- What do the Japans,
, Germanies of the world do to demonstrate their sincerity? Brazils
- Is there a common element within the answer that can be articulated by the IAEA as the “standard?”
- In what way is
falling short of that global standard? Iran
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Is there a centrist position in political Islam, and could the West benefit from cultivating, rather than suppressing, it?
The post-9/11 American prejudice is that Muslim societies have only two groups: the quiescent, obedient ones and the terrorists. So, I’d like to pose a few questions that any specialist would no doubt find laughably simplistic. From the perspective of Muslim studies, they are simplistic; from the perspective of the average American, I’m afraid they are not. So specialists need to take them seriously and provide answers:
- Is there a “centrist political Islam?”
- If so, how is it doing?
- What might happen if the West gave it support?
Meaning of “Centrist” or “Middle of the Road:”
Note that I said “centrist,” not “moderate.” I would take “centrist” to indicate non-violent when feasible, advocating rule through law and discussion but not necessarily behaving in a manner a citizen of a rich, comfortable industrial state might call “moderate” because in a highly corrupt and polarized traditional dictatorship (apply these loaded terms where they fit), “moderation” may not be what is needed to reach the center. Just to make the point for American readers, “moderation” would not have freed the slaves or eliminated segregation; “moderation” would not have gotten women the vote; “moderation” would not have earned workers the right to independent unions. If society is far to the right (oh, think the behavior of the police during anti-globalization protests in Seattle or during the Republican convention in New York or the attitude of government toward the poor of New Orleans fleeing Katrina), then “centrist” does not somehow magically transform into “just a little less far to the right;” rather, “centrist” still must contain some semblance of aiming at the “center,” i.e. half way between repressive elitism and revolutionary destruction. A “centrist” Obama Administration, for example, might have broken up Goldman Sachs and jailed all executives convicted of interfering with government regulators; few would have termed that “moderate,” but it would have been right in the center between the right wing demand for unregulated Wall Street greed and the public ownership concept of modern socialism—which would call for the replacement of Goldman by a governmental institution to manage trading for the public welfare.
Being Centrist in Muslim Society.
Returning to Muslim societies, and without forgetting the questions posed above, how should a centrist political Islamic activist behave? The answer for such a person in
In 2008, Khalil al-Anani wrote an intriguing article still well worth reading called, not coincidentally, “The Path of Centrist Political Islam”
Thursday, February 18, 2010
I have been tossing around the term “Palestinian Bantustan” lately. To the uninitiated this must surely sound like an extraordinarily nasty anti-Israeli insult, so I thought it might be worthwhile setting the record straight: as much as I think the phrase is appropriate for what the current Israeli regime is planning, indeed for describing the current situation on the ground, I cannot take credit for the allusion to South Africa’s version of the Warsaw ghetto. It comes, believe it or not, from none other than that great champion of human rights (remember Sabra and Shatila?) Ariel
During his visit two weeks ago to Israel, former Italian prime minister Massimo D'Alema hosted a small group of Israelis - public figures and former diplomats - to a dinner at a Jerusalem hotel.
The conversation quickly turned to the conciliatory interviews Prime Minister Ariel Sharon gave to the press for their Independence Day editions. One of the Israelis, of the type for whom it's second nature, no matter who is in government, to explain and defend Israeli policy, expressed full confidence in Sharon's peace rhetoric. He said the prime minister understands the solution to the conflict is the establishment of a Palestinian state beside
The former premier from the Italian left said that three or four years ago he had a long conversation with Sharon, who was in
for a brief visit. According to D'Alema, Rome explained at length that the Sharon Bantustanmodel was the most appropriate solution to the conflict.
The defender of
quickly protested. "Surely that was your personal interpretation of what Israel said." Sharon
D'Alema didn't give in. "No, sir, that is not interpretation. That is a precise quotation of your prime minister."
Supplementary evidence backing D'Alema's story can be found in an expensively produced brochure prepared for Tourism Minister Benny Elon, who is promoting a two-state solution -
and Israel . Under the title "The Road to War: a tiny protectorate, overpopulated, carved up and demilitarized," the Moledet Party leader presents "the map of the Palestinian state, according to Jordan 's proposal." Sharon 's map is surprisingly similar to the plan for protectorates in Sharon in the early 1960s. Even the number of cantons is the same - 10 in the West Bank (and one more in South Africa ). Dr. Alon Liel, a former Israeli ambassador to South Africa, notes that the South Africans only managed to create four of their 10 planned Gaza Bantustans.
"Palestinian Bantustan" is a deadly serious, long-term Israeli plan.
Neve Gordon, “Bowed Heads and
Lawrence of Cyberia, “I Have…A Cunning Plan,” January 2, 2008, on the Information Clearing House website.
Mika Minio-Paluello, “Disengaging Resistance,” on the StoptheWall website and also on the Z Magazine website, June 22, 2004 for an analysis of Israeli strategy.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Being an intensely emotional and morally significant issue to both sides, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict defies dispassionate, thoughtful analysis. Yet the conflict is not just a heart-rending story of homeland lost. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict poses very real challenges to global security, so the security ramifications of that conflict require the most careful analysis. [My thanks to Online Journal for first publishing this article.]
Five possible near-term futures for Palestine and Israel seem worth serious consideration:
1) Jordan Becomes Palestine -- the transfer of Palestinians to
2) Two States -- a sovereign and secure Palestinian state alongside the Israeli state;
3) Secular Democracy -- a single, secular state in which Palestinians and Israelis are equal before the law;
4) Bantustan -- a disarmed Palestinian Bantustan, next to Israel, that could in turn either lead to the destruction of Palestinian society or stimulate the desperate Palestinians to turn to a radical militia for protection; or
5) Catastrophe -- the longer the conflict continues, the greater the possibility of a catastrophe even worse than the current situation.
Each possibility leads, naturally, to further evolution. For example, if Palestinians are incorporated into
But limiting ourselves just to imagining the immediate next step already brings to mind some basic questions that, in the fog of taboo and denial and emotion, seldom receive the consideration they deserve:
- Which of these possible futures is the situation now moving toward?
- What is the impact of the current direction on the broader Western-Islamic confrontation?
The Current Direction. The first question would have been difficult to answer six months ago, but now seems trivially obvious: Obama has surrendered, giving up any sincere intent he may ever have had to change the course of
Supporting and disconfirmatory evidence need to be collected and assessed. Supporting evidence for evolution toward Palestinian Bantustan would include Washington refusing to hold Israel responsible for actions during attack on
Whatever the future course, we Americans need--for the sake of our own security--to understand more precisely, to recognize more honestly where the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, under (after all) our tutelage, is headed.
Impact of the Current Direction.
A full analysis would also require consideration of the national/global security implications of the other possible futures. For example, although two equal and independent states may be hard to reject as a goal on the basis of morality, creating a geographically, politically, economically, and militarily viable Palestinian state would clearly be an historic tour-de-force replete with security issues. Remarks here will be limited to the security impacts likely to flow from the rise of a Palestinian Bantustan.
Radicalizing Political Islam. Two alternative hypotheses can easily be stated concerning the probable Muslim reaction: 1) Muslims will give up, forget about
Empowering the Israeli Right. The tension with Palestinians is the foundation of the Israeli right’s hold on power. The rise of the Israeli garrison state and the decline of Israeli democracy can be expected to intensify as a function of the level of tension. The dangers of this trend are well described by Israeli thinkers such as Uri Avnery and Daniel Sokatch.
Militarizing Western-Islamic Relations. Logically, the general strategy for normalizing relations between the Islamic world and the West would be to bring to the fore as many areas as possible, especially areas in which the West has real and obviously desirable contributions to make: the heritage of evolving toward freedom, democracy, civil rights, and international law; economic support; scientific knowledge. The repression of
Stimulating an Islamic anti-Western United Front. If 9/11 isolated Muslim extremists and briefly opened the door (had
In sum, the region appears, with
Even assuming all the above hypotheses about the impact of U.S./Israeli Palestinian policy are true, one could counter that military might is what counts and that the effect will thus be minimal. Over the short-term, military might does indeed appear impressively effective, but the more carefully one looks at the results on the ground and their national security implications, the less impressive the military victories seem. The
One could also argue that economics are what count.
U.S.-Israeli policy on
The challenge for the apartheid government was then to persuade “self-governing” black elites to accept independent statehood in these territorial fictions and so permanently absolve the white government of any responsibility for black political rights. Toward this end, the apartheid regime hand-picked and seeded “leaders” into the Homelands, where they immediately sprouted into a nice crop of crony elites (the usual political climbers and carpet-baggers) that embedded into lucrative niches of financial privileges and patronage networks that the white government thoughtfully cultivated (this should sound familiar too).
It didn’t matter that the actual territories of the Homelands were fragmented into myriad pieces and lacked the essential resources to avoid becoming impoverished labor cesspools. Indeed, the Homelands’ territorial fragmentation, although crippling, was irrelevant to Grand Apartheid. Once all these “nations” were living securely in independent states, apartheid ideologists argued to the world, tensions would relax, trade and development would flower, blacks would be enfranchised and happy, and white supremacy would thus become permanent and safe.
