Cancer -Like Anti-Semitism has spread throughout the Islamic World


February 17, 2019

Cancer -Like Anti-Semitism has spread throughout the Islamic World

by Dr. Fareed Zakaria

https://fareedzakaria.com/columns/2019/2/14/anti-semitism-has-spread-through-the-islamic-world-like-a-cancer

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

Ilhan Omar (Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.)

 

In recent weeks, attention has focused on two freshman Democratic members of Congress, Ilhan Omar (Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), both of whom are Muslim and have made critical statements about Israel and its most ardent American supporters. Their tweets and comments have been portrayed by some as not simply criticisms of Israel but rather as evidence of a rising tide of anti-Semitism on the new left.

I don’t know what is in the hearts of the two representatives. But I believe that Muslims should be particularly thoughtful when speaking about these issues because anti-Semitism has spread through the Islamic world like a cancer. (Omar and Tlaib are not responsible for this in any way, of course, but they should be aware of this poisonous climate.) In 2014, the Anti-Defamation League did a survey in more than 100 countries of attitudes toward Jews and found that anti-Semitism was twice as common among Muslims than among Christians, and it’s far more prevalent in the Middle East than the Americas. It has sometimes tragically gone beyond feelings, morphing into terrorist attacks against Jews, even children, in countries such as France.

It might surprise people to know that it wasn’t always this way. In fact, through much of history, the Muslim Middle East was hospitable to Jews when Christian Europe was killing or expelling them. The great historian Bernard Lewis once said to me, “People often note that in the late 1940s and 1950s, hundreds of thousands of Jews fled Arab countries. They rarely ask why so many Jews were living in those lands in the first place.”

Image result for the jews of islam by bernard lewis

Bernard Lewis and Henry Kissinger

In his seminal book, “The Jews of Islam,” Lewis points out that in the Middle Ages, when polemics against Jews were commonplace in the Christian world, they were rare in the Islamic world. In the early centuries of Islamic rule, he writes, there was “a kind of symbiosis between Jews and their neighbors that has no parallel in the Western world between the Hellenistic and modern ages. Jews and Muslims had extensive and intimate contacts that involved social as well as intellectual association — cooperation, commingling, even personal friendship.” One shouldn’t exaggerate the status of Jews back then — they were second-class citizens — but they were tolerated and encouraged to a far greater degree in Muslim societies than in Christian ones.

Things changed in the Muslim world only in the late 19th century, when, according to Lewis, “as a direct result of European influence, movements appear among Muslims of which for the first time one can legitimately use the term anti-Semitic.” Muslims worried that the British, who came to rule much of the Middle East, were favoring the small non-Muslim communities, especially Jews. Muslims began importing European anti-Semitic tropes such as the notion of blood libel, and noxious anti-Semitic works started to be translated into Arabic, including the notorious “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

What supercharged all these attitudes was the founding of Israel in 1948 and the determination of Arab leaders to defeat it. In their zeal to delegitimize the Jewish state, men such as Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser promoted all kinds of anti-Semitic literature and rhetoric. Arab states became vast propaganda machines for anti-Semitism, brainwashing generations of their people with the most hateful ideas about Jews. Even the supposedly secular president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, declared in 2001 that Israelis were “trying to kill all the values of the divine religions, with the same mentality that brought about the betrayal and torturing of Christ and in the same way that they tried to betray the Prophet Muhammad.” Religious states such as Saudi Arabia were just as bad, if not worse.

Decades of state-sponsored propaganda have had an effect. Anti-Semitism is now routine discourse in Muslim populations in the Middle East and also far beyond. While some Arab governments have stepped back from the active promotion of hate, the damage has been done.

It should be possible to criticize Israel. As Peter Beinart has written, “establishing two legal systems in the same territory — one for Jews and one for Palestinians, as Israel does in the West Bank — is bigotry. . . . And it has lasted for more than a half-century.” It should be possible to talk about the enormous political influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC. I recall senators privately worrying that if they supported the Iran nuclear deal, AIPAC would target them. (Of course, this is true of other lobbies and is not the only reason senators voted against the deal.) These are legitimate issues to vigorously debate and discuss in the United States, just as in Israel.

