21 February 2015

The intellectual terrorism of BDS

From JPost, 20 Feb 2015:

The intellectual terrorism of ...BDS

Never has the divide between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism been so slender. Two more attacks, in Copenhagen and then London, have eradicated what was left of the distance between these two racist phenomena.

On the one hand,  there was another inciteful attack from the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) brigade...And on the other hand,  there was another double attack by anti-Western and anti-Semitic terrorism, executed by Omar Abdel-Hamid el-Hussein in Denmark.

BDS is about the silencing of Israelis through boycott. El-Hussein targeted a conference on freedom of speech to silence people through gunfire.

The BDS movement ...is not seeking a fair settlement of a two-state solution; it is not seeking peace, nor does it seek to end the occupation. It seeks the destruction of Israel, its elimination. Just like that.

The two leaders of the movement, Omar Barghouti and Ali Abunimah, clarify this in the clearest and most vocal way possible.  ...If the BDS claims are correct, if Israel really has committed the unique historical crime of ethnic cleansing, if Israel is indeed committing genocide, if Israel is based on systematic apartheid, if Israel is indeed a Nazi state, and if the Jews really do control the world, one can understand and even justify terrorism against Israel and the Jews.

The thing is that el-Hussein and the supporters of BDS are products of the same inciteful propaganda and lies. It did not start this week. One inciteful propagandist, Ran HaCohen, described Israel as a state that fulfilled Hitler's vision. Another propagandist, Yitzhak Laor, claimed in a prestigious British journal that Israel does not need gas chambers because it destroys the Palestinians by increasing infant mortality.

These are not criticisms, they are blood libels. This is the way of the BDS movement, spreading lies incessantly, from expressions of horror over what happened in 1948 to what is happening these days in Israel.

For the benefit of those who do not know the truth, here are the facts: In 1948, it was the Arabs who declared a war of extermination against the Jews. It was the Jews in Arab countries who suffered from pogroms. It was these Jews who were dispossessed of their property, who were expelled and became refugees. It was the Europeans in those years, with Churchill at their head, who declared repeatedly that the way to resolve conflicts was through the expulsion of populations to create nation-states. The nation state of the Jewish people also arose because the international community had adopted the principle of self-determination. The Arab world persisted in its refusal to recognize Israel. In the 1960s, the rhetoric of all the leaders of the Arab world was stepped up into the near annihilation of Israel.

Israel did not want to occupy. It had to defend herself, once again, from the threat of annihilation. The Palestinians under Israeli rule - including those in Judea and Samaria, and previously Gaza, and those who are Israeli citizens - enjoy stability and many more rights than in any other country in the Middle East. Their life expectancy has risen to an amazing level, and is now the highest in the Arab world. Infant mortality among the population fell, and is now the lowest in the Arab world. From precisely zero universities in 1967, the Palestinians are now in first place for higher education in the Arab world.

Yes, they have a right to a state alongside Israel and not in place of Israel. But it was the Palestinians who over the last decades rejected again and again any proposal that would lead to this state. They insisted on the "right of return", which appears as one of the three central requirements of the BDS movement.

It's interesting that more than 52 million people became refugees, including more than 20 million in Europe, in these same post-WWII years. Not one of them was granted the "right of return" - the European Court of Human Rights rejected the very idea. But the BDS... continue to make every effort to prevent any chance of peace, and to immortalize Palestinian rejectionism.

I could go on. There are more lies all the time, such as the new fairytale propaganda video from BDS, which aims to prove claims of apartheid by stating that Israeli Jewish students receive an annual budget of $ 1,110, compared to just $ 191 for non-Jewish students. Where the hell did they get this lie? If this is true, Mr. Waters, I hereby agree to join the boycott against Israel. But this is yet another lie, just like all your propaganda is based on lies and more lies. Once these were lies against Jews. ...these lies are against Jews and against Israel.

El-Hussein in Denmark exposed these lies. He was convinced that Israel was committing genocide. He was convinced that Israel is an apartheid state. After all, the lie of "Israel's 50 apartheid laws" is repeated often. And he was not content with just signing a petition.

If Israel and the Jews are so evil, if they are a Nazi monster - as the BDS movement, Roger Waters and Hamas say over and over and over again - then he was definitely justified in taking action, not only against Jews, but against infidels in West everywhere.

It's not just the BDS ...There are too many media outlets and intellectuals in the West who revisit the lies again and again. This is not criticism, this is incitement. This is intellectual terrorism.

One can compare the Nazi era and the modern day; the anti-Zionists are particularly fond of this comparison. But it should be placed in the correct context: the anti-Semitic indoctrination of those days, which was based on more and more lies, and the transformation of Jews into monsters, is no different from the brainwashing of today, which is based on more and more lies, and the transformation of Israel into a monster.

