Latest Analysis and Commentary

Iran: New Terrorist Activity in Europe

by Con Coughlin  •  June 19, 2019 at 5:00 am

  • One of the more disturbing discoveries regarding Iran's ever-expanding terrorism horizons has emerged in London where it was revealed by the Daily Telegraph earlier this month that a terrorist cell with links to Iran had been caught stockpiling tonnes of explosive materials on the outskirts of London at a secret bomb factory.

  • British intelligence officials have now concluded the stockpile was part of an international Hizbollah plot to lay the foundations for future terror attacks in Europe.

  • One positive outcome from Iran's increased terrorist activity has been to persuade the British government finally to designate the entire Hizbollah organisation as a terrorist organisation.

  • Now, with Iran being held responsible for the latest escalation in tensions in the Gulf, Britain and other European powers should demonstrate their resolve to oppose Iran's well-documented sponsorship of terrorism by backing the Trump administration in its latest confrontation with the ayatollahs.

Earlier this year, Britain's Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, formally designated the entire Hizbollah organisation as a terrorist organisation. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

Iran is intensifying its efforts to build a global terror network as the ayatollahs come under increasing economic and political pressure resulting from US sanctions.

While US officials continue to investigate Iran's involvement in the recent series of attacks on a number of oil tankers operating in the Gulf, counter-terrorism experts have uncovered evidence that Iran is also working hard to develop its terrorist infrastructure well beyond the confines of the Middle East.

Intelligence officials are particularly concerned about Iran's activities in Europe where they have identified a recent upsurge in Iranian-sponsored terrorist activity.

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Is the U.S. Ambassador to Greece Faithfully Conveying Trump Administration Policy?

by Maria Polizoidou  •  June 19, 2019 at 4:00 am

  • In an address to the 7th Annual Hellenic Air Force Academy Air Power Conference on May 15, Pyatt stressed America's strong support for its long-standing alliance with Greece, but he seemed to imply that the State Department would be pressuring Athens and Cyprus to cede to Ankara in its dispute over drilling rights in the Aegean Sea.

  • The phrase: "win-win" -- and the sentence: "At the end of the day, Turkey is a NATO ally" -- triggered Greek fears that U.S. President Donald Trump intends to use Greece as a decoy in order to bring Turkey back in NATO's orbit.

  • [Former Greek Prime Minister Costas] Simitis is not the only figure, political or otherwise, to have interpreted Pyatt's words as he did. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for instance, is likely to have understood Pyatt's remarks to mean that the U.S. is preparing to impose an "agreement" on Greece that favors Turkey. Such a sense on Erdogan's part would only make him hungrier for hegemony in the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

  • The sense in Greece is that the American embassy in Athens is not conveying Trump's messages in many areas, such as illegal immigration, Islamic terrorism, Iran and U.S. trade disagreements with the Eurozone.

U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt (right) at the 7th Annual Hellenic Air Force Academy Air Power Conference, on May 15, 2019. (Image source: U.S. Embassy & Consulate in Greece)

A recent speech by U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt is causing Greek officials and the media alarm about American policy.

In an address to the 7th Annual Hellenic Air Force Academy Air Power Conference on May 15, Pyatt stressed America's strong support for its long-standing alliance with Greece, but he seemed to imply that the State Department would be pressuring Athens and Cyprus to cede to Ankara in its dispute over drilling rights in the Aegean Sea.

The first hint that Pyatt -- an appointee of the Obama administration -- was about to say something unpopular among Greeks was in his opening remarks:

"...[O]ne of the reasons I enjoy speaking to military audiences like this is that you always test me with your straight shooting. The fact is, militaries tend to operate with a black-and-white, shoot/no-shoot frankness, whereas us diplomats work in shades of gray."

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China: The Perfect High-Tech Totalitarian State

by Judith Bergman  •  June 18, 2019 at 5:00 am

  • In China, censorship, now largely automated, has reached "unprecedented levels of accuracy, aided by machine learning and voice and image recognition." — Cate Cadell, Reuters, May 26, 2019.

