Who cares in the Middle East what Obama says?

Who cares in the Middle East what Obama says?

President Obama has shown himself to be weak in his dealings with the Middle East, says Robert Fisk, and the Arab world is turning its back with contempt. Its future will be shaped without American influence

By Robert Fisk Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/who-cares-in-the-middle-east-what-obama-says-2290761.html

This month, in the Middle East, has seen the unmaking of the President of the United States. More than that, it has witnessed the lowest prestige of America in the region since Roosevelt met King Abdul Aziz on the USS Quincy in the Great Bitter Lake in 1945.

While Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu played out their farce in Washington – Obama grovelling as usual – the Arabs got on with the serious business of changing their world, demonstrating and fighting and dying for freedoms they have never possessed. Obama waffled on about change in the Middle East – and about America’s new role in the region. It was pathetic. “What is this ‘role’ thing?” an Egyptian friend asked me at the weekend. “Do they still believe we care about what they think?”

And it is true. Obama’s failure to support the Arab revolutions until they were all but over lost the US most of its surviving credit in the region. Obama was silent on the overthrow of Ben Ali, only joined in the chorus of contempt for Mubarak two days before his flight, condemned the Syrian regime – which has killed more of its people than any other dynasty in this Arab “spring”, save for the frightful Gaddafi – but makes it clear that he would be happy to see Assad survive, waves his puny fist at puny Bahrain’s cruelty and remains absolutely, stunningly silent over Saudi Arabia. And he goes on his knees before Israel. Is it any wonder, then, that Arabs are turning their backs on America, not out of fury or anger, nor with threats or violence, but with contempt? It is the Arabs and their fellow Muslims of the Middle East who are themselves now making the decisions.

Watching the hundreds of refugees pouring from Syria across the northern border of Lebanon, the Turkish government is now so fearful of a repeat of the great mass Iraqi Kurdish refugee tide that overwhelmed their border in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf war that it has drawn up its own secret plans to prevent the Kurds of Syria moving in their thousands into the Kurdish areas of south-eastern Turkey. Turkish generals have thus prepared an operation that would send several battalions of Turkish troops into Syria itself to carve out a “safe area” for Syrian refugees inside Assad’s caliphate. The Turks are prepared to advance well beyond the Syrian border town of Al Qamishli – perhaps half way to Deir el-Zour (the old desert killing fields of the 1915 Armenian Holocaust, though speak it not) – to provide a “safe haven” for those fleeing the slaughter in Syria’s cities.

The Qataris are meanwhile trying to prevent Algeria from resupplying Gaddafi with tanks and armoured vehicles – this was one of the reasons why the Emir of Qatar, the wisest bird in the Arabian Gulf, visited the Algerian president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, last week. Qatar is committed to the Libyan rebels in Benghazi; its planes are flying over Libya from Crete and – undisclosed until now – it has Qatari officers advising the rebels inside the city of Misrata in western Libya; but if Algerian armour is indeed being handed over to Gaddafi to replace the material that has been destroyed in air strikes, it would account for the ridiculously slow progress which the Nato campaign is making against Gaddafi.

Of course, it all depends on whether Bouteflika really controls his army – or whether the Algerian “pouvoir”, which includes plenty of secretive and corrupt generals, are doing the deals. Algerian equipment is superior to Gaddafi’s and thus for every tank he loses, Ghaddafi might be getting an improved model to replace it. Below Tunisia, Algeria and Libya share a 750-mile desert frontier, an easy access route for weapons to pass across the border.

But the Qataris are also attracting Assad’s venom. Al Jazeera’s concentration on the Syrian uprising – its graphic images of the dead and wounded far more devastating than anything our soft western television news shows would dare broadcast – has Syrian state television nightly spitting at the Emir and at the state of Qatar. The Syrian government has now suspended up to £4 billion of Qatari investment projects, including one belonging to the Qatar Electricity and Water Company.

Amid all these vast and epic events – Yemen itself may yet prove to be the biggest bloodbath of all, while the number of Syria’s “martyrs” have now exceeded the victims of Mubarak’s death squads five months ago – is it any surprise that the frolics of Messrs Netanyahu and Obama appear so irrelevant? Indeed, Obama’s policy towards the Middle East – whatever it is – sometimes appears so muddled that it is scarcely worthy of study. He supports, of course, democracy – then admits that this may conflict with America’s interests. In that wonderful democracy called Saudi Arabia, the US is now pushing ahead with a £40 billion arms deal and helping the Saudis to develop a new “elite” force to protect the kingdom’s oil and future nuclear sites. Hence Obama’s fear of upsetting Saudi Arabia, two of whose three leading brothers are now so incapacitated that they can no longer make sane decisions – unfortunately, one of these two happens to be King Abdullah – and his willingness to allow the Assad family’s atrocity-prone regime to survive. Of course, the Israelis would far prefer the “stability” of the Syrian dictatorship to continue; better the dark caliphate you know than the hateful Islamists who might emerge from the ruins. But is this argument really good enough for Obama to support when the people of Syria are dying in the streets for the kind of democracy that the US president says he wants to see in the region?

One of the vainest elements of American foreign policy towards the Middle East is the foundational idea that the Arabs are somehow more stupid than the rest of us, certainly than the Israelis, more out of touch with reality than the West, that they don’t understand their own history. Thus they have to be preached at, lectured, and cajoled by La Clinton and her ilk – much as their dictators did and do, father figures guiding their children through life. But Arabs are far more literate than they were a generation ago; millions speak perfect English and can understand all too well the political weakness and irrelevance in the president’s words. Listening to Obama’s 45-minute speech this month – the “kick off’ to four whole days of weasel words and puffery by the man who tried to reach out to the Muslim world in Cairo two years ago, and then did nothing – one might have thought that the American President had initiated the Arab revolts, rather than sat on the sidelines in fear.

