May 16/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death
Second Letter to the Corinthians 07/04-11: "I often boast about you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with consolation; I am overjoyed in all our affliction. For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted in every way disputes without and fears within. But God, who consoles the downcast, consoled us by the arrival of Titus, and not only by his coming, but also by the consolation with which he was consoled about you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it (though I did regret it, for I see that I grieved you with that letter, though only briefly). Now I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because your grief led to repentance; for you felt a godly grief, so that you were not harmed in any way by us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves guiltless in the matter."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 15-16/18
The Word is God but its use for deceit, hatred and spread of Chaos turns it into an evil instrument of destruction/Elias Bejjani/May 16/18
Lebanon’s Sunni resurgence/Makram Rabah/Al Arabiya/May 15/18
Shattering the myths of Lebanese elections/Makram Rabah/The Arab Weekly/May 14/18
Lebanese Journalist, Hazem Al-Amin, Warns: Defeat, Exclusion Of Sunnis In Iraq, Syria, Lebanon Will Give Rise To New ISIS/MEMRI/May 15/18
Explaining Israel’s growing role in the region/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/May 15/18
Who Is Moqtada al-Sadr? The Cleric Who Attacked U.S. Troops and Is Iraq's Likely Next PM/Haaretz/Reuters May 15, 2018
Human Rights: Other Views - Part II/Denis MacEoin/Gatestone Institute/May 15/2018
Turkey Slams Proposed French Changes to Quran/Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/May 15/2018
Iranian Reactions To The Strategic Change In The U.S.'s Iran Policy And To Israel's Activity To Eliminate The Iranian Threat To It From Syria/A. Savyon and Yigal Carmon/MEMRI/May 15/18
Europe should worry about its interests with us/Sawsan Al Shaer/Al Arabiya/May 15/18
Collapse of mullahs’ state to bring down political Islamization/Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/May 15/18
The Hodeida Campaign (Part 1): Humanitarian and Political Role of Red Sea Ports/Michael Knights/The Washington Institute/May 15/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on May 15-16/18
The Word is God but its use for deceit, hatred and spread of Chaos turns it into an evil instrument of destruction
U.S. Slaps Sanctions on Hizbullah Official, Iran Central Bank Governor
Aoun, Officials Condemn Israeli Crimes Against Palestinians
Berri Says Meeting with Aoun ‘Excellent’
Geagea Meets Hariri at Center House
Geagea Rejects Bids to Integrate Displaced Syrians in Lebanon
Report: Maarab Agreement Could Be in 'Jeopardy'
PSP Slams Bassil's 'Incitement against Refugees' at Brussels Conference
FPM Says Won’t ‘Renounce’ Social Affairs Ministry
President: Lebanon will not wait for political solution before returning Syria refugees
President, FM Warn against Integrating Syrian Refugees into Lebanese Society
Deal over election of deputy speaker signals warming Aoun-Berri relations
Lebanon’s Sunni resurgence
Shattering the myths of Lebanese elections
Lebanese Journalist, Hazem Al-Amin, Warns: Defeat, Exclusion Of Sunnis In Iraq, Syria, Lebanon Will Give Rise To New ISIS

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published
on May 15-16/18
The IDF released information about an attempted border crossing by a Hamas squad during protests on Monday.
Palestinians Withdraw Envoy to U.S. over Israel Embassy Move
U.N. Security Council Paralyzed over Israel-Gaza Violence
World anger mounts over Gaza deaths
Gazans bury dead after bloodiest day of border protests
Some have flown kites carrying containers of petrol that have spread fires on the Israeli side.
Arab League calls on ICC to investigate ‘Israeli crimes’
Israeli forces kill two Palestinians near border as Gaza buries dead
UK calls for independent investigation into Gaza violence
Iran Upbeat on Nuclear Deal Hopes after EU Talks
Bodies of 20 victims of 2015 ISIS atrocity in Libya arrive in Egypt
Sadr willing to ally with Iraqi blocs to form technocratic government
Early results place Sadr bloc in lead position to determine next Iraq PM
N. Korea Threatens to Scrap Trump Summit
Father of burnt-alive Jordanian pilot wishes ISIS murderers a crueler fate
Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on May 15-16/18
The Word is God but its use for deceit, hatred and spread of Chaos turns it into an evil instrument of destruction
Elias Bejjani/May 16/18
When emotions are not fully under the mind's control they become a means of suicide and destruction of self and others. Meanwhile if wars could be gained by empty rhetoric, yelling, shouting, day dreaming and grandiose delusions the Arab peoples would have occupied the whole world
(John 01/01/In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God)

U.S. Slaps Sanctions on Hizbullah Official, Iran Central Bank Governor

Associated Press/Naharnet/May 15/18/The United States designated the head of Iran's central bank as a “terrorist” on Tuesday and barred anyone around the world from doing business with him, escalating financial pressure on Iran in the wake of President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the nuclear deal.
Al-Bilad Islamic Bank and its CEO and chairman, Aras Habib, were also hit with U.S. sanctions, as was Muhammad Qasir, who the Treasury said is a Hizbullah official who has been a "critical conduit" for transferring funds to Hizbullah from the Revolutionary Guards. Valiollah Seif, the governor of the Iranian central bank, was named a "specially designated global terrorist" along with another senior official, Ali Tarzali, who works in the central bank's international division. The Treasury Department accused the men of secretly funneling millions of dollars through an Iraqi bank to help Hizbullah, the Iran-backed Lebanese group that the U.S. considers a “terrorist” group. The moves come as Trump's administration, after deeming the 2015 nuclear deal insufficiently tough on Iran, seeks to construct a global coalition to place enough pressure on Tehran that it comes back to the negotiating table to strike a "better deal." The sanctions targeting Iran's central bank executives are some of the first actions by Trump's administration since pulling out of the deal to start ramping up that economic pressure. "The United States will not permit Iran's increasingly brazen abuse of the international financial system," U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. "The global community must remain vigilant against Iran's deceptive efforts to provide financial support to its terrorist proxies," he added. The exact ramifications of the sanctions for Iran's economy were not immediately clear. The U.S. said that the sanctions did not extend to Iran's central bank itself. Still, the U.S. said it was imposing so-called secondary sanctions on the Iranian bank officials, which could significantly increase Iran's isolation from the global financial system.
Typically, when the U.S. punished individuals with sanctions, it prohibits Americans or U.S. companies from doing business with them. Secondary sanctions also apply to non-Americans and non-U.S. companies. That means that anyone, in any country, who does business with Seif or Tarzali could themselves be punished with sanctions, cutting them off from the U.S. financial system. There was no immediate comment Tuesday night from Iranian officials. Iranian media initially reported the decision based on reports in the foreign media. The U.S. actions send an ominous warning to European capitals, still reeling from Trump's withdrawal from the deal the U.S., Iran and world powers struck in 2015. The European members of the deal — France, the U.K. and Germany — are trying to keep it alive without the U.S. Yet it's unclear that will be workable, because Trump has vowed to punish European companies that continue doing business with Iran despite re-imposed U.S. sanctions. On Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was meeting in Brussels with the top French, British and German diplomats as the Europeans seek to keep Iran from bailing on the deal.
Seif, as the central bank's governor, has helped guide Iran's economy through the web of sanctions in place on that country. In the aftermath of the 2015 deal, in which nuclear sanctions on Iran were lifted, Seif was a prominent voice complaining that Iran was still being kept out of the global financial system and not receiving the economic benefits it was promised in exchange for curtailing its nuclear program. The Treasury said that Seif undermined the central bank's credibility by routing millions of dollars from the Quds Force, the expeditionary unit of Iran's hard-line Revolutionary Guards, to al-Bilad Islamic Bank, which is based in Iraq. Those funds were then used to "enrich and support the violent and radical agenda of Hizbullah," Treasury said.

Aoun, Officials Condemn Israeli Crimes Against Palestinians
Naharnet/May 15/18/President Michel Aoun and several lawmakers denounced on Tuesday Israel’s criminality against the Palestinian people in the wake of the inauguration of the United States embassy in Jerusalem. Aoun took to Twitter and said: “The crimes go one and the guards continue to be absent...Palestine.”The President’s remarks came as Palestinians observed a strike Tuesday to mourn dozens killed by Israeli troops in a mass protest on the Gaza border--the single deadliest day there since a 2014 war. On Monday, around 58 Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops on the Gaza border, as the U.S. held a festive inauguration ceremony for a new U.S. Embassy in contested Jerusalem just a few miles away. Several Lebanese officials condemned Israel’s aggression and the embassy’s transfer including Minister of Labor Mohammad Kabbara. “Al-Quds will always be Arab and the capital of Palestine,” said Kabbara, adding that the transfer of the US embassy to it cannot change the identity of the holy city. Grand Mufti of the Republic Abdul Latif Deryan condemned the killings, voicing hopes that the“struggle of Palestinian people” would once lead to the “liberation of the occupied land.” MP Mohammed Qabbani said: “The world has known nothing like the Zionists’ crimes against the Palestinian people. The Palestinian bloodshed today is a desecration of Jerusalem and a crime against the Arabs, and the right of Christians and Muslims alike.” MP Kazem al-Kheir denounced the “massacre,” and said: “Gaza massacre coincided with the ceremony of the transfer of the American embassy to Jerusalem.What is happening in Palestine is a result of the absence of Arab and Islamic solidarity."

Berri Says Meeting with Aoun ‘Excellent’

Naharnet/May 15/18/President Michel Aoun held talks on Tuesday with Speaker Nabih Berri at the Presidential Palace in Baabda where talks touched on several issues “without dwelling into details,” the State-run National News Agency reported. “The meeting was more than excellent and we touched on all future topics without dwelling into details,” Berri told reporters after the meeting. The Speaker assured that “their visions on a number of issues are matching,” saying that discussions have touched on the election of a Speaker and Deputy Speaker without getting into the “names.”On whether Berri was promised a renewed Speakership mandate, Berri assured that no promises were made and that he had not asked for any as well.

Geagea Meets Hariri at Center House

Naharnet/May 15/18/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea held talks Tuesday evening with Prime Minister Saad Hariri at the Center House in downtown Beirut. A statement issued by Hariri's office said the meeting was also attended by Culture Minister Ghattas Khoury, Information Minister Melhem Riachi and ex-minister Bassem al-Sabaa. “The meeting tackled the general political situations in the country and the latest developments,” the statement said. MTV said Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq did not attend the meeting although he “shook hands with Geagea before leaving the Center House.” Relations between the LF and Hariri's al-Mustaqbal Movement were strained after some Mustaqbal officials accused the LF of encouraging Saudi leaders to press Hariri to resign in November. The row was also linked to Geagea's statement following Hariri's shock resignation from Saudi Arabia that the premier should have resigned earlier and that "no self-respecting person would stay in the government after all the events of the past few months."

Geagea Rejects Bids to Integrate Displaced Syrians in Lebanon

Naharnet/May 15/18/Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea on Tuesday categorically rejected any bid to integrate the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, as the international community reportedly plans to adopt a policy that integrates them in host countries. “Lebanon is not an empty land without people. Any thought or step towards keeping the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, even temporarily, is totally rejected,” said Geagea. “Lebanon has welcomed the refugees because of the tragedy they are suffering in Syria, but that does not mean we will relinquish our national sovereignty or our peoples’ rights to their own land and natural resources,” added Geagea. “The first task before the new government is to set a clear plan for the refugees’ return to safe zones in Syria,” added Geagea. Lebanon hosts around one million Syrians -- one in four of the Lebanese population. The Lebanese government says as many as 1.5 million Syrians are in the country.

Report: Maarab Agreement Could Be in 'Jeopardy'
Naharnet/May 15/18/Repercussions of the parliamentary elections reflected negatively on the relations between the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces, amid reports that the Maarab Agreement between the two--which eventually brought the FPM founder Michel Aoun to the post of presidency--might be in jeopardy. During an electoral ceremony held by the “Lebanon Strong” parliamentary bloc of the FPM; shortly before parliamentary candidates entered into election silence; the FPM chief, Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil lashed out at LF head Samir Geagea.
“Geagea, who chose to adopt a dissociation policy from Bassil’s position,” broke the silence on Monday and “indirectly hinted at Bassil without naming him,” accusing him of using the State’s resources for personal interests, said the reports. “Deal foxes are lurking and moving in all departments of the State in order to seize money from here or there, while the people suffer from poor financial and deteriorating economic conditions,” Geagea said. LF sources told al-Joumhouria they at first “prefered not to respond to Bassil based on conviction that his positions belong to the stage of elections, seeing the wide popularity around the LF party.”However, they stressed that “the President (Aoun), the FPM and LF are keen on maintaining the Maarab agreement, and keen on maintaining political communication because both parties have intersecting interests.”Maarab Agreement is a memorandum of understanding between Aoun and Geagea, who withdrew from the presidential race in 2016 and endorsed Aoun instead.

PSP Slams Bassil's 'Incitement against Refugees' at Brussels Conference
Naharnet/May 15/18/The Progressive Socialist Party on Tuesday blasted Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil's remarks at an international conference that was held Monday in Brussels. “When the Foreign Minister represents Lebanon at international conferences, he should speak on behalf of the entire Lebanese government and he should endorse the spirit of its Policy Statement and consensual policies, instead of raising existential questions that reflect the viewpoint of his political group and contradict with the general atmosphere that formed in Lebanon after the Taef Accord, which confirmed Lebanon's unity as a final homeland for all its sons,” the PSP said in a statement. “Promoting outdated isolationist theories strikes the foundations of partnership and equality in the country and gives the impression that Lebanon contains native and subordinate citizens, which takes us back to old ideas and ideologies whose revival would be detrimental,” the party warned. Also commenting on Bassil's remarks at the Brussels 'International Conference on the Victims of Ethnic and Religious Violence in the Middle East', the PSP cautioned against “the Foreign Minister's policy of constant incitement against the displaced and the refugees in Lebanon.”
This policy “reflects veiled intentions to take arbitrary measures against them and against their dignity and personal safety, in a manner that contradicts with all law, norms and human rights,” the party warned. It also urged the government to “shoulder its responsibilities in this regard based on the principles of national consensus regarding this file.”Bassil had warned Monday that “encouraging the movement of refugees strips the societal fabric of its richness and beauty.”
Commenting on a statement that was issued after a Brussels conference on Syrian refugees, Bassil cautioned that “the international community and the European Union have touched red lines that threaten our existence and our entity.”“We want a policy different than the one that demands the settlement of refugees. Their return has become possible and obligatory, even if it happens in a gradual manner. It is the responsibility of the international community and the EU to finance their return, and they must pay attention to the fact that we will not wait for Lebanon's collapse,” the minister added.

