News and Analysis (10/28/20)

October 29th, 2020

“A military court in the Gaza Strip convicted three Palestinian peace activists of ‘weakening revolutionary spirit’ on Monday for their role in holding a video call with Israelis in April, but it ordered the authorities to release the two who remained in jail”:

The IDF suspected the boy of throwing rocks at an army vehicle, but they have no evidence. They deny having beaten him on the neck, but medical authorities have plenty of evidence that he died from precisely that:

“On day one, Israeli settlers … attacked farmers … and set olive trees on fire. … On day three, Israeli settlers … vandalized houses. A week later, just after the UAE signed their agreement with Israel, expansion plans for 4,948 settlements were approved”:

“The NIA raids on human rights activist Parvez and the Greater Kashmir office in Srinagar is yet another example of the Government of India’s vicious crackdown on freedom of expression and dissent” — PDP president and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti:

“Macron is following in the centuries’ old tradition of Europeans telling Muslims how we need to interpret, or live, our religion – which Europeans rarely tell people of other religious faiths – because of the actions of a handful of Muslims” — Asma Barlas:

Predictions that depriving Kashmir of aut9nomy was a step allowing non-Kashmiri Indians to acquire ownership of the land are confirmed; the imposition of new property taxes may force struggling natives to sell to wealthy outsiders:

“From the tumultuous Civil Rights era and the subsequent negative interactions with Black Muslims, to the post-9/11 era of targeted police surveillance and infiltration of Muslim communities, much of the interactions have been negative”:

Muslims take comfort in traditional burial, although God has no need of a corporeal body to resurrect the dead, But, Japanese push back, apparently resistant “to the now-unfamiliar sight of burial grounds and anxiety toward [Islam] itself”:

Kashmiris suffer collateral damage in the Saudi and Iranian determination to punish Imran Khan for warming up to Erdogan:

News and Analysis (10/26/20)

October 26th, 2020

Will Pompeo’s support for Nahdlatul Ulama over its rivals taint the movement’s bid “to garner religious soft power and shape the definition of what constitutes moderate Islam?”

Muslims feeling scapegoated for the lockdown in the north of England demand publication of the data behind the claim that they were “not abiding to social distancing” guidelines at the start of Eid al Adha be published; the Department of Health and Social Care refuses:

Mumbai-based Islamic scholar Dr. Zeenat Shaukat Ali argued that “killing people for blasphemy or apostasy is not permissible in Islam” and called for Islamic scholars to scrutinize and sift Hadith to require they “be in consonance with the verses of the Quran”:

“Anis Wani, a 23-year-old cartoonist who works for The Kashmir Walla, … said he received anonymous death threats by phone after he posted his first post-crackdown piece on India’s independence day … [of] a Kashmiri man, his lips sealed, tied to a pole flying the Indian flag”:

“[T]he head of the political bureau of the IRGC … has openly stated [that] the entire JCPOA saga convinced the guard that they ‘should not think of any negotiations with the United States any longer'”:

“We have no objection to meeting with international partners to discuss the issue. But I have to ask, how is this different than every other meeting convened on this issue over the past 60 years?” — U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft:

“The transfer of long-range missiles from Iran to Venezuela is not acceptable to the United States and will not be tolerated or permitted … and if somehow they get to Venezuela they will be eliminated there” — Elliot Abrams:

Crony Capitalism in the Middle East

October 24th, 2020

[On October 9, the Middle East Institute (MEI) hosted a panel of experts to launch the book Crony Capitalism in the Middle East: Business and Politics from Liberalization to the Arab Spring, eds. Ishac Diwan, Adeel Malik and Izak Atiyas. These notes summarize my impression of highlights of the presentation and are not an attempted transcription.]

Adeel Malik (Globe fellow, Economies of Muslim Societies, Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies; associate professor, Department of International Development, University of Oxford).

Across the Middle East corruption in government and corruption in business is often seen as the same. An earlier book, Networks of Privilege in the Middle East concluded that the era of economic liberalization led to networks of monopolizing cronies connected to the state. We bring specificity and details to this debate. We focus on the post-liberalization era. We determine who are these politically connected firms (PCFs). Some chapters are descriptive and some analyze causality.

