Are we born like this or did we learn this growing up?

The word “racism” was only added to the Oxford English Dictionary less than a hundred years ago, but racism started long before. Since the dawn of time, there have been people who feel superior either because of their bloodline, race, money, language, or gender. It comes to the surface in various ways, each a different picture, like that of the slave trade, racial discrimination, or of gender discrimination.

When the religious era came to the world, there were scripts against such behavior. The prophets came with a clear message that promoted the idea of equality and how we all must love each other. Some examples include one in the Torah, “You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart. Reprove your kinsman, but incur no guilt because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love those that live around you as much as you love yourself: I am the lord” Torah (Leviticus 19:17). “You shall love the stranger like yourself” Torah (Leviticus 19:34). And the Bible “This is what I command you: Love each other as I have loved you.” Gospel of John 15:12. And the same ideal is mentioned in Islam, “And among His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Surely in this are the signs for people of sound knowledge.” The Holy Quran, Al-Rum (The Roman), Surah 30: verse 22. And furthermore: “An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black, nor a black has any superiority over a white except for piety, all mankind from Adam, and Adam from dust.” The Farewell Sermon of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).

Some people may qualify these quotes claiming one has only been sent to the Jewish people, one to the Christians, or one to Muslims, and maybe accuse them each of being an exclusive message on discrimination to one religion, but anyone who really understands the essential significance of religions would know that these messages were sent to all people. After all aren’t we all from same mother and father, Adam and Eve? And aren’t all religions originated from one another?  Wrong understand of religion would only add another type of discrimination which is religious discrimination.

I believe that some engaged in politics in many countries may have induced discrimination indirectly, for example, when a crime happens, the media would place emphasis on the nationality and the religion of the criminal instead of just mentioning the cause and the circumstances of the incident. Rather than just put all the blame on the individual, they give them an excuse for what they’ve done, and that, in my opinion, provokes the aversion of citizens against each other, and greater chaos would be produced as a result.

Another perspective is that, as the whole universe is linked together either by land or water and of course we all share the same sky, it’s impossible to not live together. One way or another people will inevitably find themselves with other people, some of whom they don’t like because of discriminatory reasons; so we should learn how to live in harmony together. As Carl Schurz, a German revolutionary who subsequently emigrated and became an American journalist, said “From the equality of rights springs identity of our highest interests; you cannot subvert your neighbor’s rights without striking a dangerous blow at your own”.

Admittedly, I’ve always found myself fascinated by the differences; different colors, languages, accents, cultures, food, thoughts, and differences in the way of living. These diversities, in my opinion, are what give the world its balance and its equilibrium. After all, no one gets to choose his color, race or to where they belong, so it’s inequitable to treat someone according to something they didn’t have a choice in. As a matter of fact, people do not wait for others to accept them, rather they want to be treated with the same rights as everyone else. Honestly, that’s not much to ask and as Abraham Lincoln, an American statesman and the 16th president of the United States, said “These men ask for just the same thing: fairness, and fairness only. This, so far as is in my power, they, and all others, shall have”.

The whole universe is based on differences, not only human beings but you can see it if you take a deep look at mother nature, and just wonder what do you think the view would be if there was one color for the flowers or one shape for the trees or if the sky is always blue? How would you feel if all animals sounded the same, or if all foods tasted the same?

Probably it’s not a fair comparison, although it gives us signs and pictures for the balance in the world. One perhaps would think if animals and other beings can live together in a limited environment why can’t we do in such a huge unlimited world? Speaking about this kind of thing will just leave us with many questions, but maybe the way to change things is to start by questioning yourself.

Thinking again about Israel and Palestine

Annexation does what?

Next Century Foundation Secretary General William Morris writes:

I was not so happy with my last podcast on Israel and Palestine. It was not respectful enough of the Mid East Peace Process issue – and though it covers all the bases in detail – it misses the point when it comes to the heart of the matter. This is perhaps more honest to the actual situation these two great nations living cheek by jowl now find themselves in:

To listen to William’s thoughts on the subject click here.

What do Israelis Think of President Trump’s “Deal of the Century”?

