-Semitism with criticism of the state of Israel. Claiming, for instance, that the existence of a state of Israel is a “racist endeavour” can get you branded as an anti-Semite. As ridiculous as this sounds, B’Tselem is thus, according to the IHRA, an anti-Semitic organisation. Though the definition has no legal standing, its adoption by political parties, civil society organisations and academic institutions will still have a chilling effect on free speech, which is why British government coercion to get universities to adopt the IHRA document has been condemned.

Opponents of the definition include the Institute of Race Relations; eminent lawyers; civil rights organisation Liberty; leading academic experts on anti-Semitism; 40 global Jewish social justice organisations; and more than 80 UK-based BAME groups. Moreover, Kenneth Stern, an author of the IHRA definition, has expressed deep concern at its use to suppress criticism of Israel on university campuses.

READ: Controversial anti-Semitism definition ‘not fit for purpose’, concludes new report

B’Tselem’s position paper and Thrall’s article, “The Separate Regimes Delusion” — which also dismisses the notion that Israel and its occupation can be separated — not only underscore problems with the IHRA and why critics are right to warn of its assault on free speech, but have also shattered long held assumptions about Israel’s much vaunted democracy. The latter is one reason why the West feels obliged to protect the Zionist state despite its many human rights violations and breaches of international law.

Even prominent critics of Israel have been reluctant to break ranks and abandon the broad consensus that, while apartheid may be inflicted upon the Occupied Palestinian Territories, inside “Israel proper”, there is a democratic state. This is based on the false assumption that the occupation is temporary and Palestinians will eventually be granted self-determination and statehood. It’s an illusion. In the seven decades since Israel’s founding in Palestine there have been only six months — during 1966-67 — when the occupation state did not place members of one specific ethnic group under military government while it confiscated their land.

Unlike Israel’s soft critics, B’Tselem argues that after more than half a century, the regime and its occupation should be treated as a single entity guided by the core racist organising principle of “advancing and perpetuating the supremacy of one group – Jews – over another – Palestinians.” According to the rights group, the legal bar for defining Israel as an apartheid regime has been met and that this determination was reached after considering the accumulation of policies and laws that have been devised to entrench Jewish control and privilege. B’Tselem referred to a number of official statements and policies, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assertion in 2019 that “Israel is not a state of all its citizens” and the 2018 Nation State Law which says that “the right to exercise national self-determination [in Israel is] unique to the Jewish people”, while also enshrining in law “the development of Jewish settlement as a national value.”

While B’Tselem offered a number of examples of the ways in which Israel has installed different standards of rights based on ethnicity in all of historic Palestine, Thrall, who lives in Jerusalem and is the director of the International Crisis Group, dispels in great detail the delusion of two separate regimes. He argues that the view that Israel is a democracy rests on “a conceptual wall” between the country and the occupied territories that doesn’t exist in reality. Rejecting the flawed logic, he says that “the fiction of separate regimes allows liberal Zionists to promote a politically correct two-state solution based on the pre-1967 line.”

READ: Controversial anti-Semitism definition undermines free speech, warn lawyers and judges

Acknowledging that it is not difficult to make the case that Israel’s actions in the West Bank amount to apartheid, Thrall offers striking examples while arguing that this label should be extended to the state itself, not just the occupied territories. For example, since the 1980s, Palestinian citizens of Israel have been the only group that could be brought to trial before military courts; of the public land that Israel has designated for any kind of use, 99.76 per cent of land went to Jewish settlements; Israelis travel freely across Israel and its West Bank settlements which no Palestinian can do; the Israeli Knesset passes legislation applying specifically to the occupied West Bank. Dismissing the idea that the occupied territory constitutes a separate regime he insists that, “Israel’s absorption of the West Bank is a joint undertaking of every branch of government – legislative, executive and judicial.”

The conclusion of B’Tselem’s “This is Apartheid” paper and Thrall’s “separate regime delusion” is one and the same: it is impossible to speak any longer about “apartheid in the territories.” It’s impossible to separate the occupied Palestinian territories just as much as it’s impossible to consider the occupation as temporary.