In Turkey the connections may not be directly to the government, but to institutions such as the AKP. In Morocco we looked at firms connected to the Royal Family. In Egypt we looked at linkages to MPs. There is a large and growing presence of cronies, but it varies across countries and sectors. Egypt probably has the highest exposure to cronyism affecting 80% of the subsectors and has more than doubled since the late 1990s. We offer a refined understanding of mechanisms including subsidies, finance, privatization, regulatory capture, trade barriers, and land allocation. PCFs are proportionately concentrated in energy sectors. In Morocco, finance is a lynchpin in the broader network of cronyism. In Lebanon, there is political ownership of the banking sector. Privatization contributes to cronyism when ownership goes into the hands of cronies. In Tunisia those firms that went to the Ben Ali family became the most profitable. In Iran nearly half of the 331 “privatized” companies in 1988-1994 went to semi-public organizations (such as the Martyr’s Foundation and the IRG). Trade reform has preferentially benefited connected sectors. In the case of Morocco, EU-induced tariff reductions compensated politically connected sectors most (especially those connected to parliament as the royal family is not heavily invested in manufacturing).  Technical Barriers to Trade are susceptible to political abuse. Contra Abdullah Al-Dardari’s 2012 prediction that World Trade Organization rules would impede the power of rent-seeking networks, we confirm Luigi Zingales’s 2017 observation that the increasing size and complexity of regulation has made “it easier for vested interests to tilt the playing field.” In Tunisia the regulated sectors are the most profitable because they are protected by regulation.

Ishac Diwan (Chairperson, Socio-économie du Monde Arabe, Paris Sciences et Lettres).

Crony capitalism repressed rather than opened markets and entrenched the autocracy. It is especially destructive in that it affects the growth sectors of the economy and divides the informal from the formal sectors of the economy. Crony capitalism provides a disincentive to property rights protection and a misallocation of resources. Competition is limited and lobbying effectively inhibits structural change. In extreme cases market forces are eliminated altogether. In Egypt PCFs took 85% of private sector credit, derived 60% of net profits, and created only 11% of employment, even as they depress employment by unconnected firms. PCFs in Lebanon over-hire, especially just before elections, and their invasions of the market end up with a net destruction of jobs. In Tunisia they lobby for protection and monopolize whole sectors. In GCC markets are restricted to the royal families and produce few jobs for youth. In Syria and Algeria the private sector is small, but what there is is dominated by cronies. In Iraq there is a kind of competitive cronyism centered on competition for government contracts. In Turkey the experience was initially consistent with growth, but, with the consolidation of AKP power, that growth has now collapsed.

Regime change destroys connections but poses a challenge to the protection of property rights. “Messy democracies” like Tunisia, Lebanon and Iraq could improve Rule of Law over time, but the Tunisian experience shows that political competition doesn’t instantly bring about the rule of law, but democratizes corruption. There is a mix of populism and state capitalism in KSA, Egypt, Algeria, and now in Turkey. In Jordan and Morocco there is a challenge to monarchical management, but there is a need for improved education and innovation.  It is an open question as to whether the AKP experience of “virtuous enterprises” can be reproduced elsewhere.

Karen Young (Resident scholar, American Enterprise Institute).

She prefers the phrase “a stalled statist project” to “crony capitalism.” All capitalisms depends on networks, which is actually a strength of the capitalist system. The degree of internationalization and focus on domestic non-tradables provides productive ground.  Exclusive vs. inclusive is an important issue. Who controls what resources is different in the Gulf than outside.  Has the success of economic human and social development indicators been preferential to certain groups reflective of class or tribe? There are lots of ways of exerting political influence that are not necessarily counter to markets or public good. I think the real issue is about governance and civil society. The ability to form interest groups is restricted or absent throughout the Middle East. Diamond trade is highly networked and poised to boom. Government-related entities are getting a vastly disproportionate share of credit. SMEs receive a tiny portion of bank lending. Governments actively intervene to shore up the prices of related firms. How do we explain the Gulf states allowing connected firms to fail?  Government connected firms are not good employers. I love the cross-regional comparisons. In Latin America race played a role in concentration of ownership.  How does that compare to the Middle East? Statist development continues to overpromise and overspend but fails to deliver growth or a new generation of human resources.

Jean-François Seznec, moderator (Non-resident scholar, MEI).

I notice you did not cover the causality of cronyism.  Is there anything specific to the Arab world? It is due to a strong state, but is it due to authoritarianism or monarchy, or something else? If you are going to focus on the Gulf you must address those firms unconnected with the royal family that are successful because they are not connected to the royal family.

Adeel Malik.  Many of these counties have family based networks. In many cases firms need protection from the state. The sheer scale of exclusion (high political barriers to entry, usually blunt instruments) allow firms to grow to a certain level beyond which they need to [connect to the political establishment]. In the very oil rich countries there is less need to generate additional sources of rent, since the oil provides sufficient rents.

Ishac Diwan. Forms are political entities themselves. The question is how politics and economics influence one another. How can Sisi provide jobs for the youth without letting go of the private sector?  He will try to let the army do the job while cultivating some small companies without political power. He will make space for SMEs to revitalize the market. It is only a fortunate conjunction of economics and political success that allows an AKP to arise to address challenges of the future.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute
www.minaret.org

News and Analysis (10/24/20)

October 24th, 2020

“Unlike the U.S., Iran does not interfere in other country’s elections” — Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman for Iran’s mission to the United Nations:

State Department careerists call plans to label Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam anti-Semitic “a gift to authoritarian governments that have long sought to delegitimize human rights groups for their work exposing mass atrocities and crimes against humanity”:

None of the arrested men currently work for the school and the police got two of their names wrong when announcing the arrests, leaving observers to wonder if the police have anything right in their prosecution of the three accused and the school at which one had taught:

“We can no longer reach our land, nor can we harvest the olives. The settlement sewage water has drowned the land completely”:

“Kadhimi has published a white paper on dramatic economic reforms that would see a public sector payroll cut from 25% to 12.5% of GDP. He added the country’s political class had grown lazy through its reliance on oil”:

“Instead of addressing the alienation of French Muslims, especially in France’s exurban ghettos … the government aims to influence the practice of a 1,400-year-old faith, one with almost 2 billion peaceful followers around the world, including tens of millions in the West”:

“Digital rights activists have consistently denounced the internet restrictions, with some calling them ‘far worse censorship than anywhere in the world'”:

Breaking Fast shows that you can balance sexuality and religion without pitting them against each other, and without alienating viewers”:

Trump and Biden have some significant differences on Iran, but there is no daylight between their parties’ establishments’ unconditional support for Israel:

 

News and Analysis (10/21/20)

October 21st, 2020

“They can put locks on our office but they can’t put it on our voice”  — Anuradha Bhasin, the owner and executive editor of Kashmir Times:

Being neither the head of state nor of government, MbS is not immune to “recourse in U.S. courts for violations of international law and for victims of ‘flagrant human rights violations,’ including torture and summary execution abroad”:

Biden condemns “any effort to boycott [Israel] or withhold aid to force policy change.” In 2016 he “helped get the country its biggest ever U.S. aid package, US$38 billion” and “has already announced he would not move the U.S. embassy back to Tel Aviv if elected“:

“Even if Joe Biden triumphs at the polls, Iran’s weakened government may only have a few months to negotiate a revived nuclear deal before facing its own electoral challenge by hardliners who oppose any engagement with the west”:

The number of voters registered in a third party exceeds the difference between Democratic and Republican registrations by 4991 at a time when Muslims are “tired of voting for the cleaner dirty shirt”:

“Macron doesn’t need to ‘build an Islam in France that can be compatible with the Enlightenment,’ because that already exists. Whether French secularism can adapt to Islam is another question”:

“Prior to the nullification of Article 370 and Article 35A of the Constitution, only state subjects were allowed to buy land and apply for government jobs in Jammu and Kashmir”:

“Pro-Israeli activists” are angry that Hadassa hospital is treating the Palestinian leader who has compared Israeli apartheid with that of South Africa:

News and Analysis (10/19/20)

October 19th, 2020

Not satisfied with classifying singing Palestinian songs as a form of terrorism within its own borders, Israel is “examining the possibility of calling for the cancelation of all of Assaf’s events in the United Arab Emirates”:

“Al-Aqsa Mosque shall be entered through the gate of its owners, not through the gate of the Israeli occupation” — Palestinian PM Muhammad Shtayyeh:

History, not ideology. Usmani insists he would not mind removing every picture of Jinnah from government buildings but there are portraits of “S Radhakrishnan, C Rajagopalachari, Rajendra Prasad and Jawaharlal Nehru, E M Forster alongside Jinnah in the campus”:

The “document on judicial security … [also] “stressed the ‘transparency’ of the judicial process, including the right to freely choose a lawyer and ‘the principle of the presumption of innocence’. It also guaranteed ‘consular access’ for foreign nationals”:

The Lebanese doctor who “passed the naturalization test with the best possible score” will be denied citizenship because he refuses to break a promise to his wife that he would never shake hands with another woman:

“The Islamic Republic of Iran considers the arrest of Mr Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian diplomat in Europe, a move that is fundamentally illegal and in egregious violation of international practices and the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations”:

An Iranian FM spokesman said “Iran will respond to any aggression even the unintentional ones” after “ten missiles landed in two villages in the Khudaferin district in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province, south of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, injuring a civilian”:

The negotiation “process has only moved slowly, while violence escalated, a factor diplomats and officials have said is sapping the trust needed for negotiations to succeed”:

News and Analysis (10/16/20)

October 16th, 2020

Existing law forbidding anyone from knowingly contacting the agent of a foreign state or terrorist organization without explanation would be expanded to impose a 15-year sentence on contact with any “foreign political entity,” including human rights organizations:

Feeling “discriminated against by the politicians and bureaucrats,” Buddhists initially welcomed Modi’s scrapping of the state’s status, but now even BJP members are “furious,” feeling “vulnerable to outsiders who will come and buy our land and take our jobs as well”:

Iran has already beaten the U.S. to having a female Vice President.  Will the Guardian Council allow it to have a female President first as well?

“We’re only giving the government more time to negotiate the withdrawal” “The truce isn’t open-ended,” Ahmed al-Assadi, a lawmaker representing the political arm of pro-Iran armed coalition Hashd al-Shaabi:

Do you think the dispute over Jerusalem is between the Palestinians and the Israelis? Now Erdogan has declared that Jerusalem is Turkish; and the Saudis, too, want in on the action:

Even if Muslims were “only about one percent of the country’s total population – … their concentrations in key swing and battleground states, such as Michigan, Florida, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, could make their vote especially impactful”:

It was reported that “an Arab medical worker who was sent to conduct a Covid-19 test was refused entry to Yitzhar [because] he was an Arab,” yet “many critics … continue to support institutionalised discrimination against Palestinians” …

… and despite the postponement of official annexation of parts of the West Bank, “more than 12,000 illegal Israeli settlement homes were approved this year” — Ahmed al-Assadi, representing the political arm of pro-Iran armed coalition Hashd al-Shaabi:

“Far from doling out fiscal help and other supportive measures, the government… wants to suck the life and blood of people” — Nati9onal Conference Party statement opposing the imposition of property taxes:

“Hizbullah, a lawyer at the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, was arrested under the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), which allows the government to detain suspects without charge and or having to present them before a judge”:

News and Analysis (10/13/20)

October 13th, 2020

By amending its rape laws to punish “anyone convicted of raping a woman or child … with ‘death or rigorous imprisonment for life'” Bangladesh joins four Muslim countries and China in taking a hard line against the most brutal and humiliating crime of aggression:

“The judiciary today does not reflect the America it presides over,” the letter states. “As of 2020, there is to our knowledge no appointed member of the federal judiciary who identifies as Muslim, nor has there ever been”:

The militias will stop attacks on American military and diplomatic targets if “Washington present(s) a timetable for the withdrawal of its troops”:

“He is on hunger strike against administrative detention, in which the prisoner and his lawyer lose all tools to protect him. We have no access to confidential information, no possibility of cross-examining the source of that information” — al-Akhras’ attorney, Ahlam Haddad:

“Inge-Hanif says she is running a deficit this year, even though she doesn’t pay herself a salary, has no staff and lives in the shelter with the women she serves. She maximizes her ability to help with the assistance of her four grown kids, their families and … volunteers”:

The video showing Hindu-Muslim harmony “has got more dislikes than likes on YouTube, with more than 2,000 people disliking the video and only 545 people liking it. The comments section has been disabled” …

… but a Muslim family is unaffected by Muslim hardliners walkout on the inclusion of Hindu chants in a ceremony honoring the accession of a new elder:

“There were no problems whatsoever during the meeting, but soon messages started circulating in various local Facebook groups. There are a number of Burleson Facebook groups that have just gotten hateful” — Burleson Mayor Ken Shetter:

The school contests that it “functions as an indoctrination centre for future terrorists,” and “[d]isowning the arrested trio” says “none of the was a teacher at the school”:

News and Analysis (10/10/20)

October 10th, 2020

Critics called the BJP-led government imposition of a “property tax in the Union Territory … ‘despotic and anarchic rule’ aimed to ‘harass’ the people of Kashmir economically”:

By refusing to accept that a truly secular government would not engage “in what is essentially a community’s own private religious discourse,” Macron mainstreams fringe conspiracy theories:

“In an infrequent acknowledgement of collaboration between the federal government and social media companies, Justice credited Google, Facebook and Twitter with supplying intelligence to the investigation”:

“A timely new documentary film titled ‘There Is A Field’ tells the story of Asel Asleh, a 17-year-old Palestinian peace activist who was murdered by Israeli police, through the lens of Black Lives Matter activists in the United States”:

After “criticizing treatment of prisoners” she was sentenced to years in prison “for her work … against the death penalty,” … for “gathering and colluding with intent to harm national security,” and … for “spreading propaganda against the system.” “:

“Maher al-Akhras was detained on July 27, and held by the Israeli authorities under the administrative detention, with no trial or charges, which pushed him to go on an open-ended hunger strike”:

“In the IAEA we do not talk about breakout time. We look at the significant quantity, the minimum amount of enriched uranium or plutonium needed to make an atomic bomb. Iran does not have this significant quantity at the moment” — IAEA head Rafael Grossi:

News and Analysis (10/7/20)

October 7th, 2020

The Lancet took down a letter noting that “poverty, military occupation, discrimination and institutionalized oppression” turned the Covid-19 outbreak in Gaza into “a preventable biosocial injustice rooted in decades of Israeli oppression” three days after publication:

A survey of articles published about Palestinians in the US over the past fifty years finds that less than 2% of the 2,490 articles in The New York Times, only 1% of the 3,249 in The Washington Post, and not of a single one of 497 in The New Republic were by Palestinians:

The Qur’an (18:23-24) commands believers to say “If God wills” when promising to do something in the future, but Biden’s use of the phrase to characterize a promise by Trump reflects the derogatory colloquial Arabic usage, meaning “it ain’t gonna happen”:

“The proposed bill ‘would require the President to consult with the Israeli government to ensure [qualitative military edge] concerns are settled’ in respect to weapons sales to Middle Eastern countries”:

After her humiliation m she was acquitted of the charges against her:

In its ruling the court equated the kidnapping of an innocent college student with the detention of an FBI agent “on an unauthorized CIA mission,” awarding damages to a foamily that has already “received a $2.5 million annuity” in CIA hush money:

“Yemeni American Sfuaun Ali, 29, has been waiting for three years to hear back from … (USCIS) about the status of the I-130 form he submitted for his wife to join him in New York.” USCIS offers no explanations for waiver rejections:

Like some Iranian Marie Antoinette an Iranian Food and Drug Administration spokesman urged those who can’t afford butter to substitute more expensive “avocados and olive oil”:

“Iranian media said stray shells from fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave had fallen on villages near Iran’s northwestern border, wounding a child and damaging buildings”: