Friday, June 14, 2013

Mideast Media Sampler 6/14/13: Hamas Summer Camps Combine Training in Both Islam and Terrorism

by David Gerstman, contributing blogger at Legal Insurrection

1) Earning merit badges in terror

Following recent revelations that Hamas plans to train thousands of children soldiers a number of media outlets are reporting that Palestinian Islamic Jihad is running summer camps training youngsters in the fine points of urban warfare. Ynet reports:
An AFP correspondent listed some of the activities the Islamic Jihad summer camp offers its enrollees: Weapons use, jumping over fire and crawling under barbed wire, all performed to the tune of exploding charges. 
Aside from technical skills, camp organizers also promise religious lessons.
Several photographs released on Wednesday show a young khaki-clad vacationer, his face colored in camouflage, dragged by two gun-toting tykes from an "outpost" adorned with an Israeli flag, in what appeared to be a reenactment of the Gilad Shalit kidnapping.

These terror camps have a long history, going back at least ten years. Fatah used to run them too. I wrote about them five years ago in a post titled Hello Martyr, Hello Fatah. This inspired Elder of Ziyon to produce a brilliant if disturbing video.

2) Tunisia's Bellwether Constitution

Earlier this week Jackson Diehl wrote Hope that Islamists and Secularists can coexist in Tunisia.
Can anyone in the Middle East show a workable way forward? Perhaps not. But I was encouraged by two conversations I had in recent days with leaders of Tunisia’s ruling Ennadha movement, founder Rachid Ghannouchi and former prime minister Hamadi Jebali. While neither could be confused with Thomas Jefferson, both appear to grasp some of the essential principles that the post-revolution Arab political movements — and in particular the Islamists — must internalize. 
Ghannouchi, a white-haired 72-year-old who spent most of his adult life in exile or prison, may be the boldest and most progressive thinker among Islamists in power. He goes so far as to compare the history of Muslim countries to Europe in the Middle Ages. “We also have spent five to six hundred years in darkness, where the capacity for reason has stopped,” he said. This “heritage of decadence,” he said, has created an orthodoxy in which “punishment is the main part of sharia.” ... 
The two men boasted about concessions Ennadha has made in the prolonged negotiations over Tunisia’s new constitution, including the exclusion of sharia and the inclusion of a provision on freedom of conscience. Now in its fourth draft, the constitution remains unacceptable to many secularists and human rights groups: Among other things, vague language appears to open the way for controls on free assembly and the media. Ennadha has, however, refrained from Morsi’s tactic of ramming a final version through without secular support — even though the process is months behind schedule.
Diehl makes clear that he's looking for a silver lining here. And perhaps this is one. But Barry Rubin recently recommended Tunisian Interim President Moncef Marzouki - 'The Invention Of A President, The Illusion Of A Democracy,' an article by Anna Mahjar-Barducci written for MEMRI. Marzouki is one of the leading moderates in Tunisia. Here's how he describes the "art of the possible" he made with the Islamists.
"For women's rights also, the same thing goes. Of course I would like for us to write in the constitution that equality between man and woman is total and complete, but you cannot write this down in the constitution, because it would mean that Tunisian women would be able to marry Christians or Jews, and so forth. This would be a problem. 
"So we would write down in the constitution that equality is the principle of the relationship between man and woman. 
"We stop there. They understand what I mean, and I understand what they mean. If every political party imposed its point of view, then it would collapse."
But "[t]hey understand what I mean" is no guarantee. If a constitution is supposed to guarantee certain societal principles and those principles are not stated explicitly, there is little hope that the principles will endure. Marzouki's saying that he cannot guarantee anything that the Islamists object to. 

The difference in these two analyses stems from Diehl directly interviewing two savvy Islamists who were careful in what they said and Mahjar-Barducci quoting Marzouki in unguarded moments.

In general, Professor Rubin writes in If the Muslim Brotherhood is Taking Over Tunisia What Hope is there for Anyone Else?
President Moncef Marzouki is being described as weak in the face of this Brotherhood takeover. A former human rights advocate, he is backing down to the Brotherhood’s al-Nahda Party, the largest party in the government. He has called the opposition “secular extremists” who are seeking to stage a coup, but he never criticizes the violent Salafists. 
Note that his claiming the opposition seeks to seize power by force authorizes “regime defenders” to attack them by force. In fact, Marzouki threatened that opposition members who were trying to overthrow the government would be hung. He has threatened anyone criticizing Qatar — al-Nahda’s financier — with prison. 
Unlike other Arab countries, however, the moderate democratic opposition is well-organized and has not been intimidated. Not yet, anyway.
Both Diehl and Rubin agree that of all the Arab countries, Tunisia is the most likely to produce an open society. But Diehl appears to be more optimistic about those possibilities.

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