The Palestinian Refugee Problem: Born Of War Or Design?

The Palestinian Refugee Problem: Born of War or Design?
{Department of War Studies, King’s College London}


Palestinian Refugee


This essay rejects the false dichotomy inherent in asking whether war or design engendered the Palestinian refugee problem. The realities of war, not over-arching expulsion policy, initially facilitated flight. However, the designation of uprooted Palestinians as refugees was ‘born’ by belated Zionist ‘design’. Though Zionist decision-makers expressed genuine initial shock at the ‘psychosis of flight[1]’, ethnic cleansing[2] incrementally became normative policy, whilst post-war Israeli strategy deliberately sought transformation of temporary departure into exile. Although attributing some (not all) culpability to Zionist praxis, I reject traditional ‘pro-Palestinian’ historiography which frames the birth of ‘refugeedom’ within a premeditated, Zionist dialectic process[3]. The ‘design’ factor was delayed and influenced by local milieu, not Zionist machination inherent in a ‘robber ideology[4]’. Resultantly, I argue the prominence of ‘retroactive design’ over ‘premeditated design’ in crystallising the ‘refugee problem’.

Further objective study tracing the origins of the exodus could promote the resolution of a contemporary issue; the ‘refugee question’ continues to exercise destabilising resonance in the Israel-Palestine conflict[5]. Irreconcilable interpretations of combat and exodus in 1947-1949 as ‘The Independence War’ or ‘al-Nakba’ (the catastrophe) underlie Israeli and Palestinian narratives[6]. Influenced by these national myths, traditional literature regarding the origins of the refugee problem sought to either wholly indict[7] or exonerate[8] Zionist policy. This binary deadlock was broken by Benny Morris’ The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, which convincingly contextualised the majority of flight as resulting from Zionist actions, mostly military hostilities rather than outright expulsion[9]. Morris, a revisionist Israeli ‘new historian[10]’, portrayed the exodus as a ‘multi-staged, multi-causal picture’, denying the existence of a ‘smoking gun’ to indicate an over-arching Zionist transfer plan[11]. This premise was lambasted by supporters of ‘premeditated design’, who reduce the conflict to ‘cover for…systematic expulsion[12]’; a convenient opportunity for a pre-approved Zionist ‘design’ of ethnic cleansing.

Hence, contemporary controversy converges around ‘the degree of Zionist premeditation[13]’ and the relationship between transfer policy and ‘Tochnit Dalet’ (Plan D), an infamous Israeli military order implemented in April 1948[14]. This essay reflects the shifting battlegrounds of historiography, scrutinising existing literature for the presence or extent of Zionist premeditation and/or ‘design’ in driving flight before, during and after the conflict of 1947-1949. Firstly, I examine causal correlations between pre-conflict Zionist notions of ‘transfer’ and the first phase of exodus, from November 1947-March 1948. Consequently, I assess the relationship between Plan D and increasing Zionist predisposition for expulsion. Finally, I examine post-conflict Israeli policy seeking to stymie a Palestinian return, concluding that both war and design were responsible for the multi-staged evolution of the refugee problem.

Transfer Thinking and the ‘First Wave’

In 1947, the vast majority of the 608,230 Jews who inhabited the British-ruled Mandate of Palestine held ideological aspirations for the creation of a local Jewish-majority state (Zionism)[15], causing tension with the 1,364,300 indigenous Palestinian Arabs[16].  Resultantly, United Nations (UN) Partition Resolution 181, adopted in November 1949, sought to divide Palestine into Jewish and Arab states following British departure[17]. Though accepted by the Yishuv, the pre-state Zionist collective entity, Arab leaders rejected partition[18], resulting in sustained conflict from November 1947-March 1949[19]. The Yishuv’s semi-official Haganah militia, later becoming the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), emerged victorious, acquiring 78% of Palestine, defeating a multinational Arab force which invaded during May 1948[20]. Throughout the conflict, approximately 700,000 Palestinians departed from their homes[21]. The exodus emerged in four stages over 20 months, ending in July 1949[22]. The vast majority of Palestinians fled during rounds of fighting, which were punctuated by three truce periods[23].

Supporters of ‘premeditated design’ rationalise this exodus as the brainchild of a pre-war, Zionist plot to ‘transfer’ Arabs out of Palestine. Pappe utilises Haganah ‘mapping’ of Palestinian villages from 1946 as evidence of premeditated ethnic cleansing[24], which he claims began in December 1947[25]. Finklestein suggests that expulsion of Palestinians was inherent in Zionist ideology, enacted ‘covertly’ before May 1948[26]. This outlook places the exodus on a dialectic that began with Zionist land purchases in the 1880s[27]. Pappe, Masalha and Finklestein suggest a causal correspondence between pre-war Zionist support for transfer and the birth of the refugee problem, inferring that premeditated ‘design’ is largely responsible for the phenomenon.

Indeed, Theodore Herzl, the ‘father’ of Zionism, pondered transferring Palestine’s Arabs elsewhere in the nineteenth century[28]. Transfer policy entered the Yishuv mainstream following the British-sponsored Peel Commission of 1937, which advised transfer-based partition as a long-term solution to unrest[29].  This notion was further solidified by the anti-Zionist underpinnings of the 1936-1939 Arab Revolt, which Yishuv leaders interpreted as signalling that reconciling Jewish statehood with a large Arab population was impossible[30]. Zionism, in seeking a Jewish-majority state in Arab-majority Palestine, probably necessitated some form of population transfer. However, territorially maximalist right-wing Zionist ‘dissidents’, the LHI and Irgun, rejected transfer, associating it with partition, whilst many members of the left-wing Mapam party ruled the notion inhumane[31]. Regardless, Zionist aspirations and local context resulted in some (not all) Yishuv policy-makers embracing transfer before 1947.

Nevertheless, predilection for transfer does not inherently translate into policy. The ideologically-tainted premeditation approach is founded upon the non sequitur claim that desire equals intent. Though Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, endorsed transfer in the 1930s[32], he also entertained far-fetched delusions of bombing Jordan and conquering Damascus[33]. This demonstrates the inherent flaws in selectively quoting from Ben-Gurion’s diary to demonstrate premeditated expulsion, as Pappe and Masalha frequently do.  Similarly, though Zionist forces mapped Palestinian villages, this policy was learned from the British Army[34], hardly die-hard Zionist conspirators. Hence, claiming that ‘village mapping’ constitutes pre-war, pro-expulsion ‘design’ borders on conspiracy theory.

Crucially, historical analysis of the first stage of conflict (November 1947-March 1948) finds scant evidence of ‘premeditated design’. This period saw 75,000 Palestinians depart, overwhelmingly from the affluent urban classes[35]. Haganah expulsion played an ‘almost insignificant[36]’ role; pre-war transfer thinking failed to evolve into policy at this stage. Historical parallels can be drawn with the voluntary departure of 25-40,000 prosperous Palestinians during the Arab Revolt[37]; like 1936, these socially mobile Palestinians intended to return when hostilities subsided[38]. Thus, Palestinian flight began in the milieu of unremarkable emulation of previous trends, not pre-conflict design.

The majority of the Palestinian leadership, the Arab Higher Committee, left Palestine during this ‘first wave’[39] of flight. The disparate, non-cohesive nature of Palestinian society made it susceptible to departure[40], a dangerous precedent following the breakdown of public services and the economy due to the emigration of senior administrative officials[41]. The elite-centric ‘first wave’ of departure dampened Palestinian morale, promoting a flight paradigm which ordinary Palestinians later emulated[42]. This exodus was spurred by a reciprocal, localised ‘spiral of violence’; most departing Palestinians lived near Jewish settlements and feared harassment by right-wing ‘dissidents’[43]. Thus, the phenomenon of flight was ‘born’ in a milieu of non-compulsory exodus, mired in uncertainty and suspicion of right-wing Zionist groups who were equivocal on the pre-war transfer question.

Compared to the rightists, the Haganah embraced transfer, though scant manifestation of this pre-war thinking existed in Yishuv strategy, ‘covert’ or otherwise, during the ‘first wave’; the Haganah was committed to defensive restraint[44]. Yishuv leaders sought to avoid radicalising hitherto apathetic Arab peasants, consequently rejecting an offensive strategy and/or holistic expulsion policy[45]. From November-March, only two villages were expelled[46]. Considering the pre-war salience of transfer amongst the Yishuv elite, what is remarkable is not the existence of a premeditated expulsion policy, but the lack of it. The Histadrut (the Yishuv’s powerful trade union confederation) even attempted to stem flight, producing an Arabic-language leaflet in January 1948, claiming: ‘The Arab worker, clerk and peasant in the Jewish state will be citizens with equal rights[47]’.

Thus, the Yishuv entered the war without a premeditated transfer strategy.  Disparate positions within the Zionist polity regarding transfer dispel the myth of a monolithic expulsion plot, whilst the synchronisation of the birth of the exodus with defensive Haganah strategy refutes ‘premeditated design’. The Haganah’s continued passivity is striking, particularly because the Yishuv seemed to be losing the war. In the first six months of battle, Palestinian irregulars killed over 1000 Jews[48], destroying five convoys in one week during the ‘Battle of the Roads’- a struggle for the strategically vital transport networks connecting disparate Jewish settlements[49].  These attacks were so successful that the United States abandoned support of partition, deeming it unviable[50]. In response, the Haganah engineered a strategic paradigm shift, creating the now-controversial Plan D.

Plan D and the Emergence of Ethnic Cleansing

The implementation of Plan D from April 2nd, 1948[51], closely corresponds with the ‘second wave’ of exodus (April-June 1948). Approximately 200-300,000 Arabs left Palestine[52], transforming flight from an elite affair into a fully-fledged depopulation of Arab villages. Seeking to construct a correlation, some scholars have described Plan D ‘a comprehensive ethnic cleansing operation[53]’…‘a carefully prepared plan… remove as many Palestinians as possible[54]’. Pro-Palestinian historiographers utilise Plan D as evidence for the influence of premeditated, top-down Zionist ‘design’ in creating the exodus.

Yet Plan D was a military, non-political blueprint responding to Palestinian successes in the ‘War of the Roads[55]’, seeking to consolidate areas allotted to Israel by Resolution 181 and secure land-passage to Jewish settlements outside this territory[56]. The text promotes an offensive Haganah strategy, providing guidelines for capturing Palestinian villages[57], but only permits expulsion ‘in the event of resistance[58]’.  Nowhere does Plan D advocate urban de-population or promote normative ethnic cleansing[59]. By contrast, Plan D provided detailed guidelines for garrisoning non-hostile villages[60]. Whilst Plan D was later misused as a ‘carte blanche’ for expelling Arab villages[61], scholars conflate the contents of Plan D with the intent of over-enthusiastic Haganah commanders. Rather than serve as evidence of an over-arching expulsion order, Plan D was abused, rather than implemented. The document is relatively benign when compared to Zionist military action in this period.

This is encapsulated by the murder of approximately 200 Palestinian villagers from Deir Yassin on April 9th, 1948 by right-wing Zionist militias[62].  News of the massacre constituted the ‘direct reason’ for the flight of 27,000 and 85,000 Arabs from Haifa and Jaffa in April and May[63]. Hence, the actions of Zionist irregulars, who were not bound by Plan D, perpetuated a ‘domino effect’ of ‘second wave’ flight. Massacres were never sanctioned[64]; spontaneous, localised, war-born brutality initially took precedence over top-down ‘design’ in facilitating flight.  Whilst 200 villages were evacuated from 1st April to 15th May[65], few of these resulted from expulsion orders; Arab villagers fled at ‘the first whiff of grapeshot[66]’. Though Zionist leaders in Haifa pleaded with Arabs to remain, local Palestinian notables ordered the city’s evacuation[67]. This colossal error inadvertently precipitated the entry of ‘design’ into the myriad of factors driving the exodus.