Both have triggered a serious debate amongst critics who are normally averse to calling Israel an apartheid state. A Guardian editorial, for example, asked if Israeli apartheid is “prophecy or description“. It conceded reluctantly that “Palestinians – unlike Israeli Jews – live under a fragmented mosaic of laws, often discriminatory, and public authorities which seem indifferent to their plight.” Rather than offering a decisive conclusion that Israel is indeed an apartheid state, the British paper, which has a number of senior employees who are at best soft critics of the ongoing military occupation, merely left its readers with the question, “What if there is only, in reality, one regime between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, rather than one political power that controls the territory in which there are distinct regimes?”

Others were more honest about their conversion. Explaining why he was persuaded that the entire area from the “river to the sea” should be described as an apartheid regime, Professor Norman Finkelstein clarified that, “The basis of this conclusion was simple and straightforward.” The defining feature of an occupation under international law, he argued, is that it is temporary and that if it is not temporary, it constitutes an illegal annexation. He admitted “that after more than a half-century of Israeli ‘occupation,’ and after repeated declarations by the Israeli government that it didn’t intend to withdraw from the [occupied Palestinian territories] in conformity with international law, the only reasonable inference was that the [territories] had been de facto annexed, regardless of the formal legal label Israel attached to them.” Thus, concluded Finkelstein, “from the river to the sea”, Israel is a single entity.

In theory, the debate about Israeli apartheid sparked off by B’Tselem’s paper should mean that it will be harder to label critics of Israel as anti-Semites for arguing that it is a racist state. The report not only debunks the absurd examples cited by the IHRA as instances of anti-Jewish racism, but also raises awkward questions for the likes of Britain’s Labour Party which have adopted the working definition without pausing to think about the reality of the occupation. Will Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, having adopted the IHRA blindly, it seems, feel compelled to expel members of the party who express the views of Israel’s most prominent human rights group? Will universities be forced to censure students who promote the idea that Israel is an apartheid state if the efforts of the Conservative government to force academic institutions to adopt the discredited definition are successful?

While we wait for an answer to these questions, it seems obvious that those who have adopted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism have done so under a set of illusions. Israel is not a democracy in the accepted sense; it has neither any intention nor desire to end the occupation; and the two-state “solution” and “peace process” are a fiction which buy the state more time to expand its illegal colonial-settlements.

If such people are serious about helping the 12 million people living in historic Palestine who are locked in a seemingly never-ending conflict, they need to start being honest with themselves and everyone else. As the executive director of B’Tselem says, “Calling things by their proper name – apartheid – is not a moment of despair: rather, it is a moment of moral clarity, a step on a long walk inspired by hope. See the reality for what it is, name it without flinching – and help bring about the realisation of a just future.”

It’s time to ditch the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. There can be no doubt, surely, that it is the right thing to do.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

Via Middle East Monitor

This work by Middle East Monitor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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The Height of Chutzpah: Notorious Racist Netanyahu seeks Palestinian-Israeli Votes to divide the Joint List https://www.juancole.com/2021/01/notorious-netanyahu-palestinian.html Thu, 21 Jan 2021 05:02:46 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=195669 By Ali Abu Hableh | –

( Middle East Monitor) – Arab MKs (members of the Knesset — parliament) in Israel from the various parties that make up the Joint List bloc agree that the recent visits by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the Arab cities of At-Tira, Umm Al-Fahm and Nazareth are intended to deal a blow to the political and social unity of the Arab Israeli community, in exchange for temptations he is placing before citizens.

Quite simply, he is after their votes in order to boost his electoral position in the face of intense competition from his rivals who want to bring him down. The Arab MKs know that Netanyahu’s goal is to dismantle the Joint List and create inter-Arab rivalry that will reduce their representation in the Knesset, which may help him to stay in power.

This is at a time when it is still unclear whether the prime minister’s electoral strategy focused on the Arab community will push the member parties of the Joint List to stick together and tackle earlier mistakes through internal reviews. This could get the bloc back on course and regain the confidence of the Arab voters.

In previous elections, Netanyahu intensified his anti-Arab rhetoric. He and his opponents realised that the September General Election last year could have been decided by Arab votes; they do, after all, represent 20 per cent of the population in Israel. That is why the Likud leader made the Arabs a focal point in his election campaign and tried to reduce their turnout on polling day.

