Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mideast Media Sampler 08/23/2011

From DG:
1) Celebrating Qaddafi's defeat

The New York Times, which has had a history of shilling for the Qaddafi regime (that doesn't include this fawning profile of Aisha el-Qaddafi, Moammar's daughter, from April) is now celebrating Qaddafi's final hours.

For more than 40 years, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi has dominated and terrorized Libya — his image plastered on what seemed like every wall and his goons posted on every corner. Late Monday, with rebel fighters in substantial control of Tripoli, he was nowhere to be found, and his regime seemed to be collapsing
The rest of the editorial is a call to the rebels to exercise restraint. Unless a significant number of the rebels are paid subscribers of the New York Times, and are sympathetic to its worldview, I doubt that those calls will be heeded.

The Washington Post, which had once criticized the President's reticence on Libya, now believes that U.S. actions helped the cause of freedom in Libya.
But as British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy led, Mr. Obama crucially maintained enough U.S. support to keep the NATO mission going. Libyans themselves provided the motivation and the manpower, but they could not have succeeded without U.S. help. And Mr. Obama sustained the mission despite criticism from both Democrats and potential 2012 opponents.
Still, the editors of the Washington Post seem a bit more sober about the next chapter than their counterparts in New York.
There are huge if’s, of course. Libya has no tradition of self-rule and little civil society after four decades of repression. Risks include reprisal killings, internecine power battles, tribal rivalries and counterrevolution.
The final chapter of the Qaddafi regime does not yet appear to have been written, but both major American newspapers seem ready to celebrate, without giving much consideration to what couldgo wrong.

2) Why not read what he's expressed?

Robert O. Freedman looks at the positive aspects of a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state in yesterday's Baltimore Sun, U.N. ploy could benefit Israel. (h/t my father) Freedman sets down a number of conditions and concludes:
The question, of course, is whether Mr. Netanyahu would agree to such an arrangement. Israeli elections are due in the next 24 months, and a gesture toward peace would strengthen his position among swing voters, something he, as the leader of the Likud Party, might well need if Aryeh Deri splits with the Shas Party and gets sufficient votes, as Israeli polls now indicate, to enable Tzipi Livni's Kadimah Party to form a new government. In addition, the public protests now sweeping Israel over the costs of both housing and cottage cheese are eroding Mr. Netanyahau's base of public support. Whether these factors would be sufficient to persuade Mr. Netanyahu to endorse the General Assembly resolution that would enable the resumption of negotiations is, however, a very open question.
I'm not convinced that despite the protests Prime Minister Netanyahu is any immediate political danger. The most recent poll I found (which is from three weeks ago) shows Netanyahu polling well ahead of Livni. So Freedman is making a number of assumptions that are not in evidence. Worse, he doesn't explain why he thinks that the UDI will somehow lead to negotiations (much less successful negotiations.) In an op-ed in the New York Times in May, President Abbas made clear that part of his goal in seeking the U.N.'s approval was to get support for attacking Israel using international law.
Palestine’s admission to the United Nations would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one. It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice. 
And of course given that Abbas rejected a peace agreement from Ehud Olmert very similar to the one Freedman suggests, the question is why he would make an agreement now with Netanyahu.
In exchange for West Bank land that Israel would keep, Olmert proposed a 5.5 percent land swap giving the Palestinians a desert territory adjacent to the Gaza Strip.
Olmert's proposal first emerged several months ago and was published in detail on Tuesday by Haaretz, prompting Abu Rdainah's response.
"The Israeli proposal is not acceptable," Abbas's spokesman said. "The Palestinian side will only accept a Palestinian state with territorial continuity, with holy Jerusalem as its capital, without settlements, and on the June 4, 1967 boundaries."
He called the Israeli proposal a "waste of time." 
 Or as chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Al Jazeera:
In November 2008… Let me finish… Olmert, who talked today about his proposal to Abu Mazen, offered the 1967 borders, but said: “We will take 6.5% of the West Bank, and give in return 5.8% from the 1948 lands, and the 0.7% will constitute the safe passage, and East Jerusalem will be the capital, but there is a problem with the Haram and with what they called the Holy Basin.” Abu Mazen too answered with defiance, saying: “I am not in a marketplace or a bazaar. I came to demarcate the borders of Palestine – the June 4, 1967 borders – without detracting a single inch, and without detracting a single stone from Jerusalem, or from the holy Christian and Muslim places. This is why the Palestinian negotiators did not sign…
Wishing for peace will not make it so. I don't believe that the conditions currently exist for peace to be made and certainly Abbas's U.N. bid reflects his unwillingness to negotiate in good faith. Looking at the available evidence it's impossible to see how his effort is a good thing.

