Posts Tagged ‘arab israeli conflict’

Comrade Bassam on Syria

May 19th, 2012 Comments off
The Syrian situation is complex like any other uprising, but the situation has added complexity because it is at the juncture of several conflicts in the region. Those struggles involve local, regional and international power plays that make the situation a lot more charged.  For instance, we have Syria at the center of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Syria is part of an axis, so to speak, with Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, confronting imperialism in various forms from inside and outside the region, particularly in relation to U.S. domination and Israel’s occupations and belligerence.  There is also resistance to the conservative Arab camp that includes Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other conservative countries that are usually allies with the United States.  Also, Syria is, in many ways, the guarantor of stability in Lebanon. Syria’s presence in Lebanon has guaranteed some stability despite many violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty by Syria.  For all these reasons, Syria’s position in the region is pivotal. This is not simply another uprising against a dictator. It is also being transformed by other players into an effort to redraw the political map of the region and curtail further protests elsewhere.

A lot of the anti-regime actors and analysts are placed in an odd position. They do not support the regime or the turn that the uprising has taken since fall of last year. So perhaps the task is to build an independent opposition away from the dictates of Saudi Arabia, Qatar or the United States.”

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Adam Shatz on Claude Lanzmann

March 29th, 2012 Comments off

From Adam Shatz’s review of Claude Lanzmann’s onanistic memoirs, a bit describing his visit to Cairo with Sartre and de Beauvoir:

A few months before the 1967 war, Les Temps modernes published a special issue on the Arab-Israeli conflict, more than a thousand pages long, featuring contributions by both Arab and Israeli writers. At the invitation of Mohamed Heikal, the editor of al-Ahram and a confidant of Nasser, the Family travelled to Cairo. As Lanzmann recalls, Nasser, a ‘tall, timid man who impressed by his soft voice and dark, handsome eyes’, looked him in the eye, ‘addressing himself to me alone’, knowing of his special bond with Israel. Although Sartre accused his Egyptian hosts of leaving the refugees in Gaza ‘to rot, surviving on handouts’, Lanzmann suspected that his mentor viewed him as a liability, ‘preventing him from truly enjoying the seductions of the Arab world’. The quarrel intensified in Israel, the trip’s next stop, when Sartre refused to meet anyone in uniform: ‘an obstinate refusal to even try to understand Israel’ and its ‘primordial mission’ of defence, Lanzmann felt. When de Gaulle announced an arms embargo against Israel in early June, Lanzmann pressured Sartre into signing a pro-Israel petition; Sartre immediately regretted it. Their relationship never recovered.

Great review, Lanzmann comes across as absolutely unbearable. On the politics of the making of his masterpiece, Shoah:

Lanzmann’s first film was an admiring portrait of the Jewish state. Released in 1973, Pourquoi Israël led to a summons from Alouph Hareven, director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Hareven told him that Israel had a mission for him: ‘It’s not a matter of making a film about the Shoah, but a film that is the Shoah. We believe you are the only person who can make this film.’

Lanzmann accepted the assignment. The Foreign Ministry’s support for him reflected a shift in priorities. Until the 1960s, Israel had shown little interest in the Holocaust. The survivors, their stories, the Yiddish many of them spoke – these were all seen as shameful reminders of Jewish weakness, of the life in exile that the Jewish state had at last brought to an end. But with the Eichmann trial, and particularly after the 1967 war, Israel discovered that the Holocaust could be a powerful weapon in its ideological arsenal. Lanzmann, however, had more serious artistic ambitions for his film than the Foreign Ministry, which, impatient with his slowness, withdrew funding after a few years, before a single reel was shot. Lanzmann turned to the new prime minister, Menachem Begin, who put him in touch with a former member of Mossad, a ‘secret man devoid of emotions’. He promised that Israel would sponsor the film so long as it ran no longer than two hours and was completed in 18 months. Lanzmann agreed to the conditions, knowing he could never meet them. He ended up shooting 350 hours of film in half a dozen countries; the editing alone took more than five years. Despite his loyalty to Israel, his loyalty to Shoah came first, and he was prepared to do almost anything to make it his way.

Shoah, of course, is over nine hours long and would be a subject of self-deprecating Jewish humor by the time Woody Allen made Manhattan.

P.S. it’s really worth subscribing to the LRB to read stuff like this.

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McInerney on the NGO crisis

February 25th, 2012 Comments off

Stephen McInerney of POMED — who knows more about NGOs in Egypt and US policy towards Egypt, notably aid, than most — has a piece on the US-Egypt NGO crisis in Foreign Affairs. It’s a good roundup, and he ends on the following advice:

Many observers have argued that the U.S. must maintain its assistance in order to preserve its leverage with the Egyptian military. But this crisis is exactly the moment to use this leverage. The fate of civil society in Egypt and beyond is very much at stake. If the second largest recipient of U.S. military aid can attack pro-democracy organizations with no real consequences, authoritarian governments worldwide will be emboldened to follow suit. As such, the administration should take a tougher line, making clear that military aid will certainly be interrupted unless the attacks on NGOs are halted and all charges are dropped. The White House deserves credit for having made support for civil society an important pillar of its approach to strengthening democracy worldwide. Now is the time to demonstrate the strength of that commitment.

