Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi
Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi
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Pundicity: Informed Opinion and Review

Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi's Blog

The Life of Hamdi Ahmad Hajj Ali

While internal developments and news from Syria's southern province of Deraa on the border with Jordan and the Golan Heights may attract less interest and attention than before, there are still regular security incidents in the province in the form of assassinations with gunfire and IED attacks. These incidents can kill civilians, local government employees, criminals and local militiamen, and security and military personnel. At least some of these attacks have been and likely still are the work of the Islamic State. These incidents do not mean that the collapse of formal Syrian government control over Deraa is imminent, but rather only that there is a persistent, chronic instability.

In this post, I document the life of a Syrian army officer- Hamdi Ahmad Hajj Ali- who was killed in a recent incident in Deraa (photo below).

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By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi  |  Wed, May 15, 2024  |  Permalink

Israel and Eurovision

Israel's strong performance in this year's Eurovision, which primarily came down to the huge number of points the country received in the popular vote as opposed to the vote of national juries, prompted me to write on X that a "considerable amount of the passionate pro-Palestine sentiment on social media and in demonstrations is an echo chamber." Since these remarks went viral and X is not the best platform for elaborating one's thoughts, I decided it would be better to go into more depth here.

Predictably, I received a number of responses to what I wrote claiming that Israel's performance was primarily due to a mass mobilisation of Jewish and/or supporters of Israel taking advantage of the voting system (which allows for each user to cast up to 20 votes). While there was encouragement by some Israelis and supporters of Israel for people to vote for Israel, and while I am sure some did vote for Israel for political reasons, there is no real statistical evidence to demonstrate the impact of that encouragement. Thus, explaining Israel's success at Eurovision primarily in these terms strikes me as a conspiracy theory.

Instead, there is a far simpler explanation for Israel's success that gets to the heart of what I meant: that is, large masses of people in Western countries simply do not have such strong feelings and opinions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that they view Israel at Eurovision through the lens of that conflict. Rather, they judge Israel at Eurovision primarily on the basis of the quality of the song and the on-stage performance, and this year, very many viewers and voters happened to like Israel's entry, which had already enjoyed a favourable reception prior to the night of the final.

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By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi  |  Sun, May 12, 2024  |  Permalink

The Reported Israeli Strike on Harakat al-Nujaba' in Syria

The unprecedented exchange of fire between Israel and Iran last month, triggered by Israel's bombing of the Iranian consulate in Damascus, does not mean that Israel will stop trying to disrupt and damage what it sees as Iran's proxy networks. On the northern front with Lebanon, Israel continues to engage in tit-for-tat exchanges with Hezbollah and target Hezbollah personnel and assets in airstrikes. In the Syria arena, during the early hours of yesterday morning (early morning of 9 May), a rather surprising announcement came from the Iranian-aligned Iraqi faction Harakat al-Nujaba', which maintains a presence in Syria and has been known to be active in the country since at least 2013. Specifically, the group accused Israel of targeting its cultural and media centre in Syria. This announcement matches Syrian military reporting that at around 3:20 a.m., "the Israeli enemy launched an air attack from the direction of the occupied Syrian Golan, targeting one of the buildings in Damascus countryside."

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By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi  |  Fri, May 10, 2024  |  Permalink

"Allahu Akbar"

On both sides of the Atlantic, controversy over the call of 'Allahu Akbar' ('God is greater') is in the news again. As part of the coverage of the wider movement of U.S. campus protests against Israel's military campaign in Gaza and American support for Israel, there has been some debate about a four-second clip of a group of protestors shouting "Allahu Akbar" at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). Over in the UK, a newly elected Leeds city councillor for the Green Party- Mothin Ali- was filmed shouting "Allahu Akbar" after vowing that he and his supporters would "raise the voice" of Gaza and Palestine. For some, the call is seemingly portrayed as inherently sinister, while others seem to view it as entirely benign. To quote the sarcasm of Washington Post editorial board member Shadi Hamid: "Oh my, students are saying 'God is great' in Arabic. The horror."

Simply put, the truth lies somewhere in between. The significance of the call of 'Allahu Akbar' (conventionally referred to in Arabic as the takbir) very much depends on context and the discourse surrounding it.

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By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi  |  Mon, May 6, 2024 5:30 PM  |  Permalink

Support for Gaza from Northwest Syria: The "Wage Jihad With Your Wealth" Campaign

Since the start of the Israel-Gaza war on 7 October last year, a number of charity initiatives have emerged within the Muslim world under the guise of supporting Gaza in the face of Israel's military campaign. One of the more interesting examples is the "Wage Jihad With Your Wealth" (Arabic: Jahid bi-Malika) campaign. Based out of northwest Syria, the idea of the campaign, as its name suggests, is that donating money is a form of waging jihad. The campaign has received donations from a variety of 'muhajirin' (foreigners who have come to the territories controlled by the insurgents in Syria).

I decided to conduct an interview to learn more about its aims, donations it has received, its position on providing support for Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Western university campus protests in support of the Palestinian cause. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.

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By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi  |  Sat, May 4, 2024  |  Permalink

الدعم لغزة من شمال غرب سوريا: مقابلة مع حملة "جاهد بمالك"

منذ بداية الحرب الإسرائيلية على غزة قامت العديد من المبادرات الخيرية في العالم الإسلامي دعماً لغزة بوجه الحملة الإسرائيلية العسكرية، ومن أبرز الأمثلة على ذلك: حملة "جاهد بمالك" التي تأسست في شمال غرب سوريا، بمعنى أنّ التبرع هو نوع من أنواع الجهاد. واستملت الحملة تبرعات من عدة جهات منها بعض الكتل المهاجرة في سوريا.

وأجريت مقابلة مع الحملة من أجل تسليط الضوء الموضوعي على أهداف الحملة والتبرعات والانجازات ومواقفها من الوضع الحالي. واليكم المقابلة.

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By أيمن جواد التميمي  |  Sat, May 4, 2024  |  Permalink

"Intifada, Intifada!"

Alongside the slogan 'from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,' chants calling for 'intifada' have become among the most controversial aspects of the protests being held in support of the Palestinian cause on American college campuses and elsewhere around the world. For many critics of these protests, the calls for intifada equate to incitement to kill Israelis and/or Jews around the world. The debate as it plays out on social media tends to be very repetitive with the same talking points, and here I hope to shed some new light.

To begin with, defenders of the chants note that intifada is a standard Arabic word for 'uprising' and is not simply confined the periods of Palestinian unrest against Israel that popularised the term. This is indeed correct. There are a whole series of other incidents of unrest that have been and can be called intifada in Arabic. For example, the Shi'i uprising in Iraq against Saddam Husayn's government in the wake of the First Gulf War is known in Arabic as the intifada sha'abaniya. The original unrest in Tunisia that led to the deposition of the Ben Ali government has similarly been described as an intifada in media, besides the more familiar term of the Jasmine Revolution. Even the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of the Jews against the Nazi German occupation during World War Two can be described as an intifada in Arabic.

In response, critics will not necessarily deny this point, but highlight that the Palestinian intifadas entailed considerable violence against Israel, including terrorist attacks. Lest there should be any debate about definitions, by terrorist attacks I mean operations that specifically targeted civilians for political purposes, such as bomb attacks on Israeli public transport and at places frequented by civilians like restaurants and cafés: a phenomenon that was notable during the Second Intifada (2000-2005).

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By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi  |  Wed, May 1, 2024 5:24 PM  |  Permalink

Syrian Fighters from Homs Killed in Israel's Strike on Hezbollah in Aleppo

In a previous overview of Israeli strikes on positions of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah's al-Radwan Force in Syria prior to Iran's retaliation for the bombing of the Iranian consulate in Damascus, I noted some of the Syrian fighters from Aleppo who were killed in the strike on the al-Radwan Force at the end of March. There were however other Hezbollah-linked Syrian personnel killed in that strike too.

In this post, I note those personnel originating from Homs province: those personnel originating specifically from Shi'a localities in the province. The information about these 'martyrs', which has only recently come to light, comes primarily from a pro-'resistance' contact from Homs who has been building an archive of his own for 'martyrs' from the Homs area over the course of the Syrian civil war, based on his own connections with the families of these 'martyrs'. Should more information become available then I will update this post accordingly. Besides the fact that documenting 'martyrs' is useful for the historical record, this information again shows that for that specific strike on 29 March, the Israelis clearly had good intelligence.

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By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi  |  Wed, May 1, 2024 5:20 PM  |  Permalink

Cognitive Egocentrism and the Palestinian Cause

The term 'cognitive egocentrism' was long ago applied by Richard Landes to describe the phenomenon of projecting one's own assumptions and ideals about the world onto others. I first remember reading Landes' description of cognitive egocentrism in around 2008 or so. More than 15 years later, the notion of cognitive egocentrism remains highly relevant, especially with a considerable amount of discourse about the Palestinian cause since 7 October 2023 (though in many ways that discourse is a continuity of what came before).

Leaving aside questions of rights and wrongs, it seems to me that any political cause needs to be understood and dealt with according to the realities on the ground, and not on the basis of wishful thinking on the part of outsiders. Thus, the Palestinian cause and what represents it are defined principally by the Palestinians themselves who are on the ground in the Palestinian territories and the Palestinian factions that represent them. In turn, on the wider regional scale, the cause is principally defined and represented by the Palestinians in neighbouring countries and the factions that represent them.

When this point is borne in mind, it becomes apparent that some of the discourse about the Palestinian cause in the pro-Palestine protests and wider advocacy in Western countries is well out of touch with those realities, and instead projects its own intellectual fantasies and ideals onto the Palestinian cause.

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By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi  |  Mon, April 29, 2024  |  Permalink

Qur'anic Studies and the Early History of Islam

How far can the traditional narratives about the emergence of a particular religion be considered to correspond to historical reality? This sort of question is especially relevant for religions in the more distant past such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

By now, there is a huge amount of research in the field of Biblical criticism, which explores Biblical texts from a variety of angles such as textual criticism (trying to determine the original text based on surviving manuscripts) and source criticism (trying to determine sources for those texts) and then the wider question of the historicity of the narratives contained in those texts. The corresponding research approaches in Western scholarship to Islamic texts- in particular, the Qur'an- have been seen as lagging behind Biblical studies, but I think there is a potential to mischaracterise the field. That is, it might be assumed by some that the study of the early history of Islam is marred by 'political correctness' and a fear of offending Muslims that prevents scholars from being too bold in questioning the origins of Islam. Such an impression, for example, was reinforced by the publication of 'The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran' under the pseudonym of 'Christoph Luxenberg' in a bid to protect against reprisals.

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By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi  |  Sat, April 27, 2024  |  Permalink

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