All analyses in chronological order - Afro-Middle East Centre

The dispute over Palestine is a political one but it is conducted within a legal framework. From the outset – the notorious Partition Plan contained in General Assembly Resolution 181(II) - international law has played an important role in the dispute. Today, the dispute is probably more characterized by legal argument than at any time before. It is, therefore, appropriate to consider the dispute in legal terms, as we shall be doing in this Conference.

Since the declaration of the state of Israel over sixty years ago Israel has consistently been in violation of international law. Over the years it has violated – and is still violating- some of the most fundamental norms of international law. It has been held to be in violation of international law by the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, human rights treaty monitoring bodies and the International Court of Justice. In this respect it resembles apartheid South Africa which for over forty years violated international law by practicing racial discrimination, engaging in political repression, manufacturing nuclear weapons and carrying out military offensives against its neighbours. But there the similarity ends.

By International Crisis Group

As a rule, Iraq's post-Saddam elections have tended to magnify pre-existing negative trends. The parliamentary polls to be held on 7 March are no exception. The focus on electoral politics is good, no doubt, but the run-up has highlighted deep-seated problems that threaten the fragile recovery: recurring election-related violence; ethnic tensions over Kirkuk; the re-emergence of sectarianism; and blatant political manipulation of state institutions. The most egregious development was the decision to disqualify over 500 candidates, a dangerous, arbitrary step lacking due process, yet endorsed by the Shiite ruling parties. Under normal circumstances, that alone might have sufficed to discredit the elections. But these are not normal circumstances, and for the sake of Iraq's stability, the elections must go on. At a minimum, however, the international community should ramp up its electoral monitoring and define clear red lines that need to be respected if the results are to be considered legitimate. And it should press the next government to seriously tackle the issue – long-neglected yet never more critical – of national reconciliation.

By Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett

There has been much talk in recent weeks about the possibility of another war between Israel and Hizballah and/or HAMAS (the Middle East's two most prominent resistance movements, both supported by Iran) in coming months. Perhaps most notably, President Obama's national security adviser, James Jones, told a Washington think tank audience last month that "when regimes are feeling pressure, as Iran is internally and will externally in the near future, it often lashes out through surrogates, including, in Iran's case, Hizballah in Lebanon and HAMAS in Gaza. As pressure on the regime in Tehran builds over its nuclear program, there is a heightened risk of further attacks against Israel".

By AlJazeera Centre for Studies

The London Conference, held at the end of January 2010 in recognition of, and support for, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, was the sixth international conference on Afghanistan to be held since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. It was also a consolidation of the resolutions of the Istanbul Summit, held a few days earlier, which brought together the presidents of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey and called for dialogue with the Taliban or, rather, with "the moderates among them". The first significance of the London conference is that it revealed the failure of the military option, and gave legitimacy to the Taliban and to whoever has talks with them.

By AlJazeera Centre for Studies

President Barack Obama's administration placed the stumbling Middle East "Peace Process" at the top of its list of priorities, with the intention of achieving a "two-state solution" for Palestine and Israel. To this end, Obama appointed veteran Congressman George Mitchell as his special envoy. Mitchell, and even Obama himself, have made strenuous efforts to achieve a breakthrough, albeit with the launch of new negotiations.




The continued expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank seems to have finally locked in the permanence of Israel's colonial project. Israel has crossed the threshold from the Middle East's only democracy to the only "apartheid regime" in the Western world. But outside intervention may offer the last hope for a reversal of the settlement enterprise and the achievement of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Since the US is no longer the likely agent of that intervention, it is up to the Europeans and to the Palestinians themselves to fashion the path to selfdetermination in the occupied territories. Essential to the success of these efforts is setting aright the chronic imbalance of power between Israel and the Palestinians. If left to their own devices – including, as some have proposed, to reconcile their conflicting historical "narratives" – the further usurpation of Palestinian lands, and the disappearance of the two state option, is all but ensured.

