Saudi Arabia Gets a Pass
The Saudis have been spared. Shamefully, President Obama did not even mention Saudi Arabia in his speech last week when he called for democratization in the Middle East. The theocrats who rule the Kingdom have done as much as they can to quash Middle East freedom movements: they have sent troops to crush protesting Bahrainis, and in January, they welcomed exiled Tunisian president Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali.
The same day as the recent arrest and jailing of a 32 year-old woman for driving a car, Wikileaks released a U.S. diplomatic cable which disclosed that Islamic charities from Saudi Arabia and the UAE financed a Pakistani terrorist network that recruited children to wage jihad. The estimated amount of support was about $100 million a year.
The latest example of the incoherence of current U.S. Middle East Policy involves Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi woman who had the courage to post a video of herself on YouTube driving a car. There is no actual law in Saudi banning women from driving, which is not mentioned in the Koran and therefore not a prohibition based on religion; but it is de facto illegal because several fatwas were issued to that effect. Some Saudi leaders have expressed support for ditching the ban, but they have taken no concrete action. In January 2008, according to The Telelgraph, "Government officials have confirmed, the landmark decision [to lift the ban on women drivers] and plan to issue a decree by the end of the year."We will make an announcement soon," they were quoted as having said. "Soon" was four years ago.
Manal, who works at Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil giant, claims she left work late. She says no male-driven taxis or family members were available to take her home, as is the usual practice (public transportation for women is off limits because of gender-segregation laws). The video, still available on YouTube, shows Manal talking behind the wheel about why women need the right to drive. "If a husband has a heart attack, what is a wife to do if there is no one else around and she cannot drive?" she asks.
For committing this "crime," Manal now finds herself in jail, charged with "besmirching the kingdom's reputation abroad and stirring up public opinion."
The Western media is taking notice. Saudi women have flocked to the Internet to organize a "women2drive" protest, calling on women around the Kingdom to hop in a car and drive on June 17. If it works, it is likely to become an important act of civil disobedience in the Kingdom.
Maybe – one hopes -- these stories story mean they will no longer be able to violate human rights with impunity.
Like Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, Saudi King Abdullah has chosen to pay lip-service to reform without taking any bold steps. He has appointed a woman a cabinet minister, yet continues to deny women the right to vote. He has encouraged women to get an education and work, but denies them right to drive and co-mingle with men in work environments. The glaring contradictions inherent in these tepid "reforms" are evident to all. And now that Saudi's rulers have blinked, people like Manal are predictably -– and rightly -– demanding more.
If America would show a bit more enthusiasm for these dissidents, perhaps it would spur them to be even bolder. Obama blames resentment of the U.S. on the perception that America pursues its own interests at the expense of others. He is wrong. What grates is watching America display such rank hypocrisy by calling out and threatening serial rights abusers like Iran, Libya and Iraq under Saddam, but staying silent on others such as the Saudis.
The timing of this international media embarrassment could not be worse for the Kingdom.
Turning a blind eye toward the Saudis has been American policy for decades. Events, however, are now starting to outpace U.S. foreign policy, just as they did in Egypt and Libya. A repeat in Saudi Arabia of these recent mistakes only highlights to the people in the region what values the US actually support.
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by Alan M. Dershowitz
by Pierre Rehov
For terrorists, the death of innocent children is irrelevant. In a society that promotes martyrdom as the ultimate sign of success, the death of innocent children can sometimes even be seen as a public relations blessing.
In every action, intent is paramount. There should never be a moral equivalence painted between the deliberate killing of civilians, and a retaliation that tragically leads to casualties among civilians.
There is, however, one small difference: in the Middle East, reporters are threatened, except in Israel. Their choice becomes a simple one: promote the Palestinian point of view or stop working in the West Bank. Keep the eye of the camera dirty or lose your job. This show should not go on.
by Khaled Abu Toameh
Since 1948, the Arab countries and government have been paying mostly lip service to the Palestinians.
"They have money and oil, but don't care about the Palestinians, even though we are Arabs and Muslims like them. What a Saudi or Qatari sheikh spends in one night in London, Paris or Las Vegas could solve the problem of tens of thousands of Palestinians." — Palestinian human rights activist.
"Some Arabs were hoping that Israel would rid them of Hamas." — Ashraf Salameh, Gaza City.
"Some of the Arab regimes are interested in getting rid of the resistance in order to remove the burden of the Palestinian cause, which threatens the stability of their regimes." — Mustafa al-Sawwaf, Palestinian political analyst.
"Most Arabs are busy these days with bloody battles waged by their leaders, who are struggling to survive. These battles are raging in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya and the Palestinian Authority." — Mohammed al-Musafer, columnist.
"The Arab leaders don't know what they want from the Gaza Strip. They don't even know what they want from Israel." — Yusef Rizka, Hamas official.
by Soeren Kern
European elites, who take pride in viewing the EU as a "postmodern" superpower, have long argued that military hard-power is illegitimate in the 21st century. Unfortunately for Europe, Russia (along with China and Iran) has not embraced the EU's fantastical soft-power worldview, in which "climate change" is now said to pose the greatest threat to European security.
For its part, the European Commission, the EU's administrative branch, which never misses an opportunity to boycott institutions in Israel, has issued only a standard statement on the shooting down of MH17 in Ukraine, which reads: "The European Union will continue to follow this issue very closely."
The EU has made only half-hearted attempts to develop alternatives to its dependency on Russian oil and gas.
by Shoshana Bryen
Proportionality in international law is not about equality of death or civilian suffering, or even about [equality of] firepower. Proportionality weighs the necessity of a military action against suffering that the action might cause to enemy civilians in the vicinity.
"Under international humanitarian law and the Rome Statute, the death of civilians during an armed conflict, no matter how grave and regrettable does not constitute a war crime.... even when it is known that some civilian deaths or injuries will occur. A crime occurs if there is an intentional attack directed against civilians (principle of distinction) or an attack is launched on a military objective in the knowledge that the incidental civilian injuries would be clearly excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage (principle of proportionality)." — Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Chief Prosecutor, International Criminal Court.
"The greater the military advantage anticipated, the larger the amount of collateral damage -- often civilian casualties -- which will be "justified" and "necessary." — Dr. Françoise Hampton, University of Essex, UK.