At Risk of Arrest, Prominent Iraqis Call for Peace with Israel

At a conference held last Friday in the Iraqi city of Erbil, some 300 activists and tribal leaders expressed their support for normalizing relations with the Jewish state, and for engaging in outreach to the Jewish Diaspora. Sahar Karim al-Ta’i, a high-ranking official in the Iraqi government and a key figure at the conference, spoke about the issue with Lazar Berman:

“I was raised in a family that instilled in us the principle of freedom of expression and freedom of conscience, that we should say what we feel and what we believe,” [Ta’i] said.

Ta’i insisted that she was not afraid of any consequences for her personal safety. “It is precisely because of these elements—terrorism, violence—that [it is] necessary to take a decisive step,” she stressed. “My family was not altogether relaxed about [my endorsing peace with Israel]; they worried about me. There are dangers to expressing these kinds of ideas. Yet nonetheless this is my conviction and this is my decision.”

“We can live under the repression of terrorism or we can die with courage,” she said.

Ta’i believes that her advocacy, and that of her colleagues in the Erbil conference, will ultimately influence Iraqi policy. . . . And if Iraq’s leaders do not act, Ta’i is ready to keep the pressure on. “We will bring [about peace] through public activism [and will persist] until that result is achieved,” she said.

Muqtada al-Sadr, one of Iraq’s most influential Shiite clerics, promptly condemned this “Zionist terrorist” conference. Yesterday, a court in Baghdad issued a warrant for Ta’i’s arrest, while the government called for the detention of all the attendees.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Iraq, Israel-Arab relations

 

The Arab Press Blames Iran Rather Than Israel for Gaza’s Woes

Following the fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad over the weekend, many journalists and commentators in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia didn’t rush to condemn the Jewish state. Instead, as the translators at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) note, they criticized the terrorist group for “operating in service of Iranian interests and thus inflicting suffering on the Gaza Strip’s residents.” One Saudi intellectual, Turki al-Hamad, wrote the following on Twitter:

It is apparent that, if at one time any confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian organizations would attract world and Arab attention and provoke a wave of anger [against Israel], today it does not shock most Arabs and most of the world’s [countries]. Furthermore, even a sense of human solidarity [with the Palestinians] has become rare and embarrassing, raising the question, “Why [is this happening] and who is to blame?”

I believe that the main reason is the lack of confidence in all the Palestinian leaders. . . . From the Arabs’ and the world’s perspective, it is already clear that these leaders are manipulating the [Palestinian] cause out of self-interest and diplomatic, economic, or even personal motives, and that the Palestinian issue is completely unconnected to this. The Palestinian cause has become a bargaining chip in the hands of these and other organizations and states headed by the [Iranian] ayatollah regime.

A, article in a major Arabic-language newspaper took a similar approach:

In a lengthy front-page report on August 7, the London-based UAE daily Al-Arab criticized Islamic Jihad, writing that “Gaza again became an arena for the settling of accounts between Iran and Israel, while the Palestinian citizens are the ones paying the price.” It added that Iran does not want to confront Israel directly for its bombings in Syria and its attacks on Iranian scientists and nuclear facilities.

“The war in Gaza is not the first, nor will it be the last. But it proves . . . that Iran is exploiting Gaza as it exploits Lebanon, in order to strengthen its hand in negotiations with the West. We all know that Iran hasn’t fired a single bullet at Israel, and it also will not do this to defend Gaza or Lebanon.”

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Read more at MEMRI

More about: Gaza Strip, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israel-Arab relations, Persian Gulf