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Mouin Rabbani


Not Much Special in UN Middle East Missions

Of the twenty-two members of the Arab League, no less than nine have been assigned a Special Advisor, Special Coordinator, Special Envoy, or Special Representative by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Their purpose, broadly speaking, is to promote conflict resolution in their respective area of operations. None have succeeded, and where peace has been achieved their contribution has generally been marginal. As unprecedented levels of death, destruction, and ...

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Mr. Freeze

[Staffan de Mistura, United Nations, Special Envoy for Syria. Image by Jean-Marc Ferré via Flickr]

Amid little anticipation and less expectation, the United Nations special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, on Tuesday, 17 February, briefed the Security Council on the progress of the initiative he unveiled last year to “freeze” the conflict that has destroyed the country, extinguished perhaps 1 per cent of its population and displaced more than a quarter of the remainder. It would be an exaggeration to say that hubris has given way to humility, but his performance this ...

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The Un-Islamic State

[A Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Devise (VBIED) after exploding on a street outside of the Al Sabah newspaper office in the Waziryia district of Baghdad, Iraq. Image by Eli J. Medellin.]

Since the Islamic State (IS) movement seized control of Iraq’s second city of Mosul in early June 2014 it has achieved unprecedented levels of success in Iraq and Syria, seized territory in Lebanon, and expanded to the border regions of most surrounding states. As a result the international community, which had virtually forgotten about Iraq and was growing increasingly uninterested in Syria, put these conflicts back at the top of its agenda virtually overnight. The U.S. is ...

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Israel's "Operation Status Quo": A Preliminary Assessment

[Aftermath of Israeli bombing in southern Gaza, 2009. Image by Flickr User RafahKid Kid.]

Israel’s massive onslaught on the Gaza Strip in July-August 2014 has been a military and political fiasco. A regional superpower, it failed to impose its will on an isolated enemy operating in a besieged territory without advanced weaponry. Its sub-standard military performance was matched by a failure to reverse Palestinian reconciliation or deepen Palestinian fragmentation, and its overall strategic position has grown weaker. Led by a government too extreme to seize the ...

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Why the Gaza Truce Failed

[U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, West Bank, on July 23, 2014, before the two sat down for a discussion about a cease-fire in fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Image by United States Department of State.]

It will likely be some time before we learn the details of the Cairo negotiations over a Gaza cease-fire, which collapsed on Tuesday. Israel claims that Palestinian armed groups subsequently fired the first projectiles. The Palestinians accuse Israel of sabotaging the talks because it believed it had a rare opportunity to assassinate Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif, launching seven guided missiles on a home in Gaza City’s Shaikh Radwan housing project that killed ...

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إسرائيل تجزّ العشب

[منزل فلسطيني بعد القصف الإسرائيلي. صورة لمحمد الصباح]

تشرح هذه المقالة الأوضاع والأحداث التي سبقت (وأدّت) إلى العدوان الإسرائيلي الحالي على غزّة، من مأزق حماس حتى المصالحة واستغلال الحكومة الصهيونية لاختطاف المستوطنين الثلاثة. يُلاحظ أن معين ربّاني يقول في آخر المقال إن «هيومن رايتس ووتش» انتقدت كلا الطرفين و لم تتّهم إلّا الجانب الفلسطيني بارتكاب جرائم حرب. قمتُ بقراءة بيانين أصدرتهما المنظمّة قبل نشر المقالة (أي قبل ١٨ تموز\يوليو) والبيان الذي أصدرته بتاريخ ٢٢ تموز\يوليو ولم أجِد اتّهاماً صريحاً للمقاومة بارتكاب هذا النوع من ...

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Israel "maht den Rasen“

[Foto: A. Hermoni|MoD|CCL 3.0]

(London Review of Books). Im Jahre 2004 – ein Jahr vor dem einseitigen israelischen Abzug aus dem Gazastreifen – erklärte Dov Weissglass, die Graue Eminenz hinter Ariel Sharon, gegenüber einem Reporter der „Haaretz“ den Zweck der Initiative: „Die Bedeutung des Rückzugsplans liegt im Einfrieren des Friedensprozesses … Und wenn man diesen Prozess einfriert, verhindert man die Gründung eines palästinensischen Staates sowie eine Diskussion über die Flüchtlinge, die ...

