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Posted on on January 29th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (


With the US President out-of the country – courting the Saudis in Riyadh – the US East Coast experienced January 27 2015 winter storm Juno that while sparing New York City was nevertheless the most expensive storm in US history thanks in part to the anticipatory moves taken by the region’s mayors and Governors and the fact that it did bury Boston under a heavy layer of snow.

At the UN that date was bracketed in between two very important event. The one on Monday January 26th that was held as scheduled – right before the shut-down of the UN for Juno’s Tuesday the 27. The other event was supposed to be held on Tuesday the 27 Which was the Holocaust Memorial Day HMD, but was postponed for Wednesday the 28th – the day the UN gates were opened again.

We present here the two reports by Irith Jawetz who participated at the two events at the UN.

“Staying together – Dialogue in the Face of Extremism”

This event was the last one before the United Nations shut down because of the approaching of what was described as the “Blizzard of the Century” in New York City. When we left the building at 3 p.m. we were led out through the basement, since the main entrance and exit doors were already shut down. The UN expects to reopen again on Wednesday, January 28th. The Holocaust Memorial Ceremony, originally scheduled for Tuesday, January 27th, 2015 was postponed for Wednesday, January 28th due to the inclement weather.

It was a High-level Panel on “Staying Together – Dialogue in the Face of Violent Extremism” and took place on Monday 26 January 2015, 12:30 pm – 2:30 pm at the Trusteeship Council, UN Headquarters

The event was co sponsored by The Permanent Missions of Sweden and Indonesia to the United Nations.
It was chaired and moderates by Ghida Fakhry who did an outstanding job. Ms. Fakhri is a Lebanese broadcast journalist who has been one of the primary broadcasters for the news Al Jazeera English since its launch, and is currently based at the channel’s main broadcast center in Doha, Qatar.

Opening Remarks were given by H.E. Ms. Margot Wallström, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sweden who welcomes everybody and thanked us all for attending the event in spite of the weather. She started by quoting Mahatma Gandhi who said ” There is no way to Peace – Peace is the way” . Sweden has had its problems since it has taken in refugees from Iraq, and now Syria, but she believes that dialogue between ethnic groups and religious leaders is the right way to combat those problems. Sweden encourages dialogue between leaders of the Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders.

The panel included:

H.E. Mr. Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations;
H.R.H. Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights;
H.E. Ms. Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO;
H.E. Mr. Iyad Amin Madani, Secretary-General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC);
H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilisations (UNAoC);
Dr. Siti Ruhaini Dzuhayatin, representative of the Indonesian civil society;
Paul Berman the New York essayist;

Closing Remarks were given by H.E. Mr. Desra Percaya, Permanent Representative, Indonesia

Mr. Jan Eliasson stressed that we have to stay cool and find the root causes to the problem of extremism. It is important to stop recruitment of new extremists, we have to isolate extremists and the job should be done by everybody who has some power, i.e. political leaders, religious leaders, parents, Grandparents, teachers, community leaders, whoever comes in touch with the public. It should be a wake up call.

Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, who told us that she was marching on that march in Paris, stressed the importance of educating your children and young adults about Cultural diversity and global citizenship. She stressed that the most influential people would be the religious leaders. Their roles are important.

H.R.H. Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stressed the idea that violence and extremism are consequence of circumstances. Those people believe that their actions are justified because the circumstances created them. Torture and killing are wrong but necessary. Just like spying is wrong but necessary. What bothers him that there are no real protests in the Arab world against extremists.

Mr. Paul Berman introduced a new word: Islamism. By Islamism he does not mean Islam, or Islamists, but Islamism which is just like Fascism, Nazism, Stalinism. People who practice Islamism believe in conspiracy theory, the western world is against them, Zionism is against them, and he also stressed that those elements must be fought by all means.

The Consensus of the speakers was that recent acts of violent extremism around the world remind us that dialogue is more important than ever. We must stay together, united against those divisive forces which challenge the diversity and core values of our societies. A multifaceted and comprehensive approach is key. The counter-narrative to polarisation is inclusive participation.

This high-level event aims to give new impetus to the promotion of a culture of peace, dignity and respect for human rights, drawing on existing initiatives of the United Nations. Here, the UN Alliance of Civilizations and UNESCO’s “Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures” afford examples of intercultural confidence-building in practice. How can we together step up efforts to strengthen the voices of moderation? Can we, jointly, find new ways to co-operate in order to counter violent extremism whilst safeguarding a culture of dialogue?

The event was informative, and one can only hope that the ideas expressed will not stay only on paper and measures will be implemented.


2015 International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.

The International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust is marked every year on January 27th, the date on which Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated in 1945 by Soviet troops. This year’s observance, on the theme ‘Liberty, Life and the Legacy of the Holocaust Survivors,’ coincides with two milestone events: the 70th anniversary of the Second World War’s end and the founding of the UN.

This year the event took place on January 28, 2015 at the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations in New York. It was originally set for Tuesday, January 27th, the correct date, but because of the snow storm on Monday on the East Coast of the United States it was postponed for Wednesday.

The Hall was crowded and the first rows were reserved for holocaust survivors.

Ther motto of the event was “Liberty, Life and the Legacy of the Holocaust survivors.”

Opening remarks were delivered by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. He started his speech by greeting the new elected Israeli President H.E. Mr. Reuven Rivlin, and all the holocaust survivors present.

“Anti-Semitism remains a violent reality; Jews continue to be killed solely because they are Jews. Extremism and dehumanization are present across the world, exploited through social media and abetted by sensationalist press coverage. The targets are as diverse as humankind itself,” the Secretary-General said.

“In Europe and elsewhere, Muslims are under attack, the victims of bigotry at the hands of political opportunists and ultra-nationalists. Vulnerable populations everywhere bury their dead and live in fear of further violence.”

“I take heart from counter-demonstrations, rallies and interfaith dialogue. We must all remain on our guard. We must uphold human rights, democratic freedoms and our responsibility to protect people at risk. And we must respond to terrorism and provocation in ways that resolve – instead of multiply – the problem,” he underscored.

“As we remember what was lost in the past, and as we recognize the perils of the present, we know what we must do – and we know we must do it together,” said Mr. Ban .

H.E. Mr. Reuven Rivlin started his speech in English and continued in Hebrew. He explained that the Hebrew language is the language of his parents, his people, and it is befitting that this talk should be delivered in that language.

In his address, Reuven Rivlin recalled the “brutal,” “perverted” extermination of Jews during the Holocaust “in the most horrifying crime ever committed in the history of the human race.” The United Nations rose on the ruins of the Second World War, he said, stressing that the International Day was not just a gesture because the pledge ‘Never again’ was “the very essence of the UN,” and the principle and primary reason for its existence.

However, since the UN was founded, more nations and communities had been slaughtered. “We must ask ourselves honestly: is our struggle – the struggle of the General Assembly against genocide – effective enough?” he said. “Are we shedding too many tears and taking too little action?”

Mr. Rivlin noted that the Convention on Genocide was now 64 years-old but remained a merely “symbolic document” that had not realized its objectives. The international community had a duty to lay down the red lines defining genocide and to make clear that crossing those lines must mean intervention. Humanitarian and moral considerations had to take precedence over economic, political or other interests in the fight against genocide.

“Nations cannot be saved and must not be saved as an afterthought or from considerations of cost-benefit,” Mr. Rivlin said. “Unless the moral fire burns within us, the lessons of the Holocaust will never be learned.”

The General Assembly must act as a determined and unified international community or else risk leaving the ‘Never again’ oath hollow and defiled.

“We must remain silent no longer. We must rise up and take action,” he said.

In his remarks, General Assembly Vice-President Denis Antoine also underscored the importance of drawing lessons from the tragedy of the Holocaust and the need to “pass them on to the present and future generations,” particularly as the world continued to confront instances of violent intolerance and brutal prejudice.

A very remarkable speaker was Youth Advisor Ms. Charlotte Cohen. In September 2013 British Prime Minister David Cameron announced the establishment of a national holocaust Commission in order to ensure that Britain has a permanent and fitting memorial to the holocaust and educational resourced for generations to come. Ms. Cohen won an essay contest on the subject “Why is it so important that we remember the Holocaust and how can we make sure future generations never forget”. Charlotte came to the United Nations to speak on that important day and t stress the need to “never forget”.

Two emotional speeches came from two Holocaust survivors. The first was Mrs. Jona Laks who was nine years old and living with her family in Lodz, Poland, when Hitler invaded Poland. Together with her family she was forced to live under inhuman conditions in the Lodz Ghetto, and in 1944 was transferred to Auschwitz. She and her twin sister were subject to the experiments undertaken by SS Dr. Josef Mengele. She described the horrors she had to endure and there was not one dry eye in the audience. She managed to survive the Death March and ended up in Israel, the sole survivor of her family.

The second survivor was Soviet Army Veteran Mr. Boris Feldman who spoke in Russian. He was born in 1920 in Vinnitskaya Oblast, Ukraine, and was taken by the Nazis to the “Chernevetsloe” ghetto where he remained until March 1944 when the ghetto was liberated by the Soviet Army. Later he joined the Soviet Army and fought as an infantryman in Eastern Europe against the German Army. He was decorated with several military medals.

For the “musical” part of the ceremony we listened to Israeli Grammy Award winning violinist Miri Ben-Ari who co-founded the Gedenk Movement. She explained that the word “Gedenk” means “Remember” in Yiddish. She helped create the non profit organization in 2006 to expand young people’s awareness about the holocaust and antisemitism and its negative consequences in today’s world.

Cantor Shimmy Miller from Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood, New Jersey recited El Maleh Racahamim and Ani Ma’amin. He was accompanied by Mr. Daniel Gildar on the Keyboard.

A moving ceremony befitting its motto: “Liberty, Life and the legacy of the Holocaust survivors”.


Irith Jawetz worked 1972-2010 – for 38 years – as part of the Austrian Government Foreign Service – with Austrian Holocaust survivors that restarted their lives in the United States.


Posted on on August 24th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (

 From Daniel Pipes:

Dear Reader:

The article below began life as a presentation at a Muslim conference in Toronto a week ago and is today published in Turkish and English by a newspaper in Turkey.

Also: I appeared August 22 on Sun News Network’s The Arena with Michael Coren, and discussed “Hamas and ISIS on the Rampage.” It’s studio quality and 8 minutes long. Click here.

Yours sincerely,

Daniel Pipes

The Caliphate Brings Trauma.

by Daniel Pipes
Ayd?nl?k (Turkey)
August 24, 2014

Without warning, the ancient and long powerless institution of the caliphate returned to life on June 29, 2014.
What does this event augur?

The classic concept of the caliphate – of a single successor to Muhammad ruling a unified Muslim state – lasted just over a century and expired with the emergence of two caliphs in 750 CE.

The power of the caliphate collapsed in about the year 940 CE. After a prolonged, shadowy existence, the institution disappeared altogether in 1924. The only subsequent efforts at revival were trivial, such as the so-called Kalifatsstaat in Cologne, Germany. In other words, the caliphate has been inoperative for about a millennium and absent for about a century.


“The Kaplan Case,” a German magazine cover story about the “Caliph of Cologne.”

The group named the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria conquered the city of Mosul, population 1.7 million, in June; days later, it adopted the name Islamic State and declared the return of the caliphate. Its capital is the historic town of Raqqa, Syria (population just 220,000), which not-coincidentally served as the caliphate’s capital under Harun al-Rashid for 13 years.

Under the authority of an Iraqi named Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim, the new caliphate projects boundless ambition to rule the entire world (“east and west”) and to impose a uniquely primitive, fanatical, and violent form of Islamic law on everyone.


{Harun al-Rashid was the fifth Abbasid Caliph. His actual birth date is debatable, and various sources give dates from 763 to 766. His surname translates to “the Just,” “the Upright” or “the Rightly-Guided.”  He died: March 24, 809 AD, Tous, Iran.

Al-Rashid ruled from 786 to 809, during the peak of the Islamic Golden Age. His time was marked by scientific, cultural, and religious prosperity. Islamic art and music also flourished significantly during his reign. He established the legendary library Bayt al-Hikma (“House of Wisdom”) in Baghdad in modern-day Iraq, and during his rule Baghdad began to flourish as a center of knowledge, culture and trade.

In 796, he moved his court and government to Ar-Raqqah in modern-day Syria.

Since Harun was intellectually, politically, and militarily resourceful, his life and his court have been the subject of many tales. Some are claimed to be factual, but most are believed to be fictitious. An example of what is factual, is the story of the clock that was among various presents that Harun had sent to Charlemagne. The presents were carried by the returning Frankish mission that came to offer Harun friendship in 799. Charlemagne and his retinue deemed the clock to be a conjuration for the sounds it emanated and the tricks it displayed every time an hour ticked.  Among what is known to be fictional is  The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, which contains many stories that are fantasized by Harun’s magnificent court and even Harun al-Rashid himself.

Amongst some Shia Muslims he is despised for his role in the murder of the 7th Imam, Musa ibn Ja’far.

(These lines above were  added by PJ when editing this material for as we wonder how the ISIS fighters reconcile their deeds with the historic image that put the Ar-Raqqah town on the Caliphate’s map?)}

Caliphs of Baghdad



Harun al-Rashid as imagined in a 1965 Hungarian stamp.


I have predicted that this Islamic State, despite its spectacular rise, will not survive: “confronted with hostility both from neighbors and its subject population, [it] will not last long.” At the same time, I expect it will leave a legacy:

No matter how calamitous the fate of Caliph Ibrahim and his grim crew, they have successfully resurrected a central institution of Islam, making the caliphate again a vibrant reality. Islamists around the world will treasure its moment of brutal glory and be inspired by it.


Looking ahead, here is my more specific forecast for the current caliphate’s legacy:

1. Now that the ice is broken, other ambitious Islamists will act more boldly by declaring themselves caliph. There may well be a proliferation of them in different regions, from Nigeria to Somalia to Afghanistan to Indonesia and beyond.

2. Declaring a caliphate has major implications, making it attractive to jihadis across the umma (the worldwide Muslim community) and compelling it to acquire sovereign control of territory.

3. The Saudi state has taken on a quasi-caliphal role since the formal disappearance of the Ottoman caliphate in 1924. With the emergence of the Raqqa caliphate, the Saudi king and his advisors will be sorely tempted to declare their own version. If the current “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” (as the Saudi king like to be called), who just turned 90, does not indulge this claim, his successors might well do so, thereby becoming the first caliphate in a recognized state.


Pope Benedict XVI (right) met in 2007 with Saudi king (and future Caliph?) Abdullah.
{is this picture a sign of things to come – the Saudi King’s ambition to speak for all Islam?}

4. The Islamic Republic of Iran, the great Shi’ite power, might well do the same, not wanting to be conceptually out-gunned by the Sunnis in Riyadh, thus becoming the second formal caliphal state.

5. This profusion of caliphs will further exacerbate the anarchy and internecine hostility among Muslim peoples.

6. Disillusion will quickly set in. Caliphates will not bring personal security, justice, economic growth, or cultural achievement. One after another, these self-declared universal states will collapse, be overrun, or let lapse their grandiose claims.

7. This caliphate-declaring madness will end some decades hence, with a return to roughly the pre-June 29, 2014, conditions. Looking back then on the caliphal eruption, it will appear as an anachronistic anomaly, an obstacle to modernizing the umma, and a bad dream.


In short, declaring the caliphate on June 29 was a major event; and the caliphate is an institution whose time has long passed and, therefore, whose revival bodes much trauma.


Mr. Pipes ( is president of the Middle East Forum. This paper was first delivered at a QeRN Academy conference on “The Caliphate as a Political System: Historic Myth or Future Reality?” in Toronto on August 16, 2014. © 2014 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

Related Topics:  History, Islam This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.


Posted on on July 31st, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

Special Coverage of CIFOR – Center for International Forestry Research.

Indonesia Burning
New analysis: Sizable area of industrial plantations burned.

Fires burning since June in Sumatra have caused air-quality problems in neighboring Singapore and Malaysia. In a new analysis, CIFOR scientists studied high-resolution satellite imagery and discovered that in the worst-hit area, 21% of the land surveyed was part of an industrial palm-oil or pulp plantation.

Fires in Indonesia: Causes, Costs and Policy … can be found at and on CIFOR sites.

Office address: Jl. CIFOR, Situ Gede, Sindang Barang, Bogor Barat 16680,
Indonesia. Tel.: +62 (251) 622622; Fax: +62 (251) 622100. E-mail: cifor@cgiar.

Related reading:

* Interactive web map makes facts behind Sumatra fires transparent
* Q+A: Fires and haze in Southeast Asia
* FACT FILE: Indonesia world leader in palm oil production

Innovation: Interactive web app lets users map forest carbon emissions activities.

A new online mapping tool for Monitoring, Reporting and Verifying (MRV) carbon emissions enables researchers and practitioners to better manage forest inventories, its creators say. The open access Forest Carbon Database can be used to share measurements of carbon pools — reservoirs with the capacity to store and release carbon. Designed to map wetlands as part of the Sustainable Wetlands Adaptation and Mitigation Program (SWAMP), the interactive tool has been updated; users can now register sample plots and input data on forest carbon stocks, including tree biomass, dead woody debris, soil and underbrush.

Years ago, in a similar situation, we argued that the air pollution in Malaysia was only indirectly connected to the burning going on yearly in Indonesia.
As the argument went, the hot air and smoke emanating from Indonesia creates a ceiling for the ongoing pollution in Malaysia so it cannot escape and accumulated to unbelievably high level of 500 on the scale that makes New Yorkers cringe when it reaches in New York City just 50.

Oh well – these are issues that cannot be hidden under the rug by contending that developing countries should not be viewed through the same lenses as earlier developed Nations. Air Pollution just does not know borders and its effect can be direct or indirect and in reality all are culprits.


Posted on on May 10th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

Our website has proposed that geopolitics are headed to a new structure were it is needed to have a billion people in order to be considered a World Power. As such we proposed that besides China and India, the other World powers will be –

– an Anglo-American Block led by the US and that will include also the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and as well Mexico and Japan;
– a European Block led out of Brussels by a more united and reorganized EU and that will include Russia but not the UK;

– an Islamic Block led by Turkey or Indonesia that will stretch from Mauritania to Indonesia;

– and a block “Of the Rest” that will be led by Brazil and include, with a few exceptions based on the US led Trans-Pacific Partnership (the TPP) , Latin America, Africa, the SIDS, parts of Asia.
It is this last Block that will become the new Third World – that is the Sixth World of those outside the China, India, US, EU, and Islamic Blocks.

