Foreign Policy

US should work to strengthen relations with Azerbaijan

The violence plaguing the Arab world should move U.S. policy makers, decision makers and experts to consider how and why the U.S. should strengthen stable, pro-American governments in Muslim countries against internal or external threats.  Azerbaijan exemplifies such states. Though it is still an emerging democracy, born from the shadows of the Soviet Union, it has stood squarely with the U.S. against terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq, Central Asia and throughout the world, all at considerable risk to itself.


A nuclear nightmare

Halloween is a time for scary tales and horror movies. It is appropriate, then, that this Halloween falls just after the 50th anniversary of one of the most terrifying real-life horror stories of all time: The Cuban Missile Crisis.

The crisis began on October 16, 1962, when photographs taken by an American U-2 spy plane exposed the secret construction of Soviet nuclear missile sites in Cuba. It was the ultimate trick or treat, with the emphasis on trick.


Navy's Fifth Fleet key to stability in Gulf, Bahrain

As violence continues to reverberate throughout the Arab world, the presence of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet headquartered in Bahrain remains vital to the security of the Arabian Gulf, and to energy delivery and economic stability there.

The murders of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans, are grim reminders of how fragile the Middle East is and how dangerous it is for our diplomats, our military and all Americans in countries where these demonstrations continue to spread.


Missing debate over redlines for Iran

Monday night’s foreign policy debate was supposed to provide a contrast between two competing visions about America’s role in the world, the path forward in the Middle East, and the 21st century threats over the horizon. 

At the core of the debate was the question of American policy towards Iran – a country mentioned 40 times by both candidates – with an entire segment devoted to discussing “Redlines - Israel and Iran.” This topic - so hotly debated in Washington, Jerusalem, and at the United Nations General Assembly over the past several months - was designed to clarify the differences between Governor Romney and President Obama on their vision for handling the thorniest foreign policy issue of the day.


Candidates ignore plight of Palestinians

As a Palestinian-American, I awaited the presidential debate on foreign policy with anticipation, given the massive U.S. military footprint in the region of my birth.
I confess to being torn in my attitude to the candidates. From a Palestinian perspective, I know there is little difference: Neither would take effective steps to end Israel’s 45-year occupation, challenge its illegal building of settlements, or shake its draconian hold on Jerusalem.


Syrian refugees face a difficult winter

When you think of getting ready for winter in D.C., it seems straightforward enough: you pull out a heavier coat, a hat and gloves; throw a comforter on the bed; and set the climate control to 68 degrees. Quick and simple, right? But for the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who are receiving humanitarian assistance, winter is a much more ominous prospect.


Obama and Romney need to confront, solve Israeli-Palestinian divisions

I was born and raised in Jerusalem. Most of my work colleagues are Jewish, and despite the growing tension between Jews and Palestinians in Israel, years of working together have made us quite close. I speak Hebrew fluently, as well as my native Arabic, and I have always engaged my Jewish acquaintances with the same openness and respect I would give to anyone else.

At the annual employee appreciation party for the upscale Jerusalem hotel where I work as an accounts representative, one of my Jewish colleagues, a good friend, had too much to drink. She asked another co-worker and me to give her a ride home. When we arrived at the apartment she shares with her family, she assured us that she would be able to continue on her own. But when she exited the car, she promptly lost her balance. As we got out to help her, a group of nine Israeli-Jewish teenagers approached us and asked what was going on. We responded in Hebrew that everything was fine so they began to walk away.  With a look of concern, my friend turned to speak to me. “Ibrahim,” she said, less quietly than intended, “leave them be.”

Today I know that if my name had been Avraham, and not Ibrahim, I would not have been attacked that night several weeks ago. Ibrahim is the Arabic version for the Bible’s Avraham. Nowadays, however, instead of hearing the slight variation in pronunciation, people hear Palestinian, or Jewish. And, within seconds after my friend uttered my name, I felt the pressure of a hand grab my shoulder, as eight other men joined in pummeling my body. One of my attackers struck my left leg with a heavy iron rod, shattering the bone and sending me to the ground. I remember trying to protect my face, while I faded in and out of consciousness.

I had nine pins and one metal plate surgically embedded into my leg to help it become whole again. During the period I was hospitalized, my mother visited me as often as she could. I needed and wanted her to be with me, yet a deep sense of fear engulfed me every time I knew she would come to the hospital. Would my mother be attacked? Would others hurt her simply because she is Palestinian?

This fear is new to me. One month ago I would have told my younger sisters to make as many Jewish friends as possible, to understand and experience the lives of others and to share their own lives. But I love them and I care about their safety, and I can no longer encourage them to be anything but cautious.

Israel’s political leadership speaks about Palestinians as an unfortunate demographic reality, at best, and a military threat at worst. Several recent, highly visible attacks against Palestinians, including my own, have resulted in criminal investigations and indictments, though many do not. The situation is worse in the West Bank, where almost 90 percent of cases involving Jewish settler violence against Palestinians are dropped without prosecution. Settlers move between the West Bank, Israel, and West Jerusalem with ease; we shall soon see whether West Bank impunity does too.

Those who attacked me are victims of this environment.  I cannot hate them. They need rehabilitation, not punishment, and the same is true of our shared society.

I am now physically recovering. I will eventually return to my job and work side-by-side with my Palestinian and Israeli-Jewish colleagues. I realize now, however, that we are facing a much greater threat than fear of what happened to me weeks ago, and what could happen again. The threat emanates from the power of hatred, incitement, and the intolerance that is permeating Israeli society at a rapid pace.

Public statements issued by Israeli officials affirming that attacks on Palestinians qualify as terrorism are not enough. As long as Palestinians, the indigenous people of the land, continue to be cast as intruders, often by politicians and religious leaders, the number and severity of attacks will increase. The leaders of Jewish-Israeli society, and those outside of Israel who influence them, must recognize, appreciate, and affirm that we Palestinians are here to stay and not going anywhere. This land is big enough for all of us provided equal rights are extended to all.

The American presidential candidates, however, appear oblivious to the discrimination Palestinians face and the dual system of law -- what some are now calling Israeli apartheid -- that exists here. President Obama and Gov. Romney are willing to talk about Iran and Israel, but are content to put Palestinians, our rights, and our freedom, on the back burner. They talk about Egypt, Libya, and Syria and how to liberate them, but overlook that our oppression by Israel is one of the central problems gripping the Middle East today. The candidates should discuss the Israeli occupation and colonization of our land at this week's foreign policy debate in Boca Raton.

Abu-Ta'a is a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem.


Creating new standards of ethics for modern day warfare

If the recent breathtaking advances in communications and technology have changed our patterns of courtship (think Facebook, Twitter and Google ), they have changed even more dramatically how we fight wars today and how we will fight in the near future. Long gone are the days when one uniformed army squared off against another, when you could easily tell the combatant from the non-threatening civilian, and when the battlefield was clearly demarcated from residential neighborhoods and municipal public spaces. Non-state actors like al-Qaeda and Hamas, private militias and suicide bombers as well as lethal drones, car bombs and IED’s have changed who makes war today and how it is conducted.


Congress, the Taliban and money

The war in Afghanistan is winding down. Now comes the hard part.

Two weeks remain in the campaign for the presidency, and foreign policy will be in full view. Tonight's debate will focus on foreign affairs, and Afghanistan is sure to play a central role in these discussions. The big question surrounding everything will be: What next?


Crimes against humanity in South Kordofan and Blue Nile

The government of Sudan continues to carry out indiscriminate attacks and bombardment against civilian populations, block humanitarian aid, and commit other inhumane acts against its own people. This should not come as news to the U.S. government and the international community. But as the government of Sudan’s assault against its own civilians in the southern states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile drags into a second year, powerful new evidence of Khartoum’s brutality continues to emerge, demanding that the international community act immediately to protect hundreds of thousands of vulnerable civilians.

This week, the Enough Project released two reports containing stark evidence of the government of Sudan’s perpetration of crimes against humanity in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The reports reveal the depravity with which Khartoum’s security forces operate and demonstrate the rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the two states.