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Israel Mows the Lawn

[A Palestinian home after an IDF Bombing. Image by Muhammad Sabah.]

[The following article by Jadaliyya Co-Editor Mouin Rabbani appears in the upcoming issue of the London Review of Books and has been posted online.] In 2004, a year before Israel’s unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip, Dov Weissglass, éminence grise to Ariel Sharon, explained the initiative’s purpose to an interviewer from Haaretz: The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process … And when you freeze ...

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Human Rights Watch Goes to War

[Gaza, post-Operation Cast Lead. Image by Physicians for Human Rights - Israel.]

[In view of the growing controversy about HRW's role and positions, Jadaliyya is re-posting this 2009 analysis of HRW's response to Israel's 2008-2009 assault on the Gaza Strip by Co-Editor Mouin Rabbani, originally published on] The Middle East has always been a difficult challenge for Western human rights organizations, particularly those seeking influence or funding in the United States. The pressure to go soft on US allies is in some respects ...

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An Institutionalized Disregard for Palestinian Life

[A mother and daughter in the in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, February 2011. Image via Shutterstock.]

One either rejects the killing of non-combatants on principle or takes a more tribal approach to such matters. In the case of Israel and the Palestinians, the global outpouring of grief and condemnation over the killing of three Israeli youths in the occupied West Bank constitutes the moral equivalent of Rolf Harris denouncing Jimmy Savile.One either rejects the killing of non-combatants on principle or takes a more tribal approach to such matters. In the case of Israel and ...

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Israel’s West Bank Operation: Causes & Consequences

[Israeli Soldiers, Police, Take Positions at Entrance to Beit Ommar. Image by Palestinian Solidarity Project.]

The disappearance of three Israeli youths in mid-June 2014 while hitchhiking home from a Jewish settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank has brought an already volatile situation to the boiling point. At a time of growing Palestinian agitation on account of a mass hunger strike by prisoners and amidst Israeli legislative initiatives to authorize force-feeding them, the Israeli military has launched its largest offensive in the West Bank since the end of the ...

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مقابلة مع القيادي في حركة الجهاد الإسلامي خالد البطش

يرى القيادي البارز في حركة الجهاد الإسلامي خالد البطش، في حوار طويل مع "مجلة الدراسات الفلسطينية"، أن التحولات في العالم العربي ستكون في نهاية المطاف لمصلحة القضية الفلسطينية، لأن الكيان الصهيوني خسر في معظم البلاد العربية مَن كان مسانداً له وحامياً طوال 60 عاماً، ولأن المجتمعات العربية عندما تكون حرة وصاحبة سيادة فهذه مقدمات للتحول نحو فلسطين. وفي هذا السياق أبدى البطش تفاؤله بأن مصر ما بعد "ثورة يناير" 2011 أخذت تستعيد دورها العربي الفاعل، مستدركاً أنه ...

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Between Hamas and the PA: An Interview with Islamic Jihad’s Khalid al-Batsh

[Banner of Palestinian Islamic Jihad]

The following are excerpts from an interview conducted in Cairo on 11 July 2012 with Khalid al-Batsh, a senior official of Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Gaza chair of the “Freedom Committee,” established under the Fateh-Hamas reconciliation agreement of May 2011. The full interview covered a range of issues, including the impact of the “Arab Spring” on the Palestinians, the situations in Egypt and Syria, Islamic Jihad’s relations with Fateh and Hamas, and prospects for ...

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إشكاليّات الدّيمقراطيّة الانتخابيّة في فلسطين

[رجل فلسطيني يصوت في انتخابات 2012. مصدر الصورة مؤسسة هاينريش بول]

في مرحلة ما بعد الاستعمار، اعتبر الكفاح من أجل الديمقراطية أمراً مهماً لتحقيق الوعد بالتحرر الوطني. ومع نهاية الحرب الباردة تحديداً أصبحت الديمقراطية الانتخابية تعتبر الآلية الأكثر فاعلية لمواجهة الاستيلاء على الدول ومواردها، وحتى استقلالها على يد النخب الاستبدادية ذات الأفق الضيق التي نصّبت نفسها على هذه الدول.  في عالم تقوم فيه الدكتاتوريات، سواء الفردية أو الحزبية، بالتعامل مع الحكم باعتباره تحدياً تقوم من خلاله بإخضاع المؤسسات لإرادتها، واستثناء المواطن من أي دور ...

