July 24, 2014

Middle East Media Sampler for March 25, 2012


1) See no evil

In Lather, Rinse, Repeat, Mark Steyn asks:

Look, pace Ed West, isn’t it just a teensy-weensy little bit to do with Islam? Or at any rate the internal contradictions of one-way multiculturalism? No, it’s not a competition. Most times in today’s Europe, the guys beating, burning and killing Jews will be Muslims. Once in a while, it will be somebody else killing the schoolkids. But is it so hard to acknowledge that rapid, transformative, mass Muslim immigration might not be the most obvious aid to social tranquility? That it might possibly pose challenges that would otherwise not have existed — for uncovered women in Oslo, for gays in Amsterdam, for Jews everywhere? Is it so difficult to wonder if, for these and other groups living in a long-shot social experiment devised by their rulers, the price of putting an Islamic crescent in the diversity quilt might be too high? What’s left of Jewish life in Europe is being extinguished remorselessly, one vandalized cemetery, one subway attack at a time. How many Jewish children will be at that school in Toulouse a decade hence?

In a similar vein, Barry Rubin writes:

Der Speigel interviews, Daniel Ben-Simon, an expert who explains there are, "hundreds of anti-Semitic incidents" a year, committed mainly by Arab immigrants. Indeed, the teacher and his two children murdered in Toulouse were French Jews who had emigrated to Israel until he had been persuaded to return to France to work in the school.

So while we will be told to listen to Vaisse and such people, these reassuring lies have nothing to do with reality.

This is not just a matter of misinformation. Such falsehoods encourage governments and institutions not to prepare, not to change their ways, not to learn from bloody experience, to continue denying the very existence of an antisemitic problem. And that means there will occasionally be more such tragedies but also hundreds of incitements to antisemitism, blood libels against Israel, assaults, threats, and other acts of anti-Jewish hatred that you will never hear about.

Finally, Frida Ghitis asks and answers in Europe's Blind Spot on Antisemitism (h/t Lori Lowenthal Marcus)

What would prompt a 23-year-old man, born and raised in France, to chase a small, terrified Jewish girl into a school courtyard, look her in the eye and shoot her in the head?

The very idea brings back memories of the 1940s, of an era that many Europeans have worked diligently, with considerable success, to put behind them. But the echoes of history should not be silenced. The tragedy of Toulouse is a call to take another look at that crucial fight against the poisonous prejudice that ultimately devastated Europe in the middle of the 20th century.

I believe an honest examination will reveal a blind spot among those fighting prejudice that has allowed the ancient Jew hatred that infected Europe for centuries to survive. The blind spot is this: When the prejudice — and even the call for murder — is made in connection with the Palestinian cause, people look the other way and give it a pass.

Ghitis's question contains a very important observation: the cold blooded killing of Miriam Monsonego speaks volumes about Mohammed Merah.

First of all in order to do what he did he was clearly trained. He didn't just travel to Pakistan for ideological indoctrination or reinforcement. Earlier, Merah had ambushed three soldiers. While he clearly had the element of surprise, soldiers are trained in combat. If he was able to shoot all three with no apparent mistakes, he must have been experienced.

Witnesses to the killing of Miriam Monsonego, say that Merah was calm, and that when one gun jammed, he switched guns while holding the girl. This doesn't just indicate training, it indicates hatred. Killing a child at close range takes more than just training. Merah was not motivated in this case because he despaired of his lot in life.

(Yes, I'm suggesting that Merah's French victims were not his first. Obviously, there's no way to prove that he killed in the course of his training by Al Qaeda, but I don't think it's an unreasonable assumption.)

2) Apocalypse now?

When I saw that Thomas Friedman quoted Victor Davis Hanson, I thought that the end of days must be near. After all, Hanson regularly punctures liberal pieties and Friedman artfully strings them together as columns on a regular basis.

Earlier this month, Hanson declared We give up:

Let us review the various American policy options for the Middle East over the last few decades. Military assistance or punitive intervention without follow-up mostly failed. The verdict on far more costly nation-building is still out. Trying to help popular insurgents topple unpopular dictators does not guarantee anything better. Propping up dictators with military aid is both odious and counterproductive. Keeping clear of maniacal regimes leads to either nuclear acquisition or genocide — or 16 acres of rubble in Manhattan.

What have we learned? Tribalism, oil, and Islamic fundamentalism are a bad mix that leaves Americans sick and tired of the Middle East — both when they get in it and when they try to stay out of it.

Here's Friedman's response in A festival of lies:

And that is why it’s time to rethink everything we’re doing out there. What the Middle East needs most from America today are modern schools and hard truths, and we haven’t found a way to offer either. Because Hanson is right: What ails the Middle East today truly is a toxic mix of tribalism, Shiite-Sunni sectarianism, fundamentalism and oil — oil that constantly tempts us to intervene or to prop up dictators.

This cocktail erodes all the requirements of a forward-looking society — which are institutions that deliver decent government, consensual politics that provide for rotations in power, women’s rights and an ethic of pluralism that protects minorities and allows for modern education. The United Nations Arab Human Development Report published in 2002 by some brave Arab social scientists also said something similar: What ails the Arab world is a deficit of freedom, a deficit of modern education and a deficit of women’s empowerment.

Something gives me the feeling that Hanson would not agree that building The Bronx High School of Science in Baghdad and Bengazi will somehow transform the Middle East. Friedman has mentioned the Arab Human Development Reports on a number of occasions, but though he identifies a number of problems, he doesn't offer any serious suggestion for fixing them. (Hanson's column also was descriptive, not prescriptive. He didn't pretend to be looking for answers.)

It's laughable that Friedman expresses his concern for women's rights here, as just a few weeks ago, he was applauding the vision of the Muslim Brotherhood that would necessarily mean the curtailing of women's rights in Egypt! (Okay, it would curtail everyone's rights.)

In other words, this column may be just as incoherent as usual for freedom, meaning that I need not fear the end of days yet.

One item he missed though is the antisemitism that is rampant in the Arab world but too often rationalized.

This is a point that didn't escape Sam Harris (via Jeffrey Goldberg – hat tip to Yisrael Medad)

Consider the position of Israel, which is so regularly vilified by the Left. As a secularist and a nonbeliever—and as a Jew—I find the idea of a Jewish state obnoxious. But if ever a state organized around a religion was justified, it is the Jewish state of Israel, given the world’s propensity for genocidal anti-Semitism. And if ever criticism of a religious state was unjustified, it is the criticism of Israel that ceaselessly flows from every corner of the Muslim world, given the genocidal aspirations so many Muslims freely confess regarding the Jews. Those who see moral parity between the two sides of Israeli-Palestinian conflict are ignoring rather obvious differences in intent.

It would be nice if Friedman acknowledged this regularly but he rarely does. In fact in today's column he manages to excuse it:

… we silently watch our ally Israel build more settlements in the West Bank that we know are a disaster for its Jewish democracy.

Of course Friedman couches his condemnation of Israel in terms of his concern for Israel. But given that the demographic threat hasn't existed since the mid-1990's this gratuitous reference does nothing to promote peace or co-existence but only serves to perpetuate the grievance against Israel.

If Thomas Friedman is gratuitously condemning Israel, I don't need to be worried anymore.

3) Ashton's outrage

A correspondent was bothered by the attention given to Lady Ashton's remarks in the wake of the Toulouse massacre. She thought that Ashton's words were not as bad as interpreted, but that Ashton's record was a lot more damaging and needed to be remembered. Petra Marquardt-Bigman made a similar argument in Ashton praises the Palestinian sense of identity fostered by UNRWA

With her recent speech, EU foreign policy chief Ashton has of course encouraged just the opposite of what Ingo Way rightly described as the only reasonable and realistic approach to promote peaceful coexistence between Israel and a future Palestinian state. But for Ashton, “UNRWA’s work is so special” precisely because it allows Palestinians to hold on to their decades-old rejectionism by helping them to “establish a sense of identity that otherwise is lost to the world, an identity which people here are absolutely proud of.” The “sense of identity” Ashton finds so praiseworthy is of course exactly the sense of an aggrieved refugee identity that Khouloud Al Ajarma advocates when she says: “We want no normalization… We want to remain refugees to exercise our right of return one day.”

In view of Ashton’s problematic praise for the Palestinian sense of identity fostered by UNRWA, there is reason to wonder if it reflects just her own ambivalence to Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. It is arguably noteworthy in this context that while her speech included a reference to the EU’s commitment to a Palestinian state that “will exist in peace and security side by side with all its neighbours,” she avoided mentioning Israel.

Marquardt-Bigman quotes from Mudar Zahran's UNRWA: The Palestinians' Worst Enemy, who makes the important observation:

Since its establishment, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency [UNRWA] has received billions in international aid, including more than $4 billion dollars of US taxpayers' money. While UNRWA's mission is to "relieve" and "support" the Palestinians, it has been doing exactly the opposite. It has been keeping Palestinians in pens as refugees and obstructing them from integrating and from normalizing their lives, all while UNRWA seems to be funnelling international aid money to whitewashing the terrorist organization Hamas, promoting the illegal Turkish flotilla which included members of Turkey's terrorist group the IHH, and which tried to break Israel's protection of its borders from having more weapons brought in that would be turned against it; to misrepresenting and politicizing the situation in Gaza, and to supporting the terrorist group, Hamas. One has to wonder if UNRWA is not actually an obstacle to peace in the Middle East

Although UNRWA was established in 1948 as a temporary institution, more than six decades on it still exists, larger than ever, growing exponentially, and with an annual budget exceeding half a billion dollars US, paid by the international community. Such a huge budget not only covers a large and growing number of people on the payroll; UNRWA is now the UN's largest entity with over 30,000 employees. It is such a boondoggle of a jobs program, it almost cannot let the Palestinian refugee problem be solved: if it did, 30,000 people would be out of work. If that problem makes UNRWA "too big to fail," this experiment is nothing but torture by other means, conducted on innocent human lives, forcing literally millions of people to live in squalor in perpetuity effectively forever. By comparison, maintaining a handful of prisoners caught in active anti-American combat at Guantanamo Bay should seem like a week at a country club. UNRWA, on the contrary, has been focused on keeping the Palestinians and great grandchildren of Palestinians, cought in the refugee trap. UNRWA is not there to settle the refugees, it is there not to settle the refugees.

About Daniel Goldstein

Daniel Goldstein is a media critic and recovering blogger. He has been critiquing media bias against Israel since his first letter to the editor in 1987.