I guess, perhaps, it is a function of being brought up during the Cold War and watching one "people’s revolution" after another – each promising democracy, freedom and enlightened rule – turn into murderous and oppressive regimes which has me highly suspicious of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Egypt.
I’m also fascinated and perplexed by those who would accept at face value the MB’s declarations in that regard. Carefully reading the words of MB leaders doesn’t at all leave me with a warm fuzzy feeling. Instead I see much of the West falling hook, line and sinker for pernicious propaganda designed to fool them into believing something that isn’t at all in evidence.
For instance, Dr Muhammad Badie is the new leader of the MB. From their English language site (which I understand is much less inflammatory than their Arabic language site) he is quoted:
He concluded by telling reporters that the movement was open to new ideas hence their promoting of reform. The Brotherhood rejects violence and aims to achieve gradual reforms in a peaceful and constitutional way.
“We totally reject violence and denounce it in all its forms," the new leader concluded. [Emphasis mine]
Sounds great. Of course he is quoted as saying things like this on the MB Arabic website:
-Arab and Muslim regimes are betraying their people by failing to confront the Muslim’s real enemies, not only Israel but also the United States. Waging jihad against both of these infidels is a commandment of Allah that cannot be disregarded. Governments have no right to stop their people from fighting the United States. “They are disregarding Allah’s commandment to wage jihad for His sake with [their] money and [their] lives, so that Allah’s word will reign supreme” over all non-Muslims.
–All Muslims are required by their religion to fight: "They crucially need to understand that the improvement and change that the [Muslim] nation seeks can only be attained through jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death just as the enemies pursue life." Notice that jihad here is not interpreted as so often happens by liars, apologists, and the merely ignorant in the West as spiritual striving. The clear meaning is one of armed struggle.
Mr. “non-violence” advocating … violence, as recently as October of last year.
Flip over to a little controversy of words between Conor Friedersdorf and Andy McCarthy. Friedersdorf is upset about the way McCarthy worded a particular claim in a recent article. In it McCarthy says, "Hamas is not merely colluding with the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas is the Muslim Brotherhood." . Friedersdorf responds with:
When Andy McCarthy says that The Muslim Brotherhood is Hamas, the point he’s making is that we can anticipate how the group will act if it comes to power in Egypt, because we know how Hamas acts in Gaza, and the two groups are the same. In contrast, Eli Lake doesn’t believe we can know how the Muslim Brotherhood will act in Egypt if it comes to power, he describes a moderate faction of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt that is quite different from Hamas, and even in the clip you cite, he isn’t arguing that The Muslim Brotherhood is Hamas – he is arguing that one of its chapters – the one in Gaza – is Hamas, and that an Egyptian government headed by the Muslim Brotherhood might strengthen the hand of Hamas in its ongoing conflict with Israel.
Note the irrelevance of the argument in terms of the big picture. The fact remains, and even Friedersdorf admits it, that the Gaza chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood is Hamas – a violent terror group (and one which fits perfectly in the new MB leaders “jihadist” framework, no?) We can quibble about whether or not that chapter represents the MB as a whole or not, but the fact remains, it gives total lie to the claim of the MB’s new leader eschewing violence (as do his own words, of course). You see, when it comes to Israel, the MB makes an exception to this declaration.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a translated clip of Muhammad Ghanem, Muslim Brotherhood Representative in London, calling for civil disobedience, including "halting passage through the Suez Canal … and preparing for war with Israel"
Here’s an interview with Khaled Hamza, the editor of the Muslim Brotherhood’s official website. He is described by the interviewer as “a leading voice of moderation within the party, and is central to its youth-outreach efforts.”
One of the things the MB has talked about is “secular government”. They’re for it, well, sort of. I mean that’s what they talk about, but what do they mean when they say it? Well, here’s what they mean:
So the Brotherhood would support the maintenance of a secular government?
When the Muslim Brotherhood uses the word "secular," it does not mean no religion — we are talking about what we call a "civilized state." [emphasis mine]
Uh huh … and what makes a “civilized state?” Read between the lines, people.
Here’s the former MB leader introducing the new MB leader:
Akef addressed a word to the press conference, which had convened for the historical announcement of the eighth Chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood Movement. He asserted that the movement was bound by a set of regulations however were and still are open to reform and progress suitable to specific incidents and specific times stressing that flexibility is a must for the success of any trend.
He called on the members of the movement to holdfast to its cause and not to waver or flinch in the face of possible oppression and tyranny. "Continue in your cause with head held high and follow through with integrity and reciprocated respect so that the banner of Islam may be raised. Support your leaders who are as one within your ranks". [emphasis mine]
There’s your “civilized state”.
Back to the Hamza interview:
Do you support the establishment of sharia (Islamic law) in the way the government of Saudi Arabia has established it?
The Brotherhood does not agree with the monarchy in Saudi Arabia, because it is simply not democratic.
So you believe that there has to be a certain way to put sharia into place, but that establishing it through monarchy or by force is unacceptable?
Yes, democracy is the only way.
So the veneer of democracy is to be used to install what they all know they plan on installing – sharia law as a part of a “civilized state”. Once sharia is “chosen”, then they have inoculated themselves against criticism from the West. And, of course, as long as they’re in power, sharia will never be “unchosen”. Democracy is very useful in this way as most of those “people’s revolutions” demonstrated during the Cold War era. Organize for the post-government era so that the MB has the best political organization out there, ban the opposing party (that would be Mubarak’s party which the MB says would be banned from running for office), and win the election. Then implement the agenda:
What role would the Muslim Brotherhood have in creating a new state if it participated in the political process?
We would take part in Parliament and run in the elections for it. [Under Mubarak’s ban on the group, members of the Brotherhood must run for office as independents – Ed.) When people choose the Muslim Brotherhood, the West must understand that the people want it. [Emphasis mine]
There you go. And check out this sleight of hand in that same interview. The interviewer asks about the establishment of government in Egypt and whether or not the “Iranian model” is one the MB would follow:
What about the Iranian model?
The Iranians follow the Ayatollah; we do not believe Islam requires a theocracy. In our view, the ulema (clergy) are only for teaching and education — they are out of the political sphere. Iran has some good things, such as elections, but we disagree with all the aggression. We disagree also with the human rights abuses from the government and attacks on the population.
Remember, the former chairman invoked raising the banner of Islam, and this fellow has already told us that “secular” doesn’t mean “no religion”. And anyone who has studied Islam even a little bit understands there is no separation between the religion, law and governance. In fact, that’s how a country becomes a “civilized state”. So this statement is disingenuous at best. So is claiming that the clergy are only “for teaching and education”. And in fact, later on in the interview, he slips a bit. This in a discussion on the role of women in politics:
If the Brotherhood were in power in Egypt, what would be the rights of women to participate in politics? Could a woman serve in Parliament, or as President?
We believe in the complete participation of women in political life — except the presidency.
Except the presidency? Why is that?
Most ulema agree that the president must be a man. Women can run for any political office except president…In Islam there are ideas and options, and Islam says it is possible [for a woman to serve as President], but for now we choose the other option. We say it is a choice, from the religious thinkers or schools of thought. But there are other options and different choices. Some [Islamic] scholars say a woman can be President, but the Muslim Brotherhood, now, at this moment, does not agree with this. Maybe after some years they’d accept this. I think so. For myself, Khaled, I personally think a woman can be President, no problem. [Emphasis mine]
The “ulema agree”? Uh, if they’re just for “teaching and education” who cares? Or are they making "decisions” that government abides by? Sounds like the latter to me. And notice how casually he throws women’s rights to the political process under the bus with “but for now we choose the other option”. What’s to say “we” won’t choose any number of other options for the “civilized state” as decreed by the “ulema”? Stoning. Killing gays and infidels. etc.
Finally, on the subject of violence and Israel:
What about relations with Israel? What would the Brotherhood do regarding the situation between Israel and Palestine?
We think Israel is an occupation force and is not fair to the Palestinians. We do not believe in negotiation with Israel. As the Muslim Brotherhood, we must resist all this. They are an occupation force and we must resist this. Did you see what they do in Gaza, on the flotilla? Israel is a very dangerous force and we must resist. Resistance is the only way, negotiation is not useful at all.
So would the Muslim Brotherhood, if in a position of government, help groups like Hamas?
Do you recognize Israel as a state?
And this guy is a “moderate” and “modernist”.
Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing – the symbol of many a past “people’s revolution”.
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First, a rather interesting, but apparently ignored interview with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. The quote makes me again wonder about those who continue to pretend it is Israel that’s the problem:
The official Palestinian Authority daily newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida on Tuesday wrote that when Abbas met recently with media figures at the home of the Palestinian ambassador to Jordan, he recounted that during an Arab League Summit in Libya in March he told his fellow leaders that he still preferred war against Israel, but could not do it alone.
"We are unable to confront Israel militarily, and this point was discussed at the Arab League Summit," said Abbas. "There I turned to the Arab States and I said: ‘If you want war, and if all of you will fight Israel, we are in favor. But the Palestinians will not fight alone because they don’t have the ability to do it.’"
Of course they don’t. So instead they use terror tactics. And this is from the supposedly “moderate” part of the Palestinian leadership. No comment, apparently from Hamas.
As for the Arab League – 0 for 3.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear that he thought that the country that that is key to stopping Iran from producing nuclear weapons is the US. The question is, would the US actually pull the trigger? That may be why Netanyahu frames his point by saying “Obama is the key”.
"There’s only been one time that Iran stopped the program and that was when it feared U.S. military action," Netanyahu said in the interview on "Fox News Sunday," adding that Iran’s nuclear program was advancing by the hour.
"The president’s position that all options are on the table might have the only real effect on Iran — if they think it’s true," Netanyahu said.
I think that’s a little “positive thinking” on the part of the Israeli PM. Living where he lives, he knows someone is going to have to stop the nuclear train. Israel took care of the threat in Iraq and recently in Syria. But it may not have the capability to do so in Iran (although Saudi Arabia has made it known that an Israeli strike force would not be hampered should it decide to use Saudi airspace).
That doesn’t mean they won’t try if they have too:
When asked whether Israel might initiate military action, Netanyahu stressed that all options are on the table.
"The Jewish state was set up to defend Jewish lives and we always reserve the right to defend ourselves," he said.
With Israel everything is always on the table. They don’t have the luxury of taking anything off of it if they hope to survive.
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Mort Zuckerman, editor-in-chief of US News and World report writes a blistering piece that certainly seems to indicate that’s the case. Zuckerman says the world sees Obama as “incompetent and amateur” and that on the world stage he is “well-intentioned but can’t walk the walk”. That’s a nice way to say he’s a lightweight in an arena where only seasoned heavyweights prosper.
Zuckerman’s opinion is not one to be taken lightly. He was a huge Obama backer. He voted for him. His newspaper, the NY Daily News, endorsed him and was enthusiastic in his support of the Obama candidacy.
Now, 16 months into his presidency, he’s obviously very disappointed in his choice. And, it would appear, has come to understand that which he didn’t know or didn’t bother to find out about Obama at the time – that he has no leadership skills or abilities and is, in fact, more of an academic than a Commander-in-Chief.
Zuckerman is a keen and long time observer of American foreign policy, and as such he has the ability to compare and contrast what American foreign policy has seemed like under different presidents and under this one. He begins his critique of Obama by saying he actually inherited a “great foreign policy legacy enjoyed by every recent US president.”
Of course to hear Obama talk about it you’d think he’d been handed the worst mess in the world. But even assuming that, what has Obama done? Not much – and that’s beginning to become evident to the rest of the world. Says Zuckerman:
Yet, the Iraq war lingers; Afghanistan continues to be immersed in an endless cycle of tribalism, corruption, and Islamist resurgence; Guantánamo remains open; Iran sees how North Korea toys with Obama and continues its programs to develop nuclear weapons and missiles; Cuba spurns America’s offers of a greater opening; and the Palestinians and Israelis find that it is U.S. policy positions that defer serious negotiations, the direct opposite of what the Obama administration hoped for.
So success in the field that is exclusively the President’s has been elusive. Then there’s Obama the “leader”:
The reviews of Obama’s performance have been disappointing. He has seemed uncomfortable in the role of leading other nations, and often seems to suggest there is nothing special about America’s role in the world. The global community was puzzled over the pictures of Obama bowing to some of the world’s leaders and surprised by his gratuitous criticisms of and apologies for America’s foreign policy under the previous administration of George W. Bush. One Middle East authority, Fouad Ajami, pointed out that Obama seems unaware that it is bad form and even a great moral lapse to speak ill of one’s own tribe while in the lands of others.
Seems to be common sense to the rest of us, yet it is hard for anyone, even his most ardent supporters, to deny he’s engaged in more of that than any useful diplomacy.
Zuckerman also notes something I commented on months ago. He has no personal relationship with any of the world’s leaders. And that is critical to success in foreign diplomacy:
In his Cairo speech about America and the Muslim world, Obama managed to sway Arab public opinion but was unable to budge any Arab leader. Even the king of Saudi Arabia, a country that depends on America for its survival, reacted with disappointment and dismay. Obama’s meeting with the king was widely described as a disaster. This is but one example of an absence of the personal chemistry that characterized the relationships that Presidents Clinton and Bush had with world leaders. This is a serious matter because foreign policy entails an understanding of the personal and political circumstances of the leaders as well as the cultural and historical factors of the countries we deal with.
His meeting China was also a disaster and he was treated almost disrespectfully there. And he’s all but deep sixed our “special relationship” with the UK and certainly isn’t much loved by Sarkozy of France. Don’t even begin to talk about Israel.
These sorts of problems and perceptions have an effect in international affairs. A perfect example?
Recent U.S. attempts to introduce more meaningful sanctions against Iran produced a U.N. resolution that is way less than the “crippling” sanctions the administration promised. The United States even failed to achieve the political benefit of a unanimous Security Council vote. Turkey, the Muslim anchor of NATO for almost 60 years, and Brazil, our largest ally in Latin America, voted against our resolution. Could it be that these long-standing U.S. allies, who gave cover to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s nuclear ambitions, have decided that there is no cost in lining up with America’s most serious enemies and no gain in lining up with this administration?
So they go their own way in the absence of US leadership. This week, Russia’s President Medvedev criticized the US for placing additional sanctions on Iran, above and beyond the UN’s rather pitiful ones.
