January 21/15

Bible Quotation for today/ Youths Oppress My People, Women Rule Over Them
Isaiah 03/01-26: "See now, the Lord, the Lord Almighty, is about to take from Jerusalem and Judah both supply and support: all supplies of food and all supplies of water, the hero and the warrior, the judge and the prophet, the diviner and the elder, the captain of fifty and the man of rank, the counselor, skilled craftsman and clever enchanter. “I will make mere youths their officials; children will rule over them.”  People will oppress each other— man against man, neighbor against neighbor. The young will rise up against the old, the nobody against the honored.  A man will seize one of his brothers in his father’s house, and say, “You have a cloak, you be our leader; take charge of this heap of ruins!”  But in that day he will cry out, “I have no remedy. I have no food or clothing in my house; do not make me the leader of the people.”  Jerusalem staggers, Judah is falling; their words and deeds are against the Lord, defying his glorious presence. The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves.  Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds.  Woe to the wicked! Disaster is upon them! They will be paid back for what their hands have done.  Youths oppress my people, women rule over them. My people, your guides lead you astray; they turn you from the path. The Lord takes his place in court; he rises to judge the people. The Lord enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of his people: “It is you who have ruined my vineyard; the plunder from the poor is in your houses.
What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor?” declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty.  The Lord says, “The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, strutting along with swaying hips, with ornaments jingling on their ankles.  Therefore the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion; the Lord will make their scalps bald.”  In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery: the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces,  the earrings and bracelets and veils, the headdresses and anklets and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms,  the signet rings and nose rings, 22 the fine robes and the capes and cloaks, the purses  and mirrors, and the linen garments and tiaras and shawls. Instead of fragrance there will be a stench;
instead of a sash, a rope; instead of well-dressed hair, baldness; instead of fine clothing, sackcloth; instead of beauty, branding.  Your men will fall by the sword, your warriors in battle.  The gates of Zion will lament and mourn; destitute, she will sit on the ground."

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January 20-21/15
Is Sisi Islam's Long-Awaited Reformer/Daniel Pipes/National Review Online/ January 20/15
How did we end up cheering for Israel/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/January 20/15
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Lebanese Related News published on January 20-21/15
Analysis from J.Post: Hezbollah will respond, the question is how forcefully

Israel braces itself as Iran vows ‘ruinous thunderbolts’

Hezbollah-Future talks unaffected by strike
STL: Hariri spooked night before assassination
Israel silent on Syria attack but convenes security cabinet to discuss developments
Iranian Revolutionary Guard chief: Israel should expect destructive thunderbolts
IDF closes road near Lebanon, fearing reprisal by Hezbollah
Israel’s climb-down over Golan air strike: We didn’t know Hizballah’s convoy carried high Iranian officers
Future condemns Israel attack, urges dissociation
Hezbollah in Golan Heights to prevent Israel normalization: MP
Lebanon charges 28 over Tripoli suicide attack
Israel didn't target Iranian general in strike: source
Change and Reform Says Israeli Raid Aims to 'Obstruct Regional, Local Talks'
Smuggling, customs fees evasion foiled at airport
Nasrallah Expected to Give Speech as Hizbullah Investigates Israeli Strike
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Khoury before STL: Fleihan Spoke of Real Threat to Hariri's Life Days before Assassination
Military Denies Qahwaji Made Comments on Israeli Airstrike
Berri Warns Offenders: Bekaa Will Not Remain Your Safe Haven
U.N. Official: Number of New Syrian Refugees Dropped by 44%
Israel on High Alert as it Boosts Deployment of Iron Dome along Lebanon Border
Jumblat Says Lebanon Cannot Bear New 'Adventure'
Daryan Highlights Importance of Dissociating Lebanon from Developments in Arab Countries

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Israel silent on Syria attack but convenes security cabinet to discuss developments
By HERB KEINON \ 01/20/2015/No statement was released following the meeting of trimmed down forum.
Israel formally continued its policy of not responding to reports that it was behind the attack in Syria, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman making no public comments about the matter.
But the trimmed down security cabinet met in a special session Tuesday for some two hours in a meeting that was reportedly devoted to discussing the developments in the north. No statement was released following that meeting. The security cabinet includes Netanyahu, Ya'alon, Liberman, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Interior Minister Gilad Erdan and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett. Up until December, when Netanyahu fired then finance minister Yair Lapid and then justice minister Tzipi Livni, they too were members of the security cabinet. They have not been replaced on that forum.  According to Hezbollah, which is active on the side of President Bashar Assad in the Syrian civil war, an Israeli helicopter fired two missiles Sunday at a military convoy in the Syrian town of Quneitra, not far from the Israeli border in the Golan Heights. Six Hezbollah operatives and six Iranian soldiers were reported killed in the hit. The killings raised the possibility of a retaliatory attack, with a senior Iranian official suggesting that Israel would be hit at "the right time and right place."
Reuters contributed to this report.

