December 18, 2014

Middle East Media Sampler for May 13, 2012


1) A strong editorial

The editors of the Washington Post have a strong editorial, A united strong Israel:

It’s true that a more stable and centrist Israeli government may take action on Iran or Palestinian statehood. Mr. Netanyahu is positioned to move aggressively in either area. But whether he does is likely to depend more on developments outside than inside Israel.

First among these will be the outcome of talks between the United States and other powers with Iran over its nuclear program. If the negotiations succeed in their initial aim of obtaining a halt in Iran’s higher-level enrichment of uranium and the suspension of activities at a new underground facility, military action will be hard for Mr. Netanyahu to justify, even within his own cabinet. If they fail or Iranian nuclear activity accelerates, Israel will indeed have a government well suited for war.

As for peace talks with the Palestinians, that was one of the four priorities cited by the new coalition partners in their first news conference — and the only one that was not domestic. The Kadima party was founded by former prime minister Ariel Sharon to pursue a settlement; its new leader, Mr. Mofaz, has his own two-stage plan for creating a Palestinian state. Mr. Netanyahu, who had never endorsed Palestinian statehood when he became prime minister in 2009, has progressed to supporting a state on most of the territory of the West Bank.

My only quibble here is the idea that Netanyahu never endorsed Palestinian statehood before this term in office. He oversaw the withdrawal of Israel from most of Judaism’s second holiest city, Hebron during his first term in office. He may never have explicitly stated the requisite words, but his actions certainly showed he was accepting the likely end to the peace process. In contrast, despite occasionally mentioning peace or a two state solution their actions (refusal to negotiate in good faith, constant incitement in Palestinian media, explicit declarations), Palestinian leaders have shown that they don’t accept the idea of Israel as a Jewish state.

Still overall, an excellent editorial, which actually is fact based.

The contrast to the New York Times is striking. Five days since the biggest political news in Israel since elections in 2009 and here’s what they had the editors of the New York Times had to say:

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That’s right. Nothing. It’s like they couldn’t find anything to write anything bad about Israel in the print edition. Thomas Friedman has had two opportunities since then and has written nothing about Israel. The editors at the Times even let the Washington Post beat them to Fareed Zakaria! They must be off their game.

The only analysis was at the Latitudes blog, Coalition of the Willing by Shmuel Rosner, which is available at the website.

Rosner’s focus, unlike the Washington Post’s is on the domestic angle, not the foreign angle.

Israelis have long complained that the electoral system gives too much power to smaller parties of society. They have long protested the ability of shrewd tacticians representing small constituencies (mostly the ultra-Orthodox) to get whatever they want because of their disproportionate amount of power in a system that relies on small parties. They have long yearned for a coalition strong enough to make some necessary painful changes — like getting rid of the arrangement that gives the ultra-Orthodox a pass from military service.

Netanyahu and Mofaz, appearing Tuesday at a joint press conference, promised to do exactly that: they said they would pass a “historic, just and equal solution’’ to the problem of ultra-Orthodox unequal service, they said they would change “the structure of government” to make Israel’s system more stable and less chaotic.

 

That is an agenda befitting a coalition of such scope. But the proof will be in the pudding: for such coalition to be justified, Avital’s “tomorrow’s news’’ has to also be about reforms and changes. Netanyahu’s scary majority can be justified only if the agenda it promotes is also scary — in scope and ambition.

2) In preparation for “Naqba” day

Every year it seems on May 14, that we read articles about the Naqba. Of course May 14, 1948 was the day that Israel signed its Declaration of Independence, but why would Palestinians commemorate the English date if not for propaganda purposes?

Barry Rubin recently wrote about what Naqba originally meant.

Constantine Zurayk was vice-president of the American University of Beirut. His book was entitled The Meaning of the Disaster. Here’s the key passage:

“Seven Arab states declare war on Zionism in Palestine, stop impotent before it and turn on their heels. The representatives of the Arabs deliver fiery speeches in the highest government forums, warning what the Arab states and peoples will do if this or that decision be enacted. Declarations fall like bombs from the mouths of officials at the meetings of the Arab League, but when action becomes necessary, the fire is still and quiet, and steel and iron are rusted and twisted, quick to bend and disintegrate.”

This is the old style of Arab discourse. Zurayk openly acknowledged the Arab states rejected all compromise, made ferocious threats, and invaded the new state of Israel to destroy it. For him, the “nakba” taught that they needed to modernize and democratize their system. Only thoroughgoing reform could fix the shortcomings of the Arabic-speaking world. What happened instead was another 55 years of the same thing, followed by this new era opening last year which will probably also bring a half-century of the same thing. Nakba has become the opposite of what Zurayk wanted it to be: Blaming your opponent rather than acknowledging your own shortcomings and fixing them.

What was a cry for reform and moderation has now become a call for revenge. If the Palestinian Arab forces had not begun preparing to launch war in 1946, led by the mufti, Amin al-Husaini, freshly returned from Berlin where he had been Hitler’s biggest non-European collaborator (details in the new book by myself and Wolfgang Schwanitz coming later this year) and using hidden Nazi-supplied weapons (1942) there would have been no nakba.

Please read the whole thing, as this excerpt does not do Rubin’s essay full justice.

Recently, Elliot Jager interviewed Efraim Karsh about the conclusions his book Palestine Betrayed (via Daily Alert and the book is reviewed here by Daniel Pipes.) Towards the end of the interview Karsh emphasized one of these points:

EJ: You contend that Palestinian Arabs, if left to their own devices, would have chosen coexistence.

EK Therein lay the great tragedy of the 1920-48 era. Despite constant terror and intimidation, including the killing by Arab fanatics of moderates within their own community, peaceful coexistence with Jews was far more prevalent than were eruptions of violence, and the violence was the work of a small fraction of Palestinian Arabs.

It was the Arab leadership that rejected Jewish statehood even in a small part of Palestine-not from concern for the national rights of the Palestinian Arabs, but from the desire to fend off a perceived encroachment on the pan-Arab patrimony.

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.