Friday, July 01, 2011

Mideast Media Sampler 07/01/2011

From DG:
1) NYT op-ed index for June 2011

The Bin Laden Decade by Thomas Friedman June 1, 2011

Israel has the same problem. The combination of Yasir Arafat’s foolhardy decision to start a second intifada rather than embrace President Bill Clinton’s two-state peace plan, followed by the rise of Bin Laden, which diverted the U.S. from energetically pursuing the peace process, gave the Israeli right a free hand to expand West Bank settlements. There are now some 500,000 settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. 
Absent some amazing Palestinian peace overture, and maybe even with one, I do not see any Israeli leader with enough authority today to pull Israel out of the West Bank. So, for now, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and Bin Laden both win: In the short run, Bibi gets to keep the West Bank, with 300,000 Jews occupying 2.4 million Palestinians. And in the long run, Bin Laden helps to destroy Israel as a Jewish democracy. 
"Turnip Truck" Tom here equates Prime Minister Netanyahu with Osama bin Laden. There's a lot more nonsense in these two paragraphs, but I don't need to aggravate myself further.

Anti-Israel 1 / Pro-Israel 0

The Depravity Factor by David Brooks June 3, 2011

All governments do bad things, and Middle East dictatorships do more than most. But the Syrian government is one of the world’s genuinely depraved regimes. Yet for all these years, Israel has been asked to negotiate with this regime, compromise with this regime and trust that this regime will someday occupy the heights over it in peace. 
For 30 years, the Middle East peace process has been predicated on moral obtuseness, an unwillingness to face the true nature of certain governments. World leaders have tried sweet-talking Syria, calling Bashar al-Assad a friend (Nancy Pelosi) or a reformer (Hillary Clinton). In 2008, Nicolas Sarkozy invited Assad to be the guest of honor at France’s Bastille Day ceremonies — a ruthless jailer celebrating the storming of a jail. 
Brooks skillfully depicts the blindness of the West.

Anti-Israel 1 / Pro-Israel 1

The Public Editor: Where Words Can Never Do Justice by Arthur Brisbane June 12, 2011

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in short, is the third rail of New York Times journalism. Touch it and burn. 
Ms. Chira defends The Times’s journalism strenuously but is reconciled to the fact that the subject will be a constant source of protest from readers. “I have just come to the conclusion that we are always going to have really, really angry people,” she said. 
In her view, some readers who take sides in the conflict view the other side not just as wrong, but as monstrously wrong on a historical scale. The usual journalistic practice of assuming a neutral posture simply won’t suffice for these readers, she believes. “To not call Side A or Side B wrong is like not calling Hitler wrong,” she said, drawing a parallel that appears often in the reader e-mail I get on this topic. 
Typical equivocation on the part of the public editor, (who echoes the words of the late Deborah Howell who was ombudsman at the Washington Post). I wrote to Brisbane about a number of substantive issues and got no satisfactory response. The focus of the paper and its editor in charge of oversight shouldn't be who complains, but whether the reporting is accurate. By shirking his responsibility, Brisbane effectively okayed the uncritical reporting of anti-Israel propaganda.

Anti-Israel 2 / Pro-Israel 1

What to do with lemons by Thomas Friedman June 19, 2011

If the Palestinians want to take this whole problem back to where it started — the U.N. — I say let’s do it. But let’s think much bigger and with more imagination. 
On Nov. 29, 1947, the U.N. passed General Assembly Resolution 181, partitioning Palestine into two homes for two peoples — described as “Independent Arab and Jewish States.” This is important. That is exactly how Resolution 181 described the desired outcome of partition: an “Arab” state next to a “Jewish” state. 
Here Friedman follows in the footsteps of Yasser Arafat and wants to make 181, not 242, the basis of a settlement.

Yasser Arafat was anti-Israel.

Anti-Israel 3 / Pro-Israel 1

It has to start with them by Thomas Friedman June 26, 2011

When did the Middle East make us happiest in the last few decades? That’s easy: ... 8) when Israel unilaterally withdrew from South Lebanon and Gaza. 
If he feels happy about the strengthening of Hamas and Hezbollah and thousands of rockets raining down on Israeli citizens - the result of the Israeli withdrawals he praises here - he doesn't much like Israel.