Obama has been a foreign affairs disaster to this point, and as Zuckerman points out, this has sent a very clear message to many of those out there who wish us ill as well as those who count themselves as allies:
America right now appears to be unreliable to traditional friends, compliant to rivals, and weak to enemies. One renowned Asian leader stated recently at a private dinner in the United States, “We in Asia are convinced that Obama is not strong enough to confront his opponents, but we fear that he is not strong enough to support his friends.”
I think at this point, that’s a perfectly defensible and accurate assessment. This is why I continue to say that there are some pretty heavy storm clouds brewing on the international horizon. US leadership is seen as missing or weak – a perfect time for those who take advantage of power vacuums to step forward and make their particular grabs for power.
Don’t be surprised to see it happen soon.
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Someone apparently had an extra bowl of Cheerios this morning:
Syrian President Bashar Assad said Israel’s attack on the Gaza aid flotilla has increased the chances of war in the Middle East, in a BBC interview on Wednesday. Assad said that Syria was working to prevent a regional war but he added that there was no chance of a peace deal with the current Israeli administration, which he called a “pyromaniac government”.
The rhetoric keeps ratcheting up as if various Arab factions are trying to talk themselves into testing Israel again. It’s been a while, but the in the past the results have been uniformly bad for the Arab nations.
But there has been a recent change. Turkey is now talking tough as well. And, add in Iran’s attempt to ingratiate itself with the Arab world and suddenly it’s a little different ballgame.
Turkey’s inclusion against Israel in the rhetorical wars now being waged has encouraged many Arab pundits to hail the Turks and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan as the much awaited “leader” of the movement against Israel. One writer hailed him as “more Arab than the Arabs” while criticizing Arab leaders as too passive.
There have been huge pro-Turkey rallies in Gaza, Beruit and Damascus. Recently, text messages from viewers displayed on Al-Jazeera TV during a June 4th Erdogan speech in Konya, some of which said: “Erdogan, you are king of the Arabs,” and “Son of the sultans, you have restored the glory of the Ottomans.”
Hizbullah considers Erdogan the new rock star of anti-Israeli leadership, and some Gazans are naming their children after him.
What Turkey and Erdogan have apparently managed to do, according to one writer, is bring those who have rejected Hamas and Hizbullah because of their Iranian ties on board in a unified “Islamic” effort to confront Israel:
“Unlike the Palestinians and many Arabs who support Nasrallah, large groups had yearned for a leadership unconnected to Iran or the new jihadi Shi’a… They rejected Hamas and accused the Palestinian jihad movement of being an instrument of Shi’ite Iran. Now Turkey has emerged to compensate for the incapacity of the leaders of the Arab regimes.
“Erdogan [has emerged as a figure] whose portrait can be displayed in homes, on billboards, and on cars. When all is said and done, the integration into the resistance movement of those who [had] hesitated is now being achieved through the gate of Islam.
Turkey seems to have finally rejected the west and put to rest its desire to be a part of it. Although it retains NATO membership, it appears to have no further interest in the EU. Turkey also appears to be again casting its eyes in the direction of its past glory – the Ottoman Empire. Certainly it isn’t pretending it would again rule over all of its former territories, but Turkey seems to feel it could be a major if not the major influence in the area of the Middle East. One sure way to work toward that goal is to take on Israel.
While it publicly claims it is still a secular nation ruled by secular institutions, this latest situation with Israel and Turkey’s reaction are all Islamic and designed to appeal to the Islamic world in general and the people of the Middle East specifically.
This is one of the conflicts that is brewing on the horizon. It is a new twist in a very old situation. But it promises real trouble if not addressed and defused quickly.
Of course, that will take leadership, not apology tours. I’m not sure that the US is up to the job. And I think the reason we’re hearing all this from Turkey now is they sense that is the case.
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It appears every pro-Palestinian activist group of more than two people is planning on staging a run at the Israeli blockade of the Gaza strip. The ostensible reason is to get much needed supplies and humanitarian aid to the Palestinians living in Gaza.
A group of German and European Jews is probably the most unique of the groups planning such a mission.
“We want to break the Gaza occupation and end the occupation of the West Bank as well,” Kate Katzenstein-Leiterer, a member of the executive committee of the European Jews for a Just Peace, which is organizing the mission, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “We as Jews want to bring the Palestinians something other than bombs.”
It is always interesting to see such groups elide past the reason for the blockade and lay all the violence on the Israeli side. Certainly not surprising. In fact, it is necessary to develop the false premise that this is all Israel’s fault.
The ship, whose current location in the Mediterranean is being kept secret, will be carrying school supplies, musical instruments, children’s clothing and “stuff for children that Israel has forbidden, such as sweets and chocolates.”
Here’s the irony. In fact there’s a lot of irony here. One, there is rampant unemployment in Gaza. But, when there are certain items embargoed, Gazan Palestinians have started businesses to make up for that. When embargoed items are smuggled in, they put those businesses out of business. This isn’t an argument for continuing to embargo sweets, it is an acknowledgment of the impact of doing so.