FPM Says Won’t ‘Renounce’ Social Affairs Ministry
Naharnet/May 15/18/The Free Patriotic Movement on Tuesday said it will not “renounce the Social Affairs Ministry” to another party, when the new government is formed, if a “clear” policy on the displacement of Syrians in Lebanon is not adopted. “The FPM will won’t relinquish the Social Affairs Ministry like it did before if there was no commitment to a clear policy of Syrian displacement,” a senior FPM source was quoted as saying. He also stressed that the Syrian displacement issue should be a “clear clause in the ministerial statement.” Pierre Bou Assi of the Lebanese Forces is the current Social Affairs Minister. Lebanon is gearing for a new government after staging its legislative elections. Lebanon hosts around one million Syrians -- one in four of the Lebanese population. The Lebanese government says as many as 1.5 million Syrians are in the country.

President: Lebanon will not wait for political solution before returning Syria refugees
Middle East Monitor/May 15, 2018/Lebanese President Michel Aoun said that his country refuses to wait for a political solution before returning the Syrian refugees to their homeland. “We are surprised by the position of some parties which obstruct this return or do not encourage it,” Aoun said during a meeting with foreign delegations in the presidential palace. “Lebanon faces many challenges with 1.8 million displaced people on its territory since 2015,” he said. According to the president, nearly 50 per cent of Lebanon’s population is made up of refugees. In mid-April, 500 Syrian refugees in Lebanon’s south-eastern town of Shebaa left the area heading to Syria’s Beit Jinn, which was recaptured by the regime forces from the opposition in December, media reports revealed. The refugees’ convoy was accompanied by Lebanese security forces. Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the expulsion of the refugees. “Municipalities have no legitimate justification for forcibly evicting Syrian refugees if it amounts to nationality-based or religious discrimination,” Bill Frelick, HRW’s director for refugee rights and the author of the report, said.

President, FM Warn against Integrating Syrian Refugees into Lebanese Society
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 15 May, 2018/Lebanese President Michel Aoun reiterated on Monday his call for “the return of the Syrian refugees to the safe areas of Syria”, adding that he was surprised with “the position of some parties that are hindering or discouraging this return.”Aoun also said he refused to wait for a political solution to allow the Syrian refugees to go back to their homeland. The president made his remarks during a meeting with a delegation of the British Royal College of Defense Studies, chaired by Major General Craig Lawrence, and accompanied by British Ambassador to Lebanon, Hugo Shorter. Aoun pointed to “the challenges faced by Lebanon with 1.8 million displaced on its territory, based on 2015 figures, adding that this number “constitutes 50 percent of the Lebanese population.” He also expressed concern that the proposals made by the international community in terms of granting the Palestinian refugees work permits in Lebanon - considering that there is no solution to the Palestinian cause - were a “prelude” to their settlement in the country. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil warned against the international community’s adoption of a policy of integrating displaced people in their host countries instead of repatriating them. Speaking at the International Conference on Victims of Ethnic and Religious Violence in the Middle East, held in Brussels on Monday, Bassil said: “The international community’s persistence in adopting refugee integration policies instead of returning them to their country is a form of eradicating Lebanon’s pluralism.”“This international policy is a new form of oppression against outstanding human groups, like the Lebanese, in the name of humanity,” he stressed. “This cosmic pressure is destructive to this entity. It only proves the intention to abolish Lebanon’s pluralism in favor of Israeli unilateralism and ISIS,” he warned.
Deal over election of deputy speaker signals warming Aoun-Berri relations
Georgi Azar/Annahar 15 May 2018/A meeting between both leaders was described as “more than excellent” by the Speaker, who discussed with Aoun “the current local and regional developments.”
BEIRUT: As Lebanon’s major political parties gear up to form the country’s new Cabinet, a warming of relations between President Michel Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri was evident Tuesday after the Amal Movement leader suggested the president as the leader of the largest parliamentary bloc should have the final say over who is elected deputy speaker. A meeting between both leaders was described as “more than excellent” by the Speaker, who discussed with Aoun “the current local and regional developments.” Berri told reporters following the meeting that the tentative discussion regarding the upcoming Cabinet was fruitful, yet it stopped short from touching on “specific names and ministerial portfolios.” Despite his rocky relationship with Aoun, Berri is widely expected to retain his position as parliament speaker, a seat he’s held since 1992. Aoun’s bid for the presidency, tying the election of a president to a comprehensive political deal that includes an agreement over a new parliamentary electoral law, which was ratified last year, the makeup of the Cabinet and the distribution of ministerial portfolios. Aoun was elected President in the second round after failing to secure a two-third majority due to Berri’s parliamentary bloc casting blank ballots. A touted scenario is Aoun instructing his own bloc to follow suit this time around during the election of the speaker, as a reciprocal gesture. Last week, Prime Minister Saad Hariri endorsed Berri’s bid, telling reporters “if he’s a candidate then I’ll support him.” The Free Patriotic Movement and Berri have locked heads on more than one occasion, with the latest feud emanating in the wake of a leaked video in which Foreign Minister and FPM leader Gebran Bassil calling the Speaker a “thug.” The country descended into momentary chaos after clashed erupted between supporters of the FPM and Amal before peace between both parties was restored. Prior to that, a quarrel broke out between the president and Berri over a decree granting seniority to army officers who served under Aoun when he was army commander in the late 1980’s. Berri had insisted that the decree is unconstitutional because it lacked the signature of Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, a close aid to the Speaker. At the core of the feud was Berri’s reluctance to force Aoun to acknowledge that the post of finance minister, which sources close to Berri claim the Taif Accord has reserved to Shiites, enjoys veto power in the executive branch under the current sectarian power-sharing arrangement.
Lebanon’s Sunni resurgence
Makram Rabah/Al Arabiya/May 15/18
مكرم رباح: السنة في لبنان يستعيدون نشاطهم من خلال الإنتخابات
The Lebanese Sunni community has traditionally acquired a reputation of political timidness, usually preferring to stick to mainstream politics and more often than not shy away from confrontation.
Naturally, this tendency is attributed to the fact that the Lebanese Sunnis are predominately an urban coastal community heavily invested in merchant pursuits, and thus conflict is ultimately counterproductive and destructive for their economy.
Recently, however, the Lebanese parliamentary elections revealed that this so-called Sunni sleeping giant has vehemently challenged the aforementioned paradigm. This Lebanese Sunni resurgence came at the ballot in a number of ways, but mainly took the form of abstention from voting for the main Sunni national leader Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
In Beirut’s second district, a predominately-Sunni electoral constituency, the voter turnout stood at a meager 35 percent, permitting Hezbollah and other opponents of Hariri to win five seats, with Hezbollah’s candidate being the top vote getter.
This Sunni apathy in many other areas across Lebanon was brushed aside as being very typical of earlier elections. In reality, this time around the Lebanese Sunni inaction is in fact a form of action, forcefully opposed to the alliances their leadership with President Michel Aoun, Hezbollah’s main Christian ally as well as the Hariri’s Future Movement’s below par political performance.
Like many of their compatriots, Sunnis are above all alarmed by Hezbollah’s unchecked weapons and expansion beyond the border
Steadfast support
Over the last decade, the Sunni majority have supported Saad Hariri, both as a successor to his late father as well as an ally of the wider Arab front that opposed the expansion of Iran and its operatives across the region. Even when Hezbollah and their allies toppled Hariri in 2011 and replaced him with Najib Mikati, the Sunnis did not falter in their support of their Hariri who was losing favor with his Saudi allies as well as financially struggling.
Yet, this Sunni popular and unreserved support soon petered out following Hariri’s decision to endorse Michel Aoun for presidency, a move perceived by many as reckless and ultimately solidified Hezbollah’s control over the Lebanese state.
Initially, Hariri and his advisors mistakenly believed the Sunnis, akin to other Lebanese factions, could be tamed and ultimately come to accept a wishful narrative that Aoun would slowly but surely come in from the cold, and ultimately remove the Christian cover he and his party provided to Hezbollah.
Hezbollah soon proved Hariri wrong, placing Hariri as well as the Lebanese at odds with Saudi Arabia as well as other Arab nations who were vexed with Hezbollah’s continued use of the Lebanese state to promote Iran’s regional agenda. This standoff soon triggered a crisis with Saudi Arabia that convinced Hariri to suddenly tender his resignation, and publically condemn Hezbollah’s actions.
While this chapter ended on a good note for Hariri who went back on his resignation after French President Macron good offices, it reminded the Sunnis that Hariri was no longer fully in line with the wider Arab consensus, thus placing him and his leadership in peril.
As the elections approached, Hariri banked on his personal ability to mobilize his supporters by going out to different areas across Lebanon and shaking hands and kissing babies. Amusingly, Hariri fielded “the selfie” as a weapon to get votes, going as far as to ask his media team to design and app that allow people to upload thousands of pictures that ostensibly showed the popular support to Hariri and his political choices.
These selfies however did not translate into votes, or when they did, they were not sufficient to get all of Hariri’s candidates to Parliament. Initially Hariri refused to admit to this electoral debacle and rather choose to take the moral high ground, announcing that he and his party had altruistically agreed to this new electoral law even though it was clearly disadvantageous to their interest all for the sake of national interest.
Despite his self-denial, Hariri soon responded to this Sunni resurgence and the harsh message it entailed. Over the weekend, Hariri in his capacity as head of the Future Movement issued a number of directives and punitive measures that placed senior leadership, including his own cousin and chief-of-staff, out of office.
Many took these measures simply as a response to the disappointing results and the bad performance of the party’s electoral apparatus, and part of earlier promises of inter-party reform.
Rude awakening
While these assumptions might be correct, the core reason is that this election came as a rude awakening to Hariri from the Sunnis who has supported him and his father before him, that they refuse to commit political suicide by continuing to support his current political stance.
The Sunnis consequently reject the alliance with Aoun that has led Hariri to relinquishing part of the constitutional prerogatives of the office of prime minister, the same powers that Lebanese Muslims with the Taif Accord that his late father formulated.
Like many of their compatriots, Sunnis are above all alarmed by Hezbollah’s unchecked weapons and expansion beyond the border, a fact that will surely translate into further sanctions on an already menacing Lebanese economy as well as effect the remittances of Lebanese expats in the Arab Gulf.
In the summer of 1982 and during the Israel siege of their city, the Sunnis of Beirut – while supportive of the Palestinian revolution – informed Yasser Arafat, the Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization that their presence was no longer welcome, forcing the PLO to evacuate.
The recent Sunni resurgence and everything that comes with it might not be injurious for Hariri, who now has the prospect to reclaim his father’s legacy as a true cross sectarian pan-Arab leader.
Makram Rabah is a lecturer at the American University of Beirut, Department of History. He is the author of A Campus at War: Student Politics at the American University of Beirut, 1967-1975. He tweets @makramrabah.
Shattering the myths of Lebanese elections
Makram Rabah/The Arab Weekly/May 14/18
كسر أساطير الإنتخابات اللبنانية
The results of this supposed democratic election go beyond confirming Hezbollah’s hegemony over the Lebanese state.
Following a 9-year electoral hiatus, many Lebanese were extremely keen to cast votes in the May 6 parliamentary elections — at least it seemed so.
Much of the fuss over this supposedly routine activity was because of a new proportional election law, which, theoretically, offered voters a chance to either dislodge Lebanon’s political elite or challenge their hegemony.
However, the anticipated excitement never made it as far as Election Day. Voter turnout was about 49% nationwide, including a measly 34% in Beirut. The results, given revisions to the law and the gerrymandering that went into it, were hardly unexpected. Most of the traditional political parties retained their share of seats, although some factions gained seats in districts the previous majoritarian electoral law had barred them from representing.
The main casualty of the election was Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who saw his Future Movement bloc reduced from 33 to 21 seats, as the distinctly underwhelming Sunni turnout allowed Hezbollah and its pro-Syrian Sunni allies to win five seats in Beirut, a traditional Hariri stronghold.
More important, Hezbollah, with its Shia ally the Amal Movement, secured most of the Shia seats in parliament and helped its allies challenge the hegemony of the Future Movement in the Sunni community.
Hariri’s electoral debacle served as a painful reminder of the bargain he struck with Lebanese President Michel Aoun and the consequent abandonment of his father’s legacy he demonstrated by turning his back on traditional allies Samir Geagea and Walid Jumblatt.
Above all, Hariri and his Future Movement failed to address key grievances of their constituency, which had sent alarming messages in the latest municipal elections by essentially boycotting the vote.
In addition to Hezbollah, the other two victorious parties were the Free Patriotic Movement led by Aoun’s son-in-law and Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and the Lebanese Forces. Bassil conjured up and gerrymandered districts to secure his win. The Lebanese Forces surpassed expectations with 15 seats, one of which is deep in the heart of Hezbollah-controlled area in eastern Lebanon.
Yet the results of this supposed democratic election go beyond confirming Hezbollah’s hegemony over the Lebanese state. They lay to rest some myths and misconceptions about reforming the archaic Lebanese political system.
Contrary to the expectations of the political factions, which approved this diabolical electoral law, the proportional electoral system was not well received by most of the Lebanese. For evidence, there is the appalling turnout. Realistically, Lebanese feel uneasy voting for a locked list with one preferential voting option, something that would entail them publicly endorsing one faction over the other.
Interestingly, there is something very non-Lebanese about Bassil’s law, at least from the perspective of the voters. Most Lebanese who are not affiliated to political factions, either by choice or by tradition, prefer to divide their votes between opposing candidates, allowing them to petition either side for favours as circumstances dictate. Such locked lists require that the parties running present a clear and realistic political and economic platform, something that none of those running May 6 managed to do.
Funnily enough, even if such a political programme existed, it is highly unlikely the Lebanese would even consider it, as they would rather continue voting for their traditional sectarian and tribal leadership, something that the election results confirmed. Despite the government’s campaign instructing voters how the system worked, 38,909 void ballots — a large number for an election in Lebanon — were cast, suggesting the system was too complex for ordinary electors.
Perhaps one of the most important myths that the election shattered was one campaigned on by many independent political activists: that electoral reform was key for political reform. In reality, the Lebanese electorate chose not to endorse the so-called civil society candidates, who assumed that their active social media profiles were sufficient to get them to parliament, and voted for the status quo instead.
Perhaps it is permissible to spend hours analysing and looking for reasons to justify the election results. However, what cannot be disputed is that, while they are entitled to celebrate their democratic achievement, the Lebanese have a long way to go before they can call themselves a democracy.
**Makram Rabah is a lecturer at the American University of Beirut, Department of History. He is the author of A Campus at War: Student Politics at the American University of Beirut, 1967-1975.

