Saturday, August 3, 2013

Twitter Messages and Reflections -- August 3

No special narrative to this post. It's been a long week.

I'm looking forward to Jenan Moussa's dispatches. Her photo-essay from Aleppo in April continues to be the most visited post for this blog thus far.  She must have established some Kurdish contacts at that time. Several of her photos were of Kurdish forces, women, fighting Assad's regime.

This is bizarre. 
West Bank water shortage forcing Palestinians to lease land from settlers
Shortage of water and agricultural land in area leads local farmers into embarrassing predicament.
By Amira Hass | Aug. 2, 2013 

Jordan Valley land that a Palestinian farmer 
is leasing back from settlers.
Settlers in the Jordan Valley are leasing some of their land to local Palestinians and to Israeli citizens, but both sides prefer to keep the matter a secret. Official Israeli sources say they know nothing about the matter, and in any case it is not common and there are only a few marginal cases involved. 
The Palestinians are forced to lease the land from the settlers because of a shortage of land and water, which Israeli policy in the Jordan Valley has brought on, and because of limitations placed on the marketing of their produce. The Israelis are leasing land from the settlers because their small numbers do not match the huge area of land the state has allocated to the settlements since the occupation of the West Bank in 1967. 
This leasing is against the rules of the Jordan Valley Regional Council and the World Zionist Organization’s Settlement Department, which in practice holds the majority of the agricultural land ior the state in the Jordan Valley. The council’s regulations ban the leasing of land to non-citizens. Nonetheless, such leasing is embarrassing for the Palestinians since the farmed land is land Israel confiscated through various means from Palestinian communities and residents, then allocated it to settlers in the Jordan Valley. 
Haaretz spoke with some 10 Palestinians in various spots in the Jordan Valley who lease land from the residents of a number of settlements. A few of them at first hid the fact that they are leasing, saying that they were employees of the Israeli who holds the land. A number of them said the practice has existed since at least the middle of the 1990s, when Israel started the regime of travel permits that limited their movement, but that it grew in the 2000s alongside the closing of the Israeli labor market for most West Bank residents. The size of the plots the Palestinians are leasing vary from a few dunams per person to hundreds of dunams. 
A number of the lessees are Israeli citizens, Jews and Arabs, who hire Palestinian workers from the Jordan Valley. In a number of cases, the Israeli lessee only signs the documents and in practice the employers are his relatives, Palestinians who live in the Jordan Valley. In some cases, especially when the leased plot is not large, the deal is done without signing any documents at all. There are also a very few cases of partnerships between Jews and Palestinians from the Jordan Valley.
More information at the link.
This reminds me of another story from Gaza several years ago about how auto tags issued in that part of the occupied territories indicated which of them were stolen property.

Audio discoveries...NPR, Podcast...
This story was on All Things Considered this evening and is too good to miss.
As Israel withdraws from Gaza she leaves behind a curious trace of the past, special car tags that indicate "stolen cars"!

The local government in Gaza issues a unique
 kind of license plate: one for stolen cars.
Driving school owner Raeed el-Sa'ati
decodes the region's vehicle license plates.

Apparently car thieves in Israel were able to fence their stolen cars in Gaza during the 1990's when the Palastinian Authority took control. The owners had been reimbursed by insurance, so the cars were in service, but identified by special plates.

Now with matters being shifted, the companies are bringing lawsuits to recover their money. The decision has been made by the authorities to charge higher fees for the stolen cars in order to recover the loss.
This is a really wierd story.

Speaking of days gone by, I was looking back at the post titles here at the new blog. and they often give no clue the subjects included, especially those, like this one today, that are a hodge-podge of unrelated subjects. They are a diary more than a journal, collected more as a record of my own reflections than history.
Anyway, I noticed the title The Forbidden Viewing which I had totally forgotten. When I looked at the content it struck me that such sad stories, will hopefully become part of the distant past as society sheds its homophobic scales. Check it out.

This link from Myra MacDonald, Reuters journalist, is about a suicide bomber in Afghanistan, presumably of Taliban origin, is targeting Indian officials.  It's worth remembering that American embassies are not the only targets of terrorist attacks and Americans are not the only population being targeted. Beginning this weekend American embassies across MENA are being closed on weekends until further notice and American travelers are being urged to be even more paranoid than they might otherwise be.

