Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

As entertaining as the New York Times’ The Ethicist is, I find myself disagreeing with Randy Cohen’s conclusions rather often. I think the first question he answered in this week’s column is too complicated to be boiled down to a two paragraph response. However, that is not my real concern.

In writing about a parent’s dilemma about whether or not a child should be allowed to smoke marijuana on a family trip to the Netherlands, Cohen makes the following comparison:

While there may still be good reasons for your son to avoid marijuana there — concerns about pot’s long-term effects, belief that time spent not looking at Vermeers is time wasted, the risk of tumbling into a canal — fealty to U.S. law is not one. When a Saudi visits the U.S., she has no ethical obligation to forswear driving simply because it is illegal for a woman to do so in Riyadh.

To reiterate, he has compared a law banning marijuana to a law forbidding women from driving. Regardless of what one thinks the legal status of narcotics should be, there is a world of difference between such a law and one drafted to shield the public from the horrors of women leaving the house more often. By making this comparison, Cohen has, in effect, placed the US law forbidding the use of marijuana on the same moral plane as the systematic discrimination against women practiced by Saudi Arabia.

The country who says that “establishing houses of worship for non-Islamic religions was too sensitive an issue,” no longer shocks me. Somehow, the New York Times still does. Randy Cohen should know better.

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Michael Totten has long been required reading if one wants to keep up with international affairs, in my view. Recently he posted the transcript of a briefing with Khaled Abu Toameh. Of course, I don’t agree with Abu Toameh on everything, but his analysis is the best thing I’ve read in a while.

The West, either delusional, anti-Israel, or downright antisemitic, has long thought that a Palestinian state will solve everything. Abu Toameh, native of Tulkarem, seems to think that’s funny, and almost sounds like Nadia Matar:

Talking about a Palestinian state today is a joke. Where would that state be established? Israel controls nearly half of the West Bank. These PLO people can’t deliver. If Israel gives up the West Bank, you will have to go to Cairo or Amman to take a flight back to America because snipers will be sitting on the hilltops above Ben-Gurion airport.

Perception of power is important, very important, and I’ve harped on that topic enough times, but it really cannot be stressed strongly enough that leaving without the losing side surrendering, is the same as losing.

They think Israel ran away from Lebanon, that Hezbollah defeated them. They thought the Jews were scared and would not come into Gaza. They were really confident that Israel wouldn’t fight back. Really. They were.

Another common misconception is that economic improvement within Palestinian society will lead to peace. They will stop hating us, and the streets will suddenly be paved with gold. Well, no.

Max Boot: There does seem to be this sense that the West Bank has been doing better economically.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Yes.
Max Boot: Does that translate into better politics?
Khaled Abu Toameh: No.

Most of our neighbors do NOT like us. They will not start liking us anytime soon. They hate us and it has nothing to do with the fact that they are poor. Or that they are more religious or less religious. Or that they call themselves Hamas or Fatah.

I don’t think the majority would like to see aid from Norway, Switzerland, or Canada instead of from Iran and Hezbollah… You know what? Believe me, if you listen to Hamas and Fatah in Arabic there isn’t much of a difference, especially these days. Fatah fought alongside Hamas in Gaza. Today they said they lost 36 fighters and fired 900 rockets at Israel. Fatah.

The world loves to blame Israel. It’s not just our delusion. Sudan? Blame Israel. Gazans are hungry? Blame Israel.

Listen. The Egyptians are hypocrites. They are busy killing African refugees who are trying to get asylum in Israel. They opened fire on an African mother and son who were trying to run away from Sudan and were trying to seek refuge inside Israel. I haven’t heard that the Egyptians are destroying tunnels or anything. I haven’t heard it.

And finally, this is not the West. Stop trying to treat it like a Western issue with Western actors. It’s not going to end anytime soon.

General Tom McInerney, Fox News Military Analyst: Is there a solution to this problem?
Khaled Abu Toameh: You Americans are always asking us that. Why are Americans always asking me if there is a solution? A solution to what?
Michael J. Totten: The whole thing.
Khaled Abu Toameh: What is the whole thing?
Anthony Cordesman: Is there anything useful that could be done this year?
Khaled Abu Toameh: Listen. Look. We must stop dreaming about the New Middle East and coexistence and harmony and turning this area into Hong Kong and Singapore. If anyone thinks a Palestinian will wake up in the morning and sing the Israeli national anthem, that’s not going to happen. If anyone thinks an Israeli Jew will go back to doing his shopping in downtown Ramallah or to see his dentist in Bethlehem or eat fish in Gaza City, that’s not going to happen. There has been a total divorce between Jews and Palestinians. We don’t want to see each other.

It’s much longer, but it’s worth the time – go read.

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Those of you who grew up in Israel, might remember a children’s TV show, Yosef HaMespaer, starring a bald, heavyset man who sat on lots of pillows, Alladin style, and told fairytales. I actually don’t remember much of the show itself, but reading Jeffrey Goldberg’s interview with Martin Indyk, I felt like I was reading a fairytale.

The show’s opening “credits”:

Indyk outdid himself in this one. Even though not a single question was a tough one, he still managed to show that one’s tenure as an ambassador to the Middle East does not actually necessarily lead to any understanding of the region.

There is much more, here is just a taste. First, speaking about evacuating Jews who live on the other side of the fence:

I don’t believe that force would be necessary if the evacuation is presented to the Israeli public as part of a package that would include the following elements: financial compensation equal to that provided to the Gaza settlers; resettlement in the blocs that would be incorporated into Israel by agreement with the Palestinians; an end to the territorial claims of the Palestinians; security arrangements that ensure that all violence and terrorism against Israelis ceases; international guarantees of freedom of access for Israelis to Jewish holy places in Judea and Samaria; and peace with all the Arab states.

I’m not sure where to begin. The evacuation from Gaza in 2005 had overwhelming public support, and it did not go over very smoothly. Does Indyk truly believe the next one will be easier? The notion that the Arabs will cease to make any demands on Israel defies history. There is simply nothing to support it. There is even less evidence that if Jews do not control the area, ” international guarantees of freedom of access for Israelis to Jewish holy places in Judea and Samaria,” will be worth more than the paper they would be written on.

However, the subject most near and dear to my heart, ” financial compensation equal to that provided to the Gaza settlers.” So Indyk thinks there it will be easy to evict people from their homes if most Israelis support the plan, and if evictess themselves will be kicked to the curb, only to be tossed half a bone about a year later?

When asked which conflict would prove to be more “durable,” the Sunni-Shi’a dispute or the Arab-Israeli conflict, Indyk’s response seemed to rewrite history. Maybe the intra-religious conflict will last longer than the inter-religious conflict, but the “Arab-Israeli conflict has actually progressed toward resolution.” At least not in the way he thinks it has. For most of the conflict’s duration, it indeed has progressed towards being resolved – because the Jews decided winning was a good thing. However, since Israel’s leaders have decided capitulating to your enemy is a good idea, we have had two terrorist organizations sprout up around us (Hezbollah and Hamas), and continue to weaken Israel, daily, with something called the “peace process,” otherwise known as – “How to get the US President a Nobel Peace Prize.”

If it weren’t so damaging, Indyk’s stupid, yes, stupid, analyses would make for some good entertainment.

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The Realist summarizes Cast Lead, and I agree with much of what he said, including his conclusions about what needs to be done next. He says that the political situation needs to be stabilized before we know what will happen, of course – but unfortunately I do not see a real routing of Hamas happening in any case, for the following reasons:

  1. Netanyahu, who at this point is still poised to take over, come February, must be examined based on his actual experience. People do not change very much – and he already is a known quantity. Though he may be the lesser of many evils, he is a politician in the full, pejorative sense of the word, who is simply on the other side of the map from other like-minded elected officials. (The one exception is his economic worldview, based on his education, which he actually carried out fairly well while serving as minister). In any case, I don’t see him carrying such an operation out – I see him selling everything wholesale – the only mitigating factor now is Benny Begin, who actually is a true ideologue.
  2. Such an operation would probably take months – complete elimination of Hamas would require a very thorough examination of every house, street, school, alley in the entire Gaza Strip – Israel does not have the luxury of such an undertaking, largely due to world opinion the modern nature of real time media reports.
  3. Another consideration is the Israeli leadership’s tendency to conform to the popular theory that only the Left can wage war and only the Right can make peace, which Bibi certainly practiced when he was in office.

He also mentions the problem of smuggling, and that it ” is going to be incredibly difficult to stop entirely.” I think the idea of building a moat along the Philadelphi corridor is a good start.

In the end, however, The Realist is correct – “There is ultimately no alternative… In the end they have to be bombed into destruction.” I just don’t see it happening anytime soon.

“At the slightest sign of a return to the status quo ante bellum, this needs to happen.  Otherwise all of this was for nothing.” True. How sad.

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What Now?

I’m still trying to figure out how enormous of a mistake was committed by entering into this “unilateral truce.” I’m afraid that in our neighborhood, where image sometimes matters more than the facts on the ground, the politicos may have undone any good the IDF worked so hard to achieve.

Apart from all of the lives lost and hurt on the Israeli side, there were many civilians killed. Yes, legally, those responsible for those deaths are Hamas, and no one else. Nevertheless, those death were justified in the name of removing the threat against Israel. What does it mean if we did not remove the threat? If the government did not even really try? Israel’s political system is beyond corrupt and self-serving. There is no accountability (and no, there really isn’t a word for accountability in Hebrew). More on that, though, in another post sometime soon.

In the meantime go check out a few blog carnivals / roundups:

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Ynet reports: “Israel declares unilateral Gaza truce.” Wrong. A truce cannot be unilateral. A truce is agreed upon. This a capitulation, yet another mistake in a long line of errors, collectively known as Olmert’s policies.

Regardless of why this operation was initiated, or why now, Hamas is an enemy that doesn’t only need to be “hit hard.” It needs to go. That is not an easy undertaking, but it is necessary. Nevertheless, the Israeli government is cowering in the face of international opinion, instead of even completing the limited task they set out for the IDF: stopping the rockets. How does Hamas respond? In words – The victims of this war will be the basis for the continuation of the fighting and hostility vis-à-vis the Israeli side.” And in actions – only today, several more rockets were launched at Be’er Sheva.

Finally, a military operation was finally started, again (as in 2006), and again the IDF will cease its fire while Gilad Schalit is still held by the enemy. The reason for Cast Lead is the same as the reason for its end: politics. The troika (Olmert, Livni, Barak) do want to lose to the Likud next month, and after Hamas did not cease its murder attempts for the past few years, they thought they could gain popular support by appealing to what the public wants just before the elections. Nevertheless, their campaign failed. Labor did rise slightly in the polls, but Kadima stayed at more or less the same level, still trailing Likud.

If this is the end of Cast Lead then it is a failure. Yes, many battles were won. Yes, Hamas’ capabilities have been severely damaged, and numerous key figures have been eliminated. However, if they still refuse to surrender, if they still disparage Israel by declaring “if this is all the strength they have, they failed in defeating the Palestinian people,” then Israel cannot claim to be victorious.

This “truce” will only serve to hurt Israel in the future. It will cost more Israeli lives. There was no legitimate strategy, were no real aims, from the very beginning. Nor is there a legitimate strategy in endng now. This is all very disheartening.

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Jeffrey Goldberg cites a particularly poignant passage.

What will we do once we withdraw from Gaza?…. What will we do when the Katyusha fire starts hitting Sderot, four miles from the Gaza district, and Ashkelon, nine miles from Gaza, and Kiryat Gat, fourteen miles from Gaza….Or what shall we do if the U.N. or  multinational forces are positioned around Gaza and there is still terrorism?

מילים כדורבנות*

And he did it anyway…

*If anyone knows how to properly translate that, please let me know.

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