Monthly Archives: June 2007

Dennis Ross Tries to Learn from History… C+

Dennis Ross reflects on “what went wrong” in the pages of the WSJ. He begins with some self-criticism (B-) and then goes on to suggest where to go from today’s new realities (C-).

What Went Wrong
June 19, 2007; Page A17

Mr. Ross, now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, was special Middle East coordinator in the Clinton administration. His new book is Statecraft and How to Restore America’s Standing in the World (Farrar Straus and Giroux).

Nothing is more basic to statecraft than matching objectives and means. Sounds elementary, but it is not necessarily the norm in our foreign policy. Look at Iraq: It is the emblem of a policy that too often has been shaped by a mismatch between objectives and means. The administration’s assessment was guided initially by the premise that when Saddam Hussein fell, everything would fall into place, not fall apart. The means we employed reflected that assumption. Now, with crisis brewing in Gaza and the West Bank, if we are to connect our purposes with the means we have or can mobilize with others, we must start with assessments that are rooted in reality, not wishful thinking.

The Bush administration is not alone in shaping its policies on erroneous assessments. During the Clinton administration, when I was the chief U.S. negotiator, I believed and acted on the premise that Yasser Arafat was ready to make peace with Israel. To be sure, Arafat had recognized Israel, renounced terror (at least rhetorically), and joined a negotiating process.

Not to be sure at all. If you had rooted your observations in “reality, not wishful thinking” you’d have known he never recognized Israel and never renounced terror.

None of these steps, however, proved that he was willing to compromise on the core issues of the conflict. Only after Camp David and the subsequent Clinton ideas did it become clear that while Arafat could live with a process, he could not make concessions on the existential issues of Jerusalem, refugees and borders. Could we have known this?

hi hopes camp david
High hopes: Ehud Barak, Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat at Camp David, July 2000.

Yes. And it would have certainly been better for us to understand this before launching negotiations on these core issues. True, the Oslo process mandated talks on the permanent status issues at a certain point. But good statecraft should have led us to test Arafat (and his Israeli counterpart) on his readiness to compromise on these issues before trying to resolve them. The process of negotiating interim agreements was not a sufficient guide because none of the agreements were irreversible.

Instead, we should have asked Arafat and Ehud Barak to condition their publics for compromise by announcing simultaneously and repeatedly that neither side would get 100% of what it wanted on Jerusalem, refugees or borders. This would not only have conditioned their respective publics to what would be coming, but also prepared the leaders for what would be required of them. It would also have subjected both leaders to withering criticism from parts of their own constituencies — and the readiness to weather such criticism would have been one of the best measures of their seriousness for tackling these core issues.

Had Arafat been unwilling to take such a step, as I believe we would have soon discovered, we could have adjusted our objective. Rather than trying to resolve issues like Jerusalem and refugees, we would have focused on expanding the scope of Palestinian independence from Israeli control, developing and investing in the Palestinian economy, and expanding the connections between the Israeli and Palestinian societies. In other words, we would have worked intensively to create the conditions for peace-making after Arafat left the scene.

Here’s what John Podhoretz has to say about this analysis:

    Very interesting. The problem with this analysis is that it presumes Arafat would have negotiated any of these points — he didn’t care a whit about developing the Palestinian economy except as a means of personal enrichment, he didn’t want expanded connections between the Israeli and Palestinian societies, and he had no interest in expanding Palestinian independence short of a state.

    All these goals were Israeli goals, or more specifically, the goals of Israeli Labour politicians indulging in dreams about the Palestinian readiness to join the community of civilized peoples. No matter how you slice it, the reason there could be no deal with the Palestinians then or now is that the Palestinians with whom you have to negotiate are utterly uninterested in improving the daily lives of ordinary Palestinians. They have an ideological and geopolitical aim, which is the destruction of Israel and (in the case of Hamas) the extension of Iranian power to the Mediterranean.

    The sad truth is that you can have peace processes all you like, but if one side is committed to war, then it’s war.

John, you right-wing war monger, how can you say such things. I’m sure there’s a vast majority of Palestinians who want peace and democracy and prosperity. It’s just a small matter of a predatory elite and a large alpha male population of people who won’t give up honor-killings and the like in order to accommodate such a goal. Back to Dennis.

Statecraft is often about working to transform current realities so what is not possible today becomes possible over time. Before you can change an unacceptable reality, you have to understand it in the first place.

It would help if Mr. Ross would put in a paragraph or ten about how many people came to him with evidence that Arafat was bad news and that Palestinian culture was gearing up for war, and how often he dismissed them and told them to be quiet because they were “sabotaging the peace process.” Indeed, the 1990s were the time when anyone who questioned Palestinian motives immediately got labeled a “right-wing, war monger” and driven from polite liberal company. We still live with that catastrophic legacy.

The Bush administration would be wise to apply this lesson to its policy on the Arab-Israeli conflict now. Since January, the administration’s objective has been to produce a “political horizon” between Israelis and Palestinians — meaning an agreement (or plan) on the contours of a permanent status deal on Jerusalem, refugees and borders. The feasibility of such an objective needs to be reassessed now.

With two Palestinian regimes, one led by Fatah in the West Bank and one led by Hamas in Gaza, does it make sense to be defining what permanent status would look like? In such circumstances, is Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas going to be ready or able to embrace an existential compromise and give up the right of return for Palestinian refugees to Israel? Is that going to enhance his ability to compete with Hamas?

Similarly, given the political weakness of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, is this the time for him to accept compromise on Jerusalem? Would the Israeli public be willing even to contemplate such a compromise at a time when the Palestinian national identity is up for grabs? And if neither the Israelis nor Palestinians can make such compromises, who in the region will embrace the compromises on refugees or a demilitarized Palestinian state or Jerusalem that would be part of any credible political horizon — particularly when they can see the horizon has no chance of being implemented any time soon?

Pushing for an objective that is demonstrably not achievable now is not going to enhance our already shaky position in the Middle East. This administration does not need one more far-reaching, transformational objective in the Middle East that would quickly be revealed as hollow. Instead, now is the time to redefine our objective. The issue now, the challenge now, is the competition between Fatah and Hamas. The very identity of the Palestinians is at stake. Will they have a national, secular agenda or an Islamist agenda? Will we see the conflict remain a national conflict or be transformed into a religious conflict? National conflicts, though obviously difficult to settle, can be resolved. Religious conflicts cannot.

Oh good grief. Here it comes. Fatah is not a “national, secular” movement. That’s one of the key lessons of Oslo, that apparently still eludes Ross, who goes around like some Golden Retriever looking for someone to drool his PCP projections onto. Arafat and his gangs were as much prisoners of the religious and honor-shame compulsions to destroy Israel as Hamas. To look at Hamas — which takes the details of Islam more seriously — as the “religious” option and Fatah as the “secular” is about as shrewd as saying polar bears aren’t bears because they’re not brown.

The whole notion of “secular” (as in the separation of church and state) rather than lax (as in I like beer and eating on Ramadan) seems to escape Ross — and so many other commentators’ grasp. It took centuries of work to achieve a consensus in the West that religion should not use political power to impose its will on the people. The US Constitution represents the first time in the history of Christianity that “tolerance was a winner’s creed.” Why on earth does Ross think that Fatah has any idea of, or interest in, so restrained an exercise of power?

Our focus now must be on increasing the chances that Fatah will win the competition. This does not mean that our actions or the actions of others should substitute for what Fatah must do for itself. On the contrary, Fatah must remake itself. It must transform its image [sic!] as a corrupt faction serving only the interests of its senior officials. Talk of reform must be translated into action. Grassroots organization with a tangible commitment to delivering services must begin to define Fatah.

Well good luck to you. What makes you think that, even if someone like Abbas wanted that, he’d be able to bring it about.

Having recently met with over 30 Palestinians, including the Shabiba — the young Fatah activists in the West Bank cities — I found the events in Gaza produced a wake-up call for at least the younger generation of Fatah. They understood well that if they did not remake Fatah and compete with Hamas at the grassroots level, Hamas could also take over the West Bank.

One of the ways that demopaths operate is to use our language and mean the opposite of what we think. Like “resist the occupation” means for the Westerner (like Ross) gulled by the “secular, nationalist” pose of Fatah, Israeli occupation beyond the Green Line. But to them it means “river to the sea.” Here again “competing with Hamas” means, for the Westerner, “getting rid of corruption and caring about the welfare of your people.” But winning back Palestinian hearts and minds in past competition between Hamas and Fatah has centered around who can do the most spectacular suicide bombing, who can produce the most powerful hate propaganda against Israel. “Public opinion” does not operate according to the same rules over there Dennis.

It is this reality that should shape our objective now.

Notice what’s happened: he started out with a remark about how diplomacy should root itself in reality not wishful thinking. And now he’s defined reality with his wishful thinking. As a post-modernist, I vehemently object to Ross throwing around the term “this reality” to describe his exercise in hope of the previous paragraph.

With that in mind, several steps make sense: First, work with the new Prime Minister, Salaam Fayyad, to develop a program for donors that will not just pay salaries, but also enhance effectiveness, organization and delivery of services at the local level for the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. The key is to build incentives for real reform within Fatah — offering assistance immediately but tying aid to necessary changes. (This will actually strengthen the hands of Mr. Fayyad, who is likely to face resistance on some of the transparency measures he favors.)

Good. Transparency should have been a demand from the start. But don’t imagine that it will go smoothly. The reason why Ross and Co. never demanded transparency of Arafat was because he’d get very nasty and refuse to play his role in their fantasy. We back off every time we “offend” Arab honor, and transparency is just the kind of item, like secularism, that is at the core of civil society and is intolerable to Arab notions of rule (which is why they can’t pull off civil society). So don’t imagine that things will go smoothly here. On the contrary, expect PM Fayyad to start explaining how he can’t give transparency because that would undermine the authority of his regime, and that we need to strengthen him without asking too much… just the kind of argument for which Ross is a sucker.

Second, coordinate with the Israelis on how they can make life easier for those in Fatah who are trying to do the right things. Clearly, this is not just about releasing withheld funds but also seeing what can be done to reconcile Israel’s security concerns with the movement of people and commerce in the West Bank. The focal point for these discussions needs to be with the new Israeli defense minister. Regardless of good intentions to help Fatah, if easing movement leads to bombs going off in Israel, no such approach will be sustainable. Coordination with Fatah forces in the West Bank and perhaps also Jordan might lead to a sequenced approach to security — opening up movement in certain areas as Palestinians demonstrate the capacity or are helped to perform on security.

This isn’t bad, although very risky. But it could — properly handled with much broohaha in Arabic and much support from “moderates” in the Arab world, provide an opportunity to give concrete form to the argument that the wall and the checkpoints are a response to Palestinian behavior and a change in that behavior with produce a change in Israeli behavior.

Third, we must make a major effort to stop the flow of weapons into Gaza. Egypt can do much more to shut down the smuggling tunnels. If longer-range rockets go into Gaza and launch against more Israeli cities, Israel will do something about it. As life becomes worse in Gaza, Hamas may be tempted to divert attention away from their internal failings and onto the battle with Israel. The potential for a widening conflict should not be dismissed: Katyushas were fired from southern Lebanon on Sunday and could be an indication that Hezbollah and perhaps also Syria would favor opening a northern front if Israel goes into Gaza to destroy Hamas infrastructure.

Fourth, Israel and the international community have leverage on Hamas in Gaza. Hamas is now governing there. The U.S. should insist that humanitarian assistance continues coming into Gaza, but Hamas should not get developmental aid if they are not going to be responsible. If Hamas seeks help from the outside, it should only get it if it is going to behave responsibly. Should we be pressing Israel to provide electricity to Gaza in an open-ended fashion if Hamas is going to fire rockets into Israel? The Bush administration needs to shape an international consensus on what assistance should be going and not going to Gaza if Hamas refuses to change its behavior.

Okay, vague but important. There should be real consequences to Hamas behavior. Maybe an hour of electricity cut-off per Katyusha, and a day per injury. But the US and Israel are like indulgent parents who threaten but don’t follow through, and the world community and the MSM are like meddlesome onlookers who attack the parent every time it tries to punish.

Lastly, we need to forge a consensus with Arab leaders, especially the Saudis, on investing in the non-Hamas Palestinians. We need the West Bank to be a model of success to show Palestinians and others in the region that moderates deliver and Islamists do not. Ultimately, the stakes are very high and promise to affect not only the future of the Israelis and Palestinians but the region more generally.

The Saudis? The people who have sewn Wahhabi madness all over the world? Ross really doesn’t understand. He spends too much time with demopaths who play him like a violin, and who’s arrogant enough to believe that they really mean what they say to him.

Now what’s missing from his list? The key item, the test case of “moderation.” Change the educational system, turn off the hate spigots with which the Palestinians — Hamas and Fatah alike — drown their children in a tsunami of emotional sewage. It’s the core of why Oslo went wrong, and it’s still not even on Ross’ radar screen.

Combined grade C+ — and that’s only because I’m grading on a curve. Given the kinds of things that other specialists have to say, and Ross’ longterm commitments to the Politically Correct Paradigm, we have to be encouraging.

Another Opportunity for Peace: All you have to do is “reach out”

This is the kind of report that makes the Pavlovian hope-addicts salivate. It’s also the kind of “initiative” that the hyper-self-critical Israelis like Shlaim or Segev cite when they talk about Israel turning down Arab offers of peace.

Syria ready for peace, FM says
Syrian foreign minister says Damascus is ready to renew peace talks with Israel without preconditions, al-Hayat newspaper reports

Roee Nahmias
Published: 06.21.07, 10:36 / Israel News

Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Moallem reiterated his country’s interest in renewing peace talks with Israel without preconditions, the London-based al-Hayat newspaper reported Wednesday.

“Syria is more than ready to renew peace talks with Israel, without preconditions by either side,” Moallem was quoted as telling a senior European diplomat.

Changed Atmosphere
UN Mideast envoy: Israeli attitude towards Syria changed / Associated Press
Special coordinator Michael Williams visits Damascus, says atmosphere in Israel changed regarding possible peace with Syria

Moallem also said that Israel would find in Syria a serious “peace partner” should it chose to revive peace talks with Damascus.

Israel shunned repeated peace overtures by Syria in recent years, calling on Damascus to stop supporting Hizbullah and Hamas and to sever its ties with Iran to prove it is serious about peace.

The paper quoted Moallem as saying the his country expects the newly appointed Defense Minister Ehud Barak to press Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to renew peace talks with Syria.

“With Barak we will not start from zero because he is familiar with the details of draft agreements,” said an Israeli expert, referring to the failed peace negotiations between Syria and Israel in 2000.

I’m sorry. Didn’t a lot of water go under the bridge since the last time? Why on earth would Israel (Barak) go back to the last drafts as if nothing had happened?

US President George W. Bush said Tuesday during a press conference with Olmert at the White House that Israel did not need Washington’s approval to talk peace with Syria.

Olmert dismissed the allegations that the US was holding Israel back from negotiations with Syria: ”The United States never came to us with a demand not to have negotiations with the Syrians, and we never thought to ask permission,” he said, adding that if the situation develops and allows for negotiations – negotiations will be held.

Olmert said he doubted the lack of negotiations would lead to immediate conflict with Syria. ”I believe that a war will not break out. We are not interested in it and I believe the Syrians are not interested in it. Certain statements can sometimes lead to miscalculations and we need to be wary of that,” he said.

Good grief. It’s like we’re playing three dimensional chess (Iran, Lebanon, Gaza, West Bank), and we haven’t even read the book on opening gambits. Why are the Syrians all of a sudden so amenable to discussions? Why would Israel even contemplate further concessions given how catastrophically all three recent ones (Oslo 1994, Lebanon 2000, and Gaza 2005) have worked out?

Is Ehud Barak as incapable of learning from mistakes as this “Israeli expert” (who sounds like a Syrian expecting Israeli evacuation of the Golan), suggests?

Islam’s Woes, the World’s Woes

The extraordinarily disturbed behavior of Muslims around the world, from Hamas’ merciless violence to the (not so surprising) reaction to Sir Salman Rushdie (just to mention the more recent manifestations of the problem, receive an interesting analysis in this discusssion by Tony Blankley on Akbar Ahmed’s latest book Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization. (Hat tip: fp)

June 20, 2007
Journey into Islam

By Tony Blankley

I have just finished reading a deeply disheartening book by my friend Professor Akbar Ahmed. Dr. Ahmed is the former Pakistani high commissioner to Britain and member of the faculties of Harvard, Princeton and Cambridge, current chair of Islamic Studies at American University — and is in the front ranks of what we Westerners call the moderate Muslims, who we are counting on to win the hearts and minds of the others.

I first met Professor Ahmed shortly after Sept. 11. He, his friends and I broke bread several times and discussed the condition of Islam and the West. He graciously agreed to share a stage with me at the National Press Club to debate with me the merits of my book, The West’s Last Chance: Will We Win the Clash of Civilization?. As my book was very harshly received by many Muslims around the world, I don’t doubt that Dr. Ahmed shared that stage with me at some risk at least to his reputation — if not more.

We even considered doing a weekly cable TV show on the clash of civilization from our different (but respectful) points of view — although nothing came of it. Dr. Ahmed is a worldly man of letters who profoundly believes that collective good can be accomplished by individual acts of good conscience — that each of us (Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu) must connect with others and live out our convictions for our common humanity in the face of tribalism, religion and other dividing forces. Thus, his reach out to me, a fiery American nationalist TV commentator and editor to find if not complete common ground, at least common friendship.

His new book, Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization, is thus particularly heartbreaking for me. As a trained anthropologist, he took three of his students on a six-month journey around the Muslim world to investigate what Muslims are thinking.

His conclusion: Due to both misjudgments by the United States and regrettable developments in Muslim attitudes, “The poisons are spreading so rapidly that without immediate remedial action, no antidote may ever be found.” And Dr. Ahmed has always been an optimist.

He divides Muslim attitudes into three categories named after Indian Muslim cities that have historically championed them: Ajmer, Aligarh and Deoband.

Ajmer represents peaceful Sufi mysticism, Aligarth represents the instinct to modernize without corrupting Islam, Deoband represents non-fatalistic, practical, action-oriented orthodox Islam. It traces to Ibn Taymiyya, a 14th-Century thinker who lived when Islam was reeling from the Mongol invasions. He rejected Islam’s prior easy, open acceptance of non-Muslims.

In short, Dr. Ahmed is an Aligarth. As a young man he was one of new Pakistan’s best and brightest, led by Pakistan’s founding father and first president, Dr. Jinnah. They hoped to build a modern democracy, overcome tribalism and the more obscurantist aspects of Islam while still being “good Muslims.” The Deobands are the Bin Ladens and all the other Muslims we fear today.

Even one or two years ago, I think Dr. Ahmed was reasonably hopeful that his views had a fighting chance around the Islamic world. So, my jaw dropped when I got to page 192 of his new book and he described his thoughts while in Pakistan last year on his investigative journey: “The progressive and active Aligarth model had become enfeebled and in danger of being overtaken by the Deoband model … I felt like a warrior in the midst of the fray who knew the odds were against him but never quite realized that his side had already lost the war.”

He likewise reported from Indonesia — invariably characterized as practicing a more moderate form of Islam. There, too, his report was crushingly negative. Meeting with people from presidents to cab drivers, from elite professors to students from modest schools (Dr. Ahmed holds a respected place in the Muslim firmament around the globe), reports that 50 percent want Shariah law, support the Bali terrorist bombing, oppose women in politics, support stoning adulterers to death. Indonesia’s secular legal system and tolerant pluralist society is being “infiltrated by Deoband thinking … Dwindling moderates and growing extremists are a dangerous challenging development.”

Although I dissent from several of Dr. Ahmed’s characterizations of the Bush Administration, Washington policymakers and journalists should read this book because it delivers a terrible message of warning both to those who say things aren’t as bad as Bush says, and we can rely on the moderate voices of Islam — with a little assist from the West — winning; and for those who argue for aggressive American action to show our strength to the Muslims (because, in Bin Laden’s words, they follow the strong horse).

To the first group he says that the “moderate” voice is in near hopeless retreat across the Muslim world. Don’t count on them. To the second group he says, whatever Bush’s intentions, our aggression only strengthens our enemies.

I think he knows his solution is forlorn: “Although the planet’s societies are running against time … [we must] transcend race, tribe and religion and cherish our common humanity, every individual must become the message.” Let us pray.

But for those of us who don’t expect the milk of human kindness to suddenly start flowing, it behooves us to read Professor Ahmed’s honest assessment of the real state of Muslim world attitudes and coldly re-assess our various policy prescriptions in its light.

These are grim times, but we must resist indulging ourselves in hopeful fantasies. Every piece of our national security calculations must be realistically assessed against the available facts. What is working, what isn’t, what to do?

Copyright 2007 Creators Syndicate Inc.

When historians of the mid-21st century write the history of the beginning of the century, whichever side wins this battle, they will note above all two things about the first decade: first, that global Jihad (here Deoband Islam) had astonishing success in the opening years, awakening a slumbering giant, and second, that new communications technology played a key role in that process. And having Western media wallowing in the Augean Stables sure isn’t helping.

How many dystopias must a Muslim try, before he can hear people cry?

No Need to Bribe or Intimidate Journalists – Just feed their Paradigm

Emmanuel Sivan discusses the nature of MSM reporting. The usual suspects — Seymour Hersh, Robert Fisk, Alistair Crook — all major articulators of PCP2, have starring roles. (Hat tip: fp)

Thus are reports about the Mideast generated

By Emmanuel Sivan

A friend of mine, a Lebanese journalist, tells the following story:

Three years ago, when his country was under Syrian control, he was stopped at a surprise Syrian roadblock north of Beirut. A strong-looking mustachioed officer asked to see his papers. He examined them in silence for a long time as my friend’s heart began to flutter. What had he done wrong, he wondered. Maybe it was all because of a sarcastic column he wrote about Syrian President Bashar Assad?

The officer’s voice interrupted his thoughts. “So, you’re a journalist?” he asked. My friend confirmed his profession. “I’ve wanted to talk to a journalist for a long time,” the officer said. “Your profession is a strange one. What do you write about in the newspaper? Just what happened and that’s it?”

“God forbid,” my friend responded. “Not just what happens. We also write about what might have happened, what we heard has happened, and what might happen.”

“I understand,” said the officer. “Very interesting.” With that, he gave my friend back his papers and sent him on his way.

I was reminded of this story after The New Yorker published an article three months ago dealing with the Bush administration’s attitude toward Sunnis and Shi’ites, written by investigative reporter and Pulitzer Prize-winner Seymour Hersh. In the article, Hersh wrote that the U.S. administration, embracing realpolitik, was siding with the Sunnis in their conflict with the Shi’ites. This led the administration to cooperate even with those who are hostile toward the United States, including groups linked to Al-Qaida. To back up his claim, Hersh wrote that the United States was transferring funds to the government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, even though it knew some of the money was going to the Palestinian group Fatah al-Islam in the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon. (The article was published about two months before fighting broke out between Fatah al-Islam and the Lebanese army.)

Sharp-eyed reporters in Beirut read the article in astonishment. Siniora, of the Lebanese Sunni establishment, was assisting allies of Al-Qaida who had split off from a pro-Syrian organization? And the United States was aware of this and might even be planning it, in order to strike at Hezbollah? And all this was in the context of aid to the Sunni forces in the Middle East in their conflict with Shi’ites backed, according to Hersh, by Iran? A world turned on its head. How could it be?

But it was published in The New Yorker, a magazine known for its meticulous fact-checking. The Lebanese reporters began investigating the story on their own.

Hersh said he heard the story from Robert Fisk, the bureau chief of The Independent’s Beirut office. But Hersh did not check out the story himself. For his part, Fisk said he heard the unconfirmed report from Alastair Crooke, a former British intelligence agent and the founding director and Middle East representative of the Conflicts Forum, a non-profit organization that aims to build a new relationship between the West and the Muslim world. Crooke, who gained his reputation through his involvement in the conflict in northern Ireland, does not know Arabic. When Lebanese journalists spoke to Crooke about the report, they said he told them only that he had heard it “from all kinds of people.”

Thus are reports about the Middle East generated, I thought to myself. And this is a case involving two well-known journalists and an even more well-known magazine.

And suddenly I thought of a British ditty from the beginning of the last century:

“You do not have
To bribe or twist
The arm
Of the British journalist
Considering what he would do
There is no reason to.”

Inspired by the “caveat emptor” principle of Roman law, which sounds a note of caution for potential buyers, media consumers should heed the unwritten warning, “Reader beware.” And some criticism within the journalistic profession wouldn’t hurt either.

The author is a professor of Islamic History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Note how the point of Hersh’s article is the consummate stupidity and self-destructiveness of US policy. Towards that end, why should fact-checking get in the way.

UPDATE Melanie Phillips has a good analysis of this affair.

In the past few days, the BBC appears to have turned itself into a mouthpiece for Hamas. From a steady procession of talking heads has issued a stream of Arab propaganda, along the lines that what has happened in Gaza is an inevitable outcome of the Israeli/western collective punishment of Palestinian voters for democratically choosing a party of which the west disapproves, along with the Israeli/western refusal to ‘engage’ with Hamas, a situation which must now be remedied forthwith. If we look a little more closely at these interviewees, however, it seems that such a consistent line may not be altogether coincidental. The casual listener and viewer has been led to assume that all these ‘experts’ are random, if well-informed, observers of the Middle East scene. But a rather different picture emerges if one joins up some of the dots…

Thorough, well researched, nail on the head…

Western Arab Demopaths Keep Hammering their Message: MSM Dutifully Gives them the Platform

A nice piece of demopathy on the LATimes op-ed page by a professor of literature at UCLA. Note how, like the Bourbons, the writer has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. (Alas, his specialty is my favorite poet, William Blake. What post-colonial horrors await my reading pleasure?)

West chooses Fatah, but Palestinians don’t
They prefer Hamas, which represents an alternative to Fatah’s acceptance of the Israeli occupation.

By Saree Makdisi, SAREE MAKDISI, a professor of English and comparative literature at UCLA, writes often about the Middle East.
June 20, 2007

IN THE WEST, there’s a huge sense of relief. The Hamas-led government that has been causing everyone so much trouble has been isolated in Gaza, and a new government has been appointed in the West Bank by the “moderate,” peace-loving Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas.

I don’t anyone who feels a sense of relief, much less huge. But such a remark, as little as it tells us about reality, does tell us how Makdisi processes reality. Pathetic “Oslo Logic” snatches at Fatah straws by PCP1, register on her PCP2 screen as “huge relief.”

So why then do Palestinians not share in the relief? Well, for one thing, the old government had been democratically elected; now it has been dismissed out of hand by presidential fiat. There’s also the fact that the new prime minister appointed by Abbas — Salam Fayyad — has the support of the West, but his election list won only 2% of the votes in the same election that swept Hamas to victory. Fayyad and Abbas have the support of Israel, but it is no secret that they lack the backing of their own people.

I find it fascinating that this writer, much like Edward Saïd, thinks he can speak for “the Palestinian people,” and tell us not only what “they” think, but why. What ever happened to post-modern multiple narratives. Or, like Saïd, does Makdisi tacitly subscribe to (and appeal to) a collective “honor-shame” theory of the Palestinian people in which they all agree (with what their leaders tell them they need for their honor)?

There is a reason the people threw out Abbas’ Fatah party in last year’s election. Palestinians see the leading Fatah politicians as unimaginative, self-serving and corrupt, satisfied with the emoluments of power.

Worse yet, Palestinians came to realize that the so-called peace process championed by Abbas (and by Yasser Arafat before him) had led to the permanent institutionalization — rather than the termination — of Israel’s 4-decade-old military occupation of their land. Why should they feel otherwise? There are today twice as many settlers in the occupied territories as there were when Yitzhak Rabin and Arafat first shook hands in the White House Rose Garden. Israel has divided the West Bank into besieged cantons, worked diligently to increase the number of Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem (while stripping Palestinian Jerusalemites of their residency rights in the city) and turned Gaza into a virtual prison.

Here’s where we learn nothing about past mistakes, forget nothing about the dogmatic myths that construct the dream palaces which Arabs inhabit so violently. He, like the architects of Oslo, seems to believe that Arafat actually did try the Oslo “Peace” Process, and not the holy war he unleashed. Does he believe it? Or does he just think this is a great “trope” to hit for his Oslo-thinking audience?

And of course, true to the Palestinian victim narrative, all this virtual imprisonment has nothing to do with the vicious Jihad that Hamas launched in 2000 with Arafat’s cooperation. “We wuz just standin’ around when dese guys came and started beating up on us. Honest!”

People voted for Hamas last year not because they approved of the party’s sloganeering, not because they wanted to live in an Islamic state, not because they support attacks on Israeli civilians, but because Hamas was untainted by Fatah’s complacency and corruption, untainted by its willingness to continue pandering to Israel. Fatah leaders were viewed as mere policemen of the perpetual occupation, and the Palestinian Authority had willingly taken on the role of administering the population on behalf of the Israelis. Hamas offered an alternative.

There were civic alternatives who got virtually no votes. The idea that Hamas was chosen because they were against corruption and not because they planned an Islamic state with attacks on Israeli civilians, is not only a false dichotomy but one that either questions the honesty of the writer or the intelligence of the Palestinian people. No Palestinian could be unaware of what Hamas stood for, and it was a whole lot more than less corruption.

Here in the U.S., Hamas is routinely demonized, known primarily for its attacks on civilians. Depictions of Hamas portray its “rejectionism” as an end in itself rather than as a refusal to go along with a political process that has proved catastrophic for Palestinians on the ground.

Here we go again. Hamas’ rejectionism — burned into their identity with their charter — has been the cause of their catastrophic condition. They pushed the war against Israel in 2000 to its extremes, invited the crackdowns, and now claim that they aren’t extremists, just refusing to go along with a political process they sabotaged from the very outset.

Has Hamas done unspeakable things? Yes, but so has Fatah, and so too has Israel (on a much larger scale). There are no saints in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Wow! Self-criticism.

Palestinians, frankly, see a lot of hypocrisy in the West’s anti-Hamas stance. Since last year’s election, for example, the West has denied aid to the Hamas government, arguing, among other things, that Hamas refuses to recognize Israel. But that’s absurd; after all, Israel does not recognize Palestine either. Hamas is accused of not abiding by previous agreements. But Israel’s suspension of tax revenue transfers to the Palestinian Authority, and its refusal to implement a Gaza-West Bank road link agreement brokered by the U.S. in November 2005, are practical, rather than merely rhetorical, violations of previous agreements, causing infinitely more damage to ordinary people. Hamas is accused of mixing religion and politics, but no one has explained why its version of that mixture is any worse than Israel’s — or why a Jewish state is acceptable but a Muslim one is not.

Well, no one you’re listening to. Just check out the Hamas charter and the Israeli Declaration of Independence and you’ll see the difference between a movement committed to civil society, and one dedicated to genocidal theocracy.

I am a secular humanist, and I personally find religiously identified political movements — and states — unappealing, to say the least.

Then why on earth are you shilling for some of the worst religious fanatics on the planet?

But let’s be honest. Hamas did not run into Western opposition because of its Islamic ideology but because of its opposition to (and resistance to) the Israeli occupation.

Wow. “Let’s be honest?” Has this man done his homework? Or is he just telling us what he wishes were true. After all, he’s against the Israeli “theocracy” — isn’t that what also drives Hamas? Is the alliance between the radical left and the Islamists based on these kinds of fantasies?

A genuine peace based on the two-state solution would require an end to the Israeli occupation and the creation of a territorially contiguous, truly independent Palestinian state.

But that is not happening. Fatah seems to have given up, its leaders preferring to rest comfortably with the power they already have. Ironically, it is Hamas that is taking the stands that would be prerequisites for a true two-state peace plan: refusing to go along with the permanent breakup of Palestine and not accepting the sacrifice of control over borders, airspace, water, taxes and even the population registry to Israel.

Embracing the “moderation” of Abbas allows the Palestinian Authority to resume servicing the occupation on Israel’s behalf, for now. In the long run, though, the two-state solution is finished because Fatah is either unable or unwilling to stop the ongoing dismemberment of the territory once intended for a Palestinian state.

The only realistic choice remaining will be the one between a single democratic, secular state offering equal rights for both Israelis and Palestinians — or permanent apartheid.

Oh my Lord. This is astonishing. So we manage to get via a “moderate Hamas” taking stands that would be prerequisites to a “two-state solution.” But now that those have failed, the only solution is a single, secular, democratic state!

And who will bring that on? Why Islamic theocrats, of course.

    “I expect our Christian neighbors to understand the new Hamas rule means real changes. They must be ready for Islamic rule if they want to live in peace in Gaza,” said Sheik Abu Saqer, leader of Jihadia Salafiya, an Islamic outreach movement that recently announced the opening of a “military wing” to enforce Muslim law in Gaza.

    Jihadia Salafiya is suspected of attacking a United Nations school in Gaza last month, after the school allowed boys and girls to participate in the same sporting event. One person was killed in that attack.

    “The situation has now changed 180 degrees in Gaza,” said Abu Saqer, speaking from Gaza yesterday.

    “Jihadia Salafiya and other Islamic movements will ensure Christian schools and institutions show publicly what they are teaching to be sure they are not carrying out missionary activity. No more alcohol on the streets. All women, including non-Muslims, need to understand they must be covered at all times while in public,” Abu Asqer told WND.

    “Also the activities of Internet cafes, pool halls and bars must be stopped,” he said. “If it goes on, we’ll attack these things very harshly.”

Nah, they don’t mean it. They’re really democrats just waiting for a chance to make a go.

If we believe this stuff, we really do deserve to go under. The founding brothers talked about a willingness to die for democracy. We just have to be willing not to be terminally stupid.

Erlanger, Dupe of Demopaths: Does he really believe this stuff

Erlanger adds new layers to the Augean Stables. In an
audio report available at the NYT with accompanying pictures (which in their own way contradict his analysis), Erlanger manages to repeat all of the tritest tropes of Hamas demopathy as if this were real reporting. The guys not stupid. What’s up? (Hat tip: David Sobel)

I have transcribed the finale:

Hamas being now in sole control may be able to provide the poor people of Gaza with more security and even jobs and investment than Fatah was able to do. Hamas may live up to the responsibility of viewing the people of Gaza and all of their problems in a way that tries to show the rest of the Muslim world that radical Islam works. That is the thing that the US and Israel must be most worried about. It’s a very dicey strategy but Israel and the US are searching for short and medium term responses to a collapse neither saw coming, and both are eager to limit the impact of this latest victory of radical Islam over Western-backed secular forces.

I don’t know where to begin. If he had just showed up at the scene this would be incompetent at best. But he’s seen the last months merciless murder. He (presumably) has read Hamas’ Charter. He knows just how vicious Hamas can be in the implementation of those goals, even to their fellow Muslims who get in the way. But it’s as if he’s listening to Ahmed Youssef has to say, and regurgitated it. Could Hamas ask for better PR?

So now what Israel and the US fear most is that Hamas will “make a go of it” and show the world how radical Islam can do better running a country than corrupt Arab regimes. Not that they will continue to spread their Jihadi violence everywhere so as to cover up the stench of their dystopian failures to implement Sharia. How did he come to this startling conclusion? Because the other efforts to implement Sharia by groups who use terror to gain power have such a stellar track record — Taliban, Shiite Iran, Sudan?

And I especially like his Oslo-logic PCP reference to Fatah as “secular.”

With journalists like this, no wonder we don’t have a clue.

Hamas Makes its Pitch: Demopaths hit the NYT (again)

Just in case we haven’t seen any good examples of demopathy in the last ten seconds, the NYT has offered space to a spokesman for Hamas who knows well how to hit our liberal chords. (Hat tip: LGF)

What Hamas Wants

Published: June 20, 2007
Gaza City

THE events in Gaza over the last few days have been described in the West as a coup. In essence, they have been the opposite. Eighteen months ago, our Hamas Party won the Palestinian parliamentary elections and entered office under Prime Minister Ismail Haniya but never received the handover of real power from Fatah, the losing party. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has now tried to replace the winning Hamas government with one of his own, returning Fatah to power while many of our elected members of Parliament languish in Israeli jails. That is the real coup.

From the day Hamas won the general elections in 2006 it offered Fatah the chance of joining forces and forming a unity government. It tried to engage the international community to explain its platform for peace. It has consistently offered a 10-year cease-fire with the Israelis to try to create an atmosphere of calm in which we resolve our differences. Hamas even adhered to a unilateral cease-fire for 18 months in an effort to normalize the situation on the ground. None of these points appear to have been recognized in the press coverage of the last few days.

This is a spokesman for an organization whose charter contains not only quotations from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but explicitly calls for a genocide of the Jews:

    The Islamic Resistance aspires to the realisation of Allah’s promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him..

Does he think we’re stupid? Does he think the editors of the NYT haven’t read his charter and don’t know what he’s about? Apparently yes, and apparently he’s right. Whatever happened to fact-checking, or does that not apply to op-eds?

Nor has it been evident to many people in the West that the civil unrest in Gaza and the West Bank has been precipitated by the American and Israeli policy of arming elements of the Fatah opposition who want to attack Hamas and force us from office. For 18 months we have tried to find ways to coexist with Fatah, entering into a unity government, even conceding key positions in the cabinet to their and international demands, negotiating up until the last moment to try to provide security for all of our people on the streets of Gaza.

Sadly, it became apparent that not all officials from Fatah were negotiating in good faith. There were attempts on Mr. Haniya’s life last week, and eventually we were forced into trying to take control of a very dangerous situation in order to provide political stability and establish law and order.

This is quintessential Palestinian thinking. We didn’t do anything wrong, we didn’t make any attacks. We were in good faith and then, sadly, the bad guys attacked. So… we defended ourselves, no?

The streets of Gaza are now calm for the first time in a very long time. We have begun disarming some of the drug dealers and the armed gangs and we hope to restore a sense of security and safety to the citizens of Gaza. We want to get children back to school, get basic services functioning again, and provide long-term economic gains for our people.

Our stated aim when we won the election was to effect reform, end corruption and bring economic prosperity to our people. Our sole focus is Palestinian rights and good governance. We now hope to create a climate of peace and tranquillity within our community that will pave the way for an end to internal strife and bring about the release of the British journalist Alan Johnston, whose kidnapping in March by non-Hamas members is a stain on the reputation of the Palestinian people.

We reject attempts to divide Palestine into two parts and to pass Hamas off as an extreme and dangerous force. We continue to believe that there is still a chance to establish a long-term truce. But this will not happen unless the international community fully engages with Hamas.

Just in case people don’t understand, “truce” — hudna — is a temporary lull permitting Muslims to prepare for the next attack. And if you don’t cooperate in that, then expect hostilities right away.

Any further attempts to marginalize us, starve our people into submission or attack us militarily will prove that the United States and Israeli governments are not genuinely interested in seeing an end to the violence. Dispassionate observers over the next few weeks will be able to make up their own minds as to each side’s true intentions.

You’d think these guys were pussycats. And the NYT is not about to let you know otherwise (see next post).

Ahmed Yousef is the political adviser to Ismail Haniya, who became the Palestinian prime minister last year.

British Confront Muslim Anger over Rushdie Honor: Shocked! I am Absolutely Shocked!

Rushdie furore stuns honours committee

· Muslim backlash after knighthood not foreseen
· UK protests over Pakistani minister’s remarks

Duncan Campbell and Julian Borger
Wednesday June 20, 2007
The Guardian

Religious students in Multan, Pakistan, burn effigies of the Queen and Salman Rushdie during protests against the awarding of the knighthood. Photograph: Khalid Tanveer/AP

The committee that recommended Salman Rushdie for a knighthood did not discuss any possible political ramifications and never imagined that the award would provoke the furious response that it has done in parts of the Muslim world, the Guardian has learnt.

It also emerged yesterday that the writers’ organisation that led the lobbying for the author of Midnight’s Children and The Satanic Verses to be knighted had originally hoped that the honour would lead to better relations between Britain and Asia.

I can’t help but smile. Just what were they thinking? That we handled Danoongate and the Pope’s Remarks so well that, well, things are “getting better all the time…”? Clearly they didn’t read Dan Pipes, The Rushdie Affair.

The news came as the row spread around the world and the British high commissioner in Islamabad made representations to the Pakistani government over remarks supposedly made by the minister for religious affairs, Mohammed Ejaz ul-Haq, in which he appeared to justify suicide bombings as a response to the award.

Rushdie was celebrating his 60th birthday in London yesterday and is not commenting on the latest threats to his life. It is understood he is anxious not to inflame the situation. Scotland Yard declined to comment as a matter of policy on whether the writer has been given police protection.

The arts and media committee that proposed him for a knighthood is one of eight similar committees that make recommendations to the main committee, which then forwards the final names to the prime minister.

It was chaired by Lord Rothschild, the investment banker and former chairman of the trustees of the National Gallery. The other committee members are Jenny Abramsky, the BBC’s director of radio and music; novelist and poet Ben Okri, who is vice-president of the English chapter of PEN International, which campaigns on behalf of writers who face persecution; Andreas Whittam Smith, former editor of the Independent; John Gross, the author and former theatre critic of the Sunday Telegraph; and two permanent secretaries, one from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and one from the Scottish executive.

Watch out for the Elders of Zion.

“Very properly, we were concerned only with merit in relation to the level of the award,” Mr Whittam Smith said yesterday.

He added that it would be for the main committee to assess any other aspects of the honour. The Foreign Office is represented on the main committee by the permanent secretary, whose job it would be to raise any potential international ramifications. A Foreign Office spokesman said he was not aware of any request by the honours committee to gauge likely Muslim reaction to the knighthood before the decision was taken.

PEN International, which campaigned on behalf of Rushdie when he was in hiding during the fatwa years, has lobbied consistently for him to be honoured. Yesterday the director of its London chapter, Jonathan Heawood, said that he was taken aback by the scale of the reaction.

Mr Heawood said it had been felt that an honour for the writer, who was born in Bombay (now Mumbai), would be seen as a positive step in British-Asian relations.

“The honour is for services to literature and a very belated recognition that he is a world writer, who was in the vanguard of a writing tradition that exploded in the 80s in south Asia,” said Mr Heawood.

“It seems a shame that a few lines in his fourth novel should have turned him into this hate figure. He has become a Guy Fawkes figure to be thrown on a bonfire whenever it suits a government to divert attention from what is happening in their own countries.”

Welcome to the global Middle East.

The Pakistani foreign ministry summoned the British high commissioner yesterday to complain about the knighthood, but British officials said they used the occasion to protest about the remarks by Mr Ejaz ul-Haq, who has since said that his comments were a statement of fact and not intended to incite violence.

“The high commissioner, Robert Brinkley, made clear to the Pakistan ministry of foreign affairs the British government’s deep concern about what the minister of religious affairs is reported to have said,” a Foreign Office spokeswoman said. “We made very clear that nothing can justify suicide bomb attacks.”

However, Pakistan’s foreign minister, Kurshid Kasuri, said on a visit to Washington that Britain could not have been surprised by the outrage.

The chairman of the all-party group on Pakistan, the Conservative MP Stewart Jackson, also attacked the decision to knight Rushdie. “We do not need a situation where we are gratuitously offending our allies in the fight against terror,” he told the ePolitix website. “I think the prime minister’s office should think very carefully about that decision.”

No date has been set for the investiture. Two ceremonies are due to take place next month but they are likely to be for those who were named in the New Year’s honours list. Rushdie could become Sir Salman in the next batch of investitures between October and December or early next year.

Watch this empty space in British brains.

Fatah? Not a Good Idea

Some clear thinking for a change. Oslo logic? Not. Oren offers an interesting alternative approach as well.


Fatah Isn’t the Answer
June 20, 2007; Page A17
America and its Middle Eastern allies have every reason to panic. The green flags of Hamas are furling over Gaza and the al-Fatah forces trained and financed by the United States have ignominiously fled. Fears are rife that Iranian-backed and Syrian-hosted terror will next achieve dominance over the West Bank and proceed to undermine the pro-Western governments of Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and the Gulf.

To avert this catastrophe, the U.S. has joined with the Israelis and the Europeans in resuming the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars in financial aid to the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of its Fatah president, Mahmoud Abbas, and accelerating talks for the establishment of a West Bank Palestinian state. The goal is to provide Palestinians with an affluent, secular and peaceful alternative to Hamas, and persuade Gazans to return to the Fatah fold. But the policy ignores every lesson of the abortive peace process to date as well as Fatah’s monumental corruption, jihadism and militancy. Indeed, any sovereign edifice built on the rotten foundations of the Palestinian Authority is doomed to implode, enhancing, rather than diminishing, Hamas’s influence.

Gunmen from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Is funding them the path to peace?

Since its creation by the so-called Oslo Accords of 1993, the PA has garnered more international aid than any entity in modern history — more, per capita, than the European states under the Marshall Plan. The lion’s share of this fortune has been siphoned into the private accounts of Fatah leaders or used to pay off the commanders of some 16 semi-autonomous militias. The PA also maintains an estimated 60,000 uniformed gunmen on its payroll, giving the West Bank the world’s highest percentage of policemen-to-population.

The Palestinian people, meanwhile, languish in ever-deepening poverty and unemployment, while lawlessness plagues Palestinian streets. The unbridled corruption of the PA and its Fatah headmen served as a principal cause of Hamas’s electoral victory in 2006, as well its takeover of Gaza. Viewers of Hamas television have recently been treated to tours of the lavish villas maintained by Fatah officials in the Strip, and video clips showing PA policemen, more abundantly armed and more numerous than Hamas’s troops, fleeing at the first sign of battle.

Though Fatah originally aspired to replace Israel with a secular, democratic state in Palestine, the organization refashioned itself in 1990s as an Islamic movement, embracing the lexicon of jihad. Hundreds of mosques were built with public funds, and imams were hired to spread the message of martyrdom and the hatred of Christians and Jews. These themes became the staple of the official PA media, inciting the suicide bombings that began in 2000 and poisoning an entire generation of Palestinian youth. Ironically, the Islamization of Fatah legitimized Hamas and contributed to the cadres of religious extremists who are now defying its authority.

In addition to its fiscal malfeasance and Islamic radicalism, Fatah has never fulfilled its pledges to crack down on terror. Though Mahmoud Abbas routinely criticizes Palestinian terrorist attacks as “contrary to the Palestinian national interest” — not an affront to morality and international law — he has never disavowed the al-Aqsa Brigades, a Fatah affiliate responsible for some of the bloodiest attacks against Israeli civilians.

In the past, such assaults have served as a means of maintaining Fatah’s legitimacy as a resistance movement and countering charges that the organization sold out to America and Israel. In fact, a distinct correlation exists between the amount of support that Fatah receives from the West and its need to prove its “Palestinianess” through terror.

In view of its performance over the past 14 years, the Palestinian Authority under Fatah can be counted on to squander most or all of the vast sums now being given to it by the U.S. and the international community. More gunmen will be hired and better weapons procured, but in the absence of a unified command and a leadership worth fighting for, PA soldiers will perform no more credibly than they did in Gaza. Mr. Abbas will continue to denounce terror while ignoring the terrorist units within his own organization, while PA imams will persist in preaching their jihadist sermons.

In response, Israel will be precluded from lifting the checkpoints that not only block suicide bombers but hinder communication between Palestinian cities. Impeded by Palestinian attacks and Israeli countermeasures, the peace talks will inexorably grind to a halt. In the end, the Palestinian people will remain impoverished, divided and stateless, and more than ever amenable to the purist polity of Hamas.

If funding and empowering Fatah is not a viable option for the U.S., what other courses might the administration take? Clearly no progress toward Palestinian statehood can be made before Fatah has reformed itself financially, ideologically and structurally. Even under the most propitious circumstances this process is certain to take many years — longer if economic aid and political support are provided to the PA unconditionally. Similarly, proposals for containing Hamas’s influence by stationing an international force along the Gaza border are unlikely to succeed if for no other reason than Hamas’s avowed determination to resist such a deployment. Yet the need to combat Hamas and provide Palestinians with an attractive diplomatic horizon remains acute. There is, fortunately, an interim answer.

The U.S., together with its Quartet partners, can work to establish areas of extensive Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank. Within these districts, local Palestinian leaders will be fully empowered to manage all aspects of daily life including health, education and resource management. A national assembly, comprised of representatives from each district, will meet regularly to deliberate issues of West Bank-wide concern. Security, however, will be jointly administered by Israel and Jordan. The Jordanian involvement is crucial to convincing Palestinians that the status quo of occupation has ended and they may in the future assume full responsibility for their internal defense. Such an arrangement will benefit Jordan as well, by facilitating its efforts to fight radicalism and stem the flight of Palestinians over its borders.

Visiting Washington this week, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert described the Hamas conquest of Gaza as an opportunity for the Palestinians. This indeed may be the case, but not by resurrecting long-failed policies and imposing a state structure on a corrupt and incompetent Fatah. Doing so is tantamount to investing in the Titanic. Significant opportunities do, however, exist for policy makers — American, Israeli, and Palestinian — who are willing to consider new paradigms and incremental steps toward the realization of a durable peace.

Mr. Oren is a senior fellow at the Shalem Center and the author of Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present (Norton, 2007).

Christians and the Dhimma: Chronicles of the Jihad State in Gaza

Hamas will create a theocracy in Gaza, and like any dystopian experiment in modern Sharia, it will be a nightmare (cf. Iran, Afghanistan, Sudan). Here’s one of the first steps on the path to theocracy.

‘Christians must accept Islamic rule’
Militant leader in Gaza says missionaries will be ‘dealt with harshly,’ demands women wear headscarfs
Aaron Klein, WND
Published: 06.19.07, 09:54 / Israel News
Christians can only continue living safely in the Gaza Strip if they accept Islamic law, including a ban on alcohol and on women roaming publicly without proper head coverings, an Islamist militant leader in Gaza told WND in an exclusive interview

The militant leader said Christians in Gaza who engage in “missionary activity” will be “dealt with harshly.”

The threats come two days after a church and Christian school in Gaza was attacked following the seizure of power in the territory by the Hamas terror group.

“I expect our Christian neighbors to understand the new Hamas rule means real changes. They must be ready for Islamic rule if they want to live in peace in Gaza,” said Sheik Abu Saqer, leader of Jihadia Salafiya, an Islamic outreach movement that recently announced the opening of a “military wing” to enforce Muslim law in Gaza.

Jihadia Salafiya is suspected of attacking a United Nations school in Gaza last month, after the school allowed boys and girls to participate in the same sporting event. One person was killed in that attack.

“The situation has now changed 180 degrees in Gaza,” said Abu Saqer, speaking from Gaza yesterday.

“Jihadia Salafiya and other Islamic movements will ensure Christian schools and institutions show publicly what they are teaching to be sure they are not carrying out missionary activity. No more alcohol on the streets. All women, including non-Muslims, need to understand they must be covered at all times while in public,” Abu Asqer told WND.

“Also the activities of Internet cafes, pool halls and bars must be stopped,” he said. “If it goes on, we’ll attack these things very harshly.”

‘Fatah behind church attack’

Abu Saqer accused the leadership of the Gaza Christian community of “proselytizing and trying to convert Muslims with funding from American evangelicals.”

“This missionary activity is endangering the entire Christian community in Gaza,” he said.

Abu Saqer claimed there was “no need” for the thousands of Christians in Gaza to maintain a large number of institutions in the territory.

About 2,000 Christians live in the Gaza Strip, which has a population of over 1 million.

Abu Saqer said Hamas “must work to impose an Islamic rule or it will lose the authority it has and the will of the people.”

His comments come after gunmen on Sunday attacked Gaza’s Latin Church and adjacent Rosary Sisters School, reportedly destroying crosses, bibles, pictures of Jesus and furniture and equipment. The attackers also stole a number of computers.

The attack was the first targeting of Christian institutions since Hamas last week staged a coup against the rival Fatah party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, seizing all Fatah positions and security compounds, essentially taking complete control of the Gaza Strip.

Hamas officials in Gaza claimed to WND Fatah was behind Sunday’s church attack in an attempt to discredit Hamas to the international community.

Abu Saqer claimed he had “good information” that the attack really was a robbery aimed at the church’s school computers, even though bibles and Christian holy objects were destroyed.

Now the “electronic intifada” finds out what happens when they get their wish, and a regime fully dedicated to wiping out Israel gets its talons into the Palestinian people.

Graduating Suicide Terrorists: Watch out World, here we come!

I was interviewed on a radio station this morning that mentioned this item. One of the hosts thought it was just smoke and mirrors intended to scare us, but not anything to take seriously. I suggested that a) it’s been going on in Israel for over a decade, and b) it’s fully consonant with the strategy and tactics of global Jihad. Suicide bombing, which many — not just in the Muslim world but among Europeans and Leftists — was greeted as a great victory for the “Palestinian national resistance,” has become the bane of the 21st century, and it will get considerably worse before it gets better.


June 19, 2007 — Teams of al Qaeda-trained suicide bombers were dispatched to the United States and Europe from an Afghan camp 10 days ago, ABC News reported last night.
About 300 would-be bombers – including boys as young as 12 – were ordered to carry out attacks in Britain, Canada, Germany and the United States, the report said.
A Pakistani journalist invited to attend the camp took pictures of a Taliban commander congratulating graduates on June 9, ABC News said.
“These Americans, Canadians, British and Germans come here to Afghanistan from faraway places. Why shouldn’t we go after them?” the commander, Mansoor Dadullah – whose brother was killed by U.S. forces last month – can be heard saying on tape.
U.S. intelligence officials dismissed the graduation ceremony as “aggressive and sophisticated propaganda.” But Richard Clarke, a former counterterror expert in the Clinton and Bush White Houses, said the threat should be taken seriously.
“It doesn’t take too many who are willing . . . and able to slip through . . . to the United States or England [to] cause a lot of damage,” he said.
More than 100 people have been killed in three days of clashes between NATO and the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, Afghan officials said.

Dan Pipes, partly on the basis of this report, has a disturbing exercise in writing the history of the first decade of the 21st century before it’s over: American Intifada.

Red Queen Weighs In: Carter Favors Hamas

Jimmy Carter once again displays his penetrating intellect.


Carter: Stop Favoring Fatah over Hamas

The United States, Israel and the European Union must end their policy of favoring Fatah over Hamas, or they will doom the Palestinian people to deepening conflict between the rival movements, former US President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday.

Carter, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who was addressing a conference of Irish human rights officials, said the Bush administration’s refusal to accept the 2006 election victory of Hamas was “criminal.”

Carter said Hamas, besides winning a fair and democratic mandate that should have entitled it to lead the Palestinian government, had proven itself to be far more organized in its political and military showdowns with the Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas fighters routed Fatah in their violent takeover of the Gaza Strip last week. The split prompted Abbas to dissolve the power-sharing government with his rivals in Hamas and set up a Fatah-led administration to govern the West Bank.

Carter said the American-Israeli-European consensus to reopen direct aid to the new government in the West Bank, but to deny the same to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, represented an “effort to divide Palestinians into two peoples.”

While seeking to boycott the Hamas leadership because of its refusal to renounce violence and recognize Israel, Europe and the US have continued to send humanitarian aid to Gaza through the United Nations and other organizations.

During his speech to Ireland’s eighth annual Forum on Human Rights, the 83-year-old former president said monitors from his Carter Center observed the 2006 election in which Hamas won 42 percent of the popular vote and a majority of parliamentary seats.

Carter said that election was “orderly and fair” and Hamas triumphed, in part, because it was “shrewd in selecting candidates,” whereas a divided, corrupt Fatah ran multiple candidates for single seats.

Far from encouraging Hamas’s move into parliamentary politics, Carter said the US and Israel, with European Union acquiescence, has sought to subvert the outcome by shunning Hamas and helping Abbas to keep the reins of political and military power.

“That action was criminal,” he said in a news conference after his speech.

“The United States and Israel decided to punish all the people in Palestine and did everything they could to deter a compromise between Hamas and Fatah,” he said.

Carter said the United States and others supplied the Fatah-controlled security forces in Gaza with vastly superior weaponry in hopes they would “conquer Hamas in Gaza” – but Hamas this month routed Fatah because of its “superior skills and discipline.”

He said plans to reopen international aid to the West Bank, but clamp down on aid to Gaza, would imprison 1.4 million Gazans. He called for both territories to be treated equally.

“This effort to divide Palestinians into two peoples now is a step in the wrong direction,” he said. “All efforts of the international community should be to reconcile the two, but there’s no effort from the outside to bring the two together.”

Carter was pessimistic this would happen soon.

“I don’t see at this point any possibility that public officials in the United States, or in Israel, or the European Union are going to take action to bring about reconciliation,” he said.


Ehud Yaari’s Take on the Situation

Conference Call with Ehud Yaari

Ehud Yaari, a veteran Middle East television commentator and Jerusalem Report Associate Editor, spoke to the Conference of Presidents via conference call and briefed them about the implications for Israel of the Hamas takeover in Gaza.

For the audio, click here.

Among other things, we have a repeat of what happened in Black September, in which PLO members would prefer Israeli prisons to the tender mercies of their fellow Arab Muslims.

Gadi Taub and Oslo Logic

I’ve decided to add a new category called Oslo Logic, retreads of which right now seems to be a specialty of The New Republic.

Gadi Taub seems to represent some of the more thoughtful of the Oslo thinkers. But I’m having trouble seeing how this isn’t just more reheated Oslo logic, this time aimed at “holding Hamas responsible.” That was the idea behind giving Arafat control. It backfired. Why won’t this?

Hamas’s victory actually presents an opportunity for Israel.

by Gadi Taub
Only at TNR Online | Post date 06.19.07

For the second time in less than two years, Hamas may be experiencing too much success for its own good. Hamas did well as an opposition group, maintaining the purity of its extreme positions while steering clear of political accountability. Hamas leaders were well aware of this and avoided taking part in government for a long time.

Their decision, therefore, to run for the Palestinian Authority elections last year and evolve into an institutionalized opposition party was not taken lightly. Then came the sweeping success which took it by surprise. Not only did Hamas become an official party, it found itself heading the government. This put Hamas in a paradoxical situation. On the one hand it remained faithful to its ideology and continued its refusal to abide by the terms to which Israel and the Quartet insisted: acknowledging Israel’s right to exist, accepting the agreements the PLO signed with Israel, and renouncing terrorism. But, on the other hand, its sweeping electoral victory made it accountable in the eyes of its own people for whatever consequence this uncompromising stance would bring.

The solution to this conundrum was to form a coalition government with Fatah, in which Fatah stood for compromise, Hamas for extremism. Fatah was supposed to relieve international and Israeli pressure, and Hamas to somehow continue the Holy War. But what worked under Yassir Arafat, when Hamas was given much leeway as an underground organization, became more difficult to manage with Hamas heading a government. The result was a series of short-term, fragile ceasefires, which periodically broke down, along with a steady deterioration in the well-being of Gaza’s citizens. The coalition government actually put Hamas and Fatah on a collision course. It was an unworkable partnership: Hamas didn’t let Fatah deliver on its promises to Israel, and Fatah couldn’t restrain Hamas’s attacks. Policy–if that is the word for it–was not so much a compromise between the two as it was a random median of two mutually exclusive strategies. It was only a matter of time until clashes between the two factions turned into civil war.

That civil war has now given Hamas its second too-spectacular success. It did not simply subdue Fatah in Gaza, it annihilated it. But, as a result, Hamas is now being pushed into the position of full accountability. While Hamas bargained for nothing less than total military victory, it has found these political consequences uncomfortable, and it is now trying to resurrect Fatah’s remains in Gaza. For the moment, however, Fatah is not cooperating. And why would it? What does it stand to gain from sharing responsibility for policies it cannot shape? As a result, the Arafat system–presenting a façade of cooperation while letting terrorists apply pressure–seems to be breaking down.

This presents an opportunity for Israel. Israel’s policy toward Hamas has been, so far, short of wise. By boycotting Hamas while simultaneously dealing with its Fatah partner nonetheless, it actually helped the dual system survive. Now that that system has perished, however, Israel has a chance to corner Hamas into accountability.

I’m having trouble with this notion of “full accountability.” Who is going to hold Hamas responsible for the bad choices they make? The Palestinian people? The “street”? The West? The Left? Seriously.

Israel does not have to officially recognize Hamas as a legitimate government–not so long as it maintains its intention to destroy the Jewish state. But Israel can, and should, start dealing with Hamas on a pragmatic basis. The worst possible condition for Israel is chaos in Gaza. In a state of chaos, any radical group with a handful of Qassam rockets can hijack policy. There is then no one and nothing to deal with, no way to apply either carrots or sticks. But if the same hand that pulls the trigger is also the hand that feeds the people–the hand that’s responsible for water, sewage, electricity, jobs, and medical care–then one can expect incentives and deterrents to be more effective.

I am utterly bewildered by this logic. Who is the “one” who “can expect” and why on earth should these incentives and detterents be more effective when there’s always someone ready to step in and a) blame Israel no matter what it does, and b) to “help” the Palestinians avoid a “humanitarian catastrophe.” The UN does garbage collection in the “moderate” West Bank.

Now, there may well be such a single hand. Now, Hamas will find it hard to pin responsibility on anybody else. Left alone in government, it will also have a vested interest in consolidating power. And, if it succeeds, Israel should be sensible enough to apply not only sticks, but carrots as well. With an effective government there would be a way to exact a price for hostilities and to reward pacification.

Taub acts as if “accountability” in the current conflict runs according to civic logic. If Hamas is obviously responsibility, they’ll be held accountable. The implication here is a) it hasn’t already been obvious for some time now, and b) the blaming of Israel was essentially a logical, empirically-based act which, when confronted with counter-evidence, will change. I see no reason to believe either proposition.

Israel cannot, and should not, support Hamas directly. But it should also avoid active attempts to topple it. A stable enemy government is far better than a bunch of feuding warlords competing for the dubious title of staunchest enemy of Zionism. Accountability was, and is, the key to reducing violence.

Gadi Taub teaches in the Department of Communications and the School for Public Policy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author of The Settler and the Struggle over the Meaning of Zionism.

“Stable enemy government is far better than a bunch of feuding warlords…”? Is this a political axiom? What makes him think Hamas will be a stable government? It will found a Jihad State. This is a catastrophe, and he’s suggesting quiet cooperation. Is Israeli strategic thinking this shallow?

Feminists Debate: Pollit vs. Chesler

To fully understand this exchange, you need to read the previous issues raised by an article at the Weekly Standard by Christina Hoff Summers and Pollit’s response, both available at an earlier posting of mine Subjection of (Muslim) Women and Fecklessness of (Western) Feminists

New York City

Contrary to Katha Pollitt’s June 11 “Subject to Debate” column, my books The New Anti-Semitism and The Death of Feminism have not “tanked.” On the contrary, they have opened important doors for me to the worlds of heroic ex-Muslim and Muslim dissidents and antijihadist intellectuals, some of whom are conservatives and many of whom are feminists. Yes, Virginia, there is a wide world out there beyond the narrow confines of the left. Just because a book is not reviewed in The Nation or similar media does not mean it does not exist and has not attracted a serious and influential audience. How can a book “tank” and yet, in Pollitt’s words, its argument take on “a life of its own”?

Contrary to Pollitt’s dismissal of any experience that occurred “almost fifty years ago,” contemporary Tunisian intellectual al-Atif al-Akhdar writes, “Why have the people of the world managed to mourn their pasts and move on, while we (Arabs and Muslims) have…our bereavement over a past that does not pass? Why do other people love life, while we love death and violence, slaughter and suicide, and call it heroism and martyrdom?” Akhdar describes Islamic cultural dynamics that do not seem to change. The dynamics I encountered in Afghanistan long ago remain and have actually worsened in many Muslim countries. I call it Islamic gender and religious apartheid. Feminists should be—but are not—calling for boycotts of those countries where this is practiced.

Pollitt does not come in for “unhinged abuse” in The Death of Feminism. Lawyers vetted the pages that document her bullying and intolerance on a feminist listserv to which we both belonged. I was not her only target, but she challenged me viciously and nonstop on issues ranging from my book Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman (published by Nation Books!) to my analysis of RAWA as a marginal group whose political influence would have no future other than as dancing dogs among the American left. My views on anti-Semitism, Israel and religion came in for particularly scathing attacks. Finally, when I began to publish in FrontPage magazine and wrote a column in which I said I was merely thinking about voting Republican for the first time in my life, Pollitt led a totalitarian-like and successful purge of my presence on the listserv.

Unlike Pollitt, I take very little credit for my work on behalf of freedom in the Islamic world. The task is so huge. Pollitt, however, claims immediate credit for small and symbolic feminist gestures. It is too soon to congratulate ourselves for tasks we have yet to accomplish.

Phyllis Chesler

New York City
 If Phyllis Chesler is happy that according to Bookscan The Death of Feminism sold around 1,000 copies in hardcover and 300 in paperback, who am I to dissuade her? Her book has had influence not because it is accurate or well thought out or well written—in fact it is execrable and full of spelling mistakes—but because a self-described feminist who attacks the women’s movement is a godsend to right-wingers like David Horowitz and the editors of The Weekly Standard, who have no interest in women’s rights except as an excuse to invade more countries.

Lawyers vetting her book is a joke—all that means is that I wouldn’t sue, not that she wrote the truth. But for the five people in the world who care, the most vehement discussion involving Chesler on the History in Action list was provoked by her heavy use of unverifiable personal anecdotes in Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman. The journalists on the list had trouble with that, and she took umbrage (although if memory serves, Chesler herself had raised the issue). Chesler was never “purged” from the list, which included many of her longtime friends. When it became obvious that she was planning to use material from the list in The Death of Feminism, people, including me, understandably felt betrayed. Chesler left of her own accord.

As for Chesler’s imputations that I boast of small good deeds, I agree that the deeds are small. Still, it is hard to defend yourself against charges of selfish indifference to injustice and atrocity, except by presenting the evidence that the charges are false.

Katha Pollitt

Not Pollitt at her best. Even if her information is accurate — for which we have no evidence but “she said, she said” — the tone is an good example of the kind of snarky dismissal of people who disagree with you that so characterizes the self-insulated world of the “progressive” left. It feels like one of the bully alpha females on the playground, doing her best to humiliate someone who’s not (no longer) in the in-group. Certainly much more heat than light.

Six of One… Ajami, Cox and Forkum on Olso Logic

six of one

Hattip: Lkrut

Sometimes, when I outline the horrendous contribution of Arab elites to the suffering of their own people, others object: “Oh yeah, but what about what “x” says (where x is a self-critical Jew who takes responsibility for what Israel has done to the Palestinians)?” To which I often respond, “Where is the Arab x?” Fouad Ajami, born to a Shiite family in Lebanon and professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins, represents the finest example of Arab self-criticism. Indeed, unlike the messianic pretensions of Jewish hyper-self-criticism, Ajami manages to articulate in astonishingly measured tones a sane but devastating indictment of the way the Arabs and the “progressive” West have managed to enable the Palestinian to create their nightmare.

Brothers to the Bitter End

Published: NYT, June 19, 2007

SO the masked men of Fatah have the run of the West Bank while the masked men of Hamas have their dominion in Gaza. Some see this as a tolerable situation, maybe even an improvement, envisioning a secularist Fatah-run state living peacefully alongside Israel and a small, radical Gaza hemmed in by Israeli troops. It’s always tempting to look for salvation in disaster, but in this case it’s sheer fantasy.

The Palestinian ruin was a long time in coming. No other national movement has had the indulgence granted the Palestinians over the last half-century, and the results can be seen in the bravado and the senseless violence, in the inability of a people to come to terms with their condition and their needs.

The life of a Palestinian is one of squalor and misery, yet his leaders play the international game as though they were powers. An accommodation with Israel is imperative — if only out of economic self-interest and political necessity — but the Palestinians, in a democratic experiment some 18 months ago, tipped power to a Hamas movement whose very charter is pledged to the destruction of the Jewish state and the imposition of Islamist rule.

The political maxim that people get the leaders they deserve must be reckoned too cruel to apply to the Palestinians. Before Hamas, for four decades, the vainglorious Yasir Arafat refused to tell his people the basic truths of their political life. Amid the debacles, he remained eerily joyous; he circled the globe, offering his people the false sense that they could be spared the consequences of terrible decisions.

In a rare alignment of the universe, there came Mr. Arafat’s way in the late 1990s an American president, Bill Clinton, eager to redeem Palestinian claims and an Israeli soldier-statesman, Ehud Barak, who would offer the Palestinians all that Israeli political traffic could bear and then some.

But it was too much to ask of Mr. Arafat to return to his people with a decent and generous compromise, to bid farewell to the legend that the Palestinians could have it all “from the river to the sea.” It was safer for him to stay with the political myths of his people than to settle down for the more difficult work of statehood and political rescue.

And part of what permitted Arafat to sustain this bizarre elation
even as he guided his people into the abyss, was the tremendous support the Palestinian “liberation” “resistance” against the cruel Israeli occupier. As Amos Har-el put it in The Seventh War: How We Won and How We Lost in the War with the Palestinians [translated from Hebrew]:

    One of Arafat’s cabinet members later explained that Arafat didn’t want to stop the conflict because “he thought that the world was on our side and the continuation of the armed struggle would only serve us. At that time Arafat believed that he could control the violence and to use it against Israel.”

    Those close to Arafat describe his mood in the first months of the conflict as high, nearly euphoric. The intifada was described in the international media in romantic colors; the international community supported the Palestinian’s struggle; in Arab countries demonstrations of support were held… the Sharm Summit in the middle of October returned Arafat to the center of the world stage after the isolation that was forced upon him when he was blamed for the failure of Camp David.

Such are the wages of folly.

For their part, the Arab states have only compounded the Palestinian misery. The Arab cavalry was always on the way, the Arab treasure was always a day away, and there was thus no need for the Palestinians to pay tribute to necessity. In recent years, the choice was starkly posed: it was either statehood or a starring role on Al Jazeera, and the young “boys of the stones” and their leaders opted for the latter.

After Mr. Arafat’s death, the mantle passed to a fairly decent man, Mahmoud Abbas, a leader for a post-heroic era. He is free of Mr. Arafat’s megalomania, and he seemed keen to cap the volcano; he promised, as he put it, “one law, one authority, one gun” in the Palestinian street. But he has never been a master of his world; by the time he had been given his political stewardship the culture of the Palestinian world had succumbed to a terrifying cult of violence.

It has long been a cherished legend of the Palestinians, and a proud claim, that they would not kill their own, that there would be no fratricide in their world. The cruelty we now see — in both Gaza and the West Bank — bears witness that the Palestinians have run through the consolations that had been there for them in a history of adversity.

It isn’t a pretty choice, that between Hamas and Fatah. Indeed, it was the reign of plunder and arrogance that Fatah imposed during its years of primacy that gave Hamas its power and room for maneuver. We must not overdo the distinction between the “secularism” of Fatah and the Islamism of Hamas. In the cruel streets and refugee camps of the Palestinians, this is really a distinction without a difference.

It is idle to think that Gaza could be written off as a Hamas dominion while Fatah held its own in the towns of the West Bank. The abdication and the anarchy have damaged both Palestinian realms. Nablus in the West Bank is no more amenable to reason than is Gaza; the writ of the pitiless preachers and gunmen is the norm in both places.

There is no way that a normal world could be had in the West Bank while Gaza goes under. There is no magic wand with which this Palestinian world could be healed and taught the virtues of realism and sobriety. No international peacekeeping force can bring order to the deadly streets and alleyways of Gaza. A population armed to the teeth and long in the throes of disorder can’t be pacified by outsiders.

For decades, Arab society granted the Palestinians everything and nothing at the same time. The Arab states built worlds of their own, had their own priorities, dreaded and loathed the Palestinians as outsiders and agitators, but left them to the illusion that Palestine was an all-consuming Arab concern.

Now the Palestinians should know better. The center of Arab politics has shifted from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf, a great political windfall has come to the lands of the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula, vast new wealth due to the recent rises in oil prices, while misery overwhelms the Palestinians. No Arabs wait for Palestine anymore; they have left the Palestinians to the ruin of their own history.

The rise of Hamas in Gaza should concentrate the minds of the custodians of power in the Arab world. Palestine, their old alibi, the cause with which they diverted the attention of their populations from troubles at home, has become a nightmare in its own right. An Arab debt is owed the Palestinians — the gift of truth and candor as well as material help.

Arab poets used to write reverential verse in praise of the boys of the stones and the suicide bombers. Now the poetry has subsided, replaced by a silent recognition of the malady that afflicts the Palestinians. Except among the most bigoted and willful of Arabs, there is growing acknowledgment of the depth of the Palestinian crisis. And aside from a handful of the most romantic of Israelis, there is a recognition in that society, as well, of the malignancy of the national movement a stone’s throw away.

The mainstream in Israel had made its way to a broad acceptance of Palestinian statehood. In the 1990s, Yitzhak Rabin, the soldier who had led its army into acquisition of the West Bank and Gaza in the Six-Day War of 1967, told his people that it was time to partition the land and to accept Palestinian sovereignty. It was an unsentimental peace, to “get Gaza out of Tel Aviv,” as Mr. Rabin put it, but it was peace nonetheless.

In varying degrees, all of Mr. Rabin’s successors accepted this legacy. There was even a current in Israel possessed of a deep curiosity about the Palestinians, a romance of sorts about their ways and folk culture and their connection to the sacred land. All this is stilled. Palestinian society has now gone where no “peace processors” or romantic poets dare tread.

Fouad Ajami, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, is the author of The Foreigner’s Gift: The Americans, the Arabs and the Iraqis in Iraq.

A friend referred to this article as nihilistic. It’s realistic. And we have to start from there, not from the blow-back creating fantasies about how if we just turn on the money spigot aimed in the “right” direction, things will turn around. Any money from the West, means the right to intervene, in education, in media, in the demand that Palestinian society become, like Germany and Japan after WWII, an unarmed state. It might be a blow to their pride, but that seems like an awfully small price to pay when the alternative is destructive madness.

Dennis Ross, Master of LCE, Grapples with Gruesome Gaza

Dennis Ross is at it again. One of the major architects of the Oslo catastrophe is back with more (slightly modified) liberal cognitive egocentrism for hope addicts.

Statecraft: Frame Work
by Dennis Ross
Only at TNR Online
Post date: 06.18.07

In January, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice proclaimed her seriousness about trying to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. She declared that she had heard the calls of many of her colleagues internationally for the United States to become active again and push for Middle East peace. Since then, she has taken four trips to the region and met with her Quartet partners numerous times to promote agreement on a political horizon for the Israelis and Palestinians–an agreement on the contours of a permanent status settlement.

With the collapse of Fatah forces in Gaza, however, that horizon seems more distant than ever. Hamastan appears to describe the reality there now, making questions about permanent status or concessions to refugees largely irrelevant for the time being. We should not yet give up on the idea of brokering a comprehensive ceasefire between the Israelis and Palestinians, but the focus now must shift to the competition between Fatah and Hamas.

More distant than [Dennis Ross and Condoleeza Rice] ever [believed].

I have no illusions about the difficulty of either task. And, in particular, I understand that Hamas might only prefer a ceasefire that provides it a respite or one they get on the cheap. If so, there would be no ceasefire. But it ought to be tested. While Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has declared an end to the national unity government, I have little doubt that he will be talking to Hamas in the relatively near future. His instinct and style are not to confront. And before he accepts a de facto situation in which Hamas seeks to govern Gaza and he seeks to govern the West Bank, he will explore what, if any, understandings are possible with Hamas.

I pass on Mr. Ross’ protestations of being grounded in reality. One does, however, get the distinct sense that Abbas talking with Hamas is, in his mind, a good move. In other words, no matter how atrociously they behave, no matter how they’ll use the respite to make the next round of violence still more vicious, keep talking, keep trying to implement ceasefires.

With Israel desiring an end to rocket attacks, Hamas possibly deciding that it also needs calm (if for no other reason than to consolidate its hold on Gaza), and Fatah concluding that it can hardly remake itself while struggling with Hamas, there still could be a convergence of interest in having a real ceasefire. As Abbas falls back to talking to Hamas, it will make sense to probe whether a detailed understanding on a ceasefire with real obligations and real consequences for non-performance are possible.

Other than the rewards for violence such a course would grant Hamas, what “real consequences” for non-performance does Ross envision?

But, even should a comprehensive ceasefire prove possible, it is essential to understand the larger reality in which it might take place: Competition between Fatah and Hamas in the West Bank is going to continue, as Hamas seeks to take over all the institutions of Palestinian political life–the Palestinian National Council, the PLO, the presidency of the Palestinian Authority, and the Legislative Council. If Hamas wins this competition, it won’t matter whether there is a ceasefire or even if there is a political horizon. Hamas won’t accept a two-state solution or coexistence; at most it will go along with periods of lull, perhaps even extended periods. But in the long run it is unlikely either to accept peace or renounce struggle and resistance.

Alright. Now let’s see how long he can keep this idea in his mind…

So it is the competition with Hamas that should be our preoccupation. The United States should work with all the other donors to the Palestinians, and especially the Saudis and the Gulf states, to invest in those younger Fatah members who are prepared to organize themselves at the grassroots level and re-brand Fatah as a clean organization responsive to the needs of the Palestinian public. This is where the social, economic, and political competition will be won with Hamas, if it is to be won, particularly in the West Bank where Fatah still has the upper hand.

We’re back to the logic of Oslo. Arafat was the moderate we wanted to “strengthen” with concessions. Ross is precisely the kind of simple-minded naïf that Drybones targeted: if Hamas is extremist, then Fatah must be moderate… no?

And what does “responsive to the needs of the Palestinian public” mean? I know that for Ross and other liberal cognitive egocentrists, it means concern for their material welfare, for pursuing peace and prosperity — what we mean by a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” But what if it means responsive to the need of the Palestinian “street” for honor, for some kind of victory against the humiliating Israeli occupier of “Palestine from the river to the sea.”

Secretary Rice’s focus, unfortunately, is elsewhere. To be fair, her interest in a political horizon is at least partly shaped by her assessment that Fatah can be most helped by showing that there is a political way to end Israeli occupation and that Fatah can deliver it while Hamas cannot. She has a point. If the Palestinian public believes that Fatah offers a pathway to achieving their national aspirations and Hamas does not, Fatah would have an advantage. But when Fatah is perceived as corrupt and non-responsive to the public and unable to improve the day-to-day realities, the Palestinian public also tends to question whether Fatah is capable of delivering anything. A political horizon that is disconnected from the current realities that Palestinians are experiencing will lack credibility.

So Ross still swallows the “Palestinian narrative” whole. This is about “national aspirations” and the “occupied territory” is on the other side of the Green Line. The Palestinian people are a civil society waiting to happen, and if only Fatah would show its civic face — no (or much less) corruption, and moderation in dealing with Israel — they’d have the support of the people. I’d like to believe that too. But there’s precious little that supports such a generous reading of a public capable of supporting suicide terror upwards of 70% when hostilities break out.

This fantasy — the basic supposition of Olso — wasn’t the case during that “Peace Process” which, under Ross’s zealous guidance, proceeded without a peep of protest (or even warning) about how Fatah and Hamas were both preparing for war. Such criticism, he deemed, would only disturb the peace process.

President Bush is planning to give a speech this month on the Arab-Israeli conflict. There are those in the administration, like Rice, who prefer the speech to be a blueprint for a resolution of the conflict–or at least an American definition of the political horizon with the essential core tradeoffs on Jerusalem, refugees, and borders spelled out. Given the current situation in Gaza, however, such a speech could actually be counterproductive. Even if the U.S. plan for resolving the conflict could work if the circumstances were right, the circumstances are most certainly not right at the moment. An unrealistic plan will surely be criticized–tainting potentially good ideas that might work later.

I hope that the speech will focus less on the political horizon and more on the challenge now facing Palestinians; they must decide what their identity is going to be. Will there still be a national movement seeking a secular Palestinian state that accepts a two-state solution, or will the Palestinian national cause lose its uniquely Palestinian identity as it is transformed into a religious movement whose aim is to be part of the “umma”? This is the issue, and it should be framed accordingly.

This is a good point, although poorly framed. It assumes that the “secular, national” movement was the base of Palestinian aspirations, and is now turning into a religious movement. I’d state the issue differently: Are Palestinians ready, once and for all, to renounce their malignant “nationalism” in which the only way they can gain self-respect is by eliminating Israel. Are they ready, at long last, to genuinedly adopt the demopathic discourse they’ve been throwing in our eyes for so long. Since Ross was one of the most egregious victims of their systematic pretense to moderation, it would be nice were he to be a bit more forceful here. Otherwise, it’s just an invitation to treat him again like the dupe he’s been so far.

[Dennis Ross is counselor and Ziegler distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and author of Statecraft: And How to Restore America’s Standing in the World. ]

Solomonia Interviews Jeff Robbins about the Boston Mosque Affair

Solomonia has a fascinating interview with Jeff Robbins, the attorney who defended several of the individuals and groups whom the Islamic Society of Boston sued for defamation (now dropped) for daring to criticize the building of a large mosque in Roxbury. Of the many interesting exchanges, the one I cite below discusses the issue of whether or not the criticisms of opponents of the mosque were an attack on Islam — i.e., the dreaded Islamophobia.

Q: There’s been a lot of talk about people being against “Muslims.” They tried to stop a mosque, The David Project is stirring up bad feelings about Muslims. Is it about Muslims?

A: Look, I saw no evidence that it was ever about Muslims at all. On the contrary, all you have to do to realize how ludicrous that is is to think about who did the ISB sue? They sued a very courageous Islamic Cleric, Ahmed Mansour, and they accused him of having a “non-authoritative” view of Islam. Of all the ugly aspects of this lawsuit — the decision to file it, the allegations that were made, the strategy of suing people in order to intimidate them into silence — in some ways nothing was uglier than the decision that was made by whoever it was that made it, whether it was made in Saudi Arabia or Washington, D.C. by Mr. Bray or elsewhere, the decision to sue and to frighten Ahmed Mansour and through him other moderate Muslims into staying silent is to my mind one of the most grotesque aspects of this lawsuit.

Here’s a man who was jailed in the Middle East for having spoken out in favor of pluralism and respect for democracy and tolerance for other religions. He comes to the United States and gets political asylum. He goes into the current ISB mosque and he sees literature which is exactly, to his mind, the kind of stuff that made him disgusted and outraged in the Middle East, and he thinks “How can this be? How can this be in my new country?” and he has the courage to speak out. Let there be no mistake. The decision to sue Ahmed Mansour, like the decision to sue Anna Kolodner, Steve Emerson, Bill Sapers and the journalists, was borne of a desire to bully people into submission. I understand why the day after they were forced to cave in the ISB did its best to try to peddle this as an attack against Muslims. It was no such thing. It was their attack. And it was their attack on Muslims, and on Christians and Jews. I joked to some people that where the ISB sued a Muslim Cleric, a Christian Political Science professor, and a Jewish daughter of Holocaust survivors, they had managed to achieve the perfect ecumenical exercise. They were trying to bully everybody, without regard to their religion.

Palestinians Tell their Story: Innocent Victims of Israeli Aggression

Someone forwarded to me a posting at the Al Awda listserv, a chronology of Palestinian resistance. Rather than reproduce the entire chronology which goes back to the 1880s, and presents Arab violence as noble resistance to Zionist aggression, I’ll just reproduce the final entries, some of the most revealing aspects of the “narrative” that Palestinians tell themselves about who they are and who the Israelis are:


2001, August 10: In an unprecedented step, the Israeli occupation forces raided the Orient House, the headquarters of the Palestinian team to the Peace talks, and the seat of the multilateral talks. The Palestinian flag was pulled down and the Israeli flag was hoisted in its place. All files related to the negotiations, along with other classified documents were also confiscated. Other Palestinian institutions linked to the Orient House were also closed.

Now one would never know from this “chronology” that the previous day the “Palestinian resistance” had carried out a “martyrdom operation” in which a religious fanatic had entered a pizza parlor with a bomb packed in a guitar case and blown up the place, killing 15 (including 7 children) and wounding 150. And unfortunately, that morally revolting deed, widely celebrated by Palestinians, was not in any way “unprecedented.” At no point in the chronology is one such “martyrdom operation” mentioned. Only the dastardly oppression of the Israelis.

2002, March 28: The Arab League summit promised Israel peace, security and normal relations in return for a full withdrawal from Arab lands occupied since 1976, the establishment of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital and a ‘fair solution’ for the Palestinian refugees. In response, Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield on the following day against the Palestinians in the West Bank.

2002, June/July: Israel launched Operation Determined Path to reoccupy the West Bank areas handed to the PA following the Oslo accords.

Again, by not mentioning the March 27th attack on the Park Hotel on Passover eve, we get a Palestinian narrative where they are part of a good-will effort to make peace, and those awful Israelis just respond with more violence. The key phrase “in response” (to Arab peace offers, rather than to a staggering campaign of ruthless terror aimed specifically at civilian populations), speaks volumes about how the Palestinians tell themselves their victim narrative. It might be too much to ask them — even sophisticated ones like the folks at Al Awda — to show even the most remote levels of self-criticism and fairness to Israelis. But there’s no reason on earth why outsiders should grant such shamelessly dishonest “memories” any credence whatsoever.

2007: Painful and shameful fighting broke out between Palestinian factions killing and wounding hundreds of Palestinians.

And that’s it folks. Nothing in the chronology from 2002 to 2007. Out of nowhere we get “shameful, painful…” fratricide, but not a trace of real self-criticism. Not a word on the cult of death and genocidal hatred that the Palestinian “resistance” had created to destroy Israel, which now, frustrated by the “apartheid wall” and the pervasive checkpoints, turns in on itself and devours Palestinian society.

So speak Palestinian demopaths and their Western “progressive” enablers. Is there any reason we should be dupes to such poisonous mythology?

How to Respond to Islamism: Self Respect

Will Hutton has an excellent oped in the Guardian (of all places) which makes critical points about the importance of Western self-respect. Hattip: fp.

Why the West must stay true to itself

The only way we can live together peaceably with Islam is if we don’t compromise our own values

Will Hutton
Sunday June 17, 2007
The Observer

The convictions of Banaz Mahmod’s father and uncle for murder – an ‘honour killing’ carried out because the 20-year-old had left her husband to love a man outside her tribe – has properly provoked a massive outcry. It was horrifying; it was preventable; it was alien. But for some the subtext is that it was also connected to the family’s religion – Islam.

Britain’s relationship with its Muslim community is not getting any easier. Many Muslims want to build mosques, schools, and adhere to Islamic dress codes with ever more energy. But that energy also derives from the same culture and accompanying institutions that produced British-born suicide bombers. The space in which to argue that Islam is an essentially benign religion seems to narrow with every passing day.

Now only a few months ago, that would have prompted cries of racism and Islamophobia, among other things, from the editors of the Guardian itself.

On the subject of aggressive expressions of Islam linked to suicide terrorism (and the incapacity of the politically correct to detect the connections, see the remark of a British woman who, after 9-11 and 7-7, had a strong urge to show her commitment to Islam pubicly.

    “I have a better understanding of Islam now, just growing up. The 7/7 and 9/11 events did make me think more about my identity, and although it didn’t change the strength of my faith, I’ve always been a strong believer, it made me want to assert my alliance… Now I wear the headscarf to say, ‘yes I am a Muslim and it is an important part of my identity and it shouldn’t be threatening to you…’” Female, Muslim, 21, Birmingham

As I commented at the time the study in which she was quoted first came out,

    if people from my religion did something like 7/7 and 9/11, I’d want to either crawl under the rug and hide, or denounce the deed to the heavens. This young woman (15 when 9/11 happened) responds radically differently: these monstrosities inspire her not to greater piety, but to want to state her religious affiliation all the more. What is the meaning of being proud to be Muslim after suicide bombings carried out by fanatics shouting Allahu Akhbar shatter the lives of thousands of innocent people? And where on earth does one get the nerve to say, “it shouldn’t be threatening to you.” And who in England is stupid enough to take such a “reassurance” seriously?

The people who did the study didn’t get it. Now we seem to be waking up.

Nor are matters likely to get better soon. The leading European theorist on Islam is Paris-based Professor Olivier Roy. In Globalised Islam, he argues that Muslims everywhere, but especially the minorities living in the West, are undergoing a crisis of identity that is easily misunderstood by both the West and Islam itself as being about the integrity of religious faith. But it is better not to understand a British recruit to suicide bombing like Mohammad Sidique Khan, the leader of the 7 July attacks in London, or even al-Qaeda, in terms of their self-professed religiosity. Instead they are about a crisis of Islamic identity which makes mutual tolerance ever more elusive.

Roy’s belief is that the deep driver of Islamic fundamentalism, terror and murderous intra-religious rivalries is the interaction of this very particular culture and its norms with Western culture and norms.

Or, as I would put it, the conflict between an honor-shame culture (and religion), in which I can only be “up” if you are “down,” where the crisis of faith comes from the dependence of faith on dominance. Confronted by the obvious superiority of the West in so many realms — wealth and knowledge production, military might, cultural influence — Muslim feelings of helpless inferiority translate readily into rage. If you (the West, a fortiori, Israel) blacken my face, I can only whiten it with violence. Competition on “your” Western terms is itself defeat.

Those who think that what we are observing is solely a blowback against Western foreign policy, the invasion of Iraq and Israeli’s treatment of Palestinians vastly underestimate the profundity of what is happening – or the possibility of changing it by changes to foreign policy. The tensions between Islam, the British and the West have much deeper roots.

Can Islamic theology and culture compete with the march of globalisation, Western values and their self-evident superiority in delivering a prosperity that Islam cannot match? The West provokes Islam not by doing anything, although what it does is hardly helpful; it provokes at least some strands of Islamic thought simply by being.

Just as the 21st-century West has little place for traditional views of manhood, for example, so generating a crisis of masculinity, so it has little place for some interpretations of Islamic canons – provoking an Islamist fundamentalism in response. Western animal rights and green activists lose all sense of proportion in their violent campaigns because a personal agenda over how they assert their identity in today’s world is in play; so Islamic jihadists lose their sense of proportionality in the same way.

The invocations of the Koran and Allah to justify suicide and death may sound like throwbacks; in fact they are utterly contemporary. They signify globalised Islam responding to modernity and the success of the West. Thus a golden, global thread links the militant jihadists in Britain, the Taliban-like fundamentalism of the Hamas militias who have just taken over in Gaza and the rise of Wahhabi schools everywhere.

It is a complex if depressing thesis, but it is brilliantly driven home by an important article in this month’s Prospect on Mohammad Sidique Khan. If you think Sidique plotted 7 July and took his life only because, as he said in the video clip released after his death, ‘we are at war and I am a soldier’, think again. The underlying reasons were much more to do with identity and culture.

Shiv Malik, who undertook months of research into the Sidique story for an aborted BBC drama documentary, explains that political jihadism occupies only one quarter of Sidique’s taped message. The rest is about settling deeply personal scores that related to his identity and experience as a second generation immigrant. This was a man who had been cut off from his family for marrying out because at first he had rejected Islamic norms, and who, in relative social isolation, had been recruited by tried and tested means into a jihadist network – an effective way of making sense of his circumstances, finding friendship and fighting back both as an individual and as a member of a culture. Thus the tape’s savage indictment of his community leaders and scholars; they looked for material wellbeing before the rigours of truly following Allah. Sidique would show them how.

The message from Roy and Malik is bleak. There is no quick fix. Nor should the West too readily accept at face value demands to accept Islamic dress codes, protocols over food, the cultural context of honour killings, Islamic schools and Sharia law. The virulence and sometimes violence with which these demands are made are not because of religiosity or genuine grievance which we should respect; they are ways of responding to a profound identity crisis and should be understood as such.

I recently heard Aayan Hirsi Ali, author of Infidel and The Caged Virgin, speak of her experience of being brought up in Somalia under the restrictive doctrines of the Koran. As she explains she remains a Muslim, but one with a Western attitude of proper scepticism to her religion. She has found a new identity, but she needed the West not to compromise on its values while she made the journey.

There are many years of tension ahead. There needs to be an equitable settlement between Israel and Palestine not because of hopes it will halt Islamic fundamentalism or al-Qaeda but because we believe in equity. To respond to jihadism by declaring a war on terror was wrong; to make war on a crisis of identity is crass. Jihadist terror is a security issue. Peace will only arrive in the Middle East and Leeds when many more Muslims arrive at Hirsi Ali’s destination. And that will only happen if the West never gives ground on its values, and never accepts it has sole responsibility for the tensions. The violent engagement with modernity by some strands within Islam is inescapable. We should certainly avoid inflaming matters with injustices such as Guantanamo Bay. But we cannot and should not stop being ourselves.

He gets a bit flabby at the end. In comparison with what Islam does to violent enemies, Guantanamo is a cakewalk. By our peacetime standards, it’s not right. But we should never let Muslims invoke our (by their standards) minor offenses in order to accuse us of wartime behavior that stands head and shoulders above theirs.

But to do that, we have to be able to at once criticize ourselves while keeping a sense of proportion and pride in the astonishing accomplishments of our culture which, however (inevitably) flawed, nonetheless has shown a remarkable dedication to freedom and humane respect for “the other.” We may have a long way to go, but to imagine that we’ve not already come a long way — and much farther than Islamic cultures — is to throw away a precious and rare accomplishment.