Interesting piece of trivia here.
One wonders if the images were vandalized by Christians who don't care to be associated with the Morsi camp or Muslims who don't want to be associated with Christians. It could be either, I suspect.

Al Jazeera's  Sherine Tadros takes note of this NY Times sketch of Egypt's General Sisi. 
Egypt General Has Country Wondering About Aims
CAIRO — When Egypt’s first elected president, Mohamed Morsi, promoted Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi to defense minister nearly a year ago, sweeping away an aging cadre of generals, many saw it as a triumph for the Islamist president, and for a fledgling democracy.
Mr. Morsi had seized back broad powers from the old guard, and General Sisi, known to be pious, seemed to have a close relationship with the new president, even sending Mr. Morsi a laudatory telegram. “The men of the armed forces assert to your excellency their absolute loyalty to Egypt and its people, standing behind its leadership as guardians of the patriotic responsibility,” it read. 
Mr. Morsi is now a prisoner of the military, deposed by General Sisi on July 3 after mass protests against the president’s rule. And the telegenic general, who has cast himself as protector of Egypt’s security and its very identity, is riding a wave of muscular nationalism and pro-military sentiment that has led his adoring fans to liken him to former President Gamal Abdel Nasser. 
[...]   The American-trained general has been confronted with weeks of continuous sit-ins and protests by the now-deposed Muslim Brotherhood, overseeing the two worst episodes of killings of demonstrators by the security services since the 2011 uprising. The authorities have ordered an end to two sit-ins in Cairo, raising the specter of a broadening crackdown on the Brotherhood. 
[...]   Mr. Morsi’s colleagues accuse General Sisi of working to undermine the president, for instance, by stepping in after Mr. Morsi seized new powers in November, and publicly inviting political leaders to a dialogue. One aide accused him of a more serious betrayal, saying the general had met with activists who were trying to depose the president. The general’s politicking — with Al-Azhar, and political leaders — was not just a friendly gesture, Mr. Morsi’s allies say. When General Sisi announced the military intervention that toppled the president, the leaders the general had courted were sitting at his side. 
In his speech last week, General Sisi categorically rejected the allegations, saying he had never “conspired” and had repeatedly warned Mr. Morsi to change course. He and other leaders in the military, Egypt’s most powerful institution and a virtual state within a state, were increasingly alarmed by Mr. Morsi’s behavior, diplomats and analysts said. The anger started with a slight in October, at an anniversary celebration of the 1973 war with Israel. General Sisi found himself sitting near Tarek al-Zomor, a guest of the president who had been convicted of playing a role in the 1981 assassination of Anwar el-Sadat. 
“Instead of sitting with officers who had shed their blood, he was forced to sit with the killer of General Sadat,” said a colleague of General Sisi. 
The military’s discomfort grew as the economy plummeted and, in particular, as a dispute with Ethiopia over access to water in the Nile grew more serious. One diplomat said General Sisi had started to come under increasing pressure from mid-ranking officers to act.
My reaction is this...


