Thanks to the Trump administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan, the topic of Israel annexing parts of the West Bank has moved from the fringe to the center of Israeli politics. The apparent noninvolvement of the United States State Department in the issue has prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to state his confidence that annexation will happen within “a few months,” or before the American presidential election in November.
I am not someone who frets over the Israeli “occupation” of the West Bank: in my view, the Palestinians long ago would have enjoyed self-rule had they stopped murdering Israelis. I ignore the Clinton Parameters, the former American president’s compromise formula to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict two decades ago.… Seguir leyendo »
With very few exceptions, liberals in the United States favor high levels of immigration; and the American left goes further, calling to “Abolish ICE” (a reference to Immigration Customs and Enforcement, America’s border security agency). But developments in Europe suggest this near-unanimity could one day shatter.
Since the end of World War II, Europe’s left has overwhelmingly seen the free movement of labor and immigration as the best ways to challenge corporate interests; in the words of progressive writer David Adler (on whose article, “Meet Europe’s Left Nationalists,” I have relied here), these “hastened the pace of history and heightened capitalism’s contradictions.”… Seguir leyendo »
In the words of a veteran Washington hand, the problem of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the main U.N. agency dealing with Palestinians, is always important but never urgent.
Well, it just became urgent.
That’s because President Trump tweeted “with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?” Then, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley added that the U.S. government is prepared to cut off funds to UNRWA. And, Axios reported, a U.S. payment of $125 million was not delivered (though that was later denied).… Seguir leyendo »
“The novelty and magnitude of Europe’s predicament make it difficult to understand, tempting to overlook, and nearly impossible to predict. Europe marches us all into terra incognita.” That’s how I closed an article 10 years ago on the topic of Islam’s future in Europe. Now, thanks to elections in France and Austria, an answer is emerging: Europeans appear not ready to “go gentle into that good night” but will “rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
True, the elites, as symbolized by Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, remain in deep denial about the issues of immigration, Islamism and identity. What I call the Six Ps (politicians, press, police, prosecutors, professors and priests) refuse to acknowledge the fundamental societal changes and enormous tensions their policies are creating.… Seguir leyendo »
The Republic of Turkey, long a democratizing Muslim country solidly in the Western camp, now finds itself internally racked and at the center of two external crises, the civil war in next-door Syria and the illegal immigration that is changing European politics. The prospects for Turkey and its neighbors are worrisome, if not ominous.
The key development was the coming to power of Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2002, when a fluke election outcome gave him total control of the government, which he then brilliantly parlayed into a personal dominion. After years of restraint and modesty, his real personality — grandiloquent, Islamist and aggressive — came out.… Seguir leyendo »
Oil is the Middle East’s glamor product, sought after by the entire world and bringing the region wealth beyond the dreams of avarice. But water is the mundane resource that matters even more to locals for, without it, they face the horrible choice of leaving their homes or perishing within them.
That choice may sound hyperbolic, but the threat is real. Egypt stands out as having the largest population at risk and being the country, other than Iraq and Yemen, with the most existential hydrologic problem.
As every schoolchild learns, Egypt is the gift of the Nile and the Nile is by far the globe’s longest river.… Seguir leyendo »
At a time of civil war, anarchy, extremism and impoverishment in the Middle East, the city-states of Dubai and Abu Dhabi stand out as the places where Arabic speakers are flourishing, innovating and offering a model for moving forward.
But can it last? I recently visited the United Arab Emirates to seek answers.
To begin with, some basic facts: Once called the Trucial States by British imperialists, the UAE consists of seven small monarchies bordering the Persian Gulf. They banded together in 1971, as the British retreated, to form a single federation.
The country has been doubly blessed: oil and gas abundance along with a smart and commercially minded group of leaders.… Seguir leyendo »
Partial no-go zones in majority-Muslim areas are a part of the urban landscape from the Mediterranean to the Baltic, with the French government alone counting 751 of them. This shirking of responsibility foreshadows catastrophe and calls for immediate reversal.
I call the bad parts of Europe’s cities partial no-go zones because ordinary people in ordinary clothing at ordinary times can enter and leave them without trouble. But they are no-go zones in the sense that representatives of the state — police especially, but also firefighters, meter-readers, ambulance attendants and social workers — can only enter with massed power for temporary periods of time.… Seguir leyendo »
A ranking Iranian political figure, Issa Kalantari, recently warned that past mistakes leave Iran with water supplies so insufficient that up to 70 percent, or 55 million out of 78 million Iranians, would be forced to abandon their native country for parts unknown.
Many facts buttress Kalantari’s apocalyptic prediction: Once lauded in poetry, Lake Urmia, the Middle East’s largest lake, has lost 95 percent of its water since 1996, going from 31 billion cubic meters to 1.5 billion. What the Seine is to Paris, the Zayanderud was to Isfahan – except the latter went bone-dry in 2010. Over two-thirds of Iran’s cities and towns are “on the verge of a water crisis” that could result in drinking water shortages; already, thousands of villages depend on water tankers.… Seguir leyendo »
The Middle East witnessed something radically new last Thursday, when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia responded to a plea by Yemen’s president and led a 10-country coalition to intervene in the air and on the ground in the country. “Operation Decisive Storm” prompts many reflections:
Saudi and Egypt in alliance: Half a century ago, Riyadh and Cairo were active in a Yemen war, but then they supported opposing sides, respectively the status-quo forces and the revolutionaries. Their now being allies points to continuity in Saudia along with profound changes in Egypt.
Arabic-speakers getting their act together: Through Israel’s early decades, Arabs dreamt of uniting militarily against it but the realities of infighting and rivalries smashed every such hope.… Seguir leyendo »
Sunday a week ago, the French government sponsored a solidarity rally featuring an array of foreign leaders and all domestic political parties joining together in a “sacred union” (a term recalling World War I) against the massacres at Charlie Hebdo magazine and the kosher market.
Make that all the political parties except one — the National Front (NF) headed by Marine Le Pen, ostensibly excluded because it does not subscribe to “republican values.” In reality, it was barred because, uniquely among French political parties, it opposes immigration; and other politicians fear that the NF gains in the aftermath of the massacres.… Seguir leyendo »
An epidemic of recent high-profile attacks by Muslims in the name of Islam – in Canada, Israel, Nigeria, Australia, Pakistan, and France – raises an obvious question: How do the Islamist perpetrators figure that murdering an honor guard, driving cars into pedestrians, slaughtering non-Muslim bus passengers, taking hostage the patrons of a café, or massacring army kids and cartoonists will achieve their goal of applying Islamic law and building a caliphate?
Logically, their violence only helps if it terrorizes their enemies and compels them to bend to the Islamists’ wishes; intimidation, after all, is the essence of terrorism. Sometimes, Islamist terrorism does achieve this objective.… Seguir leyendo »
Sweden is arguably the most “European” of European countries by virtue of its historically cohesive nationhood (“one big family”), militaristic and socialist legacies, untrammeled immigration, unmatched political correctness, and its supercilious claim to the status of a “moral superpower.” These features also make it perhaps the most alien of European countries to an American conservative.
In this context, I offer a summary and paraphrase of my discussion held with two senior members of the permanent bureaucracy in the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs during a recent visit to Stockholm. Our affable but pointed discussion focused on the Middle East, on which we agreed on almost nothing.… Seguir leyendo »
Defining terrorism has practical implications because formally certifying an act of violence as terrorist has important consequences in U.S. law.
Terrorism suspects can be held longer than criminal suspects after arrest without an indictment. They can be interrogated without a lawyer present. They receive longer prison sentences. “Terrorist inmates” are subject to many extra restrictions, known as Special Administrative Measures, or SAMs. The “Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002” gives corporate victims of terrorism special breaks (it is currently up for renewal) and protects owners of buildings from certain lawsuits. When terrorism is invoked, families of victims, such as those of the 2009 Fort Hood, Texas, attack, win extra benefits such as tax breaks, life insurance and combat-related pay.… Seguir leyendo »
A growing population and shrinking farmland lead to food shortages
Egypt, famed for millennia as the “breadbasket of the Mediterranean,” now faces alarming food shortages. A startlingly candid report in Cairo’s Al-Ahram newspaper by Gihan Shahine, titled “Food for Stability,” makes clear the extent of the crisis.
To begin, two anecdotes: Although compelled by her father to marry a cousin who could afford to house and feed her, Samar, 20, reports that they “have only had fried potatoes and aubergines for dinner most of the week.” Her sisters, 10 and 13, who left school to take up work, are losing weight and suffer chronic anemia.… Seguir leyendo »
Before welcoming the emerging state of Kurdistan in northern Iraq, I confess to having opposed its independence in the past.
In 1991, after the Kuwait War had ended and as Saddam Hussein attacked Iraq’s 6 million Kurds, I made three arguments against American intervention on their behalf, arguments still commonly heard today: First, Kurdish independence would spell the end of Iraq as a state; second, it would embolden Kurdish agitation for independence in Syria, Turkey and Iran, leading to destabilization and border conflicts; and three, it would invite the persecution of non-Kurds, causing “large and bloody exchanges of population.”
All three expectations proved flat-out wrong.… Seguir leyendo »
After an absence of 90 years, the ancient institution of the caliphate roared back into existence on the first day of Ramadan in the year 1435 of the Hegira, equivalent to June 29, 2014. This astonishing revival symbolically culminates the Islamist surge that began 40 years ago. A Western analogy might be declaring the restoration of the Hapsburg Empire, which traced its legitimacy to ancient Rome.
Whence comes this audacious move? Can the caliphate last? What will its impact be?
For starters, a quick review of the caliphate (from the Arabic “khilafa,” meaning “succession”): According to canonical Muslim history, it originated in the year 632, on the death of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, then spontaneously developed, filling the nascent Muslim community’s need for a temporal leader.… Seguir leyendo »
Until now, Islamist rule has implied violence and dictatorship. Can it evolve into something decent?
Put differently: If the brutality of Ruhollah Khomeini and Osama bin Laden marked them as yesterday’s men, and the autocracy of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Mohammed Morsi make them today’s men, can tomorrow’s Islamists — Muslims seeking a consistent and global application of Islamic law under the rule of a caliph — become democratic and humane?
Islamism has significantly evolved over the past 13 years. As recently as 2001, its adherents were synonymous with criminals, terrorists and revolutionaries. In this spirit, I wrote three days after Sept.… Seguir leyendo »
How does Islam shape the way Muslims live?
The religion’s formal requirements are the narrow base for a far wider array of patterns that extend the formal rules of Islam, stretching them in unexpected and unplanned ways. A few examples:
The Koran strictly bans the consumption of pork, leading to the virtual disappearance of domesticated pigs in Muslim-majority areas, then their replacement by sheep and goats.
These herds have overgrazed the land, which has led, as the geographer Xavier de Planhol observes, to “a catastrophic deforestation” that in turn “is one of the basic reasons for the sparse landscape particularly evident in the Mediterranean districts of Islamic countries.”… Seguir leyendo »
The recent fall of Fallujah to an al Qaeda-linked group provides an unwelcome reminder of the American resources and lives devoted from 2004 to 2007 to control the city — all that effort expended and nothing to show for it. Similarly, outlays of hundreds of billions of dollars to modernize Afghanistan did not stop its reversion to public stoning as a punishment for adultery.
These two examples point to a larger conclusion: Maladies run so deep in the Middle East (minus remarkable Israel) that outside powers cannot remedy them. Here’s a fast summary:
Water is running out. A dam going up on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia threatens to substantially cut Egypt’s main water supply by devastating amounts for years.… Seguir leyendo »