Irony two. They could land all of that intact in Egypt and have it shipped through the Egyptian border with Gaza without a single confrontation with the Israelis. So this isn’t about “humanitarian aid” or bringing the Palestinians “something other than bombs”. That way is clear.
This is obviously about confrontation, publicity and attempting to embarrass Israel.
The final irony is that Egypt might not be as open to their shipment as one might imagine. After all, it is a boat load of Jews we’re talking about here.
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And the tensions are ratcheted even higher. Turkey’s PM is talking about visiting the Gaza Strip (one would assume he’d appeal to Egypt for passage into the area rather than trying to run the blockade) and now Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is being offered as an escort to any wanna-be blockade runners.
“The naval wing of the Revolutionary Guard is ready to assist the peace flotilla to Gaza with all its effort and capabilities,” Khamenei’s Revolutionary Guard spokesman Ali Shirazi stated. “If the Supreme Leader issues an order for this then the Revolutionary Guard naval forces will do their best to secure the ships,” Shirazi said. “It is Iran’s duty to defend the innocent people of Gaza.”
A couple of points. This isn’t coming from Ahmadinejad. This is coming from Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (the offer, per Reuters, was made today in an interview). So this should be viewed with much more credibility, since Khamenei is where the real decision making rests with the Iranian regime.
Second point – it wouldn’t at all surprise me if Iran attempted such a thing. It would help their relations with the Arab world, it would divert attention to their favorite external enemy (besides the US) and, if they can provoke violence, further alienate Israel. It might also help them avoid really harmful sanctions. What are the lives of a few Revolutionary Guard naval forces with that sort of beneficial pay-off in the offing?
And make no mistake, Iran would be throwing their lives away. I’m not sure what the Revolutionary Guard thinks they could do alone against the entire IDF (air and naval forces), but my guess is if they opened fire on an Israeli vessel it would end up being a short, nasty and very one-sided battle affair. Having total air dominance of the area where the fight would take place, as the Israelis most likely would, tends to make the outcome almost pre-ordained – and perfect for Iran.
Depending on how the world (and media) views the outcome (and my guess is that in certain parts of the Arab world, the story would be written before the battle was ever waged) Israel might end up winning the kinetic battle handily and losing the broader media and opinion war.
Whether or not such an escort ever comes to pass, I think Iran sees a real win-win for them developing in this situation. Consequently, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see them try to mount such an operation.
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A member of the juice-box mafia is at it again. This one, well, it just amazes me (but it shouldn’t). Matt Yglesias:
As I’ve noted before, in the eyes of its defenders the blockade of the Gaza Strip is a security measure aimed at denying rockets to Hamas, while in fact it’s a comprehensive effort to collectively punish Gaza residents—a majority of whom are children—in hopes that this will somehow lead to Hamas being replaced by a more moderate regime. Yousef Munayyer’s rundown of the consequences of the blockade makes the point clearly. For example, “In 2006, Israel carried out an attack on Gaza’s only power plant and never permitted the rebuilding to its pre-attack capacity (down to producing 80 megawatts maximum from 140 megawatts).”
On the surface, it’s pure conjecture. And, as you’ll see, it is pure conjecture based on a false premise. But not unusual for those whose sole intent is to demonize Israel.
As has been pointed out many times, Israel absorbs about 4,000 rocket attacks a year from Gaza. Random attacks aimed at Israeli civilians. I wonder what Yglesais would say if Israel responded in kind? Would that be “collective punishment” for Gaza, but not Israel (which, though he hasn’t apparently noticed, has women and children endangered by those attacks – in fact, they’re the targets).
According to the UN report of May 2010, 120 megawatts (over 70%) of the Strip’s electricity supply comes from the Israeli electric grid, while 17 MWs come from Egypt and 30 MWs are produced by the Gaza city power station. Since January 2010, there has been deterioration in the supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip since the Hamas regime is unwilling to purchase the fuel to run the Gaza City power station.
Throughout 2009 Israel transferred 41 trucks of equipment for the maintenance of Gaza’s electricity grid.
Israel facilitates the transfer of fuel through the border, and maintains that the diversion of fuel from domestic power generators to other uses is wholly a Hamas decision. Over 133 million liters of fuel entered Gaza from Israel over the last 18 months.
Wow – Google truly is your friend.
If the assumption is that 140 MW is what Gaza needs (since Yglesais implies the Gaza electrical station could produce that at full capacity) then it appears they’re fine. They receive 167 MW from various sources, mostly Israel. And, it appears, at least according the data the Israelis have produced, that “41 trucks of equipment for the maintenance of Gaza’s electric grid” points to something quite different than “never permitted the rebuilding” (and yes I realize that doesn’t necessarily mean the main power plant exclusively, but it doesn’t exclude it either).
As does the fact that Hamas has been diverting fuel from the domestic power generators to other uses.
