There is no ‘silver bullet to defeat extremism,’ says Whispered in Gaza creator Joseph Braude on Hamas oppression of enclave’s civilians

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Updated 05 February 2023

There is no ‘silver bullet to defeat extremism,’ says Whispered in Gaza creator Joseph Braude on Hamas oppression of enclave’s civilians

There is no ‘silver bullet to defeat extremism,’ says Whispered in Gaza creator Joseph Braude on Hamas oppression of enclave’s civilians
  • Iran’s obsession with dominance both at home and in the region endangers many globally, says Braude
  • Braude spoke with “Frankly Speaking” following the release of a series of stories from the Gaza Strip

LONDON: As Hamas maintains a tight communication blockade across the Gaza Strip, people under the authoritarian rule of the Iran-sponsored militia feel desperate for a platform to share their ordeal. 

“There have been a lot of attempts by Gazans on their own, acting with great courage, to contact the outside world through social media and so on, that have come to nothing because Hamas suppresses them. So, we wanted to find a creative way to build a platform for them. And we found a way to do it using technology and animation and so on,” Joseph Braude, president of the US-based Center for Peace Communications, said on Arab News’ “Frankly Speaking.” 

In January, CPC released a number of accounts describing life in Gaza under Hamas rule. The 25-story series, entitled “Whispered in Gaza,” was published on multiple media outlets in at least five languages — Arabic, English, French, Farsi and Spanish.

Members of the Hamas security forces show their skills in a drill held during a graduation ceremony in Gaza City on October 31, 2022. (AFP)

Appearing on the flagship current affairs talk show, Braude said: “The nature of the incidents that are being described is very widespread in Gaza. The stories of flight by sea, the stories of racketeering and the shaking down of small-time merchants by Hamas, and so on.

“So, these are widespread phenomena and what you are seeing, including the opinions that are being described, are wholly in line with the findings of all of those polls and journalists and human rights investigators that do their work.”

The diverse accounts detail the various oppression and repression techniques employed by Hamas to stifle anyone who challenges the status quo, raising concerns about going on record or speaking with foreign media and organizations. 

“Some of the speakers, by their own accounts, as you see in the video, previously were jailed by Hamas for doing exactly what they were doing when they spoke to us: trying to tell their stories to the outside world,” Braude told “Frankly Speaking” host Katie Jensen. 

Joseph Braude, president of the US-based Center for Peace Communications (CPC), appears on Arab News’ “Frankly Speaking” talk show. (Screenshot)

He added: “We committed to them that we would not show their faces and that we would technologically alter their voices so that there would be a measure of anonymity provided to them. 

“So, on the one hand, the stories are being told without their faces shown, which they might have done in the past. On the other hand, they are reaching a much larger audience because the tragedy of this communications blockade by Hamas is that they’ve been successful in taking down content that Gazans attempt to put up.

“But here, we have built a substantial distribution channel on four continents, and the material is everywhere. It proliferates and it is impossible to take it down, even though Hamas has tried.”  

CPC shared a tweet on Jan. 24 stating that days after the series’ launch, “it was swarmed by pro-Hamas accounts” attacking the project. In the Twitter thread, CPC wrote that a user accused one of the Gazan speakers “of being an intelligence officer.”

Supporters of the Palestinian Hamas movement demonstrate in Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip on October 21, 2022, against Israel. (AFP)

Braude said that this Twitter attack “shows that Hamas doesn’t want these voices to be heard,” accusing the movement of “attempting to globalize” their “repression of free expression” and “suppress global free expression.” 

He highlighted that the real danger, which affects many beyond Gaza’s borders, is posed by Iran and its proxies, including Hamas. 

Hamas has been supported by the Iranian regime since the 1990s, when 418 leading Hamas figures were deported to Lebanon by Israel and started cooperating with the Iran-backed Hezbollah, according to the Washington Institute. 

“Everybody is in danger from these groups,” Braude said. “They are persecuted and the first victims are the people who live under their rule.

A Palestinian youth collects plastic and iron from a landfill in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, on January 17, 2022. (AFP)

“I don’t even really know how to describe a situation that is so broad,” he continued, underlining that many people are “endangered” by “Iran’s attempts to maintain its dominance both of its own country and of large portions of the region.”

Braude added: “That is why you are seeing it in Iran, (and) you are seeing it in Gaza now: People want something different. They want a better future. They want security as well and stability.” 

With over 80 percent of people in the coastal strip living below the poverty line and 64 percent currently food insecure, as per figures from the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, an increasing number of Gazans drown at sea fleeing the conflict-ridden territory in the quest for better lives.

Meanwhile, high-profile Hamas leaders lead luxurious lives abroad and retreat to ritzy hotels in Beirut and Istanbul, where they also own profitable real estate businesses, AFP reported last month. 

Arab News’ “Frankly Speaking” talk show host Katie Jenson. (Screenshot)

Concurring that the lavish lifestyle Hamas leaders enjoy has stirred resentment among Gazans, Braude pointed out that Hamas’ growing image problem due to economic disparities has emerged in several of the recorded testimonies. 

“While the majority of Gazans are denied access to the aid and support that comes in from multiple sources in the world, the Hamas leadership and their families and the small circle of elites that surround them are living in the lap of luxury,” he said. 

“So, yeah, it’s not bad to live in Gaza if you are a stalwart of Hamas, particularly at the leadership level.” 

Emphasizing the importance of the world joining forces to put an end to these injustices, Braude said he hoped the 25 testimonies would start “a new conversation” by introducing policymakers and world leaders to “a new way of thinking about the realities, more and greater understanding of what people want in Gaza, how people feel about those who control their Strip.” 

He argued that such creative endeavors have the potential to empower many Gazans, eventually and hopefully enabling “the educational conditions to improve (and) information to travel more freely.”

Braude urged the world “not to wait until the ongoing military stalemate is resolved” and to instead “find answers now, to find steps that can be taken now” and harness “the tools that the 21st century has brought to the world,” as he sees “no end in sight” to the current dire situation in Gaza. 

“And so, we hope we’re starting a new conversation,” he said. 

However, Israeli forces have been for decades committing systematic human rights violations against Palestinians, including minors, according to Amnesty International, which pointed out on June 17, 2022, that “some 170 Palestinians currently imprisoned were arrested when they were children.”

Amnesty International also condemned Israel for the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on May 11, 2022. 

Asked if he condemned Israel’s human rights violations, Braude responded: “There are quite a few people in this series who say, forthrightly, that they were in favor of the first and the second intifadas, but fault Hamas for going on to start wars with Israel that it could not win and then hide in bunkers and leave civilians to suffer the casualties.” 

Citing one of the testimonies by a man who refused to let Hamas dictate how he resists the Israeli occupation, Braude said: “Hamas — by launching wars, provoking reactions that cause civilian casualties but…do not advance the Palestinian cause — is forcing people to go by its playbook.” 

He also said he believed it was possible to ignite real action by starting a conversation, stressing that “nonviolent expression is ultimately the most powerful tool that humanity has in order to advance justice, peace and the well-being of all peoples.” 

Nevertheless, Braude pointed out that there were “no immediate solutions for the tragedy that is being portrayed here, and we are under no illusions about that.

“We are not suggesting that there is any sort of a silver bullet to defeat extremism, to end stale forms of thinking and so on,” he continued. “I think that at most we achieve a ripple effect that, as I’ve said, affects the vocabulary of the discussion, that stimulates new forms of creative thinking by multiple parties and elements within, without and so on.” 

Braude told “Frankly Speaking” that “Whispered in Gaza” was “only the beginning of an ongoing project.” 

He said: “Whenever we launch an initiative … we take time and we look at what it achieved. We try to draw lessons and to innovate, always to build on successes and learn from whatever lessons emerged. So that is what we are looking at right now. And, of course, we are going to do more.”


Jordan witnessing evolution in political modernization: Hanns Seidel official

Jordan witnessing evolution in political modernization: Hanns Seidel official
Updated 11 sec ago

Jordan witnessing evolution in political modernization: Hanns Seidel official

Jordan witnessing evolution in political modernization: Hanns Seidel official
  • Modern legislation allows youngsters to participate, says regional representative Christoph Dewartz
  • Goals are in line with the objectives of the government in strengthening the role of women, youth in public work

AMMAN: Jordan is witnessing a remarkable transformation in its modernization of the political system, a Hanns Seidel Foundation official said on Friday.
Christoph Dewartz, the regional representative of the HSF’s Jordan office, said: “The country is moving toward the goals set to enhance the role of youth and women in partisan and political participation.”
He told the Jordan News Agency that the country’s legislation allowed people to participate in a way that moved civil society toward the future it wants, while giving it new impetus to face challenges.
The HSF, which is a political research foundation, has been committed to its fundamental philosophy of “serving democracy, peace and development,” since its formation in 1966.
Dewartz told Petra that the HSF and the Jordanian government both wanted to increase and strengthen the participation of women and youth in public work.
He added that this would be through programs implemented by the foundation in partnership with the government and CSOs.
He said: “[The] HSF sought to achieve the recommendations of the Royal Commission to reform the political system, since it established several programs and projects to educate Jordanians about the new partisan laws and the need to participate in decision making and policies.”
The foundation has supported the training of 4,500 public officials and youths on the subjects of good governance, integrity and combating corruption.
Dewartz added that next month the foundation will launch the She Can project, which aims to create a national pressure platform for women in remote areas of Jordan.