Lebanese Journalist, Hazem Al-Amin, Warns: Defeat, Exclusion Of Sunnis In Iraq, Syria, Lebanon Will Give Rise To New ISIS
MEMRI/May 15/2018/Special Dispatch No.7469
In view of the ongoing victories of Assad's army in Syria and the apparent defeat of the Syrian opposition forces, on the eve of the elections in Iraq and Lebanon, Lebanese journalist Hazem Al-Amin, head of investigations and features at the Dubai-based Al-Hayat daily, published an article titled "Pessimism," in which he discussed the defeat recently suffered by the Sunnis in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. He wrote that the Sunnis are excluded from affecting policy in these countries, which are under the influence of Iran, and that the defeat of ISIS in Iraq and in Syria is perceived as the defeat of all Sunnis. This situation, he said, is likely to spawn a new violent organization similar to ISIS, which will strike at Arab countries, just as ISIS emerged from the Sunni parts of these countries after the Sunnis lost their dominant position there.
The following is a translation of the main points of the article:[1]
"Amid the tripartite sectarian conflict in the Mashreq [in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon], there is a huge vacuum: the Sunni Arabs. ISIS was born out of this vacuum and was destroyed within it! This sector – the Sunni Arabs – is absent today from all the alternative plans [for a solution to the crises in these countries]... because, according to the perceptions of the other groups, this sector [the Sunni Arabs] has already been defeated...
"Therefore we must anticipate the birth of a new entity: an offspring of ISIS or something similar, which will remind us again that this vacuum isn't real and that there is something going on there. [It's true that this new entity] has no political resonance at the moment, but it will impose itself soon enough. In Iraq the Sunni Arabs have no influence on the current political activity, in Syria they are defeated time and again, and in Lebanon they have been annexed to the 'Hizbullah State' project.
"Today it is said that Bashar Al-Assad will remain in power. This is a defeat for the sector that he oppressed and that rebelled against him [i.e. the Sunni Arabs]. In Iraq, parliamentary elections are being held after ISIS's defeat, and the Sunni Arabs are the weak link in these elections. And in Lebanon, where sectarianism is a reality that cannot be ignored, the Sunnis are competing with their rivals in the elections while accepting the country's identity as the 'Hizbullah State.'
"This is a flawed state of affairs and will lead to wars. Stability is unlikely in this [situation]. We have [already] begun to hear that ISIS is regrouping in some areas within the vacuum in Iraq. In Syria the Americans are expected to withdraw, as their president said, and this withdrawal means that the Sunni Arabs will be abandoned, [left alone to] face Bashar Al-Assad and the Iranian [Shi'ite] militias. In no time, this bad situation will spawn a monster. While the situation in Lebanon is not as bad as the situation in its sister countries, Syria and Iraq, even Lebanon will not be spared if the monster reawakens...
"If the political forces that represent this sector [the Sunnis] in these three countries are prevented from influencing their own future, this will gradually lead to wars. This is a lesson we have failed to learn from the civil wars in which we have been wallowing for decades: following the defeat of a certain civilian sector [the Sunnis], it is impossible to return to normal life and there will be no stability in these countries.
"The elections in Iraq and Lebanon will seem more like a renewal of the wars, and in Syria the tragedy is twofold, since the world is preparing to once again to welcome Assad as president...
"Today, the Sunni Arabs in the three Mashreq [countries, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon,] are excluded from the discourse. The competition in the Iraqi elections will be between Shi'ites and Shi'ites, and between Shi'ites and Kurds. Neither the Sunni Arabs nor the results of their votes will have any impact on the future of Iraq... In Lebanon, it is safe to assume that Sa'd Al-Hariri will win the election, but he has become a different person since finding himself alone in the fray against Hizbullah, whose [forces] are arrayed from the ocean to the Gulf... In Iraq the [ISIS] organization has renewed some of its activity, in Syria we expect an American withdrawal which will create a tremendous vacuum, and in Lebanon the situation is not dissimilar from that of its neighbors.
In view of this vacuum, it would be unwise to anticipate anything other than wars."
[1] Al-Hayat (Dubai), April 2, 2018.

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The IDF released information about an attempted border crossing by a Hamas squad during protests on Monday.
Jerusalem Post/May 15/18/Monday afternoon, when the IDF confronted violent disturbances on the fence, an intelligence alert was received that a Hamas squad was planning to place an explosive charge on the fence to allow to for a mass infiltration into Israel.
Troops belonging to the IDF’s Maglan unit stationed themselves opposite the expected attack point in the northern Gaza Strip. When the squad of eight terrorists emerged from amidst the violent demonstration which was taking place, two armored IDF vehicles drove over the fence and were attacked by the cell with explosives and light weapons. According to the army the cell fired at troops from two different locations, one from a hill some 200 meters from the security fence and another point some 30 meters from the border. Troops then engaged the cell, opening fire at them from Israeli territory while a tank and IAF aircraft struck the terrorists' position. All eight terrorists were killed in the exchange of gunfire. "Yesterday, during a violent riot, which included the burning of tires, throwing of pipe bombs and throwing of stones, we saw shots fired at our forces and realized that Hamas operatives were the ones who carried out the shooting. Due to this, the crowed dispersed and I gave an order to fire. The fighters were operating professionally, with great courage and precision, and prevented a significant shooting attack on our forces," a commander in the unit said. According to the army a pistol, grenade launchers, charges and preparations for opening the fence were found in the place where the firefight was. The army believes that the quiet on Tuesday is likely due to Hamas assessing the situation and calculating their next step.

Palestinians Withdraw Envoy to U.S. over Israel Embassy Move
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 15/18/Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas withdrew his top representative to the United States Tuesday, the foreign ministry announced, a day after the U.S. moved its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem. Husam Zomlot, the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization's office in Washington, would return to the Palestinian territories Wednesday, the statement said. It did not say how long Zomlot, the most senior Palestinian official in Washington, would be withdrawn for. The Palestinians reacted furiously to President Donald Trump's December announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moving his country's embassy there from Tel Aviv. They consider the eastern part of Jerusalem their capital and countries have long kept their embassies in Tel Aviv, saying the future of the holy city was an issue to be negotiated between the Israelis and Palestinians. The date of Monday's embassy opening also angered Palestinians, coming the day before they commemorate their mass displacement in the 1948 war surrounding the creation of Israel. The Israeli government welcomed the embassy move, which coincided with the anniversary of the country's independence. The event was overshadowed by mass protests along the Gaza border in which Israeli fire killed 60 Palestinians. The foreign ministry statement did not refer to the deaths, only the embassy move.

U.N. Security Council Paralyzed over Israel-Gaza Violence
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 15/18/The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting Tuesday on the violence in Gaza, with Kuwait preparing a draft resolution to protect Palestinian civilians and the United States defending ally Israel's use of "restraint."The talks opened at U.N. headquarters in New York with a moment of silence for the 60 Palestinians who died Monday, the majority killed by Israeli fire, in the bloodiest day in Gaza since 2014. The deaths overshadowed the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, relocated from Tel Aviv in fulfillment of a campaign promise by U.S. President Donald Trump, whose daughter Ivanka attended the inaugural ceremony. The embassy move, which dramatically underscored U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, infuriated the Palestinians and was widely criticized, but on Tuesday the Security Council proved unable, once again, to reach consensus. Arab ambassadors appeared jointly before reporters to call for an investigation into Israel's "crimes" and for the protection of the Palestinian people. Kuwait, the only Arab nation with a current seat on the Security Council, said it would circulate a draft resolution on "providing international protection to the Palestinian people." Kuwaiti ambassador Mansour al-Otaibi said the draft would be circulated "most probably tomorrow." Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour said negotiations would then begin to try to get the resolution adopted. But while Britain and Germany are among those backing an independent investigation, the United States on Monday blocked the adoption of a U.N. statement that would have called for an independent probe. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley on Tuesday launched a stinging attack on Iranian aggression in the Middle East, deploring a "double standard," condemning Hamas provocation and said ally Israel had acted with restraint.
Europeans unite
"No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has," Haley told the council. "In fact the records of several countries here today suggest they would be much less restrained."To suggest that the violence had anything to do with the relocation of the U.S. embassy was a smoke screen, she said. "The Hamas terrorist organization has been inciting violence for years, long before the United States decided to move our embassy," she said. "Make no mistake, Hamas is pleased with the results from yesterday," she added. "The United States deplores the loss of human life," she said. Britain, France, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden -- the five European nations on the council -- joined Belgium, Germany and Italy in a statement calling on Israel to "refrain from excessive use of force" and on Hamas "to avoid provocation" and ensure that protests remain non violent. Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, briefed the Security Council by video link from Jerusalem. "This cycle of violence in Gaza needs to end," he said. "I have repeatedly called on all to exercise restraint, for all necessary steps to avoid an escalation of violence and for all incidents to be fully investigated."
Israel lays the blame squarely with Hamas, accusing Gaza's Islamist rulers of war crimes. Its ambassador urged the Security Council to condemn the faction. "Only then will justice be served," Danny Danon told reporters. Israel, he said, regretted "every casualty." "How many Palestinians have to die before you take action" implored the Palestinian envoy. "Why are we the exception? Why are you paralyzed?" he asked the Council.

World anger mounts over Gaza deaths
Arab News/May 16/2018/Almost 60 Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli troops during protests to mark the 70th anniversary of Nakba
Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet on Tuesday reaffirmed the Kingdom’s rejection of the decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem
AMMAN: Israel faces mounting regional and international pressure over the deaths of Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border, with South Africa, Turkey, Belgium and Ireland withdrawing their ambassadors from Tel Aviv and the UN Commission on Human Rights calling for an independent inquiry.
Almost 60 Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli troops during protests to mark the 70th anniversary of Nakba — the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes — and the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem. Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet on Tuesday reaffirmed the Kingdom’s rejection of the decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, a day after its official opening. “This step represents a significant bias against the historical, permanent rights of the Palestinian people in Jerusalem,” an official statement said. Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Saeb Erekat said that the Palestinian leadership would file a legal case against Israel with the International Criminal Court over settlement activity on occupied Palestinian territory. Former Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher, now senior vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Arab News that the killing of Palestinian protesters, coupled with the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, shows why “Israel cannot be trusted” to bring about peace in the region. “I believe Jordan’s preferred course of action is the adoption of a policy that would keep Palestinians on their soil and that would not cooperate with Israel in any way,” he said. Nour Al-Emam, a lawyer and member of the Palestine National Council, said the US was now complicit in the killings of unarmed Palestinians by the Israeli occupiers. Media coverage of the killings in Gaza has also been criticized. Writing on his personal Twitter account, media specialist Mureed Hammad said that the “world media has shown a different face to dealing with Palestinian blood.”
James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor-at-large of the Jesuit magazine America, condemned The New York Times for saying that Palestinians had “died” rather than Palestinians were “killed.”Some Arab voices are also objecting to the silence of many Arab leaders. Mohammad Ersan, the host of a Radio Al-Balad talk show in the Jordanian capital, ended his program on Tuesday by asking if the Israeli ambassadors in neighboring countries would be sent home. His comment followed a decision by Turkey to order Israel’s ambassador to leave.
Veteran Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin told Arab News that the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem “is harmful to chances of peace and goes against international accepted positions that the future of Jerusalem must be decided and resolved by Israel and Palestine together.”

Gazans bury dead after bloodiest day of border protests
Reuters/Arab News/May 15/18/A six-week campaign of border protests dubbed “The Great March of Return” has revived calls for refugees to have the right of return to their former lands. In Geneva, the UN human rights office condemned what it called the “appalling deadly violence” by Israeli forces
GAZA: Palestinians rallied in Gaza on Tuesday for the funerals of scores of people killed by Israeli troops a day earlier, while on the Gaza-Israel border, Israeli forces took up positions to deal with the expected final day of a Palestinian protest campaign. Monday’s violence on the border, which took place as the US opened its new embassy in Jerusalem, was the bloodiest for Palestinians since the 2014 Gaza conflict. The death toll rose to 60 overnight after an eight-month-old baby died from tear gas that her family said she inhaled at a protest camp on Monday.  More than 2,200 Palestinians were also injured by gunfire or tear gas. Palestinian leaders have called Monday’s events a massacre, and the Israeli tactic of using live fire against the protesters has drawn worldwide concern and condemnation. Israel has said it is acting in self-defense to defend its borders and communities. Its main ally the US has backed that stance, with both saying that Hamas, the group that rules the coastal enclave, instigated the violence. There were fears of further bloodshed as Palestinians planned a further protest to mark the “Nakba,” or “Catastrophe.”That is the day Palestinians lament the creation of Israel in 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven from their homes in violence culminating in war between the newly created Jewish state and its Arab neighbors in 1948. A six-week campaign of border protests dubbed “The Great March of Return” has revived calls for refugees to have the right of return to their former lands, which now lie inside Israel. It was unclear whether large crowds would turn up at the border for the climax to the campaign after the heavy fatalities suffered on Monday. Palestinian medical officials say that 104 Gazans have now died since the start of the protests on March 30. No Israeli casualties have been reported. Israeli troops were deployed along the border again on Tuesday. The area was relatively quiet early in the day, with many Gazans at the funerals. Protesters are expected to go to the border later. In Geneva, the UN human rights office condemned what it called the “appalling deadly violence” by Israeli forces and said it was extremely worried about what might happen later. UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said Israel had a right to defend its borders according to international law, but lethal force must only be used a last resort, and was not justified by Palestinians approaching the Gaza fence.
More than 2 million people are crammed into the narrow Gaza Strip, which is blockaded by Egypt and Israel and suffering a humanitarian crisis. At the Gaza hospital where the body of eight-month-old Laila Al-Ghandour was being prepared for burial, her grandmother said the child was at one of the tented protest encampments that have been set up a few hundred yards inside the border. “We were at the tent camp east of Gaza when the Israelis fired lots of tear gas,” Heyam Omar said. “Suddenly my son cried at me that Lolo was weeping and screaming. I took her further away. When we got back home, the baby stopped crying and I thought she was asleep. I took her to the children’s hospital and the doctor told me she was martyred (dead).” Most of the protesters stay around the tent camps, but groups of youths have ventured closer to the no-go zone along the fence, risking live fire from Israeli troops to roll burning tires and throw stones.