  • As in other Communist regimes, such as that of the former Soviet Union, the Communist ideology does not tolerate any competing narratives. "Religion is a source of authority, and an object of fidelity, that is greater than the state... This characteristic of religion has always been anathema to history's totalitarian despots..." — Thomas F. Farr, President of the Religious Freedom Institute, in testimony before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, November 28, 2018.

  • In 2018, China had an estimated 200 million surveillance cameras, with plans for 626 million surveillance cameras by 2020. China's aim is apparently an "Integrated Joint Operations Platform" which will integrate and coordinate data from surveillance cameras with facial recognition technology, citizen ID card numbers, biometric data, license plate numbers and information about vehicle ownership, health, family planning, banking, and legal records, "unusual activity", and any other relevant data that can be gathered about citizens, such as religious practice, travels abroad, and so on, according to reports of local officials and police.

  • At the moment, China is in the process of fulfilling what Stalin, Hitler and Mao could only dream about: The flawless totalitarian state, powered by digital technology, where the individual has nowhere to flee from the all-seeing eye of the Communist state.

The 30th anniversary on June 4 of the Chinese regime's 1989 massacre of pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square served to highlight the extreme censorship in China under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and President Xi Jinping.

The Tiananmen anniversary is referred to euphemistically in mainland China, as 'the June Fourth Incident'. The regime there evidently fears that any talk, let alone public commemoration, of that historical event will stir up anti-regime unrest, which could endanger the Chinese Communist Party's absolute power.

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Venezuela: "A Mafia State"

by Jiri Valenta and Leni Friedman Valenta  •  June 18, 2019 at 4:00 am

  • To make matters worse, many of Maduro's 2,000 generals are also heavily involved in the drug trade, aiding the very networks they are supposed to be battling.... Meanwhile, much of the country is also controlled by "pranes," crime lords who run gangs from within the country's prisons.

  • "Illicit narco trafficking through Venezuela is up some 40 percent." — Navy Admiral Craig Faller, head of U.S. Southern Command, The Hill, May 23, 2019.

  • "The administration's strategy seeks to force the estimated 15,000 Cuban military and security personnel out of Venezuela. '[O]nce the rocks start rolling downhill, the regime itself is unsustainable,' Bolton said." — U.S. National Security Adviser John R. Bolton, as reported by Bill Gertz in the Washington Free Beacon, June 17, 2019.

In addition to its armed forces, Venezuela's regime operates a parallel security structure -- the "colectivos" trained by the Cubans and modeled on Fidel Castro's Committee for the Defense of the Revolution. Some members of the colectivos operate as armed motorcycle gangs that have been terrorizing and even killing anti-Maduro protesters. Pictured: Members of the colectivos in Caracas block the passage of protests on April 19, 2017. (Image source: Oscar/Wikimedia Commons)

In an op-ed in the New York Times on June 11, Abraham F. Lowenthal and David Smilde propose a humanistic vision for the current Oslo negotiations between representatives of the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and the democratic opposition, led by Juan Guaidó -- recognized by more than 50 countries as Venezuela's interim president.

According to Lowenthal and Smilde, "The divisions within Maduro's coalition laid bare during the failed April 30 uprising, coupled with Juan Guaidó's unsuccessful call for the support of the armed forces, may have finally persuaded key people on both sides that the only viable way forward is a negotiated transition."

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The Palestinian Leaders' War on Preventing Corruption

by Khaled Abu Toameh  •  June 17, 2019 at 5:00 am

  • The Palestinian Authority has chosen to crack down on anti-corruption activists as part of an effort to silence its critics and deter others from demanding transparency and accountability.

  • Stories concerning rampant financial and administrative corruption in the Palestinian Authority do not surprise those who have been reporting on Palestinian affairs in the past two decades. What is surprising is the growing number of Palestinian individuals and groups who are openly defying Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his senior officials by talking about and exposing corruption.

