Monday, December 17, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 12/17/2012: Thomas Friedman In Denial Over Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood

From DG:

1) That river in Egypt

There's an incredible paragraph in Thomas Friedman's Egypt - The next India or the next Pakistan?:
Yes, democracy matters. But the ruling Muslim Brotherhood needs to understand that democracy is so much more than just winning an election. It is nurturing a culture of inclusion, and of peaceful dialogue, where respect for leaders is earned by surprising opponents with compromises rather than dictates. The Noble Prize-winning Indian economist Amartya Sen has long argued that it was India’s civilizational history of dialogue and argumentation that disposed it well to the formal institutions of democracy. More than anything, Egypt now needs to develop that kind of culture of dialogue, of peaceful and respectful arguing — it was totally suppressed under Mubarak — rather than rock-throwing, boycotting, conspiracy-mongering and waiting for America to denounce one side or the other, which has characterized too much of the postrevolutionary political scene. Elections without that culture are like a computer without software. It just doesn’t work.
The "Muslim Brotherhood needs to understand?"
The arrogance in that formulation is incredible. What the Muslim Brotherhood understands is that it was better organized than any other group in post-Mubarak Egypt and was thus able to achieve power through elections. Only a "sophisticated" Westerner could be in such denial that his understanding of democracy ought to be emulated by the Muslim Brotherhood.

He fails to comprehend Why Islamists Always Win “Fair” Elections.

Last week in The Full Israeli Experience, Friedman wrote:
There are two major schools of thought here. One, led by Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, comprises the “Ideological Hawks,” who, to the question, “Do you know what neighborhood I am living in?” tell Israelis and the world, “It is so much worse than you think!” Bibi goes out of his way to highlight every possible threat to Israel and essentially makes the case that nothing Israel does has ever or can ever alter the immutable Arab hatred of the Jewish state or the Hobbesian character of the neighborhood. Netanyahu is not without supporting evidence. Israel withdraws from both South Lebanon and Gaza and still gets hit with rockets. But this group is called the “ideological” hawks because most of them also advocate Israel’s retaining permanent control of the West Bank and Jerusalem for religious-nationalist reasons. So it’s impossible to know where their strategic logic for holding territory stops and their religious-nationalist dreams start — and that muddies their case with the world. 
The other major school of thought here, call it the “Yitzhak Rabin school,” was best described by the writer Leon Wieseltier as the “bastards for peace.” 
Rabin, the former Israeli prime minister and war hero, started exactly where Bibi did: This is a dangerous neighborhood, and a Jewish state is not welcome here. But Rabin didn’t stop there. 
He also believed that Israel was very powerful and, therefore, should judiciously use its strength to try to avoid becoming a garrison state, fated to rule over several million Palestinians forever. 
Israel’s “bastards for peace” believe that it’s incumbent on every Israeli leader to test, test and test again — using every ounce of Israeli creativity — to see if Israel can find a Palestinian partner for a secure peace so that it is not forever fighting an inside war and an outside war. At best, the Palestinians might surprise them. At worst, Israel would have the moral high ground in a permanent struggle.
Note how Friedman portrays Netanyahu as "ideological." But Netanyahu is not Prime Minister now because of ideology, but because of experience. Since 1993, when Israel has exhibited the kind "creativity" that Friedman craves, Israel's enemies have taken advantage and used Israeli retreats or concessions to arm themselves and attack. Now Israel has a leader who realizes that nothing will change in the short term and is instead focused on issues other than the peace process. (Though he would be open to negotiations if a Palestinian leader sought to negotiate seriously.)  Despite what Netanyahu's critics on the Left say, it isn't clear that an Israeli leader more to the left of Netanyahu would make peace either.

Whether Friedman is lecturing the Muslim Brotherhood on "its need to understand" or lamenting the lack of Israeli "creativity," the same dynamic is in place. Friedman is effectively admitting that he read the situations in Egypt and Israel incorrectly. The "Facebook generation"  hasn't led to a free Egypt. Israeli "creativity" has not brought peace. He doesn't have the honesty to acknowledge that he's been wrong, so instead he wishes that the leaders of Egypt and Israel would act as he wants them too.

