During “All-Stars Week”, CIJR’s Isranet Briefings will highlight the work of outstanding individuals, whose invaluable efforts contribute to strengthening public perception of the Jewish state’s regional and global position. Each Briefing will include a sample of articles written over the last year by a given author, dealing with issues such as Israeli politics and security, as well as matters concerning Diaspora Jewry, and ways of combatting the delegitimation of Israel.
Born in Washington, DC and living in Tel Aviv, Barry Rubin is Pajama Media’s Middle East Editor. He is presently a professor at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, the Director of the Global Research and International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, and a Senior Fellow at the International Policy Institute for Counterterrorism.
Mr. Rubin has written and edited more than 40 books on the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy, with publishers including Harvard, Yale, Oxford, and Cambridge University Press. His next book,Israel: An Introduction, will be published in early 2012.
DISTORTING THE TRUTH IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Jerusalem Post, October 23, 2011
Every day in the Middle East, terrible things happen. The worst are the acts of violence and oppression. The second worst are the lies and distortions of truth that help ensure things don’t get better. Every day in the West, the lies are echoed and amplified, and new ones invented. This not only helps ensure things don’t get better in the Middle East, it guarantees they will get worse in the West.
There is an ancient Navaho proverb that explains this phenomenon: You cannot awaken someone who is only pretending to be asleep. Or in other words, someone who deliberately believes a lie cannot be convinced of the truth. Such people have abandoned professional ethics, democratic and intellectual norms. They are propagandists and supporters of authoritarian and bloody regimes.
If there was a last straw for me regarding what was once the English-speaking world’s greatest newspaper, it is this New York Times editorial of October 19, 2011:
“One has to ask: If Mr. Netanyahu can negotiate [the release of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit] with Hamas—which shoots rockets at Israel, refuses to recognize Israel’s existence and vowed to take even more hostages—why won’t he negotiate seriously with the Palestinian Authority, which Israel relies on to help keep the peace in the West Bank.”
What has one thing have to do with the other? Israel isn’t negotiating with Hamas on a political level but to save the life of a young Israeli who has been in horrible captivity for five years. But what’s really disturbing here is the idea that it is Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who have been refusing to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority rather than the other way around.
Funnily enough, within hours of this editorial we have the ultimate Palestinian “moderate,” Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, saying: “We want to see an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967. We want the Palestinian people to live with dignity.” Fayyad went on to explain that while the Palestinians are committed to resolving the conflict, “the conditions are not right to resume talks.”
In other words, even when the Palestinian prime minister openly rejects talks and even after dozens of previous rejections by him and Palestinian “President” Mahmoud Abbas, and dozens of documented acceptances of negotiations by Netanyahu and Israel, the lie that Israel doesn’t want to negotiate and the Palestinian Authority does is repeated.
Obviously, this is not a misunderstanding.
One reason for the perpetuation of this lie is that if the truth were to be told it would have to be explained why the “poor,” “desperate,” “victimized” Palestinians don’t want to negotiate. The answer would have to be an uncomfortable truth: Their leaders don’t want peace, compromise, or a two-state solution, but total victory.
Note the reaction of the leaders of the two Palestinian regimes to the prisoner swap: Abbas told the released prisoners: “You are freedom fighters and holy warriors for the sake of God and the homeland.” Hamas deputy leader Abu Marzouk insisted: “The rest of the prisoners must be released because if they are not released in a normal way they will be released in other ways.” By murdering Israeli civilians, both the “moderate” and the “radical” explain, these people have done nothing wrong and are free—even encouraged—to do so again in future.
You cannot build a democratic state on the basis of calling terrorists “freedom fighters” (and note the “secular” Abbas’s reference to jihad). You cannot truly be interested in compromise with the other side when you continue to urge and justify the deliberate murder of its civilians.…
How did Abbas react to the prisoner swap? By demanding that Israel release even more Palestinian terrorists. Here’s the Time magazine coverage: “As Palestinians exult in the release of 477 prisoners from Israeli jails, and anticipate the arrival of the 550 more due to be freed in December under the terms of the bargain Hamas brokered for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas is pushing Israel to release even more, citing what he terms a secret promise from a previous prime minister.” Of course, no such promise exists. On the contrary, Abbas rejected prime minister Ehud Olmert’s peace proposal.
But, wait, there’s more. Here’s the Washington Post coverage : “Newly released Palestinian prisoners held rambunctious homecoming receptions…as leaders of the Hamas militant group that secured their freedom expressed hope that Israel would ease the blockade it imposes on the Gaza Strip.” Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar claimed that Israel should now “make an end to the blockade,” no doubt so that Hamas could import more weapons, money, equipment, and gunmen to attack Israel. So now that Israel has made a big concession, they can only demand more concessions.
