LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation for today/Teaching
Matthew 05/06-15: "When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites! They love to stand up and pray in the houses of worship and on the street corners, so that everyone will see them. I assure you, they have already been paid in full. But when you pray, go to your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you. “When you pray, do not use a lot of meaningless words, as the pagans do, who think that their gods will hear them because their prayers are long. 8 Do not be like them. Your Father already knows what you need before you ask him. 9 This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven: May your holy name be honored; 0 may your Kingdom come; may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need. Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us. Do not bring us to hard testing, but keep us safe from the Evil One. ’“If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done.
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For February 13/14
Why the shameless can’t take topless/By Michael Young The Daily Star/February 13/14
In Africa, France Must Lead or Fall/By: Walid A Phares/HNN/February 13/14
The Pentagon’s Bow to Islamic Extremism/By: Raymond Ibrahim/February 11/14
A European Boycott of Israel/by Steven J. Rosen/Middle East Quarterly/February 13/14
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For February 13/14
Lebanese Related News
Presidential election tops the agenda
Army Arrests Top Abdullah Azzam Brigades Official,
Defuses Car Bomb in Beirut
Lebanon man sentenced for insulting president on Twitter
Jean Assy Sentenced for Insulting Suleiman on
Bomb-Laden Car Containing 3 Women Seized in al-Labweh
Army Arrests Top Abdullah Azzam Brigades Official, Defuses Car Bomb in Beirut
Baalbek Hit by Three Kidnap Operations in Single Night
Officials Praise Army's Security Achievement, Describe it as Sole Protector of Nation
Hizbullah Praises Army Achievements, Calls for Supporting Troops
ISF Denies Interrogated Member Has Ties to Naim Abbas
Three Injured in Zahriyeh Shooting and Man Carrying Grenades Arrested in Airouniyeh
March 14: Political Steps Needed to Defeat Terror, Lebanon Can't Keep Enduring Threats of Terrorism, Resistance
STL Suspends Sessions Awaiting the Readiness of Merhi's Defense for Trials
Child Trafficking Ring Busted in Beirut
Marshall Islands withdraw Jamil Sayyed's UNESCO Nomination
Ousted HRC Chief, Employee Charged with Embezzlement in Sinking Ferry Case
Illegal, Fake Medication Seized in Majdal Anjar
Audi: Lebanon oil wealth could exceed $600B
Lebanese supporters strip for Jackie Chamoun
Al-Tariq al-Jadideh residents worry about image
Miscellaneous Reports And News
Obama, Netanyahu to Meet March 3
Greenpeace Urges More Openness on Syria Arsenal
Syria Regime Refuses to Discuss Opposition Plan
Syria Slams EU Plan to Use Frozen Funds for Disarmament
217 Civilians Evacuated from Homs while Activists in Fear Arrest if They Leave
British Police Search Home Linked to Syrian Suicide Bombing
Iran Warns Ready for 'Decisive' Battle with U.S., Israel
Syria slams EU plan to use frozen funds for disarmament
Syria killing accelerates as peace talks falter
Brahimi: Syria peace talks make sluggish progress
Iran warns it is ready for 'decisive' battle if attacked
Lebanese army arrests jihadist commander
Israel bars 70 Gaza patients over ‘Palestine’ logo
U.N. watchdog urges Syria to speed up chemical arms destruction
One Saudi woman’s death brings into question the value of life
Yesterday is history, Let go!!
Elias Bejjani/12.02.14/As long as we can not reverse, change or cancel what has already occurred either we liked or not!!, why not be rational, wise, and continue on? He who refuses to leave the past and prison himself in its holes he turns his life into an endless misery and wipes off totally all normal human feelings from his thinking, relations and conduct. Such an individual is sick and needs our prayers, let pray for his recovery.
Arrests Top Abdullah Azzam Brigades Official, Defuses Car Bomb in Beirut
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 February 2014/..Military experts defused on Wednesday a car bomb in Beirut after the army announced the arrest of a Palestinian leader in the Qaida-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades, described as the group's number two man in Lebanon. And later on Wednesday, media reports said the "suicide bomber" who was supposed to blow up the car was also arrested by security forces. A communique said following careful follow-up and monitoring after he came out of the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh near Sidon in the South, the army intelligence in Beirut made the arrest of Naim Abbas, who is being questioned under the supervision of the judiciary. Following his arrest, Abbas admitted to plotting to blow up a car, the communique said. So the military defused around 100 kilograms of explosives, several rockets and explosives belts placed in a black SUV that was parked in Corniche al-Mazraa neighborhood, where he was arrested. Photos showed the explosives carefully placed in the seats of the Toyota Rav 4 in small packs.
The state-run National News Agency said the suspect was planning to use the car in a bombing in Beirut's southern suburbs. The army also seized laptops and other electronic devices during a raid on a warehouse in Corniche al-Mazraa, reports said. The raid and the process to defuse the car bomb brought traffic to a standstill for several hours after soldiers blocked the main road in both directions, they said. According to the communique, the army was carrying out raids in several areas after Abbas informed it about the locations of other booby-trapped vehicles. Later on Wednesday, MTV said "the supposed suicide bomber Mohammed Mahmoud was arrested at Naim Abbas' house in Corniche al-Mazraa." LBCI TV also confirmed that "the suicide bomber who was supposed to carry out an attack with the Corniche al-Mazraa car was among those arrested along with Naim Abbas."
Abbas has close ties to Sheikh Omar al-Atrash, a cleric from the Bekaa Valley who was arrested last month, and later charged with detonating bombs and explosive-rigged vehicles, attacking the army in Majdelyoun and al-Awwali bridge areas in the southern city of Sidon and launching rockets on Israel. In a related development, the military prosecutor charged on Wednesday Ali Hussein al-Hujairi for links with al-Atrash and for belonging to a terrorist organization. Judge Saqr Saqr referred al-Hujairi, who was also arrested last month, to the first military examining magistrate Nabil Wehbe. Several of the latest bombings in Hizbullah strongholds in Beirut's southern suburbs and the Bekaa have been claimed by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades whose leader, Majed al-Majed, was captured by Lebanese authorities in December and died in custody later.
Bomb-Laden Car Containing 3 Women Seized in al-Labweh
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 February 2014/The army intercepted on Wednesday a booby-trapped vehicle in the Bekaa region. Media reports said the dismantled the explosives-laden car on the Arsal-al-Labweh road.
The Army Command announced in a statement that the vehicle had arrived in Lebanon from Syria's Yabrud region. Containing three women, the car was going to be transported to Beirut where it was to be handed over to would-be suicide-bombers. The vehicle was pursued for a while before being intercepted at the Bekaa's al-Labweh checkpoint. State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr later ordered that an investigation be launched in the case. Al-Jadeed said that the vehicle was a silver Kia. Al-Manar television identified the women as Joumana Hassan Hmayyed, Hala Ahmed Rayed, and Khadijeh Mohammed Audeh, all of whom hail from the Bekaa town of Arsal. OTV said "the three women arrested in Arsal confessed to planning a triple suicide bombing." Quoting military sources, LBCI television said the women confessed to plotting "a triple bombing during which the car and two suicide bombers were supposed to blow up."Meanwhile, a statement issued by Arsal's residents said "the three arrested women do not represent the town in any way whatsoever," describing the army as the country's "security valve."Arsal lies 12 kilometers from the border with Syria and has been used as a conduit for weapons and rebels to enter Syria, while also serving as a refuge for people fleeing the conflict that erupted in 2011. The Lebanese army has several times seized cars loaded with arms and ammunition in the town and its outskirts.
Hefty Catch Abbas Unveiled as Army Seizes Rockets, Explosives in Saadiyat,
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 February 2014/Only a few hours after detained Qaida-linked militant Naim Abbas made his confessions, the army started raiding arms depots in the al-Dibbiyeh and al-Saadiyat areas, where it seized explosives, rockets and fake IDs. “Abbas is the one who told interrogators about the two (booby-trapped) cars that were seized in (Beirut's) Corniche al-Mazraa and (Bekaa's) Arsal, in addition to a warehouse in al-Saadiyat,” which lies on the coast linking Beirut to Sidon, LBCI television reported. Quoting military sources, LBCI said troops confiscated explosives and fake IDs in the al-Saadiyat storehouse.
Meanwhile, also following confessions by Abbas, the army raided a depot in the Shouf area of al-Dibbiyeh, seizing “rockets that were supposed to be fired at Dahiyeh during (Hizbullah's) Martyrs Day ceremony in addition to suicide vests,” according to al-Jadeed TV. LBCI said “fake IDs” were also confiscated at the storehouse. “The army seized 4 rockets that were prepared for firing towards Beirut at one of al-Dibbiyeh's forests, following the confessions of Naim Abbas,” LBCI added. Later on Wednesday, state-run National News Agency confirmed that "an army patrol seized in the town of al-Dibbiyeh four rockets that were prepared for firing at Beirut's southern suburbs during the commemoration of (Hizbullah's slain commander) Imad Mughniyeh on February 15, according to the confessions of the detainee Naim Abbas."