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The Pitfalls of Democratic Elections in Palestine

[Image of man voting in 2012 local Palestinian elections. Image by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung.]

In the post-colonial era, struggles for democracy have increasingly been seen and presented as necessary to fulfill the aborted promises of national liberation. Particularly since the end of the Cold War, electoral democracy has come to be viewed as the most effective mechanism to confront the usurpation of states, resources, and indeed independence by autocrats and narrow, self-selected elites. In a world where dictatorships of both the individual and party variety have ...

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قطر والفلسطينيون

[أمير قطر الشيخ حامد بن خليفة ال ثاني ورئيس حكومة حماس إسماعيل هنية. غزة، اكتوبر 2012. تصوير علي علي المصدر ا.ب]

سواء من حيث التوقيت أو من حيث الجوهر، فإنه من الصعب تفسير زيارة أمير قطر الشيخ حمد بن خليفة آل ثاني إلى غزة في تشرين أول/أكتوبر 2012 بشكل مبسط. وكما هو الحال عادة عندما يتعلق الأمر بالسياسة في فلسطين، فقد تبلورت بشكل سريع العديد من التفسيرات والتأويلات. وبالتالي، فإما أن قطر كانت تسعى لضمان دعم قادة حماس لإعادة انتخاب خالد مشعل لقيادة المكتب السياسي للحركة الإسلامية، وذلك عن طريق استخدام نفوذها الكبير على الإخوان المسلمين للمساعدة في تحويل رفح إلى معبر حدودي اعتيادي ومنتظم ...

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Year Three

[Graffiti from Tahrir Square in 2011:

Two years after Muhammad Bouazzizi’s self-immolation sparked a wave of uprisings in the Arab world, the region remains in turmoil. In what has become a lengthy process of fundamental transformation, there is little indication of when, how or on what basis stability will again be achieved. Given the transitional nature of developments to date, the temptation to proclaim winners and losers needs to be resisted. If 2012 put paid to the initial notion that youth movements ...

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In Honor of Titans

[Student with his face covered parades a Palestinian flag as he goes past pictures of PLO leader Yasser Arafat, during a demonstration of some 300 Palestinian students of the Bir-Zeit University in the occupied West Bank, Jan. 5, 1988. (AP Photo/Anat Givon)]

In hindsight, the popular uprising that erupted in the occupied Palestinian territories on 9 December 1987 and continued for six grueling yet heroic years makes perfect sense. Scholars, analysts, and activists have demonstrated how a variety of factors came together to ripen conditions for the eruption of mass protest and its development into a sustained and organized rebellion.  These conditions included accelerated colonial expansion throughout the West Bank ...

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On the Insignificance of Stevie Wonder

[Stevie Wonder. image from Flickr/Burns]

The recent decision by American musician Stevie Wonder to withdraw from a 6 December 2012 concert to raise funds for the Israeli military has drawn widespread acclaim. One activist, Ali Abunimah, even characterized it as a “significant milestone”, contrasting it favorably with “empty gestures” at the United Nations and specifically the General Assembly’s recent 138-9 decision to grant Palestine non-member observer state status.  The facts suggest otherwise. Stevie ...

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Palestine at the United Nations?

[The UN General Assembly. Image by Ragnhild H. Simenstad via Flickr]

The significance of the United Nations General Assembly vote to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state has been exaggerated by opponents and proponents alike. It has no consequences for the status of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, nor does it undermine the rights of Palestinian refugees living in exile, the occupied territories, or indeed Israel as codified in international law and ...

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Mouin Rabbani


Mouin Rabbani is a Contributing Editor of Middle East Report and has published and commented widely on Palestinian affairs and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He was a Senior Analyst of the Middle East with the International Crisis Group. Previously he worked as Palestine Director of the Palestinian American Research Centre. He is Co-Editor of Jadaliyya Ezine.

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