The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged zionism
The Arab Spring, US foreign policy, the Status-Quo Lobby and the Dream Palace of the Zionists

I'd like to touch upon America and Egypt, because I've seen a lot of hand-wringing in American newspapers about the future of that relationship and a sense of misplaced buyers' remorse about the Egyptian revolution – misplaced because the US had little to do with the revolution, and because it is wrong-headed thinking about an unstoppable, irreversible event.

Generally speaking, the American foreign policy establishment is stuck on Egypt. It is having a hard time imagining a different Middle East. Its path of least resistance is banking on their financial and political relationship with the generals now in charge and maintaining the ability to project power in the region that it has had since 1945 to some extent and since 1990 in particular. If it continues on this path, which is unfortunately likely, because of the dearth of imagination in a foreign policy elite that has grown lazy in its imperial thinking, and because of the dire state of American politics, it will fail. 

The most important thing you can do about Egypt right now is be patient and not try to force things or maintain a system that Egyptians clearly want to change. This is what worries me the most: that the US will choose to encourage the perpetuation of military rule in Egypt, as people like Jon Alterman have already subtly advocated and many others in Washington are discreetly but more vigorously doing in games of "armchair generals". They are the Status Quo Lobby.

America is a country that has grown complacent in its assumptions about the Middle East and its politics, and too wedded to the idea of having an imperial role in the region (of which CENTCOM is the embodiment) and the world more generally. For several years I have advocated an American withdrawal from the Arab world. The Arab uprisings have made this all the more urgent, although it is a delicate, difficult, and potentially dangerous matter. But that's a debate for another day.

Let me focus now on a few pieces by people who have written very unwise things, and who are the other bigpart of the problem with American foreign policy in the region: those who primarily see US Middle East policy through the lens of Israel. 

Robert Satloff, a leading hack of the Israel lobby think tank WINEP, and Eric Trager have a piece in the WSJ you can read here. A few years ago Satloff was all into pressuring Egypt on democracy issues, but now has buyer's remorse – confirming my long-held suspicion that people like him and Elliott Abrams (and many others) were only tactically interested in democracy promotion as a manner to wield greater influence over the Mubarak regime. Now that Islamists have won a majority in Egypt's parliament, they are shitting their proverbial pants.

Their piece, however, is weak in its argumentation and is a transparent attempt at scaremongering for Israel's sake.

They worry that Camp David will be submitted by the MB to a popular referendum, which not certain at all. the real issue is how Egyptian politics react the next time – and that time will soon come – Israel decides to commit atrocities like the Gaza war of 2009 or the Lebanon war of 2006. And the honest answer is no one knows, and the honest solution is that the US can no longer sanction such atrocities as it did in 2006 and 2009.

They make a big deal of the Gamaa Islamiya joining the MB's coalition, even though the reconciliation process by which Gamaa members recanted the use of violence was backed by the US and followed closely by the CIA in Cairo over the past decade and heralded as a deradicalization model (despite the human rights costs of the Egyptian government's campaign against the Gamaa). I can't stand the Gamaa and their call for Omar Abdel Rahman's release (basically because the Gamaa sees mostly composed of his sons these days) but it's rather disingenuous to point this out when you have Kahanists in the Knesset they never mention.

They then turn to the frivolous lawsuits against Naguib Sawiris (brought forward, among others, by a Salafist MP) and talk about the future of the Coptic minority – a real cause for concern, but one that WINEP was hardly vocal about under Mubarak. The Muslim Brothers and others could worsen the situation, true, but they're not even really in power yet. I don't remember Satloff & co. calling for a freeze of US military aid to SCAF after the Maspero massacre.  

One thing I agree with them on is the need for Egypt to carry out robust policing and deradicalization in Sinai, for many reasons including to prevent armed groups operating from there to carry out attacks against Israel. But I would add to that the urgent need for Egypt's policy towards Gaza to change, by opening the border for goods and people, and to vocally push back against the current framework of the Middle East peace process (the Quartet and its conditions).

Overall, though, this piece is so telling of the mainstream American Zionist mindset: it's all about Israel, and about maintaining the status quo – even in a region where everything is pointing towards change. These are the same people (like Martin Indyk, like Dennis Ross) who spent the 1990s massaging Israel's violations of the letter and spirit of the Oslo process and rendered it meaningless.

This piece by Elliott Abrams, defending the neo-con push for Arab democracy under the Bush administration, is self-serving bullshit. People like Abrams were only interested in Arab democracy when it suited their plan to remodel the region, and as a pressure tool to secure Israeli regional dominance. The Arab Spring is partly a reaction to their plans, not a result of it. Abrams might be credited with being more consistent than Satloff, though, but he's also more cynical. 

A more radical, and barely coherent rumination on the Arab Spring can be found in this long TNR essay by Marty Peretz, who in any case doesn't like Arabs much. Peretz has rejoined the ranks of the essentialist theorists of the Arab world like Lee Smith – in other words, he's dropped the politically correct niceties he would adopt when he was closely involved with his magazine's liberal (on everything except Palestine!) writers. The piece is so meandering, so pettily sullen about the rise of Islamists (and, although he does not acknowledge it, secularists) who don't like Israel, or ignorant of the realities of the region's history (it's full of mistakes about what women wear in the region, confuses the UAR and UAE, etc.) that I won't even excerpt it. One of the early commenters has it right:

People who want an informed opinion about Arabs and seek out Martin Peretz must be the same people who seek out David Duke for his views on African-Americans.

Peretz calls his piece "The failure of the Arab Spring" – but he never considers to ask: failure by whose standards? Those Zionists who initially cheered for the Arab Spring were so caught up in their illusions – to borrow from Fouad Ajami their "dream-palace".  They never stop to try to see things from an Arab perspective.

The world has entered a dangerous transition, which the Arab Spring is part of. There are many risks ahead, for the possibility of Arab democracy, for American policy and interests in the region, and the possibility of a regional conflict. The biggest mistake, the biggest delusion, outsiders can make is to think that, even as everything around them is changing, that they can stay the same. The Status Quo Lobby and the Zionist Lobby are the biggest problem for American foreign policy because they will create friction by resisting change.

The Rio Grande, the Jordan and the Hudson

Hoo boy. It's going to be a real a Zionist lovefest in NYC today as the GOP, members of the Israel lobby and Likud convene at 10am on Tuesday, September 20th in the W Hotel in Manhattan. Their rally/press conference will be led by GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry and KM Danny Danon. From JPost:

"Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry will hold a press conference with American and Israeli-Jewish leaders in New York on Tuesday in which he is expected to address the upcoming deliberations at the United Nations, MK Danny Danon (Likud), said on Saturday night."

"Danon, who will participate at the press conference, said he would ask Perry ahead of the conference to adopt the initiative the MK is advancing to annex Judea and Samaria in response to the unilateral Palestinian moves at the UN."

Danon, already in the U.S. to speak at nationwide Zionist fundraisers and rallies prior to the UN vote, has proposed an "Annexation for Declaration Initiative," which would "establish full sovereignty over the Jewish communities of the West Bank . . . our historic homeland of Judea and Samaria:"

"Under [my] three-state solution, Arab-Israelis residing within Israel would be welcome to join the official new State of Israel. The remaining enclaves of Palestinian towns and villages in Judea and Samaria would become part of either Egypt or Jordan, and the Egyptian and Jordanian borders would extend accordingly to these designated towns."

[Snip]

"Both Jordan and Egypt have expressed strong support and concern for Palestinians living in the West Bank. If they truly care so much, then they should readily agree to a three-state solution and incorporate the Palestinian towns located adjacent to their current borders."

The Israeli annexations would include the settlements "as a start," and expand to encompass the "empty land" of Area C, a designation for almost 60% of total West Bank territory (less than 10% of the total Palestinian population resides in Area C). The land, susceptible to drought, is at least partly underpopulated by Palestinians because under the Oslo Accords, Area Chas seen:

Demolition of livelihood structures - including commercial structures, educational facilities, wells, water cisterns, water storage tanks, farmland and animal pens - by Israeli authorities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem increased by about 85 percent in 2010 and so far in 2011 . . .

[Snip]

In Area C, Israel retains military authority and full control over the building and planning sphere, while responsibility for the provision of services falls to the PA.

About 70 percent of Area C is classified as a firing zone, settlement areas, or nature reserves, and is inaccessible to Palestinians.

Danon argues all this is right and proper because the land constitutes what was "Judea and Samaria": there's no Palestine, never was and certainly won't be on the Jews' God-given property. So while it is right for South Sudan to pursue statehood, in Danon's opinion ("just like Israel, its people live with a sense of resolve and confidence that their existence is a God-given right", "the creation of this new nation deserves the attention and admiration of the entire international community"), it is not right, not God-given and certainly not admirable for the Palestinians to attempt to do so now or ever, as it will just lead to the establishment of a terrorist state because that's the only state the Palestinians have demonstrated that they want.

"Not to trivialize the Sudanese situation," some might say, "but isn't it a bit disingenuous of Danon to deny meaningful self-determination to the Palestinians while proclaiming his love for South Sudan? He didn't suggest that South Sudan's population should give up because their lands have never constituted a distinct country. Frankly, his plan evokes the spirit of the partititions and population transfers of Poles, Slavs and Eastern European Jews over the past 300 years."