There was an interesting linguistic collapse in the president’s language over those critical four days. On Thursday 19 May, he referred to the continuation of Israeli “settlements”. A day later, Netanyahu was lecturing him on “certain demographic changes that have taken place on the ground”. Then when Obama addressed the American Aipac lobby group (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) on the Sunday, he had cravenly adopted Netanyahu’s own preposterous expression. Now he, too, spoke of “new demographic realities on the ground.” Who would believe that he was talking about internationally illegal Jewish colonies built on land stolen from Arabs in one of the biggest property heists in the history of “Palestine”? Delay in peace-making will undermine Israeli security, Obama announced – apparently unaware that Netanyahu’s project is to go on delaying and delaying and delaying until there is no land left for the “viable” Palestinian state which the United States and the European Union supposedly wish to see.

Then we had the endless waffle about the 1967 borders. Netanyahu called them “defenceless” (though they seemed to have been pretty defendable for the 18 years prior to the Six Day War) and Obama – oblivious to the fact that Israel must be the only country in the world to have an eastern land frontier but doesn’t know where it is – then says he was misunderstood when he talked about 1967. It doesn’t matter what he says. George W Bush caved in years ago when he gave Ariel Sharon a letter which stated America’s acceptance of “already existing major Israeli population centres” beyond the 1967 lines. To those Arabs prepared to listen to Obama’s spineless oration, this was a grovel too far. They simply could not understand the reaction of Netanyahu’s address to Congress. How could American politicians rise and applaud Netanyahu 55 times – 55 times – with more enthusiasm than one of the rubber parliaments of Assad, Saleh and the rest?

And what on earth did the Great Speechifier mean when he said that “every country has the right to self-defence” but that Palestine would be “demilitarised”? What he meant was that Israel could go on attacking the Palestinians (as in 2009, for example, when Obama was treacherously silent) while the Palestinians would have to take what was coming to them if they did not behave according to the rules – because they would have no weapons to defend themselves. As for Netanyahu, the Palestinians must choose between unity with Hamas or peace with Israel. All of which was very odd. When there was no unity, Netanyahu told us all that he had no Palestinian interlocutor because the Palestinians were disunited. Yet when they unite, they are disqualified from peace talks.

Of course, cynicism grows the longer you live in the Middle East. I recall, for example, travelling to Gaza in the early 1980s when Yasser Arafat was running his PLO statelet in Beirut. Anxious to destroy Arafat’s prestige in the occupied territories, the Israeli government decided to give its support to an Islamist group in Gaza called Hamas. In fact, I actually saw with my own eyes the head of the Israeli army’s Southern Command negotiating with bearded Hamas officials, giving them permission to build more mosques. It’s only fair to say, of course, that we were also busy at the time, encouraging a certain Osama bin Laden to fight the Soviet army in Afghanistan. But the Israelis did not give up on Hamas. They later held another meeting with the organisation in the West Bank; the story was on the front page of the Jerusalem Post the next day. But there wasn’t a whimper from the Americans.

Then another moment that I can recall over the long years. Hamas and Islamic Jihad members – all Palestinians – were, in the early 1990s, thrown across the Israeli border into southern Lebanon where they spent more than a year camping on a freezing mountainside. I would visit them from time to time and on one occasion mentioned that I would be travelling to Israel next day. Immediately, one of the Hamas men ran to his tent and returned with a notebook. He then proceeded to give me the home telephone numbers of three senior Israeli politicians – two of whom are still prominent today – and, when I reached Jerusalem and called the numbers, they all turned out to be correct. In other words, the Israeli government had been in personal and direct contact with Hamas.

But now the narrative has been twisted out of all recognition. Hamas are the super-terrorists, the “al-Qa’ida” representatives in the unified Palestinian leadership, the men of evil who will ensure that no peace ever takes place between Palestinians and Israeli. If only this were true, the real al-Qa’ida would be more than happy to take responsibility. But it is not true. In the same context, Obama stated that the Palestinians would have to answer questions about Hamas. But why should they? What Obama and Netanyahu think about Hamas is now irrelevant to them. Obama warns the Palestinians not to ask for statehood at the United Nations in September. But why on earth not? If the people of Egypt and Tunisia and Yemen and Libya and Syria – we are all waiting for the next revolution (Jordan? Bahrain again? Morocco?) – can fight for freedom and dignity, why shouldn’t the Palestinians? Lectured for decades on the need for non-violent protest, the Palestinians elect to go to the UN with their cry for legitimacy – only to be slapped down by Obama.

Having read all of the “Palestine Papers” which Al-Jazeera revealed, there is no doubt that “Palestine’s” official negotiators will go to any lengths to produce some kind of statelet. Mahmoud Abbas, who managed to write a 600-page book on the “peace process” without once mentioning the word “occupation”, could even cave in over the UN project, fearful of Obama’s warning that it would be an attempt to “isolate” Israel and thus de-legitimise the Israeli state – or “the Jewish state” as the US president now calls it. But Netanyahu is doing more than anyone to delegitimise his own state; indeed, he is looking more and more like the Arab buffoons who have hitherto littered the Middle East. Mubarak saw a “foreign hand” in the Egyptian revolution (Iran, of course). So did the Crown Prince of Bahrain (Iran again). So did Gaddafi (al-Qa’ida, western imperialism, you name it), So did Saleh of Yemen (al-Qa’ida, Mossad and America). So did Assad of Syria (Islamism, probably Mossad, etc). And so does Netanyahu (Iran, naturally enough, Syria, Lebanon, just about anyone you can think of except for Israel itself).

