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Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu On Trial

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In an unprecedented instance, a ruling prime minister is on trial for corruption. Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu took the stand on Sunday to defend himself. This happened mere days after his reelection.

The 70-year-old has denied the accusations of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. Upon arriving at the Jerusalem courthouse, he said that the cases are aimed at “toppling him in any way possible”. He insists that the charges against him are “fabricated and ludicrous”.

Following three inconclusive elections within a one year period, his former political rival Benny Gantz has agreed to share the power.

Netanyahu dismissed his opponents’ calls to resign amid the ongoing trial.

What Happened At The Courthouse

When he arrived at the Jerusalem District Court he said to the reporters, “I’m here with a straight back and my head held high.”

“The objective is to topple a strong prime minister from the rightist camp and thus to remove the right-wing from leadership for many years,” he said.

“While the media continues to deal with nonsense, with these false, trumped-up cases, I will continue to lead the state of Israel and deal with issues that really matter to you,” he stated, including to revive the economy, and “continue to save the lives of thousands of Israelis ahead of the possibility of a second wave of coronavirus”.

He stood in a face mask and refused to sit on the defendant’s bench until media members left the courtroom.

“I read and I understand the indictment,” he told the judges at the beginning of the trial. These were one of the few words he said during the hour-long hearing.

The court excused him from appearing personally at the next hearing scheduled for July 19. Isreal’s top analysts estimate that trial will take several months, if not several years.

What Charges Is Netanyahu Facing?

There are three separate cases against Israel’s prime minister and they’re known as 1000, 2000, and 3000.

  • Case 1000: Fraud and breach of trust. In this case, Netanyahu is accused of accepting various gifts, namely expensive cigars and champagne, from wealthy and powerful businessmen in exchange for favors.
  • Case 2000:  Fraud and breach of trust. Here, he’s accused of offering to help improve the circulation of Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot in exchange for positive representation.
  • Case 3000: Bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. This case is regarding his time as both and minister of communications at the time of the alleged offense. Here he’s accused of promoting regulatory decisions favorable to the controlling shareholder in the Bezeq telecom giant, Shaul Elovitch, in exchange for positive press coverage by Elovitch’s Walla news site.

Netanyahu firmly rejected all the charges, marking them a “witch-hunt” by political challengers, and has sworn to clear his name.

He said police and prosecutors worked together to “tailor” a case against him and that the evidence was “contaminated” and exaggerated. He called for the trial to be aired live on television to guarantee “full transparency”.

Can The Prime Minister Be Forced To Resign As The Result Of This Trial?

Netanyahu is under no legal obligation to resign. There is a case, however, where a former prime minister, Ehud Olmert, stepped down as party leader when he was under investigation for corruption in 2008, while technically remaining in the position of the prime minister.

Netanyahu made no indications of doing something similar.

In the Supreme Court ruling, it was declared that the prime minister may continue to serve his term, even if indicted. However, he will be forced to resign if he’s convicted and the conviction is upheld after the appeal process.

Political Situation In Israel Seems To Have Calmed Down As Netanyahu And Gantz Unite

Previously mentioned Benny Gantz currently occupies a newly created role of an “alternate prime minister”. This role was created in March 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic and allows both Gantz and Netanyahu to swap roles within 18 months.

Gantz supported Netanyahu in his trial. He tweeted on Sunday, “I would like to reemphasize that my colleagues and I fully trust our legal system and law enforcement agencies. Now, perhaps more than ever, we must move toward unity and conciliation, as a country and as a society, for the State of Israel and all of its citizens,”

This is all a very interesting turnaround as Gantz campaigned in three previous elections on the platform of never serving in the same government as Netanyahu. Citing the fear of expensive fourth election, he made peace with his former enemy and decided to join forces.

Belief in Israel as to whether he should continue on as prime minister is divided: detractors say that the spectacle of a trial causes Mr. Netanyahu’s job to be untenable, but his followers – including his party – say that he has been democratically elected and should not be forcefully made to resign.

Opposition representative Yair Lapid called it “an embarrassment” and “horrible for the spirit of the nation” despite no expectations of trial affecting government policies. Netanyahu is still expected to push ahead with plans to annex Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley – territory in the occupied West Bank – in the upcoming months.

