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Arab World: Who's the leader of the club?


Remember Rami Khouri's tribute to the nonviolent dear hearts and gentle people who live in the Middle East? I expressed some skepticism about that, but maybe Rami is right. All us Middle East folks mind our own business. We read the good book from Fri 'till Monday, as the old song says - that's how the weekend goes, right, Rami?

Just after a wrote that article about the non-violent Middle East self image, a survey was released that indicates that the most popular figure in the Middle East is - you guessed it - Hassan Nassrallah, General Secretary of the very nice Hezbollah. Previously, the most popular figure was good ole Osama Bin Laden. These are the "non-violent" heroes of the non-violent Middle East.

Rami Khouri and his fellow analysts throughout the Middle East would explain to us that men like Osama Bin Ladena nd Hassan Nasrallah are admired because they give people in the Middle East hope that they can better their miserable lives. Previous occupants of the "most admired" position have been the non-violent Saddam Hussein and the great non-violent benefactor Gamal Abdul Nasser.

According to this ideology, the Middle East was a real paradise until the 19th century. All the millions of Muslims, Christians and Jews lived in peace and harmony, enjoying the benefits of peace, Ottoman Turkish despotism, trachoma, illiteracy, slavery, 50% infant mortality and other marvels. Alas! The Western colonialist imperialist warmongers spoiled all that. They came and built schools and hospitals and dug the Suez canal. Then they freed the slaves, and gave independence to every one of the former colonial territories of Ottoman Turkey. Trachoma, typhus, malaria and even Schistosomiasis were vanquished. Horror of horrors - the slaves were freed as well. The Middle East never recovered from the shame of this humiliation, and that is why, Khouri tells us, inhabitants of the Middle East follow these leaders who give them hope.

Consider the case of Hassan Nasrallah. Sayyed ("wise man") Nasrallah is leader of the club that's made for you and me, Middle East inhabitants. In 2006, he initiated a war and won a great victory over AKA the "Zionist Entity" in the Second Lebanon War. As a result of this victory, the wise Nasrallah demonstrated that the Zionist entity is only, as he says, a cobweb state. Over a thousand Lebanese were killed in this victory, and hundreds of thousands were made homeless. Billions of dollars of damage was the price of the privilege of firing rockets at Israel for about a month. These were the immediate fruits of the victory of the wise man Nasrallah. But Nasrallah's victory is a thing of beauty, which must be a joy forever, or at least for a long time. Almost two years after the victory, the Lebanese government is still paralyzed thanks to the Hezbollah. and the south of Lebanon is not rebuilt. We know all this, but today the Beirut Daily Star reminds us of another fruit of Nasrallah and his victory. Not only has Lebanese tourism not recovered since 2006, but in 2007 tourism actually declined and hotel rooms became cheaper.

No wonder Hassan Nassrallah is so popular. He is giving hope to the people of the Middle East. If Nasrallah has his way, the Middle East will go back to the good old days before those pesky Westerners came and spoiled it all.

Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000689.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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Replies: 5 comments

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Freedom and Democracy
Regarding new elections in Florida and Michigan, Senator Obama said we should play by the rules, I contend. In other words, we should not change the rules in the middle of the game.

Senator Bradley and Senator Daschle--both Obamanites--said the same thing as Obama. Play by the rules.

Play by the rules even though the voters of Florida and Michigan have been disenfranchised.


Well, the rules also say that superdelegates can vote for Hillary even though most pledged delegates are for Obama.

Those are the rules. And we should not change the rules in the middle of the game, says Senator Obama, Senator Bradley and Senator Daschle.

I wonder if the corporate media will remind them that they are sticklers for the rules and for not changing the rules in the middle of the game.

I would imagine if the senators forget their rulesmanship it will look to the public as if they will say whatever they have to say in order to win. In other words, it will look as if they are practicing that old style politics they say they are so adamantly against.

For example, you might hear them say that superdelegates should be punished by the voters if they choose the rules over freedom and democracy.


Then I suppose Obama, Bradley and Daschle should also be punished by the voters because they defended the rules against freedom and democracy for Florida and Michigan voters.

Posted by scottsoperson @ 04/25/2008 06:13 AM CST

Well, Ami MEW is called a balanced view. I disagree it is pretty muct anti-Arab from whatever I have read on it thus far.

The reason why people like Hasan Nasrallah and OBL is admired in Arab world is probably because he stood up to the big bad enemy. The world and Israel need to understand that for Arabs, Muslims and a lot of other peoples a disrespectful peace is no peace at all. Roads infrastructure education do not equal freedom and self respect.

By virtually imprisoning Arafat and then destroying all buildings Israel not only humiliated Arafat but also the Palestinian people. The message they sent out was simple - Arafat your leader lives on our mercy and so do you. Again by not respecting the mandate of the Palestinians who elected Hamas, Israel again signifies that democracy is acceptable only when leaders acceptable to them are elected. Perhaps Israel needs to learn from India where despite Pervez Musharaf being the instigator of the Kargil Kashmir war we still accepted him as Pakistani leader and negotiated with him.