But as this nonsense continues, so the tectonic plates shudder. I doubt very much if the Palestinians will remain silent. If there’s an “intifada” in Syria, why not a Third Intifada in “Palestine”? Not a struggle of suicide bombers but of mass, million-strong protests. If the Israelis have to shoot down a mere few hundred demonstrators who tried – and in some cases succeeded – in crossing the Israeli border almost two weeks ago, what will they do if confronted by thousands or a million. Obama says no Palestinian state must be declared at the UN. But why not? Who cares in the Middle East what Obama says? Not even, it seems, the Israelis. The Arab spring will soon become a hot summer and there will be an Arab autumn, too. By then, the Middle East may have changed forever. What America says will matter nothing.

Regards
ZULKIFLI HASAN

Durham Islamic Finance Summer School 4th-8th July 2011

Durham Islamic Finance Summer School 4th-8th July 2011

Available at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/difp

DIFP, with its international reputation in theoretical and empirical research, aims to share its experiences by hosting an annual Summer School. The first Islamic Finance Summer School held in 2006 proved to be very successful with over 40 participants. We are, therefore, confident that this annual event will be equally valuable for future participants, whether they are pursuing academic research or working in the Islamic banking and finance industry, or in financial service providers that are debating whether to offer Shariah compliant products.

The Islamic Finance Summer School runs during July each summer.

DURHAM ISLAMIC FINANCE SUMMER SCHOOL 2011

Topics:

§ Philosophy of Islamic Economics and Finance: An Introduction
§ Islamic Financing Instruments
§ Capital Adequacy Framework for Islamic Banks
§ The Evolving Paradigm of Islamic Finance: Shift from Shari’ah-Compliant to Shari’ah Based
§ The Current Financial Crisis and the Future of Islamic Finance
§ Shariah Compliant LBO
§ Distressed Assets or Sellers for Islamic Investments
§ Islamic Asset Management
§ Islamic Capital Markets: Dubai Perspective
§ Shari’ah Screening Systems
§ The Sukuk Controversy after the February 2008 AAOIFI Statement: Insights and Impacts
§ Takaful and Co-operative Insurance
§ Shari’ah Issues in Islamic Banking & Finance
§ Alternative Asset Classes: Their Role in Islamic Financial Institutions
§ Securities Commission and Its Role in Safeguarding Muslim Investors in MalaysiaOperational Risk Management in Islamic Banking
§ Shariah Issues in Liquidity Risk Magement
§ Why Invest in Islamic Funds? An Analysis of Malaysian Investors
§ Recent Innovations in Islamic Finance: Islamic Financial Products and Services Development
§ Islamic Asset Management in Practice
Course Director: Professor Rodney Wilson
Course Coordinator: Dr Mehmet Asutay

Further Information:-
Email: mehmet.asutay@durham.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0)191 334 5672 Fax: +44 (0)191 334 5661

Regards
ZULKIFLI HASAN

MARK ZUCKERBERG ‘LIKES’ TO SLAUGHTER THE ANIMALS HE EATS

ZUCKERBERG ‘LIKES’ TO SLAUGHTER THE ANIMALS HE EATS

Available at: http://au.news.yahoo.com/latest/a/-/latest/9530651/Zuckerberg-likes-to-slaughter-the-animals-he-eats/

Mark Zuckerberg, the mastermind behind Facebook, has given himself a new challenge for this year: to only eat the meat from the animals he has personally killed.

According to news reports coming from various sources, this new bizarre diet has seen the 27-year-old billionaire slaughter a chicken, a pig and slit the throat of a goat with a knife — which, according to Silicon Valley chef and Zuckerberg’s guide on this journey, Jesse Cool, is “the most kind way to do it.”

In an interview with Fortune magazine, Zuckerberg revealed that he started by boiling a lobster alive, which he found emotionally difficult at first but rewarding after the first bite. “The most interesting thing was how special it felt to eat it after having not eaten any seafood or meat in a while.”

The Facebook CEO explained that this new personal challenge comes from a desire to be thankful for the food he eats. “I’ve learnt a lot about sustainable farming and raising of animals,” he said. “It’s easy to take the food we eat for granted when we can eat good things every day.”

Zuckerberg went on to say that he first started thinking about this diet after he held a pig roast dinner at his house. According to him, his friends said that while they enjoyed the dish they didn’t like to think about the fact that the pig used to be alive. “That just seemed irresponsible to me,” Zuckerberg explained. “I don’t have an issue with anything people choose to eat, but I do think they should take responsibility and be thankful for what they eat rather than trying to ignore where it came from.”

Regards
ZULKIFLI HASAN

Could someone please arrest the head of the IMF for screwing the poor for 60 years?

The IMF versus the Arab spring

The IMF is depicted as the rich uncle saving wayward children, but proposed loans for Egypt and Tunisia could be devastating.

By Austin Mackell Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/may/25/imf-arab-spring-loans-egypt-tunisia

In the midst of the media storm surrounding IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn last week, my feelings were perfectly expressed in a tweet by Paul Kingsnorth: “Could someone please arrest the head of the IMF for screwing the poor for 60 years?”

