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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Tuesday, October 30.
1) Compromised

Peace requires a new and different Palestinian leadership, so that a Palestinian state can be born. I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror.
President George W. Bush, June 24, 2002
While President Bush's hopes for the Palestinians were high, as he said further:

And when the Palestinian people have new leaders, new institutions and new security arrangements with their neighbors, the United States of America will support the creation of a Palestinian state whose borders and certain aspects of its sovereignty will be provisional until resolved as part of a final settlement in the Middle East.
President George W. Bush approaches the podium to unveil his plan for the Middle East during a Rose Garder press conference Monday June 24. White House photo by Eric Draper In the work ahead, we all have responsibilities. The Palestinian people are gifted and capable, and I am confident they can achieve a new birth for their nation. A Palestinian state will never be created by terror -- it will be built through reform. And reform must be more than cosmetic change, or veiled attempt to preserve the status quo. True reform will require entirely new political and economic institutions, based on democracy, market economics and action against terrorism.
Khaled Abou Toameh demonstrates how empty those aspirations are now. In Which Fatah won? he writes:
The low turnout and the success of Fatah rebels in the elections should be seen as a vote of no-confidence in Abbas and the old guard leadership of his ruling faction.
For decades, Abbas and his veteran loyalists in Fatah have blocked the emergence of fresh and younger leaders – something that has seriously affected Fatah's credibility. Failure to reform Fatah and get rid of corrupt officials has also driven many Palestinians away from Abbas and his loyalists.
Abbas's term in office expired in January 2009, but this has not stopped him from continuing to cling to power. In wake of the results of the local elections, it has become obvious that Abbas does not have a mandate -- even from his Fatah faction -- to embark on any significant political move, such as signing a peace treaty with Israel or applying for membership for a Palestinian state in the UN.
In an article for the Baltimore Sun in 2005, Shoshana Bryen argued that the bet on Abbas was likely to fail. HonestReporting highlighted the key paragraph in the essay:
There is irony in the sight of a semi-reformed terrorist meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a dictator for life, to air his fears that non-semi-reformed terrorists will depose him and carry out the terrorist agenda more efficiently.
2) Hamas reporting #fail

With an politically ineffective Fatah controlling the PA, there's room for competition. The New York Times reports on Arrests for Rebuilding Hamas. What do we know about Hamas from this article?
Hamas won legislative elections in the West Bank and Gaza in 2006 and took full control of Gaza a year later. Its rival, the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, has limited control in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and has also worked to suppress Hamas there.
Though the article also calls Hamas an "Islamic militant group," the impression given by the article is that Hamas is democratic and has been (unjustly) suppressed by Fatah. But there's no mention of its continued commitment to the destruction of Israel as well as its continued terrorist activity aimed at southern Israel.

Joel Greenberg writes in Israel reckons with unraveling Gaza policy for the Washington Post.
The Israeli government adopted measures to isolate Gaza, sharply restricting supply shipments at border points, tightening bans on movement out of the territory, and promoting an international diplomatic boycott of the Hamas government.
The policy, strongly backed by Washington, was coupled with moves to promote economic development and foreign aid in the West Bank, where the Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is dominant. The intention was to squeeze Hamas by blockading and imposing austerity on Gaza, while boosting Abbas and Fatah through improved living conditions in the West Bank.
But the policy essentially backfired. Hamas rallied popular support in Gaza through a shared sense of siege, and it consolidated economic control by taxing goods smuggled through tunnels from Egypt.
Greenberg is misleading here. The point of the blockade was primarily to deprive Hamas of material that could be used for terror. Had Hamas focused on building Gaza rather than destroying Israel, Israel wouldn't have imposed a blockade.

After dismissing Israel's blockade of Gaza as a failure, Greenberg gets to the point of his article:
Giora Eiland, a former general who headed Israel’s National Security Council during the withdrawal from Gaza, asserted after the emir’s visit that Israel should shift away from trying to undermine Hamas rule and focus exclusively on security concerns, such as halting rocket attacks across the border.
“Israel has an interest that Gaza resemble, as much as possible, a state with a stable government. That is the only way to have an address for both deterrence and dealing with security issues,” Eiland wrote in the Yediot Ahronot daily. “Israel has an interest in economic improvement in Gaza of the kind Qatar can bring. Such improvement creates assets that any government would be concerned about damaging, and thus it will be more moderate and cautious.”
Eiland is one of several experts or activists who are quoted to the same effect, that it is in Israel's best interests to deal with Hamas. There's no evidence that if Israel dealt with Hamas or that if Hamas had a bigger stake, it wouldn't risk an escalation with Israel. In fact, the evidence suggests otherwise.

The word "terrorist" appears twice in the article and "rocket" once. This isn't reporting. It's propaganda.

3) When Barry Rubin agreed with the New York Times

In the New York Times Libya Warnings Were Plentiful, but Unspecific reported:
Interviews with American officials and an examination of State Department documents do not reveal the kind of smoking gun Republicans have suggested would emerge in the attack’s aftermath such as a warning that the diplomatic compound would be targeted and that was overlooked by administration officials.
What is clear is that even as the State Department responded to the June attacks, crowning the Benghazi compound walls with concertina wire and setting up concrete barriers to thwart car bombs, it remained committed to a security strategy formulated in a very different environment a year earlier.
In the heady early days after the fall of Colonel Qaddafi’s government, the administration’s plan was to deploy a modest American security force and then increasingly rely on trained Libyan personnel to protect American diplomats — a policy that reflected White House apprehensions about putting combat troops on the ground as well as Libyan sensitivities about an obtrusive American security presence.
The first paragraph quoted above shows the orientation of the article: that there's no proof to Republican charges. Still the final sentence, shows that the administration's policy was governed by sensitivity to Libyan perceptions.

Barry Rubin,in A Short Guide to the Benghazi Issue: What Is It Really All About? writes:
As noted above, the establishment view today is that America has been a bully in the past, acting unilaterally and not respecting the views of others. Obama has said this directly when speaking to foreign — including Middle Eastern — audiences.
But how does one stop being a bully? By showing that one isn’t tough and doesn’t protect one’s interests fiercely. Thus, in the Benghazi case, the U.S. government didn’t send the ambassador to Benghazi with Americans to guard him, nor did the consulate have Americans to provide security. To do so would be to show disrespect for the Libyans, to act in a way that might be perceived of as imperialistic.
Similarly, the president would not call in an airstrike against the attackers or send an armed rescue team to the consulate because to do so would have signaled an arrogance and aggressiveness, putting Americans first and not acting as a citizen of the world.
The difference is that the New York Times uncritically reported the concern for perceptions of others; Barry Rubin identified it as a handicap. However much of what was reported by the New York Times, though, is more in line with Rubin's view:
“Given the large number of attacks that had occurred in Benghazi that were aimed at Western targets, it is inexplicable to me that security wasn’t increased,” said Senator Susan Collins of Maine, the senior Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, one of the panels holding inquiries.
“The lethality of an armed, masked attack by dozens of individuals is something greater than we’ve ever seen in Libya over the last period that we’ve been there,” Patrick F. Kennedy, the State Department’s under secretary for management, told reporters at a news conference on Oct. 10.
But David Oliveira, a State Department security officer who was stationed in Benghazi from June 2 to July 5, said he told members and staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that he recalled thinking that if 100 or more assailants sought to breach the mission’s walls, “there was nothing that we could do about it because we just didn’t have the manpower, we just didn’t have the facilities.”
Even the mostly positive spin of the New York Times fails to defend the administration from its less than thorough efforts to secure the Benghazi consulate.

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