Dr. Rais Hussin

Dr. Rais Hussin

Tuesday, 01 September 2020 16:52

Two-state solution will satisfy Palestinians

When the United Arab Emirates recognised Israel as a full state, the most basic condition attached to the process that Israel cease and desist from any settlement activities in the West Bank.

However, there was no effort to specify when Israel should do that, merely an aspiration, which the UAE would like to see on the ground.

Another important point, there are more then 650,000 settlers in Israel, staying in the occupied land of Palestine wrested from King Hussein of Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War.

If the settlers had already considered these occupied land as their homes, which are against the Geneva Convention, the action of the UAE has amounted to rewarding the action of the Likud government, especially the coalition lead by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The fact is that since the Madrid Dialogue in 1990, as approved by the late United States president George Bush, with the consent of then Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, a two-state solution has always been in the offing.

To the degree the Spanish peace process could not make any head ways, Professor Herbert Kelman at Harvard University helped it along.

Kelman invited scholars and government officials from both sides to speak in their private albeit semi official capacity, in what is otherwise known as a "Track 2 Dialogue", a field explored in great detail by Phar Kim Beng, a former Harvard teaching fellow from 1998 to 2001.

When the confidence was gained by both sides, the Norwegian government took over to sponsor the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks leading to the 1994 Oslo Peace Accord signed between the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, who was representing the People's Liberation Organisation.

Regrettably, since then, Netanyahu, who has won five elections, has never taken this Oslo Accord seriously.

If the UAE does not understand the peril of the peace process, especially how brittle it can be, the Gulf country should not unilaterally recognise Israel.

There are three dire strategic implications.

First, the ultra-conservative elements in Iran have considered UAE a "legitimate target", potentially to be attacked. This is not healthy for regional dynamics.

Secondly, with Turkey against the plan too, it will lobby the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) to challenge the leadership of the United States and Israel to hamper any progress.

This will create a split in Nato at a point when the organisation is already very weak due to the absence of American leadership.

Finally, if UAE works with the US and Israel, the much sought-after Muslim unity will fray, not that it hasn't, because the Muslim world will begin to question
the legitimacy of the global order.

A two-state solution is the only gold standard that can satisfy the Palestinians, and all those who have had the misfortune to witness their displacement for decades.

The writer is president and chief executive officer of Emir Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times

Published in: New Straits Times on Tuesday, 01 September 2020

Source NST: https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2020/09/620924/two-state-solution-will-satisfy-palestinians

Wednesday, 19 August 2020 09:36

Muslim alliance a better approach

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a savvy geo-political player in the Middle East, if not the world over. Due respect should be given to them for transforming the likes of Dubai and Abu Dhabi into major economic powerhouse under Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Zayed, often known as MBZ in the media.

But if the UAE is urging the Muslim world (and others) to believe that its intention to recognise Israel is none other than to stop further annexation of the Palestinian occupied territories, then UAE may have badly confused seemingly "good intention" with horribly bad policy outcomes.

First of all, Israel has agreed to suspend any further annexation of the West Bank of Palestinians, but temporarily, to pursue this normalisation path with the UAE.

Be that as it may, without a clear scope of Israel's responsibility, under an as yet unclear agreement, what MBZ has started is a process of looking away from every infringement that five-term Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has done, especially with the blanket protection of United States President Donald Trump's administration.

For example, according to Peace Now, a prominent and fair Israeli activist group promoting a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, "during President Trump's tenure over the past three years, 6,800 new units (yearly average of 2,267 units) have been constructed". During the tenure of his predecessor, Barack Obama, an average 1,805 such units came up in the occupied lands.

It should be noted that the Palestinians have been vying to create a full-fledged future state comprising areas of the West Bank of the River Jordan and Gaza on the Mediterranean coast. Indeed, the United Nations considers both the West Bank and East Jerusalem as occupied territories, and considers Israeli settlement-building activity in these areas as illegal by any measure of international law.

Secondly, while UAE may believe that the decision to stop the annexation may rest with the fledgling government of Netanyahu, the fact is the US holds the bigger, if not the biggest, say on Israel.

Come Nov 3, however, there is every possibility that Trump may be defeated by Democratic Presidential nominee Joseph Biden and his vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris, potentially by a landslide too.

This is how badly Trump has mismanaged the Covid-19 pandemic in the US, causing more than 2.5 million people to be infected between February and August, with 172,000 deaths and counting, with job losses exceeding 40 million in June.

Netanyahu is also facing three criminal charges of fraud and bribery. Whatever strength(s) he may have in his previous tenure, he is losing them by the day, as Israel is clearly badly hit by the pandemic too. Due to his weaknesses, Netanyahu may have to call for an election and the decks of cards may yet change again. Besides, the evidence against Netanyahu are irrefutable.

Between 2009 and 2014 alone, the Israeli settlements under Netanyahu's watch have doubled in the illegally occupied Palestinian areas. There are now 450,000 Israeli settlers in Palestinian territories, all of which are against The Hague Convention that goes all the way back to 1906.

Indeed, as recently as the run-up to the Israeli election in September last year, he had promised to expand the Israeli settlements. Is this the kind of leader with which UAE would like to recognise? A growingly unpopular Israeli leader, whose fate may yet wobble further, with a new US administration post-Nov 3.

The UAE should have consolidated support in the Muslim world first, ideally by creating the Alliance of Muslim Nations, to augment the strength of the entire ummah which, ironically, has been badly represented by the impotent and ineffective Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

One can now only hope that other Muslim countries do not follow in the footsteps of the UAE. It is not only morally reprehensible, it also weakened the two-state solution that can guarantee the peace of Israel and Palestine, if not the whole region.

As things stand, there are prominent public intellectuals who dare to take the correct stance. Two Moroccan writers, Zahra Rameej and Abu Yusuf Taha, have withdrawn their nominated works for the Sheikh Zayed Book Award 2020 after the UAE's agreement with Israel.

The writer is president and chief executive officer of Emir Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research


Published in: New Straits Times, Tuesday 18 August 2020

Source: https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2020/08/617318/muslim-alliance-better-approach

Tuesday, 26 March 2019 14:42

Emulate Japan's best practices

Speaking at the press conference after the end of a three-day working visit to Pakistan, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad affirmed that the “Islamic world is over-reliant on the West”. This has significantly reduced its capacity to speak up.

Dr Mahathir may have a point. Islam, as a religion, is not merely about peace. It is also about having the capacity to speak truth to power; indeed all the powers that be.

In other words, a Muslim must be brave and courageous. Not by being a suicide bomber in sheer frustration, but empowering oneself intelligently; such as with the sound acquisition of knowledge.

Over the last century, the Islamic world has diffused into more than 50 predominantly Muslim countries, all of which are members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) now.

Although OIC member states form a quarter of the world’s international community, effectively 25 per cent of the member states in the United Nations, the share of OIC’s total global gross domestic product (GDP) is less than five per cent; roughly what China was in 1979 prior to its economic reforms.

China has increased the share of its global GDP to nearly 30 per cent. It has advanced, as a single collective, but not so with the entire membership of OIC.

If one removes oil and gas as a portion of the contribution, the actual share of OIC’s global GDP could well be as low as two per cent.

Something is seriously wrong with OIC member states. It is not learning anything revolutionary or dynamic for a start.

The Centre of Islamic Studies in University of Oxford, ironically, enjoys more prestige than the Centre of Islamic Knowledge in Istanbul or Kuala Lumpur for that matter.

The OIC was formed on Sept 25, 1969; but after all these years and even after a crazed Australian Jew dashed into Masjid Al-Aqsa in Baitul Muqaddis (Jerusalem) to gun down some worshippers, the unity and purposive-ness of the Islamic world have been lacking.

It is not learning, but leaning almost entirely on the West. And it is also not learning anything from the major powers in the East, such as Japan. More importantly, the Islamic world, divided by a motley group of nation states, do not know if they should be embracing democracy at all.

Without democracy and basic concepts of open society, how can it learn and earn its place in the world?

Therefore, Dr Mahathir is right. But only right up to a point. By failing to solve and answer such a simple question (on democracy), the Islamic world has become confused, and often confounded.

There are serious implications. When Uyghur Muslims in China were detained to the tune of more than 1.2 million, a feat not seen since World War 2, (when the Nazi-led regime did the same and more between 1939 and 1945), the silence of the Islamic world was shocking, save for Turkey and to a smaller extent, Malaysia.

It is almost as if the Islamic world is unaware that what China is doing can potentially lead to mass concentration and death camps.

Yet the late Louis Althusser, a French post-Marxist scholar, has pointed out such “structural” and “symbolic violence” cannot be underestimated. They can lead to mayhem and murder by the state (s).

If not careful, such detentions can go haywire, leading to the punishment and massacre of thousands and thousands of innocent Uyghur Muslims — even though the intention of Beijing is to “re-educate” them. Islam, in other words, would be moulded to suit Communist “characteristics”, the “communification of Islam”.

Yet, just as the Muslim world is weak viz-a-viz China, a new and emerging superpower, the Islamic world is equally weak against the West by not learning from the East too.

Japan, Taiwan and South Korea have advanced scientifically. South Korea was behind Malaysia in the early 1980s.

Now they are way ahead of Malaysia. Why? Why isn’t the Islamic world learning from such countries? It is weak in the East and West; it is so weak that the OIC member states have collapsed, internally and externally.

The OIC, in many ways, is almost a “defunct” entity with only lamb and baklava meetings. Dr Mahathir has merely opened a can of worms with this topic in Pakistan. Should a new Muslim alliance be established instead? Be that as it may, Dr Mahathir has to guide Malaysia, Pakistan and OIC to learn from Japan and other top Asian powers too.

To redress its weakness, the Islamic world must emulate the best practices of Japan and other top Asian countries.

A policy of learning from Japan alone would significantly alter the trajectory of the Islamic world, making it more ethical, honest and honourable, all of which are the basic edifice of a healthy and democratic society.

As things stand, Japan is an open society that has embraced science and democracy. Japan is not perfect, but it has made considerable progress. It a country that is generous on sharing its know-how and resources.

Yet, with the exception of Malaysia, no Muslim country has tried to catch up with the pre-modern, modern, or current Japan with a Look East programme.

Malaysia has a Look East policy which can cultivate its citizens to be intellectually stronger, healthier and less abrasive.

But there is no way the Islamic world can rise up if it does not take the first step to learn from Japan and other top Asian countries, and concurrently speak up against China's atrocities on 
the Uyghur and Chinese Muslims.

The writer is president/CEO of EMIR Research, an independent think tank who believes in research-based outcome, without fear or favour.

Published in: New Straits Times, Tuesday 26 March 2019

Source : https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2019/03/472920/emulate-japans-best-practices