Shock at the scope of flight was widespread and genuine amongst Zionist leaders, suggesting lack of premeditation. Yishuv Foreign Minister Moshe Shertok, described the departures as ‘most surprising’, but praised them as a ‘momentous event in….Jewish history[68]’. The Haifa exodus heralded the emergence of Haganah-implemented ‘systematic’ expulsion orders[69]; unprecedented Arab flight spawned the re-emergence of an ‘atmosphere of transfer’ amongst the Zionist elite[70]. Haganah commanders were given ‘post facto…cover for their actions’ by Plan D[71].   While it did not constitute a premeditated expulsion template, normative pre-war transfer proclivity meshed with widespread abuse of Plan D, precipitating the belated rise of ‘design’ in promoting Arab departure. This ideological re-alignment set dangerous precedents for subsequent waves of exodus, radicalising Zionist strategists.

The ‘third wave’ began shortly after the May 15th pan-Arab invasion of Palestine[72]. The internationalisation of the conflict raised the stakes, consolidating hard-line policies amongst Zionist leaders[73]. Creeping traces of ‘design’ became evident; Arabs were less likely to flee, whereas Zionist forces demonstrated a hitherto unseen preference for expulsion[74]. The ‘ten days’ of conflict which bisect the first and second truces saw 100,000 Palestinians flee[75].  Ben-Gurion himself endorsed the conquest of the towns of Lydda and Ramle and the expulsion of their 50,000 residents[76]. For the first time, most departures were compulsory, heralded by explicit IDF expulsion orders and actions[77]. Regardless of evidence to the contrary, villages were deemed hostile and expelled[78], demonstrating widespread abuse of Plan D’s guidelines, rather than its implementation.

The punctuation of short periods of conflict with unprecedented flight demonstrates an Israeli shift towards expulsion policy which is also evident in the ‘fourth wave’ of exodus (October-November 1948[79]). Unlike the tailored expulsions of Plan D, guidelines for the Negev-based Operation Yoav contained explicit, holistic Arab de-population orders[80], leading to the uprooting of 200,000 Palestinians[81]. Yoav’s commander, Yigal Allon, was puritanical in his implementation of expulsion orders; ‘no, or almost no, Arab communities’ remained in his wake[82]. By contrast, Galilee-based Operation Hiram was accompanied by a general expulsion order, but nearly 40% of the local Arab population remained in-situ[83]. While ‘design’ became more prevalent in Israeli policy, it was closely related to strategic needs[84]. Substantial emphasis in the fourth wave was devoted to destroying Arab ‘islands in Jewish population areas’, whereas the northern Galilee lacked substantial Jewish settlement[85]. Resultantly, the impact of ‘design’ in promoting flight was influenced by pragmatic necessity: the brevity of ethnic cleansing reflected local milieu.

Believing local Arabs would not easily depart Jordanian-held East Palestine (later the West Bank), Ben-Gurion refused to permit IDF military operations there[86]. Having captured Nazareth in July, Israeli decision-makers vetoed local eviction orders, fearing international repercussions due to the town’s importance to Christians[87]. Additionally, the villages of Abu-Ghosh, Fueidis and Jisr-az-Zarka were not expelled after pleas from local Zionist groups, due to the non-belligerent nature of these Arab areas[88]. Commanders affiliated to Mapam were less vigorous in expulsions when compared to others; Mapam pressure also resulted in Ben-Gurion’s half-hearted order prohibiting unauthorised expulsions on July 6th, 1948[89]. Thus, the emergence of ‘design’ did not constitute a premeditated, universally-held Zionist goal. Instead, ‘design’ varied according to location and was enacted with fluctuating enthusiasm.

However, ‘design’ was increasingly responsible for the exodus of approximately 300,000 Palestinians after July, crystallising mid-‘second wave’.  Yet framing Plan D as a ‘master plan for the conquest of Palestine[90]’ is unsubstantiated. Zionist ‘design’ did not manifest itself fully during the plan’s initial implementation and departure-inducing actions frequently abused or ignored Plan D. Despite this, the third and fourth waves of exodus demonstrate the fallacy in asking whether war or design were responsible for the refugee problem; the two were not mutually exclusive. The protean ‘war’ and ‘design’ factors which promoted flight enjoyed a complex interplay with a plurality of variables, including Arab decisions such as the Haifa exodus, and did not constitute an independent Zionist dialectic process unrelated to unfolding events. Instead, the exodus ‘gave birth’ to incrementally prominent Zionist dispositions to encourage flight. This belated emergence of proactive, forceful ‘design’ led to the manifestation of ‘retroactive design’ as conflict subsided.

Exiles into Refugees: Post-War Retroactive Transfer

During the final months of conflict and following the cessation of hostilities, Israel adopted a dual-track approach to cement the changed demographics of Palestine. The newborn state created physical realities that blocked Palestinian return[91], simultaneously applying diplomatic pressure to transform 700,000 exiles into refugees[92]. This represents the most critical phase in the role of ‘design’ in creating the refugee problem; many of these acts took place in a non-combat, non-emergency setting. Supporters of ‘premeditated design’ dedicate unwarranted attention to wartime Zionist policy such as Plan D, whilst devoting cursory study to the crucial, overt post-conflict impact of ‘design’.

The Israeli cabinet decision of 16th June 1948 officially barred return of refugees[93]. Though no cabinet-approved holistic expulsion orders were given during conflict, this decision constituted clear, ‘retroactive design’. Suddenly, hitherto exiles became de-facto refugees; most saw departure as temporary, but were now doomed to live outside their birthplaces. Ben-Gurion instituted a ‘transfer committee[94]’, which explicitly advocated ‘retroactive transfer[95]’. This was enforced by a series of politically-motivated measures: From mid-May, Zionist forces stopped Palestinians from returning home with live fire[96], whilst June 1948 witnessed two million Dunams of land transferred from Arab ownership into Jewish hands[97].

Reactive exploitation of wartime exodus coalesced with proactive creation of new physical realities that would prevent reversion to pre-war demographics. In August, 1948, the government formalised a policy of destroying exiled Palestinians’ vacant villages[98]. Zionist forces caused little physical damage during combat; the demolitions that rendered 400 villages uninhabitable were mostly politically-constituted ‘acts of sabotage[99]’. UN mediator Folke Bernadotte noted destruction of refugees’ homes lacked ‘any apparent military necessity[100]’. Further transfer operations, legitimised as ‘border clearing’, resulted in the deliberate expulsion of 30-40,000 Arabs from 1948-1950[101].  The UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees defines a ‘Palestinian refugee’ as ‘people…who lost their homes and livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab/Israel conflict[102]’.  According to this criterion, most uprooted Palestinians did not become ‘refugees’ before the cabinet vote, deliberate village demolitions and land confiscations enacted in peacetime. Thus, post-war ‘design’ turned the Palestinian exodus into a refugee problem.

Whilst retroactive transfer constituted a pivotal goal of Israeli decision-makers, the Arab states also bear responsibility for cementing Palestinian exile. Following the December 1948 adoption of UN Resolution 194 which called for the return of refugees[103], Israel was under considerable external pressure to permit limited return. Simultaneously facing internal pro-return Mapam lobbying, Israel relented into accepting 100,000 refugees[104]. Arab governments immediately rejected this gesture[105], strengthening cabinet hardliners[106]. Refugees were left ‘in limbo’ between an Israeli government that would not accept them and Arab governments that refused to absorb them[107]. Consequently, the ‘refugee issue’ became a ‘refugee problem’ that would resonate for decades.

Arab intolerance indirectly aided retroactive transfer; over several years, 800,000 Jewish refugees of Middle-Eastern origin immigrated to Israel, following anti-Semitic Arab persecution[108]. This permitted Ben-Gurion to airbrush Israeli ethnic cleansing, portraying these exoduses as a ‘mutual population transfer[109]’. Conversely, Israel could legitimately claim that it was logistically impossible to rehabilitate nearly two million Jewish and Palestinian refugees simultaneously. Pragmatic considerations such as a housing shortage coalesced with retroactive design; November 1947-August 1949 saw 135 new settlements established, mainly on the land of exiled Arabs[110]. Coupled with demolitions, this ensured Palestinian refugees had ‘nowhere, and nothing, to return to[111]’.

Though Israeli retroactive design created the ‘refugee problem’ by legitimising and consolidating war-time exodus, the intertwining of normative goals with external events continued to resonate. Whilst Marquesee claimed ‘Zionists used the war to alter the demographic facts on the ground[112]’ and this is somewhat true, it would be more prudent to focus on post-conflict Zionist ‘design’ that cemented demographic realities brought about during wartime. Morris admits that, because of the decisions of the post-war Israeli cabinet, one can legitimately claim that all 700,000 Palestinians were expelled[113]. Therefore, the post-conflict, blatantly calculated ‘design’ instituted by Israeli officials was the final act that gave ‘birth’ to a problem that was spawned in a milieu of war.


‘War and not design…gave birth to the Palestinian refugee problem[114]’.

When compared to his declaration that Palestinian ‘refugeedom’ was deliberately engineered by post-conflict Israel, the above quote by Benny Morris is baffling. Morris rightly notes that ‘the century-old conflict…could not be properly understood in black-and-white terms[115]’, yet he makes exactly this mistake in presenting a misleading bifurcation, which is also enforced by this question. The exodus did not become a ‘refugee problem’ until Israel took deliberate, post-war actions designed to ensure demographic homogeneity. Similarly, ‘retroactive transfer’ would have been meaningless without prior, unprecedented flight born of wartime uncertainty and brutality. Hence, the ‘Palestinian refugee problem’ was not engendered by a single event, of either war or design. Instead, it was ‘born’ of a multi-causal cocktail of both war and design, which were respectively influenced by a plethora of external and localised pressures, some calculated, some spontaneous.

Although suggesting war was solely responsible for the emergence of the refugee problem excessively exonerates Zionist policy-makers, the ‘pro-Palestinian’ approach of airbrushing external non-normative factors represents an ideologically-tainted, reductionist position. Though proactive and retroactive ethnic cleansing took place, this was incremental and enacted after the exodus began in its own right. Even by the end of the war, underlying causes of flight remained multi-faceted and expulsion policy enacted with subjective vigour as Zionist support for ethnic cleansing was never monolithic. Israel’s existing large Arab minority demonstrates a lack of over-arching, systemic expulsion policy[116]. There exists scant evidence to suggest that the Yishuv entered the war with a premeditated Zionist ‘master plan’ of expulsion. Pre-war Zionist acceptance of transfer had a subtler, but equally important role in creating the refugee problem than traditional ‘pro-Palestinian’ historiography permits. Military superiority and unprecedented Palestinian flight permitted the retroactive realisation of this pre-packaged, legitimised ideal, particularly as hostilities waned.

The debate regarding culpability for the Palestinian refugee problem continues to this day. While Israel declassified expulsion orders, the reports detailing why and how these orders were made remain closed and Arab archives are wholly inaccessible[117]. This must change to permit the fermentation of objective truth. The ‘Palestinian refugee problem’ is far more than an academic debate; it is a living, breathing issue. The narratives of both sides feed contemporary claims, given oxygen by flawed ‘academic’ studies which are unduly influenced by ideological predispositions. Israel cannot truthfully deny involvement in creating the refugee problem, whilst Arab states are equally unjust in placing all blame and hence all onus to resolve it on the Jewish state. In order to resolve the Palestinian refugee problem once and for all, both parties must bury their national myths.

[toggle title=”Citations & Bibliography”]

[1] Morris (1999), p255.

[2] I define ethnic cleansing as: ‘expulsion of….population from territory due to religious or ethnic discrimination, political, strategic or ideological considerations, or a combination of these’; see Bell-Fialkoff (1993).

[3] See Pappe (2006a).

[4] See Masalha (1991).

[5] Dershowitz (2003), p85.

[6] Glazer (1980), p96.

[7] See Beinin (2004).

[8] See Herzog (1984).

[9] Flapan (1984), p8.

[10] Khalidi (2010), p14.

[11] Morris (1991), p104.

[12] Dershowitz (2003), p78.

[13] Morris (2010), p.39

[14] Flapan (1984), p9.

[15] Pappe (2006a), p10.

[16] Bregman (2000), p5.

[17] Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2012).

[18] Tal (2005), p7.

[19] Bregman (2000), p5.

[20] Shlaim (2001), p34.

[21] Marquesee (2008).

[22] Morris (2004a), p6.

[23] Shlaim (2001), p34.

[24] Pappe (2006b), p13.

[25] Pappe (2006a), p40.

[26] Morris (1991), p99.