The thorn in this plan was to get even thoroughly co-opted black Homeland elites to declare independent statehood within “national” territories that transparently lacked any meaningful sovereignty over borders, natural resources, trade, security, foreign policy, water — again, sound familiar? Only four Homeland elites did so, through combinations of bribery, threats and other “incentives.” Otherwise, black South Africans didn’t buy it and the ANC and the world rejected the plot whole cloth. (The only state to recognize the Homelands was fellow-traveler Israel.) But the Homelands did serve one purpose — they distorted and divided black politics, created terrible internal divisions, and cost thousands of lives as the ANC and other factions fought it out. The last fierce battles of the anti-apartheid struggle were in the Homelands, leaving a legacy of bitterness to this day.
Hence the supreme irony for Palestinians today is that the most urgent mission of apartheid South Africa — getting the indigenous people to declare statehood in non-sovereign enclaves — finally collapsed with mass black revolt and took apartheid down with it, yet the Palestinian leadership now is not only walking right into that same trap but actually making a claim on it.
U.S. Rep. Brian Baird says the United States should break Israel's blockade of Gaza and deliver badly needed supplies by sea.
The Washington Democrat, who is not running for re-election, told Gaza students Sunday that ships should bring supplies to the beach and deliver them to United Nations agencies.
He also said President Barack Obama's Mideast envoy should visit the Hamas-ruled territory to get a first-hand look at the destruction caused by Israeli's military offensive last year.
Monday, February 15, 2010
More than once I have criticized the public debate in the
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. In life, when we fail, we call it stupidity to
burrow deeper into failure. Measured by any standard, American policy toward
has failed Israel
over the past couple of decades. We are no closer to any kind of peace. Israelis and Palestinians
today stand further apart than ever. They are estranged. They are mistrustful. They are
antagonistic. They can scarcely even imagine peace. We will therefore submit to you tonight
that rather than burrowing deeper into failure, and so jeopardizing American interest, the United
States should reconsider its ties with
. It should step back from its special relationship in Israel
favor of a normal relationship. Now a normal relations between allies, and the
and United States
Israel must remain firm allies, are often marked by differences. With
, with France , with Japan
Germany, with Turkey, important allies all,
has regular and often open disagreements. America
's relationship with America is its uncritical nature, even when Israel interests U.S.
are being hurt. What also makes the relationship special is the incredible largess that the United
States shows towards Israel, over the past decade, $28.9 billion in economic aid. And on top of
that, another $30 billion in military aid, that's almost $60 billion. That's 10 times the GNP of
that is being gifted to a small country. Now, I ask you, to what end is this money being Haiti
used. Ladies and gentlemen, we would submit that it ends often inimical to the
Take the ongoing Israeli settlement program in the West Bank, at a cost of about $100 billion,
this enterprise has grown the number of settlers in the
West Bankfrom about 140,000 in 1996, to
about 300,000 today. If you add the roughly 150,000 Israeli's in
East Jerusalem, you get to a
number of 450,000 Israelis beyond the 1997 border. That's not all. Money has poured into a
repressive apparatus involving settler-only highways, reserved military areas, a separation or
security barrier. The Israelis call it "separation wall", "hated separated wall" the Palestinians call
it, a barrier that burrows into the
West Bankand annexes 10% of the land. What's the result of
this? Well the result is an isolated, fragmented, atomized, fractured, humiliated Palestinian
presence that simply makes a nonsense, at first, of the notion of "Two States for Two Peoples".
What I observe there on my visits to the
West Bankamounts to a kind of primer in colonialism.
Imagine, Israelis in their fast cars, Blackberry-ing away, booming down these super highways,
while Palestinians on their donkey carts make their way on dirt tracks, if they can get there, to
their orchards. This is a primer in colonialism, much more than it resembles a nascent Palestinian
state. Yet, "Two States for Two Peoples" is the declared
objective. In effect, the United U.S.
States is bankrolling the very Israeli policies that are dashing its own aims and the hopes for
by making two states almost unimaginable. Does this make sense? Is that clever? I don't think so.
And if you don't think so, ladies and gentlemen, you should vote for the proposition tonight.
has raised its voice occasionally. Jim Baker, for example, Secretary of United States
State in '89, said, "Foreswear annexation. Stop settlement activity."
Now fast forward two decades to Barack Obama, in
, two decades in several hundred Cairo
thousand settlers, he said, "The
does not accept legitimacy of the continued Israeli United States
settlements." And what did Prime Minister Netanyahu do two weeks ago, planted settlings in
various settlements, and they are part - and said, "They are part of
for all eternity." Now in Israel
a normal relationship, there would be consequences to such defiance. In a special relationship,
the one that exists, there are no such consequences. Now,
's perceived complicity in America
Israeli violence carries a heavy price. Jihadi terrorism aimed at the
is not primarily United States
motivated perhaps by the Palestinian issue, but it is a major factor. It is a potent terrorist
recruitment tool. The
should stand by its allies. And United States is an ally. But if Israel
America is to pay the blood, and the treasure, and the last piece of mind that comes with
, it should be ready at least to speak openly and critically of Israeli mistakes Israel
when needed. To boost, ladies and gentlemen, are unhealthy, a climate that affixes charges of
anti-Semitism to anyone critical of Israel, and self-hating Jew to any Jew who's critical of Israel,
is unhelpful. For if there are not two states, there will be one state.
And sooner or later, the number of Palestinians in it will outnumber the number of Jews. And
what then will remain of the Zionist dream? Ladies and gentlemen, there's also a moral issue
here. I am a Jew. I know that
at its foundation and its declaration of independence said it Israel
would, "Ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants, irrespective
of religion, race, and sex." We, Jews, know in our bones what persecution is. Alas, and this is
hard to say,
, has in my view, lost touch with these fundamental values. By uncritically Israel
supporting Israeli policies in the
West Bankand is undermining its own values, Gaza, America
which at the very least stand for the absence of second class citizenship and equality of
opportunity. Yes, I know
's a vibrant democracy isolated in the Israel Middle East. And its values
are closer to ours than those at closed Arab societies. But that does not mean that we should
's systematic dismemberment of the Israel option. And if President Obama is Two State
serious about reaching out to the Muslim world,
must appear much more as an honest America
broker and less as
's spokesman. And that requires a serious re-balloting. You will, I Israel
suspect, hear that
is a lonely David facing an Arab Goliath. You will hear that it needs Israel
blanket American support to be secure. This is simply not true. Nuclear-armed
John Donvan: Roger Cohen, your time is up.
Roger Cohen: The
can step back while ensuring United States 's security. And so I urge Israel
you to vote for the motion tonight. Thank you.
Unfortunately for the interests of serious debate, the speakers defending the special relationship (as opposed to a normal alliance) pretty much overlooked Cohen’s critique, satisfying themselves with biased platitudes, so it really was not much of a debate. I did not, for example, see any defense of
Augustus Norton provides the historical detail on what really happened between the Hamas-Israel ceasefire in mid-2008 and Israel's December 2008 attack on Gaza.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
[Thanks to Online Journal for publishing this article. Future posts will explore its ramifications.]
In an interview at the end of his first year in office, Obama admitted that, “for all our efforts at early engagement [with Israel and Palestinians], it is not where I want it to be….Both sides…have found…that it was very hard for them to start engaging in a meaningful conversation….” Now this sounds so far like an admirably honest admission of failure that might just serve as the basis from doing a better job during the Administration’s second year until the next few words, in which Obama referred to “a two-state solution in which Israel is secure and the Palestinians have sovereignty.”
Why not a solution in which both have security? Because even nice-guy Obama seems as trapped in the blind
Netanyahu at least has a solution: ethnic cleansing. The solution of Zionist extremists who believe in a Greater Israel expanding far beyond
Implementation of this policy takes the form of relentless theft of Palestinian land, by means of government encouragement of Israelis to settle in regions where Palestinians live, with, when necessary, the protection of the Army to ensure that the settlers have a monopoly of force. Employing a form of terrorism that is effective but typically stops short of outright murder, the Israeli settlers destroy precious Palestinian olive groves and Palestinians are, by a combination of settler pressure and government action, forced to surrender their homes. Palestinians are thus squeezed into smaller and smaller living spaces rigidly controlled by an apartheid policy that, for example, restricts Palestinians to the use of side roads.
Once no more Palestinians exist in the areas
No matter that this vision of a “pure” Israeli society might substitute for the “Palestinian” problem a Lebanese problem or a Syrian problem or an Iranian problem: it is not clear where the ambitions of Greater Israel advocates stop nor is it clear how its neighbors might react to the fulfillment of the Palestinian stage of their grand project. But at least on paper, Netanyahu has a “solution”—one just as “final” as that of white
Some in Hamas—born from the harsh mother of Israeli oppression—seem once to have had in mind the mirror image solution, though it is no longer at all clear who in that organization may still hold fast to its founding vision. Khaled Meshal notably has been quoted as saying, "Hamas has already changed--we accepted the national accords for a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, and we took part in the 2006 Palestinian elections." That puts Hamas in a considerably more moderate position than that of the current Israeli regime, which has in mind Palestinian Bantustans completely under Israeli control rather than the legitimate two-state solution implied in Meshal’s remark.