The excellent “Peace Index” is back again but its name has now changed to the “Israeli Voice Index” which is perhaps of itself a sign of the times. In this incarnation it is now published by the Israel Democracy Institute rather than Tel Aviv University. The original can be accessed on this link.  Below, edited slightly for clarity, are their conclusions about the view of Israelis on the Trump Plan:

A Palestinian state – yes or no? Just before the full plan was published the Israeli Voice Index asked: “The peace plan that President Trump will soon present will apparently include recognition of a Palestinian state. In your opinion, should Israel agree to any plan that includes such recognition?” The rates who approve of such recognition in the context of the Trump plan among the Jews and the Arabs were very similar (45.5% and 44% respectively). The finding about the Jewish sample conforms to previous studies about support for the two-state idea. However, the rate of support among Arabs is much lower than in previous surveys. The reason is apparently the mention of President Trump in the body of the question, given the widespread perception that the U.S. president is not a fair arbitrator on the issue of the conflict and is biased toward the Israeli side.

Does the publication of the “deal of the century” constitute American interference in the Israeli elections?

Among the Arabs a clear majority (68%) sees the publication of the “deal of the century” as interference in the Israeli electoral process, while among the Jews slightly less than half (46%) view it that way. Israel is to have yet another general election in April.

Who would better manage negotiations with the Palestinians? If negotiations with the Palestinians were to begin, who, in the Israeli public’s opinion, would manage them better – Netanyahu? Gantz? Both equally well? In Israel’s public as a whole, the largest proportion (44.5%) think Netanyahu would be a better negotiator.

 

The UAE helps the Great British war juggernaut keep on rolling

The great Middle East politics expert, Neil Partrick, shared the following with us. It is his article on the DSEI defence/arms fair in Docklands this week. You can either read it below or find the original (with far more pictures) on this link to his “Deira Diary” blog:

The first thing that I noticed upon arriving at DSEI was a young mother and baby protesting one of the world’s biggest defence and security exhibitions, or ‘arms fairs’, depending on your point of view. The Excel Centre in London’s Docklands – Newham if you actually live there – played host this week to the biennial defence industry jamboree. The mother and a friend – there were surely many more at a safer distance – chanted ‘arms are for hugging,’ which made the policemen and security guards standing nearby smile.

I entered DSEI in record time, thanks to a very efficient media registration operation, and soon settled in to my usual people and kit-watching mode. It wasn’t long before I wondered what the hell I was doing at this almost absurd spectacle. This was my fourth time of attending; I’ve also been to IDEX in Abu Dhabi and similar events. At the latter, some 20 years ago, I was however speaking at an associated Gulf security conference. At DSEI I was, as ever, unsure of what my role was.

I typically wander around either trying to hook up with existing contacts or just talking to stall-holders about their wares. However there were some undoubted sights to marvel at too. Whether the classic British Centurion tank or a chance for the boys (me included) to play with some guns, there was much spectacle.

I noted that past in-theatre deployments of Russian ultra-babes had been forsaken for more conventional ways of promoting the goods. I gawped at the sheer scale of the UK’s state of the art ‘Tempest’ aircraft (see picture below), which had a steady queue of both men and women wishing to clamber aboard. I stepped outside and admired the huge naval ships in the former London canal-way and the small aircraft or unmanned drones taking to the skies above Docklands. Across the way two huge abandoned warehouses stood as stark reminders of what the area used to be.

team Tempest

Having a Gulf interest, I scoured in vain the DSEI guide for any sign that the Saudis’ much-vaunted planned expansion of their limited defence production capacity was reflected at DSEI. The DSEI website did have a brief about SAMI: the ‘Saudi Arabian Military Industries’ company set up as part of the Kingdom’s ambitious Saudi Vision 2030 (SV2030). But there was no DSEI stall number. SAMI, in partnership with GAMI, the overarching ‘General Authority’ for Saudi military industries is tasked with ensuring that 50% of all new Saudi arms are produced in-country within 11 years and that SAMI becomes a significant arms exporter.