And to these ner' do wells, I simply say: that's showing the Texas spirit, Danny! 

With the spate of "honorary Texan" citizenships Perry has been granting lately, I hope he has saved one for you, because you've earned it!

After all, the U.S. annexed the Republic of Texas fair and square up to the Rio Grande, so why can't Israel realize it's own Manifest Destiny on the Jordan? The land use policies were drawn up by God, after all! And as Perry has noted in the past, Masada is the Alamo and Gaza is Mexico.

In fact, it was exactly the same situation for Texans in the 1830s and 40s as it is for 21st century Israeli settlers, according to Perry: "historian T.R. Fehrenbach once observed that my home state of Texas and Israel share the experience of civilized men and women thrown into new and harsh conditions, beset by enemies," Perry wrote last week. 

Exactly the same - except for the part where Texans actually participated in a referendum over their annexation by the U.S. The non-Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria will presumably not have that luxury, though they will certainly be welcome to vote with their feet on whether they remain in Greater Israel or not.

Yet, as Max Blumenthal has pointed out, Perry's remarks are in fact, too clever by half. According to Blumenthal, what Fehrenbach actually said in his work Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans was this:

"The Texan’s attitudes, his inherent chauvinism and the seeds of his belligerence, sprouted from his conscious effort to take and hold his land. It was the reaction of essentially civilized men and women thrown into new and harsh conditions, beset by enemies they despised. The closest 20th-century counterpart is the State of Israel, born in blood in another primordial land."

With that in mind, Danon is even more deserving than Glenn Beck is of an honorary Texan citizenship. Hell, make him an honorary Texas Ranger. Make everyone in Likud (among other parties) an honorary Texas Ranger. They could then do some whistlestop campaigning in the West Bank wearing official badges. 

Yisrael Beitenu's Avigdor Lieberman would probably look good in a bolo tie, and I think spurs would not look out of place on Im Tirtzu jackboots. But I shudder to think what Perry would wear to such a West Bank rally . . . especially as a U.S. president.

The exact location of the event has not been publicly disclosed, though Politico says that from an invite their reporters have seen, the venue is going to be a hotel in the Union Square neighborhood of Manhattan. Perry will also be hosting a fundraisertargeted at Jewish donors in Manhattan this week (which may or may not be part of the venue with Danon on 9/20).

Links for 10.29.09 to 10.31.09
Daily News Egypt - In Focus: The Brotherhood Crisis | Khalil al-Anani's take on the Brothers' troubles.
Frontlines: Who will be the next leader of Egypt? | Front Lines - the week that was | Jerusalem Post | Funny how much traction Amr Moussa's comments have made in Israel, where they remember vividly his criticism of Israel.
Is this the man to follow Mubarak as Egypt's next president? | World news | guardian.co.uk | On Amr Moussa.
Powerful Islamic movement sees leadership struggle | On MB's woes.
War and Peace | New blog from Rob of Arabic Media Shack, focusing on war, history and strategy.
Lesson Unlearned | Foreign Policy | Nir Rosen says the 1983 attacks on Us Marines in Beirut was the fault of senior Reagan officials who intervened in Lebanon's civil war on the side of Christian militias.
A Witness In Palestine | Anna Baltzer, Jewish-American pro-peace activist.
A search engine with a mind on settlements | Antony Loewenstein | I'm switching to Bing, and I hate Microsoft: "Jewish Billionaire, Sergey Brin, one of the founders of Google, donated $1 million to the so-called Hebrew national Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) which heavily encourages Jews around the world to immigrate to Israel and the United States. The organization is one of the biggest supporters of illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories."
In Afghan Village, French Outreach Yields an Ambush - WSJ.com | On French Foreign legion in Afghanistan: "Some Legionnaires, like a pensive Italian art history graduate, had enlisted for adventure. Others, like a thin Estonian, signed up to escape potentially lethal problems at home. The Legion wipes out minor criminal records and provides new identities and a French passport in exchange for a five-year contract. "Believe me, I feel safer here in Afghanistan," the Estonian said."
Alaa Al-Aswany: When women are sinners in the eyes of extremists - Commentators, Opinion - The Independent | On Somalia and extremism, among other things.
BBC NEWS | Technology | Egypt seeks ethical mobile users | Code says "don't annoy people by having loud conversations", "choose non-annoying ringtone", etc. Akhiran! Wonder if it says, "Don't sit at qahwa trying different ringtones for an hour" or "Answer phone quickly or put it on silent rather than stare at it for 10 rings".
Squaring the circle and erasing the margins | Good commentary on the recent J Street conference.
YouTube - ‫لقاء اليوم - ريتشارد غولدستون‬‎ | Khaled Daoud interviews Richard Goldstone on al-Jazeera.
Lebanon: Israel arranged Katyusha fire to keep tensions high - Haaretz - Israel News | Suleiman was praised by West before, will he be listened to now: "Lebanese President Michel Suleiman on Thursday suggested that Israel had arranged for collaborators in his country to fire Katyusha rockets at the Galilee earlier this week, in a bid to keep tensions high in the area."
'Israel's Self-Described Greatest Concern' - Jeffrey Goldberg | More poisonous Jeffrey Goldberg: anti-Zionist Jews are not real jews, they're anti-Zionists with Jewish parents; the Leveretts are apologists for Tehran. No sense of irony here about Golberg's sycophancy towards Bibi Netanyahu here.
West Bank land belongs to Jews, says Israeli army judge | These people are insane: ""But over the past quarter of a century, the Israeli army lawyer and then military judge at the forefront of arguably the most significant battle in the occupied West Bank – the confiscation of Palestinian land for the construction of Jewish settlements – has come to see himself as in service of a higher duty. In an unusually frank interview, which offers insights into the melding of religion, politics and law that underpins land seizures in the occupied territories, Agassi has laid out his belief that Israel has a biblical claim to territory beyond its borders and that he, even as an immigrant, has a right to live on it when those born there do not. `When we [Israelis] say that this is a political conflict, then we lose the battle,` he told the Guardian, adding that it should be remembered that the ancient land of Israel is `given to us by the Bible, not by some United Nations`.
Tens of Thousands of Palestinian Children at Risk of Forced Displacement in OPT | "Whilst most attention has focused on home demolitions and community evictions, new research by the children`s charity Save The Children has revealed intolerable living conditions are driving families to abandon their land and homes, even though most will be worse off once they do so."

Links for 10.24.09 to 10.25.09
Power play - The National Newspaper | M. Bazzi on Saudi-Syrian relations. Weirdly makes no mention of Lebanon.
Bikya Masr (BikyaMasr) on Twitter | Report: Ayman Nour attacked by security and NDP thugs in Hurghada.
Algérie-Maroc | Blog on Algerian-Moroccan relations.
Un propagandiste intéressé du régime tunisien - Les blogs du Diplo | Alain Gresh takes down Antoine Sfeir over his apologia for the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia.
“The State is an ostrich”: Algerian riots in the shadow of Power « The Moor Next Door | On the recent turmoil, and more generally the absence of a well-managed state in Algeria.
Arms Smugglers Into Gaza Face a New Foe: Egypt – Forward.com | To Egypt's eternal shame!
«الإخوان المسلمون» ينتصبون ضدّ بيونسي | جريدة الأخبار | The Muslim Brothers take on Beyoncé.
Daily News Egypt -No Egyptian Films At The Cairo International Film Festival, Says Ciff President | er.... what?
Reporters Sans Frontières | Tunisia: Election campaign impossible for opposition media
Daily News Egypt - ‘Spinsters’ By Choice: Egypt’s Single Ladies Speak Out | About the Facebook group "Spinsters for Change".
Michael Gerson - Michael Gerson on Egypt's Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa - washingtonpost.com | Rather lame column about the Mufti of Egypt makes no mention of his civil servant status.
The Empire Lovers Strike Back « P U L S E | Fantastic text by Gore Vidal from the 1980s, about the Podhoretzes and the Israel lobby in the US.
Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilizing Logic of Zionism « P U L S E | Excerpt from new book by M. Shahuid Alam.
Links for 10.18.09 to 10.20.09
Egypt's Moussa does not rule out presidency run: report| International| Reuters | Moussa throws his hat in the ring, sort of, and does not discount a Gamal Mubarak presidency either.
Report: Israeli cafe boycotts Turkish coffee amid tensions | Because Turkey's cancellation of joint military exercises with Israel... hilarious.
Can Egypt protect its Copts? | Khaled Diab | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk | On growing sectarian tensions, Hassan and Morqos, etc.
Al-Ahram Weekly | Features | Time to give back | "According to economist Abdel-Khaleq Farouk, Egyptian business people spent more than an estimated LE300 million in 2008 on what he described as "publicising their provocative and socially irresponsible lifestyles," with money spent by business people on social programmes not exceeding LE50 million per year."
Arab League says US donations used to finance settlements - Yahoo! News | This should be pursued much more aggressively.
Al-Ahram Weekly | Front Page | Obituary: A beautiful mind Mohamed El-Sayed Said (1950-2009) | Obit of the late Egyptian scholar, leftist and founding Kifaya member.
Khalil Bendib interviews Shlomo Sand « P U L S E | Author of "The Invention of the Jewish People."
Orascom Is Building Hotel Of Doom | In North Korea...

Links December 19th and January 5th

Automatically posted links for December 19th through January 5th: