Friday, January 27, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 1/27/2012: Anti-Semitism Back In Style

From DG:
1) The fault lines of the 'Arab Spring'

Jonathan Spyer in PJMedia 'Arab Spring' leaves a weakened Hezbollah:
This investment in the survival of Assad indicates which of the four aspects of Hezbollah’s identity mentioned above are most important to it. The link with the Iran-led alliance and maintaining the ability to wage war against Israel are the cardinal interests. To maintain these, Hezbollah has to a great extent sacrificed its more nebulous self-image as a leader of pan-Islamic “resistance.” Syrian Sunnis leading the uprising against Assad now count Hezbollah among their enemies. The movement’s flag has been burnt at opposition rallies. 
So the uprising in Syria has served to remove the veil of “resistance” from the face of Hezbollah. The sectarian visage beneath has been revealed. Hezbollah has been exposed as a sectarian, Iran-aligned Shia force, backing a vicious, non-Sunni dictatorship in its war against its own, largely Sunni people. 
Polls show the resulting disappearance of the high regard in which Hezbollah was once held across the Arab world.
Guy Bechor in Ynet, Hamas in deep trouble (h/t Challah Hu Akbar):
Nothing stopped Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas prime minister in Gaza, from making Ahmadinejad-style declarations that Israel’s days are numbered and calling for the establishment of an Arab Jihad army for Palestine’s liberation. Yet behind the pretentious slogans lies a grim reality for Hamas that can no longer be hidden. 
First, Hamas’ alliance with Iran has come to an end. This pact was unnatural to begin with, given that we saw a Sunni organization endorsing a non-Arab Shiite state. Yet when Hamas refused Iran’s orders to support the fading Bashar Assad, Tehran shut its door to the group. What’s worse, the flow of money used by Hamas to pay some 50,000 officials and troops in Gaza has ended. 
Hugh Naylor in The National  Hamas Attack on Gaza Shiites May Indicate Political Shift(h/t Daily Alert)
Saturday's crackdown on Shiites - occurring as Hamas dismantles its headquarters in Damascus amid Syrian president Bashar Al Assad's political troubles - is an obvious affront to its long-time patron and may be a sign that one strut of that axis is rickety. 
It also may be an indication that the tectonic political shifts underway since the Arab Spring erupted last year may be affecting the Gaza Strip. 
"Because Hamas is straying from this Hizbollah-Syria relationship, that means they are freer to do these kinds of things," said Hani Habib, a political analyst and writer, who lives in Gaza.
Hamas might not suffer long term ill effects from losing its Iranian sponsor, with the Sinai being a new front, Hamas should be able to get significant new sources of financing and weaponry. Hezbollah's situation would appear to be a bit more tenuous.