Anti-Israel 4 / Pro-Israel 1

My Syria, Awake again after 40 years by Mohammad Ali Atassi June 27, 2011

For the great majority of Syrians, the forgotten Syria meant a police state, a country governed with an iron fist. It meant a concerted international effort to keep a dictatorial regime in power in the name of regional stability — preserving the security of Israel and maintaining a cold peace on the Golan Heights, like the snow that covers Mount Hermon. 
Israel's security was enhanced by keeping Assad in place?!?! (This is effectively "Turnip Truck" Tom's argument.)

Anti-Israel 5 / Pro-Israel 1

Buying into Palestinian Statehood by By Yossi Alpher, Colette Avital, Shlomo Gazit, and Mark Heller

Israel wants acceptance as a Jewish state with its recognized capital in Jerusalem. It needs assurances regarding the nature and priorities of future negotiations, with the truly intractable issues postponed to a later phase. It needs solid security arrangements, understandings regarding Hamas rule in Gaza, and a viable incentive from an Arab world that has long offered to reward it for moving forward with the Palestinians. 
"[U]ndertandings" with a terrorist group are incompatible with "solid security arrangements." If I were generous I'd just call this a fantasy. But I'm not.

FINAL: Anti-Israel 6 / Pro-Israel 1

I will grant that not all of these op-eds were mostly about Israel. In at least two Israel was mostly just mentioned in passing. Still since the previous public editor justified including an op-ed from a member of Hamas on grounds that he didn't want a one sided debate, it's interesting that the Times, on its opinion pages, allows a mostly one sided debate to occur.

2) Land Swaps

Former Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Dore Gold has written a brief history of "land swaps." (h/t In Context)

The whole thing is excellent, but I want to emphasize a point he makes towards the end:

In October 1986, President Ronald Reagan met with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Iceland, and made a radical proposal that both superpowers eliminate all of their ballistic missiles, in order to focus their energies on developing missile defenses alone. The idea didn't work, Reagan's proposal was not accepted, and the arms control negotiations took a totally different direction. But what if today Russian president Dmitry Medvedev asked President Obama to implement Reagan's proposals? Would the U.S. have any obligation to diplomatic ideas that did not lead to a finalized treaty? 
In addition, though "everyone knows" that peace will come when Israel offers the Palestinians nearly everything they want with some minor adjustments, the Palestinians have twice rejected (2000-1 and 2008) such offers. Not just that, but the Palestinians have rejected the very premises of the peace process (the "Aqsa intifada" and the unity agreement with Hamas, for example). Why should they get everything they want? Shouldn't there be penalties for bad faith?

3) The indictments

The Telegraph reports (via memeonrandum)

In a long-awaited move which threatens to reawaken sectarian discord throughout the country, the Shia group was blamed by a United Nations Special Tribunal for the car-bomb attack on its leading Sunni opponent. 
Lebanon's state prosecutor, Saeed Mirza, confirmed the tribunal handed over the first indictment in its long investigation into the crime, which at the time seemed likely to lead to a major realignment in regional politics. 
Its contents were not formally released but judicial sources told The Daily Telegraph that Hizbollah's senior military commander, Mustapha Badreddine, was accused of masterminding Mr Hariri's killing. 
And of course, Hezbollah's in spin mode:
A Lebanese television channel broadcast a series of clips this year showing the tribunal’s interviews with Lebanese officials that suggested efforts to manipulate the investigation. 
Hezbollah wants Lebanon to end its cooperation with the court, including withdrawing Lebanese judges and ending its financial contributions. 
Nasrallah actually accused Israel back in October:

In a much-anticipated televised speech, Hizbullah head Hassan Nasrallah on Monday night presented what he called proof that Israel was behind the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.
Now there's another obstacle to arresting the suspects:

There have been some changes and now Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati has announced his cabinet. And guess what? Hizballah has 70 percent of the ministries! Does the Obama Administration have any serious policy reaction to Lebanon being controlled by a radical Islamist terrorist organization that is a client of Iran? You know, those people who killed 242 American soldiers a few years back, kidnapped and at times murdered other Americans, and waged a war against Israel in 2006 after which the United States and UN promised to help disarm them, block their arms’ imports, and keep them out of southern Lebanon?

With Hezbollah so entrenched, it's hard to imagine that the suspects can be arrested. 

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