This has been the pattern of the entire “peace process” to date, and another factor making peace impossible and so much of Western policy in the region entirely futile.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “I am very encouraged by the prisoner exchange today after many many years of negotiation. The United Nations has been calling for [an end to] the unacceptable detention of Gilad Schalit and also the release of all Palestinians whose human rights have been abused all the time.” It would be bad enough if the leader of the global community established a moral equivalence between Schalit and terrorists who murdered Israeli civilians, but in fact he treats the latter as superior. He doesn’t mention their murderous deeds (which almost all of them admit, indeed brag about) or their conviction in courts, but claims, on no basis whatsoever, that their human rights have been abused. A listener would think these are Palestinian civilians pulled at random off the streets. In short, he has declared that the terrorists are the true victims. This is the agency supposedly fit to judge the future of the conflict and which constitutes one-fourth of the Quartet?
In the words of the Greek playwright Euripides, though many have said something similar, “Those whom God wishes to destroy, he first deprives of their senses.” Those who willfully misinterpret events in the Middle East are setting up their own destruction. Perhaps the real reason they cannot forgive Israel is that it does not choose to join them in this endeavor.
THE SIMPLEST THING IN THE WORLD TO UNDERSTAND:
WHY THERE ISN’T ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN PEACE
Rubin Reports, October 18, 2011
Media, “experts,” and governments find it very hard to understand an amazing phenomena. No matter what they offer to the Palestinian Authority (PA)—even if it includes money, concessions, and steps toward statehood—the PA says “no.”
I wouldn’t even bother to write this since the answer seems so simple but a lot of people who are paid to deal with this stuff don’t get it. So let me elucidate:
The PA wants everything, an independent state on all the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem with no restrictions, no recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, no serious security guarantees, no limits on militarization, no agreement that this means an end of the conflict, no insistence that Palestinian refugees be resettled in the state of Palestine, and nothing to prevent them from pursuing a second stage of wiping Israel off the map entirely.
Now, one could say that it is common for people to want everything and to give nothing in exchange but certain factors—missing in this case—push toward compromise. These factors include:
-Knowing that they cannot get a better deal. The Palestinians` know that the West will always offer more if they are intransigent.
-The impasse favors your adversary because your intransigence will gain it international support. In this case, the more intransigent the Palestinians, the more Israel is blamed.
-Economic pressure to change the situation. Since the PA is almost completely supported by foreign aid that is not threatened by its hardline approach, this pressure does not exist.
-Public opinion pressure to change the situation. In this case, Palestinian public opinion is relatively radicalized and ideological and does not demand a compromise settlement.
-Concern that your political rivals will “out-moderate” you and win by offering to make a deal. In this case, the opposite is true: rivals “out-radicalize” and threaten to destroy you politically and perhaps even physically if you make a deal.
-Belief that time is not on your side. Due to religious and nationalist ideology, along with misperception of Israel, the PA (and even more Hamas) believes that time is on its side; that waiting a couple of generations and many decades doesn’t matter.
That’s not a complete list. But the point is that the world in general, the United States and Europe, the UN and Arabic-speaking states and Muslim-majority states, have created a “perfect” system in that it is pretty unbreakable. Here’s a brief description:
-The PA has no incentive to make peace and won’t do so.
-The world insists that “peace” is an urgent top priority.
-The only variable is Israel, which must be made to give way. But Israel won’t do so because of past experience and the fact that the risks are now too high.
Nothing will change. There will be no peace process; no Palestinian state. No “progress” will happen. You can read this article in two or three years and it will still be completely up to date. If you don’t understand the points made above it is impossible to comprehend the Middle East.…
This is not left-wing or right-wing but merely an explanation as to why all the schemes and theories of those who do not see these facts never actually take wing. It is not politically correct but factually correct.
Now, you might ask, do I just criticize or do I have constructive policy advice? I do. Here it is:
When the Palestinian Authority rejects the Quartet proposal for negotiations, the United States, European Union, and anyone else who wants to go along tells them, “We’ve tried to help you and you don’t want to listen so since we have lots of other things to do we will go do it. Good luck and if you ever change your mind and get serious about making peace you have our phone number.…”
OBAMA’S FOREIGN POLICY:
MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE OR KEYSTONE KOP?
Pajamas Media, October 24, 2011
Virtually since the day President Barack Obama was inaugurated in January 2009, I’ve been reporting in great detail on his disastrous Middle East policy.… And so I am often asked whether I believe this situation is caused by a deliberate, conscious effort to destroy U.S. interests, subvert Israel’s existence, and promote anti-American Islamists on the part of the president and his closest colleagues.
