1) "Victim of this, Victim of that"
Mitt Romney's comments about the role culture plays in economic success has led to counterclaims that it is Israel's occupation, not Palestinian culture that is responsible for the Palestinians' economic problems. We saw it in the Washington Post editorial Mitt Romney's less than successful trip abroad:
His comparison left out restrictions on Palestinian trade, workers and goods imposed by Israel over many years, and, more to the point, he reflected an alarmingly simplistic view of complex questions.In a New York Times op-ed, Palestinian tycoon Munib Masri wrote:
As one of the most successful businessmen and industrialists in Palestine today (there are many of us), I can tell Mr. Romney without doubt or hesitation that our economy has two arms and one foot tied behind us not by culture but by occupation.It’s hard to succeed, Mr. Romney, when roadblocks, checkpoints and draconian restrictions on the movement of goods and people suffocate our business environment. It is a tribute to the indomitable spirit of our Palestinian culture that we have managed to do so well despite such onerous constraints.From comments like these one might get the impression that Israeli arbitrarily set up checkpoints for the sole purpose of making life miserable for the Palestinians.
In November, 1998, towards the end of his first term as Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu's government issued a report about Israeli-Palestinian economic relations. One paragraph read:
The number of Palestinians working in Israel is steadily growing. Lawfully employed Palestinians in Israel today number about 60,000, of whom some 13,000 work in industrial zones and in the settlements. All told, more than 100,000 Palestinians are estimated to be employed in Israel approaching the record number employed in 1992.Since the benchmark was 1992, it has to be asked why was this number not steadily increasing since Oslo Accords were signed in 1993. The answer is that after the increase in terror, especially in early 1996, Israel imposed restrictions on Palestinian travel. After Netanyahu's election in 1996, terror decreased and consequently so did Israeli restrictions.
Similarly, after Arafat launched the so called Aqsa intifada in September, 2000 and claimed hundreds of Israeli lives, Israel imposed many restrictions anew. There was nothing "draconian" about these restrictions; they were necessary elements of self-defense. It's also worth observing that the post-Oslo security measures implemented by Israel showed that one of the fundamental premises of the peace process was overly optimistic. Israel assumed that with the peace process the Palestinians would fight or, at least, discourage terror.
2) The Kurdish Way
In an analysis for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Kurdistan: The Next Flashpoint Between Turkey, Iraq, and the Syrian Revolt, Jacques Neriah writes:
In the wake of the steady disintegration of the Assad regime, Syrian opposition activists reported that several towns, such as Amouda and Qabani in Syria’s Kurdish northeast, had passed in mid-July 2012 without a fight into the local hands of a group called the Free Kurdish Army. Thus emerged for the first time in modern Kurdish history the nucleus of an exclusively Kurdish-controlled enclave bordering the predominantly Kurdish areas of Turkey. After largely sitting on the sidelines of the Syrian revolution, political groups from Syria’s Kurdish minority in the northeastern region appear to have moved decisively to claim control of the Kurdish-populated towns.The Free Kurdish Army was formed from the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a group with historical links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK. The PKK, it should be remembered, is regarded by both Turkey and the United States as a terrorist organization fighting the Turkish government for Kurdish autonomy. The Kurds are reportedly concentrating their efforts on wresting control of Qamishli, the largest of the Kurdish cities, from the Syrian government. Kurdish forces have already captured the city of Ayn al-Arab in the Aleppo Governorate, where they are flying the Kurdish flag.The rest of the article provides extensive historical and social background of the Kurds.
Turkish observers have commented that the geopolitics of the Middle East are now being reshaped as the emergence of a “Greater Kurdistan” is no longer a remote possibility, posing enormous challenges for all the states hosting large Kurdish populations: Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran.4 Kurdistan is a potential land bridge for many of the conflicts erupting in this part of the region. It provides a ground route for Iraqi Kurdistan to supply the Syrian Kurds as they seek greater autonomy from Damascus. But its use will depend on which power dominates the tri-border area between Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. This area could equally provide Iran with a corridor for moving supplies to its Syrian surrogates and even to Hizbullah in Lebanon. Perhaps this is why some commentators see Kurdistan as the new regional flashpoint in the Middle East.
Michael Rubin writes about other implications of the recent Kurdish assertiveness with regards to Turkey.
Jonathan Schanzer catalogues the many failures of Kofi Annan, in The Cost of Kofi.
That Annan failed should not come as a surprise. His default is failure: Whether it was Annan's professed failure to notice that his own son was profiting from the Oil for Food scandal in Iraq, the failure to prevent a genocide in Rwanda, or the failure to prevent mass murder in Srebrenica.Of course, Annan did not start the war in Syria, but perhaps he made things worse by legitimizing Bashar al-Assad as an equal partner in his peace plan, despite Assad's direct role in the slaughter of thousands. Annan made things messier still by bringing in Iran as an interlocutor, even as the world sought to isolate the Mullahs for their nuclear program, not to mention their deadly support for the regime in Damascus.In the end, Annan's blunders contributed significantly to a prolonged and deadly stalemate from February 23 to July 31, the length of his tenure.Schanzer concedes that the violence in Syria is not Annan's fault, but under his watch the killing has continued. Annan is a product of the UN. It was his job as head of UN peacekeeping forces that provided the exposure that allowed him to be elected Secretary General, even though he failed miserably in the former capacity. At the UN nothing succeeds like failure.
In reporting Annan's resignation, the VOA provided this headline: As Annan Resigns, UN Condemns Violence in Syria. I'm sure that condemnation will be as effective as Annan was.
(Ironically, Annan married the niece of Raoul Wallenberg, a man who actually saved lives at great risk in the face of murderous tyranny.)
Barry Rubin interviewed Ammar Abdulhamid, a pro-democracy Syrian activists currently living abroad, about the current situation and hopes for the future of Syria.
Question: What do you see emerging in a post-Assad Syria?
The activist in me wants to see a democratic decentralized entity emerge that is capable of responding to the developmental needs and aspirations of the people, irrespective of their religious, national, or political background, in each province, region, and district. The analyst in me has to grapple with the possibility of inheriting a failed state composed of warring fiefdoms, and of the need to find ways to put the pieces back together again, a process that would take years. It was from the beginning clear to me that the transformation of Syria will prove a much longer process than most of us have expected or wanted. But our dream for a democratic state will guide us through the thin and thick of it all.
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