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A Stain on Jewish Values: Israel’s Misguided Obeisance to Donald Trump

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“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the entire Torah; the rest is commentary….

Rabbi Hillel, Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a

Introduction: Trump and Talmud

Israel’s largely enthusiastic support for Donald J. Trump represented a distressing irony of post-Holocaust Jewish history. Lest we forget, this former president was an American leader who made openly common cause with multiple hate groups; reversed a once-proud US national tradition of welcoming the  refugee;[1]replaced elementary human compassion with indifferent family separations and “beautiful” barbed wire;[2] turned an unforgivably blind eye to genocide-like crimes in Syria[3] and made the United States glaringly complicit with Vladimir Putin’s crimes against humanity.[4]

               Since 1945, an aptly proud Jewish mantra has been “Never Again.” From an authoritative Talmudic standpoint, this unambiguous stance must be applied to all peoples, and not just the Jewish People. Prima facie, to do otherwise would mean to disregard Judaism’s immutably core commitment to higher law,[5] species universality and human oneness. As we may also learn from Talmud, “The dust from which the first man was made was gathered in all four corners of the earth.”

               There is still more for Israelis to consider. During his continuously sordid presidency, Donald Trump actively celebrated the rancor of an “everyone for himself” national and international philosophy; that is, a conspicuously murderous posture intrinsically alien to everything Jewish. In Judaism, after all, whatever the particular sources, dignified human relations must always be founded upon cooperation and collaboration, not gratuitous belligerence or zero-sum conflict.[6]

               Always.

               But how did this defiling Israeli association with mendacious American leadership actually come to pass? Was it “merely” the result of a misguided Realpolitik or power politics orientation in Israel? To be sure, from the start of his anti-scientific[7] and anti-intellectual administration,[8] Donald Trump openly presented himself as a “friend of Israel.”

                But why the reciprocal? Why would a nation founded upon human dignity and moral principle declare itself a witting friend of Trump? Because he sent his Jewish son-in-law to move America’s embassy tile from a building in Tel Aviv to another building in Jerusalem?

               Oddly, because Israel is generally a country of smart and well-educated people,[9] this degrading reciprocity was widely accepted among otherwise thoughtful public citizens. Now, however, going forward in  moral, legal[10] and pragmatic survival terms,  there will be a continuously high price to pay for such shortsighted acceptance, for the Jewish State’s demeaning and corrosive complicity with Donald Trump’s inexcusable cruelty.[11]

Origins of the Defilement

               None of this was ever complicated. Looking back, the Trump administration actively sought to replicate some of the worst features of authoritarian governance. While such a normally grievous charge might once have seemed unreasonable or perhaps even outrageous, this could no longer be the case after January 6, 2021. On that lamentable day of fevered insurrection, this bitterly injurious president, with his unashamedly open support of white supremacy[12]and by his repeated subordinations of binding law to personal whim, focused more on dominating his nation’s “streets”[13]  than on maintaining even the thinnest veneers of national justice.[14]

               When, in the closing days of his still-aspiring dictatorship, Trump spawned violent uprising against his own government, a rebellion at the US Capitol replete with tee-shirts commending “Camp Auschwitz,” he exhibited the most egregiously fundamental tenet of Joseph Goebbels.[15] This was the supremely ironic message that once a lie becomes sufficiently monstrous[16] and preposterous, it can, if “properly” fashioned, become more credible.“Intellect rots the mind,” declared Nazi Minister of Propaganda Goebbels at a Nuremberg rally in 1934.”I love the poorly educated,” said then candidate Donald Trump to an American rally audience in 2016.

               Nonetheless, in law and morality, truth is exculpatory.

               Moral and intellectual judgment ought never have been so easily cast aside in Jerusalem as it was in Washington. From the start, Israel ought to have known much better than to openly align its core interests with unprecedented Trump crimes[17] and derangements. Stingingly ironic, too, is that a principal surviving remnant of the Jewish People – that is, the legitimate Jewish State born directly from the ashes of genocidal murder[18] – could have chosen to identify its  interests and ideals with such a sorely manipulative American leader.

                “Never again.”  Makes sense, of course, but not just for us. Judicially and Judaically, any such suggested Jewish exclusivity is indefensible. Patently, it is an oxymoron.

               There is more. Certain concrete or tangible wrongs must be re-considered and taken into full account. Proudly, Donald Trump stood cheerfully  by  assorted hate groups that vilify both universal human rights[19] and the particular Jewish ideals of Higher Law[20] and justice. When this former president adopted barbarous and illegal positions on immigration (i.e., positions that undermine various peremptory[21] legal obligations concerning the legitimate rights of refugees), and willfully separated thousands of young and infant children from their families at US borders, the pertinent American offenses were more serious than “merely” illegal.               Simultaneously, they represented a slap in the face to a people that had long-suffered from a frightful history of forced expulsions and international exclusions –  The Jewish People.

               Stephen Miller, Trump’s favored personal “architect” of immigrant exclusions, is himself the grandson of Jewish refugees from anti-Semitic pogroms. A key tenet of his grim standard for refugee admission to the United States had been “merit.” Like Trump, Miller pompously stipulated that only “the good ones” ought to be admitted.[22]

What Happened to the Words of Emma Lazarus?

               There is more. In once unimaginable cases, Trump-created immigration offenses[23] and his corollary criteria of selection reeked of earlier harms perpetrated against defenseless European Jews.[24] The ironies are unspeakable, but they still remain worth noting.

               Now, for those Israelis who were willing to cultivate US presidential support at all costs and whatever the concessions, relevant details should appear painful to recount. To the end, under the starkly indifferent aegis of Donald J. Trump and his coterie of dedicated sycophants, an official US pattern of illegality included forced deportations of minor children and forcible expulsions of the most severely disadvantaged. It is not a pattern that ought ever to have been overlooked or embraced by a “Jewish State.”The contradictions are simply too plain to see, too monstrous and too defiling.

               “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…..” say the words on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, words from never-to-be-forgotten Jewish author Emma Lazarus.

               Other serious issues were involved in Israel’s willingness to betray its most sacred ideals in “realistic” exchange for Trump patronage. Most perplexing and worrisome of all were those matters that centered on the always-key realms of war avoidance and peacemaking. In all these essential matters, this US president’s complete lack of any informed and coherent vision of foreign affairs was consequential and obvious. How could these irremediable debilities ever have been so totally ignored in Jerusalem?

               By preferring visceral seat-of-the-pants planning (“attitude, not preparation,” said Trump) to any focused forms of policy creation,[25] the former president sought to “reward” Israel with a series of  marginal “victories” –  e.g., moving the American Embassy from  Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a demonstrably Faustian agreement to arm the UAE with US F35s as quid pro quo for diplomatic recognition by Abu Dhabi, and the so-called “Abraham Accords.”[26] At best, all of these alleged “gifts” to Israel will represent more-or-less Pyrrhic victories.[27]

Trump, “Palestine” and Iran

               All presumed Trumpian benefits to Israel either ignore or exacerbate the more authentically critical security problems still at issue in Israel’s volatile regional “neighborhood.” Most obvious and enduringly problematic here are the expectedly continuous antipathies of the Palestinians, and also the still-accelerating nuclearization of Iran. In this regard, Trump’s unilateral US withdrawal from the JCPOA pact with Iran and his  subsequent enhancement of selected Sunni Arab states only made matters worse.

               Further marginalizing Iran could hardly signal a propitious security outcome for Jerusalem.

               Also, going forward, the several Palestinian elements seeking sovereignty with a determined prise de conscience, with an aroused consciousness, will not only remain fixed on achieving their overriding national goal. Plausibly, they will further prepare for the next hideous rounds of intercommunal violence. All this suggests, most urgently and with de facto compliments of Donald J. Trump, yet another intifada.[28]

               What about the Trump-vaunted Abraham Accords? At every level of assessment, these agreements, negotiated via the American president’s “good offices” –  and also the kindred deals with Morocco and Sudan – are devoid of any meaningfully gainful substance. In essence, to praise the Accords for enhancing Israel’s security is a bit like commending US President Ronald Reagan’s October 1983 invasion of Grenada on the grounds that Americans have not since had to face any catastrophic aggressions from Grenada.

               When Israel-Palestinian relations and Israel-Iranian relations are taken into joint account, the “whole” of negative outcomes for Israel could prove vastly more injurious than the simple sum of the respective “parts.” Here, as authentic synergies, the net costs of pertinent Trump-brokered agreements would significantly exceed Israel’s net gains. By definition, this means that at least as long as we can assume an Israeli capacity to estimate the costs and benefits of alternative  courses of action, Jerusalem’s participation in these concocted agreements was effectively irrational.

               Self-evidently irrational.[29]

                Even in the best of times, no one could reasonably describe the Middle East as a region of impending stability or collective security.  In the worst of times, this endlessly-volatile region could very quickly descend into a substantially more far-reaching condition of chaos.[30]Such a potentially lethal descent could have its precipitating origins in an impending nuclear confrontation with Iran[31] – a confrontation made more likely by Trump’s earlier withdrawal from the Obama-era Iran pact (JCPOA) and by his mid-November 2020 queries about launching an American military first strike or in the still-expanding interstices of microbial assault (i.e., Covid19 pandemic).. In a credibly worst case scenario, these causes, augmented by similarly incoherent Trump withdrawals from Afghanistan and Iraq,  would  intersect synergistically.[32]

               Again, by definition, the calculable “whole” of tangible injurious effects suffered by Israel[33] would be greater than the simple sum of its component “parts.”[34]

Reason and Anti-Reason

               There is more. From its visibly disjointed  beginnings, the  posturing Trump presidency was detached from absolutely any identifiable considerations of history, law[35] or diplomacy.[36] Till the end, saddled with such overwhelming and self-inflicted debilities, the former American president “advanced” unashamedly toward ever-more conspicuous postures of anti-reason. These flagrantly non-analytic postures included conspiracy theories so morbidly vacuous and outrageous that they would make even the most witting fools blush with a well-deserved embarrassment. If this were not enough humiliation to worry about, all this critique ignores Donald Trump’s unhidden disrespect for elementary logic, most distressingly his false correlation of Covid19 testing with increasing illness and his corresponding “medical” recommendation that citizens consider taking household disinfectants by injection.

               There is little here that is actually subject to dispute. Former President Trump’s disjointed Corona Virus policy continues to result in the needless deaths of a great many trusting Americans. Though lacking the “intent” or mens rea that is integral to the codified crime of genocide,[37]  the president’s Covid19 policy’s effect upon US civilian populations had been effectively genocidal.[38]

                From the standpoint of the victims and their families, the juridical fine point here is immaterial. It’s a bit like the parable of frogs being killed by the playful rock-throwing of young children. The boys may not have intended any such harms, but the frogs remain dead nonetheless.

               From the start of the Trump Era, Israel had been forewarned. In all complex matters of world politics and foreign policy, this American president had always been operating ad hoc, without any considered plan or doctrine, lurching fitfully from one inane whim to another, always without sturdy analytic moorings.[39] Whatever the subject, Trump  navigated precipitously, jumping wildly from crisis to crisis, always without even an elementary grounding in theory, ideology or science. Like his appointed and uniformly obsequious subordinates, Trump read nothing, nothing at all. To the everlasting delight of his American followers, there were three places the former president would absolutely never choose to visit: a museum, the theatre or a library.

               Is this an American president from whom Israel should ever have reasonably expected palpable wisdom or informed guidance?

               Ever?

               The question is silly, on its face.

                For Jerusalem, though very late in the “game,” the cumulative security consequences of any Trump-induced regional disorder (Trump said on several occasions, “I love chaos”) are apt to be far-reaching and at least partially irremediable. By assuming, without verifiable reason, that this US President had ever had Israel’s best interests in mind, or that he could conceivably have figured out what those national interests might actually have been, Israel must soon find itself dealing with otherwise once-avoidable regional crises.

               Among several examples of relevant Trump errors and deceptions, the American President’s April 2018 attack against Syrian chemical warfare facilities should be brought to mind. This spasmodic or “seat-of-the-pants” US action had little tangible impact upon Bashar al-Assad’s genocidal dictatorship.[40] Even worse, this photo-op generated attack emboldened various anti-Damascus regime insurgents holding jihadist orientations.

               What actually happened? These hapless insurgents were quickly crushed by al-Assad’s armed forces, hardly a victory for democratic rule in Syria or for any society allegedly bound to the peremptory Biblical principle, “Justice, justice shall you pursue.”[41] Also worth noting: Because of Trump’s conspicuous disregard for scientific and theoretical underpinnings,[42] matters could just as easily have gone the other way, effectively strengthening what was then a pro-ISIS adversary.

               Other basic questions should now arise in US policymaking circles. Whatever the specific issue at hand, Donald Trump remained steeply beholden to Vladimir Putin; he would never have considered doing anything that did not first comport with the Russian dictator’s presumptive personal preferences.[43] Why?

               It’s not a silly question.

               It finally deserves a proper answer.

               Donald J. Trump could have cared less about Israel’s national well-being or even its physical security. Always, his cynical outreach to Israelis and American Jews had only on self-serving objective.  This goal was to re-elect Donald Trump, and to extract ebullient homage for America’s reigning “emperor.”[44]

Remembering History/Awaiting Chaos

                Now, more than ever, history deserves appropriate pride of place. Since the seventeenth-century, the structure of world politics has been consistently anarchic or “Westphalian.”[45] But anarchy means “only” the absence of authoritative central government. To fully unravel still-meaningful effects of the destabilizing Trump presidency, Israel would need to prepare more systematically for various “centrifugal” foreign policy developments. The object of such rampant geo-strategic  disorder would be identifiable as chaos.

               Quo Vadis? For Israel, a true condition of chaos could prove far more threatening than “mere” anarchy.  In virtually any still-expressible form, this bewildering condition could play havoc with even the nation’s best laid plans. From the particular standpoint of Israel’s military readiness, chaos represents a constantly unpredictable, deeply frightful and ever-changing  “correlation of forces.”[46] Suddenly or incrementally, this correlation could impair all “normal” (and potentially indispensable) national security preparations.

                There is more. This impairment could arrive suddenly, as a dissembling “bolt-from-the-blue” enemy attack, or less discernibly and less dramatically, in variously tangible but unforeseeable increments.

               Whatever its mode of arrival, such results, for Israel, could be intolerable.

               In large part, these results will have been generated by misconceived and manipulative US presidential thinking.

               A new chaos is impending. For strategists and scholars, it must be differentiated from the more “normal”disorder associated with Carl von Clausewitz’s (the nineteenth-century Prussian military strategist) “friction” and correlative “fog of war.”[47] At its core, this Trump-boosted chaos describes a deep and systemic level of uncertainty, one that could create unprecedented and residually primal forms of international conflict. It follows, for Israel, that regional chaos could quickly and conclusively smother any still-simmering hopes for some cumulatively gainful “Trump Effect.”

               In essence, there was never any defensible legal or strategic reason for Israel to make sordid deals with a clinically-deranged American president; that is, to betray its national interests and ideals at the same time.

               At best, the US embassy move and the Abraham Accords will prove of very limited consolation to Israel. At worst, these “rewards” (designed only for Trump’s domestic political benefit) will be responsible for accelerating anti-Israel passions and policies, including new waves of Palestinian terror in Judea. Samaria (West Bank) and Israel proper. Any such revived instances of Sunni-Arab terror[48] could hasten rather than  hinder the creation of a Palestinian state,[49] a portentous outcome for “Palestine” that could generate  certain ominous synergies with Iranian nuclear weapons development.

                Once such creation had become a fait accompli, moreover, Israel would likely experience new incentives to initiate “anticipatory self-defense” options.[50]

               Wittingly, many states in world politics, not just Israel, must soon acknowledge steadily increasing risks from assorted forms of nuclear conflict.[51] In this connection, Donald Trump’s sorely evident incapacity to suitably manage a nuclear crisis and/or control any more-or-less related military escalations is difficult to dispute. Should this US President have failed to prevent a single escalation from an ongoing crisis to overt nuclear warfare, the corollary effects could have impacted several other parts of the world. These effects would have arrived in the form of prompt, immediate or latent physical casualties, and less dramatically, as the probable cause of unique social and economic misfortunes.[52]

Intersections and Synergies

                World politics is not geometry. In these complex spheres of interaction, ones where complex synergies are often involved, the whole can become greater than the sum of its parts. For Israel, going forward, the most obvious chaos-generated perils could  concern (1) escalating violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Sudan, Libya and/or Syria; and (2) near-simultaneous deteriorations in a still-ongoing Iranian nuclearization effort and/or in the many-sided Palestinian insurgency.

               Facing these prospectively intersecting perils, Jerusalem is already well aware that the Hashemite monarchy in neighboring Jordan remains vulnerable to assorted new forms of Islamic radicalism. Also apparent to decision-makers in Jerusalem is that a continuously authoritarian el-Sisi military regime in Cairo might not be able to control the  re-aspiring Muslim Brotherhood indefinitely. Nothing done by the Trump administration had addressed any of these key problems.

               In principle, at least, the “Brotherhood” or its kindred organizations could sometime seek to get its hands on weaponized pathogens or even nuclear explosives.[53] Regarding the “germ warfare” components, there would be great uncertainties about plausible effects of use during an already ongoing viral pandemic. What  then?       

               There is more. Apropos of any derivative “Trump effects” upon Israel’s national security, Pakistan exhibits another critical site of wider-area disintegration, one that could suddenly transform a “merely” volatile Middle East from basic Westphalian anarchy to a genuinely unfathomable chaos. To wit, if the already-nuclear regime in Islamabad should sometime fall toJihadists, all other regional sources of chaotic disintegration could promptly pale into comparative insignificance. In this regard, there is absolutely no evidence that the Trump administration had accomplished even a modicum of appropriate planning.

               In an expectedly worst case scenario for Israel, assorted Jihadists, emboldened by multiple expressions of Trump administration confusion and indecisiveness, would take singular or “hybrid” control in one or several of the more plainly unstable Sunni Arab and/or North African governments. Ultimately, these “martyrdom-driven” leaders could acquire certain game-changing weapons of mass destruction. This worrisome prospect, even if all acquired weapons were to remain non-nuclear, bring to mind the fearsomely correlative scenario of a “suicide-bomber in macrocosm.”[54]

               A Jihadist “hybrid” could be a terror-group amalgam (that is, no direct state component) or reflect an asymmetrical alignment between particular terror-groups and a kindred state or states.

               With the still-expected advance of Trump-enhanced chaos in the Middle East, Israel could sometime have to face certain nuclear and ideologically Islamist enemies on both the Iranian (Shiite) and Arab (Sunni) fronts. Even in the absence of old enemies with new atomic arms, nuclear and biological materials could find their way to Hezbollahin Lebanonand/or Hamas in Gaza. Along the way, Jerusalem – perhaps still following former President Trump’s predictably uncertain and disjointed policies –  could find itself having to take sides with one or another set of mortal enemies.

Political Philosophy and the State of Nature

               Back in the seventeenth-century, the English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, already recognized that although international relations exist indefinitely in a “state of nature,” a condition of anarchy (not one of genuine chaos), these decentralized relations are nonetheless more tolerable than the condition of individual human beings living in similarly “everyone-for-himself” circumstances. This is the case, argued Hobbes, because nations, unlike individuals, lack the capacity to destroy one another.

               But today, this once reassuring distinction is no longer meaningful.[55] Thomas Hobbes was plainly unable to conceptualize a world with nuclear weapons. Now, proliferation of these weapons, especially in the Middle East, could quickly reduce the orthodox and relatively tolerable Westphalian anarchy of international relations to an authentically Hobbesianchaos, a “stateof nature,” one that could normally exist only between individuals.

               Here, as more and more nations came to share what Hobbes had cleverly called “dreadful equality,” a more-or-less symmetrical capacity to inflict mortal destruction, the portent of  regional nuclear calamity could become correspondingly more likely.

               In his modern classic, “The Second Coming,”  William Butler Yeats wrote of a time in which “the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned.” Succinctly, the celebrated Irish poet then revealed what continues to elude historians, diplomats, statesmen and scholars:In the not-too-distant future, there could arrive a moment wherein there would be no safety in numbers, treaties, or armaments; no help from “civilizations;” no counsel from public authority; and no last-minute rescue from science. Such an apocalyptic “moment,” one made more likely by the residual effects of America’s ill-prepared and steeply corrupted former president, might rage for a long while, perhaps even until every flower of human culture had been trampled and once-intact human communities had been ground insidiously into dust.

               From this seemingly resurrected medieval darkness, from this foreseeably Trump-facilitated chaos, there would be neither escape nor sanctuary. Rather like the “America First” or “know nothing” illiteracy that Mr. Trump had championed in the United States, such darkness could envelop entire regions of our long-suffering planet in a suffocating pall. What then? What will Americans have learned from the still-enduring horrors of Trump era declensions?

                 For Israel, the prime inheritor of Genesis, Trumpian chaos augured severe and paradoxical kinds of national fragility. As a continuously beleaguered microstate, Israel could still become  (depending upon the precise extent to which it would have allowed itself to be manipulated and misguided by Trump “rewards”) the principal victim of an even more-rampant regional disorder. In view of the far-reaching interrelatedness of all world politics – always, everything is “system” –  this victimization could arise even if the conspicuously precipitating events of war and terror[56]were to occur elsewhere.

               Oddly enough, a hideously triumphant global chaoscould reveal both sense and form. Generated by mutually  reinforcing explosions of mega-war and mega-terror, any further Trump-induced disintegrations of world authority could assume a revealing shape. But how should such a unique shape, such a sobering “geometry” of chaos, be suitably deciphered and purposefully understood in Jerusalem? As a related and similarly vital question, Israel’s leaders would then need to inquire:

               “How should we deal with potentially irrational nuclear adversaries, dedicated foes operating within both state and terrorist groups?”[57]

Israel as System

               There is more. Among other things, the whole world, like the individual nation-states that comprise it, is best understood as a system.  By definition, therefore, what happens in any one part of this world always affects what happens in some or all other parts. When, for example, global deterioration is marked, and begins to spread from one country to another, these effects could undermine international stability in general. When deterioration is sudden and catastrophic, as it would be following the onset of any unconventional war and/or act of unconventional terrorism, the unraveling effects could become more immediate and more overwhelming. 

               The State of Israel, a system of interdependent and interpenetrating parts like every other state, exists precariously in our larger world system.  Aware that any Trump-inspired collapse of regional authority structures (most plausibly, in increments) had, in one way or another, impacted its few friends as well as its many enemies, leaders of the Jewish State should now advance variously informed expectations or scenarios of collapse. This would be done in order to best prepare suitable forms of  response. Ultimately, recognizing that any rapid and far-reaching global collapse could spawn a more or less complete return to “everyone for himself” in world politics, or what philosopher Thomas Hobbeshad called in Leviathan a bellum omnium contra omnes, a “war of all against all,” Israel’s leaders must consider just how they should respond to any future national life in a global “state of nature.”

               These considerations would not present encouraging or pleasing forms of analytic effort. Still, they would  represent prudential national policy steps, and must therefore be undertaken. Such eleventh-hour considerations could be critical to the extent that the triggering mechanism of collapse would originate within the Middle East itself, from massive chemical, biological and, in the future, nuclear attacks against Israel. In these uncertain times of biological “plague,” the specific actions of any microbial assault would be largely unpredictable but nonetheless highly consequential.

               Any chaotic disintegration of the regional or wider-world system, whether slow and incremental or sudden and catastrophic, would impact the Israeli system. Accordingly, following the intellectually and morally deficient Trump presidency, Israel will have to orient its military planning doctrines more expressly toward worst-case possibilities. Already, Trump-initiated US troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, opposed internally by the Joint Chiefs of Staff,  are accelerating regional instabilities in ways that are foreseeable and unforeseeable.

               Will one predictable result of these ill-considered withdrawals be increasing pressure upon Israel  to carry out assassinations/targeted killings[58] on behalf of Washington?[59] If so, what would this suggest about the true cumulative costs to Israel of the Trump-brokered “peace” agreements? This is a question well worth answering.

Looking to a Less Damaging Foreign Policy Future

               In the final analysis, it will be apparent that the overall security costs of these pacts to Jerusalem will exceed the overall benefits. And this is to say nothing about any corresponding Israeli violations of international law mandated by American “largesse,” or about indiscriminate Israeli submission to misconceived US presidential authority. Though every sham can have a patina, this moral and intellectual Trump Era surrender could haunt Israel’s national integrity and self-respect for a painfully long time.

               There is one last time-urgent observation to make about Israel’s witting subordination to Donald J. Trump’s incoherent plans and expectations. In mid-November 2020, Israel felt obligated to strike out at selected Iranian military targets in Syria. Simultaneously, in large part because of Trump’s earlier (and counter-productive) withdrawal from the Iran nuclear pact, Tehran had already been accelerating its preparations to “go nuclear.” On both conventional and unconventional weapon fronts, this former American president’s errors and incapacities had encouraged Iranian belligerence and strategic threats toward Israel.

                In the end, Israelis, not just Americans, will have to extricate themselves from grievous Trump-engineered misfortunes.[60]

               To avoid similar judgments or mistakes in the future, Israeli leaders ought never calculate that the flamboyant wishes of an American president are ipso facto coincident with their own nation’s best interests. President Donald Trump inflicted deeply corrosive harms upon the United States, but he also set the stage for continuously creating corollary or corresponding harms to Israel. Now, these significant harms, left unresolved, could not only imperil the Jewish State’s physical security, but also its still-residual convictions concerning international justice and human rights.[61]

               A small nation that earlier chose to follow a dissembling and dishonest American patron must expect a future of significant lamentations and potential despair.[62]

               For Israel, from the start, any deal made by US President Donald J. Trump “on its behalf” was essentially a bad deal.[63] “Proof” of this once-preventable result is already evident in moral and legal realms; it will soon become similarly clear in pertinent matters of strategy and self-defense. These matters will involve, inter alia, adversarial actions issuing forth from various sectors of the Sunni Arab world (including some that have been beneficiaries of Trump deal making); Shiite Iran (including various cooperating elements of both Sunni al-Qaeda and Shiite Hezbollah); and Afghanistan (mainly once-dormant Taliban foes resurrected by Trump’s seat-of-the-pants US troop withdrawals).

               In this last example, the negative consequences of Donald Trump’s misconceived foreign policy (terrorist training and terrorist safe havens) will not stem directly from any US actions undertaken “on behalf of Israel.” Rather, these unwanted results will stem indirectly from a policy intended originally by the former American president solely for  presumed benefit of the United States. Some or all of these discrete consequences could sometime combine in more-or-less unforeseen ways, creating strongly synergistic outcomes that are far worse than the calculable sum of their component parts. Incrementally, in such once-avoidable cases, the tangible costs to Israel of having wittingly acceded to Donald Trump’s lawless Realpolitik[64]will become more apparent and less remediable.

               For Israel, the Jewish State, it doesn’t have to be this way. Recalling Rabbi Hillel, the relevant standard of correct behavior is longstanding, clear and compelling: “That which is hateful to you,” instructs Talmud, “do not do to your neighbor.”

               It’s not complicated. For Israel and its American ally, the policy obligations are reciprocal, plain to see and altogether overriding.


[1]Prima facie, when President Trump’s executive orders directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to expand his coercive program of “expedited removal,” he was in flagrant violation of the legal principle known as non-refoulement. This principle is prominently codified at Article 33 of the 1951 Refugee Convention. Owing to the prior incorporation of international human rights law into US law, these always-serious violations extend authoritatively to the immigration laws of the United States.

[2] See https://www.huffpost.com/entry/trump-barbed-wire-montana-rally-beautiful_n_5bde3b9fe4b04367a87d2495

[3] See, by this author, Louis René Beres, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2018/04/louis-beres-trump-syria/

[4]See, by this author, Louis René Beres, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2018/03/trump-putin-benes/   For definition of crimes against humanity, See AGREEMENT FOR THE PROSECUTION AND PUNISHMENT OF THE MAJOR WAR CRIMINALS OF THE EUROPEAN AXIS POWERS AND CHARTER OF THE INTERNATIONAL MILITARY TRIBUNAL.  Done at London, August 8, 1945.  Entered into force, August 8, 1945.  For the United States, Sept. 10, 1945.  59 Stat. 1544, 82 U.N.T.S. 279.  The principles of international law recognized by the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and the judgment of the Tribunal were affirmed by the U.N. General Assembly as AFFIRMATION OF THE PRINCIPLES OF INTERNATIONAL LAW RECOGNIZED BY THE CHARTER OF THE NUREMBERG TRIBUNAL.  Adopted by the U.N. General Assembly, Dec. 11, 1946.  U.N.G.A. Res. 95 (I), U.N. Doc. A/236 (1946), at 1144.  This AFFIRMATION OF THE PRINCIPLES OF INTERNATIONAL LAW RECOGNIZED BY THE CHARTER OF THE NUREMBERG TRIBUNAL (1946) was followed by General Assembly Resolution 177 (II), adopted November 21, 1947, directing the U.N. International Law Commission to “(a) Formulate the principles of international law recognized in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and in the judgment of the Tribunal, and (b) Prepare a draft code of offenses against the peace and security of mankind….” (See U.N. Doc. A/519, p. 112).  The principles formulated are known as the PRINCIPLES OF INTERNATIONAL LAW RECOGNIZED IN THE CHARTER AND JUDGMENT OF THE NUREMBERG TRIBUNAL.  Report of the International Law Commission, 2nd session, 1950, U.N. G.A.O.R. 5th session, Supp. No. 12, A/1316, p. 11.

[5]See by this author, Louis René Beres,  https://jewishwebsite.com/opinion/presidential-crimes-and-pardons-donald-j-trump-and-americas-higher-law/64169/

[6]The core origins of such belligerence and conflict in world politics are best explained by German historian Heinrich von Treitschke in his posthumously published Lecture on Politics (1896):  “Individual man sees in his own country the realization of his earthly immortality.” Earlier, German philosopher Georg Friedrich Hegel opined, in Philosophy of Right (1820), that the state represents “the march of God in the world.” The “deification” of Realpolitik, a transformation from mere principle of action to a sacred and sacrilizing end in itself, drew its originating strength from the doctrine of sovereignty advanced in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Initially conceived as a principle of internal order, this doctrine underwent a specific metamorphosis, whence it became the formal or justifying rationale for international anarchy –  that is, for the global “state of nature.” First established by Jean Bodin as a juristic concept in De Republica (1576), sovereignty came to be regarded as a power absolute and above the law. Understood in terms of modern international relations, this doctrine encouraged the notion that states lie above and beyond any form of legal regulation in their interactions with each other.

[7]Could anything have been  more markedly anti-science than Trump’s utterly incoherent Covid19 advice? How could anyone take seriously his counsel to combat the pandemic with individual human injections of household bleach or disinfectant?

[8]During his presidency, too little attention was directed toward Trump’s open loathing of science and intellect and his corresponding unwillingness to read. Ironically, the Founding Fathers of the United States were intellectuals. As explained by American historian Richard Hofstadter: “The Founding Fathers were sages, scientists, men of broad cultivation, many of them apt in classical learning, who used their wide reading in history, politics and law to solve the exigent problems of their time.” See Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964), p. 145. A conclusion ought to surface: How far we Americans have fallen.

[9] In Book II of his Ethics Baruch Spinoza considers the human mind or what he calls the “intellectual attributes,” and – drawing from René Descartes’ Discourse on Method – strives to define an essential theory of learning and knowledge. 

[10]Trump openly instructed his Secretary of State and Attorney General to denounce the International Criminal Court’s then-planned investigation of alleged US war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan. This direction was in fundamental contradiction of America’s ineradicable obligations to both national and international law. In the words used by the U.S. Supreme Court in The Paquete Habana, “International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction, as often as questions of right depending upon it are duly presented for their determination.  For this purpose, where there is no treaty, and no controlling executive or legislative act or judicial decision, resort must be had to the customs and usages of civilized nations.”  See The Paquete Habana, 175 U.S. 677, 678-79 (1900).  See also:  The Lola,  175 U.S. 677 (1900);  Tel-Oren v. Libyan Arab Republic, 726 F. 2d 774,  781, 788 (D.C. Cir. 1984)(per curiam)(Edwards, J. concurring)(dismissing the action, but making several references to domestic jurisdiction over extraterritorial offenses), cert. denied,  470 U.S. 1003 (1985)(“concept of extraordinary judicial jurisdiction over acts in violation of significant international standards…embodied in the principle of `universal violations of international law.'”).

[11]“There is no longer a virtuous nation,” warned the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, “and the best of us live by candlelight.” Of course, Israel’s wrongheaded complicity with Donald Trump pales beside citizen irresponsibility of the United States, the country that actually elevated such a patently egregious individual to a position of unparalleled global power. Moreover, in the specific parlance of international law, Trump must rightfully be regarded an embodiment of hostes humani generis,  or as a “common enemy of humankind.” On the concept of “common enemy of mankind,”  see:  Robert Alfert Jr.,  “Hostes Humani Generis:  An Expanded Notion of U.S. Counterterrorist Legislation,”  Emory International Law Review 6,  no. 1 (Spring 1992): 171-214. See also: Harvard Research in International Law: Draft Convention on Jurisdiction with Respect to Crime, 29 AM. J. INT’L L. 435, 566 (Supp. 1935) (quoting Coke, C. J. in King v. Marsh, 3 Bulstr. 27, 81 E.R. 23 (1615) (“a pirate est hostes humani generis”)). 

[12] See, by this author, Louis René Beres, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/10/louis-rene-beres-good-genes-proud-boys-white-supremacy/

[13]See, by this author, Louis René Beres, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/11/louis-rene-beres-dominating-the-street/

[14]https://news.yahoo.com/trumps-new-pentagon-chief-counterterrorism-agency-white-supremacy-100030848.html

[15] See, by this author, Louis René Beres, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/05/louis-beres-america-rise-and-fall/

[16]See, by this author, Louis René Beres, https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2020/04/14/a-once-unimaginable-scenario-the-president-as-monster/

[17]We must remember here that the core obligations of general international law are simultaneously core obligations of US law. Recalling judgment of the US Supreme Court in Paquete Habana (supra) (1900): “International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained and administered by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction….” The more specific incorporation of treaty law into US municipal law is codified at Art. 6 of the US Constitution, the so-called “Supremacy Clause.” It is manifest that Donald J. Trump  never had any literate awareness of these essential facts.

[18] See, for example, Louis René Beres, “Genocide and Genocide-Like Crimes,” in  M. Cherif Bassiouni., ed., International Criminal Law: Crimes (New York, Transnational Publishers, 1986), pp. 271-279.   On the crime of genocide under international law, see: See Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, opened for signature, December 9, 1948, entered into force, January 12, 1951, 78 U.N.T.S. 277.  Although the criminalizing aspect of international law that proscribes genocide-like conduct may derive from sources other than the Genocide Convention (i.e., it may emerge from customary international law and also be included in different international conventions), such conduct is always an egregious crime under international law. Even where the conduct in question does not affect the interests of more than one state, a traditional canon of international legal validity, it becomes an international crime ipso facto whenever it constitutes an offense against the world community delicto jus gentium. 

[19]Though Trump’s Israeli and American supporters sometimes advance a purportedly utilitarian argument about  these evident infractions of law and justice, they ought best bear in mind the following peremptory principle of jurisprudence: “Rights cannot derive from wrongs” (Ex injuria jus non oritur).

[20]Under international law, the idea of a Higher Law – drawn originally from the ancient Hebrews – is contained  within the principle of jus cogens or peremptory norms.

[21]Apropos of Article 53 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969: “A peremptory norm of general international law….is a norm accepted and recognized by the international community of States as a whole, as a norm from which no derogation is permitted, and which can be modified only by a subsequent norm of general international law having the same character.”

[22]By such alleged criteria of “merit,” it is plausible that neither Stephen Miller’s Eastern European refugee forbears or Donald Trump’s own refugee mother (who came to the US penniless from Scotland to work as a domestic) would have been granted legal admittance.

[23]When President Trump’s executive orders directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to expand his coercive program of “expedited removal,” he was in conspicuous violation of the legal principle known as non-refoulement. This principle is unambiguously codified at Article 33 of the 1951 Refugee Convention. Automatically, owing to the prior incorporation of international human rights law into US law, these always very serious violations extend to the immigration laws of the United States.

[24] The author, Professor Louis René Beres, was born in Switzerland at the end of the War, the only son  of Austrian Jewish Holocaust refugees.

[25]The “mass-man,” we may learn from 20th century Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y’ Gasset’s  The Revolt of the Masses, “learns only in his own flesh.” Donald J. Trump is the quintessential “mass-man.”

[26] See, by this author, Louis René Beres, https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2021/03/13/after-the-abraham-accords-nuclear-deterrence-and-nuclear-war-in-the-middle-east/ See also: https://www.state.gov/the-abraham-accords/

[27]At worst, the Trump-supplied massive weapons transfer to UAE (his quid pro quo for UAE recognizing Israel) will quickly find its way into the hands of more belligerent adversaries of Israel, including assorted Sunni terrorist groups. https://www.yahoo.com/huffpost/senate-block-trump-weapons-sale-uae-192114064.html

[28] For authoritative legal criteria to distinguish permissible insurgencies from impermissible ones, see: Louis René Beres, “The Legal Meaning of Terrorism for the Military Commander,” CONNECTICUT JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW, Vol. 11., No. 1., Fall 1995, pp. 1-27. For the  moment, too many Israelis erroneously believe that Trump’s contrived Abraham Accords will somehow reduce the likelihood of further Palestinian violence.

[29]More  generally, expressions of decisional irrationality in world politics could take different and overlapping forms. These include a disorderly or inconsistent value system; computational errors in calculation; an incapacity to communicate efficiently; random or haphazard influences in the making or transmittal of particular decisions; and the internal dissonance generated by any structure of collective decision-making (i.e., assemblies of pertinent individuals who lack identical value systems and/or whose organizational arrangements impact their willing capacity to act as a single or unitary national decision maker).

[30] See latest book by this writer, Louis René Beres, Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (2016; 2nd. ed. 2018). https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy

[31] Presently such a confrontation could not involve a full-fledged nuclear war (because Iran is not yet nuclear). For the moment, therefore, it is not an imminent risk. Looking ahead, however, for informed assessments of the probable consequences of nuclear war fighting, by this author, see Louis René Beres, SURVIVING AMID CHAOS: ISRAEL’S NUCLEAR STRATEGY (London: Rowman and Littlefield, 2016/2018); Louis René Beres,  APOCALYPSE: NUCLEAR CATASTROPHE IN WORLD POLITICS (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Louis René Beres,  MIMICKING SISYPHUS: AMERICA’S COUNTERVAILING NUCLEAR STRATEGY (Lexington MA:  Lexington Books, 1983);  Louis René Beres, REASON AND REALPOLITIK: U S FOREIGN POLICY AND WORLD ORDER (Lexington MA;  Lexington Books, 1984);  and Louis René Beres, ed.,  SECURITY OR ARMAGEDDON: ISRAEL’S NUCLEAR STRATEGY (Lexington MA:  Lexington Books, 1986).

[32]Regarding Israel and Iran, see Louis René Beres and John T. Chain (General/USAF/ret.), “Could Israel Safely Deter a Nuclear Iran”?, The Atlantic, August, 2012; and also: Professor Louis René Beres and General Chain, “Israel and Iran at the Eleventh Hour,” Oxford University Press (OUP Blog), February 23, 2012. General Chain was Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Strategic Air Command (CINCSAC).