I’m half-sympathetic and half-opposed to what he argues. I completely agree that not cutting or revising aid programs should the Americans (and others) indicted be imprisoned and if undemocratic policies towards civil society continue would send the wrong message. But in much of the discussion over this there are separate but related issues at stake:

  • Dropping charges against the US citizens involved and allowing them to return home
  • Dropping charges against all those indicted in this case regardless of nationality
  • Ensuring a more tolerant attitude by the Egyptians state towards civil society, for instance by improving the legal environment they operate under
  • Weighing the possibility that aid at least provides some leverage, if not on this then on other issues
  • Strategic interests of the US military in the region
  • Leverage over the Arab-Israeli conflict that could be reduced by worsening bilateral relations

The risk in what McInerney suggests is that even if charges are dropped as a condition to pursuing the aid — something difficult for SCAF to do after all the noise made about the independence of the judiciary — then this will likely tie the hands of the US on aid for some time to come. Would it not be preferable (as I’ve argued for months) to conduct a review of aid to Egypt, separate it from the Israeli peace treaty issue (which is a bilateral Egyptian-Israeli issue), and make aid contingent on transition to civilian rule? Or at least make its resumption subject to negotiating with the future civilian leaders of the country, allowing for reviews that would for instance shift some of the military aid to civilian usage which Egypt sorely needs at the moment?

Of course it is more difficult to shift in this direction now — the move should have been made starting last March, when most in the US were probably contemplating a strong and popular military carrying out a well-run transition that would leave them with their legitimacy intact and foreign policy issues in the hands of the same national security establishment. And it was probably impossible, for domestic US reasons, to decouple aid to Egypt from the question of Israel. Maneuvering room is now much more restricted, and in a sense those indicted have become hostages to continuing aid.

The oddest thing about the NGO crisis is that it should have been normally been resolved behind the scenes before becoming a judicial investigation — Egyptian officials approaching their US and German counterparts and saying, this situation has to be regularized under the law. And perhaps that happened and was ignored. But whatever the motivation for the investigation — a negotiating tactic at first, perhaps, but that eventually got out of hand and instrumentalized by the regime’s factions — the indictment have made things moot. The court proceedings must now go forward, and demanding that all charges be dropped now is neither acceptable to most Egyptians (unless they are the result of a judge deciding the case has no merit) nor to the idea of due process. The real danger at this point for US public opinion becomes whether those indicted have to serve jail time — at which point it should become untenable for the US to continue any of its aid program and the EU and other donors should strongly consider the risks involved in operating in Egypt at all if one may become subject to what is clearly an arbitrary campaign.

And lost in all the focus on these NGOs is the wider question of under what terms aid to Egypt should continue, if at all. Should the issue be made to go away — there are already signs that the trial is being expedited, since the first hearing was set for 26 February (just compare with how long the Mubarak trial is taking) — the risk is that all those involved will not want to revisit a sensitive issue and focus on getting back to business as usual. In other words, the NGO crisis may now become an argument in the hands of the Egyptian government to perpetuate the relatively cosy prior arrangement.

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The Ghalyun Interview: he offers more than normalization

December 2nd, 2011 Comments off
This is a remarkable interview and should dispel any illusions some progressive supporters of the Syrian National Council may have had.  So he said that he would reclaim the Golan through “negotiations” with Israel. That can mean one thing only: that Ghalyun is willing to offer Israel more than what the lousy Syrian regime has offered: full normalization.  So Ghalyun’s new slogans in the Arab-Israeli conflict should be: more than normalization.  That is a logical inference form the interview.

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"The Arab authoritarians guaranteed a relatively stable & predictable region in which US interests thrived"

November 14th, 2011 Comments off

“… For 50 years, America dealt with two kinds of Arab leaders: the adversarials (Syria, Libya and Iraq) and the acquiescents (Egypt, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan and a few key Persian Gulf states). At times, each of the adversarials also played the role of partners for brief periods: Iraq against Iran; Syria on the peace process; Libya on giving up WMD in exchange for an end to its pariah status. But leopards really do not change their spots. The violent ends of Saddam Hussein, Moammar Kadafi and perhaps at some point even the younger Bashar Assad make the case.
For the most part, these Arab authoritarians guaranteed a relatively stable and predictable region in which U.S. interests thrived: successful containment of the former Soviet Union, access to oil at fair prices, security for Israel, close relations with the acquiescents and even progress on Arab-Israeli peacemaking. This left America with a role it understood and could play rather well.
It wasn’t pretty, of course. There was that pesky Arab-Israeli conflict that drove a handful of wars, oil shocks, an Iranian revolution and Islamic extremism, and a few self-inflicted disasters such as Operation Iraqi Freedom. But by and large, the U.S. got by, its prestige high with acquiescent autocrats and low with their publics….”

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May 17 Agreement: in your dreams, o Zionist hoodlums

October 12th, 2011 Comments off
I was reading the text of the May 17 Agreement: the humiliating treaty that Israel imposed on Lebanon in 1983 (of course, it was later tossed into the garbage where all peace treaties with Israel belongs).  In article 4, it says that each party will prevent any one from “organizing, instigating, assisting, or participating in threats or acts of belligerency, subversion, or incitement or any aggression directed against the other Party, its population or property, both within its territory and originating therefrom, or in the territory of the other Party.”  Article 5 is even worse: “the Parties will abstain from any form of hostile propaganda against each other.” In your dream, o Zionist hoodlums.  In your dreams.  See the text in The Arab-Israeli Conflict by Gregory Mahler and Alden Mahler.

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An Atlas of Middle Eastern Affairs

October 12th, 2011 Comments off
I am reading the new An Atlas of Middle Eastern Affairs published by Routledge.  I will say more later but the section on the Arab-Israeli conflict is so grossly biased against the Palestinians: and the others use the word “Israeli” even in reference to pre-1948 Jews in Palestine.  It makes no mention of Zionist terrorism in Palestine. Woefully deficient and biased.

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Isabel Kershner’s account of Arab-Israeli conflict

October 3rd, 2011 Comments off
But the latest mosque burning occurred inside Israel. Jews and Arabs live in a patchwork of villages and towns in the Galilee, where calm has prevailed for years. The last major disturbances occurred in 2000, when Israeli Arabs rioted along with Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem at the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada. ”  So according to her, Arabs and Israelis were all living in peace and harmony and then Arabs rioted and that explains why…the mosque was set on fire.  OK.

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The attack on an Israeli terrorist target today

August 18th, 2011 Comments off
It only shows that there will be new rules for the Arab-Israeli conflict with the fall of Mubarak.  It is indeed a new Middle East.  Do you now see why Zionists are still sobbing over Mubarak’s fall?

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"A problem from Hell!"

August 2nd, 2011 Comments off

“… But Syria is, to borrow a phrase from White House advisor Samantha Power, a problem from hell — a brutal state with a fragile ethnosectarian makeup that straddles the region’s most dangerous fault lines, from the Sunni-Shiite divide to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Unlike Libya, Syria matters in regional geopolitics, and nobody has any illusions that Assad will go down easily…
The international community has not been silent. Obama reacted quickly and angrily … William Hague demanded on Monday, Aug. 1, that the U.N. Security Council issue a resolution to “condemn this violence,..”,Even Russia finally spoke out against its ally …
A Security Council resolution, as Hague himself acknowledged, seems unlikely: Beijing and Moscow have resisted all attempts to take meaningful action against Assad, citing the Libya precedent. The United States has been pushing — aggressively, the administration insists — for a resolution condemning the crackdown, but has run into opposition not only from veto holders China and Russia but also from temporary council members Brazil, India, Lebanon, and South Africa. Attempts to refer Syrian officials to the International Criminal Court would run into the same roadblock because the Security Council would have to do the referring….
“I have no doubt that the dynamics on the ground will embarrass those standing in the way,” says Salman Shaikh, head of the Brookings Doha Center and a former U.N. official in the Levant. Shaikh argues for a hard push at the Security Council to hold an escalating swath of Syrian officials accountable for the slaughter. “I don’t see how else we’re going to get these people to take notice,” he says. Shaikh also advocates putting together an informal “contact group” of concerned countries — as with Libya — with a core group perhaps consisting of the United States, France, Qatar, and Turkey. But the all-important Turks, who share a border with Syria and have hosted thousands of refugees and several opposition meetings, are still hedging their bets…(Turks, unlike the Qataris and the Qatari-funded hords, are not in the ‘Dial-A-Coup-d’Etat’ business!)

The European Union’s position comes across as similarly cautious, the product of an institution that operates by consensus. “The only way out of this crisis is through a genuine inclusive national dialogue with the opposition,” EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton said Sunday. The European Union did announce fresh sanctions on Monday, with asset freezes and travel bans on five additional Syrian officials, but harsher measures that Tabler (WINEP/AIPAC) argues could really damage the regime — targeting the oil and gas revenues that help keep the Syrian government afloat — are so far off the table…
Syrians aren’t holding their collective breath. “We can’t really expect much from the international community,” says Jabri, and most Syrians are wary of external involvement in their struggle…(and yet,) New meetings are being planned both within Syria and abroad, possibly in Egypt and Saudi Arabia…
But few analysts think words will do much to damage the deeply entrenched Syrian regime, and some, like the Century Foundation’s Michael Hanna, worry that Assad could limp on far longer than anyone expects…Washington has made its decision, though nobody can say when Assad will go. “He’s on his way out,” (Exact same words were used by George Schultz to describe the Assad-pere regime to a Lebanese Ambassador in 1983!)…”

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