Friday, December 13, 2013

"The Islamic Winter"

The big news here in Israel has to do with winter, all right. But most definitely not the Islamic sort (which I'll get to below). 
We've been hit with severe weather.  In Jerusalem, it started with torrential rain and high winds yesterday, and turned to snow overnight.  Bitter temperatures and more snow, probably mixed with sleet, are due in the next two days.  Traffic is snarled, and routines are disrupted - main roads are closed.  In the north, in Gush Etzion, Beit El, Hevron, the Shomron, and other places that are higher, the snow fall has been heavier.
Credit: Jerusalemscenes
From my window right now, it's very lovely, as every branch of every shrub is covered.
And there is yet another benefit to the weather: Kerry was scheduled to meet with Netanyahu today to advance that "peace process" with ever more vigorous plans. But the snow caused a postponement.
What timing!  Yesterday I wrote about the law, know as the Prawer Plan, that had been advanced by former minister Bennie Begin.  Today he pulled the bill for lack of support.
You might assume that the lack of support was a signal that most MKs think it was not fair to the Bedouin, but the contrary is the case.  And Begin said explicitly that this action was not as a result of the riots.
As Arutz Sheva explains:
"The plan gives Negev Bedouin 180,000 dunams (45,000 acres) of state land for free, additionally granting them 'compensation' for the state land many Bedouin are currently squatting on. Arab and left-wing opposition to the bill focuses on it moving 30,000-40,000 Bedouins from illegal outposts and villages, and demolishing 40 illegal settlements...
"About 260,000 Bedouin live in Israel, mostly in and around the Negev in the arid south. Members of this minority regularly settle on land they do not own, and then violently refuse to evacuate it. The Prawer Plan would have offered some of the Bedouin generous compensation for land they had grabbed, and relocated them to communities that could receive proper services from the state.
"The Bedouin leadership refused to accept the plan, which they claimed violates their rights. According to nationalists, this is because the Bedouin know that they have more to gain by continuing to grab land by force." 
Regavim, which works to protect Jewish rights to the land, said:
"Now the outline can be amended and the necessary corrections inserted into the bill, so that it truly deals with the problems of the Bedouin population and does not serve a tiny, interested group of ownership claimants, to whom it doles out hundreds of thousands of dunams.
"Land is the most important and least available resource in the state of Israel, and it must not be seen as currency for payment,
"The systematic refusal and violence exhibited by the leaders of the Bedouins and the Arab MKs, vis-a-vis the super-generous plan offered by former minister Begin, proves again that handing out gifts for free projects weakness, and increases the appetite of those who claim ownership." (Emphasis added) 
Now to the Islamic Winter:
On Tuesday I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Rafi Yisraeli, professor emeritus of Hebrew University, deliver a talk based on his new book, "From Arab Spring to Islamic Winter."
I would like to share a few highlights of that talk.
Not only are we not witnessing a "spring" (a political blossoming) with regard to what's happening in Arab states such as Egypt and Syria, but the phenomenon is not even exclusively "Arab."  Rather, it is Islamic, affecting nations within a swath that encompasses everything from Afghanistan to Mali.  An Islamic Winter.  A period of unrest and violence.
With all of the differences that adhere in these various states, says Prof. Yisraeli, what binds them is an Islamic vision.
Interestingly, one of the things that has sparked violence in some of these nations is a sense that there has been a de facto return to a monarchy.  At an earlier time, in these places, there had been monarchies, which were ultimately overthrown.  Regimes of a totalitarian nature replaced the monarchies, but those regimes held within them the potential for change.  What happened in several instances is that the totalitarian rulers insisted upon being followed by their sons.  This was true in Syria, for example, where Bashar Assad took over from his father, Hafez Assad.  In Egypt, Mubarak wanted to be succeeded by his son as well, and this behavior was manifested in other countries.  This signaled to the people that there was no chance for change, that the country was in the iron grip of a single family. 
Yet another problem that is endemic now to several countries of the region has to do with reductions in the quantity of food being grown - particularly where there are draught conditions - at the same time that the populations are expanding.  The potential for crisis is growing ever greater.
Yisraeli - as those who know him are aware - has a wicked sense of humor. And so I feel free to share here one joke he told, which was so very to the point:  A minister of one of these struggling countries declared in a speech, "When I took office, we were at the edge of a precipice.  But since then we've taken several steps forward."
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