By Dr. Ijaz Shafi Gilani

U.S. President Barack Obama's plan to negotiate with the Taliban in Afghanistan has generally been welcomed in Pakistan. It is being seen as a vindication of the Pakistani government's long-held position that a solution to the Afghan problem should be sought through a combination of political and military means. The turmoil in Afghanistan has weighed heavily on Pakistan - more than on any other external actor related to the Afghan conflict. Thus Pakistan is genuinely keen to achieve a peaceful and stable neighbour. Its concern is to ensure that any plan for dialogue is carried to its logical conclusion, and that it does not collapse prematurely.


Al-Qa'ida Hot Spots

By AlJazeera Centre for Studies

At the end of the phase known as the "Afghan Jihad", most Arabs and Muslims who participated in the Afghan war returned to their homelands. Some formed the nucleus for the dissemination, in their countries, of the ideas that they carried or developed during the "jihad" period. The al-Qaeda organisation, based on the principle of global jihad, is the most prominent embodiment of these "new" ideas; new when compared to the ways that other Islamic organisations have evolved.

Differences exist in the manner in which the various al-Qaeda "branches" emerged; they vary not only in the means and methods of work but even, in some cases, in their objectives. These differences depend on circumstances prevailing in the countries where each al-Qaeda member organises. Nevertheless, there has been a common understanding that the original birth home – Afghanistan – provides the fundamental guidance to the organisation.

This paper examines al-Qaeda in three critical locations, which recently rose to prominence, in the Islamic world. It discusses the movement and some of its members; the methodology and activities of the organisation; its local and periodic objectives; its ideologies and influence; and will chart future trends for the organisation. The three locations studied here are:Pakistan and Afghanistan, Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula, and Somalia.


By Hassan Nafaa

Over the centuries, Egypt's foreign policy has been associated with geo-strategic factors that were dictated by geographical and historical realities, and has been characterized by relative stability. Geography has caused Egypt to rely almost entirely on the water of the Nile River which originates outside its territory and passes through several countries before reaching its southern border.

History informs us that most invaders arrived in Egypt via the north-eastern gate and often continued their advance in the direction of Palestine and the Levant to secure their occupation. The invaders who intended to occupy Palestine and the Levant usually continued their advance in the direction of Egypt to ensure their survival in the East, thus making Egypt, Palestine, and the Levant a single strategic cluster with a single linked destiny.

By AlJazeera Centre for Studies

Early in December 2009, and after lengthy consultations, United States president Barack Obama announced his strategy in Afghanistan. At first glance, it seemed as if the approach chosen by the U.S. president aimed at the Afghanisation of the conflict; pitting Afghans against Afghans. It also seemed that his plan was based on a specific target date by which he wanted to get American troops out of the battlefield which was inaugurated by his predecessor.

Indeed, Obama's announcement makes the war in Afghanistan an American war more than in any other period since October 2001, the date that the invasion of Afghanistan began.

By Ramananda Sengupta

"Nervous China may attack India in 2012." That was the title of a recent column by Bharat Verma, editor of the Indian Defence Review, a respected quarterly published in New Delhi. Picked up and disseminated by Indian wire and news services, the article sparked numerous public and private debates in the country - not on whether Verma was correct, but on whether India was prepared for such an attack by its northern neighbour.

When the world's two fastest growing economies (even though China is way ahead in the numbers game; India's GDP per capita of $1016 pales before China's $6,100) prepare to face off, the rest of the world cannot but worry. The events in these nations will probably determine the world's future over the next decade.

By Sourav Roy

Come April 2010, officials from the sleepy Polish municipality of Morag will be gearing up for perhaps their most critical assignment in the new decade. Their job will be to provide Polish military officials overall support for the deployment of American Patriot missiles barely seventy kilometres from the Russian border. Targeted to be fully functional by the middle of this year, the main battery of this missile system will contain up to eight intercepting missiles, manned by about 100 American soldiers deployed at Morag. The Poles recently acknowledged that Morag had been strategically chosen by the Obama administration to offer the best military support and technical propping system for American forces in Europe. In other words, it will help cement America's position as the big bullying brother in Eurasia.


