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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Wednesday, March 28.
1) I spoke too soon

Yesterday I wrote that both the New York Times and Washington Post had ignored this year's J-Street conference. Today the New York Times covers it with a press release news story, J Street, Pro-Israel but Opposed to Attacking Iran, Takes Its Message to Washington. The gist of the article is that AIPAC's recent convention was larger, but the folks at J-Street were more sensible because they are uniformly against attacking Iran.

Also today the New York Times has an editorial Israel’s Top Court vs. Outposts:
Israel’s Supreme Court made an important contribution to justice and kept alive hope for a two-state solution with the Palestinians, when it ruled this week that Migron, an illegal outpost built by Israeli settlers, must be dismantled by Aug. 1. Now it is up to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to comply promptly, while making clear to the settlers that violent resistance will not be tolerated.
During his first stint as Prime Minister, Netanyahu made an agreement with the Palestinian Authority to withdraw from most of Hebron and Netanyahu complied. I don't know why the editors of the New York Times need to exhort Israel on this. Why not use this as an occasion to treat this as a confidence building measure that Abbas should respond to by returning to negotiations?

Here's another question. Does the New York Times consider the decisions of Israeli courts sacrosanct?

Consider the case of the Museum of Tolerance. Israel Matzav and Elder of Ziyon have noted that those seeking to stop the building have lost in the courts at every turn and that they have no historical basis for their claims.

Here's how the New York Times reported on the controversy, Gravestone Removals Add Fuel to Jerusalem Museum Dispute:
The contours of the Mamilla cemetery are part of the dispute. Wiesenthal Center supporters say that there are no human remains left in the section where they plan to build, and that only part of it was ever a cemetery. They further contend that the effort to stop the project is the work of Muslim extremists seeking a foothold in West Jerusalem, and evidence of the need for such a center to spread more tolerance.
Critics of the project say it is unconscionable to build such a center on a piece of land where Muslims were once buried, even if it has not been an active cemetery for nearly a century. The museum project is going ahead after a 2008 Israeli Supreme Court decision noting that no Muslim objections had been filed when the original parking lot was built.
There remains a dispute among Muslim clerics as to whether a former graveyard can ever be built upon for other purposes.
To the best of my knowledge there have been no editorials demanding that Islamic institutions abide by the court's rulings. So the New York Times accepts the authority of Israel's High Court of Justice, when it agrees with it. This isn't a principled position; it is deeply cynical.

2) Zogby on the API

It's been ten years since the Arab Peace Initiative was presented to the international media. James Zogby writes about its implications for the Gulf Daily News:
For many Palestinians, Oslo was a difficult step but one they knew they needed to normalise their situation, secure the right to establish their state and rebuild their community. It was not a perfect outcome and would not, they understood, redress all of their grievances. But they believed the future they could create through the Oslo process would be better.
Ten years later, Israeli settlements in the occupied lands doubled, Jerusalem had been severed from the rest of the Palestinian lands by settlements and checkpoints, poverty and unemployment increased and it had become clear that Israel has no intention of allowing a viable Palestinian state to come into existence or engage in talks to resolve other issues - refugees, borders, etc.
The second Intifada erupted. Unlike the first, it was violent and met with oppression. Heads of state met in Beirut to issue API. They hoped that by offering the Israelis what they had claimed they wanted - peace, recognition and normalcy - API would provide incentives to restart talks for peace.
The second "intifada" didn't just "erupt." It was orchestrated by Arafat. Zogby's definition of self-defense as "oppression" is outrageous.

But let's consider some of the things that have happened since 2002.
1) Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000 and its withdrawal was deemed complete by the UN. Hezbollah, instead of laying down arms built up its armaments and attacked Israel sporadically until 2006, when the threat to northern Israel became so severe that Israel was force to respond.
2) Israel "disengaged" from Gaza. Like Hezbollah, Hamas used the opportunity to arm itself and attack Israel, forcing Israel into Operation Cast Lead.
3) Israel sought approval of the Magen David Adom's red star as a protected symbol by the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Arab League didn't even allow this humanitarian gesture as a humanitarian gesture.
4) During the past year we've seen the "Arab spring" in which a number of the despots, who promoted the "peace initiative," deposed and killed. Would their successors have abided by the terms of an agreement? In Egypt, where the newly dominant Muslim Brotherhood is threatening the Camp David Accords could be abrogated or changed to Israel's detriment suggests that the answer is "no."
5) It's also worth noting that between the time then Crown Prince Abdullah originally proposed the idea and the time the initiative was actually presented, he changed it, at the behest of Bashar Assad, to include a reference to Lebanon, even though Israel had withdrawn completely from southern Lebanon. If the terms of the initiative changed even before it was presented, to put a new (dishonest) demand upon Israel, how many more changes could we expect.

3) Running to asylum

This Is Just the Start by Thomas Friedman, March 1, 2011
Add it all up and what does it say? It says you have a very powerful convergence of forces driving a broad movement for change. It says we’re just at the start of something huge.
Asylum claims up from Arab nations , Al Jazeera, March 27, 2012 (h/t tweet from Daled Amos)
The number of people seeking asylum in developed countries has risen 20 per cent in 2011, with the Arab Spring movements fueling a sharp rise in arrivals from Libya, Syria and Tunisia, the UN refugee agency has said.
The number of asylum applications in 44 countries reached 441,300 during the year, up from 368,000 recorded in 2010, the agency said on Tuesday.

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