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After Paris: Codes of Tolerance as the Bridge

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The slaughter of 17 people in the past week in Paris marks a dark era in Europe in the relationship between European Muslims and the Arab world – just as it were 14 years ago when the 9/11 terror struck in the USA. These terror attacks strike at the heart of Europe. They erupt many emotions in all of us.

This violence in the name of religion penetrates the core of all European countries, the democratic parties, their governments and the general public, the freedom of the press and expression, religious freedom, cultural tolerance and respect towards each other.

Ultimately, the world order of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights is shaken in its core as well.

Ironically, the first victim was a Muslim. 42 year old police officer Ahmed Merabed was  executed at point-blank range in public view on the sidewalk outside of Charlie Hebdo. The shocking video is available on the internet.

These murders and kidnappings were carried out by the perpetrators “in the name of Islam, with vengeance for the Prophet and because of attacks on Muslims.” They triggered massive outrage and fear  of Islam and Muslims worldwide.
They provide the radical nationalists – like the Front National in France or the Pegida movement in Germany – unprecedented breeding ground, more press, more coverage, more popularity.  In all EU countries the mood shifts incrementally with each rebellious act.
For many in the West, Islam has become a menace.  The latest study of the German Bertelsmann Foundation in January 2015 reveals this sentiment.
57% of Germans view Islam as a threat.
61% believe Islam does not fit within western societies.
What do we do now?

This core question was already presented by Lenin at the end of each Politibuero gathering to focus on actions.
What can we, the 3 core groups do?
The 500 million Europeans in the EU
The 44 million Muslims in Europe
The 1.6 billion Muslims in the World

Our world has changed drastically in the last 20 years through globalization. This give us opportunities but these opporutnities don’t come without risks and unrest. Although we band together, we are drawn apart by ideoligies and beliefs. What world will we build, will we choose for our children to live together in harmony as Germans, as Arabs, as Westerners? What will we leave as a legacy to our children, to your children in the world?
Do we take our responsibility as leaders of the Western World serious enough?  Do we understand what it means to live together in harmony, in tolerance, in peaceful co-existence? Or will we sit in desperate passivity and allow the world to crumble around us?
Will we leave a legacy of acquiescence that the radicals will feed off of, that the Radicals will profit from, in a world of fear, comfort and political correctness? Don’t we desparately need a grand strategy, a fundamental understanding, a common soul that works through our shared humanity to establish a code of tolerance?
Without a unified front and power tools, we cannot confront the misguided goals of IS and al-Qaida.  We must  have the courage to stand up.
Consider this double strategy:
•    of the hard and soft factors of fighting for peace
•    of power and diplomacy
•    weaponry, police, state security, military
•    education, dialogue and reconciliation and the will to promote tolerance on all sides

Today I would like to focus on the soft factors that contribute to the Codes of Tolerance.  What must we do to actualize these tenants of assimiliation and understanding?

The world-wide concern about the far-reaching terrorist campaign of IS is not enough.  We need actions. Similarly, acknowledging that the violent acts do not represent the entire body of Islamic believers and its doctrine, is not enough. Violence in the name of the Prophet contradicts what is written in the Qur’an.
But the radicals – like in Paris-  always argue they defend the Prophet as representatives of the true religion fighting for its victory. They cherry-pick some harsh words from the Qur’an which paise fighting the unbelievers.
Tens of thousands of misguided Musims are fighting what they see as unbelievers, killing Christians and mostly Muslims alike in the name of Mohammed in a mistaken fanatical ideology.  Therefore, it is the problem of Islam. It is the fight for its interpretation, the soul of the Holy Qur’an and the ownership of the religion.

This violent detour from the original tenants of Islam has now become a problem for the entire body of the Muslim people.  Moderate and extemists alike. Her Royal Highness Rania, The Queen of Jordan, put her finger into the wound on November 18, 2014 in Abu Dhabi:
„The attacks of radical Islamists are an attack on the values of Islam. But the moderate Muslims are equally to blame: It is said that our silence speaks volumes.“

Egyptian President al-Sisi rightfully determined at the Al Azhar University on New Year’s Day 2015:

”It can not be that the Islamic world is perceived as a haven of danger, of killing and destruction by the rest of the world.”

„We need a religious revolution in Islam“, he declared.

I had the honor to meet the 17 year old Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala in December 2014 in Oslo.  I asked her about suggestions to promote tolerance.
She impressed me deeply in how clearly she defended the true Islam including the right of girls to education.
She speaks openly about risking her and the other girls’ lives while the others remained silent.
It is not embarrassing and a shame that a young Muslim girl is braver than thousands of imams, generals, princes and politicians?
There are Muslim heros, but still too few. Like Lassana Bathily. This 24 year old Muslim was an employee in the Kosher supermarket in Paris. He risked his life to hide several jewish hostages in the walk-in freezer to spare their lives from the Muslim killer.