  • What Palestinian leaders are actually telling their people, in other words, is that anyone who complains about corruption is a traitor working with the Americans and Israelis against the interests of the Palestinians. This charge not only carries the death penalty, it brings shame to the accused and his or her entire clan. Palestinians are thus understandably wary of such an accusation.

  • Palestinian leaders not only deny their people the right to institutions of proper governing, they are now doing their best to block any chance of improving their living conditions by boycotting the upcoming Bahrain conference, whose main goal is to offer Palestinians economic prosperity and rid them of failed leaders whose sole interest seems to be enriching their own bank accounts and those of their family members.

(Image source: iStock)

A growing number of Palestinians are demanding that the Palestinian Authority (PA) take serious measures to end financial and administrative corruption among its top brass.

Rather than heeding these calls, however, the Palestinian Authority has chosen to crack down on anti-corruption activists as part of an effort to silence its critics and deter others from demanding transparency and accountability. The Palestinian Authority's measures against anti-corruption activists have angered many Palestinians, who are accusing their leaders of covering up for senior officials suspected of abusing power for their own personal gain.

In the past few days, the Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank arrested two prominent anti-corruption activists: Fayez al-Sweiti, Mohammed Ayesh and Saed Abu al-Baha.

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China: "Protecting" the Arctic

by Debalina Ghoshal  •  June 17, 2019 at 4:00 am

  • The Arctic -- where both the United States and Russia maintain a military presence -- is known for being rich in hydrocarbons. The Chinese, in their claims to such a valuable energy source, clearly do not wish to be left behind.

  • As China already has deployed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missiles -- while planning to build and deploy floating nuclear reactors -- in the South China Sea, it is certainly plausible that Beijing has similar plans for the Arctic.

  • Both China's Arctic Policy and its Belt and Road Initiative seem paths towards what appears to be China's aim at achieving global hegemony.

Pictured: Thule Air Base, the United States Air Force's northernmost base, north of the Arctic Circle in Greenland. (Image source: US Air Force/Wikimedia Commons)

China's aggressive behavior in the South China Sea by now is old news, but Beijing's recent moves in the Arctic have been attracting attention.

The Arctic -- where both the United States and Russia maintain a military presence -- is known for being rich in hydrocarbons. The Chinese, in their claims to such a valuable energy source, clearly do not wish to be left behind.

Just as Chinese President Xi Jinping has been pushing the Belt and Road Initiative, he also aims to develop a "Polar Silk Road" for shipping lanes, which he believes are opening up due to glacial melting caused by global warming. This belief appears to stem from the "open polar sea" theory, according to which the polar seas created by climate change ultimately could be exploited for commercial purposes.

China spelled out its "Arctic Policy" in January 2018 in an extensive document, which reads, in part:

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Covering Up Our Culture to 'Avoid Giving Offense'

by Giulio Meotti  •  June 16, 2019 at 5:00 am

  • Recently, some major conservative intellectuals have been sacked in the UK. One is the peerless philosopher Roger Scruton, who was fired from a governmental committee...

  • Then it was the turn of the great Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson, whose visiting fellowship at Cambridge University was rescinded...

  • By refusing to confront the speech police, or to support freedom of expression for Salman Rushdie, Roger Scruton, Jordan Peterson, Charlie Hebdo, and Jyllands-Posten -- just the tip of a huge iceberg -- we have started down the road of submission to sharia law and to tyranny. We all have been covering up our supposedly "blasphemous" culture with burqas to avoid offending people who do not seem to mind offending us.

In 1988, The Satanic Verses was published, written by Salman Rushdie (left), a British citizen. Iran's "Supreme Leader" Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (right) in 1989 condemned Rushdie to death for writing the book. The Rushdie affair seems to have deeply shaped British society. (Image sources: Rushdie - Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images; Khomeini - Mohammad Sayyad/Wikimedia Commons)

Three years ago, the Italian government made a shameful decision. It veiled its antique Roman statues to avoid offending Iran's visiting President Hassan Rouhani. Nude statues were encased in white boxes. A year earlier, in Florence, another statue featuring a naked man in Greco-Roman style had also been covered during the visit of the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. Now, one of the most famous British art galleries has covered two paintings, after Muslim complaints that they were "blasphemous".

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Diplomatic Gesticulations Won't Solve the Iran Problem

by Amir Taheri  •  June 16, 2019 at 4:00 am

  • That leaves the remaining members of the P5+1 with a clear choice: either pronounce the Obama [Iran] "deal" dead and seek a framework for new talks on how to solve the perennial "Iran problem" which, paradoxically, all say they are concerned about, or to unite to neutralize the United States and help Iran carry on as usual.

  • The present impasse may be breached in two ways.

  • The first is for actual or wannabe mediators to side with the US and tell the mullahs that they cannot have their cake and eat it. Once the mullahs have understood that putative "mediators" could direct their efforts at finding ways of organizing a retreat that avoids utter humiliation for the Khomeinist regime. That should not be difficult as all the remaining P5+1 nations, including Russia, share Washington's concerns about Tehran's "exporting revolution" and developing long-range missiles capable of carrying yet non-existent nuclear warheads.

  • The second way to breach the impasse is to admit that the Obama "deal" is a dead horse that will not come back to life no matter how one kicks it.

One way to breach the current impasse with Iran is to admit that the Obama "nuclear deal" is a dead horse that will not come back to life no matter how one kicks it. Pictured: Foreign ministers and other officials from the P5+1 countries, the EU and Iran at the announcement of the Iran "nuclear deal" on April 2, 2015 in Écublens-Lausanne, Switzerland. (Image source: United States Department of State)

What do politicians do when they cannot do anything but are obliged to pretend that they are doing something?

One answer provided by Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, is simple: you organize a meeting.

The meeting that Lavrov is setting up, later this month in Moscow, will bring together junior diplomats from Iran plus Britain, China, France and Germany, that is to say the countries (aside from the US) that formed the notorious P5+1 group created by Barack Obama to give a veneer of legal respectability to the so-called "nuke deal" he concocted with the Iranian mullahs.

For all intents and purposes the "deal' died when the Trump administration in Washington decided to simply ditch it. Lacking an enforceable legal status, the "deal" always depended on the willingness of the participants to implement it. With Americans walking away from it, there is no way the other nations still apparently in the game could put it on a life-support machine.

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The Mullahs Promise "Demise of Israel" and American Civilization

by Majid Rafizadeh  •  June 15, 2019 at 5:00 am

  • Iran recently produced a program on its state television channel demonstrating that the government is currently practicing missile attacks, with the purpose of carrying out actual attacks on Israel.... The video excerpt included in the television broadcast showed how the operations the Iranians are striving to put into action will bombard Tel Aviv.

  • From the perspective of the Iranian leaders, if they continue to increase their threats against Israel, the United States will be pressured to change its strategy and lift pressure that has been placed on the clerical establishment, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and its elite branch, the Quds Force.

  • It is an unacceptable double-standard that the United Nations and the international community have been, and continue to be, silent about Iran's threats against Israeli citizens. If the situation were reversed and if Israel threatened to annihilate Iran, the international community would be up in arms, and quick to defend Iran. Through political and economic pressure, the ruling mullahs of Iran should be held accountable by the international community for endangering global security and regional stability.

The Iranian government continues to defy international standards, as it refuses to act as a rational and constructive state, even apart from its repeated malign behavior in the Gulf of Oman this week. Pictured: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at a June 13, 2019 press conference in Washington, DC, where he said, "It is the assessment of the US government that Iran is responsible for today's attacks [on oil tankers] in the Gulf of Oman. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The Iranian government continues to defy international standards, as it refuses to act as a rational and constructive state, even apart from its repeated malign behavior in the Gulf of Oman this week. Iran's Supreme Guide Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who enjoys the final say in all of Iran's domestic and foreign policies, recently proclaimed to the youth in Iran that they will soon witness the demise of Israel and all of American civilization. This announcement was confirmed on the Supreme Leader's official website.

Khamenei made Iran's intentions clear while meeting with students. "You young people," he declared, "should be assured that you will witness the demise of the enemies of humanity, meaning the degenerate American civilization, and the demise of Israel".

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Denmark's Elections

by Judith Bergman  •  June 14, 2019 at 5:00 am

  • A significant development in this election was that anti-immigration parties generally fared poorly.

  • "Many citizens wrongly think that the immigration issue is under control and that it can therefore safely be left to the Left. It is not under control... [B]y the year 2050, we will see a doubling of the Muslim population in Denmark... that would not be a problem if we had a solution for how to integrate them, but nowhere in Western Europe has a solution been found". — Kasper Støvring, author and commentator, Debatten-DR, June 6, 2019.

  • Another new development was that for the first time, according to a report in Jyllands Posten, Muslim voters were organized, in certain urban areas.... [A]n electoral group was set up, which, in co-operation with a mosque and various other associations, recommended that people vote for the two parties: the center-left Det Radikale Venstre and the far left Enhedslisten... Both parties have a pro-immigration stance. Det Radikale Venstre, for instance, wants to make it easier for refugees to gain permanent residence in Denmark.

  • Immigration policy will be one of the main challenges for the Social Democratic Party, as it attempts to form a government with the seats of Det Radikale Venstre and Enhedslisten, in addition to the Socialist People's Party.... the Social Democrats [wanted] the bulk of their policy focusing on how to reduce and control the influx of refugees and migrants, including the use of reception centers outside of Europe. In addition, their policy included making all stays for refugees in Denmark temporary, and extending border controls and reforming the Schengen cooperation so that individual countries decide when and how long they can control their own borders. Their policy also backs sending rejected asylum seekers home and tightening the laws in order to stop illegal migrants from working in Denmark.

In Denmark's general election on June 5, the Danes gave the center-left and far left parties on the political spectrum 91 seats in parliament, a majority out of the 179 available seats. Pictured: Christiansborg Castle, seat of Denmark's parliament. (Image source: Jebulon/Wikimedia Commons)

In Denmark's general election on June 5, the Danes gave the center-left and far left parties on the political spectrum -- the Social Democratic Party, Det Radikale Venstre (the Danish Social Liberal Party), Socialistisk Folkeparti (the Socialist People's Party), and Enhedslisten (the Red-Green Alliance) -- 91 seats in parliament, a majority out of the 179 available seats. In doing so, the Danes waved goodbye to the current liberal-conservative government. The largest party on the left, the Social Democratic Party with 48 seats, and led by Mette Frederiksen, is currently trying to form a government.

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The Suppressed Plight of Palestinian Christians

by Raymond Ibrahim  •  June 13, 2019 at 5:00 am

  • "Fatah regularly exerts heavy pressure on Christians not to report the acts of violence and vandalism from which they frequently suffer, as such publicity could damage the PA's image as an actor capable of protecting the lives and property of the Christian minority under its rule.... That image could have negative repercussions for the massive international, and particularly European, aid the PA receives." — Dr. Edy Cohen, Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.

  • Considered another way, the bread and butter of the PA and its supporters, media and others, seems to be to portray the Palestinians as victims of unjust aggression and discrimination from Israel. This narrative could be jeopardized if the international community learned that Palestinians themselves were persecuting fellow Palestinians — solely on account of religion.

  • "Far more important to the Palestinian Authority than arresting those who assault Christian sites is keeping such incidents out of the mainstream media. And they are very successful in this regard. Indeed, only a handful of smaller local outlets bothered to report on these latest break-ins. The mainstream international media ignored them altogether." — Dr. Edy Cohen, Israel Today.

  • As Justus Reid Weiner, a lawyer and scholar well-acquainted with the region explains, "The systematic persecution of Christian Arabs living in Palestinian areas is being met with nearly total silence by the international community, human rights activists, the media and NGOs... In a society where Arab Christians have no voice and no protection it is no surprise that they are leaving."

Christianity is on the verge of disappearing in the place of its birth, including Bethlehem (pictured). According to lawyer and scholar Justus Reid Weiner, "The systematic persecution of Christian Arabs living in Palestinian areas is being met with nearly total silence by the international community, human rights activists, the media and NGOs... In a society where Arab Christians have no voice and no protection it is no surprise that they are leaving." (Image source: Daniel Case/Wikimedia Commons)

At a time when Christians throughout the Muslim world are suffering from a variety of persecution, the plight of Palestinian Christians is seldom heard.

It exists. Open Doors, a human rights group that follows the persecution of Christians, notes that Palestinian Christians suffer from a "high" level of persecution, the source of which is, in its words, "Islamic Oppression":

"Those who convert to Christianity from Islam, however, face the worst Christian persecution and it is difficult for them to safely participate in existing churches. In the West Bank they are threatened and put under great pressure, in Gaza their situation is so dangerous that they live their Christian faith in utmost secrecy....The influence of radical Islamic ideology is rising, and historical churches have to be diplomatic in their approach towards Muslims."

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Refugees in Turkey: Mistreated by Ankara, Ignored by the UN

by Sirwan Mansouri  •  June 13, 2019 at 4:00 am

  • Turkey, which is located between the Middle East and Europe, was one of the first countries to establish a UNHCR regional office in 1960, and was given economic incentives to do so. Every year after that, the Turkish government received a large budget with which to provide aid to refugees.

  • The UNHCR, the organization that is supposed to advocate for the rights of refugees, has done the opposite. It has placed their care in the hands of an indifferent and hostile Turkey, which they leave to its own terrible devices.

  • Perhaps the UN has washed its hands of the misery of refugees in Turkey -- who have become virtual slaves -- but the rest of the international community must hold Ankara accountable for its inexcusable treatment of people who escaped danger in their countries of origin, only to be abused by the authorities that vowed -- and took money -- to protect and resettle them.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the organization that is supposed to advocate for the rights of refugees, has done the opposite. It has placed their care in the hands of an indifferent and hostile Turkey, which they leave to its own terrible devices. Pictured: The Adiyaman refugee camp in Turkey. The UNHCR has provided "technical support" to the Turkish government for maintaining the camp. (Image source: UNHCR)

Over the past half century, the Geneva-based United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has created and managed mechanisms to protect people whose lives are in danger at the hands of repressive regimes by providing them with political asylum in other countries. The war-torn Middle East has been home to the highest number of such asylum-seekers.

Turkey, which is located between the Middle East and Europe, was one of the first countries to establish a UNHCR regional office in 1960, and was given economic incentives to do so. Every year after that, the Turkish government received a large budget with which to provide aid to refugees.

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Arabs' Nightmare: Absorbing Palestinians

by Khaled Abu Toameh  •  June 12, 2019 at 5:00 am

  • Lebanon says it fully supports the Palestinians in their fight against Israel -- but would like to see them leave the country as soon as possible.

  • This is the modern-day version of Arab "solidarity" with their Palestinian brothers: discrimination and apartheid -- no jobs, no citizenship, no health care and no social services.

  • Nor do Palestinian leaders give a damn about the welfare of their people. If they did, it would be hard to justify their impressive efforts to foil an economic conference whose main goal is to lift their people out of the economic hell these very leaders created and vigorously maintain.

A street celebration in Lebanon's Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, July 2015. (Image source: Geneva Call/Flickr)

The Lebanese are worried that a new law for the management of Palestinian refugee camps will pave the way for the "resettlement" of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Lebanon. The prospect of "resettling" Palestinians is a nightmare that has been haunting the Lebanese for decades.