Unfortunately, by phrasing the issue as the two new representatives sometimes have, they have squandered an opportunity to further that important debate.

 

The Mekong region is caught in a tug-of-war


February 14, 2019

The Mekong region is caught in a tug-of-war

by Nguyen Khac Giang, VEPR

http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2019/02/07/the-mekong-region-is-caught-in-a-tug-of-war/

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For the Mekong countries, including Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam, 2018 was a big year both domestically and regionally. Key developments from last year will inevitably continue to shape the politics of the region in 2019. In terms of domestic affairs, the most worrying trend is the consolidation of autocratic power in almost all countries.

 

In Vietnam, the sudden death of president Tran Dai Quang in September 2018 created a huge power vacuum, which was filled by Vietnamese Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong. By merging the two most powerful positions in Vietnamese politics, he has become the strongest Vietnamese leader since the death of Ho Chi Minh in 1969, edging the communist state towards the Chinese model of centralised rule.

Cambodia, in theory a multi-party democracy, has practically become a one-party regime after an election that saw Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party win all parliamentary seats in July 2018. He is now one of the world’s longest-serving heads of government, having held the premiership for 33 years since 1985.

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Things are no better in Thailand. Four years after seizing power, the military junta has made — and broken — five promises to hold a general election to establish a civilian government. Even if the sixth promise is fulfilled in February 2019, it will be difficult to sen Myanmar, the intensifying Rohingya crisis has not only created Southeast Asia’s biggest humanitarian concern but also exposed the reluctance of Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy to complete the democratic transition that started in 2011.e swift change, as the junta will exploit all means available to dominate the electoral process.

In Myanmar, the intensifying Rohingya crisis has not only created Southeast Asia’s biggest humanitarian concern but also exposed the reluctance of Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy to complete the democratic transition that started in 2011.

 

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In Myanmar, the intensifying Rohingya crisis has not only created Southeast Asia’s biggest humanitarian concern but also exposed the reluctance of Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy to complete the democratic transition that started in 2011.

The autocratisation of the Mekong region has significant implications at a time when its giant neighbour China continues a long march to the south. China has committed billions of US dollars in concessional loans and credit to Mekong countries via the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC), an ambitious initiative which was launched in 2016. But the LMC’s actual impact remains to be seen. While the LMC is ostensibly aimed at creating a ‘shared future of peace and prosperity’, China can use it as part of a carrot and stick strategy due to its largely opaque and non-binding frameworks.

It should be noted that Beijing has a record of working closely with autocracies. Beijing has helped leaders in Central Asia guard against ‘colour revolution’, provided African autocrats with an alternative model of development and has aided socialist Venezuela in crisis. A less democratic Mekong region will be more exposed to China’s strategy of buying influence, which often involves closed-door negotiations and dealings.

Image result for the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy hydropower dam in southern Laos collapsed,

The LMC, as well as other established regional mechanisms such as the Mekong River Commission and Lower Mekong Initiative, have also failed to address the core issue which theoretically binds Mekong countries together: transnational water management. In July 2018, a section of the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy hydropower dam in southern Laos collapsed, reportedly killing 34 people, leaving 97 missing and displacing 6000 others. The collapsed part of the dam was only an auxiliary section and the whole project is built in one of the Mekong’s tributaries instead of the main stream. Needless to say, it could have been an even greater catastrophe.

Image result for the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy hydropower dam in southern Laos collapsed,

In Vietnam, for example, hydro dams are considered to be time bombs ticking over the head of the Mekong Delta on which 90 per cent of Vietnam’s rice exports depend. Despite the incident, the Laos government resumed its dream of becoming ‘a battery for Asia’ by permitting work to continue on several hydro projects. Beneficiary countries of the hydropower boom such as Thailand and China gave condolences and support to Laos but continued building their own dams. China, for instance, has built 7 and has plans for a further 21 dams on the Mekong — plans formulated without consultation with lower-Mekong countries.