The original Hamas solution of expelling Israelis, which quite logically was no nicer than that of the Greater Israel types, might also have contained the seeds of new problems, for it would have left a weak Palestinian state at the mercy of powerful Arab dictatorships that would see the very fact of its victory as an unacceptable threat to their domestic oppression. In any case, the habit apologists of Israeli extremism have of dwelling on the original Hamas concept of a solution seems misplaced today, given the moderating trend in Hamas thinking. Indeed, it seems little more than a red herring to cover up the fact that Hamas now seems to be more moderate than the Israeli government.
Tragically, Obama seems unable to see through the Israeli propaganda. He cannot, evidently, understand that the “problem” in the
As long as Team Washington cries for the suffering of the wave of European colonialists that has spent the last century creating what has become a little nuclear empire more than it cries for the Palestinian victims who have lost their homes and land and freedom and all of their security, it will be unable to discover any “solution” except that of the Zionist extremists. (By “extremist,” to be clear, I mean a person who prefers one-sided solutions achieved through force; I leave for self-professed Zionists to say whether or not it is possible to be a Zionist and still support a fair partition of the old Palestinian territory into two modern, independent, secure states—one for Palestinians and one for Israelis.)
If the colonialists have now had children who have nowhere else to go and also deserve a right to their own homes, then no real justice seems possible. Palestinians will have to compromise. But the compromise that will achieve a “solution” will have to be based on equality. If Israelis deserve security, so do Palestinians. For those who are politically illiterate, that is spelled: “national army.” Or, dear Team
Yet, I only see five alternatives: 1) Jordan Becomes Palestine - the transfer of Palestinians to Jordan, which would probably give Palestinians control of Jordan; 2) Two States - a sovereign and secure Palestinian state alongside the Israeli state, 3) Secular Democracy - a single, secular state in which Palestinians and Israelis are equal, 4) Bantustan - a disarmed Palestinian Bantustan, next to Israel, that will stimulate the desperate Palestinians to turn to a radical militia for protection, or 5) Genocide. Obama is talking publicly about Two States, while the Israeli government is demanding
Whatever Obama may think, Netanyahu has no intention of allowing the creation of a Palestinian state. Consider the following summary from Israel’s leading English-language daily:
Netanyahu called his endorsement of a Palestinian state without military capabilities, which he presented in a policy speech at Bar Ilan University earlier this month, a "winning formula for peace."
That is not called a “state;” that is called a
Add to that the remark by Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman that “we cannot accept a vision of stopping completely the settlements,” and you have a clear Israeli insistence not only on preventing Palestinian independence but continuing to steal what little attractive land remains in Palestinian hands. And that is why it is “hard for them to start engaging in a meaningful conversation.”
A “solution” will require the replacement of the nuclear mini-empire by a modest state living like a good neighbor, resolving the normal issues of life by shouting across the backyard fence or inviting the neighbor to dinner, as the case may be, but not by nuclear blackmail, infringing on the neighbor’s airspace, demanding the right to tell the neighbor what arms he cannot have that that already fill your garage to the roof, or jamming the neighbor into some tiny open-air jail in the desert.
One might imagine the solution as two states with equal rights (e.g., to regional water sources) and capabilities (e.g., for self-defense). One might alternatively imagine the solution as a single state that would reject both the fundamentalist bias of a caliphate and a "Jewish state" and that would therefore have no use for apartheid. Those are details, albeit crucial ones.
But whatever the details, the “solution” will have to address the “problem.” The problem is not the existence of Hamas or the anger on which it is founded. The problem is the injustice of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. Team
Monday, February 8, 2010
Ahmadinejad announces the intention of achieving the ability to use Iranian uranium for medical purposes as though it were a challenge to American superpower status. That's good for him politically, at least within his close personal circles. Then,
So the politicians on both sides who either are extremists looking for a good war or who want to be perceived as extremists egg each other on, feed off each other, and create a dangerous dynamic that could truly lead to war and that at a minimum does in fact empower extremism on both sides.
But the reality is even more complicated than that because Iran actually is a threat - not to US national security but to a foreign policy goal that is now very popular in Washington: ensuring that everyone in the Mideast bow down to American leadership.
There is nothing natural about Israel having a regional nuclear monopoly, being able to get away with thinly veiled nuclear threats against non-nuclear Iran, having the “right” to tell neighbors (e.g., Lebanon) what weapons they are allowed to possess, or being allowed to attack neighbors (e.g., Syria) whenever they build or buy something Israel disapproves of. There is also nothing natural about