Like most Arab countries, Lebanon has long treated Palestinians as second-class citizens. It has been depriving them of basic rights, including citizenship, employment, heath care, education, social services and property ownership. The vast majority of the 450,000 Palestinians living in Lebanon do not have Lebanese citizenship.

In 2001, the Lebanese Parliament passed a law prohibiting Palestinians from owning property, and Lebanese law also restricts their ability to work in as many as 20 professions. Lebanon continues to ignore calls by various human rights groups to the Lebanese authorities to end discrimination against Palestinians.

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Turkey: Attacks on Journalists Turn More Violent

by Uzay Bulut  •  June 12, 2019 at 4:00 am

  • "We sincerely hope that, in the coming weeks... journalists across the country will be able to disseminate news and information without fear of retaliation.... Attacks like those against Demirağ and Özyol, if left unpunished, will have a serious chilling effect on the country's journalists and further strengthen a climate of fear, which seriously hinders Turkey's credibility as a democracy..." — Letter sent by The International Press Institute along with 20 other press freedom and freedom of expression organizations, to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, May 16, 2019.

  • Less than a week after that letter was sent, Ergin Çevik, the editor-in chief of the Güney Haberci news site, was badly beaten in Antalya by three assailants. Those detained in relation with the attack were released on probation.

  • On May 24, Hakan Denizli, founder of the Adana-based daily, Egemen, was the victim of an armed assault, which landed him in intensive care. On May 26, Sabahattin Önkibar, a columnist for the Odatv news site, was beaten while on his way home from work. Önkibar filed a complaint, yet the four suspects who were detained by police were subsequently released.

  • Journalists also face the risk of losing their jobs if the government does not approve of their reporting.

(Image source: iStock)

A new trend of physically attacking journalists has been emerging in Turkey. The country has already incarcerated of at least 146 members of the media, who are in prison serving sentences or are in pre-trial detention. A number of recent assaults not only illustrate this trend, but suggest approval for it on the part of Turkish authorities.

The first victim of this type of violence was Yavuz Selim Demirağ, a columnist for the Yeni Çağ daily, who was attacked in front of his house in Ankara on May 10 by a group of assailants with baseball bats.

Turkey's Journalists' Association (TGC) immediately issued a statement calling for the perpetrators to be brought to justice, and laying blame for the attack on the atmosphere created by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

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Turkey's New Violent Political Culture

by Burak Bekdil  •  June 11, 2019 at 5:00 am

  • At the heart of the matter is a culture that programs most less-educated masses (and in Turkey average schooling is 6.5 years) into a) converting the "other" and, if that is not possible, b) physically hurting the "other." A deep societal polarization since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002 has widened to frightening levels.

  • After opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was taken to a safehouse, members of the mob surrounded it and chanted, "Let's burn down the house!"

  • Apparently each unpunished case of political violence committed on behalf of the dominant state ideology (Islamism) and its sacrosanct leader (Erdoğan) encourages the next. In May, a journalist critical of Erdoğan's government and its nationalist allies was hospitalized after being attacked outside his home.

In a most spectacular show of violence, fans of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in April nearly lynched Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). Pictured: Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. (Photo by Erhan Ortac/Getty Images)

In most civilized countries, citizens go to the ballot box on election day -- be it parliamentary, presidential or municipal -- cast their votes, go home to watch news reporting the results and go to work the next day, some happy, some disappointed, to live in peace until the elections. Not in Turkey, where any political race looks more like warfare than simple democratic competition.

One reason is the dominance of identity politics in the country that has its roots deep in the 1950s, when Turkey evolved into multi-party politics. The fighting between "us" and "them" goes on since then. At the heart of the matter is a culture that programs most less-educated masses (and in Turkey average schooling is 6.5 years) into a) converting the "other" and, if that is not possible, b) physically hurting the "other." A deep societal polarization since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002 has widened to frightening levels.

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