The ongoing trade war between China and the United States also has the potential to impact the Mekong region both economically and politically. If the trade war accelerates, investors will consider countries like Vietnam and Thailand, and to a lesser extent Cambodia, as shelters to circumvent higher tariffs and other technical barriers. Exports from the Mekong region to the United States, many of which are substitutes for Chinese goods, will also benefit from the trade dispute. On the other hand, the region also bears the risk of a flood of Chinese goods into domestic markets, which is already a big issue.

More broadly, the Mekong region will continue to be a battlefield for influence between the two global superpowers. The rumour that China seeks to build a military base in Cambodia, although dismissed by Hun Sen, should be a serious warning for Washington. Of the five Mekong countries, only Vietnam is wary of China’s charm offensive due to a lingering sovereignty dispute in the South China Sea. The superpowers’ tug-of-war will perhaps come to play a key role in shaping the region’s development trajectory.

Nguyen Khac Giang is the lead political researcher at the Vietnam Institute for Economic and Policy Research (VEPR) at the Vietnam National University in Hanoi.

This article is part of an EAF special feature series on 2018 in review and the year ahead.

Foreign Policy–Dealing with the US and EU : Cambodia’s strategic option(s)


February 13, 2019

Foreign Policy–Dealing with the US and EU : Cambodia’s strategic option(s)

https://www.khmertimeskh.com

by Soun Nimeth
Image result for CAMBODIA

‘Shopping diplomacy’, arms purchases, and good military cooperation with the US and EU canld help thwart Western criticism of Cambodia’s human rights record. But Soun Nimeth questions whether these are worth the risks, given Cambodia’s bad experiences in the 1970s when it fell into the abyss of a geo-political war.

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US Ambassador to Cambodia William A. Heidt talks to VOA Khmer about the importance of US-Cambodia relations at the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on February 10, 2016. (Nov Povleakhena/VOA Khmer)

With the looming geopolitical war, Cambodia is trapped in the center of a power rivalry  between China and the US as well as the latter’s ally, the EU. This is both in terms of strategic contest and economic rivalry.

To recall the 1970s when Cambodia fell in the abyss of a geo-political war, the country now has no reason to feel flattered once again when it is in the cross hairs of the superpowers.

Image result for US-Cambodia relations

Despite several attempts, through a direct response to US Vice President Mike Pence’s letter as well as a face-to-face meeting with US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for South and Southeast Asia Joseph H. Felter, to assure the US that Cambodia would not allow Koh Kong to be used as a Chinese naval base, the efforts seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks with US President Donald Trump at the ongoing Asean summit in Manila yesterday.

 READ ON: http//www.phnompenhpost.com/national/trump-rein-your-embassy-hun-sen-calls-us-president-warn-diplomats-about-interference

The determination to project Cambodia as China’s proxy state seems to have already been carved in stone in America’s regional strategy. Unjustified concern was expressed in the latest “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community” that went all the way to allege that Cambodia might amend its constitution to cater for foreign military bases.

Cambodia is cautiously mindful of its dark past and it is in the interests of the Kingdom to dispel the paranoia of the US and EU. The question is, how can Cambodia go about it.

Looking in the region, Cambodia can find some clues from countries like Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore.

Thailand

Neither the US nor the EU has ever demanded the reinstatement of the Thaksin government like they did vis-à-vis the dissolved CNRP.  There is no public condemnation for the repeated election delays.

In contrast, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was welcomed to the White House by President Donald Trump in October 2017 as the Prime minister embarked on what Pongphisoot Busbarat called “shopping diplomacy”. The “shopping list” was aimed to reduce the US trade deficit with Thailand that amounted to $19 billion (2016). It included the lifting of the import ban on American pork and poultry products, the purchase of Boeing aircraft by Thai Airways, the purchase of American coal by Siam Cement Group, the boosting of investment in the US worth $6 billion to create more than 8,000 jobs, the agreement for Thai petroleum company PTT to invest in shale gas factories in Ohio and the $261 million arms purchase.

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was also received by British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron in June 2018. In the latter meeting, Thailand’s space agency signed an agreement to buy an observation satellite worth $215 million from French manufacturer AirBus.

In the recent article entitled “ASEAN must make EU a strategic partner”, veteran journalist Kavi Chongkittavorn wrote that “Thailand sacrificed blood, sweat and tears to overcome the stringent criteria outlined by the EU, which would not have been possible without its military rulers’ vigorous use of the much-condemned Section 44.”

One would question what did he imply when referring to “blood, sweat and tears” to secure the EU’s lifting of the yellow card? This may hold the key on how the current Thai government could please Western countries despite being a military junta born from a coup.

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Vietnam

In October 2018, when General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong became the first Vietnamese leader to hold a dual role as central committee general secretary and president, no Western nation raised any alarm or condemnation.

Vietnam is a single-party state by all accounts but it enjoys excellent relations with the US and the EU. This is attributed to two factors; one being that they all share a common geopolitical arch-rival, China; and another one is the usage of Vietnam’s shopping diplomacy.

During the visit of French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe to Hanoi in November 2018, France and Vietnam signed two business deals worth over $10 billion. The deals included the purchase by Vietjet Air of 50 AirBus A321 neo planes worth $6.5 billion and CFM Leap engines worth $5.3 billion.

Singapore

The recent Khmer Times opinion by Doung Bosba titled “Is everything about China bad?” has excerpted the Naval Time’s article on the decades-long lease of Singapore port to the US navy for the operation of the Logistics Group Western Pacific (COMLOG WESTPAC) and Navy Region Center Singapore (NRCS) among others.

Good military cooperation and being a strategic ally with the US has helped Singapore to navigate away from any storm of criticism over the nature of its government, which has been dominated by the People’s Action Party since the 1959 general elections.

From the  cases of Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore, various options and lessons can be drawn such as cutting trade deficit, detaching from China or making China an enemy, conducting “shopping diplomacy” or leasing facilities to the US military. Whether such options are viable, considering Cambodia’s strategic predicament and its resources, is the question. Even more important, would there be assurances that the US and EU would not antagonize the Cambodian government, should Cambodia choose to please them? Who would guarantee that after pleasing the Western countries, Cambodia would not become the backyard of Thailand and Vietnam both politically and economically?

Without a clear answer to these questions, it is very much likely that Cambodia will continue to navigate in the dark and both the US and EU will continue to antagonize the Cambodian government for their own geo-political interests. Castigating Cambodia for its record on democracy and human rights is just a sideshow. The issue is greater than that if we consider why the US and EU coddle Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore– whose levels of democracy are far from the level demanded from Cambodia.

Soun Nimeth is a Cambodian analyst based in Phnom Penh

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History:When facts of the Cambodian tragedy get distorted by the US


February 8, 2019

History:When facts of the Cambodian tragedy get distorted by the US

By Thomas Fowler
ttps://www.khmertimeskh.com/50575270/when-facts-of-the-cambodian-tragedy-get-distorted-by-the-us/

Lon Nol with U.S. Vice President Spiro Agnew in Phnom Penh, 1970. wikimedia/CC BY-SA 3.0

Historical negationism or denialism is an illegitimate distortion of the historical record which the US Embassy in Phnom Penh has resorted to when it publicly stated in social media that Washington was not involved in the March 18, 1970 coup led by Lon Nol, argues Thomas Fowler.

Last Thursday, January 31, the US Embassy in Phnom Penh released a statement that claimed, “We would like to highlight that the US was not involved in the coup leading to Lon Nol coming to power. Up to now, there has not been any evidence proving the US was involved.” Unfortunately, this is nothing more contrary to the truth. We are faced with what historians call negationism – the illegitimate distortion of historical records.

There is a long history of fatal relations between Cambodia and the US. During the two decades following independence, while Prince Norodom Sihanouk was in power, Washington denied the many attempts to overthrow and even assassinate him.

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Based on a strange US concept which is named “plausible deniability”, senior officials are able to deny knowledge of or responsibility for any damnable actions committed by others in an organisational hierarchy. In the case that illegal or otherwise disreputable and unpopular activities become public, high-ranking officials may deny any awareness of such acts to insulate themselves. The expression “plausibly deniable” was first used publicly by CIA director Allen Dulles.

In 1956, the US National Security Council decided to support with money, arms and ammunitions the Khmer Serei, an extreme right militia based in South Vietnam and Thailand led by Son Ngoc Thanh and opposed to then Prince Norodom Sihanouk. But in the same year, Washington vehemently denied any support to these rebels.

In 1959, there were three attempts to overthrow Prince Norodom Sihanouk and even assassinate him. Traitors like Son Ngoc Thanh, Dap Chhuon and Sam Sary, all against Prince Sihanouk’s principle of neutrality and all passionate supporters of the US, were CIA operatives as has been proven by archival material. But in 1959, the Americans denied that Washington was involved in the plots for a regime change.

In 1963, the Khmer Serei’s activities increased dramatically as they were integrated partly in the Special Forces under US command. But in 1963, yet again, the State Department informed Cambodia’s Ambassador in the US that there was no evidence of American involvement with the Khmer Serei.

Since the archives of the CIA and the National Security Council for this period have been opened to researchers, we know all the details of these attempts. We even know that they were hidden from President John F Kennedy who was only informed a few days before his assassination in November 1963.

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Similarly, it was not until William Clinton’s Presidency that we learnt the truth about the bombings of a country that had not declared war on anyone: 2,756,941 tons of bombs were dropped on Cambodia from October 4, 1965 to August 15, 1973 through 230,516 bomber missions which destroyed 115,273 targets. Until then, the Pentagon recognised “only” 539,129 tons, which still represents three times the tonnage of bombs dumped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki between 1942 and 1945.

The March 18, 1970 coup led by Lon Nol and Sirik Matak, joined soon by Son Ngoc Thanh, was coordinated by the CIA station and US military intelligence in Saigon, with the involvement of the US embassies in Phnom Penh and Saigon.

By supporting staged rallies against Prince Sihanouk, Khmer Serei forces were transferred step-by-step though the months by the CIA from South Vietnam to Phnom Penh with the order to organise deadly anti-Vietnamese demonstrations in the capital city. Of course, then US president Nixon and then state secretary Henry Kissinger denied their involvement in this regime change. As does the US embassy today in Phnom Penh. And Mr Kissinger is still alive.

These are the facts and they are indisputable. In 1993, all the details of US involvement were described to me by Douglas E Pike in a discussion we had while he was the director of the Indochina Archives at the University of Berkeley. As Foreign Service officer, he had been stationed at the US embassy in Saigon in the 1960s and in 1973-1974.

Until March 1970, with the exception of the neighboring provinces of Vietnam, Cambodia was considered an “oasis of peace”. Even if he had on his own side opponents to his policy of neutrality, Prince Norodom Sihanouk’s power was disputed only by two political movements: the Khmer Serei with bases in the two neighboring countries and as we have seen receiving US military assistance and, on the other side of the political spectrum, the Communists, who were subjected to fierce repression and were reduced to a militia not exceeding 3,000 men.

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With the coup of March 18, 1970, Cambodia as a whole became an extension of the Vietnamese battlefield. What some still call a civil war was actually one of the theaters of the global conflict between the West and Communist world – a situation that, for fifteen years, Prince Sihanouk had tried to avoid defending the neutrality of his country.

Most historians agree today that the coup and extreme violence of the US bombings offered the Khmer Rouge the opportunity to develop and build up their cadres – to the point that their numbers reached 120,000 five years later, at the time of their victory.

There were 7.3 million Cambodians in 1970. In 1979, just before the country was liberated from the tyranny of Pol Pot, the population was decimated to 4.8 million. This is the US legacy in Cambodia.

From 1970 to 1975, Cambodia was a victim of foreign interferences and Cambodians became mere instruments in a proxy war. This story would be repeated between 1979 and 1991, and each time it has been proven that the US had a role in inflicting pain and suffering among the Khmer people.

Thomas Fowler is a Phnom Penh-based Cambodia watcher.