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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Tuesday, November 8.
1) Cohen and history I

Roger Coehn writes in The last Jew in Zagare:
What emerged from the Holocaust — from the agony of every little Zagare — was the success of Zionism. Benny Morris, the Israeli historian, has written, “As the pogroms in Russia in the 1880’s had launched modern Zionism, so the largest pogrom of them all propelled the movement, almost instantly, into statehood.”
Through its vote of Nov. 29, 1947, calling for the establishment of two states in the Holy Land — one Jewish and one Palestinian Arab — the United Nations sought to expiate Nazi crimes by granting the Jews what Morris calls “an international warrant for a small piece of earth.”
The thing is, that piece of earth, birthplace of the Jewish people, was not empty. In fact, at the time of the U.N. vote, about 630,000 Jews faced about 1.3 million Palestinian Arabs in the Holy Land. Palestinians failed to see why they should pay for the Holocaust. Arab states, invoking Saladin’s triumph over the Crusaders, seeing in Israel a new expression of European colonialism, went to war against the U.N.’s will — and lost.
(Emphasis mine)

A few paragraphs later he writes:
Solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict begins with accepting that there is no just outcome, none. Enough Jews and Arabs have died trying to prove the rightness of their cause. Imperfect compromise is the only way out of the spiral.
Actually, I believe that there is a just outcome. But working with Cohen's premise for a moment ... even he acknowledges that in 1947 it was the Arabs who fought against "imperfect compromise." Israel has made numerous, often risky, compromises to achieve Cohen's "imperfect compromise." Those efforts have been met with disinterest or even hostility, as the Palestinians still see Israel as an "expression of European colonialism," unwilling to accept anything less than what they say justice dictates. That's why we are in "a spiral." But it isn't lack due to lack of effort on Israel's part, a point that Cohen neglects.

Cohen concludes with :
I went to see the grave of Mendelsonai — the last Jew in Zagare. So, I thought, Zagare is finally Judenrein. In a sense the Nazis have won.
Then, nearby, I saw a European Union flag and thought, no.
Mendelsonai, in his 89 years, lived through five Lithuanias — independent, Soviet, Nazi, Soviet and independent. The last was best, a small state, secure, in NATO, tied in economic union with its neighbors, at peace even with Russia.
Except in Zagare, the Nazis did win. Had the Nazis not murdered the vast majority of the town's Jews, Mendelsonai would not have been the last Jew there.
It’s amazing what putting the future above the past, jobs above some unattainable justice, can forge.
As I've noted before, Israel has been doing precisely that since 1993. Cohen's rational sounding analysis denies that.

2) Cohen and History II

Richard Cohen writes in Egypt struggles where Germany flourishes:
And yet what accounts for the Financial Times’ story? Culture, that’s what. Don’t ask me to define the term, but it is something within us individually and something collectively within a nation or people. It is about all that Japan and Germany were left with — no oil or gas, that’s for sure. It explains why Germany, dismembered in a vast and horrendous population exchange, and the eastern sector of it mismanaged for years afterward by knuckleheaded communists, is now Europe’s preeminent economic power. Germany may no longer be uber alles, but it’s definitely uber quite a bit.
The role of culture is often slighted. It makes us uncomfortable. It suggests racism and bigotry and cuts against the admirable liberal notion that we are all the same and can, with enough money, do better. So the zeitgeist around the Arab Spring is of great hope: Now that the nasties are gone, the Libyans and the Egyptians and, soon, the Syrians can be like us. Great importance is attached to cellphones and Twitter and other social media, and great attention is paid to the non-representative leader who is fluent in Googlespeak — as if putting an iPhone to the ear reverses polarity so that east becomes west. To utter the cautionary word “culture” is to utter an obscenity.
But the Egyptian revolution is turning out to be a counterrevolution instead — another military regime not all that different than the one that in 1952 sent King Farouk into a challenging exile of gastronomic and sexual excess. Democracy seems more and more unlikely. Something similar is probably in store for Libya, which, like Egypt, has never been a democracy and exhibited its handicrafts by apparently murdering a POW named Moammar Gaddafi. Should Bashar al-Assad depart either his nation or this life, Syria, too, is unlikely to be anything other than a military dictatorship. As for Iraq, the minute the last U.S. soldier is gone, scores will be settled.
I don't agree with all the particulars here, but overall this sounds convincing. The big omission is a lack of acknowledgment of the role that Islam plays in the Arab culture. Egypt's military seeing how Turkey progressed under the AKP's rule looks to prevent the same result in Egypt. It is the Islamists who are ascendent in Libya. With the departure of American troops from Iraq, Iraq will cozy up the Islamic theocracy of Iran. Cohen hits on an uncomfortable truth, but he doesn't follow his observation to its conclusion.

3) Centrifuge-al Force

Stephen Rademaker and Blaise Misztal write in The growing threat of Iran’s nuclear program:
More troubling still has been Iran’s foray into progressively highly levels of uranium enrichment. Last year Iran began converting uranium it had previously enriched to 3.5 percent to almost 20 percent, ostensibly to fuel a reactor that produces medical isotopes. That reactor annually uses just 7 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20 percent, and IAEA reports indicate that Iran has accumulated almost 50 kilograms of this. In other words, over the past year and a half Iran has produced enough of this material to run its medical reactor for seven years. Nevertheless, Iran declared in June that it intends to triple the rate at which it is producing this material and began transferring this work to a previously secret underground facility at Qom that is carved into the side of a mountain. In a series of reports, the Bipartisan Policy Center has been tracking the progress of Iran’s nuclear program. We calculate that, if it chooses, Iran could produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear device in just 62 days using its existing stockpiles and current enrichment capability. And international inspectors examine Iranian facilities only about once every two months. This means that Tehran is approaching the ability to produce a bomb’s worth of highly enriched uranium before the international community realizes it has happened.
So glad there were no "slam dunks" in the 2007 NIE.

4) 1st Jewish President redux

A few months ago, New York Magazine published an absurd article claiming that President Obama was the first Jewish president. The gist of the article was that because President Obama was pressuring Israel to make concessions for its own good, Obama, rather than Israel's defenders, was truly pro-Israel.

Now the Forward has added President Obama to its list of the 50 most influential Jews. Given that President Obama to my mind has shown no special affinity for Judaism - though he has plenty of Jewish allies and advisers - it's safe to say that these aren't religiously motivated judgments, but political ones. Both New York and The Forward know that President Obama's stances towards Israel has alienated some percentage of the Jewish community and the more general pro-Israel community. These are efforts at fixing political damage. The Blaze, Glenn Beck's online publication, shows how cynical The Forward's effort is. (h/t Jeff Jacoby)

If reports about President Obama's open mic complaint about PM Netanyahu are true this PR operation will have to step up another notch. That operation has already started. Apparently the journalists who were there have agreed to keep quiet. Once again we see the degree to which our independent media is in the service of the |President. (h/t Jonah Goldberg)

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