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Reasons for optimism in the Middle East

12 February 2011

4:44 PM

12 February 2011

4:44 PM

I began the week in Israel, where I watched Tzipi Livni make an extraordinary pitch for the premiership by representing herself as the candidate of moderation and peace. I ended it in Place de la
Republique in Paris where secular Algerians had gathered to show solidarity with their countrymen demonstrating against "le pouvoir" in Algiers. Their slogan, "Laicité,
Egalité, Liberté", is refreshing.

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Am I wrong to feel quietly optimistic on both fronts? As we reported in the Jewish Chronicle this week, Tzipi Livni also made a significant overture to the diaspora Jewish community by saying she
welcomed a wider discussion about the future direction of Israel from outside the country itself. This is a hugely important statement at a time when Benjamin Netanyahu finds himself paralysed by
his coalition partners and isolated from the international community. Foreign Office ministers have become increasingly infuriated by the Israeli government over recent weeks as William Hague’s
interview with The Times showed.

There is understandable nervousness in Israel about the popular uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East. But Netanyahu’s apparent support for Mubarak left him at odds with other world
leaders. He also rather undermined Israeli rhetoric about being the only democratic state in the Middle East by failing to back the democrats next door. It is very unlikely that there will be a
resumption of talks while Netanyahu’s government remains in place, but there is at least now the hope of progress with Livni if it falls.

I can’t be the only journalist to be envious of my colleagues covering the events in Egypt this weekend. I was lucky enough to travel across Eastern Europe in 1989 and there isn’t much more
exciting than watching a people emerging from under the yoke of an authoritarian regime.

I have followed north African affairs since I lived in Paris in the early 1990s  and I only hope the wave of liberation soon breaks over the rest of the Maghreb. I felt a little of the
excitement of this movement in Paris this weekend and can only hope the same secular, democratic forces that dominated the Tunisian and Egyptian demonstration will also lead the Algerian
resistance.

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Show comments
  • rndtechnologies786

    Nice view.

  • jose garcia

    “Leave the future to educated, professional young modernists, take your religious obsessions and manipulations aside and rant and spit your vitriol elsewhere.”

    you never watched arab tv/ or arab politicians talking about israel have you?, because you either dont know / dont care/, but we all know where the vitriol is coming from,

    is coming from the left and their dreams of jewish genocide,

    1970 khartum(if my memory serves me right) , conference of arab countries, NO PEACE , NO RECOGNITION , NO NEGOTIATION with israel.

    40 years later after giving back the sinai, gaza and golam highs, no one has said any different.

    so who are those young modernists? Obama?

  • Tintagel

    @Stephen Rothbart February 14th, 2011 10:51am

    I wish the Speccie webmasters would introduce comment recommendations so that we can vote for the replies we like.

    I give that one a definite thumbs up.

  • Patricia Shaw

    OK, will all the ultra orthodox, racist, isolationist extremists please leave the room now and shuffle down the corridoor to Ms Phillips’ Rooms?

    Go where you re welcome and leave the real world behind.

    You have nothing ot offer except derision and division.

    Leave the future to educated, professional young modernists, take your religious obsessions and manipulations aside and rant and spit your vitriol elsewhere.

  • Andy Gill

    Victor Jara 67

    “There are also many aspects of Zionist ideology that are implicity racist”

    There are many aspects of anti-Zionist ideology, and many anti-Zionists, that are explicitly racist.

  • Linda Smith

    ndm: you misuse the word “racism”. What exactly is the difference between a Jewish Arab and a Muslim Arab? Answer: religion.

    Only a dummy wants to be a dhimmi.

    Can’t be bothered to play your stupid games any more. Got bigger fish to fry.

  • ndm

    Linda Smith writes:

    — As ndm admits, the organisations he cites are political, ie biased.

    I most certainly do not admit that the ICRC, the World Court and the Security Council are biased towards Palestinians – if anything the opposite is true. So this is yet another lie. It shows the extent of the hole Israel has dug for itself that its supporters can only lie.

    She continues:

    — what is the difference between a Jewish Arab and a Christian Arab? They all look the same to me.

    Perhaps they do. Yet, somehow, the State of Israel manages to pin a crescent moon on every Muslim Arab. The big question is why?

  • Linda Smith

    And another thing, ndm, on the subject of “racism”, what is the difference between a Jewish Arab and a Christian Arab? They all look the same to me.

  • Linda Smith

    As ndm admits, the organisations he cites are political, ie biased.

  • ndm

    Linda Smith lies that:

    — By the way, Judea and Samaria are not “occupied” by Israel; they are disputed territories

    Every responsible political and legal authority has affirmed that the Occupied Palestinian Territories are OCCUPIED. This includes the Security Council, the World Court – and the Internatinal Committee of the Red Cross which has explicitly stated that they are occupied and subject to the Fourth Geneva Convention.

    The claim that the Occupied Palestinian Territories are “disputed” is the central lie of the militant racism that has come to define Israel. It is a depraved and despicable lie.

  • Linda Smith

    By the way, Judea and Samaria are not “occupied” by Israel; they are disputed territories. All your other guff doesn’t apply as you know because the disputed territories were never a sovereign state, they were part of the Ottoman Empire. The 1947 War of Independence is still being fought. Israel’s border has never been fixed; the green line is not Israel’s border. It’s all a matter of war and/or negotiation.

  • ndm

    Linda Smith writes:

    — I don’t know how Victor Jara has the gall to call Israelis “racist”.

    The largest demonstration of neo-Nazism in the Western World today is that of the so-called Israeli settlers. They are only so-called because Israel war criminals is a better description.

    Through four decades of acceptance and support their vile ideology has come to dominate Israeli politics. While I’m sure there are many Israelis who condemn these war criminals and their militant racist ideology – as a collective, the people of Israel has shown its support for them in election after election. As have far too many public intellectuals in Britain.

  • ndm

    Mark2 writes:

    — I had long thought the expression “war criminal” was being devalued – this remark – whatever the righs and wrongs of what it describes – is surely proof positive of such devaluation.

    Whatever.

    The rome Statue of the International Criminal Court defines the following to be a war crime:

    — (viii) The transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, or the deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory;

    Consequently, it doesn’t really matter what Mark2 or I think – the Israeli civilian occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories is a war crime. Furthermore, under the same statue the apartheid system Israel has instituted there is a Crime Against Humanity.

    I will take this opportunity to remind Mark2 and those like him who apologize for and appease Israeli war crimes that doing so BECAUSE Israel is a “Jewish State” is the most prevalent and pernicious form of anti-Semitism in the Western World today.

  • victor jara 67

    @Linda Smith
    I am calling Avigdor Lieberman a racist. If you look at his policies including his advocacy of “transfer for arabs” It is hard to come to any other conclusion.

    There are also many aspects of Zionist ideology that are implicity racist.

    While racism has crept more into Israeli society in the last decade by no means would I state that all Israeli’s are racist.

  • Linda Smith

    People like Victor Jara whatsisname really get up my nose. They don’t give a fig for the near-on million Jews robbed of their property and ethnically cleansed from Arab states since the creation of Israel.

    I don’t know how Victor Jara has the gall to call Israelis “racist”. I wonder if his house has any mirrors.

  • Mark2

    ndm

    “About 5% of the Israeli population lives in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in direct violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Those who blithely defend Israel as a Jewish State are not defending Jews they are, in fact, supporting these war criminals.”

    I had long thought the expression “war criminal” was being devalued – this remark – whatever the righs and wrongs of what it describes – is surely proof positive of such devaluation.

  • Stephen Rothbart

    When a country goes to war and after losing territory, refuses to make peace, or even if it does make peace, it is often the case that a new set of defensive boundaries are imposed on it.

    This is true of Poland post WW2, Germany post WW1 and WW2, the Sudetan Germans, all of the former Ottoman Empire, the list could go on, but I hope you get the point.

    Israel being so tiny at less than 1% of the Arabian land mass, is very hard to defend.