It seems that Netanyahu has done with deceiving Jewish voters, and is now turning to the Arabs for their votes. In an interview with Arab48, the head of the Joint List, Ayman Odeh MK, said: “Netanyahu is not only a racist, but he is also a liar. He has been in authority for 30 years as head of the opposition, then the Finance Ministry, and then prime minister. Neither he nor the Likud just started working in politics today.” He then pointed out: “[Netanyahu is] the man of the Nation State Law, the deal of the century, and the policy of demolishing Arab homes. During his term, violence and crime in Arab society have reached an unprecedented level. He failed to dismantle criminal organisations and put an end to crime, and he must be the first to bear responsibility for all these issues.”

Analysts suggest that Netanyahu’s real goal is to create confusion in the Arab community in order to destroy the Joint List and fragment the Palestinian people in the occupied territories. He is also launching a disinformation campaign to increase frustration, which may lead to a drop in voting rates in the Arab community. If he can pick up some Arab votes along the way, he will be happy.

We can respond to these attempts by strengthening the unity of the Palestinian ranks in the occupied territories and committing to a political programme that serves the interests of all Palestinians. We can also increase the number of Arab MKs through a bloc that reinforces the Palestinian national identity and culture and thwarts all Israeli attempts to erase the identity of the Palestinian Arabs in Israeli society. This requires everyone to realise the danger of Netanyahu’s plan. Unity amongst Palestinians is a deterrent against any attempts to diminish our national rights.

I call on the Palestinian masses and all political forces to unite and stick to their political programme. This is the best response to the attempts by Netanyahu and others to destroy the Arab voice and vote.

Translated from Addustour, 19 January 2021, and edited for MEMO.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

Unless otherwise stated in the article above, this work by Middle East Monitor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. I

Via Middle East Monitor

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Bonus video:

Ruptly: “Israel: Police break up Nazareth rally against visit of PM Netanyahu”

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10 Years ago Young Tunisians deposed a Dictator and founded the Arab World’s most Vigorous Democracy https://www.juancole.com/2021/01/tunisians-dictator-democracy.html Fri, 15 Jan 2021 05:04:40 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=195556 By Jehan Alfarra | –

( Middle East Monitor ) – The Tunisian uprising spread like wildfire and millions in neighbouring Arab countries revolted against their long-time dictators, giving birth to what became known as the Arab Spring January 14, 2021 at 1:55 pm | Published in: Africa, On this day, Opinion, Tunisia, Videos & Photo StoriesJehan Alfarra j_alfarra January 14, 2021 at 1:55 pm

On 14 January 2011, Tunisia’s long-time President of 23 years Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was forced to step down after mass protests broke out in the country in the aftermath of Mohammed Bouazizi’s self-immolation.

The young fruit seller’s act of despair after being insulted by a local policewoman who confiscated his produce cart sent shockwaves across Tunisia and the Arab world.

The Tunisian uprising, dubbed the Jasmine Revolution, spread like wildfire and millions in neighbouring Arab countries revolted against their long-time dictators, giving birth to what became known as the Arab Spring.

After the fall of Ben Ali, there were three interim governments before the first democratic elections took place on 23 October 2011 for the Constituent Assembly, leading to the formation of Tunisia’s first democratic government which appointed veteran Tunisian politician Moncef Marzouki as president.

In 2014, Tunisia passed a new constitution. In October of the same year, the first democratic parliamentary elections were held followed by the first presidential elections in November. Beji Caid Essebsi won the election, with 55.68 per cent of the run-off vote.

Tunisia has been hailed as the only success story of the Arab Spring and viewed as a model of democratic progress. While the country’s transition to democracy is seen as relatively smooth and peaceful with a new constitution, free elections and Tunisian media enjoying greater freedoms than ever before, Tunisians are still deeply concerned about the country’s political instability, crumbling economy and lack of social security and job opportunities.

In the course of ten years since the revolution, the country has lived through three presidents and more than ten governments as many Tunisians feel that successive administrations have failed to run the country and provide solutions to deep economic and social issues.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

This work by Middle East Monitor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Middle East Monitor: “Tunisia: The Birth of A Revolution”

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