Tag Archives: Egypt and Caliphate

“Occupation”: Whose Definition

Fascinating— I have just returned from a conference at a think tank where I had been the American Scholar- in-Residence a number of years ago.  The topic of the round table discussion was a book of essays posing a series of questions -“out of the box”- in an effort to move toward a peaceful settlement of the Israeli/Palestine disputes.

After an introduction to the assembled group by the two editors of the book (one clearly neutral and the other not), we heard from two of their many “experts” who had written chapters. The two experts that participated at the conference each represented one of the two sides in this ongoing war of words and rockets. One was an Israeli security expert and the second a Palestinian activist, policy coordinator, and practicing law in Palestine.

During the entire two plus hours of discussion and some questions from those who were  present and those who had joined internationally by telephone, it became more  apparent that those on the side of the Palestinian cause constantly referred to the Israeli “occupation” of the Palestinian’s and “their” land.  Namely, by their unspoken definition: the forceful, illegal occupation of the land of another.

At times, words just floated by, and then at an odd moment my thinking about the language being employed by some of the participants in this tense setting, there was a revelation. I realized for the first time that the word “Occupation” was such a powerful, pejorative, buzz word. Especially if uttered over and over again until it becomes by mere repetition and inflection a proven fact and thus true. For those of us who lack that little nugget of history that created the word and it’s evolution in that part of the world, let me remind you of the following:

In May of 1948, when the United Nations voted for the creation of an Israeli statehood, the Arab states began their first attempt to not merely forestall but destroy the creation of what was a legally created, sovereign area, and to do so by an immediate, armed attack. Not by one country but by Arab forces from Egypt, Transjordan (Jordan), IraqSyria, and Lebanon. In the process, they captured East Jerusalem, including the Jewish quarter of the old City.  This war lasted into 1949.  Then let me skip one war and go to the third conflict, the more famous one—The Six Day War.

The Third Arab-Israeli War or the Six-Day War or the June War or the Third Arab-Israeli War was short, decisive and with a continuing contentious historyJune 5–10, 1967. The famous Six-Day War witnessed the capture by the Israeli army of the Sinai PeninsulaGaza StripWest Bank, Old City of Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. Prior to the start of the war, attacks conducted against Israel by Palestinian guerrilla groups based in SyriaLebanon, and Jordan had increased, leading to high volume of  Israeli reprisals. In November 1966, Israel launched an air strike on the village of Al-Samūʿ in the Jordanian West Bank that left 18 dead and 54 wounded. In April, during an air battle with Syria, the Israeli Air Force shot down six Syrian MiG fighter jets. Then in stepped the Soviet Union once again, after supplying the MiG fighter jets, with a created so-called intelligence report that indicated that Israel was planning a military campaign against Syria.  Obviously, this further sharpened the tension between Israel and its not friendly Arab neighbors.

In the midst of all of the heightened tension, the Egyptian president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, had come under regional, scathing criticism by his Arab neighbors for his failure to aid Syria and Jordan against Israel; there was also increased accusation that he was hiding behind the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF), stationed at Egypt’s border with Israel in the Sinai as a means of non-engagement. Nasser then did a 180 degree about face and mobilized Egyptian forces in the Sinai in support for Syria. On May 18th, he formally requested the removal of the neutral UNEF stationed in Egypt and on May 22nd, he closed the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli shipping, blockading the port city of Elat in southern Israel. On May 30, King Hussein of Jordan arrived in Cairo and immediately signed a mutual defense pact with Egypt, placing Jordanian forces under Egyptian command; shortly thereafter, Iraq, too, joined the alliance.

In response to the mobilization of those who sought to terminate Israel’s existence, early on the morning of June 5, Israel staged a sudden, preemptive air assault and destroyed Egypt’s air force on the ground; later that day, it incapacitated a great deal of the Jordanian and Syrian air power. All the Arab air cover was then lost and, with it, their armies were left to a strategic and brutal attack by Israeli armed units.

The war was stopped by a United Nation’s demanded cease-fire  on June 10. The international community was fearful of an Israeli march toward Cairo. At this point Israeli, units had driven Syrian forces back from the Golan Heights, taken control of the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt and driven Jordanian forces from the West Bank. Notably, the Israelis were left in sole control of Jerusalem. And so we come to the claim of an illegaloccupation” by Israel from June 1967 to December 2014; – a total of forty-seven years that Israel has occupied certain portions of the captured land.