More prosaically, earlier this year a former UK official told me that SAMI was making progress because it was producing small and, he admitted, basic engineering components. ‘Widgets’ was the word that came to my mind. Either way, this is seemingly not enough to warrant hiring a DSEI stand.

The contrast with the UAE was striking. Perhaps having a ‘UAE Pavilion’ wasn’t that surprising as the Emiratis own the Excel Centre in which DSEI is held. However the UAE seems more serious than the Saudis about developing a domestic defence industry. This effort essentially revolves around Tawazun, the state-founded company that since the early 1990s has been promoting in-country defence industry capacity. EDIC, the ‘Emirates Defence Industry Company’, was founded more recently as the country’s overall defence industry platform, but Tawazun has the majority stake in it. Someone on the Tawazun Economic Council (TEC) stall told me that TEC’s focus since 2017 has been on using ‘offsets’ (a de facto Gulf tax on western defence companies who commit to developing local know-how as part of an arms deal) to assist defence and non-defence industry development. TEC is also using its remit to develop local capacity in order to shepherd ostensibly private Emirati companies such as Halcon (part of the Al-Yas Group), who were right next door in the Pavilion. In February 2019 Halcon got a large TEC soft loan as part of the TEC policy to either fund or co-opt local defence businesses[i]. I was told that Halcon employs about 150 people, over half of whom are Emirati and are typically engineers who come to the UK for a post-graduate education. About 30-40% of the components in Halcon’s missile guidance and control systems are imported apparently. This is the all-important electronics component; the rest is done in-country.

On the other side of Halcon’s stand was one belonging to ‘Al-Hamra’, whose smart promo publication boasted of them “Addressing Tomorrow’s Threats, Today”. Their emphasis it seems is on assisting private and public organisations with counter-terrorism and ‘intelligence’ work, something they do across the Middle East and Africa according to their glossy brochure. Sadly there was no one on the Al-Hamra stall to comment further. In fact this was a depressingly familiar experience from past such encounters of mine. It belies the UAE’s go-ahead attitude that seeks to match its regional and extra-regional military ambitions with a greatly expanded supply of domestically produced kit that by definition isn’t beholden to western political sensitivities or technology embargoes. I spoke to the former Tawazun press spokesman who told me that his successor, Mohammed Ahmed, was the only one who could make any comment to me, whether on or off the record. However Mohammed Ahmed had been called away from DSEI on business and would, I was assured, contact me when he returned. He didn’t.

I am ambiguous about missiles. However one that caught my eye was QinetiQ’s ‘Banshee’, which is actually an aerial practice target. Perhaps it was the name that appealed to me, making me think of Siouxsie Sioux’s band, or perhaps it was its attractively bright red colour-scheme and the free key ring.

I wandered into a talk by a representative of Oxford Space Systems who addressed punters on her company’s contribution to the ‘miniaturisation’ of space communication. She mentioned that her company had a UK Ministry of Defence contract for aspects of this work. On my way out I noted that the use of canines in war zones was taking on a very hi-tech dimension (see below).

dog of war

Oman was out in force at DSEI, commanded by Sheikh Badr bin Saud Al-Busaidi, officially known as ‘the minister responsible for defence affairs’. When I spotted him and his large retinue of unformed Sultanate officers, they were surrounded by UK military and defence industry people. He went on after DSEI to meet with the UK’s new defence secretary Ben Wallace, and to visit Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre.

Oman hosts a new UK naval base and, separately, an army training base. The former, located on the Arabian Sea, is designed to accommodate the UK’s one and only aircraft carrier which is still undergoing operational trials before being scheduled to form a ‘carrier group’, with a still to be trialled second carrier, sometime in 2021[ii]. This intimate British role in Oman’s security was arguably unaffected by our ‘pull-out’ East of Suez in 1971. However its stepping up in recent years has made the UK even more central to the Sultanate’s security, including the highly tense Gulf littoral [i].

Before leaving DSEI, I met with an ex-British military friend. He told me that coming in to DSEI on the DLR that morning he had felt disconcerted by man who sat right next to him. The man in question started wheezing before my friend asked if he was ok. He noted that the man was wearing a ‘Veterans for Peace’ t-shirt and was obviously about to join a protest outside DSEI. An understanding passed between them. ‘Have a peaceful day,’ my friend said at their parting.