Earlier, NNA said the army staged raids in search for a number of fugitives in the al-Saadiyat area. LBCI television reported “a heavy deployment and army raids in al-Saadiyat in search for fugitives and suspects linked to security dossiers.”The developments come in the wake of the army's arrest in Beirut of Naim Abbas, a Palestinian leader in the Qaida-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades, who has been described as the group's number two man in Lebanon.Abbas has close ties to Sheikh Omar al-Atrash, a cleric from the Bekaa Valley who was arrested last month, and later charged with detonating bombs and explosive-rigged vehicles, attacking the army in Majdelyoun and al-Awwali bridge areas in the southern city of Sidon and launching rockets on Israel. Several of the latest bombings in Hizbullah strongholds in Beirut's southern suburbs and the Bekaa have been claimed by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades whose leader, Majed al-Majed, was captured by Lebanese authorities in December and died in custody later.
Lebanon man sentenced for insulting president on Twitter
(Globalpost/GlobalPost)/Agence France-Presse February 12, 2014
A Lebanese web developer has been sentenced to two months in prison for insulting President Michel Sleiman on Twitter, a judicial source told AFP."Jean Assy was sentenced to two months in jail for defaming and insulting the president via Twitter," the source said. "The court decision can be appealed within 10 days." The case is thought to be the first time a Lebanese citizen has been sentenced for views expressed on a social network, though people have previously been charged for similar insults. Assy said the case stemmed from tweets he wrote about Sleiman in January and February of last year. "I wrote that the president is castrated, politically castrated, and I wrote the minister of interior is stupid, and things like this," he told AFP. He has not yet been arrested and said he plans to appeal the decision. "I'm not going to spend two months in jail because of a tweet. I'm going to fight it, I'm not going to allow him to punish someone who tweeted against him while he is ignoring all the problems in the country," Assy said of Sleiman. Assy, 26, has nearly 6,000 followers and regularly tweets harsh and at times vulgar criticism of many of Lebanon's politicians. He says he is not a political activist, but acknowledges his support for Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah and his Christian ally Michel Aoun, who are spared his online wrath. The verdict was immediately criticised by Human Rights Watch, whose deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa called it a "negative development." "Criminalising and sending someone to jail for expression that someone deems insulting or inflammatory violates Lebanon's international obligations to protect expression," Nadim Houry told AFP. "Lebanon has a decision to make," he added. "Does it want to go down the route of so many other countries in the region... or does it want to preserve and maintain its reputation for a great tolerance for free expression in the Arab world?" Assy said he hadn't anticipated the consequences of his tweets or planned to get into trouble. "But in a way, it's good," he said."I'm showing people that the president is leaving all the problems in this country and pursuing my case."
Islands withdraw Jamil Sayyed's UNESCO Nomination
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 February 2014/ The Marshall Islands have withdrawn their nomination of a former General Security chief Maj. Gen. Jamil Sayyed to the UNESCO, a well-placed diplomatic source told Agence France Presse on Wednesday. Sayyed, spent four years in prison on suspicion of involvement in the 2005 murder of the former prime minister Rafik Hariri. He denies any involvement and claims to have been subjected to arbitrary detention. The Marshall Islands' move to nominate him to UNESCO, the U.N.'s cultural arm, was revealed by French daily Le Figaro, which noted that acquiring diplomatic immunity could enable Sayyed to avoid potential prosecution by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, the international U.N.-backed criminal tribunal looking into Hariri's murder.The former premier was killed in a Beirut bomb attack which also claimed the lives of 22 others and left 226 people injured. The attack was initially blamed on local officers suspected of being close to Syria but the Special Tribunal has since indicted four members of Hizbullah and begun to try them in their absence.
The diplomatic source said both UNESCO and France, as the organization's host country, had been informed that Sayyed would not be coming to Paris to represent the Marshalls. The Marshall Islands are a former U.S. territory of around 70,000 residents in the Pacific Ocean.Source/Agence France Presse
Officials Praise Army's Security Achievement, Describe it as Sole Protector of Nation
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 February 2014/..Lebanese officials hailed on Wednesday the Lebanese army and the Intelligence directorate on its security accomplishment by arresting a most-wanted fugitive and seizing two explosive-laden vehicles. President Michel Suleiman praised the Lebanese army on the arrest of Naim Abbas, a leader in the Qaida-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades, described as the group's number two man in Lebanon, and seizing two booby-trapped cars in Beirut and the Bekaa. He expressed his staunch support to the “army and security agencies to follow up and detain all the culprits.”Military experts defused on Wednesday a booby-trapped vehicle in Beirut's Corniche al-Mazraa neighborhood after the army announced the arrest of Abbas, it also intercepted another explosive-laden vehicle in the Bekaa region. Speaker Nabih Berri stressed before his visitors the importance of supporting the military institution in its war on terror. For his part, Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam commended the military's achievement in a telephone conversation with Army commander General Jean Qahwaji. “Lebanon was saved from yet another disaster that the power of evil was plotting,” Salam told Qahwaji.
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati applauded the Lebanese army for carrying out an “extraordinary security accomplishment.” “Once again the Lebanese army, in cooperation with the rest of security agencies, proved that it is the side that is safeguarding Lebanon and the Lebanese,” Miqati said in a statement issued by his press office. He pointed out that the army is capable of protecting the nation from the malicious plots against it.
Miqati urged all citizens to be vigilant at this critical stage in the country's history. Qahwaji briefed the premier on the details of the security operations carried out by the army on Wednesday.
Al-Mustaqbal Movement leader Saad Hariri contacted Qahwaji and lauded the achievements of the military. The former premier considered it an “opportunity to grant the security agencies the required trust to enable them to carry out their tasks amid this delicate and critical stage that Lebanon and the region are passing through.”Meanwhile, head of al-Mustabqal parliamentary bloc ex-PM Fouad Saniora lauded “the security achievement made by security agencies, especially the Lebanese Army, which discovered booby-trapped cars and arrested terrorists who were plotting terrorist operations in Lebanon.”
“This success proves an essential fact, which is that Lebanese security agencies are capable to achieve advanced steps in protecting citizens through unveiling crimes and criminals – when they want and when they are able to do so,” Saniora added in a statement. He also hoped “this advanced achievement will be completed by unveiling the rest of criminals who are involved in terrorist crimes against the Lebanese people.”
Hizbullah Praises Army Achievements, Calls for Supporting Troops
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 February 2014/Hizbullah announced on Wednesday its support to the military institution, following the army's latest achievements against “Takfiri terrorism.” "The army's advanced security achievements adds points to its honorable record,” a statement released by the party said."The army is the shield protecting all the Lebanese,” it added. The statement comes hours after the army announced early on Wednesday the arrest of a Palestinian leader in the Qaida-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades. Naim Abbas is described as the group's number two man in Lebanon. The army also defused around 100 kilograms of explosives, several rockets and explosives belts placed in a black SUV that was parked in Corniche al-Mazraa neighborhood, where Abbas was arrested. Hizbullah's statement explained: “This step is an indication of the army's dedication, its hard work and its continuous sacrifices to protect the Lebanese people against all the dangers haunting them, especially against the Zionist danger and the terrorist Takfiri threat that is targeting innocent civilians.” "We call on the Lebanese people, all parties and groups, to support the military institution against terrorist forces that are targeting citizens' security, threatening their future and planting seeds of sedition and strife between them.”The party also saluted the army's ability to confront “terrorism,” urging the Lebanese to become aware of these dangers, and to “tackle their disputes and unite to save Lebanon from the current storm hitting the region.”
Injured in Zahriyeh Shooting and Man Carrying Grenades Arrested in Airouniyeh
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 February 2014/Three people were wounded on Wednesday in a shooting in al-Zahriyeh area in the northern city of Tripoli. "An unknown assailant fired gunshots at Samir Rustom in al-Zahriyeh in the afternoon, wounding him in the leg,” the state-run National News Agency reported. "A soldier and Ahmed al-Hosni, a minor, were also injured in the incident,” the NNA added. The shooter fled to an unknown destination while the injured men were transferred to the region's hospitals for treatment, according to the same source. "A heavy army deployment was noticed in the area between (the rival Tripoli neighborhoods of) Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh,” radio Voice of Lebanon (93.3) said. Al-Jadeed television said army and Internal Security Forces mobile checkpoints were erected in al-Zahriyeh. In a separate incident, NNA said the army arrested Syrian national Qays Abdul Hamid Jideh at the al-Airouniyeh checkpoint which links Zgharta's Mejdlaya to the al-Beddawi area near Tripoli. Four hand grenades were seized in Jideh's possession, NNA added, as LBCI television described him as a “Salafist.” “Jideh was disguised in a ISF member costume,” VDL remarked.The al-Airouniyeh checkpoint is on the road between Mejdlaya and the Zgharta district and also links Tripoli's al-Qobbeh area to the northern Dinniyeh district.
ISF Denies Interrogated Member Has Ties to Naim Abbas
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 February 2014/A rumor was circulated Wednesday afternoon about an alleged arrest of an Internal Security Forces member who is part of the Center House's guard platoon over ties to detained top Qaida-linked militant Naim Abbas. Al-Jadeed television identified the man as H. A., saying he is a member of the guard platoon of the Center House, the headquarters of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri in downtown Beirut. Al-Jadeed said Abbas has confessed that the ISF member was one of his close associates. Meanwhile, NBN TV also said that the man belonged to the Center House's security team and the premiership’s guard squad, adding that he hails from the southern town of Kfar Hamam. But state-run National News Agency later denied “reports circulated by some media outlets about the army intelligence's arrest of ISF Sergeant H. A., who is a guard at the Center House.” “Security forces interrogated the sergeant and it turned out that he has nothing to do with any terrorist act,” NNA added. For its part, the ISF issued a statement later on Wednesday, in which it categorically denied the presence of “any ties whatsoever between the aforementioned member and Naim Abbas.” “He is not also involved in any other case,” the ISF added. "The publishing of this type of reports in such a hasty manner is an irresponsible journalistic behavior that insults the dignity of this esteemed institution," the ISF said. It stressed that it "will not hesitate to arrest security violators wherever they may be, without any reluctance and with ultimate transparency." The ISF urged media outlets to resort to its public relations department for any news pertaining to its officers and members “to preserve their credibility on the one hand and the dignity of the ISF institution on the other hand.” Only a few hours after Abbas made his confessions, the army started raiding arms depots in the al-Dibbiyeh and al-Saadiyat areas, where it seized explosives, rockets and fake IDs. Earlier on Wednesday, the army defused two booby-trapped cars in the Beirut area of Corniche al-Mazraa and the Bekaa area of al-Labweh. Abbas, a Palestinian leader in the Qaida-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades, has been described as the group's number two man in Lebanon.
shameless can’t take topless
February 13, 2014/By Michael Young The Daily Star
Apparently, a girl who exposes her breasts can agitate some Lebanese much more than a man who clubs his wife to death.
Lebanese alpine skier Jackie Chamoun Tuesday was forced to issue an apology on her Facebook page because she appeared topless in the video of a photo shoot three years ago for a sports calendar.Chamoun’s photos for the calendar were far less explicit than what appeared in the video. So, Chamoun, with her teammate Chirine Njeim, is essentially being held responsible for how she appeared in her off-camera moments. Chamoun wrote, “I want to apologize to all of you, I know that Lebanon is a conservative country and this is not the image that reflects our culture. I fully understand if you want to criticise this.”Chamoun did nothing for which to apologize. She should have said that only her photos on the calendar revealed what she intended to reveal and that it’s really no one’s business how she dresses, or undresses, outside that particular context. Whether Lebanon is conservative or not should be irrelevant here, and whatever its culture, Chamoun has not been accused of breaking any laws. In response, caretaker Sports and Youth Minister Faisal Karami asked the head of Lebanon’s Olympic Committee to initiate the “necessary inquiries” into the incident. Usually that’s just a stock reaction to cover oneself, while intending to do nothing. Hopefully that is the case this time. The country has enough major problems not to waste another moment on a pair of athletes who happened to bare their breasts. What made the reaction even more absurd was that similar outrage was absent when Mohammad al-Nhaily recently beat his wife Manal Assi to death with a pressure cooker in front of their daughters. While the crime was taking place, a neighbor called the police to intervene. They refused, arguing that this was a family matter. What a pity the interior minister did not launch an investigation into why the police failed to enforce the law. Recall Karam al-Bazzi, who regularly beat his wife Roula Yaacoub and their five daughters. Last July, Yaacoub was found in a coma in their home in Halba and later died. It remains unclear whether Bazzi was responsible, and an investigation later determined that he was not. Yet some neighbors and human rights organizations disagreed with this conclusion. Had the authorities shown more readiness from the outset to arrest Bazzi for assaulting his wife and daughters, perhaps we would have been spared such a debate over cause of death. When a draft law to end domestic violence came up for a parliamentary vote last year, Islamic leaders opposed it. A bone of contention was whether marital rape should be criminalized. Sunni sheikhs and Hezbollah opposed it, arguing it would interfere with relations between husband and wife.
The defense of privacy is laudable, and the so-called “castle doctrine,” which holds that an individual has certain protections and immunities within his own home, is a valued principle in many countries. But in no way should it be employed to permit blatant violations of the law. The blurring between what is public and private, and how the law should apply in each domain, is a recurring shortcoming in Lebanon.
Chamoun’s case adds to the confusion. What she did only became public when Al-Jadeed broadcast a video of her photo shoot. Otherwise, the video was largely intended as a private record, and the topless scenes were filmed far from the crowds of Farayya. Nor has Chamoun been charged with public indecency. Condemnation has come only because she “created a bad image of Lebanon.” Chamoun’s experience, like that of Assi, exposed a troubling view of women in Lebanese society: Evidently, when they are submissive, particularly sexually submissive, this is somehow deemed acceptable by the authorities and their conservative supporters; but when they display any inkling of sexual liberation or independence, officials rise up in indignation and order investigations. That’s not to say Chamoun has no supporters. Quite a few Lebanese took to social media sites and newspapers to deride the sheer idiocy of the episode. I suspect that titillation, rather than moral righteousness, was behind many of the criticisms directed against her. Like so much in Lebanon, what you see is not what you get. Several years ago, a Lebanese celebrity was embarrassed when a video of her and her boyfriend filmed in one of their more intimate moments began circulating in Lebanon. Somehow, the video had been leaked, and many people eagerly watched it. The late journalist Samir Kassir was disturbed by this reaction, feeling that the woman was entitled to her privacy. A few months later, in a sign of support, he put her on the cover of the magazine he was editing. Here was decency otherwise so lacking in our society. Chamoun would do well to ignore what happened and focus on the Olympics. If she wins, she can be assured that the song will change. The hypocrites will turn silent once Lebanon applauds. **Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR. He tweets @BeirutCalling.
Syria Regime Refuses to Discuss Opposition Plan
Naharnet Newsdesk 12 February 2014/Syria's opposition laid out a transition plan for the war-ravaged nation at Geneva peace talks Wednesday, including chasing out foreign fighters and a path to elections, but the regime refused to discuss it. The U.N.-brokered talks between the Syrian foes have been deadlocked amid repeated arguments about what should be discussed first, leading both sides to warn they could collapse.
The opposition plan, seen by Agence France Presse, sketches out the role of the so-called Transitional Governing Body (TGB), which the international community says is key to regime change in Syria. International mediator Lakhdar Brahimi had planned to focus in Wednesday's talks on the issue of a transitional government after urging the parties to discuss halting the violence on Tuesday. The goal is to create a transitional government to steer Syria out of the war that began after President Bashar Assad's crackdown on Arab Spring-inspired protests in March 2011. Nearly three years on, more than 136,000 people have been killed and millions driven from their homes. But Syria's deputy foreign minister, Faisal Muqdad, insisted the political question was meant to come much later and that switching issues around was a "recipe for disaster and failure."
Muqdad said the priority was "terrorism" -- the regime's term for a revolt it says is fueled by foreign jihadists and Gulf money. The opposition counters that Free Syrian Army rebels are themselves fighting the jihadists as well as Assad's force.Monzer Aqbiq, a senior adviser to Syrian opposition leader Ahmad Jarba, also contrasted the manner in which jihadists have slipped into Syria with the "organized way" the regime has brought in "mercenaries" from the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah and Iran's Revolutionary Guards.
The transition government is meant to be created "by mutual consent", under the terms of a string of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Aqbiq blasted the regime for failing to even respond to the proposal laid out at Wednesday's session of peace talks, which resumed Monday but have seen no progress, like January's first round. "The root of this problem is the existence of a totalitarian, brutal, fascist regime, a corrupt one, that the Syrian people don't want any more. This is what will save lives: the transition," Aqbiq told AFP.
A key tenet of the opposition plan is to "ensure the withdrawal of all external military groups and foreign fighters" from Syria, and Aqbiq stressed that applied to both sides.
It also states that the transition government's chief objective is to halt violence and create a "neutral environment for a political transition". The opposition plan makes no mention of Assad, who the opposition says must quit right away and should be tried for war crimes, but whose status is not up for discussion according to the regime. Opposition spokesman Louay Safi told reporters the body would be responsible for "establishing a ceasefire, releasing prisoners of conscience, maintaining law and order, starting a process of transitional justice for all".
"We consider that it goes without saying that Assad and his acolytes are not part of the TGB," Aqbiq said.