Without diminishing the seriousness of the sexual allegations against Strauss-Kahn, the role of the IMF, over past decades and at present, is a far bigger story. Of particular importance is its role at this crucial moment in the Middle East.

The new loans being negotiated for Egypt and Tunisia will lock both countries into long-term economic strategies even before the first post-revolution elections have been held. Given the IMF’s history, we should expect these to have devastating consequences on the Egyptian and Tunisian people. You wouldn’t guess it though, from the scant and largely fawning coverage the negotiations have so far received.

The pattern is to depict the IMF like a rich uncle showing up to save the day for some wayward child. This Dickensian scene is completed with the IMF adding the sage words that this time it hopes to see growth on the “streets” not just the “spreadsheets”. It’s almost as if the problem had been caused by these regimes failing to follow the IMF’s teachings.

Such portrayals are credulous to the point of being ahistorical. They do not even mention, for example, the very positive reports the IMF had issued about both Tunisia and Egypt (along with Libya and others) in the months, weeks, and even days before the uprisings.

To some extent, though, the IMF is aware that its policies contributed to the desperation that so many Egyptians and Tunisians currently face, and is keen to distance itself from its past. Indeed, as IMF watchers will know, this is part of a new image that the IMF, along with its sister organisation the World Bank, has been working on for a while. The changes, so far, do not go beyond spin. You can’t, as they say, polish a turd – but you can roll it in glitter.

Take, for example, the heartwarming IMF and civil society webpage, which as early as August 2007 was noting that civil society groups, by and large, “believe that global institutions also need to be accountable to a broader definition of stakeholders to be effective and legitimate”.

Why then, is the IMF not (as Mohamed Trabelsi, of the International Labour Organisation’s North Africa office, suggested when I interviewed him recently in Cairo) meeting the civil society groups and unions in Egypt and Tunisia? It would rather make backroom deals with Mubarak-appointed finance minister, Samir Radwan, and the generals currently running Egypt who are themselves members of an the economic elite that sees its privilege threatened by the approach of democracy.

Beginning in the 1990s, IMF-led structural adjustment programmes saw the privatisation of the bulk of the Egyptian textile industry and the slashing of its workforce from half a million to a quarter-million. What’s more, the workers who were left faced – like the rest of Egypt – stagnant wages as the price of living rocketed. Though you wouldn’t know it from western coverage, the long and gallant struggle of these workers, particularly the strike of textile workers of Mahalla el-Kubra, is credited by many Egyptian activists as a crucial step on the Egyptian people’s path towards revolution.

This failure to appreciate the revolutions as a rebellion not just against local dictators, but against the global neo-liberal programme they were implementing with such gusto in their countries, is largely a product of how we on the western left have been unwitting orientalists, and allowed the racist “clash of civilisations” narrative to define our perceptions of the Middle East. We have failed to see the people of the region as natural allies in a common struggle.

It is this blindness that makes the revolutions appear as instantaneous explosions, like switches suddenly flicked, rather than as events in a continuum. A good place to start the story, if you want it to make sense, would be the Egyptian bread riots of 1977, which came following an initial round of economic liberalisation (which was as much a part of Sadat’s change of cold war allegiances as his salute to the Israeli flag in Jerusalem). It should not have surprised us that as people’s struggle to survive grew more and more grinding following the IMF-led reforms of the subsequent decades they would rise up once more.

Nor should we surprised at the moneyed fightback, which will no doubt be attempted. During this transition period, forces like the IMF will seek to lock in and enlarge the neoliberal project before there is an accountable government to complain about it.

The example of South Africa, as documented by Naomi Klein, immediately springs to mind. The ANC’s famous Freedom Charter, she points out, contained many demands for economic justice including the provision of housing and health care, and the nationalisation of major industries. However, while Nelson Mandela was negotiating the structure of the new parliament, Thabo Mbeke was busy in economic talks with FW de Klerk’s government during which, in Klein’s words, he was persuaded “to hand control of those power centres to supposedly impartial experts, economists and officials from the IMF, the World Bank, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the National Party – anyone except the liberation fighters from the ANC”.

The team of ANC economists busy drawing up their plan would find themselves unable to implement it once the party was in government. The consequences for South Africans have been disastrous.

These new loans from the IMF threaten to bind the newly democratic Egypt and Tunisia in much the same way. Once more, local elites could collaborate with the institutions at the helm of global capitalism to screw the broader population. If this occurs, these revolutions will be robbed of much of their meaning, and a terrible blow will be dealt to the broader Arab spring.

Best Regards
ZULKIFLI HASAN

Question time: Revival, reach of Islamic finance

Question time: Revival, reach of Islamic finance

By Rushdi Siddiqui Available at: http://www.btimes.com.my/Current_News/BTIMES/articles/erab/Article/index_html#ixzz1NM0lKC4N

Here are questions and answers that should spark more thoughts about Islamic finance and its positioning, promoting, and responsibilities in the new world order.

IT’S polling time once again in Islamic finance but, today, we survey two major developments, Arab revolution and death of Osama Bin Laden (OBL), and examine the consequences, if any, on Islamic finance in the Maghreb and anti-syariah sentiment countries.

Interestingly, the million-dollar mansion-living OBL and his executive team camped in “cave gate-aways” witnessed in real time the Al Qaeda ideology of hate, mayhem and murder discredited by a highly educated, but very poor Tunisian fruit-seller seeking dignity of work in providing for his family.

The fruit-seller, Mohamed Bouazizi, sparked a peaceful digital revolution that “removed or presently removing” the Ben Ali (Tunisia), Mubarak (Egypt), Saleh (Yemen), and Muamar (Libya).

The questions and answers below should spark more thoughts about Islamic finance and its positioning, promoting, and responsibilities in the new world order. One of the takeaways from these external shocks is slowly removing reasons, one at a time, of “why not to have Islamic finance”.

(1) What will have a “growth and reach” impact on Islamic finance?

A. Arab Revolution.

B. Better understanding of Muslim brotherhood’s agenda.

C. Death of Osama Bin Laden.

D. All of above.

E. None of above, as challenges on shortage of scholars, qualified people, standards, regulations, liquidity/risk management, innovation, etc., have yet to be addressed.

(2) What was (were) the cause(s) that gave rise to Bin Laden-ism and extremism?

A. Enduring and endemic corruption, poverty, injustice, dictatorship, indignity, Palestine, etc, in the Muslim world.

B. “Leadership” of OBL.

C. President Bush’s invasion/liberation of Iraq, Abu-Gharib, Guantanamo, “Mission Accomplished”, etc.

D. All of the above.

E. None of the above. it was the “not-welcomed” Muslim world’s Black Swan.

(3) Why has Islamic finance industry been relatively quiet in the post revolution and OBL’s demise?

A. Islamic finance has traditionally shied away from politics, movements and parties as accountability is to the Almighty.

B. It is too early to comment on how these developments impact Islamic finance, but it’s consistent with present Islamic finance’s reactive, and not proactive, approach to new markets and challenges.

C. Bahrain will be a good case study on the government handles crisis concerning the financial sector, as country is an established and recognised Islamic finance hub.

D. Question not applicable, as people saw it as “war of ideas approach” between Bush-Obama and their quest to squash terrorism.

(4) Two of the discredited North African leaders often used the “syariah scare” of Muslim Brotherhood as pretext to prevent Islamic finance from gaining traction or gathering momentum in their countries, now, what is the fate of Islamic finance in Tunisia and Egypt?

A. People of these countries have gone through brutal secular repression, and it’s too early to have meaningful discussions on Islamic finance.

B. Some of the secular political parties may be using Islamic finance to get the Muslim brotherhood vote.

C. Now is the perfect time to raise profile of Islamic finance for the devout in those countries as every agenda is on the table as the association between Islamic finance and terrorism funding/financing is now broken.

(5) The social media, from Facebook to Twitter, received much credit for the downfall of these leaders, will Islamic finance look into or be receptive to funding home country in Maghreb and GCC social media ventures?

A. No, as does not understand the business model as too far removed from real-estate financing and Murabaha stock margin lending.

B. No, local leaders will prevent funding such ventures unless can control.

C. Conventional entities, either in private equity or venture capital, will fund such ventures.

(6) What does the Arab Revolution mean for Islamic finance in Algeria, Morocco and Libya (post Muamar)?

A. We will see more interest from GCC and Malaysian Islamic banks.

B. Local country investors, institutions and individuals, will need to take an active effort to establish an infrastructure for Islamic finance by reaching out to legislators and regulators for levelling the playing field.

C. Short-term interest in Islamic finance will not result in any meaningful infrastructure for Islamic finance as no top down commitment from the respective governments.

D. Everyone is adopting a “wait-and-see what happens next or till dust settles” attitude, cause still too risky to enter these countries.

(7) As a result of revolution and death of OBL, we are beginning to hear about a peace dividend, reduced political risk and increased stability, and it may result in, say, more sukuk at better pricing.

A. Yes, reduces uncertainty, hence, reducing some of the premium.

B. No, it’s still about credit risk of the underlying asset

C. Move to the next question, as peace and many of the Muslim countries do not go hand in hand.

(8) Will the death of OBL reduce/eliminate the anti-syariah sentiments and movements in countries, like South Korea, France, US, India, where Islamic finance has potential at retail and wholesale levels?

A. Yes, as main argument of funnelling money (zakat, purification, etc.) to terrorist is addressed

B. No, because Islamic finance still needs to educate and convince the stakeholders of finance (and the lobbyists) and policymakers in these countries. It has to clearly embark on awareness and education campaign, that it’s not about money transfer (Hawala), disclose names of the charities money goes to, including non-Muslim charities.

C. No, as Islamic finance missed the opportunity to promote itself in the post credit crisis, it will probably miss this opportunity also.

D. Some see it as just a “conventional makeover”

(9) Will the death of OBL result in increased demand for Islamic finance and halal industry in Afghanistan?

A. Yes, there will be a short-term interest spike

B. No, the regulatory infrastructure doesn’t exist, branch distribution channels are limited, scholars are limited, and the populace is not knowledgeable.

C. The halal industry, extremists have to continue to consume, should be the lower hanging fruit to naturally promote and Islamic banking can ride its coat-tails.

(10) What does the revolution and OBL’s death mean for promoting Malaysia’s Islamic finance and halal industry in the Maghreb?

A. Not affected, Malaysia will continue to bank on the wealthy/ wealth from GCC countries for Islamic finance.

B. Malaysia, led by (Bank Negara Malaysia) governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz and Securities Commission chairman Tan Sri Zarinah Anwar, will expand reaching out to the Maghreb countries as Islamic finance there is more promising than CIS countries, including Kazakhstan, and sub-Saharan African countries, like Kenya.

C. Banking delegations from the Maghreb countries will visit Malaysia for better understanding the holistic approach to Islamic finance and see how they can adopt the same model in their own land.