The thundering silence in the Muslim world must end. Only those who stand up and fight for the true Islam, can win.
He who is silent is lost. The roads to murder are always paved with the silence of the majorities. He who is silent carries the guilt of others. But Islam is all about a joint responsibility.
I miss the fierce Islamic courage and noble bravery that the Prophet demands of his followers. I call this bourgeois silence cowardice and convenience. Both are very dangerous.
From some high-ranking representatives of the Muslims I also hear the argument:
”If we distance ourselves from the killers or the IS, we’re part of their their propaganda. We have nothing to do with them. We do not have to defend for ourselves.”


This unsetting justification is wrong and highly dangerous. We Germans know why?  
In the 1920s and 1930s, the German citizens lost step-by-step the power to define what a good German should do or not, what are the German values and the German culture. The very few, yet steadily increasing number of radical Nazis then defined what was German and what was not. Just like today where the silent majority of Muslims is about to loose moral control about the values of Islam. The majority of the bourgeoise stayed silent and remained passive for too long until it was too late. After that anyone who opened his mouth or resisted, was promptly delivered up to the concentration camps or killed.
Is this cowardice to be repeated in the Arab world now?  Must history repeat itself ?

The Islamic world must reflect on and reclaim the roots of faith and fight for the true Quran and the peaceful wisdom of the prophet openly and actively. The green banner of true Islam must overcome the black banner of the IS-terrorist and other extremists.
Frank, courageous, everywhere. This is the new Djihad of faith.
 
Worldwide, probably less than half a percent of people who are prone to violence, misuse their religion as a mandate to confrontation towards believers of different faith. (Christians, Jews, depending on affiliation, but especially Schiites and Sunnies is Syria, Iraq or Pakistan). That is only two to five of a thousand violence prone people. But put that number in action this tiny minority becomes very loud and dangerous. They own the streets, they have the media’s attention.

The 99% majority of Muslims stays silent, looks away, doesn not protest openly, leaving the few radicals too much space and thus the authority to interpret their Islam. This silent majority does not understand the mechanisms of the seizure of power by resolute totalitarian leaders born out of the violent one percent at the beginning of their crusade.


Official statements, so far, have been too short and superficial. They will not succeed in stopping the wave of ideological violence and misinterpretation. One has to dig much deeper. They have to take to the streets and to the media. They have to fight for their right to peaceful existence, not cower to violence.

We need an uprising of decent Muslims and their spiritual and political leaders in all Muslim countries against extremism and violence.
All true Muslims are called together in the face of this crisis of the perception of Islam to defend their God, the Holy Book and their Prophet Muhammad against the violence and sins of the IS and their deadly tools and other terrorists. This is not a choice, this is a Muslim duty.

This is the path to actively protect the true doctrine, to enlighten misguided youths, to contain the radicals and hinder the growth of distrust against Islam and hence a rupture of European societies and more so the Islamic world. It is there, where most people die at the hand of the few radicals. Islamic Extremism is pricipally a danger to Muslims.

The global media coverage about the terror in Paris somewhat overshadowed, that simultaneously 63 people in Iraq, 26 in Syria and 18 in Aghanistan were killed. I thus demand active reconciliation between Sunnies and Schiites, just like the Lutheran Church reached agreement with the Cathlic Church after centuries of bitter warfare of faith. We in the West must contain xenophobia, Islamophobia, and Neo-Nazis. 35.000 people demonstrated against xenophobia in Dresden on Sunday. In Paris, one million Christians, Muslims and Jews took to the streets. And the Muslims rose on Tuesday at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
More of that! Let’s not stand still. Let’s continue! With many actions worldwide.

Our fight for tolerance is your fight. Your fight for tolerance is our fight. We can only save the world from hate and terror if we contain the different radicals together.

We must actively educate more tolerance and respect towards other religions, ethnic minorities and races globally. We need a Jihad for tolerance.We have to spent hundreds of millions of dollars in grassroots projects, in the Muslim world and in the West. A global action plan is needed to promote the human codes of tolerance and respect and to contain the radicals. We all do too little.
We have to maintain the good human interaction as if it were a beautiful lawn. If we don’t tend to our garden, the weeds will choke out the flowers. Promoting the soft factors of peace and tolerance is like seeding plants, giving daily watering and care.


We need a credible policy of the values for the UN Charter to establish an honest global constitution without political rhetoric.
We need a living soul, not just checkbooks or weapons. This includes the steady promotion of the codes of tolerance towards minorities, the poor and the disenfranchised religions and races. Specific details are described in my most current book “Codes of Tolerance.”


My book has been translated into Arabic and published by Al Arabica Publishing in Cairo.  I would know like to present the first two samples to Dr Mohamad Hamed Alashmary und Professor Mohamed Khallouk.

Codes of Tolerance

This book,  “Codes of Tolerance” depicts a picture of the true peace-loving Islam with many facets and hence a positive message to all: Islam is peaceful in its  roots and tolerant of Christians and Jews.
The book explores 10 Golden Rules of tolerance in Islam: The dominance of goodness and mercy of God in the first sura and all suras of the Qur’an. The Muslim welcome address “Peace be with you”
The Prophet aimed at hilm, a new society of harmony and respect. Punishment on judgment day and not on earth. The state role model through reconciliation after the conquest of Mecca 630 to 632. The Prophet did not enforce a totalitarian theocracy, but left the political system as it was, forced nobody to concert to Islam and and pardoned his enemies.
 

There are many references of the ancient sacred text of the Jews and the Christians, who share 14 prophets with the Muslims.
At least 27 verses in the Qur’an  call on Muslims to practice tolerance and patience to Christians and Jews as other believers to the same God and children of Abraham.
The clear restriction of the use of force only in self-defense in the Quar’an and only as long as the attacker poses an immediate danger.  Violence should never be practiced against innocent civilians.

The Prophet and later the first two caliphs signed 14 tolerance contracts with Christian communities for eternity, protecting the free exercise of religion.There is a strong tolerance tradition with the Christians. Documented by the close alliances of the first 100 Muslims Mohammad sent from hostile Mecca in exile to the Christian Kingdom of the Negus in Abyssinia  615 to 622, as well as in the Golden Age of Islam in the 9th century.



The obligation to comply with all rules of the UN Charter by Sura 17.34 as applicable law in Islamic countries. The radical Muslims misunderstand or ignore these messages of tolerance and the model of Prophet Muhammad.  They cherry-pick only six sentences of the 6236 suras of the Koran in order to ignore 99.99 percent. Thus they put the Islam upside down.

Opposite to the propaganda of the extremists, the true message of the Qur’an and the Prophet are of mercy, the virtue of serenity, harmony (hilm) and for peace (salam).  The position of women in Islam casts Islam in a light of mistrust and disdain in Western countries. I have therefore highlighted the relationship between the Prophet and women in the chapter: “Muhammad: ’I am the best to women.’
“


Central to its comprehension is the description of Khadidjah bint Khuwaylid (ca. 555-620), the first wife of the Prophet. She was an emancipated and very successful businesswoman in Mecca. She employed the younger Muhammad and asked for marriage. Only one world religion was funded by a woman:  Islam.  Not a man, but a woman was “the first Muslim.”
A woman was the most important counselor and supporter of the Prophet.

She should be the role model for all Muslim women, because God chose an emancipated business woman on purpose. The extremists never heard of her importance and style, but they should.  Khadidjah is the opposite of Muslim teaching today as is propagated by the IS and Boko Haram which restrict and abuse women who neither go to school nor are emancipated “in the name of the Prophet.”

The Prophet encouraged the emancipation of women in the tribal society of the 7th century.  This was a groundbreaking societal right for the female citizen.
The rules of the Quar’an protected the women with not less but six more significant rights: Inheritance, personal property, consent to marriage, and prohibiting the killing of female offspring. The Qu’ran never said: do not give them more rights. It does not limit women rights, but guides towards emancipation.

The Prophet fostered the emancipation of women. The tribal communities of the 7th century did not allow for more. Hence, an important part of the Codes of Tolerace ist the propagation of women in the Islamic world. I appeal to every responsible citizen to become personally involved in the development of this common global village. The codes of tolerance are our common ground, our global ethos we share.

The Codes of Tolerance include 60 rules and paths towards a world policy of human kindness, combined with 79 best practices for the most important groups: All of us in general, parents, religious leaders, the media, politicians, sport and culture.
We can successfully follow the path of tolerance with many good deeds.  The world can silence their haters and nuture their flowers within the spectrum of love for our children of all faiths.
Peaceful cohabitance through tolerance towards other religions, minorities and races is attainable.

An active and fortified tolerance policy is not naïve.  It is not the dream of do-gooders.  It is absolutely essential.
Our world needs a positive vision. A hawk alone cannot bring peace. Only 0.01 percent of our national budgts are spent on reconciliation projects, but 99.99 percent is  used for internal security and defense.
We need a readjustment and an active tolerance policy, which is financed with a least one percent of all expenditures for foreign affairs, development and defense.

We also need zero tolerance towards the intolerant. We must actively oppose the poison of hate.There is the very real threat of a vacuum, of soft politics, that invites the radicals the fill the void. It can also be deadly for Qatar – as for Berlin in 1933.
In future, only those rebels and states should receive support, who abide by the global order rooted in the UN-Chart, include its resolutions and implement them. This is true for any kind of support – currently as in Syria, Egypt, Gaza, Libya or Pakistan.

He who refuses must be isolated. No funding for extremists any more. Let us leave our world not to the haters and evil.
We cannot wait – we have to start now.  Local, creative, active.
We all can start with our small puzzel piece of peace as the first stone in the mosaic of seven billion people.
We can create together as Europeans and as Arabs a new harmonious world of togetherness with more respect and love of humanity in our global village. Our children are our greatest commodity and their future is their right to inherit in a state of peace and security.

Qatar could become the role model in the Islamic world for this new policy. With its creative and flexible foreign policy, Qatar should play a leading role in this policy and the promotion of codes of tolerance in finding projects funded by $1 billion dollars of humanitarian funds. This money may be well spent. It will change the Arabic countries and the world in a positive fashion – in accordance with the wishes of the Prophet. The Qatari television station Al Jazeera and the Qatar Foundation should address these vital issues about promoting peace more now that ever before.

Qatar could lead the way as a very important role model in moral and political leadership for the Arab world. Qatar can silence their critics by shouldering the essential moral responsibility of spreading the word of peace from the Prophet. This country can then fill a moral vacuum and fulfill the dreams of millions of young Arabs. With an initiative to prompt the human codes of tolerance and respect globally, Qatar shines even brighter as a beacon of light . As a moral and Islamic Lighthouse.

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The new relationship between Israel and Bahrain

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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President Donald J. Trump, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Foreign Affairs for the United Arab Emirates Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyanisigns sign the Abraham Accords Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, on the South Lawn of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

The issue of the new relationship between Israel and Bahrain, following the agreement already signed between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, is particularly interesting. It marks a realignment of the Sunni world with the Jewish State, clearly against Iran, and hence indirectly with the West.

 Israel, however, does not always think strategically like its Western allies. This is positive.

 The oil leverage between the Arab East and the Euro-American West is currently changing (although the EU has not yet realized it) given the rise of the U.S. oil power.

Nevertheless, there is a change also in what we could define as the military “protection level” between the Sunni Arab world and the Western defence system, between NATO and the U.S. or Atlantic Alliance specific agreements with Sunni Arab countries. Europe is obviously out of the game.

The primary aims pursued are the following: as to the Arabs, fully playing the Western card with regard to the Russian Federation and, in some ways, also to China; as to Westerners, the game No. 1 is to take back the Sunni world after the jihadist crisis and then to create a new market of crude oil prices just now that the U.S. shale oil is changing the whole price system. Ultimately, however, the United States wants to avoid Russia and China strategically “taking” the Sunni world.

 The Sunni world knows it can never do without the West to seriously oppose Iran and its proxies. It also needs the U.S. and the EU technologies to make the “energy transition” from oil and gas to renewables. It finally needs weapons and technologies, but probably also direct military aid from the United States and NATO – and, in the future, also from the Jewish State.

 Iran is an existential threat also to them. In the Middle East the areas of influence and contact between Iran and the Sunni world are such that they cannot be regulated by some kind of peace treaty. Yemen is a case in point. Every move in the Gulf is a zero-sum game.

 Now, however, we need to take a step back. The “Abraham Accord” between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAEs) and then Bahrain is based on future “normal relations” between the Jewish State and the UAEs.

 An agreement drafted in mid-August 2020, but long prepared by the Intelligence Services and subsequently by both parties’ diplomacies, and also by some European Intelligence Services.

 These “normal relations” imply usual business relations, direct flights, tourism, scientific exchanges and full diplomatic recognition.

 It is obvious, however, that the Emirates will not send an Ambassador to Jerusalem.

 It is not envisaged in the agreements, but there is, however, a specific exchange of information between the Intelligence Services, as has long happened also between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

 Again according to the Emirates -but the text is anyway clear in this regard – the Israeli-UAE agreement immediately stops any Israeli attempt of West Bank annexation, but it also envisages a renewal of the negotiations between the PNA and the Jewish State to “put an end to the conflict”.

Vaste programme, as De Gaulle would have said. The core of the issue is that now the Palestinians of the PNA – a badly conceived entity resulting from the end of the Cold War – are no longer of any use to anyone.

 Neither to the Soviet Union, which does no longer exist and no longer needs cumulative training camps for European terrorists or possibly pressure systems for their Arab allies, nor to the European left (and to the EU, although it is not aware of it) that knew nothing about foreign policy, but only wanted Israel’s “reduction”. Least of all to China, which does notknow what to do with them, nor even to the jihadist galaxy, which has scarcely used the old Palestinian guerrilla network.

Currently the prominent role played by Hamas in the Gaza Strip and also in the West Bank – a movement deriving from the Muslim Brotherhood, which explicitly accepts the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in its statutes and which, however, is notoriously now fully supported by Iran, with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad – is a role that is certainly not interesting for the Gulf Sunni countries.

 Probably it is interesting only for Qatar and Turkey, which have much to do with the Brotherhood. Nevertheless, I do not think that Turkey and Qatar want to go all the way in this strategic game, with the risk of antagonizing Saudi Arabia and most of the Emirates.

However, no one wants to bear the high costs for managing the PNA any longer. They are strategically useless and most likely even dangerous.

 Israel and the UAEs already tried to normalise their relations years ago. In 2015, the Jewish State opened a diplomatic office in Abu Dhabi, in relation to the International Renewable Energy Agency. Later there were sports meetings and Israel had also been envisaged as a guest in the 2020 World EXPO, now postponed to October 2021, unless otherwise decided due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

 The real sign that the agreement with the Emirates was very important for Israel was the decision taken by Netanyahu to postpone the annexation of the West Bank indefinitely.

 The Palestinians immediately recalled their Ambassador to the Emirates.

Israel cares little about the PNA, the relic of a Cold War that no longer has strategic significance, except for the pro-Iranian role played by Hamas and by a part of Fatah, the old political group of Mahmoud Abbas. Israel is therefore interested only in the West Bank and, in full agreement with Egypt, in the anti-jihadist control of the Gaza Strip and Sinai.

Obviously, neither Saudi Arabia, nor the Emirates, nor Bahrain, nor other States in the Sunni area (even though Bahrain has a Shiite majority, but a Sunni ruling class), and even less Israel want to be associated with a corrupt and totally inefficient political class such as the PNA’s, which is now the glove within which the Iranian hand is extended – and Iran is the only power interested and willing to take the two political areas of the old PNA by the hand.

As mentioned above, the “Abraham Accord” has been accepted also by Bahrain and then by Jordan, which has an old peace treaty in place with Israel dating back to 1994, but burdened by the subsequent severe crisis of 2015-2016 with Israel, at the time of the annexation of East Jerusalem and hence of the Al-Aqsa Mosque (Al-Aqsa means “the farthest”, a reference to the distance of Islam’s third holiest shrine from Makkah and Madinah in Saudi Arabia).

The agreement has also been accepted by Egypt, which sees the jihadist tension in Sinai resolved, in perspective, with the Jewish State’s more direct and explicit collaboration. Finally, the “Abraham Accord” has been publicly praised by Oman, now that the new King,Hatham bin Tariq, wants to keep on modernizing the Kingdom of Oman and Muscat in the wake of the late Sultan Qaboos – whose Guards wore Scottish kilts and played bagpipes – and with greater strategic independence from the other Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

 Who is against the Accord? Obviously Iran, which sees a strategic correlation between Israel and the Sunni world looming large, with the very severe closure of the Emirates’ area to Iran – an area where it could have played the card of influence operations against Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Also Qatar is against it. The country is also militarily tied to Turkey and it is the financial and political base of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is disliked by all the other Gulf Sunni States and, in some ways, is in a process of reconciliation even with the Iranian-Syrian and Lebanese Shiites.

Obviously also Turkey is against the agreement, not for the acceptance of the Jewish State in the framework of inter-Arab relations – a State with which Turkey has had diplomatic relations since 1949, although it has never recognised the UN Partition Plan from which the independence of the Jewish State itself originated.

Turkey has a cold attitude towards the “Abraham Accord” particularly because it will be isolated in the Emirates and in the Gulf area, since it is loosely tied to the Muslim Brotherhood, and has a project of Central Asian expansion that will not enable it to maintain the status quo currently favourable to it in the Gulf, nor – in perspective – the good relations with Qatar.

As stated above, Bahrain- and, if all goes well, it will be the turn of Sudan, Oman and Morocco – is accepting and, indeed, has already accepted the Abraham Accord.

 Morocco has already had Jewish Ministers in its governments, and the private affairs secretary of King Hassan II was an Italian, from Ferrara, who had also been the only one to show solidarity with him when the young Giorgio Bassani was expelled from high school due to infamous “racial laws” of 1938.

 King Hamad has already allowed Israeli leaders to participate – in the future – in a regional meeting on Gulf security, the Manama Security Dialogue 2020, scheduled in the capital of the Kingdom for December 4-6.

 Netanyahu already met the late Sultan Qaboos of Oman in 2018.

 Why does Bahrain officially recognize Israel under the “Abraham Accord”?

First and foremost because the Jewish State is a brilliant success story.

 Because of its technology, its stability, its military strength, even its excellent intelligence, Israel allures many countries in the Arab world and in other world regions. Sultan bin Khalifa has always openly expressed his esteem for the Jewish State.

In 2018 Bahrain’s Foreign Minister twitted a message in favour of Israel in its war against the underground channels created by Hezbollah. Later he explicitly expressed his appreciation when he saw that also Australia had recognized East Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish State.

  The Sultan of Bahrain has openly put strong pressure on the Gulf Security Council for it to designate Hezbollah as a “terrorist organization”.

Here we are not talking about traditional tensions between Sunnis and Shiites, but about a geopolitical and strategic choice: to make the Emirates and the whole Gulf a peaceful area, so as to start – as soon as possible – the energy and economic transition that will decide the future of the oil States in the region.

 The war freezes positions. It is expensive and does not allow the great economic transition that all the Gulf ruling classes, with the sole exception of Iran, intend to begin as soon as possible.

Obviously Iran does not play its cards so much on oil as on natural gas, which is not envisaged by the OPEC system.

It should also be recalled that Bahrain also hosted the White House’s Peace to Prosperity Workshopin 2019. On that occasion as many as seven Israeli journalists were welcomed to the Kingdom.

 It should also be noted that Bahrain is closely connected to Saudi Arabia with specific reference to the economy and the selection of the ruling class.

Bahrain has a majority of Shiite population, with a Sunni royal House and a Sunni ruling class. Hence, more than for other Gulf countries, Iran, which is in front of its shores, is an existential threat.

The link between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia is increasingly strong, especially after 2018, when the small coastal kingdom had to repress – often harshly – the “Arab Springs” which, indeed, had many connections with Iran.

 The greatest mistake recently made by Westerners in the Middle East, the “Arab Spring”, after the Sykes-Picot Treaty, when France lost some of its power because the translator was Luis Massignon, with his very refined Arabic that the desert raiders did not understand, while the interpreter for Great Britain was Lawrence of Arabia, who was used to the Arab streets and plebs.

What about Palestine? On September 3 last, almost simultaneously with the announcement of the “Abraham Accord” by Donald J. Trump at the White House, a videoconference was held between the Lebanon and Palestine, with the participation of Abu Mazen and all the Palestinian factions. It should also be noted that the videoconference had been organised by both Fatah and Hamas- a unique rather than a rare case.

 Ismail Haniyeh, the Chief of Hamas Political Bureau, was in Beirut, together with Ziad Nadalia, the Secretary General of Islamic Jihad, and all the leaders of the factions that are not allowed to operate within the Palestinian National Authority’s territories.

 Mohammed Barakeh, former member of the Israeli Parliament, was in Ramallah.

 For everyone, the strategic key to interpreting the “Abraham Accord” was the breaking of the Arab Peace Initiative, the Saudi Arabian initiative of 2002, then reaffirmed in 2007 and again in 2017 by all Arab League Summits.

 This “initiative” concerns, in nuce, Israel’s withdrawal from all occupied territories, as well as a “just settlement” for Palestinian refugees on the basis of UN Resolution No.194, and the establishment of a Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.

What were the videoconference results? The clear and obvious perception of the isolation of the PNA, which no one now wants to maintain at full cost any longer, considering that it is a “strategic relic” of the past; the agreement between Hamas and Fatah, a unique rather than a rare case; the inevitable opening of the PNA’s territories to the declared enemies of the Abraham Accord, i.e. Qatar, which will try to reach a strategic and military correlation between Libya-Tripoli and the Gaza Strip, as well as for the West Bank and then Turkey, with its Muslim Brothers, who are those who founded Hamas. But above all it will be a deal for Iran, which already supports the Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian factions, obviously against Israel and waiting for Hezbollah to make again operations beyond the Litani River.

Hence “people’s struggle”, in the PLO and PNA jargon, but there is no reference to “armed struggle” in the final document of the videoconference, as well as the request for a Palestinian State within the 1967 borders, and then the evident verification of the declining consensus for the Palestinian cause among the Sunni Arab States of the Gulf, from which a further restriction of economic aid to the PNA will result.

Nevertheless, the real danger, which should regard also Israel, is the PNA’s full implosion, which could cause global military, migration and economic phenomena.

 What about the Russian Federation? It must go back being essential in the Middle East. The “Abraham Accord” brokered and mediated by the United States and by some European intelligence services can put an end to the comparative and strategic advantage of Russia’s victory in Syria and the very careful management of military and intelligence relations with Israel.

 Not to mention the refined Russian containment of the Iranian pressure in Syria – one of the real goals of the Russian presence in Bashar el Assad’s republic.

 What cards could Russia play in the new Middle East that is currently being defined? Many cards.

As early as 2018, Russia has started to meet the Islamic Jihad again, while Abu Mazen also met Russian leaders in 2019 to create a new “format” of peace between Israel and the PNA mediated by the Russian Federation alone.

 Then there is the Lebanese card – Russia’s presence is increasingly visible in the Lebanon due to an obvious spillover from Syria.

Hence Russia’s number one game in the new Middle East is to maintain close relations with all the regional, State and non-State actors, so as to get to be the only supreme arbiter (also towards Israel) of the future and now inevitable Middle East peace.

What about China? It does not view the Abraham Accord favourably, considering that for China it is tantamount to an actual withdrawal from the Middle East by the United States –  and therefore an increase in the costs for the strategic control of the region – but also to the return of many important Sunni countries within a U.S. economic orbit, just when China was seducing Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.

 The “Abraham Accord” closes the Gulf’s doors to many countries that wanted to enter the region.

China, however, will put on a good face and make the best of a bad situation, by supporting an actual friendly country, Israel, and maintaining the usual excellent relations with the Sunni world, in the hope of soon replacing the United States as the political-military reference point for the region.

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Will They or Won’t They? Saudi Recognition of Israel is the $64,000 Question

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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Will the Saudis formalize relations with Israel or will they not? That is the 64,000-dollar question.

The odds are that Saudi Arabia is not about to formalize relations with Israel. But the kingdom, its image tarnished by multiple missteps, is seeking to ensure that it is not perceived as the odd man out as smaller Gulf states establish diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.

Bahrain’s announcement that it would follow in the footsteps of the United Arab Emirates was as much a Bahraini move as it was a Saudi signal that it is not opposed to normalization with Israel.

Largely dependent on the kingdom since Saudi troops helped squash mass anti-government protests in 2011, Bahrain, a majority Shia Muslim nation, would not have agreed to establish diplomatic relations with Israel without Saudi consent.

The Bahraini move followed several other Saudi gestures intended to signal the kingdom’s endorsement of Arab normalization of Israel even if it was not going to lead the pack.

The gestures included the opening of Saudi air space to Israeli commercial flights, and publication of a Saudi think tank report praising Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s stewardship in modernizing the kingdom’s religious education system and encouraging the religious establishment to replace“extremist narratives” in school textbooks with “a moderate interpretation of Islamic rhetoric.”

They also involved a sermon by Abdulrahman al-Sudais, the imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca – the world’s largest mosque that surrounds the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest site, that highlighted Prophet Mohammed’s friendly relations with Jews.

Mr. al-Sudais noted that the prophet had “performed ablution from a polytheistic water bottle and died while his shield was mortgaged to a Jew,” forged a peace agreement with Jewish inhabitants of the Khaybar region, and dealt so well with a Jewish neighbor that he eventually converted to Islam. 

The imam’s comments, a day before US President Donald J. Trump was believed to have failed to persuade King Salman to follow the UAE’s example, were widely seen as part of an effort to prepare Saudi public opinion for eventual recognition of Israel.

Criticism on social media of the comments constituted one indication that public opinion in Gulf states is divided.

Expression of Emirati dissent was restricted to Emirati exiles given that the UAE does not tolerate expression of dissenting views.

However, small scale protests erupted in Bahrain, another country that curtails freedom of expression and assembly. Bahraini political and civil society associations, including the Bahrain Bar Association, issued a statement rejecting the establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel.

“What results from normalization will not enjoy popular backing, in line with what generations of Bahrainis have been brought up on in terms of adherence to the Palestinian cause,” the statement said.

Bahrain has long been home to a Jewish community and was the first and, so far, only Arab state to appoint a Jew as its ambassador to the United States.

The criticism echoes recent polls in various Gulf states that suggest that Palestine remains a major public foreign policy concern.

Polling by David Pollock of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy found that Palestine ranked second to Iran.

Earlier polls by James Zogby, a Washington-based pollster with a track record that goes back more than a decade, showed Palestine ranking in 2018 as the foremost foreign policy issue followed by Iran in Emirati and Saudi public opinion.

The same year’s Arab Opinion Index suggested that 80 percent of Saudis see Palestine as an Arab rather than a purely Palestinian issue.

Mr. Pollock said in an interview that with regard to Palestine, Saudi officials “believe that they have to be a little cautious. They want to move bit by bit in the direction of normalizing at least the existence of Israel or the discussion of Israel, the possibility of peace, but they don’t think that the public is ready for the full embrace or anything like that.”

Gulf scholar Giorgio Cafiero noted in a tweet that “Israel formalizing relations (with) unelected Arab (governments) is not the same as Israel making ‘peace’ (with) Arab people. Look at, for example, what Egypt’s citizenry thinks of Israel. Iran and Turkey will capitalize on this reality as more US-friendly Arab [governments] sign accords [with] Israel.”

This year’s Arab Opinion Index suggest that in Kuwait, the one country that has not engaged with Israel publicly, Turkey—the Muslim country that has taken a lead in supporting the Palestinians—ranked highest in public esteem compared to China, Russia, and Iran.

A rift in a UAE-backed Muslim group created to counter Qatari support of political Islam and promote a state-controlled version of Islam that preaches absolute obedience to the ruler serves as a further indication that Palestine remains an emotive public issue.

In Mr. Al-Sudais’ case, analysts suggest that the criticism is as much about Palestine as it is a signal that religious leaders who become subservient to the whims of government may be losing credibility.

Mr. Al-Sudais’ sermon contrasted starkly with past talks in which he described Jews as “killers of prophets and the scum of the earth” as well as “monkeys and pigs” and defended Saudi Arabia’s conflict with Iran as a war between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.

The criticism coupled with indications earlier this year that Saudi Arabia’s religious establishment was not happy with Prince Mohammed’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic may be one reason why Saudi Arabia is gesturing rather than formalizing already existing relations with Israel.

Authorities reportedly arrested in March Sheikh Abdullah al-Saad, an Islamic scholar, after he posted online an audio clip criticizing the government for banning Friday prayers. Mr. al-Saad argued that worshippers should be able to ask God for mercy.

An imam in Mecca was fired shortly after he expressed concern about the spread of the coronavirus in Saudi prisons.

Scholars Genevieve Abdo and Nourhan Elnahla reported that the kingdom’s Council of Senior Clerics had initially drafted a fatwa, or religious opinion, describing the closing of mosques as a violation of Islamic principles. They said that government pressure had persuaded the council not to issue the opinion.

Concern among the kingdom’s ultra-conservative religious scholars that the ruling Al-Saud family may break the power-sharing agreement with the clergy, concluded at the birth of the kingdom, predates the rise of King Salman and Prince Mohammed.

Indeed, the clerics’ concern stretches back to the reign of King Abdullah and has focused on attitudes expressed both by senior members of the ruling family who have since been sidelined or detained by Prince Mohammed and princes that continue to wield influence.

The scholars feared that the ruling family contemplated separating state and religion. This is a concern that has likely been reinforced since Prince Mohammed whipped the kingdom’s religious establishment into submission and downplayed religion by emphasizing nationalism.

Ultra-conservative Saudi religious scholars are also certain to have taken note of post-revolt Sudan’s recent decision to legally remove religion from the realm of the state.

Ultra-conservative sentiment does not pose an imminent threat to Prince Mohammed’s iron grip rule of a country in which many welcomed social reforms that have lifted some of the debilitating restrictions on women, liberalized gender segregation, and the as yet unfulfilled promise of greater opportunity for a majority youthful population.

It does however suggest one reason why Prince Mohammed, who is believed to favor formal relations with Israel, may want to tread carefully on an issue that potentially continues to evoke passions.

An initial version of this story was first published by Inside Arabia

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Arabs have abandoned Palestine longtime ago

Shahzada Rahim

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Bethlehem: part of the barrier between Israel and the West Bank. Photo: UN News/Reem Abaza

I don’t understand why the majority of Muslims have reacted so furiously on UAE’s recognition of the State of Israel. Those who are criticizing Arabs are illiterate common people, who even don’t have a slight background of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. If we study deeply the nature of Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the very conflict began as Arab-Israeli deadlock first, when the nationalist Arabs started the first War with Israel in 1948.

Similarly, the second war between Arabs and Israel began in 1969, when Israelis set Al-Aqsa Mosque on fire. Likewise, the third war began in 1973, which is often known as Yom-Kippur war in the history books and was the major development in the conflict. Unfortunately, the beginning of 1970s was the turning point in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during which Arabs willfully abandoned the Palestinian cause for good.

A major turning point occurred when the Late President of Egypt Anwar Sadat visited Israeli Knesset and formally recognized the state of Israel. In response, Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza strip back to Egypt, which were lost to Israel during the Yom-e-Kippur war. Perhaps, this was the very day, when the Arab leaders began reconsidering their foreign policy approach towards Israel.

Soon after the Egypt’s recognition of Israel, the Palestinian Liberation Organization became a sandwich between the Baathist regime of Iraq and Syria. The major animosity between PLO and Arab petro-monarchies began during the second Gulf War, when the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat visited Iraq and supported Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. Since then petro-monarchies began taking least interest in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Even the term Arab-Israeli conflict changed into Palestinian-Israeli conflict (please read late American President Jimmy Carter’s book “Palestine: Peace not Apartheid” to understand this analogical transformation).

Another major reason behind Arab Monarchies least interest in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is Iran. Because, soon after the revolution, the Iranian theocratic regime has taken major interest in the Palestinian issue with metaphorical yet psychological slogan “Death to America and Death to Israel”. The Iranian regime began exporting the revolution to other countries in the region such as Iraq and Lebanon in particular. What Khomeini said on the wake of revolution during his first speech “Islam has no borders”. The message was clear, from now onwards Iran will be the champion of Palestinian cause, which has indeed infuriated Sunni Arabs. (To understand this please read Edward Said’s famous book “Covering Islam”).

Similarly, with Imam Khomeini’s declaration of himself as Vilayat-e-faqi, the Saudi Royal family declared themselves as Huremain-e-Sharifeen, which means the Custodians of two holy mosques. According to Lebanese philosopher and Political scientist Fawaz A Gerges; it was the CIA’s Idea to counter Shiite Iran in the Greater Middle East. Basically, since the revolution in Iran, the Iranian theocratic regime has used Palestinian cause as genuine platform to expand its influence across the Muslim world. (Please read Fawaz A Gerges famous book “America and Political Islam”).

Similarly, with the Iranian establishment of Hezbollah (The party of God) in Lebanon for the Palestinian cause, the situation turned worse. The Arab monarchies declared Hezbollah as Iranian proxy tool to export revolution across the Middle East rather a group fighting for the Palestinian cause. (To understand this please read Professor Noam Chomsky’s famous book “The Fateful Triangle“). Consequently, with the strange assassination of former Lebanese president Rafic Hariri in 2005, the tensions further escalated because he was close ally of Arab monarchies. The Arab leaders blamed Iranian backed Hezbollah in Lebanon for the murder of Rafic Harari. 

Another major reason behind the Arabs losing interest in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the political and ideological presence of Hamas in Gaza, which is an offshoot of banned Muslim Brotherhood. Ideologically, Muslim Brotherhood headquartered in Egypt is a pan-Islamist party, which since its formation is struggling to establish an Islamic Empire in the Arab world by overthrowing monarchies. In this respect, Hamas as an ideological offshoot of the banned Muslim Brotherhood is threat to Arab Monarchies and hence, a major excuse for Arabs to abandon Palestinian cause.

In contrast, the recent tremendous changes in the foreign policy orientation towards Israel across the Arab world indicates the beginning of new regional peace process. As a matter fact, Israel as a nation state is a living reality, which cannot be ignored and the continuing Arab confrontation with Israel is not in the best interest of Palestinians. The recent diplomatic step taken by United Arab Emirates to normalize relationship with the state of Israel is a positive step towards new regional peace and security architecture.

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