“America’s Diplomatic Fig Leaf”

29 09 2007

I’m becoming very fond of this columnist at Asharq Alawsat, Amir Taheri. His latest column, “America’s Diplomatic Fig Leaf,” is about Condoleezza Rice’s push for the upcoming Middle East Peace Conference in November. He says when political leaders don’t know what to do, they hold international conferences, which become figurative fig leaves to cover their political nakedness – and often subvert the causes for which the conferences are held.

Anybody who has bought a carpet in a Persian bazaar would know that the larger the number of participants in a haggling session the less the chances of a deal being made.

The history of the Middle East conflict illustrates the point.

After the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948, the Palestinians who were most directly affected by the conflict were inclined to accept their status as losers in exchange for a space in which they could build their nationhood. The Arab states, however, would have none of that. They could afford to appear heroic at the expense of the Palestinians. Overtime, the cause of Palestine became an ideological toy and a political subterfuge for all sorts of people. The overexposure of the issue on the international scene made its resolution that much more difficult, especially during the Cold War when both blocs used the Middle East as a battleground for proxy wars.

“War is one of the most intimate of human relationships, something similar to love,” says Taheri. “It brings two sides together in extreme proximity, excluding all others.”

Later I want to talk about how many people have been screwed over by the tug-of-war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union over the Middle East and its oil.



29 09 2007

I updated the “About this Blog” section, which I’ve retitled “About MidEastPress” because I really don’t like the word blog. I re-wrote that section because I wrote it very quickly last time, and it was kind of stupid. Now I think it more effectively describes the goals of the blog.

The most important part, for those of you who aren’t into clicking:

“…as an American I feel that the best way for me to address this gap in understanding is to address Americans about news in the Middle East, taking a few things into consideration that Americans often forget about, including

  • the history of Western interference in the region
  • the interaction of governments with the press
  • the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its current implications
  • and maybe most importantly, the fact that the Middle East is not a monolith, but a region composed of many varied cultures, and that discussing it as a monolith is rarely conducive to understanding or productive dialogue.”

Ahmadinejad at Columbia

28 09 2007

Iran Press Poll: Do you agree with the way Columbia University treated President Ahmadinejad?

(here’s the way they treated him, in case you haven’t heard.)

Iran Press Service is an organization that exists primarily to disseminate information that the Iranian government won’t allow in the country – it is essentially anti-Iranian government – so it’s telling that 41.4 percent of the people who have taken the poll disagree with Ahmadinejad’s treatment at Columbia.*

Here’s how I feel about it: Whether you like him or not, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the President of Iran. Being so disrespectful of him

A. wastes a valuable opportunity for dialogue, and
B. is just unconscionably disrespectful of Iranians. He is, for better or worse, representing Iran, and treating him like some kind of wayward teenager displays a very ugly kind of American arrogance.

200 Lawmakers Hail President’s Speech

From Iran Daily, a government newspaper (you’ll be able to tell it’s a government newspaper when you read the article).
Americans Made Ahmadinejad a Victim, Strengthen Him At Home
Editorial from Iran Press Service. Quote from the article: “I’m ashamed of myself to feel that because of the insults he ushered to Ahmadinejad, I share the humiliations made to him, a man whom I don’t like at all.”

I know I’ve pretty much only talked about Iran and Palestine in the past few days, and am running the risk of being labeled an anti-Semite, so I feel it’s necessary to clarify: of course Ahmadinejad’s claim that the Holocaust never happened is ridiculous, and I’m a huge fan of Semites. It’s fair to say I’m anti-Zionist, but so are a lot of Jews.

*The number has gone down since I took the poll – at noon on September 29, the number of people who disapprove of his treatment is down to 39.4%

Mahmoud Abbas recognizes Israel as “a state of and for the Jews”

27 09 2007

For those who wonder why many people refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the state of Israel – it goes beyond ideology.

Abbas: Don’t cross the red-lines
An editorial from AMIN. Khaled Amayreh discusses Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ recent recognition of Israel as “a state of and for the Jews,” and the implications of that recognition.

