“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.


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.


18 09 2007

I read the Washington Post for U.S. news. This is not because I think the Post is the best source for news but because of plain old brand loyalty, born out of the fact that D.C. was the first place I ever lived without my parents. Sometimes I like to read the Metro section and say to myself, “Oh, that place! I remember that place!”

But I have got to stop reading the Post. Check out this article – it was the third of the headlines in the daily e-mail today.

Hamas’s New Order Exacts Toll On Gazans
Party Cements Grip with Harsh Tactics

I don’t support Hamas. But the way the U.S. media represents Hamas is often sensationalist and misleading. One thing you should understand before you read anything about Palestine is that politics there are violent in the extreme, and the tactics this article describes Hamas as using are employed on all sides – by Israel, by Hamas, and recently by Fatah. Most effectively by Israel, which is obviously much better funded than anyone else.

So while the article is probably not factually inaccurate it is remarkably misleading – it leaves you with the impression that Hamas is singly responsible for all the misery in Palestine.

Look! This person wears different clothes than you!It starts out with a description of a beach club in Gaza, at which one once could wear a bikini, but which is now populated by people who wear “bushy beards” and burqas. So, you know, they look funny. In fact, the claim in the fifth paragraph, that “Hamas leaders are increasingly imposing harsh interpretations of Islamic law and using brute force to bolster their isolated administration,” is only supported by the fact that there are more beards and burqas floating around Gaza now than there were a couple of years ago.

But the worst thing about the article is that it ends with a description of a strike at a Gaza hospital, which is taking place because of medicine shortages and the prevention of hundreds of patients from continuing their treatment in Israel (due to the wall, you know. That Israel built.), and the writer tries to pin the whole thing on Hamas by using two quotes from Fatah supporters.