Scientists show Syrian rubble safe to use in new concrete buildings

Scientists show Syrian rubble safe to use in new concrete buildings
Updated 13 min 26 sec ago

Scientists show Syrian rubble safe to use in new concrete buildings

Scientists show Syrian rubble safe to use in new concrete buildings
  • Researchers from UK, Syria and Turkiye find greener way to reduce costs of rebuilding country
  • At least 130,000 buildings in Syria thought to have been destroyed by conflict, earthquakes

LONDON: Scientists in the UK, Syria and Turkiye have shown recycled concrete rubble from buildings ruined in the Syrian civil war can be safely used in new concrete construction.

It means the country, which along with Turkiye was devastated by a serious earthquake in February, can use the estimated 40 million tonnes of concrete debris at its disposal to help rebuild in an environmentally friendly, cost-effective manner.

The scientists showed that incorporating the old concrete into up to half of new concrete aggregate (small pieces of rock) mixes does not significantly weaken it.

Rubble, crushed and checked for impurities from 10 sites in northern Syria, was used in aggregate mixes tested for strength and resistance to corrosive gasses and water.

Having passed all the tests, the scientists now believe that the same standards could be applied to concrete rubble in other parts of the world.

Prof. Abdulkader Rashwani, a concrete expert from Sham University in Aleppo, was forced to flee to Gaziantep, Turkey during the civil war. He traveled back to Syria daily to conduct his research.

Forty percent of the buildings in Aleppo are thought to have been destroyed over the past decade.

“A lot of people needed our help, so we went there and forgot about all the bad consequences,” he said. “We have now started to go to some local councils and help them to put some plans in place for the future. We can at least try to make this region safer and give people some hope.”

In total, around 130,000 buildings are thought to have been destroyed across Syria, with 70 percent of them made from reinforced concrete. As well as buildings, the new findings could be used to replace and fix other infrastructure, such as damaged roads.

Dr. Theodore Hanein, of the University of Sheffield in England, said that the project had been “awesome” and could “make a difference.”

“Sadly, the war has left many buildings destroyed and now, after the devastating earthquake, even more buildings have been damaged or destroyed in northern parts of the country,” he said.

“People will want to rebuild the places destroyed. (Recycling) will save a lot of transportation from bringing in raw materials and that’s usually where you have the most cost and aggregate is becoming scarce. People (in Syria) basically have nothing at the moment.”

The research was published in the Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering.



Mohammed Bin Rashid Library launches ‘A World Reads’ initiative

Mohammed Bin Rashid Library launches ‘A World Reads’ initiative
Updated 31 March 2023

Mohammed Bin Rashid Library launches ‘A World Reads’ initiative

Mohammed Bin Rashid Library launches ‘A World Reads’ initiative
  • Project in line with MBRL’s aim to ignite passion for knowledge in future generations
  • Board member Al-Mazrooei: ‘Reading and knowledge initiatives key for individuals to improve quality of life’

DUBAI: The Mohammed Bin Rashid Library has launched the “A World Reads” initiative, in conjunction with UAE Reading Month, to support and enrich libraries, reported Emirates News Agency on Friday.
The initiative is said to have been launched in collaboration with local publishers, special-publication institutions, and a select group of authors and writers to develop school libraries, readers clubs, cafes and government departments.
“A World Reads” comes in line with MBRL’s efforts, vision, and strategy to ignite a passion for knowledge among future generations, said board member Dr. Mohamed Salem Al-Mazrooei.
“It will considerably encourage similar community initiatives and volunteers to support such endeavors, while playing a major role in strengthening partnership between donors and local partners to achieve this vision,” he said.
“Reading and knowledge initiatives are key for individuals to improve their quality of life, enhance their intellectual and learning competencies, and enable them to better communicate and interact with their communities,” added Al-Mazrooei, who stressed that such initiatives should be encouraged in appreciation of their significance as key contributors to building well-educated and developed societies.
The initiative strives to support and enrich school libraries with a valuable and diverse collection of Arabic and English books for children and adults
“A World Reads” also provides support for students participating in the Arab Reading Challenge Award, along with enriching and developing library collections in federal and local government departments, private institutions, universities and colleges.
A unique collection of books in Arabic, English and Braille will be offered to children, young people, adults, people of determination and visually impaired people integrated into education.
MBRL calls upon local publishers, relative public institutions and entities with special publications, writers, and other parties to participate in the initiative, by donating and sharing their unused publications and books.

