7iber Recommends: the New Jihadis, the Origins of Apartheid, and Cyber Theft

April 13, 2017

By Hani Barghouthi

The chemical attack on the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun brought to the surface, yet again, the polarisation within the left regarding the Syrian conflict. In an interview published on Al-Jumhuriya, Syrian intellectual Yassin al-Haj Saleh takes issue with some of the rhetoric on the left and criticises those in the West who claim there is no alternative to the Assad regime in Syria. The interview offers excellent insight on the state of Syria, a scathing critique of the responses to it, an overview of the history of Syrian communism, as well as a general breakdown of the conflict and the factors that have led to it being the sectarian, essentialist, complicated mess it is today.

“One direct reason behind this curious situation can be that most of those who define themselves as anti-imperialists in the imperial center tend to annex our struggle to a regime change plan they attribute to the American administration. Their distinguished ignorance of Syria, its modern and contemporary history, its society, political life, political economy… makes us even more invisible to them, and makes them even more daring in seeing imperialism behind what is happening in Syria.”

In the Guardian, the French writer Olivier Roy paints a rough picture of “the new jihadis”- the ones “homegrown” in Europe, who either participated in violent attacks in the West, or moved to the Middle East to join Isis. The article draws on the analysis of 100 profiles of French and Belgian jihadis, who supply most of the ranks of western jihadis.

Roy emphasizes that “there is no standard terrorist profile, but there are recurrent characteristics.” Almost all of the cases Roy studied were “born-again” Muslims” who, “after living a highly secular life – frequenting clubs, drinking alcohol, involvement in petty crime – suddenly renew their religious observance, either individually or in the context of a small group.”

Khaled Kelkal, France’s first homegrown terrorist, and the Kouachi brothers (Charlie Hebdo, Paris, 2015) share a number of common features: second generation; fairly well integrated at first; period of petty crime; radicalisation in prison; attack and death – weapons in hand – in a standoff with the police.”

A new form of cyber theft is discussed in this article from The Atlantic which showcases a study on Android applications that will “team up” (sometimes unintentionally, always dangerously) to steal information about the phone’s user. From over 100,000 tested applications, over 20,000 app pairings were found to do this.

“Security researchers don’t have much trouble figuring out if a single app is gathering sensitive data and secretly sending it off to a server somewhere. But when two apps team up, neither may show definitive signs of thievery alone. And because of an enormous number of possible app combinations, testing for app collusions is a herculean task.”

In an well-researched commentary on The New Arab, Seraj Assi writes about the history of “Israeli” rhetoric regarding the Separation Wall between Palestine and the Occupied territories, and stipulates that it was actually within “Israeli” politics that the idea of apartheid was first brought to the table. This is ironic considering the outraged and indignant response to the UN’s ESCWA report on the Palestinian-“Israeli” conflict which accuses “Israel” of having established a system of apartheid against the Palestinians.

“While some Israelis tend to distinguish between “hard separation” (Rabin and Barak) and “soft separation” (Perez and Olmert) the result has been one and the same: A rigid form of physical separation where one ethnic group enjoys more freedom than the other.”