[i] February 19 2019, Dania Saadi, https://www.thenational.ae/business/tawazun-to-invest-up-to-dh193m-in-uae-defence-company-halcon-1.827609
[ii] ‘UK carrier begins ‘Westlant 19’ operational trials’, Richard Scott, Jane’s Defence Weekly, September 4, 2019.
[i] See my article for the University of Kingston’s History Department blog contrasting Harold Wilson’s decision to end the UK’s formal defence presence in the Gulf and commitment to defend the Gulf rulers, with the so-called return ‘East of Suez’ under PMs Cameron and May

Is the “Deal of the Century” worth further examination?

In an article titled “Deal of the Century means US recognition of apartheid”, Iran’s Press TV reports that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman offered Palestinian supremo Mahmoud Abbas ten billion dollars to accept Trump’s Mideast deal.

Is there an argument that given that Palestinians live as disenfranchised citizens in a virtual state colonised by Israel at present, it might be advantageous if they banked what they could get and then campaigned from that base for a better future?

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates has strongly condemned US President Donald Trump’s controversial proposal for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, dubbed “the deal of the century,” saying it translates into “Washington’s recognition of the Israeli regime’s apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territories”.

The deal also appears to be opposed by a majority of Israel’s Jewish citizens. See the Peace Index for April.

What would Trump’s proposal actually mean? According to documents leaked by Haaretz the proposed deal comprises the following:

  • A tripartite agreement will be signed between Israel’s government, the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA) as well as the Hamas resistance movement, which controls the Gaza Strip, and subsequently a Palestinian state will be established that will be called “New Palestine.”
  • “New Palestine” will be established in the West Bank and Gaza, with the exception of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
  • The settlement blocs in the occupied West Bank, which are illegal under international law and UN Security Council Resolution 2334, will remain under the Israel’s control and will expand to reach out to other isolated settlements.
  • The city of Jerusalem al-Quds will not be divided but is to be shared by Israel and “New Palestine,” with the Israel maintaining general control.
  • The Arab population living in Jerusalem al-Quds will be citizens of New Palestine, but Israel would remain in charge of the municipality and therefore the land.
  • The newly formed Palestinian state would pay taxes and water costs for East Jerusalem to the Jerusalem al-Quds municipality.
Is the proposal at least a basis for negotiation? Or should it be dismissed out of hand?

Real Security Depends on a Political Solution

This comes in from Brian Reeves of Peace Now who shares their phone number +972-54-7095882. The NCF has been promoting a plan for the phased introduction of the Beirut Initiative. But that the status quo is a waste of lives, of time, of resources, and utterly pointless is most certainly true whatever your perspective.

For years, the policy of successive Netanyahu governments has been to weaken the Palestinian Authority and to sustain Hamas through a tit-for-tat, “shoot and be shot at, don’t shoot and don’t get shot at” conflict management strategy, and the result is the present situation we find ourselves in.

1. The violence that flares up around Gaza every few months represents the failure of the Israeli government’s policy in dealing with the Hamas terror organization. The victims of this policy are hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens and almost two million Palestinians, held hostage by a political leadership refusing to seek a political solution.

2. At the end of each round of violence Netanyahu refuses to take advantage of the temporary cessation of hostilities to press for a comprehensive political settlement. Nor does he attempt to improve the humanitarian situation of millions of Palestinians under a blockade—despite recommendations from the security echelon—while his government transfers tens of millions of dollars to Hamas.

3. It is in Netanyahu’s interest to maintain the strength of Hamas and to deepen the division between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. His government does this by strengthening the power of extremists in Gaza and sidelining the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, which remains committed to a two-state solution and to security cooperation with Israel.

The Disengagement Excuse

To deflect from the decade-long failure of Netanyahu’s leadership on the Gaza front, his apologists hearken back to the 2005 Disengagement to blame the peace camp. This line of reasoning lazily assumes nothing could have been done to change the trajectory in the intervening 14 years. It also misrepresents history:

4. The Disengagement Plan was conceived and implemented by the Likud under the leadership of Ariel Sharon. Netanyahu voted in favor of this plan on four separate occasions.

5. The left demanded an agreement with the Palestinians, like the framework of the agreements made in the past with Egypt and Jordan, and despite general support for redeployment warned against unilateral initiatives. With no coordinated handoff to the PA to strengthen it in the eyes of Palestinians, Hamas had free reign to spread its own narrative that Israel “retreated” due to its terror operations.

6. In the five years before the Disengagement, Israeli settlements in Gaza were sitting-duck targets, resulting in 162 Israelis killed (soldiers and civilians). The death rate has dropped to a third of what it was since the Disengagement. Additionally, the firing of rockets began years before the Disengagement.

Israeli citizens deserve a courageous government that will deliver a conflict-ending agreement: a two-state solution with the Palestinian Authority, based on security for Israeli citizens. This is the only solution supported by the overwhelming majority of Israel’s past and current security leaders.

Security depends on a political solution. Short of that, the insecurity around Gaza will surely return.

Israel’s Peace Index : April 2019 – main findings

The graph above (click on the heading of this article to view more clearly) comes from the latest monthly Peace Index report and indicates the response from Israel’s citizens to the question,  “Against the backdrop of the elections results, which government would you prefer?” The full index can be found on this link but the principal conclusions are below:

  • Half of the Jewish public would like the Likud to include the Blue and White party in the coming government. There is no agreement about the main issue that must be dealt with by the new government.
  • However, the security-political consideration was central among rightists when they chose for whom to vote, while among the moderate right and the Arab public, the economic-social issue was salient. In contrast, among centrists and leftwing voters, the leading consideration was the desire to replace Netanyahu.
    About a fifth of the Jewish public voted for a party that they did not prefer for strategic reasons.
  • The Jewish public is divided almost equally between those who believe that, if the attorney general decides to issue an indictment against Netanyahu, he should continue in his role as prime minister, and those who believe that he should resign. A small majority among those who believe that he should remain as prime minister, favor not bringing him to trial while he is serving in that role.
  • Similar to last month, the Jewish public is dissatisfied with maintaining the present situation in the conflict with the Palestinians but has difficulty in indicating an agreed-upon solution and tends to believe that the present situation will continue. There is slightly more support for the opinion that annexation of the occupied territories by Israel is likely to be realized.
  • About a fifth of the Jewish public and about a third of the Arab public have not as yet formed an opinion about Trump’s plan for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Among opinion holders in the Jewish public, a bit more believe that the plan will harm Israel’s vital interests.
  • About half of the Jewish public support military action leading to the collapse of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip. This is in contrast to the two-thirds of the Arab public who support a long-term agreement with the Hamas administration in Gaza to achieve calm. A miniscule percentage support continuing the present situation.Prof. Ephraim Yaar and Dr. Nimrod Rosler

The Need for an Oasis of Peace

The following statement has just come in from Neve Shalom, the integrated school for both Jews and Arabs. The sentiments expressed are those we all share:

It is now a week since the Israeli elections. As many of you will have seen, despite the momentum gained by Benny Gantz and his Blue and White alliance, Prime Minister Netanyahu emerged as the candidate able to form a functioning coalition government.

Regardless of the results, we regret that issues of civic equality and the need for innovative and courageous approaches to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict did not form a greater part of the election debate, nor of the campaigns of the two front-running parties.

As Israel moves forward, we urge all parties in the newly-formed Knesset to press for a re-engagement with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. We also call on them to promote legislation ensuring the full equality and protection of rights of all citizens of Israel, in keeping with the promise of the country’s Declaration of Independence.

Regardless of one’s party-political persuasion, it is clear that the need for cooperative, peace-building projects between Jews and Palestinians is now more urgent than ever. Given the apparent absence of such dialogue at the governmental level, the onus is placed on grass-roots organisations to lead the way.

Mrs June Jacobs CBE

Mrs June Jacobs CBE, Trustee of the Next Century Foundation and former President of the International Council of Jewish Women, has died suddenly following a stroke. She was much loved.

June was one of the founding members of the Next Century Foundation. Many core members of the Next Century Foundation, such as the late Duke of Devonshire, who hosted our first and at that time secret, international conference at his Chatsworth home, were on board because June brought them on board. She was trusted. In those early days it was illegal for Israel’s politicians to meet senior members of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. One of the key functions of the NCF at that stage was to bring together senior PLO members like PLO fund boss the late Jaweed al Ghussein, with senior Israelis, men who even now must remain nameless. And June was often the unheralded facilitator of such meetings.

June had many talents. She was a superb chairwoman for one thing, merciless as the best chairs often are. With an iron fist in a velvet glove she would brook no misbehaviour, and treated king and commoner alike.

Perhaps more importantly June was  a great networker and a great campaigner for women’s rights. These two aspects to her character we place side by side because of her work at the United Nations, where she encountered and supported fellow activists. In which context the NCF is particularly grateful to June. She brought onboard human rights workers across the world, one of the greatest of whom, our anchorwoman in Kirkuk, the great Surood Kirkuky, who often risked her life to support NCF missions to that poor benighted city, only did so because she trusted us because she trusted her friend Mrs June Jacobs whom she loved and respected.

That was the best of June, her enviable capacity to make and keep countless friends across the world, and her great compassion. And June was the embodiment of that word: Compassion. Like the greatest of those with a Jewish heritage, she cared deeply for others. She cared most particularly for the Palestinians. This perhaps because she regarded them as particularly vulnerable and the Jewish people, having reclaimed their ancestral homeland, as having a particular responsibility for the wellbeing of their cousins. In which context her compassion was boundless. She had more close Palestinian friends than any Jewish woman since the beginning of time.

There are not words enough to write of June Jacobs. Her constant love and care was a phenomenon. She never came to a meeting empty-handed, sometimes bringing a bottle of wine but more often bringing her own home baked cheesecake – arguably amongst the best in the world. June was a great woman who embodied the best of what it is to be Jewish. The world is a better place because she lived. The Next century Foundation is, in large part, the organisation it is because of her. She will be sorely missed. May God grant her the place among the angels she so richly deserves.

William Morris, NCF Secretary General

Photo of June at the International Media Awards 2017 copyright Matthew Tomkinson 2017

In Memoriam

For Mrs June Jacobs CBE, 1930 to 2018:

Come Summer,
Wrap her up,
In goodness.
Soft balm’ed breeze,
Careen her home,
Whilst still alone,
She trails dependents,
Like a fisherman,
Trails a net,
Behind her.
Save these her fishes,
She protects,
As duty would decree,
Or destiny,
Or perhaps mere providence,
In evidence of which she holds,
Tomorrow in her hand.
And finding death she walks beyond the grave,
Still trailing those that need her care.
As others did in their time,
She does now,
And stands upon their shoulders in so doing.
So too for all of those who care,
And dare,
To stand defiant ‘gainst decree-ed fate,
And cut a path that’s theirs, however late,
A swathe scythed naked from the Summer grass,
For Autumn’s coming and comes in too fast.

photo: © Jackie Richards 2018

The Man Who Built Peace

The Next Century Foundation is proud to support the launch of the documentary film, ‘The Man Who Built Peace’. It tells the story of Frank Buchman who was the founder of Initiatives of Change, formerly known as Moral Rearmament.

Driven by moral purpose and his relationship with God, his legacy is one that speaks to the pursuance of peace through “personal change and reconciliation” with the belief that all people should move beyond faith, race, location and other factors to find peace. This award winning documentary has been the work of those at Initiatives of Change who wish to share Buchman’s story and highlight his efforts in making the world a better place for all.

The views and values of both Buchman and Initiatives of Change align closely with the Foundation’s own ethos of total inclusivity and peace. We are happy to be supporters of this documentary and promote celebrating the life of such a visionary who worked tirelessly for a better future.

The film was launched on June the 7th 2018 at the Royal Geographical Society with subsequent viewings happening across UK cities. More information and links to tickets can be found here:

https://uk.iofc.org/man-who-built-peace-documentary-launch