Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mideast Media Sampler 09/27/2011

From DG:
1) Ellison elides I won't critique every aspect of Rep. Keith Ellison's op-ed Support the Palestinian Bid for Statehood, but two points he makes caught my eye.
And in this case, Arab countries that have never recognized Israel would implicitly be doing so when they voted to recognize a Palestinian state that envisioned itself beside Israel in a two-state solution to their conflict. That in itself would be a breakthrough, confirming Israel’s solid standing in the region.
This is hopelessly convoluted.
Ellison is arguing that Arab votes for statehood for Palestine would implicitly mean that those countries recognized Israel and characterizes that legerdemain as a breakthrough. Who's he kidding? When Thomas Friedman launched the Saudi "peace initiative" the members of the Arab league couldn't even agree to promise normalization with Israel. If the Arab world couldn't come to expressly promise normalization then, how would a vote on a different topic (Palestinian nationhood) mean anything? Later on Ellison writes:
Criticisms of the Palestinian Authority’s desire for the United Nations to act include assertions that this approach to statehood is unilateral and precludes negotiations with Israel. Yet the process of gaining recognition from the United Nations Security Council is multilateral by definition.
Palestinian statehood was to come about by way of bilateral agreements between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. In that context, the UDI as it's called is unilateral. Ellison is simply changing the context. This isn't a serious argument it's sophistry. There's plenty more to argue with. I don't have the stomach to do a complete job.

2) Mearsheimer digs deep Once Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer submitted to an interview with Robert Fisk that was illustrated with an American that had a field of 6 - not 5 - pointed stars, I saw no reason to give them the benefit of the doubt about their motives. Now Mearsheimer has written a defense of his decision to write a forward to a book written by Gilad Atzmon. (via memeorandum)  David Bernstein of the Volokh Conspiracy critiques Mearsheimer's defense:
Mearsheimer is not content to argue, as he does, that he didn’t know Atzmon from a hole-in-the-head, and endorsed the book because he found it provocative and interesting. If he had limited himself to this, he could have then added that he wasn’t aware of Atzmon’s anti-Semitic background and didn’t read the book in that light. Now that he knows, he regrets his association with Atzmon and the book. Nope. Mearsheimer actually defends Atzmon from the charge of anti-Semitism. So here’s my challenge to Prof. Mearsheimer: I will give you space on the Volokh Conspiracy to explain how you can absolve Atzmon from anti-Semitism after reading this excerpt from an interview with Atzmon, not coincidentally hosted on the website of notorious anti-Semite “Israel Shamir”.
After reading the quotes, I don't if anyone could explain that.

3) Stifling Oren Back in February the Washington Post, in an editorial criticized the decision to prosecute 11 Muslim students for disrupting a speech given by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren.
The university suspended the Muslim Student Union from campus for the fall semester; each of the offending Irvine students was disciplined. (The university declines to provide details because of federal privacy rights.) Yet the Irvine 11 - as they have become known - now face criminal misdemeanor charges for "conspiracy to disturb a meeting" and one misdemeanor count of "disturbance of a meeting." According to the prosecutor's office, each student could face up to six months in jail, if convicted. In a Feb. 4 news release announcing the charges, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas asserted that the students' actions represented "a clear violation of the law and failing to bring charges against this conduct would amount to a failure to uphold the Constitution." Not true. Prosecutors make judgments all the time about whether justice would be served by trying particular cases. These types of disruptions are most frequently not prosecuted unless they result in threats or physical violence. Mr. Rackauckas has made his point; he should now use the power of his office wisely, give the students a warning and drop the charges. The protesters, too, have much to learn. Some have characterized the episode as trampling on the students' free-speech rights. That would have been the case had police officers tried to keep them from picketing outside of the auditorium during Mr. Oren's visit. That is not what happened. Instead, the students abused their privileges in an attempt to squelch the free-speech rights of others.
Given that the editorial acknowledged that the students went too far, I find it hard to justify the argument to drop the prosecution. Last week ten of the students were convicted. Even with Robert Mackey promoted to the Guardian, The Lede blog at the New York Times can be counted on to give a fair hearing to the anti-Israel side of the story:
Reached after the verdict on Friday, a lawyer for the students, Jacqueline Goodman, said they had acted because it was an opportunity to “speak directly to Michael Oren” about the violence in Gaza. “They couldn’t have foreseen they’d be convicted of a crime,” she said. Ms. Goodman said they planned to appeal the decision. At Sunday’s gathering in Orange County, Ms. Goodman reiterated that pledge. “We’re going to stand up and fight this,” she said, “even if it means going to the Supreme Court.”
The ADL provides background that shows that the Muslim Student Association isn't so innocent. Furthermore:
The university's investigation into the matter uncovered evidence that MSU organized a calculated demonstration at Ambassador Oren's speech in violation of university policy against disorderly conduct, obstructing university activities, furnishing false information and other campus policies.
And an interesting perspective from the Jewish Journal:
“Every time there’s an event they’re opposed to, they disrupt it,” said Pam Chozen, a Laguna Beach resident who said she had felt concerned for her personal safety.  “No one from the other side would think of disrupting an MSU event.”
Prof Eugene Volokh, though, found the prosecution and conviction to be sound.
I’m inclined to think that the situation here is quite different from that in In re Kay. First, the customs of presentation at universities seem to me to be much less tolerant of heckling; there is plenty of time for audience participation during Q & A, but shouting during the speech is not at all customary. (Perhaps the California Supreme Court got it wrong in interpreting the statute in a way that requires a determination of the particular customs of a certain kind of event; but that seems to be required under the Kay decision.) Second, and relatedly, the university administrators repeatedly stressed to students that such interruptions were improper. To the extent that Kay focused on what was said by the authorities during the meeting as evidence of custom (“Indeed, the principal speaker at the rally, an elected public official, stated that the relevant custom sanctioned the demonstrative conduct of petitioners as a legitimate means of expression”), this cuts the other way here. Third, while it’s hard to tell exactly how disruptive the hecklers were in Kay, it appears from accounts of the Irvine meeting and the court’s account in Kay that the Irvine hecklers were much more disruptive, and did indeed “substantially impair[] the conduct of the meeting.”
What's interesting here, is that Volokh writes that the Oren speech included a scheduled Q & A, as that would be the standard format for such a talk in an academic setting. An account from Stand with Us, confirms that a Q & A session was scheduled. This means that the students' lawyer lied about the heckling being the only way the protesters could address Oren, to The Lede, which, of course, published the statement without challenge. In a related article, Stanley Fish the Opinionator at the New YorkTimes asks Why has the conflict between Israel and much of the Arab world become a third-rail topic in the academy? I would argue that what's happened is that due to a number of factors (Daniel Pipes considers a number of them) the study of the Middle East has become increasingly politicized. Scholarship has been replaced by political correctness. It isn't that the Middle East conflict has become a "third rail" but that those who could challenge the corruption don't.