Recognizing Israel as a “Jewish state,” let alone “a state of and for the Jews,” implies that the estimated 1.5 million Palestinians citizens of Israel have only a “temporary” or “transient” but not “permanent” right to live in their homes and towns, and that sooner or latter, these “goyem” would have to either emigrate, willy-nilly, or be brutally expelled because they are not Jews.

Israel currently considers the West Bank and Gaza territories, which means that the people who live in the West Bank and Gaza are not citizens of Israel (and can’t vote).

Israel is in a pickle with the West Bank and Gaza. It can either A) officially incorporate the territories and their citizens into Israel, thereby making the majority of the population Arab and negating Israel’s status as a Jewish state, B) give the territories back to Palestine, or C) incorporate the territories, but institute official apartheid (rather than unofficial apartheid, which is what they have going now). Given those options, it’s obvious why they’ve kept the West Bank and Gaza as territories.

Is there a reason for the JNF to exist anymore?

26 09 2007

Jewish Fund Must Sell Land to Arabs

From al-Jazeera – The Jewish National Fund (JNF), which began buying land in Palestine in 1913 to sell to Jews, has been ordered by the Israeli Supreme Court to sell land to Arabs. The JNF owns around 13 percent of Israel’s land and calls itself, “the caretaker of the land of Israel, on behalf of its owners – Jewish people everywhere.”

Please remember, if you are American, that if this organization existed in the United States the parallel would be less like an organization that only sells land to Jews and more like an organization that only sells land to white people – because Arabs make up 20% of Israel’s (official) population (obviously, Arabs are in the majority if you include Gaza and the West Bank), and Jews make up 76.4%. Of people who can vote, they’re the overwhelming majority.

MEMRITV: “The Heavy Metal Scene in Tehran”

24 09 2007

I have no idea what’s going on here, but I’m pretty sure it’s amazing.

The Heavy Metal Scene in Tehran: aired on Channel 2 in Iran, August 12th.

Here’s part of the transcript (from MEMRITV). Imagine this backed up with heavy guitar and interspersed with pictures of Gene Simmons wiggling his tongue at the camera (alternately, you could just watch the clip.)

Iranian youth: This is the symbol of the devil worshippers.

Iranian youth: I don’t know foreign languages.

Iranian youth: You should hang out here and see how trendy it is here.

Reporter: How did you do that?

Iranian youth: With a razor blade.

Reporter: A razor blade?

Iranian youth: Yes.

Reporter: What did you write there?

Iranian youth: 2Pac.

Reporter: What does 2Pac mean?

Iranian youth: It’s the name of an American singer.

[…]Hairstylist: Some people dye [their hair]. Some are heavy metal fans, and others are devil worshippers.

Reporter: Devil worship originated in England in the 19th century. It is supported by Jewish and American capitalists. Drug use and depraved sexual rituals are part of the daily life of devil worshippers.

Muscle Power vs. Brain Power

19 09 2007

Iran: Muscle Power vs. Brain Power: an opinion piece published in Asharq Alawsat on the 8th of September.

Apparently Ahmadinejad is starting a new program to Islamify (read: Khomeini-fy) Iranian universities – specifically Tehran University – by enforcing a Khomeini-approved curriculum, and replacing academics with Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) members. He’s calling it “The Second Islamic Cultural Revolution.”

The columnist compares it to the first Islamic Cultural Revolution, which he says failed in its attempt to squash political opposition by filling universities with staff and students in or sympathetic to the IRGC.

No Iranian author, academic or scientist of note would be prepared to participate in the so-called “Islamic Cultural Revolution.” Efforts to find somebody to prepare a cursus on Khomeini’s supposed “philosophy” have provoked only derision among intellectuals approached to assume the task. After months of efforts to prepare a special course on Ahmadnejad’s denial of the Holocaust, the committee charged with the task has produced nothing but a slim pamphlet that consists almost entirely of translations from Western “negationist” writers.