Sunday, March 04, 2012

The Middle East Sampler 3/4/2012: Arab's Naqba Isn't Israel

From DG:
1) Confronting the real Naqba

Critics of Israel like to show their sophistication by referring to the creation of Israel and displacement of Palestinians as the "naqba." However, as Barry Rubin wrote a few weeks ago, the original meaning of "naqba" was much different:
Constantine Zurayk was vice-president of the American University of Beirut. His book was entitled The Meaning of the Disaster. Here’s the key passage: 
“Seven Arab states declare war on Zionism in Palestine, stop impotent before it and turn on their heels. The representatives of the Arabs deliver fiery speeches in the highest government forums, warning what the Arab states and peoples will do if this or that decision be enacted. Declarations fall like bombs from the mouths of officials at the meetings of the Arab League, but when action becomes necessary, the fire is still and quiet, and steel and iron are rusted and twisted, quick to bend and disintegrate.” 
This is the old style of Arab discourse. Zurayk openly acknowledged the Arab states rejected all compromise, made ferocious threats, and invaded the new state of Israel to destroy it. For him, the “nakba” taught that they needed to modernize and democratize their system. Only thoroughgoing reform could fix the shortcomings of the Arabic-speaking world. What happened instead was another 55 years of the same thing, followed by this new era opening last year which will probably also bring a half-century of the same thing. Nakba has become the opposite of what Zurayk wanted it to be: Blaming your opponent rather than acknowledging your own shortcomings and fixing them.
Two recent articles highlighted the Arab folly of blaming Israel first. One is Let us compare Assad to Israel by Tariq Alhomayed, which first appeared in Asharq al-Awsat and was reprinted in Ya Libnan!:
Let us pause here in front of this state of mad dictatorship, and compare it with what Israel has committed against us in recent times, and I say recent times as we are talking about the last 5 years, particularly the Lebanon and Gaza wars. The entire world rushes to stop Israel’s aggressions against Lebanon in 2006, and this war ended after approximately two months, claiming the lives of 1,200 Lebanese. The same thing applies to the Gaza war, which had approximately the same death toll. In both wars, the public opinion in the Arab world rushed to take action, whilst counterfeit “friends of Israel” lists were issued, masterminded by the al-Assad regime; indeed a number of Arab politicians attempted to exploit this tragedy, most prominently the al-Assad regime. However we did not hear anybody ask – even now – why did these wars happen? Whose interests did these wars, and more, serve? Who was responsible for this? 
Today, in the case of al-Assad, we have seen the Syrian forces brutally killing their own people on our television screens over the past year – not two months – whilst the death toll stands at more than 8,000 and the tyrant of Damascus’s troops have destroyed mosques, tortured and assassinated children, as well as women and the elderly, simply in order to allow al-Assad to cling to power. Despite all this, we find some countries, politicians, media organizations and figures, who are procrastinating; it is as if we – as Arabs – are saying that if the killer is also an Arab, then this is something that we can accept, however if he is an Israeli, then we must all move as one to put an end to this! This is a saddening and shameful state of affairs, particularly when somebody like Hassan Nasrallah shamelessly comes out to defend al-Assad! 
Therefore, if we compare al-Assad to Israel we will discover the extent of the growing hypocrisy in our region, and one of the most important sources of this is the al-Assad regime, both the regime of the father and the son, which have survived based on the lie of the resistance, and others. Therefore, one of the advantages of the departure of this tyrant will serve to root out hypocrisy in our region, as its most prominent symbol is the al-Assad regime.
Khaled Abu Toameh wrote about a visit of Israeli doctors to Ramallah in The Hate Business. Abu Toameh comments on the protests of this visit and the ensuing calls protesting against normalization with Israel:
Some of the Palestinian's top leaders, including ministers and the former mufti of Jerusalem, were among tens of thousands of Palestinians who underwent life-saving surgery in Israeli hospitals over the past two decades. 
Scores of Palestinian physicians receive training in Israeli hospitals every year and many even seek the assistance of their Israeli colleagues in treating patients who are admitted to Palestinian hospitals. Some Palestinians sold their homes and lands to be able to cover the expenses of being admitted to an Israeli hospital. 
But instead of welcoming Palestinian-Israeli cooperation in the medical field, some Palestinians are calling for boycotting those who are trying to save the lives of their own patients.
Articles about the Middle East often write about Arab hatred of Israel as if it is a natural state of affairs or justified due to the "occupation." In fact the reporters and pundits who write like this are perpetuating the conflict, not bringing peace any closer. If the so-called Arab spring brings a greater realization that Israel is not the fundamental problem of the Middle East, it will do more to bring peace than the endless iterations of the peace process. It remains to be seen how pervasive critiques such as these will be.

2) Small? 

Writing about the release of American aid workers in Egypt, the editors of the Washington Post applaud Egypt's small concession:
The NGOs are in technical violation of an outdated, oppressive law that Hosni Mubarak’s regime never enforced. It requires all NGOs to be registered and obtain government approval for all funding and grants. The groups filed registration papers years ago but never received a response. With the military’s tacit support, a holdover from Mr. Mubarak’s government used the ambiguity to launch a demagogic campaign appealing to Egyptian nationalism in which the groups were accused of working for the CIA and Israel. 
In isolation, the release of the Americans and other foreigners will reinforce nationalist sentiment and conspiracy theories while endangering the Egyptian individuals and groups left behind. The only proper resolution is for the government to register the NGOs, notify prosecutors that it will no longer cooperate with the prosecution, and modify the defective law. Encouragingly, the Muslim Brotherhood, now the largest party in parliament, has said it supports such a liberalization, though the details remain to be worked out. 
The generals may suppose that freeing the Americans will be enough to preserve their aid money. It must not be. The Obama administration appears to recognize this: On Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the administration remained concerned about “the ultimate outcome of the legal process” and wanted to see the NGOs registered. Importantly, officials say that no decision will be made on continuing aid until April and that it will be based on a broad assessment of whether Egypt is moving toward democracy, as required by Congress.
The MSM seems to have a problem with the Muslim Brotherhood. Because it is not the old regime, it is automatically deemed as "good" or "moderate" or "reform minded."

In fact, two weeks ago the Muslim Brotherhood threatened to Review Treaty With Israel, in retaliation for a cutoff of American aid to Egypt. In other words the Muslim Brotherhood was siding with the military. So it's support for "liberalization" is posturing to fool those who wish to be fooled by their supposed moderation.

Still what was Egypt's "small" concession? Egypt managed to extort $5 million from the United States and freed their hostages. The rulers still haven't changed a thing.
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