Some have flown kites carrying containers of petrol that have spread fires on the Israeli side.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ordered a general strike across the Palestinian Territories on Tuesday and three days of national mourning. Monday’s protests were fired by the opening ceremony for the new US Embassy in Jerusalem following its relocation from Tel Aviv. The move fulfilled a pledge by US President Donald Trump, who in December recognized the contested city as the Israeli capital. Palestinians envision East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they hope to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israel regards all of Jerusalem, including the eastern sector it captured in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in a move that is not recognized internationally, as its “eternal and indivisible capital.”Most countries say the status of Jerusalem — a sacred city to Jews, Muslims and Christians — should be determined in a final peace settlement and that moving their embassies now would prejudge any such deal. Netanyhau praised Trump’s decisions but Palestinians have said the US can no longer serve as an honest broker in any peace process. Talks aimed a finding a two-state solution to the conflict have been frozen since 2014.
Netanyahu blamed Hamas for the Gaza violence. Hamas denied instigating it but the White House backed Netanyahu. “The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas. Hamas is intentionally and cynically provoking this response,” White House spokesman Raj Shah told reporters. Trump, in a recorded message on Monday, said he remained committed to peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He was represented at the embassy ceremony by his daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, US envoy to the Middle East.
The Trump administration says it has nearly completed a new Israeli-Palestinian peace plan but is undecided on how and when to roll it out. The US on Monday blocked a Kuwait-drafted UN Security Council statement that would have expressed “outrage and sorrow at the killing of Palestinian civilians” and called for an independent investigation, UN diplomats said.

Arab League calls on ICC to investigate ‘Israeli crimes’
AFP/Tuesday, 15 May 2018/The Arab League’s Permanent Committee on Human Rights on Tuesday called on the International Criminal Court prosecutor to urgently investigate “the crimes of the Israeli occupation” against Palestinians. “Israel is an oppressive and murderous entity and its politicians and officers must be taken to the International Criminal Court,” Amjad Shamout, the committee’s chairman, said in a statement. Shamout was referring to the killing of dozens of Palestinians by Israeli forces during clashes and protests on Monday over the deeply controversial opening of a US embassy in Jerusalem. The ICC chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said Tuesday she would “take any action warranted” to prosecute crimes. “My staff is vigilantly following developments on the ground and recording any alleged crime that could fall within” the tribunal’s jurisdiction, she said in a statement to AFP, adding: “The violence must stop.” Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit condemned the “massacres” of Palestinians, which he said resemble “war crimes”.In a statement he called on the international community to “protect the Palestinian people, who have chosen the path of peaceful struggle and have been confronted with brutality, violence and murder”. The Arab League will hold emergency talks Wednesday to discuss what it has called Washington’s “illegal” relocation of its embassy to the disputed city. Jerusalem’s status is perhaps the thorniest issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel considers the entire city its capital, while the Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Israeli forces kill two Palestinians near border as Gaza buries dead
Reuters, Gaza/Wednesday, 16 May 2018/Palestinians buried the dead on Tuesday from the bloodiest day in Gaza in years, after Israeli forces killed 60 Palestinians near the Gaza-Israel border during demonstrations against the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem. Israeli forces shot dead two more Palestinians on Tuesday, although protests were quieter than the previous day. It appeared that many protesters had gone to mourning tents rather than back to the scene of Monday’s bloodshed. Mourners marched through the strip, waving Palestinian flags and calling for revenge. “With souls and blood we redeem you martyrs,” they shouted. Hundreds marched in the funeral of eight-month-old Leila al-Ghandour, whose body was wrapped in a Palestinian flag. “Let her stay with me, it is too early for her to go,” her mother cried, pressing the baby’s body to her chest. The family said she died of inhaling tear gas.
At Gaza’s hospitals, families crowded the halls and spilled out of rooms as patients awaited treatment. Bassem Ibrahim, who said he was shot in the leg by Israeli troops, said at one stage he had feared losing the limb because of the delays. “There are not many doctors. They are unable to see everyone, with all the injuries,” said Ibrahim, 23. “The number was unbelievable and they did not have time.”On the Israeli side of the border, Israeli sharpshooters took up positions to stop any attempted breach of the fence should demonstrations break out again. Tanks were also deployed.
International response
But if the violence tapered off, it still had a forceful impact internationally, with countries criticizing both the Israeli use of deadly force and the US decision to open its new embassy at a ceremony attended by President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador, and Israel expelled the Turkish consul-general in Jerusalem. President Tayyip Erdogan exchanged heated words on Twitter with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Palestinians summoned home their representative in Washington, citing the embassy decision.
Netanyahu blamed Hamas for provoking the violence. “They’re pushing civilians - women, children - into the line of fire with a view of getting casualties. We try to minimize casualties.They’re trying to incur casualties in order to put pressure on Israel, which is horrible,” Netanyahu told CBS News
For the past six weeks, Palestinians have been holding Gaza border demonstrations demanding access to family land or homes lost to Israel when it was founded in the 1948 Middle East war. Israel rejects that demand, fearing it would deprive the state of its Jewish majority.
Palestinian medical officials say 107 Gazans have now been killed since the start of the protests and nearly 11,000 people wounded, about 3,500 of them by live fire. Israeli officials dispute those numbers. No Israeli casualties have been reported. Palestinian leaders have called Monday’s events a massacre, and the Israeli tactic of using live fire against the protesters has drawn worldwide concern and condemnation.

UK calls for independent investigation into Gaza violence
AFP/Tuesday, 15 May 2018/Britain on Tuesday called for an “independent investigation” into the violence on the Israel-Gaza border that left 60 people dead, after the United States blocked a UN Security Council statement calling for a probe. “The United Kingdom supports an independent investigation into what has happened,” Alistair Burt, a minister at the Foreign Office responsible for Middle East affairs, told parliament. He called on Israel to show “greater restraint” in the use of live fire, and said that the inquiry should look into why so much was used. However, he also said it was “deplorable but real that extremist elements have been exploiting these protests”, adding the government “understands the reasons why Israel would seek to protect its border and its border fence.”Most of the 60 Gazans killed Monday were shot by Israeli snipers, Gaza’s health ministry said. At least 2,400 others were wounded in the bloodiest day in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the 2014 Gaza war, which took place as the United States Monday unveiled its new embassy in Jerusalem. Burt repeated Britain’s commitment to a two-state solution to the conflict, and said it did not agree with the US decision to move its embassy.
He also told parliament that the government had “no information to suggest UK-supplied equipment” was used against Gazans. On Monday, tens of thousands had gathered near the border in protest while smaller numbers approached the fence and sought to break through, with Israeli snipers positioned on the other side. The death toll led to strong condemnation from rights groups and concern from a range of countries. But the US, which blamed the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, blocked the adoption of a UN Security Council statement that would have called for an independent probe into the violence, diplomats said.

Iran Upbeat on Nuclear Deal Hopes after EU Talks
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 15/18/Iran's foreign minister said Tuesday that efforts to save the nuclear deal after the abrupt U.S. withdrawal were "on the right track" as he began talks with European powers in Brussels.
Mohammad Javad Zarif met EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini ahead of evening talks with his counterparts from Britain, France and Germany -- the three European signatories to the 2015 landmark accord who are scrambling to preserve it. Tehran has warned it is prepared to resume "industrial-scale" uranium enrichment "without any restrictions" unless Europe can provide solid guarantees that it can maintain the economic benefits it gained from the nuclear agreement despite the United States reimposing sanctions.
Zarif gave an upbeat assessment after a "good and constructive" meeting with Mogherini. "I believe we're on the right track to move forward in order to ensure that interests of all the JCPOA remaining participants, particularly Iran, will be preserved and guaranteed," he told reporters. The deal's official name is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. Mogherini said it had been a "very productive" meeting but indicated it was the start of a long road. "We are working on the measures that we can start to put in place and we will look at the content of that," she said. "One thing is absolutely sure is that the European Union is determined to preserve this deal that is essential to our security and the security of the region."Zarif's meetings in Brussels cap a whirlwind global tour, including trips to both Russia and China, the two other signatory nations, in a bid to bolster support.
'Respect the deal'
Europeans have sought to play down expectations of Tuesday's meeting, stressing the enormous challenge of finding a way around U.S. sanctions punishing foreign businesses trading with Iran, which have global reach. The European Union insists the deal is working, pointing to repeated U.N. inspections verifying the Islamic republic's compliance with its side of the bargain. We will make it clear to Zarif "that we stand by the agreements and also expect Iran to abide by them," said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. EU leaders aim to show a united front on preserving the Iran deal when they meet for a pre-summit dinner in Sofia on Wednesday, European Council President Donald Tusk said. "I would like our debate to reconfirm without any doubt that as long as Iran respects the provisions of the deal, the EU will also respect it," Tusk said in a letter to the leaders on the eve of the summit. European firms, especially those from France and Germany, rushed to invest in Iran following the 2015 accord, under which Tehran agreed to freeze its nuclear program in return for an end to punishing international sanctions. German exports to Iran totaled nearly 3.0 billion euros in 2017, while French exports soared from 562 million euros in 2015 to 1.5 billion in 2017 and oil giant Total has pledged to invest some $5 billion in the South Pars gas field.
'No illusion'
When he quit the deal last week, U.S. President Donald Trump gave businesses a maximum of six months to wind up operations in Iran or face swingeing penalties under American sanctions. "We have to be realistic about the electrified rail, the live wire of American extra-territoriality and how that can serve as a deterrent to business," said British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. French President Emmanuel Macron held phone talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, according to a Kremlin statement, which said they had "confirmed Russia and France's commitment to make the deal work."Zarif was in Moscow to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday, a day after visiting Beijing. Johnson said the Europeans were "under no illusion about Iran's disruptive behavior but we think we can tackle those in other ways outside the JCPOA." Washington has long complained that the nuclear deal does nothing to stop Iran's ballistic missile program or its interference in conflicts across the Middle East from Syria to Yemen. On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington still wants to work with Europe to counter Iran's "malign behavior" and was working hard to thrash out a more wide-ranging deal with its European partners. However on Tuesday the U.S. hit Iran's central bank governor with sanctions.

Bodies of 20 victims of 2015 ISIS atrocity in Libya arrive in Egypt

Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishTuesday, 15 May 2018/Hundreds of Egyptians from the village of Aour and neighboring village of Minya gathered on Monday to receive the remains of 20 Egyptian copts killed by ISIS in Libya in the year 2015. A shrine has been built for the victims inside the Church of Shuhadaa al-Watan W al-Eman in the village, to commemorate them. They carried a picture of each victim to be placed at their burial site, while prayers were held in the presence of senior priests and parents. The families of victims were grateful for the persistent efforts made by President Abdelfattah el-Sisi, the state authorities and the Church to bring back the bodies of their family members after after they had lost hope of burying them with their own hands. Eileen Ibrahim, mother of one of the victims, said she is happy the body was retrieved but it does not make her pain and grave loss any better. Family members who spoke to Al Arabiya said they would trade places with their sons who lost their lives at the hands of ISIS. Their village is now referred to as “Martyer’s village” after their death. Earlier, an Egyptian official at Cairo airport announced the arrival of the remains of Egyptian Copts who were killed in February 2015 near Sirte, the former stronghold of the organization in Libya. The Pope of Alexandria, Coptic Patriarch Tawadros II was present at Cairo airport to receive the bodies that were transferred from Misrata. Dr Osman al-Zantani said that the identification of the bodies was not easy because of decomposition. Authorities at Cairo International Airport announced, on Monday, a state of emergency in preparation for receiving the remains of the victims of terror.

Sadr willing to ally with Iraqi blocs to form technocratic government

Hassan al-Saeedi, Baghdad – Al Arabiya.netTuesday, 15 May 2018/Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his cross sectarian Sairoon coalition (On the move), who are set to win Iraq’s elections after preliminary results showed they were in the lead, seek to form a technocratic cabinet. Meanwhile, some media reports said the Iranian embassy is interfering in the cabinet formation process by attempting to bring some political blocs together.Sadr announced the shape of his next alliances to form a cabinet via Twitter. He excluded any alliance with Al-Fatah Alliance which is affiliated with the Popular Mobilization Militia, with the Alliance of the State of the Law that is headed by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan that is affiliated with late president Jalal Talabani. “We are ‘on the move’ in ‘wisdom’ and ‘nationalism,’ to meet our people’s ‘will,’ build a ‘new generation’ and witness ‘change’ towards reform so the ‘decision’ is Iraqi and we can raise the ‘banners’ of ‘victory,’ so ‘Baghdad,’ the capital, is our ‘identity’ and ‘our democratic efforts’ are (directed) towards forming a parental government that consists of technocrat ‘cadres’,” Sadr said on Twitter. His tweet voiced his intent to ally with the National Wisdom Movement led by Ammar al-Hakim, the National Coalition headed by Ayad Allawi and the Eradaa (Will) Movement led by Hanan al-Fatlawi. It also voiced his intent to ally with the New Generation political platform led by young Kurdish businessman Shaswar Abdulwahid, the Kurdish Change bloc (Gorran) and the Decision Bloc led by former parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi. He also intends to include Bayariq al-Kheir (the banners of benevolence) bloc led by former defense minister Khaled al-Obeidi, the Victory Alliance led by Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, the Baghdad Coalition led by Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, the Kurdistan Democratic Party led by Masoud Barzani and the Competencies bloc led by Haitham al-Jubouri.
Sabhan's response to Sadr
Saudi minister of state for Arab Gulf affairs Thamer Al Sabhan, the kingdom’s former ambassador to Iraq, congratulated Iraq for holding the elections and commented on Sadr’s tweet.“You are truly on the move in wisdom, patriotism and solidarity. You’ve made the decision for change towards an Iraq that raises the banners of victory with its independence, Arabism and identity. I congratulate Iraq for having you,” Sabhan said via Twitter. Meanwhile, local media outlets quoted a political source as saying that four lists intend to form an alliance on Tuesday to form the biggest bloc in parliament. It will include the State of Law Coalition, the Fatah Alliance and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. The fourth list has not yet been announced. A source close to the Iranian embassy in Baghdad had told that five days before the elections were held, a meeting was held between Maliki, Hadi Al-Amiri, Allawi, Salim al-Jabouri and the Iranian ambassador in Iraq to discuss forming a big bloc to announce forming the cabinet of political majority and which will be cross sectarian.