By AlJazeera Centre for Studies

Recently, the protest movement in Iran has gained fresh momentum, seizing two opportunities: the hightened tension that accompanied the funeral of the Shi'a cleric Hussain Muntadhiri, who is widely considered to be the spiritual father of the call to reform wilayat al-faqeeh or "rule of the clergy" principle from an absolute to a constitutional limited rule; and Ashura, a shi'a religious festival which masses can celebrate in public congregations without the need for a permit -something which the government has consistently refused to grant the opposition. The protests are another episode in a spiral movement that has continued since President Ahmadi- Nejad's re-election.

By Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett 

The first anniversary of Barack Obama's inauguration as President of the United States came this week. The sharpest criticism of Obama's first-year record on domestic and economic affairs came from the Nobel prize-winning economist, New York Times columnist, and Princeton professor Paul Krugman.

This line from Krugman encapsulates the concern many of us have:

"I'm pretty close to giving up on Mr. Obama, who seems determined to confirm every doubt that I and others ever had about whether he was ready to fight for what his supporters believed in."

Sudan: Preventing Implosion

  • 18 December, 2009
  • Published in Sudan

By International Crisis Group

A new report on Sudan by the International Crisis Group, called Sudan: Preventing Implosion, argues that if the international community does not step in to ensure full implementation of Sudan's North-South peace deal and shore up other failing centre-periphery agreements, the country risks a return to all-out civil war.

Sudan: Preventing Implosion, examines the situation in the run-up to national elections due next year and the early 2011 referendum on self-determination in the South. It concludes that key elements of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended the two-decades-long civil war between North and South Sudan, have not been implemented. The failure to foster democratic transformation in the North has also undermined the chances for political settlement in Darfur and exacerbated tensions in other parts of the country.

By Aisling Byrne

"Sincerely speaking," said General Dayton, "as far I am concerned, Hamas is a political issue. I do not interfere in this matter." He continued: "I would appreciate if you do not ask me political questions because, as a soldier, I do not speak in politics." Such innocuous protests from General Dayton – who, since 2005, has been the US Security Coordinator for the Palestinians – are untrue: Dayton is a political actor who essentially is overseeing and facilitating a process of political cleansing in the West Bank, the consequences of which are damaging, if not disastrous, for the Palestinian national project, for political reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, and for political engagement and prospects for peace. In essence, Dayton's work serves to enforce Israel's occupation, even if this is not its explicit intention.

Salvaging Fatah

  • 12 November, 2009

By International Crisis Group The threat by the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas not to run in the next elections is only the latest sign of the crisis facing Fatah, the movement he heads. Fatah's challenge is to clearly define its agenda, how to carry it out and with whom.

Palestine: Salvaging Fatah, the latest background report from the International Crisis Group, examines the current state of the 50-year-old movement which has been the heart of Palestinian nationalism. It argues that while Fatah has begun long-overdue internal reforms to revitalise the movement, much remains to be done. In particular, Fatah's leaders need to clarify its political strategy if it is to play an effective role in leading Palestinians toward a two-state solution.

by Na'eem Jeenah
Muslim opposition to colonialism and apartheid in South Africa began soon after the arrival of the first Muslims in the Cape Colony in the mid-17th Century. Various acts of resistance through the centuries highlighted the opposition of the Muslim community to the oppression it faced. From the late 1960s, Muslims began playing a role in the struggle against apartheid in excess to what their numbers might suggest. Many of these Muslims joined the various liberation movements that were active: the African National Congress, the Pan Africanist Congress, the Black Consciousness Movement, the South African Communist Party, and other socialist or nationalist organisations. From the 1970s, an increasing number of Muslims and Muslim organisations joined the struggle as Muslims. Anti-apartheid resistance, then, increasingly came to be

by Faisal Devji

On the fifth anniversary of 9/11 a jihadist website posted a long interview with Osama bin Laden's lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in which he described Muslim militancy as offering an opportunity for all the world's oppressed, whether or not they converted to Islam:

[Interviewer] Speaking of the plunder of resources, grievances, and the oppressed ones in the world, in recent statements by Al-Qa'ida of Jihad calls for supporting the oppressed in the world have been repeated. Is this a new Al-Qa'ida approach?