D. The halal industry, led by World Halal Forum, will take a lead to bring more clarity for the halal industry to prosper/flourish in the Maghreb.

My answers are: 1. b, 2. a, 3. b, 4. c, 5. a, 6. b, 7. b, 8. a/b, 9. c, 10. b

Best Regards
ZULKIFLI HASAN

BBC is ‘confusing cause and effect’ in its Israeli coverage

BBC is ‘confusing cause and effect’ in its Israeli coverage

Tim Llewellyn Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/may/23/bbc-israeli-conflict-coverage

British broadcasters’ coverage of the Arab awakening over recent months has been brave and honest. These are difficult and dangerous stories. But the BBC – and in this article I am going to concentrate on the BBC, because it is the broadcaster we are taxed to enable and sets worldwide standards of fairness – and its teams have made every effort to report with balance and application.

However, the BBC coverage of Israel and Palestine, where another state continually kills and oppresses Arabs, is replete with imbalance and distortion.

I covered the Middle East for the BBC from the mid-1970s to the early 1990s, and am aggrieved by my ex-employer’s continuing inability to describe in a just and contextualised way the conflict between military occupier and militarily occupied. There is no attempt to properly convey cause and effect, to report the misery, violence and pillage that demean and deny freedom to the Palestinians and provoke their (limited) actions.

Greg Philo and Mike Berry, in their book More Bad News from Israel, prove by textual analysis and follow-up interviews with viewers and listeners that I am right – and so are an increasing number of people who are becoming aware that the BBC sells them short on Israel. Philo and Berry’s book, an updated edition of Bad News From Israel (2004), examines coverage of the Israeli blitz on Gaza, analysing BBC TV and ITV early evening bulletins between its beginning on 27 December 2008, and the ceasefire on 17 January 2009.

Siege and blockade

They find that the Israeli explanation of why it went to war on a mainly defenceless Gazan population is the one broadly accepted by the BBC. It was a “response” to Palestinian rockets. The Palestinian case, that the Israelis violated a ceasefire that had held for nearly five months in November 2008, and that the Gazans had endured many years of intensifying siege and blockade, which had reduced them to stagnation and penury, was rarely put, if at all. “The story was unpacked,” the authors write, “in the manner of the Israeli view.”

In the bulletins they examined, the BBC gave 421.5 lines of text to Israeli explanations of why they attacked Gaza: the “need for security”, “enemy rockets”, “to stop the smuggling of weapons”. The BBC devoted 14.25 lines to references to the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territories and 10.5 lines to the blockade. The BBC repeatedly stressed the word [Israeli] “retaliation”, and also implied that police stations bombed by the Israelis were military targets, describing other casualties as “civilian”. It described these civilian installations as “targets”. Newspapers such as the Guardian did point out the distinction.

“The offer that Hamas was said to have made, to halt this exchange [rockets v shells and air strikes] … was almost completely absent from the coverage,” say the authors. They cite a BBC reporter saying: “Israel feels itself surrounded by enemies, with reason.” They add: “We have not found a commentary noting that ‘Palestinians feel themselves to be subject to a brutal military occupation, with reason.’ Israel’s official view is given as fact, they say, but the Palestinian view, on the rare occasions it is found at all, is not. Israelis “state”, Palestinians “claim”.

When the BBC and ITV did start reporting the horrific civilian casualties in Gaza and the use of phosphorus, Israeli spokespersons were immediately on hand to deny, explain or obfuscate. The Palestinians, especially Hamas, were rarely able to answer allegations. The Palestinians in situ usually lacked the resources or opportunity to make their case. The many articulate Palestinians in London available to help were rarely called on, whereas, as one BBC insider said, “the Israeli ambassador was practically camped at TV Centre”.

More than two years on, the BBC continues to confuse cause and effect – Israeli attacks are always reported as retaliation to Palestinian violence or rockets, and the idea that Palestinian rockets, however ineffective, are armed resistance to Israel’s hammering from land, sea and air is rarely broadcast. The daily indignities and brutalities of the siege and the occupation and the shelling and shooting of civilians are virtually absent from BBC consciousness unless an attack on Israel sparks interest.

Headline news

Philo and Berry quote the BBC correspondent Paul Adams, a Middle East expert: what is missing from the coverage, he says, is the view that the Palestinians are engaged in a war of national liberation, trying to throw off an occupying force. Any Israeli casualty is headline news, shown in high quality images. BBC teams are based in West Jerusalem, de facto Israeli territory, and are on hand. Arab casualties may be shown in reports of a funeral, usually agency film, the victim anonymous. The Israelis, it seems, are for the BBC “people like us”. The Arabs are “the other”.

Philo and Berry go on to interview viewers and listeners, all in higher education. They find that these focus groups were largely unaware of the Israeli occupation, often believing the Palestinians are the occupiers. Few knew that Hamas had been democratically elected in January 2006. “I had the impression they were a terrorist group from watching the BBC,” said one respondent. In most cases, the assumption was that Palestinian rockets brought the invasion onto their own people’s heads.

To complain means the official complaints procedure and dealing with the army of lawyers and layers of bureaucracy the BBC now deploys to see off all but the most assiduous. Editors and producers rarely respond individually to complaints and, if they do, do so with question-raising answers and self-justification.

For example, the BBC consistently describes illegal Israeli settlements as “held to be illegal”. But they are illegal. Even the Foreign Office says so. The BBC always adds “Israel disputes this.” Well it would, wouldn’t it? Why these caveats? Why this reporting of a shout of denial from the convicted prisoner in the dock?