Of course one can criticize Israel. In Israel itself, there is a lively debate. Most Israelis support painful compromise, and oppose the continuation of the settlement enterprise. In Israel itself, anti-Israel and anti-Zionist ideas are expressed - because Israel is a democracy.

Israel is far from perfect. There are also exceptions. Wars also harm innocent people, which is always very unfortunate. One must add at this point, that according to a study by the American Public Health Association (APHA), 85-90% of victims of conflict since World War II have been civilians. This also applies to conflicts of recent decades involving NATO armies, the US and Britain. Even if the findings of the APHA are exaggerated, and even if all the allegations against Israel are right - and they are not right - the IDF causes far less harm than any other army in the world.

These are the facts. But ...Omar Abdel-Hamid el-Hussein, the BDS movement and Hamas nurture the idea that Israel and/or the Jews are monsters that stalk the earth. The brainwashing was a success. Hundreds of artists in the UK this week joined calls for a boycott of Israel. It's not just that the lies won, but the purpose of the BDS movement is also to silence anyone who wants to refute those lies. This means, for example, a boycott of Israeli academics.

This is the meaning of the attacks against the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris and against the freedom of expression conference in Copenhagen. Intellectual terrorism and murderous terrorism have a shared goal. Both el-Hussein, BDS ...are a real threat to freedom of thought and the free world. They cultivate hatred; they cultivate silencing people; they give legitimacy to violence.

Brainwashing, lies and incitement against Jews have already won once. In the world of ...BDS, Hamas and el-Hussein, it could happen again.

20 February 2015

How Western "Friends of Palestine" harms the Palestinian Arabs

From Commentary, 18 Feb 2015, by Evlyn C Gordon:

... the West’s obsession with Israel’s treatment of the "Palestinians" helps perpetuate global misery by diverting attention from people in far greater distress (think Syrians or South Sudanese). 
...[and also]  also perpetuates suffering among the one group it’s ostensibly supposed to help–the "Palestinians". 

Three Jerusalem Post reports over the last week show why.

One warned that a leading Palestinian hospital is at risk of closure because of a $30 million debt. A major reason for this debt is that for years, the Palestinian Authority has failed to pay Mokassed Hospital for many of the patients it treats. This isn’t because the PA lacked money; it has ample funds to pay generous salaries to thousands of terrorists sitting in Israeli jails. Rather, it’s a matter of priorities: On the PA’s scale of values, paying terrorists for killing Israelis is evidently more important than paying doctors for healing Palestinians.

Almost 40 percent of the PA’s budget consists of foreign aid, with the vast majority coming from Western countries. The West is therefore uniquely placed to pressure the PA to alter its spending priorities. But it has never tried to do any such thing, because it only cares about what Israel does or doesn’t do.

Thus one factor that has recently exacerbated Mokassed’s problems has elicited worldwide condemnations: Israel’s withholding of tax revenues from the PA over the last two months in response to the latter’s egregious violations of the Oslo Accords, including joining the International Criminal Court. Yet even if Israel handed over that money tomorrow, there’s no reason to think the PA would suddenly start using it to pay Mokassed when it never did so in all the years before Israel halted the transfers.

In short, pressuring Israel won’t actually solve the problem; only pressuring the PA would do that. But since the West doesn’t care what the PA does, Palestinian patients will continue to suffer.

In the second report, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon criticized the PA for failing to take control of Gaza’s border crossings as it promised to do after last summer’s war. This failure, he noted, has greatly delayed Gaza’s reconstruction, since the reconstruction mechanism devised by the UN and Western donors mandated PA control of the crossings in an effort to minimize diversions of dual-use materials to Hamas’s war machine.

But because Israel has never sealed its border with Hamas-controlled Gaza completely–it has sent in 62,000 tons of construction supplies since August despite the PA’s absence from the crossings–the real hardship has occurred along the Egyptian border. The Rafah border crossing is Gaza’s main gateway to the world, but it has been closed almost hermetically for months, because Cairo considers Hamas a terrorist organization and refuses to reopen Rafah as long as Hamas controls it.

A particularly horrific consequence ensued in November, when an 11-year-old Palestinian died because the Rafah closure prevented her from entering Egypt for needed medical treatment. So why didn’t she go to Israel instead? Because Hamas refuses to talk to Israel directly, so requests for medical entry permits from Gaza are sent through the PA. But according to Razan al-Halkawi’s relatives, the PA refused to forward her request because it was embroiled in one of its periodic spats with Hamas.

In short, the PA refused to do what was needed to enable al-Halkawi to get treatment in either Egypt or Israel. And so she died.