We see the recent news of Brazil defeating Mexico for the leadership of the WTO as an important step in above direction.



Brazil Wins Leadership of the World Trade Organization

Brazilian Roberto Azevêdo has been chosen over Mexican candidate Herminio Blanco as the newest director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on May 7. El Palenque, AnimalPolitico’s debate forum for experts, discusses the effects this win will have on Mexican diplomacy, Brazil’s role in trade liberalization, and the prominence of the BRICS on the world stage. Azevêdo will be the first Latin American to head the WTO.


The Financial Times wrote May 7, 2013:

So, Roberto Azevêdo, Brazil’s candidate for director general of the WTO, has pipped his rival Herminio Blanco of Mexico for the job.

But there is still a question to be answered: Who won? The man or the country?

Between Azevêdo and Blanco, there may not be much to choose. Both have impressive credentials. Azevêdo, a career diplomat in one of the world’s most polished diplomatic services, has been Brazil’s ambassador to the WTO since 2008. He knows the organisation inside out. Blanco is a businessman steeped in trade, a trade consultant who was formerly Mexico’s trade minister and its chief negotiator during preparation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

If the race was between two technocrats, it must have been a photo finish.

But what if the WTO members voted for the country, not the man? Then, it was a matter of chalk and cheese. Disgruntled Mexicans – whose pride will have taken a severe knock – will call this a victory of protectionism over free trade.

It will also be a victory of the developing world over the developed one.

Mexico, which has free trade agreements with 44 different countries, is the new poster child of developed world policies at work in the developing world. Brazil has free trade agreements with nobody, and has shown a tendency to renegotiate what agreements it does have as soon as they become inconvenient – not least its auto agreement with Mexico. Many developing countries – in Africa and Asia as well as in Latin America – will have felt the Brazilian was much more likely to protect their fledgling manufacturers and farmers than was the Mexican. Many of those countries, especially in Africa, already have closer ties with Brazil than they do with Mexico.

In an interview with Reuters, Azevêdo played down the issue of nationality:

“I, as candidate and as director of the WTO will not be representing Brazil,” Azevedo told Reuters in a phone interview on Tuesday.

“I made it to the final round in the election with those complaints on the table, and that doesn’t change things. It means there is an understanding between WTO members that the candidate must be independent from his country and be evaluated according to his skills.”

Asked if he considered Brazil was protectionist, he declined to comment.

To those who say that, under Azevêdo, the WTO will lose sight of its mission to promote free trade, others will reply that it never had one in the first place.

But Tuesday’s decision will make a big difference. No matter how pure a technocrat he is, Azevêdo will find it hard to fend off the influence of Brasília. It was the Brazilian that won, and not the Mexican.

Related FT reading:
Brazil wins battle for WTO leadership, FT
WTO chief must show relevance by making progress on global pact, FT
WTO candidates adopt varying stances on trade, FT
Questions for the world’s next trade chief, FT
Herminio Blanco: status quo is not an option for the WTO, beyondbrics




Clinton Global Initiative to Launch Latin America Program in Rio

Former President Bill Clinton announced on May 6 that the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) would be expanding to Latin America in December 2013, with its first meeting set to launch in Rio de Janeiro. He was joined by Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes in making the announcement at the mid-year meeting for his annual conference.

Brazil Starts Small Business Ministry

President Dilma Rousseff announced the start of a small business ministry on May 6, saying that government banks will provide up to $7,500 to small businesses in 2013 and will reduce the public loan interest rate from 8 percent to 5 percent beginning on May 31. “The question of small business is indispensable for the country’s future and present,” said Rousseff. Brazil’s estimated 6 million micro and small businesses accounted for 40 percent of the country’s 15 million new jobs from 2001 to 2011.

Cuba to Send 6,000 Doctors to Brazil

Brazil plans to hire approximately 6,000 Cuban doctors to work in the country’s rural areas, said Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota on May 6. The Federal Medical Council­–a Brazilian doctor’s organization–questioned the island nation’s medical qualifications, but Patriota called Cuba “very proficient in the areas of medicine, pharmaceuticals, and biotechnology.” President Dilma Rousseff began the talks in January 2012, and both countries are currently consulting with the Pan American Health Organization to move forward.

A Bright Outlook for Latin American Economies?

The International Monetary Fund’s May 2013 Regional Economic Outlook predicts Latin America’s growth to increase approximately 3.5 percent by the end of the year. But, in an article for The Huffington Post, Director for the IMF’s Western Hemisphere Department Alejandro Werner questions whether countries in the region will be able to “adjust policies to preserve macroeconomic and financial stability” after the near-future external benefits, such as easy external financing and high commodity prices, begin to decline.

Volcanoes and Geysers Could Fuel Chilean Energy

Chile will partner with New Zealand to develop its deep exploration drilling and to develop its geothermal energy production. Chile is home to 20 percent of the world’s active volcanoes, which can be harnessed for geothermal energy. However, only 5 percent of the country’s electrical power is attributed to renewable energy resources, reports IPS News.

The Pacific Alliance Creates a Legislative Committee

Heads of Congress from Pacific Alliance members Chile, Colombia, México, and Perú signed an accord to form a Pacific Alliance Inter-Parliamentary Committee on May 6, reports La República. The committee would serve as the legislative arm of the Alliance by developing a framework to approve free trade agreements and distribution of goods, services, and capital under the Alliance. The committee will be officially presented to the Alliance at a legislative session in Chile in June.

Washington to Host Chilean and Peruvian Presidents

Chile’s President Sebastian Piñera and Peru’s President Ollanta Humala will visit Washington D.C. in June to discuss economic relations with President Obama. Piñera’s visit will take place on June 4, and Humala will visit one week later on June 11. The agenda will likely touch on negotiations with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as all three countries hope to develop closer economic ties to Asian markets.


Posted on on April 2nd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (



Statement by UK Ambassador Joanne Adamson, Head of Delegation, to the United Nations General Assembly meeting on the Arms Trade Treaty – 2 April 2013
10:00 PM (18 minutes ago)


Statement by UK Ambassador Joanne Adamson, Head of Delegation, to the United Nations General Assembly meeting on the Arms Trade Treaty – 2 April 2013

Thank you, Mr President.

Last Thursday, we were disappointed that success was deferred. Today, we have taken a decision that will save lives. It was the right decision, and we are proud of it.

Today, I have seen statements from my Prime Minister, my Foreign Secretary, my Deputy Prime Minister, and I have been in touch with our Foreign Office Minister, Mr Alistair Burt, who has been watching these negotiations with baited breath for the last two weeks.

This is a great success for the United Nations today and we in the UK are extremely proud.

Our action today is the product of ten years of campaigning and seven years of negotiation. But now, we must look ahead, to the future generations that will have a better chance to live safe and peaceful lives if this Treaty fulfills its promise.

Mr President,

It is up to us to make this happen.  Today, we have shown what the United Nations can achieve. We have a strong text. We made it together. But it is the global implementation of this text that will make a real difference. The United Kingdom stands ready to play its part. We will work with others to ensure this Treaty matters.

So what we have achieved today is a significant milestone on our journey to a better world. But it is just one part of the process. We cannot rest now. Today is the end of the beginning. Tomorrow we begin the practical work of changing lives and improving the future.

As we move forward we will keep together that team – the team of diplomats, of people working in civil society, of people from our industry, of our politicians, of public opinion. I pay tribute to everyone who has been involved in this long journey and my message to the conference today is let’s move forward together.

Don’t look back in anger.

Let’s take the next step.


And the US joins its voice for the regulation of passing on arms to other countries:


Mr. President, the United States is proud to have been able to co-sponsor and vote in favor of adopting the Arms Trade Treaty. The treaty is strong, balanced, effective, and implementable, and we believe it can command wide support. We join others in congratulating Ambassador Peter Woolcott for his tireless efforts in guiding the negotiation.

The treaty is the product of a long, intensive negotiation, and I know that no nation, including my own, got everything it may have sought in the final text. The result, however, is an instrument that succeeds in raising the bar on common standards for regulating international trade in conventional arms while helping to ensure that legitimate trade in such arms will not be unduly hindered.

The negotiations remained true to the original mandate for them from UN General Assembly Resolution 64/48, which called for negotiating a treaty with the highest possible common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms and for the negotiations to be conducted in an open and transparent manner, on the basis of consensus. The consensus rule remains important
for the United States; the United Nations is most effective when it is able to take decisions by consensus.

Mr. President, as the United States has urged from the outset, this Treaty sets a floor – not a ceiling – for responsible national policies and practices for the regulation of international trade in conventional arms. We look forward to all countries having effective national control systems and procedures to manage international conventional arms transfers, as the United States does already.

We believe that our negotiations have resulted in a treaty that provides a clear standard, in Article 6, for when a transfer of conventional arms is absolutely prohibited. This article both reflects existing international law and, in paragraph three, would extend it by establishing a specific prohibition on the transfer of conventional arms when a state party knows that the transfer will be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, or the enumerated war and other crimes. Article 7 requires a state party to conduct a national assessment of the risk that a proposed export could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian law or international human rights law, as well as acts of terrorism or transnational organized crime. Taken together, these articles provide a robust and complementary framework that will promote responsible transfer of decisions by states parties.

Thank you, Mr. President.



At UN, ATT Passes With 22 Abstentions, Woolcott Tells ICP of Speakers List
By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 2 — When the Arms Trade Treaty was blocked on March 28 under the rules of consensus, the headlines read that only three countries were against it: Syria, North Korea and Iran.

But even then, in speeches like Sudan’s and Belarus’, one could hear abstentions coming.

And Tuesday in the UN General Assembly there were 23 abstentions, including the two most populous countries on Earth, China and India, and the most populous predominantly Muslim country, Indonesia.

Afterward, Inner City Press asked ATT president Peter Woolcott, after thanking him on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, about criticism of his allowing, before a promised ruling, Mexico and others to make an argument against the UN meaning of consensus.

  He replied that there was speakers list that he followed. He said he personally does not favor negotiating under the rule of consensus. Other might say: it showed.

 Inner City Press asked Mexico’s Luis Alfonso de Alba, who gave a thoughtful answer about “no vetoes,” that may resonate in the UN Budget Committee.

   It was announced that Angola did not abstain, but voted Yes (hence, 22 abstentions, still quite populous.)

In speeches before Tuesday’s vote, as Syria’s Bashar Ja’afari spoke, US Ambassador Susan Rice was walking out. After that, a full hour into the speeches, Qatar’s delegation rolled in. They ended up abstaining. Qatar supports rebels in Syria.

Sudan on the other hand said it was abstaining, citing the failure to address the arming of “mutinous” groups, like the SPLM-North and rebels in Darfur.

Russia, which by a point of order Thursday night put an end to the Mexico-launched attempt to redefine consensus, on Tuesday morning zeroed in on what knowledge of genocide might mean, in Article 6.3. Its Ambassador Churkin said Russia would not have broken consensus on March 28, but would now abstain, as did China. It’s hard to call this consensus.


U.N. Treaty Is First Aimed at Regulating Global Arms Sales.

Published by The New York Times on-line  April 2, 2013  – 107 Comments

Readers’ Comments: “There are too many in Congress who owe allegiance to the NRA and the armaments industry and not to the best interests of the U.S.” RHSchumann, Bonn

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to approve a pioneering treaty aimed at regulating the enormous global trade in conventional weapons, for the first time linking sales to the human rights records of the buyers.

Although implementation is years away and there is no specific enforcement mechanism, proponents say the treaty would for the first time force sellers to consider how their customers will use the weapons and to make that information public.

The goal is to curb the sale of weapons that kill tens of thousands of people every year — by, for example, making it harder for Russia to argue that its arms deals with Syria are legal under international law.

The treaty, which took seven years to negotiate, reflects growing international sentiment that the multibillion-dollar weapons trade needs to be held to a moral standard.

The hope is that even nations reluctant to ratify the treaty will feel public pressure to abide by its provisions.

The treaty calls for sales to be evaluated on whether the weapons will be used to break humanitarian law, foment genocide or war crimes, abet terrorism or organized crime or slaughter women and children.

“Finally we have seen the governments of the world come together and say ‘Enough!’ ” said Anna MacDonald, the head of arms control for Oxfam International, one of the many rights groups that pushed for the treaty. “It is time to stop the poorly regulated arms trade. It is time to bring the arms trade under control.”

She pointed to the Syrian civil war, where 70,000 people have been killed, as a hypothetical example, noting that Russia argues that sales are permitted because there is no arms embargo.

“This treaty won’t solve the problems of Syria overnight, no treaty could do that, but it will help to prevent future Syrias,” Ms. MacDonald said. “It will help to reduce armed violence. It will help to reduce conflict.”

Members of the General Assembly voted 154 to 3 to approve the Arms Trade Treaty, with 23 abstentions — many from nations with dubious recent human rights records like Bahrain, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

The vote came after more than two decades of organizing. Humanitarian groups started lobbying after the 1991 Persian Gulf war to curb the trade in conventional weapons, having realized that Iraq had more weapons than France, diplomats said.

The treaty establishes an international forum of states that will review published reports of arms sales and publicly name violators. Even if the treaty will take time to become international law, its standards will be used immediately as political and moral guidelines, proponents said.

“It will help reduce the risk that international transfers of conventional arms will be used to carry out the world’s worst crimes, including terrorism, genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement after the United States, the biggest arms exporter, voted with the majority for approval.

But the abstaining countries included China and Russia, which also are leading sellers, raising concerns about how many countries will ultimately ratify the treaty. It is scheduled to go into effect after 50 nations have ratified it. Given the overwhelming vote, diplomats anticipated that it could go into effect in two to three years, relative quickly for an international treaty.

Proponents said that if enough countries ratify the treaty, it will effectively become the international norm. If major sellers like the United States and Russia choose to sit on the sidelines while the rest of the world negotiates what weapons can be traded globally, they will still be affected by the outcome, activists said.

The treaty’s ratification prospects in the Senate appear bleak, at least in the short term, in part because of opposition by the gun lobby. More than 50 senators signaled months ago that they would oppose the treaty — more than enough to defeat it, since 67 senators must ratify it.

Among the opponents is Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Republican. In a statement last month, he said that the treaty contained “unnecessarily harsh treatment of civilian-owned small arms” and violated the right to self-defense and United States sovereignty.

In a bow to American concerns, the preamble states that it is focused on international sales, not traditional domestic use, but the National Rifle Association has vowed to fight ratification anyway.

The General Assembly vote came after efforts to achieve a consensus on the treaty among all 193 member states of the United Nations failed last week, with Iran, North Korea and Syria blocking it. The three, often ostracized, voted against the treaty again on Tuesday.

“Having the abstentions from two major arms exporters lessens the moral weight of the treaty,” said Nic Marsh, a proponent with the Peace Research Institute in Oslo. “By abstaining they have left their options open.”

Numerous states, including Bolivia, Cuba and Nicaragua, said they had abstained because the human rights criteria were ill defined and could be abused to create political pressure. Many who abstained said the treaty should have banned sales to all armed groups, but supporters said the guidelines did that effectively while leaving open sales to liberation movements facing abusive governments.

Supporters also said that over the long run the guidelines should work to make the criteria more standardized, rather than arbitrary, as countries agree on norms of sale in a trade estimated at $70 billion annually.

The treaty covers tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber weapons, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and launchers, small arms and light weapons. Ammunition exports are subject to the same criteria as the other war matériel. Imports are not covered.

India, a major importer, abstained because of its concerns that its existing contracts might be blocked, despite compromise language to address that.

Support was particularly strong among African countries — even if the compromise text was weaker than some had anticipated — with most governments asserting that in the long run, the treaty would curb the arms sales that have fueled many conflicts.

Even some supporters conceded that the highly complicated negotiations forced compromises that left significant loopholes. The treaty focuses on sales, for example, and not on all the ways in which conventional arms are transferred, including as gifts, loans, leases and aid.

“This is a very good framework to build on,” said Peter Woolcott, the Australian diplomat who presided over the negotiations. “But it is only a framework.”


Rick Gladstone contributed reporting from New York, and Jonathan Weisman from Washington.


Posted on on March 14th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

Event at the Asia Society in New York – “The US and Asia in 2013: Challenges and Opportunities”

by Irith Jawetz at the Asia Society House on Park Avenue, New York City, Monday March 11, 2013.
Talk by Thomas Donilon, U.S. National Security Advisor on “The U.S. and Asia in 2013:  Challenges and Opportunities.”

Introductory remarks were by Ms. Henrietta Fore, Co-Chair of Asia Society and Chairman and CEO of Holsman International, a manufacturing, consulting and investment company.

She stressed the importance of the Series of talks at the Asia Society – “Beyond the Headlines” –  and said that the Asia Society shares views of cooperation, alliances, and links between the United States and Asia. There are many challenges in the relationship between the US and Asia, she said – especially when it comes to North Korea –  but the opportunities for cooperation outweigh the challenges, she sad. Her approach to foreign policy was a business woman line – the issue being that challenges and opportunities were understood in business terms.

Ms. Fore continued by introducing the speaker – Mr. Thomas Donilon.

Thomas Donilon is the new National Security Advisor to President Barack Obama. 
From 2009 to 2010, he served as Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor.  He chaired the State Department’s transition effort in 2008.  Prior to this, he was a partner at O’Melveny & Myers LLP and served as a member of the firm’s global governing committee.  He has worked closely with and advised three U.S. Presidents since his first position at the White House working with President Carter. 

He served in the Clinton Administration as Assistant Secretary of State and Chief of Staff of the Department. In this capacity he was responsible for the development and implementation of the Department’s major policy initiatives, including NATO expansion, the Dayton Peace Accords, and the Middle East Peace process. He was awarded  the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award in November 1996. His interest in policy does not mean business first. What was he doing at Asia Society during this lunch-time break?

Mr. Donilon started his presentation by acknowledging his good friend Richard Holbrook who was a real “Asia hand” and credited him for dedicating all his efforts to peace and cooperation everywhere. Now – that was the answer to the question in my head. Mr. Danilon came to honor the departed Mr. Holbrook and not because of those present there.

Donilon gave a general review of the Obama Administration’s goals in Asia for his second term.

The world’s economic, political, and strategic center of gravity is shifting toward the Asia-Pacific.  Since its first days in office, the Obama administration has therefore pursued a rebalancing of foreign, economic and defense policy priorities toward the Asia Pacific. This reballance, according to National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon, is working to “sustain a stable security environment and a regional order rooted in economic openness, peaceful resolution of disputes, democratic governance, and political freedom.” 

The United States has been over weighted in some area, i.,e. the Middle East and under weighted in other area, i.e. Asia – and the Obama Administration will make sure to strengthen the ties between the US and the Asia Pacific region.

He mentioned the friendship and cooperation with Japan’s new leadership, with China’s leadership, the friendship with India, and a solid commitment to the security of the Republic of Korea, and announced that the new woman President of the Republic of Korea, Ms. Park will visit the White House this coming May.

The challenges are mainly with North Korea. For 60 years the United States has protected the Republic of Korea and will not accept any nuclear programs in North Korea. There will be consequences if North Korea continues to pursue its nuclear goals. However, there will always be a window open for talks if North Korea changes its course. He brought as example the country of Myanmar with whom the US has now a good relationship. North Korea could take an example from Myanmar.

Mr. Donilon touched upon the good relationship between the US and India, Indonesia, a country that is personally close to Mr. Obama, and China. In relations to China he mentioned that a military dialogue is necessary, economic relations are opening up, however there are problems regarding the cyber security. The Internet has to be open, secure and reliable and there are still concerns in that field.

He further mentioned the TPP, Trans Pacific Partnership, – an organization which now has 11 members, but could be a podium for many countries to join and cooperate for free and open trade between the countries.

In conclusion, he again stressed that the ties between the United States and Asia are a very important subject in the Obama Administration.

Ms. Suzanne DiMaggio, Vice President of Global Policy Programs at Asia Society read a few questions, one relating to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

As for Afghanistan Mr. Donilon stressed that the plan is still to have the Afghan forces take over the security of their country
with the US forces in an advisory capacity as of May 2013, and the full withdrawal of US troops from that country by September 31, 2014. The main goal is to defeat Al Qaeda and to ensure that Afghanistan does not become a future haven for terrorists.

As for Pakistan there have always been problems between the US and Pakistan especially after a crisis, i.e. the capture of Osama Bin Laden, but the US is committed to work through those problems and to ensure a stable Pakistan.

Mr. Tom Nagorski closed the session with a concluding remarks thanking Mr. Donilon for his excellent speech and also thanking him for his kind remarks regarding Richard Holbrook.

Tom Nagorski is Executive Vice President of the Asia Society since October 2012 following a three-decade career in journalism – having served most recently as Managing Editor for International Coverage of ABC News. Before that he was Foreign Editor for World News Tonight and a reporter and producer based in Russia, Germany and Thailand. He is the recipient of eight Emmy awards and the Dupont Award for excellence in International coverage as well as a fellowship from the Henry Luce Foundation.
He looked like he understood why Mr. Donilon spent his time here and the fact that the business community ought to understand better the motives of an umbrella approach to foreign policy that comes with a reset away from the oil region.



Posted on on December 21st, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

NEW – Rabbi Schneier’s weekly column in the Huffington Post.

The Making of Modern-Day Miracles: Hanukkah With the Chief Rabbi, Imams and Barack Obama.


Hanukkah, the eight day holiday which the Jewish people just observed, is first and foremost, about miracles. Hanukkah commemorates both the miracle of the victory of the Jewish people led by Judah Maccabee in their uprising against their Greek oppressors in 165 B.C.E. and the miracle that the menorah in the reconsecrated Temple in Jerusalem burned for eight days, even though there was only enough oil to light it for one day.

To be sure, miracles have always played a major role in Jewish history; indeed, the very survival of the Jews as a people, despite nearly 2,000 years of exile and persecution, is the greatest miracle of all. Yet, in the Talmud, our sages remind us that one must not rely on miracles. Yes, miracles can happen, but one has to work terribly hard for them.

There is an enormous human component that goes into the making of a miracle.

Over the past six years, I have been privileged to take part in a modern-day miracle: the establishment of a global movement of Muslims and Jews committed to communication, reconciliation and cooperation. Two weeks ago, as I wrote in my last column, I was one of several rabbis invited to take part in the opening of the King Abdullah International Center for Interfaith Dialogue in Vienna, an institution created by the King of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, to strengthen dialogue between world religions — very much including Islam and Judaism. On Dec. 10, the second day of Hanukkah, together with my friend and esteemed colleague, Imam Shamsi Ali of the Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens, the largest mosque in New York City, I organized a festive Hanukkah meal at the SOLO kosher restaurant in midtown Manhattan featuring the Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger and eight prominent New York area imams and Muslim leaders.

As I noted in my remarks at the luncheon, such an event would have been unthinkable a few years ago; and many people might assume, should have been all but impossible in the wake of the exchange of missile fire between Israel and Gaza last month. However, thanks to the ongoing step-by-step work in which I have been engaged with Imam Shamsi Ali and other visionary Muslim and Jewish leaders around the world; arranging hundreds of mosque-synagogue exchanges every November during our annual International Muslim-Jewish Weekend of Twinning and bringing together European, North American and Latin American Muslim and Jewish leaders to stand together against Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, we have managed to build a framework that allows us to celebrate each others’ holidays together, and to work productively in concert with each other, even at a time of conflict in the Middle East.

That willingness to build ties of cooperation and understanding very much includes Chief Rabbi Metzger, who has made it a point to reach out to imams and Muslim leaders, both within Israel and the Palestinian territories and around the world. Pointing out that through the greater part of the past 1,300 years, Jews and Muslims lived and worked closely together, the Chief Rabbi invoked the miracle of the long burning menorah of Hanukkah to appeal to the New York imams to join with him and like-minded Jews in “spreading the light of Jewish-Muslim understanding.” Responding on behalf of his fellow imams, Shamsi Ali emphasized that “the Middle East conflict is not a Jewish-Muslim conflict but a human one and we have a shared human responsibility to intervene. We don’t have the luxury to become discouraged and give up on the situation; rather we must remain optimistic and keep building our network of contacts.”

Presiding over this historic gathering, the first time a chief rabbi of Israel has sat down together with American Muslim leaders, I reflected that its very occurrence showed about how far Muslims and Jews have come together in six short years and the great opportunity we now have to work together for the betterment of both communities — including helping to bring peace to the Middle East. Indeed, thanks to the efforts in which we have been engaged, there is greater reason for optimism about Muslim-Jewish relations than has existed in a long time.

Several days later, on the evening of Dec. 13, I was privileged to participate in the menorah lighting ceremony at the White House. Listening to President Obama’s eloquent words at that event, I reflected that he is a man of conviction and principle whom I deeply admire.

Yet, as someone who has been in the vanguard of strengthening black-Jewish relations in America for a quarter of a century, being in Barack Obama’s presence at a Hanukkah celebration at the White House also evoked another miracle that continues to amaze and inspire me: the first-ever African-American President of the United States.

Like the remarkable progress we have achieved in Muslim-Jewish relations, the triumph of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the election of President Obama 40 years later, are also examples of miracles that good people worked terribly hard to make happen. The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and other milestones of that movement would never have occurred without the tireless efforts of Americans of diverse backgrounds who came together in support of the struggle of African-Americans for freedom and equality. In fact, as I have noted in my book “Shared Dreams: Martin Luther King and the Jewish Community,” there was no segment of American society which provided as much and as consistent support to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as did the Jewish community.

Among the modern day Maccabees who sacrificed their lives were Jewish civil rights activists Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, who together with their African-American co-worker James Chaney, were brutally murdered in the swamps of Mississippi.

Other brave Jews who joined that struggle included Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched alongside Dr. King from Selma to Montgomery, and countless other rabbis who were arrested and beaten during the Freedom Rides of 1961.

As I stood in the White House and witnessed the first African-American President light the Hanukkah menorah, I felt that the President’s solidarity with the Jewish community that evening was so very fitting given the seeds of the black-Jewish alliance that were planted in the Civil Rights struggle of half a century ago.

As I left the White House that evening, I reflected on the miraculous accomplishments of the Civil Rights movement, confident that we can achieve the miracle of Muslim-Jewish reconciliation as well. Both of these movements remind us of the enormous human effort that goes into the making of a miracle.

Rabbi Marc Schneier is President of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and Vice President of the World Jewish Congress. Schneier is co-authoring a book on Muslim-Jewish relations entitled Sons of Abraham, with Imam Shamsi Ali of the Jamaica Muslim Center, New York City’s largest mosque, to be published by Beacon Press in the Fall of 2013.

Click Here to read Rabbi Schneier’s new column in the Huffington Post


But lest we are accused of not considering all evidence, I must bring up also the OpenDemocracy column we read today:…

Turkey, the end of Islamism with a human face.

Kerem Oktem 20 December 2012

Turkey’s AKP government has over a decade promised a new model of governance: progressive and reformist, Islamist and democratic. But a series of developments, including the expanding power of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, is now exposing the party and its policies to ever-deeper scrutiny, says Kerem Oktem.

For eight decades after the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, the dominant ideology and political model was one of authoritarian secularism. In November 2002, the election victory of the Justice & Development Party (AKP) brought with it a double promise: to accommodate growing demands for inclusion (from both Turkey’s majority Muslim population and the country’s subordinated ethno-religious minorities), and to marry Turkey’s mainstream Islamist tradition and conservative political right with a programme of modernisation geared towards accession to the European Union.

The prospect of historic change struck a chord far beyond Turkey, especially among liberals in Europe and the United States but also across the middle east. The culture wars unleashed by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida and George W Bush’s administration had both polarised world opinion and created longing for a new reconciliation between “Islam” and “democracy” (or more accurately, between Islamism and popular sovereignty). Many read in the Turkish result a sign of hope.

The AKP’s ambition could hardly be exaggerated: to reconcile conservative religious values and modern politics in a way that resembled the achievement of Christian Democrat parties in late-19th century Europe when they carried Catholic voters and Christian values into democratic politics. The party, after several false starts and legal sanctions from a still confident and intimidatory state, had built a broad coalition of old Islamists, moderate nationalists and new liberals. It seemed a strong foundation for a change-making project inspired by the notion of “Islamism with a human face”.

The AKP’s election breakthrough of November 2002 was the prelude to an exciting decade-long political roller-coaster ride where impressive economic growth, progressive legal reforms, empowerment of civil society and modernisation of infrastructure was counterbalanced by growing nationalism and chauvinism, spreading machismo and untamed neo-liberal restructuring. Amid many setbacks and frustrations, the ride more often than not seemed to lean towards the former. Now, however, Turkey’s politics appear to have come full circle. The country’s Kurds are even more antagonised than during the highpoint of the Kurdish war of the 1990; the non-orthodox Alevi community (which numbers at least 10 million) feels more disenfranchised even than under Kemalist dictatorship; and virtually all societal groups that diverge from the AKP’s notion of the “Islamic middle-class family” experience a sense of exclusion as a result of state attitudes.

It is a good time to take stock, and re-evaluate the actors and dynamics which have reshaped Turkey over these ten years. In particular, to ask: why has the human face of Islamism appears to have gone missing; why has the country’s political realm experienced a puzzling a loss of decency; what do these developments mean for the people of Turkey and the country’s overlapping neighbourhoods; and what are the available alternatives?

A discredited legacy

Turkey shares with other middle-east regimes a tradition of secular authoritarianism whose combination of rigorously controlled institutions, populist nationalism and repressive security systems enabled it to remain in power for decades. Turkey differed from countries such as Egypt, Syria or Tunisia not in the underpinnings of power, but in its state legacy and geostrategic environment. The Republic of Turkey, which had its foundations in the Ottoman empire’s modernisation of the late 19th century, was able to avoid the colonial domination that was to shape the experience of modern Arab statehood. Moreover, at the onset of the cold war, Turkey’s political elites were able to secure a place for the country in the western security alliance, thanks above all to its geographical proximity to western Europe and its status as a frontline state vis-à-vis the former Soviet Union.

Throughout the second half of the 20th century, this place facilitated the maintenance in Turkey of a semi-democratic hybrid regime which kept a balance between some socio-economic and ethno-religious groups while repressing and/or denying the existence of others (especially the Kurds, a middle-eastern nation with a long history of local statehood and a distinct literary tradition). The reality of the Armenian genocide, on which the relative religious homogeneity of modern Turkey as a Muslim majority state was built, was also denied.

At heart, Turkey over these decades was a deeply unjust society marked by profound ideological and ethno-religious divisions, which came to the fore particularly in the years of near civil war (as in the 1970s) and was then controlled by the extreme security state established after the coup d’etat of September 1980. By the early 2000s, however, the version of modernity projected by the Kemalist regime  – so-called after the state’s founder, Kemal Atatürk – was looking anachronistic, reminiscent as it was of the leader-worship, mass events and orchestrated nationalist fervour of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany; while political and social developments in Turkey had massively undermined its claim to represent the country.

The Islamist movement, partly supported by the generals of the 1980 coup as a prophylactic against socialist infiltration, had matured significantly. The leading cadres within Turkey’s Milli Görü? (National View) movement, the mainstream Islamist tradition from whom the AKP’s leading cadres hail, had come to embrace non-statist, globalised economic thinking and to accept the need to work within the parameters of the secular state. Islamic networks such as Fethullah Gülen’s HIzmet, which combined conservative social values with successful educational enterprises and trust-based business networks, facilitated the emergence of internationally successful industrial establishments in medium-sized towns and cities in the Anatolian heartlands. These flourishing “Anatolian tigers” in central Turkey – led by a new “Islamic bourgeoisie” whose hard work and focused business ambition even attracted the sobriquet “Islamic Calvinists” – created what Cihan Tugal calls a “passive revolution” which integrated Islamists into capitalism and municipal politics, thereby keeping radicalisation at bay.

The Kemalist model was also exposed by the dirty war against the Kurdish guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Kurdish civilian population, which by the 2000s had left more than 30,000 dead and up to 2 million Kurds internally displaced. The loss of legitimacy was shared: among a series of weak coalition governments, among the “deep state” that effectively co-opted them, and among the Kemalist modernisation project as a whole.

Thus, by the time the AKP came to power in 2002, Turkey was over-ready for a change – and change it did. In a relatively short period, and at breakneck speed, the government embarked on an ambitious programme of legal and institutional reform. The prospect of accession negotiations with the European Union unleashed a frenzy of liberal initiatives: the enacting of a progressive civil code, the opening to scrutiny of the repressive institutions of the post-1980 era (including the Higher Education Council, devised to keep unruly universities under control, and the National Security Council, which did the same for the country’s politics).

All vestiges of the ancien regime were open to consideration. The media brimmed with public debates about hitherto unspeakable taboos: from the repression of the Kurds and the marginalisation of Alevis to the denial of the many crimes against humanity which the Turkish nationalist modernisers committed in the dying days of the Ottoman empire and the early ones of the Turkish republic. This liberal moment was framed by high levels of economic growth and a tripling of GDP per capita, which allowed the government to reorganise public services and infrastructure. Significant portions of the public gained unprecedented access to healthcare, with visible results on public health (particularly in underprivileged areas like the Kurdish provinces). This aspect of neo-liberal adjustment came with better services and a more courteous public administration.

A new balance

True, even at the time, there were signs of an undercurrent of religious chauvinism, and an element of Islamist “revenge” for the reprisals inflicted upon them throughout the republic (and particularly after the “mini-coup” of 1997). From 2005, the country witnessed an almost inexplicable nationalist backlash in which prominent liberal public intellectuals such as Orhan Pamuk and Elif Shafak were publicly assaulted and subject to a barrage of court cases. These campaigns of psychological warfare against Turkey’s faint but vital liberal voice were supplemented by targeted violence whose victims included the Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink (murdered in January 2007) and several Christian priests and missionaries.

The operations of the deep state, a remnant of Nato’s “stay behind” forces that went viral during the Kurdish war, had been supported (unknowingly or cynically) by parts of the secular establishment and the Republican People’s Party (CHP). The latter’s efforts extended at times into a form of brinkmanship aimed at deposing the AKP government, preventing the AKP foreign minister Abdullah Gül from competing for the presidency, or even (via the constitutional court) attempting to shut down the governing party. All of these manoeuvres failed; though they did succeed in polarising the political space and galvanising support for the AKP government, which could rightfully accuse the Kemalist establishment of undemocratic conduct. They also opened the door to a direct popular election of the president.

There were other worrying signs. An amended anti-terror law in 2006 significantly expanded the definition of terrorism to make the expression of ideas that happen to be shared by terrorist organisations a punishable offence. At a stroke, demands for education in the Kurdish language or for regional autonomy became a security matter. In tactics reminiscent of Israel’s tactics in the occupied Palestinian territories, Turkish security officers abused demonstrating children in Diyarbakir and other Kurdish cities and imprisoned them for minor offences like hurling stones or carrying placards with the insignia of the PKK. The legal attacks against pro-Kurdish parties and politicians – established tools of governance since their emergence in the 1990s – continued. In the late 2000s, a legal battle was unleashed upon the whole domain of Kurdish politics, with hundreds (and soon thousands) of Kurdish politicians, activists and employees of municipalities run by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) taken into detention, sometimes under humiliating circumstances.

A successful referendum initiative in September 2010 then broke the hegemony of Kemalist judges in the high courts and made possible the prosecution of the hitherto protected leaders of the 1980 coup. This fuelled the zeal of prosecutors close to the government in their undeclared war on the old establishment, which involved bringing charges against former and serving chiefs of the general staff and leading figures in the media and politics for alleged involvement in a series of (averted) coup attempts. Turkey’s history of military interventions made the accusations not unreasonable, and they helped the government to scare the military into full cooperation. Yet if the court cases against the BDP were aimed at marginalising the AKP’s main rival in the Kurdish provinces, those against the military and secularist figures were directed against the Kemalist establishment as such, not necessarily at any actual acts individuals might have engaged in. The ever-growing number of those detained, and the mounting incidents of half-baked evidence, secret witnesses, and (in line with Turkish judicial tradition) fantastic indictments, gradually eroded the legitimacy of the prosecutorial assault.

But prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an and his government had been able – at least until the 2010 elections – to counterbalance such highhanded moves with more benign ones in other policy domains. TV and radio broadcasts in Kurdish were legalised, and Kurdish education gradually phased in. This led to multiple contradictions: as the first university degree programmes for Kurdish teachers began, for example, detained Kurdish politicians were charged for insisting on defending themselves in their mother tongue. This doesn’t diminish the importance of the fact that Kurdish, denied its very existence throughout the entire history of the republic, is now a recognised subject in state schools and universities.

The court proceedings cannot be defined as anything but “exceptional justice”. There is little doubt, though, that the Kemalist establishment (including the CHP) had been deeply implicated in dodgy dealings with the deep state to overthrow or at least weaken the ruling AKP. Turkey’s visibility in its neighbourhood, and its seemingly successful foreign-policy activism, also helped to convince a global audience that the AKP government was still engaging in a struggle to defend the popular will against the machinations of the authoritarian Kemalist establishment and the deep state.

