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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Wednesday, October 5.
1) Two from Toameh

Khaled Abu Toameh writes in Abbas gives the finger to Obama:
By rejecting both of US President Barack Obama's requests -- to avoid a United Nations bid for Palestinian Statehood and to return to the negotiating table -- the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, is now hoping to join the bandwagon of the few Arab and Muslim leaders who have dared to stand up to the Americans. For many years, Abbas's Arab and Muslim enemies had condemned him as a "puppet" in the hands of the US. But his decision to dump the US will certainly help him get rid of that image. Abbas is well aware of the fact that anti-American sentiments remain as high as ever in most of the Arab and Islamic countries. This was the reason he decided that it would be unwise of him to continue swimming against this tide.
Because there's no peace agreement and Netanyahu has rebuffed some initiatives from the Obama administration and hasn't made enough concessions to convince Abbas to negotiate again, some people portray Netanyahu as an "ungrateful ally." I wouldn't call Abbas or the PA an "ally," but the PA gets a nice portion of its budget from the United States. Yet few characterize Abbas as "ungrateful." Despite the affinity Abbas (and the Palestinians) once felt for Obama, Abbas is very openly defying Obama. In a second article Abu Toameh asks Will Abbas allow Hamas to fool him again?
This offer, however, does not mean that Hamas has decided to renounce terror and violence. Rather, Hamas is saying, "Because I am now weak and cannot destroy you yet, give me a break so that I can gain enough strength to destroy you in the future." One cannot say that Abbas is among the naïve people who believe that Hamas has changed, or would ever do so. On the contrary, Abbas and his Fatah faction know better than anyone that Hamas is not to be trusted at all. Abbas paid a heavy price for believing Hamas. In the summer of 2007, Hamas threw Abbas's Palestinian Authority out of the Gaza Strip after he had formed a Unity government with the Islamist movement. Back then, Hamas stabbed Abbas in the back when its forces seized full control of the Gaza Strip and expelled Abbas and his loyalists and him from the area.
Siding with the rejectionists against the United States carries risks.

2) Kramer's back in Sandbox

In addition to being an essential Tweeter about the Middle East, Martin Kramer maintains a blog called Sandbox. He doesn't update it regularly, but yesterday's entry, The Middle East circa 2016 is excellent.
What about the other countries that aren’t middle powers? Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Yemen, the Palestinians? The defining character of these states is that they are highly segmented. Under a ruthless dictator, they have played larger roles—think of Iraq under Saddam, Syria under Hafez Asad, even the Palestinians under Arafat. But as the era of the dictators winds down, the likely outcome will be a mix of quasi-democratic practices with regionalism, sectarianism, and even tribalism. Violence will be endemic, and disaffected groups on the margins will seek to break away from ineffectual central governments. In some places, the very map may be redrawn. Some of these states are little empires, preserving in amber the interests of the long-defunct empires of Europe circa 1916. By 2016, some of these mini-empires could fracture. And in this volatile situation, Israel is unlikely to part from its own best lines of defense, the Jordan Valley and the Golan Heights. Finally, a warning label on Islamism. Those who were mesmerized by images from Tahrir Square, and thought that Islamism was passé, saw only what they wanted to see. Today Islamists call the shots in Lebanon, they’ve survived a serious challenge in Iran, they dominate the scene in Turkey, they’re busy planning their creeping takeover in Egypt, and they’re poised to set the agenda for the Palestinians. Democracy, such as it is in these places, is usually a mechanism of Islamist empowerment. No one knows how this will play out by 2016. It does mean that Islamism’s opponents will have to be much more agile than they were when the dictators were doing the work.
3) Of anti-Zionism and antisemitism

David Bernstein of the Volokh Conspiracy links to a discussion about when anti-Zionism is really antisemitism.
Anti-Zionism that also takes a consistent opposition to all nationalisms (including Palestinian nationalism) is not antisemitic; Jewish religious anti-Zionism such as that of the Satmer Hasidim is not antisemitic; Jewish anti-Zionism which rejects the Zionist solution to the questions of Jewish survival and continuity (such as the position of the Jewish Socialist Group or others in the tradition of the Bund, folkism and other diasporist traditions) is not antisemitic [Editor: though one wonders about the relevance of these traditions in 2011, when there is an existing Jewish state with almost eight million citizens]; anti-Zionism from the perspective of Israeli citizens (Jewish or Arab) who want to see Israel as a democratic state for all its citizens (rather than a Jewish state) is not antisemitic; finally anti-Zionism which sees Zionism as a form of imperialism and takes a consistent opposition to all imperialisms without singling out Zionism as unique is wrong-headed, but not in itself antisemitic. All of these forms of anti-Zionism can be used as fig-leaves for antisemitism or be used to feed antisemitism, but they are not themselves antisemitic. [Editor: And I would add one more. Islamist anti-Zionism that is based on the idea that “Palestine” is Islamic territory that for theological reasons may not be governed by non-Muslims is not, by itself, anti-Semitic.]
Bernstein adds:
Unfortunately, it’s increasingly the case that even those who approach anti-Zionism from one or more of these perspectives are at best tolerant of the anti-Semitism indulged in by some of their allies, and at worst engage in rhetoric that smacks of classical anti-Jewish themes, even if the individuals in question are not themselves anti-Semitic. As I’ve noted before, there are two basic reasons for this phenomenon. The first is that given longstanding Western cultural prejudices against Jews, marrying anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism can be extremely effective from a rhetorical perspective. And, second, if you are inclined to believe that Israel and its policies are an especially grave danger to world peace and security you will tend to err on the side of being tolerant of anti-Semitism to the extent that you think it is furthering the anti-Israel cause [update: because you see Israel as a greater threat/danger/cause for concern than anti-Semitism]. Neither of these explanations are excuses, of course.
4) In Israel and in Libya

In Israel:
Peres, speaking at the President’s Residence with Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar at the inauguration of a program training high school students towards scientific excellence, expressed his “deep outrage” at the attack. “It brings great shame upon us,” Peres said. “It is a terrible thing that I condemn in the strongest possible terms. It is a difficult day for the residents of Tuba Zanghariya and a difficult day for Israeli society as a whole. As the president of Israel, I call during these soul-searching days of penitence between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, for the rooting out of such deeds from our midst.
“Lawless extremists must not be allowed to disrupt our coexistence and the mutual respect between Arabs and Jews,” said Peres, who said those responsible would be brought to justice and punished accordingly.
In Libya
Despite this, Gerbi came back to Libya to help the rebels as they ousted Gadhafi in a six-month uprising. Gerbi, who assisted with psychological treatment, earned the nickname "the revolutionary Jew." He was widely believed to be the first Libyan Jew to return, though he hoped he would not be the last. But his prayers were interrupted at the synagogue, and he emerged to the commotion outside. "They told me that if I am not leaving now, they are going to come and they are going to kill me because they don't want Jews here," he said.
5) In the Eastern Province

There was rioting in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia:
The interior ministry said in a statement that 14 people had been injured and called on protesters to “clearly identify their loyalty to Allah and to their nation or their loyalty to that country.” “A foreign country is trying to undermine national security by inciting strife in (the city of) al-Qatif,” the interior ministry statement added. The reference to a foreign country meddling in a Shiite area in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain is usually a coded reference to Iran, the Saudi rival across Gulf waters.
In 2002, Max Singer wrote Free the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia provides some background:
Saudi Arabia is commonly thought to be an ancient kingdom with a homogeneous people. But, in fact, the kingdom is less than 80 years old, the result of the British-supported conquests of Abdul Assiz ibn Saud, a magnificent feudal potentate and shrewd diplomat who conquered most of the Arabian peninsula and created the country that now belongs to the Al Saud family—which has been able to keep its power over the diverse peoples of the peninsula because of the oceans of oil discovered under the conquered territory. Ibn Saud, whose family is from the central desert province of Najd, put the country together during a reign of over 50 years by modern methods of money and force combined with the traditional technique of cementing relations with leading tribes and clans by taking more than 20 wives. One result is that he had 44 sons and literally countless daughters (because no one there counts daughters). Thirty-five of the sons were alive when Ibn Saud died in 1953. Since then, four of them have become king, and the royal family has grown to an estimated 6,000 consumers of the national wealth. Before its conquest by Ibn Saud, the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia (EP), which lies along the shore of the Arabian Gulf and which contains all of Saudi Arabia’s oil fields, was populated mostly by two groups of Shiite Muslims who were quite different culturally and religiously from their Najdi conquerors. One group was Bedouins and settled date-growers and farmers living around two groups of oases. The other was pearlers, fishermen, and traders living in coastal villages along the Gulf.
With regard to the Tuba Zanghariya mosque incident, it should be noted that despite the fact that Israeli politicians have been falling over each other to apologize for it, there is no proof to date that the perpetrators were Jews or Israelis.

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