As the PA’s major donor, the West could be pressing the Palestinians to live up to their post-war commitments. But it won’t, because if Israel can’t be blamed, it doesn’t care.

Report number three: Thousands of Palestinians who bought homes in the new Palestinian city of Rawabi can’t move in because the city isn’t connected to the water system. Why? Because all West Bank water projects need approval by the Israeli-Palestinian Joint Water Committee, which the PA has refused to convene for the last five years. Evidently, it would rather deprive its own people of better housing than agree to meet with Israeli officials.

Here, too, the West could use its financial leverage to press the PA to convene the panel and let Rawabi open. But it hasn’t, because if Israel can’t be blamed, it’s not interested.

In short, in numerous cases where the West could use its leverage over the PA to better the lot of ordinary Palestinian [Arab]s, it has refused to do so, because it only cares about Israel’s actions. And thus the biggest victims of the West’s Israel obsession have ended up being not Israelis, but the Palestinian [Arab]s themselves.

18 February 2015

Palestinian moves to join ICC have nothing to do with justice

RECENT Palestinian moves to join the International Criminal Court are one more step in the decades-long campaign to vilify Israel and brand it in world opinion as “evil incarnate”.
It is a direct continuation of the “placard strategy” of anti-Israel activism, whereby Israel and Zionism are equated — whether in demonstration placards, speeches or writings — with a series of words: colonialism, apartheid, ethnic cleansing and genocide. These words are not chosen because they somehow reflect ­reality but because they are universally considered evil.
The effect of the continuous repeating of Zionism/Israel = Evil is to create an intellectual environment in which physically ridding the world of Israel would be considered desirable, even noble.
The purpose of the Palestinian moves in the ICC is to achieve official international sanction for branding Israel with the term “war criminal”, thereby adding an internationally sanctioned legitimacy to the placards used to vilify Israel and Zionism.
The purpose is not to seek justice by bringing certain Israeli officials to trial before the ICC but achieving an officially sanctioned international consensus that Israel, as a whole, is a war criminal country. As such, the resulting implication is that its entire existence is illegitimate.
This is a process that renowned human rights activist and former Canadian ­justice minister Irwin Cotler has named “laundering”: the campaign to delegitimise Israel and Zionism is “laundered” through the international human rights ­institutions. Given that this is the deep purpose of the Palestinian ­efforts to join the ICC and ­prosecute Israel through it, any effective response must address this deeper issue, rather than the issue on the surface: the ostensible legal battle.
Israel has invested substantial diplomatic capital in trying to prevent the Palestinians first joining the ICC and now in trying to prevent the ICC from accepting their status as a full-fledged state.
The most common interpretation of the Israeli efforts to prevent the Palestinians acceding to the ICC is that Israel is afraid of being “found out”. Most people assume that if Israel had nothing to hide it would not be so concerned; ergo, it has something to hide from the ICC. The ICC tries war crimes, meaning therefore that Israel must indeed be a “war criminal country” if it is so concerned about it. The Palestinians are achieving the goals of their ICC campaign — to vilify Israel in international opinion — before they have even been accepted to the ICC.
But Israel’s concerns about Palestinian accession to the ICC are not about being “found out” but rather about the failure of the UN and international treaty system of human rights to give Israel a fair trial. This is one of the greatest failures of the UN and treaty-based system of human rights.
There is no justice for Israel in the UN. There is definitely no justice for Israel in the Orwellian-named Human Rights Council. And there will be no justice for Israel in the ICC.
Israel is concerned about Palestinian accession to the ICC because it knows that no matter what it has done, what it does and what it will do, it will be found guilty.
The UN system and the international judicial system are structurally incapable of fairly judging Israel because they are numbers-based systems: one country, no matter how vile, one vote.
Israel has one vote. The Arab League countries have 21, the Muslim countries have 56. They have voted, and will always vote, against Israel. With such a high share of the votes they get still more countries to support them.
The outcome of this simple maths is that in all the UN bodies where the US cannot exercise its veto power, Israel remains alone, unprotected, and is regularly ganged up on by the countries that have the preponderant numbers.
Half of all condemnations issued by the UN Human Rights Council have been against Israel, equal to the rest of the world combined. Moreover, the condemnations against Israel are always absolute, whereas condemnation against other countries is usually softened with caveats and commendations for their supposed efforts to do better.
The same is true of the UN General Assembly — half of its ­decisions historically have been directed against Israel. The ICC, which has failed to establish itself as an impartial and credible body, is likely to do no better if it were ­allowed to attempt to judge and punish Israel.
The tragic irony is that much of the UN and its treaty-based system of human rights was created to counter the darkness of the Holocaust, then grossly misinterpreted and abused against the world’s only Jewish state, ­Israel.
Einat Wilf is a senior fellow with the Jewish People Policy Institute and an adjunct fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