Early results place Sadr bloc in lead position to determine next Iraq PM

Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishTuesday, 15 May 2018/Populist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his bloc of parties are set to win Iraq’s parliamentary election and placed into a position to determine the country's next prime minister after prelimary results showed them in the lead. In the first election since the defeat of ISIS in the country, Iran-backed Shiite militia chief Hadi al-Amiri’s bloc was in second place, while current Iraq PM Haider al-Abadi trailed in third. Sadr and Amiri both came in first in four of the 10 provinces where votes were counted, but the cleric's bloc won significantly more votes in the capital, Baghdad, which has the highest number of seats.
Al Arabiya's Shadaan Hammam reports.

N. Korea Threatens to Scrap Trump Summit
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 15/18/North Korea threatened Wednesday to cancel a much-anticipated and unprecedented summit between its leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump, the South's Yonhap news agency reported. Pyongyang also canceled high-level talks due Wednesday with Seoul over the Max Thunder joint military exercises between the U.S. and the South, Yonhap said citing the North's official news agency KCNA.

Father of burnt-alive Jordanian pilot wishes ISIS murderers a crueler fate
Ghassan Abu Louz, Amman – Al Arabiya.netTuesday, 15 May 2018/Abu Jawad al-Kasasbeh, the father of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh who was burnt alive by ISIS in Syria, said Saddam Omar al-Jamal, one of those involved in killing Muath and who was recently captured in Iraq, should suffer a fate worse than that of his son. In his first interview to Al Arabiya English after the Iraqi authorities announced the arrest of five ISIS chiefs, including Jamal, Abu Jawad said he cannot imagine what would happen if he ever comes face to face with his son’s murderers. “What do you expect from a father who is grieving his son and whose murder shook the entire world?” Abu Jawad asked. Asked how he felt when he heard the news that Jamal was among those arrested, he said a fire raged inside him, adding that Jamal’s punishment must be worse than how Muath was executed. A Jordanian girl holds a poster of pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh. (Reuters). “I see Muath in my prayers, when I put my head on the pillow. I see Muath every second, and I mourn him every day,” Abu Jawad said. Muath’s older brother Jawad said: “We hear our father cry all the time when he’s alone in his room.”Abu Jawad called on the Jordanian government to bring Jamal from Iraq to Jordan to try him, adding that he was expecting the interrogation of ISIS officials to reveal more about the secrets of capturing Muath and executing him. He also said that he has not asked to meet with Jamal if the Iraqi authorities hand him over to Jordan, adding that he will consider this if Jamal was handed over. Abu Jawad, who did not hide his desire to avenge from all those involved in burning Muath to death and see them die the same way he was killed, said his sons never watched the video of the killing and never think about watching it.
Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 15-16/18
Explaining Israel’s growing role in the region
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/May 15/18
The US’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran is an important development that will have possible political consequences and transformations in the region and on the players, the arena and the crisis. The new developments are dependent on the continuity of the American stance against Tehran and which may change if the Iranian government makes concessions to the US. President Donald Trump had promised Iran to go back to the agreement if it backs down and accepts his conditions to amend the deal. These amendments include prohibiting Iran from ever transforming its nuclear program into a military program and withdrawing its forces and militias from the wars outside Iran. It’s unlikely that Rowhani’s government will accept these conditions during this current phase.
When sanctions are activated and pressure is increased on Iran, Israel will have a new regional role that it has never played before. Israel’s activities regarding its foreign security have been limited to wars and confrontations with neighboring countries. It’s probable that Israel will play a new role, the role of the policeman that’s watching and holding Iran accountable. On one hand, it launched significant military operations against Iranian sites in Syria and it said it completely destroyed the infrastructure which the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have built there. If we assume that half of this estimate is accurate, then Israel will have diminished Iran’s power for the first time since it got involved in the war in Syria around five years ago.
Israel has frankly said it intends to eliminate Iran’s presence in Syria, and this increases the possibilities of more confrontations that will also be violent. If Israel succeeds in getting Iran and its foreign militias out of Syria then the balance of power between the warring parties will change. Who will compensate for Iran? Will the Russians intensify their presence? Will Arab forces, mostly Egyptians, replace the Iranian ones or will a political solution sponsored by the UN and supervised by UN peacekeeping troops be enough?
Thanks to Iran’s expansion, Israel’s regional role is growing
On another hand, Israel said it’s concerned in pursuing Iran’s nuclear program and it will try to have a role in any military confrontation or siege. The confrontation is completely unlikely but there might be smaller military operations targeted against Iran’s presence outside its territories. The aim is to pressure the regime in Tehran to withdraw its fighters from Syria, Iraq and Yemen and embarrass it before the Iranians and the region’s people, like what happened to it last week in Syria.
Thanks to Iran’s expansion, Israel’s regional role is growing. This was not happening before. The confrontations between Israel and Iran have always been with the latter’s proxies like the Palestinian Hamas Movement and the Lebanese Hezbollah Party. The Iranian command, particularly the Revolutionary Guards, must be extremely embarrassed because it lost the recent confrontations which resembled a semi-state of war as this is the first there is a battle of this size between the two countries.
As long as the US administration is assigning this new role to Israel, and it suits other Arab parties, it will probably expand in the future. Israel is a relatively small state as it has the approximate area of Kuwait; however, it has a regionally superior military capability. By exploiting tensions and the changes in camps, it will create itself a new status. Israel’s rise synchronizes with the end of a long US abstention to move the embassy to Jerusalem and with including Egypt in resolving the security problem of the Gaza Strip as result of protests there.

Who Is Moqtada al-Sadr? The Cleric Who Attacked U.S. Troops and Is Iraq's Likely Next PM
هآرتس ورويترز: من هو رجل الدين العراقي مقتدى الصدر الذي حارب القوات الأميركية ومن المحتمل أن يصبح رئيس وزراء العراق المقبل

Haaretz/Reuters May 15, 2018
Sadr is the only Iraqi Shi'ite leader who has challenged both Iran and the United States, a calculation that appears to have made him popular with millions of poor Shi'ites
Nationalist Shi'ite Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr took a surprise lead in Iraq's elections by tapping into public resentment with Iran and what some voters say is a corrupt political elite it supports.
Sadr is the only Iraqi Shi'ite leader who has challenged both Iran and the United States, a calculation that appears to have made him popular with millions of poor Shi'ites who felt they hadn’t benefited from their government’s close ties to Tehran or Washington.
The nationalist cleric’s success in the election dealt a blow to Iran, which has steadily increased its influence in Iraq since a U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.
His success marks a remarkable comeback for Sadr, who for years had been sidelined by Iranian-backed rivals. He reached out to dispossessed Shi’ites and marginalised Sunnis, and restored links with Sunni neighbours while keeping Iran at bay. As news spread of Sadr's gains in the election, some of his followers celebrated in Baghdad and chanted "Iran out." "Iraq is rich, the country doesn’t need Iran, it can stand on its feet and be prosperous it just need good management," said Mohammed Sadeq, a trader in the city of Hilla who voted for Sadr's list.
Forty-four year old Sadr will not become prime minister as he did not run in the election but his almost certain victory puts him in a position to pick someone for the job. Winning the largest number of seats does not automatically guarantee that, however. The other winning blocs would have to agree on the nomination.
Sadr has long been viewed by the U.S. and Iraqi government officials seen as an unpredictable maverick. But a Western diplomat, who met him in his villa in the city of Najaf just after he formed a political bloc with communists in March described Sadr as composed, articulate and a pragmatist. "He didn't come across as a rabble rouser," said the diplomat. Sadr, usually stern-faced, joked about the diplomat's ring. "Then he showed me his ring, which had an effigy of his father," he said.
Fierce nationalist
Sadr was virtually unknown outside Iraq before the 2003 U.S. invasion. But he soon became a symbol of resistance to foreign occupation, deriving much of his authority from his family.
He is the son of the revered Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr, killed for defying Saddam Hussein. His father’s cousin, Mohammed Baqir, was also killed by the Iraqi dictator, in 1980.
Sadr was the first to form a Shi'ite militia that fought against U.S. troops after the liberation of Iraq turned into an occupation. He led two uprisings against U.S. troops, prompting the Pentagon to call his Mehdi army the biggest threat to Iraq's security. U.S. officials and Sunni Arab leaders have accused Sadr's Mehdi Army of being behind many sectarian killings that ravaged Iraq. Sadr has disavowed violence against fellow Iraqis.
Sadr has always portrayed himself as an uncompromising nationalist. He looked down on other opposition figures who safely returned from Iran seeking power after Saddam's demise while others put their lives at risk by staying in the country.
In 2004, the U.S. occupation authority issued an arrest warrant for Sadr in connection with the 2003 murder of moderate Shi'ite leader Abdul Majid al-Khoei who the Americans had brought into the holy Shi'ite city of Najaf during the invasion. Sadr, who denied any role, was never charged.
His image as a patriot appears to have resonated with those who voted in the election, which saw a historically low turnout. "We won’t allow the Iraqis to be cannon fodder for the wars of others nor be used in proxy wars outside Iraq," said Jumah Bahadily, a member of the outgoing parliament who belongs to the Sadrist movement, referring to Syria. “We are proud of our Arab identity.”
Unlikely alliance
With his trademark turban, Sadr can easily mobilise thousands of followers on the streets of Iraq. In 2016, hundreds of Sadr's supporters stormed parliament inside Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone after he denounced politicians’ failure to reform a political quota system blamed for rampant corruption.
Sadr issued an ultimatum.
“If corrupt (officials) and quotas remain the entire government will be brought down and no one will be exempt." For the election, Sadr formed an unlikely alliance with communists and other independent secular supporters to demand the formation of a government of independent technocrats to end corruption. His bloc, known as “Sairoon” in Arabic, or On The Move, has said it would focus on rebuilding infrastructure and providing health and education to the poor. "The importance of this vote is that it is a clear message that the people want to change the system of governance which has produced corruption and weakened the state institutions," Raed Fahmy, secretary general of the Iraqi Communist Party, told Reuters. "It is a message in support of having balanced relations with all based on the respect of non interference in Iraq’s internal affairs."
Sadr has made a notable comeback after being sidelined for years by Shi'ite rivals backed by Tehran. Two of them were seen as top contenders for prime minister after the election. Hadi al-Amiri is widely regarded as Iran's man in Iraq and is arguably the most powerful figure in the country. Amiri's bloc was in second place in the poll with more than half the votes counted, according to Reuters calculations.
The other is Nuri al-Maliki, who served as prime minister for a total of eight years. Maliki's bloc has so far fared poorly. Incumbent Haider al-Abadi had been tipped to win by a narrow margin. Sadr's growing popularity has not gone unnoticed in Tehran, where he went into self-imposed exile in 2007.
Ali Akbar Velayati, top adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in February that Tehran would prevent Sadr and his alliance from governing in Iraq. “We will not allow liberals and communists to govern in Iraq,” he said during a speech at a conference in Iraq in February.
Iraq, which lies in the heart of the Gulf, is critical for Iran. The countries share a border and Iraq is Iran’s main route for supplying arms and fighters to Syria to back President Bashar al-Assad in the civil war. Sadr and his allies "benefited from the weak participation of the other parties and from widespread popular discontent regarding corruption and the mismanagement of the state, and also the perception that Iraq is being led from outside, by the Iranians and the Americans," said Wathiq al-Hashimi, an independent analyst based in Iraq.

