Weekend long read

1) Khaled Abu Toameh takes a look at Lebanese reactions to a proposed new law concerning the management of Palestinian refugee camps.

“Like most Arab countries, Lebanon has long treated Palestinians as second-class citizens. It has been depriving them of basic rights, including citizenship, employment, heath care, education, social services and property ownership. The vast majority of the 450,000 Palestinians living in Lebanon do not have Lebanese citizenship.

In 2001, the Lebanese Parliament passed a law prohibiting Palestinians from owning property, and Lebanese law also restricts their ability to work in as many as 20 professions. Lebanon continues to ignore calls by various human rights groups to the Lebanese authorities to end discrimination against Palestinians.”

2) At the INSS, Eldad Shavit and Sima Shine examine ‘The Dispute Between the United States and Iran – Scenarios and Implications’.

“The dispute between the United States and Iran is taking place on two levels: The American administration is adhering to its policy of placing “maximum pressure” on the Iranian regime, while Iran is adopting a new policy in place of the “tolerance” that it had demonstrated thus far, in order to show the United States, and especially the other countries that signed the Nuclear Agreement—particularly the European partners—the costs they are liable to pay for continuing the sanctions. At the same time, in an attempt to prevent a deterioration, given the tensions that have developed recently in the Gulf, efforts are being made to find channels of dialogue between the two countries. At present, assuming that Iran is not interested in “upsetting the apple cart,” one of following three main scenarios could develop: a continuation of the gradual and cautious erosion (over time) of the Iranian commitments according to the agreement (JCPOA); Iran’s quick withdrawal from its commitments, including from fulfilling the IAEA’s Additional Protocol, and significantly reducing cooperation with the agency; or the beginning of new negotiations with the Trump administration.”

3) Mosaic Magazine has a podcast interview with Yaakov Katz about his new book.

“On September 6, 2007, shortly after midnight, Israeli planes advanced on Deir ez-Zour in the desert of eastern Syria. Israel often flew into Syrian air space as a warning to President Bashar al-Assad, but this time there was no warning and no explanation. The planes were on a covert mission with one goal: to destroy a nuclear reactor being built, with the aid of North Korea, under a tight veil of secrecy. The pilots succeeded brilliantly, and Israel stopped Syria from becoming a nuclear-armed state: a nightmare in the Middle East.

That’s the story Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief Yaakov Katz tells in his latest book Shadow Strike: Inside Israel’s Secret Mission to Eliminate Syrian Nuclear Power.”

4) MEMRI reports on the situation in Sudan.

“The honeymoon is over in Khartoum. There was a short period of ambiguity and hope between April 11, 2019 when Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir was removed from power by his own generals and June 3, 2019 when security forces brutally killed over a hundred peaceful demonstrators and subsequently called for snap elections in seven months.

During that short seven-week period, there was a chance, and even some real indications, that a very Sudanese solution – fragile, confused, but hopeful – would have been found along the lines of previous transitions from military dictatorship to civilian rule. Hopes that 2019 would be something of a repeat of 1964 and 1985 have, at least for now, been dashed although it should not be forgotten that both previous transitions to democracy were brief and led back to dictatorship after a few years. Sudan is closer to the edge and it seems that a much more violent future could be in the cards if another misstep is made.”

 

 

Weekend long read

1) Jonathan Spyer takes a look at “Arab Spring: the Second Coming?”.

“The current instability in Algeria, Sudan and Libya has led to some excited western media coverage heralding a second chapter of the Arab Spring.  Those celebrating should be careful what they wish for. The Arab uprisings of 2010-11 and the subsequent years began with great hope but with the partial exception of Tunisia, left only strife, war and state fragmentation in their wake. One can only wish the protestors much luck, while noting that the record suggests that societies lacking civil society traditions and institutions are unlikely to achieve better governance through mass action.”

2) The ITIC reports on “Hamas’s financial aid to the wounded and the families of those killed in the Return Marches”.