09 February 2015

Obama sets a course to hell in the Middle East

From The New English Review, February 2015, by Jerry Gordon:

Raymond Stock
To discuss Egypt's prospects under the Abdel Fattah al-Sisi government, we invited back Dr. Raymond Stock ... (See: No Blinders About Egypt Under Muslim Brotherhood ). Stock is a Shillman/Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and a former Assistant Professor of Arabic and Middle East Studies at Drew University. He spent twenty years in Egypt and was deported by the Mubarak regime in 2010. He is writing a biography of 1988 Egyptian Nobel laureate in literature Naguib Mahfouz (1911-2006) for Farrar, Straus and Giroux and is a prolific translator of his works.

...Jerry Gordon: Egyptian President al-Sisi started 2015 with two dramatic moves- his New Year's speech at al-Azhar University and Christmas greetings at a Coptic church with Pope Tawadros II present. What were the messages he conveyed to Muslim clerics, Coptic Christians and the world?

Raymond Stock: At al-Azhar, President al-Sisi was saying it is not merely an extremist interpretation of Islam that is threatening the world with global jihad, but ideas that are at the core of the mainstream, orthodox understanding of the religion--and that this would require a "religious revolution" to change.
"[Al-Sisi] was saying that Islam as it is being taught and practiced by its leading religious scholars has given birth to a globally destructive ideology which is now threatening us all."
At the Coptic Cathedral, he urged Egyptians not to define themselves by their religion, be it Christian or Muslim, but by the fact that they are Egyptians--a rejection of Islamism, which defines national identity in purely religious terms.
To the world, he was saying that Islam as it is being taught and practiced by its leading religious scholars has given birth to a globally destructive ideology which is now threatening us all.
Moreover, he wants to launch a movement within Islam to save the religion from itself, that is, before it tears itself apart completely and the rest of the world destroys it in self-defense.
"And he challenged the clerics to take the lead in that effort by openly re-examining their own teachings and source materials for interpreting Islam."
And he challenged the clerics to take the lead in that effort by openly re-examining their own teachings and source materials for interpreting Islam.

...Gordon: Following, al-Sisi's ouster of President Morsi and crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood leaders, what has happened to the movement in Egypt?

Stock: Though deservedly banned as a terrorist group, its top leaders in jail and the rest driven underground or abroad, it is far from dead and remains a threat to the Egyptian state and society. Its refusal to accept the June 30 popular revolution (far larger than the one that overthrew Mubarak), parental bonds to Hamas, financial support from Qatar and wealthy Gulf donors (and possibly Iran), partnership with the Salafis and ideological affinity and outreach to groups like al-Qa'ida and Islamic Jihad have served it well in retaining its base while gaining sympathy--especially internationally.
"[The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood] is far from dead and remains a threat to the Egyptian state and society."
Though all these factors--plus its horrendous behavior in power--have greatly alienated the majority of Egyptians, they are for the most part also its greatest assets for the future, if they can only survive the current storm. As they have shown in several major periods of repression in the past--the most severe being under Abdel-Nasser--they only need to endure until there is successor to al-Sisi, who may decide to restore the MB to political legitimacy as a means of fighting al-Sisi's remaining political allies. (Anwar al-Sadat, for example, freed the MB activists from prison to combat the surviving members of Abdel-Nasser's coterie.) Such a situation could put them in striking distance of taking power again.

Meanwhile, the MB has global headquarters in Istanbul and London, is very influential in Europe, and has enormously increased its penetration at the federal, state and local levels all over the US. As part of this, it has deeply bonded with the highest levels of the Obama administration, which uncritically backed its creation of an elected, one-party dictatorship under Morsi. Obama evidently seeks to help the MB to return to power in Egypt—as shown, for example, by the State Department's recent hosting of a conference of MB allies at Foggy Bottom, though it may take a while. Al-Sisi probably only has a year or two to turn the economy around before he risks another uprising.

"[The Muslim Brotherhood] has deeply bonded with the highest levels of the Obama administration, which uncritically backed its creation of an elected, one-party dictatorship under Morsi."
The goal of the terrorist insurgency is to discourage foreign investment and stifle the stimulus provided by major government projects such as the new second channel to the Suez Canal to aid the recovery from the last four years of chaos. This, they hope, will pave the way for new popular upheaval which they hope to manipulate if not lead.

Gordon: Has the Islamic State supplanted the Salafist and Muslim Brotherhood movements?