An authoritarian shift

So, what changed after the 2010 elections, which returned the AKP to government for a third time and with almost half of the popular vote? Many secularists argue there was no such change: rather, that the cadres of this Islamist party had artfully manipulated the public in Turkey, the European Union and pretty much everybody in the world in order to subvert the military and then rule supreme. They now had the strength to fulfil their “real” motive, to create a sort of theocracy. Some liberals, and even more reflective Islamist actors, would make a different case, based on Lord Acton’s dictum that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Indeed, ten years in government is a long time.

Both explanations have a grain of truth, though the proponents of the first might recall that the secular establishment has played a major role in cornering the AKP elites and socialising them into the very exceptional use of force which the government and its supporters in the judiciary and bureaucracy is now engaged in. The flipside of the secularist explanation hence suggests that the Kemalist state has managed to shape the Islamists in its own image, turning them into the same kind of authoritarian modernisers and social engineers; the difference being that the core reference-points are now Islam, Ottomanism and neo-liberalism rather than Turkish ethno-nationalism. In the government’s defence, its apologists proclaim that Erdo?an wants to attract the nationalist vote with hawkish policies in order to ensure his election as president, insinuating that he might become more moderate when that is achieved.

Geostrategy has also helped. Turkey happens to share borders with states that are vilified by the western security establishment. In the past, it was the Soviet Union; then Iran, followed by Iraq, and lately Syria. The United States needs Turkey as an ally in its middle-eastern policy, no matter what shape this policy may eventually take. It is not a good time to criticise Turkey – and thanks to geostrategy, the time never seems to be just right. The rebranding of Turkey as an economic powerhouse and model of Muslim democracy, professionally and aggressively conducted globally by civil-society organisations and pro-business Islamic networks, also remains potent. Turkey is still able to depict itself, albeit in a far less convincing way than before, as a model for the democratic transitions in the Arab world.

A political faultine

If the AKP government is now in more or less full control of the Turkish state, unconstrained by foreign-policy pressures, and able to benefit from a relatively well-performing economy, what exactly is it doing? The answer is that it is concentrating extreme power in the hands of the prime minister, and conducting remorseless policies without a modicum of balance. There are thousands of Kurdish activists and hundreds of university students in jail, who are by any definition political prisoners; they are joined by critical journalists who are often held on terrorism charges. The judiciary is cracking down on pretty much any individual who dares to question the legitimacy of “Islamism with a human face” and of Turkey’s neo-liberal restructuring. Critical academics such as Bü?ra Ersanl? and P?nar Selek have been imprisoned or face charges. Some campuses, like that of the Aegean University in Izmir and now that of the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, are subjected to a state of emergency, where police snatch away protesting students and intimidate intervening faculty members.

The balancing-act between neo-liberal adjustment and redistribution was one of the great success stories of earlier AKP governments. Now that the economy is slowing, redistribution has become harder and industrial action more pronounced. Turkish Airlines is a showcase for intelligent management, brand consolidation and growth thanks to high levels of productivity. Yet working conditions are harsh, and when a few hundred employees staged a short strike earlier in 2012, all of them were dismissed (via SMS) after an angry intervention by Erdo?an. Istanbul’s skyline is slowly being destroyed by what will soon be called the Turkish property bubble; the prime minister himself, usually not responsible for urban planning, is pushing through plans for the largest mosque in Turkey on a hilltop overlooking Istanbul, and for an ill-advised plan to “beautify” the city’s heart around Taksim Square. All of these projects have been finalised behind closed doors, with no regard to public consultation.

Erdo?an’s is a sad story, especially in relation to the promise he represented as a child of poor immigrants to Istanbul who rose to the top echelons of power via the municipality of greater Istanbul, along the way defying the Kemalist establishment and enduring a jail term. Now, he has become a choleric figure who lectures the world about all and sundry; plays down the Armenian genocide (while accusing China of the same crime against the Uyghur people and maintaining cordial relations with Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, whose regime is accused of genocide in Darfur); lambasts Israel (rightly) for its brutal occupation regime, while failing to apologise for the killing of thirty-four Kurdish civilians in an airstrike near the village of Roboski; tells Turkish women how many children to have (three) and threatens to rescind relatively liberal abortion laws.

That socially conservative politics would eventually close in on the female body and, as Deniz Kandiyoti suggests, attempt a “masculinist restoration”, is probably not so surprising. That Erdo?an now even seeks to have a popular TV series on Suleiman the Magnificent banned, because it depicts the Ottoman Sultan as a man concerned more with his harem than with conquest, however, is. Could Erdo?an be approaching the threshold to ludicrousness?

A contested hegemony

The hegemonic aspect of Turkey’s new governing system is a case of the phenomenon different from Egypt’s, where Andrea Teti and colleagues view Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as non-hegemonic actors that consequently face widespread protests that contest their power-base. The foundations of post-Kemalist hegemony run deeper, as they have been built gradually and in a more deliberate manner. In ten years, the AKP and sympathetic Islamic networks have succeeded in educating a new generation of administrators, judges and foreign-policy experts in private schools and new universities, who approximate in mindset and persuasion to what Erdo?an calls a “pious youth”. The part of the population which has benefited from the AKP’s economic growth and redistribution policies is incomparably larger than in Egypt; and Turkey is much richer now than it was in 2002-03.

The infinitely self-confident Erdo?an is not without possible challenge, however – though not from the main opposition party, which is failing to unite its two main factions into a progressive social-democrat coalition (the division is between a nationalist and anti-Kurdish Kemalist establishment, and a more liberal left-wing faction with a strong Alevi component). The challenge, rather, comes from two other sources. The first could emerge from within the Islamist movement and the Islamic networks, which have played a key role in mobilising their constituencies for the AKP in the preceding elections. Many people here regard “decency” as not (or not exclusively) a matter of piety and modest dress. Some wonder whether their longstanding struggle really was for a Turkey with more mosques, shopping-malls and high-speed trains, ruled by an autocratic dictator who gasps for even more power than he already holds. The extent to which they will be able to revoke the implicit agreement between Islamists not to compromise a fellow brother, and to find a voice in the AKP (or beyond) will be decisive for the future of Turkey’s politics and of Erdo?an himself.

The second challenge may come from Turkey’s current president, the much less divisive Abdullah Gül, who enjoys considerably more approval for a second term in office than Erdo?an does in his bid for the presidency. The two are now in open conflict over a wide range of policy issues. This struggle will unfold over the next year.

In the meantime, Turkey veers ever closer to an abyss of multiple crises on different geographical scales: in its neighbourhood, in Syria, in its own Kurdish regions, in its higher-education system, its courtrooms, and in its inner cities. If there is anything like “path dependence”, the possibility of Erdo?an returning to the politics of decency, with which he initially captured the hearts and minds of the electorate in Turkey, can be precluded. For now, Turkey’s experiment of “Islamism with a human face” seems to have come to a tentative end.

That this is happening at the same time as the Muslim Brotherhood’s grip on Egypt seems to be slipping, and unrest is mounting in Tunisia, might offer some hints about the future of this ideology. Olivier Roy’s repeated insistence that Islamism is nearing its end might still be unfounded. The Turkish experience, however, suggests that its neo-liberal, pro-American version cannot provide credible or sustainable answers to the needs of complex modern societies, and certainly not to the demands for social justice and inclusive governance.


Similar difficulties exist in Israel and they will not be resolved by the January 2013 elections.

The up-shot is thus that lot of hard work is needed to make the needed miracles of civil co-existence happen.


Posted on on December 12th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (


Secretary General Meets Ruler of Sharjah and Praises Halal Food Exhibition and Conference

His Highness Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of the Emirate of Sharjah, received on 10 December 2012, the Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu.

The OIC Secretary General praised Sharjah for hosting the International Halal Food Middle East Expo and Conference on 10 – 12 December 2012, stressing the significance of this occasion for enhancing economic and trade cooperation between the OIC Member States, which would boost intra-OIC trade.

The two sides discussed ways and means to develop cooperation between the OIC and the United Arab Emirates as well as the situation in the Islamic world.

Message of the OIC Secretary General on the Occasion of the Human Rights Day (10 December 2012)

The world has witnessed, in recent years, the rise of protest waves of all scales and forms against violations of the full enjoyment by thousands of citizens of their civil and political economic, cultural and social rights. Extreme poverty continues to plunge millions of people into abject misery. The right to adequate housing, drinking water and sanitation, education, health services, and decent jobs are still beyond the reach of one billion people around the globe who live on less than one dollar a day, despite MDGs recommendations aimed at reducing poverty by half by 2015.

Freedoms of expression, thought and religion, freedom of association, assembly and peaceful protest are violated in many countries which are still learning Democracy. The right to vote and the freedom to militate within a political party and vote for a candidate of their choice are not yet guaranteed to all citizens. Women, ethnic and religious minorities, internally displaced people, refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants continue to pay a high price in the countries of origin and destination and are often victims of serious human rights violations.

These crowds assembled spontaneously and massively multiplied in countries where citizens have felt themselves marginalized in the management of and participation in the public life and the daily affairs of their country, although that impacts directly on their daily lives.

These gatherings which brought together both the young and the old, men and women, the unemployed and students -among others- were carrying messages of rebellion and despair from a large segment of our societies. The feeling conveyed is not much of uncertainty about a bright future, but rather that of weariness of the maneuvers of the regimes in place that have monopolized public life and deprived many citizens of hope.

The slogan chosen for the Human Rights Day this year: “My voice counts” is a message to political leaders to encourage them to adopt a more inclusive and consensual approach in the conduct of public affairs. All segments of society, taken as a whole and without any discrimination, should be involved in the national debate on public policy options aimed at promoting universally-recognized human rights: the right of everyone to benefit fully and with no restriction from public resources and from the benefits to which they are entitled as citizens.

People’s effective participation in public life and in the management of the daily affairs of society at the political, economic, social and cultural levels remains the cornerstone of any quest for peaceful coexistence between the citizens of the same country, in a climate of harmony, complementarity and respect for diversity.

The OIC, through its Secretary General, has never ceased in the past years to promote the language of dialogue and consensus in the management of public affairs. Member countries’ strategies of political, economic, social and cultural development cannot be achieved without greater involvement of all the forces of the nation. This implies that the inalienable rights and freedoms of their citizens, acknowledged universally and subscribed to at the national level, should be the major foundation which guides any just and inclusive action towards the Islamic Ummah.

It is necessary today to guarantee to our people an environment that is both healthy and open to the free expression of expectations, fears and legitimate hopes within a pluralistic and democratic nation; a requirement whose legitimacy is recognized and defended by the international community.

OIC Participates in 4th UTSAM Symposium on Combating International Terrorism and Trans-border Criminality

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) took part in the 4th edition of the Symposium on International Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) held by the International Terrorism and Transnational Crime Research Center (UTSAM) over 7-9 December 2012 in Antalya, Republic of Turkey.

This year’s edition of the Symposium stood out by the wide diversity of expert participants representing academia, law-enforcement agencies, international and regional organizations as well as NGOs. The working papers and debates during the three-day event focused heavily on the evolving nexus between terrorism networks and cross-border criminality, particularly in fragile and failed States.

The OIC emphasized the need for reinforcing the international legal arsenal within a multi-pronged approach that should address the roots causes of the phenomena of terrorism and extremism. It also highlighted the endeavors deployed by H.E. the Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu,  to hold a high-level international conference under the auspices of the United Nations in a bid to develop a joint action by the international community against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and to articulate a consensual definition of terrorism.

Among the prominent issues explored during the Symposium was the imperative of tackling the corruptive power of transnational criminal networks by dismantling their infrastructures and pre-empting any alliance between transnational criminality and terrorist activities.


OP-ED: Egypt, Arab Sunni Politics, and the U.S.: A Problematic Road Ahead

By Emile Nakhleh Reprint |   | Print | Send by email

WASHINGTON, Dec 5 2012 (IPS) – The bad news about Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s expanding constitutional powers is the threat of another dictatorship in Egypt. The good news is that normal politics is returning to Egypt after decades of brutal authoritarian regimes.

Recent mass demonstrations in support of and opposition to Morsi’s new draft constitution and the political tug of war between Morsi and the judiciary, especially the Judges Club, signify a healthy sign of democratic politics, which the Egyptian people had fought for before and since Tahrir Square.

Egyptians are openly debating the meaning and implications of each of the 234 articles in the new constitution, ranging from setting a two- to four-year presidential term to freedom of worship and social justice.

Opponents of the document correctly claim that it is excessively religious, especially with the role assigned to al-Azhar Islamic University, and is barely inclusive. Rights of women and minorities are not clearly spelled out although followers of other Abrahamic religions have the right to select their own religious leaders and conduct their personal status matters according to their religious dictates.

These raucous and often turbulent constitutional debates and the verbal scuffles between the judiciary and the executive branch seem to signal the advent of rational politics and the promise of pragmatic political compromises. The upcoming popular referendum on the document will tell whether the Egyptian people support or oppose the draft document.

Egypt has not witnessed or enjoyed this type of political jockeying at the popular level since before the middle of the last century. Even if the draft constitution is adopted, Morsi can serve a maximum of two terms – again, something Egyptians have not known for generations.

The United States should not get involved in this debate and should allow the Egyptian people to sort out their political differences. Privately, Washington should point out to Morsi that tolerance, inclusion, and minority and women rights should be the hallmark of governance in the new Egypt.

Constitutional tensions in Egypt, however, should be viewed in the broader context of the emerging Arab Sunni order in the region.

This new regional Sunni alignment is led by Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, and tacitly supported by Turkey. It is perceived in the region and globally as a front to isolate Iran and diminish its regional influence, bring down the Assad regime or speed up Assad’s fall, and help break up the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah “Axis of Resistance.”

This Sunni architecture could also pull Hamas away from the Iran-Syria camp and move it closer to the Sunni fold. The recent military confrontation between Israel and Hamas in Gaza had the unintended consequence of strengthening Hamas’ regional posture and cementing relations between it and Sunni Arab leaders, ranging from Qatar to Tunisia.

Although Washington has quietly endorsed the new regional Sunni politics, U.S. policymakers and intelligence and policy analysts should consider the possibility that in the long run, the new order could also spell trouble for Arab democratic transitions and for the West.

The short-term gains, while critical for the region, are already happening. Iran is becoming more isolated and its relations with Arab states and non-state actors are fraying.

Assad is on his way out, and within months if not weeks, Syria will be begin to experience the convulsions of a new post-Assad political order. The forceful Western warnings, including by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to Assad about the possible use of chemical and biological weapons could be the prelude of Western military intervention in Syria to remove Assad. It’s time he should be removed.

The Hezbollah alliance with Iran and Syria is already breaking up. Hezbollah and its leader Hassan Nasrallah have lost much of their legitimacy as a symbol of resistance or “muqawama”. Nasrallah’s vocal and consistent support of Assad is viewed in the region as naked realpolitik, which has undercut his standing as a regional leader.

In the long run, the emerging Sunni order could undermine the gains of the Arab Spring and threaten the transition to democracy in post-authoritarian Arab countries. More importantly, the new order could embolden Sunni regimes in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and elsewhere in their continued repression of their Shia communities and other ethnic and religious minorities.

While the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Qatar are pushing for Assad’s removal, they are not necessarily wedded to democratic principles or to granting their citizens, especially in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, equal rights. Nor are they enamoured by the principles of “freedom and human dignity” highlighted in the Egyptian draft constitution.

Unless the emerging Arab Sunni order commits itself to the principles for which millions of Arab youth fought two years ago, and unless it goes beyond just containing Iran and toppling Assad, it will remain problematic and fraught with uncertainty.

*Emile Nakhleh is former director of the Political Islam Strategic Analysis Programme at CIA and author of “A necessary Engagement: Reinventing America’s Relations with the Muslim World”.

post thumbnail Islamist Vigilantes Begin to Police Egypt – Published by IPS on December 6th, 2012
Written by: Cam McGrath

CAIRO, Dec 6 2012 (IPS) – As Egyptians debate how deeply Sharia should influence the new constitution, and in the face of clashes that left five dead on Wednesday, some extremists have taken to the streets to enforce their own interpretation of “God’s law”. In recent months, these self-appointed guardians of public probity have accosted Muslims and minority Christians they accuse of violating the provisions of Islamic law.

Ishaq Ibrahim, a researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), says reports of incidents began after the 2011 uprising that toppled dictator Hosni Mubarak. Witnesses have reported seeing “bearded zealots” threaten women they deem dressed immodestly, break up parties playing “un-Islamic” music, vandalise shops selling alcohol, and in one case, chop off the ear of a man accused of abetting immorality.

Ibrahim says evidence is circumstantial, as only a few of the perpetrators have been caught, but the attacks appear to be the work of ultraconservative Salafi Muslims.[related_articles]

Salafis follow a puritanical school of Islam, aspiring to emulate the lifestyle of Prophet Muhammad and his companions, and putting conspicuous emphasis on beards and veils. Salafi political parties won nearly a quarter of the seats in the now dissolved lower house of parliament and have vigorously demanded Sharia as the sole source of legislation in Egypt.

While homegrown Salafi groups once carried out a bloody insurgency aimed at carving out an Islamic caliphate, their leaders have since renounced violence and pledged peaceful dialogue. Prominent Salafis, however, have threatened violence against “idols and blasphemers” – one recently vowing to “cut off the tongue” of anyone who insults Sharia or Islam.

Or cut off their hair perhaps?

Mirette Michail was standing with her sister in downtown Cairo when six women wearing niqab (the full Islamic veil) attacked her, beating her and attempting to set her hair on fire – presumably as punishment for not veiling. The women disappeared into the crowd when two male passersby intervened, she reported.

It was the third tonsorial assault in less than a month. Earlier, two women in niqab cut the hair of a Christian woman riding the subway and pushed her off the train, breaking her arm. A 13-year-old Christian girl also had her hair cut by a fully veiled woman while on the subway.

Such incidents are unusual in Cairo. The capital still retains its relatively cosmopolitan atmosphere, with young couples holding hands in public, tourists piling off buses in shorts and t-shirts, and many upscale establishments serving alcohol.

But in provincial cities and rural areas, long governed by a culture of conservative Islam, activists have reported an alarming increase in cases of moral vigilantism. Extremists appear to be organising small groups to patrol neighbourhoods and enforce their own interpretation of Sharia – by brute force if necessary.

Amal Abdel Hadi, head of the Cairo-based New Women Foundation, says the absence of an effective police force since last year’s uprising and the expectation that Egypt’s new constitution will mandate stronger application of Islamic law has given these groups a sense of legitimacy.

“When you have in your constitution that the state should ‘safeguard ethics and public morality’, it’s a green light for these groups to operate,” Abdel Hadi told IPS. “You’re constitutionalising the role of the community in defending traditions using vague and rhetorical phrasing that allows for extreme interpretations.”

Last January, a shadowy group claiming affiliation to the Salafi Calling announced on Facebook that it had established the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, an Islamic morality police modeled on Saudi Arabia’s mutaween.

In Saudi Arabia, mutaween agents and volunteers patrol the streets, enforcing strict separation of the sexes, conservative dress codes, observance of Muslim prayers, and other behaviour they consider mandated by Sharia. Until 2007, these government-sanctioned enforcers of Islamic law carried rattan canes to mete out corporal punishment.

While there is no proof that the Egyptian group ever transformed its online presence into a physical force, its unveiling coincided with a series of incidents in the northern delta provinces. The Arabic press reported that groups of bearded men armed with rattan canes raided shops, threatening to flog shop owners caught selling “indecent” clothing, barbers found shaving men’s beards, or any merchant displaying Christian religious books or icons.

The attacks culminated in the murder of Ahmed Hussein Eid, a university student stabbed to death during a run-in with some roving enforcers last June. According to police reports, three Salafi men approached Eid and his fiancee as they were out walking in Suez’s port district. The men castigated the couple for standing too close, and when Eid rebuked them, one of the men pulled out a knife and fatally stabbed him.

Al-Azhar, the highest authority in Sunni Islam, has issued statements condemning reports of individual efforts to enforce Sharia. As has the ruling Muslim Brotherhood.

But Salafi leaders have been equivocal, denying any affiliation to moral vigilante groups while defending the concept – provided it is through “peaceful intervention”.

“The idea of having such a committee is legitimate and in accordance with the Quran,” Islamist lawyer Montasser El-Zayat told one local media outlet. “Such a committee should promote virtue with virtue, and prevent vice with virtue as well. And, of course, it would be better if (it were) run by the government and not by an independent group.”

Police, criticised for mothballing reports of vigilante incidents, responded to a public outcry following the fatal stabbing in Suez. The three Salafi assailants were apprehended and each sentenced to 15 years in prison.

EIPR’s Ibrahim says moral vigilantes have kept a low profile since the sentencing. But this may simply be the calm before the storm.

“Islamists (control the political agenda) so it’s not in their interest to create problems for the time being,” he says. “They want to focus on the constitution first, then comes the application of Sharia.”


Posted on on October 24th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

Irith Jawetz reported from Vienna about Day 1 of the Conference – October 24rd, 2012 which happens to be the days after the last face-to-face Debate of the 2012 US Presidential contest. The inevitable just happened and American Economist Thomas Schelling depicted the present situation in the US as a country with two main parties competing – one which believes in Climate Change but does not do enough about it, and one which does not deal with Climate Change {and past experience is that it has a soft spot in their heart for those that claim that it is better not to listen to real scientists.}

Opening Session:

Welcome Statement by Pavel Kabat, Director/CEO IIASA, thanking President Heinz Fischer for his support, and mentioning that UNSG Ban Ki-moon was not going to be here  but is sending a video message which we saw later on further giving a short history of IIASA.
Karl Heinz Töchterle, Federal Minister for Science & Research of Austria, acknowledged, among other things, the great achievements of IIASA.
IIASA was established 40 years ago to promote East West collaboration during the Cold War, and it has work ed towards International cooperation until today,  He said challenges cannot be answered on a national level, and that is why an Institution like IIASA is so important.
Then came a video message from the General Secretary Ban Ki-moon who thanked the Austrian Government and IIASA for hosting this conference and said IIASA is very well respected at the UN.
Federal President Heinz Fischer was next and gave the opening address. He said he was happy to be present at the Conference. Delegates from all over the world have come to Vienna and, although he knows that the conference will take up most of their time, he hopes very much that they will also have some time to enjoy the Cultural and Social advantages of this City. He asked the delegates to take some time off and enjoy this very hospitable city.
He also made notice of the establishment of IIASA during the Cold War, and mentioned the Helsinky Conference in 1975  where Chancellor Kreisky, President Johnson, and Prime Minister Kossigyn, agreed on scientific cooperation.

IIASA was established in 1972 in Laxenburg,  and the son in law of Mr. Kossigyn was its first President of IIASA. Thus it had very good contacts to Moscow and the West from its beginnings. It is a very important institution working to find solutions leading to human well being. He wished everybody a successful conference.
The First High Level Session dealt with Science Support for Global Transitions.  You have to look at the speakers further on. The basic consensus was that there need to be more cooperation between scientists and Governments and scientists and policy makers.

Thomas Schelling, Nobel Prize winner in Economics, made an interesting remark stating that in the United States there are two parties, one which believes in Climate Change but does not do enough about it and one which does not deal with Climate Change.
We have to convince governments to listen to scientists and work together with them.

Climate Change has been a study by itself.

Second High Level Morning Session  – Policy Support for Global Transitions: dealt, among other topics, with educating young people about Climate Change and the importance of Science in education.
Session 2:      Drivers of Global Change – People, Institutions and Technology: A System Prospective –

Thomas Schelling stressed the importance of the English language in Science and the importance of girl’s education, Yolanda  Kakabadse, President WWF International, talked about the importance of Civil Society and the necessity to take theory into action and the necessity to think out of the box and build bridges between Science & organizations that will do the work.   Again – science alone is not enough.

the next session was about food and water and was more technical with lots of charts. Jacqueline  McGlade showed a short film on destroying nature and the conclusion was that in 2030 we will need two planets. She gave a more emotional presentation and mentioned three things we need to do:

Re-Use;    Re-Cycle;   Re-think.

More people need to get involved and participate in science and help the scientists by telling them what is happening in their world.
David Grey also said that science without policy is just science. This was the consensus through the day.
The last session was The Multiple Co-benefits of a Cleaner, More Equitable World – Energy and Climate Change. This was also to scientific and specific.
Keywan Riahi mentioned a study – GEA (Global Ebergy Assessment) and quoted from it.
Zbigniew Klimant talked about co-benefits of neat-term climate change mitigation and you can find some of his findings on

Australia joins IIASA

IIASA  announced concurrent with the first day of the meeting that Australia will become its newest member – the 20th – country.

Australia’s largest national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), will serve as Australia’s National Member Organization (NMO), joining a group of 19 other national science organizations that fund IIASA and help guide the Institute’s research priorities.

In welcoming the announcement, CSIRO Chief Executive Dr. Megan Clark said that there were very significant synergies to be realized by bringing together IIASA and CSIRO’s internationally regarded systems science, especially in the areas of water, energy, climate and food. “I am confident that our membership of IIASA will provide a very positive platform to further strengthen Australia’s global connections in these critical areas for humanity,” Clark said.


The full program of presentations and discussions of October 24th was:

Welcome Statement by Pavel Kabat, Director/CEO, IIASA
Opening Addresses:

Karlheinz Töchterle, Federal Minister for Science and Research of Austria

Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General (video message)

Heinz Fischer, Federal President of the Republic of Austria


Nisha Pillai, Former BBC News Anchor

HIGH-LEVEL SESSION: Science Support for Global Transitions

Gusti Muhammad Hatta, Minister of Research and Technology, Republic of Indonesia

Nina Fedoroff, Chair, AAAS Board of Directors; Distinguished Professor, Biosciences, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia; and Evan Pugh Professor, Penn State University

Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General, World Meteorological Organization (WMO)

Yuan-Tseh Lee, Nobel Prize Recipient (Chemistry) and President, International Council for Science (ICSU)

Carlo Rubbia, Nobel Prize Recipient (Physics) and Scientific Director, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) e.V.

Thomas Schelling, Nobel Prize Recipient (Economics) and Distinguished Professor, University of Maryland


Nisha Pillai, Former BBC News Anchor

HIGH-LEVEL SESSION: Policy Support for Global Transitions

Johannes Kyrle, Secretary General, Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs of Austria

Kandeh K. Yumkella, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Sustainable Energy for All; Director General, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); and Chairman, UN-Energy

William Colglazier, Science and Technology Adviser to the US Secretary of State

Sergey Glaziev, Presidential Counselor, The Administration of the President of the Russian Federation

Andrew Johnson, Group Executive, Environment, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and IIASA Council Member

Eun-Kyung Park, Ambassador for Water Resources, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Republic of Korea

Björn Stigson, Chairman, Stigson & Partners AB and Former President, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)


Nisha Pillai, Former BBC News Anchor

Coffee break and Press Conference
Today’s world is undergoing fast-paced, unprecedented global transformations. These changes include new levels of globalization and market integration, fundamental shifts in economic and global power from west to east and north to south, environmental challenges from location-specific to global scales, and unpredictable social conflict. This session will focus on characterizing and better understanding these changes and their main drivers. It will explore possible futures for the world we live in and also how people, institutions, and technology might combine to determine the dynamics and the direction of change.
Session 1: Global Transformations—Understanding the World We Live in and its Possible Futures

Transformative changes are more than just marginal deviations from “business as usual”. They include phases of radical change and sometimes turbulence, interlaced with phases of development and decline as we move toward new configurations. Moreover systems are not changing in isolation, but are interfering with each other resulting in ever more complex patterns. For population dynamics in natural systems or human societies such patterns can be described just as in technological systems, e.g., of the substitution of one technology for another. Sometimes dynamics of land-cover change as well as revolutions in political systems follow such behavior.

The industrial revolution catapulted humanity to unprecedented but uneven levels of affluence and amplified the reach of human activities to such an extent that it was proposed to name the present geologic epoch the “Anthropocene”, to highlight the enormous, unintended impact that our actions have inflicted at a global and geologically significant level. Examples include modifications of the global nitrogen and phosphorus cycles, biodiversity loss, amplified greenhouse gas concentrations, stratospheric ozone depletion, ocean acidification, overexploitation of global freshwater, changes in land use (deforestation, desertification, soil loss etc.), atmospheric aerosol loading, and chemical pollution.


Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director, European Environment Agency (EEA)

Framing Presentations:

Jeffrey Sachs, Director, The Earth Institute at Columbia University and Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (video message)

The New Millennium Goals – After Rio+20: What Next

Nebojsa Nakicenovic, Deputy Director/Deputy CEO, IIASA and Professor, Vienna University of Technology

Global Transformations Toward Sustainable Futures

Panel Presentations:

Katherine Richardson, Professor, Biological Oceanography and Leader, Sustainability Science Centre, University of Copenhagen

Sustainability Transformations

Björn Stigson, Chairman, Stigson & Partners AB and Former President, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)

Business for Sustainable Development

Berrien Moore III, Dean, College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences; Director, National Weather Center; and Vice President, Weather and Climate Programs, University of Oklahoma

Earth Systems Boundaries


Jessica Jewell, Research Assistant, Energy (ENE) Program, IIASA


Günter Liebel, Director General, Head of Department General Environmental Policy, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management of Austria

Statement on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management of Austria

Lunch and Poster session
Sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management of Austria and IIASA
(Breakout Activities: Posters, research tools, publications, and much more will be on display throughout the conference.)
Session 2: Drivers of Global Change—People, Institutions, and Technology: A Systems Perspective

While demographic, economic, and technological developments are generally recognized as basic drivers of transformative change, the interactions of their dynamics present a major challenge and an area from which significant new insights are possible. How, for example, does education affect demographic processes or economic development? What differences do distributional and spatial income variations make to the behavior of the coupled social-environmental systems? What is the appropriate scale to study each of those phenomena? What will it mean to add another three billion, predominantly urban, healthier, and longer-lived people to the global middle class? What technologies, norms and institutions are effective in propagating sustainable production and consumption? What are the new challenges in modeling drivers and scenarios to depict alternative development pathways?


Dirk Messner, Director, German Development Institute (DIE)

Framing Presentations:

Wolfgang Lutz, Leader, World Population (POP) Program, IIASA, Founding Director of the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital, and Director of the Vienna Institute of Demography (VID)

Human Resources for Sustainable Development: Population, Education and Health

Charlie Wilson, Research Scholar, Transitions to New Technologies (TNT) Program, IIASA and Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia

Technology: The Art of the Science of the Possible

Panel Presentations:

Thomas Schelling, Nobel Prize Recipient (Economics) and Distinguished Professor, University of Maryland

Economics of Global Change

Yolanda Kakabadse, President, WWF International

The Importance of Civil Society

Adil Najam, Vice Chancellor, Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and IIASA Council Member

Governance and Institutions

Justin Yifu Lin, Professor and Honorary Dean, National School of Development, Peking University and Former Senior Vice President, Development Economics, and Chief Economist, World Bank (video message)

The Quest for Prosperity: How Developing Economies Can Take Off


Simon de Stercke, Research Assistant, Transitions to New Technologies (TNT) Program, IIASA

Coffee Break
This session will focus on the power of systems analysis to provide integrated, science-based solutions to major global challenges. It will explore these challenges from the perspective of IIASA’s three major research areas: Energy and Climate Change; Food and Water; and Poverty and Equity. This requires in depth understanding and analyses of interactions, both within and between these areas. Moreover, the spatial and temporal dynamics of each challenge needs to be considered to anticipate synergistic effects and unintended consequences to optimize interventions.
Session 3: Respecting Nature’s Boundaries for a Fair and Secure World – Food and Water

Human exploitation of land, marine, and freshwater resources has resulted in land and vegetation degradation over vast areas, overuse of marine resources, depletion of aquifers, and the unsustainable restructuring of natural landscapes. These trends are escalating under climate change. This panel will consider how new technologies, investment strategies, policies, and institutional innovations can ensure not only sufficient food and water resources for the planet, but that those resources are developed to allow environmental sustainability objectives to be met and that everyone, especially those living in poverty, receive their share.


Carlos Nobre, National Secretary, Secretariat of Policies and Programs in Research and Development, Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, Brazil and IIASA Council Member

Framing Presentation:

Sabine Fuss, Research Scholar, Ecosystems Services and Management (ESM) Program, IIASA

Food Security in an Uncertain World

Ulf Dieckmann, Leader, Evolution and Ecology (EEP) Program, IIASA

Future Oceans: Meeting the Challenges of Securing Aquatic Food Resources

Panel Presentations:

Joseph Alcamo, Chief Scientist, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

The Global Water Quality Challenge

Nina Fedoroff, Chair, AAAS Board of Directors; Distinguished Professor, Biosciences, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia; and Evan Pugh Professor, Penn State University

Where Will the Food Come from in a Hotter, More Crowded World?

Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director, European Environment Agency (EEA)

Food and Sustainable Environment

David Grey, Visiting Professor, School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford University and Honorary Visiting Professor, Exeter University

The Challenges of Transboundary Water Management in a Changing World


Hugo Valin, Research Scholar, Ecosystems Services and Management (ESM) Program, IIASA

Session 4: The Multiple Co-benefits of a Cleaner, More Equitable World – Energy and Climate Change

Lack of access to modern energy services imposes enormous health costs and impedes economic development, while the use of fossil fuels by modern, industrialized societies threatens to irreversibly alter the Earth’s climate. Transformation to a low-carbon energy system is critical, as global energy production, currently generated largely by fossil fuels, will increase significantly if the nearly three billion people currently living without modern energy are to gain access. This panel will focus on reframing the climate change debate, using a transformation of the energy system as the catalyst for green growth, sustainable development and resource efficient economies. IIASA will contribute by outlining a framework to achieve a decarbonized, more climate sensitive and socially equitable world.


John Schellnhuber, Director, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and Chair, German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU)

Framing Presentations:

Keywan Riahi, Leader, Energy (ENE) Program, IIASA

The Next Global Energy Transformations: Costs and Multiple Benefits

Zbigniew Klimont, Research Scholar, Mitigation Of Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gases (MAG) Program, IIASA

Co-benefits of Near-Term Climate Change Mitigation

Panel Presentations:

Carlo Rubbia, Nobel Prize Recipient (Physics) and Scientific Director, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) e.V.

New Energy Infrastructures

William Nordhaus, Sterling Professor of Economics, Yale University

Climate Change Policy: The Central Role of Carbon Prices

Kenji Yamaji, Director-General, Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth (RITE) and Professor Emeritus, University of Tokyo

Energy Transformations in Japan


Jens Borken-Kleefeld, Research Scholar, Mitigation of Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gases (MAG) Program, IIASA


The night before Day 1 – that is the Tuesday the 23rd Gala Evening – included the lecture and the “knighting” of Dr. Norman Neureiter of the US who was awarded the AUSTRIAN CROSS OF HONOUR FOR SCIENCE AND ART 1st Class on behalf of the Federal President of the Republic of Austria.

Day 0 / 1900 Pre conference Gala Dinner at the Hofburg Festsaal

Day 0 / 1900 Pre conference Gala Dinner at the Hofburg Festsaal


Posted on on June 11th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space – the UN COPUOS – of OOSA The Office of Outer Soase Affairs.…

The Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space was set up by the General Assembly in 1959 ( resolution 1472 (XIV)) to review the scope of international cooperation in peaceful uses of outer space, to devise programmes in this field to be undertaken under United Nations auspices, to encourage continued research and the dissemination of information on outer space matters, and to study legal problems arising from the exploration of outer space.

Number of Member States in the Committee: 71

The Committee has two standing Subcommittees of the whole:

The Committee and its two Subcommittees meet annually to consider questions put before them by the General Assembly, reports submitted to them and issues raised by the Member States. The Committee and the Subcommittees, working on the basis of consensus, make recommendations to the General Assembly. Detailed information on the work of the Committee and the Subcommittees are contained in their annual reports.

The fifty-fifth session of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space will be held from 6-15 June 2012 at the United Nation Office at Vienna, Vienna International Center, Vienna, Austria.

Further resources on the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space:


We are partial to this office because of my co-chairing at the UN Conference  on the Outer Space that was held in Vienna -UNISPACE-II of 1982 – a special NGO Session on BIOMASS AND OUTER SPACE – that had two parts. The morning dealt with experiments with biological material – the like of algae being grown in Soviet Satellites, and then the  after-noon dealt with Remote Sensing for inventory Taking of Biomass on Earth – this latter being a precursor of measurements on forestry and climate change effects – to mention just two widely used means of measurement from Space in areas with importance to the Rio+20 upcoming meeting.

