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The Briefing


We're pleased to present this week's round-up of Middle East insight and analysis from
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Gail Reiss, President & CEO

Volume V, Number 2:
January 12, 2018

Tel Aviv Notes

"#Ana_Kaman" by Heidi Basch-Harod
American actor Alyssa Milano tweeted a plea on October 15, 2017, to use the Twitter hashtag "#MeToo" to promote awareness of sexual abuse. Her call to tweet #MeToo was made to support women in her industry who were coming forward and exposing Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein as sexually abusive. Her 140-character missives helped ignite a global social media movement that ripped away the veil that concealed sexual assault, harassment, and abuse of women worldwide. From October through December 2017, the #MeToo movement — #AnaKaman and #Ana_Kaman are its Arabic counterparts — breathed new life into the popular discourse about violence against women in the Arabic-speaking world.
Source: Tel Aviv Notes/The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University — January 10, 2018

Logo: Beehive: Middle East Social Media

This issue includes articles on (1) the attempts by Palestinian leaders to inflame passions and provoke mass protests in the wake of US President Donald Trump's Jerusalem declaration; (2) the position that Saudi Arabia took to the declaration, and the scant attention that it received on Saudi social media sites; and (3) how public discourse in Turkey was re-directed from scandals implicating senior officials of the government to the issue of Jerusalem, which unified all players in the Turkish political arena.
Source: Beehive: Middle East Social Media/The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University — December 2017


"The Islamic State Declares War on Hamas: The Latest Episode in a Complex Relationship" by Gilad Shiloach
An analysis of the Islamic State's declaration of war against Hamas.
Source: Jihadiscope: Insights on Global Jihad/The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University — January 8, 2018

Middle East News Brief

The Middle East News Brief is a selection of editorial commentary and analysis from the Middle East and Africa. The inclusion of any item does not imply that the Moshe Dayan Center endorses the opinions or arguments expressed therein.

Ghana — Robert Doya Nanima: Fences need to be mended between Ghana and the African Court
The Ghanaian Supreme Court overturned a decision of the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights. This casts doubt on the enforceable mandate of the African Court and questions its legitimacy and credibility as an arbiter of regional justice. The progressive development of the African human rights system is negatively affected as a result. The scenario between Ghana and the African Court speaks to a broader regional problem, which could lead to its collapse of the relationship between local and regional courts, destabilizing the Ghanaian justice system writ large. National courts must first recognize the competence of the African Court in order to better adjudicate legal disputes between states and transnational institutions.
Source: The Conversation (Accra) — January 7, 2018

Algeria — Malia Bouattia: Macron, Algeria and the White Man's Burden
French President Emmanuel Macron in his recent visit inflamed many Algerians who had hoped for an official apology for the 132 years of French colonialism in the country. They were instead presented with a patronizing speech imbued with racist undertones. Algerians were hopeful that Macron would address the colonial trauma because he had previously described the French colonial war as "a crime against humanity." But his speech arrogantly urged the Algerians to move past their colonial history, blaming the country's troubles on the population's inability to help themselves. Macron's discourse was reminiscent of his G20 summit speech in which he declared that the "challenge in Africa ... is civilizational" — the same argument Europe used to justify colonialism in the first place. Macron's approach to Algeria is seen as an attempt to divert anger away from France and onto the Algerian government, reinforcing generational divides within Algeria, while insisting that the legacy of colonialism is dead.
Source: The New Arab (London) — January 3, 2018

Egypt — Menna A. Farouk: Egypt's progressive parties unite to push for reforms
A group of liberal political parties and public figures formed a new movement aimed at creating political mobility, increasing access to the government, and enhancing the political influence of civil society organizations. The Civil Democratic Movement signed a declaration of principles on December 14 setting forth such objectives and demands as establishing the basics of modern civil democracy. The declaration envisions a strict application of the law without exception; a combat against corruption through transparency and oversight; and the protection of independent media, free speech, and protest. This comes at an opportune time, just before a presidential election scheduled for this spring. It will pressure the country's leadership to introduce political, economic, and security reforms. The current lack of a crackdown or pushback from the Egyptian leadership seems to indicate the government's willingness to accept greater political pluralism. The movement is unlikely to be a real competitor in the upcoming elections, but it's an important step toward progress. Opposition and political mobility are paramount to establishing a democracy that ensures basic rights.
Source: al-Monitor (Cairo) — January 2, 2018

Saudi Arabia — Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg: Stimulus to help Saudi households drive growth revival
Saudi Arabia's gross domestic product contracted last year, so Riyadh needs to strike a balance between two competing goals in 2018. The kingdom needs to increase government revenues while also growing the Saudi economy. The government is concerned that new taxes and higher energy prices will slow growth by decreasing consumer spending, so it's already taken measures to offset the increased tax burden. Last week, the kingdom announced that it will provide subsidies to low- and middle-income Saudis in order to increase their disposable income and spending. Last week's introduction of a value-added tax has some calling for additional new taxes, such as an income tax or a corporate tax, but poorly-timed tax hikes could inadvertently stifle growth at a moment of great economic vulnerability.
Source: Arab News (Jeddah) — January 8, 2018