Paving the way for elections, the plan foresees a "national reconciliation conference" to craft the basis of a new constitution.
Elections to a constituent assembly would follow, before a referendum on the constitution it would create, with multi-party elections and the dissolution of the TGB capping the process.
The so-called Geneva II negotiations were initiated by the United States, which backs the opposition, and Russia, a key ally of Syria. They pushed for eight months to get the parties to the negotiating table. Washington and Moscow have largely remained on the sidelines, allowing veteran peacemaker Brahimi to run the show.
But with the talks at an apparent standstill, Russia has proposed a collective meeting with the U.N., Washington, Moscow and the Syrian foes to try to break the deadlock.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov was scheduled to meet with Brahimi and U.S. Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in Geneva on Thursday.
SourceظAgence France Presse
In Africa, France Must Lead or Fall
By: Walid A Phares/HNN History News Network
Feb 11, 2014
As French President Francois Hollande visits Washington and meets President Barack Obama and his administration, the talk in town by think tanks and media focuses on the declared joint interest between the two powers in fighting terrorism in Africa, particularly in North Africa and the Sahel region. Optimists claim Hollande and Obama, both on the left side of the political spectrum in their respective countries, can agree on many domestic social and economic issues but not on as many foreign policy matters. Paris and Washington have had several issues of disagreement regarding crises in the Greater Middle East over the past few years. The Hollande visit in 2014, however, seems to seek common ground in some areas—particularly in counterterrorism.
On Syria, France displayed more determination than the United States to support the opposition, particularly in the earliest stages of the revolt in 2011. Over the three years of the Arab Spring, Paris worked hard at the UN Security Council and with Arab moderates to support the opposition, mostly the Free Syria Army, to topple Assad. Last summer, the French stood staunchly by the Obama administration when it appeared to be readying for a strike on Syria’s chemical weapons, Paris was disappointed when Washington made an about face and asked the Russians to find a political solution. France found itself in the unattractive position of the only great power rooting for military strikes, a position it has retreated from since.
On Iran, France also was surprised with the speed with which the Obama administration declared its initiative for a nuclear deal. As was the case with Syria, France remained tough on the issue of Iran’s nuclear challenge only to find itself somewhat abandoned—as did Saudi Arabia and other Arab moderates. The strategic assessment in Paris did not predict the depth of the Obama commitment to a deal with the Iranian regime. France is now realizing that Washington has engaged in a direction where confrontation with the Ayatollahs—other than in narrative—has been abandoned. Some credit Paris’ strong stance on Assad and Iran’s regime to the heavy financial investment of Qatar in France as the rich Gulf monarchy has vowed to topple Assad while also being an active supporter of the Syrian opposition. Hollande’s options are very limited on the Levant’s issues. France has historical (and direct) interests in Lebanon, which is dominated by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah. Washington, however, has no intention to engage in a third war anywhere from Baghdad to Beirut—as long as it considers a deal with Iran a high priority and an attainable goal. Paris’ only option is to convince Qatar to lower expectations on regime change in Syria and toe the Washington line east of the Mediterranean while waiting for the Obama administration bet on a rapprochement with Iran to bear fruit—or to fail.
On Africa, however, France cannot follow the American lead; France must lead or fall. What is at stake in North Africa and the Sahel is France’s global strategic depth. From Morocco to Tunisia, with the powerful Algeria in between, a greater Maghreb is struggling between Islamists and seculars. It is in Paris’ national interest to see the seculars and moderates win the day. Otherwise, Islamist-led governments south of the Mediterranean may block French interests and cut the European country off from Saharan and sub-Sahara Francophone Africa. France is somewhat relieved that Tunisia has momentarily moved away from Nahda’s Islamist regime and is satisfied that Morocco’s real power continues to be in the hands of the King not his Islamist cabinet—and that Algeria remains out of Islamist control…even though its government is not a great friend of the French. Ironically, the Obama administration has so far stood on the other side of the divide. Similar to its partnership with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Washington favored Nahda in Tunisia and their Islamist comrades in Morocco. Hollande and Obama will not find any common ground in North Africa, particularly because the U.S. administration continues to back –though not publicly—the Ikhwan in Egypt even while that country is moving away from the Islamists and by ripple effect from the Obama administration. In fact, one should not be surprised that Egypt and France will find themselves in the same battle trench—against the Islamists.
Paris’ greatest strategic challenge remains in the Sahel region, which stretches from Senegal to Eastern Sudan. Al Qaeda and its Jihadists have been penetrating the area from Mauritania to Chad, to the Central African Republic CAR, using the large depots of weapons controlled by Salafi militias in Libya since the fall of Gaddafi and profiting from weak central states in the region. France had to send an expeditionary force into Mali in 2013 to stop al Qaeda from seizing the country. This year, French troops were dispatched to CAR. Washington is providing logistical and intelligence support to the French, hence cooperation is on against al Qaeda. But the breadth of such anti-Jihadist alliance between France and the United States has to become much more comprehensive and pursue not just the terrorists, but the ideological roots of the terror networks. The Obama administration has decided to ignore the ideological factor and refuses to mobilize civil society forces to fight the Jihadists. Hollande may seek a greater logistical support from Obama to pursue the radicals in the Sahel, but he will find little commitment to a full war against the Jihadist movement in that region. Washington wants to go only against what it calls “the core” of AQ, i.e., the men who actually worked with Bin Laden. What Hollande will not receive from Obama is systematic support for a war against the AQ branches, affiliates and ideologically motivated militants. Washington’s advisors have, unfortunately, convinced the Obama administration that the terror problem will be eliminated if a dialogue can be established with the Islamist militias. Africa’s Jihadists will be solely a French problem—at least till 2016.
*Dr Walid Phares is the author of The Coming Revolution. His forthcoming book, The Lost Spring will be published in March 2014. Dr Phares is a co-Secretary General of the Transatlantic Parliamentary Group on Counter Terrorism TAG. He has introduced his latest book in French, Du Printemps Arabe a l'Automne Islamiste (Hugo Press) at the European Parliament last November
The Pentagon’s Bow to Islamic Extremism
By Raymond Ibrahim/February 11, 2014
“Caving to pressure from Muslim groups, the Pentagon has relaxed uniform rules
to allow Islamic beards, turbans and hijabs. It’s a major win for political
correctness and a big loss for military unit cohesion,” said a recent report.
This new relaxation of rules for Muslims comes at a time when the FBI is tracking more than 100 suspected jihadi-infiltrators of the U.S. military. Just last month, Craig Benedict Baxam, a former Army soldier and convert to Islam, was sentenced to seven years in prison due to his al-Qaeda/jihadi activities. Also last month, Mozaffar Khazaee, an Iranian-American working for the Defense Department, was arrested for sending secret documents to America’s enemy, Iran.
According to a Pentagon spokesperson, the new religious accommodations—to allow Islamic beards, turbans, and hijabs—which took effect very recently, would “reduce both the instances and perception of discrimination among those whose religious expressions are less familiar to the command.”
The report concludes that, “Making special accommodations for Islam will only attract more Muslims into the military at a time when two recent terror cases highlight the ongoing danger of Muslims in uniform.”
But it’s worse than that; for not only will it attract “more Muslims,” it will attract precisely the wrong kinds of Muslims, AKA, “Islamists,” “radicals,” etc.
This is easily demonstrated by connecting the dots and understanding that Muslims who adhere to visible, non-problematic aspects of Islam—growing beards and donning hijabs—often indicate their adherence to non-visible, problematic aspects of Islam.
Consider it this way: Why do some Muslim men wear the prescribed beard and why do some Muslim women wear the prescribed hijab? Most Muslims would say they do so because Islam’s prophet Muhammad commanded them to (whether via the Koran or Hadith).
Regarding the Muslim beard, Muhammad wanted his followers to look different from “infidels,” namely Christians and Jews, so he ordered his followers to “trim closely the moustache and grow the beard.” Accordingly, all Sunni schools of law maintain that it is forbidden—a “major sin”—for men to shave their beards (unless, of course, it is part of a stratagem against the infidel, in which case it is permissible).
The question begs itself: If such Muslims meticulously follow the minor, “outer” things of Islam simply because their prophet made some utterances concerning them in the Hadith, logically speaking, does that not indicate that they also follow, or at the very least accept as legitimate, the major, “inner” themes Muhammad constantly emphasized in both the Koran and Hadith—such as enmity for and deceit of the infidel, and, when capable, perpetual jihad?
Even in the Islamic world this connection between visible indicators of Islamic piety and jihadi tendencies are well known. Back in 2011, when Islamists were dominating Egypt’s politics, secularist talk show host Amr Adib of Cairo Today mocked the then calls for a “million man beard” march with his trademark sarcasm: “This is a great endeavor! After all, a man with a beard can never be a thug, can never rape a woman in the street, can never set a church on fire, can never fight and quarrel, can never steal, and can never be dishonest!”
His sarcasm was not missed on his Egyptian viewership which knew quite well that it is precisely those Muslims who most closely follow the minutia of Muhammad—for example, by growing a beard—that are most prone to violence, deceit, and anti-infidel sentiments, all of which were also advocated by Islam’s prophet.
Speaking more seriously, Adib had added that this issue is not about growing a beard, but rather, “once you grow your beard, you give proof of your commitment and fealty to everything in Islam.”
Similarly, after Egypt’s June 30 Revolution ousted the Muslim Brotherhood, “overt signs of piety [beards and hijabs] have become all it takes to attract suspicion from security forces at Cairo checkpoints and vigilantes looking to attack Islamists.” Clubs and restaurants banned entrance to those wearing precisely these two “overt signs of piety.”
While Egyptians instinctively understand how fealty to the Muslim beard evinces fealty, or at least acceptance, to all those other problematic things Muhammad commanded, even in fuzzy Western op-eds, the connection sometimes peeks out. Consider the following excerpt from a New York Times piece titled “Behold the Mighty Beard, a Badge of Piety and Religious Belonging”:
[A]ll over the Muslim world, the full beard has come to connote piety and spiritual fervor…. Of course, the beard is only a sign of righteousness. It is no guarantor, as Mr. Zulfiqar [a Muslim interviewee] reminds us: “I recall one gentleman who came back from a trip to Pakistan and remarked to me, ‘I learned one thing: the longer the beard, the bigger the crook.’ His anticipation was people with big beards would be really honest, but he kept meeting people lying to him.”
The italicized portion speaks for itself. Whereas the Muslim beard ostensibly represents religious piety, some people, mostly Westerners, are shocked to find that those who wear it are often “crooks” and “liars.”
In Islam, however, outer signs of religiosity on the one hand, and corruption and deceit on the other, are quite compatible. After all, the same source—Islam’s prophet Muhammad, as recorded in the Hadith—that tells Muslims to grow a beard also advocates deception, the plundering of infidels, the keeping of sex slaves, adult “breast feeding,” and all sorts of other practices antithetical to Western notions of piety if not decency.
Incidentally, it’s the same with the hijab, or cloak that some Muslim women wear, also on Muhammad’s command. One reformed Islamic jihadi from Egypt accurately observes that “the proliferation of the hijab is strongly correlated with increased terrorism…. Terrorism became much more frequent in such societies as Indonesia, Egypt, Algeria, and the U.K. after the hijab became prevalent among Muslim women living in those communities.”
And so, at a time when the U.S. should at the very least be wary of those who openly wear their Islamic radicalism around their face and head—beards for males, hijabs for females—the U.S. Pentagon (of all places) is embracing them in “celebration of multiculturalism.” Wear loyalty to the U.S. is most needed, the Pentagon embraces those who show that their loyalty is elsewhere (among other things, the beard and hijab are meant to separate “pure believers” from “impure infidels”).
Of course, none of this is surprising considering that the Pentagon also considers Evangelical Christians and Catholics as “extremists” on a par with al-Qaeda.
One Saudi woman’s death brings into question the value of
Wednesday, 12 February 2014
A female studying for her Master's degree in the Social Studies department at
Saudi Arabia's King Saud University died two days ago due to a heart attack.
However, this story isn't about the medical reason behind her death but about
the ideological reason as to why paramedics did not reach her in time.
Suffering from a heart attack does not necessarily lead to death - God willing - if there's quick intervention. However, a delay or lack in medical care could lead to death. This is what happened with the student, Amna. Paramedics were not late to the scene, they arrived on time and stood outside the building for two hours waiting for permission to enter. Entering a building full of women in Saudi Arabia, even if it is a life-threatening situation, has its conditions and requirements.
A sorry state of affairs
I imagine that when they arrived, they rung the door bell and those inside the building asked: "Who's there?" The paramedics then responded: "We are the paramedics." So the ladies replied: "We're sorry we can't open the door for you because the girl suffering from the heart attack isn't properly covered. So wait until she wakes up and covers!"
“Is life this cheap? To the point where one thinks that he/ she must be completely decent even when suffering from a heart attack? ”
I imagine that confusion usually happens when the issue is linked to a woman. The female official at the faculty must have emphasized the importance of calling a male guardian to take his permission to aid "the female" related to him and to his feudal attitude! I remember when I was a student at the same university, an elevator stopped working once while female students were in it. Civil defense forces came to get them out but they weren't allowed in right away because female employees were trying to give the girls (who were stuck in the elevator) some cloaks to cover themselves before the civil defense forces opened the elevator's door to get them out. Wearing the heavy cloaks simply suffocated them more.
A tragic incident
Amna's death reminds us of the fire incident at a girls' school in Makkah in 2002. The incident killed 15 female students and led to the eliminations of the General Presidency for Girls' Education – it was merged with the Education Ministry. The 15 girls died due to reasons linked to "decency" as religious police - members of the committee for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice sent those girls who escaped back into the burning building in order to cover themselves. Apparently, decency to religious police comes before life. There's an Egyptian proverb that says: "Those who were ashamed ended up dying." The proverb's story is that when a fire erupted in a public bathroom, the people inside started to look for their clothes and were ashamed to run out naked so they ended up dying!
Is life this cheap? To the point where one thinks that he must be completely decent even when he's suffering from a heart attack or burning? Don't these threats cause more pain than the pain of shame and exposure? Is a male just like any other male if he's a doctor or a paramedic? Is a woman, when ill or when in a place on fire, just a sexy and tempting body? These are situations of human intervention in which instincts and the domination of social and even religious concepts are absent. Jurisprudential law itself allows prohibitions when necessary. There's no sane man who, when a female neighbor appeals for help, would think twice of whether he should save her or cover her body first. This ideological mobilization is what made our bodies more important than our souls and what made a woman's body a means of temptation even if it's burning. But this doesn't cancel the responsibility of the university which act upon such concepts, the university too must be "ashamed."
This article was first published in al-Hayat on Feb. 8, 2014.
**Dr. Badria al-Bishr is a multi-award-winning Saudi columnist and novelist. A
PhD graduate from the American University of Beirut, and an alumnus of the U.S.
State Department International Visitor program. Her columns put emphasis on
women and social issues in Saudi Arabia. She currently lectures at King Saud
University's Department of Social Studies.
A European Boycott of Israel?
by Steven J. Rosen/Middle East Quarterly
Where is the European Union headed in its policy toward Israel? Its recent decisions seem to be building momentum in opposite directions at the same time. One path is marked by important new agreements expanding economic cooperation with Israel. The other is shaped by a new EU directive that could encourage boycotts of Israel's major banks and many of its key companies and research institutions.
On the positive side, in July 2012, the EU took unprecedented measures to enhance its relations with Israel in sixty trade and diplomatic policy areas, including increased access to its single market, closer cooperation on transport and energy, and enhanced ties with nine EU agencies. And in October 2012, despite fierce opposition from the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement seeking such actions against Israel, the European parliament ratified a critical framework agreement to facilitate the export to Europe of Israeli industrial products. The Israeli Foreign Ministry called it "an extremely important agreement" that "deepens the bilateral relations between the EU and Israel" while the Council of the European Union, the union's supreme executive authority, welcomed both agreements as showing "the significance the EU attaches to its relations with the State of Israel" and "the importance of further developing our broad, bilateral partnership."
Catherine Ashton (left), the EU's foreign policy chief, has been outspoken in her criticism of Israeli "settlement" policy. Israeli politicians across the political spectrum, including PM Netanyahu (right) are united in their unhappiness with the EU's recent pronouncements about boycotting Israeli institutions operating beyond the "Green Line." The EU guidelines apply only to settlements but, if strictly implemented, could lead to a wider EU boycott not only of settlement entities and activities but also Israeli institutions operating primarily in "Israel proper."
Contrary to these affirmations, the EU also issued a new guideline whose implementation could profoundly disrupt relations with Israel. In July 2013, the union promulgated a new directive that could encourage a boycott of Israeli banks operating in Jewish communities in east Jerusalem and anywhere beyond the pre-1967 lines. The guidelines apply only to settlements but, if strictly implemented, could lead to a wider EU boycott not only of settlement entities and activities but also Israeli institutions operating primarily in "Israel proper." The secondary effects could be even greater as they are adopted by European banks and companies making their own decisions.
Tzipi Livni, Israel's chief peace negotiator and chair of the liberal Hatnuah Party, said, "True, [the European boycott] starts with settlement [goods], but their problem is with Israel, which is seen as a colonialist country. Therefore, it won't stop at the settlements, but [will spread] to all of Israel." Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's former national security adviser Yaacov Amidror described the directive as a "conscious decision" to attack Israel politically and economically and a "type of an economic boycott."
If implemented in a manner that impedes cooperation with Israel, the guidelines could harm European interests as well. Israel is a very good customer for European products: In 2012, it imported 46 percent more from the EU than it exported back ($26.7 vs. $18.3 billion). Enhanced trade between Israel and the EU is creating more jobs in Europe than in Israel. Israeli purchases from the EU have increased by nearly 50 percent since 2003. Israel now imports half as much from Europe as Australia does and about 60 percent as much as Saudi Arabia.
Most European officials acknowledge that cooperation with Israel in research and development is in Europe's interest and not just in Israel's. For instance, Israel was the only non-European country invited to take part in the Horizon 20/20 program promoting research and development, and Europe's countries benefit from closer cooperation with tech-savvy Israeli firms. As CNN reported, American technology companies are also "on a shopping spree in Israel, spending billions on ever larger deals and fueling the country's startup success story. … Microsoft in Israel estimates that about $13 billion in Israeli tech acquisitions have been completed since the start of 2012." Impeding European cooperation with Israeli firms hurts both sides, not just Israel.
The Slippery Slope
Any new impediments mean that Brussels is putting a roadblock in front of its own declared goal of expanding trade, investment, and research cooperation with Israel. Article 12 (b) of the guidelines illustrates how the new directive could evolve from a boycott of settlements to a wider boycott of Israel. The guidelines state, for example, that any Israeli financial instrument that operates in any way "either in the framework of EU-funded financial instruments or otherwise" in any territory across the pre-1967 armistice line will be ineligible for cooperation with the EU.
A boycott aimed only at settlement production would have only a minor impact from a macroeconomic perspective because only 2 percent of the agricultural and industrial products Israel exports to the EU originate in settlements. According to the Forward, "most Jewish settlements in the West Bank are either bedroom communities for Israelis working within the 1967 borders or homes for service workers employed by the government and local authorities in the West Bank." But a boycott of Israeli companies that have any involvement across the former armistice line, even in Jerusalem, would have a far wider effect. Under article 16 of the directive, entities administering financial instruments of an agreement with the EU must certify that they do not operate at all in the territories, either with EU-funding or in any other way. The guideline implements the EU Foreign Affairs Council position adopted on December 10, 2012, stating that, henceforth: "All agreements between the State of Israel and the European Union must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967."
Many major Israeli companies and nonprofits inside the pre-1967 lines have at least some incidental or secondary involvement with economic activity that crosses the "Green Line," especially in eastern Jerusalem where half the city's Jewish population lives in long-established communities such as Ramot, French Hill, Neve Yaacov, Pisgat Ze'ev, East Talpiot, and Gilo. These communities are part of the sovereign state of Israel under Israeli law but are treated as "illegal settlements" under the EU directive. A former Israeli official said, "The current EU guidelines document ... is so sweeping that it is unclear whether its full potential impact was understood by those who drafted it."
In July 2013, the EU issued a new directive that could encourage a boycott of Israeli banks operating in Jewish communities in east Jerusalem and anywhere beyond the pre-1967 lines. Institutions such as Bank Leumi would be targeted for providing mortgage loans to homebuyers or operating branches in Israeli settlements.
If article 12 (b) were strictly implemented, no major Israeli bank would be eligible to provide a financial instrument since all of Israel's major banks have at least some business activity outside the pre-1967 armistice line. A leading organization promoting a complete boycott of Israel has published a study of the entire Israeli banking sector as well as dossiers on Bank Leumi, Bank Hapoalim, Israel Discount Bank Ltd., and Mizrahi Tefahot Bank. It identifies "five categories of operation in which Israeli banks provide financial services to "occupation-related" activities: (1) mortgage loans for home buyers in settlements; (2) financial services to Israeli local authorities in the West Bank and the Golan Heights; (3) special loans for building projects in settlements; (4) operating branches in Israeli settlements; and (5) providing financial services to businesses in settlements. Indeed, banks would be in violation of Israeli law if they discriminated against mortgage applicants in east Jerusalem neighborhoods such as Ramot or Gilo, to which the laws of the state were extended by a center-left Labor government in June 1967.
Israel's Jerusalem laws and the city's unification are particular targets of the boycott movement. A recent EU heads of mission report on the city emphasized that policy recommendations on "reinforcing the EU policy on East Jerusalem" single out Israeli economic activity there for a boycott of "financial transactions, including foreign direct investments, from within the EU" and call on the EU to inform European "citizens and companies of the financial and legal risks involved in purchasing property or providing services" in east Jerusalem.
Beyond the banks, many of Israel's largest and most innovative companies are targets of the boycott movement and could be declared ineligible for EU programs. Boycott advocates have already built dossiers against Paz Oil Company, Israel's biggest indigenous gas and energy supplier; Elbit Systems Ltd., a leading defense electronics manufacturer; Matrix IT, Keter Plastic (Keter Group), IDB Group, CLAL Group, Delta-Galil Industries Ltd., Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd., Hot Communication Systems, Lithotech Medical, D.N.M Technical Equipment and Tools, Magal Security Systems, Intellitech Engineering Mechanical and Aviation, and Veolia Environment, an Israeli-controlled French multinational.
Another unintended consequence of the directive could be to impede the activities of the European Investment Bank (EIB) in Israel. The BDS movement boasts that, under the new rules, the bank will have to
stop loans to virtually all major Israeli businesses and public bodies ... that operate in occupied Palestinian territory … loans worth hundreds of millions of euros each year from the European Investment Bank. … Among those excluded … will be major Israeli banks including Bank Hapoalim, Mizrahi Tefahot Bank, and Bank Leumi ... Recent EIB loans such as the €120m lent to national Israeli water company Mekorot in 2011 or the €40m lent to electric car company Better Place in 2012 would not have been granted under the new rules as both companies have sizeable illegal settlement activities.
Yet another consequence could be that Israeli and European airlines could be considered ineligible under the directive's prohibitions as they are written. Former Israeli ambassador to the European Union Oded Eran said,
It must be assumed that those who negotiated [the recent EU-Israel Open Skies agreement signed in June 2013] on behalf of the EU knew that frequently Israeli air controllers direct incoming planes eastwards, above territory occupied in 1967, not to make a political point but to allow the pilots smoother landings.
This is also authorized by the September 28, 1995 Israeli-Palestinian interim agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, stating: "Aviation activity by Israel will continue to be operated above the West Bank and the Gaza Strip." Yet, in the language of the European directive, the presence of these airlines over the West Bank might be construed as "illegal."
Even Israeli universities could run afoul of strict implementation. "All of the Israeli universities have an archaeology department that carries out digs in the West Bank, in Jerusalem, so [as] to exclude all of us from participating in Horizon," according to Eric Zimmerman, academic secretary of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.
In August 2013, Dutch Foreign Ministry officials informed the Netherlands' largest engineering company that a sewage treatment plant it was helping to build to battle pollution in the Kidron stream, which originates in east Jerusalem, might violate international law, leading the company to consider pulling out of the project to avoid financial, legal, and image problems.
The indirect effect of this directive could be even more damaging. Ambiguities about the directive's terms and legal applicability to Israeli entities add a chilling effect to contacts between EU countries and Israel. A European company or bank may ask why it should get involved with Israel if it might run afoul of the bureaucracy in Brussels. Also, organizations promoting boycotts of Israel focus their activities on trying to embarrass any private European firm that has contact with Israeli partners. The stigma of "settlements" could be a scarlet letter to stain almost any Israeli entity that operates in the eastern half of Jerusalem or the settlement blocs that will remain part of Israel under any peace treaty. European companies may, out of an abundance of caution, steer clear of Israeli partners altogether to avoid any possible taint.
Alongside the new directive are reports that large European banks are being advised by their investment committees to prohibit loans or aid of any kind to Israeli companies that operate in the West Bank and to Israeli banks that grant mortgages to home builders or buyers across the Green Line. Five European countries are warning their companies against projects over the Green Line, and other EU countries, as well as the EU Commission, are considering warning businessmen to avoid financial activity beyond the 1967 lines.
In August 2013, Dutch Foreign Ministry officials informed Royal Haskoning DHV, the Netherlands' largest engineering company, that a sewage treatment plant necessary to battle the pollution in the Kidron stream in East Jerusalem would violate international law, leading the company to consider pulling out of the project to avoid financial, legal, and image problems. Then Vitens, the largest supplier of drinking water in the Netherlands, cancelled a memorandum of understanding with the Israeli national water company Mekorot after the Dutch media and parliamentary debate mentioned that Mekorot drills for water in the West Bank. Vitens, however, continues to work with Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU), a governmental arm of the Hamas government in Gaza, even though Hamas is on the European list of terrorist organizations. Surprisingly, CMWU also receives funding from the European Union.
Another step toward a boycott of Israel was taken by the British Office of Trade and Investment, which issued a new "Overseas Business Risk Report" for Israel on December 3, 2013, warning that
Financial transactions, investments … [and] other economic activities ... in Israeli settlements or benefiting Israeli settlements, entail legal and economic risks stemming from the fact that the Israeli settlements, according to international law, are built on occupied land and are not recognized as a legitimate part of Israel's territory. This may result in disputed titles to the land, water, mineral, or other natural resources which might be the subject of purchase or investment. EU citizens and businesses should also be aware of the potential reputational implications of getting involved in economic and financial activities in settlements, as well as possible abuses of the rights of individuals. Those contemplating any economic or financial involvement in settlements should seek appropriate legal advice.
Finally, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton stated on July 5, 2013, that her office was drafting comprehensive guidelines on labeling settlement products. "An overwhelming majority of Member States have recently supported or openly demanded" such guidelines, which are also required by a bill submitted to the European parliament in February but not yet approved. Israeli experts believe such labeling will lead European retailers to boycott settlement products entirely.
Conflicts with the Peace Process
The EU directive also lumps together communities strongly supported by the Israeli consensus, such as those in east Jerusalem and the settlement "blocs," with settlements on remote hilltops in the West Bank that have far less support. No major party in Israel or a majority of the Jewish public regards Jewish neighborhoods included in the 1980 "Basic Law—Jerusalem" as occupied territory. Even among Israelis willing to relinquish Arab populated areas of Jerusalem for a comprehensive peace agreement, there is no support at all for sacrificing or impeding Jewish communities inside the city limits.
As Obama's first Middle East envoy George Mitchell said,
For the Israelis, what they're building in is in part of Israel ... The Israelis are not going to stop ... construction in East Jerusalem ...We could spend the next 14 years arguing over disputed legal issues, or we can try to get a negotiation to resolve them in a manner that meets the aspirations of both societies.
Another reality to which the European directive is blind is its failure to treat the "settlement blocs," including Ma'ale Adumim, Modiin Illit, Gush Etzion, and Givat Ze'ev, differently. These bedroom suburbs of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem comprise only 5-9 percent of the land of the West Bank but include about 80 percent of the settlers. They received a special status in the Camp David peace talks in July 2000 when President Clinton proposed and Yasser Arafat accepted that they would come under Israeli sovereignty. In exchange, there would be a swap of land given by Israel from its own pre-1967 territory as compensation.
While the understandings reached at Camp David had no legal standing after the negotiations collapsed in September 2000 with the launching of the Palestinian war of terror (euphemized as the "al-Aqsa intifada"), the concept of agreed settlement blocs laid the basis for subsequent negotiations, including the current initiative proposed by U.S. secretary of state John Kerry. In a letter responding to Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon on April 14, 2004, President George W. Bush acknowledged,
In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949… It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.
The Israelis understood this to mean that those settlements in the blocs that would remain part of Israel in a future negotiation would be treated differently from settlements outside the blocs agreed to at Camp David. The EU position is blind to this critical distinction.
Israeli sovereignty over the settlement blocs was also the basis of Ehud Olmert's negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas between November 2007 and the end of 2008. Olmert openly defended the idea of continued Israeli construction in the blocs during those negotiations. He said in April 2008,
It was clear from day one to Abbas, Rice, and Bush that construction would continue in population concentrations—the areas mentioned in Bush's 2004 letter. I say this again today: Beitar Illit will be built; Gush Etzion will be built; there will be construction in Pisgat Ze'ev and in the Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. It's clear that these areas will remain under Israeli control in any future settlement.
Ongoing construction did not prevent the negotiations from achieving significant results. Abbas later said, "There were no failures in the negotiations. We reached agreement on all the core issues. I'm sure that if negotiations [had] continued, within two months we would have reached an agreement."
Along with its blindness to realistic past compromises on Jerusalem and the blocs, the EU directive harms the current Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in three additional ways:
As Yair Lapid noted, heavy-handed EU pressure tactics against Israel feed the Palestinian illusion that international pressure, rather than direct negotiations with Israel and painful compromises, will bring statehood.
Acts like the directive undermine the Israelis' confidence that European countries respects Israel's vital interests. Brussels issued this new directive just as the Israeli government was making tough and unpopular concessions, including the release of convicted Palestinian terrorists. Secretary of State Kerry was not happy with the timing of the directive and asked the EU to suspend its application while the peace talks are underway.
It undermines Israeli confidence that the Europeans can play a useful role in the peace process. During the past ten years, Israel accepted a European role in at least three cases. But the new guidelines enormously reduce Jerusalem's trust in the EU and willingness to allow EU participation, for example, in monitoring economic and religious aspects of a possible Israeli-Palestinian agreement.
Leaders of Israel across the political spectrum warn that the guidelines are harmful and should be amended. Labor party chief Shelley Yacimovich criticized the European Union's sanctions, saying that the correct way to intervene was through positive, encouraging steps. Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid asked Brussels to change its decision or at least freeze this step during the current negotiations with the Palestinians. Israel's chief peace negotiator Tzipi Livni tried to convince the EU's Ashton that it is important for EU members to allow Israelis and the Palestinians to negotiate an agreement on the border as opposed to the EU making a unilateral decision.
While Brussels routinely condemns Israeli administration in the territories, captured in a war of self-defense, it remains silent in the face of other disputed areas such as Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus or Western Sahara. In fact, it regularly does business with the occupying powers.
The EU directive also treats Israel more harshly than other countries administering disputed territories, an inconsistency Brussels refuses to explain. For example, no EU punitive measures have been contemplated against Turkey for its occupation of Northern Cyprus since 1974, nor are products from Turkish-occupied Cyprus labeled by the EU even though the Republic of Cyprus is a member-state of the union. In fact, Brussels gives financial aid to Turks occupying northern Cyprus, 150,000 of whom are regarded as "illegal settlers" by the Republic of Cyprus government. Council Regulation (EC) no. 389/2006 of February 27, 2006, established "an instrument of financial support for encouraging the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community." Under this regulation, the financial resources allocated amount to €259 million (US$352,965,200), managed by the EU Directorate General Enlargement Task Force for the Turkish Cypriot Community and implemented on the ground from a support office inside Turkish-occupied Cyprus.
The EU/Morocco Fisheries Partnership agreement also treats the territorial waters of Western Sahara as part of Morocco's jurisdiction despite the fact that the International Court of Justice ruled that Morocco did not have sovereignty over Western Sahara. The EU does not recognize Moroccan sovereignty in the Western Sahara, and Morocco has been accused by various international organizations of committing human rights violations against the Saharawi people there. But according to article 2(a) of the agreement, EU fisheries can take place in "the waters falling within the sovereignty or jurisdiction of the Kingdom of Morocco." In fact, since Moroccan stocks are largely depleted, the bulk of the fishing under the agreement today takes place offshore Western Sahara.
The Frente Polisario, the internationally recognized political representatives of the Western Sahara Saharawi people, condemned the protocol as an "attempt to legitimize the theft of Western Sahara's natural resources." An opinion by the European parliament's legal services in 2009 concluded that the Saharawi people had not been consulted on the fisheries agreement and that there was no proof that they benefitted from it as international law demands. Yet on December 10, 2013, the European parliament approved, by a 310 to 204 vote, a new protocol under which fishing vessels from eleven EU countries will be allowed to fish in the waters of the Kingdom of Morocco in return for an annual EU payment to Morocco of €30 million (US$40,800,000).
Other examples of EU double standards may be cited. The draft Broadbased Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) between India and the 27-nation European bloc soon to be signed, does not exclude Kashmir, in spite of the fact that India's sovereignty over this territory is not recognized by any European government. All European states recognize Abkhazia as a part of Georgia's territory and condemned Russia's subversion there and the ethnic cleansing of Georgians from it. Yet the EU aid program for Abkhazia is conducted in cooperation with the Russian-sponsored government.
The Livni-Ashton Compromise
After the draft EU directive was announced in July 2013, Jerusalem faced a dilemma. It could not accept the guidelines as initially drafted but did not want EU trade and cooperation to diminish. The Israelis recognized that the Europeans were unlikely to change the language of the directive because, by the time it was announced, it had already been approved by the EU Council's twenty-eight members. The question became how to reach a compromise on the implementation of the guidelines in a more lenient fashion.
Friendly European governments stated publicly that they wanted the issue resolved in a manner that would enable continued Israeli participation in EU projects. For example, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said, "We have to look closer and see if there were things that were not intended, and make changes where changes need to be made without changing the overall approach." German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle said that with "goodwill from both sides, the decision can be implemented moderately."
There is a clear precedent for a solution. Jerusalem has long accepted that the 1995 EU-Israel free trade agreement does not give duty-free treatment to agricultural and industrial products originating outside the pre-1967 armistice line. In 2005, Israel signed an agreement with the EU stipulating that all Israeli products imported to the EU duty-free must be accompanied by a certificate of origin "giving the name of the city, village, or industrial zone where production conferring originating status has taken place," and "preferential treatment will be refused to the goods for which the proof of origin indicates that the production conferring originating status has taken place in a city, village, or industrial zone which is brought under Israeli administration since 1967."