    Having been attacked many times by its neighbours, it has set up defensive positions, and what some people call ‘Occupation’ is nothing more than an attempt to defend itself better in case of future attacks, just like the Allies did after WW1 and WW2.

    Unlike the 350 million Arabs, for whom many of their leaders think their lives to be expendable in the cause of Islam, the 4.5 million Jews of Israel can least afford to have their young in a constant state of war.

    I have tried, time and time again, to argue that of all the nations in the Middle East, the one that can most ill afford to lose its young men in a constant attempt to attack and occupy other people’s lands is Israel.

    It has a vibrant economy, low unemployment and its techological abilities are able to help people all around the world.

    Against this, its neighbours are largely undemocratic dictatorships, with stagnant economies, violent leaders, massive unemployment and, as we see now, a very dissatisfied populace.

    For years, their leaders kept stoking the fires of hatred away from themselves by invoking the Jewish state as the big problem, when the real problem was their own shortcomings.

    Thus they waged wars in 1948, 1967, 1973 which lost them a lot of territory, some of which they got back, not all.

    But the militray might of Israel that you seem to see as the reason Israel is so aggressive, was brought to a standstill in Lebanon by Hezbollah twice.

    The IDF certainly punches well above its weight, but it is a tiny army when compared to the forces ranged around it.

    It has the nuclear deterrent, but unlike the Iranian threat to use theirs on Israel, Israel never has threatened to use theirs on anyone.

    Yes, their intent is clear, if they look like losing a war that will wipe them out, no doubt they will lay waste the entire region.

    This is what both NATO and the Soviet Empire
    threatened to do on many occasions, and which staved off war because both sides had leaders who were afraid to die.

    Sadly, Iran and the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood are not afraid to die. Indeed they welcome it as their destiny if it is the cause of Allah.

    This is the worry for the Middle East now, not whether Palestinians find a home in Israel.

    Years of neglect of their Palestinian ‘brothers’ by all Arab states including Egypt, show that they do not care for the Palestinian Arabs, other than to keep their cause alive to berate Israel and keep the flame bright for anti-Jewish invective.

    Now with a new Egyptian ‘democracy’ in which the best organized and the best motivated voting block there is the Muslim Brotherhood, the possibility is real that they will open up the Egyptian blockade of Gaza and through that gap will pour weaponry for Hamas.

    This will start Cast Lead 2 and you can bet the world will blame Israel for it, as they always do, when they try to defend themselves, because people like Victor will always try to blame her.

    Therein lies the danger, therein lies the fallacy of Israeli aggression.

  • victor jara 67

    @NDM
    Its in the scriptures and is not based in logic or reason.

  • victor jara 67

    Another thought. While Israel is small in terms of population. It is by far the prominent miitary power in the region and none of its neighbours is a significant threat.

    Thats why Iran acquiring the bomb is the game changer. Not because the Mullahs would be insane enough to use it and bring about there own destruction, but because it fundementally changes the balance of power away from Pax Americana.

  • ndm

    –Victor Jara 67, by what means does a country of 4,500,000 Israeli Jews, already stretched to breaking point, intend to occupy all these Arab lands of which you speak?

    About 5% of the Israeli population lives in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in direct violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Those who blithely defend Israel as a Jewish State are not defending Jews they are, in fact, supporting these war criminals.

  • victor jara 67

    @ Stephen Rothbart
    There are now 300,000 settlers in the occupied territories and settler parties under the racist Lieberman make up the coalition government. Is there an Israeli Government strong enough to confront that community?

    In terms of Gaza, disengagement was done in conjunction with the completion of the seperation wall. It was a sop for Bush and his road map. Sharon envisioned the road map being panned out over thirty years while they built “facts on the ground” The Sharonian vision of a Palestinian state was 3 seperate bantustans with as much autonomy as POW camp. Netenyahu said they can call whats left a state if they wish or they can call it fried chicken.

  • Stephen Rothbart

    Victor Jara 67, by what means does a country of 4,500,000 Israeli Jews, already stretched to breaking point, intend to occupy all these Arab lands of which you speak?

    The country maintains only a small regular Army, when it goes to war it has to call in its conscripts.

