Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mideast Media Sampler 04/24/2011

I apologize for the delay in posting this--my computer was, and still is infected with a virus.
I am still posting this, because as anyone who follows the Middle East knows--there is no such thing as 'old news'.

From an email from DG:
1) Attack on worshipers

A group of Breslov Chassidim traveling to pray at Joseph's tomb were fired upon by Palestinian police. One Chassid was killed and at least two were injured.

The New York Times reports:

The shooting occurred outside Joseph’s Tomb in the West Bank city of Nablus after three carloads of Israeli Jews visited the religious site to pray without coordinating their move through the Israeli army. Twice-monthly trips to the tomb have been organized with army escorts for the past four years without incident. 
Palestinian security officials detained Palestinian policemen responsible for the shooting. The dead man was identified as Ben Yosef Livnat, a 24-year-old father of four from Jerusalem and a nephew of Limor Livnat, Israel’s Minister of Culture and Sport from the Likud Party. An aide to the minister confirmed the identity. 
Ynet includes a statement from the survivors

One of the Breslovers who was in the second car in the convoy and was lightly wounded told Ynet: "We arrived at the tomb like on many occasions in the past. Near the tomb we saw a spikes chain. One of the guys jumped out of the car and moved it aside.
"At this point a uniformed Palestinian police officer with a Kalashnikov in a jeep woke his colleagues up and they started firing into the air…I was in the front seat. We started driving fast in the direction of the tomb; we got out of the vehicles and kissed the tomb.   
"When we got back to the vehicles the police shot at the vehicles, they were screaming 'Allahu Akbar'. It was crazy, they were shooting to kill. I screamed at the driver to drive out of there quickly. When we got to Har Bracha we attended to the wounded." 
If the situation were reversed - the IDF firing on civilians - the Times would have interviewed the civilians to get an account. The end of the Ynet article does include a claim that the Chassidim threw rocks at the Palestinian police. I'm skeptical.

2) Advice for Israel
In January 1988, Charles Krauthammer wrote a column, originally published in the Washington Post as Lots of advice for Israel

The column ended like this:

Now Israelis, whose sons are dodging gasoline bombs, are as sensitive to the dilemmas and agonies of occupation as are the residents of Cambridge, Mass. Most Israelis want to end the occupation but not to evacuate the territories unilaterally and thus allow Arafat and Abu Nidal and Abu Abbas to fill the vacuum. Israel is split about dealing away territory. About half the electorate is prepared to; half is not. But of the latter, many are wedded to the territories not by religion or history but by the conviction that the Arabs will take the territories and then continue their war against a gravely weakened Israel from there. 
It is a conviction grounded in fact. Arafat and the PLO say explicitly that recovery of the West Bank is simply stage 1 of the struggle to liberate all of Palestine. Israelis were reminded of that fact by demonstrators in Nazareth, part of pre-'67 Israel, who chanted "death to the Jews" during last month's general strike. So long as the West Bank remains the Arab world's Sudetenland, any Israeli prepared to give it up is a fool. And any American advising Israel to do so is no friend. 
One of the tensest days of this round of violence occurred on Jan. 1, which Palestinians celebrate as the anniversary of the first attack on Israel by Fatah, Arafat's leading faction of the PLO. It was 23 years ago that Fatah sent men to blow up the water works of Bet Shean. The anniversary was widely reported, but no one stopped to consider that 23 years ago was 1965. 
In 1965 there were no occupied territories. In 1965 Jordan ruled the West Bank, Egypt ruled Gaza and not a Jew disturbed Islam's third holiest site, Jordan having rendered the Old City of Jerusalem judenrein. None of the current pretexts for Palestinian violence even existed when Fatah began its war against Israel. The issue then, as now, was not Israel's occupation but Israel's existence. 
Hence the air of unreality about the advice being offered Israel regarding Palestinian rioting. "End the occupation" amounts to an admonition to risk suicide in order to improve one's image abroad. Israel waits to sit down with Palestinians (and Jordanians) unequivocally prepared to coexist with Israel. If out of this generation of rock throwers a leadership eventually arises which is prepared to deal, rather than dream and demand, then some good may come out of the current agony. In the interim, the only advice worth offering Israel is better riot control.
Over the years, the New York Times has given lots of people the opportunity to offer advice to Israel. Last week Turkey's President Abdullah Gul had his turn.
Sticking to the unsustainable status quo will only place Israel in greater danger. History has taught us that demographics is the most decisive factor in determining the fate of nations. In the coming 50 years, Arabs will constitute the overwhelming majority of people between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea. The new generation of Arabs is much more conscious of democracy, freedom and national dignity.  
In such a context, Israel cannot afford to be perceived as an apartheid island surrounded by an Arab sea of anger and hostility. Many Israeli leaders are aware of this challenge and therefore believe that creating an independent Palestinian state is imperative. A dignified and viable Palestine, living side by side with Israel, will not diminish the security of Israel, but fortify it.  
Turkey thinks strategically about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, not only because it knows that a peaceful Middle East would be to its benefit, but also because it believes that Israeli-Palestinian peace would benefit the rest of the world. 
Giving Turkey a chance to explain the elements of democracy to Israel at a time that Turkey is attacking the freedoms of its people was inspired as even the editors of the New York Times warned nearly two months ago:

