MideastWeb Middle East Web Log
Sunday, May 30, 2004
Perils of Sharon - Latest Installment
The old war horse is under attack from left and right for his disengagement plan, but don't bet against him. How can Sharon extricate himself from this crisis?
Everyone agrees that Israeli PM Sharon is in BIG TROUBLE. The source of his latest woes is not the pending proposed indictment on bribery charges (remember those?) which will probably be conveniently dropped despite the weight of the evidence. Sharon is not trouble for doing wrong. His problems stem from an attempt to to do right for once, and inject some sanity in the Middle East political arena, by withdrawing unilaterally from the Gaza strip and some isolated settlements in the West Bank - the so called disengagement plan. [more]
Thursday, May 27, 2004
What did President Bush say in his speech?
President Bush's speech about Iraq, delivered to the war college on May 24, has elicited a great deal of comment. However, if you want to find out what he said, you had better read the speech itself (see below), rather than the comments. Bush didn't say very much in that speech, except for pledging to dismantle Abu Ghraib Prison, but the storm of comment might make you believe that he had announced a major policy change. Never have so many written so much about so little (for example here and here ). In fact, as some have noted, the speech is more noteworthy for what it didn't say. [more]
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
The moral terrain of the Middle Eastern battlefield
The problem that advanced, Western powers like America and Israel face in dealing with less sophisticated enemies on the battlefield turns out not to be our much-bemoaned sensitivity to casualties. That sensitivity varies in inverse proportion to the perceived stakes. If anything, our sensitivity to their casualties, even their well-being, counts for more. This seems to be a shift from the 1990s, when Western militaries seemed obsessed with "force protection," that is, minimizing casualties, even if it might put foreign civilians at greater risk.
by Analyst @ 11:55 PM CST [Link]
Friday, May 21, 2004
Bnei Sachnin: Unprecedented soccer victory and cautious optimism
It's been a hard week, what with all the terrible images coming out of Rafah. Yet the pain, anger and frustration caused by the ongoing entanglement in Gaza was somehow mixed with the joy emanating from the national stadium in Ramat Gan when Bnei Sachnin became the first Arab soccer team to win the Israeli national cup. Coverage of the game and the unprecedented victory dominated the print and electronic media for a few days, and not only on the sports pages. [more]
Thursday, May 20, 2004
Racist Retires to write Recipes, Racism still going strong
Mustapha Tlass, long time defense minister of Syria, has at last retired from his post, while retaining his positions in the Baath central committee. Tlass is man of parts, best known for his successfull literary endeavors. In 1983 Field Marshal Tlass wrote a book called The Matzah of Zion, accusing the Jews of having murdered a priest to use his blood to make the unleavened bread of Passover (Matzah) in the 1840 Damascus blood libel affair. This book has gone through eight printings and as of 2001 there were plans to make it into a movie. Far from representing any clash between Muslim and Christian civilization, the book is a triumph of ecumenism, since the Christian blood libel accusation has now been adopted into Muslim culture, and in turn, Tlass's book has become a staple of Christian antisemitism as well. [more]
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has erupted again. It has simmered for some months against a "dull routine" of Israeli incursions and assassinations on the one hand, and Palestinian terror attacks, attempted terror attacks and hate propaganda on the other. This activity occurs almost every day, even on days when you may think there is "no news" about Israel or Palestine. Even on those days there are Palestinians being humiliated at checkpoints, terrorists being apprehended on the way to suicide missions, and perhaps an Israeli incursion that may or may not cost a life leave a few wounded. All of this grim routine of death and suffering is usually submerged in the news by accounts of fine speeches and announcements of diplomatic initiatives.
Sunday, May 16, 2004
Gaza Demolitions - Is the IDF lying? Is there a better way?
The Israeli High Court of Justice ruled today that the IDF can go ahead with massive house demolitions along the Philadelphi patrol road in Gaza. The road runs along the Egyptian border, and the purpose of patrols is to prevent smuggling of arms and digging of tunnels to smuggle arms. But what is the purpose of the proposed house demolitions, which have been denounced by the US and the UN? [more]
Saturday, May 15, 2004
The Israeli Peace Movement is Back
A giant rally in Tel-Aviv's Rabin square signaled the return of the Israeli mass peace movement after almost four years of silence. For the first time in a very long time, sizeable crowds came to ask the government to get out of Gaza renew the peace process. There were a lot of people there. Police estimate about 120,000 demonstrators. Channel 2's Rina Mazliah estimated about 200,000 and organizers claimed an attendance of 250,000.
Iraq - continued welcome for coalition?
In recent statements, senior US officials insist that the US would leave Iraq if asked to do so by the Iraqi government that will take power at the end of June, or by an elected government in early 2005. Indeed, if they recognize the sovereignty of the Iraqi government, the US would have no choice other than to obey its wishes, but one suspects that those statements were made only because US officials are confident that no Iraqi government would ask them to leave. Like so many other US judgements about Iraq, that one may be quite mistaken. [more]
Friday, May 14, 2004
Hamas: Reports of its death are greatly exaggerated
From time to time, experts assure us that Israel has dealt a critical blow to the Hamas or other terror organizations, and they are greatly weakened. A dreary monotony has set in about such declarations. They cause great joy for a brief period. They are conveniently forgotten when, as inevitably happens, they are followed by a horrendous terror attack or other operation that proves once again that there are no simple solutions.
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
Frustrating the will of the people
The fate of Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan is a paradigm in miniature of the fate of peace between Palestinians and Israelis. According to polls, even before the latest round of killing in Gaza, the vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians favored Israeli withdrawal. It makes sense for everyone concerned, but it probably won't happen until many more people have died for no reason. Because this is the Middle East, we might say "It makes sense, and therefore it probably won't happen." [more]
Monday, May 10, 2004
The Israeli-Saudi war of weakness
Who better understands the relationship -- if that is the right word -- between Israel and Saudi Arabia: Robert Novak or Thomas Friedman?
My view is, neither. Here's why. [more]
by Analyst @ 09:26 AM CST [Link]
Sunday, May 9, 2004
The Mysterious Curse of the Middle East
Everyone agrees that economic and social development in the Middle East has lagged disastrously behind that of the rest of the world. Nobody seems to agree on the reasons for the problem. Some, like Bernard Lewis in his "What Went Wrong," seem to blame the problem on Islam, which is portrayed as a backward and repressive religion that controls all aspects of society and imposes upon it an order of life that is suited for nomadism or pre-industrial society. Others blame the conflict with Israel or western imperialism for Middle Eastern backwardness. Tom Friedman has now joined the "name the curse" game, putting the blame for lack of development in the Middle East on oil. [more]
Wednesday, May 5, 2004
Torture and Mayhem in Iraq - Mission Aborted
The world, including friends of the United States, was appalled to learn of incidents of torture and rape at US detention centers in Iraq. Even more dismaying perhaps, was the conviction that there is more to come, and the knowledge that these sensational incidents are just part of a widespread pattern of abuse of civilians by US forces that could only lose friends and influence people to hate the USA.
Monday, May 3, 2004
Ariel Sharon's Disengagement Plan Defeated in Likud Poll: Now What?
Israeli PM Ariel Sharon's decision to hold a referendum in the Likud party on his disengagement plan was a disastrous mistake that has backfired on Sharon and his supporters, as well as on US President Bush who backed the plan. Sharon and his supporters are now busy trying to salvage what may be salvaged from the debacle. From their statements, it is clear that they had no clear "plan B" in case the referendum failed, but that they intend to continue to promote the plan.
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