Stock: In a sense, yes, but the situation is actually quite complex. Ideologically, IS—like al-Qa'ida--is an extension of the Salafist movement and the MB (itself established as a Salafi organization in the Salafi library in Ismailiya, Egypt in 1928). IS, because of its uncompromising Islamist purity, harshness, brutality and its dramatic seizure of so much territory in Iraq and Syria, coupled with its incredibly savvy use of social media, has largely eclipsed all of its predecessors in recruitment of fighters to the Middle East. It also outpaced all of them in its creation of lone wolves and sleeper cells in Europe, America and elsewhere.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group last year.
That includes Egypt, where the MB-and-AQ aligned Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM) organization is responsible for most of the attacks in the country over the past two years. ABM, along with its allies controls much of North Sinai and has declared its allegiance to IS.

The MB, as noted, still retains a very strong base, as does the Salafi al-Nour Party which has pragmatically allied itself with Al-Sisi. The appeal of IS may frustrate their ability to draw younger members--yet it is far from clear that IS will do any better in the long run. So have many of the Islamists in Libya, the eastern half of which IS now controls, and may soon run Tripoli as well. The stunning success of IS provides further inspiration to groups like Boko Haram, which has overrun much of northeastern Nigeria and has recently spread into Cameroon, as well as al-Shabaab in Somalia. IS also now has a presence in southern Afghanistan and beyond. Unless it is destroyed militarily in the very near future--which is virtually impossible so long as Obama is President--IS threatens every state with a significant Muslim population, as well as the West, which is its ultimate target.

Gordon: Al-Sisi has propounded a doctrine of stability for Egypt. What is it and has he succeeded since his election?

Stock: I would say that if al-Sisi truly has established such a doctrine for stability, it would consist of the following:
  1. Anti-Islamism—i.e. a more limited role for Shariah (which is nonetheless still enshrined in the new constitution, yet no longer to be interpreted by the clerics at al-Azhar, but by the government, whose authority and much of its outlook is secular, not religious;
  2. Electoral democracy though with somewhat limited civil liberties, to satisfy both the demand for popular sovereignty and for an end to the endless chaos--strikes and demonstrations (and skyrocketing crime) since the fall of Mubarak in 2011, and to limit the public role of the Islamists, who are at war with Egypt; and
  3. An independent foreign policy—one that still seeks to maintain the traditional alliance with the U.S. and the West, but is not afraid to go elsewhere as needed.
"Obama's backing of the Islamists and his cutting of aid for the past two years have driven al-Sisi to radically diversity Egypt's sources of funding and investment from abroad, including for the first time military aid."
Obama's backing of the Islamists and his cutting of aid for the past two years have driven al-Sisi to radically diversity Egypt's sources of funding and investment from abroad, including for the first time military aid.

For more than three decades, Egypt's military assistance came almost exclusively from Washington, though that is now being surpassed by multi-billion dollar arms deals from Moscow and even to an extent from Beijing, funded by al-Sisi's backers in the Gulf.

That puts the Egyptian-American alliance and its principal benefits—the more than thirty-five year peace with Israel, our priority access to the Suez Canal (now being expanded with a second channel but without US investment), and vital cooperation on security issues—seriously at risk.

Gordon: Some analysts have said that in the wake of the Arab Spring the old order of regional autocracies has re-emerged in an alliance against the Muslim Brotherhood. What is your view and especially in the case of Egypt's North African neighborhood?

Stock: That depends on the country:

  • in North Africa, King Mohammed VI is still in power, but the Muslim Brotherhood has won more seats than the other parties in parliament, a situation echoing that in Jordan, though it is less precarious at present. 
  • Algeria, still recovering from the savage Islamist bloodbath after the Army's annulment of elections in January 1992, was least affected of all the states in the region by the Arab Spring. (Perhaps the only major result there was the lifting of the State of Emergency that had prevailed for nearly two decades, in February 2011.) 
  • Tunisia, where the Arab Spring began in December 2010, threw out its MB-affiliate controlled government in a popular movement backed by the army—in a situation that rather echoed the one in Egypt, and late last year elected a new secularist plurality in parliament and a new secularist president, Béji Caїd Essebsi.
  • In Libya, the feeble central government that we helped install by foolishly removing the vicious, eccentric but cooperative Col. Mu'ammar al-Qaddafi has predictably collapsed. Yet a new secularist-dominated government was elected last June 25 and a pro-secularist remnant of the Qaddafi era, General Khalifa Haftar, for the past year has been at war with the Islamist militias that have been the real powers since 2011. Haftar also wants to destroy the Libyan iteration of the Muslim Brotherhood, root and branch, especially after it launched an armed uprising in eastern Libya following Morsi's ouster in Egypt in 2013. As a result of this chaos, generated by our own needless—or at least, badly botched--intervention in the Arab Spring, the U.S. now has no effective presence in Libya. The security vacuum prompted Egypt and the United Arab Emirates to cooperate in launching air strikes near Tripoli last summer in support of Haftar's forces. IS and other Islamist organizations are now infiltrating weapons and fighters into Egypt from Libya, threatening the country's—and the region's—stability.

In the Eastern Arab world, Egypt's principal allies now are Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who together immediately pledged 12 billion dollars in aid after Morsi's removal, and have given billions more since. All of it and more is desperately needed to compensate for the depletion of Egypt's hard currency reserves, loss of foreign investment and near-destruction of the once lucrative tourist industry that have all continued since the January 25th Revolution against Hosni Mubarak.

Both the Saudis and the Emiratis oppose the MB and Hamas, who—along with Egypt under Morsi—are clients of their Gulf rival, Qatar. America's annual, mainly military package of $1.5 billion seems trifling in comparison (unless viewed cumulatively since it began in 1979). Still, it will be difficult to switch to mainly Russian or Chinese systems--much as the latter may be based on hacked American designs--after so many years of absorbing Yankee equipment and training.

Gordon: What is the emerging change in Egypt's relations with Israel, both geo-political and economic?

Stock: Unlike Morsi and the MB, who worked covertly with the terrorists in Sinai, al-Sisi wholeheartedly supports the peace with Israel. He has greatly increased security cooperation with the Jewish state—which had been endangered in the 2011-12 transition and during the Morsi era—to levels exceeding those under Mubarak. Again, even more than Mubarak, who loathed them too, al-Sisi sees the MB, Hamas and their Islamist allies as threats to Egypt as well as Israel. Likewise, he sees Iran—with whom Morsi sought a rapprochement—as Egypt's greatest strategic adversary in the region.
"Unlike Morsi and the MB, who worked covertly with the terrorists in Sinai, al-Sisi wholeheartedly supports the peace with Israel."
As a result, Egypt is now in an informal alliance with Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to confront Iran. That alliance is compromised, however, by recent moves from Egypt's Gulf partners to mend fences with Iran as a result of their feeling exposed by Washington's alarming pivot toward Tehran at the expense of its traditional Sunni clients.

Meanwhile, though overall Israel-Egypt trade remains minimal (as it had through the decades of cold peace under Mubarak and afterward), energy-strapped Egypt may soon be importing natural gas from Israel's newly-developed Tamar Reservoir in the Mediterranean. Given that Israel used to import natural gas from Egypt via a pipeline shared with Jordan (repeatedly sabotaged physically as well as assailed legally in Egypt since the fall of Mubarak), that is a remarkable turnaround indeed.

...Gordon: Why has the US Administration maintained an arm's length relationship with al-Sisi subsequent to the ouster of Morsi?

"Obama's leftist, rather Edward-Saidian worldview ... sees indigenous anti-Western forces such as the Islamists to be the benignly natural and legitimate consequence of American and European policies during the colonial era and the Cold War."

Stock: It is no doubt due to Obama's leftist, rather Edward-Saidian worldview, which sees indigenous anti-Western forces such as the Islamists to be the benignly natural and legitimate consequence of American and European policies during the colonial era and the Cold War—for which he has apologized repeatedly. He also has a positive, nostalgic view of Islam, given that he was born of a Muslim father and having apparently been raised as one by his step-father during his early childhood in Indonesia, and seems to project this image onto radical groups like the MB who cleverly pose as moderates. He is thus surrounded by numerous pro-Islamist advisers, as well as those who simply take a naïve view of groups like the MB, Hamas and Hizbollah--and even the Taliban (not a new position, but one now getting attention in the news).

It also means that [Obama] denies the common Islamist ideology of all those groups as well as AQ and IS, or even any connection of their beliefs to Islam. This, despite their being made up entirely of Muslims, that they base their ideology and tactics on the Qur'an, Hadith and other key Islamic texts, and that they have a very wide appeal in the global Islamic community. This is even more bizarre if you compare his statements and those of his aides about this question to those of al-Sisi—a Muslim leader of a majority Muslim country—at the seat of Sunni Islam's highest authority, al-Azhar, on New Year's Day. One of them, Obama, is willfully blind; the other, al-Sisi, with devastating clarity, identifies the problem as coming from within the very heart of Islam.

On a personal level, Obama does not take kindly to those who cross him. Just look at his relationship with Congress, and with Benjamin Netanyahu, while ignoring his own transgressions against those he thinks are transgressing against him. He regarded al-Sisi's patriotic overthrow of Morsi--whom he had bolstered with more and more aid even as the MB leader became more and dictatorial--at the demand of more than twice as many Egyptians as those who voted for Morsi, as a personal affront as well as ideological heresy. He has since punished al-Sisi and the Egyptian people who rejected his chosen savior of their destiny accordingly. That may have softened a bit recently, due to the need to find Arab allies to fight IS, but that is not a serious effort: the default position is against al-Sisi and for the MB.

Gordon: Given your Egyptian sojourn does al-Sisi have both the domestic and international support to implement his agenda?

Stock: Domestic, yes—all but a quarter to a third of the country wants him to succeed. But internationally is another story.

Al-Sisi's greatest enemy is not the MB, or even IS, but the president of the United States. When the State Department invited key figures from the pro-MB alliance of groups to a major conference in Washington this week, he was signaling his desire (and only Obama sets our foreign policy) to overthrow al-Sisi—just as his invitation to the leaders from the banned MB to sit in the front row of his Cairo speech in 2009 signaled that he wanted to remove Mubarak. So U.S.-dependent international institutions and allies may not be too supportive of al-Sisi.

The only possible silver lining for Egypt is, ironically (given our historic alliance), really a great problem for our country, if one values its role of global leadership since World War II.

That is, Obama has done so much to destroy America's standing with the rest of the world that even our closest allies no longer fear to stray, and may yet not follow his wishes regarding al-Sisi. 

Tragically, on many issues, that may be better for us all until Obama leaves office. For the heading [Obama] has set leads directly to hell, a destination that many countries, thanks to in large part to his policies, have already seen (and Syria and Libya have already become)--good intentions (by his lights) notwithstanding...

08 February 2015

Bob Carr's meddling is harming Labor

THE [Arab-Israel] conflict... is now potentially a powder keg for the Australian Labor Party.

Arab advocate, Bob Carr

The claims by ... Bob Carr in an article for The Guardian newspaper on January 14 illustrate a looming debate at the forthcoming ALP national conference in July. Carr said he “winced” at Australia’s vote at the UN Security Council on the recognition of a Palestinian state in Dec­ember, alleging the Coalition meekly delivered “what the pro-Israel lobby in Australia wanted”, ignored the national interest and delayed the achievement of a two-state solution.

So what are the facts and the ­issues? Late last year, after many iterations of an earlier draft, Jordan submitted a resolution to the UN Security Council on the Middle East. The resolution was voted on, on December 29, but failed to muster the minimum nine yes votes required (a two-thirds affirmative vote) from the council for adoption and then for a vote before the full assembly of the UN. The motion received eight affirmative votes, from Jordan, China, France, Russia, Luxembourg, Chad, Chile and Argentina; two no votes, from the US and Australia; and five abstentions, from Britain, Lithuania, Nigeria, South Korea and Rwanda.

Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, said the resolution was “deeply imbalanced and contains many elements that are not conducive to negotiations between the parties, including unconstructive deadlines that take no account for Israeli’s legitimate security concerns”.

There the matter rested, without much Australian interest, until Carr, once more, entered the debate demanding recognition of “Palestine”, as proposed by Jordan and others.

The draft UN resolution did not deserve support for many reasons. 
  • First, although the resolution is 80 per cent OK, the remaining 20 per cent is a minefield. 
  • Second, although the draft preaches peace, in parts the resolution is vague and unbalanced, sometimes dangerously so. With mere declaratory resolutions, there is the temptation to sweep the deficiencies aside and let it go through. But the better view, especially when every word is loaded with resolutions involving the Middle East, is not blithely to ­ignore the hardest facts.
  • Third, there is already a good deal of constructive and forceful diplomacy going on in coaxing, cajoling and pleading with Israel and the Palestinians to reach a fair conclusion. Foremost in these efforts are those by US Secretary of State John Kerry and the Quartet (the UN, the US, the European Union and Russia) led by Tony Blair. The proposed resolution undermines their efforts.
  • Fourth ...The two parties who need to work out a solution directly are the Israelis and the Palestinians.
  • Fifth, it is irresponsible to recognise a country with no agreed boundaries. If recognition ignores what ought to be and would be defined borders, we are delving into the realm of metaphysics rather than practical politics. The world might as well recognise Utopia.
  • Sixth, a country without clear definition of its borders is a recipe for border skirmishes in defining clear borders.
  • Seventh, Israel has legitimate fears about the formation of a ­second Hamastan in the heart of ­Israel — this is front and centre of Israel’s security concerns.
  • Eighth, the security concerns of Israel are given short shrift. Noticeably, the UN draft resolution was weaker than what Carr advocated at the NSW ALP conference last July. One of the key planks of Carr’s resolution then was that “NSW Labor welcomes the decision of the Palestinian Authority to commit to a demilitarised Palestine with the presence of international peacekeepers, including US forces”. Either this is an essential point or a matter of rhetoric. In the UN resolution there was no reference to a demilitarised Palestine. What the resolution refers to is the need for “security arrangements, including through a third-party presence that guarantee and respect the sovereignty of a state of Palestine, including through a full and phased withdrawal of the Israeli occupying forces”, which is proposed to occur no later than the end of 2017. This is an incredibly weak statement. Yet, in his January article, Carr says of the proposed UN wording: “It thus captured the recent Palestinian concession that there should be Western peacekeepers within the territory of their putative state. And Australia voted that down.” But that is not what the words in the draft resolution actually say.
  • Ninth, the status of Palestinian refugees and their descendants is confusingly mentioned in the draft Jordanian resolution. In 1999, then Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak offered the resettlement of up to 50,000 in Israel. Such numbers have been off the table ever since. Barak’s proposal, part of a wider package, was rejected by Yasser Arafat when he spurned the Clinton peace proposals. Perhaps economic compensation, long proposed by the Americans, in rebuilding and developing Palestinian society, is what is needed. But the reference, in the draft UN resolution, to resolution 194 (iii), as stipulated in the Arab Peace Initiative, is unhelpful. UN resolution 194 was adopted in 1948 and proposed the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes. The Arab peace initiative proposes all refugees and their descendants have the right of settlement in ­Israel. This is an impractical idea.
  • Tenth, the proposed UN resolution recklessly refers to the International Court of Justice’s decision of July 9, 2004, on the legal consequences of the construction of a security barrier in the occupied Palestinian territory. On one reading, this reference is not saying much. On another, this is suggesting the wall be pulled down. Construction of the barrier began in 2002, following the Palestinian intifada, and its purpose was to stop the wave of suicide bombings that took hundreds of lives in Israel. The Palestinian Authority sought a ruling from the International Court of Justice on the fence. Israel refused to present evidence directly, arguing the court had no jurisdiction, and presented only an advisory opinion on the jurisdiction issue. The majority of the court in an advisory opinion, however, ruled for the Palestinians in a complicated assessment, with dissent from several judges. Given the lives saved, no Israeli government would dismantle this structure. Certainly, with border adjustments, parts will need to be rebuilt in accordance with new boundaries. Sadly, however, until confidence is built up, there will continue to be a wall.

Speaking of which, point six of the draft UN resolution calls on both parties to build trust and engage in confidence-building measures. In that spirit, how about the Palestinian Authority banning television shows that night and day incite the murder of Jews? This is an unrelenting theme, featured in children’s shows and cartoons, and popular dramas, on Palestinian television. There is a fear the PA is so weak it is unable to control elements interested in continuing the armed struggle.

After all, when Israel’s Gaza withdrawal occurred, following agreement with Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas was soon after ruling the roost. Unrelenting rocket attacks on Israel launched from Gaza have been a constant ever since. Abbas seems to be an honourable man but a weak one and, at nearly 80, with few years left for the political stage. It is more than a decade since he last faced direct election. Who knows who will come next.

The slaughter last November of rabbis praying in a synagogue in Jerusalem (historic Jewish Jerusalem) and the celebratory response in the Arab world make many Israelis wonder what lies ahead. (Note that the Jordanian parliament passed a motion hailing these murderers as martyrs. There were celebrations, firecrackers going off and dancing in the street in Ramallah.)

The arguments against the draft UN resolution united the Israeli opposition (the Israel Labor Party, led by Isaac Herzog, in coalition with Hatnuah, led by Tzipi Livni), and Kerry, the US Secretary of State, among other significant players, in urging it be voted down.

Israeli Labor has been petitioning foreign governments against unilateral declaration. ­Labor Party secretary Hilik Bar wrote an open letter to Britain about this. He cited unilateralism as making things worse in terms of Israel’s desire to move back to serious peace talks. A renewed opportunity with the latter is with the election of a new government in Israel. It appears Labor and its ­coalition allies are performing strongly.

The recent stance on the Middle East adopted by Carr, however, departs from Australia’s reasonable position of the achievement of national objectives and high ­ideals, through practical means. Unilateral adventurism and inconsistency are hardly the hallmarks of creative realism.

The ALP needs to be cautious about sweeping generalisations, wary of lazy wording in conference resolutions and particularly determined to get the language right with anything that might be supported on the international stage.

...Even if a particular resolution is four-fifths OK, all the words matter and cannot be regarded lightly. A draft UN resolution that sets unilateral deadlines, avoids the hard security issues and is laden with provocative references to Israel is not the way ahead.

Australia’s best hopes are served by working in tandem with the US in pressing for a workable solution. Endorsement of one-sided, loosely worded resolutions is not a responsible position for our country. Labor ought to be better than that. I believe it will be, come the July ALP national conference. But, in view of Carr’s persistent advocacy, there’s a long road ahead.

*Michael Easson is a former NSW Labor Council secretary and NSW Labor vice-president.