Monday, September 19, 2011

Yossi Klein Halevi on apologies

Yossi Klein Halevi in The New Republic.  "No Apologies: Israel Isn’t to Blame for Its Growing Isolation."

As the U.N. votes on Palestinian statehood, and former regional allies of the Jewish state like Turkey and Egypt turn openly hostile, much of the international community is blaming Israel for its own isolation...
This convergence of blame comes at a time of spiritual vulnerability for Jews. This is, after all, our season of contrition. As we approach Rosh Hashanah, the process of self-examination intensifies. And as Jewish tradition emphasizes, the basis for penitence is apology. Before seeking forgiveness from God, we are to seek forgiveness from those we have hurt, even inadvertently...
But in the present atmosphere Jews should resist the temptation for self-blame. Apology is intended to heal. Yet those demanding apologies of Israel aren’t seeking reconciliation, but the opposite—to criminalize the Jewish state and rescind its right to defend itself.
The temptation for Jewish self-recrimination is deeply rooted in Zionist psychology. Zionism, after all, was a revolt against Jewish fatalism. If the Jewish situation is untenable, then clearly the fault lies with a lack of Jewish initiative. If you will it, said Zionist founder Theodore Herzl, it is no dream. Israeli rightists and leftists agree, in effect, that Israel can unilaterally determine its own reality, regardless of outside circumstances. If Israel lacks security, insists the right, that’s because we haven’t projected enough power and deterrence. And if Israel lacks peace, insists the left, that’s because we haven’t been sufficiently forthcoming in offering concessions.
Both right and left, then, implicitly dismiss the Arabs as an independent factor, with their own wills and agendas. But what if the Arab world doesn’t accept Israel’s legitimacy? What if the Middle East is undergoing transformations that have little if anything to do with what Israel wills?
This Rosh Hashanah I will ask forgiveness for my own sins and for the collective sins of Israel, as the liturgy insists. But I will withhold my political apologies for a time when those confessions won’t be manipulated against me. There is no religious obligation to collaborate in my own demonization. I will not be seeking forgiveness from those who deny my right to be.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Analysis of Egyptian mob attack on Israeli embassy in Cairo

Excerpted below:

September 13, 2011. "Mirage," Armin Rosen. Tablet Magazine.
September 13, 2011. "Why Would Israel Give Up Territory After Gaza?" Jeffrey Goldberg @ The Atlantic.
September 12, 2011. "Cairo: Israeli Embassy Attack Planned," Tim Marshall. Sky News.
September 11, 2011. "Egypt's Botched Revolution," Michael Totten @ PJM.
September 10, 2011. "Egypt Troops Save 6 Israelis," Ian Deitch and Diaa Hadid. Time.


September 13, 2011. "Mirage," Armin Rosen. Tablet Magazine.

While Mubarak incited hostility toward the Jewish State at home, he successfully convinced Israel and the United States that he could uphold Western interests in the region. Ezzedine Fishere, a former Foreign Ministry official at the Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv and the secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council for Culture, likened Mubarak’s political strategy to riding two horses simultaneously. “You can ride the two horses so long as you’re going straight,” Fishere explained to me. “This is why stability was so important to Mubarak. When there’s instability, the two horses go in opposite directions. Because the public wants you to live up to your commitments, you’ve been feeding this inflammatory discourse about Israel being the source of all evil. … On the other hand, the Israelis are basically your security partners in the region.”

...The military has every reason to preserve Egypt’s treaty with Israel. According to an official familiar with the U.S. government’s operations in Egypt, there are currently “tens of thousands” of American military contractors in Egypt, which still receives over $1.3 billion in annual military aid from the United States. Experts I spoke to in Egypt estimated that the military controls between 20 and 40 percent of the country’s economy. War with Israel serves no obvious strategic purpose for Egypt, and it would probably end American financial assistance, threaten the army’s business holdings, and lead to massive casualties. (Nearly 20,000 Egyptian soldiers were killed in the 1967 and 1973 wars.) 

 Why, after decades of quiet, has the Egypt-Israel border become so tumultuous? Two reasons: The interim Egyptian government has lost control over the Sinai since the revolution, and Gaza, which borders the Sinai, has been transformed by Hamas into a weapons-importing and terror-exporting mini-state. And how did this come about? Sharon brought this about, by ceding Gaza to the Palestinians.
This is not, by the way, an argument against territorial compromise. Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, needs to find a creative solution to the problem posed by his country's continued occupation of much of the West Bank. But that job is made much more difficult by Israel's enemies, who choose to ignore Israel's last attempt at giving up territory. And it is made more difficult still by Israeli voters, who, when confronted by demands for further territorial compromise, look to Gaza and say, "Not so fast."