STL: Hariri spooked night before assassination
Elise KnutsenHashem Osseiran/The Daily Star/Jan. 21, 2015
THE HAGUE/BEIRUT: Less than 24 hours before his assassination, the usually unflappable former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was noticeably disturbed by a news report suggesting Syria might be plotting to assassinate him and other senior Lebanese politicians, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon heard Tuesday. In his third hearing, former MP Ghattas Khoury told the Hague-based tribunal that that he and former Minister Basil Fuleihan met with Hariri at Qoreitem Palace Feb. 13, 2005 – the eve of his assassination – and were struck by his unusually “upset” response to a report in pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat about credible threats of impending bloodshed in Lebanon.According to the report, “well-informed European sources” told Al-Hayat the international community had issued “a clear message to Syria,” warning that if “Walid Jumblatt or [Rafik] Hariri were subject to any assassination attempt then that would serve as the final breaking point between Syria and the international community.”
While Hariri received threats “on a daily basis,” Khoury said the former premier seemed shaken this time. He was “upset, disturbed, as if he took it [the news] very seriously,” Khoury told the tribunal. “The prime minister used to always say that any attempt on his life is something they will never dare to do,” Khoury continued. “In this particular instance he did not give his usual answer ... He said he would make a few phone calls.” When Hariri asked about the source of the information, Fuleihan reportedly told him he had heard “it might have been [from] British intelligence based on [wire] tapping in Cyprus,” where they were intercepting Syrian communications, he said. Khoury’s testimony is part of the “political evidence” being presented before the U.N.-backed tribunal tasked with prosecuting those responsible for killing Hariri and 21 others, including Fuleihan, in a massive bombing nearly 10 years ago. Fuleihan died from his injuries two months after the attack.
And that was not the only indication on the evening of Feb. 13 that something was amiss, Khoury said.
Earlier that day, the head of Hariri’s security detail, Yehaya al-Arab, known as Abu Tareq, had a meeting with Rustom Ghazaleh, a top Syrian intelligence officer based in Lebanon. Ghazaleh unleashed a “string insults” about Hariri and threatened Abu Tareq, according to Khoury, by saying, “If you were not my friend I wouldn’t have allowed you to return to your home today.” Abu Tareq was uncharacteristically alarmed by the encounter, Khoury said. He died the following day in the explosion alongside Hariri. Khoury further testified that at the time of Hariri’s assassination, not a single Lebanese security agency was outside of Syria’s influence. “The Lebanese security agencies were implementing the direct orders of the president of the [Lebanese] republic and of the republic of Syria,” he said.
Khoury also discussed a meeting that took place between various politicians opposed to Syria’s hegemony in Lebanon in the Bristol Hotel Feb. 2, 2005, just two weeks before Hariri’s assassination. According to the former MP, the meeting was attended by Fuleihan, Khoury and Future Movement MP Ahmad Fatfat, and was noticeably different to the previous two sessions held at the same hotel. “The meeting confirmed that we had completely moved to the opposition,” Khoury said, in reference to a call for the total withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. It was also the first time that Hariri’s representatives increased their presence and marked themselves out “as a bloc and not as individuals,” Khoury said, explaining that close allies of the former premier who hadn’t attended previous sessions were suddenly there. “The third Bristol meeting gathered the largest opposition number and there was a clear presence for Hariri’s bloc,” he said.Khoury proceeded to speak about the day of Hariri’s assassination, saying that he and Fuleihan went to see the former prime minister in the nearby L’Etoile Café in Downtown Beirut and found him surrounded by a group of reporters. Recalling his last conversation with the premier, Khoury said the two discussed the Beirut Association for Social Development’s distribution of olive oil to residents in pertinent electoral districts ahead of the 2005 parliamentary elections. The move was seen by Hariri’s opponents as an attempt to bribe his constituency before the polls, and the opposition wanted to arrange a meeting to tell him so in person, Khoury said.

Israel braces itself as Iran vows ‘ruinous thunderbolts’
Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star/Jan. 21, 2015
BEIRUT: The weekend Israeli raid that killed six Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian general in Syria’s Golan Heights continued to reverberate across the volatile region Tuesday, as Israel prepared for a Hezbollah retaliation and the chief of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard promised the Jewish state “ruinous thunderbolts.”The parliamentary Future bloc, meanwhile, condemned the Israeli airstrike that targeted a Hezbollah convoy in the Syrian town of Qunaitra Sunday and called for distancing Lebanon from any involvement that threatens its security.
“Any attack by the Israeli enemy on any Arab territory, regardless of the circumstances, is entirely rejected and condemned,” the bloc said in a statement after its weekly meeting. “While it condemns the Israeli attack in Qunaitra, the Future bloc sees that Lebanon’s security and the safety of the Lebanese should be at the top of Lebanese priorities.”However, Future MP Atef Majdalani, who attended the bloc’s meeting, went further by warning that Hezbollah retaliation over the Israeli raid would plunge Lebanon into a new war with Israel.
“Any response by Hezbollah to the Qunaitra attack either from Lebanese territory or from outside will involve Lebanon and the Lebanese in a war with Israel which needs pretexts to start it,” he told the Voice of Lebanon radio station.
Speaker Nabih Berri said the Qunaitra raid showed that Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu, who is seeking re-election in the March polls, “voted with the blood of the Lebanese after he had voted in France with the blood of French Jews when he called on them to leave and return to Israel.”“He [Netanyahu] is contesting the parliamentary elections with blood and he might win because he always resorts to this tactic,” Berri was quoted by Ain al-Tineh visitors as saying. “Netanyahu joined the demonstration in Paris against terrorism and he returned to practice it in Qunaitra.”Asked how Hezbollah would respond to the Israeli raid, Berri said: “Israel is not the one who decides for Hezbollah the date and place of retaliation. In my estimation, Hezbollah will not give Israel a political or security card and its command is the one that decides the time and place of retaliation.”Hezbollah’s silence on its possible response has apparently kept Israel on edge amid heightened fears of a harsh response, especially because the six victims included a top military commander and Jihad Mughniyeh, a 25-year-old son of slain military commander Imad Mughniyeh.
In occupied Jerusalem, Israeli military officials said the country was on high alert for possible attacks from Hezbollah following the Qunaitra attack.Israeli officials told the Associated Press that the country has boosted deployment of its “Iron Dome” aerial defense system along its northern frontier with Lebanon, and has increased surveillance in the area. Israel’s Channel 10 meanwhile described the border area with Lebanon as a “closed area” and “military zone,” saying that farmers have been banned from approaching the frontier.
Israel has neither confirmed nor denied the raid. Israeli authorities have also closed the airspace over the Israeli-occupied section of the Golan Heights and in the Galilee region to civilian aircraft, reports said.
Israeli military intelligence website Debka said that emergency shelters have been opened and military arsenals are being prepared.Reuters quoted a senior security source in occupied Jerusalem as saying that Israel did not target the Iranian Revolutionary Guard general killed in the Qunaitra raid. The remarks by the Israeli source, who declined to be identified because Israel has not officially confirmed it carried out the strike, appeared aimed at containing any escalation with Iran or Hezbollah. Iranian Revolutionary Guard Birg Gen. Mohammad Ali Allahdadi was killed along with the six Hezbollah fighters in the Israeli attack.
For its part, Iran has vowed to strike back. “These martyrdoms proved the need to stick with jihad and provided another indication about the nearing collapse of the Zionist entity. The Zionists must await ruinous thunderbolts after their crime in Qunaitra,” Gen. Mohammad Ali Jaafari, commander of the Revolutionary Guard, was quoted as saying by Fars News Agency. “The Revolutionary Guard will fight to the end of the Zionist regime ... We will not rest easy until this epitome of vice is totally deleted from the region’s geopolitics,” he added.
Asked if Israel expected Iranian or Hezbollah retaliation for the airstrike, the Israeli source said: “They are almost certain to respond. We are anticipating that, but I think it’s a fair assumption that a major escalation is not in the interest of either side.”
Meanwhile, Hezbollah buried Tuesday three of its slain fighters in their hometowns in south Lebanon. Hundreds of mourners carried the Hezbollah yellow flag-draped coffins of the three fighters in three separate funerals attended by senior Hezbollah officials, amid an air of pride and defiance following the Israeli airstrike. Hezbollah flags and military fatigues swamped the town of Arab Salim in Nabatieh, as the coffin of field commander Mohammad Issa arrived at his hometown to an outpouring of grief and anger, with moments of celebratory gunfire peppered throughout. Mourners yelled out “Death to Israel” and “We will do anything for you, Hussein,” referring to revered Shiite figure and grandson of Prophet Mohammad, Hussein Ibn-Ali.
The scene was similar in Yohmor, also in Nabatieh, where a sea of mourners spilled onto the streets to commemorate the death of Ali Hasan Ibrahim, 21, the youngest of the six killed. “Twenty years after the martyrdom of the father, the son is martyred in the same way,” Hezbollah MP Nawaf al-Moussawi said during the funeral procession. In the town of Khiam in Marjayoun, the father of Ghazi Ali al-Dawi marched ahead of his son’s coffin with a somber expression and a party banner wrapped around his neck. Men dressed in military fatigues carried his casket across his hometown as Dawi’s baby daughter was lifted up above the crowds. Jihad Mughniyeh was laid to rest next to his father’s tomb Monday in Beirut’s southern suburbs. Two more slain fighters are set to be buried in south Lebanon Wednesday, according to Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard chief: Israel should expect destructive thunderbolts
By JPOST.COM STAFF \ 01/20/2015/The Revolutionary Guard is committed to the annihilation of the Zionist regime," Iranian media quoted the general as saying. Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) warned on Tuesday that Israel could expect a "destructive" response for its alleged role in firing at a military convoy in Syria's Quneitra on Sunday. A member of the elite unit was among those killed in an air strike attributed by the foreign press to an Israel Air Force attack on Hezbollah and Iranian operatives on the Syrian Golan Heights on Sunday. The official website of the IRGC confirmed on Monday that Gen. Muhammad Ali Allahdadi was killed in the strike, while Hezbollah’s satellite television station and news website al-Manar also carried news of his demise. "The Revolutionary Guard is committed to the annihilation of the Zionist regime," Iranian media quoted Jafari as saying. "Zionists," the general warned, "should expect destructive thunderbolts."Earlier, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said Israel was not only behind Sunday's air strike in Syria, but was also responsible for "all acts of terror" in the Middle East. Israel has not confirmed that it carried out the strike, however Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel would not give up its right to defend itself against all those who wish to propagate terror and other attacks against its citizens or its territory. UN peacekeepers stationed in the Golan Heights along the Syrian-Israeli border observed drones coming from the Israeli side before and after the air strike, the United Nations said on Monday.