No, I answer, it is the result of ignorance, incompetence, and a ridiculous ideological approach that has nothing to do with reality. But, I add, it certainly says something that the policy is so bad that it makes people think that deliberate treason is a credible explanation.…
The great French diplomatist (and thoroughly evil human being) Charles de Talleyrand put it this way: “This is worse than a crime, it’s a blunder.” You can have some respect for an evil genius cleverly following his plan but none at all for a fool putting his country’s interests and the lives of millions of people at risk, refusing to change course even when his strategy is obviously failing.
You just have to sit at dinner with a State Department guy, for example, who tells you in great detail how the battle went within the bureaucracy over accepting Islamism as something good for the United States or watch how the CIA generated studies fixed to exclude truth in arguing Islamism isn’t a threat. It’s only mysterious if you don’t see it up close.
Here is what we should see:
First, Obama thinks he’s very knowledgeable about Islam, based on very limited personal contacts. Aside from his profound misunderstandings, his experiences come from Indonesia, the place where mainstream Islam was more moderate than in any other Muslim-majority country. And even that predates the infusion of Wahhabi and al-Qaeda radical thinking and theology even in that country.
In my opinion, the worst single blunder of Obama in the Middle East was his Cairo speech telling people in the region that they should perceive their primary identity as Muslim rather than in national terms. The idea that political Islam could be some asset for the United States—rather than an enemy being held back largely by nationalism—was like putting a big bomb next to a fragile dam. Yet Obama thought it was some act of far-sighted genius on his part because he could tame political Islam.
Second, Obama is a narrow-minded and arrogant man who understands little about international affairs or the profound differences of other cultures. He neither listens to ideas outside his own conception nor heeds proof that he has failed. A clever evil genius adjusts himself to circumstances, determined he will always look good. Obama is merely wrong and incompetent, openly displaying ignorance.
Third, his conception of the United States and its role in the world should render him unfit to be president. He views the United States as evil and aggressive historically while also rejecting the most basic concepts of U.S. interests and the conduct of international affairs.
He deliberately refuses to show leadership; doesn’t think American diplomacy should reward friends and punish enemies; believes concessions and apologies can win over enemies; and really doesn’t understand the importance of credibility, deterrence, and leverage to frighten and constrain enemies. He is obsessed with popularity, that least important factor in international affairs. In his mind, there is a sneaking suspicion that the enemies are the good guys.…
Fourth, he has two sets of people eager to misadvise him. One is the ideologues he has brought into government, especially in the National Security Council and several other appointees (David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel are of little or no importance on these foreign policy decision-making issues). The other is a significant portion of the CIA.
Large elements in the State and Defense Departments are horrified by Obama’s Middle East policy. The Defense Department is burdened with new commitments and handed impossible missions by a man its officials know looks down on them, has little sympathy for their problems, and no appreciation of their professional culture.
State gasps as Obama dismantles a Middle East policy it has spent decades building and nurturing. Briefly, that policy was alliance with relatively moderate states—Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia—to fight radical regimes and movements. They disliked Israel because they thought it got in the way of links to Arab powers. But they certainly don’t want their pet regimes overthrown and systematically insulted, while the president cares more for the very radical Islamists they were fighting to keep out of power!
What is the alternative, now dominant, view? This interpretation considers the virtually sole danger to be al-Qaeda and its terrorist attacks against America. In order to ensure Islamists aren’t radicalized to behave that way, they want to co-opt radical Islamists they consider far less threatening. They insist that such Islamists are far less extreme than people like me say and that holding power will moderate them. This travesty is born of Western ignorance about Islam and Islamism.…
These people believe that the “Turkish model” is just fine and dandy rather than seeing it as an extremely dangerous way for radical Islamists to seize and hold power to carry out anti-American and aggressive goals.… We’ve seen this before many times. Major General William Elphinstone, commander of the British army in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1842, was no traitor. He simply believed the Afghan rulers who promised him safe passage back to India. Of 12,000 soldiers and civilians, only about 12 survived the subsequent massacre.…
When Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said last February that the Muslim Brotherhood was a harmless reformist group, he meant it. That’s what his CIA briefers told him. The only administration correction was that it isn’t a “secular” group. All the really damaging misconceptions were fully accepted by the Obama administration.
So the administration is either helping Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood to get into power or risking this happening (wrongly thinking they won’t win elections) not because it wants to hurt America but because it is stupid and ignorant enough to think that will ultimately help America. Islamists will be moderated by power and the “need” to be pragmatic; or won’t win because the people want smart phones instead of suicide bombers; or they will love a U.S. government that is so nice to them.
Similarly, this administration doesn’t hate Israel so much as think that country is foolish for not following policies that in fact would risk its existence. If only Israel realized how easy it would be to have a stable peace with a Palestinian state next door based on the 1967 borders, the Obama administration thinks, the Israelis, too, would join the party and be much better off. Why are they such a stiff-necked people?
This is all wrong and disastrous. But as George Orwell—who understood these things—once said, some ideas are so stupid that only an intellectual will believe them.…