In the autumn of 2013, Israeli and EU negotiators sought a similar compromise to permit Israeli participation in the important Horizon 20/20 program and other joint projects without spending European funds outside the "Green Line." Brussels proposed that Israeli entities would be allowed to employ subsidiary special purpose vehicles (SPVs) to shield EU financial instruments from ineligible corporate activities under article 12 (b) of the guidelines, "either in the framework of EU-funded financial instruments or otherwise," in any territory across the pre-1967 armistice line. The proposal would allow legal subsidiaries created by their parent as SPVs to raise capital or hold assets and liabilities to apply. The SPV subsidiary of the Israeli entity would have no activities beyond the pre-1967 line and would not use the financial instrument beyond it; thus the SPV of an otherwise ineligible Israeli entity would be eligible.
Because Palestinian supporters opposed this solution, some on the European side felt it was overly generous. But for Israel, reliance on the SPV solution would still have injurious legal and political implications. One Israeli official said privately that "if a given mother company has to create a daughter company, that means that from the legal point of view the mother company is not eligible." This would leave many large banks and corporations out in the cold. Also, the mechanism of SPV might not be practical for smaller entities.
Israeli negotiators suggested other mechanisms such as a separate bank account within the mother company (thus keeping its eligibility), a solution rejected by Pierre Vimont, executive secretary-general of the European External Action Service (EEAS) on November 22, 2013. But on November 26, Livni and Ashton jointly announced that they had reached an agreement that "fully respects the EU's legal and financial requirements while at the same time respecting Israel's political sensitivities and preserving its principled positions." Israeli officials say that the agreed compromise accepts the SPV method but commits the EU also to consider other methods that are less problematic from the Israeli point of view.
Deputy foreign minister Zeev Elkin, a conservative Likud member who oversaw the negotiations along with Naftali Bennett, head of the nationalist Jewish Home party, told Israel Radio that under the compromise, "Every Israeli entity will be able to apply. If it receives the money, it will need to find a mechanism, with the Europeans, that will allow the Europeans to achieve their objective: that their money ... will not go beyond the Green Line."
The actual wording of the compromise will not be public until enforcement language is appended to the Horizon 20/20 agreement to be signed in April 2014. Israeli officials believe the final wording will allow any Israeli institution operating both within and beyond the Green Line to apply for EU grants and that each application will be considered according to its individual merit as long as there is a formula to ensure that EU money will not reach the settlements.
However, statements from the European Union suggest otherwise. On December 17, 2013, Leonello Gabrici of the European External Action Service stated on behalf of Ashton that the original language of the EU guideline has not been changed. He categorically rejected any amendments to that language because "the guidelines are ... an implementation of the EU's long-standing position regarding the illegality of Israeli settlements. ….The guidelines' publication on 19 July ... made our existing policy clearer, more concrete, and more easily enforceable. Amending ... the guidelines would signal a reverse of EU policy on ... settlements in particular, and this we cannot allow. They will enter into force on 1 January 2014."
Draft guidelines published July 19, 2013, included article 12 (b), which unambiguously stated that any Israeli financial instrument operating in any way "either in the framework of EU-funded financial instruments or otherwise" across the pre-1967 armistice line will be ineligible for EU financial instruments, as well as article 16, which required Israeli entities administering financial instruments of an agreement with the EU to certify that they do not operate at all in the territories, either with EU-funding or in any other way. These black letter texts that were reaffirmed on December 17, 2013, are not consistent with the oral understandings that Israeli officials believe to have been reached with Ashton on November 26, 2013.
Disapproval of Israeli settlement activity and a desire to impose consequences for this activity is pervasive and intense among officials of the European Commission and its External Action Service. These are the officials who drafted the guidelines to overreach and who will administer application on a day-to-day basis. Will their enforcement follow the plain written language of the guidelines, leading to boycotts of many of Israel's leading companies? Or will they implement the more flexible interpretation that Israeli officials believe has been orally agreed to by Ashton that would permit growing cooperation?
Future implementation by the commission and the External Action Service may be influenced by progress or failure in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Europeans increasingly view Israel through the prism of the Palestinian issue, and recent actions of the European Council emphasize linkage between bilateral relations and Israeli concessions in the Kerry negotiations. On December 16, 2013, the European Council offered Israel a package of positive incentives:
The EU will provide an unprecedented package of European political, economic, and security support to both parties in the context of a final status agreement. In the event of a final peace agreement, the European Union will offer Israel and the future state of Palestine a Special Privileged Partnership including increased access to the European markets, closer cultural and scientific links, facilitation of trade and investments as well as promotion of business to business relations. Enhanced political dialogue and security cooperation will also be offered to both states.
The EU special envoy for the Mideast peace process, Ambassador Andreas Reinicke, described the European offer as something "very close to a membership," a status he compared to the European Free Trade Association (consisting of Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein, and Switzerland) whose members have EU privileges through the agreement on a European economic area and various bilateral arrangements.
But the flip side of this may be added sanctions in the event that the talks break down since European leaders are poised to blame Israel for failure. If Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas fulfills his promise to resume political warfare against Israel at the United Nations and other multilateral fora, his supporters in the EU are ready to squeeze Israel's access to European markets.
Vice-president Joe Biden said on December 10, 2013, "The wholesale effort to delegitimize Israel is the most concentrated that I have seen in the 40 years I have served." The paramount goal of the BDS movement is a European boycott of Israel. Intentionally or not, the new directive promulgated on July 13, 2013, is a major milestone in this campaign and, surely, will not be the last.
***Steven J. Rosen served for twenty-three years as the foreign policy director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). He is now the director of the Washington Project of the Middle East Forum.
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 "ACAA agreement between Israel and the EU ratified," Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jerusalem, Oct. 23, 2012; Jewish Telegraphic Agency (New York), Oct. 23, 2012.
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 Haaretz (Tel Aviv), July 1, 2013.
 i24 News (Tel Aviv), Nov. 4, 2013; Haaretz, Nov. 4, 2013.
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 Palestinian BDS National Committee, July 18, 2013.
 Eran, "The European Union Toughens Its Stand on the 1967 Lines."
 "Security of the Airspace," Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Sept. 28, 1995, annex I: art. XIII.
 The Times Higher Education (London), Sept. 5, 2013.
 Haaretz, July 12, 2013.
 YNet News (Tel Aviv), Aug. 25, 2013.
 Haaretz, Aug. 26, 2013.
 The Times of Israel (Jerusalem), Dec. 12, 2013.
 "Overseas Business Risk – Israel," Open to Export, London, Dec. 3, 2013.
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 Rick Richman, "The Second Time Will Be a Tragedy, Too," Commentary, Mar. 26, 2010.
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 The Jerusalem Post, Aug. 25, 2013.
 Globes, July 16, 2013.
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 Dore Gold, "What should Israel do about Europe?" Israel Hayom (Tel Aviv), Aug. 16, 2013; Eugene Kontorovich, "How the EU directly funds settlements in occupied territory," The Jerusalem Post, Sept. 28, 2013; Avi Bell and Eugene Kontorovich, "EU's Israel Grant Guideline: A Legal and Policy Analysis," Kohelet Policy Forum Research Paper, Jerusalem, Oct. 2013.
 The Times of Israel, Dec. 25, 2013.
 "Turkish Cypriot Community," Official Journal of the European Union, Mar. 7, 2006.
 "EU-Morocco Fisheries Protocol," Western Sahara Resource Watch, Brussels, Sept, 25, 2013; for the EU's treatment of Israel, see The Jerusalem Post, Sept. 12, 2013.
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 "Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Communities and the Kingdom of Morocco," art. 2(a), Official Journal of the European Union, May 29, 2006.
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 The Jerusalem Post, Oct. 3, 2013.
 Ibid., Aug. 25, 2013.
 The Times of Israel, Aug. 11, 2013.
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 "Guidelines on the eligibility of Israeli entities and their activities."
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 Palestine News Network (Bethlehem), Oct. 17, 2013.
 Catherine Ashton and Tzipi Livni, joint statement, European External Action Service, Brussels, Nov. 26, 2013.
 Arutz Sheva (Beit El and Petah Tikva), Nov. 26, 2013.
 The News International (Karachi), Nov. 28, 2013.
 Israel Hayom, Dec. 19, 2013.
 "Response by Baroness Ashton to Letter re Horizon 2020," The Jerusalem Post, Dec. 17, 2013.
 "Guidelines on the eligibility of Israeli entities and their activities."
 "Council Conclusions on the Middle East Peace Process," Council of the European Union, Brussels, Dec. 16, 2013.
 Andreas Reinicke, interview, Israel Policy Forum, New York, accessed Jan. 24, 2014.
 Haaretz, Dec. 11, 2013.
Related Topics: Israel & Zionism | Steven J. Rosen | Spring 2014 MEQ