Monday, January 25, 2016

Recent Editorials

Here are some recent editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records)

Land-grabber Israel
does it again

For years, Israel has been obsessed with one agenda: harass, kill, humiliate or intimidate innocent Palestinians.
Among the several means that Israel adopts, land-grabbing is one, and it is now set for the largest land seizure since August 2014.
In its latest disgraceful move, Cogat, a unit of Israel's Defence Ministry, has confirmed in an email purportedly sent to Reuters, that a political decision to seize the territory has already been taken and the lands are in the final stages of being declared “state lands.”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has rightly denounced the seizure, but what is demoralising is that such mere condemnations do not have any impact and Israel has been insulting the international community for too long without being pulled up.
Settlement activities are a clear violation of international law and run counter to the public pronouncements of the government of Israel supporting a two-state solution.
Senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation Hanan Ashrawi is absolutely correct when she says Israel is stealing land specially in the Jordan Valley under the pretext it wants to annex it.
This should be considered a reason for a real and effective intervention by the international community to end such a flagrant and grave aggression. Israel should not be allowed to kill all chances of peace.
To compound the problems of Palestinians, the Israelis also repeatedly demolish Palestinian houses. During the year 2015, over 535 Palestinian houses in several districts of the occupied West Bank and Al Quds were razed ignoring protests from all peace-loving people across the world.
In another snub to European peace voices, Israeli forces have demolished six structures in the West Bank funded by the European Union's humanitarian arm. The structures were dwellings and latrines for Bedouins living in an area known as E1 - a particularly sensitive zone between occupied Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.
Palestinians feel deep frustration over the occupation that has lasted several decades.
The world community has, unfortunately, failed to provide the Palestinian people with protection and to hold the Israeli occupation power accountable for its violations.
The continuing expansion of settlements, the demolition of Palestinian homes, the revocation of residency rights and the eviction and displacement of numerous Palestinian families from East Jerusalem are in deep contravention of international law. Such actions do not contribute to peace.
Israeli atrocities have gone on for too long. It’s time to force Israel to abide by international law.

Weed out toxic seeds
of extremist ideology

Honestly, there is not much surprise in the research carried out by the Pew Research Centre that indicates no Muslim-majority country in the world supports Daesh.
It is known that Muslims across the world hold the terrorist organisation in contempt, with highly respected Muslim religious leaders denouncing the group for its crimes against humanity.
A chart created for                         The Independent newspaper by Statista showed only 4 per cent of Indonesians declared a "favourable view" of the group.
The figure was put at 0 per cent in some countries.
Thursday was the first time Daesh had claimed an attack in Indonesia, where previous bombings had been attributed to an Al Qaeda affiliate called Jemaah Islamiyah.
More than 200 million people identify themselves as Muslim in Indonesia according to 2011 research – that is 87 per cent of the population.
In a specific reference to the dreaded Daesh group, the UN Security Council recently mentioned, “By its violent extremist ideology, its terrorist acts, its gross systematic and widespread attacks directed against civilians, violations of international humanitarian law, including those driven on religious or ethnic ground, its eradication of cultural heritage, Daesh constitutes a global threat to international peace and security.”
Terrorism is definitely not a phenomenon linked to any particular religion. There can be no cause or grievance that can justify the horrors that terrorist groups carry out against innocent people.
Interestingly, the UAE has identified the fact that terrorism and extremism are interdependent and hence there is a need to dismantle the relationship.
Right from the beginning, the UAE has stressed its firm and open stance in countering extremism, and does not accept the hijacking of the Islamic religion by takfiri groups.
The war on terrorism, as Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Bin Mohammed Gargash, stated recently, begins with a fight on both its funding, and extremist educational and fundamentalist curricula which encourage its growth.
There can be no doubt that it is its consistent and unwavering stand against terrorism and extremism in all forms and manifestations that has made the UAE an oasis of peace and a model for others to emulate.
Terrorism is a scourge impacting all of humanity and people from all regions and religions.
Repeated attempts by Daesh to disturb public order and spread terror among people should not be allowed to win. The world should stand united and weed out the toxic seeds of extremist ideology.

