Canada Is Right to Criticize Saudi Human-Rights Abuses

In 2014, Saudi Arabia sentenced the liberal blogger Raif Badawi to 1,000 lashes and ten years in prison for “insulting Islam”—that is, for criticizing the power and influence of the country’s clergy. Badawi has thus far received 50 lashes but remains in prison. Last week, Saudi police arrested his sister and fellow human-rights activist Samar, prompting the Canadian foreign minister, and the foreign ministry itself, to send tweets calling for her release. In response, Riyadh suspended diplomatic relations, instructed Saudis in Canada to return home, and threatened economic sanctions. Elliott Abrams, noting that the tweets in question are neither “harsh” nor “shocking,” comments:

The Raif Badawi case has long been a matter of international concern and comment. [Previous American statements on the matter were] surely tougher than the Canadian comments. Moreover, the United States had no actual link to the case whereas Badawi’s wife and three children are now Canadian citizens. . . .

The Saudi position amounts to this: no government may comment on anything that happens in the kingdom. Any such comment is a violation of Saudi sovereignty. . . That’s an untenable position in 2018. Remember Ronald Reagan calling the Soviet Union “totalitarian darkness” and an “evil empire?” Yet the Soviets did little more than protest verbally, while relations continued normally. . . .

I suppose the Saudis are sending a message that such criticism will come at a high cost, or at least at a high cost unless you’re the United States. One can well imagine that numerous other countries will in fact be scared off, not wanting to pay the price the Canadians will. . . .

I remain supportive of the social and economic reform efforts associated with [Saudi Arabia’s] Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and wish him every success in them. They are critical to the country’s future. I can understand, even if I cannot always support, his efforts to control every aspect of the pace of change lest his experiment with modernizing so many parts of Saudi life evoke so much internal opposition that it fails. But there’s no way to defend what the Saudis have done here. Their foreign ministry should have issued a statement saying the Canadians should butt out, they have their facts wrong, we resent it, and so on, and had their ambassador angrily say the same to the foreign minister—and left it at that. What they have done is an unforced error.

And while I’m at it, hats off to the Canadians for their concern about the family of a Canadian citizen and about human rights around the world.

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Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Canada, Human Rights, Mohammad bin Salman, Politics & Current Affairs, Ronald Reagan, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy

In Gaza, Israel Must Try to Restore Deterrence While Avoiding War

Oct. 22 2018

Early Wednesday morning, a rocket fired from Gaza landed in the city of Beersheba, striking the courtyard of a home. (The woman who lived there, and her three children, barely escaped.) Israel responded swiftly with airstrikes, and the IDF reported that this weekend was the quietest along the Gaza separation fence since March 30, when the weekly riots there began. Yet some 10,000 Palestinians still gathered at the border, burning tires and throwing stones, grenades, and makeshift explosives at Israeli soldiers on the other side. Meanwhile, writes Eran Lerman, Jerusalem faces a difficult decision about how to proceed:

The smaller terrorist organizations in Gaza—Islamic Jihad, which operates as a satellite of Iran, and radical Sunni groups inspired by Islamic State—are the primary ones that want to ratchet up the violence into a full-scale war. For them, a major war in Gaza could be an opportunity to build themselves up on the ruins of Hamas. It also looks as if Iran, too, has an interest in escalating the situation in Gaza and pulling Israel into a war that will detract from its ability to focus on its main defense activity right now: keeping Iran from digging down in Syria.

The third player consistently working to worsen the situation in Gaza and torpedo Egypt’s efforts to broker a cease-fire is the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas, for whom—as he once said in Jenin— “the worse things are, the better.” . . .

All of these considerations are counterbalanced, paradoxically, by Hamas’s interest in continuing to dictate the terms of any cease-fire with Israel while refraining from a war, which the Hamas leadership knows would be self-destructive. Its moves to escalate the conflict—arson balloons, breaches of the border fence—have been intentionally selected as ways of taking things to the brink without toppling over into the abyss. . . .

And Israel? A harsh, well-defined blow is vital for it to maintain its mechanism of deterrence. A missile hitting Beersheba is not a trivial occurrence. However, as far as possible, and given the broader considerations of the regional balance of power as well as Israel’s fundamental interest in avoiding a ground war, it would be best to make the most of Egypt’s mediation.

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Palestinian Authority