Finally, there's Michael Segall's Iran: The Syrian Highway in the Fight Against Israel Is Still Open:
For as long as it lasts the crisis in Syria will manifest the inter-Arab fault line of Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states vs. Syria, and deepen the Persian-Arab, Sunni-Shiite, and historical Persian-Turkish (Ottoman) fault lines. Parallel to the metahistorical processes is the ongoing weakening of the United States in the Middle East and the rise of Islamic regimes that, albeit mostly Sunni, are much closer to Iran than to America. From Tehran's standpoint, the real challenge is Turkey, as illustrated by the crisis with Syria. Turkey sees what is happening in Syria - its backyard - as part of the Arab Spring and calls on the president to respond to the will of the people, while Iran keeps backing Bashar and claims the Arab Spring is just a pretext to get rid of him. Both of these states have a superpower-imperialist past they would like to bring back, and will continue their dispute as the Middle Eastern tumult intensifies and even when the dust of the "Arab revolutions" settles. 
Both, with their apparent Islamic agenda, are competing for the same public, but still a wide gap yawns between them. 
Iran appears to be at an advanced stage of reshaping what it calls the resistance camp. The fall of one of its mainstays, the Assad regime, would affect Iran's ability to help Hizbullah in "real time" in the event of another round of hostilities with Israel, and the freedom of action of the Hamas headquarters in Damascus. Yet, at the same time, opportunities will open for Iran in the region. In its view, the electoral victories of the Islamic forces (even if Sunni) and the possibility of communicating with them without fear of governmental repression - particularly in Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco, while in eastern Saudi Arabia the Shiite minority is still under tight control - opens for Tehran a new range of ideology-driven opportunities. As in the past, the common denominator around which it seeks to unite all members of the camp is hatred of the West and Israel. Here, Iran's rhetoric about the Syrian crisis, which it portrays as an attempt to harm a central Arab actor that has operated against Israel and has paid and is paying a price for its actions, plays a salient role. 
Iran will try to consolidate the resistance camp in accordance with the changing geostrategic conditions of the region. In the first stage, it will work to widen the camp's ideological reach to include both a religious basis of Islam and an ideological-political basis of hatred of Israel and the United States. As for the practical aspects of the struggle against Israel, Iran will continue to leave them in the hands of Hizbullah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, attempting to broaden the scope of military-terrorist conflict with Israel in the future. Meanwhile, Iran is assigning an important role to its nuclear program and to formulating an appropriate deterrence concept that will be combined with its current "resistance camp" doctrine. 
As the Muslim Brotherhood and its associated movement gain strength Shi'ite Iran holds less interest for the newly dominant Sunni Islamists coming to power. Colin Kahl writes:
When Mubarak fell, Iran's leaders moved out with swagger. They saw one pivotal U.S. ally gone, and perceived an opportunity to exploit unrest to undermine other pro-Western regimes, especially Saudi Arabia. They sought to develop contacts with Islamists in Egypt and Libya, expand ties to opposition movements in Yemen, and capitalize on the indigenous Shiite protests in Bahrain. And Iran's leaders seemed confident that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, Tehran's state ally in the Middle East, was immune from the populist wave because of its militant stance toward Israel and the United States. 
One year later, however, it is hard to find evidence that Iran has benefited from the Arab uprisings. In fact, Iran's regional position has taken a big hit. With the partial exception of Yemen, Tehran has struggled to build new networks of influence with emerging Islamist actors. Meanwhile, Assad's regime has been thoroughly delegitimized, expelled from the Arab League, and is wobbling in the face of nationwide protests. This, in turn, has created considerable anxiety for Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia that constitutes Iran's chief non-state ally. 
The perception of Iranian meddling has also decimated Tehran's "soft power" appeal across the Arab world. Surveys conducted in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates by Zogby International show Iran's reputation in free fall since the Arab Spring began. Just a few years ago, Iran enjoyed a strong majority of support among the populations of all these countries; as of July 2011, Iran had a net unfavorable rating in every country but Lebanon. 
2) Pre-occupation with occupation 

UN Watch asked a spokesman for the UN if Gaza was still occupied. The response was not encouraging, though hardly surprising.:
Furthermore, there is a resolution from the General Assembly from 20 December 2010, and while it noted the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank, it also stressed, in quotes, “the need for respect and preservation of the territorial unity, contiguity and integrity of all of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”. So just to repeat that the United Nations will continue to refer to the Gaza Strip as part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory until either the General Assembly or the Security Council take a different view on the matter.  
Elder of Ziyon recently attended a lecture given by Prof. Eugene Kontorovich that addressed this very issue. Toward the end, Elder of Ziyon presents this summary of Kontorovich's conclusions:
Kontorovich didn't get into the issue of Gaza, which may seem to be a problem since it has a different government, but he argues that since Area A is unquestionably part of what is claimed to be Palestine, that West Bank entity is undoubtedly a state. Having defined territory is not the same as having defined borders, and "Palestine" has st least some territory that it can call its own. 
Therefore, the professor says, the entire issue nowadays between Israel and the Palestinian Arab state is not an issue of occupation or legality - it is simply a border dispute that must be resolved the way all border disputes are resolved (or not.)
The UN seems intent on maintaining the Palestinians' grievances against Israel. It is those who deny Israel's many concrete concessions over the past 18+ years and who attach importance to a phony definition of "occupation" who are undermining peace and keeping the conflict alive.

