Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mideast Media Sampler 05/25/2011

From an email from DG:

1) Thomas the trite

Demonstrating that he is completely impervious to anything that challenges his way of thinking, Thomas Friedman writes in "Lessons from Tahrir Square"

Being back in Cairo reminds me that there are two parties in this region that have been untouched by the Arab Spring: the Israelis and the Palestinians. Too bad, because when it comes to ossified, unimaginative, oxygen-deprived governments, the Israelis and Palestinians are right up there with pre-revolutionary Egypt and Tunisia. I mean, is there anything less relevant than the prime minister of Israel going to the U.S. Congress for applause and the leader of the Palestinians going to the U.N. — instead of to each other? 
Upon reading this one would conclude that not just Tunisia and Egypt had forced their leaders to step down, but so had Bahrain, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan etc. Not only that but that all these countries were now functioning parliamentary democracies. Of course none of that's true and the new Middle East, is looking much like the old Middle East except that Turkey is now hostile to Israel.

However let me quote from page 253 of Friedman's book, from Beirut to Jerusalem:

Whereas in Lebanon the Cabinet was ineffectual because it represented no one, in Israel the cabinet was ineffectual because it represented everyone. In Lebanon they called the paralysis "anarchy" an in Israel they called it "national unity," but the net effect was the same, political gridlock.
So the idea that Israel is doing nothing is one he's made before. The government he described in 1984 fixed Israel's extreme economic problems. However that isn't relevant. Israel has taken many steps for peace over the years, only to find them backfiring. Withdrawing from southern Lebanon, something recommended by Friedman, ended up strengthening Hezbollah. Withdrawing from Gaza also endorsed by Friedman strengthened Hamas. Both increased the threats to Israel's citizens. So if Israel regards further actions to be too risky, I'm sure its leaders would prefer to be called names by Friedman, than to take those actions. 

But Friedman, of course, isn't telling us everything. The Palestinians have not been static. Last week as a result of the Fatah-Hamas agreement, Salam Fayyad was "ruled out" as a future leader of the Palestinian unity government.

Why is this important? Here's a Friedman column from two years ago.

The key to this rebirth was the recruitment, training and deployment of four battalions of new Palestinian National Security Forces — a move spearheaded by President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of the Palestinian Authority. Trained in Jordan in a program paid for by the U.S., three of these battalions have fanned out since May 2008 and brought order to the major Palestinian towns: Nablus, Jericho, Hebron, Ramallah, Jenin and Bethlehem. 
Elsewhere Friedman's written about how important Fayyad was to a Palestinian state. Now he's officially out and Friedman hasn't written a word about it. It's not like Israel and the Palestinians are standing still, the Palestinians are moving away from peace - ever since Abbas turned down an offer from former PM Olmert - and Friedman won't acknowledge that. That is why Abbas went to the UN; because he didn't want to deal with Israel; and Netanyahu went to Congress to shore up political support to fight Abbas's efforts.

So here's the advice Friedman has for the Palestinians:

May I suggest a Tahrir Square alternative? Announce that every Friday from today forward will be “Peace Day,” and have thousands of West Bank Palestinians march nonviolently to Jerusalem, carrying two things — an olive branch in one hand and a sign in Hebrew and Arabic in the other. The sign should say: “Two states for two peoples. We, the Palestinian people, offer the Jewish people a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders — with mutually agreed adjustments — including Jerusalem, where the Arabs will control their neighborhoods and the Jews theirs.” 
Never mind that the Palestinians do this every year on Naqba Day. The bigger problem is that Fatah the moderate Palestinian faction has embraced Hamas the undisguised terrorists. Friedman still won't acknowledge this. The Palestinians have made a strategic choice against peace. I would also point out that it's been reported that the Palestinians still can't say that they accept Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, so they aren't taking Friedman's advice. As for Netanyahu:

As for Bibi, his Tahrir lesson is obvious: Sir, you are well on your way to becoming the Hosni Mubarak of the peace process. The time to make big decisions in life is when you have all the leverage on your side. For 30 years, Mubarak had all the leverage on his side to gradually move Egypt toward democracy — and he never used it. Then, when Mubarak’s people rose up, he tried to do it all in six days. But it was too late. No one believed him. So his tenure ended in ruin. 
Israel today still has enormous leverage. It is vastly superior militarily and economically to the Palestinians, and it has the U.S. on its side. If Netanyahu actually put a credible, specific two-state peace map on the table — not just the same old vague promises about “painful compromises” — he could get the Americans and Europeans to toss in anything Israel wanted, including the newest weapons, NATO membership, maybe even European Union membership. It could be a security windfall for Israel. Does Bibi have any surprise in him or do the Palestinians have him right: a big faker, hiding a nationalist-religious agenda under a cloak of security? 
The Palestinians have been offered "credible" agreements twice since 2000. The rejected both. First of all why should they have the right to get everything they rejected already? (Anything less than Olmert's plan will not be deemed credible.) Second, as noted before, previous Israeli concessions have undermined Israel's security. So Friedman concludes:
It may be that Israeli and Palestinian leaders are incapable of surprising anyone anymore, in which case the logic on the ground will prevail: Israel will gradually absorb the whole West Bank, so, together with Israel proper, a Jewish minority will be ruling over an Arab majority. Israel’s enemies will refer to it as “the Jewish apartheid state.” 
America, Israel’s only true friend, will find itself having to defend an Israel whose policies it does not believe in and whose leaders it does not respect — and the tensions between the U.S. and Israel displayed in Washington last week will seem quaint by comparison. 
Barry Rubin recently wrote about Thomas Friedman:
So a big part of Israel’s difficulty is that people like Friedman are perpetuating anti-Israel lies instead of attacking them. 
Trotting out the word "apartheid" to describe Israel is a perfect example. And of course by saying that Israel's enemies would describe it like that in the future, finesses the point that is how they currently describe Israel. And of course it isn't true. The Palestinians may not have made peace with Israel, but Israel no longer has control over most of them. The only reason to raise the false specter of "apartheid" it to force Israel to satisfy every demand of the Palestinians or be condemned.