Abraham Accords prove no such thing as ‘permanent enemies,’ says former Trump adviser Kushner

Abraham Accords prove no such thing as ‘permanent enemies,’ says former Trump adviser Kushner
Updated 31 March 2023

Abraham Accords prove no such thing as ‘permanent enemies,’ says former Trump adviser Kushner

Abraham Accords prove no such thing as ‘permanent enemies,’ says former Trump adviser Kushner
  • Historic peace deals were hugely important for Middle East stability, Jared Kushner tells FII Priority conference

MIAMI: The US-brokered Abraham Accords signed in 2020 between Israel and several Arab neighbors under then-president Donald Trump have shown that there is “no such thing as permanent enemies,” Jared Kushner said on Friday.

Speaking at the FII Priority conference in Miami, the former senior Trump adviser said the peace deals were hugely important for the stability of the Middle East.

He also said they marked a return to close ties and coexistence between Christians, Muslims and Jews in the region before the Second World War, adding: “It’s a beginning of the return to that time.”

Under the accords, Israel normalized relations with the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, and has since garnered a closer human connection between their populations, with “Arabs and Muslims now able to say nice things about Israel and Jews,” according to Kushner.

He continued: “It just shows there’s no such thing as permanent enemies, and there’s no such thing as permanent alliances, and that anything is truly possible.”

Speaking about why he made sure Trump’s first foreign visit in 2017 after he became president was to the Middle East, Kushner said it made sense considering that the fight against Daesh was a pressing issue at the time and a priority for Trump.

He also highlighted the chaos in the region at the time, citing the rise of Daesh’s caliphate, Iran’s destabilizing behavior and funding of Hamas and Hezbollah, the Syrian civil war, and crises in Libya and Yemen, saying the previous George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations had “really made a big mess” in the Middle East.

“A lot of the traditional people we were working with were saying, ‘let’s go to Canada or Mexico and kiss a baby,’ and do some, you know, worthless thing,” Kushner said.

During that visit, Trump visited Saudi Arabia, and Kushner told the conference how impressed he was with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, launched under King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Saudi leadership was as keen as the US administration at the time to focus on shared ambitions and goals, rather than any differences, he said.

Kushner added he could see that the king and crown prince were fully focused on making “big transformations” in the Kingdom, but “traditionalist” policy-planning officials in the US told him the changes would not come to fruition.

“And me having no (political) experience, if somebody’s telling you they want to change, and if we agree with the change, let’s give them a shot to try to do it,” he said. “And so we worked very hard on the trip, and the deliverables from it were truly historic.”

Aside from important economic and security deals signed during the visit to Saudi Arabia, the opening of a center to combat extremism in the country was an outcome of which Kushner is particularly proud.

He highlighted the counterterror financing center, which gave access to US officials to the Middle East’s banking system and allowed the partners to “really fight money that was going to bad actors.”

Tunisia introduces water quota system due to severe drought

Tunisia introduces water quota system due to severe drought
Updated 31 March 2023

Tunisia introduces water quota system due to severe drought

Tunisia introduces water quota system due to severe drought
  • Tunisia recorded drop in dam capacity due to rain scarcity
  • Agriculture ministry banned use of potable water to wash cars, water green areas, clean streets and public places

TUNIS: Tunisia on Friday introduced a quota system for potable water and banned its use in agriculture until Sept. 30 in response to a severe drought that has hit the country, the agriculture ministry said.
Tunisia, which is suffering a fourth straight year of serious drought, recorded a drop in its dam capacity to around 1 billion cubic meters, or 30 percent of the maximum, due to a scarcity of rain from September 2022 to mid-March 2023, senior agriculture ministry official Hamadi Habib said.
The agriculture ministry also banned the use of potable water to wash cars, water green areas and clean streets and public places. Violators face a fine and imprisonment for a period of between six days to six months, according to the Water Law.
Residents said that Tunisian authorities have for the last two weeks been cutting off drinking water at night in some areas of the capital and other cities in a bid to cut consumption, a move that has sparked widespread anger. The government declined to comment on the claim.
The new decision threatens to fuel social tension in a country whose people suffer from poor public services, high inflation and a weak economy.
The Sidi Salem Dam in the north of the country, a key provider of drinking water to several regions, has declined to only 16 percent of its maximum capacity of 580 million cubic meters, official figures showed.
Tunisia’s grain harvest will be “disastrous,” with the drought-hit crop declining to 200,000-250,000 tons this year from 750,000 tons in 2022, senior farmers union official Mohamed Rjaibia told Reuters on Thursday.