[27] Massad (2008).

[28] Morris (2004a), p41.

[29] Ibid, p46.

[30] Morris (2004a), p45.

[31] Ibid, p48.

[32] Flapan (1984), p16.

[33] Kapeliouk (1987), p19.

[34] Frantzman (2006).

[35] Morris (1991), p100.

[36] Morris (2004a), p139.

[37] Ibid, p133.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Shindler (2008), p44.

[40] Morris (1999), p253.

[41] Ibid, p255.

[42] Karsh (2002), p89.

[43] Morris (2004a), p138.

[44] Shlaim (2001), p31.

[45] Morris (1991), p106.

[46] Morris (2004a), p76.

[47] Ibid, p70.

[48] Frantzman (2006).

[49] Tal (2005), p6.

[50] Bregman (2000), p18.

[51] Morris (2004a), p165.

[52] Morris (1999), p256.

[53] Khoury (2008).

[54] Palestine Solidarity Campaign (2009).

[55] Shlaim (2001), p31.

[56] Ibid.

[57] Tochnit Dalet (1947).

[58] Ibid.

[59] Ibid.

[60] Ibid.

[61] Bregman (2000),  p20.

[62] Flapan (1984), p10.

[63] Ibid.

[64] Morris (2010), p.55.

[65] Pappe (2006a), p104.

[66] Morris (1999), p255.

[67] Karsh (2010),  p123.

[68] Morris (1995), p57.

[69] Morris (2004a), p166.

[70] Ibid.

[71] Ibid, p165.

[72] Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2003).

[73] Morris (1991), p104.

[74] Morris (1999), p257.

[75] Ibid.

[76] Kapeliouk (1987), p21.

[77] Morris (1999), p257.

[78] Morris (2004a), p164.

[79] Morris (1991), p101.

[80] Morris (1999), p257.

[81] Morris (1991), p104.

[82] Ibid.

[83] Ibid.

[84] Karsh (2002), p89.

[85] Flapan (1984), p13.

[86] Shlaim (2001), p38.

[87] Flapan (1984), p14.

[88] Morris (2004a), p597.

[89] Morris (1991), p106.

[90] Khalidi (1988).

[91] Pappe (2006a), p188.

[92] Morris (2004a), p334.

[93] Morris (1995), p56.

[94] Flapan (1984), p16.

[95] Morris (2004a), p313.

[96] Morris (1999), p256.

[97] Pappe (2006a), p147.

[98] Quigley (2005), p84.

[99] Morris (2004a), p342.

[100] Quigley (2005), p84.

[101] Morris (2004a), p536.

[102] United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

[103] Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2001).

[104] Shlaim (2001), p59.

[105] Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2001).

[106] Bregman (2000), p40.

[107] Shindler (2008), p51.

[108] Dershowitz (2003), p88.

[109] Morris (2004a), p318.

[110] Ibid, p369.

[111] Ibid, p341.

[112] Marquesee (2008).

[113] Morris (2004a), p589.

[114] Ibid, p588.

[115] Morris, Benny (2004b).

[116] Morris (2004a), p588.

[117] Morris (2010), p49.


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Morris, Benny (2010), The War for Palestine: Rewriting the History of 1948’, in Rogan, Eugene L.; Shlaim, Avi, The War for Palestine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

Palestine Solidarity Campaign (2009), ‘The Nakba: Israel’s War of Independence, Palestine’s Catastrophe’, Palestine Solidarity Campaign,

Pappe, Ilan (2006a), The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oxford: Oneworld).

Pappe, Illan (2006b), ‘The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine’, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 36, No. 1, pp. 6-20.

Quigley, John (2005), The Case for Palestine: an International Law Perspective (London: Duke University Press).

Shindler, Colin (2008), A History of Modern Israel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

Shlaim, Avi (2001), The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (London: Penguin).

Tal, David (2005), ‘The Historiography of the 1948 War in Palestine: the Missing Dimension’, The Journal of Israeli History, Vol.24, No. 2, pp. 183-202.

Tochnit Dalet (1947), available at (Last accessed 22nd March, 2012).

United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), ‘Palestine Refugees’, stable URL: (Last accessed 22nd March, 2012).


Serbia: Back To Genocide?

Serbia is not a perfect democracy, and the dominance of one party, the Democrats, for the last decade has not helped. Is that cause for concern?


serbia genocide 1


Serbia, it seems, may be returning to the dark days of the 1990s, with former allies of ‘Serbian Saddam’ Slobodan Milosevic and his extreme nationalist counter-part Vojislav Seselj (both charged for war crimes in the Hague), Ivica Dacic and Tomislav Nikolic, recently being elected as Prime Minister and President respectively. As Reuters has pointed out, an alliance of this sort last existed ‘at the close of Milosevic’s disastrous 13-year rule, when his forces expelled almost 1 million ethnic Albanians from Kosovo and NATO bombed in 1999 to wrest the province from him.

This interpretation is what has dominated the headlines in the West, anyway. But such alarmism is unwarranted, as there is unlikely to be any significant change in Serbia’s democratic prospects or its policies towards Kosovo and the EU.

Dacic and Nikolic and their parties, the Socialist Party of Serbia and the Progressives, have changed a lot in the past five to ten years.

Dacic has been referred to as Milosevic’s man, but, much more recently than that, he was an ally of the Democratic and pro-Western President Tadic. The Socialist Party he leads (and which Milosevic founded) had always been closer to the populist and ‘patriotic’ opposition since Milosevic’s fall in 2000, but in 2008 switched sides and joined the Democrats, helping them secure a much-needed parliamentary majority. Dacic became Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister. This about-face was – it was no secret at the time – engineered by Western embassies in Belgrade, and Dacic henceforth became a loyal man in the Democrat-led coalition, including its policy towards Kosovo and the EU. The Socialists entered the most recent elections in that coalition and intending to continue it, and it is only because of Tadic’s surprise defeat that they, again, decided to change sides. Dacic’s promotion to Prime Minister should hardly, therefore, be cause for alarm.

Nikolic, too, has an unsavoury past, but support for him over the past decade has had more to do with dissatisfaction with the rule of the Democrats, in power uninterrupted since 2000, than with support for extreme nationalism. His supporters are the socio-economic ‘losers’ of the transition, whose numbers have grown with Serbia’s current recession. Moreover, his current party, the Progressives, were formed from a 2008 split from Seselj, and have tried to shed their nationalist image.Western embassies probably had something to do with his split from Seselj, and Nikolic has been keen to emphasise his  changed character, taking a former American ambassador as an advisor and even inviting former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a supporter of NATO’s 1999 bombardment of Serbia, for consultations.

The Guardian recently noted Nikolic refusing to rule out the partition of Kosovo, as if this was a radicalisation of Serbian policy. In fact, this was long been an option for Serbia, although officially it is almost always denied, as Serbia refuses to hand over any of its territory. Nikolic and Dacic emphasise their commitment to the territorial integrity of Serbia, as do all the major parties in Serbia, but, despite some nationalist posturing, immediately after the elections Nikolic went to Brussels and confirmed that he would be respecting recent Serbia-Kosovo agreements on ‘normalisation’ and continuing that process, claiming that the EU did not require recognition of Kosovo. Thus, it seems that the same Serbian policy will continue of pretending not to know that they are, bit by bit, being led towards de facto recognition of Kosovo. As Nikolic emphasises, the EU path remains the priority.

Likewise, in relation to Bosnia, where Milorad Dodik, the leader of the Serb entity, Republika Srpska, has been a thorn in the West’s side, there is unlikely to be any real change in Belgrade’s role. Dodik, in fact, had good relations with President Tadic, whom he backed in the May elections.

Nikolic may not initiate reconciliation with Serbia’s neighbours to the same extent as Tadic, and has already committed a few gaffes in this regard, but there is unlikely to be any real deterioration in regional relations, or inter-ethnic relations within Serbia. It is worth remembering that some of the best regional ‘reconcilers’ have had radical nationalists pasts. Former Kosovan President Ramush Haradinaj, for example, who was supported by the West as someone who embraced the idea of a multi-ethnic Kosovo, had to step down in 2004 to face trial in the Hague for horrific war crimes against national minorities committed just a few years earlier. It is notable that, as has become standard practice, the two key Bosniak politicians in Serbia have been given ministries in the new government, one as a deputy prime minister. (Their background is, incidentally, about as radical as Nikolic’s, both formerly advocating the secession of the Serbian region where most Bosniaks live.)

Serbia is not a perfect democracy, and the dominance of one party, the Democrats, for the last decade has not helped. Multiple changes in power are the real test of a democracy, and there shouldn’t be much to fear from Nikolic and Dacic in this respect. Whether they implement the same EU-sought policies as the Democrats, or perhaps the economic programme their voters sought them to implement, remains to be seen, but as far as Serbia’s democratic prospects and its relations with its neighbours go, there is no cause for alarm.

The Wanton Destruction Of Acid Attacks

Intimidation, revenge, control, spite, jealousy, senseless and unprovoked malice. These are just some of the irrational reasons behind one of the world’s most terrifying crimes – acid attacks.


acid attack victim


Acid attacks, also known as ‘vitriolage’, have grown in number since the 1980s and are increasingly used to target women – 80% of victims are female and almost 40% are under the age of 18 – particularly in countries widely considered to be the most dangerous in the world for the fairer sex. Sadly, the true number of times this horrific attack occurs likely eludes records because the nature of the crime means that victims are often from marginalised parts of society, too scared and too ashamed to speak out.

Nicholas Kristof suggests that acid attacks, rather than suicide bombings, are one of the most pertinent and frightening forms of violence to face Pakistani women in modern day society. Perfect strangers are increasingly joining the ranks of the perpetrators, who have tended to be husbands, spurned lovers and extended family members. What was once considered an endemic isolated to South East Asia and parts of Africa has increasingly become a pandemic affecting the global community.

Contrary to popular belief acid attacks are not restricted to any race, religion or geography. Although the majority of attacks occur in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, in recent years attacks have been reported in the United States, Great Britain and South America too with over 250 such occurrences in Colombia in the past three years. The increasingly diverse geography of this crime pierces holes in arguments made by Gadi Adelman in his article “Just a culture thing, or just Islamic?”. He is quick to pick out verses of the Quran which he interprets as advocating the superiority of men over women, and suggests it is this perspective that makes acid attacks so prevalent against women. He stops short of labeling vitriolage as an Islamic crime that predominantly affects countries where Islam is the prevalent religion, but his misplaced insinuations are clear.

The common link between Pakistan and Colombia for example extends further than just being beautiful countries, rich with history, culture and melodic languages. They also share a penchant for a machista societal structure. This inevitably leads to a situation where women are living in a state of perpetual fear and anxiety – not safe in their own homes or the streets of their hometowns and cities where do these vulnerable people turn?

In Pakistan’s Government Hospital, a free clinic, staffed by world-renowned plastic surgeons, exists to help women who have suffered from acid attacks. The clinic works alongside other nationwide clinics and support groups to provide aid and emotional support to these women where the government and their families may fail them. The significance of such support networks is apparent when we consider the context of some of these horrific attacks. One woman‘s husband burned her with acid, her sister-in-law doused her in gasoline and her mother-in-law lit and threw the match that engulfed her body in a fireball. This woman, for want of a secure life for her children, chose to continue living with and depending upon the very same people who came so close to ripping her life away from her. In a country where the legal system still has fundamental flaws to contend with, as well as the rampant problem of corruption, it is inevitable that this woman’s terrible story is not unique.

Although concentrated acids have a wide variety of legitimate uses, car batteries or household cleaning products for example, they can easily destroy lives in a fraction of a second. There is a real and growing need to categorise acid as a potential weapon given its increasingly malicious and life threatening usage. In most countries, as in Uganda, these calls have largely been ignored. Stringent guidelines and restrictions need to be introduced for people buying and selling highly concentrated acids in order to gain some kind of control against this abhorrent crime. Acid attacks continue to rise in India and Cambodia because of how readily available sulphuric and nitric acid are. Conversely, since the enactment of laws in Bangladesh increasing the punishment for acid throwing as well as restricting its availability came into force, the country has seen a 15-20% decrease in the number of annual attacks.