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The Scope of inter-religious pluralism within Islam

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Even though pluralism is a loaded term, its generic meaning suggests a phenomenon of peaceful coexistence between entities of diverse cultural, religious, and political inclinations. It is important to remember that pluralism does not mean the elimination of difference, nor does the word “tolerance” do justice to its intended purpose. Pluralism is not merely tolerating the other but engaging with the beliefs of others with peaceful dialogue and action. The scope of inter-religious puralism within Islam proposes this kind of pluralism.

Also, read Islamic Democracy: Is Democracy Compatible with Islam?

What does Pluralism mean in Islam?

Looking at the subjective meaning of pluralism within the ambit of Islam, the proponents of various Islamic discourses have proposed that pluralism is a pronounced feature of Islam. Many Muslim intellectuals claim that pluralism is central to the fundamental essence of Islam. A convincing case can be made for the presence of a compelling pluralistic ethos within the Islamic scriptures.

In his essay, Reformist Islam in Comparative Perspective, Mehran Kamrava claims that the rise in the level of religiosity amongst Muslims has given rise to other forms of Islam. One of which according to him is “likely to have the most resonating consequences for Islamic jurisprudence in both the near and the distant future” and calls it “intellectual Islam”. He claims that it is through this form of Islam that a Muslim reformist discourse is introduced. Which has produced significant work to locate the place of inter-religious pluralism in Islam. He further derives some themes out of the reformist discourse, very important with their reference to pluralism in Islam:

“First is a deep and abiding conviction in Islam as faith and a system of belief. In its current manifestation, the discourse of reformist Muslim intellectuals does not seek to instrumentalize Islam for purposes of achieving modernity in a manner palatable to the masses at large. Islam is not a means to an end; it is an end in itself. It simply needs to be re-thought and reformulated. The reformists’ reliance on and endless references to the Qur’an bespeaks of the text’s cultural centrality to them.”.

Such display of absolute faith by Muslim reformists whilst having reformist inclinations bespeak of their balanced position. A flexible modern vision can develop interfaith dialogue. The abiding conviction to Islam earns a sense of authenticity for their thought process in the eyes of fellow Muslims.

Read here, Islamophobia: Impacts on Muslim Women

What is Democratic Pluralism?

The next theme of the reformist discourse is “democratic pluralism”: “Pluralism, the reformist discourse’s proponents maintain, is a salient feature of the spirit of the Qur’an and the hadith.” (Kamrava )

To support his claim he cites another Muslim intellectual Abdulaziz Sachedina who quotes:

The challenge for Muslims today, as ever, is to tap the tradition of Koranic pluralism to develop a culture of restoration, of just intrareligious and interreligious relationships in a world of cultural and religious diversity. Without restoring the principle of coexistence, Muslims will not be able to recapture the spirit of early civil society under the Prophet.

In the globalized world, the facets of modernity like its political model of the nation-state have become a governing principle for all ethnic, cultural, and religious pluralism. This means the only larger identity governing the religious identity of the people is that of the nation-state. In the religiously pluralistic society of today, people may have different identities, but the model of the nation-state promises all of them the same status. People might identify with different religious inclinations, but the state identifies them as either citizens or residents of the state. This is exactly the kind of challenge that Sachedina talks about when he implores Muslims to revive the tradition of pluralism that is central to the Islamic texts for peaceful coexistence in the globalized world.

Also, read Why should dignified Muslims never normalize with Israel?

The Case of Muslims living as a minority

If Muslims live in a minority in a nation-state that runs on one of the political models of modernity like democracy or secularism, then for the sake of the welfare of Muslims they need to fulfill the duties that the nation-state demands from them. Andrew March talks about the jurisprudence of Muslim minorities also called Fiqh al-aqalliyyat al-muslima in Arabic:

Fiqh alaqalliyyat tends to be a discourse where departures from traditional Islamic commitments are not seen as desirable, and certainly not goals in and of themselves, but where creative rethinking often occurs in subtle and pragmatic guises. It is thus an important object of study for those interested in the ideal moral encounter between a public religion like Islam and modern/post-modern secularism. (March 6).

