Thursday, November 01, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 11/1/2012: Why Do Jewish Critics of Obama Support Obama?

From DG:

1) Jews, Democrats and Israel

In The Alan Dershowitz Syndrome Lee Smith answers "Prominent Jews like the Harvard lawyer have spent years criticizing Obama. So, why are they endorsing him?":
Like many pro-Israel Democrats, Koch is still reeling from the chaos that broke out at the Democratic National Convention when Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had to call for a floor vote three times to include recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in the party’s platform. “Nobody,” said Koch, “has adequately explained to me how the boos for God and Israel at the Democratic convention were louder than the cheers. How can that be?”
The issue, as Koch surely knows, is that the party’s rank and file is shifting, with figures like Dershowitz and himself holding the line. And yet if the 2012 convention is any indication, the proudly pro-Israel wing of the Democratic party will, within a very short period of time, appear increasingly out of step. Saban and other prominent Jewish Democrats will be replaced by voices on the left who have made their hostility to Israel clear. Accordingly, the old guard seems to believe that while Obama isn’t great for Israel, backing him is good for the health of the party and the Jewish state. 
There’s a place for voters for whom strong support of Israel is the key issue—and that’s the Republican Party. But Israel’s security has long depended on backing from both parties. Without it, the Jewish state will rapidly become a partisan issue, and Israel will invariably pay the price. At a moment when Israel needs strong U.S. support, Koch, Dershowitz, and Saban are looking to postpone that day of reckoning.
This is consistent with a recent observation from Jeffrey Goldberg (via Noah Pollak):
If Romney wins, and if Benjamin Netanyahu stays in power in Israel, I can almost guarantee you that you will see a melting away of whatever Democratic support there is for tough action against Iran, and a melting away of whatever liberal support there still remains for a strong America-Israel relationship.
My biggest question is whether the erosion of Democratic support for Israel is occurring at the activist level or at the grass roots level too.

2) Right for the wrong reasons

According to Jonathan Spyer the Free Syrian Army is:
Jonathan Spyer: The FSA is really a name for what is in fact a large number of independent militias organized around local strongmen. No one seems to regard the notional FSA leadership in Antakya, Turkey, as the actual center of the organization. Rather, the militias operate according to their own interests and vary in numbers and qualities from town to town. In Sarmeen, where I was, for example, the FSA is commanded by a 25-year-old former lieutenant in Assad’s airborne forces, and gives the impression of being a serious force. In Bini’ish, a neighboring town, the impression is one of a more thrown-together, improvised force. 
In terms of weaponry, they have rifles, heavy machine guns, RPG-7s and mortars. These weapons would have great difficulty standing up to a frontal assault from Assad’s advanced Russian armor. Many FSA men that I spoke to understand that they would be unable to defend the ”free zones” if these were attacked in force, and they talk more in terms of a long-term strategy of guerrilla warfare to wear down the regime.
According to Barry Rubin the Syrian National Congress is:
The U.S. government’s main activity was to entrust to the Turkish Islamist regime the job of forming an umbrella Syrian opposition leadership. Not surprisingly, Ankara pursued its own interest by assembling a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated group, the Syrian National Congress. Though several members resigned, complaining of the radical Islamist control, the Obama administration is still trying to force hostile oppositionists to join.
Has the United States learned its lesson? The Washington Post reports U.S. yanks support for Syrian opposition group, warns of extremist takeover of uprising (more at memeorandum):
The Obama administration on Wednesday renounced the proclaimed leaders of the Syrian political opposition and said any group seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad must reject attempts by extremists to “hijack” a legitimate revolution. 
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the Syrian National Council, or SNC, should no longer be considered the “visible leader” of the opposition. That made official what has been the increasingly obvious sidelining of an opposition group led mostly by middle-age Syrian expatriates.  
“This cannot be an opposition represented by people who have many good attributes but have in many instances not been inside Syria for 20, 30 or 40 years,” Clinton said during a five-nation Balkans tour. “There has to be a representation of those who are on the front lines fighting and dying today.”
Back in March, Barry Rubin wrote:
Five months ago, I wrote here and here detailing how the U.S. government collaborated in creating an anti-American, Islamist-dominated leadership for the Syrian revolution. This leadership group, assembled by the Islamist Turkish regime as the Obama government’s subcontractor, failed immediately. Now it is collapsing openly. 
Of the nineteen announced members of the top leadership, I explained, ten of them were Islamists, either Muslim Brotherhood or Salafist. A reliable Syrian opposition source tells me that two more members are secretly Islamist tools. This was far in excess of the proportion of those forces in the revolution. In short, the U.S. government was helping to turn Syria’s revolution over to the Islamists. If this group had succeeded, the West would be facing still another radical Islamist regime that hated the West, wanted to go to war with Israel, and would be imposing a new dictatorship on its country. 
But the Syrian National Council (SNC) has failed. The Islamist angle and the Obama Administration’s responsibility for this fiasco is being far underplayed in the Western media.
It would appear that the United States came to the right conclusion, for the wrong reasons - about eight months late. In the meantime other extremists have made headway in Syria.

The other day Jackson Diehl wrote A jihadist group prospers in Syria:
Actually, the full name of the Middle East’s latest jihadist terror movement, announced on an al-Qaeda-linked Web site last January, is Jabhat al-Nusra li-Ahl al-Sham Min Mujaheddin al Sham fi Sahat al Jihad, which means “Support Front for the People of Syria from the Mujaheddin of Syria in the places of Jihad.” It was dismissed at first as a hoax, or maybe as a concoction of Assad’s intelligence service. Now its black flag is recognized, and often cheered, across Syria, and its bearded, baggy-pantalooned fighters are at the forefront of the critical battle for the city of Aleppo. 
In the spring Jabhat al-Nusra had maybe 50 adherents, most of them in hiding, and had claimed credit for only a handful of attacks. Now it may have close to 1,000 core followers, and fighting units around Syria have begun openly claiming to belong to it. On YouTube, videos show the residents of areas taken over by the rebels waving its flag and chanting its name. 
“They have been able to take an extremist identity and really give it a popular following in a context of bloody civil war,” says Elizabeth O’Bagy, the author of a sobering study of Syria’s jihadists for the Institute for the Study of War. “They have become the most significant threat to long-term stability in Syria.”
Secretary of State Clinton warned of the possibility of extremists taking over the Syrian revolution. The SNC's failure to prevent that is apparently one of the reasons Clinton announced that the United States would no longer support the SNC. But is the United States doing anything to strengthen the non-Islamist and non-Jihadist revolutionaries?

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