What Hamas wants (mostly from Egypt?)

Gaza Clash Escalates With Deadliest Israeli Strike - NYTimes.com

David Kirkpatrick reports:

Reda Fahmy, a member of Egypt’s upper house of Parliament and of the nation’s dominant Islamist party, who is following the talks, said Hamas’s position was just as unequivocal. “Hamas has one clear and specific demand: for the siege to be completely lifted from Gaza,” he said. “It’s not reasonable that every now and then Israel decides to level Gaza to the ground, and then we decide to sit down and talk about it after it is done. On the Israeli part, they want to stop the missiles from one side. How is that?”

He added: “If they stop the aircraft from shooting, Hamas will then stop its missiles. But violence couldn’t be stopped from one side.”

Hamas’s aggressive stance in the cease-fire talks is the first test of the group’s belief that the Arab Spring and the rise in Islamist influence around the region have strengthened its political hand, both against Israel and against Hamas’s Palestinian rivals, who now control the West Bank with Western backing.

It also puts intense new pressure on President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt, a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who was known for his fiery speeches defending Hamas and denouncing Israel. Mr. Morsi must now balance the conflicting demands of an Egyptian public that is deeply sympathetic to Hamas and the Palestinian cause against Western pleadings to help broker a peace and Egypt’s need for regional stability to help revive its moribund economy.

Indeed, the Egyptian-led cease-fire talks illustrate the diverging paths of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, a Palestinian offshoot of the original Egyptian Islamist group. Hamas has evolved into a more militant insurgency and is labeled a terrorist organization by the United States and Israel, while the Brotherhood has effectively become Egypt’s ruling party. Mr. Fahmy said in an interview in March that the Brotherhood’s new responsibilities required a step back from its ideological cousins in Hamas, and even a new push to persuade the group to compromise.

Lifting the blockade would be unlikely to happen on the Israeli side, so it's essentially about the Egyptian side. Morsi did not want to be tackling this so early, and any solution will be quite complicated. He has not lifted the blockade thus far, although he could have, and that's because the Egyptian security establishment is nervous about being made responsible for Gaza — and the idea that the Israelis will just dump it on Egypt's lap and make Cairo responsible for it. Can't blame them on that.

Also see this.

At Ramallah protest, Hamas’ green overcomes Fatah's yellow

 At Ramallah protest, Hamas’ green overcomes Fatah's yellow

Amira Hass, reporting for Haaretz on a protest in Ramallah: 

This wasn't just a show of strength by Hamas, it was a show of weakness by the groups making up the Palestine Liberation Organization, headed by Fatah. The few PLO members who took part in the rally were outnumbered by Hamas people, and when Fatah supporters – probably members of the security forces in civilian clothes – tried to shout out slogans advocating Palestinian unity, they were drowned out by the Hamas protesters, yelling the name of their organization.

More on Hamas' disappointment with Egypt

More on Hamas' disappointment with Egypt

From Nic Pelham's latest NYRB piece:

But Egypt remains the missing piece in Hamas’s regional jigsaw puzzle. With the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’s ideological twin, the Gazan leadership anticipated a rapprochement, and on the night of Mohammed Morsi’s election victory, Hamas loyalists cheered in the streets. Hamas ministers prepared feasibility studies for a highway stretching from North Africa’s farthest reaches to Gaza, and appealed to Gulf labor markets to absorb Gaza’s jobless graduates. The Gaza-Egypt border crossing at Rafah “will open fully and Egypt will supply fuel, medicine, and electricity. No one will be refused entry,” mused Mahmoud al-Zahar, a veteran Hamas leader, as we sat in his garden in July on his return from a meeting with Morsi.

But after the initial welcome, Egypt backed off, swayed both by pressure from western powers negotiating an IMF package and by its security forces’ claims that Gaza was complicit in the August 5 attack. In late September, Prime Minister Haniya arrived in Cairo at the head of a twenty-man Gazan delegation only to find his anticipated audience with Morsi declined and his requests for upgrading ties rebuffed. Egypt, he discovered, remained noncommittal on the Qatari fuel it had blocked after the August 5 attack, on boosting Egypt’s supply of electricity and water to Gaza, and above all, on the launch of a free trade zone on the Gaza-Egypt border that would make Hamas a legitimate trading partner. In a further slight, the foreign ministry described Haniya as a visiting guest, not an official.