UNISPACE I was in 1968 and the idea of having an Outer Space office at the UN goes back to 1959 – following the launching of the first Sputnick in 1957.

As remarked by Professor U.R.Rao of the Department of Space, Bangalore, India:

Recognising the immense potential of space technology for socioeconomic development, the United Nations established the Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN-COPUOS) in 1959 for promoting greater international collaboration among all nations in the development and application of space technology.
The UN-COPUOS, organized the first UNISPACE Conference in Vienna in 1968, which succeeded in bringing an awareness of the vast potential of space benefits to all the Member States.
Significant successes achieved in the seventies in the application of space technology, particularly in communication, weather monitoring and management of natural resources, clearly established the urgent need to promote greater use of space technology in all Member Nations through international cooperation, paving the way for the organization of UNISPACE-II in Vienna in 1982.
Following the recommendations of UNISPACE-II, the United Nations programme on space applications was considerably strengthened and expanded, resulting in increased opportunity for developing countries to participate in educational and training activities in space science and technology and to develop their indigeneous capabilities in the use of space technology applications.

In this regard, our attention turned to this meeting when we accidentally found out that China provided last Friday a weather satellite to the UN office.


This Year’s meetings of the Committee on the Peacefull Uses of Outer Space extend June 6-15, 2012, and include several highlights.

– As such – this year NASA – the USGS ellebrate 40 years since the 1972 establishment of LANDSAT global surveillance system or – four decades of Earth Observation. This prompted a very interesting exhibit in the rotunda of the Vienna UN Center. This alone deserves a further posting by us.

– The Friday hand-over by China of a Beidoo satellite to be used for navigation purpose i.e. help in bringing a ship into a harbor and making safer its docking as well.

– in light of this year’s Rio Conference the in the opening  of the UNIS/OS/418 Press release we find:

“Among topics discussed will be space and climate change, space and water, use of space technology in the UN system, in particular how to strengthen the relevance of space science and technology and their applications in meeting the outcomes of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).”

I went back to the UN on Monday, June 11th, got to meet Ms. Romana Kofler of UNOOSA and from the agenda she gave me realized that I hit the right day as among the 17 items in this year’s list of topics, items 12 and 13 were scheduled to start on Monday. These are SPACE AND WATER and SPACE AND CLIMATE CHANGE. The way this works is that innitial presentations are made and then in following days further countries can speak to the issue.

As it happened, the Russian Republic opened the topic of Space and Water, then Indonesia moved on mentioning the 2005-2015 “Water for Life” decade and its connection to Climate Change with the strong statement that we need water not only for drinking but for energy, in climate change issues etc. It is systems like Landsat that provide most needed information. The sharing of data is important and he suggested the continuation of the “Space and Water” topic in future years meetings of  COPUOS.

Saudi Arabia added on the multi-National aspect of  the “Water for Life” decade and called for more satellites to be used in the better management of water resources – something of high interest in desert and semi-desert counties like his. He wanted the UN Spider to get and distribute the data. He also pointed out the invitation for nominations to the 2014 6th yearly Award of the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water.

On topic #13 Space and Climate Change – opened Japan by pointing out climate Change is a cross-borders issue involving deeveloped and developing countries. Concerning contributions by earth Observation Satellites Japan has played a role in observation of Green-House Gasses, on Water etc. He spoke of the G-20 Agriculture Ministers meeting in France and a follow up meeting in Tokyo with an eye to Rio+20. Measuring GHG from Space was agreed upon in the Kyoto Protocol, he said. The GOSAT and GAICHI are monitoring forest biomass. Japan will cooperate with organizations like UNESCO. In 2013 they will have another satellite to exchange information with NASA. The state of growth of grain is a target of agriculture data to review future food supply. He ended by saying no matter how small this committee can make big contribution to the issues that Rio+20 is dealing.

Italy continued on Energy and sustainable dynamics issues. I guess he wanted to accentuate topics beyond development.

Indonesia pointed out that adaptation to climate change by people depends on information from outer space. Indonesia depends on information from the Asia-Pacific region on issues like forest fires.

Switzerland talked about a data base they house at the University of Bern. It has al the information from the satellites since 1964 and supplemented this with data they got from other sources, like hospitals he said, for before that time. As such – they have data for a 100 years.

These presentations were followed upon with two technical presentations: one by Germany talking of Safe Navigation and defining distances for terms like Accuracy vs. Precision in Applicable, Tolerable and non-Tolerable areas and relating this to systms like GPS (since 1963) in the US and Glonass (since 1996) in Russia. All this as outcome from Global Positioning.

Then Marianna G. Shepherd spoke for the Scientific Committee on Solar Terrestrial Physics that was established by the International Council for Science (ICSU) and its implications for the World Meteorologic Organization and looking to Rio.


Posted on on June 7th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (


Date/Time: Thursday 21 June 2012, 15:00 – 16:30

Location: Rio Centro Convention Centre – Room T-5, Rio Centro


Globally, governments subsidize fossil fuels to the tune of over $600 billion per year.

These subsidies directly contribute to over-consumption of fossil fuels and higher emissions of local and global pollutants.

They are also socially regressive, generally benefitting wealthier consumers more than the poor.

Yet reforming fossil-fuel subsidies is challenging. If introduced too quickly, and without sufficient public support, it can have serious political repercussions.

Moreover, there are often concerns about negative effects on the competitiveness of domestic energy-intensive industries.

This session, organised by the International Institute for Sustainable Development’s Global Subsidies Initiative and the Government of Switzerland, aims to foster an open and constructive discussion among all stakeholders on the political barriers to fossil-fuel subsidy reform and how they can be overcome.


  • ·         Moderator: Mark Halle, Director, International Institute for Sustainable Development


  • ·        Keynote speaker: Hon. Martin Lindegaard, Minister for Climate, Energy and Building, Denmark
  • ·         Mr. Majid Al-Suwaidi, Deputy Director of Energy and Climate Change, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, United Arab Emirates
  • ·         Mr. Hans-Peter Egler, Head of Trade Promotion, State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, Switzerland
  • ·         Mr. Fabby Tumiwa, Institute for Essential Services Reform, Indonesia
  • ·         Ms. Kerryn Lang, Global Subsidies Initiative, IISD


Posted on on April 8th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

Let us start first with a Thomas Friedman article-conclusion first!

If you ask “what are the real threats to our security today,” said Lester Brown of The Earth Policy Institute, “at the top of the list would be climate change, population growth, water shortages, rising food prices and the number of failing states in the world.

As that list grows, how many failed states before we have a failing global civilization, and everything begins to unravel?”

Hopefully, we won’t go there. But, then –

we should all remember that quote attributed to Leon Trotsky: “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.”   —- Well, you may not be interested in climate change, but climate change is interested in you.

Folks, this is not a hoax. We and the Arabs need to figure out — and fast — more ways to partner to mitigate the environmental threats where we can and to build greater resiliency against those where we can’t. Twenty years from now, this could be all that we’re talking about.

Please go to the link for a very interesting article that tells us that the Arab Spring did happen in part because of the lack of attention to climate change on the part of government officials that were racking it all in to themselves – those official rapists of their countries.

Thomas Friedman is not the only one asking why Arab Spring now, and why the Arab World has not produced any democracies like other Islamic Countries – non-Arabs – actually did. Why is there no Arab State like Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia, or Bangladesh? This last version of the Question was posed by Fareed Zakaria on today’s CNN/GPS show.

Seemingly – all Arab States that are within the huge North-Africa Middle-East area of the Arab conquests in the 12th and 13th Centuries have no real Civil Society. In all these States the economy is run by the people of the ruling Monarchy or by those close to the Government.
The people as such were kept low by an alliance of the rulers with the heads of the religion and the goal of this alliance was to fight another religious group – and here comes in the military that is completely loyal to the ruling power that is also the economy’s leader. This kind of socio-economic system did neither allow for the development of a meaningful Civil Society, nor a really forward looking Middle Class.

To above obervation by Fareed Zakaria we see the add-on by Thomas Friedman:  “The Arab awakening was driven not only by political and economic stresses, but, less visibly, by environmental, population and climate stresses as well. If we focus only on the former and not the latter, we will never be able to help stabilize these societies.”

Thomas Friedman tells us of draught in Syria and North Africa and how this draught pushed the societal lid and was part of the reason for this present day upheaval.

And a Warning – 12 of the world’s 15 most water-scarce countries — Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Israel and Palestine — are in the Middle East, and after three decades of explosive population growth these countries are “set to dramatically worsen their predicament.

Then think also about the observatio – “Alot more mouths to feed with less water than ever. As Lester Brown, the president of the Earth Policy Institute and author of “World on the Edge,” notes, 20 years ago, using oil-drilling technology, the Saudis tapped into an aquifer far below the desert to produce irrigated wheat, making themselves self-sufficient. But now almost all that water is gone, and Saudi wheat production is, too. So the Saudis are investing in farm land in Ethiopia and Sudan, but that means they will draw more Nile water for irrigation away from Egypt, whose agriculture-rich Nile Delta is already vulnerable to any sea level rise and saltwater intrusion.

The Link to Thomas Friedman:

by Thomas Fuchs

The Other Arab Spring.

By , Published in The New York Times  April 7, 2012 as an OP-ED Column.

ISN’T it interesting that the Arab awakening began in Tunisia with a fruit vendor who was harassed by police for not having a permit to sell food — just at the moment when world food prices hit record highs? And that it began in Syria with farmers in the southern village of Dara’a, who were demanding the right to buy and sell land near the border, without having to get permission from corrupt security officials? And that it was spurred on in Yemen — the first country in the world expected to run out of water — by a list of grievances against an incompetent government, among the biggest of which was that top officials were digging water wells in their own backyards at a time when the government was supposed to be preventing such water wildcatting? As Abdelsalam Razzaz, the minister of water in Yemen’s new government, told Reuters last week: “The officials themselves have traditionally been the most aggressive well diggers. Nearly every minister had a well dug in his house.”


Posted on on February 10th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

U.S. religious leaders seek to bridge gap between Jews and Muslims

HAARETZ, February 9, 2012

Imam Muhammad Shamsi felt hurt and insulted. Considered among the leading Muslim figures in the New York metropolitan area, Shamsi doesn’t mince words or try to hold back his rage when reacting to a recent pronouncement of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammad Hussein who quoted a passage of the Koran, “Just as a Muslim is to worship Allah, behind him is a Jew and he should be killed.”

Imam Ali serves as the spiritual leader of the Manhattan Islamic Center which includes the largest mosque in the area and among the biggest in the United States. He has gone on the record as saying, “The Jerusalem Mufti has lost his right to represent Islam.”

Seated beside Imam Ali as he says this is Marc Schneier, a prominent orthodox rabbi who is President of The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and Vice President of the World Jewish Congress. “Literal interpretations of both text and law are the same tools that drive the notions of the primitive extremists within the Haredi community in Israel,” Rabbi Schneier says as Imam Ali nods in agreement.

The rabbi and the Imam might be described by some as the ultimate odd couple, but the friendship and mutual admiration that exists between the two is the result of a common cause, one that deeply unites the two, which is to bring together Jews and Muslims and to create a language of cooperation between the groups. And most importantly, as they both said, to build and advance “principles and guidelines for mutual trust” between the faiths. {We were present in New York at the initial meetings between the two and their effort to help the understanding of each other’s positions seemed genuine, and are confident that their effort and bringing the two communities –  Jews and Muslims –  in the US and elsewhere are genuine.}

With the background of the various revolutions sweeping the Arab world and intensifying extremism within radical elements of Islam, the rabbi and the imam sound and look like some modern reincarnation of Don Quixote. But in their minds the trends that are sweeping the Arab world and the Middle East only strengthen their belief in the importance of their work.

“Today, perhaps more than ever more, it’s essential that religious leaders from our two communities advance messages of tolerance and moderation,” Rabbi Schneier said.

“To the outsider this looks complex but when you’re deeply involved in this effort, you realize that this goal is certainly attainable,” Imam Ali said, adding: “Politicians in the Middle East can work to advance peace agreements, but it’s the religious leaders who can really build true and lasting trust.”

Imam Ali and Rabbi Schneier are currently co-authoring a book, most of which has already been completed, entitled “Can We Learn to Trust Each Other.”

The book explores various relevant issues of faith in both the Bible and the Koran, with a declared objective “to argue that the accepted text-based arguments that describe gaps between our communities are largely a result of misguided and sometimes even hostile interpretations.”

Both Shamsi and Schneier have been involved with initiating and organizing a series of events in mosques and synagogues in recent years designed to bring Muslims and Jews together, events in Europe.

They said that numerous fruitful relationships have been built between rabbis and imams and communal leaders in both the Jewish and Muslim sectors.

Next month in Washington, DC, The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding is organizing a major Muslim-Jewish conference for religious leaders from seven Latin American countries.

Both clerics deserve much credit for making Muslim-Jewish dialogue in the United States into a popular and accepted trend.

“At the beginning of our work, many of my Muslim colleagues warned me against visiting synagogues and that I would be greeted by hostile responses from the Jewish side,” Imam Ali says. “Today, I repeatedly get requests from Muslim leaders wanting to be included in these visits.”

“Rabbis and community leaders say that when they meet with Imams they come out of the meeting more encouraged and optimistic than from similar interactions with other minority leaders,” Rabbi Schneier says.

The 45-year old Imam Ali was born in Indonesia and spent many years in Saudi Arabia where he underwent his religious training- an aspect of his bio that many fellow Muslims view as a badge of honor.

Rabbi Schneier, 53, was born into a well-known rabbinic family. His public advocacy efforts began several decades ago when he established The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, which works to strengthen ties between the Jewish and Black communities in the US.

“The challenges facing the American Jewish community today is to recognize that we have the potential to act as a leading force in advancing positive relationships with modern Islam.”

Shamsi estimated that in the New York area alone, there are between 600,000 and 800,000 Muslims with about 250 mosques led by about 50 trained imams. He stressed his opposition to demonstrations against the New York Police Department, the likes of which took place recently in protest to alleged NYPD practices in immigrant communities.

“I am a strong advocate for dialogue and cooperation with the relevant authorities, he added,” noting that the overwhelming majority of young Muslims in the New York area are busy working and making a living for their families and have little or no connection to the events and conflicts in the Middle East.

Imam Ali pointed to communities like Brooklyn and Queens where large numbers of Muslims live right next to Jewish communities without any conflict as an indication that there exists a high quality of life and cooperation and dialogue exists and thrives.


Posted on on November 19th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (

The papers wrote today, November 18th, on the small Asian Scene but missed the much bigger significance. After years of playing big power economic politics on the side of China and a mumbling and stumbling EU – the US did a reset, as per the following and most recent, news.

“BALI, Indonesia — Hours before Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Myanmar’s most prominent democracy campaigner, announced her return to formal politics on Friday, President Obama disclosed that he was sending Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on a visit there next month, the first by a secretary of state in more than 50 years.

The twin events underscored the remarkable and sudden pace of change in Myanmar, which has stunned observers inside and outside the country, analysts said.”

Actually what happened these last three weeks is that Obama’s Administration is distancing itself from the troubles of the EU and in an effort to decrease its dependence on China financing, the US has moved to use the Asian-Pacific region minus China, but in  in alliance with Australia, to forge a new FREE MARKET from an enlarged NAFTA (Canada, Mexico, Columbia) to embrace some of the countries of the old APEC. This market is 1.6 times larger then the EU and will have a military base in Darwin, Australia, so China takes notice of a massive new US interest in Asia.

This is just a small reaction to the news and we intend to return to this new and intriguing situation that is clearly intended as well to show the American people that this Administration is still capable of doing great novel things. We say BRAVO.

Europe will take advantage of this RESET by trying to increase its activities in the Arab World – i.e. Austria readies a new mission to Qatar where it will open December 11-12, 2011 a new Embassy in Doha with a visit by Austria’s Federal President Dr. Heinz Fischer who travels at the head of a business delegation as it was done these weeks as well by Austrian interests going to Iraq, Libya and Turkmenistan. Please note that the new Embassy in Doha is being opened while Austria is busy saving money by closing up to 30 Consulates and Embassies elsewhere i.e. in Chicago!


We posted the above on November 18th, then on November 19th we found on the CNN/GPS the following, and we realize that our AMERICA IN A NEW ASIA RESET editorial note was our correct reading of the news. Again – we expect to enlarge on this very soon.

Listen Up! What the world thinks of ‘America’s Pacific Century.’

Editor’s Note: Every week, the Global Public Square brings you some must-read editorials from around the world addressed to America and Americans. The series is called Listen up, America!

President Obama is focused on East Asia and the Pacific this week. After attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Hawaii last weekend, Obama traveled to Australia where, on Thursday, he addressed the parliament. His message: “In the Asia Pacific in the 21st century, the United States of America is all in.”

Later that day, President Obama traveled to the city of Darwin along the northern coast, where the U.S. announced it will station 2,500 Marines. The summit and travel, which also include a stop in Indonesia, are seen as the U.S. shifting attention to the Pacific – and to a rising China – as troops withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan. Here are some of the international responses to what Secretary of State Clinton recently dubbed “America’s Pacific Century.”

Australia – “Despite the rising economic, diplomatic and military reach of China, U.S. supremacy is the bedrock of security in the region,” says an editorial in the Sydney-based Australian.

“[The United States] underwrites the security of South Korea and Japan, it quells the tensions across the Taiwan Straits, it keeps the seaways open, bolsters the counter-terrorism operations of countries such as Indonesia, and even, in a less direct fashion, has added ballast to Australia’s life-saving interventions in East Timor and the Solomon Islands. And when natural disasters, such as the Boxing Day tsunami strike, the region looks automatically to Washington, not Beijing, for assistance.”

Indonesia – NIMBY, or “not in my backyard,” says an editorial in the Jakarta Postof stationing U.S. troops in northern Australia.

“The presence of the U.S. base just south of Indonesia is simply too close for comfort. … there are many fruitful and less threatening ways of increasing U.S. engagement other than building a greater military presence.”

China – “Is there any country in the region that wants the United States to be its leader?” asks Wei Jianhua in China’s state-run Xinhua news. The provided answer: “No.”

“It’s hard to envision what kind of ‘leadership’ the United States aspires to have in the region. What the region really needs – right now – is a strong and reliable partner that can help the region stave off the current financial crisis and seek balanced and sustained growth.”

Japan – “Tokyo and Washington are concerned about how to respond to Beijing,” says an editorial in the Tokyo-based Yomiuri Shimbun.

“China has been rapidly enhancing its influence and becoming more assertive, increasing frictions with other countries in the South China Sea. To lead China in the direction of complying with international rules and working together with its neighbors in the medium and long term, Japan and the United States must closely cooperate with South Korea, Australia and Southeast Asian countries.”

Saudi Arabia — “Really?” asks an editorial in the Jeddah-based Arab News of President Obama saying the Pacific is the top priority.

“The Asia Pacific region is more important than the Middle East with all its crises? More important than solving the Palestinian-Israeli issue? More important than famine and political instability in the Horn of Africa and the dangers of it becoming a hub of international terrorism? More important than the nuclear ambitions that the U.S. is convinced Iran harbors?”

Australia –Sydney Morning Herald editorial says stationing U.S. Marines in Australia is “a significant turn in the direction of Australia’s foreign policy.” While Australia “had been negotiating a potentially tricky course part-way between” the U.S. and China, the “helm has now been turned decisively to one side.”

“Australia would have had much to gain from keeping to its middle course between two great powers. Having taken sides early, though, we have taken a risk. We will find out in coming years how much was at stake in that premature decision.”

China— “Americans should realize that neither side would win in a trade war and must prevent the Obama administration from taking any rash decision,” writes Deng Yuwen in the China Daily.  President Obama, the U.S. Congress and Republican Presidential candidates have in recent weeks sought to pressure China over its currency policy, claiming the yuan is undervalued.

“Many of the goods China exports to the U.S. are inexpensive daily necessities and favored by Americans because of their low prices. Therefore, if the yuan’s value increases by 30 percent, the majority of Americans’ cost of living could go up by a similar percentage.”

Posted by:  

Early in his term, President Obama was too deferential to China. On his Asia trip last week, he sent a clear message that this country is not ceding anything in the Pacific. That is good news.

New York Times EDITORIAL Published November 19th, printed in the November 20, 2011, paper.

President Obama in Asia.

Like President George W. Bush, Mr. Obama’s preference is to engage Beijing in international organizations and agreements in hopes that will encourage China’s leaders to behave more responsibly. It is a sound long-range strategy. But China has made clear that without serious and sustained push-back, it will use its economic and military clout to bully and intimidate its neighbors.

The most brazen example is its broad claim to energy reserves in the South China Sea that are also claimed by five other countries. On Friday, Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, said at an Asian summit meeting that “outside forces” had no right to get involved in the dispute.

On his trip, Mr. Obama insisted he would “seek more opportunities for cooperation with Beijing.” But he also made clear that his patience has limits, at one point saying that China has now “grown up” and should act responsibly in its trade and currency practices.

In Australia, he announced an agreement to deploy 2,500 Marines plus naval ships and aircraft to a base in Darwin starting next year. That is not a huge number, but it is a pointed symbol of America’s interest.

At the same time, we were concerned by Mr. Obama’s declaration to Australia’s Parliament that budget reductions “will not — I repeat, will not — come at the expense of the Asia-Pacific.” Allies, of course, need to hear that. But any new mission in Asia cannot become another excuse for Pentagon planners to avoid making needed cuts.

On his trip, the president also rightly championed the benefits of freer trade — a position made more credible after Congress finally passed the trade deal with South Korea. His push to negotiate a trade deal with eight other Pacific Rim countries is important. He must keep reminding Beijing that it is welcome to join if it makes the necessary economic reforms.

What the United States should not do is overreach. Beijing already suspects that the real American goal is to “contain” its power. Washington must be transparent about its dealings and consult and include China when possible. American and Chinese political leaders have a regular dialogue. The Pentagon needs to do more to cultivate relationships with its resistant counterparts.

Dealing with a rising China requires a deft hand and a willingness to push back when Beijing oversteps. Being there is a big part of it.


Posted on on September 29th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (


The increasing demand for ecotourism can play a vital role in saving endangered forests, a United Nations-backed partnership said today, while also warning of the potential damaging effects if its expansion is not effectively managed.

According to the findings of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), which consists of 14 international organizations and secretariats, including the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the benefits of ecotourism flowing to local businesses are dramatically higher than those from mass tourism, providing an incentive to local communities to take care of their environment.

“Ecotourism has a far greater potential for contributing to income and livelihoods in poor rural communities than what is realized,” said FAO’s Edgar Kaeslin, a forestry officer in wildlife and protected area management.

The CPF found that standard all-inclusive package tours typically deliver just 20 per cent of revenue to local companies, while the rest is captured by airlines, hotels and large tour companies. Local ecotourism operations, however, can return as much as 95 per cent of earnings into the local economy.

The CPF also noted that ecotourism can motivate local communities to maintain and protect forests and wildlife as they see their income directly linked to the preservation of their environment.

However, it warned that ecotourism could damage forests if it grows too quickly and its expansion is mismanaged.

According to a news release by FAO, ecotourism is one of the fastest segments of tourism worldwide, growing at a pace of more than 20 per cent annually – two or three times faster than the tourism industry overall, and failure to limit tourists can permanently damage fragile ecosystems.

This rapid growth can have negative effects, as there is the risk that powerful players in the travel industry may seek to dominate and squeeze out smaller local operators, resulting in the disruption of local economies and ecosystems.

The CPF stressed that to avoid this, training for local people is essential to ensure they can compete successfully for desirable ecotourism jobs.

“It is crucial that local people are fully involved in the activities and receive sufficient benefits,” Mr. Kaeslin said.

Several sustainable ecotourism programmes such as the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) have already had successful results. By involving the local communities in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the gorilla population is rising in numbers.

“There is no question that is a direct result of the careful commitment to responsible tourism in East Africa that respects the gorillas and their habitat,” said GRASP coordinator Doug Cress.

* * *


Conserving key forests in Indonesia could generate billions of dollars in revenue, up to three times more than felling them for palm oil plantations, under a United Nations carbon reduction plan that would also secure water supplies and protect critically endangered orangutan apes, according to a report issued today.

Under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), governments are negotiating a mechanism to provide payments for reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and other activities (REDD+), creating incentives for developing countries to cut global warming gasses from forested lands by putting a financial value for the carbon stored in forests.

Overall forest degradation through agricultural expansion, conversion to pastureland, infrastructure development, destructive logging and fires currently account for nearly 18 per cent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, more than the entire global transport sector and second only to the energy sector.

Many coastal peat-rich forests in Sumatra, where dense populations of the last 6,600 Sumatran orangutans survive, may be worth up to $22,000 a hectare at current carbon prices, compared with less than $7,400 a hectare when cleared for palm oil plantations, according to the report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) under its Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP), which Indonesia requested.

“Prioritizing investments in sustainable forestry including REDD+ projects can, as this report demonstrates, deliver multiple Green Economy benefits and not just in respect to climate, orangutan conservation and employment in natural resource management,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said.

He noted that here had been a reported 50 per cent decline in water discharges in as many as 80 per cent of rivers due to deforestation in the Aceh and North Sumatra regions, with serious implications for agriculture and food security including rice production and human health.

The report recommends designating new forested areas for REDD+, taking into account the multiple benefits for carbon storage, orangutan habitat conservation and the protection of ecosystem services, while expanding palm oil plantations on land with low current use value and avoiding agricultural and timber concessions where conservation value is high.

The forested peatlands of Sumatra are among the most efficient carbon stores of any terrestrial ecosystem. In the last two decades, 380,000 hectares of Sumatran forests were lost to illegal logging each year, with an annual loss in carbon value estimated at more than $1 billion.

Nearly half of Sumatra’s forests disappeared between 1985 and 2007 and in the last decade, close to 80 per cent of the deforestation in the peatlands was driven by the expansion of oil palm plantations, while over 20 per cent was due to other uses, such as candlenut or coffee production.

Fewer than 6,600 Sumatran orangutans exist in the wild today, down from an estimated 85,000 in 1900, a 92 per cent drop. If this rate were to continue, the Sumatran orangutan could become the first of the great apes living today to go extinct in the wild, with local populations in parts of Sumatra disappearing as early as 2015.


Posted on on July 6th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (

Clean Energy Solutions

this from: UN-Energy   – .

On  Accelerating the transition to clean energy technologies Issue 2 of UN Energy Newsletter tells about the
Clean Energy Ministerial that was initiated At the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference of parties in Copenhagen in December 2009.

There Secretary Chu announced that he would host the first Clean Energy Ministerial to bring together ministers with responsibility for clean energy technologies from the world’s major economies and from a select number of smaller countries that are leading in various areas of clean energy.
By working together, these governments can accomplish more than by working alone, he said.

We are intrigued by the list of participating countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, the European Commission, Finland, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Norway, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

That is the EU countries, Australia, Canada, Norway, the US, Korea, and Japan – that is the old OECD countries – plus the UAE and the new big seven  growing economies – Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico,  Russia, South Africa.

These States account for more than 80 percent of global energy consumption and pollution, and as well a  similar percentage of the market for clean energy technologies. Our argument is that if anything happened in Copenhagen in December 2009, it is that the concept of trying to chase an agreement of 192 government has been replaced by a practical approach of communicating with the 80% that includes the major energy users – historic as well as future polluters. It shall be hoped that a cooperation in their own self interest, between the industries and governments of these countries, can move the issues from their present dead point. After all – much has been achieved already in individual cases – the only problem being that when the 192 come together – rhetoric gets the day and agreements are very sparse.

The participation of the UAE – a federation that two of its members are already involved in financing development of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies – though still  oil exporting in good standing with OPEC – makes sure that oil countries, not just Norway, are also participating in these efforts. Also, talking about oil production as a major part of their economies – this clearly extends to the post OECD countries – Brazil, Mexico and Russia.

The material states: The Clean Energy Ministerial is a high-level global forum to promote policies and programs that advance clean energy technology, to share lessons learned and best practices, and to encourage the transition to a global clean energy economy. Initiatives are based on areas of common interest among participating governments and other stakeholders.

Also: The world is on the cusp of a clean energy revolution. Some new technologies can help provide clean energy by harnessing the power of the sun, wind and other renewable resources. Other technologies can enable more efficient use of energy in buildings, industry and vehicles. These technologies, when coupled with supportive policies, can significantly reduce carbon pollution from traditional fossil fuels, improve local air quality, create jobs, enhance energy security and provide improved access to energy around the world. Yet barriers to the adoption of clean energy technologies abound, and the cost of some technologies remains high. By working together, governments and other stakeholders can overcome barriers and advance the market adoption of clean energy technologies.

Seemingly – at least US based initiatives are already in place.

These CEM initiatives are focused on three global climate and energy policy goals:

(1) Improve energy efficiency worldwide through the Global Energy Efficiency Challenge,

(2) Enhance clean energy supply,

and (3) Expand clean energy access.


Posted on on May 30th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (

On Monday May 24, 2011, while Prime Minister Netanyahu was speaking at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, and nobody of that organization was speaking of President Barack Hussein Obama anymore, the Irish were laying claim to yet another White House occupant, Brack O’Bama – a distant relative also of such US Republicans of geopolitical  views AIPAC seems to prefer – George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

The papers reported about Henry the Eighth – that is the 26 years young Henry Healy who is eighth cousin of the 44th President of the United States – Mr. Barack Obaman who cooperated with the local police and led 16 out of the 100 folks who claim relationship to meet with the President.

Olie Hayes, who happens to be 44, is the owner of the Monegall Pub, rechristened “O’Bama’s Irish Pub” for the day – is the social center of this 296 people village in the geographical center of Ireland. For the day the village grew to 3,000 people. Love was flowing like the pints of beer and the First Lady was told in pure Irish spirit: “You Look LOVELY!

Obama’s great-great-great grandfather, Falmouth Kearney, was a shoemaker in Moneygall and left for the United States in 1850 at the hight of Ireland’s Great Famine for which the Queen of England took finally official responsibility in her visit to Ireland just a week earlier.

We seem to remember Moneygall (a great name) having passed by years ago. I way even have had a pint at the pub. Now everyone going there will have the chance of seeing President Obama’s bust sitting on the bar and the village will never climb down from this high point. We are sure that similar places will stay for posterity also in Kenya and Indonesia – and the US is better off with a multi-cultural President when compared to some of his predecessors who had no understanding for the world raging out there.


Above was just the spicy introduction to some further meaty topic:
Government debt in the United States, including state and local governments, is not far behind Ireland’s as a percentage of the nation’s economy. The figures usually given for the US do not include money borrowed from other government accounts, such as the Social Security Trust Fund. When one adds these the US is clearly just in such a bad position as Ireland with the one difference – the US prints the money that Ireland cannot do. Oh well – we plan some more postings on these topics.

Obama can learn from Ireland’s ‘tough slog’ of austerity.
By Richard Wolf, USA TODAY, May 24, 2011.

The Ireland that President Obama visits for the first time today is down on its luck and therein lies a lesson for the United States.

Gone is the economic boom that transformed Ireland over the past decade. In its place: crushing government austerity measures following a sovereign debt crisis that required an embarrassing bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

Jobs have been jettisoned, salaries slashed, pensions and health benefits reduced. Unemployment hovers near 15%. The economy, which shrank 8% in 2009 and 1% in 2010, is barely back in the black and the government is paying 5.8% interest on its bailout loans.

With Greece and Portugal struggling under their own debt burdens and bailout packages, the 17-nation eurozone has put the brakes on government stimulus measures that were needed to climb out of the 2008 global financial crisis. They’re doing what the United States has yet to do cutting back.

“It’s a tough, tough slog,” says Michael Collins, the Irish ambassador to the U.S. “Everybody has had to take a share of pain.”

The austere times shared by Great Britain, which is not a member of the eurozone but has begun a program of deficit reduction can’t be good for the U.S. economy, either. Collectively, Europe is America’s biggest trading partner.

Financial experts and credit-ratings agencies say the mess is a warning for Obama and Washington lawmakers: Get your fiscal house in order or risk the same fate.

“In the United States, there’s more time than the Irish had,” says Moody’s senior credit officer Steven Hess. “But certainly, what has happened in Ireland is a demonstration of the kinds of pressures that the U.S. faces over the long term.”

Although Ireland’s debt crisis was caused by a housing bust and credit meltdown far worse and more poorly managed than the U.S. version, there is one haunting similarity: government debt, counting what’s owed by state and local governments, is in the same ballpark.

“How much worse does it get if instead of taking care of the problem yourself, you allow the problem to take care of you?” says Joseph Minarik, senior vice president at the Committee for Economic Development.

“Ireland got to the latter point. They had the situation rubbed in their faces,” he says.

Ireland’s debt was about 25% of its economy before the housing and credit bust prompted the government to bail out the banks. Now it’s 112% and rising.

“The banks ripped us off. The government ripped us off,” says Paddy Quigley, 56, a resident of Moneygall, Obama’s ancestral home. “Our economy is down, and we need something to boost us.”

The cutbacks are a heavy tax on Ireland’s 4.5 million people. “Adjusting one’s economy in the wake of a crisis inevitably entails a decline in the standard of living,” says Bruce Stokes, a trans-Atlantic economics scholar at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

Even while visiting tiny Moneygall (pop. 296) and speaking at a raucous rock concert in Dublin, Obama is sure to see signs of Ireland’s decline. Experts hope it makes an impression on him.

“This will be an important chance for the president to see what this has done, politically, socially and economically,” says Heather Conley, director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. She cites the rise of nationalist, populist and anti-immigration groups.

Obama might rather study Ireland’s pro-business environment its 12.5% corporate tax rate is a major attraction. But some European officials have argued that the low rate should be raised to provide more revenue. Obama, caught in the middle, may sidestep the issue.

As Europe headed toward austerity in 2010, the Obama administration was still calling for fiscal stimulus measures on both sides of the Atlantic.

Today, not so much. The White House and congressional leaders are seeking ways to reduce a $1.4 trillion budget deficit just to win passage of an increase in the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.

“I think we’re all talking the same language,” says Nigel Sheinwald, British ambassador to the United States.

Not a moment too soon, say ratings agency officials. When Standard & Poor’s said last month that its top (AAA) rating on U.S. debt was at risk, that was a signal that policymakers must get their act together.

European nations are cutting back and “that’s a striking contrast to where the debate still is in the United States,” says David Beers, S&P’s global head of sovereign ratings. “It seems to us that it requires leadership … and a kind of sustained effort to explain to voters what the choices are.”


Posted on on May 11th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) says it has a membership of 57 States on four continents with a total population of 1.3 billion people. Having seen its map we realize it has also at least three “blocked States” – India, Thailand, and The Philippines  though it has the Moro National Liberation Front as an observer State, a withdrawn State – Zimbabwe, and at least one non-State – Israel that was replaced by Palestine as a member State. Cote d’Ivoire was the last member to enter – it joined in 2001. Russia became an Observer in 2005.

Afghanistan was suspended during the years of Soviet occupation 1980 – March 1989 and Egypt, the fifth largest Islamic population, was suspended May 1979 – March 1984 when it tried for peace in the Middle East.

The organisation attempts to be the collective voice of the Muslim world (Ummah) and the official languages of the organisation are ArabicEnglish, and French.

The flag of the OIC has an overall green background (symbolic of Islam). In the centre, there is an upward-facing red crescent enveloped in a white disc. On the disc the words “Allahu Akbar” (Arabic for “The Almighty God”) are written in Arabic calligraphy.


The OIC attracted attention at the opening session of the meeting in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on 16 October 2003, where Prime MinisterMahathir Mohamad of Malaysia in his speech argued that the Jews control the world: “They invented socialismcommunismhuman rights, and democracy, so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so that they can enjoy equal rights with others. With these they have gained control of the most powerful countries and they, this tiny community, have become a world power.” He also said that “the Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million, but today the Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.” The speech was very well received by the delegates, including many high ranking politicians, who responded with standing ovations.”

India, a country that has 161 million Muslim, only Indonesia with 203 million and Pakistan with 174 million have larger Muslim populations then India, was not welcome even as an observer to OIC – this because of its conflict with Pakistan where India would like to have a referendum of the local population as a means to decide the future of Kashmir.

Most OIC member countries are non-democratic. There are no OIC countries which are rated as a “Full Democracy” under the Democracy Index guidelines, and only 3 of the 57 members are rated as high as a “Flawed Democracy.” The rest are rated either an “Authoritarian Regime” or a “Hybrid Regime.”

Only 3 OIC member states were rated as Free in the Freedom in the World report in 2010 based on Political Rights and Civil Liberties in the member countries.

Reporters Without Borders in its 2011 Press Freedom Index rated only Mali and Suriname among the OIC members as having a Satisfactory Situation. All other members had worse ratings ranging from Noticeable Problems to Very Serious Situation.

