Nov 30th, 2012 :: Year 9, Issue 39

Nov-30-2012 | Comments Off

Second last issue: Middle East Focus

1. Gaza and Hamas

Bird’s Eye: A three parter, as we look at the long term effects on the Middle East of the Gaza-Israel war. We start by looking at Hamas and its allies, who seem to be the big winners. And that’s particularly true in Egypt, where Morsi gained significantly.

* Ceasefire A Sign Of Middle East’s New Political Reality  Telegraph

The declaration was made in Cairo by the Egyptian foreign minister, in front of Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state. Under the terms of the truce, both sides will hold off from hostilities until further notice. After the truce has held for 24 hours, talks will begin to address Hamas’s demand that Israel’s blockade of Gaza be lifted.

There was no mention of Israel’s requirement that Hamas be prevented from rearming, either immediately or in the future. But the deal was announced in Cairo by Mohammed Kamel Amr, the foreign minister of Egypt, through which any arms would have to travel to reach Gaza, standing alongside Mrs Clinton. The Israelis believe this amounts to a guarantee their security concerns have been accepted.

The deal was reached after 24 hours of frantic diplomacy which saw Mrs Clinton land in Jerusalem for talks with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister and travel on to Ramallah to meet Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority. She then flew to Cairo to hammer out a deal with Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood president of Egypt, who has emerged as Hamas’ key international backer. President Barack Obama was careful to thank Mr Morsi as well as Mr Netanyahu for reaching the agreement. 

* Hamas finds greater support in a changed Middle East  The Washington Post

As the conflict between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip intensifies, Arab governments are throwing their weight behind the territory’s long-isolated Islamist leaders in a reflection of the region’s shifting political dynamics after nearly two years of upheaval.

Long kept at a distance by Arab autocrats wary of Hamas’s hard-line ideology, the group has found a new set of highly influential friends — including the democratically elected governments of Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey, all U.S. allies. Those backers give Hamas stronger standing internationally, and perhaps greater room to maneuver as it faces the second major Israeli operation in Gaza in four years.

* Morsi Emerges as Key Power Broker Juan Cole Informed Comment

Egypt’s President Muhammad Morsi, a member of the same Muslim Brotherhood that gave birth to Palestine’s Hamas movement, has emerged as a key broker in the Gaza crisis. President Obama is said to have called him for the third time in 24 hours on Tuesday!

Morsi sympathizes with the stateless Palestinians, who are being kept without a state and without basic human rights by the right wing Israeli government. But more, he sympathizes with Hamas itself, which the US and Israel have branded a terrorist organization. Because the US has put Hamas on the terrorist list, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cannot talk to the government of Gaza (which seems rather stupid), and Morsi is therefore a key interlocutor

2. Israel and the US

Nov-30-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: It may seem as though the first article, on the implications of shale oil on the US crept in by mistake. But to understand politics, as Cicero noted, you follow the money. Shale energy will remove the need for political involvement of the US in the Middle East, which means less support for stable autocratic regimes, which means more democracy, which means trouble for Israel. And all the studies say that increasingly US Jews feel less tied to Israel, and that means trouble for the Zionist experiment.

* How Cheap Energy From Shale Will Reshape America’s Role In The World The Guardian

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the rise of China and the Arab spring,American energy independence looks likely to trigger the next great geopolitical shift in the modern world.

US reliance on the Gulf for its oil – and its consequent need to maintain a dominant presence in the Middle East to keep the oil flowing – has been one of the constants of the post-1945 status quo. That could be turned on its head….the reason is simple. The US is the home to vast shale oil and gas deposits made commercially viable by improvements to a 200-year-old technique called fracking and by the relentlessly high cost of crude.

it is probably safe to say that many of the regimes whose global role rests on hydrocarbons alone are likely to be significantly weakened, if not swept away.

That includes the monarchies that have thus far withstood the Arab spring. Their persistence has depended on a historically high oil price and unquestioning western backing. Both those conditions are now in question.

* The True Crisis Of Zionism: Silent Majority Of Us Jews Have Never Supported It   Mondoweiss

There can be little doubt that the philosophy of Zionism—-Jewish nationalism—-is in retreat among American Jews.  Zionism holds that Judaism is not a religion of universal values, but an ethnicity.  It believes that Israel is the “homeland” of all Jews and that those living outside of Israel are in “exile.”. Zionists urge emigration to Israel, “aliyah,” as the highest Jewish value.

Most American Jews, quite to the contrary, believe that Judaism is a religion, not a nationality.  They believe that they are American by nationality and Jews by religion, just as other Americans are Protestant, Catholic or Muslim.  While they wish Israel well, they do not believe that it is their “homeland.”. They believe themselves to be fully at home in America.  This is nothing new.  As early as 1841, at the dedication ceremony of Temple Beth Elohim in Charleston, South Carolina, Rabbi Gustav Poznanski declared:  “This country is our Palestine, this city our Jerusalem, this house of God our temple.”

In the years since the end of World War II, in the wake of the Holocaust, many American Jews had a brief flirtation with the Zionist idea.  Even the Union for Reform Judaism declared that, somehow, “Israel,” rather than God was “central” to their religion.  More recently, however, we see that identification with Israel is declining among American Jews, particularly young people.

… Rabbi Eric Yoffie, formerly the leader of the Union for Reform Judaism, noted that, “I spoke a few weeks ago with someone who works with American Jewish organizations in planning programs for their meetings and conventions.  ‘Israel is out,’ he told me.  The demand for speakers about Israel or from Israel has dropped dramatically over the last decade.  American Jews are simply interested in other things.”

* America’s Relations With The Arab World Will Change Robert Fisk The Independent

The truth, however, is that the next president is not going to have the freedom to decide his policy on the Middle East. The old love affair with Israel will continue – unless Israel attacks Iran and drags America into another Middle East war – but for the first time in American history, a successful presidential candidate is going to have to deal with a new Arab world; indeed, a new Muslim world.

The critical point is that the Arab Awakening (please let’s forget the “Spring” bit) represents a people calling for dignity. It includes non-Arab Muslims as well – what else was the mini-green revolution after the last Iranian elections? – and it means that the millions who live in the part of the world we still like to call the Middle East – it doesn’t feel very “middle” when you live there – now intend to make their own decisions, based on their wishes, not on those of their former satrap presidents and – in turn – their masters in Washington. La Clinton still seems not to have grasped this. Maybe Obama does. Romney? I bet he couldn’t draw a map of the nations in the area, except for one, of course.

Contrary to the Western belief that the Arabs are all struggling for “democracy”, the battle and the tragedy of the Middle East today – whether in the aftermath of the “soft” revolution in Tunisia or the butchery of Syria – is about that word dignity, about the right as a human being to say what you like about whomever you want and not to let a despot take personal ownership of a whole country (as long as he has the permission of the United States) and treat it as his private property.

3. The Future of Israel

Nov-30-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: Yogi Berra once famously said, “Prediction is very difficult, particularly about the future.” So we offer three radically different views. Uri Avnery, founder of Gush Shalom (the Israeli peace movement), who views Palestinian recognition at the UN as a wonderful thing, for Israel. Jeffrey Goldberg, a fairly right-wing commentator at The Atlantic, offers one set of views while Ian Welsh, differs strongly, and sees the writing on the wall for Israel. One of these three is probably right… we report, you decide.

* Celebrating Palestine: The Strong and the Sweet Uri Avnery Palestine Chronicle

It was a day of joy. 

Joy for the Palestinian people.

Joy for all those who hope for peace between Israel and the Arab world….

What has happened is that the foundation of the State of Palestine has now been officially acknowledged as the aim of the world community. The “Two-State solution” is now the only solution on the table. The “One-State solution”, if it ever lived, is as dead as the dodo.

Of course, the apartheid one-state is reality. If nothing changes on the ground, is will become deeper and stronger. Almost every day brings news of it becoming more and more entrenched. (The bus monopoly has just announced that from now on there will be separate buses for West Bank Palestinians in Israel.)

But the quest for peace based on the co-existence between Israel and Palestine has taken a big step forwards. Unity between the Palestinians should be the next. US support for the actual creation of the State of Palestine should come soon after.

* The Iron Dome, Press Bias, and Israel’s Lack of Strategic Thinking  Jeffrey Goldberg  The Atlantic

What is Israel’s long-term strategy? Short-term, I understand: No state can agree to have its civilians rocketed. But long-term, do Israeli leaders believe that they possess a military solution to their political problem in Gaza? There is no way out of this militarily. Israel is not Russia, Gaza is not Chechnya and Netanyahu isn’t Putin. Even if Israel were morally capable of acting like Russia, the world would not allow it. So: Is the goal to empower Hamas? Some right-wingers in Israel would prefer Hamas’s empowerment, because they want to kill the idea of a two-state solution. But to those leaders who are at least verbally committed to the idea of partition, what is the plan? How do you marginalize Hamas, which seeks the destruction of Jews and the Jewish state, and empower the more moderate forces that govern the West Bank? 

Here’s one idea: Give Palestinians hope that Israel is serious about the two-state solution. And how do you do that? By reversing the settlement project on the West Bank. It is not unreasonable for Palestinians to doubt the sincerity of Netanyahu on the subject of the two-state solution, when settlements grow ever-thicker. There’s no way around this: The idea of a two-state solution will die if Israel continues to treat the West Bank as a suburb of Jerusalem and Kfar Sava, and not as the future location of the state of Palestine.

* The Gaza Reminder   Ian Welsh

Israel is doomed.  The generation of young American Jews do not have the loyalty to Israel, no matter what it does, that older American Jews, as a group, have.  The world is coming to see Israel as an apartheid state, which is what it is.  The demographics are against it, and at some point America will cut Israel off, and Israel’s economy is not sustainable without the US.

And more to the point, somewhere, alive today, is the person who believes that losing Jerusalem is an acceptable price for wiping out Tel Aviv.  That person has been created by Israeli policy, by Western policy and by Saudi policy.  Israel is a small country.  It will not exist in 50 years.  It may be destroyed in an apocalyptic terror attack, it may be destroyed in military action, it may be destroyed by demographics, it may fall apart economically.  Its military advantage is already going away.   Hezbollah took away Israel’s armor advantage, straight up defeating them in their last invasion of Lebanon.  The Israeli air force was unable to substantially dent Hezbollah’s missile force, despite complete air supremacy.  If Hezbollah had had the good missiles, it could have wreaked much more damage.

Right now Hamas has rockets.  They look like something out of the 15th century.  They are pathetic.  It won’t stay that way forever.

All this before we get to the fact that Israel’s military is incompetent.  They are no longer the Israeli military of 68, they are an occupation military, and occupation militaries are only good at fighting weaklings, they always become corrupt, brutal and weak themselves.

Israel faces a stark choice: the two-state solution is no longer viable, there is not enough water and arable land, and too much population.  It can no longer work.  Israel can either become a secular single state, giving a vote and rights to everyone, it can ethnically cleanse out all Palestinians and become a pariah state, or it can cease to exist (option 2 and 3 may both occur).  Its end, moral or physical, may occur through terror, demographics, war, economic collapse, military decline or more likely, some combination, but it is as close to any historical process comes to inevitability.

4. Israel and the A-Word

Nov-09-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: Regular readers will have noticed a decrease in Israel articles: that’s mostly caused by Haaretz charging for links. But they now allow access to ten free articles a month… and the Gideon Levy analysis of the Israeli attitudinal survey is worth reading. Meanwhile Netanyahu and Lieberman have mined forces, and an upcoming election looms. Interesting times in the Middle East, as always….

* It’s Official, Most Israelis Want To Live In An ‘Apartheid State’ Mondoweiss

In the United States nothing stops a conversation on Israel shorter than dropping the “A” word, “apartheid.” Literally millions are spent to counter events like “Israel Apartheid Week,” and there are pro-Israel advocacy groups and public relations firms whose raison d’être is presenting the Jewish “democracy” as more democratic than anywhere else in the Middle East. “Where in the Middle East do Jews and Arabs Play Together?” asks one billboard by the San Francisco-based Blue Star PR—“Only in Israel.”

But according to a new poll by an Israeli data firm a majority of Israelis don’t want to play—or study, live, eat or drive anywhere near an Arab. Rather, they want an Apartheid state.

In two articles by Gideon Levy published today in Haaretz the results of a survey by Dialog are presented: 58% of Israeli Jews believe Israel practices apartheid in the West Bank, and they are fine with that. In fact Israelis are so comfortable with institutionalized discrimination that a third said they do not want Palestinians citizens of Israel to have the right to vote and 69% do not think Palestinians in the West Bank deserve to vote in the case of Israel annexing the occupied territory.

* Meet the Israelis Gideon Levy Harretz

Nice to make your acquaintance, we’re racist and pro-apartheid. The poll whose results were published in Haaretz on Tuesday, conducted by Dialog and commissioned by the Yisraela Goldblum Fund, proved what we always knew, if not so bluntly. It’s important to recognize the truth that has been thrown in our faces and those of the world (where the survey is making waves ). But it’s even more important to draw the necessary conclusions from it.

Given the current reality, making peace would be an almost anti-democratic act: Most Israelis don’t want it. A just, egalitarian society would also violate the wishes of most Israelis: That, too, is something they don’t want. They’re satisfied with the racism, comfortable with the occupation, pleased with the apartheid; things are very good for them in this country. That’s what they told the pollsters.(Includes poll results.)

 * Calling Israel’s Discrimination What it Is Rabbi Brant Rosen Shalom Rav

Forward columnist Philologos recently took the Israeli daily Ha’aretz to task for using the term “apartheid” in its reporting on a poll that showed most Israelis support discrimination against Arab citizens. “Apartheid” and mere discrimination are two very different things, Philologos claimed. He suggested that Ha’aretz should be censured for using such a damning epithet.

Philologos went on to define what he sees the critical difference between “apartheid” and “discrimination.” The former refers to “the systematic segregation of one people, race or group from another,” while the latter means “the systematic favoring of one people, race or group over another, such as exists in numerous countries around the world today.” And while Israel may practice regrettable discrimination against its Arab citizens, he claimed it was a “lie” to suggest that it is in any way an apartheid state.

While Philologos may be a fine linguist, his knowledge of international human rights law is sorely lacking….

At the end of the day, it really is academic whether we choose to label this kind of policy — and many others like it — to be “discrimination,” “institutional racism” or “apartheid.”

The real question before us not what to call it. For Jews who purport to cherish human rights, the right question is: what are we willing to do about it? 

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