[33]On occasion this “whole” could be minimized by certain lawful expressions of anticipatory self-defense. Non-nuclear preemption has figured importantly in previous Israeli strategic calculations.  This was most glaringly apparent in the wars of 1956 and 1967, and also in the destruction of the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981.  It was essentially the failure to preempt in October 1973 that contributed to heavy Israeli losses on the Egyptian and Syrian fronts during the Yom Kippur war, and almost brought about an Israeli defeat.  During January, May, and October 2013, Israel, understandably apprehensive about Damascus’ supply of military materials to Syria’s Hezbollah surrogates in Lebanon, preemptively struck pertinent hard targets within Syria itself. For a jurisprudential assessment of these undeclared but still-appropriate expressions of anticipatory self-defense, by this author, see: Louis René Beres, “Striking Hezbollah-Bound Weapons in Syria: Israel’s Actions Under International Law,” Harvard National Security Journal, Harvard Law School, Online,  August 26, 2013.

[34] See, by this writer, at Harvard Law School:  Louis René Beres,  https://harvardnsj.org/2015/06/core-synergies-in-israels-strategic-planning-when-the-adversarial-whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts/  See also, by this writer, at West Point (Pentagon):  Louis René  Beres https://mwi.usma.edu/threat-convergence-adversarial-whole-greater-sum-parts/

[35] For early pertinent decisions on US “incorporation” of  authoritative international law by Chief Justice John Marshall, see: The Antelope, 23 U.S. (10 Wheat.) 66, 120 (1825); The Nereide, 13 U.S. (9 Cranch) 388, 423 (1815); Rose v. Himely, 8 U.S. (4 Cranch) 241, 277 (1808) and Murray v. The Schooner Charming Betsy, 6 U.S. (2 Cranch) 64, 118 (1804).

[36] See, by  this writer: Louis René Beres, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/wanted-plan-nuclear-diplomacy-26395

[37] See, by this author, Louis René Beres, https://digitalcommons.lmu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://search.yahoo.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1151&context=ilr

[38]See: https://www.yahoo.com/huffpost/mary-trump-blood-on-his-hands-101528091.html

[39]See, on this point, by Louis René Beres at Israel Defense: https://www.israeldefense.co.il/en/node/28532

[40]Regarding illegal US support for the Syrian regime, see, by this author at Jurist:  Louis René Beres, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2018/07/us-abandoning-legal-obligations-in-syria/ 

[41]Deuteronomy, 16:20

[42] “Theory is a net,” quotes philosopher of science Karl Popper from the German poet Novalis in The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1959), “….only those who cast, can catch.”

[43]  To the end, Vladimir Putin remained Donald Trump’s very evident puppet-master. In essence, this US president had been “The Manchurian Candidate” on steroids.

[44]See, by this author, Louis René Beres, https://www.usnews.com/opinion/thomas-jefferson-street/articles/2018-02-14/donald-trump-is-willfully-incoherent-corrupt-and-dangerous

[45]Reference here is to the world system creating Peace of Westphalia, which concluded the Thirty Years War  in 1648. See: Treaty of Peace of Munster, Oct. 1648, 1 Consol. T.S. 271; and Treaty of Peace of Osnabruck, Oct. 1648, 1., Consol. T.S. 119. Together, these two treaties comprise the “Peace of Westphalia.” When compared to “Westphalian” anarchy, any impending chaos could be more expressly primal, more primordial, perhaps even self-propelled and “lascivious.” We may think here, for further elucidation, of the near-total “state of nature” described in William Golding’s prophetic novel, Lord of the Flies. Before Golding, the 17th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (see Ch. XIII of Leviathan) had warned that in any such rabidly dissembling conditions, the “life of man” must inevitably be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

[46]For earlier examinations of this “correlation,” by this author, see:  https://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/louis-bene-beres/israel-palestine-and-correlation-of-forces-in-the-middle-east/2005/04/20/; and also, at Israel Defense: https://www.israeldefense.co.il/en/content/idf-correlation-forces-strategy-order

[47] See, by this author, Louis René Beres, https://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/foreign-policy/344344-risks-of-accidental-nuclear-war-with-north-korea-must-be

[48]Under international law, terrorist movements are always Hostes humani generis, or “Common enemies of mankind.” See: Research in International Law: Draft Convention on Jurisdiction with Respect to Crime, 29 AM J. INT’L L. (Supp 1935) 435, 566 (quoting King v. Marsh (1615), 3 Bulstr. 27, 81 Eng. Rep 23 (1615)(“a pirate est Hostes humani generis”)).

[49] Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s steady insistence that any Palestinian state remain “demilitarized” is not merely unrealistic, but also potentially inconsistent with pertinent international law. On this point, see: Louis René Beres and (Ambassador) Zalman Shoval, “Why a Demilitarized Palestinian State Would Not Remain Demilitarized: A View Under International Law,” Temple International and Comparative Law Journal,Winter, 1998, pp. 347-363. See also, by Professor Beres and AMB. Shoval, at West Point (US Department of Defense): https://mwi.usma.edu/creating-seamless-strategic-deterrent-israel-case-study/  Zalman Shoval is two-times Ambassador of Israel to the United States.

[50] The customary right of anticipatory self-defense, which is the legal expression of preemption, has its modern origins in the Caroline Incident. This was part of the unsuccessful rebellion of 1837 in Upper Canada against British rule. (See: Beth Polebau, “National Self-Defense in International Law: An Emerging Standard for a Nuclear Age,”  59 N.Y.U. L. REV.  187, 190-191 (noting that the Caroline Incident transformed the right of self-defense from an excuse for armed intervention into a customary legal doctrine). Following the Caroline, even the threat of an armed attack has generally been accepted as justification for a militarily defensive action. In an exchange of diplomatic notes between the governments of the United States and Great Britain, then-U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster outlined a framework for self-defense that does not actually require a prior armed attack. (See Polebau, op. cit., citing to Jennings, “The Caroline and McLeod Cases,”  32 AM. J. INT’L L., 82, 90 (1938).) Here, a defensive military response to a threat was judged permissible as long as the danger posed was “instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means and no moment for deliberation.” (See Polebau. supra, 61).

[51] It warrants pointing out that no state on earth, including Israel, is under per se legal obligation to renounce access to nuclear weapons; in certain residual circumstances, even the actual resort to such weapons could be construed as lawful. On July 8, 1996, the International Court of Justice at The Hague handed down its Advisory Opinion on “The Legality of the Threat or Use of Force of Nuclear Weapons.” The final paragraph of this Opinion concludes, inter alia: “The threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law. However, in view of the current state of international law, and of the elements of fact at its disposal, the Court cannot conclude definitively whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme circumstance of self-defense, in which the very survival of a State would be at stake.”

[52]See, by this author, at Harvard National Security Journal, Harvard Law School: Louis René Beres, https://harvardnsj.org/2020/03/complex-determinations-deciphering-enemy-nuclear-intentions/  

[53] See, by this author, at BESA (Israel):  Louis René Beres, https://besacenter.org/perspectives-papers/terrorism-power-death/

[54] See early book on this subject by this author, Louis René Beres,  https://www.routledge.com/Terrorism-And-Global-Security-The-Nuclear-Threatsecond-Edition-Completely/Beres/p/book/9780367289881  See also: Louis René Beres,  https://elibrary.law.psu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://search.yahoo.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1335&context=psilr

[55] In this connection, see, by this author, at US Army War College (US Department of Defense):  Louis René Beres,  https://warroom.armywarcollege.edu/articles/nuclear-decision-making/

[56] See, by this author, Louis René Beres, https://scholarlycommons.law.case.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1317&context=jil

[57] See, for example, by this author at Besa (Israel):  Louis René Beres, https://besacenter.org/perspectives-papers/north-korean-threat-rationality-intentionality-nuclear-war/

[58]For important legal distinctions between assassination and targeted killing, see:  Amos N. Guiora, Legitimate Target: A Criteria-Based Approach to Targeted Killing (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 107 pp.

[59]A current example may be found in Israel’s August 2020 elimination of Abu Muhammad al-Masri, al-Qaeda’s second-in-command. While not possible to confirm, it is plausible that Israel acted here as a “sub-contractor” for the United States. When the Taliban fell in Afghanistan, certain senior al-Qaeda leaders fled to Iran. This suggests, inter alia, (1) that upcoming US withdrawals from Afghanistan could occasion a partial or full return of al-Qaeda from Iran, and  (2) that there could be significant ad hoc relationships forged between the Shiite majority regime in Tehran and a Sunni-jihadist terrorist group.

[60]This  brings to mind a possible Israeli preemption against Iran, a considered instance of “anticipatory self-defense.” In the fashion of Hugo Grotius, 18th-century Swiss jurist Emmerich de Vattel draws significantly upon Hebrew Scripture and Jewish Law. See Exodus 22:2n (King James) (demonstrating a provision of the Torah that exonerates from guilt a potential victim of robbery with possible violence if, in self-defense, he struck down and, if necessary, even killed the attacker before he committed any crime (emphasis added)). Additionally, one noted rabbi has stated: “If a man comes to slay you, forestall by slaying him.” Rashi: Sanhedrin 72a. Perhaps more closely analogous to anticipatory self-defense under international law is a decision in the Talmud that categorizes war “to diminish the heathens so that they shall not march against them” as milhemet reshut,or discretionary. See Sotah 44b. 

[61] Israel can expect no rescue from a deus ex machina. In ancient Greece, classic playwright Euripides sometimes concluded his plays with  a reassuring “god out of the machine.” Appearing above the action, in a sort of theatrical crane, the specifically relevant god was seemingly able to solve all sorts of dreadful complications arising from the action, and thereby to supply a decipherable and more-or-less happy ending.

[62] Appropriately here, the specific importance of Reason to moral judgment and legal order  was prefigured in ancient Israel, which accommodated Reason within its own system of revealed law.  In jurisprudence, Jewish theory of law, insofar as it displays elements of Natural Law, offers a transcending order revealed by the divine word as interpreted by Reason.  In the words of Ecclesiastics 32.23,  37.16,  13-14:  “Let Reason go before every enterprise and counsel before any action…And let the counsel of thine own heart stand…For a man’s mind is sometimes wont to tell him more than seven watchmen that sit above in a high tower….”

[63] Where these deals are thought of as “Faustian bargains,” they call into question not only Israel’s tangible national security, but also its “soul. Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung thought of “soul” (in German, Seele) as the essence of every human being. Neither Freud nor Jung provides a precise definition of the term, but it was not intended by either thinker in any ordinary religious sense. For both, it was a recognizable and critical seat of mind and passions in this life. Interesting, too, in the present context, is that Freud explained his predicted decline of America by express references to “soul.” He was seemingly disgusted by any civilization so apparently unmoved by considerations of true “consciousness” (i.e., awareness of intellect and literature), and supposed that the crude American commitment to a perpetually shallow optimism and material accomplishment would inevitably cause sweeping psychological misery. One might reasonably extrapolate from this indictment that Freud would have had the same or similar apprehensions about any other society that looked to the United States as a suitable model for imitation, e.g., Israel.

[64] See, by this author, Louis René Beres, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2021/01/louis-rene-beres-rising-above-realpolitik/

LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Emeritus Professor of International Law at Purdue. His twelfth and most recent book is Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel's Nuclear Strategy (2016) (2nd ed., 2018) https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy Some of his principal strategic writings have appeared in Harvard National Security Journal (Harvard Law School); International Security (Harvard University); Yale Global Online (Yale University); Oxford University Press (Oxford University); Oxford Yearbook of International Law (Oxford University Press); Parameters: Journal of the US Army War College (Pentagon); Special Warfare (Pentagon); Modern War Institute (Pentagon); The War Room (Pentagon); World Politics (Princeton); INSS (The Institute for National Security Studies)(Tel Aviv); Israel Defense (Tel Aviv); BESA Perspectives (Israel); International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence; The Atlantic; The New York Times and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

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Middle East

From ‘Decisive Storm’ to Secret Talks: The Journey of Saudi Conquest of Yemen

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In the last days of the spring of 2015, Saudi generals were sitting around a V-shaped table in front of a newly appointed defense minister, dwelling on the answer to the rise of Houthi rebels in Yemen which had critically threatened the security of the southern border. For decades, Saudi Arabia has been known for its wise and cagey foreign policy, often following the lead of Washington, in any regional or global military conflict but this time was different.

When the 29-year-old defense minister, Muhammad bin Salman, ordered, “Send in the F-15s,” it shocked all of them. Despite having spent only eight months heading the armies of the kingdom, he was about to shape an aggressive or rather reckless foreign policy of one of the most resourceful and conservative countries in the world.

The Unresolved Conflict

After six years of war in Yemen, 233,000 lives have been ravaged of which more than 3,000 were children, 3.3 million have been displaced from their homes, 24 million Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian support, while 16.2 million Yemenis are on the verge of food insecurity. Now, Saudi Arabia is finally looking for a way out.

“We want the guns to fall completely silent,” remarked Prince Faisal bin Farhan, the Saudi foreign minister, in March, laying out the Yemen Peace Initiative. The Houthis rejected the plan as it imparted “nothing new” according to them. “We expected that Saudi Arabia would announce an end to the blockade,” stated the Houthis’ chief negotiator, Mohammad Abdulsalam, to Reuters.

Riyadh had severed diplomatic ties with Tehran in January 2016 after the Saudi embassy was stormed by the protestors angry at the execution of Sheikh Nimr, a top Shia cleric from Saudi Arabia’s eastern province—a region known for being marginalized on the sectarian basis.

Saudi Arabia and Iran held the first official talks, brokered by the Iraqi government, in Baghdad on 9th April. The Baghdad talks canvassed the Yemen conflict as well as the political and economical instability of Lebanon to evaluate whether both countries can reach a common understanding of the situation.

The Zaidiyyah Imamate

Coming to the Yemen conflict, the rugged Yemeni mountains known for their finest coffee growing regions have a thousand-year-long history of the rule of Zaidiyyah imamate carved on them.

The Zaydism Shia sect is rooted in the unsuccessful rebellion of Zayd bin Ali, the grandson of Husayn bin Ali – the direct descendent of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) – against the Umayyad Caliphate in 740AD. Zaidiyyah’s theology differs from Iran’s Twelver Shiism and Ismaili branches in being far more tolerant towards early Islamic caliphs and in set qualifications for an imam to be a ruler.

The Creation of the Yemen Arab Republic

The imamate resisted the Romans and Ottomans to some extent for centuries but a revolution was brewing and the imams provided the catalyst themselves. Amid 1930’s modernism, Yemeni Imam Yahya Hamid al-Din stepped up from his conservative policy of not allowing foreign travel and authorized around forty boys to study abroad. He envisioned them as his “Famous Forty”—leaders of politics, military, and administration.

Until 1959, several hundred boys had gone through advanced studies from Iraq, Egypt, and Europe but they had envisioned something else. They laid the foundation of a progressive republican movement marked with several attempted coups and the assassination of Imam Yahya (1948) till 1962 when the last imam, al-Badr, was deposed by the revolutionary movement. This led to the emergence of the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) with Abdullah Sallal as its leader and after that, Yemen was never the same.

Tracing the Root of the Saudi-Yemen Conflict

Al Saud had troubling relations with the imamate since Saudi Arabia had emerged as a kingdom in 1932. “Who is this Bedouin coming to challenge my family’s 900-year rule?” stated Imam Yahya once, which erupted the 1934 war between Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and ended up in the Treaty of Taif. The treaty demarcated the border and granted Jizan, Asir, and Najran to Saudi Arabia after the kingdom’s victory.

The Saudis then cultivated alliances within the bordering Yemeni tribes to erect a makeshift buffer zone during the 1960s civil war in Zaydi Imamate. Al Saud sided with Yemeni loyalists when the republican government tossed away the Treaty of Taif in 1962 and Egypt lined up 70,000 troops to assist the republic against Imam Badr’s guerrilla opposition.

Throughout the 70s and 80s, North and South Yemen struggled for coexistence and peace with continuous border clashes, including a bloody civil war in the South, which John Kifner aptly referred to as MassacrewithTea, that cost thousands of souls. Eventually, after 20 years of political and military turmoil, South Yemen’s Ali Salim al-Baidh joined with the North’s Ali Abdullah Saleh to sign the unification agreement of the two states on November 30, 1989.

Yet, while Ali Abdullah Salih was being declared as the president of a unified Yemen and the country was facing an economic collapse, something worse was brewing in the heights of northern Yemen.

The Houthis and the Saudi Construct

Feeling his unique sect threatened by the Saudi-funded proselytization through Salafist preachers, Hussein Badr Eddin al-Houthi, a Zaydi scholar from Maran range established a seemingly political and revivalist movement, Ansar Allah (Supporters of God)to preserve the Zaidiyyah sect, followed by 40% of the Yemeni population, which turned into an aggressive armed insurgency in no time.

The point is that the current regional discord has centuries-old bad blood embedded in its roots. The Houthi movement, their substantial public support, and their military successes must be deconstructed from the local perspective, along with the regional one, to reach a better understanding of the conflict.

The Saudi-led coalition has been portraying Houthis just as an Iranian proxy, which is far from reality. In their annual policy paper, the Middle East Institute of Washington D.C stated that the current civil war of Yemen is entrenched in widespread public resentment over political marginalization, a paralyzed economy, and a corrupt and failed state.

Where Saudi Arabia’s policy of sectarian expansionism across the borderlands made the descendants of Zaidiyah Imamate, ousted from a centuries-long rule, feel more vulnerable, discrimination for Shia sects by Abdullah Saleh’s regime and corrupt practices tossed Yemen into a cycle of political upheaval and violence—all of which had nothing to with Iran.

The Houthis took arms against the Yemeni government six times from 2004-2010, a chapter remembered as the Saada Wars, long before Tehran came into the picture.

Civil War in Yemen

In the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring, the Houthi leader, Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, called countrywide demonstrations to end Saleh’s 33-year rule but after Saleh resigned and declared his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, the head of state in exchange of immunity, hopes rose for peace. However, Hadi, shockingly, stepped down in January 2015 and fled the country after the National Dialogue Conference failed to agree on the division of Yemen in the UN-backed transitional process and the Houthis stormed the Presidential Palace.

After the Houthis took over Sanaa in February 2015, Jamal Benomar, the UN special envoy for Yemen, went straight to Riyadh, which highlights Saudis’ concerns over the matter. On March 26, 2015, the Saudi-led coalition launched Operation Decisive Storm, with Saudi jets targeting the military compounds around the capital overnight.

The tactical inabilities of the coalition air force manifested to reality when three days later, Saudi warplanes accidentally bombed a refugee camp killing at least 40 and injuring 200. It was the beginning of one of the most horrible bombing campaigns, a disaster from a civilian and military perspective.

As civilian casualties mounted, the United States, concerned by the human cost of the conflict, urged Saudi Arabia to reach a negotiating position as soon as possible. Riyadh ended Operation Decisive Storm on 21 April, claiming the achievements, and rolled out Operation Renewal of Hope. But the truth was, the Saudis failed to deliver a considerable blow to the Houthis’ hold of the capital.

In May and June, the first reports came of mortar and Scud missile attacks by Houthis across the Saudi border. The Houthis proved tenacious and provoked Riyadh for a ground invasion, which worked out disastrously for the Saudi-led coalition. Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Sudan, and others had deployed hundreds of ground troops by the end of the year.

Although they spawned some temporary gains in forcing the Houthis out of key southern provinces, like the vital Aden seaport in July, Zinjibar, and Al-And Airbase in August, the Houthis also inflicted heavy casualties to the coalition. In just one Houthi missile attack on a weapon depot in Marib in September 2015, 45 Emirati and Five Bahraini troops were killed.

The Kuwait Talks: A Failed Attempt at Resolving the Conflict

After a year into the war with no end in sight, reports came in March 2016 of the first Houthi delegation’s visit to Saudi Arabia, led by Mohammed Abdel-Salam, the Houthis’ senior advisor and spokesperson.

Two weeks later, the UN envoy for Yemen, Mr. Ould Cheikh Ahmed, stated that talks will circumvent the withdrawal and disarmament of militias and inclusive political dialogue. Kuwait’s emir and legendary peacemaker, late Sheikh Sabah, mediated talks between the delegations of the Houthis, Abdullah Saleh, and ousted president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, who had returned to coalition controlled Aden in September 2015. Riyadh kept its distance from the Kuwait talks held in April  2016.

“Saudi Arabia seeks through the Kuwait talks to exonerate itself from its aggression against Yemen and to portray said aggression as a civil Yemeni war,” accused Yahya Saleh, a former general and Saleh’s nephew, after the Kuwait talks struck a stalemate over Houthis demanding a new consensual transitional regime while Hadi’s delegation insisted on a return to the current government, an out and out surrender for Houthis.

The peace talks were formally suspended in August 2016 when Houthis announced a new ten-member governing body to replace the interim Supreme Revolutionary Council, which had run the country since February 2015. The unilateral move was immediately denounced by Saudi Arabia and the United Nations. “Houthis, as well as their supporters, are making the search for a peaceful solution more difficult,” declared the statement issued by the group of G18 ambassadors of nations that backed the UN peace talks while tens of thousands of Houthi supporters rallied through Saana to show their support for the Houthis.

In all of this, a frangible ceasefire was held throughout the year with occasional skirmishes. In October 2016, a coalition double airstrike cremated a crowded funeral hall, killing around 140 mourners, adding to the domestic and international pressure on the US to review the billion dollars arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition.

Previously, The Guardian had concluded that each one in three Saudi strikes hit civilian targets but the coalition kept sweeping all of this under the rug. The Houthis also left no stone unturned to kill any hopes of negotiations when in March 2017, a Pro-Houthi court sentenced President Hadi and six other top officials to death in absentia for high treason. This was followed by the Burkan missile attack on Mecca in July 2017, although the Houthis claimed that it was aimed at the King Fahad airbase.

The United States’ Endless Support of Saudi Arabia

In August 2017, the Middle East Eye reported an email leak between UAE’s ambassador to Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba, and a former high-level US diplomat, Martin Indyk, which revealed that the kingdom’s de-facto ruler, Muhammad bin Salman, wanted out of Yemen but Riyadh could not withdraw without ensuring the cross-border security.

On the other hand, in a striking development, the Houthi-Saleh split went real in December 2017 amid Saleh’s attempt to switch sides with the coalition and turned up in Houthis killing the former president of Yemen, who had been the sole ruler for more than three decades.

As 2018 unfolded, the international criticism for Saudi intervention and Washington’s role in the Yemeni chapter of war crimes plummeted. Houthis were no angels either as a UNHCR report published in Aug ‘18 noted coalition hitting civilian targets, it also documented blanket use of force on the civilian population in Houthi controlled areas.

“The group of experts is concerned by the alleged use by the Houthi­-Saleh forces of weapons with wide-area effect in a situation of urban warfare.” stated the report. It also stated that the Houthis were hitting women and children through shelling and snipers in their homes, fetching water at local wells, or traveling to seek medical attention.

On August 18, another coalition strike annihilated 40 boys, aged from six to eleven, in their school bus. As Bellingcat traced back the Mk-82 bomb, approved by the US Department of State, used in the attack to Lockheed Martin, it added to the criticism of the US’s unconditional support to the Saudi regime.

In June 2018, the Yemeni National Army backed by a Saudi-led alliance had launched an offensive to recapture the northwestern port city of Hodeidah, a significant economic hub and fourth-largest city. After six months of intense fighting, both parties agreed to a truce, total withdrawal from Hodeidah, and a “mutual understanding” in Taiz.

Blaming Iran

In January 2019, the Council of Foreign Relations and the Italian Institute of International Political Studies had listed Yemen in the Top Conflict Watch of the year. As Houthis scaled up their military capabilities, shooting down US MQ-9 reaper drone with Iranian assistance—according to CENTCOM—reports came of UAE pulling out from Aden, amid intensified tensions between the US and Iran in the Persian Gulf.

On September 14, 2019, at 3:31 to 3:42 am in morning, the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry and the world’s largest oil processing facilities, Abqaiq and Khurais Oil fields in eastern Saudi Arabia, were attacked by Houthi drones, shutting down half of the kingdom’s crude output.

Despite the Houthis’ taking credit for the attack and the UN’s claims regarding the Houthis acquiring long-range drones (1200-1500km) capable of hitting Riyadh, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi, the United States and Saudi Arabia asserted that the attack hadn’t stemmed from Yemen. Instead, Iran was directly behind the “unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply,” tweeted the US Secretary of State at that time, Mike Pompeo.

Tehran immediately refuted all such accusations. Despite this continuous rhetoric, US President Donald Trump’s statements had hinted that Washington would avoid any additional escalation with Iran which would have doomed global energy supplies further down the hill while markets hadn’t recovered from the previous attacks on Saudi facilities.

The Saudi-Emirati Rivalry in Yemen

On the other hand in a dramatic twist, the civil war turned multi-layered when the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC) separatists seized Aden’s control from coalition-supported government forces. Few days after a joint statement was released from both Saudi and Emirati foreign ministers urging for peace talks between the Yemeni government and southern separatists, the UAE struck Hadi’s forces to aid southern separatists, killing 30 Yemeni troops as per Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

In November 2019, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia successfully struck the Riyadh agreement, between the southern separatists and the Yemeni government, which entailed power-sharing in cabinet and the military withdrawal of all forces from Aden, Abyan, and Shabwah. The landmark deal granted the absolute authority of southern Yemen to Saudi Arabia. Later in the same month, Reuters reported indirect talks in Oman between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis.

In January 2020, the Houthis claimed to seize 1,500 square miles of territory in Al-Jawf and the Marib governorate, and in March, they successfully captured the strategic city of Al Hazm. “Control of the capital of Al-Jawf could totally change the course of the war. The Houthis are changing the balance in their favor,” Majed al-Madhaji, executive director of Sanaa Centre, deciphered the situation to AFP. 

Bethan McKernan, The Guardian’s Middle East correspondent reported the same that Saudi-Emirati tussle had been dragging the conflict as Riyadh was already back channeling with Houthis through Oman while the UAE was pressing the attacks to keep the Saudi-backed Islah faction in check.

The One-sided Agreement

In April 2020, in light of the proposal sent by UN Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths, the coalition announced a unilateral ceasefire amid the globally surging COVID-19 pandemic, although the coalition forces kept violating the ceasefire with at least 106 airstrikes in just a week.

The Houthis had already called it a “ploy”, demanding the lifting of air and naval blockade of Yemen which had been depriving the population of food and medicines. It seemed like the international pressure on the coalition, and the financial strain on Al Saud was dealing with, had not gone unnoticed by those controlling most of northern Yemen.

The Houthis had released their own proposal which Elana DeLozier from the Washington Institute narrated as a “wish list”, as it had thrown all the responsibility of ceasefire on the coalition with demands of demilitarization of borders and above all, war compensations and salaries in northern Yemen for a decade, but all were non-starters for Riyadh.

The Saudis kept extending the one-sided ceasefire but things only got worse. The STC separatists withdrew from the Riyadh agreement six months after signing, announcing the establishment of self-rule in southern Yemen. The Saudi-backed Yemeni government immediately denounced the declaration while the Houthis were claiming to “liberate” 95% of the Al-Jawf governorate; this left only the Marib province in the north under the control of Hadi’s forces.

The Houthis were keenly observing and seizing the fruits of coalition infighting. Separatists moved to redirect the revenues from ports, free zones, and an oil refinery to the STC accounts as reports surfaced of the Yemeni government attacking the separatists in Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province.

A week later, the STC president, Aidarous al-Zubaidi, landed in Riyadh to talk over the deadlock that persisted between supposedly anti-Houthi allies. The Yemeni government and STC separatists agreed to a ceasefire to begin peace talks in June 2020. In December 2020 while a freshly established cabinet of coalition-backed government arrived in Yemen after agreeing to equal power-sharing, two blasts shook Aden International Airport. With cabinet members remaining safe, 22—with most being aid workers—were killed in this fatal attack.

Coalition’s Failure in Yemen

“Incompetence, lack of unified leadership, and the absence of a military strategy by the Yemeni government and the Saudi-led coalition played into the hands of the Houthis,” stated Nadwa Al-Dawsari from the Middle East Institute. Local tribes lacked the medium-range surface-to-air ballistic missiles and other advanced weaponry on which Houthis built their tactical achievements.

The Houthi combat units constituted 20, or even fewer men, and three trucks for higher mobility to counter the constant aerial surveillance by coalition UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and the US satellites. According to Jamestown Foundation, disregard for meritocracy and skills, the weary chain of commands, and persisting corruption in Yemeni government forces due to Saudi black-cheque strategy laid the ground for coalition failures. While perpetual imprecise bombings cost thousands of civilian lives and the worst humanitarian crisis due to the air and naval blockade, the public resentment against the coalition fueled.

In the aftermath of King Abdullah’s death in January 2015, his brother Salman bin Abdulaziz ascended to rule but being 79 with speculations of dementia and Parkinson’s enabled his most ambitious son, Muhammad bin Salman, to rise as a de facto ruler of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Reportedly he is named “little general” behind his back due to his craving for respect from Washington and turning down his advisers who predicted a catastrophic outcome from an all-out Yemeni offensive, including former foreign minister Saud al-Faisal. Saudi military failure in Yemen hatched from a “panicked reaction of an inexperienced prince with too much to prove” rather than from his desire to check Iranian influence and rescue Yemen, wrote Sophia Dingli, a lecturer in international relations from the University of Hull.

Besides all this, Washington has also altered its course with Joe Biden in the Oval Office. “The war in Yemen must end,” stated President Biden in his first significant foreign policy speech. A week later, the state department repealed the Houthis’ status of Specially Designated Global Terrorist Organization(SDGT) and Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) enacted a day before Donald Trump left the Oval Office.

Saltana Begum, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) advocacy manager in Yemen, voiced that at that time “We had famine warnings where 16 million people – that’s one in two Yemenis – were close to starvation.”

Setting Terms for Peace

In June this year, the Saudi-led coalition even ceased the air raids temporarily for “preparing the political ground for a peace process in Yemen,” remarked the coalition spokesperson Turki al-Malki. The gesture came as efforts ramped up for a political settlement. The US Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking had visited Riyadh in the same month where he met several government officials along with UN Envoy Martin Griffiths.

Saudi and Houthi camps have been reportedly close to a ceasefire deal. The Houthis want the end of the blockade “without impossible conditions” before a “comprehensive ceasefire”, stated Houthi’s chief negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam. As promising as it all might seem, and although Oman has been an excellent mediator with its impartial and carefully measured foreign policy, there are still a lot of bridges to cross and compromises to be made from both sides for a mutually beneficial post-war arrangement.

The Saudis would not just demand guarantees on border security from Oman and Iran but also a check to Iranian influence and even that won’t cater to the grievances of anti-Houthi factions battling alongside coalition forces. So, the peace process has to be inclusive for sustainable accords.

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Turkey’s Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Cyprus, Turkey, Artsakh

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The Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin of the Armenian Apostolic Church has recently hosted a conference on international religious freedom and peace with the blessings of His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians.

Tasoula Hadjitofi, the founding president of the Walk of Truth, was one of the invited guests. She spoke about genocide and her own experience in Cyprus, warning of Turkey’s religious freedom violations. Hadjitofi also called for joint legal actions against continued ethnic cleansing and destruction of Christian cultural heritage in Cyprus, Turkey, Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) and other places by the Turkish government and its regional allies including Azerbaijan.

During the two-day conference, access to places of worship in war and conflict zones, the protection of religious and ethnic minorities, and preservation of cultural heritage were among the topics addressed by many distinguished speakers.  The conference paid particular attention to the situation of historic Armenian monasteries, churches, monuments, and archeological sites in parts of Nagorno-Karabakh that have been under Azeri occupation since the 2020 violent war unleashed by Azerbaijan.

Hadjitofi presented about the situation of Cyprus, sharing her recent visit to the Cypriot city of Famagusta (Varoshia), making historic parallels between the de-Christianisation of Asia Minor, Cyprus and Nagorno-Karabakh by Turkey, and its allies such as Azerbaijan. See Hadjitofi’s full speech here.

Author of the book, The Icon Hunter, Hadjitofi spoke with passion about her recent visit to the ghost city of Famagusta, occupied by Turkey since 1974. Her visit coincided with the 47th anniversary of the occupation. She was accompanied by journalist Tim Neshintov of Spiegel and photographer Julien Busch as she made several attempts to visit her home and pray at her church of Timios Stavrou (Holy Cross).

Hadjitofi explained how her own human rights and religious freedoms, alongside the rights of tens of thousands of Cypriots, were violated when Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan illegally entered her country and prayed at the newly erected mosque in her own occupied town whereas she was kneeling down in the street to pray to her icon in front of her violated Christian church. In comparison, her church was looted, mistreated and vandalized by the occupying forces.  

Hadjitofi reminded the audience of the historic facts concerning Turks discriminating against Christian Greeks, Armenians, and Assyrians. They also massacred these communities or expelled them from the Ottoman Empire and the modern Republic of Turkey, a process of widespread persecution which culminated in the 1913-23 Christian genocide. Hadjitofi then linked those genocidal actions with what Erdogan is doing today to the Kurds in Syria, and the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh by supporting Turkey’s wealthy friends such as the government of Azerbaijan.  She also noted that during her recent visit to her hometown of Famagusta, a delegation from Azerbaijan referred to Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus as “Turkish land” and a “part of Greater Turkey”. This is yet another sign of Turkish-Azeri historic revisionism, and their relentless efforts for the Turkification of non-Turkish geography.

Hadjitofi called for a series of legal actions against Turkey and its allies, reminding Armenians that although they signed the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court (ICC), they have not ratified it. She noted that it must be the priority of Armenians if they want to seek justice. Azerbaijan and Turkey, however, neither signed or ratified the Rome Statute.

During her speech Hadjitofi also emphasized the need for unity amongst all Christians and other faiths against any evil or criminal act of destroying places of worship or evidence of their historical existence anywhere in the world. 

In line with this call, the Republic of Armenia instituted proceedings against the Republic of Azerbaijan before the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, with regard to violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

In its application, Armenia stated that “[f]or decades, Azerbaijan has subjected Armenians to racial discrimination” and that, “[a]s a result of this State-sponsored policy of Armenian hatred, Armenians have been subjected to systemic discrimination, mass killings, torture and other abuse”.

Hadjitofi said that “Armenia’s lawsuit against the government of Azerbaijan is a positive move in the right direction and more legal actions should be taken against governments that systematically violate human rights and cultural heritage. I’m also in the process of meeting members of the Armenian diaspora in Athens, London, and Nicosia to discuss further joint legal actions. But the most urgent action that Armenia should take is the ratification of Rome Statute of the ICC,” she added.

Other speakers at the conference included representatives of the main Christian denominations, renowned scholars and experts from around the globe, all of whom discussed issues related to international religious freedom and the preservation of the world’s spiritual, cultural and historical heritage.

Baroness Cox, a Member of the UK House of Lords and a prominent human rights advocate, was among the participants. She has actively defended the rights of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia through her parliamentary, charity and advocacy work.

Meanwhile, the organizing committee of the conference adopted a joint communiqué, saying, in part:

” We re-affirm the principles of the right to freedom of religion or belief, as articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent international and regional human rights treaties. We claim this right, equally, for all people, of any faith or none, and regardless of nation, history or political circumstances – including for those Armenian prisoners of war still illegally held in captivity by Azerbaijan, for whose swift release and repatriation we appeal and pray, and for the people of Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh whose rights to free and peaceful assembly and association necessarily implicate the sacred character of human life.”

On September 11, the delegates of the conference were received by the President of Armenia, Armen Sarkissian, in his palace in Yerevan where they were thanked. The guests also visited the Armenian Genocide Memorial-Museum (Tsitsernakaberd), where Hadjitofi was interviewed on Armenian national TV. She said:

“I read about the Armenian Genocide and I am glad that more countries recognize it as such but I am disappointed that politicians do not condemn actions of Turkey and its allies in their anti Christian attitude towards Cyprus and Nagorno-Karabakh. I see an interconnection between the genocide and the adopted politics of Azerbaijan, when the ethnic cleansing takes place, when cultural heritage is destroyed, gradually the traces of the people once living there are eliminated and that is genocide”. 

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After 10 years of war in Syria, siege tactics still threaten civilians

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The future for Syria’s people is “increasingly bleak”, UN-appointed rights experts said on Tuesday, highlighting escalating conflict in several areas of the war-ravaged country, a return to siege tactics and popular demonstrations linked to the plummeting economy.

According to the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, the country is not safe for refugees to return to, after a decade of war.

The panel’s findings come amid an uptick in violence in the northwest, northeast and south of the country, where the Commissioners highlighted the chilling return of besiegement against civilian populations by pro-Government forces.

“The parties to the conflict continue to perpetrate war crimes and crimes against humanity and infringing the basic human rights of Syrians,” said head of the Commission of Inquiry, Paulo Pinheiro. “The war on Syrian civilians continues, and it is difficult for them to find security or safe haven.”

Scandal of Al Hol’s children

Professor Pinheiro also described as “scandalous” the fact that many thousands of non-Syrian children born to former IS fighters continue to be held in detention in dreadful conditions in Syria’s north-east.

“Most foreign children remain deprived of their liberty since their home countries refuse to repatriate them,” he told journalists, on the sidelines of the 48th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“We have the most ratified convention in the world, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, is completely forgotten. And democratic States that are prepared to abide to this Convention they neglect the obligations of this Convention in what is happening in Al Hol and other camps and prison places.”

Some 40,000 children continue to be held in camps including Al Hol. Nearly half are Iraqi and 7,800 are from nearly 60 other countries who refuse to repatriate them, according to the Commission of Inquiry report, which covers the period from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021. 

Blockades and bombardment

The rights experts also condemned a siege by pro-Government forces on the town of Dar’a Al-Balad, the birthplace of the uprising in 2011, along with “siege-like tactics” in Quineitra and Rif Damascus governorates.

“Three years after the suffering that the Commission documented in eastern Ghouta, another tragedy has been unfolding before our eyes in Dar’a Al-Balad,” said Commissioner Hanny Megally, in reference to the siege of eastern Ghouta which lasted more than five years – and which the commissioners previously labelled “barbaric and medieval”.

In addition to the dangers posed by heavy artillery shelling, tens of thousands of civilians trapped inside Dar’a Al-Balad had insufficient access to food and health care, forcing many to flee, the Commissioners said.

Living in fear

In the Afrin and Ra’s al-Ayn regions of Aleppo, the Commissioners described how people lived in fear of car bombs “that are frequently detonated in crowded civilian areas”, targeting markets and busy streets.

At least 243 women, men and children have been killed in seven such attacks over the 12-month reporting period, they said, adding that the real toll is likely to be considerably higher.

Indiscriminate shelling has also continued, including on 12 June when munitions struck multiple locations in Afrin city in northwest Syria, killing and injuring many and destroying parts of al-Shifa hospital.

Insecurity in areas under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeast Syria has also deteriorated, according to the Commission of Inquiry, with increased attacks by extremist “remnants” and conflict with Turkish forces.

Division remains

The Commissioners noted that although President Assad controls about 70 per cent of the territory and 40 per cent of the pre-war population, there seems to be “no moves to unite the country or seek reconciliation. On the contrary.”

Despite a welcome drop in the level of violence compared with previous years, the Commission of Inquiry highlighted the dangers that continue to be faced by non-combatants

The senior rights experts also highlighted mounting discontent and protests amongst the population, impacted by fuel shortages and food insecurity, which has increased by 50 per cent in a year, to 12.4 million, citing UNFPA data.

“The hardships that Syrians are facing, particularly in the areas where the Government is back in control, are beginning to show in terms of protests by Syrians who have been loyal to the State,” said Mr. Megally. They are now saying, ‘Ten years of conflict, our lives are getting worse rather than getting better, when do we see an end to this?’”

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