They must now set these spiraling conspiracy investigations on a sounder legal basis, or risk these achievements and their country’s democracy. 
In November 2004 the New York Times published The Road from Here by King Abdullah II of Jordan:

In 2002, Arab countries took a bold step forward, committing themselves to a two-state solution that includes security guarantees for Israel to live in peace with its neighbors; a sovereign and democratic Palestine; and a process that leads to a comprehensive settlement, addressing the Syrian and Lebanese tracks.  
The two-state solution recognizes what I and my late father, King Hussein, have long argued. For lasting peace, Israel must be fully integrated into the entire region, from Morocco to Yemen. But this depends on creating an independent Palestinian state, whose people are, at last, able to live in dignity and hope. Unless this happens, there will be no regionwide acceptance of Israel and no real peace.  
In 2003, the parties agreed on the road map to peace. The United States and the eight leading industrialized nations are also on board. But the process has been trapped in an ongoing cycle of violence. Now, events provide fresh opportunities. New Palestinian leadership can carry forward the vision of a viable, independent Palestine by delivering on the reforms that statehood involves: competent governance, investments in public welfare, fighting corruption, tougher security against terrorism and a real partnership at the peace tables.  
In Israel, the government can recommit to the road map and move swiftly to withdraw from Gaza and take other confidence-building measures that will refute the charge that its recent policies are intended to sideline the peace process and further divide people. Both sides can now make the compromises that a comprehensive, lasting and just peace requires.
Yes, the withdrawal from Gaza built the confidence - of Hamas. Jordan is ranked by Freedom House as not free.

In November 2006, Ahmed Yousef of Hamas offered to Pause for Peace

HERE in Gaza, few dream of peace. For now, most dare only to dream of a lack of war. It is for this reason that Hamas proposes a long-term truce during which the Israeli and Palestinian peoples can try to negotiate a lasting peace. 
A truce is referred to in Arabic as a “hudna.” Typically covering 10 years, a hudna is recognized in Islamic jurisprudence as a legitimate and binding contract. A hudna extends beyond the Western concept of a cease-fire and obliges the parties to use the period to seek a permanent, nonviolent resolution to their differences. The Koran finds great merit in such efforts at promoting understanding among different people. Whereas war dehumanizes the enemy and makes it easier to kill, a hudna affords the opportunity to humanize one’s opponents and understand their position with the goal of resolving the intertribal or international dispute.  
Such a concept — a period of nonwar but only partial resolution of a conflict — is foreign to the West and has been greeted with much suspicion. Many Westerners I speak to wonder how one can stop the violence without ending the conflict.
It sounds good, until you realize that Hamas has an unusual definition of truce:

Hamas leaders in Gaza are still committed to a cease-fire agreement with Israel despite numerous rocket and mortar strikes Tuesday, a Hamas spokesman said. 
Then many in the West may not see "hudna" as a means to ending the conflict.