Passenger crossings between Gaza and Egypt at the main Rafah terminal, which had reached almost quarter of a million since the start of the year, fell back to levels of a year earlier. And at their common border, Egyptian bulldozers began digging up tunnels with a tenacity Morsi’s predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, had rarely shown. Tunnel traffic dwindled to a third of pre-August 5 levels: had it not been for a significant easing of Israel’s closures on Gaza the impact would have been intense. In a huff, Hamas removed the banner of a smiling Morsi and Haniya holding hands against the backdrop of the pyramids from the walls of its Gaza City parliament, and replaced it with a large portrait of Qatar’s Emir.

Pelham also scores an interview with leading Gaza-based jihadist Abu Walid al-Maqdisi.

Egypt, Israel and Sinai: The need for triangular co-operation

✚ Egypt, Israel and Sinai: The need for triangular co-operation

One of the best analyses of the fallout from the Sinai attack I've read, from The Economist, worth a long quote:

For years Hamas has suppressed jihadists groups in Gaza, especially those espousing puritanical Salafist ideals that hark back to the time of the Prophet Muhammad. Hamas sought to prevent them from attacking hairdressers, internet cafés, Christians and other supposedly decadent influences. But it has been less eager to curb their missile attacks on Israel or to stop them infiltrating Egypt.

More recently, however, Hamas has closed the tunnel complex to slow infiltration and gun-running. If Hamas really wants to please the Egyptian government, it would arrest the 200-odd jihadists still at large in Gaza. Hisham Saidini, a jihadist preacher whom Hamas had freed soon after Ramadan started last month, defended the killing of Egypt’s soldiers on the grounds that they were protecting Jews.

Israel, too, will have to let both Egypt’s security forces and those of Hamas in Gaza control their borders more effectively. Israel may have to allow Hamas to operate in a buffer zone along Gaza’s eastern border. Egypt’s air attack on the jihadists on August 8th was the first time that air power had been deployed in anger by Egypt in Sinai since the war with Israel in 1973, and was co-ordinated with Israel in advance. The Israelis say they have had several discreet high-level talks with the Egyptians since Mr Morsi was sworn in a month ago.

The three governments also need to agree on new economic arrangements. For the past five years, the joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza that fostered smuggling through the tunnels has hugely benefited people in Sinai who are beyond the law—of any country. Opening the borders to legal traffic and trade should lessen the power of jihadists and smugglers in Sinai and Gaza, and thus strengthen the arm of the governments in Cairo and Jerusalem.

Mr Morsi seems well aware of the dilemma. Egypt’s main military academy and senior civil posts have been opened up to the Bedouin, and plans are afoot to improve the peninsula’s several hundred villages, many of which have no piped water. He had already made a point, early in his presidency, of visiting Sinai. He has also hosted Hamas leaders. Before the Sinai attack, he received Mr Haniyeh and discussed definitively lifting Gaza’s siege.

Israel may also have to consider co-operating with Hamas, its avowed enemy. After the attack on August 5th, Israel’s leaders were careful to blame global jihadists rather than Gazans or Hamas. Although Egypt has yet fully to open the crossing at Rafah, Israel has already reopened its one nearby at Kerem Shalom, for trade if not yet for people. With the influence of Islamists in Syria likely to grow in the event of Bashar Assad’s fall, Israel may have to decide whether to accommodate itself to the likes of Hamas lest a still fiercer version of Islamism comes to the fore.

Reports: Ismail Haniyeh seen leading in Hamas Politburo vote

Bye bye Khaled Mashaal?

Is Hamas Politburo leader Khaled Mashaal’s constellation dimming? He’s already announced he’ll be stepping down, and whether or not his next step to be a more active international leader in the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood, if he keeps his word he may not be the man eventually presiding over the (stalled) implementation of “unity” agreement with Fatah that has been sitting dead in the water since Hamas put forward terms that Fatah did not (and could not) accept.