“Right from the outset of the march project, Hamas realized that the marches were exacting a heavy toll of dead and wounded, many of them Hamas operatives, who were killed or wounded in clashes with IDF soldiers near the security fence. Therefore, the treatment of the wounded, and assistance to the families of those killed, has preoccupied Hamas since the start of the marches. Despite its economic difficulties, Hamas allocated large sums of money, initially amounting to tens of thousands of dollars, which subsequently rose to hundreds of thousands and reached millions of dollars. Senior Hamas figures reiterated the importance of the aid, and made sure to visit the wounded, including those hospitalized abroad. Hamas’s concern for the wounded and the families of those killed is also intended to encourage the continued participation of the Gazan population in the marches and halt the public criticism of its negligence in caring for the wounded, which began to be voiced as the marches continued.”

3) At Legal Insurrection, Petra Marquardt-Bigman discusses “Anti-Israel bias at Human Rights Watch”.

“Israel has refused to renew a visa for Omar Shakir of Human Rights Watch (HRW) to remain in Israel as a human rights worker, based on his long history of anti-Israel activism. This has caused a storm of controversy and lawsuits, leading to the fair question: Is Shakir entitled to a work visa to promote human rights if what he really is promoting is anti-Israel activism and the destruction of Israel?

Not surprisingly, the international media has taken Shakir’s side.”

4) Jonathan Schanzer lays out The Gaza Conundrum at Commentary Magazine.

“The IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) currently facilitates the entry of thousands of truckloads of goods to enter the Gaza Strip every day, even as a military blockade remains in place to block dual-use materials and sophisticated weaponry from the Gaza Strip. In other words, Israel has two policies. One is to isolate Hamas, and the other is to allow services to be rendered to the Gazan people.

Israel, for the sake of calm, has even engaged with the Turks and the Qataris, despite both countries’ avowed anti-Zionism and support for Hamas. It has permitted them to provide funds and other assistance to the coastal enclave. Gaza’s suffering continues, however, because Hamas continues to divert funds for commando tunnels, rockets, and other tools of war. And under Hamas rule, there is not much political space to challenge these policies. Anti-Israel sentiment is the only permissible form of protest. This has only served to further radicalize a population that has for years been fed a steady diet of hate.”

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BBC News website amplifies the NGO echo-chamber

 

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) The ITIC reports on the “Nature and Functioning of the Supreme National Authority of the Return Marches and Lifting the Siege”.

“A year has passed since the return march project began. Preparations for the project began in early 2018 as an initiative of social activists and organizations operating in the Gaza Strip. In the early stages, when the idea was being formulated, the organizers of the march claimed that the events would not be of a political nature, that official representatives of the various organizations would not participate, and that there would be no violence. Hamas supported the idea of the marches, but preferred to remain behind the scenes in the initial preparation stage. However, Hamas quickly took over the reins and took control of the return marches, even before the first march took place, on March 30, 2018. The longer the marches continued, the greater the importance attached to them by Hamas.”

2) At the INSS, Sarah J Feuer analyses the unrest in North Africa.

“With the apparent defeat of the Islamic State (ISIS), the approaching end to the civil war in Syria, and sovereignty returning to Iraq, the Middle East has appeared to settle into a relative, if tense, calm. Across North Africa, however, where the upheavals began eight years ago, recent weeks have witnessed a growing unrest reminiscent of the Arab Spring’s early days. Though ostensibly unrelated, the removal of longtime autocrats in Algeria and Sudan, and an emerging strongman’s bid for hegemony in Libya, collectively point to competing visions for a post-Arab Spring order whose fate remains uncertain.”

3) Writing at Bloomberg, Daniel Gordis argues that “Israel’s Election Didn’t Kill Hope for Peace. It Was Already Dead.

