The Mideast and Abroad
- Published on Monday, 04 March 2013 00:00
Gay and lesbian Muslims are holding a two-day conference in Detroit this weekend featuring a gay Muslim leader who grew up in Detroit.
- Published on Thursday, 28 February 2013 00:00
In Barack Obama’s State of the Union address he claimed that the United States would do anything necessary to stop Iran from building a nuclear bomb. For the first time, after decades of strangling economic policies and increasingly adamant threats, “anything necessary” includes negotiations with the regime in Iran. Yet, thus far Iran has refused.
In my last piece here at Aslan Media, I argued that it was possible -- and effective -- to continue pursuing a policy of economic sanctions against Iran. The divided opinions of Iranian diaspora community in the United States toward the Iranian regime and the volatile rial protests in Iran brought me to that conclusion. I constructed the argument based largely upon news pieces written outside of Iran. Iran’s political environment and censorship practices make it very difficult to obtain reliable information about the situation as it was unfolding inside of the country. I was very surprised when the article I wrote received some extremely negative feedback from Aslan Media’s readers.
- Published on Tuesday, 26 February 2013 00:00
When militant supporters of right-wing soccer club Beitar Jerusalem last month vowed to keep their team pure in protest against the hiring of two Chechen Muslim players they went beyond what are usually accepted expressions of racism in Israel to unwittingly challenge a founding principle of Israeli foreign and defense policy coined by the country’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion: the need to ally Israel with non-Arab Muslim nations to compensate historically for the lack of and more recently uncertainty of its relations with Arab neighbors.
In doing so, they provoked a rare national outcry against the club’s racist policy – Beitar Jerusalem is the only top league club to have never hired a Palestinian player despite the fact that Palestinians rank among the country’s top performers – that in many ways reflected last month’s outcome of national elections and a growing awareness that Israeli policies are alienating even its closest allies. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party emerged narrowly as the winner from an election that showed Israel deeply divided between the right and the left.
- Published on Thursday, 14 February 2013 00:00
Chuck Hagel's Senate confirmation hearings are over, and while the presumptive US secretary of defence seemed somewhat ill-prepared for the barrage of questions he received from his former Republican colleagues, it is safe to say that he will be swiftly confirmed in the post.
As expected, a number of the questions asked of Mr Hagel were about his views on Israel, which was mentioned a staggering 166 times during the hearings (compared to 20 mentions of Afghanistan, a country in which US troops are dying every day). The senators were disturbed by statements Mr Hagel had made in the past concerning the so-called "Jewish lobby" (by which he meant the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or Aipac) and how it tends to "intimidate" members of Congress.
"I have always argued against some of the dumb things they do because I don't think it's in the interest of Israel," Mr Hagel said in 2006. "I just don't think it's smart for Israel." Mr Hagel has also bluntly dismissed those critics who have accused him of not being sufficiently pro-Israel. "I'm not an Israeli senator. I'm a United States senator," he told Aaron David Miller for his 2008 book, The Much Too Promised Land.
- Published on Wednesday, 13 February 2013 00:00
In a January 30 op-ed in the Washington Post, Fareed Zakaria argued that the recent violence in the streets of Egypt was a result of Egyptians choosing “democratization before liberalization” since the fall of Hosni Mubarak. Noting that Egypt’s new constitution tries to make conservative Islamic values the law of the land (at the expense of things like religious freedom and women’s equality), Zakaria went on to hold up Jordan and Morocco as examples of how Arab governments can best reform their political systems. He argued that if Arabs want to live in countries that give everyone equal freedoms and rights, they should choose “evolution over revolution,” even if that means governments that are only partly democratic.
- Published on Saturday, 09 February 2013 12:17
A refusal by Egyptian security forces to police soccer matches spotlights differences between the interior and defense ministries at a time that President Mohammed Morsi is under mounting pressure to reform the country’s law enforcement institutions, widely despised for their role as the enforcers of the repression of toppled president Hosni Mubarak’s regime and continued violations of human rights.
The rejection contrasts starkly with the military’s authorization last month of the restart of the Premier League that had been suspended for a year in the wake of the death of 74 soccer fans in a politically loaded soccer brawl. The military endorsed the resumption against the will of the interior ministry provided matches were played initially in military stadiums without spectators.
The importance of reform of law enforcement is highlighted by the fact that Mr. Mubarak like most Arab autocrats ran a police rather than a military state. The interior ministry’s police and security forces are with 1.25 million men more than twice the size of the military. Widely viewed as corrupt and brutal, they were responsible for domestic spying and surveillance, repression of expressions of discontent and the stealing of elections.
Moreover, the impact of the interior ministry’s continued opposition to the reinstitution of soccer has not only a political but also an economic impact at a time that Egypt’s economy is in decline. A study by Assiut University’s Gamal Mohammed Ali established that some four million Egyptians make their living directly or indirectly from soccer. Mr. Ali estimated that the one year suspension had cost clubs $178 million.
Read more at The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer
- Published on Friday, 08 February 2013 00:00
Even a cursory review of the Israeli and Palestinian political landscape conspicuously and sadly reveals the overall self-resignation and apathy expressed by many on both sides, strongly suggesting that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is simply beyond resolution. The sorry truth is that while polls consistently show that a majority of Israelis and Palestinians believe that only the co-existence of two independent states offers a viable solution, they still refuse to divorce themselves from a deep sense of victimhood. Both parties continue to define themselves as historic victims, and to nourish a kind of vicarious victimhood which ultimately serves to justify the policies and goals they pursue, however counterproductive they may be to a solution.
- Published on Wednesday, 06 February 2013 00:00
It’s been one week since Israelis voted to keep Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in power and brought a center-left party to greater prominence in the Knesset. Few Israelis considered the “Palestinian question” high on their list of priorities when deciding their vote, preferring instead to focus on economic or national security issues. Yet there are some especially social media savvy Israelis who have taken their commitment to achieving peace with Palestinians to a whole new level in this past election.
It began with a group of Israeli peace activists who put together a Facebook page for their campaign to “donate” their votes to Palestinians, for whom every aspect of their lives is affected by Israel’s policies, yet who are unequivocally ignored by the electoral process. The campaign was similar to one in the 2010 United Kingdom elections in which voters “donated” their ballots to people in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Ghana. However, this small rebellion would be the first of its kind in Israel.
- Published on Tuesday, 05 February 2013 00:00
A bomb exploded in Iran’s Fordo nuclear power plant, at least that’s what several domestic and international news sources reported earlier this week. The blogosphere was suddenly alive with rumors that Israel had unilaterally launched a preemptive strike on one of Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Now, it appears the rumors were just that: rumors. The Iranian government denied the explosion, and various other independent sources debunked the spurious attack. Fact or fiction, however, the event beckons serious questioning of the efficacy of such a strike — should it ever actually occur.
Israel’s continued threat to preemptively strike Iran’s nuclear facilities is based on the assumption that Iran’s plutonium enrichment is not solely for domestic energy. Most agree with that assumption. Israel has continually demonstrated it fidelity to the promise to act upon that threat. The most memorable of them was Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s cartoonish bomb illustration at the United Nations.