Important questions of interest toward non-Islamic institutions have been addressed from within internal Islamic discourses that advocate for a positive Muslim attitude concerning the issue of pluralism.

Read here, How Practical is the Secular Democracy of India? Curbing of Religious Freedom in Kashmir

Islam’s relation with other Faiths

The third theme within the reformist Islamic discourse is “Islam’s relations with other great faiths”. An important aspect central to the Muslim understanding of pluralism is the conception that god’s message in the Quran is universal and that the revelation was made through more than just one prophet, which means that the revelations had multiple manifestations. The basic underpinning for this idea can be seen in the Quran which mentions the monotheistic traditions of Judaism and Christianity. Far from denying the Quran in fact validates that Torah and Bible were predecessor scriptures affirming that their message has come from the same god. Many Quranic verses echo the sentiments which envisage a world where diversified people are united by their pious intentions and mutual devotion to God.

Also, read Islam in 2075: World’s Largest Religion!?

Some Important Milestones in the Islamic History

Apart from the theoretical contributions to promote Islamic pluralism, efficient action has also been taken within the Muslim discourse on a practical level to perpetuate inter-faith harmony.

One such historic step was the “1981 adoption of the Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights, whose article XIII states: Every person has the right to freedom of conscience and worship in accordance with his religious beliefs.”.

Apart from this, another significant step was taken in 1990 when the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam was adopted, Article 1(a) of which states:

“All human beings form one family whose members are united by submission to God and descent from Adam. All men are equal in terms of basic human dignity and basic obligations and responsibilities, without any discrimination on the grounds of race, color, language, sex, religious belief, political affiliation, social status or other considerations. True faith is the guarantee for enhancing such dignity along the path to human perfection.”

Read here, Is This the Ultimate Solution to Rising Islamophobia in India?

Islamic Tradition of Peaceful Coexistence

The Quran recognizes fundamental rights for all humankind whether Muslims or non-Muslims and explicitly forbids compulsion in faith. The Islamic texts also provide a practical model of implementing pluralistic ideals which have greatly affected the treatment of non-Muslims in Muslim lands. Contrary to the Islamophobic stereotypes, Islam not only acknowledges pluralism, but it also goes beyond the reductive concepts of tolerance and intolerance to endorse and encourages a tradition of peaceful coexistence.

Also, read Islamophobia: Impacts on Muslim Women

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Qatar FIFA 2022, A Civilized Model Of Islam

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Qatar FIFA 2022

Qatar is the first country in the Middle East to host the FIFA World Cup 2022. This was after Qatar’s award hosting in December 2010. This is a tremendous opportunity for Qatar to represent Qatar FIFA 2022 as a civilized model of Islam. The country converted to Islam in the 7th century. Since winning the hosting, it has been constructing some of the most eco-friendly and architectural advanced sporting facilities ever seen. It is the kind of country that has the power to host the greatest show of FIFA ever on Earth.

First, Qatar has always drawn its strength from discovering oil, fishing, and pearl hunting. In addition, it is the world’s second-largest exporter of liquefied natural gas. Hosting the tournament presents tremendous opportunities for Qatar to prove itself as a powerful country. Significantly, Qatar has always been taking advantage of the tournament hosting to develop local Industries, expertise, and infrastructure. This was for Innovation and application of excellent standards and support of Qatar’s transition to a knowledge-based economy. This edition of the FIFA World Cup 2022 is being themed by Qatar on its culture, history, identity, and hospitability. As a result, efforts have made the event an unforgettable historical experience.

(more…)

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Economy

“The Worst is Yet to Come”— Recession 2023 & the Looming Uncertainty

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recession 2023

Recession 2023 is just around the corner.

The global economic crises are now inducing the certainty of a looming recession. Economists and financial organizations warned of upcoming uncertainty; however, regrettably, the world failed to decode the uprising of the economic catastrophe. 

Today’s economies around the globe are confronting an urgent economic crisis and is on the brink of a recession. And, the experts fear the worst is yet to come!

Shear Impact on Leading Economies – US, UK, China, and India

“Global growth is slowing sharply, with further slowing likely as more countries fall into recession. My deep concern is that these trends will persist, with long-lasting consequences devastating for people in emerging markets and developing economies,”  

World Bank Group President David Malpass.