September 12, 2011. "Cairo: Israeli Embassy Attack Planned," Tim Marshall, Sky News. 
The storming of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo on Friday night was not just planned, it was part of a 60 year campaign of hate which has permeated all levels of Egyptian society and which the current chaos in Egypt is allowing full rein...
The teaching of hatred for the 'other' is widespread in Egypt. School books are full of historical innacuracies and holocaust denial. Portions of the Koran which deal with the Jews in a hostile way are promoted. Few politicians can resist the temptation to play to popular appeal and routinely engage in virulently hostile comments not just about Israel but about Jews. These politicians are not just from the Islamic parties, some of the brightest and best of Egyptian liberals also use deeply anti-semitic language.
Every Friday many Immans pour forth abuse against Jews without any official sanction. The mass media also routinely engages in anti-semitism. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion , used to justify slaughter for decades, is a best seller, Hitler's Mein Kampf is popular. The 'Protocols' were serialised as a 24 episode TV series a few years ago and portrayed as fact. In 2002 the number 1 hit in the Egyptian charts was a song about the Jews masterminding 9/11. Newspapers print deeply offensive cartoons which are used across the Arab world. These bigots have their mirror image in some of the wilder fringes of Israeli society; the difference is the views do not appear to be sanctioned at the highest levels, have not permeated the body politic, and are roundly condemned in the Israeli main stream media.

Includes interviews with Egyptian liberals Hala Mustafa and Tarek Heggy.
Hala Mustafa:
Most Western analysts describe Mubarak’s government as an American ally that was at least moderately cooperative with Israel, which is accurate to an extent, but his state-controlled media cranked out vicious anti-American and anti-Israeli propaganda every day for three decades.
...The moment of change hasn’t come yet...It was a premature revolution. Mubarak’s regime wasn’t Mubarak’s. It was the regime that was founded in 1952 and it’s still here. The regime’s attitude against Israel is the same. Americans thought Mubarak was with Israel, but it’s not true. Mubarak did nothing to change the propaganda or advance peace. You have to rethink what was happening.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Al Qaeda after Osama

Daniel Byman knows what he is talking about.

"Osama bin Laden is dead, Al Qaeda isn't," Foreign Policy. May 2, 2011.


Hamas mourns death of Bin Laden

Marc Tracy, "Hamas Mourns OBL, Throwing Deal Into Doubt." Tablet Magazine. May 2, 2011.

Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’ Gaza leadership, condemned the U.S. killing of Osama Bin Laden. “We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior,” he said. “We regard this as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood.” (The P.A. applauded the killing, as, of course, did Prime Minister Netanyahu.) 

OK. On the one hand, al-Qaida is not the sticking point here; it was not disagreement over Bin Laden that held up the 2000 or 2008 peace talks, and Israel isn’t skeptical of reconciliation—that is, of a unified Palestinian sovereign that prominently includes Hamas—because Hamas refused to celebrate, and in fact condemned, the death of one of the world’s worst men.

But Hamas’ take on Bin Laden’s killing is nonetheless unbelievably disturbing. (It is also far from shocking: Both Hamas and al-Qaida are jihadist entities; longtime Bin Laden mentor Abdullah Azzam helped found Hamas. So, let’s dispense with the myth that this was merely a case of “bad P.R.” on Hamas’ part. This isn’t P.R.; this is policy. And that remains true even if Hamas was motivated in part to shore up its hardline flank. It’s very simple: Hamas is against the killing of Bin Laden.) You can make compromises—you can make peace—with those with whom you disagree, even vehemently. But you have to be living on the same planet. And people who unequivocally condemn the killing of Bin Laden are not living on the same planet as mainstream Israelis, and Israelis shouldn’t be required to move to that planet in order to make peace.

So, while the most immediately obvious contradiction is that between the Hamas and P.A.—the group that mourns the jihadist and the group that celebrates his death may have a tough time seeing eye-to-eye going forward—the most important one is that between Hamas and Israel, America, and the West. The reconciliation deal yet again proves a useful heightening of contradictions. This time, that heightening is a clear defeat for the forces that favor peace


Friday, April 29, 2011

The announcement of Hamas and Fatah's reconciliation

With so much left in question about the details of the unity deal, it's hard to tell what it means, and if it will even materialize. It is hard to imagine the Fatah would do something so foolish as to say "good riddance" to the generous US assistance to Fayyad's state-building program, and the gains in peace, freedom of movement, and general prosperity that the PA has reaped from security cooperation with Israel--especially as Hamas's popular support has declined in the past two years

The rhetorical jockeying that is likely to ensue does seem to force a debate and airing of the differences between Fatah and Hamas that needs to happen among Palestinians, and this way is better than they way they've been duking it out over the past few years. We will see who is willing to do what, who will turn out to have been bluffing. Recent (attempted) demonstrations in Gaza and the West Bank, as well the March 2011 public opinion poll by the PCPSR indicates widespread agreement on the priority of reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. While that may be easy enough to agree upon, there is surely not a consensus at this point as to the actual terms of such a reconciliation. The idea that a panel of "technocrats" can somehow solve fundamental controversies apolitically is absurd.

These are the official terms of the reconciliation:

  • The establishment of a government of technocrats instead of the two currently existing governments headed by Salam Fayyad and Ismail Haniyeh.
  • The holding of general elections to the parliament and presidency in about eight months.
  • A merger and unification of the security apparatuses.
  • The release of political prisoners.
  • Arab League supervision of the implementation of the agreement.
Analysis from some good journalists and observers of Palestinian and Israeli politics:

"On Reconciliation, ‘The Devil Is In the Details," Interview with Nathan Thrall (International Crisis Group) by Marc Tracy. Tablet Magazine. April 29, 2011.

"Analysis: How to deftly play the Palestinian 'reconciliation' card," Herb Kleinon. Jerusalem Post. April 29, 2011.

"Palestinian Factions Give Different Views of Unity Pact," Ethan Bronner. New York Times. April 28, 2011.

"The Fatah-Hamas Agreement: Analysis and Initial Consequences," Jonathan Halevi. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. April 28, 2011.

"Rival Palestinian factions reach unity agreement," Ibrahim Barzak. With Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank, and Diaa Hadid in Cairo, Egypt. Associated Press. April 27, 2011.

See also:
August 10, 2010 report from the Congressional Research Service on,
"US Foreign Aid to the Palestinians." By Jim Zanotti.
Note especially the last paragraph, where the author speculates about the risks to US funding from a possible reconciliation deal that would include Hamas in the Palestinian Authority again.

After Hamas led the PA government for over a year, its forcible takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 led to the creation of a non-Hamas government in the West Bank—resulting in different models of governance for the two Palestinian territories. Since then, the United States has dramatically boosted aid levels to bolster the PA in the West Bank and President Mahmoud Abbas vis-à-vis Hamas. The United States has appropriated or reprogrammed nearly $2 billion since 2007 in support of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s security, governance, development, and reform programs, including $650 million for direct budgetary assistance to the PA and nearly $400 million (toward training, non-lethal equipment, facilities, strategic planning, and administration) for strengthening and reforming PA security forces and criminal justice systems in the West Bank. The remainder is for programs administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented by nongovernmental organizations in humanitarian assistance, economic development, democratic reform, improving water access and other infrastructure, health care, education, and vocational training. In December 2009, Congress approved $500 million in total FY2010 assistance pursuant to P.L. 111-117, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010.

In addition to its bilateral assistance to the Palestinians, the United States is the largest single-state donor to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which provides food, shelter, medical care, and education for many of the original refugees from the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and their descendants—now comprising approximately 4.8 million Palestinians in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank, and Gaza. Since UNRWA’s inception in 1950, the United States has provided the agency with nearly $4 billion in contributions. U.S. contributions to UNRWA have steadily increased over the past decade, with nearly $228 million thus far for FY2010. Whether UNRWA’s role is beneficial overall, however, is a polarizing question, particularly with respect to UNRWA’s presence in Hamas-controlled Gaza.

The possibility of a consensus or unity government to address the problem of divided rule among Palestinians could lead to a full or partial U.S. aid cutoff if Hamas is included in the government and does not change its stance toward Israel. Even if the immediate objectives of U.S. assistance programs for the Palestinians are met, lack of progress toward a politically legitimate and peaceful two-state solution could undermine the utility of U.S. aid in helping the Palestinians become more cohesive, stable, and self-reliant over the long term. 


Sunday, April 24, 2011

PA daily: "Jews, Jews! Your holiday [Passover] is the Holiday of Apes" - PMW Bulletins

PA daily: "Jews, Jews! Your holiday [Passover] is the Holiday of Apes" - PMW Bulletins

According to a zookeeper at the Safari Park in Israel, chimpanzees do rather enjoy matzoh. so clearly the devoutly anti-Jewish are onto something important here.

[From the Palestinian Authority's official TV channel]
The spring carnival has retained its [Palestinian] flavor in towns such as Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Ramallah... with the demonstrations of the Scouts, songs, dances, and popular Palestinian hymns about Christian-Islamic unity and internal Christian unity. These hymns carry meaningful messages, in response to the Israeli prohibition [to enter Jerusalem], as seen in the calls of the youth who lead the procession of light, waving swords and not caring if anyone accuses them of anti-Semitism: ... 'Our master, Jesus, the Messiah, the Messiah redeemed us, with his blood he bought us, and today we are joyous while the Jews are sad,' and, 'Jews, Jews! Your holiday is the Holiday of the Apes, while our holiday is the Holiday of the Messiah.'
[PA TV (Fatah), April 11, 2011]