Food for thought: a small bottle of highly concentrated acid enough to disfigure and ruin a woman’s life forever costs less than a pack of 20 Marlboro Lights in India. All it takes is 16 Rupees (INR) – or $0.37 USD to inflict horrific life-long injuries. In Bangladesh, the cost is less than $0.15 USD for a small bottle of acid readily available from the roadside. More continued action must be taken to prevent more victims from suffering the fate of lost faces, lost identities and lost lives.


The author recommends Saving Facean Academy Award winning documentary about Acid Violence in Pakistan.

Somalia & Democracy: An Oxymoron?

It takes years of learning, patience and dedication to achieve a full democracy and it is the hope of every Somali to see Somalia holding fully democratic elections in 2016—a hope that can be achieved.


pirates in somalia


On August 20th, Morgan Lorraine Roach of The Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington based think-tank, wrote an article titled Somalia’s Government Transition Maintains the Status Quo. In her article, she argues that the process of creating the new permanent government that is to replace the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was flawed and undemocratic. She further argues that due to the flawed and undemocratic process that created the new permanent government, the Obama Administration should not reward poor governance by: withholding bilateral assistance to the new government, continuing to support the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and recognizing Somaliland. This article serves as a response to her arguments.

A Flawed and Undemocratic Process

Due to the Somali people not being able to vote for the members of the new permanent government of Somalia the process of creating the new government of is in no doubt undemocratic. Due to the security situation in some parts of the country and Al-Shabab controlling the southern regions of Somalia, a countrywide election could not have been possible. Instead of a democratic election, a system was used that is undoubtedly the next best option given the constraints and the desire to form to a representative government.

For a very long time Somali elders have been the leaders of Somalia. For centuries they have served as judges under the Somali customary legal system known as Xeer, and most recently during the last twenty years of the Somali civil war due to the absence of proper judicial institutions. Respected by many, they are considered to derive their authority as the guardians of their various communities, and the Somali nation. With the absence of direct elections due to security issues, the Somali elders are the next best solution in terms of creating a representative government and it is indeed a step forward to a full democracy in Somalia.

The creation of the new permanent government was guided by the Somali elders, from appointing the 885 members of the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) which approved the draft constitution, to the selection of the new members of parliament. This is not to say the process was perfect—far from it in reality. There have been reports of corruption during the appointment of the members of the new parliament, and threats that have been issued to the members of the Technical Selection Committee (TSC) which is charged with ratifying and overseing the selection of the new legislators.

But, compared to the previous members of the parliament selected in Kenya and Djibouti, the members of this new parliament are considered to be the most qualified and educated MPs Somalia has had during the last three decades. This is due to the TSC requiring the new legislators to be at least high school graduates, free from having ties with any warlord, and not to have committed any atrocity during the civil war. The TSC have so far rejected close to 70 parliamentary nominees who have not met the above criteria.

International Community Support

The United Nations, United States, European Union and other international partners have welcomed the inauguration of the new Federal Parliament of Somalia, and rightly so. “The Somali people have waited 20 years for peace to take root in their country. Now is the time to begin a new chapter in their history,” said the spokesman of the Secretary General of the U.N. The congratulations come after the international community has supported and funded the TFG during its mandate.

Although senior members of the TFG have been accused of corruption, the government has achieved some progress in its fight against Al-Shabab. For the first time since the civil war, Mogadishu has managed to regain some normalcy. It is in the interests of the international partners, including the United States, to see this success replicated to other parts of the country under Al-Shabab rule.

At the present, the major concerns of the U.S and other international partners of Somalia is not bad governance but the threat of Al-Shabaab and the problem of piracy in the region. The author’s proposal of the Obama Administration to withhold bilateral aid to the new government directly goes against these U.S interests. The withholding of bilateral assistance to the new government will significantly weaken the government’s aim to rebuild the institutions of the country and its fight to liberate the areas controlled by Al-Shabaab. Funding only AMISOM forces and not Somalia’s security forces will also cause major problems. If history can tell us one thing it is that Somalis do not allow foreign armies to be in their country for a long period of time. As soon as AMISOM manages to liberate the territories under Al-Shabab rule, there is a high likelihood of Somalis demanding AMISOM to withdraw from Somalia. Withholding aid to train and fund the Somali security forces will only ensure that there will be no well-trained Somali forces to take over the command. Further, withholding of bilateral assistance to the new government will not stop corruption and bring good governance, but collapse a government that badly needs international support to succeed.

These interests aside, the international community has a responsibility to ensure that the resources and funding allocated to the Somali nation are used as intended. The creation of the Joint Financial Management Board at the London Conference on Somalia by the international community is a step forward in tackling corruption, increasing accountability and transparency. As the Somali institutions develop, it will then be up to the Somali people themselves to ensure corruption is eradicated.

On the issue of Somaliland’s recognition, the U.S and the other members of the international community recognizing Somaliland will only cause conflicts and division in Somalia. There is no doubt that Somaliland has achieved some success during the last twenty years, but the only way to avoid a fresh conflict and the bloodshed of the Somali people are direct talks and negotiations between the new government and Somaliland leaders.

A Significant Milestone for Somalia

“Somalia’s new system of governance is set up for failure.”

Morgan Lorraine Roach.

One thing the author seems to be getting wrong is that this is not a new governance system for Somalia but a  significant milestone and a path to a representative democracy. Many democratic systems around the world, including the United States, weren’t built overnight. It took learning, patience and dedication to achieve a full democracy. It is the hope of every Somali to see Somalia holding elections in 2016—a hope that can be achieved. But for now, considering the situation Somalia is in, the system in place is the next best thing to a representative government.

Who Cares About Assad’s Cluster Bombs?

In 2012 the United Nations Mine Action Service has received appeals for funding for various Explosive Remnants of War clearance programmes reaching US$29.9 million, as of August 2012 they are US$25.1 million short of this target. Do we care about Assad’s cluster bombs?


surviving cluster bombs


Adding to a growing list of human right violations the Assad regime of Syria is now confirmed to have used cluster bombs in civilian areas. In response to a video and accusations that surfaced on a blog human rights organisations and reporters scrambled to verify whether cluster bombs had, in fact, been used in Syria.  Human Rights Watch has recently verified the allegations.

Why do cluster bombs matter when President Bashar Al-Assad has already garnered such a substantial record of human rights violations accusations? To begin with, the use of cluster bombs indicates a further flouting of humanitarian conventions by the Assad regime in its conflict with rebel forces. Already the regime has been accused of massacres in Houla and more recently Tremesh. It has responded to these indictments by denying that any massacres occurred, claiming that force was used only to put down an unlawful uprising, or by indicating that terrorists were responsible for the involved atrocities. Whether or not you believe these responses, they are potentially viable defences.

The use of cluster bombs in civilian areas, however, cannot be justified by asserting that rebels were being targeted. Widely, although not universally, accepted the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) carries with it a massive weight of stigmatization for any country, including a non-signator, that uses them in a civilian area.

Opposition to cluster bombs is not founded so much on the effect of the bomblets that explode, but rather on the threat posed by those that do not. Unexploded bomblets remain after the conflict acting as de facto landmines. Their shape and colour often entices children to play with them. Their metal content may attract scavengers, particularly in a war-ravaged economy. The heavy toll that these indiscriminate weapons take on civilian populations outweighs, according to the CCM, any strategic benefit they may provide.

The effects of cluster munitions use on the terrain lasts long after the bombs have been dropped. Like areas that have been mined, those struck by cluster bombs cannot be used even after conflict ends until lengthy and expensive clearance has occurred. Post-conflict redevelopment of land and, more importantly, the return of people to their homes and normal lives in Syria may thus be delayed for years. Even 6 years after the Lebanon-Israeli war areas of Lebanon are yet to be opened to resettlement and redevelopment as a result of cluster bomb use by Israel. Based on current clearance rates it will take approximately another 6 years for the remaining 758 contaminated areas in Lebanon to be made safe. A 2008 study by Landmine Action put the cost in lost agricultural productivity in Lebanon due to cluster munitions contamination at US$22.6 million.

The effects of Assad’s use of cluster bombs on Syria’s economy will also be long lasting. Post-conflict mine and cluster munition clearance will need to be undertaken. Due to the cost of this activity and to the fact that Syria’s economy has been crippled, donor countries will most likely be involved. In 2011 such countries provided US$22.7 million for clearance of explosive remnants of war (ERW), including cluster munitions from government dropped bombs, in Libya.  However, according to organizations involved in ERW removal, this amount has not been nearly enough to complete the involved tasks. For 2012 the United Nations Mine Action Service has received appeals for funding for various ERW clearance programmes reaching US$29.9 million, as of August 2012 they are US$25.1 million short of this target.

Cluster bomb remnants in Syria will hold up development projects until clearance is completed. The international community will most likely be forced to pay the bill or to leave Syria hobbled. Sluggish economic growth and a large number of displaced people, problems worsened by cluster munition contamination, will increase the likelihood of continued conflict that might spread to other parts of the region despite hopes of the international community to keep it contained.

Finally, the use of cluster munitions further debases President Assad’s claims that he is just trying to hold his country together in the face of an illegitimate rebellion. The President’s decision to employ this type of weapon acts as a strong and irrefutable indication of the government’s disregard for the long-term well-being of the people. It provides further evidence that the maintenance of power at any cost is this regime’s top priority. Although not as horrifying or headline grabbing as his slaughter of women and children, the use of cluster bombs is a strong indicator of Assad’s ruthlessness.

Cluster bombs will continue to harm the Syrian people and disrupt their lives long after the battle has ended, presenting one more challenge to a society that has already faced too many.

The Fourth Reich Rises?

No one seems to understand what Germany wants. Does Germany have big plans? A European strategy of hegemony?


german empire


Amid the international finance crisis the role of Germany has become central to the fate of the continent and for many appears to be the only hope for solving this quagmire. At the same time many seem to fear the creation of a German empire built on the shoulders of the other European countries and infiltrating EU institutions. Italian newspapers speak of the Fourth Reich, while Italian politicians on live TV ask their German colleagues if they think a United States of Europe would be blond and blue eyed. The sentiment among many seems to follow the lines of: “What they did not achieve with tanks in 1940, they are now doing with the Euro”. Many see it as a foregone conclusion that Germany wants to lead. In last week’s issue of Germany’s biggest quality weekly Die Zeit, the newspaper asked literates from all over Europe to describe their countries’ view on Germany. One of them first asserted that Germany wants to lead Europe and than goes on to denote what the country had to do and not to do as the European hegemon.

On the other side of the fence, some deplore German inactivity. In late 2011 Poland’s Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski stated: “I will probably be the first Polish foreign minister in history to say so, but here it is: I fear German power less than I am beginning to fear German inactivity”. This is a little surprising from a politician from a country that suffered tremendously from German occupation during the Second World War and whose press has not abstained from playing the Nazi card when the two countries were involved in a conflict.

This very well illustrates the ambiguity surrounding the perception of German foreign policy in Europe. No one seems to understand what Germany wants. Does Germany have big plans? A European strategy of hegemony?

The problem is, Germany does not know itself. Important is the insight of Germany’s profound lack of a foreign policy strategy and a lack of interest within the general population and political elites beyond situational attention driven by the media cycle. A sophisticated foreign policy elite that would gain wider attention is lacking; the most important foreign policy intellectuals are two old men. While journalist Peter Scholl-Latour has been explaining the “Orient” to the German audience for the better half of the last century, former Chancellor, proverbial chain smoker and 90 years old statesman Helmut Schmidt basically covers the rest of the world (… and economy).

Their influence can be easily deduced by the metres of bookshelf space the two inhabit in Germany’s bookshops. Younger protagonists are hard to come by (which does not mean that they do not exist here & here). As a result German foreign policy often is erratic and uncoordinated despite the fact that Germany is covering large parts of the EU budget (highest absolute contributor) and makes substantial contributions to other international organisations such as the UN (third largest contributor in 2011). Germany is often said to hold nowhere as many senior positions within these organisation as would be suggested by the contributions. Further, while Germany diplomats in New York are lobbying for, and even sponsoring, UN resolutions against weapons trafficking, the German government is selling large quantities of Leopard 2 tanks to countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) amid the Arab Spring.