4) The only thing he should be managing is his anger The New York Times and Washington Post carried slightly different accounts of Turkish PM Recep Erdogan's encounter with UN security. Neil MacFarquhar reported for the New York Times:
Mr. Erdogan was having a tête-à-tête with President Jalal Talabani of Iraq on the obscure fourth floor of the General Assembly hall — tiny meeting spaces have been tucked into every nook and cranny because the Secretariat Building is gutted for renovations. Learning that the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, was making his address demanding full United Nations membership for a state of Palestine, Mr. Erdogan, a big fan, rushed to the nearest entrance to take Turkey’s seat on the main floor. But the fourth floor is actually the visitors’ gallery, with no access to the main floor, and it was packed. So a United Nations security guard refused to let the Turkish leader pass. When Mr. Erdogan pressed forward, the guard pushed him (by most accounts), and then a fracas erupted that was audible four flours below.
A UN security guard was sent to the hospital. According to the New York Times, the Ban Ki Moon apologized to Erdogan. The AP has some additional details but couldn't confirm the apology.
The tumult caused a security alert that led to diplomats outside the General Assembly hall being ordered out of U.N. headquarters to wait in a steady rainstorm until the situation was under control. The sources say that initially as many as nine U.N. security guards were suspended but after a protest, they were called back to work and placed on administrative duty, out of uniform and off the beat as the matter is investigated. It was not immediately known if the Turkish security guards have been similarly reassigned or punished. One diplomat said he witnessed Turkish security officials being involved in another incident during a high-level meeting at the U.N. on Libya last Monday. The diplomat said a Turkish security member went under the rope in a cordoned-off corridor as U.S. President Barack Obama was about to arrive and was confronted by U.N. security guards. There was some pushing and shoving until Turkey’s U.N. ambassador stepped in and calmed the situation, the diplomat said.
I'm sure that the Turkish security guards were not punished. If anything, I'd guess that they were rewarded. It sounds as if Erdogan and company think that the regular rules don't apply to them. Yesterday the New York Times also reported In Riddle of Mideast Upheaval, Turkey Offers Itself as an Answer, a paean to the vision of PM Erdogan:
Not so long ago, the foreign policy of Turkey revolved around a single issue: the divided island of Cyprus. These days, its prime minister may be the most popular figure in the Middle East, its foreign minister envisions a new order there and its officials have managed to do what the Obama administration has so far failed to: position themselves firmly on the side of change in the Arab revolts and revolutions. No one is ready to declare a Pax Turkana in the Middle East, and indeed, its foreign policy is strewn this year with missteps, crises and gains that feel largely rhetorical. It even lacks enough diplomats. But in an Arab world where the United States seems in retreat, Europe ineffectual and powers like Israel and Iran unsettled and unsure, officials of an assertive, occasionally brash Turkey have offered a vision for what may emerge from turmoil across two continents that has upended decades of assumptions. Not unexpectedly, the vision’s center is Turkey.
There are good observations here mixed with an uncritical view of Erdogan's successes. (Omri Ceren recently argued that these successes are somewhat mixed.) But if the recent incidents at the UN are any indication, Erdogan's arrogance may well be his eventual undoing.

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