2) But how'd he do?

The Washington Post reports Netanyahu, addressing Congress, lays out vision for Mideast peace. The headline is friendlier than the reporting, which relies heavily on Palestinian responses. The Wall Street Journal reports Palestinian Statehood Vote Looms Over U.S.-Israel Rift.
The vote at September's U.N. General Assembly would be mostly symbolic, and carry little legal weight. But passage—which is expected if the resolution proceeds to a vote—would be a visible show of Israel's isolation on the international stage.  
It could also undercut the dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace process—a focus of Mr. Obama's foreign policy—by removing the promise of statehood as a motivating force. And it would give the Palestinians more leverage if talks do resume.
The New York Times reports Netanyahu Gives No Ground in Congress Speech

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, broadly laying out the Israeli response to President Obama’s peace proposals, called on the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, on Tuesday to accept what Mr. Netanyahu framed as a tenet: that Palestinians will not get a right of return to Israel. In so doing, he made clear that he was giving no ground on the major stumbling blocks to a peace agreement. 
How did the Times report the recent agreement between Hamas and Fatah?

Rival Palestinian movements signed a historic reconciliation accord here on Wednesday vowing common cause against Israeli occupation, a product of shifting regional power relations and disillusionment with American peace efforts. 
The Palestinian rejection of peace is termed "historic" and Netanyahu's description of what Israel requires for peace "gives no ground."

Jennifer Rubin was very enthusiastic about Netanyahu's speech.

It was simply the most extraordinary and clever speech given by an Israeli prime minister. Bibi Netanyahu did several critical things: demonstrated that he and members of Congress from both parties are entirely in sync; refocused the world on Iran; publicly stated he would give up land considered by Jews to be part of their historic homeland; left no doubt that the Palestinians’ refusal to recognize a Jewish state is the sole reason there is no Palestinian state; and implicitly made a mockery of President Obama’s fixation on settlements. I will take each in order. 
The genuine expression of warmth and respect, but more important, agreement from Congress was undeniable. On each key point, whether on Hamas or the right of return or the U.N., there was a full standing ovation from every attendee I could spot. Netanyahu is a uniter — is there ANY issue on which the Congress is so totally united? And Netanyahu made a key point to lawmakers weary about demands form unstable regimes. “No nation building is needed. Israel is already built. There is no need to export democracy.We already are one.” And there’s no need for U.S. troops because “we defend ourselves.” 
Jackson Diehl's analysis of the past week though was sobering.

Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu have now spent six days lecturing each other about the “realities” of the Middle East, either face-to-face or with Congress, the State Department or the AIPAC lobbying group as an audience. They have managed to focus the attention of Washington and much of the world on their differences over Palestinian statehood, and their evident animosity toward each other. 
So it’s worth asking: Did either of them accomplish anything positive?
He answers the question in the negative.

3) Paying for good coverage

This item in Babylon and Beyond is fascinating LEBANON: Did Tunisia's tyrant buy off Hezbollah TV?

The Tunisian newspaper Sabah (link in Arabic) reported Monday that Hezbollah's Al-Manar television was allegedly paid $100,000 to polish up the image of deposed Tunisian dictator Zine el Abidine ben Ali. 
In addition to bribing Al-Manar, the former president also paid other international news agencies to portray him as a "promoter of human rights" and a leader of a country that respected the rule of law, Sabah reported, cited documents it had obtained from a secretive Tunisian propaganda arm.
According to the Tunisian newspaper, Ben Ali was purportedly successful in suppressing national media by portraying them as mouthpieces of local mafias.
This is fascinating. The New York Times in recent years whitewashed Qaddafi and family. Now it is complaining that it is losing too much revenue so it instituted a paywall. Clearly they missed the boat with Qaddafi; they should have charged for their coverage instead of providing it for free. (Same applies to Vogue which whitewashed Syria or Esquire which called Said Qaddafi one of the most influential people of the world.)

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1 comment:

NormanF said...

Predictably in tune with Friedman, Israel's Hebrew Palestinian daily, Haaretz, has condemned Netanyahu for not yet committing Israel to commit national suicide.

Israel should just get it over with and stop annoying the world with demands that no one accepts.