The lack of a sophisticated strategy is often deplored by foreign policy professionals in Germany (the reasons for such lackings are so plentiful that they deserve their own article). This however, does not mean that Germany lacks strategic paradigms all together. There used to be crucial interests of German foreign policy making: reunification was central but became obsolete after the Cold War. Reunification was prepared by the “East policies” and détente was the vehicle for that. Another central paradigm is the special relationship with Israel: in 2008 Angela Merkel elevated Israel’s security to the level of “raison d’Etat” of Germany.

Other paradigms continue to shape foreign policy making: for Germany the suggestion of integration into supranational organisation is not an attempt to fix its own power into place. Rather, it is a logical consequence of another main line of German foreign politics. After the Second World War – and under occupation – integration into a supranational organisation was the only way for Germany to ensure the other European states that it would not become a revenge power again and opened the way to regain lost sovereignty from the occupation powers. This was a major purpose of “Westintegration”. Multilateralism is in general highly valued by many decision makers. Hegemonic thinking rarely exists. The core tenet of German foreign policy has been the “culture of restrained”. This for a very long time meant that Germany would not aggressively formulate and push for national interests. This is not to say that Germany is following any foreign interests: professionals that have interacted with German embassies can confirm that the country’s diplomats will often help companies to get a foot into the door. However, in the German tradition supporting its own economy has always meant creating economic welfare through cooperation and integration. During the financial crisis the culture of restrained has arguably suffered to a certain degree. However, reviewing German suggestions for how to tackle the problem fits German post-1945 tradition. It aims for further integration, not hegemony.

Arguing that Germany is bound on a course of recreating a Nazi like European hegemony is the wrong conclusion. When dealing with the democratic republic that Germany has been for almost 70 years now, Europeans should keep in mind this quote from Anika Leithner’s 2009 book Shaping German Foreign Policy: “ I often hear foreigners say what they would do if they had Germany’s wealth, its size or its population. I never hear them say what they would do if they had Germany’s past”. They should get used to Germany formulating national interests more obviously than it she has done in the past. However, the lessons of the past are well learned, becoming a hegemony is not one them.

The news from the Fourth Reich? It does not exist.

Is Multiculturalism Dying?

Christian moderacy does not exist in Muslim communities, whose own moderacy is seen as extreme to their Christian neighbours. Europe is multicultural, but it is intolerant of extremes, and to the moderate Christian and atheist, Islam seems extreme.


christianity islam


This piece forms part of our series on multiculturalism.


“Multiculturalism is dead”. That was the position of the most powerful person in Europe, Angela Merkel, two years ago. It marked a major shift in policy, one which was swiftly echoed by the UK’s David Cameron, as the Multiculturalism of the centre-left governments of the noughties was being left by the wayside.

But why? What happened? What has been the legacy of multiculturalism’s heyday?

European tolerance is something which has blossomed since the Second World War in a backlash to the brutal colonialism and eugenics programs practiced across the continent. Western European legal systems have increasingly protected the rights of all, with minorities and individuals gaining increasing protection from persecution by the law. Tolerance is the great victory of the modern Europe, and continues to see strides from year to year. Don’t believe the conspiracy theorists pointing accusing theories at the New World Order swiftly taking control of your government, your minds and your freedom, your freedom has never been so secured.

Part of this has happened over the last two decades, the same time as the rise of multiculturalism as the dominant rhetoric in European liberal democracies. Toleration certainly did well for the movement, reaching its zenith in the absolute priority of showing tolerance to all cultures in every nation, the reduction of hatred and offence. Toleration was a victory which gave rights to the oppressed and launched a war on prejudice and discrimination.

But this tolerance should not be all-encompassing, and with good reason. Tolerance lead to the western regime which watched in denial as the Nazis rose in Germany. Tolerance let the Chinese march into Tibet. Tolerance was in the small whimpers of condemnation as the Tutsis were slaughtered in Rwanda, Saddam Hussein butchered the Kurds and as homosexuals are hung in Saudi Arabia.

Toleration should only go as far as to tolerate those who tolerate others. Not to those who cannot tolerate others themselves. The extreme left and right of Europe have been marginalised to the point of extinction for half a century, the recent economic crises only partially awakening the old beasts which perverted democracy so thoroughly in the early twentieth century. The BNP and National Front of France have never been allowed to grow out of control before being pushed back by the centre-right. The rise of the extremist parties of Greece was shut down by the all-or-nothing authority wielded by the EU holding bail-out cheques. Intolerance in politics has been put to the sword by western and northern Europe, and memories of the past are not about to let them rise once again.

But politics is not alone in being a realm where extremes are seen with suspicion and even intolerance by the centre and majority of northern and western Europe. Religion too has fallen here, as with all other ideologies. Europe is by far the most secular region in the world, states where religion is rarely promoted and even more rarely oppressed. The majority of European states are constitutionally secular and the rest have limited religion’s influence severely. This secularism is backed by the rise of the non-religious. Well over half of European citizens rate religion as “unimportant” to their lives (Gallup poll, 2007–2008). Indeed the death of religion’s influence, dating far back to the European enlightenment, has progressed so slowly but so absolutely that almost no one has noticed its passing. Christian fundamentalism and politics has been left to the US, so absolutely that many Christian-Right parties of Europe have been forced to re-brand.

It is this intolerance towards extremism in any ideology which has lead to an intolerance of Islam, not the last vestiges of the evils of Europe’s past. Europe is a continent where the thought of law dictated by Leviticus seems ridiculous to the point of insane and the concept of a state doctrine of creationism being taught over evolution is plainly incomprehensible. Despite the continued sway of the pope, Christianity has become the tea-and-biscuits of the Church of England, not the fire-and-brimstone of the Vatican.

Enter Islam and the Muslims who follow its creed. Their women wear head-scarves as their holy men dictate, their homelands hang homosexuals and stone women who are raped. Their members appear in the news not for their donations to the Red Crescent but for riots in Paris and Copenhagen and protests at the burials of soldiers returned from war. They set fire to buildings for the drawing of jovial cartoons and demand courts that can judge based on law by the Koran. Dozens die across Europe in honour killings by Muslim families who feel their honour has been tarnished.

For Muslims, many of these things are seen as a bad representation of their faith, and that is true, it only shows the most extreme fringes. But Muslims must think of the anger they felt at the Danish cartoons, at their outrage when France banned the Burka. How many Muslims believe that Sharia law is a vital part of their society, and has a place even in their communities within western countries? Do Christians of France cry in outrage at the banning of crosses worn by public officials, were there riots in response to “life of Brian”? Does the British “Christian Party” hold enough sway to even face mention in national papers?

To the European, these beliefs of so many Muslims are not moderate, they are shocking. It has been decades since any court ruled based on a biblical passage, a century since women began their march to be seen in every way the same as men. Cartoons are drawn on a daily basis poking fun at Jesus Christ and his father and even the most serious of Christian preachers have learned to chuckle.

Islam is, by nature, not any worse or better than Christianity. However in Europe, Muslims regard their faith with much more passion and seriousness than do their Christian counterparts, what of them are left. The battle for gay marriage may be the last one that the Christians of Europe will ever fight, as churches lay empty. By contrast Islamic Mosques are filled day by day by Muslims who hold every word of their holy books close to their chests. These Mosques, however infrequently, produce extremists and even suicide bombers.

Islam is not hated and rejected because of some forgotten legacy of European colonialism, one which the nations of Europe have long had to release as their slide from superpower status progressed, it is rejected because of a culture of tolerance in Europe which has grown hostile to intolerance. The extremes of ideology, the fundamentalism of the right and left wings of politics, or the literalism of Christianity or Islam, have become completely at odds to this culture.

There exists a disjoin between Muslims and the states they have entered in Europe. Christian moderacy does not exist in Muslim communities, whose own moderacy is seen as extreme to their Christian neighbours. Europe is multicultural, but it is intolerant of extremes, and to the moderate Christian and atheist, Islam seems extreme.

Ramadan & Eid, Malaysian Style

Malaysia has an interesting time during Ramadan. With the general feeling of festivity, there is another side to it all. Ramadan, a month of charity, abstinence, reflection, and religious deeds, is also a month of overspending, wastage, shortages, and road accidents.


muslim boy praying ramadan


Hari Raya, literally ‘Day of Celebration’, is in a few days’ time. There is a growing feeling of festivity in the air here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Shopping malls, restaurants and even the local kiosks are playing traditional songs on a loop, ready to usher in the coming Eid-ul-Fitr and the end of the fasting month, Ramadan. Everything is decorated in the ubiquitous green banners and Eid lamps. The television is playing local shows and corporate-sponsored tear-jerking advertisements reminding us of the goodness of Eid. People are starting to travel to their hometowns in other parts of the country, leaving the capital quiet and exhausted from the month of fasting.

Muslim homes are stocking up on drinks, food and biscuits, also known as kuih, for the beginning of the new Islamic month, Syawal. My own kitchen is stacked with plastic boxes of biscuits, sourced from markets, shops and friends. My grandmother has spent the last week cooking dishes for the day (my duty was to stir only when necessary), ensuring that everything is ready for our yearly ‘Open House’, a Malaysian tradition where we literally open our doors to family, friends, and neighbours, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. Crisp Ringgit Malaysia notes, issued especially by the Central Bank of Malaysia for this occasion have been put in colourful envelopes ready to be distributed to younger, usually unmarried, family members and friends. The days up to Eid has always been for me, personally, an exciting time.

Malaysia has an interesting time during Ramadan. With the general feeling of festivity, there is another side to it all. Ramadan, a month of charity, abstinence, reflection, and religious deeds, is also a month of overspending, wastage, shortages, and road accidents. A nation that loves to eat, food bazaars, enjoyed by everyone regardless of religious affiliation, pop up throughout the country serving savoury and sweet dishes. It is hard to judge how supply is able to satisfy the demand but unfortunately, with variety comes wastage as not everything cook is bought. In the days leading up to Eid, many return to their respective hometowns in order to celebrate with their families there. Not unlike Thanksgiving in America, on a smaller scale, Malaysia has to deal with similar issues. Traffic jams are caused by the rush to arrive home on time, which leads to the unusually high number of accidents, each year Traffic Police-led campaigns are launched to promote road safety and ensure fewer deaths. Morbidly, newspapers tally the number of those killed on the road.

Being a seemingly religious country, Ramadan and Eid is also used as an opportunity for by-the-way political campaigning. Members of Parliament, from both sides of the house, display posters wishing Malaysians a blessed Eid. Usually accompanied with pictures of local politicians in traditional outfits, posters would be strategically placed at mosques, traffic lights, below overhead bridges and on the side of buildings. Sometimes opposing political parties would have their posters side by side, in an attempt to out-banner each other. Although this is not unique for Ramadan and Eid (each religious celebration will see a display of greetings from your local MP), this is probably indicative of the need for politicians in Malaysia to be seen to be religiously conscious. Being a Sunni country, Ramadan is also a time where the religious authorities are particularly active. Over the last few years, the dominant racial group, the Malays have been going through what can arguably be called an “Islamic identity crisis” and this has led to a strengthening in the religious moral code in Malaysia. Although non-Muslims are allowed to eat and drink in the daytime, Muslims can be prosecuted and fined for eating in public during fasting hours. This year, some were sent for special Islamic courses to ‘correct’ their behaviour.

In spite of the slightly darker side of Ramadan, Malaysians still look forward to Eid and all the sense of renewal it brings. For Muslims, it is the end of a month of fasting and abstinence and the beginning of a month of festivities. A key component is forgiveness and it is very common for Muslims to apologise for any wrongdoings committed. Charity is also encouraged and a special religious tax, the zakat al-fitr is paid during the month of Ramadan. So in a few days’ time, we hope to be at the family table seeking forgiveness, enjoying a cleansed state of mind and body, hoping that the months until the next Ramadan will be filled with good deeds and good intentions.

Wherever you are in the world, Eid Mubarak and Selamat Hari Raya, Maaf Zahir dan Batin.

US Presidential Election Roundup: 12/8 – 18/8

This week’s roundup of the US presidential elections…


Ryan gives first speech [Huffington Post] Congressman Paul Ryan has given his first speech after being picked to be Mitt Romney’s running-mate.


Polls suggest Ryan ‘unknown’ [Huffington Post] Polls have shown that most Americans have either ‘never heard’ of or are ‘unsure’ about Paul Ryan.


Romney camp saves the surprise [The Guardian] The Guardian details how the Romney campaign kept their choice of Vice-Presidential running-mate a secret.


Ryan choice boosts donations [The Guardian] The Romney campaign has revealed that it has received $3.5 million in donations after the selection of Paul Ryan.


Obama criticises Ryan policies [National Journal] President Obama has attacked Paul Ryan’s economic proposals at a Chicago fundraiser.


Ryan’s legislative history scrutinised [Huffington Post] It has been reported that Paul Ryan only passed two bills during his 13-year period as a Congressman.


Ryan comments on taxes [The Hill] Paul Ryan has said that he will release two years of tax returns.


Palin absent from convention [Reuters] Sarah Palin has confirmed in a statement that she will not be speaking at the Republican Convention later in August.


Does Mitt Romney Want A Third World War? [The Risky Shift] Purav Patel argues that Mitt Romney lacks ‘pragmatism and the ability to negotiate’ on the issue of the Middle East


Adviser compares Ryan to Palin [National Journal] David Axelrod has commented on Paul Ryan’s energising of his party’s base, saying, ‘I saw that excitement four years ago when John McCain appointed Sarah Palin as well.’


Ryan rumour ‘debunked’ [Talking Points Memo] Talking Points Memo reports that a rumour suggesting Paul Ryan may have benefitted financially from insider trading ‘doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.’


Rubio to introduce Romney [CNN] Marco Rubio is expected speak at the Republican National Convention and will introduce Mitt Romney.


‘Back in Chains’ [New York Times] Vice-President Joe Biden has said that Republican economic proposals would ‘put you all back in chains’ during a speech at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research.


Obama ‘waging war on coal’ says Romney [CNN] Mitt Romney has accused President Obama of failing to support coal during his presidency.


Romney attacks Obama in Medicare ad [CBS] The Romney campaign has accused President Obama of cutting $716 billion from Medicare ‘to pay for Obamacare’ in a new ad.


‘Get real, Mitt’ says college aid ad [ABC] The Obama campaign has released an ad criticising Mitt Romney’s college aid plans.


Obama leads in Ohio [Talking Points Memo] A new poll suggests that President Obama leads Mitt Romney by 3 points in Ohio.


Romney interviewed for Fortune [CNN Money] Mitt Romney has discussed his economic plans in an interview with Fortune Magazine.


Obama ‘running just to hang on to power’ says Romney [Huffington Post] Mitt Romney has accused the Obama campaign of ‘enmity and jealousy and anger,’ adding that the President is ‘running just to hang onto power.’


Ryan gives ground on Medicare [National Journal] Paul Ryan has dropped $716 billion in proposed cuts to Medicare.


Republicans advise Obama on Biden [Politico] John McCain has joined Sarah Palin in advising President Obama to replace Vice-President Joe Biden on the Democratic presidential ticket.


Univision to request presidential debate [Politico] Spanish network Univision has invited President Obama and Mitt Romney to debate.


Congress breached social media regulations [The Hill] A report has suggested that members of Congress ‘may have broken the rules regulating official use of social media’ after reacting to the selection of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s running mate.


Romney comments on taxes [Reuters] Mitt Romney has said that ‘over the last 10 years, I never paid less than 13 percent’ tax, adding, ‘I think the most recent year is 13.6 or something like that.’


International economy poll supports Obama [Reuters] A new poll has found that more business executives favour President Obama than Mitt Romney over the issue of the global economy.


Compiled by Patrick McGhee.

Pan-Islamism & The Interwar Period

Islam, international politics & mass mobilization: an analysis over the interwar period.
{Department of International Relations, London School of Economics & Political Science}


World Muslim Population


The interwar era, namely the period between 1919 and 1938, showed impressive and large-scale forms of Islamic mass mobilization, along with the strengthening and consolidation of Islamic movements and congresses. These unprecedented kinds of mass mobilization manifestations were prompted “by broader developments in world politics and in the world economy” and, as a result, today they still represent an “enduring infrastructure for Muslim politics”[1] for millions of Muslim scattered across the world.

In this essay, I would like to describe and to analyze rise and decline of the above-mentioned forms of collective action, explaining why some of them declined promptly after a few years, for example the transnational Khilafat movement in India, while other national movements continued to grow up and to play a central role in shaping political and institutional transformations which occurred in the countries where they flourished, as in the case of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Sarekat in Indonesia.

First of all, would be useful to underscore the significance of the first political ideas connected with the Pan-Islamism ideology, which has been identified as a relevant driver for Muslim unity calls during the late 19th century. Coined in Europe in the 1870s in order to connote anti-modernism movements and Islamic fanaticism, according to Khalid the term of Pan-Islamism was deeply characterized by a “series of local, territorially defined, Muslim nationalisms with anti-colonial agendas” and, in opposition to the cultural definition provided by Landau, Pan-Islamism is “better located in the realm of nationalism than of religion”[2], by re-affirming the author a strong political connotation to such a phenomenon. Furthermore, Pan-Islamism was defined by an external threat, as for several nationalist movements, and it involved different national groups with their own political instances, as well as a diverse spectrum of participants, from religious leaders to travellers, most of them were modernists, deeply influenced by Western political and social values but seriously motivated in changing the status quo of their societies.[3] In this last category Sayyid Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani (1838 – 1897) was the most prominent architect of the alliance between religious and radical thinkers. His great commitment in feeding and spreading and conveying the Pan-Islam ideology across the Ottoman Empire and in the Western colonies of the Middle East and Central Asia during the late 19th century, was a powerful and ideal model in the subsequent period of political mass mobilization.[4]

As a matter of fact, as of 1919 the disciples of al-Afghani like Rashid Rida and Ibn Sa’ud recalled for a new Muslim unity having the same political objectives of the Pan-Islam ideology but set in a more complex social backdrop (primarily the First World War, followed by the “secularization” of Islamic authority by the Ottoman Empire, unprecedented forms of Islamic schooling, recent weakening of the most powerful imperial countries like Great Britain and France because of their impressive war efforts) that, according to Sidel, provided the ideal conditions for a revival of the Muslim mobilization in at least five ways[5]:

  • As suggested by the German government in the years that preceded the Great War there was the promotion of an instrumental use of Islam for warfare purposes by the Ottoman leaders in order to mobilize Muslims against British and French colonial rulers;
  • Social disorders and de-mobilization in the colonial territories during the war and in its aftermath created windows of opportunity in terms of political reforms;
  • End of aristocratic hegemony not only in Europe but also in the Ottoman Empire, Persia and China and consequent replacement with republican regimes;
  • Foundation of Muslim organizations in Russia after the Revolutions in 1917 and 1918: Muskom and Narkomnats, headed by Sultangaliev and Stalin respectively, with the former that elaborated a “Muslim national communism” vision;
  • End of the Ottoman Empire, abolition of Sultanate in 1922 and Caliphate in 1924: thrust to reorganize the Islamic identity, community and ideology.

In the next paragraphs will be analyzed the historical and political patterns that led to the foundation of three significant Islamic mass movements, namely Khilafat in India, Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Sarekat in Indonesia, and how such organizations gained popularity and later lost their own political relevance.

Khilafat between transnational aims and political misunderstandings 

The end of the Ottoman Empire was ratified with the armistice of Mundros on 30 October 1918 in which the Ottoman Sultan gave his total and unconditional surrender and allowed the military occupation of Istanbul by the Allied forces. Later, the Treaty of Sevres that came out from the peace settlements in Paris in 1920 reduced the Empire to Turkey, even if its full implementation was avoided by the growing national resistance led by Mustafa Kemal, who started his campaign for Turkish independence on 19 May 1919 in the city of Samsun in the North of Anatolia.[6]

On the background of these events, Indian Pan-Islamic movements recorded an increase in popularity and interest in the years following the end of the Great War, due to a number of factors: a better off and more educated India’s Muslim middle class; an unprecedented public role of Ulemas who got involved in the Pan-Islamic politics and in recruiting support; a growing awareness among Muslims in India that an international and strong political and religious centre abroad could guarantee their own life as a minority group.[7] Such cultural and political considerations, along with the contemporary historical events in the former Ottoman Empire, were on the basis of the foundation of the Khilafat Movement by December 1918, whose political programme envisaged the salvation of the Ottoman integrity and sovereignty. In fact, as effectively summarized by Alavi, the demand of the Indian Khilafatists for a preserved and protected Caliphate was based on three main claims: comparison of the Ottoman Caliph with the “Universal Caliph” which deserved allegiance from all Muslims; ongoing religious war between Christianity and Islam; expulsion of Great Britain from the Middle East because it was deemed to threat the Caliphate and its colonies.[8]

The Khilafat movement fulfilled a twofold political activity. First of all, its Central Committee fostered a continuous propaganda by the publishing of two periodicals, in English and Urdu, and it was also busy in organizing mass meetings in order to collect funds as much as possible. Secondly, the Movement accomplished to an external activity, creating offices and dispatching delegations abroad to promote its political aims. Actually, this second operation was less successful than the internal one and revealed to Indian Muslims a shocking and meaningless lack of interest by European governments and their public opinions toward their claims.[9]  However, while the secular republicanism emerged as an alternative political way for the national renaissance of Turkey, the Khilafat movement was about to be stricken by a more destabilizing shock, resulted in the separation of the sultanate and caliphate in November 1922, given that this division meant the permanent separation between spiritual and temporal powers, embodied in the Sultan and the Caliph respectively. Suddenly, one of the most important claim of the movement was nullified by the supposed protector of spiritual Islam, Mustafa Kemal. The process of secularization in Turkey was completed with the abolition of the Caliphate in 1924, which provoked a sense of confusion and furore in the Khilafatists. According to Ozcan, Kemal, that was previously and publicly urged by the Indian Muslims to restore the Sultanate, approved this measure for five political reasons: refusal to share its authority with a Caliph; the Caliph could become the principal political antagonist of Kemal because of the resistance showed by pro-Caliph people to his secular policies; clear incompatibility between secular reforms and a powerful religious authority; avoiding to be identified as a Pan-Islamist supporter by the Christian Europe; diplomatic measure that hopefully would influence the British about the question of Mosul.[10]

In the wake of secularization, the Khilafat Movement lost its political force and failed in preserving the Caliphate. Reasons for explaining the unsuccessful attempt to revive a more organized and ambitious Pan-Islamism were not solely linked to external factors, such as the rise of Mustafa Kemal but they were also intertwined with internal misperceptions and more crucial misunderstandings that ratified its own death: “In accusing Britain of being hostile to the Caliph, the Khilafatists were fighting an imaginary enemy. The real threat came from the Turkish Republican Nationalism … The Khilafatists proved to be quite incapable of perceiving the nature and significance of that historic conflict between the monarchical rule of the Caliph and the democratic aspirations of the Republican Nationalists. Paradoxically they glorified the arc-adversary of the Caliphate, Mustafa Kemal, while at the same time they also glorified their venerated Caliph.”[11]

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Sarekat in Indonesia

The Indian Khilafat didn’t represent the only example of Islamic mass-movement during the interwar period, although it was certainly the most popular and modern transnational expression of the Pan-Islamic ideology in those years. As a matter of fact, even if it tried to merge a universalist cause with the Indian Muslims’ nationalist interest in preserving their minority identity in the country, the Khilafat was also deeply concerned with Islamic affairs in Iran, Iraq, Libya and Marocco.[12] This sensitiveness toward the whole Islamic world wasn’t shared in the same way by other Islamic organizations. Nonetheless, historically speaking two more Islamic mass-movements emerged soon after the defeat of the Central Powers: Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Sarekat in Indonesia.

The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928 by Hasan al-Banna, has been one of the most influential Islamic movements in the history of modern Egypt, bringing about a radical transformation in that society. The relationship between nationalist instances, the need for a deep social change and Islam was originally re-elaborated by al-Banna. He initially rejected the Western model of political participation and liberal nationalism in order to provide political Islam with a new and independent narration, through the ambitious effort to make it an “all-encompassing religion”.[13] As Lia underlines, “writing [of Hasan al-Banna] marked a watershed in modern Islamic discourse by making the successful transition of Islam into an ideology, thus providing an ideological map of ‘what is’ in society and a ‘report’ of how it is working”.[14] For this reason, Islam was conceived more as an ideological framework than just a parochial religion, as an useful interpretative paradigm for changing Egypt society and a guide in the formulation of reform programmes.[15] However, even the Muslim Brotherhood movement was not an isolated outgrowth  of Islam politics, but another example of the process of gradual secularization of Islam that in this case meant its own politicization. In fact, its ideology was greatly affected by the need for social justice, political, social and economic reforms and, last but not least, it reflected the interests of the lower and well-educated classes. Accordingly, this secular and Western-rooted feature, along with the conceptual shift of Islam  “from the sentimental enthusiasm of purely inert admirers… into an operative force actively [and instrumentally] actively at work on modern problems”[16], assigned to the Muslim Brotherhood a pillar role in democratizing the Egyptian society in the late 1930s. The military coup of 1952 by Nassir confirms such a view: after having overthrown the monarchy and multiparty system, Nassir banned the Muslim Brotherhood that, as an autonomous movement, was identified as a danger for his regime.[17] This Islamic mass-movement, reached an estimated total membership of 500.000 after the Second World War but most importantly the al-Banna’s “political reinterpretation” of Islam remained the most influential in the 20th century, capable to merge the idea of Islam as an all-inclusive societal system with its later politicization in 1938 which became the core of the Society’s ideology.[18]

The Sarekat Islam was founded in Indonesia on 11 November 1911 basically for facing domestic and commercial competition issues involving China.  In its peak period, namely between 1916 and 1921, Sarekat summoned a number of ‘national’ congresses in the attempt to spread the idea of nationalism and the struggle for independence against the Dutch rule. In the mind of its founding fathers, Islam as a religious belief played a pedagogical role as the “preacher of democratic ideas” and the “religion for the spiritual education of the people”. Sarekat had a liberal approach to religious and political matters: promotion of civil rights, separation between state and religious matters, rejection of racial domination, freedoms and equal rights of all citizens, need for social and educational reforms.[19] On the one hand, this political programme, largely influenced by  European socialist ideas, gained popular support even outside the Islam community and it was on the basis of several strikes and boycotts.[20]  On the other hand, penetration of Communist ideas represented a destabilizing element within a party which had adopted Islam as its main basis for unity. This change brought about a split of the Sarekat Islam in 1921 in two smaller groups, the pro-Communist and the anti-Communist.[21]

As a result, the Islamic branch adopted in the same year the so-called ‘Basic Principles of the Sarekat Islam’, which emphasized Islam as the unique source and inspiration for its policies and activities, without losing neither the major objective of national independence nor its original egalitarian vocation: “Complete national independence [was] a condition for the full realization of Islamic ideals, assuming that power is in the hands of the Muslims”. In addition, the party “aimed at the creation of a democratic government … in an Islamic state”, and it recognized and guaranteed “individual initiative in the economic field” and “the equality of (Muslim) men and women and the equality of husband and wife”[22] In comparison with other Islamic political parties working in those years, the above-mentioned principles and the role of the Quran as its main conceptual framework, make the Sarekat party one of the most astounding example of the large diversity of Islamic mass-movements existing in the interwar period, which were all deeply affected by the spread of new ideologies (such as Socialism and Communism) and by the resilience of older and unresolved colonial issues.


The Pan-Islamic mass-movements so far analyzed show a great deal of different features while threads which connect them together are the call to Islam as a universal religion and the need for national independences. Interwar years were undoubtedly characterized by social tensions, turmoil, revolutions and political unrests all over the world but, according to the religious and peculiar political issues, such revolts took different shapes. The recovery of the Pan-Islam ideology by mass-movements’ leaders was a political choice rather than a religious one, promoted in order to claim their instances against colonial rulers more effectively. In addition, calling for an Islamic unity helped these leaders to obtain a massive and unprecedented popular support. Finally, the declining trajectory of such movements could be explained looking at basic misunderstandings, as for the Khilafat movement, or just by political repressions, as in the cases of Muslim Brotherhood and Serakat: all the movements taken into account weren’t able to pursue their original political aims because they lacked real and effective political power to impose their willingness in the contest in which they operated.

Conversely, each of them was able to promote unprecedented political awareness and participation among their supporters and to recognize and using Islam as a powerful driver in international politics: all elements that would be extremely useful to the next generations of Islamic leaders.

[toggle title=”Citations & Bibliography”]

[1] Sidel, John. Class Lecture. Pan-Islamism, the Caliphate, and New Islamic Movements, LSE, London, 3 November 2011.

[2] Adeeb Khalid, “Pan-Islamism in Pratice: The Rhetoric of Muslim Unity and its Uses,” in Elizabeth Özdalga (ed.), Late Ottoman Society: The Intellectual Legacy (London: Routledge Curzon, 2005), pp. 202 and 207.

[3] As Moaddel reports, the most affected countries by the expansion of Islamic modernism were under the direct colonial rule of Great Britain (a Western power): namely Egypt and India. Mansoor Moaddel, Islamic Modernism, Nationalism and Fundamentalism: Episode and Discourse (Chicago University Press, 2005), p. 27.

[4] Nikki R. Keddie, “The Origins of the Religious-Radical Alliance in Iran,” Past and Present 34 (July 1966), p. 75.

[5] Sidel, John. Class Lecture. Pan-Islamism, the Caliphate, and New Islamic Movements, LSE, London, 3 November 2011.

[6] Azmi Ozcan, Pan-Islamism: Indian Muslims, the Ottomans and Britain, 1877 – 1924 (Leiden: Brill, 1997), p. 186.

[7] Jacob Landau, “Turkey Opts Out, while India’s Muslims Get Involved”, in The Politics of Pan-Islam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), p. 203.

[8] Hamza Alavi, “Ironies of History: Contradictions of the Khilafat Movement”, Comparative Studies in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Volume 17, Number 1 (1997), p. 1.

[9] Azmi Ozcan, p. 191.

[10] Azmi Ozcan, p. 202.

[11] Hamza Alavi, p. 11.

[12] Jacob Landau, p. 213.

[13] Mansoor Moaddel, p. 197.

[14] Brynjar Lia, The Society of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt: The Rise of an Islamic Mass Movement, 1928 – 1982 (Reading: Ithaca Press, 1998), p. 72.

[15] Lia describes this new approach in referring to an idea of “Islam applied”, p. 74.

[16] Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Islam in Modern History, (Princeton University Press, 1957), p. 157

[17] Mansoor Moaddel, p. 216.

[18] Brynjar Lia, p. 286.

[19] Deliar Noer, The Modernist Muslim Movement in Indonesia, 1900 – 1942 (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1973), p. 113.

[20] Sidel, John. Class Lecture. Pan-Islamism, the Caliphate, and New Islamic Movements, LSE, London, 3 November 2011.

[21] Deliar Noer, p. 126.

[22] Deliar Noer, pp. 140 – 141.


Adeeb Khalid, “Pan-Islamism in Pratice: The Rhetoric of Muslim Unity and its Uses,” in Elizabeth Özdalga (ed.), Late Ottoman Society: The Intellectual Legacy (London: Routledge Curzon, 2005)

Azmi Ozcan, Pan-Islamism: Indian Muslims, the Ottomans and Britain, 1877 – 1924 (Leiden: Brill, 1997)

Brynjar Lia, The Society of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt: The Rise of an Islamic Mass Movement, 1928 – 1982 (Reading: Ithaca Press, 1998)

Deliar Noer, The Modernist Muslim Movement in Indonesia, 1900 – 1942 (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1973)

Hamza Alavi, “Ironies of History: Contradictions of the Khilafat Movement”, Comparative Studies in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Volume 17, Number 1 (1997)

Jacob Landau, “Turkey Opts Out, while India’s Muslims Get Involved”, in The Politics of Pan-Islam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994)

Mansoor Moaddel, Islamic Modernism, Nationalism and Fundamentalism: Episode and Discourse (Chicago University Press, 2005)

Nikki R. Keddie, “The Origins of the Religious-Radical Alliance in Iran,” Past and Present 34 (July 1966)

Sidel, John. Class Lecture. Pan-Islamism, the Caliphate, and New Islamic Movements, LSE, London, 3 November 2011.

Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Islam in Modern History, (Princeton University Press, 1957)

Security & Multicultural Integration In The UK: A Conflation Of Agendas

The UK’s approach to multiculturalism has contributed to homegrown Islamist terrorism in the UK. Do you agree?
{Department of War Studies, King’s College London}


Mohammed Siddique Khan


This essay forms part of our series on multiculturalism.


There is a terrorist threat in the United Kingdom (UK) that comes not just from foreign nationals, but also from its own citizens.[1]  In an attempt to understand and counter this threat there has been a conflation of the integration and counterterrorism agendas, this has resulted in multiculturalism being identified as the barrier to both.[2]  The assertion that multiculturalism has contributed to homegrown terrorism in the UK is incomplete and simplifies the complex process of radicalisation and how that might translate into violent action.  Multiculturalism may create an environment that is favorable to the development of risk factors associated with radicalisation, namely a crisis in identity leading to the adoption of extremist ideology; but this does not fully consider relevant social drivers.  Also, it cannot be empirically shown that holding radical views will necessarily lead to committing or supporting acts of terrorism.

Multiculturalism means that ethnic minority groups require unique treatment and support from the state in order to fully exercise their citizenship.[3]  In the case of the UK, the policies which shaped multiculturalism came out of the 1960s when there was a realisation that many immigrants who had initially come to Britain for work did not plan on returning to their countries of origin.[4]  These policies were further developed in the wake of the 1981 riots, focusing on the needs of specific ethnic groups and moving towards a more racially equitable society.[5]  In recent years there has been significant criticism of multiculturalism in the UK, some have argued that it has decreased cross cultural dialogue and that it has driven communities to live separate lives from one another.[6]  These recent criticisms have also taken the form of security concerns, as articulated by Prime Minister David Cameron, who has argued that a lack of national identity in the UK has opened the door to extremism for young Muslims.[7]

The revised Prevent Strategy, the UK’s community based approach to stopping extremism, is critical of multiculturalism, placing an emphasis on integration, democratic participation, and greater dialogue between communities as essential in fighting extremism.[8]  This assessment makes a significant assumption that the key to fighting terrorism is a strong, common identity.  There is evidence to suggest that an identity crisis can serve as a cognitive opening for individuals to embrace extremist ideology. Many young Muslims in Europe, who are second or third generation, may feel alienated from their parents traditional values but also do not feel welcome in Western societies because of perceived discrimination and socioeconomic disadvantage. [9]  The move towards extremism by young British Muslims is a rejection not only of perceived British or Western culture and values, but a rejection of previously held community values represented by their parents and traditional religious institutions.[10]  The concept of the ummah, or global Muslim community, promoted by Islamists, offers an alternative identity to both the world of their parents and Western society.[11]  The key point, missed by critics of multiculturalism, is that the global ummah is a foreign concept and external force to the communities comprised of ethnic minorities, which multiculturalism supports.  While there are mosques in the UK that have been connected with terrorism,[12] there are also examples of minority ethnic communities showing resilience against extremist views and violence, showing the capacity for self-policing.  The 7/7 bombers were expelled from mosques,[13] and reformed Islamist, Ed Husain, reflects on similar experiences when he was trying to propagate extremist views as a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, in the ethnically Bangladeshi, East London Mosque.[14]  Extreme elements that may exist within a mosque often times have little to do with the officially hierarchy, they are outside elements who are operating under the radar of mosque administration.[15]  It would seem then that the problem is not with the existence of distinct ethnic communities under multiculturalism, but with the capacity of leadership within those communities to confront extremist elements.

Linking multiculturalism to terrorism also looks to ideology as being an important factor contributing to moves towards violent extremism.  Critics of multiculturalism argue that even non-violent extremism can create an atmosphere that supports terrorism and can popularise ideas that terrorists use.[16]  However, to be radical is to reject the status quo of society; this does not always mean violence.[17]  It would be incorrect to think of the radicalisation process as a neat, linear progression from an identity crisis, leading to the adoption of extremist ideology, leading directly to participation in acts of terrorism. In fact, a major debate is whether groups that promote non-violent radical ideas are one stop on a conveyor belt towards terrorism or whether they serve as a firewall or safety-valve, preventing moves towards violence.[18]  Associating homegrown terrorism with multiculturalism misses this critical link, the connection between radicalisation and terrorism.  In comparing these two distinct groups, non-violent radicals and terrorist, there is evidence that both aspire to some of the same ideological points, the concept of kuffar (non-believers), the goals of a Caliphate and Sharia law, exposure to and promotion of similar texts and thinkers, and a belief that violent jihad can be justified.[19]  Ideological differences in these groups are related to context in which religious points are understood.[20]  Perceived discrimination, which could create a cognitive opening for extremist views to take hold,[21] could be a factor in a divided, multicultural society.  However, non-violent radicals and terrorists also experience the same levels of perceived discrimination.[22]  Even if multiculturalism creates an environment which supports the adoption of extremist ideology it still cannot be shown that ideology will necessarily translate into action.

A focus simply on identity and ideology also ignores the social factors that have been shown to play a role in for individuals pursuing terrorism.  The 7/7 bombers were all seemingly well integrated members of British society.  Mohammed Sidique Kahn, the group’s leader, grew up in a religiously lenient household and married a non-Muslim woman.[23]  All of the group’s members experienced alienation and an identity crisis; however their move towards violence did not occur until after they came together.[24]  Groups are helpful in ensuring prospective terrorists that their choice is the correct one.[25]  Supporting acts of terrorism carries significant risk; before someone takes part in such action social relationships are very important.[26]  Social networks present the opportunity for ideas to be translated into action.[27]  Many radicalised individuals watch extremist videos depicting graphic and violent content, but the difference between terrorists is that they often watch those videos in groups ‘creating a culture of violence.’[28]  Other social factors such as personal experiences, friendship, and group dynamics also play a role in influencing an individual to pursue acts of terrorism.[29]  Older men, who speak Arabic and may claim to have links to the global jihad, may be influential over younger, second or third generation Muslims, who have limited knowledge of Islam.[30]  Factors, including an emotional pull, thrill seeking, status and an internal code of honour, and peer pressure might be responsible for the non-violent to violent link.[31]  Furthermore, even if an individual is socialised to commit acts of violence, there is no guarantee that violence means terrorism.[32]

Multiculturalism is a controversial policy in the center of public debate.  Policy makers should have rigorous discussions about what is best for the UK moving forward concerning issues of integration and social cohesion.  There may be many valuable reasons for the pursuit of a stronger British national identity and the reform or elimination of multiculturalism as policy; however what must be avoided is a conflation of the two distinct agendas of integration and counterterrorism.  It cannot be empirically shown that there is a link between multiculturalism and homegrown terrorism.  There are many factors that may contribute to radicalisation, some influenced by multiculturalism; identity and ideology, and some not: social factors.  Even if some factors can be shown to influence radicalisation, radicalisation does not mean violence, and violence does not mean terrorism.

[toggle title=”Citations & Bibliography”]

[1]            HM Government (2011), p. 1

[2]            Meer & Modood (2009), p. 481

[3]            Ibid., p. 479

[4]            Brighton (2007), pp. 5-6

[5]            Thomas (2009), p. 285

[6]            Cantel (2001), p. 9

[7]            ‘State multiculturalism has failed, says David Cameron’,, 9 March 2012

[8]            HM Government (2011), p. 27

[9]            Helmus (2009), p. 81

[10]            Neumann & Rogers (2007), p. 16

[11]            Daalgard-Nielsen (2010), p. 800

[12]            ‘Profile: Abu Hamza’,, 16 March 2012

[13]            Kirby (2007), p. 418

[14]            Husain (2007), p. 115

[15]            HM Government (2006), p. 31

[16]            ‘New Prevent strategy launched’,, 16 March 2012

[17]            Bartlett & Miller (2012), p. 2

[18]            Vidino (2010), p. 7

[19]            Bartlett & Miller (2012), pp. 10-12

[20]            Ibid., p. 10.

[21]            Wiktorowicz (no date), pp. 7-8

[22]            Bartlett & Miller (2012), p. 8

[23]            Kirby (2007), p. 417

[24]            Ibid., p. 423

[25]            Helmus (2009), p. 96

[26]            Wiktorowicz (no date), p. 5

[27]            della Porta & Diani (2006), p. 119

[28]            Bartlett & Miller (2012), p. 14.

[29]            European Commission’s Expert Group on Violent Radicalisation (2008), p. 9

[30]            Sageman (2008), p. 79

[31]            Bartlett & Miller (2012), p. 13

[32]            European Commission’s Expert Group on Violent Radicalisation (2008), p. 5



Bartlett, Jamie & Miller, Carl (2012), ‘The Edge of Violence: Towards Telling the Difference Between Violent and Non-Violent Radicalization’, Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 1-21

Brighton, Shane (2007), ‘British Muslims, multiculturalism and UK foreign policy: “integration” and “cohesion” in and beyond the state’, International Affairs, Vol. 83, No. 1, pp. 1-17

Cantel, Ted (2001), Community Cohesion: A Report of the Independent Review Team, (London: Home Office),, 9 March 2012

Daalgard-Nielsen, Anja (2010), ‘Violent Radicalisation in Europe: What We Know and What We Do Not Know’, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, Vol. 33, No. 9, pp. 797-814

della Porta, Donatella & Diani, Mario (2006), Social Movements: An Introduction, 2nd ed., (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing)

European Commission’s Expert Group on Violent Radicalisation (2008), Radicalisation Processes Leading to Acts of Terrorism, (Brussels & Luxembourg: European Commission),, 19 March 2012

Helmus, Todd (2009), ‘Why and How Some People Become Terrorists’, in Paul K. Davis and Kim Cragin, eds., Social Science for Counterterrorism: Putting the Pieces Together, (Santa Monica: RAND Corporation), pp. 71-111,, 19 March 2012

HM Government (2011), Prevent Strategy, (London: Home Office),, 9 March 2012

HM Government (2006), Report of the Official Account of the Bombings in London on 7th July 2005, (London: Home Office),, 17 March 2012

Husain, Ed (2007), The Islamist, (London: Penguin Books)

Kirby, Aidan (2007), ‘The London Bombers as “Self Starters”: A Case Study in Indigenous Radicalization and the Emergence of Autonomous Cliques’, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, Vol. 30, No. 5, pp. 415-428.

Meer, Nasar & Modood, Tariq (2009), ‘The Multicultural State We’re In: Muslims, “Multiculture” and the “Civic Re-balancing” of British Multiculturalism’, Political Studies, Vol. 57, pp. 473-497

Neumann, Peter & Rogers, Brooke (2007), Recruitment and Mobilisation for the Islamist Militant Movement in Europe, (London: International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation),, 19 March 2012

Sageman, Marc (2008), Leaderless JihadTerror Networks in the Twenty-First Century, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press)

Thomas, Paul (2009), ‘Between Two Stools? The Governments “Preventing Violent Extremism” Agenda’, Political Quarterly, Vol. 80, No. 2, pp. 282-291

Vidino, Lorenzo (2010), Countering Radicalization in America: Lessons from Europe, (Washington: United States Institute of Peace),, 18 March 2012

Wiktorowicz, Quintan (no date), Joining the Cause: al-Muhajiroun and Radical Islam (Rhodes College research paper),, 19 March 2012



#6: Iranian Earthquake

[nggallery id=6]

“I picked this photo because it captures both the dusty chaos of the earthquake’s aftermath, and an up close still image of the individual pain it caused.”
Torie Rose DeGhett (@trdeghett)

#6: A woman mourns as rescue teams search for victims in Varzaqan in the East Azerbaijan province on August 12, 2012.
Credit: Arash Khamooshi/ISNA/Reuters via

Colombian Mining: A Story Of Corruption, Violence & Wasted Potential

At a time of industrial dispute and further protests by Green Environmentalists, the Colombian mining industry is once again left frustrated. For the sake of so many in this nation of unstable economic growth, talks between the Unions and FENOCO must go ahead and they must reach an agreement. 


colombian mining


Colombia is now into its third week of strikes as a result of disputes between workers at FENOCO, Colombia’s main coal transporting railway, and their bosses. Colombia’s Labour Minister has called on both sides to attend talks and work out a way to end the impasse that has so far resulted in Colombia losing $1.2 million a day in royalties.

The strike, which began on July 23rd, was caused by coal workers at FENOCO demanding better working and pay conditions. There is also a demand by the Trade Union leaders for workers laid off in 2009 after a similar strike, to be reinstated.

One of FENOCO’s shareholders, Drummond International a US-based mining company, have already announced that it has run out of stock and has been forced to cancel coal cargoes coming from Colombian mines. Sources close to the Unions state that Drummond International, a partial owner of FENOCO, has ‘’changed the working hours of staff unilaterally, violating labour standards, in an attempt not to pay out full wages to workers at the train company’’. There have also been reports of death threats against national and regional Union leaders of the mining industries.

Colombia is currently the world’s fourth largest producer of coal, transporting cargo to the main export ports on the country’s Caribbean coast along FENOCO’s 226km rail line. Drummond International has already declared ‘Force Majeure’ on a case by case basis which allows buyers and sellers of coal to renege on previous contracts due to ‘situations beyond their control’.

Colombian mining has historically been a story of untapped potential. Despite vast resources along the country’s northern regions, the industry in total makes up about 2.4% of GDP. During the 1990’s and the early 2000’s, foreign investors were put off by Colombia’s instability, resulting from civil war and high levels of corruption. President Alvaro Uribe, as part of a nationwide clean up of Colombian politics and civil society, made investment more attractive by eliminating large parts of Colombia’s FARC terrorists and incentivised companies to bid for mining contracts and introduced tax breaks to help the industry grow.

In many ways, this plan worked too well. The Colombian state was inundated with applications by low level companies whilst a lot of the larger contracts went to a select few multinationals. Colombia would yet again experience irritation as its government struggled to cope with the high demand leading to current President Juan Manuel Santos refusing to accept any more applications and removing a lot of the incentives introduced by his predecessor. His government would review all pending requests, rejecting over 90% of them and withdraw any contracts which were not already covered for financially by the firms involved. The new national Colombian mining agency began accepting new applications on August 3rd and will aim to re-install the incentives which will hopefully make the industry grow again.

As with most debates in Colombia at the moment, the issues extend in some way to the great security debate and what to do about finally ending the government’s war with the FARC. A major factor, as already stated, in giving life to the dormant Colombian mining industry was the partial elimination of the essentially causeless rebels and the reassurance that Colombia’s government were in an adequate position to protect the interests of foreign investors and to increase employment levels. Now, supporters of the former President are left baffled that Santos is moving ever forward with his ‘obsession’ to leave Colombia in a state of complete peace after his term comes to an end.

The FARC are more akin to a dagger in the heart, rather than a thorn in the side of the Colombian economy. The country is also South America’s third largest producer of oil but successive targeted attacks on oil pipelines have resulted in huge financial losses to the industry and put oil workers at serious risk. There were 40 attacks last year in total by FARC and they have continued in a similar vein this year, conducting the coordinated bombing of two different sections of the 770-kilometre Caño Limon, the country’s second-largest oil pipeline.

In theory, Santos’s plan to introduce partial amnesty to FARC fighters will give the rebels a reason to enter into talks after decades of fighting. It is a much more enticing prospect than prison, they argue. On the day of a congressional vote on the proposed amendment to policy, a series of car bombs struck parts of the capital, Bogota. Uribe tweeted that ‘Bogota is covered in blood on the day that government is pressing Congress to approve impunity for heinous crimes’

The mining debate has gripped Colombia and has led to serious disagreements at the top level of government, acting as yet another threat to the future of the ruling coalition. At a time of industrial dispute and further protests by Green Environmentalists, the Colombian mining industry is once again left frustrated. For the sake of so many in this nation of unstable economic growth, talks between the Unions and FENOCO must go ahead and they must reach an agreement. South America may be rich with resources, but numerous recent developments have meant that for the rest of the Western World, finding a friendly government to do business with has been tricky. Colombia has the potential to fill that gap, if only circumstance would allow it.