For the first time since 2009, the US declared negative GDP growth two quarters in a row, which officially qualifies as a recession.

The British Pound is at its historic low of $1.038 against US dollars due to rare emergency interventions. Cities and states in China are still in lockdown because of a rise in Covid-19 cases. On the other hand, Indian Rupee is at its 75-year low of Rupees 82.11 against the US dollar, soaring the hike in repo rates to 5.90%

Srilanka already declared insolvency earlier this year. Russia and Ukraine war had already set the stage for World War III. And the recent resilience of china on Taiwan has tarnished the world economic environment. 

Read More: Sri Lanka: What Led the Island Nation to Bankruptcy?

All these together indicate the harsh truth: Recession 2023 will worsens the conditions of all major economies and push the globe into undefined circumstances like:

  • Central banks hiking the interest rates
  • Hike in energy and food prices
  • Depreciation of major currencies against the dollar

 Central Banks Hiking the Interest Rates  

To counteract rising inflation and the impact of a strong currency on the economies, central banks are hurriedly raising interest rates. This happens as the US Federal Reserve keeps up its aggressive interest rate hikes.

Rising Interest Rates
Rising Interest Rates. Image Source: India Today

On the other hand Reserve Bank of India is also struggling with persistently high inflation, which is made worse by geopolitical unrest, droughts, and supply-chain disruptions

Hike in Energy and Food Prices

Russia is the world’s third-largest oil-producing country. It provides 7-8 million barrels of crude oil per day, or 14% of global production, to international markets. 

The US and UK’s restrictions and many other nations’ decisions to stop purchasing Russian petroleum have exacerbated the crisis.

Russia and Ukraine are the biggest sunflower oil producers globally and the second most frequently used cooking oil. However, sunflower oil cannot yet be exported from Russia due to the tightening of import restrictions. 

Plus, due to the increasing demand for sunflower oil in the market, other edible oils are now more expensive, raising the cost of food and other products across borders.

Depreciation of Major Currencies Against the US Dollar 

Compared to the US dollar, the Japanese yen has dropped to its lowest level since August 1998. The Indian rupee is hitting its lowest in history, and for the first time in 20 years, the euro is now lower than the USD.

The decline of major currencies indicates the current state of the global economy. Moreover, it provides a crystal-clear forecast of how disastrous the recession 2023 would be if significant steps are not taken to control the situation.

The Decelerating Global Economy: IMF Forecast for Recession 2023

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is warning that over a third of the economy is headed for a recession this year or next. Its world outlook shows growth withering from 6.0% in 2021, 3.2% in 2022, and an estimate of just 2.7% in 2023.

Recession 2023 will be different from all the recessions the world has faced to date. Different factors are driving economic crashes in different countries, for example:

A cynical recession by hiking interest rates in the US, a structural recession in China powered by the crashing property market, and financial insecurity exaggerated by the ongoing energy crisis in Europe.

The ongoing turmoil in the national and global market is further sparking the threat of World War III.

Rising Certainty of World War III

Russia has already invaded Ukraine, and in opposition to Ukraine’s protection, the US cleared this support with Ukraine by immediately sending weapons to Ukraine. Such US behavior infuriated Russia, leading to increased attacks. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the US and European countries that further expansion of support to Ukraine might lead the situation to a ‘Global catastrophe.’ 

On the other hand, China assaulted Taiwan due to the recent visit of the US finance minister. The current clash of China and Indian troops erupt seriously, leading to grim conflict on north-east Indian borders.  

Additionally, civil wars in countries like Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, and Mali are raising the certainty of World War III

Needless to say, World War III will destroy the world economy, resulting in more financial turmoil, starvation, a hike in oil prices, and the depreciation of currencies

Recession 2023: The Worst is yet to come

Slowing down economies, high repo rates, depreciation of currencies, bankrupted countries, and looming wars between nuclear countries are further solidifying the onset of a cold economic winter. 

The circumstance indicates what is coming. The indication of recession, the yell of “the worst is yet to come.

However, to wrench the global situation on track, policymakers should continue to give needy powerful tailored assistance to respective governments while also putting in place reliable medium-term fiscal strategies.

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