Freedom of religion is severely restricted in most OIC member states. In 2009, the US Department of State cited OIC members Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan as being Countries of Particular Concern, where religious freedom is severely violated.

On August 5, 1990, 45 foreign ministers of the OIC adopted the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam to serve as a guidance for the member states in the matters of human rights in as much as they are compatible with the Sharia, or Quranic Law… )

OIC created the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam. While proponents claim it is not an alternative to the UDHR, but rather complementary, Article 24 states, “All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Shari’ah.” and Article 25 follows that with “The Islamic Shari’ah is the only source of reference for the explanation or clarification of any of the articles of this Declaration.” Attempts to have it adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council have met increasing criticism, because of its contradiction of the UDHR, including from liberal Muslim groups.  Critics of the CDHR state bluntly that it is “manipulation and hypocrisy,” “designed to dilute, if not altogether eliminate, civil and political rights protected by international law” and attempts to “circumvent these principles [of freedom and equality].”

Human Rights Watch says that OIC has “fought doggedly” and successfully within the United Nations Human Rights Council to shield states from criticism, except when it comes to criticism of Israel. For example, when independent experts reported violations of human rights in the 2006 Lebanon War, “state after state from the OIC took the floor to denounce the experts for daring to look beyond Israeli violations to discuss Hezbollah’s as well.” OIC demands that the council “should work cooperatively with abusive governments rather than condemn them.” HRW responds that this works only with those who are willing to cooperate; others exploit the passivity.

The OIC has been criticised for diverting its activities solely on Muslim minorities within majority non-Muslim countries but putting a taboo on the plight, the treatment of ethnic minorities within Muslim-majority countries, such as the oppression of the Kurds in Syria, the Ahwaz inIran, the Hazars in Afghanistan, the Baluchis in Pakistan, the ‘Al-Akhdam‘ in Yemen, or the Berbers in Algeria.

The formation of the OIC happened shortly after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Leaders of Muslim nations met in Rabat to establish the OIC on September 25, 1969.

OIC is run out of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, its first Secretary General was Tunku Abdul Ramman of Malaysia (1971-1973) and its current Secretary General, since 2005, is Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu of Turkey.…

We found the following map of substantial interest for understanding if there is a realistic chance for change in the Arab world and in the Islamic world at large.

Much of the attention of observers of UN debates on terrorism was on how Contradictions between OIC’s and other U.N. member’s understanding of terrorism has stymied efforts at the U.N. to produce a comprehensive convention on international terrorism. The world must be reassured that new leaderships of Islamic States will not equivocate on terrorism – whatever true sentiments they may harbor – it is important to agree that terrorism is not an acceptable tool for attainment of political goals.

The list of OIC Member States: Afghanistan · Albania · Algeria · Azerbaijan · Bahrain · Bangladesh · Benin · Burkina Faso · Brunei ·

 Cameroon · Chad · Comoros · Côted’ Ivoire · Djibouti · Egypt · Gabon · Gambia · Guinea · 
Guinea Bissau · Guyana · Indonesia · Iran · Iraq ·
 Jordan · Kuwait ·Kazakhstan · Kyrgyzstan · Lebanon · Libya · 

Maldives · Malaysia · Mali · Mauritania · Morocco · Mozambique · Niger · Nigeria ·Oman · Pakistan · 

Palestine · Qatar · Saudi Arabia · Senegal · SierraLeone ·

 Somalia · Sudan · Suriname · Syria · Tajikistan ·Turkey · Tunisia · Togo · Turkmenistan · Uganda · 

Uzbekistan · United Arab Emirates · Yemen

The Observers are: Bosnia and Herzegovina · Central African Republic · Russia · Thailand · Northern Cyprus (asTurkish Cypriot State), Moro National Liberation Front, Russia.


Posted on on May 6th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (


Uri Avnery

Tel Aviv, May 7, 2011


                                             “Rejoice Not…”


“REJOICE NOT when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth, / Lest the Lord see [it], and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.”.


This is one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible (Proverbs 24:17-18), and indeed in the Hebrew language. It is beautiful in other languages , too, though no translation comes close to the beauty of the original.


Of course, it is natural to be glad when one’s enemy is defeated, and the thirst for revenge is a human trait. But gloating – schadenfreude – is something different altogether. An ugly thing.


Ancient Hebrew legend has it that God got very angry when the Children of Israel rejoiced as their Egyptian pursuers drowned in the Red Sea. “My creatures are drowning in the sea,” God admonished them, “And you are singing?”


These thoughts crossed my mind when I saw the TV shots of jubilant crowds of young Americans shouting and dancing in the street. Natural, but unseemly. The contorted faces and the aggressive body language were no different from those of crowds in Sudan or Somalia. The ugly sides of human nature seem to be the same everywhere.



THE REJOICING may be premature. Most probably, al-Qaeda did not die with Osama bin-Laden. The effect may be entirely different.


In 1942 the British killed Abraham Stern, whom they called a terrorist. Stern, whose nom de guerre was Ya’ir, was hiding in a cupboard in an apartment in Tel Aviv. In his case too, it was the movements of his courier that gave him away. After making sure that he was the right man, the British police officer in command shot him dead.


That was not the end of his group – rather, a new beginning. It became the bane of British rule in Palestine. Known as the “Stern Gang” (its real name was “Fighters for the Freedom of Israel”), it carried out the most daring attacks on British installations and played a significant role in persuading the colonial power to leave the country.   


Hamas did not die when the Israeli air force killed Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the paralyzed founder, ideologue and symbol of Hamas. As a martyr he was far more effective than as a living leader. His martyrdom attracted many new fighters to the cause. Killing a person does not kill an idea. The Christians even took the cross as their symbol.



WHAT WAS the idea that turned Osama bin Laden into a world figure?


He preached the restoration of the Caliphate of the early Muslim centuries, which was not only a huge empire, but also a center of the sciences and the arts, poetry and literature, when Europe was still a barbaric, medieval continent. Every Arab child learns about these glories, and cannot but contrast them with the sorry Muslim present.


(In a way, these longings parallel the Zionist romantics’ dreams of a resurrected kingdom of David and Solomon.)


A new Caliphate in the 21st century is as unlikely as the wildest creation of the imagination. It would have been diametrically opposed to the Zeitgeist, were it not for its opponents – the Americans. They needed this dream – or nightmare – more than the Muslims themselves.


The American Empire always needs an antagonist to keep it together and to focus its energies. This has to be a worldwide enemy, a sinister advocate of an evil philosophy.


Such were the Nazis and Imperial Japan, but they did not last long. Fortunately, there was then the Communist Empire, which filled the role admirably.


There were Communists everywhere. All of them were plotting the downfall of freedom, democracy and the United States of America. They were even lurking inside the US, as
J. Edgar Hoover and  Senator Joe McCarthy so convincingly demonstrated.


For decades, the US flourished in the fight against the Red Menace; its forces spread all over the world, its spaceships reached the moon, its best minds engaged in a titanic battle of ideas, the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness.   


And then – suddenly – the whole thing collapsed. Soviet power vanished as if it had never existed. The American spy agencies, with their tremendous capabilities, were flabbergasted. Apparently, they had no idea how ramshackle the Soviet structure actually was. How could they see, blinded as they were by their own ideological preconceptions?


The disappearance of the Communist Threat left a gaping void in the American psyche, which cried out to be filled. Osama Bin Laden kindly offered his services.


It needed, of course, a world-shaking event to lend credibility to such a hare-brained utopia. The 9/11 outrage was just such an event. It produced many changes in the American way of life. And a new global enemy.


Overnight, medieval anti-Islamic prejudices are dusted-off for display. Islam the terrible, the murderous, the fanatical. Islam the anti-democratic, the anti-freedom, anti-all-our-values. . . Suicide bombers, 72 virgins, jihad.


The US springs to life again. Soldiers, spies and special forces fan out across the globe to fight terrorism. Bin Laden is everywhere. The War Against Terrorism is an apocalyptic struggle with Satan.


American freedoms have to be restricted, the US military machine grows by leaps and bounds. Power-hungry Intellectuals babble about the Clash of Civilizations and sell their souls for instant celebrity.


To produce the lurid paint for such a twisted picture of reality, religious Islamic groups are all thrown into the  same pot – the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Ayatollahs in Iran, Hizbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, Indonesian separatists, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere, whoever. All become al-Qaeda, despite the fact that each has a totally different agenda, focused on its own country, while bin Laden aims to abolish all Muslim states and create one Holy Islamic Empire. . . Details, details.


The Holy War against the Jihad finds warriors everywhere. Ambitious demagogues, for whom this promises an easy way to inflame the masses, spring up in many countries, from France to Finland, from Holland to Italy. The hysteria of Islamophobia displaces good old anti-Semitism, using almost the same language. Tyrannical regimes present themselves as bulwarks against al-Qaeda, as they had once presented themselves as bulwarks against Communism. And, of course, our own Binyamin Netanyahu milks the situation for all it is worth,  traveling from capital to capital peddling his wares of anti-Islamism.


Bin Laden had good reason to be proud, and probably was.



WHEN I saw his picture for the first time, I joked that he was not a real person, but an actor straight from Hollywood’s Central Casting. He looked too good to be true – exactly as he would appear in a Hollywood movie – a handsome man, with a long black beard, posing with a Kalashnikov. His appearances on TV were carefully staged.


Actually, he was a very incompetent  terrorist, a real amateur. No genuine terrorist would have lived in a conspicuous villa, which stood out in the landscape like a sore thumb. Stern was hiding in a small roof apartment in a squalid quarter of Tel Aviv. Menachem Begin lived with his wife and son in a very modest ground floor apartment, playing the role of a reclusive rabbi.


Bin Laden’s villa was bound to attract the attention of neighbors and other people. They would have been curious about this mysterious stranger in their midst. Actually, he should have been discovered long  ago. He was unarmed and did not put up a fight. The decision to kill him on the spot and dump his body into [or “in”] the sea was evidently taken long before.


So there is no grave, no holy tomb. But for millions of Muslims, and especially Arabs, he was and remains a source of pride, an Arab hero, the ”[]“lion of lions” as a preacher in Jerusalem called him. Almost no one dared to come out and say so openly, for fear of the Americans, but even those who thought his ideas impractical and his actions harmful respected him in their heart.


Does that mean that al-Qaeda has a future? I don’t think so. It belongs to the past – not because bin Laden has been killed, but because his central idea is obsolete.


The Arab Spring embodies a new set of ideals, a new enthusiasm, one that does not glorify and hanker after a distant past but looks boldly to the future. The young men and women of Tahrir Square, with their longing for freedom, have consigned bin Laden to history, months before his physical death. His philosophy has a future only if the Arab Awakening fails completely and leaves behind a profound sense of disappointment and despair.


In the Western world, few will mourn him, but God forbid that anyone should gloat.


Arabian Business website reports – Five days after the killing of Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda confirms bin Laden death, vows to continue attacks, and quotes them by saying:

“In a historic day the Islamic nation … the mujahid (holy warrior) Sheikh Abu Abdullah, Osama bin Mohammed bin Laden, God have mercy on him, was killed on the path taken by those before him and will be taken by those after him.”

“Congratulations to the Islamic umma (community) for the martyrdom of its son Osama.”


But also carried:

Arab revolts turn bin Laden death into bloody footnote.

Osama bin Laden, slain by US forces in Pakistan on Sunday, seems curiously irrelevant in an Arab world fired by popular revolt against oppressive leaders.

“Bin Laden is just a bad memory,” said Nadim Houry, of Human Rights Watch, in Beirut. “The region has moved way beyond that, with massive broad-based upheavals that are game-changers.”

The al Qaeda leader’s bloody attacks, especially those of September 11, 2001, once resonated among some Arabs who saw them as grim vengeance for perceived indignities heaped upon them by the United States, Israel and their own American-backed leaders.

Bin Laden had dreamed that his global Islamist jihad would inspire Muslims to overthrow pro-Western governments, notably in Saudi Arabia, the homeland which revoked his citizenship.

He espoused jihad largely in anger at what he viewed as the occupation of Muslim lands by foreign “infidel” forces — the Russians in Afghanistan, the Americans in Saudi Arabia in the 1990 Gulf crisis, or the Israelis in Palestine.

But al Qaeda’s indiscriminate violence never galvanised Arab masses, while his networks came under severe pressure from Arab governments helping Western counter-terrorism efforts.

“Bin Laden’s brand of defiance in the early days probably excited some imaginations, but the senseless acts of violence destroyed any appeal he had,” Houry said.

Nowhere was this change of heart more marked than in Iraq, where anger at Muslim casualties inflicted by al Qaeda suicide bombings – and the Shi’ite sectarian backlash they provoked –  eventually drove Sunni tribesmen to ally with the Americans.

Popular sympathy for al Qaeda also evaporated in Saudi Arabia after a series of indiscriminate attacks in 2003-06.

If the ideological appeal of bin Laden and his Egyptian deputy Ayman al-Zawahri, who advocated the restoration of an Islamic caliphate, was already fading, the pro-democracy uprisings across the Arab world have further diminished it.

“At some stage Arab public opinion looked on bin Laden as a hope to end this kind of discrimination, the West’s way of dealing with Muslim and Arab nations, but now these nations are saying, we will do the change ourselves, we don’t need anyone to speak on our behalf,” said Mahjoob Zweiri, of Qatar University.

He said bin Laden’s killing would affect only a few who still believe in his path of maximising pain on the West.

“The majority of Muslim and Arab nations have their own choice. They are moving towards modern civil societies,” Zweiri argued. “People believe in gradual change, civil change, they don’t want violence, even against the leaders who crushed them.”

Peaceful Arab protests have already toppled autocrats in Egypt and Tunisia and are threatening the leaders of Yemen and Syria, while a popular revolt against Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi has turned into a civil war with Western military intervention.

These dramas appear to have shocked al Qaeda almost into silence. Even its most active branch, the Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has mounted no big attacks during months of popular unrest against President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Martin Indyk, a former US assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, described bin Laden’s death as “a body blow” to al Qaeda at a time when its ideology was already being undercut by the popular revolutions in the Arab world.

“Their narrative is that violence and terrorism is the way to redeem Arab dignity and rights. What the people in the streets across the Arab world are doing is redeeming their rights and their dignity through peaceful, non-violent protests – the exact opposite of what al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden have been preaching,” said Indyk, now at the Brookings Institution.

“He hasn’t managed to overthrow any government, and they are overthrowing one after the other. I would say that the combination of the two puts al Qaeda in real crisis.”

Bin Laden may have become a marginal figure in the Arab world, but the discontent he tapped into still exists.

“The underlying reasons why people turn to these kinds of violent, criminal, terroristic movements are still there,” said Beirut-based commentator Rami Khouri, alluding to the “anger and humiliation of people who feel that Western countries, their own Arab leaders or Israel treat them with disdain”.

Nevertheless, he predicted a continued slide in al Qaeda’s fortunes, particularly as US troop withdrawals from Iraq and later from Afghanistan remove potent sources of resentment.

“The Arab spring is certainly a sign that the overwhelming majority of Arabs, as we have known all along, repudiated bin Laden,” Khouri said. “He and Zawahri tried desperately to get traction among the Arab masses, but it just never worked.

“People who followed him would be those who would form little secret cells and go off to Afghanistan, but the vast majority of people rejected his message.

“What Arabs want is what they are fighting for now, which is more human rights, dignity and democratic government.”




Posted on on December 6th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Looking at the Monday December 6th world news in the media, and with the Fareed Zakaria program of yesterday still in our ears, we thought a Global Reality Check is in place – this in the sense of what are the real global power divisions in a world that pushes towards 7 billion people and in which the financial reserves have moved from the traditional North-Atlantic safety-pin towards the new Billionaires of China and India, and further two new supper blocks in the making.

Thinking of the 192 plus seats in the UN glass building, the unclear cohesion in Europe, the unclean evolution in the Islamic world, the need of something really new to take over the “Rest-of-the- World,” and the re-emergence of honesty thanks to the WikiLeaks – hear is our suggestions of what the WORLD is really like:

According to the International Programs Center, U.S. Census Bureau, the total population of the World, projected to 12/06/10 – that is right today –  is 6,886,109,339 people.

Of above 1,34 billion potential producers and consumers live in China – that is 19.5% of the total and another 1,19 billion or 17.3% of the total live in India. We have thus 36.8% of the world population in just two competing eastern countries that posses nuclear know-how and enough nuclear arms to be viewed as no push-overs by the old Western powers. They have a growing middle class and strong political systems. They have increasing numbers of billionaires in the Forbes list and in every further world grouping to be entitled to sit at the same table with China and India must be of the billion people size. Just please forget the old United Nations Security Council. It is a joke in real power terms.

Who are the other Four States or rather cohesive groupings that can sit at their new table?

I will suggest the following:

(1) a new Anglo-Saxon group led by the United States (4.52% of World Population) and including the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and perhaps also two further outsiders – Japan and Mexico – whose economies got enmeshed with the US. In total figures – this will still be the smallest group.

(2) a new Christian Eurasian Union that will stretch from the Iberian Peninsula to the Kamchatka Peninsula. This group is led by an economic alliance axis linking Germany and Russia (2.06% of World Population) – will be multi-lingual but use the English language as uniter. In effect this group will be the fulfillment of the EU ideal – post Cold-War – after it becomes clear to the present members that there is no way they can continue with a monetary union  that is not supported by economic reality. It is not the spread of a similar concept of democracy that is the most crucial component here as per US post-WWII era – it is rather the availability of primary materials and the evolution of a middle class in Russia that will push for the incorporation of Russia into the EU, and eventually agreements that will bring Russia to join also the EURO and let Germany help carry along the weaker members in agreement with Russia. This new union is not a labor of love – but clearly the understanding that without doing so, as individual entities, they have no place at the table. Occupying now three seats out of five at the UN Security Council, Europe has retained furniture but lost relevance.

(3) an Islamic billion people bloc led by non-Arab Turkey and Indonesia. This group will not have a common currency, but will find ways to form a new sort of representative council to lead in term of economics and external policy. The cement is religious and the push for some sort of unity will be from bellow. The government, as WikiLeaks teach us, that did not act in the interest of the people – in order to survive – will start cooperating and carve themselves a seat at the table.

(4) to complete the six-sided table, we expect Brazil (2.82% 0f World Population) to move into the last available billionaire position and represent Latin America and the Sub-Saharan Africa region. Brazil has also the potential to absorb into its loser knit Group-of-the Rest the Pacific States, the Caribbean States, and whatever is left of South-East Asia after attachment have been created by links of some of the States to one or the other of the other five groups.

We would be interested in receiving reactions to the above.