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Monday, December 26, 2011

Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Monday, December 26.
1) The softer side of Arafat

Gulf News writes about An intimate portrait of Yasser Arafat.
The name Yasser Arafat is synonymous with the Palestinian struggle. Affectionately referred to as Abu Ammar by his people and others, Arafat was a freedom-fighter-turned-revolutionary-leader-turned-politician. From his early days in Egypt as a decorated soldier, people around him knew he would one day become the president of Palestinians. This is according to a new documentary about his life and leadership style, called The Price of Kings — Yasser Arafat, which had its Middle Eastern premiere at this year's Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF).
Of course, this is not the first documentary about the leader, whom many considered controversial, but what makes the film unique is the personal briefings with people who were very close to him — from allies to family to rivals. By far the most intimate moments in the documentary are those in which Suha Arafat talks about her husband and the kind of life they shared together.
My guess is that this "intimate portrait" doesn't mention Ambassador Cleo Noel or U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission George Curtis Moore.

2) Ismail's fantastic journey

The New York Times reports, Hamas Leader Leaves on Tour of Arab Nations to Seek Support:
A deputy, Mohammed Awad, said by telephone that Mr. Haniya would stop first in Egypt and then Sudan. He was expected to continue to Qatar and Tunisia and to other Muslim and Arab countries, including Turkey and Bahrain, where preparations for a visit were not final.
“The Arab Spring has opened a wide horizon for us, and we must take advantage to promote the interests of our people,” Mr. Haniya told reporters before crossing the border with Egypt.
Haniya's statement is revealing. Recently Barry Rubin wrote:
In brief, the Obama administration encourages and supports the coming to power of fanatically anti-Israel groups, then has the nerve to say Israel is becoming isolated because it isn’t making enough concessions! They encourage and support the rise of regimes that are totally against any peace with Israel or any two-state solution, then have the nerve to say that Israel can defuse the situation by making peace.
In the new phase, the Turkish Islamist regime became Obama’s guru. The Turkish model was presented as the best route for the future. To Obama’s administration, this means a stable democracy incorporating “moderate Islamism.” In reality, it means takeovers by radical Islamists pretending to adhere to democratic norms.
The administration assumes that the Muslim Brotherhood would be moderate. Only the barest lip service was given to its need to prove its credentials. The Obama administration actually welcomed Islamist victories in Egypt and Tunisia, while doing nothing to prevent that from happening in Libya. In Syria, the Obama administration collaborated with Turkey to push Islamists to the fore in running the Syrian opposition.
In short, the Obama administration has taken the Islamist side, the side of anti-American, anti-Western, genocide-minded toward Israel, anti-Christian, and anti-women’s rights forces. It keeps insisting that these are harmless forces, even the “good guys” who will bring about true democracy.
There are those who will interpret Haniya's statements as meaning that now that other Arabs have demanded freedom, it's now the Palestinians turn. Haniya likely meant that Hamas now has many more allies it can rely on for support than it did a year ago.

Further the New York Times reports:
The two leaders met again in Cairo last week and agreed to form a committee that would prepare the elections as well as a restructuring of the Palestine Liberation Organization, from which Hamas has been excluded. The P.L.O. is the supreme authority of the Palestinian national movement.
Many obstacles remain in the path of Palestinian reconciliation, including American and Israeli warnings that if Hamas is included in any future government, tax revenue transfers from Israel and aid from Washington would be cut. Other powers, including the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, say Hamas must renounce violence, recognize Israel and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements before it can be seen as a legitimate partner.
In the second paragraph, the focus on the likely American and Israeli reactions to a Hamas-Fatah unity deal is misplaced. The mention should be made that by allying itself with Hamas, Fatah would be shunning the premise of the peace process. Losing American and Israeli funding would be a consequence of Fatah's rejection.

And if the EU, Russians and UN believe that Hamas will renounce violence, the latest is that it won't. The AP interviewed Khaled Mashaal last week (h/t Meryl Yourish):
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev dismissed Mashaal's statements, noting Friday that Hamas has repeatedly said it seeks Israel's destruction.
"Hamas is very open and public about its position — it believes the Jewish state should be obliterated, it fundamentally opposes peace and reconciliation, and it sees every Israeli civilian as a legitimate target," he said. "One cannot build policy upon wishful thinking."
During the AP interview in Cairo after his meeting with Abbas, Mashaal said Hamas would not renounce its own armed fight against Israel. The group has killed hundreds of Israelis, most of them civilians, in suicide bombings, shootings and rocket attacks since the Islamist group was formed in 1987.
At the end of the article we learn additional reasons for Haniya's trip:
One of Mr. Haniya’s goals on his trip, expected to last up to two weeks, is to raise money to rebuild Gaza, which suffered extensive damage during the three-week Israeli offensive three years ago in which some 1,300 people were killed. Israel’s goal was to stop rocket fire from Gaza into its southern communities.
If it was necessary to mention the number of deaths resulting from Cast Lead, it was irresponsible not to mention that roughly half of those killed, by Hamas's own admission, were combatants.

But is Haniya really going to raise money? Right after Cast Lead over $4 billion was pledged for the rebuilding of Gaza. Either many of the countries pledging haven't fulfilled their pledges, or Hamas has been receiving the pledges and not using them for the stated purpose of rebuilding.

3) France further isolates itself diplomatically

The New York Times reports, Turkey’s Leader Counters French Law With Accusations of Colonial-Era Genocide:
In a deepening diplomatic rupture, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey accused France on Friday of genocide against Algerians in the period of French colonial rule, one day after France made it a crime to deny the Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Turks.
“Approximately 15 percent of the population in Algeria have been subjected to a massacre by the French starting from 1945,” Mr. Erdogan said of the French dominion, which ended in 1962. “This is genocide.”
Turkey halted diplomatic consultations and military dealings with France on Thursday after the lower house of the French Parliament backed the bill, which would impose a fine of about $58,700 and a year in jail for those who deny the genocide of up to 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1918. Turkish lawmakers also called on France to investigate its own atrocities in Algeria.
Specious commentaries about Israel claim that since Israel couldn't come to an agreement with Turkey over the Mavi Marmara incident, have claimed that it was a sign of Israel's increasing diplomatic isolation. (Israel didn't come to agreement with Turkey because Turkey didn't negotiate in good faith.) But now France is at odds with Turkey, why isn't that a sign of France's diplomatic isolation?

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