3) How is this incitement?

Babylon and Beyond reports, Palestinian Authority accuses Israel of trying to provoke violence.
Three days of Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, two days of Israeli military operations in the southern West Bank city of Hebron and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police in East Jerusalem have set off alarm bells for the Palestinian Authority.
The authority accused Israel of trying to provoke a violent reaction that might undermine Palestinian efforts to obtain recognition of a Palestinian state by the United Nations.
Yesterday it was reported that Hamas fired 15 rockets into Israel, despite a ceasefire. Regardless, Israel sent 150 trucks of supplies into Gaza. I think I have to check my dictionary to see the definition of "provoke."

This perverse reverse moral calculus is why Avi Dichter writes, that Abbas deserves no state.
A moment before Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas approaches the UN with a statehood bid, we would expect the PA chairman to make a statement addressing the grave terror attack against Israeli citizens en route to Eilat. Something along the lines of “we shall hunt down the perpetrators and masterminds of the murderous attack and bring them to justice.” After all, in our region one pays no excise tax on words. Yet the silence of the chairman and of his Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, must worry the whole world – and that includes the UN General Assembly.
4) The dead cat peace process

Recovering peace processor, Aaron David Miller begins the Mideast Blame Game (h/t Lynn) with a story:
When Secretary of State James Baker was organizing the Madrid peace conference in 1991, he resorted to a device he called the dead cat on the doorstep. Simply put, Baker threatened to publicly blame Israeli, Palestinian and Syrian leaders if they didn’t accept the terms and attend the conference.
It worked.
As far as I can tell, the major success of the Madrid conference is that it took place. It appears that the result of the conference was that a negotiating framework was agreed upon. Other than an Israeli agreement with Jordan this framework has not advanced peace in the Middle East. Oslo was negotiated away from any American interference. So claiming that Baker's tactic worked is technically correct, but it seems to be successful only in a very limited context.

Is Miller saying that if Tzippi Livni had formed the government in 2009, there'd be an agreement now? As noted above nothing in Mahmoud Abbas's history suggests that he would be willing to make the necessary sacrifices for peace. Instead of blaming the main culprit, Miller prefers to spread blame all around instead of questioning whether his premises for peacemaking were wrong. I suppose that it's difficult to acknowledge that one's whole professional life was futile.

5) Fun with Roger

I had thought of critiquing Roger Cohen's Jews in a whisper, but by now, I'm late to the party.

Yisrael Medad:
To even compare the two - reconstituting the Jewish national home in the patrimony territory of the Jewish people recognized in international law and a violent, vicious, racist, fanatic phenomenom which ignores the evil inherent in Islamism, is reprehensible, even for a liberal Jew.
 Meryl Yourish:
This guy gets six figures from the New York Times to publish drek like that? They haven’t changed in 70 years. They covered up the Holocaust, they covered up the Crown Heights pogroms, and they’re still covering for the world’s Jew-haters.
Floyd Abrams on The New York Times Letters page (titled "On Anti-Semitism and the Mideast" h/t Jim Wald)
Even if one shares, as I do, Mr. Cohen’s concerns about the settlements, I would have thought that if diaspora Jews or others were being assigned tasks vis-à-vis Israel, a prime one would be to respond to the torrent of calumny, one-sided and often false, that is directed at that nation on the basis of supposed standards that are applied to no other nation. 
The fourth letter was nonsense, but the first three were excellent.

6) Followups

Yesterday I wrote about two items and have received further information about both.

Regarding the indictments of the four members of Hezbollah for the killing of Rafik Hariri, Challahu Akbar found the Time magazine interview with one of the suspects. Israel Matzav provided more background on the cell phone accusations made by Hezbollah in the form of a CBC investigationand Honest Reporting provides a summary of the investigation's main points.

I should have written explicitly that the Washington Post's editorial about the protests in Israel was too cautious in failing to identify the political leanings of the protests' organizers.

Ran Baratz writes in Jewish Ideas Daily (h/t H Levy):
But let us leave aside Walzer's fanciful report, and view this protest in its historical and political context. For it is hardly an unprecedented event, or one without a highly significant political element.
That element is the deep financial and strategic involvement of the New Israel Fund (NIF), a left-wing "social-change" philanthropy largely funded by American donors. In its own words, NIF has seeded innumerable "cause-related progressive NGOs" in Israel, and through Shatil, its "action arm," has provided them with the money and the "know-how to grow and prosper." Through the instrumentality of the latest protests (which it may not have initiated but rushed to exploit), NIF is now conducting its third campaign against Benjamin Netanyahu.
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