It is still, today, the aim of those who abhor Israel to eliminate its existence or to overrun its population with a forced flood of non-jews, namely Palestinians. The purpose is to eradicate, by one means or another, both the concept and physical existence of Israel. Today in Turkey, once a moderate state, once a temperate calm voice in the region, now chants for the death of all jews and acts as an echo of Hitler’s Nazi mantras. [As reported “On November 9, 2014, a sign [in Turkey] reading “This Location To Be Demolished” was hung on the entrance to Istanbul’s Neveh Shalom Synagogue; the synagogue has already been the target of two major terrorist attacks in which many congregants at prayer were killed and wounded.” ]

If the voice of Turkey is so stringent one need not have a great imagination to hear the voices of Israelis’ other neighbors, whose belligerency has been supported by continued armed violence all these years.

Let me digress for a moment to make an important historical point: It is now forty-seven years since the end of the Six Dar War. Those with the little knowledge of the history of World War II will know that there was a Pearl Harbor and the German invasion of all of Europe, The Bataan death march, and the concentration camps and the utter brutality of the European World War that ended in 1945.  Germany and Berlin were then “occupied”.  The last American occupation troops departed from Germany, when the Russian presence was terminated in 1994. That is a total of 49 years of Allied occupation of Germany; 47 years of Israeli “occupation.”

At no time during the allied occupation of Germany did the Germans shoot, bomb, and yell for the obliteration of America, France or England. Nor did they chant for the obliteration of Christianity. Nor did they support terrorism in the land of its occupiers. We did occupy Germany in the fullest sense of the word. And nobody, including the Germans, called it illegal. But, possibly more important, the individual German did not attempt to irradiate their occupiers.

Germany started the war and they lost the war. There is a penalty for that, and especially if you do not “surrender” even when “hostilities”, have been terminated.

Do I need to draw a clearer distinction between the “occupation” of Germany and the present state affairs in Israel? Let me repeat: When you start and lose and yet continue hostilities, there are consequences.  You are not entitled under any international, moral or ethical rules to the return of your weapon, and you will, if you continue the hostilities, be considered to be dangerous, aggressive and at war.  There is, at that moment, however long, a reason for occupation.

Richard Allan,
The Editor

 

Imposition of Democracy

How quickly history may change. The exchange of rockets between Hamas and Israel was documented in great detail especially if you watched the somewhat one sided, minute- to- minute exchange on CNN. Forgetting their then poor attempt to correct their bias, the events of the various parties reaching out to the fairly newly anointed President of Egypt was an impressive showing of international politics in action.

Played out on international television, the proceedings unfolded but were subject to events beyond the battle field and not shared with the viewing public in print or television. A bit over three weeks prior to the Hamas rocket attack, Israeli jets raced to the south west and the far side of the Red Sea to the skies over Khartoum, the second largest city of the Sudan. If you are attempting to visualize its location, it is just to the west of Ethiopia. There, the Israeli jets bombed the Yarmouk weapons factory, which belongs to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. They are the manufactures of those long range missiles with heavy warheads that were propelled toward Israel. They were considered by some as the “game change” weapons. Iran had paid for the rockets and had them smuggled to Gaza for Hama’ use against Israel. For days, those particular rockets, were launched at major cities and intercepted by the defense shield Dome (a product of US and Israeli knowhow and money). When it was clear to intelligence sources that most, if not all, of those rockets in Gaza had been spent and none could be produced because of the destroyed factory, the United States entered the scene.

The United States’ Secretary of State appeared alongside the Egyptian President and the Hamas/Israeli hostilities then halted. The game changing rockets were no longer in Gaza, and the factory that built them was destroyed. There were some sputtering moments of peace which were followed by quiet and international praise for the Egyptian government and its leaders. And that seemed to be the end of the story.

Two days later, it was announced that the cease fire was holding. Then the commentators weighed in on who was the winner of the conflict, and where we were to foresee the future of any new alliances that could be spawned by cession of conflict. With the media focus on the various wings of the anti-Israeli world, a vitriolic campaign erupted over if and when Israeli should “start” any action, “they” would send Israeli back to dust. Considering what had just transpired, one wondered why this verbal barrage suddenly erupted upon the world stage. But those were only bellicose words, and the rattling of swords remained in their sheath.

When the dust finally appeared to be settling down-–the rocket launching had stopped, the verbal threats lost their voice, and regional forces moved toward the negotiation table there was no one who could have anticipated that the newly minted hero of the moment, the president of Egypt, would attempt a clear political misstep and look to seize governing power away from the recently shaped democratic country. By attempting to seize the prevailing power in Egypt, clouded by the Hamas/Israeli crises, the President, one could assume, thought that his enhanced international standing and the emotional heat of the rocket and verbal exchanges would shroud what was clearly an attempted at the grab of power during a domestic constitutional crises.

Once taking that step it was difficult for him to back down (this is sometimes referred to as: loosing face), and his intransigence not only intensified the domestic political crises at a critical moment in Egyptian development, but rallied the people in the street and also those officials within the government. Especially vocal were the Judges. Egypt was once again in turmoil with the familiar rioting and tenting in its most famous square. A constitutional crisis of immense proportions grew, and that does not bode well however the issues are settled for a new country and its attempts at democracy. “Snap” votes cannot determine the breath of a new constitution to protect all the people within one nation.
It was said to me (and I believe I must have written about it) that history over hundreds of years plays an enormous role in how a democracy maybe created. The life and generational history of a people within a particular geographic area play a large role in the creation of a democracy. Under what form of governance have they lived for generations after generations. What has been ingrained, generations after generations, in their understanding and acceptance of governance? The mid-East has never known democracy as we in the West understand it. The question then becomes can there be a sudden and complete upheaval and reordering of life from non-self governance to immediately allowing a population—the individual– the self-governance of democratic choices? What has happened to the DNA of democratic choices within each individual that has never been allowed expression? We are seeing that played out in Egypt. The fear for some is that one form of dictatorship is being replaced by another form of suppression.

Richard Allan, The Editor

Global Incidents and Commentary

[column]Global Events

    • RFE reports Turkey has called for an extraordinary meeting of the NATO military alliance to discuss what it calls Syria’s “aggressive” downing of a Turkish fighter jet over the Mediterranean. Speaking on his country’s TRT state television, Turkish Foreign Minister said that the Phantom fighter jet was on a routine training mission when it inadvertently strayed into Syrian airspace. The plane carried no weaponry and that its mission, it was alleged, was not related to continued unrest in Syria.
    • MOSCOW, June 24 (RIA Novosti) – A Russian ship carried overhauled disassembled helicopters to Syria and not new gunships as was claimed by western media, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei alleged. “We are not going to make any excuses because we did not breach anything. We violated neither international law, nor UN Security Council resolutions nor our national legislation on export control, which is one of the tightest in the world,” the Minister said in an interview Rossiya-1 TV channel. Western media claimed the Russian ship carried armaments and ammunition to Syria, a circulated a picture of the alleged ship. Editor’s Note: If true it is a tragedy of gigantic proportions in terms of human tragedy.
    • Voice of America reports from LONDON – Ecuador says it is giving serious consideration to giving Julian Assange ( Assange is thefounder of the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, which published confidential files on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and thousands of U.S. cables sent between overseas diplomats and Washington) political asylum, after the founder of the WikiLeaks website made the request at the country’s embassy in London. British authorities say they will arrest Assange if he leaves the embassy. Assange alleges that “Ecuador back in 2010 suggested that perhaps I should come to Ecuador and be given residency, so they are sympathetic over a long period of time so we hope that the asylum application will be viewed favorably,” he said. The Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said his government was considering the asylum application. Editor’s Note: What wonders what Ecuador will extract from the United States to ignore Assange’s request.
    • The Times of India reports from NEW DELHI, that Delhi and Mumbai, two most populated cities of India, will be protected by the missile defense system.“According to media, these two cities have been chosen by the Defense Research and Development Organization for deploying the first national Ballistic Missile Defense system. Editor’s Note: The whole world, it appears, is preparing for armed attack by its neighbors.
    • Iran: Al Pessin of the Voice of America reports from London what could have been safely predicted: “The near failure of talks in Moscow and the pending imposition of a full oil embargo by the European Union have deepened the dispute between Iran and the international community, and increased concerns about military action.“Two days of grueling talks did not narrow the gaps between the West and Iran. The negotiators could only agree to hold lower level talks in the coming weeks. Mark Fitzpatrick at London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies calls the Moscow meetings “a disappointment,” and has little hope for the follow-on talks.” Editor’s Note: Does anyone really believe that Iran will come to the table after repeated false moves. It is a continuing game of diplomatic gamesmanship, buying time for them to develop their bomb making and delivery capabilities. Once accomplished the world would have lost yet another moment to secure some semblance of sanity in the world.
    • Turkish media has reported that several high-level Syrian military officers — a general, two colonels, two majors, and 30 soldiers — have defected with their families to Turkey. They were part of a group of 200 Syrians who crossed the border near Reyhanli and were taken to a high-security camp about two miles from the Syrian border.
    • Syrian president Bashar al-Assad declared to his newly appointed cabinet that Syria was in a “state of war,” and “all of our politics has to be concentrated on winning this war.” Riad al-Asaad, the commander of the rebel Free Syrian Army opposition group, told the Lebanese Daily Star that Hezbollah fighters are involved in battles in Syria. Al-Asaad said “as for the involvement of Hezbollah fighters, we have confirmed that it is involved in events inside Syria, especially in Talkalakh and Homs

[/column]

 

[column]Commentary: One Person, One Vote, One Time

The Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate for Egypt’s 2012 presidential election, Mohamed Morsi, was officially announced the winner after a number of tumultuous days on June 23rd. At a rally before the election, a widely known cleric spoke on behalf of Morsi, who was the Muslim Brotherhood’s second choice as candidate, and drew a huge emotional response from his audience, when he outlined his hopes and beliefs with their triumph of the presidential election. One must remember that the Brotherhood had already secured a strong majority in the parliamentary election; a constitution of their own making was assured. Their only obstacle was (and is) the Army.

The charismatic cleric envisioned a changed world with the election of Morsi. Gaza would be liberated, the Caliphate[i] of the “United States of the Arabs” would be restored, with Jerusalem as its capital. His rallying call to those who were present and those listening to the broadcast was that “our cry shall be: ‘Millions of martyrs march towards Jerusalem.’

Martyrs! To claim Jerusalem! While Morsi himself did not echo these statements, he did not repudiate them, and later, prior to the actual election, promised to stand for peaceful relations with Israel. Yet during his campaign he pledged that his administration would be based on Islam. No mention was made of the fact that he spent years as a member of an anti-Israel group, the Committee to Resist Zionism. At the same time, he is not a stranger to the United States, having received his PhD from the University of Southern California, and he was an assistant professor on their faculty. He had seen democracy in action while living in California.

Not withstanding President Jimmy Carter overarching interest and presence in that part of the world, the Brotherhood’s opposition claimed that the Brotherhood employed “intimidation, threats and violence against supporters of candidate Ahmed Shafik.” Those opposed to the Brotherhood “filed more than 100 official complaints accusing the Brotherhood of ballot rigging and stuffing.”

The National Post reported —“ Egypt’s media are demonizing the Muslim Brotherhood as the state’s worst enemy, claiming the fundamentalist group plans to plunge the country into chaos if its candidate does not emerge as the winner from the presidential runoff.” The question left unanswered is what they will do now that their candidate has won. We now must wait for that answer. One thing is certain, there will be an escalation of tension between the government newly elected and the Military. Tensions are escalating, as in the past, with protesters gathering in larger and larger numbers in Tahrir Square; the power of the Constitution Court will come into question, and the Military protecting its concept of national security will exercise its determination. Each of the multi-sided equations in this battle will be aimed at the sweeping powers assumed by the military and their diminution of the office of the presidency.

International overt condemnation of the rule of the military, with a subtext by those who secretly fear the Brotherhood, will have little impact on the ultimate outcome of the political uncertainty frothing in Cairo. The military will not lightly rescind the role it engrafted upon its own historical mandate—now adding the role of legislator, the right to arrest civilians and control over drafting a new constitution. The military has also taken several steps to shield itself from civilian oversight.

But the most telling sign, as reported on the cover of this week’s edition of the state weekly Al-Mussawar, showed a picture of Morsi placing a kiss on the head of the group’s spiritual leader, or Murshid, Mohammed Badie in a gesture of both reverence and submission. For the world to see: The president/government acknowledging it’s being “submissive” to the supreme Islamic/religious leader of the nation. Within days the articles in Arabic newspapers around the world were speculating who is blinking first in the standoff between the people, the newly elected government and the military. A headline in the United States read: “Islamic Democracy.” That, to my mind, is either a non-sequitur or an oxymoron. Your choice.

“We will not be ruled by the Murshid,” said the magazine in red print under the picture. Inside, eight prominent literary figures known for their liberal views said in interviews that a Brotherhood presidency could change Egypt forever. “I consider the Brotherhood to be a threat to Egypt,” said one of the eight, prize-winning novelist Gamal el-Ghetani. “We are living a moment that may be similar to (Adolf) Hitler’s rise to power.”

A chilling thought: One person, one vote, one time.

Richard Allan,

The Editor

  • Editor’s Note, postscript: Turkey’s uproar over a shot down unarmed fighter jet by Syria while understandably it was an act of aggression, the extent of which is not sufficient to go to war or reign unleashed force on that nation. Turkey’s prime minister has claimed that Syria is a “clear and present threat” to his country. Nonsense! May I suggest that the Turkish government beset with serious financial chaos is attempting to focus the unrest, concerns and anger of its population at the government’s handling of the economy toward a foreign and different enemy: Syria.

 

 

 

 

 

 


[i] Caliphate, the political-religious state comprising the Muslim community and the lands and peoples under its dominion in the centuries following the death (ad 632) of the Prophet Muḥammad. Ruled by a caliph (Arabic khalīfah, “successor”), who held temporal and sometimes a degree of spiritual authority, the empire of the Caliphate grew rapidly through conquest during its first two centuries to include most of Southwest Asia, North Africa, and Spain. Dynastic struggles later brought about the Caliphate’s decline, and it ceased to exist with the Mongol destruction of Baghdad in 1258. Encyclopedia Britannica