3) The ugly American Jewish supporters of Israel

The AP has a generally unflattering profile of Sheldon Adelson, perhaps Newt Gingrich's largest individual donor (actually he doesn't give to Gingrich directly but to his related PAC),Gingrich’s biggest benefactor is a casino mogul, a hardliner on Israel and very, very rich. The article observes:
No other candidate in the race for president appears to be relying so heavily on the fortune of a single donor. It’s been made possible by last year’s Supreme Court rulings — known as Citizens United — that recast the political landscape by stripping away restrictions on contributions and how outside groups can spend their money. 
Sheldon Adelson is Citizens United come to life. 
“The bottom line is that it creates that potential for one person to have far more influence than any one person should have,” said Fred Wertheimer, president of the campaign finance watchdog group Democracy 21.
In addition to portraying Adelson as extreme here the article accuses him of (legal) corruption. Is there any evidence for Wertheimer's charge? Of course not. In the The mainstreaming of antisemitism, Meryl Yourish writes:
This is how modern anti-Semitism works. In the shadows of the mainstream press, with the wink-wink nudge-nudges of innuendo and reading between the lines. Sheldon Adelson has bought and paid for a candidate who is running for president, and it’s clear that the quid pro quo will be Israel. Watch for Andrew Sullivan and his progressive brothers-in-arms to wave this news article like a flag on how Israel is controlling America. 
A brother in arms, Wayne Barrett has done exactly that at the Daily Beast. (h/t Lauri Regan
Of course the Jewish American press has been up in arms over this viciousness. Actually it hasn't. The Forward's Gal Beckerman piles on with the offensive What Sheldon's money buys, which isn't appreciably different from the AP article.

Generally when the subject is Jewish support for Israel, the media is willing to engage in all sorts of innuendo, suggesting that support for Israel is based on ignorance, misplaced priorities or even dual loyalty. Prior to the Democratic primary in Florida four years ago, Jodi Kantor of the New York Times wrote, As Obama Heads to Florida, Many of Its Jews Have Doubts:
Because of a dispute over moving the date of the state’s primary, Mr. Obama and the other Democratic candidates did not campaign in Florida. In his absence, novel and exotic rumors about Mr. Obama have flourished. Among many older Jews, and some younger ones, as well, he has become a conduit for Jewish anxiety about Israel, Iran, anti-Semitism and race. 
Mr. Obama is Arab, Jack Stern’s friends told him in Aventura. (He’s not.)
He is a part of Chicago’s large Palestinian community, suspects Mindy Chotiner of Delray. (Wrong again.)
The gist of the article is that the only reason Jews wouldn't vote for Obama was out of ignorance. The tone of the article was extremely condescending.

Back in 2003, a former managing editor of the Washington Post, Robert Kaiser wrote Bush and Sharon Nearly Identical On Mideast Policy. Despite the anodyne sounding headline, the article asserted:
Since then, U.S. policy has been in step with Sharon's. The peace process is "quiescent," said retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, Bush's special envoy to the region. "I've kind of gone dormant," he added. In December Bush appointed an articulate, hard-line critic of the traditional peace process, Elliott Abrams, director of Mideast affairs for the National Security Council. 
"The Likudniks are really in charge now," said a senior government official, using a Yiddish term for supporters of Sharon's political party. Neumann agreed that Abrams's appointment was symbolically important, not least because Abrams's views were shared by his boss, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, by Vice President Cheney and by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. "It's a strong lineup," he said. 
Abrams is a former assistant secretary of state in the Reagan administration who was convicted on two counts of lying to Congress in the Iran-contra scandal, then pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. In October 2000, Abrams wrote: "The Palestinian leadership does not want peace with Israel, and there will be no peace."
Later on the article suggested that support for Israel was also tied to support for attacking Iraq. While many American supporters of Israel did support the second Gulf War, official Israel didn't see Saddam as an immediate threat. Kaiser didn't consider the merits of the Israeli arguments, just that the administration was following Israeli or neo-conservative dictates. Pat Buchanan cited Kaiser as proof that Jews were leading the United States into war against its own interests.

The trend Meryl Yourish observed of grossly overstating Jewish influence in politics and ascribing sinister motives to that influence has been going on for awhile and unfortunately it is likely to continue.
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