Hudna has a distinct meaning to Islamic fundamentalists, well-versed in their history: The prophet Mohammad struck a legendary, ten-year hudna with the Quraysh tribe that controlled Mecca in the seventh century. Over the following two years, Mohammad rearmed and took advantage of a minor Quraysh infraction to break the hudna and launch the full conquest of Mecca, the holiest city in Islam.
In January 2009, Muammar Qaddafi offered a One State Solution

A key prerequisite for peace is the right of return for Palestinian refugees to the homes their families left behind in 1948. It is an injustice that Jews who were not originally inhabitants of Palestine, nor were their ancestors, can move in from abroad while Palestinians who were displaced only a relatively short time ago should not be so permitted. 
Of course this denies the historical connection between Jews and Israel and is a prescription for ending Israel as a Jewish state.

Needless to say, Libya is also rated as not free, as Qaddafi puts down demonstrators with military force.

In September 2009, The New York Times allowed Prince Turki of Saudi Arabia to offer his "vision" of peace for Israel.

In order to achieve peace and a lasting two-state solution, Israel must be willing to give as well as take. A first step should be the immediate removal of all Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Only this would show the world that Israel is serious about peace and not just stalling as it adds more illegal settlers to those already occupying Palestinian land.  
At the same time, the international community must pressure Israel to relinquish its grip on all Arab territory, not as a means to gain undeserved concessions but instead as an act of good faith and a demonstration that it is willing to play by the Security Council’s rules and to abide by global standards of military occupation. The Arab world, in the form of the Arab peace initiative that was endorsed by 22 countries in 2002, has offered Israel peace and normalization in return for Israeli withdrawal from all Arab territories including East Jerusalem — with the refugee issue to be solved later through mutual consent. 
There have been increasing well-intentioned calls for Saudi Arabia to “do a Sadat”: King Abdullah travels to Israel and the Israelis reciprocate by making peace with Saudi Arabia. However, those urging such a move must remember that President Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt went to Israel in 1977 to meet with Prime Minister Menachem Begin only after Sadat’s envoy, Hassan el-Tohamy, Sadat’s envoy, was assured by the Israeli foreign minister, Moshe Dayan, that Israel would withdraw from every last inch of Egyptian territory in return for peace. Absent a similar offer today from Israel to the leaders of Palestine, Lebanon and Syria, there is no reason to look at 1977 as a model. 
In other words, Israel must give up tangible assets in return for promises.

Saudi Arabia has recently sent its troops to Bahrain to help suppress Shi'ite demonstrators.

Although the Shiites of Bahrain had significant and legitimate grievances, the repercussions of a Shiite victory were simply too grim for the Saudi leadership. Even some liberal Saudis, who at first sympathized with the Bahraini protests, patriotically fell in line behind the royal family once it and the press began to paint the picture in purely Sunni vs. Shiite terms, and in Saudi vs. Iran terms. 
The lines were clearly drawn. A new Facebook page, “We are all the Saudi Royal Family” (Kullna Al Sa’ud), received over 22,000 “Likes” just as Saudi troops poured over the causeway into Bahrain on March 14. Many Saudis feared that Bahrain would become like Lebanon, riven by sectarianism and controlled by radicals like Hizballah. There is no doubt that Saudi Arabia had legitimate security concerns in Bahrain. 
The Saudi forces, mostly from the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG), which King Abdullah had personally commanded since 1962, were invited into Bahrain by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. They were ostensibly subordinate to the Peninsula Shield Force (PSF), created by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in 1984 to defend against Iran, a move that was a convenient form of political branding for an overwhelmingly Saudi force. The UAE, Qatar and Oman said that they would also send contingents.
Freedom House ranks Saudi Arabia as not free.