This is important.
It comes from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 
Read the whole thing closely. 
Here is a snip.
Hamas in the Post-Morsi Period
Hurt by Morsi's ouster in Egypt and alienated from former allies in Syria and Iran, Hamas is struggling to keep itself afloat economically and politically.
August 1, 2013
Given its dire strategic position, Morsi’s ouster was a serious hit for Hamas. The Egyptian generals who overthrew Morsi have since tightened the siege on Gaza. A month after the Egyptian “popular coup,” the border crossing between Egypt and Gaza remained largely closed, and 80 percent of the underground tunnels—the lifeblood of the Gaza Strip that brought in fuel, food, and construction materials from Egypt—were no longer functioning, according to Robert Serry, a UN Middle East peace envoy. The closing of tunnels, which were a main source of revenue for Hamas, has depleted Hamas’ coffers and caused further deterioration of the economic and humanitarian conditions in Gaza. According to Ala al-Rafati, Hamas’ Economic Minister, the tunnels closure had cost Gaza around 230 million dollars in July, raising the already high unemployment rate with the loss of at least 20 thousand jobs. Al-Rafati also stated that 90 percent of early-stage Qatari and Turkish funded projects in Gaza, another source of income for Hamas and for the Gazan population, have come to a halt due to a shortage in construction materials.  
The association between Hamas and the Egyptian Muslim Brothers has muddied the movement’s reputation in post-Morsi Egypt. The Egyptian media and satellite stations have accused Hamas of interference in internal Egyptian politics and of attempts to destabilize Egypt through the movement’s support for Morsi. Some also held Hamas responsible for the deteriorating security situation in the Sinai. These accusations have generated negative attitudes in Egypt toward Palestinians more broadly, leading Mousa Abu Marzook, Hamas’ second highest-ranking official, to state that the polarization and tension between the Palestinian and Egyptian peoples are at unprecedented levels. On Friday, July 26, 2013, Egypt’s state news agency MENA reported that the army has accused Morsi of conspiring with Hamas in a 2011 jailbreak, adding to the already hostile view many Egyptians have of the movement. Islamist groups in Egypt, in their turn, have also blamed Palestinians for security threats in Egypt and Sinai, but have pointed instead to Mohammed Dahlan, the former Fatah security chief in Gaza, as the culprit behind recent attacks.
The CV of one of these writers caught my eye...
Lihi Ben Shitrit is an assistant professor at the School of Public and International Affairs, University of Georgia, Athens. She is also a visiting assistant professor in the Women's Studies in Religion Program at Harvard Divinity School (2013-2014). Her research focuses on the intersections of gender, religion, and politics in the Middle East. Her recent publications include: "Women, Freedom, and Agency in Religious-Political Movements: Reflections from Women Activists in Shas and the Islamic Movement in Israel" (Journal of Middle East Women's Studies 9.3, 2013); "Religion, Society and Politics in the Middle East" (with Robert Lee in The Middle East, CQ Press, 2013); and "Activism and Civil War in Libya" (with Intissar K. Rajabany in Taking to the Streets: Activism, Arab Uprisings, and Democratization, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013). Ben Shitrit has also worked extensively with civil society organizations, the U.S. State department, and USAID on conflict resolution and peace-building projects in the Israeli-Palestinian context. She holds a PhD, MPhil, and MA in political science from Yale University and a BA in Middle Eastern studies from Princeton University.

Hamas is now being squeezed in a diplomatic and political vice with Egypt's Sisi on one side and Fatah's Abbas on the other. 

Sisi has enough credibility as a good Muslim to maintain good standing with Muslims who do not approve of the extremists at the edges of that faith. In the long run, given his standing as first among equals in receipt of US support in all forms (political, military and financial), his main challenge is domestic. We can hope that his handling of the Muslim Brotherhood, extremists of the old school and mentor to Hamas, will be circumspect and effective. 

With Hamas thus hobbled, Abbas is in a strong position  entering discussions with Israel that (yet again) might lead to a two-state solution. The nine-month window can become elastic as time passes. As conditions in Gaza deteriorate whatever popular support Hamas may have among that population will continue to erode and the prospect of economic improvement will sweeten the vision of peace in the place of intifada.. 

I hope my analysis is right. It seems a helluva lot better than continued threats, confrontations and terroristic actions. 
Organization warns of humanitarian disaster in Gaza
[Google translation]
Warned the Arab Organization for Human Rights, based in Britain, from a humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip due to what it described as the Egyptian authorities to tighten the siege on the Gaza Strip since the "military coup" earlier this month. 
The organization said in a statement Jazeera Net received a copy of the sector, "is suffering from unprecedented measures to tighten the blockade after the military coup." 
She pointed out that the Egyptian army imposed since the fourth of July current tight restrictions on the traffic of people and goods through the Rafah crossing, the only Gaza port to the world. 
The organization accused the Egyptian army to strengthen its forces on the border with the Gaza Strip in full coordination with the occupation forces, and the demolition of tunnels that feed the sector of food and fuel, where the demolition of the Egyptian Army Corps of Engineers eight tunnels and destroyed thirty repository for the fuel. 
Organization's statement spoke of the existence of 2,500 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are prevented from traveling to perform Umrah, as well as for 1500 are prevented from returning to Gaza, saying that it is an assault on religious freedoms. 
The statement called on the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to intervene and take action to lift the siege.

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