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May 25, 2016 / 17 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘parliament’

Mentch vs. World: PM Harper’s Support for Israel, Democracy and Values

Monday, January 27th, 2014

As a Canadian, pro-Israel blogger and Social Media person, to say that I was proud of Stephen Harper’s visit to Israel would be an understatement. After watching Secretary of State Kerry insist on a peace deal while defying all logic to do so, and even while the country was grieving during Ariel Sharon’s funeral, Vice President Biden didn’t let up on us unwavering badgering of the tiny state to give up land to those who intend to annihilate her citizenry, as stated in the PLO Charter, that has never been amended. While the push for “peace” was going on, the Shin Bet has since discovered an Al Qaeda linked plot to actually blow up the US Embassy in Tel Aviv. The links for the terror cell ironically originate in Judea and Samaria, or the territory otherwise known as the West Bank.

On the heels of all this comes our Prime Minister. A man who from first blush, almost embodies a typical boring Canadian persona with his reserved and humble delivery. He came to tell Israel that he supported them and their right to exist and defend their homeland. He came to show them the goodwill of all Canadians who agree with his stance. He came to bring the healing balm of friendship. He also came to unequivocally stand up against the rising tide of antisemitism in the world that is disguised in other ways within the ruling intelligentsia.

In his historic speech at the Knesset Prime Minister Harper highlighted these very important points that go against the moral relativism that seeks to delegitimize the State of Israel.

Harper stated:

“First, Canada finds it deplorable that some in the international community still question the legitimacy of the existence of the state of Israel.

Our view on Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is absolute and non-negotiable.

Second, Canada believes that Israel should be able to exercise its full rights as a UN member-state and to enjoy the full measure of its sovereignty.

For this reason, Canada has spoken on numerous occasions in support of Israel’s engagement and equal treatment in multilateral fora.

And, in this regard, I should mention that we welcome Israel’s induction this month into the western, democratic group of states at the United Nations.

Third, we refuse to single out Israel for criticism on the international stage.”

Mr. Harper believes that by not supporting the only democracy in the Middle East, we diminish our own ability to maintain our freedom and democracy in the West.

Stephen Harper also spoke out against Israel as an apartheid state and in that instant, to prove his point, two Arab Members of Knesset heckled him and walked out of his speech. Showing the world that indeed Israel has Arabs in their Government and they have the right to free speech just as any other citizen does.

When Harper was asked later on why he did not criticize Israel publicly as most all other visiting dignitaries do he explained that when he is in the Palestinian Territory holding meetings with leaders there, he is never asked to criticize the governance or practises of the Government there.

The trip also included a visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum; a trip to Northern Israel where Mr. & Mrs. Harper visited the bird sanctuary in the Hula Valley named after him; he received an Honorary Doctorate from Tel Aviv University and he also prayed at The Western Wall in The Old City of Jerusalem. His popularity followed him there where his presence brought on a round of applause from the people on The Kotel Plaza.

Leslie-Ann Stoffel

A Moment of Moral Clarity in London (Video)

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

George Galloway was expelled from the Labor Party in 2003 for bringing it into disrepute. He notoriously honored the despot Saddam Hussein in a 1994 speech that ended with this formulation: “Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability”.

On Wednesday in Parliament, as the member for Bradford West for the bizarrely-named Respect Party, he put a question/comment to the prime minister, requiring that the latteradumbrate the differences between one brand of “hand-chopping, throat-cutting” terrorist of the kind to be found in Mali and some other sort of jihadist. (For the record, Galloway is no stranger to speaking publicly about terrorists; he has no difficulty praising them lavishly.)

With barely a moment’s hesitation, U.K. prime minister David Cameron rose to his feet with this first-class put-down:

Some things come and go, but there is one thing that is certain: Wherever there is a brutal Arab dictator in the world, he’ll have the support of the honorable gentleman.

To illustrate the point in a very small way, recall that the “honorable gentleman” was said (by the Times of London in August 2012) to “earn almost £80,000 a year from a new Lebanese TV station accused of having links to Syria and Iran… [Galloway] recently began presenting a show on al-Mayadeen. The Arabic-language station, launched in June, presents itself as a counterweight to channels such as the Qatari-funded al-Jazeera, which it sees as biased against Syria and its allies.

Here’s the video of Cameron’s response:

Visit This Ongoing War.

Frimet and Arnold Roth

Morsi Back After Massive Protests Threaten Palace

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

After a night of protests threatening the presidential palace, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has returned home, despite national outrage over his attempts at constitutional reform.

Police held back tens of thousands of protests around the perimeter of the residence, citizens who came out to protest reforms which will strongly increase the powers of the president and severely restrict any judicial oversight.

A referendum on the new measures is expected to be supported by the MuslimBrotherhood in the parliament.

Malkah Fleisher

Egypt’s New Constitution Laying Foundation for Sharia State

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

On November 30, a Constituent Assembly consisting almost 100 percent of Islamists voted to approve the draft of Egypt’s new Constitution. The next day, President Muhammad Mursi ordered that a referendum be held on December 15. In other words, Egypt’s population will be given two weeks to consider the main law, which has 230 articles, that will govern their lives for decades to come.

Most of the non-Islamists had walked out of the Assembly because they objected to the proposed Constitution and it seems as if the remaining opposition members did not even attend the vote. So great is the outrage that Egypt’s judges–who supervise elections and were explicitly asked by Mursi to oversee the forthcoming referendum–have refused to do so.

Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s chief spiritual guide raved about how great the Constitution is and then responded to the walk-out with a phrase that might serve as the slogan for the new democracy in Egypt and other Arabic-speaking countries:

“You should not have withdrawn. It’s your right to express your opinions freely.”

Yes, they could say what they thought and then be outvoted. Now that, indeed, is democracy. But what if you can already see that the democratic procedure will produce a dictatorial result? For example, Mursi was democratically elected president. He then issued a decree that said no court could countermand anything he decides. Isn’t that democratic, at least in the broader sense? Well, no it isn’t.

The competing street demonstrations of regime supporters and anti-Islamist oppositionists have now coalesced around two slogans. Pro-Islamists chant, “The people want the implementation of God’s law.” The opposition chants, “The people want to bring down the regime.”

But this time, unlike 2011, it is the regime that enjoys the support of the armed forces and Western governments, being buttressed also with almost $10 billion in aid. “The people” aren’t going to bring down this regime and the new rulers are going to implement their interpretation of “God’s law.” That is the new meaning of democracy in Egypt.

I draw here from the analysis in the Egypt Independent newspaper. For a BBC comparison of this with the previous Egyptian constitution see here. And here’s the full text. Keep in mind that neither we nor Mursi knows for sure what will happen to the parliament already elected. The Islamists have 75 percent of the seats in that body (Muslim Brotherhood, 50 percent; Salafist party, 25 percent) but the high court has ruled the lower house’s election to have been unconstitutional. If this decision stands new elections will be necessary next year. In the presidential election, the Brotherhood’s vote was only 52 percent.

While this lower vote could be due to extraneous factors–the abstention of many Salafist supporters for partisan reasons; some Islamists preferring someone other than Mursi in the first round presidential balloting and not switching to support him in the second–Mursi doesn’t know how well the Brotherhood will do if there is a new parliamentary election. Consequently, he needs to find a way to either overrule the court’s decision (hence, his decree letting him overturn what the judges say) or prepare for rule with a parliament less favorable to the Brotherhood. Hence, the constitutional provisions creating a strong presidency are very much in his interest and frighten the non-Islamist opposition.

–Islamic Sharia law is the main source of Egypt’s laws. While this has been in previous constitutions, the problem is interpreting how strictly Sharia will be interpreted and how widely it will be applied. What that passage means for Egypt is going to be a lot more significant under a Muslim Brotherhood government with major input from even more radical Salafists than it did under President Husni Mubarak’s relatively secular-style regime.

–A basic principle of the Constitution (Article 4) is to consult al-Azhar, the country’s influential Islamic university on any issue when Sharia is concerned, which potentially means on every issue. That elevates al-Azhar above all other non-governmental institutions. Al-Azhar is not (yet?) in Muslim Brotherhood hands but its leaders, who know which way the wind blows, can be expected to back a tough interpretation of Sharia law.

–To further ensure that Egypt will be a Sharia state, another provision (Article 219) states that the principles of Sharia are to be found in the four Sunni schools of thought, ruling out any reformist possibilities.

–The state must preserve the “genuine nature” of the Egyptian family and its moral values (Article 10) and has the power (Article 11) “to safeguard ethics” and morality. In other words, the government can do just about anything to determine how people should live and any aspect of their existence it chooses. This is repeated in other articles which limit rights to those that do not contradict what the state might not allow as unacceptable (Article 81) and lets the police arrest people for such crimes (Article 199).

–Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are the only legal religions in Egypt (Article 43). This is in accord with the general interpretation of Islamic law that only these three “people of the book” religions are legitimate. Of course, the face of Christian property will be in the hands of an Islamist government that is unlikely, for example, to approve the construction—or possibly even the renovation—of churches, again in accord with Sharia. Many of these things were also done by the Mubarak regime but one can expect an even tougher approach now.

–It is against the law to insult a prophet (Article 44). This might seem only to be a bother for those who would burn Korans or Bibles or make deliberately provocative videos. But it is important to remember that Islamists have charged that academic research has crossed this line and also the novels of Naguib Mahfouz, Egypt’s Nobel Prize-winning author as well as a tweet from the main backer of the leading non-Islamist party. Islamist groups will be able to bring law suits against anyone whose writing or statements or tweets they don’t like.

–Freedom of expression is limited (Article 48) by the principles of state and society, national security, and others things. That means that any television station or newspaper that says anything that can be deemed contrary to Sharia or Islamic morality as interpreted by a Muslim Brotherhood government can be shut down. A National Media Council (Article 215) will be responsible for preserving “societal principles and constructive values,” which presumably means it can order publications and television channels to be closed down.

–There can be only one trade union for each profession (Article 53). This has hidden implications since in the past the state has controlled the sole such organization in each area. In addition, though, suppose doctors, journalists, engineers, or members of other professions are tired of being in associations that are controlled by the Brotherhood. They cannot form their own separate groups.

–The president can force parliament to meet in secret rather than public session (Article 93). In that case, the legislators would have no say in the decision. This makes observers suspicious about how much the president will dominate parliament, since Egypt has been a country ruled by a single man for six decades in which parliament was a rubber stamp. In addition, anything critical of the regime can be kept secret.

–This concern is furthered by another provision (Article 104) only allowing parliament to overturn a presidential veto on laws by a two-thirds’ majority. This is, of course, also in the U.S. Constitution but, again, Egypt is a country that has long seen a dictator who rules and a parliament which has no significant influence.

–There is no maximum number of members for parliament set (Article 114 and 128), raising suspicions that the president and the Brotherhood’s political party can add more people if needed to maintain control.

–If the lower house of Parliament does not approve the government platform set by the president (Article 139) he can dissolve it. Since members of parliament don’t like to be forced to run for reelection and possibly lose their seats, this pressures them to accept the president’s policies. This provision is also found in other parliamentary democracies but again there are suspicions given Egypt’s history and the regime’s ideology.

–A provision intended to make the army accept Muslim Brotherhood rule (Article 197) establishes a National Defense Council, with a majority of officers, to set the military budget. This had been a major demand of the armed forces. Another thing that will make the army happy (Article 198) lets civilians be tried by military courts for crimes that “harm” the armed forces.

–The president has the power to appoint the heads of many public institutions (Article 202).

–Two provisions (Article 231 and 232) are explicitly designed to reverse the Supreme Constitutional Court’s ruling that parliament was elected on the basis of an unconstitutional the elections law. Thus, approval of the Constitution at the referendum would lead to Mursi arguing that a parliament with two-thirds Islamist membership would be legitimate, rather than facing new elections in which the Islamists might lose seats.

Probably the provision most bruited in the Western media will be the taking out of a provision that explicitly said women’s equality would be subject to revision based on Sharia (removed from Article 68). Another article (Article 30) states that citizens are equal before the law and equal in rights and obligations without discrimination.

Presumably, however, this changes nothing since conformity with Sharia law is already mandated in the Constitution. But that last point is a good symbol of the Constitution’s meaning. It enshrines Sharia rule without rubbing people’s faces in it. Thus, the Western media and governments can cheer the Constitution as democratic and proof that Islamists are now moderate even though that document opens the door for dictatorial rule.