I suppose one could try to construct a defense of what the policy actually is, but instead most people seem to prefer to defend something else. Of course Israelis don’t want to be hit by rockets, but why shouldn’t Gaza’s civilians have electricity?
I suppose one could come up with pure unsubstantiated BS and conjecture and try to pass it off as truth too – oh, wait …
And what does it leave us with? Uh, yeah, those rockets. Still real and still hitting Israel.
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As the story continues to unfold, all sorts of questions come to mind.
What is up with Turkey and why are they keeping this so hot? It’s prime minister has recently said:
“Now Israel has shown to all the world how well it knows how to kill,” he said. “People were killed and badly wounded, some from shots, even when bound. How human is this? There is no other way of explaining this to the world. All states condemn it, but this is not enough, we need results. People around the world need to know that one day justice will be revealed. If Israel does not immediately free all the detainees and wounded, the rift in relations with it will widen.”
Yet it has become clear that the boat was loaded with agent provocateurs from the Muslim Brotherhood whose sole intent was the initiation of a violent confrontation with Israeli forces. And, in fact, one of the “humanitarian agencies” represented on the flotilla is a Turkish Islamist group who advocated the overthrow of the Turkish government back in 2000.
So why is that government being so strident and confrontational? Don’t forget too – Turkey is a NATO member. Are we going to be faced, at some point, with choosing to support a NATO member or Israel?
And speaking of Israel, it appears that much of the country is upset with the raid and its outcome. Not so much in sympathy with the Islamists killed, but because it was so poorly thought out and executed. It was, as many are characterizing it, an ambush, and the Isrealis seemingly went into it blindly and were obviously unprepared (you don’t take a paintball gun to a real fight).
Jeffrey Goldberg sums up the feeling in Israel today:
There’s real pain in Israel today, pain at the humiliation of the flotilla raid, pain on behalf of the injured soldiers, and pain that the geniuses who run this country could not figure out a way to out-smart a bunch of Turkish Islamists and their useful idiot fellow travelers. And no, there is no particular pain felt for the dead on the boat; the video of those peace-seeking peace activists beating on the paintball commandos with metal bars pretty much canceled out whatever feelings of sympathy Israelis might have otherwise felt. Plus, most Israelis are aware, unlike much of the rest of the world, that these ships were not on a humanitarian mission, but a political mission, one meant to lend support to Hamas, which seeks Israel’s destruction, so you might have to excuse Israelis for not sympathizing overly much.
There’s more specific “shame and embarrassment” as well. Goldberg goes on:
About that shame and embarrassment: I just met with the son of a friend who serves in an elite Israeli army unit, one very much similiar to Flotilla 13, the Naval commando unit deployed so disastrously against the anti-Israel flotilla, and he explained the shame this way: “These soldiers are the best we have. We are Israel’s deterrent. People in the Middle East need to think we are the best, and we are the best, except that when we’re sent into situations without any intelligence, without any direction, with paintball guns instead of sufficient weapons, with no understanding of who we’re fighting. Then we’re going to have a disaster. These commandos were beaten with pipes! They came onto the deck (of the ship) one by one down a rope and they were beaten by a mob! Commandos!
It is indeed obvious, with the normal benefit of hindsight, that the plan was ill conceved and poorly executed. And, as this friend of Goldberg points out, most of that can be attributed to insufficient, bad or totally inadequate intelligence.
But that begs the question, “why”? This flotilla hasn’t been any secret and it certainly seems many news organizations were gathering information about it. It seems almost inexplicable why the much vaunted Israeli intelligence network wasn’t on top of this or, if they were, how they got it so very wrong.
I don’t care who you are, or how good you are, when you piece-meal your force into a situation where the enemy contols the ground you’re going into, you’re screwed. And to add to the problem, you have a force inadequately armed for the situation (it is obvious by the fact that they were armed with paintball guns that they expected to meet little if any resistance) and an ROE tailored to a completely different situation.
Then there’s the public relations side of this fiasco. However right the Isrealis were in trying to stop these ships from running the blockade, with the deaths involved, they end up on the predictable short end of the PR battle.
And, as is now beginning to play out, there’s even a symbolic side to this that, per some critics, to which the Israelis government should have been more sensitive:
Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Moshe Ya’alon are supposed to know history. They are supposed to know there was no greater mistake than that of the British with regard to the illegal immigrant ship Exodus in the summer of 1947. The brutality employed by the British Mandate against a ferry loaded with Jewish refugees turned the regime into an object of revile. It lost what is now called international legitimacy. British rule over the country ended just 10 months after the Exodus fiasco, The Turkish ship Mavi Marmara was no Exodus. It carried not Holocaust survivors but provocateurs, many of them extremists. But a series of baseless decisions on the part of the prime minister and the ministers of defense and of strategic affairs turned the Marmara into a Palestinian Exodus. With a single foolish move, the Israeli cabinet cast the Muslim Brotherhood in the role of the victim and the Israel Navy as the villain and simultaneously opened European, Turkish, Arab, Palestinian and internal Israeli fronts. In so doing, Israel is serving Hamas’ interests better than Hamas itself has ever done.
There’s your “sad but true” statement of the day. That is what most of the rest of the world will compare it too. It will also grant “victimhood” to those killed even if it was the intent of those “victims” to martyr themselves. And the hypocritical Arab world will latch on to that publicly while privately celebrating the deaths.
As one of the flotilla participants, Muslim Brotherhood member of its Egyptian Parliamentary bloc is quoted as saying in March of this year:
“A nation that excels at dying will be blessed by Allah with a life of dignity and with eternal paradise.”
And that was precisely their aim and the outcome. The death cult of radical Islam doesn’t deplore death, it welcomes it and celebrates it. But they also knew the predictable outcome of such “martyrdom” via the world’s reaction to them if they could provoke those deaths.
Now we have to see how this all plays out – but for right now, Israel has put itself between a rock and a hard place in a surprisingly un-Israeli fashion.
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There is a lot more information that needs to come out about this thing, and I’m disturbed that numerous reports show this so-called “Freedom Flotilla” in international waters when Israel boarded, but I’m not prepared to go all Andrew Sullivan on it.
If the flotilla was indeed in international waters, then the Israelis had no business on that ship. That said, what I’m not seeing in most of the reports are facts. I’m seeing a lot of emotional statements and conjecture and posturing by various politicians and nations.
What I’ve been able to discern at this point is Israeli Commandoes descended on a ship full of “peace activists” whose only supposed desire was to run the Israeli blockade and deliver supplies to Gaza – or so their story goes. As I read more an more about it, it seems less and less likely that those “peace activists” were from the MLK/Ghandi wing of the organization.
In fact, growing evidence is they were from a much less savory part. As the commandoes descended by fast roping on to the deck, armed with paintball guns (and sidearms, holstered), they were set upon by the peaceful folks trying to make it to Gaza.
Let’s step back a moment – Israel absorbs about 6,000 rockets a year, most from the Gaza area. They’re obviously getting their arms by some route and Israel takes a keen interest in where. I can’t imagine why. So they’ve attempted to cut the sea-borne supply line with a blockade. But the blockade doesn’t prevent the delivery of aid to the Palestinians in Gaza. It’s not like they turn it all away. In fact, this flotilla is simply another attempt among many past attempts. Yid with a Lid explains:
Every few months, a flotila of boats head toward Gaza with the purpose of convincing the world press that Israel is the evil empire. Usually what happens is Israel stops the boats, directs them to an Israeli port,and Israel delivers the aid though a land route (once it was checked for weapons). Israel has a convoy delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza on a daily basis. In fact Israel transfers about 15,000 tons of supplies and humanitarian aid every week to the people of Gaza.
That’s how the necessities of survival have dictated it is done – if you want to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza, head for the Israeli port. Mission accomplished – unless you’re an arms smuggler or looking for a fight. And it appears, more and more, that’s precisely what this flotilla was looking for – and got. It also appears the escalation of respose was probably warranted given the “peace activists” continued attacks. Here’s why:
Navy commandoes slid down to the vessel one by one, yet then the unexpected occurred: The passengers that awaited them on the deck pulled out bats, clubs, and slingshots with glass marbles, assaulting each soldier as he disembarked. The fighters were nabbed one by one and were beaten up badly, yet they attempted to fight back.
However, to their misfortune, they were only equipped with paintball rifles used to disperse minor protests, such as the ones held in Bilin. The paintballs obviously made no impression on the activists, who kept on beating the troops up and even attempted to wrest away their weapons. One soldier who came to the aid of a comrade was captured by the rioters and sustained severe blows.
The commandoes were equipped with handguns but were told they should only use them in the face of life-threatening situations. When they came down from the chopper, they kept on shouting to each other “don’t shoot, don’t shoot,” even though they sustained numerous blows.
Video has emerged of the commandoes being attacked with metal pipes, clubs, bats and the like. There’s also a shot of one commando being thrown over the side of one deck and landing on another, to be set upon again. Obviously the paintball gun didn’t have the desired effect. But their ROE (Rules of Engagement) said, no use of firearms unless their lives were under threat.
OK, so now what? Well, step two was to attempt to break up the attackers with stun grenades:
The forces hurled stun grenades, yet the rioters on the top deck, whose number swelled up to 30 by that time, kept on beating up about 30 commandoes who kept gliding their way one by one from the helicopter.
You’re probably saying, “but wait, these are Israeli commandoes and they were some activist rabble. The odds were pretty even. Why didn’t the commandoes just take them?” Because when you fast rope in one-by-one into a crowd of 30, it is pretty hard to get any sort of cohesive unit action going, especially when you’re set upon individually. You’re fighting for your safety from minute one.