Formally, the talks are on hold because of these internal elections, which occur over several rounds and go on through May[1], after which talks in Cairo will return the main players to the negotiating table. Haaretz has reported that Haniyeh bested Mashaal in the internal vote, and that as a result Mashaal is likely to stay on but turn over military and budgetary oversight to Hanieyh. Xinhua offered more specific details on what has been transpiring in these elections: Haniyeh reportedly secured an “unprecedented” 85 percent of the votes, though his deputies struggled to make gains against Mashaal’s associates and members of the armed wing of Hamas (along with two prisoners released in last year’s prisoner exchange, who seem to have received a massive sympathy vote).

All reports rely on anonymous sourcing, and Hamas has officially denied the Haaretz report, though no word has followed about the Xinhua coverage. It is, however, generally accepted that Hamas is conducting internal elections at this time and that the results will greatly affect the outcome of talks with Abu Mazen over the stalled “unity” agreement.

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Next in Gaza, Palestinian elections or Israeli preemption?

Paul Mutter contributed this commentary — and I have a note at the end.

Ebaa Reqez, an activist who helped organized the “March 15” Movement demonstrations in 2011 that laid the groundwork for the Hamas-Fatah unity agreement I’ve been tracking this week commented on the political sectarianism that is undermining a deal that was always a tenuous proposition:

In Gaza many of the organizers support Fatah and want to end the rule of Hamas. In the West Bank, they want to oust Fatah. And they both used March 15 and afterwards to try to get what they want.

This contest of wills and patronage was clearly illustrated three weeks ago when Hamas presented its “conditions” for becoming part of a unity government, conditions that Fatah partisans – even if they were willing to defy Israeli and American pressure – would balk at because of the key ministries Hamas was demanding control over. The talks in Cairo that were supposed to mark the next step in Palestinian reconciliation are now on hold, and spokesmen from both parties are blaming each other for the collapse of talks.

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Palestinian reconciliation: Hamas' opening gambit

Hamas and Fatah leaders have been meeting Cairo this week to continue hammering out the details of the third unity agreement they’ve tried to reach in the past five years. The agreement would give Mahmoud Abbas the authority to appoint a transitional cabinet, sidelining Hamas and, in theory, his own Fatah party. Officially, Hamas’s top leaders - Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haniyeh - have committed to them. But Al-Ahram, Egypt’s state-owned daily, is reporting that Hamas is determined to secure their own concessions from Abbas in exchange for allowing him to assume the post of interim prime minister. It is not clear which Hamas leaders are pushing these measures, though if there is a concerted effort from within the group, I would not be surprised to see the name of their #2 man in Gaza, Mahmoud Zahhar, pop up.
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Hamas and a Palestinian Spring?

The “Arab Spring” brought hundreds of thousands of activists out into public plazas in the Middle East. Many of those activists have new foreign policy visions in mind - ones that worry both Israel and the U.S. - but so far few have acted to change the status quo. An established Islamist organization stands the best chance of making rhetoric reality. Hamas’ leaders are ideally positioned to accomplish this within the Palestinian political sphere. The Arab Spring has given the Islamist party – still proscribed as a terrorist organization by Israel, the EU and the U.S. – the space in which to turn its military weakness into diplomatic strength.

Evoking the “Arab Spring,” Hamas’ outgoing leader Khaled Mashaal has announced the organization will now commit to popular protests to confront Israel. He has also announced that Hamas might be willing to be party to a two-state solution taking the pre-war 1967 borders between Israel and Jordan as starting points, reiterating a statement made earlier in 2011. At the same time, Hamas is also successfully pursuing membership in the PLO, and may yet reach a deal with Fatah to actually hold the long-deferred Palestinian legislative elections in May 2012.

As Haaretz columnist Zvi Bar’el argues, “Hamas and Fatah are reconciling - not because of Israel’s beaux yeux [how it will look], but because it is in the Palestinians’ interest, and new regional circumstances laid the groundwork for this to come about.”

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The future (or lack thereof) of Hamas in Syria

Good reporting from Tobias Buck in the FT on Hamas' predicament in Syria:

The Syrian leader is outraged that Hamas, a movement he has sponsored and nurtured for years, is refusing to back his regime against the uprising that started earlier this year. Relations are reportedly at breaking point.

Fearful of retribution, and alarmed by the collapse of order, Hamas has evacuated many of its lower-level officials from Syria. “We feel that the situation is very dangerous for Hamas in Syria,” admitted one Gaza-based Hamas official. “They [the Assad regime] are very angry with us, they want us to give support just like Hizbollah [the Lebanese Shia movement] did. But this is impossible for Hamas. The Syrian regime is killing its own people.”

Hamas leaders are keenly aware it can be dangerous to pick the wrong side. “No one wants to make the mistake that [former Palestinian leader Yassir] Arafat made in Kuwait,” said Mostafa Alsawaf, the editor of Alresalah, a pro-Hamas newspaper in the Gaza Strip.

Arafat backed Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1991, and after Iraq’s defeat Kuwait took revenge by expelling some 450,000 Palestinian expatriate workers. Syria is home to about 500,000 Palestinian refugees and their descendants – a potentially huge target for retribution.

The article goes on to note that neither possible alternative headquarters for the Hamas leadership, Egypt and Qatar, are ready to take them in. But that might change, in time, since the movement has friends there.

Last week, flying back from a trip in Rome, I noticed a group of of men dressed in suits with closely-cropped beards and Syrian flag pins on their lapels. Some seemed to be bearing Turkish travel documents — not a passport, but the kind of documents a country might give people without travel documents from their own countries, like political refugees. They spoke Shami Arabic. I suspect they were Syrian Muslim Brothers visiting Cairo.

One thing you can give Hamas credit for (unlike Hizbullah) is that they took a courageous decision not giving support to Assad. It's a dangerous one as the Syrian regime gets increasingly desperate.

Odd timing in Israel/Palestine

This is guest post by Paul Mutter.

Israeli security forces report that they have arrested at least 100 suspected members of Hamas and claim to have foiled multiple bombing and kidnapping plots. These actions would seem to indicate a severe setback for Hamas's influence in the Occupied Territories and undermine prospects for reconciliation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. With the UN vote approaching, the timing of the announcement can only help buttress the Netanyahu government's security credentials after the embarrassment of the August 18th Eilat attacks. The arrests also coincide with a major media and diplomatic campaign by the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian activists ahead of the UN vote for recognition of a Palestinian state.

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US is now pro-Taliban, but still anti-Hamas

Helena Cobban makes a good point: U.S. supports Taliban talks; Still opposing Hamas??

So here are Sec. of State Hillary Clinton and SecDef Bob Gates now saying they support-- and are giving active support to-- the Afghan government's initiative to negotiate with the Taliban. But the U.S. government continues to completely oppose any attempt by any parties, Palestinian or other, to reach out and deal with the Hamas government that, lest we forget, was democratically elected in Palestine in January 2006. How does that work again? And why?

So you back negotiations the antediluvian crazies who hosted the people who killed 3000 of your citizens, but can't touch the people who never attacked you, were legitimately elected and are defending their homeland. Makes a lot of sense.

Lexington and Hamas

I am a fan of the Lexington blog, by the United States editor of the The Economist, who also pens a column in the magazine. He recently had a fine call to build that mosque in reaction to the Park51 controversy. But I have to disagree with a recent post on Hamas, which endorsed the Middle East Quartet's position that Hamas must accept pre-conditions to enter negotiations:

I was delighted at the beginning of this week's Middle East peace summit in Washington to hear George Mitchell, America's peace envoy, nail the much-quoted argument that Hamas should be invited into the peace process in Palestine, just like the IRA was in Northern Ireland. This is what he said:

“Let me say they’re very different… And while we should learn what we can from other processes, each is unique... But on the central point, the reality is that in Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin, the political party that is affiliated with the IRA, did not enter the negotiations until after 15 months had elapsed in the negotiations, and only then because they met two central conditions that had been established. The first was a ceasefire, and the second was a publicly stated commitment to what came to be known as the Mitchell Principles because I was the chairman of the commission that established them.”

Exactly. Of course there will be no final deal on Palestine without the acquiescence of Hamas, which represents at least half of the Palestinian movement and controls the Gaza Strip. Of course it should be at the table at some point. But Hamas has so far locked itself out of the talks by its refusal to accept the three conditions laid down by the international community: a ceasefire, recognising Israel and abiding by previous agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinians. I understand why agreeing to these conditions is difficult for a movement with Hamas's history. But, please, no more IRA comparisons. 

This is disingenuous. First of all, the Mitchell Principles were a pre-condition for all participants in the talks, not just one.  This is important because the biggest feature of the Israel-Palestinian dynamic is imbalance between the two sides, compounded by imbalance in the way the "international community" (really only the United States) deals with them.

Secondly, they did not include any condition that entailed a specific outcome to negotiations, such as a recognition of the state of Israel. Especially when Israel does not recognize any of its own borders — it has never set them! What is Hamas supposed to recognize when it recognizes Israel? The 1967 line (not acceptable to any Israeli government so far)? Eretz Israel, between the Nile and Euphrates, that some still hold dear? The 1948 UN partition plan? You tell me. The whole point of the negotiations is to decide on borders. Or is Hamas supposed to recognize "Israel's right to exist" — in which case, where is the reciprocity when you have an Israeli government that is non-committal about the two-state solution.

Thirdly, both Lexington and Mitchell are forgetting that the Mitchell Principles were a) commitments to going towards certain goals (rejection of violence, disarmament of paramilitary factions, abiding by the terms of all-party negotiations, etc.) and b) not applied immediately, since there were still violent factions as negotiations went on. Clearly they are meant as guidelines to work towards, not prerequisites.

Beyond this, there has been absolutely no effort to woo Hamas into joining talks, or achieving Palestinian reconciliation so that more representative Palestinian negotiating team can come to the negotiations. Quite the opposite: the negotiating team that went to Washington is increasingly seen as unrepresentative of the Palestinians. Since both Fatah and Hamas officials (executive and legislative) have outstayed their electoral terms, neither can be said to be representative. Half of them even less. The lesson is that healing the Palestinian house should be a more important first step, especially when no one really has much faith in the current negotiations.

Lexington could have raised other, much more crucial issues about Hamas. Most notably, he could have asked whether it is truly interested in a negotiated settlement (there have been encouraging signs, but overall ambiguity remains) and is able to withstand pressure from allies that have their own interests to pursue (i.e. Iran and Syria). He could have also asked whether the current Israeli government should also be imposed conditions and pressures, most notably an immediate freeze of settlements, and an acceptance of past negotiations and UN resolutions (again here we find ambiguity, to say the least). It's a shame he didn't.   

Update: Here Henry Siegman says US Hamas policy blocks Middle East peace.

The Mabhouh tapes, remixed


"Smile you're on candid camera."

Having started watching the remarkable film released by the Dubai police showing the comings and goings of Mohamed Mabhouh and his assassins on CCTVs, I quickly became bored. The problem: no sound from all these cameras. If I'm going to sit down and watch 27 minutes of surveillance footage, I need a soundtrack. But what to choose?

"Soldier of love"Let's face it, the Mabhouh assassination was almost certainly carried out by our cousins the Israelis. And what are they known for, apart from assassinations, the Dahiyeh Doctrine and its mass targeting of civilians, and of course their traditional foods like hummus and falafel?

The answer: execrable, schmaltzy pop music (remember Dana International?)

So I grabbed the Mabhouh footage and added as a soundtrack the well-known (well, in Israel) singer Eyal Golan's 1999 album, Soldier of Love. Watch the results below — it grows on you.

Click here to view or right-click to download

I think beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and spy scandals, this video really shows to what extent to which all of our comings and goings are increasingly monitored. It's a little bit creepy — not just because this may be the world's first extensively taped assassination operation, but also because it leaves you with the sense that you are always being watched.

It's interesting that this assassination has gotten so much attention. Some of it, notably over the forgery of passports and identity theft, is entirely warranted. I hope the countries concerned will act strongly. But over the larger question of its impact on the conflict, we're still not sure what Mahbouh's death means. Was he an indispensable contact with the Iranians? What secrets died with him? What does it mean for Hamas, especially if reports that it was infiltrated are true? And what does it mean for its relations with Fatah if reports that former Fatah security men were involved are true? Beyond the pseudo-glamour of all this cloak-and-dagger stuff (and if you watch the tape, in fact it's hardly glamorous and the hit team looks like they're on a corporate team-building exercise), there are a lot of unanswered questions here. Not to mention, of course, what mega hit job is being planned to avenge both Mabhouh's and (for Hizbullah) Imad Mughnieyh's death... 

Now for some Mabhouh-related links:

 

Links for Dec.26.09 to Dec.28.09

Get Elected; or, al-Baradei Tryin’ (Part 1 of ???) « THE BOURSA EXCHANGE | TBE translates that ElBaradei interview from al-Shorouq. ✪ Could the Mullahs Fall This Time? - The Daily Beast | Interesting ruminations on whether Iran is near a revolution and the importance of Ashura as a symbol of the fight for justice. ✪ Op-Ed Columnist - The Big Zero - NYTimes.com | Economically, the decade produced nothing. ✪ The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب: Saudi Wahhabi Physiognomy: this man should be teaching at KAUST | Funny. ✪ Rasheed el-Enany on modern Arabic lit: not quite a Renaissance | Al-Masry Al-Youm | "I think the status of translated Arabic literature is better than it's ever been." ✪ Two Hamas members killed in Beirut explosion | Unusual... this attack was in a safe, Hizbullah-controlled area. ✪ Activists appeal to Mubarak over entry into Gaza - Yahoo! News |
Egypt said it would prevent their passage because of the "sensitive situation" in Gaza and warned Monday of legal repercussions for anyone defying the ban. Around 1,300 international delegates from 42 countries have signed up to join the Gaza Freedom March which was due to enter Gaza via Egypt during the last week of December.
Exclusive excerpt from Joe Sacco’s groundbreaking new book: Footnotes in Gaza | I'm awaiting my copy of this book from this great cartoonist. ✪ Sic Semper Tyrannis : Men on Horseback | Pat Lang on the Afghan policy war inside the Obama administration. ✪ Ardebili's laptop - Laura Rozen - POLITICO.com | Iran holding hikers and others because US holding Iranians? ✪ Anis Sayigh: and Israeli history of letter bombs | Angry Arab has an interesting post on the Israeli use of letter bombs against civilians. ✪ Officials Point to Suspect’s Claim of Qaeda Ties in Yemen - NYTimes.com | Rather suspicious, this Yemen angle at a time when people are trying to confuse the Huthis and al-Qaeda... ✪ The Lives They Lived - Ben Ali - The Chili That Shaped a Family - NYTimes.com | Sausages and chilli, served to Obama by an Indian Muslim Trinidadian. ✪ Mainstreaming the Mad Iran Bombers | Marc Lynch | Lynch on NYT op-ed's call for war. ✪ The Nevada gambler, al-Qaida, the CIA and the mother of all cons | The Guardian | "Playboy magazine has revealed that the CIA fell victim to an elaborate con by a compulsive gambler who claimed to have developed software that discovered al-Jazeera broadcasts were being used to transmit messages to terrorists buried deep in America."
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Links for Dec.21.09 to Dec.23.09

Middle East Online | The End of Brotherly Love? | Tarek Kahlaoui on the Egyptian MB. * The Israel Lobby and the Prospects for Middle East Peace « P U L S E | Lectures by Stephen Walt. * Israeli Organ Trafficking and Theft: From Moldova to Palestine | Investigation by Washigton Report. * Doctor admits Israeli pathologists harvested organs without consent | World news | The Guardian | Unbelievable. * Israel gives response to Hamas prisoner swap offer | "Israel relayed its response to the proposed swap and handed over a list of Palestinians it wants exile." * Jimmy Carter to U.S. Jews: Forgive me for stigmatizing Israel - Haaretz - Israel News | WTF? * The Fascination of Israel – Forward.com | Review of three books on Israel. * «Il y a 40.000 Chinois en Algérie» | 40,000 Chinese in Algeria, 2000 Algerians in China. * Meedan | Moroccan and Jordanian forces join Saudi offensive against Houthis. | Handle with care, chief source appears to be Spanish press. * In Shift, Oren Calls J Street ‘A Unique Problem’ – Forward.com | Israel ambassador ramps up the attack on new lobby. * IRIN Middle East | EGYPT-ISRAEL: Perilous journey to the promised land | Middle East | Egypt Israel | Migration Refugees/IDPs | Feature | On sub-Saharan migration to Israel via Egypt. * Palestinians shoot at Egypt | Response to the collapsing of tunnels that have claimed many Palestinian lives? * Egypt's ailing cotton industry needs shake-up | Reuters | Industry risks a "slow death." * Middle East Report Online: Broken Taboos in Post-Election Iran by Ziba Mir-Hosseini | On the Green Movement and gender issues. * Egypt rebukes Hamas over 'foot-dragging' in Palestinian reconciliation - Israel News, Ynetnews | Omar Suleiman:
Suleiman said Egypt had promised Hamas it would address the terror group's reservations vis-à-vis the reconciliation deal "after they sign and begin to implement it." He said Hamas' concerns "lacked substance," adding that the agreement would not be revised. "If it will (be changed), I'll resign," said Suleiman.
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Links for 11.19.09 to 11.24.09

Middle East Report 253: Beyond Compare by Julie Peteet | On the similarities of the Israeli occupation to Apartheid, its differences, and a call for a new advocacy strategy. ✪ Newsweek Reporter's Ordeal in Iran | Newsweek International | Newsweek.com | Maziar Bahari's story. ✪ The sixth war - The National Newspaper | Greg Johnsen on the Huthi-Saudi-Yemeni war(s), and their socio-political underpinnings. ✪ Daily News Egypt - Shalit Release Imminent, Claim Egyptian And Israeli Press | Heard that before - who will be the spoiler for prisoner exchanges now? ✪ Morocco: Endangered 'Model'? | Human Rights Watch | HRW's Eric Goldstein on Morocco's slide to more and more rights abuses. ✪ MEI - Middle East International | Another new issue. ✪ Saudi Arabia goes to war | Mai Yamani | On Riyadh's attack on Huthis marks the first solo military venture for the Saudi army. ✪ Hey, preacher – leave those kids alone | Ariane Sherine | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk | I'm a rabid atheist and even I think this goes too far. People can choose sooner or later anyway, parents have rights over their kids. But of course religious schools should get no state funding. ✪ Syria's crusade for tourism | Travel | The Guardian | Damascus wants to double the number of tourists that visit it. Quick, get there before the country is ruined... ✪ Homeland Security Today - preparedness and security news - Obama Dilutes Power of Top Intel Officer; Elevates DCI | Interesting piece on failed attempts to restructure US intelligence community, caused by fight between CIA and DNI. ✪ International Journal of Žižek Studies | It would be funny if this was satire, but it's not. ✪ Interview / Reporter Helen Thomas criticizes Obama's Mideast peace efforts - Haaretz | "I don't think they are working very hard for peace." ✪ Will Turkey benefit from Ergenekon? - Le Monde diplomatique | Remnants of Turkey's deep state and Cold War networks. ✪ Le Figaro - La lutte des princes saoudiens pour succéder au roi Abdallah | As Sarkozy visits, creepy old geezer princes fight for kingdom. ✪ Little behind Obama's tough Mideast talk: analysts - Yahoo! News | In foreign as in domestic policy, Obama has no balls.
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Links for 10.13.09

Essay - The Collider, the Particle and a Theory About Fate - NYTimes.com | Speaking of the Large Hadron Collider, this is pretty cool. ✪ BBC NEWS | Europe | 'Al-Qaeda-link' Cern worker held | Terrorist attack of potentially cosmic proportions: "The suspect had been working on the LHC Beauty (LHCb) experiment, which is investigating the slight differences between matter and anti-matter by studying a type of particle called the "beauty quark"." ✪ Kurdistan Halts Oil Exports - NYTimes.com | Over payment dispute with central government. ✪ AFP: Hamas claims member tortured to death in Egypt jail | In other words, a Hamas member is treated like an Egyptian. ✪ Erotic Poet Cavafy’s Trace Fades in Egypt’s Mythic Alexandria - Bloomberg.com | The usual nostalgia for cosmopolitan Alexandria. Do visit the Cavafy museum when in Alex, though. ✪ Loonwatch.com - "The Mooslims, they're heeere!" | A newish website that tracks Islamophobia, with a particular lookout for the kind of people who write for Middle East Forum and other reflexively anti-Muslim, anti-Arab sites. ✪ Middle East: a Belgian solution? | Khaled Diab | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk | This is a funny, surreal headline but Khaled Diab is very misinformed about Belgian politics: the Belgian model is not pragmatic compromise, but rather wasteful deadlock. ✪ Ben Barka: Le dossier secret de la gendarmerie - affaire ben barka - leJDD.fr | Ben Barka's body said to have been incinerated outside of Paris. ✪ Tariq Ali: Ahmed Rashid's War | Nasty attack on Ahmed Rashid by Tariq Ali. Don't know if any of this is true, but Ali alleged Rashid operates on behalf of Hamid Karzai. ✪ Middle East News | Egypt detains 24 Muslim Brotherhood members | More zero-tolerance in Egypt towards people protesting in solidarity with Palestinians. ✪ Algerian Islamists in the Era of Reconciliation « The Moor Next Door | On the Algerian branch of the Muslim Brothers, and their relationship with the regime. ✪ New Statesman - Textbook injustice in Gaza | Gazan children go back to school with few textbooks, and anything else for that matter. ✪ FT.com / UK - Airline flies on natural gas | Qatar experiments with natural gas-derived kerosene, which makes sense for the country with the world's biggest gas fields. ✪ Netanyahu: No war crimes trials for Israelis - Yahoo! News | One day there will be many trials ya Bibi... and until then Israeli officials will be less and less able to travel abroad. ✪ Palestinian Memo says Hopes in Obama 'Evaporated' Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | "JERUSALEM, (AP) – An internal document circulated among members of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' political party says all hopes placed in the Obama administration "have evaporated" because of alleged White House backtracking on key issues to the Palestinians."
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Links for 08.16.09 to 08.17.09

U.S. group invests tax-free millions in East Jerusalem land - Haaretz - Israel News | Prosecute them: "American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, a nonprofit organization that sends millions of shekels worth of donations to Israel every year for clearly political purposes, such as buying Arab properties in East Jerusalem, is registered in the United States as an organization that funds educational institutes in Israel." ✪ Palestinian state is not synonym for terrorist entity - Haaretz - Israel News | "The Jewish army's work in the territories we still call "Judea and Samaria" is done by non-Jews: Arab police, American instructors, European money. How has Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman put it? Paradise." ✪ Al-Ahram Weekly | Region | Hamas faces Gelgelt | On links between the Salafist Jihadist group and "our son of a bitch" Muhammad Dahlan. ✪ Is the Trans-Sahara Gas Pipeline a Viable Project? The Impact of Terrorism Risk - The Jamestown Foundation | To me this is a ridiculous idea but what do I know? ✪ Al-Ahram Weekly | Culture | Tractatus Franco-Arabicus | A Wittgensteinian review of Sonallah Ibrahim's latest.
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Links for 07.14.09 to 07.18.09

Why is Saudi Arabia buying up African farmland? | FP Passport | More Arab landgrabs in sub-Saharan Africa. Will NBC's The Wanted Endanger Foreign Correspondents? | The New York Observer | This looks like a really stupid idea. WPR Article | The End of Political Islam? | No, it's not. A good passage from this story:
The basic goal of all Islamists, from Salafis to the Muslim Brotherhood, is the revival of Muslim society, and the reversal of the perceived decline it has been experiencing for several centuries. All Islamists agree that this decline occurred because of a shift from the original foundations of its greatness, Islam. Thus, they agree that revival means the re-Islamicization of society through ridding it of what they consider corrupting Western ideas, such as secularization.
Hamas makes feature film about slain militant - Yahoo! News | "the screenplay was penned by Mahmoud Zahar, the Gaza strongman seen as one of the architects of the group's violent takeover of Gaza two years ago." It'd be nice if Zahar was referred to as Hamas' foreign minister, and also if wasn't such an idiot for spending money on this at this time. Who does he think he is, Saddam Hussein or Muammar Qadhafi? BBC NEWS | Middle East | Saudi 'genie' sued for harassment | About time that genies learn that they are not beyond the law. Boston Review — Helena Cobban: Peace Out | The decline of Israel's progressive movement, by Helena Cobban.
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