Thursday, June 02, 2011

2-Jun-11: Notes from around the neighborhood

Living in proximity to neighbors, particularly those with a propensity for acts of terror against their own populations as well as ours, gets you fixated in what is happening over there. Today's very subjective selection.

Syrian Forces Shell Town, Kill 41 Khaled Oweis [Yesterday]
Syrian forces killed 41 civilians in Rastan on Tuesday in an effort to crush pro-democracy protests, human rights lawyer Razan Zaitouna said on Wednesday. Syrian forces also killed nine civilians on Tuesday in the town of Hirak, rights campaigner Ammar Qurabi said on Wednesday. (Reuters)
Egypt Revolution Leaves Sinai Increasingly Lawless Tim Whewell [yesterday]
Twice during the few days I spent in el-Arish, roads were blocked by armed Bedouin intent on avenging the kidnap of members of their clan by a rival tribe. After several days, I was allowed to visit the border with Gaza, but I went a little further, travelling down back roads, to visit an arms dealer. Between 2000 and 2007, he says, he was one of five smugglers in charge of the arms trade in Sinai, each of them making four or five deals a month, each involving between 200 and 400 guns. The main source was Sudan, the main market Gaza. Now, he says, it has all changed. Gaza has all the guns it needs, and Hamas can manufacture its own rockets. The market now is internal, within Sinai. "Because of the revolution," he says, "there are no police anymore."  (BBC News
Next week's 'Third Intifada' events Bulletin of the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center [Today]
A group using Facebook and calling itself "the third intifada," posted its plan for activities lasting from June 3 to June 7 (Facebook, May 24, 2011):
June 3: Masses of people throughout the Muslim world (including Judea and Samaria) are supposed to pray and call for the liberation of Jerusalem and Palestine. Marches are supposed to be organized to Al-Aqsa mosque and the churches in Jerusalem. Should the marches be prevented from reaching their destinations, prayers will be held at the roadblocks. Marches in the Gaza Strip are also expected to be  held to the border crossings with Israel.
June 4: "Rush to the Golan Day" will be held in Syria, during which Syrian civilians will try to cross the border in the Golan Heights. Such activities may begin on June 3 as well, and there will also be marches on June 5 (Facebook, May 25, 2011).
June 5: After afternoon prayers in the mosques, marches are planned in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan to the borders with Israel, with volunteer participants from throughout the Muslim world. Marches to the Israeli embassies will be held in Europe. In Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and Israeli cities "marches and confrontations with 'occupation' soldiers will be held along the border."
June 6: A demonstration is supposed to be held at Maroun al-Ras in coordination with the Lebanese authorities. Fatah members in Lebanon may also participate in the march. In addition, preparations are being made for launching a ship (NOW Lebanon website, May 25; Al-Nashra, May 30; Facebook, May 23, 2011).
June 7: Marches are supposed to be held in Judea and Samaria and within Israel to Jerusalem. A convoy is expected to reach the Gaza Strip. The participants in the day's activities will "swear allegiance to Jerusalem."
What 'Arab Spring'? [Cal Thomas yesterday in the Washington Examiner]
If Western nations think what is happening in Tunisia and Egypt will lead to real democracy, where competing political parties, ideologies and faiths have a fair and equal opportunity of being debated, they are seriously deluded. The money would have a better chance of financing a winning streak in a Las Vegas casino. Democracy doesn't spring up of its own accord. It must have a base from which it can blossom. That was a point made by Timur Kuran, a professor of economics and political science at Duke University, in a recent op-ed column for the New York Times entitled "The Weak Foundations of Arab Democracy." Kuran wrote: "Democracy requires checks and balances, and it is largely through civil society that citizens protect their rights as individuals, force policymakers to accommodate their interests, and limit abuses of state authority. Civil society also promotes a culture of bargaining and gives future leaders the skills to articulate ideas, form coalitions and govern."
None of this exists in any of the nations to which the G-8 has pledged its support. In Egypt, supposedly the most progressive of the Arab states, fundamentalist Muslims still persecute Coptic Christians. The radical Muslim Brotherhood, which at the start of the revolution claimed no interest in political power, is now active in its pursuit of victory in the upcoming election and hints that it might revoke Egypt's peace treaty with Israel. The problems in North Africa and the Middle East can't be solved by money. What's needed is a change in outlook. Radical Islam forces women into second-class status; it is rooted not in optimism, but in pessimism. Radical Islamists appear to serve an angry god who commands them to kill those who do not believe as they do, but this belief will do little to lift the Arab world out of the religious and political deep freeze that holds it back from true progress.
And finally, as a reminder of the turbulence of neighborly relations within the Arab world...

Egypt limits crossings at Gaza border [Joel Greenberg in the Washington Post yesterday]
Egypt reimposed restrictions Wednesday on the number of Palestinians allowed to enter from the Gaza Strip at the Rafah crossing, days after permanently opening the border point in a move to ease Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-ruled territory. Hatem Aweidah, who is in charge of border crossings for the Hamas government in Gaza, said that Egyptian officials had set a limit of 350 to 400 travelers who would be granted entry each day, on the grounds that border personnel could not handle more. A similar daily limit had been imposed in the months before the permanent opening on Saturday.

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