Monday, April 27, 2015

Mein Buch "Die Drusen in Libanon und Israel" wurde in der April Ausgabe (Band 110, Heft 2) der Orientalistischen Literaturzeitung von Dimitry Sevruk (Uni Bamberg) besprochen:

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Fine piece on current dynamics in Suwaidaʾ

Firas Maksad from the University of Maryland has an opinion piece about the situation of the Druze in Suwaida' on the German online-portal Qantara (run by the Deutsche Welle). The author follows the same line of argument as in his article published last year in Foreign Affairs: i.e. the Druze are a potential ally of the west against ISIS and could be a game changer in Syria. Makasad modified his argument a little, while in his 2014 piece he also implicitly proposed the Druze as an ally against Assad, now it is mere alone about the coalition against ISIS. Even though I fully agree with the author that the Druze are increasingly drifting away from the regime, I consider a break off with Assad and therefore a game changer role as very unlikely-remember the regime is still the biggest power in Syria. Even though its position in Suwaida' is weaker than ever before a Druze break off with Assad might only happen if the overal situation changes dramaticly against the regime's and this is not the case for the time being.

However, reading is strongly recommended, as it is the best contemporary piece on the subject:

The Druze in the Syrian conflict: Potential to tip the scales
by Firas Maksad,
For many years, Syria's Druze community was regarded as a loyal ally of Assad. Yet their pleas to Damascus to protect them against extremist groups fell on deaf ears. Now, on account of their increasing distance to the Baath regime, the Druze arare at risk of getting caught in the crossfire. Details by Firas Maksad
Despite the three years of civil war raging in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad has until now succeeded in maintaining the loyalty of most of the country's religious minorities. In particular, the dictator has continued to enjoy the support of Syria's Christians, Alawites and Shia Muslims. It appears that these minorities, which make up almost a quarter of the Syrian population, prefer to live under the Assad regime rather than face an uncertain political future. They fear that extremist forces could emerge victorious from this civil war. Only the Druze community is gradually distancing itself from the Baath regime in Damascus.
The majority of the Druze live in the southern province of As-Suwayda near the Syrian–Jordanian border. Their growing opposition to the Assad regime and their bitter animosity towards the radical groups in the conflict has placed this influential segment of Syria's population in a rather unique position in society. The Syrian Druze are now in a position to support the international alliance against Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaida and, therefore, to change the balance of power in the Syrian conflict.
Since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution, there has been an inherent difficulty in clearly discerning the political loyalties of the Druze community, particularly as they tend not to openly announce their political convictions. The Druze find themselves in the same position as most Syrians living in areas controlled by the Assad regime: they are afraid to openly show their opposition to Assad's rule. Nevertheless, some leaders of the Druze community recently addressed representatives of the Arab media and publically expressed their opposition to the Assad regime. This is a remarkable turn of events, as, up until now, Druze spiritual leaders have officially only declared their praise of the Syrian president.(...)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

by Ruth Sherlock, The Telegraph
(...) Many Alawite villages nestled in the hills of their ancestral Latakia province are all but devoid of young men. The women dress only in mourning black.
"Every day there at least 30 men returned from the front lines in coffins," said Ammar, who spoke to the Telegraph using a pseudonym to protect himself and his family.
"In the beginning of the war their deaths were celebrated with big funerals. Now they are quietly dumped in the back of pick-up trucks."
The Syrian government has not published official figures on its war dead. Syrian state television mostly fails to broadcast news of Alawite soldiers killed, instead playing up the deaths of their Sunni comrades, in a bid to shore up Sunni support.
A report by the opposition Syrian Network for Human Rights published at the end of last year found that pro-government fighting groups have suffered the greatest proportion of casualties , with over 22,000 soldiers and militiamen killed in 2014 alone.
A disproportionate number of those are Alawites: "In battles with Sunni armed groups, the government doesn't trust their Sunni soldiers not to defect," said one Alawite resident, a former soldier, who asked not to be named. "So the Alawites are sent forward."
The loss of life is causing a quiet rebellion among many in the sect: vilified by the increasingly extremist rebel opposition, most still feel they have little choice but to remain wedded to the regime. But it is an alliance tinged with hatred.
A female resident in Latakia city, also speaking anonymously, said: "Mothers are caring for their children more than for Bashar, and have started trying to hide them away."(...)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The MENA Minorities Knesset check (2): The Joint list

Elections are over and the 20th Knesset already assembled last week. We have discussed the non-Jewish candidates (some of the Druze won't categorize themselves as Arabs) of the Zionist parties before - the following have been elected:

Ayoob Kara (LIKUD)
Zouheir Bahloul (Zionist Union)
Hamad Amar (Yisrael Beiteinu)
Issawi Frej (Meretz)

Since the Zionist Union only reached 24 seats Druze candidate Saleh Saad didn't make it into the Knesset for now, but he has good chances to enter on a partial tenure during the next years. For Akram Hassun, who is also two seats away from a mandate but in a way smaller party, I am not very optimistic. Again we see an overrepresentation of the Druze in the Zionist parties with two out of four MK's while they constitute only 10 per cent of the Arab-Israeli population.

Let's have a closer look at the new Arab Joint List and its MK's. The list is composed of the following:

The  HADASH gathering (which is dominated by the Israeli Communist Party MAKI)
Secular Arab Nationalist BALAD, which is in Israeli public often considered the most radical Arab party;
TA'AL, more or less a one-man show of very popular politician Ahmed Tibi;
RA'AM (United Arab List) is dominated by the Southern faction of the Islamic movement.

Now to the MK's of the Joint List:

1. Ayman Odeh is the chairman of HADASH and a lawyer from Haifa. Contrary to popular belief he is a secular Muslim and not Christian like the majority of Haifa's old Arab population. Before his bid for the HADASH-leadership he was widely unknown to Israeli media.

2. Masud Ghnaim is a leading member of the Southern faction of the Islamic movement (the Northern faction is boycotting the election) and made headlines some years ago when he called for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate. Ghnaim is from the Arab town of Sakhnin in the Galilee.

3. Jamal Zahlka, the head of the BALAD party. He is Sunni and from the town of Kufr Qara' (Haifa district).

4. Ahmad Tibi is by far Israel's most popular Arab politician and a frequent guest on Israeli media (with a better commandment of the Hebrew language than some of the Zionist MK's). He jumped over his shadow and accepted the fourth slot on the list. A former advisor to Arafat he is from Tayibe and Sunni.

5. Aida Touma-Suleiman came in second in the HADASH primaries. She is a Christian from Nazareth and lives in the mixed city of Acre. Being a veteran HADASH-activist, she had been editor of the Al-Ittihad newspaper, the famous Arabic Communist newspaper.

6. Abd al-Hakim Hajj Yahya is a member of the Islamic Movement and a former mayor of Tayibe.

7. Haneen Zoabi is from Balad and the most controversial Arab MK in Israel. She became a symbol for "radical" and "hateful" Arab politicians in Israel but despite all the efforts to ban her from running for election she made it to the Knesset for the third time. She competed in the mayoral race in Betlehem 2013 but performed poorly. In 2009 Zoabi was the first female Arab to enter the Knesset on behalf of an Arab party. She hails from a Muslim family of Nazareth and has many politicians in her family like Abd el-Aziz el-Zoubi (first Arab Israeli cabinet-member) and Seif el-Din el-Zoubi (former Knesset member and mayor of Nazareth).

8. Dov Khenin is the only Jew serving in the Knesset for the Joint List and a popular member of HADASH hailing from a "political family" (his father David was also a Communist leader). He symbolizes the Jewish-Arab character of the party and many wondered if there would be a slot for him on a Joint List-obviously - there is.

9. Taleb Abu Arar, a Sunni Bedouin from the South and member of the Islamic Movement. He might be the only current MK to have two wives.

10. Basel Ghattas is a Christian from the mixed village of Rameh and cousin of Amzi Bishara, the founder of BALAD who resides in Doha. He represents the latter party. Ghattas is very vocal against attempts of drafting Christian Arabs into the IDF or establishing a separate "Aramean" nationality.

11. Yousef Jabareen is on a Hadash-ticket and also known as member of Mossawa, a NGO for Arabs in Israel.

12. Osama Saadi is the number two of Tibi's Ta'al party.

13. Abdullah Abu Ma'aruf is from the Druze village of Yarka and one of many Arab Israeli Communists who studied in the Soviet Union. Until recently he also carried Russian citizenship. Abu Ma'aruf is also a leading member of the Druze Initiative Committee, which is also part of Hadash. He is only the third Druze MK representing an Arab or Jewish-Arab party.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

In Syria the mainly Ismaili city of Salamiya (Hama province) is threatened to be taken over by the Islamic State: