October 21, 2014

Mideast Media Sampler, 11/30/12


A blank state The New York Times reports U.N. Assembly, in Blow to U.S., Elevates Status of Palestine:

More than 130 countries voted on Thursday to upgrade Palestine to a nonmember observer state of the United Nations, a triumph for Palestinian diplomacy and a sharp rebuke to the United States and Israel.
But the vote, at least for now, did little to bring either the Palestinians or the Israelis closer to the goal they claim to seek: two states living side by side, or increased Palestinian unity. Israel and the militant group Hamas both responded critically to the day’s events, though for different reasons.
The new status will give the Palestinians more tools to challenge Israel in international legal forums for its occupation activities in the West Bank, including settlement-building, and it helped bolster the Palestinian Authority, weakened after eight days of battle between its rival Hamas and Israel.

This is irresponsible. By framing the news as a “rebuke” to Israel the New York Times is simply cheerleading. The second and third paragraphs show how phony this approach is. First of all as the article acknowledges, this vote is unlikely to change anything. In the third paragraph the reporters imply that even after losing a significant portion of its weaponry, Hamas is more popular than Fatah. This bid at the UN, like last year’s is simply a publicity stunt to keep Fatah (and Abbas) relevant.

Still, the General Assembly vote — 138 countries in favor, 9 opposed and 41 abstaining — showed impressive backing for the Palestinians at a difficult time. It was taken on the 65th anniversary of the vote to divide the former British mandate of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab, a vote Israel considers the international seal of approval for its birth.

This is a cute maneuver. It suggests that Israel should have no objections to this maneuver because its source is the same partition that gave birth to Israel. What it leaves out is that the Arabs rejected that partition plan and made war against the nascent state of Israel. Abbas would rewrite history and the New York Times abets that effort.

The past two years of Arab uprisings have marginalized the Palestinian cause to some extent as nations that focused their political aspirations on the Palestinian struggle have turned inward. The vote on Thursday, coming so soon after the Gaza fighting, put the Palestinians again — if briefly, perhaps — at the center of international discussion.

Of course the “Arab spring” was about other Arabs rising up against their dictators, so their focus turned inward. Abbas, though, is representative of the old order. He’s a kleptocrat who became wealthy off of his own people and is increasingly intolerant of dissent. It’s an irony that goes unmentioned because it would detract from the celebratory nature of the coverage.

President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, speaking to the assembly’s member nations, said, “The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the state of Palestine,” and he condemned what he called Israeli racism and colonialism. His remarks seemed aimed in part at Israel and in part at Hamas. But both quickly attacked him for the parts they found offensive.

It would be nice here if the reporters would refute Abbas’s charges. But part of the celebration requires shedding a certain level of skepticism.

The Israelis also say that the fact that Mr. Abbas is not welcome in Gaza, the Palestinian coastal enclave run by Hamas, from which he was ejected five years ago, shows that there is no viable Palestinian leadership living up to its obligations now.

No qualification is necessary here. Abbas’s ban from Gaza and all that it implies are established fact.

A major concern for the Americans is that the Palestinians may use their new status to try to join the International Criminal Court. That prospect particularly worries the Israelis, who fear that the Palestinians may press for an investigation of their practices in the occupied territories widely viewed as violations of international law.

Funny. Terrorism is a violation of international law, but that doesn’t bother Hamas or even Fatah. But this isn’t just a fear, it was a threat made by Abbas himself in the New York Times a year and a half ago.

It’s disappointing (though not unexpected) that the New York Times would treat Abbas’s stunt as a historical event with little skepticism. Consider how it treated Abbas’s stunt last year. After his unsuccessful bid at the Security Council, the Times reported, Palestinians Roll Out Hero’s Welcome for Abbas. What did Abbas do since then? Did he negotiate with Israel? Did he get welcomed in Gaza? Did he arrange for new business with the PA? Did he meet payroll without difficulty?

He did none of that. That’s why yesterday’s stunt, will just lead to a blank state.

Ron Prosor laid out the case against the vote (via memeorandum):

For more than a year, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has attempted to bypass peace negotiations with Israel by unilaterally seeking state recognition at the United Nations. Instead of pulling him back from this cliff, this week the U.N.’s General Assembly may push him over the edge.
Many countries in the Assembly are taking an approach to Palestinian statehood that is far more Pavlovian than Washingtonian. Perhaps this should not come as a surprise. For decades, the body has rubber-stamped any Palestinian whim no matter how ill-advised, ill-conceived or illogical.
The time is right to break this habit. It doesn’t take an architect to recognize how poorly Palestinians have laid the foundations for statehood in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. U.N. members considering Palestinian statehood have a duty to inspect these foundations and ask: Exactly what kind of state are we voting for?

Barry Rubin writes:

I have just this minute come from an interview with a very nice journalist who asked me, “But doesn’t Israel want everything and offer nothing in return.” What was most impressive is the fact that he had no personal hostility or any political agenda. (You’d understand if I identified the person and his newspaper but I’m not going to do that.) This conclusion was simply taken as fact. He was astonished to hear that another perspective even existed.
My first response was to point down the street two corners to the place where a bus was blown up in 1995 and right next to it where a suicide bomber had killed about a dozen pedestrians around the same time. This was the result of risks and concessions that Israel had voluntarily undertaken in trying to achieve peace. And, I added, it was possible to supply a long list of other examples.
So despite Israel taking risks and making concessions, the Palestinian Authority rejected peace. Today the same group is going to be recognized by the UN as a regime governing a state. Moreover, this is a body that is relentlessly begging Hamas, a group that openly calls for genocide against both Israel and Jews, to join it.

Eugene Kontorovich explains what the vote means and what it doesn’t mean.