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Monday, April 15, 2013

Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Monday, April 15.
1) Bursting the balloon

When I saw the following headline at the Baltimore Jewish Times I was worried, " J Street Carved Out A Place In The U.S.-Israel Advocacy." The article, written by managing editor, Maayan Jaffe starts by faithfully recounting all of J-Streets claims. But, there's more to the title, that suggests that this isn't going to be another J-Street whitewash: "Israelis say Policies Don’t Jibe."

Jaffe first looks at J-Street's math and observes:

Purely looking at the numbers, for all the hype, J Street really isn’t much but a stitch in the side of most larger pro-Israel organizations. This reporter, for example, obtained the 990 c3 financial statements of both the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and J Street from the last several years. Between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009, J Street’s total revenue reached $1,641,153. In a similar tax period (Oct. 1, 2008 and Sept. 30, 2009), AIPAC’s total revenue was $60,749,036. In a similar tax year (circa 2010): $2,189,038 for J Street and $66,176,210 for AIPAC. In circa 2011: $2,972,591 for J Street, $66,862,011 for AIPAC. Of course, by percentage (10 percent for AIPAC and 81 percent for J Street over a three-year period), J Street’s growth is markedly higher, but the numbers are so distinct that one recognizes one is not comparing apples to apples, but rather apples to grapes.
The smaller the number the easier it is to boast of a high rate of growth. While Jaffe interviews many J-Street members and officials she also quotes critics and outside observers. But the most devastating two paragraphs in the article are these: “The No. 1 reason Americans support Israel is shared values,” said Lerner of J Street. “I have a fear that if Israel is not a democracy, then American support for Israel will wane. That will put Israel in a difficult situation.” But yet they are calling on America to help form a Palestinian state in which Abbas has repeatedly declared not a single Jew would be allowed to live.
J-Street claims to be fighting for Israeli democracy but its belief in democracy is severely limited. For more on the founding of J-Street read A Kinder, Gentler Alternative To AIPAC? by Daled Amos from 2006. Daled Amos describes one of the legislative victories that spurred the formation of J-Street.
Apparently, part of the impetus for the project is the result of the success of three of the above groups--IPF, APN and Brit Tzedek--in killing the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, which would have cut off US aid to the Palestinian Authority until it renounced terrorism and recognizes Israel.
Note that those who were inspired to form J-Street were inspired by an effort to reduce pressure on the Palestinian Authority to abide by its commitments. Jaffe's article points J-Street's latest "pro-Israel" fighting for the confirmation of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of State. Clearly, just was when it started, J-Street has a very warped view of the term "pro-Israel."

2) That 70's diplomatic show

WikiLeaks has now published millions of pieces of diplomatic correspondence from the 1970's. Some of these cables relate to Israel. The Jerusalem Post reports (h/t Israel Matzav):
The Jerusalem Post has uncovered a cable sent from the US Embassy in Saudi Arabia on January 9, 1975, which analyzed the Israeli-Arab conflict. It was concluded that it was Israel's stubborn position that was holding back peace.
At one point the cable stated, "Nevertheless, viewed from here, the Israeli pessimism seems largely if not entirely unwarranted. It seems based on an extraordinary lack of understanding of what happened in the Arab world in the last year and a half. Rather than girding their loins for the fifth, sixth, seventh Israeli-Arab wars. The Israelis might examine more carefully than they seem to have done so far the alternative of a peaceful accommodation with the Arabs."
For those who are nostalgic for the pre-Likud years, when Israel was ruled by the much more reasonable Labor Party, this might come as something of a surprise. Then again such people are simply repeating prejudices rather than applying any sort of rational analysis to the politics of the Middle East.

At Tablet, Lee Smith emphasizes another disturbing trend in American diplomacy during this time:
During the Kissinger years, Arafat was important to the United States for a number of reasons. As the cables show, Washington thought he could help stabilize Lebanon. Another cable, in which Salameh describes a rival Palestinian group’s attempt on the life of Jordan’s King Hussein, shows that Arafat’s cadre could offer a window onto the world of international terrorism largely financed and supported by their Cold War rival the Soviet Union. But most importantly, the United States wanted to put an end to the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict that they feared was damaging their regional prestige, as well as that of their allies who might eventually be forced to flip sides and sign on with Moscow. Kissinger and his State Department believed that solving this conflict would win the good will of the Arabs and hurt the Soviets—and they saw Arafat as their ace in the hole.
This is despite the fact that among these cables is one that shows that the State Department knew that there was no difference between Fatah and Black September and that it thus also knew that Arafat was responsible for the murder of American diplomats, Ambassador Cleo Noel and U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission George Curtis Moore.

The most extensive article documenting Arafat's involvement in this crime was How Arafat Got Away with Murder, by Scott W. Johnson.
The Black September operatives issued several demands: the release of Sirhan Sirhan, the assassin of Robert Kennedy; the release of a Black September leader held in Jordan; and the release of several members of the terrorist Baader-Meinhof gang held in Germany. On March 2, President Nixon and representatives of the other two governments announced that they would not negotiate with terrorists for the release of the diplomats.
Using coded instructions, Arafat's closest Fatah associate in Beirut, Salah Khalaf, directed the murder of Noel, Moore, and Eid. Arafat himself separately confirmed the instructions. At 9:00 P.M. that very night, the Black September operatives marched Noel, Moore, and Eid to the embassy basement and murdered them with forty rounds from Kalashnikov weapons fired from the feet to the head in order to inflict maximum suffering on the victims.
Arafat ordered his operatives to surrender to Sudanese authorities. "Your mission has ended," he told them, in an intercepted communication. "Explain your just cause to [the] great Sudanese masses and international opinion. We are with you on the same road."
If nothing else these cables explain the misguided reasoning that led to this great Arafat whitewash.  

3) The value of Thomas Friedman's predictions

Barry Rubin recently took aim at Thomas Friedman's prognostication ability:
In June 2010–almost three years ago–Tom Friedman wrote a column called “The Real Palestinian Revolution in which he said: “It is a revolution based on building Palestinian capacity and institutions not just resisting Israeli occupation, on the theory that if the Palestinians can build a real economy, a professional security force and an effective, transparent government bureaucracy it will eventually become impossible for Israel to deny the Palestinians a state in the West Bank and Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem….It is the only hope left, though, for a two-state solution, so it needs to be quietly supported.”
Well, almost three years later, there is no real Palestinian economy but only one still dependent on foreign aid. There has been no progress toward a professional security force or an effective government bureaucracy. The only thing that’s happened is that without doing any of these things and without making any deals or compromises with Israel, and without reducing the incitement to terrorism and hatred toward Israel, and without recapturing the Gaza Strip or even making a deal with Hamas, the Palestinian Authority received what is called non-member state status from the UN General Assembly.
There's a point here that could be added. In late 2010, Israel announced that it had rounded up most of the terror suspects it had known about in Judea and Samaria. Last week it was reported Attempts to abduct Israeli soldiers in West Bank on the rise:
Senior officials in the Israel Defense Forces told Yediot Ahronoth that Hamas operatives been encouraged by the Gilad Shalit exchange in 2011 and are increasing their efforts to kidnap Israeli soldiers and use them as bargaining chips for the release of Palestinians in Israeli jails. According to one IDF officer, while Israeli authorities "have been able to thwart the kidnapping attempts ... the scope is extraordinary, and it is clear we will not be able to foil these attempts forever."
The IDF has recently taken a number of steps, such as dissuading soldiers from hitchhiking, in order to decrease the chances of a successful abduction.
In recent months, Israeli authorities have exposed a number of Hamas terror cells in the West Bank. On March 13, the Shin Bet revealed that Hamas' Interior Minister Fathi Hammad has been at the forefront of the terror group's efforts to carry out terror attacks in the West Bank, including kidnappings, suicide bombings, and rocket attacks.
It's true that the release of terrorists for Gilad Shalit led to an increase in the terror threats from the West Bank. However, part of the narrative of Israel's critics is that the Palestinian security forces have proven themselves and therefore Israel should be able to trust them in control of even more territory. The recent increase in terror suggests otherwise.
In short, there's a small mammal in Pennsylvania who is a better forecaster than Thomas Friedman.
(I'd add that his record on the Arab spring is abysmal too. First he assured us that the revolution was being led by democrats with the Muslim Brotherhood in the background proving to be no threat. A year later he insisted that the Muslim Brotherhood was providing Egyptians with what they wanted. Now he's lamenting that the Muslim Brotherhood doesn't know how to govern by his principles. If he expected a Western style democracy he was fooling himself, but he doesn't possess the intellectual honesty to admit it.)

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