Anyway, stun grenades didn’t disperse them, so what was the next step? Well, it was actually dictated by the “peace activists” when they disarmed and threw the commando I mentioned above over the side. It all went downhill from there:
Only after this injury did Flotilla 13 troops ask for permission to use live fire. The commander approved it: You can go ahead and fire. The soldiers pulled out their handguns and started shooting at the rioters’ legs, a move that ultimately neutralized them. Meanwhile, the rioters started to fire back at the commandoes.
“I saw the tip of a rifle sticking out of the stairwell,” one commando said. “He fired at us and we fired back. We didn’t see if we hit him. We looked for him later but couldn’t find him.” Two soldiers sustained gunshot wounds to their knee and stomach after rioters apparently fired at them using guns wrested away from troops. During the commotion, another commando was stabbed with a knife. In a later search aboard the Marmara, soldiers found caches of bats, clubs, knives, and slingshots used by the rioters ahead of the IDF takeover. It appeared the activists were well prepared for a fight.
I don’t know how “well prepared” they were, but they certainly had crude weapons (the slingshots were using glass marbles which can, at close range, kill if they hit the right spot) and a will to attack the Israelis.
None of this, by the way, excuses the Israelis from boarding a ship in international waters (if that is indeed the case). They need to answer for that. International waters makes this an illegal raid. According to reports the flotilla was intercepted 65km of the Gaza coast. But the contiguous zone is only 24 miles or 38.6km off shore.
Within this zone, a coastal state can stop and inspect vessels and act to punish (or prevent) violations of its laws within its territory or territorial waters.
However, it also seems clear that this particular flotilla was in the business of trying to provoke violence and succeeded. As the claims and counter claims come in and the usual absurd posturing takes place about the deaths caused in this incident, remember this sequence of events and what prompted what happened on board the Marmara. Certainly one can sympathize to an extent with the peace activists who actually do want to see the people of Gaza receive humanitarian supplies. And one can also get their back up at armed men attempting to prevent them from doing so freely.
But you also have to keep in mind what happens from Gaza all too many times during each year. And you have to keep in mind that self-defense is also a right. I’m sure the “peace activists” will claim they were only defending themselves and their property, and in this case, it appears to be a valid claim. However, it seems clear from the videos that they’re intent on doing a little more than just defending themselves against paintball gun wielding commandoes. And it is just as clear from the ROE and the sequenced or phased response that the Israelis had no intention, upon landing on the ship, of killing or injuring anyone.
But this is now a full-fledged international incident with all the insanity those sorts of things normally bring to the fore (NATO is meeting about this? Really? And Turkey is threatening to escort another flotilla with its navy? Oh great, that’ll lessen tensions – maybe NATO does need to meet.).
Stay tuned for more.
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Elliot Abrams asks that question given some news out of the Middle East that has gone virtually undiscussed. You remember the recent announcement that indirect or “proximity” talks were supposed to begin soon between Israel and Palestine. Abrams says, “maybe not”. And the reason is not good news:
Two stories this week in Haaretz, the Israeli daily, make this clear. The first story recounts an interview Abbas gave Israeli TV, and notes that “Abbas said he hopes to get Arab League approval for indirect talks on May 1.” The second story recycles an item from the newspaper Al-Watan in Damascus, and begins this way: “The Arab League is expected to reject the Obama administration’s proposal to begin indirect Middle East peace negotiations in the coming weeks, sources from the 22-state body told Syria’s Al-Watan daily on Tuesday. The League’s Monitoring Committee for the Arab Peace Initiative is scheduled to meet on Saturday to vote on the proposal, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is unlikely to accept any offer for peace talks that does not meet the panel’s approval.”
Of course that changes the game pretty dramatically. If Abbas has ceded the power of the Palestinians to speak for themselves to the Arab League, it complicates any possible solution with Israel. In fact, as Abrams notes, it is a return “to the days when the Palestinians were under the control of Arab states rather than masters of their own future”. And we all know how well that’s turned out.
Second, putting the Arab League in charge magnifies the influence of bad actors. To get negotiations going, the Obama administration now has to convince not only Abbas, but Bashar al Assad. Perhaps this helps explain why George Mitchell has visited Damascus and why the administration persists in “outreach” to Syria despite its continuing evil conduct (most recently, reports of the shipment of Scud missiles to Hezbollah). Having committed itself to the “peace process,” the administration simply cannot afford to treat Syria as it deserves; Syria has too much clout now.
So now, as Abrams notes, since such countries as Syria have a say in what the Palestinians do, we have to tread more lightly than perhaps we could have prior to this little announcement. That reigns in, for instance, putting the amount of diplomatic pressure that the report of SCUDs to Hezbollah deserves.
More than anything, though, it introduces a third party to the talks which has no vested interest in seeing the peace process work. Other than Egypt and Jordan, both of which have peace treaties with Israel, the other 20 nations have demonstrated little care or desire for peace with Israel. If you thought the peace process was tough before, this little wrinkle makes it almost impossible now.
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