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Friday, March 13, 2009

The Arab world on Chas Freeman

I suppose some of you might be wondering how the Arab world is reacting to the controversy over the nomination of Chas Freeman to head the National Intelligence Council - a nomination that was withdrawn earlier this week. The cartoon at the top of this post and this article both come from the Gulf News, which is published in Dubai in the Persian Gulf (Hat Tip: Michael Rubin).
It is true that that the new US State Department headed by Hillary Clinton has not come up with much new thinking. The whole of the Middle East (other than George W. Bush's friends among the extremist Likud supporters) was hoping for a radical change, along the lines of thinking the unthinkable and saying: "Yes we can". For a while most of the Middle East gave the new administration the benefit of doubt, but by now many have started to write it off as more of the same.

The failure to come out strongly and decisively against the Israeli assault on Gaza was a crunch moment. Most Arabs accept that Hamas should be criticised for firing untargeted missiles into civilian areas of Israel, but for the US State Department to make that criticism their main point during the whole of the assault was wrong.

The excessive savagery of the bombardment [there's the disproportionality canard again. CiJ] deserved the US to take stock of its unthinking support of the Israeli government, and to make clear that it wanted such fighting to stop. This did not happen.

The danger for the US is that the Israeli lobby only follows the extremist Likud position, so that any moderate Israelis or those who might be working to find peace, feel completely disempowered. They know that the vast weight of Zionist effort is tilted to the right, and the new moderate Israeli lobbies such as J Street have a long way to go before they reach the same level of influence.

By allowing the right wing Israelis to dominate the strategic thinking of the US in the Middle East, the US administration is tied to a very selfish and small partner, who has no interest in the wider Middle East at all. If Washington continues to be complicit with the Israeli right wing, it limits its own strategic options to supporting military domination of the Palestinians by Israel, and that destroys any hope of peace in Palestine, while also wrecking any hope of wider influence in the Arab and Muslim world.
The idea that 'right wing Israelis' dominate even Israeli thinking - let alone American thinking - is pure fantasy. The first thing supposed Rightist Binyamin Netanyahu did upon his election was to try to form a government with Kadima and Labor, which are both clearly in the Left camp (in fact, according to Israel Radio on Friday afternoon, he is still trying to form a 'national unity' government with those parties, even if it does not happen immediately).

'Washington' is anything but complicit with Israel's right wing. We can't even expand Jewish towns over the 'green line' to allow for 'natural growth' without shrieks of protest. The joke here is that those who live over the 'green line' have to ask American permission before procreating, because the Americans oppose 'natural growth' in Judea and Samaria.

I'm glad to hear that Arabs agree that Hamas should not be firing 'untargeted' missiles. But I suppose that if they were targeting them at major strategic sites like the water purification plant or the power plant in Ashkelon, that would be okay with the Arabs.

It's also kind of strange that the Obama administration is being criticized for the Gaza Operation, which did not happen on its watch. In fact, Israel brought the operation to a close far too soon so that it would not still be going when Obama took office - and we are paying the price in the form of approximately 5-10 rockets projectiles (yes, that's the latest politically correct term) being shot at southern Israel daily.

I probably should have noted at the outset that the title of this article is "U.S. falls prey to Israeli Tricks" (because, as Michael Rubin points out, in the world of Chas Freeman, Juan Cole, Stephen Walt, and others, any Jew who works in public policy and happens to disagree with them is guilty of dual loyalty). And perhaps that title is the best summary of the entire Arab viewpoint.

Come to think of it, the Arab viewpoint isn't a whole lot different than the New York Times, is it?


At 4:40 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Blaming the Jews is a popular sport in certain circles in Washington and in the Arab World. No one needs to grow up and look at the world as it really is if you happen to be Chas Freeman and the Arabs. Since the Jews happen to be a convenient alibi so Freeman and the Arabs don't ever have to change.



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