Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler
Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Wednesday, December 5.
1) Iron Deficiency
Thomas Friedman today treats us to Iron Empires, Iron Fists, Iron Domes.
In typical Friedman fashion, he substitutes clever wordplay for serious
analysis. In his final trope he describes his "iron dome" vision:
Israelis have responded to the collapse of Arab iron fists around them —
including the rise of militias with missiles in Lebanon and Gaza — with
a third model. It is the wall Israel built around itself to seal off
the West Bank coupled with its Iron Dome antimissile system. The two
have been phenomenally successful — but at a price. The wall plus the
dome are enabling Israel’s leaders to abdicate their responsibility for
thinking creatively about a resolution of its own majority-minority
problem with the Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
You would think that 30 years ago, Friedman was a big Likud supporter. I
can't be certain, but I doubt it. This is a typical rhetorical device.
Pretend that a party had principles you agreed with before and claim
that it does not more.
I am stunned at what I see here politically. On the right, in the Likud
Party, the old leadership that was at least connected with the world,
spoke English and respected Israel’s Supreme Court, is being swept aside
in the latest primary by a rising group of far-right settler-activists
who are convinced — thanks, in part, to the wall and dome — that
Palestinians are no threat anymore and that no one can roll back the
350,000 Jews living in the West Bank. The far-right group running Israel
today is so arrogant, and so indifferent to U.S. concerns, that it
announced plans to build a huge block of settlements in the heart of the
West Bank — in retaliation for the U.N. vote giving Palestinians
observer status — even though the U.S. did everything possible to block
that vote and the settlements would sever any possibility of a
contiguous Palestinian state.
Meanwhile, with a few exceptions, the dome and wall have so insulated
the Israeli left and center from the effects of the Israeli occupation
that their main candidates for the Jan. 22 elections — including those
from Yitzhak Rabin’s old Labor Party — are not even offering peace ideas
but simply conceding the right’s dominance on that issue and focusing
on bringing down housing prices and school class sizes. One settler
leader told me the biggest problem in the West Bank today is “traffic
But 30 years ago (even 20 years ago) the Likud (and most of Israel)
would never have negotiated with the PLO or acquiesced to a Palestinian
state. Now even the most right wing mainstream politician has accepted
an eventual Palestinian state as an likely. Such an opinion was the
province of Peace Now prior to the Oslo Accords. The Likud has moved
quite a bit politically since 1993, but Friedman won't acknowledge that.
Iron Dome and other defensive measures Israel has adopted during the
past two decades have allowed its critics, like Friedman, to abdicate
their responsibility for advocating policies that made Israel more
vulnerable. Trusting Arafat, withdrawing from southern Lebanon and
retreating from Gaza strengthened the terrorists of Fatah, Hezbollah and
Hamas respectively forcing Israel to military actions to defend its
citizens from terror. Israel made concrete concessions and got promises
but no peace in return. Israel, fortunately, has learned to defend
itself, so Friedman can pretend that the policies he supported cost
Unlike Israeli who have to live with the results of the policies he
supported, Friedman doesn't vote in Israeli elections. So he can hector
the center and left about failing to address the "occupation." They
don't fight it because they know it is a losing issue. Israel has made
significant sacrifices for peace and received insecurity and opprobrium
Friedman's failure here isn't just an arrogant refusal to understand
Israel, it also represents a remarkable double standard. Last year in Bibi and Barack, Friedman wrote:
Absent that, it’s just silly for us to have Netanyahu addressing the
U.S. Congress when he needs to be addressing Palestinians down the
street. And it is equally silly for the Palestinians to be going to the
United Nations for a state when they need to be persuading Israelis why a
Hamas-Fatah rapprochement is in their security interest.
Friedman mocks settlers and portrays them as obstacles to peace. But
here he advocated that an alliance between the less extreme Fatah and
the terrorist organization Hamas would be good for Israel! Does Friedman
really believe that including Hamas will bring peace and security to
Israel? If he does he's malevolent; if not he's ignorant.
Nearly seventeen years ago, then PM Netanyahu withdrew Israel from most
of Hevron. Can Friedman name a single concrete step taken by any
Palestinian leader that matches that level of commitment to the peace
Writing about Secretary of State Clinton's recent address to the Saban Center, Barry Rubin identified a mindset that afflicts many in our foreign policy establishment.
But here, too, there is a disproportionate idea. Relatively few
Israelis reject a two-state solution out of hand. The dominant idea
today is: We want a two-state solution but the other side doesn’t. On
the Palestinian side, virtually none of the leadership is prepared to
implement an achievable two-state solution. Indeed, they increasingly
talk of a one-state solution (total victory and Israel’s destruction),
an approach that is never heard among Israeli leaders.
What Professor Rubin wrote about Clinton and the Obama administration applies as well to Thomas Friedman.
What is objectionable is not that she criticizes Israel—she could cite
various things like insufficient energy in dismantling outposts or being
too permissive toward settlements—but the criticisms she makes. They
all fall into the current dominant Western view that the world’s
problems are caused by greedy, aggressive, unempathetic white people who
oppress everyone else. Implied here is that the only solution is that
such people take risks, make unilateral concessions, pay money, and
continually apologize for their sins.
And that’s a formula for disaster, not only in U.S. policy toward Israel but everywhere else.
I say all this not to complain about unfair double standards or even to
respond to Clinton. That is a waste of time. What’s important here is
to show how her mind works and that of a large portion of the Western
elite. Her remarks are not as bad as they sound when taken out of
context. She does try to be balanced—though an attempt at equidistance
is not exactly showing strong support for Israel—and also does—unlike
Obama—criticize the Palestinians. Yet in policy terms at the very moment
of culmination for a Palestinian Authority three-year effort to wreck
any peace process by unilateral independence and when Hamas has decided
the moment has come for a jihad backed up by the Islamist tidal wave in
the region, Clinton and the Obama Administration are obsessed with
Israel not making even more concessions.
2) The "moderate" brotherhood
Last week as President Morsi of Egypt continued to consolidate his power, Eric Trager wrote Shame on Anyone Who Ever Thought Mohammad Morsi Was a Moderate:
Washington ought to have known by now that “democratic dialogue” is
virtually impossible with the Muslim Brotherhood, which is now
mobilizing throughout Egypt to defend Morsi’s edict. The reason is that
it is not a “democratic party” at all. Rather, it is a cultish
organization that was never likely to moderate once it had grasped
Though it's not a complete list, Tom Blumber at NewsBusters actually names some names. (h/t Instapundit)
That’s because the very process through which one becomes a Muslim
Brother is designed to weed out moderates. It begins when specially
designated Brotherhood recruiters, who work at mosques and universities
across Egypt, identify pious young men and begin engaging them in social
activities to assess their suitability for the organization. The
Brotherhood’s ideological brainwashing begins a few months later, as new
recruits are incorporated into Brotherhood cells (known as “families”)
and introduced to the organization’s curriculum, which emphasizes
Qur’anic memorization and the writings of founder Hassan al-Banna, among
others. Then, over a five-to-eight-year period, a team of three senior
Muslim Brothers monitors each recruit as he advances through five
different ranks of Brotherhood membership—muhib, muayyad, muntasib,
muntazim, and finally ach amal, or “active brother.”
Throughout this process, rising Muslim Brothers are continually vetted
for their embrace of the Brotherhood’s ideology, commitment to its
cause, and—most importantly—willingness to follow orders from the
Brotherhood’s senior leadership. As a result, Muslim Brothers come to
see themselves as foot soldiers in service of the organization’s
theocratic credo: “Allah is our objective; the Quran is our law; the
Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way; and death for the sake of Allah
is the highest of our aspirations.” Meanwhile, those dissenting with
the organization’s aims or tactics are eliminated at various stages
during the five-to-eight-year vetting period.
Last week the New York Times expressed its concern about President Morsi's power grab in The crisis in Egypt:
President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt appears to have made a course
correction in his latest and most alarming power grab. During a meeting
with the country’s top judges on Monday, he reportedly agreed to limit
the sweeping authority he seized by unilateral decree last week. Instead
of exempting all his decisions from judicial review, he would retain
just the power to protect the constitutional assembly from being
dissolved by the courts before it finishes its work early next year.
While the skepticism of Morsi was welcome, the editors of the Times
still don't seem to grasp that his behavior is to be expected and that
whatever course corrections he's made, he's just biding his time.
If true — and the details were not entirely clear — Mr. Morsi’s shift
would be a pragmatic face-saving measure. The real test is whether it
can satisfy his critics, who have filled the streets in protest. They
have grown tired of the constant turmoil, economic collapse and decline
in government services since Hosni Mubarak was ousted, and they remain
distrustful of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party that
sponsored Mr. Morsi.
Mr. Morsi’s ill-advised decree reinforced suspicions that he is more
like the autocrat he replaced than the democrat many Egyptians long for,
and has only exacerbated the country’s divisions.
Finally it appears that Egyptians are not biding their time. Yesterday
protesters chased Morsi from the presidential palace. David Kirkpatrick
reported in Thousands of Egyptians protest plan for Charter:
The protests did not suggest widespread defections from among core
Morsi supporters. The crowd appeared more affluent than those at the
usual Tahrir Square protests here, to say nothing of the Islamist
rallies. There was an unusually high concentration of women, especially
for an event after dark, and very few traditional Islamic headscarves.
Interviews suggested a heavy representation from Egypt’s Coptic
Christian minority, who fear marginalization under the Brotherhood.
Robert Mackey at The Lede has more on the protests, including:
The relative affluence of the crowd “is a good thing,” said Farid
Beshay, a 29-year-old Christian. “This is not a revolt of the poor. This
is people coming to demand their rights.”
The newspapers that shut down for the day said their action was aimed
specifically at the draft constitution’s failure to protect free
expression. “You are reading this message because Egypt Independent
objects to continued restrictions on media liberties, especially after
hundreds of Egyptians gave their lives for freedom and dignity,” a short
statement declared Tuesday morning on the Web site of Egypt
Independent, the English-language sister publication of the country’s
largest independent daily, Al Masry Al Youm.
...Mr. Dahshan observed: “It was the most diverse protest I have seen in
quite a while. More socio-economic diversity than the protests in
Tahrir; definitely more gender diversity than the MB staged protests!”
There's some more commentary from InstaPundit.
Though Islamists won a large majority of parliamentary seats, Morsi's
victory over Ahmed Shafik was much narrower. It isn't clear though that
these protests will do much other than perhaps slow down Morsi's
growing authoritarianism. The protests forced Mubarak from power because
the army withdrew its support from him. Is there any force in Egypt
right now that can counter Morsi effectively?
Labels: Egypt, Hillary Clinton, Likud party, Middle East Media Sampler, Mohammed Morsy, Muslim Brotherhood, New York Times, Obama's obsession with Israel, Soccer Dad, Tom Friedman