In September 2010 before he was deposed for repressing his country, Egypt, Hosni Mubarak offered A peace plan within our Grasp

For an Israeli-Palestinian peace to succeed, it must also be embedded in a broader regional peace between Israel and the Arab world. The Arab Peace Initiative, endorsed by all Arab states, offers Israel peace and normalization in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal from Arab territory and a just solution to the Palestinian refugee issue. But in the interim both sides must show that this dream is within reach. Arab nations should continue to demonstrate the seriousness of their peace initiative with steps that address the hopes and concerns of ordinary Israelis.  
For its part, Israel should make no mistake: settlements and peace are incompatible, as they deepen the occupation that Palestinians seek to end. A complete halt to Israel’s settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is critical if the negotiations are to succeed, starting with an extension of Israel’s moratorium on settlement-building, which expires this month.  
For both sides trust can be built only on tangible security. Security, however, cannot be a justification for Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian land, as it undermines the cardinal principle of land for peace. I recognize that Israel has legitimate security needs, needs that can be reconciled with the Palestinians’ just demand for a complete withdrawal from occupied territory. 
Egypt believes that the presence of an international force in the West Bank, to be stationed for a period to be agreed upon by the parties, could give both sides the confidence and security they seek. 
Specific mention of terrorism is absent. Like Turki's op-ed, Mubarak's puts the onus for real concession solely upon Israel.

Freedom House ranks Egypt as not free. Whether that changes with the removal of Mubarak remains to be seen.

And most absurdly, shortly after he rejected a peace offer from PM Ehud Barak and started a terror war against, Yasir Arafat offered a Palestinian vision of peace on the op-ed page of the New York Times

Palestinians are ready to end the conflict. We are ready to sit down now with any Israeli leader, regardless of his history, to negotiate freedom for the Palestinians, a complete end of the occupation, security for Israel and creative solutions to the plight of the refugees while respecting Israel's demographic concerns. But we will only sit down as equals, not as supplicants; as partners, not as subjects; as seekers of a just and peaceful solution, not as a defeated nation grateful for whatever scraps are thrown our way. For despite Israel's overwhelming military advantage, we possess something even greater: the power of justice.
Arafat, who had just rejected a peace plan, was allowed to offer his "vision" of peace without acknowledging his own role in torpedoing the peace process.

Of those who offer advice to Israel on the New York Times op-ed pages, quite a few seem to have little commitment to freedom, peace or even to Israel.

3) Washington Post vs. Syria

The Washington Post criticizes the administration's inaction regarding Syria.

Like people across the Middle East, the protesters in Syria say that they are seeking the establishment of a democratic system. A statement issued by organizers of the protests Friday called for an end to torture and killings by security forces; the release of all political prisoners; an investigation into the deaths of those killed so far; and reform of the constitution, including a limit on presidential terms. The mass demonstrations on Good Friday were called to show that the cause is neither Islamic nor sectarian. 
Yet the Obama administration has effectively sided with the regime against the protesters. Rather than repudiate Mr. Assad and take tangible steps to weaken his regime, it has proposed, with increasing implausibility, that his government “implement meaningful reforms,” as the president’s latest statement put it. As The Post’s Karen DeYoung and Scott Wilson reported Friday, the administration, which made the “engagement” of Syria a key part of its Middle East policy, still clings to the belief that Mr. Assad could be part of a Middle East peace process; and it would rather not trade “a known quantity in Assad for an unknown future.”
The President has since made a statement about Syria. For more on Syria read Barry Rubin's latest

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1 comment:

NormanF said...

Daled, while you were away news broke the PA and Hamas have agreed to form a unity government.

If you thought the peace talks were in a coma before, they are dead now.

Abu Bluff appears prepared to give up American aid in a bid to win support for a unified Palestinian state at the UN this fall.

So much for the talk of a two state solution. Hamas will never agree to it.