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March 28, 2015 / 8 Nisan, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘mordechai kedar’

Mordechai Kedar: The Syrian Crisis Spills Over into Lebanon

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

As a result of the bloody events in Syria beginning in March 2011, Lebanon has become a place of refuge for Syrians who live near the border between the two countries. This open border, through which for years Hizbollah has transferred whatever it desired from Syria, has now become an escape route for those Syrians who oppose the regime and seek shelter in Lebanon – even if only temporarily – from the cruelty of the “Shabikha”, the murderous gangs of the Asad regime. The Syrian army, despite the fact that it feels “at home” in Lebanon, usually refrains from pursuing Syrians who have found sanctuary there, so as not to offend the European countries, especially France, which see Lebanon as their “back yard”. Only in a very few cases did a military force cross the border into Lebanon in order to apprehend refugees who oppose the regime, and in a few cases, even shot Syrian canons into Lebanese villages where some Syrians had found shelter and sanctuary.

The society in Lebanon is polarized regarding the events in Syria: the Shi’ite Hizbollah, the main power in the state, actively supports Asad, and has sent more than a few of its soldiers – mainly snipers – to fight those citizens of Syria who are rebelling against the regime. Those who are opposed to Hizbollah, the “March 14 Coalition”, headed by Sa’ad al-Hariri, hold clear anti-Syrian positions. In the background there is always the possibility that the Syrian regime will collapse. If this occurs, the fear is that Hizbollah will quickly take over Lebanon and prevent the opposition from taking advantage of the weakness that may follow the loss of Syrian support. Nasrallah, of course, flatly denies that he has any such intentions. As long as the internal argument was conducted verbally, the words did not represent an immediate threat to the stability of the state.

However, lately an internal confrontation has developed, regarding the active support of the Sunni Muslim insurgents in Syria. For a long time rumors have been circulating about ships that arrive in the middle of moonless nights to locations near the recesses of the Lebanese coast; and boats with people in black clothing and covered faces who race from the shore towards the ships. The people clothed in black unload wooden crates full of “all good things,” and then the boats disappear back into the darkness from which they emerged. The crates are brought into Syria, where their contents – weapons and ammunition – serve the Free Syrian Army. The rumors about the boats were not substantiated until this month. In early May,  the Lebanese army apprehended a ship with the name “Lotef Allah 2″ in Lebanese territorial waters, which had departed from Libya and moored in Alexandria on its way to Lebanon. On this ship, a number of containers with light weapons were found and seized, but there were also a few French rocket launchers that had been sent last year to the insurgents in Libya. There were also explosives, and the whole shipment was sent by a Syrian company. The loading document, of course, did not reveal the actual contents of the shipment. Twenty one employees of the ship were arrested, but it is not clear what they knew about their deadly cargo.

The Lebanese army must certainly have known about the ship and its cargo and it is safe to assume that they got their information from an intelligence organization acting in cooperation with the Syrian regime, Iran or Russia, who were quick to register a complaint with the UN Security Council regarding the smuggling of weapons into Syria from the neighboring countries. Russia and Iran are very concerned about the increasing strength of the Free Syrian Army, which – thanks to the great number of weapons that flow to it- has recently been more successful in retaliating and killing many Syrian soldiers. The seizure of the weapons in the port of Tripoli immediately raised the question in Lebanon: who was supposed to receive the weapons and transfer them to the Syrian insurgents?

The question was answered  on Shabbat, May 12, when a twenty five year old man by the name of Shadi al-Mawlawi was arrested in Tripoli, along with five of his friends. The young man, a Lebanese Sunni and a member of a Salafi group, known as an activist working for the Syrian insurgents, was arrested when he returned from Syria on suspicion of assisting the insurgents and coordinating the transfer of the weapons that had arrived by ship. Tripoli has been in turmoil since the moment of his arrest: the Al-Manar channel, mouthpiece for the Hizbollah Shi’ites, claims that the ship belongs to Al-Qaeda, and served as the connection between global jihad organizations and the Syrian insurgents; while al-Mawlawi’s Sunni friends claim emphatically that he is simply a good young man, who – like many others – gave humanitarian support to Syrian refugees that managed to escape to Tripoli. The circumstances of his incarceration are interesting: according to some versions he was apprehended in the office of the Lebanese minister of the Treasury, Mahmud al-Safdi, in Tripoli, which brings up the possibility that al-Mawlawi might also have supported the Syrian insurgents monetarily, and that he was an emissary sent by members of the political establishment in Lebanon who are engaged in plotting against the Asad regime.

Mordechai Kedar: The Failure of the Palestinian Venture

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Lately, there have been many rumors circulating about the intentions of the Palestinians, specifically Abu Mazen, to dismantle the Palestinian Authority and return to the pre-Oslo days, when Israel was responsible for all of the territories of Judea and Samaria, including the Arab cities. About one month ago, in March 2012, a conference including Egyptian and Palestinian notables convened in Cairo, and discussed this as a serious possibility, “because at present there is no political solution on the horizon.” The questions that the conference dealt with were: who has the authority to implement a decision to disband the PA, and whether the advantages of such a move would outweigh the disadvantages. According to the participants, the PA has failed because it has not achieved a full Israeli withdrawal from all of the territories “occupied” in 1967, and has failed to impose the refugees’ “right of return” upon Israel.

Ibrahim Hamami, head of the Center for Palestinian Affairs in London, who participated in the conference, stated: “The Palestinian Authority was established to serve the goals of the occupation by continuing negotiations, while the Palestinian citizen did not benefit from it at all. On the contrary: it was the Palestinians who were forced to withdraw because of the settlement activity and roadblocks. An additional reason to dismantle the PA is the Israeli “fear of deterioration in security that will occur in Israel because of the absence of Palestinian security organizations.” By saying it, Hamami implies that the whole raison d’être of the PA security organizations is to foster Israel’s security, and thus undermines the legitimacy of the existence of the PA. Hamami claims that six years ago, in 2006, Abbas had already hinted at the possibility of dismantling the PA after Israel broke into the Jericho prison and arrested Ahmed Sadat and his associates. Since then, the possibility of dismantling the PA has arisen from time to time, when Abbas has become frustrated with Israel.

As a result, Palestinian spokesmen have it easy: they just have to blame Israel for their failure. It’s convenient and it provides an explanation that the West will buy, because it doesn’t have a deep understanding of the problems of the Middle East in general, and the Israeli-Palestinian issue in particular. The truth of the matter is, there never was a chance for the Palestinian Authority to succeed, because of the innate problems that flow from the nature of the political culture of the Middle East. We will focus on a few of them:

1. The fundamental problem of any modern Arab state is the problem of its legitimacy to exist as a state, principally because the state does not reflect a well-defined ethnic unit, and therefore is not a nation-state in the European sense, e.g. France and Holland. Traditionally, there is no “Syrian people”, “Jordanian people”, “Lebanese people”, or “Sudanese people”. There is an “Arab people”, which is divided into tribes, clans, religious groups, and sects. Arab states such as Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Sudan are creations of colonialism, which was responsible for the arbitrary division of the Arab nation, without regard to demographic facts. The PA suffers from this problem too, because – traditionally – there was never a “Palestinian People”, and there is no trace of such an entity in any book or newspaper that was printed before 1920 – before the area of “Sham” (Greater Syria) was divided into four political units: Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine-Israel.

2. Most of the members of the “Palestinian People”, the virtual collective upon which the idea of a Palestinian state is supposed to be built, are descendants of immigrants that entered the area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River during the second half of the 19th century and the twentieth century. The Ottoman Empire, the British Mandate, and the Jewish villages that were established in pre-state Israel were an attractive source of livelihood for the immigrant workers, who came from the surrounding areas. Many Egyptians fled to Israel in the 1860s in order to escape forced labor – digging the Suez Canal. Therefore even today, many “Palestinians” have names such as “Al-Masri” (The Egyptian), “Masarwa” (Egyptians), and “Fayoumi”, names which point to their Egyptian origin. Others are called “Al-Haurani”, because they were brought by the British from the Hauran, in Syria, principally to work in the port of Haifa. The inhabitants of the village of Jisr al-Zarqa are Sudanese, and therefore they did not participate in the 1948 War of Independence and remained in the place where they settled, between Caesaria and Ma’agan Michael. European geographers who visited the Land of Israel in the 19th century, as well as the international investigative committees which operated during the first half of the twentieth century, documented groups of immigrants from Iran, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, North Africa, and the Balkans, who were residing in Israel. Residents of Rehania and Kfar Kama, two Galilee villages, are Cherkessian from the Caucasus. The Booshank clan, which lives in Kfar Manda, came from Bosnia. All of the residents of the Negev, most of the residents of the Gaza Strip, and some from Mount Hebron are Bedouins, who for centuries wandered between the deserts of Sinai, the Negev, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. Their Saudi Arabian dialect clearly testifies to their country of origin. Some of the Armenians – who are Christian – fled to Israel from Turkey in the years 1915-1918, because of the genocide the Turks were perpetrating against them. Therefore, “Palestinians” are mostly a mixed people, various groups whose origin is not the Land of Israel.

Kedar: Egypt’s Question of Sovereignty

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

For generations, countries in the Middle East have been in the “cross-hairs” of the Western countries: Europe, the United States and Canada. The colonialism of the previous centuries resulted in the conquest, control and exploitation of natural resources. During the twentieth century, colonialism underwent a change of character. It became characterized by political hegemony, taking over the state security apparatus and buying the support of economically corrupt individuals with money. During the past twenty years a new form of Western influence on Middle Eastern countries has developed: influence by means of “civil society organizations” (NGOs), which are underwritten with Western funds.

In the Arab world, thousands of these organizations are active, and the great majority of them act with the approval of the government since these organizations lighten the burden on the government, and help the society to adopt and implement modern and rational characteristics such as democracy and the rule of law, and to marginalize traditional qualities such as tradition, tribalism and belief in evil spirits. There are organizations that deal with health and establish clinics that provide the population with medical care. Another important issue that many organizations deal with is the status of women, and many of these deal with instruction to women, in subjects ranging from mathematics to how to start up a business. Others establish clinics for women’s medicine, and others teach them handiwork. The Western volunteers who work in these organizations are motivated by dedication to the people that their organization serves, and oftentimes live in clearly uncomfortable conditions. They sacrifice their comfort and sometimes also their health and even their lives, when they are attacked by local people who object to their activities.

Sometimes the local government harasses these organizations, principally when it seems to the government that they are subverting it and encouraging deeds that should not be done according to the view of the people in power. This is the current situation in Egypt, which has closed a number of organizations that deal with education towards democracy, and where nineteen American volunteers, together with local Egyptian operatives, are about to stand trial for their activities. This matter severely clouds Egypt-U.S. relations. The Egyptian government’s claim is that these operatives transgressed Egyptian law because they ran organizations without permission, but everyone knows that this claim is only a fig leaf to hide the truth: the government of Egypt does not want foreigners to be involved in its internal matters or to educate its populace in a way that the government finds disagreeable.

Moreover, there is the issue of national pride, which in Egypt has been emphasized and developed in a special way during the past year, after the Egyptian people succeeded in overthrowing the ruler who humiliated and degraded them for many years by imposing a dictatorial and debasing regime upon them, under the auspices of the Americans. The feeling that encompassed the Egyptians as a result of Mubarak’s overthrow a year ago is one of great pride; that they succeeded to remove the “Sphinx” that oppressed them, tortured them, and refused them their rights and their honor. They did this with their own hands, and many people sacrificed their lives, and immediately after the success in removing him, they were galvanized by the feeling of “Yes, we can!!”. This feeling brings them out again and again to the streets in protest against the continuation of the rule of the Supreme Military Council, since those youngsters in Tahrir Square feel that they did not sacrifice themselves in order to push the old officers out the door, only for young officers to come in by the window.

On the other hand, the Supreme Military Council, who runs the government as General Tantawi sees fit, does not agree with the excessive freedom (in its opinion) that the Egyptian people have gained and sees foreign organizations as part of the problem, because it suspects them of sticking their noses into Egypt’s internal affairs and encouraging Egyptian youth to organize and become more active and effective in activities against the new military dictatorship, which has developed in Egypt during the past half year.

At issue are about nine organizations, four of which are Egyptian, four American and one German, and 43 people being put on trial for receiving foreign funding illegally: 16 Egyptians, 19 Americans, 5 Serbians and 3 Germans. They are also accused of collecting information in order to transfer it to the United States, and for drumming up support for Egyptian candidates and parties “in the service of foreign interests.” And indeed, the “sin” of these organizations is that they supported the Egyptian secular, liberal youth, and the parties who represented them, who lost the elections. The American organization “Freedom House” indeed admitted that it sent people to Egypt who would educate the Egyptian press on how to conduct a free press. Other organizations dealt with spreading the ideas involved with civil society, and promotion of fair democratic elections. Despite this, spokesmen of the American organizations emphasize that they complied with all of the instructions on Egyptian Law and all of their activities were transparent and open.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/dr-mordechai-kedar/a-question-of-sovereignty/2012/02/12/

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