    These people would rather get on with their jobs than go to war, hard as it must seem to you to believe. If a government kept calling people away from their jobs to invade and occupy another country or people, how long do you think they would stay in power? Not every soldier is in favour of this government and would not wish to fight in an unjust war.

    You are confusing the actions of a few thousand religious and bigotted settlers with mainstream government policy.

    Israel gave back Gaza to the Palestinians who immediately voted in a terrorist organization dedicated to destroy Israel, and who immediately started sending in rockets into Israeli cities, so who is ethnically cleansing who here?

    You should be more concerned with what Iran/Syria is doing to the Christians of Lebanon. Now there is a true ethnic cleansing process in full flow.

    Netanyahu made a big error in endorsing Mubarak, he should have kept quiet. Obama made a bigger mistake in dumping his ally and sending mixed messages to the Egyptian people, but at least he did something more than his crass indifference to the Iranian Revolution.

    No one has been more disdainful of the Muslim Brotherhood than the Mubarak regime, and with good reason.

    The possibility they might draw Egypt into a new war is very real, and that is why everyone who wanted a peaceful Middle east was concerend about what will come next.

    Israel is only a small player in the Middle East. It has less than 1% of the land size of its neighbours.

    How you think this can have an impact on the future of the Middle Eastern dictaotships and possible revolutions is beyond logic and without reality.

  • Edward McLaughlin

    victor jara 67

    I will try once more.

    An existential threat is no such thing if one’s very existence is not at stake. Israel is one small nation surrounded by many hostile states, most of whom look forward to a world which does not have an Israel in it.

    You refer to the contention between two parties regarding a piece of land, which is another thing entirely.

    You cite the military prowess of Israel and the continued support of the US; knowing full well that they are not enough to ensure long term existence.

    It is you who seeks to invert the victim/perpetrator relationship.

  • victor jara 67

    @Edward Mclaughlin
    I mean its been a long stated goal of Zionism to acquire as much land of the occupied territores with the minimum of Palestinians on it. I call that an existential threat or ethnic cleansing.

    Israel unlike the Palestinians is powerful enough to carry out these intentions and does it on gradual basis not to attract to much negative publicity.

    Apolgists for Israel constantly refer to the Existential threat to invert the victim/perpetrator dynamic.

    Israel does face threats but with one of the most sophisticated ,powerful militaries in the world and the guarantee of the only super power backing them as an insurance policy nobody is going to wipe Israel of the map and all the posturing is just first rate Hasbara.

  • Linda Smith

    Would a “democratised” Jordan repeal the law barring Jews from citizenship?

  • Edward McLaughlin

    victor jara 67

    I take it you meant ‘existential’ threat. In which case you are confused. The threat to Israel is not regional, it is to its very existence – note the semantic link?

    To argue that this equates to the bickerings regarding ‘coveted’ lands and valleys is at best misguided. More likely it is duplicitous.

  • Linda Smith

    And will the new “democratic” country of Egypt compensate all the Egyptian Jews robbed of their property and ethnically cleansed since the creation of Israel?

  • victor jara 67

    @Edward Mclaughlin
    The extenstial threat to the Palestinians is some what greater. Particulary if they are unfortunate to live in coveted land around East Jerusalem and the Jordan valeey. This slow ethnic cleansing is tacitly supported by the West while the talk up the Islamist bogeyman.

  • Erica Blair

    Martin, how many war criminals did you shake hands with at Herzliya?

  • Edward McLaughlin

    One does not need to wonder at all, if the viability of Israel is even a consideration on the part of its neighbours.

    So many times they have said that nothing short of its elimination is to be tolerated.

  • victor jara 67

    One does wonder if Israel both left (zionist) and right have any intention of allowing a viable Palestian state. The recent leaked Palestinan papers show this is highly questionable. If they are does any current poltician have the political will and support of the population to confront the fanatics in the settler movement.

    While tyrants like Mubarak thanks to US bribes could always be relied to keep the “cold peace” The recent events mean Israeli rejectionism might have more consequences than just increased International isolation.

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