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Barry Rubin

European Jewish Association Calls for Protection of Ukrainian Jews

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

The head of the European Jewish Association has called on the Ukrainian government to ensure the safety of the country’s Jews in the wake of the election to parliament of an anti-Semitic party.

“We are not presuming of course, to interfere in internal Ukraine affairs and its voters’ decisions, however we are very concerned about the safety of Ukrainian Jews and are seeking to prevent expansion of anti-Semitism in Europe,” Rabbi Menachem Margolin said in a statement.

On Oct. 28, the ultra-nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) Party, making unprecedented gains in Ukraine’s parliamentary elections, garnered 12 percent of the vote, after winning less than 1 percent in the previous election, in 2007. The percentage means that the party can control a parliament faction for the first time.

Party leader Oleg Tyagnibok has called in the past for purges of the approximately 400,000 Jews living in Ukraine, as well as other minorities. The party has held several protest rallies against the presence of Jews in Uman, in the center of the country.

JTA

What Happened in Egypt?

Monday, August 20th, 2012

http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.co.il/2012/08/what-happened-in-egypt.html

A short history of democracy in Egypt.

In February 2011 the Mubarak regime fell. There was going to be a parliament elected in Egypt. The parliament was elected. Its election was invalidated. Today there is no parliament in Egypt.

The Muslim Brotherhood said it would want to run one-third of the candidates for seats. Then they ran one-half. Then they ran all. Then they said they would not run a president. Then they did and elected a president. And they and the Salafists elected 70 percent of the parliament. But now there is no parliament.

The Parliament was going to pick a constituent assembly but to write a Constitution. But now there is no Constitution. There are no restrictions on presidential powers.

And then there was a Supreme Council of the Armed Forces but that was supposed to restrain the Muslim Brotherhood president. And it was supposed to be restrained by the Egypt-Israel peace treaty and by the hope of getting U.S. military aid. But the president got rid of it and fired the two top people and put in his own generals. And there is no restraint.

And we were told that the Egyptian government had promised to adhere to the Egypt-Israel peace treaty. But when it wished the regime simply violated the treaty and sent forces into the eastern Sinai. And it announced an alliance with Hamas which openly declared its desire to go to war with Israel and destroy it. And Cairo did not demur.

The Egyptian regime did more economic damage to Israel by violating its contract on natural gas shipments than any other Arab regime in the history of the country because Israel had to spend billions of dollars replacing that lost fuel. That is why Israeli taxes are going up and social spending must decline. The U.S. government did not lift a finger to help.

The entire Israeli strategic plan has had to be altered to add an entire new defensive front along the border with Egypt. New units will be organized; new fences built; new equipment ordered and paid for.

Saaed Eddin Ibrahim, arguably the Arab world’s leading sociologist and certainly the leading advocate of liberal-Islamist alliance against the old Arab military regimes has now totally changed sides, warning that the Islamists want to hijack power and establish dictatorships. He pleads for Westerners to wake up.

Egyptian President al-Mursi has now named the heads of the main Egyptian newspapers, radio stations, and television networks. They include sleaze balls that sold out to the Mubarak regime and will do whatever he tells them and supporters of Islamism. The first round-ups have begun of reporters who are to bold and honest in their investigations. The walls are closing in.

Soon the generals will be replaced; soon the judges will be replaced, and so too will the diplomats. In other words, the internal and external bureaucracy of Egypt’s government will become transformed. The old national security considerations will change.

The next stop is the court system where plans are being made already to eliminate judges. True, there were many corrupt jurists but there was no institution in Egypt where there were more courageous individuals and advocates of democracy. But that’s the problem. The very integrity that made these men stand up against Mubarak will make them do the same against the Brotherhood and they will not enforce Sharia law. Their vote against the parliamentary result was a warning. They will soon be ousted.

An upcoming conference of pro-Islamist judges will recommend massive retirements; the new constitution, written by Islamists, will weaken the courts against Sharia as interpreted by Islamic clerics. The Brotherhood will take over al-Azhar University and appoint one of its men as chief qadi, Muslim judicial official. They will get into control of the wealth religious endowments. Within a year, Egypt will be fundamentally transformed. Irretrievably transformed.

Considers what this means in foreign policy.

Current Egyptian Strategic Assessment (End of Mubarak Regime) Main threat: Revolutionary Islamism in the form of Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists, al-Qaida, and Hizballah.

Main threat (end 2012): Israel, moderate Arab states.

Competing local leadership 2011: Shia Islamism in form of Iran-led alliance, including Syria and Hizballah

Competing local leadership 2012: Competing Shia Islamists in Hizballah, Syrian regime, Iran, to some extent in Iraq and Bahrain.

Barry Rubin

Egypt’s Power Struggle and the Fate of Christians

Monday, July 16th, 2012

In defiance of Egypt’s top generals and highest court, Muslim Brotherhood President-elect Mohammed Morsi reopened parliament last Tuesday. In only his third week in office, Morsi’s rapid-fire pursuit to broaden the Brotherhood’s power openly challenged the country’s ruling military council. Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority fears that the restoration of parliament, which will grant greater powers to Islamists, will be used to institute Sharia law and stifle religious freedom.

Egypt’s lower chamber, the People’s Assembly, convened on July 10, after a ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court on June 14 ordering the parliament’s dissolution. Saad el-Katatni, the assembly’s speaker, told lawmakers the session was being held to seek a “second opinion” by an appellate court in an effort to reinstate the Islamist-dominated legislature. The court, however, did not accede to the chamber’s request; it upheld its earlier ruling that the parliament had been elected unconstitutionally and that its dissolution was “final and binding.”

If the parliament were to be reinstated, the Muslim Brotherhood—which holds nearly half the seats in the Islamist-dominated assembly—would head both the legislature and the presidency. Yet, a Brotherhood-controlled civilian government appears to be what Egypt’s ruling generals fear most. Only a week prior to Morsi’s announcement as president, the military announced a constitutional declaration on June 17 that expands its control over civilian politicians and strips the head of state of most of his powers. Morsi’s move to defy the court ruling by reconvening parliament was not only considered to be illegal by the military council, but also a direct challenge to the establishment’s authority.

In a warning to the president, the military said it would support the country’s “legitimacy, constitution and law” by upholding the court’s ruling.”[This is] language that means [the military] will not stand by and watch the rulings of the country’s top court ignored or breached,” the Christian Science Monitor reported.

Despite the military’s grip on power, Bret Stephens, an editor of The Wall Street Journalargues that Egypt has already been “lost” to Islamists and that a radical future, similar to what was seen in Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, lingers on the horizon. “Egypt under the Brotherhood will seek to arm Hamas and remilitarize the Sinai. By degrees, it will seek to extract concessions from the U.S. as the price of its good behavior. By degrees, it will make radical alliances in the Middle East and beyond.”

Daniel Pipes, President of the Middle East Forum, argues the contrary, however, saying that the military, not the Brotherhood, has the ultimate power in Egypt. “Not only was the [presidential] election symbolic, but it was also illusory, in that the military leadership scripted it,” Pipes wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Times. “[Mohammed Morsi’s] job is undefined. A military coup could brush him aside… Mohamed Tantawi is the real ruler of Egypt. Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), field marshal, and minister of defense, he serves not only as the commander-in-chief but also as the effective head of all three of Egypt’s branches of government… The [military] exploits the Muslim Brotherhood and other proxies as its civilian fronts, a role they are happy to play, as it has permitted the Islamists to garner an outsized percentage of the parliamentary vote and then to win the presidency.”

Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, who make up 10 percent of the population, hope that Pipes is right; they are fearful that if the Brotherhood gains leverage over the military, the country could quickly transform into an Islamic state.

“There is a Brotherhood strategy to work toward building an Islamic country,” Yousef Sidhom, editor of the weekly Watani newspaper and a Coptic Church official, told The Associated Press. He added that the Brotherhood will withhold government positions from Christians, tax non-Muslims, and base education around Islam.

The Brotherhood will not likely accede to pressure by the military: its members vowed to “fight in the courts and the streets to reinstate the Parliament,” according to The New York Times. Prior to the reconvening of parliament, the Brotherhood’s Secretary-General, Mahmoud Hussein, called for a “million-man march” to “regain the parliament,” and denounced the military’s hold on power. A few hundred protestors supporting the Brotherhood responded to the call in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Monday, chanting, “We love you Morsi,” and “Down with military rule.”

Aidan Clay

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/egypts-power-struggle-and-the-fate-of-christians/2012/07/16/

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