Rein in Iran for
peace to reign

The fact that various Arab, Islamic and friendly countries and the UN Security Council have all categorically rejected the wanton attacks on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran indicates that the world will no longer tolerate Iranian interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries under any pretext.
The attacks on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and its consulate in the city of Mashhad and threats received by Saudi diplomats there from Iranian groups that stormed the two missions are definitely a major violation of diplomatic norms.
What raises serious concerns about likely official complicity is the utter failure of the Iranian security authorities to protect diplomats and Saudi diplomatic missions.
Arab foreign ministers at an emergency Arab League session on Sunday in Cairo hit the nail on the head when they blamed Iran for interfering in the affairs of other Middle Eastern states and undermining regional security.
UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan also raised a pertinent point that the attack "took place under the nose and within the earshot of security forces."
Judicial rulings implemented recently by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia were clearly against a number of terrorists. The hostile statements by various Iranian leaders amount to blatant Iranian meddling in the internal affairs of Saudi Arabia.
The GCC Ministerial Council has rightly expressed strong condemnation and rejection of these attacks, holding the Iranian authorities fully responsible for these terrorist acts in accordance with its commitment to the 1961 and 1963 Vienna Conventions as well as the international law, which hold the countries responsible for protecting diplomatic missions.
Going by the background of the situation, the anger of the Gulf Arab countries is entirely justified and the various actions initiated by most of these countries are reasonable reactions to repeated provocation by Tehran.
Tehran has also obviously failed to recognise that positive relations between states should be based on mutual respect and the adoption of a clear-cut policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of others.
The international community should initiate serious efforts to prevent such attacks on diplomatic missions in Iran. Iran should realise that meddling will just not work anymore.
At a time when some countries in the region are facing turmoil, it is appalling that Iran keeps itself busy flouting international norms and principles of good neighbourliness and igniting more crises instead of promoting peace initiatives.

Cowardly killings
in Pakistan

Cold-blooded terrorists have struck again in Pakistan. The violence at the Bacha Khan University in Charsadda town in which gunmen killed several people has left the world shocked and heart-broken.
The dastardly incident has also brought back grim memories of the horrific December 2014 Peshawar school attack that killed more than 150 people, mostly children.
Only a cold-blooded mindset can plot the killing of innocent professors and students at the sacred institutions that shape the future of the country with knowledge and wisdom.
The fact that these incidents took place in broad daylight highlights the brutal nature of the perpetrators. Those who engaged in the heinous crime have no religion and can only be seen as enemies of humanity.
Pakistan’s struggle against terrorism has now reached a decisive point and it is unlikely that the momentum would be reversed.
It is believed that the intelligence agencies had received some kind of clues about these terrorist attacks beforehand. That’s the reason some schools in Peshawar were abruptly closed last week. Unfortunately, the authorities were not able to stop the criminals from hitting their targets this time.
The attackers had apparently scaled a wall to enter the campus, killing a caretaker in a school guesthouse before moving on to the boys' hostel.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has rightly vowed to wipe out the menace of terrorism from the country.
The latest violence has also highlighted the vulnerability of Pakistani institutions, which was dramatically exposed in the attack two years ago on Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl shot at by a Taliban gunman outside her school in Swat Valley.
The idea behind such reprehensible killings by terrorists is obviously to create fear among the public.
The law enforcement agencies need to act swiftly and track down the sponsors and planners of such heinous acts.
Last month, as the country marked the first anniversary of the Peshawar school attack, the military claimed phenomenal successes in its operation against militants and said it had killed around 3,500 insurgents.
It would be foolhardy to think that attacks by terrorists such as the one in Charsadda may weaken the Pakistan military's resolve. On the contrary, it would only strengthen its determination to eliminate extremism.
All peace-loving people across the world stand in total solidarity with the people of Pakistan.
The message should be loud and clear: Guns will not be allowed to wipe out human values.

Unprecedented level
of suffering in Madaya

It is good that a UN humanitarian convoy has finally reached the besieged Syrian town of Madaya with life-saving health and food supplies, but what is also a matter of huge concern is the condition of about 4.5 million people living in hard-to-reach areas across Syria, including nearly 400,000 in 15 besieged locations without access to the aid that they desperately need.
The 42,000 residents of Madaya have been facing desperate times and more than two dozen people have reportedly starved to death, crippled by a six-month government siege that has made even bread and water hard to find.
“Crowds of hungry kids around," Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative Sajjad Malik said via text message from the isolated town as the first four trucks of the 49-truck convoy unloaded in the dark to help relieve a situation that UN officials last week called “horrendous… ghastly.”
Food has been so scarce that people repeatedly mentioned that a kilo of rice would cost $300, according to Malik. One family had to “sell a motorbike to get five kilos of rice.”
Residents told UN staff that a main source of food in recent weeks has been a soup made of grass boiled with the few available spices. With no access to electricity, people in Madaya had tried to stay warm by burning cardboard.
Deliberate starvation of civilians amounts to war crimes under the international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
Top UN officials say they have received credible reports of people dying from starvation and being killed or injured while trying to leave the area, which last received UN humanitarian aid in October.
Highlighting the gravity of the situation, a World Health Organisation official stated, “People gathered in the market place. You could see many were malnourished, starving. They were skinny, tired, severely distressed. There was no smile on anybody's face. It is not what you see when you arrive with a convoy. The children I talked to said they had no strength to play."
Many malnourished people were too weak to leave their homes.
It is sad to note that the level of suffering in Madaya has no precedent in Syria’s war. Ordinary citizens should be protected against the woes of armed conflicts.
All parties involved in the conflict should facilitate unimpeded access to people in besieged areas in Syria. The international community should extend every form of assistance to the victims in such blockaded cities.

Libya cannot afford
to remain divided

The terrorist attack that targeted a police training centre in the Libyan city of Zliten and left scores dead and injured is a highly condemnable, heinous act that highlights the urgent need for all stakeholders to press ahead with forming a recently-agreed national unity government.
The attack also signifies the pressing need for the activation and rebuilding of Libyan security forces.
Daesh has been expanding its foothold in Libya, exploiting the instability that has gripped the country since the 2011 uprising.
The turmoil has also led to Libya’s rise as a stepping stone for migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Europe.
The continuing attacks by Daesh-affiliates on oil facilities near Sidra, in central Libya, clearly indicates attempts by extremists to strip these natural resources from the Libyan people.
Top UN officials have correctly pointed out that every wasted day in failure to implement the Libyan Political Agreement is a day of gain for the terrorists.
In a report to the UN Security Council in November, International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said that Daesh was responsible for at least 27 car and suicide bombings in the country in 2015.
The country is dependent on oil, which in 2012 accounted for 95 per cent of government revenue. As fierce fighting has disabled oil fields and ports, Libya’s output has dropped.
It is currently producing less than a fifth of exports prior to 2011.
In December, UN officials facilitated the final stages of an agreement to form a Government of National Accord with a presidency council, cabinet, house of representatives and state council, in talks between the sides in Morocco in a bid to end four years of factional fighting that has killed many Libyans and left nearly 2.4 million in desperate need of humanitarian aid.
The UN Security Council also called on the new Presidency Council to work within the 30 days prescribed by the Agreement to form a Government of National Accord and finalise interim security arrangements needed to stabilise the North African country.
The situation is indeed grave. The crumbling state could be crippled if terrorists seize control of oil resources.
Libyans need to remain united in order to confront terrorism in all its forms. All leaders should strive to create a conducive environment for the government to assume its responsibilities.
The international community should also redouble efforts to help the country overcome the security and economic challenges.

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