Saudi Arabia — Taghreed Al-Tasan: How can we empower women?
Empowerment of women is an issue on the rise, but it means different things to different people. It has been increasingly popular to claim that women's rights should be a priority. In Saudi Arabia, however, even those men who favor women's empowerment do not allow their own wives and sisters to leave the house. Fortunately, the latest governmental decisions concerning women's rights have offered women more freedom, in accordance with Sharia laws. But steps towards women's empowerment should be taken slowly, which is the best way to ensure success.
Source: Saudi Gazette (Jeddah) — January 8, 2018

Palestine — Ahmad Abu Amer: Impoverished Gaza's economy on verge of total collapse
Gaza's economy appears to be plummeting as a result of the Israeli blockade and the Palestinian Authority's policies. The dire situation in the coastal enclave is illustrated by the weakening of industrial sectors, significant salary cuts, and skyrocketing unemployment. This has led to calls for economic relief from Palestinian government officials and foreign nations, as well as affluent expats. In spite of these pleas, some Gazans believe that Palestinians abroad are unlikely to invest in the rehabilitation of the economy. Without economic relief on the horizon, Gaza's economy is expected to continue to deteriorate.
Source: al-Monitor (Gaza City) — January 7, 2018

Syria/Iraq — Yousif Kalian: What will happen to minorities in Syria and Iraq after ISIS?
The defeat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq raises the question of what will happen to the minorities still left in those countries. Minorities such as Christians, Yazidis, Druze, Shia and Alawites were already in a weak position before the rise of ISIS, and they now face additional challenges. During the war in Syria, Shia, Alawites and Druze were forced into alliances with the regime of had been forced to be allies of the Syrian regime because they feared the presence of Sunni jihadi groups. The Christians found themselves caught between the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces and the regime. A post-war Syrian peace agreement needs to take the position of the minorities into account. Iraq faces similar challenges. A peace deal needs to provide a federal structure that gives local autonomy to the minority regions. Otherwise, the Middle East will face a tragic loss of integral communities that have been part of the region's history for thousands of years.
Source: Muftah (Washington, DC) — January 8, 2018

Turkey — Metin Gurcan: Erdoğan takes total control of the Turkish defense industry
Recent moves by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have consolidated his control of the nation's defense industry. On December 24, Erdoğan issued an emergency decree that placed the Undersecretary for Defense Industries (SSM) under his personal control. The SSM, which used to be under the auspices of the Defense Ministry, is the key government institution in charge of the state's defense procurement. It also has the important function of sponsoring talent within the defense establishment. Now that the SSM is under the personal control of Erdoğan, the president will be in charge of the strategic direction of the Turkish Armed Forces and its related industries, including budget allocation. Erdoğan claims that his long tenure as Prime Minister has provided him with ample experience to manage the sprawling Turkish defense apparatus, and that this move will finally streamline the Turkish military industrial complex under one unified control. The opposition has asserted that this decision will decrease parliamentary oversight functions over the defense industry and its activities.
Source: al-Monitor (Istanbul) — January 8, 2018

Turkey — Semih Idiz: Is ice finally thawing between EU, Turkey?
Turkish-European ties are on the mend after a year of great tension, but severe obstacles must be overcome for Turkish-European relations to improve further. Both Brussels and Ankara seem to want to repair the damaged relationship since Ankara's ties to The Hague and Berlin became especially strained in 2017. Germany and the Netherlands are the largest investors in Turkey, so President Erdoğan has welcomed Europe's friendly overtures in meetings with European foreign ministers. However, increasing authoritarianism in Turkey is a persistent point of contention between Europe and Turkey that is likely to further tensions.
Source: al-Monitor (Istanbul) — January 4, 2018

Kurdistan Region — Amberin Zaman: Demirtas steps down as Turkey's Kurds ponder new strategy
In a letter published by the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey, Selahattin Demirtas has announced he is stepping down as co-chair of the party. Demirtas is currently being held in jail along with ten other HDP lawmakers, charged with alleged terror crimes. Dermitas claimed his resignation will enable the party to operate more effectively, but he also acknowledged the challenges of functioning under Turkey's repressive government. This decision might come as a blow for the HDP, but it might also provide a new opportunity for peace talks should Turkish policy change. No official candidate has yet been selected to take Dermirtas' post, but the new co-chair will most likely be male and Kurdish, since the other current co-chair is female and Turkish.
Source: al-Monitor (Washington, DC) — January 4, 2018



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