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Showing posts from September, 2012

A Palestinian Reconciliation in sight?

A delegation of Palestinian representatives has been visiting Egypt. Apparently, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh met this week with Hisham Qandil, Egypt's Prime Minister, in Cairo. They discussed various possibilities to lift the siege of the Gaza Strip, one of the electoral promises of the Muslim Brotherhood, and even addressed plans are to develop a free-trade zone between both territories. They surely debated on the tunnels' issue,  used for smuggling goods and people across the border, a huge source of problems (amongst many) between Egypt and Israel. Palestinian leaders in the Strip estimate the value of trade to be $2 million a day (of which Hamas takes 7% in taxes) and therefore consistently oppose this possibility: "not even under ousted president Hosni Mubarak did Egypt think of crippling all the tunnels without providing an alternative", senior Hamas official Mahmoud El-Zahar told the Egyptian newspaper  Al Ahram .  Khaled Meshaal,  head of Hamas

Charlie what?

In my last article , I underlined the importance of protecting and respecting freedom of speech. But, as it often happens with most freedoms and rights, there is a limit not to be crossed. And where does that line (not talking about the one Mr Morsi referred to last week) stand? Well, now we all have the chance to reflect about that, thanks to a French Magazine,  Charlie Hebdo , which decided to publish - clearly having in mind the wave of unrest ravaging several Muslim countries - caricatures mocking the Prophet.  In my opinion, the choice of words of a survey by The Guardian says it all:  "free speech or sheer folly?" . The first word that came to my mind was "irresponsible". One of the immediate consequences of the cartoon's publication has been the putting in place by the French Authorities of an strategy whereby security at their embassies and public buildings (not only consulates, but also schools and "instituts français", that had and will

The Pope´s visit to the Middle East

Pope Benedict XVI  has winded up a successful three-day visit to Lebanon, where he has delivered a vital message of tolerance, particularly relevant in view of the  current violence ravaging the region .  The visit was not without incidents, though. In the northern city of Tripoli, where one demonstrator was killed, angry mobs,  following the example of their neighbours  protesting against the film "Innocence of Muslims" (the Pontiff has made no reference to it but the Vatican did condemn it) chanted "we don't want the Pope" and "no more insults". Lebanon, also called in the past the "Switzerland of the Middle East" can easily be described as one complicated religious mosaic: more than 30 percent of the population are Christians, divided  into more than a dozen churches (only six of them linked to the Vatican). The  Muslim majority, for its part, includes both Sunnis and Shi'ites in a similar proportion, as well as Alawites. Indeed, g

No one is innocent these days... (updated)

A ridiculous film (" Innocence of Muslims ") has sparked a heated reaction throughout most of the Muslim World, outrageously entailing the deaths of four people in Libya, other deaths in other countries, and dozens injured elsewhere, as María Sánchez Muñoz reported on her  note . This events are also fanning debates on various issues: is Al-Qaeda involved in some of these attacks? Is there an actual link to the "Arab Spring"? What should the U.S. (and particularly Mr Obama, completely immersed in its campaign and an easy target for the Republicans) do? What should the leaders of these countries (all eyes on Mr Morsi, again) do? Are we bound to face similar issues every few years (remember the  Danish cartoonist´s controversy ? At least there was some quality in these drawings!) or is there a rational way out? It all started in Cairo, where  the grand mufti of Egypt spoke out  last Sunday  against a film that he condemned as "offensive to all Muslims"

A Palestinian Spring?

I won't sum up the evolution and characteristics of the Arab Spring for you, you are all aware of them. I won't even enter into the debate on the term "Arab Spring" and its real meaning (at least, not now!). But I have to admit I really like the sound of it, moreover when it is used to add a new country to this encouraging domino effect movement, and that seems to be the case of Palestine. Nonetheless, this case presents a new surprising feature... It looks like one of the leaders of the country the events are taking place in is actually supporting the uprising!! So... who/what do the people go against (besides, as always, the Israeli occupiers)? Well, they are mainly demonstrating against the other visible authority of the Palestinian Authority. Wouldn't it be nice if I put names to all of these characters? A (key?) meeting of the Arab League was held last week in Cairo (President Morsi surprised us again with flammable declarations about Syria, he does se

Even warriors need a PR...

Hezbollah (aka "Party of God") is an Iranian-funded Shia Muslim militia created in the 1980s, in the midst of Lebanon’s civil war.  Much has been said about the “propaganda war” the group has been waging, a war that found its peak with the building of a multi-million dollar museum in the town of Mleeta celebrating its military victories over Israel, as the magnificent video my friend Pierre sent me shows (don’t miss VICE´s Hezbollah´s propaganda war ). The militia has been using propaganda to transform itself into not only a military, but also a political force to be reckoned with (a real kingmaker in Lebanon), not only through an increased military build-up, but also through public relations (yeah, yeah, you read it right: I said PR). It seems that what some Western powers call “terrorist groups” (I won’t get into that) know how to balance Joseph Nye’s hard and soft power. The group’s leaders are well known for their inflammable speeches, and they do master th

Did you say "Syrian opposition"?

Weeks after the outset of the uprising, on August 2011, a new coalition named Syrian National Council (SNC) ( SNC´s web ) emerged as the single and main representative of the Syrian Opposition, following the Libyan example of the National Transitional Council (NTC), a group that gained international recognition as the legitimate governing authority in Libya and acted as such during and after the 2011 Libyan civil war, before handing power to an elected assembly on 8 August (actually, the Council was recognized by the NTC in Libya as the sole legitimate government of Syria). According to Wikipedia , the SNC was in principle a coalition of Syrian opposition groups (in principle: exiled Syrian wing of the   Muslim Brotherhood, Damascus Declaration, the   Assyrian Democratic Organization, the National Democratic Rally, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, the Supreme Council of the Syrian Revolution, the Syrian Revolution General Commission, the Free Syrian

Quick links

It looks this particular "evil axis" is not so united, after all:  Hamas relations with Iran sour due to Syria But Iran has apparently nothing to loose...  Iran said to send troops to bolster Syria The Economist's approach to Egypt's Foreign Policy (undoubtedly, much better than mine!):  Independent - or not? More on that New Egypt leader steps out on world stage seeking "balance" Egypt's Morsi steps out onto world stage Realistic? blueprint for a peaceful transition in Syria:  The Day After » Supporting a Democratic Transition in Syria How should the West react after the "Arab Spring"?  Un nuevo paradigma

Could light be cast on Arafat's mysterious death?

I am aware this article may spur some heated mixed reactions, but sometimes this is what a blog is for. I dedicate it to my good friend Maher, who (from the very beginning!) has shown me the true meaning of feeling Palestinian. This week  French prosecutors opened a murder enquiry into Yasser Arafat’s 2004 death, apparently after Arafat’s family (notably his widow Suha) launched legal action in the country over claims the veteran Palestinian leader died of polonium (a famous poison, especially after having been allegedly used to murder Russian opposition leader Alexander Litvinenko). The eventual rabbit's pulling out of the hat comes after a popular Al-Jazeera's investigation in which experts said they found high levels of polonium on his personal effects (particularly on his beloved keffiyeh), a theory apparently confirmed by a Swiss laboratory. Other hypotheses have been proposed (like this one in  Le Monde ) in the meantime. For its part, Israel has consistently