As to my background, I am ofcourse Indian and Muslim. Please feel free to comment on anything I have written.

Posted by NT @ 05/02/2008 06:11 PM CST

NT you are presenting a false dichotomy in which Israel is offering infrastructure but with a disrespectful peace without freedom or self respect, while the Hamas and hizballa are demanding a respectful peace and self respect.

That is not exactly reality. Israel (or at least the left and center when it is in power, which regretably will probably not be much longer) is offering peace based on compromise (i.e. the two state solution), mutual respect (of each sides national aspirations), freedom (by Israel's withdrawl from Gaza, Lebanon and, it was hoped for, later the West Bank), and also infrastructure. What Hamas and Hizballa are offering is an 'honorable' open ended war of attrition against Israel until it is no longer exists and an Islamic Palestinian state takes its place. This, they claim, and only this, will satisfy Palestinian, Arab, Muslim self-respect.

About Arafat context is everything. Arafat ended imprisoned in Ramalla as part of a war in which the Palestinians waged almost daily suicide bombings against Israel, and Israel responded with attacks against the Palestinians. This war of attrition only started winding down after a massive Israeli attack into the West Bank which also involved attack on Arafat's residence but not on his person. The truth is that arafat's honor was the least of either side's problems.

About negotiating with the Hamas the question is not as simple as it is presented. There are good reasons to negotiate and not to negotiate, but it is certainly not an obvious choice, nor is it some whacky whim of Israel. Sippose that Al-Quaida took over half of Pakistan. Would negotiating with them would have been a good thing, or would it have resulted in strengthening and legitimizing the forces committed to war with India? The choice is not that simple? The risk is great? Pakistan itself is paying the price for its toleration and support of radical Islamic elements. add to this the idea that Israel not only negotiate with the Hamas but actually give it economic aid, when such money would not only solidify Hamas's hold but would pretty much go straight to the purchase of weapons to attack Israel with. Again, not so simple.

I should also point out that the same people who call for talking with Hamas are the ones calling for boycotting of Israel, despite the fact that around the same time period Israelis elected a government made of parties whose platform was one of withdrawl, while the Palestinians voted in a government whose platform was continued fighting against Israel until it is eliminated.

Posted by Micha @ 05/03/2008 03:51 AM CST

Well Micha,

Most sensible Israelis and Palestinians would know that there is only one solution: that of separate and properly functioning INDEPENDANT states. Perhaps more and more Palestinians are/were not satisfied that there is no end and no satisfactory solution to the peace process.

As regards to Al Qaeda taking over half of Pakistan, India has always had to contend with anti-Indian politicians in Pakistan who were not interested in peace. However these politicians were responsible and answerable to the Pakistani people as all politicians eventually are. Thus it would be political (and perhaps even actual) suicide for a leader to not seek peace when faced with an equal or greater enemy. From what I understand and know about people is when they have a life to look forward to and true freedom they do not wish to give that up. I do not see Palestine as being in this condition today. Thats probably one of the reasons for the fatalistic ambitions seen in a lot of the people.

Most importantly for Israel, a negotiation from the hard line Palestinians would be a better guarantee of being upheld than from moderates. As time passes by and conditions get better most Palestinians will change their war cries from 'Death to Israel' to 'More food and jobs'. Sadly this hasn't happened for the past few decades and I do not see this happening in the near future. So perhaps a quick solution to this matter is in Israel's favour. After all what do the Palestinians have to lose which they haven't already lost? (Except for their lives which as of today is not worth as much)

Posted by NT @ 05/10/2008 05:52 PM CST

Soeey for the late reply. here goes.

1) Most sensible Israelis and Palestinians would know that there is only one solution: that of separate and properly functioning INDEPENDANT states.

Yes, you would think so. That's the solution I support. But we have several problems:
On the Israeli side
a) Although the majority of Israelis support the two state solution, some of them, including current prime minister, think that state should be built on only a (large) part of the occupied territories. Some talk 90% some 95% some 80%. As far as the Palestinians are concerned anything than 100% is nothing (even assuming they agree to soolutions about the other issues).
b) Although the majority of Israelis support a two state solution in principle, including people who opposed it before, the fact that three recent Israeli partial withdrawls (Oslo, Lebanon, Gaza) had negative results, and the people who supported these withdrawls (such as the current government) have proven unable to deal with the new threat, will cause many Israelis to support the hawkish right (who oppose the two state solution) in the next elections.

Furthermore, It seems to Israelis that the palestinians do not really support the two state solution as much as they support negotiations as another means to fight Israel on the diplomatic level or extract concessions or use it as a base for future fighting. This is for three reasons.

a) the rhetoric on the Palestinian side which focuses on delegitimizing Israel completely, supporting continued fighting until victory, no compromize on right of return and Jerusalem, no constructive ideas.

b) the actual reality on the ground, increased power on the Hamas, missiles on Israel, terrorism that is prevented by military rather than diplomatic means.

c) Doubt on the Israeli side that the Palestinians are able to build a state next too Israel, even if some of them actually intend to. This is because of the general anarchy and corruption on the Palestinian side.

I am telling you here about how it looks for Israelis. But these impressions are not without reason. As an Israeli who supports the two state solution, I would be unable at present to say if the Palestinians are able to make the psychological and practical steps necessary to accomplish a two state solution, even if our side agrees. We have not been able to push the Israeli public to agree to peace terms that actually work, but we have been able to push them closer. Yet each time it seems that the Palestinians just disappear beyond the horizon, and then instead of another push toward peace we all seem to slide back.

2) "India has always had to contend with anti-Indian politicians in Pakistan who were not interested in peace. However these politicians were responsible and answerable to the Pakistani people as all politicians eventually are. Thus it would be political (and perhaps even actual) suicide for a leader to not seek peace when faced with an equal or greater enemy."

In the past, Israeli peacenicks had made promises to the Israeli people that the Palestinians will behave in a certain way if presented with hope or a chance for peace. But unfortunatly these were empty promises that didn't take into account the complexities involved both objectively and as far as the Palestinian (and Israeli) psycholgy are involved. The sad fact is that people -- and especially the Palestinians -- do not behave in a sensible way. I'm not denying that the bad condition contributes the the Palestinian fatalistic attitude, but it's not just that. That's partially why the Oslo process and the Gaza withdrawl failed. In the caee of the Palestinians I think part of the problem is that when you start from the assumption that Israel should not exist at all, anything less doesn't seem that impressive, and when you already have a long tradition of fighting Israel as the norm (despite the odds) than few ask what's the point of continued fighting. It is much more suicidal to question the continued fighting especially since the people invested in the fighting have the guns.

3) "Most importantly for Israel, a negotiation from the hard line Palestinians would be a better guarantee of being upheld than from moderates."

a) Maybe, not certain. But negotiation with hard liners is less likely to result in an acceptable agreement. That's why they are called hard liners.

4) " As time passes by and conditions get better most Palestinians will change their war cries from 'Death to Israel' to 'More food and jobs'."

That's not how it works unfortunatly. The Hamas is offering a temporary truce with the inteded purpose of continuing the fighting. Giving them the truce will give them the victory they need to take over the West Bank and solidify the power and prestige among the Palestinians, while reducing the power of the Palestinians who talk about a final peace. It would also give them the opportunity to even better prepare to attack Israel, while weakening the Israelis who supported the truce and enabled the Hamas to gain more power. The most optimistic scenario is that the Hamas will not wish to risk its gains by resuming the violence. But that's only the most optimistic option. The Hamas would more likely wish to persue the violent course of action, since it got them so much power and prestige. They also can afford stability, since their objective is not to control part of the West Bank and Gaza but to replace Israel with the Islamic state. The Palestinian people will not call for food and jobs, they wil blame Israel for their lack, and would be easily convinced to support the heroic fighting of the Hamas.

5) "So perhaps a quick solution to this matter is in Israel's favour."

It is. But solution means getting the Palestinians and Israelils to reach a middle ground, which has proven difficult even for those who actually want to reach a solution. It is much easier for both sides not to have faith in the possibility of a solution (understandably) and to just react to the situation.

In the Israeli side there is more tendancy than on the Palestinians to demand solutions, but there is the double difficulty: (a) to get the Israelis to the middle ground (b) making sure that the Palestinians also reach the iddle ground, otherwise the peacenicks end up discredited.

Rabin tried Oslo -- giving the Palestinians Autonomy in part of the territory while delaying the problematic issues in the hope that as things improve people will be more willing to reach middle ground. That failed. Suicide bombing and settlements continued and the delayed problems remained.

Barak tried a quick solution in Camp David -- he thought he would reach a middle ground and the people will follow. But he was not able to reach middle ground with Arafat, the Israelis and Palestinians lost hope. The Palestinians decided that fighting is better and the rest is history.

Olmert talks about a shelf peace plan -- agreeing to the terms of final peace and then only implementing it conditional on the solution of the problems on the ground. The hope of reaching this agreement should give Palestinians incentive to stop fighting and start buiilding. The problem is that even if Olmert and abu-Mazen could reach middle-ground as far as they are concerned (which is uncertain), and if they could make the necessary concessions on paperin face of all the opposition, they both have no credit with their peoples to get support for this approach.

6) After all what do the Palestinians have to lose which they haven't already lost? (Except for their lives which as of today is not worth as much)"

The dream of the elimination of Israel is the Palestinians most prized possession. I'm not sure they are willing to lose it for a state in part of Palestine.

Posted by Micha @ 05/17/2008 05:36 PM CST

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