Human Rights: Other Views - Part II

Denis MacEoin/Gatestone Institute/May 15/2018
Palestinian human rights organizations such as Al-Mezan, along with their many supporters abroad and even within a substantial part of the Jewish diaspora, have turned the very concept of human rights on its head.
Although genuine and widely praised for their advocacy of human rights internationally, even Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, the International Federation for Human Rights and the humanitarian relief body Oxfam International have reputations of extreme bias against Israel.
What are any of these people doing actually to help the Palestinians -- such as creating jobs, assuring good governance, establishing schools, hospitals, health care and dental clinics, safeguarding legal standards, stopping the arrests of journalists or others who dare to criticize the current governments and so on? Rather, the issues they address seem more a rationalization to destroy Israel.
We have seen in Part One of this article how far Western standards of human rights differ from those guaranteed by Islam. One obvious outcome of this disparity is, of course, that citizens of Muslim countries are accorded fewer rights than their counterparts in liberal democracies. Thus, women, girls, gays, members of religious minorities, "blasphemers", bloggers (notably in Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia) reformers and others may be subjected to partial or total deprival of what the rest of the world considers to be unquestionable or God-given rights. Women may be forced to dress in all-encompassing clothing or hijabs. Minorities may be imprisoned or killed. Women even alleged to have committed adultery – but often just the victims of rape – may be flogged or else stoned to death. LGBT individuals may imprisoned or killed, while bloggers, reformist intellectuals, moderate Qur'an interpreters face flogging and murder by mobs.
All the while, the UN Human Rights Council does little or nothing to encourage Muslim member states to rethink these views; it even adopts resolutions that contradict the Universal Declaration, such as the 2009 resolution to treat "defamation of religion" as a rights violation. This resolution, launched by Pakistan on behalf of a group of Islamic states, while purportedly aiming to protect criticism of all religions, in reality seems aimed at preventing people worldwide from ever criticizing the Islamic religion.
Meanwhile, writing in 2017, human rights lawyer Anne Bayefsky describes how the Human Rights Council is actually focused elsewhere:
According to the U.N.'s top human rights body, Israel is the worst human rights violator in the world today. That's the result of the latest session of the UN Human Rights Council which wrapped up in Geneva on Friday by adopting five times more resolutions condemning Israel than any other country on earth.
Bizarre as that may sound, it is, in the UN, normal procedure. In some ways even more bizarre is the revelation the same year of another Human Rights Council report, which shows violations by 29 countries that attack people working with the UN on human rights issues:
It was reported to OHCHR that these people had been abducted, detained, held incommunicado, or had disappeared, according to Andrew Gilmour, the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights.
Other victims lost their jobs, had their homes or offices raided, were targeted by travel bans and asset freezes, and forced to undergo unwanted psychiatric "treatment." Many cases involved arbitrary detention and torture, sometimes by sexual assault or rape.
Israel is, for no apparent reason, on that list of 29. Out of that same number, however, more than half were Muslim-majority countries: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Algeria, Bahrain, Iran, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. That should not be surprising, given the Islamic human rights standard already examined in Part One.
There is still one more bizarre feature: the insistence in some quarters that Israel is the leading violator of rights. There seem to be more human rights organizations in the West Bank than possibly anywhere else in the world, together with masses of international bodies that support the Palestinians and condemn Israel -- usually in a distinctly one-sided, ant-Israel way. There are so many organizations that one can never be sure of an accurate tally, but it certainly seems disproportionately large for one small pluralistic democracy to be the target of so much criticism, given the number of genuine abusers of human rights -- including the Palestinian Authority and Hamas -- across the Middle East.
Of the 20 organizations, for example, listed as pursuing rights claims against Israel by the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice to commemorate a young American woman described as a "peace activist" but who was in reality an anti-Israel campaigner -- several are international, but the rest are based in the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel. None is an advocate of Israel's excellent human rights achievements, but are instead composed of political activists who often seem to place Palestinian rights -- such as a supposed right to violent protests -- above those of their fellow Israelis, including the Arab citizens of Israel -- to defend themselves. Given that Israel is where Jews have lived for more than 3,000 years -- and which only in the last century became the sole safe haven for Jews in a world of historically so many antagonists -- this antagonism seems deeply perverse.
A wider survey shows that in countries such as the United States, the UK, and Egypt, at least eleven international organizations have a remit to investigate what are claimed to be Israeli human rights violations in the disputed territories, even though the Gaza Strip has been long-unoccupied, and is now ruled by the Islamic group Hamas, a Foreign Terrorist Organization, according to the U.S. Department of State. No one, it often seems, has a good word to say about Israel, or a less-than-good word to say, about Palestinian mayhem, terrorism or internal human rights abuses.
Although genuine and widely praised for their advocacy of human rights internationally, even Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, FIDH [Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l'homme] and the humanitarian relief body Oxfam International have reputations of extreme bias against Israel. Amnesty regards Israel as an "apartheid" state, actively supports the international Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to strangle Israel economically and academically, accuses Israel of "war crimes", defends terrorists, and more. Human Rights Watch does much the same. Even its founder, Robert L. Bernstein, has condemned it for its unjustified attacks on Israel and its failure commensurately to criticize groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. The respected French international organization, FIDH has issued anti-Israel statements in collaboration with highly politicized Palestinian NGOs.
Most of these international organizations show genuine concern about human rights violations elsewhere, including North Africa and the wider Middle East. Here, for example, is a sample of FIDH's current issues in that region. But when it comes to Israel, they portray far greater sympathy for Palestinian "victims" than for the countless Israelis who have been killed or injured by some of these "victims".
Their bias often seems to originate in exposure to highly propagandistic, frequently counter-factual claims by the many Palestinian, Israeli, and left-wing Jewish organizations with whom the international bodies consult and with whom they periodically act in tandem. Likewise, it is not surprising that organizations which work on a daily basis to right the wrongs suffered by the world's genuine victims of human rights abuses find themselves open to persuasion by Palestinians and their supporters, who often portray themselves as passive victims of Israeli actions without taking the smallest responsibility for their own provocative actions. For more, the psychologist Johanna Vollhardt has examined the role of victim beliefs in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Some of the smaller international organizations focus only on Israel and the Palestinians. The British Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights, citing the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights and the World Organization Against Torture, recently delivered a joint written statement to the 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council. The statement calls for the Council to act on what it calls "impunity for torture, ill-treatment and related practices in Israel", and relates to "the Israeli government's policy and practice in regard to torture and ill-treatment". In Israel, in fact, torture has been completely banned by Israel's High Court since 1999.
As in the United States, however, moderate physical pressure is not. Israel is a country under constant terrorist attacks and threats of attacks. By ignoring these important distinctions and pretending not to know the truth about actual Israeli law and Israeli practice, such "rights organizations" only serve -- possibly deliberately -- to confuse the international public.
Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights has an extensive Gaza Accountability Project which aims "to secure justice and legal accountability for Palestinian victims of alleged serious violations of international law", even as it says not a word about Palestinian persecution of Christians or Hamas's abuses against women, children and Israelis. Even the Palestinian Authority claims that Hamas are reckless gamblers who sacrifice the lives of Gazan women and children.
Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights, based in Portland, Oregon, characterizes recent measures taken by Israeli border security as "the Passover Massacre", when even Hamas and Israel effectively agree that 80% of the protesters shot were members of terrorist organizations, not civilians. See here. There was no "massacre" over Passover or any other period. Israel does not commit massacres. This simple fact, however, seems to make no impact on activists, the media, so-called human rights groups or the international community.
As some Americans recently wrote:
"For decades Zionists have blamed the Palestinians for Israel's ongoing colonial project. 'If only the Palestinians had a Mahatma Gandhi,' many Israeli liberals have exclaimed, 'then the occupation would end.'"
They then proceed to claim: "But if one truly wished to find Palestinian Mahatma Gandhis all one needed to do is look at the images of protesters on Friday night's news broadcasts."
Not surprisingly, they fail to mention that these Palestinian Gandhis belonged to or were manipulated by terrorist organizations such as Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
The AUPHR applies the "apartheid" charge even to the situation of Arab Israelis as well as those on the West Bank. Many authors have used this argument, a claim unsupported by actual evidence and rejected by several, such as the Rev. Dr. Kenneth Meshoe, who have had direct experience of South African apartheid.
Of the human rights organizations working in Gaza and the West Bank, three stand out as spokesmen for anti-Israel propaganda and lawfare. These are Al-Dameer, Al-Haq, and Al-Mezan, all of which are well funded by a succession of international so-called human rights and humanitarian bodies. None of them gives any financial details, but, according to NGO Monitor , Al Dameer has received donations from Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, the European Union, the US, and the UN Development Program.
Al-Mezan, in 2014, listed "Core Programme Donors" from the same countries, as well as Germany, the UK, the EU, Oxfam GB, Save the Children, and several other humanitarian institutions.
Regarding Al-Mezan itself, a central actor in Palestinian human rights enterprises incorporating Gaza and the West Bank, there is not room here for an exhaustive account. But NGO Monitor has provided a valuable summary, from which useful information can be extracted.
Al-Mezan's activities are truly bewldering. Over the years, it has accused Israel of war crimes, including Israeli Defence Forces' "massacres" in Gaza, further "massacres" and "slaughtering civilians" there in 2009, a "despicable disregard to civilian life" by what they term "the Israeli Occupation Forces" -- years after Israel had ended its occupation of Gaza.
Al-Mezan has, in addition, played an active role in the BDS movement to try to crush Israel economically. It submits blatantly anti-Israel material to international bodies such as the European Parliament and the UN. In 2016, along with another West Bank organization, Badil (Badeel), it hosted a forum at the European Parliament in Brussels, in which discussions were held about Israel's alleged violations of international law. These violations included businesses operating in Israeli settlements (which they considered "illegal", in line with a recent UN resolution to that effect).
Earlier that year, al-Mezan co-signed a joint statement on supposed infractions of international law:
For decades, Israel has failed to uphold its duties as Occupying Power and has instead deepened its occupation and regime of colonialism and apartheid. Human rights violations rising to the level of international crimes, including unlawful killings, torture, forced transfer, and other forms of collective punishment have become the norm.
The rest of the statement advocated smothering Israel economically on the totally false grounds that no governments or international bodies had the political will to hold Israel accountable for its "crimes".
This supposed exemplar of human rights activism could not be more opposed to the state of Israel, about which it perpetuates a large battery of falsehoods and distortions. It claims, for instance, that Israel is an "apartheid" state;; accuses it, wrongly, of "ethnic cleansing"; reports purported Israeli "war crimes"; repeats the historically false narrative of the 1948 Palestinian nakba [catastrophe - that of losing a war it started] which it characterizes as "a catastrophe born of discrimination and impunity". In reality, five Arab states had sent in armies to destroy Israel on the day of its birth, but lost. A flight of Arab refugees took place because Arab authorities ordered civilians to leave to allow those Arab armies a freer hand wresting the area from Jews. [1]
Al-Mezan is also highly active in anti-Israel lawfare campaigns. These try, for example, to use courts and international legal bodies to issue arrest warrants against Israeli officials, and to lobby against Israel in the International Criminal Court.
Al-Mezan's "war crimes" accusations use biased and emotive rhetoric alongside falsified statistics, especially for casualties in Gaza during warfare. Al-Mezan has gone so far as to allege that "Israel killed more children than fighters" during the 2014 Gaza conflict. In fact, a later analysis has shown that civilian figures were grossly inflated and militant casualties hidden:
The IDF's analysis of fatalities demonstrates that while the 2014 Gaza Conflict did unfortunately result in civilian fatalities, the number and percentage of Palestinian civilian fatalities is actually much lower than has been reported in many channels. As discussed below, the IDF's preliminary analysis has determined that 2,125 Palestinians were killed during the 2014 Gaza Conflict. Of these fatalities, the IDF estimates that at least 936 (44% of the total) were actually militants and that 761 (36% of the total) were civilians; efforts are still underway to classify the additional 428 (20% of the total), all males aged 16-50
These and other accusations, couched in bombastic "human rights" terminology and made in a parade of reports to the international media, are woefully short of evidence and context, but Al-Mezan and its associates, using what appear to be hard facts despite a serious lack of documentary evidence, claim the moral high ground. Needless to say, Hamas has used civilians as human shields (as openly admitted in 2008 by Hamas leader Fathi Hammad) and has launched missiles from inside civilian sites, such as school, hospitals, and mosques – all, according to Canadian law professor Irwin Cotler, war crimes.[2]
If Al-Mezan's allegations were even moderately true, Israel would deserve the obloquy that is repeatedly dumped on it. A high-level military group, however, made up of senior military personnel from many countries declared in 2015 that the Israeli Defence Force is "the most ethical army in the world". These experts, presumably vastly more knowledgeable about military affairs than Al-Mezan and other Palestinian rights groups, also stated in 2016 that the IDF had acted in combat entirely within the rules of international military law. Needless to say, Hamas has used civilians as human shields and launched missiles from inside civilian sites such as schools, hospitals and mosques.
Al-Mezan also declines to focus on what are argued as human rights issues, such as women's rights, LGBT rights, or basic rights for all Palestinians living under the rule of the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. Instead, it Al-Mezan involves itself with overtly political activities that support efforts to destroy Israel economically. Although such efforts may be interpreted as a response to others' human rights breaches, they are tightly linked to the untrue accusations of apartheid and the false claim that the Wall section of Israeli's security fence is an "apartheid wall", rather than a barrier Israel was forced to erect to defend itself from countless terrorist attacks. A wall is a passive form of defence that has proven effective over many years and saved countless lives.
According to the American politician Scott Walker, Israelis have "seen something like over a 90% reduction in terrorist acts in that country that they attribute to having an effective fence."
More is happening here than might at first meet the eye. Palestinian human rights organizations such as Al-Mezan, along with their many supporters abroad and even within a substantial part of the Jewish diaspora, have turned the very concept of human rights upside down. All around the world, a majority of people and countries slam Israel as a country that violates human rights, when by any rational measure it does the precise opposite. Israel is the only country in the Middle East and far beyond to provide full rights, true pluralism, and equal justice under the law to all its citizens. The security measures Israel has been forced to take since 1948 can hardly be called -- with few possible exceptions -- human rights abuses.
What Israel's enemies are doing is to repurpose claims of "human rights abuses" by turning the world's attention away from their own abuses and trying to generate instead a fictitious image of Israel as supposedly the world's greatest abuser. If one examines Freedom House's 2018 report on the Middle East and North Africa, only one North African country – Tunisia – is listed as fully free, and only one Middle Eastern state – Israel – is fully free. The rest are mainly not free at all, with one or two partly free. The West Bank is recorded as not free. This is partly because the Arabs agreed in the Oslo II accord, also known as the Oslo Interim Agreement of 1995, that Israel would have "overall responsibility for external security and for the security of Israelis and settlements throughout the West Bank and the Gaza Strip".
Since then, however, as Freedom House adds: "The PA itself has grown more authoritarian, engaging in crackdowns on the media and human rights activists who criticize its rule." Why then do human rights activists focus on Israel rather than on the abuses under the Palestinians' own leadership?
There are many abuses in Gaza and the West Bank. Honor killings of girls and women in the West Bank are a serious concern. After 2014, there was a major upsurge in such murders, carried out by members of the woman's own family. The Palestinian Authority remains obstinate in its refusal to intervene in the matter. Protests are made, but the abuses continue. More generally, women's rights are violated in both the West Bank and Gaza, as are children's rights. In the West Bank and Gaza, homosexuality is a capital offence. In Gaza, a recent report on gay men shows them forced to live double lives out of fear of Hamas agents. Many head for Israel, where, since 1963, LGBT rights -- made fully legal in 1988 -- are assured.
Religious minorities, mainly Christians suffer much abuse in Gaza and the West Bank, where Islamic shari'a law and social attitudes that are profoundly discriminatory to non-Muslims inform popular and political opinion. Israel is the only country in the region where religious minorities have full freedom to worship and live without hindrance. The Baha'is, murdered, imprisoned and economically oppressed in Iran and banned in all Muslim states, have their world-famous international headquarters, their holiest shrines, and pilgrimage centers in Haifa and outside Acco.
The "human rights" bodies in the West Bank, such as Al-Mezan, Al Dameer, and Al-Haq, never involve themselves in complaints about any of the human rights abuses listed above. Instead, they do all they can to persuade the rest of the world that the world's worst offender is Israel.
These organizations and their supporters have been trying, in fact, to repurpose the very concept of human rights, and in so doing, have turned them upside-down. These activists appear to have adopted a broad range of attitudes – many with their roots in an Orwellian ideology that turns white to black and good intentions to evil conspiracies. Thus, for example, we see how Iran is sending weapons, including missiles, to Hezbollah under the guise of humanitarian aid, even while Israel sends tons of genuine aid into Gaza every day, yet \ is accused of imposing a "crippling blockade".
Similarly, some Western feminists have been claiming that the Islamic veil supposedly empowers Muslim women. To some, it is seen as a "feminist accessory", or as a protection against harassment. This sort of thinking, however, seems based on the assumption that traditional conservative Islamic culture must take precedence over Western values, and ignores the male domination and repression that can often accompany it – such as forced obedience to men.
In the UK, we have witnessed a traditionally progressive, anti-racist political party, Labour, become deeply mired in the racism of anti-Semitism. Almost all of this is due to a well-intended but under-informed obsession with the suffering of the Palestinians and a deeply corrupt understanding of Israel. What are any of these people doing actually to help the Palestinians – such as creating jobs, assuring good governance, ending the corruption of the Palestinian leadership, protecting human rights in Palestinian courts, establishing schools, hospitals, health care and dental clinics, adequate electricity and how to care for drinking water drinking water; upgrading agriculture, safeguarding legal standards of proof in courts, stopping the arrests of journalists or others who dare to criticize the current governments, preventing torture in prison, and so on? Rather, the issues they address seem more a rationalization to destroy Israel. That attitude also seems linked to a sad ignorance of, wholesale indifference to, and even hatred of modern definitions of anti-Semitism. The 2016 International Holocaust Alliance Definition includes several clauses relating to false, bigoted, and extremist views of Israel, including the following:
Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
Those are only a few examples of a fatal slip in the Western democracies, where extreme ideologies on both the left and the right have come to invert the real values of classic Western liberalism. The Palestinians and their supporters have taken advantage of this; they seem to know that much of the media, a goodly section of the political establishment, and people in Christian churches will swallow their views on human rights to perpetuate a "victimhood" – not to solve the problem but to perpetuate a modern assault on the Jewish people, whose rights have never been fully recognized in either the Islamic world or the West.
Israel is not a perfect country -- no country is -- and no country is above criticism when that criticism is just and based on fact. The United States is not perfect and is the subject of daily criticism, especially from within. The UK and Europe are not perfect either. All of that is normal if we bear in mind that democracies are, by their very nature, subject to changes and shifts. Freedom of speech is a central value in all genuine democracies, and now even that is being dangerously eroded in the West.
For all this, autocracies and theocratic regimes fall even shorter when it comes to human rights. The widespread inability to see the difference between occasional lapses on the one hand -- with the democratic freedom to repair them -- has served both to shelter ruthless dictatorships and to expose one of the most decent countries to unending obloquy. A wake-up call is long overdue.
**Denis MacEoin PhD is a former lecturer in Arabic and Islamic Studies and the author of numerous books and articles on those and related subjects. He is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute.
[1] For a thorough explanation, see Efraim Karsh, Palestine Betrayed, London, 2011.
[2] For a more detailed analysis, see here.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Turkey Slams Proposed French Changes to Quran
Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/May 15/2018
"We must revolutionize our religion," — Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, December, 2014.
"A Muslim is to hate what Allah hates and love what Allah loves. Allah hates the Kafir, therefore, a Muslim is to act accordingly." — Dr. Bill Warner, "Sharia Law for Non-Muslims," a publication of the Center for the Study of Political Islam.
"The point is not that these things are written in Islamic scripture, but that people still live by them." — Bruce Bawer, author.
On April 21, the French daily Le Parisien published a "Manifesto against the new anti-Semitism," written by Philippe Val, a co-founder and former director of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, the target of the 2015 terrorist attack that left 12 employees dead.
The declaration -- signed by more than 250 prominent French intellectuals, artists and politicians, among them former President Nicolas Sarkozy – calls on Islamic theologians to remove the verses of the Quran that call for the killing and punishment of Jews, Christians and Muslim non-believers.
The manifesto reads, in part:
"Anti-Semitism is not the business of the Jews. It's the business of all of us. The French, who have demonstrated their democratic maturity after each Islamist attack, are living through a tragic paradox. Their country has become the arena for murderous anti-Semitism.
"We demand that the fight against this democratic failure that is anti-Semitism becomes a national cause before it's too late. Before France is no longer France.
"French Jews are 25 times more at risk of being attacked than their fellow Muslim citizens. Ten percent of the Jewish citizens of the [Paris region], meaning about 50,000 people, have recently had to change their residence because they were no longer safe in certain neighborhoods and because their children could no longer attend government schools. This involves quiet ethnic cleansing."
During a parliamentary meeting of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on May 8, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan railed against the manifesto and its signatories:
"An impertinent group appeared in France the other day and issued a declaration asking for some verses to be removed from the Quran. It is so obvious that those who say that have no idea what the Quran is, but have they ever read their own book, the Bible? Or the Torah? Or Psalms? If they had read it, they would probably want the Bible to be banned, as well. But they never have such a problem. The more we warn Western countries about hostility to Islam, hostility to Turks, xenophobia, and racism, the more we get a bad reputation. Hey, the West! Look! ...who are you to attack our sacred [values]? We know how despicable you are..."
The head of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, went even further, accusing the manifesto's signatories of sharing the views and practice of terrorists:
"What is outdated is not the Quran. What is outdated is you... Your attitude and opinion is the opinion of al-Qaeda, al-Nusra and ISIS. You support them... If you want to support ISIS and al Qaeda that terrorize [people] by using faiths, continue with your rhetoric..."
Islam, Kılıçdaroğlu stated, is a "religion of peace."
Such claims on the part of Turkey's leadership are false. Islamic scriptures do contain bigotry and even murderous hatred toward non-Muslims and "apostates" -- a fact that has already been addressed by honest Muslims, not only by the French intelligentsia.
"We must revolutionize our religion," Egypt's president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said in December 2014.
Unbelievers ("kafirs") are described in the Quran as "the vilest of animals" and "losers," among other insulting epithets. Christians and Jews are "cursed" by Allah and are destined for suffering in this life, and for an eternity of hell in the next (Quran: 2:85). According to the Quran (40:35), Allah hates the kafir.
"Hatred for the sake of Allah and love for the sake of Allah is called Al Walaa wa al Baraa, a fundamental principle of Islamic ethics and Sharia," writes Dr. Bill Warner in "Sharia Law for Non-Muslims," a publication of the Center for the Study of Political Islam. "A Muslim is to hate what Allah hates and love what Allah loves. Allah hates the Kafir, therefore, a Muslim is to act accordingly."
According to the Quran, a kafir can be mocked (83:34), beheaded (47:4), plotted against (86:15), and terrorized (8:12). A kafir is evil (23:97), disgraced (37:18) and cursed (33:60). The Quran plainly orders Muslim believers not to take unbelievers -- Christians, Jews or other non-Muslims -- as friends and calls for Muslims to make war on the kafir (9:29). And there is no penalty for a Muslim who kills a non-Muslim.
According to an analysis of the practice of "Killing non-Muslims and Slaves" on the website "Islamic Virtues":
"It is clear that the majority of our scholars are in agreement that a Muslim should not be killed for killing a non-Muslim, even if he is a dhimmi (a protected non-Muslim living in the Muslim state). And nor should a free man be killed for killing a slave.
"We should always remember that Allaah, the Most High, did not make Muslims equal to non-Muslims, nor slaves equal to free men, as His divine laws make perfectly clear."
Sharia law is equally harsh towards free-thinking Muslims. Islamic doctrine threatens the death penalty for apostasy. According to both the Quran and the hadith (a collection of Muhammed's sayings), those who leave Islam are to be executed; there is no freedom of religion, and Islam may not be criticized.
Erdogan appears to hold with this tenet, as his assertion that there is "no moderate Islam" and repeated crackdown on free speech suggest.
According to Hürriyet Daily News, the Turkish government's first official response to the French manifesto was to ban new students from admission to the French departments of Turkish universities "until further notice."
As has been pointed out by the author Bruce Bawer, "The point is not that these things are written in Islamic scripture, but that people still live by them."
Rather than strengthen the stance of radical Muslims against the French manifesto, Turkey's reaction serves to illustrate just how relevant and necessary it is.
*Uzay Bulut is a journalist from Turkey and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Instititue. She is currently based in Washington D.C.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Iranian Reactions To The Strategic Change In The U.S.'s Iran Policy And To Israel's Activity To Eliminate The Iranian Threat To It From Syria
By: A. Savyon and Yigal Carmon/MEMRI/May 15/18
In his May 8, 2018 speech, U.S. President Donald Trump turned the tables on Iran, on its European partners, and on supporters of the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) worldwide, when he announced that the U.S. was withdrawing from the agreement. Following this, Iran is now facing two fronts that coordinate with each other – the political-economic front, led by the U.S., and the military front, led by Israel, that aims to eliminate the Iranian threat to it from Syria.
Iranian Reactions To President Trump's Withdrawal From The JCPOA – The Political Level
Despite the U.S.'s move, the Iranian regime does not want to leave the JCPOA – for the same reasons it accepted it in the first place. The agreement gives Iran nuclear-state status; it elevates it to the level of a global power; it obliges the West to upgrade Iran's civilian nuclear program; and it protects the Iranian regime from being attacked by the West. Therefore, the Iranian regime will adhere to the agreement even if only Russia and China continue to support it.
The threats issued by Iran prior to Trump's announcement – i.e. that Iran would also leave the agreement and would resume enriching uranium – have been replaced with Iran's granting of extensions (that this week was extended from two weeks to two months) for its demand that the European governments guarantee monetary compensation for European companies that will be trading with Iran and that will be subject to punitive measures against them on the part of the U.S. Such monetary guarantees from Europe are impossible to obtain, and are not carried out even today, when American sanctions on companies trading with Iran are already in force because of Iran's human rights violations and support for terrorism. Thus, there is no possibility that such guarantees will be given by the governments of Europe after the U.S. has left the agreement.
Therefore, the Iranian regime's policy of negotiating with the Europeans, Russia, and China should be seen only as an attempt to stall and to look for formulas for Iran's submission, with regime spokesmen frequently issuing ambiguous, general threats in order to gain some sort of diplomatic achievement.[1]
This policy of Iranian President Rohani has won the full backing of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who in a speech following the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA did not announce that Iran was withdrawing from the JCPOA, as he had stated in the past that he would if the U.S. did. Furthermore, he has given President Rohani increasing room to maneuver in reaching new agreements with the Europeans.[2] This was also Khamenei's modus operandi when the agreement was accepted – he spoke against it at the same time as he approved it. Iran has no real tools to deal with the U.S.'s withdrawal from the agreement, or with the Europeans' anticipated withdrawal from it as well, which may happen because they have no option.
This modus operandi, in which the Iranians act like a superpower against weak rivals but rationally and submissively when facing a dangerous and powerful rival ready to use economic or military force against them, has for years been characteristic of the Iranian regime (see MEMRI reports analyzing this and identifying Iran as a paper tiger: MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1150, Tehran vs The Awakening Sunni Arab Camp: Significance And Implications, March 31, 2015, and MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6183, Iran Threatens Saudi Arabia: 'The IRGC... Will Take Vengeance' On The Al-Sa'ud Regime; 'Our Responses Will Be... Harsh And Decisive,' October 11, 2015).
Since Iran is rejecting any change to the JCPOA, particularly any discussion on the subject of its missile program or its regional expansion in the Middle East, and since the European countries – despite their opposition to the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement – agree with the U.S. that there is a need to include the Iranian missile program and regional expansion in any agreement with it, it does not appear that the upcoming meetings between Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and his French, German, and UK counterparts will yield any breakthrough.
There has also been a shift in Iran's position concerning its nuclear program and the resumption of its uranium enrichment in excess of the percentage permitted it by the JCPOA. While prior to President Trump's announcement, Iranian regime spokesmen had threatened to renew uranium enrichment, since the announcement the regime has taken no steps aimed at doing so, or at resuming activity in any other areas of its nuclear program.
Iranian Reactions To Israel's Military Activity To Eliminate The Iranian Threat To It From Syria – The Military Level
At this time, Iran is not ready for a widescale confrontation with Israel, and the steps it is taking in the hostilities are minimal. It has announced a policy of restraint, and has responded in measured fashion, one time only, to the serial Israeli attacks that caused Iranian loss of life and damage to Iranian battle arrays in Syria.
As on previous occasions, Iran is for the time being refraining from publishing any reports on the May 10, 2018 widescale Israeli attacks that struck as many as 50 Iranian targets in Syria. The Iranian media reports on the hail of Iranian rockets on Israeli military targets in the Golan Heights depict this as an operation carried out by the Syrian army, not by Iran, and in response to an Israeli attack that preceded it.
Iran also is refraining, in its media, from presenting the Israeli attacks as a direct Israel-Iran confrontation.
Will The Continuation Of Israel's Activity Against Iranian Forces In Syria Lead To All-Out Israel-Iran War?
As far as Iran is concerned, any postponement of all-out confrontation with Israel is preferable, because Iran has not yet completed all steps of its deployment in the region, and U.S. forces still remain in Syria. But it should be remembered that pressing ideological, geostrategic, and political factors are at play here as well, and they are pushing it into such a confrontation with Israel.