[Al-Zawahiri] No, this is a confirmed jurisprudence-based law. God, the exalted, said in [a] Hadith Qudsi: "O my servants, I have forbidden oppression for myself, and forbidden it for you, so do not oppress each other."

Abstract for paper presented by Na'eem Jeenah, Executive Director of the Afro-Middle East Centre, at the conference on "Rethinking Jihad", organised by the Centre for the Advanced Study of the Arab World, and held at the University of Edinburgh.
Muslim opposition to colonialism and apartheid in South Africa began soon after the arrival of the first Muslims in the Cape Colony in the mid-17th Century. Various acts of resistance through the centuries highlighted the opposition of the Muslim community to the oppression it faced. From the late 1960s, Muslims began playing a role in the struggle against apartheid in excess to what their numbers might suggest. Many of these Muslims joined the various liberation movements that were active: the African National Congress, the Pan Africanist Congress, the Black Consciousness Movement, the South African Communist Party, and other socialist or nationalist organisations. From the 1970s, an increasing number of Muslims and Muslim organisations joined the struggle as Muslims. Anti-apartheid resistance, then, increasingly came to be characterised as a ‘jihad’ by the protagonists who argued that this jihad was an Islamic duty upon all Muslims. This was especially so in the 1980s when a number of Muslim organisations and individuals involved in the anti-apartheid struggle argued that they did so because they were thus commanded by the Qur’an and that such involvement constituted ‘jihad’. This paper will examine the arguments put forward to justify this position and will evaluate the arguments justifying the notion of jihad that became popular in the 1980s in South Africa in comparison to the mainstream Muslim position regarding jihad. The paper argues that the South African anti-apartheid struggle thus developed a novel conception of jihad. It will also highlight some of the South African offshoots of the ‘anti-apartheid jihad’, such as the ‘gender jihad’.

By Safiyyah Surtee

A report published last month by the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, and endorsed by the Palestinian BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions) National Committee, is scathing of South African business - including South African parastatals - for their relations with Israel.

Entitled 'Democratic South Africa's Complicity in Israel's Occupation, Colonialism and Apartheid', the 58 page report details South Africa's economic ties with Israel, and the political and related social consequences thereof. It analyses a number of South African companies' involvement or contribution to Israel's occupation industry, and reviews government initiatives which aim to promote trade relations with Israel.

Abstract: Islam, Islamists and statehood in Palestine

by Na’eem Jeenah

Presented at “Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace” Conference, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, Toronto

This paper will examine the origins of political Islam in Palestine, and relate the political positions of the Hamas movement to its origins and its Islamist ‘lineage’. It will discuss the emergence of Hamas (and refer to the emergence of Islamic Jihad), examine the Hamas charter, and expound on some of the political positions and strategies of Hamas.

In addition, the paper will discuss the notion of ‘Islamic state’ within contemporary Islamic thought. This is not an uncontested notion among Muslim scholars. Whether the forms of Islamic governance that characterised the early Prophetic and post-Prophetic Muslim empire resembled the form of nation states as understood today is doubtful. What, then, does it mean to refer to those forms of governance and to use them as justification for an ‘Islamic state’ in the 21st Century? Are comparisons between an ‘Islamic state’ that might / could exist today to the Islamic governance from the Seventh Century onwards correct and / or useful, either in terms of defining a new political model or in terms of determining forms of struggle and steps towards achieving such models? What does an ‘Islamic state’ mean and what would it represent?


Abstract: The National Question and a future Palestinian-Israeli state and society: Comparisons with South Africa

by Salim Vally & Na'eem Jeenah

Presented at "Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace" Conference, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, Toronto

While the one-state vs two-state debate with regard to Palestine and Israel has waged in earnest since the partitioning of British Mandate Palestine into two entities by UN General Assembly Resolution 181, only recently have protagonists of the debate been adding substance to what both options might practically mean. This paper aims to enhance the discussion on the substance. In particular, it will focus on the challenges to both options that will be posed by the national question.