More than a month after I made an official complaint about this I have had no reply or acknowledgement. People who complained about Panorama’s travesty of a documentary on the deaths caused when Israeli commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara, part of the Gaza aid flotilla, had to go through an obstacle course of form-filling and stonewalling.

The BBC Trust found the programme guilty on some counts but said it had not breached BBC guidelines of accuracy and impartiality. Why negotiate all this to end up with such contortionist, self-serving judgments?

Final arbiter

The BBC is on the defensive: the castle wall is the labyrinthine complaints procedure. It must be time for an independent body like Ofcom to be the final arbiter on BBC journalism, not the BBC itself. The BBC Trust, the highest court of appeal in these matters, is now chaired by Lord Patten, who has told us all how closely he intends to work with the director general, Mark Thompson: judge and potential defendant.

Why is BBC reporting like this? The book addresses this in Chapter 4. In my view, the rot set in during 2001, after 9/11. Israel and its friends were quick to capitalise on “terror” and “Arabs” and massively enhanced their propaganda effort here, gaining access to BBC staff at all levels. BBC managers and editors do not like being shouted at, and they are soft toys when someone makes a loud and apparently convincing case. The Palestinians have no such machinery. As one BBC producer says in More Bad News: “We all fear the phone call from the Israeli embassy.”

The BBC’s main Middle East bureau in west Jerusalem is liable to Israeli pressure, and it is in Israel that the BBC perspective on the regional conflict is formed.

Editorially, Israeli spokesmen are easily available and producers love that. As Peter Oborne pointed out on Channel 4 in late 2009, each of our three main political parties is amenable to the “Friends of Israel” lobby. Our coalition leadership duo have both pledged themselves publicly to Israel. So did Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

The BBC, like a well-kicked hound, does not in its post-Hutton malaise wish to antagonise politicians. It goes with reporting that’s as low-profile as possible on this most sensitive of issues. It lives in horror of being accused of anti-semitism, Israel’s ultimate smear. Reporters and editors know they have to pitch the Israel story in a certain manner to get it on the air – in effect, self-censorship.

Perhaps the most overwhelming distortion of the BBC in its coverage of Israel and Palestine is what I term “spurious equivalence”: that the Palestinians and Israelis are two equal sides “at war” over “disputed” territory and may the best man win. Or, come on chaps, shouldn’t reason prevail? The BBC knows that the Palestinians are a people fighting for independence, but its coverage does not tell it like it is.

In 2006, an independent panel appointed by the BBC governors assessed impartiality in coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Their review came after many complaints and the first edition of this book, which examined in similar form the BBC’s distorted reporting of the Al-Aqsa (second) intifada and the subsequent Israeli bombardments and invasion of the cities of the West Bank.

The commission confirmed many of the Philo/Berry criticisms: “BBC output does not consistently give a full and fair account of the conflict. In some ways the picture is incomplete and, in that sense, misleading.”

Five years on, it remains so, and the BBC has put the commission’s report under “File and Forget”.

Tim Llewellyn was BBC Middle East correspondent from 1976-80 and 1987-92. More Bad News from Israel, by Greg Philo and Mike Berry, is published in paperback by Pluto Press at £15

Best Regards
ZULKIFLI HASAN

Understanding Obama’s shift on Israel and the ‘1967 lines’

Understanding Obama’s shift on Israel and the ‘1967 lines’

By Glenn Kessler Available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/understanding-obamas-shift-on-israel-and-the-1967-lines/2011/05/19/AFPRaT7G_blog.html

“The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”
— President Obama, May 19, 2011

This sentence in President Obama’s much-anticipated speech on the Middle East caused much consternation Thursday among supporters of the Jewish state. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who will meet with Obama on Friday, adamantly rejected it.

For people not trained in the nuances of Middle East diplomacy, the sentence might appear unremarkable. However, many experts say it represents a significant shift in U.S. policy, and it is certainly a change for the Obama administration.

As is often the case with diplomacy, the context and the speaker are nearly as important as the words. Ever since the 1967 Six-Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors, it has been clear that peace with the Palestinians would be achieved through some exchange of land for security.

Indeed, Israelis and Palestinians have held several intensive negotiations that involved swapping lands along the Arab-Israeli dividing line that existed before the 1967 war — technically known as the Green Line, or the boundaries established by the 1949 Armistice agreements. (Click here for a visual description of the swaps discussed between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008.)

So, in many ways, it is not news that the eventual borders of a Palestinian state would be based on land swaps from the 1967 dividing line. But it makes a difference when the president of the United States says it, particularly in a carefully staged speech at the State Department. This then is not an off-the-cuff remark, but a carefully considered statement of U.S. policy.

Here is a tour through the diplomatic thicket, and how U.S. language on this issue has evolved over the years.
The Facts

The pre-1967 lines are important to both sides for setting the stage for eventual negotiations, but for vastly different reasons.

From an Israeli perspective, the de facto borders that existed before 1967 were not really borders, but an unsatisfactory, indefensible and temporary arrangement that even Arabs had not accepted. So Israeli officials do not want to be bound by those lines in any talks.

From a Palestinian perspective, the pre-1967 division was a border between Israel and neighboring states and thus must be the starting point for negotiations involving land swaps. This way, they believe, the size of a future Palestinian state would end up to be — to the square foot — the exact size of the non-Israeli territories before the 1967 conflict. Palestinians would argue that even this is a major concession, since they believe all of the current state of Israel should belong to the Palestinians.

After the Six-Day War, the United Nations set the stage for decades of fitful peacemaking by issuing Resolution 242, which said that “the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East” should include the following principles:

1. Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.

2. Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.

Since the resolution did not say “the territories,” it has become a full-time employment act for generations of diplomats.

Nevertheless, until Obama on Thursday, U.S. presidents generally have steered clear of saying the negotiations should start on the 1967 lines. Here is a sampling of comments by presidents or their secretaries of state, with some explanation or commentary.

“It is clear, however, that a return to the situation of 4 June 1967 will not bring peace. There must be secure and there must be recognized borders.”
— President Lyndon Johnson, September 1968

“In the pre-1967 borders, Israel was barely ten miles wide at its narrowest point. The bulk of Israel’s population lived within artillery range of hostile armies. I am not about to ask Israel to live that way again.”
— President Ronald Reagan, September 1, 1982

“Israel will never negotiate from or return to the 1967 borders.”
— Secretary of State George Shultz, September 1988

Starting with President Lyndon Johnson, right after the Six-Day War, U.S. presidents often have shown great sympathy for Israel’s contention that the pre-1967 dividing line did not provide security.

“I think there can be no genuine resolution to the conflict without a sovereign, viable, Palestinian state that accommodates Israeli’s security requirements and the demographic realities. That suggests Palestinian sovereignty over Gaza, the vast majority of the West Bank, the incorporation into Israel of settlement blocks … To make the agreement durable, I think there will have to be some territorial swaps and other arrangements.”
— President Bill Clinton, January 7, 2001

In his waning weeks in office, Clinton laid out what are now known as the “Clinton parameters,” an attempt to sketch out a negotiating solution to create two states. His description of the parameters is very detailed, but he shied away from mentioning the 1967 lines even as he spoke of “territorial swaps.”

“Ultimately, Israelis and Palestinians must address the core issues that divide them if there is to be a real peace, resolving all claims and ending the conflict between them. This means that the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 will be ended through a settlement negotiated between the parties, based on UN resolutions 242 and 338, with Israeli withdrawal to secure and recognize borders.”
— President George W. Bush, June 24, 2002

Bush slipped in a mention of 1967 in his famous Rose Garden speech that called for the ouster of then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. One could argue that the reference to Resolution 242 was a de facto mention of the 1967 lines. At the time, the Arab League was promoting a peace initiative based on the idea of Israel returning to the 1967 boundaries, and this reference was seen as a nod to that concept. But most experts did not view his reference to “1967” as a change.

“In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.”
— Bush, letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, April 14, 2004

When Sharon agreed to withdraw Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip, Bush smoothed the deal by exchanging letters that supported the Israeli position that the 1967 lines were not a useful starting point. The letter infuriated Arabs, but it helped Sharon win domestic approval for the Gaza withdrawal. Interestingly, despite Israeli pleas, the Obama administration has refused to acknowledge the letter as binding on U.S. policy.

“We believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.”
— Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Nov. 25, 2009

When the Israeli government announced a partial settlement freeze, Clinton responded with a statement that specifically mentioned a state based on 1967 lines, but as a “Palestinian goal.” This was balanced with a description of an “Israeli goal.”

Originally, the Obama administration had hoped both sides would have agreed to acknowledge such goals as a starting point for negotiations — known in the diplomatic trade as “terms of reference.” When that effort failed, Clinton issued the concept in her own name. She would repeat the same sentence, almost word for word, many times over the next 1½ years.
The Bottom Line

In the context of this history, Obama’s statement Thursday represented a major shift. He did not articulate the 1967 boundaries as a “Palestinian goal” but as U.S. policy. He also dropped any reference to “realities on the ground” — code for Israeli settlements — that both Bush and Hillary Rodham Clinton had used. He further suggested that Israel’s military would need to agree to leave the West Bank.

Obama did not go all the way and try to define what his statement meant for the disputed city of Jerusalem, or attempt to address the issue of Palestinians who want to return to lands now in the state of Israel. He said those issues would need to be addressed after borders and security are settled. But, for a U.S. president, the explicit reference to the 1967 lines represented crossing the Rubicon.

A number of readers have asked about a statement made by George W. Bush in 2005: “Any final status agreement must be reached between the two parties, and changes to the 1949 Armistice Lines must be mutually agreed to.”

I purposely did not include this in my list because in the annals of diplomacy it is considered a relatively unimportant statement. It was made at a news conference with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, not in a speech or in a letter (where, by contrast, the language is more carefully formulated.) It is essentially a restatement of the 2004 letter, with perhaps a bit more emphasis on “mutual agreement,” designed to please Palestinian ears.

At the time, it was considered an insignificant statement, by the Americans and the Palestinians — and the reporters. I looked back at the 29-paragraph article I wrote on the news conference. It mentioned the sentence in the last paragraph and did not focus at all on the phrase “1949 Armistice Lines.” The New York Times report on the same news conference did not mention Bush’s comment at all.

For diplomatic purposes, speeches and letters will almost always trump remarks at news conferences. The context is also important. As seen by the reporting at the time, no one thought Bush’s comment was remarkable or significant, in contrast to the reception that Obama’s statement on Thursday received. That’s because it was considered simply a restatement of the 2004 letter — which was considered the most explicit description of U.S. policy. Analysts who are citing this as evidence of little difference between Bush and Obama are deceiving themselves.

Regards
ZULKIFLI HASAN