Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 10/28/2012: The Surprise Moderate Arab From Syria

From DG:

1) Buying peace from a tyrant

After dismissing the significance of a recent report that PM Netanyahu is negotiating peace with Syria, Natan Sharansky writes in Trying to buy peace from the Syrian tyrant:
Attempts to overcome my “resistance to peace” continued, and soon after I joined Barak’s government as interior minister, I was approached by a major American Jewish philanthropist who had been instrumental in arranging private talks between Israelis and Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organization. He offered to take me to Paris to meet an up-and-coming Arab leader. This man’s views, the American assured me, were close to my own. An intellectual and trained physician who uses the Internet, this man was also a believer in freedom, a seeker of peace and a determined bridge-builder. Plus, he was destined to become the next president of his country. Would this young leader, I asked, come to power by a democratic process, and would he agree in advance to govern by democratic rules? Of course not, came the reply; he will be appointed by his father, Hafez al-Assad. But once in power, he will lead Syria to a democratic future.
For a contrast read Barry Rubin's The West's deaf ears for real Arab moderates.

2) The European Left and Israel

The New York Times has an extensive essay by Colin Shindler, The European Left and Its Trouble With Jews.
The old left in Europe was forged in the struggle against local fascists in the 1930s. Most of Europe experienced a brutal Nazi occupation and bore witness to the atrocities of the Holocaust. The European left strongly identified with Jewish suffering and therefore welcomed the birth of the state of Israel in 1948. Some viewed the struggle for Israel in the same light as the fight for freedom in the Spanish Civil War. 
But the succeeding generation of the European left did not see things this way. Its frame of reference was the anticolonial struggle — in Vietnam, South Africa, Rhodesia and a host of other places. Its hallowed icon was not the soldier of the International Brigades who fought against Franco in Spain, but Che Guevara — whose image adorned countless student bedrooms. Anticolonialism further influenced myriad causes, from America’s Black Panthers in the 1960s to Hugo Chávez’s Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela today. 
It began with Israel’s exclusion from the ranks of the nonaligned nations more than 50 years ago, when Arab states refused to attend a 1955 nonaligned conference in Indonesia if an Israeli delegate was present. The Jewish state was snubbed in favor of such feudal kingdoms as Saudi Arabia, Libya and Yemen. And Israel’s collusion with imperial powers like Britain and France during the Suez crisis the following year cemented its ostracism.
Though some version of the words "settlement" or "settler" appear three times, Shindler writes, "Such Israelophobia, enunciated by sections of the European left, dovetailed neatly with the rise of Islamism among Palestinians and throughout the Arab world."

I suspect that I wouldn't agree with everything Shindler believes, but compared to the usual fare of the New York Times, this essay is refreshing. The invective directed towards Israel by the regular and guest columnists at the New York Times is appalling. The idea that the unthinking calumny directed towards Israel is feeding such hatred is an important one. It would be nice if it made Thomas Friedman or Roger Cohen rethink their worldviews, but that would be asking too much.

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