“Many Israelis still hope for peace, and many (though a steadily decreasing number) still favor a two-state solution. But few imagine that there is any chance for either in the coming years. U.S. President Donald Trump has long promised to deliver the “deal of the century,” but Israelis are largely of two minds on that: Many believe it will never see the light of day; most of the rest think that because the Palestinians have already declared the program “born dead,” it makes no difference what Israelis think of it.

There is no “deal” now or in the foreseeable future primarily because the Palestinians have still not made peace with the idea that a Jewish state is here to stay. When Hamas, which controls Gaza, started its “March of Return” last year, it promised that the march would mark the beginning of the “liberation of all of Palestine, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.” The march, in other words, was simply the latest chapter in Hamas’s drive to destroy the Jewish state.”

4) At the JCPA Pinhas Inbari takes a look behind the scenes of the formation of the new PA government about which BBC audiences have yet to hear.

“On April 13, 2019, Dr. Muhammad Shtayyeh announced the formation of his new Palestinian Authority government. The announcement followed earlier reports he was going to ask President Mahmoud Abbas to give him an extension to complete his task of government formation. […]

The reason for the extension was that he wanted to meet the challenge of defining the government as a broad, Palestinian “PLO government” as pre-announced. He also wanted to include personalities from the diaspora who had been invited to Ramallah.

However, the leading factions of the PLO – the Democratic Front and the Popular Front – are allied with Hamas, and they refused to participate. The Fatah faction in the West Bank rejected the “outsiders.”  They wanted all of the portfolios to be kept in local Fatah’s hands – except for a few, such as Riad Malki, a PFLP associate.

For this reason, Shtayyeh’s administration is not a “PLO government” as pre-designed, but only “just” a government.”

 

Selective BBC reporting on explosions in Sudan implies Israeli involvement

In the early hours of May 6th confused reports began to emerge concerning explosions in Khartoum.

“The Hezbollah-affiliated television channel Al-Mayadeen and foreign media outlets quoted a message issued by the Sudanese army saying that Sudanese forces shot down an Israeli unmanned aerial vehicle north of the capital of Khartoum overnight Tuesday. Sudanese citizens reported hearing loud explosions during the night. Officials in the Sudanese army arrived at the scene of the strike.

The Al-Araby al-Jadeed newspaper reported overnight Tuesday that “foreign planes” had struck a target in Omdurman, in the capital state of Khartoum, citing Sudanese military officials described as “credible”.

 According to the report, which has not been officially confirmed, a military source said that “members of the Air Defense Command in Sudan hit targets, with the assumption being that the strike was carried out by a warplane in the area of Wadi Seidna in the city of Omdurman.”

The Sudanese Army spokesman Colonel Al-Sawarmy Khaled Saad said in an interview with Arabic-language Sky News Arabia news channel on Wednesday that the army’s Air Defense systems intercepted overnight Tuesday a “moving object that resembles a plane or a rocket’ in the area of the city of Omdurman.

 In contrast to reports in Arab media outlets, the spokesman denied the military facilities were targeted by a domestic or foreign source. He claimed that the Air Defense forces intercepted the object after finding it suspicious.

 According to the report, senior officials in the Sudanese army arrived at the scene of the strike but have yet to ascertain the target of the attack.”

Various media organisations ran the story – the details of which have still not been confirmed at the time of writing – with speculation of Israeli involvement being promoted despite the fact that the only apparent supporting ‘evidence’ was guesswork.

“Witnesses in Omdurman said they saw and heard large explosions at a military site near the city, which sits across the Nile River from the capital Khartoum, the Al-Araby news outlet reported.

Witnesses told the paper they thought the planes had come from Israel, which has been fingered for airstrikes in Sudan in the recent past.”

Whilst the BBC did not publish an article on the topic on its English language BBC News website, Twitter followers of its World Service Africa Editor Mary Harper received the following Tweet.

Harper Twitter

The attached link leads to the BBC News website’s live ‘Africa round-up’ page for May 6th where this item appeared:

Harper Sudan Africa live pge

No stand-alone report on the topic appeared on the website’s Africa or Middle East pages.

Additionally, followers of the BBC Arabic Twitter account received the Tweet below.

BBC Arabic tweet Sudan

The link in that Tweet leads to an article on the BBC Arabic website which also promotes the idea of IsraeliBBC Arabic art Sudan involvement in the incident despite – as noted by the Deputy Editor in Chief of the Sudan Tribune – there being no confirmation of that particular version of events or indeed any other.

One obvious question which arises is why the BBC considered this story suitable for publication on its Arabic language website but not on its English language equivalent.

Another notable point is that if the BBC is going to promote the notion that Israeli planes attacked “Sudanese military installations” despite the lack of any concrete evidence to support that claim, then obviously there is also a need to include factual information concerning the history of Iranian arms smuggling to Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip via Sudan rather than just the standard ‘Israel says’-type mention at the end of the BBC Arabic report.

 

 

Speculation, speculation, speculation: BBC ‘news’ report on Sudan fire

Wednesday morning’s BBC World Service news reported, among other things, a fire in an ammunition factory in Sudan. As the day progressed, a Sudanese government minister came up with a story about “four radar-evading aircraft” that “appeared to come from the east” – and the BBC rushed to publish. 

So what do we have in the story as far as facts and hard evidence goes? Well; nothing.

“The Sudanese government says it believes Israel was responsible” 

“Information Minister Ahmed Belal Osman said: “We think Israel did the bombing”

[emphasis added]

But why should a mere lack of facts spoil a dramatic story?

Further commentary by BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus adds an even more bizarre tone to the article: 

“At this stage there is no way of knowing who was responsible for the air attack against the Yarmouk arms factory in Khartoum.” [emphasis added]

Quite, and therefore an article based entirely on speculation and rumors promoted by one of the world’s less salubrious regimes is rather pointless. But it is interesting that Marcus seems to accept that there was an “air attack”, despite the lack of hard evidence. 

It is especially noteworthy because the Governor of Khartoum, whom one assumes is likely to be more up to date on the situation than a BBC correspondent in London, has denied that an air strike occurred at all. 

“Khartoum State Governor Abdel Rahman Al-Khidir said in a televised statement that the cause of the incident is not clear yet but he discounted the possibility of foreign entities being involved.

His statement was clearly aiming to quell wildly spreading rumours that the factory was hit by an airstrike. Some witnesses told Sudan Tribune that the explosion occurred after a sound resembling that of a rocket was heard and the sky lit up. There is also a rumor that an airplane carrying military materiel crashed on the site of the factory but Sudan Tribune was not able to independently verify those claims.

Al-Khidir said that the explosion probably happened at the main storage facility of the large factory.

SAF’s [Sudanese Armed Forces] spokesman Al-Sawarmi Khalid Saad said that an internal explosion occurred in one of the storage facilities and the fire spread due to the plenty of grass in the area. He confirmed that they already launched an investigation into the incident.

An anonymous police source also told AFP that the explosion erupted during a routine maintenance operation, adding that the authorities continue to count the losses.

A similar explosion occurred at the same factory in August 2006 leading to the injury of seven SAF members. The authorities attributed the incident at the time to an electric short circuit.”

Nevertheless, Marcus continues: 

“While the Sudanese authorities are yet to provide any evidence for their accusation that it was Israel, this is by no means as outlandish as it might sound” [emphasis added]

Ah, the suspense!

“For a bitter secret war has been going on for a number of years between Israel and Hamas” [emphasis added]

That must be one of the worst kept secrets on the planet: except from some BBC correspondents, apparently. 

Perhaps – had they been a little less caught up in the drama of speculation about Israeli “radar-evading aircraft” – BBC journalists could have asked the Sudanese government minister about the apparent claims by the Sudanese opposition that the munitions factory in question belongs to the Iranian Republican Guard, or why it is situated in such close proximity to a busy city. 

There might have been a real story in that.