A Pakistani blogger takes issue with Friedman's generalizations, but sees little hope that Egypt now will ever be as free as Pakistan is now.

2) Rich Hamas, Poor Hamas

The New York Times reported Hamas Gains Allure in Gaza, but Money Is a Problem:
Mr. Meshal’s first, triumphal visit here last weekend displayed Hamas’s power and organization. In the five years since it drove its Palestinian rival, Fatah, out of Gaza in a brief civil war, after winning elections in 2006, Hamas has established a repressive ministate with a strong Islamist cast that it clearly has no intention of abandoning. Hamas now requires “entry visas” from visitors, for a fee, and searches luggage to ensure that no one imports any alcohol. 
Even more striking, Hamas has set up its own lavish civil administration in Gaza that issues papers, licenses, insurance and numerous other permissions — and always for a tax or a fee. 
Gazans recognize that there is more order here, more construction and less garbage. But many resent the economic burden of financing Hamas and, implicitly, its military. 
Ziad Ashour, 43, a butcher, said that “since the first intifada,” meaning the Palestinian uprising in 1987, “things have steadily declined in Gaza.” But in the last year, he said, they have gotten considerably worse economically.
To some degree this article echoes an article from October, 2011, Hamas popularity hits a new low after opposing UN statehood bid:
A joke circulating the territory posits that the reason Hamas's armed wing, Al Qassam Brigades, has stopped firing rockets at Israel is that the fighters' jeeps lack air conditioning. 
Residents tell stories of Hamas officials who used to drive modest cars now sporting luxury vehicles, and Gazans like Mr. Gamar, the gas station owner, complain the government is reaching into their pockets in every way it can.
When Hamas ran in 2006 against Fatah, apologists explained that it was because Hamas was not corrupt and promised clean government. Since it's gained power, Hamas has been corrupt too, ensuring luxury for its leaders but not necessarily (and at the expense of) its constituents.

Hamas's overreach is perhaps reflected in a recent poll. (h/t Arsen Ostrovsky) :
The poll, conducted earlier this month by the Arab World Research and Development (AWRAD), a Ramallah-based research center, sampled 1,200 Palestinians from both Gaza and the West Bank. It set out to examine political opinions among Palestinians following Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza and Mahmoud Abbas’s successful UN nonmember statehood bid. 
While both events are overwhelmingly viewed as positive by Palestinians, adding popularity to both Palestinian factions, 42% of West Bank respondents said they preferred the approach of Hamas to that of Fatah, as opposed to only 28% who preferred Fatah’s approach. 
Interestingly, more Gazans, 40%, said they preferred Fatah’s approach to that of Hamas, which rules over them. Thirty-seven percent of Gazans said Hamas’s approach was better.
3) The purpose of Pillar of Defense

After Israel reached a ceasefire agreement with Hamas, a New York Times editorial, A New Israel-Hamas Cease-Fire started off:
The cease-fire that ended eight days of bombing and airstrikes between Hamas and Israel should allow Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza to return to some normalcy as the two sides pull back from a violent cycle that killed 140 Palestinians and five Israelis in the past week. But even if it holds — and that is a big if — this moment of calm will not create real stability if it is not followed by a serious new peace effort aimed at a two-state solution.
Of course a two state solution is not viable right now. But the New York Times and many others are too ambitious.

Challah Hu Akbar notes in The Last Month Without a Rocket or Mortar Fired from Gaza into Israel Was...
Thus far in December, there have been no rockets or mortars fired from Gaza into Israel. Will this be the first month in 5 plus years without a rocket or mortar being fired from Gaza into Israel?
Why is "stability" defined by a two state solution? (The same editorial advocates a partnership between Fatah and Hamas.) Shouldn't it be defined by the defeat and disarming of Hamas?

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