IDF closes road near Lebanon, fearing reprisal by Hezbollah

ions of a road in northern Israel near the border with Lebanon on Tuesday night, due to a building up of tension following an airstrike in Syria on Sunday that killed a senior Hezbollah member and an Iranian general allegedly carried out by Israel, though their has been no official statement by Jerusalem.  Local residents were still permitted to use the road, which was closed off between the villages of Avivim and Dovev, according to a military source. However, farmers have been asked by the IDF not to work plots adjacent to the Lebanese border for the present time due to security sensitivities. An Iranian general killed in an Israeli air strike in Syria was not its intended target, and Israel believed it was attacking only low-ranking guerrillas, a senior security source told Reuters on Tuesday.
Iranian Revolutionary Guard General Mohammed Allahdadi was killed with a Hezbollah commander and the son of the group's late military leader, Imad Moughniyeh, in Sunday's attack on a Hezbollah convoy near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and fought a 34-day war with Israel in 2006, said six of its members died in the strike. Following the Reuters report, an official security source said, "The state of Israel is not relating to the incident in Syria and not to reports about it, reports that do not come from authorized sources. Israeli policy has been and remains aimed at thwarting every attempted terror attack against it."

Analysis: Hezbollah will respond, the question is how forcefully
By YAAKOV LAPPIN \ 01/20/2015/J.Post/There can be little doubt that Hezbollah’s leadership, acting in conjunction with its masters in Tehran, will order a response to the air strike that killed senior members of the Lebanese terrorist organization and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps. As is well known, Hezbollah has in recent years moved into Syria with Iran’s help, but what is less known is that Hezbollah exploited its new Syrian presence to begin creating a second front against Israel, alongside its traditional home base of southern Lebanon.
Sunday’s air strike, attributed by international media to Israel, should be seen as a preemptive act of self-defense aimed at thwarting an Iranian- sponsored Hezbollah terrorist network that was plotting a series of deadly attacks, including rockets, anti-tank fire, and cross-border infiltrations. Despite the inherently defensive nature of the strike, Hezbollah can be expected to feel obligated to retaliate, following the barrage of warnings by its chief, Hassan Nasrallah, and its more brazen activities on the Lebanese border, aimed at signaling to Israel that deterrence from the 2006 Second Lebanon War is wearing thin. The question that now remains is the extent of Hezbollah’s future attack. A relatively minor assault may result in a proportionate Israeli reply, which could in turn produce an end to the sequence of attacks, and a containment of the incident. Hezbollah has nothing to gain from opening a second front against Israel, at a time when it remains deeply embroiled in its costly intervention in Syria and the war against Sunni rebels. A large-scale Hezbollah attack would, however, open the door to a rapid deterioration of the northern front. The same is true of a mass casualty terrorist attack by Hezbollah targeting Israelis overseas, which could result in direct Israeli reprisals in Lebanon. These days, the northern front includes Lebanon and Syria, as intertwined arenas that are no longer distinct. As a result, the situation is more explosive than in the past. Tensions are running high, and the stakes are even higher.
Any miscalculation runs the risk of igniting a regional conflict.

Israel’s climb-down over Golan air strike: We didn’t know Hizballah’s convoy carried high Iranian officers
DEBKAfile Special Report January 20, 2015/Israel Tuesday, Jan. 20, used Western and Arab media outlets for "clarification” to Tehran of the purpose of its air strike over the Golan Sunday, asserting that Revolutionary Guards Gen. Mohammad “Ali Allah Dadi and his staff of five were not known to be traveling in the Hizballah convoy and were not the target. “We thought we were hitting an enemy field unit that was on its way to carry out an attack on us at the frontier fence,’ a senior security official in Tel Aviv informed the media. “We went on the alert, we spotted the vehicle, identified it as an enemy vehicle and took the shot,” he said, adding: “We saw this as a limited tactical operation.” This semi-apology, say DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources, was intended to tell Tehran that had Israeli intelligence identified the group of high-ranking Iranian officers in the Golan convoy, the air strike would have been called off. There was no reason why an intelligence mistake should cause a broad or even a limited military showdown between Iran and Israel, was the implied message.
Asked if Israel was expecting Iranian or Hizballah retribution, the Israeli security source answered: “A response is almost certain, but none of the parties is seeking escalation.”Sharp US intervention was almost certainly behind Israel’s embarrassing “clarification.” The Obama administration feared the Golan air strike might snowball into a full-scale military confrontation with Iran and Hizballah settling their scores with Israel. The ongoing nuclear talks between Iran and the six world powers would then be abruptly interrupted and possibly break down.
Obama administration officials may well have informed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that, according to information reaching US intelligence, Iran and Hizballah were spoiling for revenge and all-out war might be impossible to hold back. DEBKAfile’s military sources are far from sure that Tehran will accept Israel’s lame excuses for the death of a senior general. They might choose not to believe that the OC of Israel’s Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, until recently chief of military intelligence (AMAN) and well versed in the arenas shared by Israel, Iran and Hizballah, would have mistaken the figures traveling in the Golan convoy. All the same, in an effort to de-escalate the crisis, Israel has gone to the lengths of publicly owning up to a fiasco of its intelligence and a mistaken military operation.
By this climb-down for Tehran’s benefit, the prime minister and defense minister are bound to be held to account at home for failing to provide back-up for Israel’s armed forces and intelligence.

Israel didn't target Iranian general in strike: source
Dan Williams| Reuters/Jan. 20, 2015
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: An Iranian general killed in an Israeli airstrike in Syria was not its intended target and Israel believed it was attacking only low-ranking guerrillas, a senior security source said Tuesday. The remarks by the Israeli source, who declined to be identified because Israel has not officially confirmed it carried out the strike, appeared aimed at containing any escalation with Iran or Hezbollah. Iranian Revolutionary Guard General Mohammed Allahdadi was killed with a Hezbollah commander and the son of the group's late military leader, Imad Mughniyeh, in Sunday's attack on a Hezbollah convoy near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and fought a 34-day war with Israel in 2006, said six of its members died in the strike.
Tehran has vowed to strike back. "These martyrdoms proved the need to stick with jihad. The Zionists must await ruinous thunderbolts," Revolutionary Guards' chief General Mohammad Ali Jafari was quoted Tuesday as saying by Fars news agency.
"The Revolutionary Guards will fight to the end of the Zionist regime ... We will not rest easy until this epitome of vice is totally deleted from the region's geopolitics." Asked if Israel expected Iranian or Hezbollah retaliation for the airstrike, the source said: "They are almost certain to respond. We are anticipating that, but I think it's a fair assumption that a major escalation is not in the interest of either side."Troops and civilians in northern Israel are on heightened alert and Israel has deployed an Iron Dome rocket interceptor unit near the Syrian border. "We did not expect the outcome in terms of the stature of those killed - certainly not the Iranian general," the source said. "We thought we were hitting an enemy field unit that was on its way to carry out an attack on us at the frontier fence."
"We got the alert, we spotted the vehicle, identified it was an enemy vehicle and took the shot. We saw this as a limited tactical operation." Israel has struck Syria several times since the start of the Syrian civil war, mostly destroying weaponry such as missiles that Israeli officials said were destined for Hezbollah. Hezbollah has been fighting alongside President Bashar Assad's forces in the four-year-old Syrian conflict.

Change and Reform Says Israeli Raid Aims to 'Obstruct Regional, Local Talks'
Naharnet /The Change and Reform parliamentary bloc noted Tuesday that Israel's airstrike that killed six Hizbullah fighters and a top Iranian general on Sunday in Syria was aimed at “obstructing the regional and local negotiations.” “We condemn the Israeli attack on Quneitra and extend condolences to the families of the martyrs and to the resistance,” the bloc said in a statement issued after its weekly meeting in Rabieh. Responding to a reporter's question on the raid, the bloc's secretary MP Ibrahim Kanaan said the Israeli strike “reflects an intention to obstruct the regional and domestic negotiations.” “That's why we must immunize our internal situation in Lebanon and exert bigger efforts in the dialogue so that we can reach results that can carry stability for the state and its institutions,” he added. He was referring to the separate talks in Lebanon between Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal movement and between the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces. The lawmaker was also alluding to the nuclear talks between Iran and world powers and possibly to the expected dialogue among Syrian rivals. Prominent Hizbullah operatives Mohammed Ahmed Issa and Jihad Imad Mughniyeh as well as top Iranian general Mohammad Ali Allahdadi were among the victims of the Israeli air raid on Syria's Quneitra region near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
“We laud the efforts that are being exerted on several fronts and we hope they will lead to an understanding on the republic, so that we can guarantee a permanent solution and restore the missing national partnership, especially Christian-Muslim partnership,” Change and Reform said. It also revealed that there is “progress in the negotiations with the other party,” in reference to the LF. Separately, the Change and Reform bloc stressed that the 2015 state budget “must be accomplished within its constitutional timeframe and expenditure must be legalized.”It also said it followed up on “the steps taken by the government and the security forces regarding the security plan that reflect the right choices of the coalition government.” “There should not be any leniency in security,” the bloc underlined.
Change and Reform also tackled recent controversy in the country regarding the issue of civil marriage. “We discussed the issue of refraining from registering civil marriage contracts in state administrations, which violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the constitution,” the bloc said. It urged the relevant authorities to “abide by the stipulations of the charters and to grant the Lebanese the right to choose this type of contracts if they choose so.”

Future condemns Israel attack, urges dissociation
The Daily Star/Jan. 20, 2015
BEIRUT: The Future Bloc condemned Tuesday a weekend Israeli airstrike on the Syrian town of Quneitra that killed six Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian General, as it called for distancing Lebanon from regional fires.  In a statement released after their weekly meeting, the bloc expressed its rejection of “any assault conducted by the Israeli enemy on any Arab territory.” Six Hezbollah fighters were killed Sunday when a Israeli airstrike attacked a Hezbollah convoy in the Syrian town of Qunaitra. At least one Iranian General and two Syrians affiliated with Hezbollah were also killed. The weekend attack prompted concerns over Hezbollah’s response, with Lebanese officials urging caution over engaging in a war with Israel. “The security of Lebanon and the safety of the Lebanese should lead Lebanese priorities,” the Future Bloc statement read, noting that dissociation from regional conflicts was the only means through which stability could be achieved. The policy of dissociation, according to The Future Movement, is lost on Hezbollah who is still entangled in the conflict next-door. In another condemnation, the bloc denounced an attack waged by a group of pro-regime Syrian lawyers against a delegation of Lebanese lawyers representing the Bar Association during an Arab Lawyers Union conference in Cairo Sunday. The bloc deemed the attack an “aggressive and militant behavior” carried out by “the thugs and bullies of the Syrian regime.”

Hezbollah in Golan Heights to prevent Israel normalization: MP
The Daily Star/Jan. 20, 2015/BEIRUT: Hezbollah is collaborating with Syria and Iran to create a "resistant society" in the Golan Heights to prevent Israel from normalizing relations with locals, party MP Walid Sukkarieh said Tuesday, two days after Israel's deadly strike on a military convoy in the area. “Iran, Syria and Hezbollah are working on establishing a resistant society in the Golan, and this is a great responsibility for the axis of resistance,” MP Walid Sukkarieh told a local radio station Tuesday morning. An Israeli strike Sunday on a convoy in the Golan Heights village of Quneitra killed six Hezbollah members, including the son of the late-Hezbollah commander Imad Mughnieh, and a senior commander in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. A Lebanese security source told the Daily Star that two Syrian fighters affiliated with Hezbollah were also killed in the strike. “Israel is attempting to normalize relations with the opposition groups in the [Golan Heights] area, and especially with the Nusra Front,” Sukkarieh said in separate remarks published Tuesday in Al-Joumhouria newspaper.
He added that the Jewish state is attempting to create a security zone on the borders and penetrate into Syrian communities living in the area. “This would affect Syria because a part of its society would become allied to Israel,” he added, comparing Israel’s current strategy in the Golan Heights to its strategy in Lebanon during the beginning of the 1975-1990 Lebanese Civil War. “Syria sent resistance groups to the Golan Heights more than one year ago,” Sukkarieh said. “If Hezbollah is [operating] in the area, then I think its role is about organizing the resistance against Israel and prevent normalizing relations with it.”Sukkarieh, who is also a retired Lebanese Army Brigadier General, added that after the July 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon, the Lebanese and Golan Heights frontiers were united, and Syria began adopting the strategy used by Hezbollah. He said the party does not see the latest assault as an action that requires immediate reaction, but rather as just one hit in an ongoing and open war between the axis and Israel. Sunday’s strike came three days after Hezbollah’s chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah told Al-Mayadeen that the party had no military presence in the Golan Heights. Nasrallah acknowledged that the party sent assistance and weapons to militant groups fighting the Syrian opposition in the area, but stressed that Hezbollah’s role stopped there.

Lebanon charges 28 over Tripoli suicide attack
The Daily Star/Jan. 20, 2015/BEIRUT: Lebanon's top military court charged 28 people Tuesday over suspected involvement in the recent twin suicide attack in Tripoli, a judicial source told The Daily Star. Of the 28, only four are in custody, including three whose arrests were announced by the Army last week. The remaining 24 included the jihadi duo Osama Mansour and Shadi Mawlawi, the source said. Mansour and Mawlawi are considered the masterminds of the jihadi network behind the attack, he added. They were charged with recruiting suicide bombers and equipping them with explosive belts. Judge Saqr Saqr referred the cases to military investigative judge Riad Abu Ghayda. The twin bombings that occurred in the majority Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen earlier this month killed nine people and wounded more than 30.

Daryan Highlights Importance of Dissociating Lebanon from Developments in Arab Countries
Naharnet /Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan underlined the importance of keeping Lebanon at a distance from the developments in Arab countries, in particular the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the state-run National News Agency reported on Tuesday.
“Any interference in the affairs of Arab countries doesn't express the opinion of Dar al-Fatwa,” Daryan stressed during talks with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser al-Thani in Doha. The Mufti expressed hope that the “Lebanese wouldn't have to pay the price of statements made by some sides,” considering that such remarks have a direct impact on the business of the Lebanese in the Gulf.Daryan's statements come in light of the controversial remarks by Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah against Bahrain, which drew the ire of Gulf countries.  For his part the Qatari PM stressed that the Lebanese expatriates in Qatar are successful and will not be harmed or avenged because of statements made by others. The two discussed the bilateral ties between Lebanon and Qatar and other spiritual affairs.
On January 9, Nasrallah alleged the presence of a “Zionist-like naturalization scheme” in Bahrain. His statement was met by broad Arab dismay, with the GCC announcing the remarks contained “an incitement to violence and discord.”

Jumblat Says Lebanon Cannot Bear New 'Adventure'
Naharnet/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat stressed on Tuesday that Lebanon cannot endure any “adventure,” pointing out that the Israeli airstrike that killed a prominent Hizbullah fighter with five other members occurred in Syria's Golan Heights and not on Lebanese territories. “We are only concerned with the occupied land on Kfarshouba Hills and the Shebaa Farms and have nothing to do with what happens in Syria,” Jumblat said in comments published in al-Mustaqbal newspaper. Tehran also announced that a senior Iranian general was killed in the strike, underscoring the extent of Iran and Hizbullah's deep involvement in the volatile area on Israel's doorstep. Sunday's deadly attack placed Hizbullah in a tough spot, as it weighs carefully how to respond. A significant retaliation risks drawing even tougher Israeli reprisals, plunging Lebanon into yet another crippling war with the Jewish state for which there is very little appetite among Lebanese public opinion. Jumblat told the newspaper that the “resistance and Hizbullah's secretary general (Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah) have enough sight and awareness that Lebanon cannot endure any military adventure.”“But of course we have to always be aware not to slip into another military standoff with Israel.”Stretched thin and neck-deep in Syria's civil war where the group's fighters are battling alongside President Bashar Assad's forces, Hizbullah must also decide whether it can afford to open up another front with Israel. The last such airstrike was in early December, when Israeli warplanes struck near Damascus' international airport, as well as outside a town close to the Syria-Lebanon border.

Khoury before STL: Fleihan Spoke of Real Threat to Hariri's Life Days before Assassination
Naharnet /Former MP Ghattas Khoury concluded on Tuesday his testimony before the Prosecution at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, recounting the details of events that took place days before the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on February 14, 2005.
He revealed that slain Minister Bassel Fleihan had warned the premier that there were serious threats against his life. “Fleihan said that the lives of former PM Hariri and MP Walid Jumblat were at risk. These claims were made in an article in al-Hayat newspaper,” he added.
“It was the first time he took such threats seriously,” Khoury told the court. Fleihan explained that the al-Hayat article may have based its information on British intelligence that may have been spying on Syrian intelligence agencies.
Hariri said that he will take these threats into consideration and carry out the necessary contacts to inquire about them, added Khoury. He noted however that “Hariri had told me that Arab and foreign officials had advised the Syrian regime to avoid resorting to assassinations in Lebanon in the wake of the attempt against MP Marwan Hamadeh's life in October 2004.”
“Given the grip the Syrian-Lebanese security apparatus had over Lebanon, an assassination attempt could not have been possible without its knowledge,” he explained. The security agencies controlling Lebanon at the time were tapping the telephones of opposition figures, harassing student activists, and exerting other forms of pressure, said the former lawmaker. “Hariri had repeatedly complained that the Lebanese security agencies were violating the law,” he revealed. Khoury then spoke of the media campaign and pressure exerted by the Lebanese-Syrian security apparatus days before Hariri's murder. The latest media campaign was focused on the former premier's distribution of olive oil on families in Beirut.
Hariri had come under attack for his efforts even though it was a practice he had adopted for some seven years, he remarked. On the day of the assassination, continued Khoury, Hariri was attending a parliament session, which was expected to tackle the parliamentary electoral law. The former prime minister then realized that the meeting would not be addressing this issue, prompting him to exit the building and head to a nearby cafe, he recounted. Hariri would have returned to parliament on February 14 had it been planning to discuss the electoral law, noted Khoury. “I met with him briefly and then headed to my work at the American University of Beirut Medical Center,” he stated. “Soon after arriving at the hospital, I heard the assassination blast. I headed outdoors and witnessed the smoke caused by the explosion. I sensed that Hariri may have been the target,” he revealed. An emotional Khoury then told the court that the bodies of the blast victims soon began arriving at AUBMC. He identified Hariri's corpse and then saw Fleihan, who was in the premier's convoy, being treated for his injuries. The Prosecution then concluded its cross-examination of Khoury and the Defense then began its questioning. The session was then adjourned to Wednesday.
Fleihan passed away in April 2005 from the injuries he sustained in Hariri's assassination. The STL is tackling the February 2005 assassination of Hariri and 22 others in a major bombing in Beirut. It is currently listening to the testimonies of a number of witnesses who were close to Hariri in the months preceding the assassination. Hamadeh gave his testimony in late 2014 and journalist Faisal Salman gave his testimony at the resumption of the hearings in 2015. Khoury's testimony will be followed by witness Salim Diab on January 22 and 23.

Is Sisi Islam's Long-Awaited Reformer?
Daniel PipesظNational Review Online
January 19, 2015
In a widely praised January 1 speech at Cairo's Al-Azhar University, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi addressed the country's religious leadership, saying the time had come to reform Islam. He's won Western plaudits for this, including a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, but I have reservations about the speech.
To begin with, no matter how fine Sisi's ideas, no politician – and especially no strongman – has moved modern Islam. Atatürk's reforms in Turkey are systematically being reversed. A decade ago, King Abdullah II of Jordan and President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan gave similarly fine speeches on "the true voice of Islam" and "enlightened moderation" that immediately disappeared from view. Yes, Sisi's comments are stronger, but he is not a religious authority and, in all likelihood, they too will disappear without a trace.
As for content: Sisi praised the faith of Islam and focused on what he calls fikr, literally meaning thought but in this context meaning wrong ideas. He complained that wrong ideas, which he did not specify, have become sacralized and that the religious leadership dares not criticize them. But Sisi did criticize, and in a colloquial Arabic highly unusual for discussing such topics: "It is inconceivable that the wrong ideas which we sacralize should make the entire umma [Muslim community] a source of concern, danger, killing, and destruction for the whole world. This is not possible."
Nonetheless, that is precisely what has occurred: "We have reached the point that Muslims have antagonized the entire world. Is it conceivable that 1.6 billion [Muslims] want to kill the rest of the world's population of 7 billion, so that Muslims prosper? This is not possible." Sisi continued, to faint applause from the religious dignitaries assembled before him, to call on them to bring about a "religious revolution." Barring that, the Muslim community "is being torn apart, destroyed, and is going to hell."
Kudos to Sisi for tough talk on this problem; his candor stands in sharp contrast to the mumbo-jumbo emanating from his Western counterparts who uphold the pretense that the current wave of violence has nothing to do with Islam. (Of many flamboyantly erroneous remarks, my favorite is from Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont, who responded to the Charlie Hebdo massacre with, "I stopped calling these people Muslim terrorists. They're about as Muslim as I am.")
But Sisi gave no specifics regarding the revolution he seeks; what might he have in mind? Contrary to what his admirers say, I believe he champions a subtle version of Islamism, defined the full application of Islamic law (Shari'a) in the public sphere.
Several indications point to Sisi having been an Islamist. He was a practicing Muslim who apparently has memorized the Koran. The Financial Times found that his wife wore the hijab (headscarf) and one of his daughters the niqab (the covering that reveals only eyes and hands). The Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsi, appointed Sisi his defense minister precisely because he saw the then-general as an ally.
While a student in Pennsylvania in 2005-06, Sisi wrote a paper advocating democracy adapted to Islam, one that "may bear little resemblance" to its Western prototype but "will have its own shape or form coupled with stronger religious ties." His version of democracy did not separate mosque and state but was established "upon Islamic beliefs," meaning that government agencies must "take Islamic beliefs into consideration when carrying out their duties." In other words, Shari'a trumps popular will.
Also in that paper, Sisi partially aligned himself with Salafis, those long-bearded and burqa'ed Islamists aspiring to live as Muhammad did. He described the early caliphate not merely as "the ideal form of government" but also "the goal for any new form of government" and he hoped for the revival of "the earliest form" of the caliphate.
It's certainly possible that Sisi's views of Islam, like many Egyptians', have evolved, especially since his break with Morsi two years ago. Indeed, rumors have him affiliated with the radically anti-Islamist Quranist movement, whose leader, Ahmed Subhy Mansour, he cited in his student paper. But Mansour suspects Sisi is "playing with words" and waits to see if Sisi is serious about reform.
Indeed, until we know more about Sisi's personal views and see what he does next, I understand his speech not as a stance against all of Islamism but only against its specifically violent form, the kind that is ravaging Nigeria, Somalia, Syria-Iraq, and Pakistan, the kind that has placed such cities as Boston, Ottawa, Sydney, and Paris under siege. Like other cooler heads, Sisi promotes Shari'a through evolution and popular support, rather than through revolution and brutality. Non violence, to be sure, is an improvement over violence. But it's hardly the reform of Islam that non-Muslims hope to see – especially when one recalls that working through the system is more likely to succeed.
True reform requires scholars of Islam, not strongmen, and a repudiation of implementing Shari'a in the public sphere. For both these reasons, Sisi is not likely to be that reformer.
Jan. 19, 2015 addendum: Sisi has reiterated his argument against violent Islamism: "The rise in terrorism ... requires a thoughtful response from the international community. The fight must not only be restricted to security and military aspects ... but should include a reformed religious discourse from which false ideologies that could lure some into adopting violence to impose their ideas have been removed."

ISIS threatens to kill 2 Japanese hostages
Jon Gambrell/Mari Yamaguchi| Associated Press/Jan. 20, 2015
CAIRO: ISIS threatened to kill two Japanese hostages Tuesday unless they receive $200 million in 72 hours, directly demanding the ransom from Japan's premier during his visit to the Middle East. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to save the men, saying: "Their lives are the top priority."However, Abe and other Japanese officials declined to say whether they'd make the payment to save the men, identified in an extremist video as Kenji Goto Jogo and Haruna Yukawa. Their kidnapping immediately recalled the 2004 beheading of a Japanese backpacker in Iraq, carried out by ISIS' predecessor over Japan's involvement in the U.S.-led war there. Tuesday's video, identified as being made by ISIS' Al-Furqan media arm and posted on militant websites associated with the extremist group, mirrored other hostage threats it has made. Japanese officials said they would analyze the tape to verify its authenticity, though Abe offered no hesitation as he pledged to free the men while speaking to journalists in Jerusalem.
"It is unforgivable," said Abe, now on a six-day visit to the Middle East with more than 100 government officials and presidents of Japanese companies. He added: "Extremism and Islam are completely different things."
In the video, the two men appear in orange jumpsuits with a rocky hill in the background, a masked militant dressed in black standing between them. The scene resembles others featuring the five hostages previously beheaded by ISIS, which controls a third of Iraq and Syria.
"To the prime minister of Japan: Although you are more than 8,000 and 500 kilometers from the Islamic State [ISIS], you willingly have volunteered to take part in this crusade," says the knife-brandishing militant, who resembles and sounds like a British militant involved in other filmed beheadings. "You have proudly donated $100 million to kill our women and children, to destroy the homes of the Muslims ... and in an attempt to stop the expansion of the Islamic State, you have also donated another $100 million to train the [apostates]."
The militant's comments likely refer to money Abe pledged while in Egypt to help Iraq's government and aid Syrian refugees.
Abe said he would send Yasuhide Nakayama, a deputy foreign minister, to Jordan to seek the country's support and to resolve the hostage crisis. The premier also said the Israeli government, which Japan promised Sunday to cooperate with on counterterrorism, are sharing information to aid in the hostage crisis. The Israeli prime minister's office declined to comment.
Speaking in Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga also declined to say whether Japan would pay the ransom. "If true, the act of threat in exchange of people's lives is unforgivable and we feel strong indignation," Suga told journalists. "We will make our utmost effort to win their release as soon as possible." Yukawa, a private military company operator in his early 40s, was kidnapped in Syria in August after going there to train with militants, according to a post on a blog kept. Pictures on his Facebook page show him in Iraq and Syria in July. One video on his page showed him holding a Kalashnikov assault rifle with the caption: "Syria war in Aleppo 2014."
"I cannot identify the destination," Yukawa wrote in his last blog post. "But the next one could be the most dangerous." He added: "I hope to film my fighting scenes during an upcoming visit."Nobuo Kimoto, an adviser to Yukawa's company, told Japanese public television station NHK that he had worried "something like this could happen sooner or later.""I was afraid that they could use Yukawa as a card," Kimoto said. Goto is a respected Japanese freelance journalist who went to report on Syria's civil war last year and knew of Yukawa.
"I'm in Syria for reporting," Goto wrote in an email to an Associated Press journalist in October. "I hope I can convey the atmosphere from where I am and share it."ISIS has beheaded and shot dead hundreds of captives - mainly Syrian and Iraqi soldiers - during its sweep across the two countries, and has celebrated its mass killings in extremely graphic videos. The group also beheaded American hostages James Foley and Peter Kassig, Israeli-American Steven Sotloff, and British captives David Haines and Alan Henning.
The group also holds British photojournalist John Cantlie, who has appeared in other extremist propaganda videos, and a 26-year-old American woman captured last year in Syria while working for aid groups. U.S. officials have asked that the woman not be identified out of fears for her safety. Tuesday's video marks the first time an ISIS message specifically has demanded cash. The extremists requested $132.5 million from Foley's parents and political concessions from Washington, though neither granted them during months of negotiations before his killing, U.S. authorities say. ISIS has suffered recent losses in airstrikes by a U.S.-led coalition, and with global oil prices being down, their revenue from selling stolen oil likely has dropped as well. The extremists also have made money from extortion, illicit businesses and other gangland-style criminal activity. Its militants also recently released some 200 mostly elderly Yazidi hostages in Iraq, fueling speculation by Iraqi officials that the group didn't have the money to care for them.
Japan relies on the Middle East for most of the crude oil it needs to run the world's third-largest economy. It also has been working to build wider economic ties in the region, like with Abe's current Mideast tour.
This is Abe's second Mideast hostage crisis since becoming prime minister. Two years ago, Al-Qaeda-affiliated militants attacked an Algerian natural gas plant and the ensuing four-day hostage crisis killed 29 insurgents and 37 foreigners, including 10 Japanese who were working for a Yokohama-based engineering company, JCG Corp. Seven Japanese survived. In 2004, followers of Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq beheaded Japanese backpacker Shosei Koda and wrapped his body in an American flag over Japan having troops in Iraq doing humanitarian work. A video by Al-Zarqawi's group, which later became ISIS, showed Koda begging Japan's then-prime minister to save him.

How did we end up cheering for Israel?
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
Tuesday, 20 January 2015
Many have cheered for the sudden Israeli strike which on Sunday killed six Hezbollah members and a general in the Iranian revolutionary guards who, for some reason, were secretly present in Syria's Quneitra. The cheering expresses anger and indignation and many expressed frankly those feelings via social networking websites and we've even sensed those emotions even from sympathizers with Islamic groups. This huge transformation of feelings against Hezbollah is due to the latter's heinous actions of targeting its rivals in Lebanon and its involvement in the killing of thousands in Syria. Those who shifted from admiring Hezbollah to hating the group did so in less than one decade.
Hezbollah’s biggest fall
These people used to support Hezbollah in Lebanon in the past and they used to adopt the Shiite party's political and military agenda. Anger began to surface when Hezbollah's militias occupied west Beirut during the May 7 events - three years after the party's involvement in the assassination of Sunni leader Rafiq al-Hariri in 2005. Hezbollah, and also Iran, have lost the respectful and honorable status which they've always enjoyed in the name of Islam, Lebanon and Palestine. Hezbollah's biggest fall came in the wake of its clear sectarian bias in Syria as its members joined the filthy war which has killed more than 250,000 people in this biggest crime in the history of the region. This Iranian involvement in Syria will also have further repercussions. There's no doubt, in my view, that if a confrontation occurs between Israel and Hezbollah or between Israel and Iran, many Arabs will pray for the defeat of Hezbollah's militias and generals of its Iranian ally. This strange feeling, even if temporary, reflects the change in the region's alliances and political stances.
My enemy’s enemy
The hatred held by many Arabs towards Iran and Hezbollah does not necessarily mean a sudden love towards Israel - that's another story. Perhaps it would be in case of achieving a Palestinian-Israeli peace that garners more popular acceptance than before.
Hezbollah's biggest fall came in the wake of its clear sectarian bias in Syria as its members joined the filthy war. In case a regional struggle happens, like an Arab struggle with Iran, and Israel is an apparent party in the Arab camp, people will - I believe - upon the concept of "my enemy's enemy is my friend," turn a blind eye to this temporary alliance. Once again, this does not mean that Israel will be accepted by Arabs on the popular level - unless in the case of achieving peace with the Palestinians.
Regional balance
We are in a transitional phase of the map and alliances after 1948, and the struggles and hostilities may shift in a totally different direction. Iran and Hezbollah may be on the side of the Jewish state in case a nuclear agreement signed with the West satisfies Israel, which is now considered an obstacle due to its strict stance against American concessions to the Iranians. In case of a U.S. insistence to reach an agreement (with Iran) that angers the Israel, the latter could push itself towards Arab countries to achieve the necessary regional balance. Israel is currently participating, from a distance, alongside an alliance that's publicly pressuring the American administration of Barack Obama against being lenient in the negotiations with Tehran; however, it's not an Israeli-Gulf alliance which can be counted on as Israeli disputes with Arabs of the Gulf regarding Palestine and Syria are not only major and many but also difficult to overcome.

Some hashtags are more equal than others
Diana Moukalled/Asharq Al Awsat
Tuesday, 20 Jan, 2015
Do you remember last year’s #BringBackOurGirls solidarity campaign? It was launched in response to the abduction of around 300 girls from their school in Nigeria by members of the extremist gang that calls itself Boko Haram. These girls have not been returned to their families, and Boko Haram continues to carry out horrific acts of violence and murder in the areas under its control, with some estimates suggesting the group has killed more than 2,000 people since the start of 2015.
The #BringBackOurGirls campaign attracted support from many notable personalities and organizations from around the world, and was given ample attention from the media, but it quickly withered away—and so here we are today and the girls are still not with their families; they and others kidnapped by the group are still missing. Not only that, the group has also effectively co-opted some of those it has captured into becoming walking human booby traps, forcing them to strap explosives around themselves and detonate them in public places, killing both themselves and countless others. This has happened in more than one operation carried out by Boko Haram. The last and perhaps the most horrific occurred last week when, at the same time that we were preoccupied with the #JeSuisCharlie campaign condemning violence and supporting freedom of speech, a 10-year-old Nigerian girl, under pressure from the extremist group, walked into a crowded market and blew herself up, killing herself and around 20 other people.
So, why did #JeSuisCharlie succeed in galvanizing widespread support, whereas #BringBackOurGirls evidently failed to fulfill its purpose? This comparison can also be expanded to allow us to contrast it with a number of other online campaigns which attracted media attention, including several others which were equally weighty—if not more so—but which did not seem to have the same widespread appeal.
I don’t think it unreasonable when examining the discrepancy between the success of #JeSuisCharlie and the failure of #BringBackOurGirls to bring questions of race, color and social class into the equation. However, I think this would only be part of the answer.
As “citizens” of the social media world, we regularly find ourselves having to react to what we see and hear on it, whether it happens close to us or somewhere more remote. We feel obliged to express ourselves or react in some way, for when you are silent in the world of social media, you wither away and cease to exist. So, here in this world you have no choice but to express your thoughts, your opinions, or clarify a position when faced with this or that event. It is a kind of citizenship, whether you look at it through the usual conception of the word, or the new, much wider one in which we now all participate, whether we have agreed to or not.
The failure of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign shows us how such reactions to events that have just occurred, when we are still caught in the heat of moment, do not in truth help the people affected by those events. The right response requires persistence and seriousness, as well regional and international efforts and the proposal of long-term solutions; none of these seem to have been present in the Nigerian case. So it would have been impossible for a viral campaign such as this to have any effect on Boko Haram, which is led by a man whose actions show him to be mentally unstable and extremely violent. Millions of tweets mean nothing to such a man, who takes refuge in ungoverned territory in Nigeria, coming out now and again to kill and abduct as he pleases.
However, such solidarity campaigns, particularly those that receive much attention on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, are not bad things in themselves, even if they don’t always end up achieving something tangible on the ground. The difference between #JeSuisCharlie and #BringBackOurGirls makes this point clear: expressing an opinion, having a reaction, spreading awareness, or using slogans; all these things are cerebral in nature. Finding effective solutions to problems and adequately confronting crises would seem to be beyond some of the organizations seeking to mobilize public opinion and action via social media. Solutions can only be applied by governments and decision-makers in different countries.
#JeSuisCharlie was taken up by world leaders, even those who do not necessarily believe in free speech or who seek to limit it themselves. But the furor surrounding this slogan was much stronger than any refusal or reluctance to get behind it. #BringBackOurGirls, on the other hand, was an unfortunate, “orphan slogan,” one, which like the country it relates to, has no-one to support, help or promote it.