Europe should worry about its interests with us
Sawsan Al Shaer/Al Arabiya/May 15/18
The three European countries, Britain, France and Germany, are racing to reassure Iran that they are committed to the nuclear agreement and to offer guarantees that the deal will remain in place because, as they put it, it is important for their “shared security.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have announced that they agreed to resume implementing their countries’ obligations as per the nuclear agreement with Iran.
According to the Russia Today, the three leaders said in a joint statement: “France, Germany and UK voice their concern and regret of the US decision to withdraw from the joint comprehensive plan of action (JCPOA) for settling the Iranian nuclear program.”
The statement also emphasized their continued commitment to JCPOA as it remains important for their “shared security.”
The British, German and French leaders also said that the world has become a “safer place” as a result of JCPOA and called on the US avoid taking action that might prevent other parties involved in the deal from implementing it.
There are some exaggerations in the declared reasons, like the concern about shared security, just like the case is with exaggerations pertaining to freedom and human rights that determine European political positions. Iran is on top of the list of countries that violate human rights, yet Europe overlooks all reports that convict Iran of such violations, if, for example, the company Total wants to make a deal!
Commercial deals with Tehran are on top of the priorities behind the decision to join or withdraw from the nuclear agreement with Iran. These commercial interests are thus prioritized over any other interest, whether it’s related to security or to human rights. If they really care about their security, then they must realize it’s actually threatened by Iran, even when they don’t do anything and when they don’t link their commercial interests to that shared security. We must, at least, make them worry about their commercial interests with us and link them to their position from imposing sanctions on Iran!
If the nuclear agreement with Iran did not deter it from spreading terrorism and chaos and from entering Arab lands and supplying militias with weapons and ballistic missiles and if Iran does not trust Europe, then what is the point of this deal?
Gulf countries, which were harmed by this nuclear deal, believe that the latter allowed Iran to expand in our region, and it’s thus a must to find a way to deter it and force it to return to its borders and to convince Europe that they (Gulf states) also need guarantees for their security and stability.
Europe, which is stuck between two fires, does not know where to set its foot as one day after the joint statement was issued, British ambassador to Kuwait Michael Davenport asserted that the nuclear agreement with Iran is “a great necessity” adding that it needs “to be amended and not cancelled.”
Davenport said on Thursday that the region needs stability and the deal with Iran aimed to fulfill this goal, thus the British government believes that it is necessary to remain committed to the agreement even though it does not resolve all the problems related to Iran, adding it is important to keep the deal and strengthen it with other issues despite the fact that this is not an easy mission. He noted that without the agreement, things will not be better.
The envoy added that the British government’s position is clear regarding the necessity to stop Iranian interferences in the internal affairs of the region’s countries, such as Syria and Yemen.
As British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Boris Johnson has asked Trump to provide alternatives to modify the agreement rather than canceling it to ensure that there are no nuclear weapons, we must ask Johnson for alternatives – other than words and statements – that can stop Iran’s interferences in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen!
Preserving our security
We too must be ready to abandon some of our commercial interests in exchange of preserving our security and stability. We should declare that we are committed to the sanctions that are going to be imposed on the European companies cooperating with Iran, so that there will be a choice between favoring us or Iran. This way, European companies that will keep dealing with Iran, will not feel that our doors will remain open for them. Just like Iran is asking for guarantees, we too must ask for guarantees.
Iran has actually announced that it is waiting for guarantees from Europe for its trade deals.
Ali Khamenei bluntly said that he does not trust Europe at all, and said while addressing Iranian officials: “You should not trust them (France, Britain, and Germany).”
“If you really want to make an agreement, then we should have practical guarantees or else they will all do like the US did. If you can get guarantees this would be good, but I actually think this is unlikely. If you can’t get a definite guarantee, then the nuclear deal cannot be continued,” he added.
Meanwhile, Rouhani gave orders to the Atomic Energy Organization to prepare for the next steps, if necessary, to begin industrial enrichment without restriction.
The commander of the IRGC said that European countries cannot be trusted because they are followers and not independent.
Tehran said it is too early to voice an opinion regarding the European companies’ contracts in Iran such as those of Total and Renault, considering the six-month deadline which the US president talked about.
If the nuclear agreement with Iran did not deter it from spreading terrorism and chaos and from entering Arab lands and supplying militias with weapons and ballistic missiles and if Iran does not trust Europe, then what is the point of this deal?

Collapse of mullahs’ state to bring down political Islamization
Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/May 15/18
President Trump’s withdrawal from Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran did not come as a surprise. On the contrary, it would have been surprising if he had allowed the agreement to be extended and did not withdraw.
President Trump is a man who does not believe in half-measures. If he says he will do something, he does it, and this approach is evident in a lot of his decisions.
Beginning of the end
The question now is what will the reaction of Tehran, which preoccupied the world with its loud claims of courage that are nothing but a verbal war directed towards its citizens who suffer from catastrophic social deterioration, poverty and sickness, be? The regime has choked Iranian citizens ever since Khomeini took over power in the latter half of the last century.
I assert that on this historical day, May 10, 2018, the countdown has begun, not just for the collapse of the Vilayat-e-Faqih regime in Iran, but also for the collapse of political Islamization, both in its Shiite and Sunni manifestation, which has been instrumental in spreading terrorism in the region and the world.
Iran has nothing but non-Iranian Shiite militias, which it hires to fight on its behalf. Its end goal is to establish the Persian Empire on the lines of the Shiite Safavids, as was the case with the empires and kingdoms of the Middle Ages.
I have been certain – and I have mentioned this is previous articles – that any theocratic state cannot conform to the conditions of state in the modern times and that the fate of Vilayat al-Faqih state in Iran will collapse and then vanish. I believe that we are now witnessing the beginning of its inevitable end.
I wish from the bottom of my heart that the consequences of the fallout phase do not last for long and that it happens without bloodshed, unlike what had happened with similar regimes when they collapsed.
I have been certain that any theocratic state cannot conform to the conditions of state in modern times and that the fate of Vilayat al-Faqih state in Iran will collapse and then vanish
The blunder of supporting Assad
I believe that Iran has committed several blunders — the most important one that would be the most important reason for entering the phase of collapse has been its unplanned interference in Syria to rescue Assad.
The Israelis felt that the Iranians’ presence at their borders with Syria is a threat, which they cannot tolerate no matter what the consequences are. It is known that Israel’s security — as they call it — is a ‘red line.’
The Israelis will thus never allow the Iranians to violate or harm it. The Persian mullahs’ arrogance, however, made them imagine they are an invincible power and that they’ve occupied four Arab capitals and are thus closer to achieving the dream of a Safavid Persian Empire.
However, Syria has been their graveyard as their militias and Revolutionary Guards leaders have been bombed and killed by Israeli strikes. They are left with no option but to yield and give up. If they dare take any military reprisal, the consequences will be dire in every sense of the word.
harmful theocratic state
Trump has re-imposed the economic boycott, not only on the theocratic state but on anyone who deals or supports the Vilayat-e-Faqih state, which has raised a lot of questions about the fate of this harmful theocratic state. This storm might soon spread fire and burn everything down.
All that is needed is a spark and their state will vanish. This might happen quickly or may take some time; however, the indicators of the inevitable fall, which I mentioned in my previous articles, had begun to loom in the horizon. The moment will come when all it would take is a single matchstick.
Khomeini’s politicized revolution encouraged many Sunni opportunists to replicate a Sunni version of this experience. The failure of their role model, however, would be a failure of all the spin-offs of this experience.

The Hodeida Campaign (Part 1): Humanitarian and Political Role of Red Sea Ports
Michael Knights/The Washington Institute/May 15/18
Hodeida and al-Salif will process substantially more food imports after the Houthis are evicted, so the United States should back some form of demilitarization of the ports or help liberate them.
This PolicyWatch is the first in a three-part series on the Red Sea campaign between the Gulf-coalition-backed Yemeni military and Houthi forces, focused on humanitarian, operational, and escalatory risks. Part 2 looks at the operational challenges facing the two sides around Hodeida. Part 3 will examine the Houthis' options for broadening the war if their sea access is threatened.
On May 1, the Permanent Representative of Yemen to the United Nations, Khaled Hussein Alyemany, called on the United Nations to seek the handover of the Hodeida port to international supervision. The call came as Yemeni armed forces began new offensive operations to advance 140 km to Hodeida from the north, with Saudi Arabian assistance, and 100 km from the south, with United Arab Emirates support.
The parts of Yemen held by the Houthi rebels—also the country's most populous area—are gripped by a severe humanitarian crisis. Even before the war began in 2015, Yemen was on the brink of a humanitarian meltdown, but an analysis of 2017 World Food Programme (WFP) statistics suggests the war has more than doubled the number of food-insecure Yemenis to 17.8 million (64% of the population vs. 31.5% in 2010), including 7 million (25.1% vs. 11.8% in 2010) who are assessed to be severely food insecure.
Key reasons for the crisis include the collapse of the government payroll inside Houthi-held areas since 2015; Houthi taxation of food entering its areas, as documented by the UN Panel of Experts; and a shortfall of food reaching Yemen via Hodeida, the port closest to the Houthi areas. (As recently as May 2016, Hodeida imported 543,782 metric tons [MT] per month, and in Q1 2018 the monthly average was just 151,917 MT). As a battle for Hodeida looms, the key question for U.S. policymakers is whether the port's liberation will make the humanitarian situation better or worse.
In an effort to improve data-led understanding of this issue, the author undertook a survey of Gulf coalition, U.S., and British government as well as NGO metrics on imports via Houthi-held ports, government-held ports, government-held land borders, and airports. The coverage period focused on the first quarter of 2018, including detailed records of 428 vessels unloaded at six ports (Hodeida, Aden, al-Mukalla, al-Salif, Nishtun, and al-Shihr); land border inflows via al-Wadiah and al-Khadra (on the Saudi border) and Shahan and Serfit (on the Omani border); plus aerial deliveries via Marib.
Food and fuel deliveries to Yemen rely almost entirely on seaports. The Gulf coalition's Yemen Comprehensive Humanitarian Operation (YCHO) Support Center data seen by the author suggests that 4,757,797 MT were delivered to Yemen in Q1 2018, but only 158,870 MT (3.3%) came in through land crossings and a negligible 292 MT entered via the civilian air bridge to Marib. (Ship manifests describing the metric tonnage of inbound ships are often erroneous, in part because a fraction of food is diverted through corruption before it reaches Yemen. However, assuming such loss is roughly equivalent across ships heading to all ports, the proportional balance between the ports should still be meaningful.) The breakdown of food imports by sea provided by the YCHO underlines the critical role of the Houthi-held ports.
Houthi ports. Yemen's first deepwater port, Hodeida remains a critical entry point for food, receiving 455,751 MT in Q1 2018. Al-Salif, the other Houthi-held port, brought in an additional 182,403 MT in Q1 2018. Combined, the YCHO says the Houthi ports unloaded 638,154 MT of food during the quarter. As a benchmark, UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism for Yemen (UNVIM) statistics say that 672,555 MT of food were landed from ships that "discharged and sailed" at Hodeida and al-Salif, a higher but roughly comparable figure.
Government-held ports. Only two government-held ports bring in considerable amounts of food: Aden (255,626 MT in Q1 2018) and al-Mukalla (68,310 MT). Combined, these welcomed 323,936 MT during the quarter, amounting to just 50.7% of the food imports delivered via Houthi-held ports. Overland import of food by truck via government-held areas brought in an additional 107,782 MT in the first quarter, including 72,738 MT through the Saudi border crossing at al-Wadiah.
What this all means is that the YCHO is not yet, as billed, a viable way to replace Hodeida and al-Salif as a food-import hub. If anything, the strengthening of government-held ports has benefited fuel imports (751,173 MT in Q1 2018 vs. 540,964 MT unloaded at Houthi ports) and especially consumer goods (1,377,501 MT in Q1 2018, according to YCHO, an order of magnitude higher than the 9,474 MT imported at Houthi-held ports).
At present, therefore, no real prospect exists for replacing food inflows from Hodeida and al-Salif: other ports like Aden are too distant from Houthi-held population centers, are importing too little food owing to corruption and inefficiency, and are themselves vulnerable to local instability. When Red Sea ports were temporarily closed in November 2017, the WFP recorded a sharp 10% rise in food prices in December and a subsequent 6% rise the following month due to price gouging and hoarding, even though the ports were quickly reopened to shipping. The local food supply in Hodeida itself, a densely populated city that probably tops 700,000, might fail disastrously during a battle.
However, inaction at Hodeida carries steep costs. As long as the port is under Houthi control, food merchants and shippers will not return because they fear onerous paperwork, slow turnarounds, war risks, and Houthi taxes. If liberated, the port's capacity could quickly be expanded, especially if the liberation is achieved quickly and carefully. People in government-controlled areas are better off than people in Houthi-controlled areas precisely because they are reconnected to functioning ports and, partially, to the government payroll system. Thus, the people in Hodeida would benefit from being liberated. They also want to be liberated because the Houthis are not local to their area, whereas advancing Yemeni forces include large numbers of Red Sea troops. Finally, the Yemeni government and Gulf coalition are more likely to engage in good-faith peace talks if they do not fear a Houthi ministate connected to Iran by sea.
As well as reducing the likelihood of famine, the United States must focus on ending the war in Yemen, which is a costly and damaging distraction for U.S. allies in the Gulf. But neither the Yemen-Saudi-UAE alliance nor the Houthis are likely to abandon their intensifying competition over the ports. The war is inexorably creeping closer to Hodeida every day. Washington has three options.
Option 1: Freeze Red Sea military movements but offer no solution. The worst option would be for the United States to continue its behind-the-scenes opposition to a decisive UAE-led military operation to liberate Hodeida and the Red Sea coast, while at the same time offering no alternative. This option may appeal to some because it incurs no direct U.S. costs or obligations, but it is only likely to prolong the war and humanitarian suffering. Shippers and merchants will continue to avoid Hodeida until the port's future is resolved. The Gulf coalition will creep toward the ports, as is occurring now, because it probably cannot support any peace deal in Yemen that leaves the Houthis as a proto-Hezbollah entity with direct maritime access to Iran, and because an offshore inspection regime for shipping has proved unworkable. This "circling the drain" option has essentially been U.S. policy for much of the last two years, and it has only served to prevent Hodeida from reemerging as Yemen's strongest food-import hub. Until the Houthis are removed from Hodeida, where they extort and mismanage the port, it will never come back online at the necessary capacity to feed northern Yemen.
Option 2: Demilitarize the Houthi Red Sea ports. The best-case scenario might be demilitarized Red Sea ports under the control of international agencies and local Yemenis—the so-called Hodeida initiative, which Yemen once again raised on May 1. If Hodeida were demilitarized, a range of positive steps could be attempted. Damage to the port might be avoided entirely; the Gulf coalition could issue long-term guidance to shipping operators and food merchants indicating that the port would remain open; insurance costs might decline if the port's security were underwritten by international actors; and the port might quickly return to prior import levels—which frequently topped 1.6 million MT per quarter, according to UNVIM. As long as al-Salif is included, the Gulf coalition will probably be willing to consider this outcome, because it will allow more-effective and less-controversial onshore inspections of cargoes, greatly reducing coalition fears of Iranian missile resupply through the port. The United States could signal to the international community that this is probably the last chance to avoid military operations to liberate the port and that Washington will not be able to dissuade Yemen and the Gulf coalition from launching a decisive operation absent immediate diplomatic progress on Hodeida.
Option 3: Support rapid liberation of the ports. If the international community fails to embrace the Hodeida initiative, this summer will witness intensified military operations near Hodeida and al-Salif. In light of such a development, U.S. interests will arguably shift: the fighting must be as short, clean, and decisive as possible. "Scorched earth" sabotage tactics and collateral damage must be kept to an absolute minimum (as will be discussed in Part 2 of this series). If a battle is launched for Hodeida, the United States might view the liberation of the port as the best way to save lives in Yemen by shortening the war and processing more goods because of the greater efficiencies of inspecting cargo on shore. Drawing on defensive authorities to protect Gulf allies and global sea-lanes, the U.S. support could be limited to passive measures such as the detection of Houthi missile launches plus Houthi naval mines and antishipping attacks on the Red Sea coast. Support from multinational naval escorts and merchant ships that carry inbuilt cranes could quickly turn Hodeida back into a functioning container port. In return for its strong backing, Washington should extract ironclad "prenuptial" guarantees from Saudi Arabia and the UAE that upon the liberation of Hodeida and al-Salif, the Gulf coalition would support an immediate ceasefire with the now-landlocked Houthis and lend support to the UN mediation process.
Michael Knights, a senior fellow at The Washington Institute, recently returned from a visit to Yemen and the Gulf coalition states, where he received detailed data on Yemeni food, fuel, and other imports.