The 'national question' has been debated for decades. While, initially, it was framed as a European question of national self-determination / independence, it later also focussed on national unity / cohesion in Third World liberation struggles. In the context of the post-apartheid South African state and future Palestinian-Israeli statehood, the National Question focuses on issues such as: how the notion of 'nation' is constructed, who is regarded as part of the 'nation', what role ethnicity, class, language and religion play in defining the nation, the kind of recognition or protection different groups within the new 'nation' might seek, and the possibility – in each context – of a unified or cohesive 'nation'.

The South African struggle against colonialism and apartheid aimed – even across ideologically divergent organisations – to create a new post-apartheid state that would be (using the term used in the Palestinian-Israeli debate) a "one-state solution", which would incorporate all the "homelands" and allow no autonomous or self-governing territory (in any configuration) for any group. That objective was achieved within the framework of a democratic state with equal rights for all citizens and a constitution with a strong bill of rights based on individual rights.

Despite this success, and 14 years after South Africa's first democratic election, a most critical issue around which the anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggles were waged – the national question – has yet to be resolved. The South African constitution ignores the issue. It has also been ignored politically and socio-economically. The results of this non-resolution are increasingly being witnessed and experienced by South Africans – in their daily lives as an ongoing struggle against racism and impoverishment, and as occasional flare-ups that cause the country to take notice before it is again relegated to the backburner in favour of unifying rhetoric. The most recent of these flare-ups was xenophobic violence that consumed parts of the country early in 2008, and which forced many South Africans to ask deep questions about the nature of their state and the notion of a South African nation.

The national question, for South Africa, should have been addressed during the negotiation process preceding its first democratic election. An attempt at resolution at that stage would have placed the problem squarely on the agenda of all political parties and the nation. The euphoria following the election gave a false sense of unity that pushed the question into the far recesses of the nation's consciousness.

Following the South African example, we argue that in the Palestinian-Israeli case, for both models of statehood, a critical issue that will determine success or failure will be the national question. It can be the one question whose non-resolution might spell disaster for either model. This question must be addressed during any "negotiations" for a resolution of the conflict and not left for later. If delayed, the disastrous consequences for Palestinians and Jewish Israelis could plunge the region into a deep and long-lasting morass. The one-state model, we argue, allows greater possibilities for the resolution of the National Question. This paper explores some ways in which the issue might be addressed and resolved – from constitutional options to political solutions.


By Na'eem Jeenah

The much-anticipated speech by US president Barack Obama to 'the Muslim world' was a well-presented mixture of rich symbolism, a call for 'a new beginning', promises of small changes in US foreign policy, deliberate obfuscation, and a dose of more of the same Bush medicine. Immediate Muslim responses to the speech in Cairo on the 4th June 2009, which was punctuated by applause from the obviously carefully-selected audience, were to the symbolic rather than the substantive parts of the speech.

Across the Muslim world there was a feeling among many people that here was a US president who respected Muslims: he began with the greeting of 'salaam'; quoted a number of verses from the Qur'an; said 'peace be upon them' after referring to the prophets; and dwelled on what he called 'civilization's debt to Islam'.

By Hazem Jamjoum

In recent years, increasing numbers of people around the world have begun adopting and developing an analysis of Israel as an apartheid regime.[1] This can be seen in the ways that the global movement in support of the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle is taking on a pointedly anti-apartheid character, as evidenced by the growth of Israeli Apartheid Week.[2]

Further, much of the recent international diplomatic support for Israel has increasingly taken on the form of denying that racial discrimination is a root cause of the oppression of Palestinians, something that has taken on new levels of absurdity in Western responses to the April 2009 Durban Review Conference.[3]

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About AMEC

Established in 1998, the Afro-Middle East Centre (AMEC) aims to foster, produce and disseminate the highest quality of research on the Middle East, to maintain public discussion and to help shape the public discourse on issues related to the Middle East. Amec's research includes relations between Africa and the Middle East.

AMEC engages in funded research on the contemporary Middle East, and accepts research commissions from government, business, academia, non-governmental organisations, and community-based organisations.

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