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December 29, 2008

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One should also mention the upcoming Israeli elections and the impending transfer of power in Washington.

It is the "never forget the basics" prong of his argument that really struck me as the one that deserves the most attention. A century ago, each side was made promises regarding territory, resources, religious freedoms, and diplomatic relations. Neither side felt that they got what they deserved, and they were left to battle it out amongst themselves. That battle is what we are still witnessing today. Without looking to the core of the conflict, all efforts at peace will merely result in temporary ceasefires, and the horrible cycle of blockades, retaliatory action, preemptive action, and fragile ceasefires will continue on exactly as it has for the past century.

true.

For that, I go to Haggai:

http://americanfootprints.com/drupal/node/4263

I don't see haggai's point. The attack on Gaza helps Livni and Kadima in the elections, that is all.

"So that's Brookings and CFR--and it doesn't get much more establishment than them--linking U.S. aid to Israel to a settlement freeze. Interesting, methinks."

This couldn't have happened longer ago, says this Jew.

Words were previously given, but they were leaves of fig. (No, this doesn't absolve Hamas or Palestinians of guilt or mistakes or flaws, but nonetheless.)

How about this for basics. No element of the Arab-Islamic culture has ever produced anything of substantial value to any part of the modern world. One thing they do well is violence and subjugation. Maybe they should be rewarded for that? I suspect Iran always feels better if there is trouble in the Arab nations.

What about algebra, GoodOleBoy? Something about the word seems vaguely Arab...

I guess I didn't use my modifier enough or clearly, modern Arab-Islamic culture. Except it is obviously an oxymoron.

GoodOleBoy,

Are you familiar with the writings of the Naguib Mahfouz? You know, the Egyptian author, wrote some great books, won a Nobel prize in literature? Do his contributions count?

No element of the [modern] Arab-Islamic culture has ever produced anything of substantial value to any part of the modern world.

Al Jazeera is of substantial value to a large part of the modern world. I was going to cite the 2006 Nobel Prizewinner Orhan Pamuk, too, but you were restricting your condemnation to "Arab-Islamic", I see, so perhaps you wouldn't argue that a Nobel Prizewinner is not of substantial value.

But then, just arguing that some cultures don't "contribute" is fundamentally racist anyway, and trying to oppose it with examples is rather opposing it on its own terms, instead of simply condemning it out of hand.

How about this for basics: no Western government provide any aid or sell any weapons to Israel until it 1)dismantles settlements outside the 1967 borders and 2) agrees to respect those borders.

Yes, settlers would suffer, though probably not nearly what Palestinians suffer everyday.

Nothing short of this sort of determination and sanction is going to stop this. Could Israel's internal economy and democracy survive withdrawal of external support? Hard to know. If so, more power to them. Otherwise they will eventually be wiped out in a sea of hatred.

Mahmoud Darwish? Taha Muhammad Ali? Clearly GOB is not acquainted with Islamic or Arab culture, so he assumes it doesn't exist.

Sapient, I'm not acquainted with modern Islamic or modern Arab culture (my first thought was a TV station, after all...) but I don't therefore assume that it doesn't exist. It really isn't just ignorance that leads to that kind of assumption...

Observing that a culture is not very productive might be viewed as a cultural bias but should not be viewed as racial bias. You see, many of these people are very productive when assimilated into other world cultures that are not themselves backward.

I did not aver that no member of the Islamic culture had produced anything worthwhile, only that the culture itself has not recently produced anything that the world would miss having.

I did not aver that no member of the Islamic culture had produced anything worthwhile, only that the culture itself has not recently produced anything that the world would miss having.

And you now admit you were wrong about this? Good. We'll move on.

"the world" meaning GOB

How does the use of these isolated instances of individual successes bolster one's defense of a culture that fails when compared to the rest of the world? Please offer at least one example that one could stand up against any one of the following Western developments in the period since the Enlightenment.

-Medicine
-Industry
-Literacy
-Liberal society
-Living standards

I stop here since I'm only seeking one item.

Please offer at least one example that one could stand up against any one of the following Western developments in the period since the Enlightenment.

-Medicine
-Industry
-Literacy
-Liberal society
-Living standards

I'm sure your own personal contribution to 'modern civilisation' is irreplaceable. Just to verify that you are qualified to post here, however, could you please summarise your valuable contributions to global culture and human progress (being sure to note where these accomplishments exceed those of 'Arabo-Islamic culture' collectively)?

Cheers.

O my, I guess we really did move on. Sorry to be so tough on you.

Back to reality, and the substance of the thread, I think the key context to events in Israel/Palestine right now is the rise of Iran, and the potential for the the rivalry between countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, on the one hand, and Iran on the other to displace the Palestinian issue as the central dynamic of regional politics.

In other words, there might be enormous opportunity for Israel at the moment. Certainly Egypt and Saudi Arabia have been sending the right signals for a while now. The Hamas-Fatah rivalry is a local mirror of this broader regional dynamic, which is why Egypt and Saudi Arabia are pretty content for Hamas to be bombed to bits to Fatah's benefit.

The Iranian reaction is the key here, to see how they play this. On the one hand, Western and certain 'Sunni' interests have coincided for a while now on hyping the supposed Sunni-Shia confrontation in an effort to isolate Iran. In response, Tehran's very aggressive line on the Palestine question recently (one of the reasons why Ahmadinejad continues to be useful to the senior mullahs) needs to be understand in terms of their efforts to avoid being isolated by keeping pan-Islamic issues at the fore.

While the timing of this action probably has a lot to do with Israeli and American domestic politics, I think it is conceived in much more clever strategic terms by Tel Aviv than the recent Lebanon debacle. In other words, while the military methods give the two operations a surface similarity, the strategic rationales are quite different. In Lebanon, Israel did not take the changing regional dynamic into account and ended up helping Iran's local ally Hezbollah. In Gaza, I think they might do quite well in fatally wounding Hamas, and perhaps improving relations with Egypt and Saudi Arabia at the expense of a short-term intensification of the Palestinian issue. Maybe.

byrningman, that's an interesting analysis, but can you explain how you think Israel might fatally wound Hamas? I mean, bombing people doesn't generally make them hate their government, so why do you think it would now? I'm really unclear on how a bombing campaign can destroy an organization like Hamas...

byrningman, I think you are correct that Hamas, Palestine, and Gaza are almost irrelevant here. The bigger picture is Iran and now to watch what further steps are taken by Israel and/or Hezbollah. Iran may continue to avoid anything that could be deemed an overt action on their part. It is also true that US politics could be a timing consideration on Israel's part.

GoodOleBoy, who cares? What are you arguing? What's the relevance Arabic cultural contributions? What's your point?

The relevance is with regard to where and in what manner Arab populations choose to invest their energies. If they spent a fraction of their time dealing with their own repressive political and religious officials as they do with the Israel-Palestine issue and if we were not always thinking keeping those officials in power somehow serves our national interests, maybe some actual worthwhile progress would be made.

The relevance is with regard to where and in what manner Arab populations choose to invest their energies.

Exactly. I visited Ramallah, and I was trying to get my host family to work on an oil painting with me, but they were all like, "We can't make cultural progress, man! We're just too angry about Israel- ALL THE TIME!" Then they launched rockets at my easel.

I did not aver that no member of the Islamic culture had produced anything worthwhile, only that the culture itself has not recently produced anything that the world would miss having.

Obviously the non-Western world long saw the Palestinian independence movement as an instructive example of how to resist Western colonialism -- a phenomenon of comparable destructive threat to regular people of the non-Western world as fascism and communism were to regular people of the West. And to the extent the Palestinian independence movement has been destroyed, it's certainly something the non-Western world will miss having.

Of course, I appreciate that for GoodOleBoy the Western world is in fact "the world," hence from his perspective what I've written is just a bunch of gibberish.

Byrnie, along those lines, this comes from one of Laura Rozen's sources:

There are two domestic agendas here. The Israeli one is very familiar... But what people are not asking and is at least as important: what are the f**** rocket firers hoping to do? ... If you look at what people are saying, there is a disconnect between what Haniyah and people in Gaza are saying, and what Nasrallah and Meshal and regional actors say. ... The Hamas leadership in Gaza is saying, we want a ceasefire on our terms. What Nasrallah and Meshal and Iran are saying: Egyptians, rise up ... What’s missing in every analysis I see is that Egypt is the prize, the low hanging fruit ...

Sketch out the regional scenario: two unsympathetic forces hinged by Hamas. You have the Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Iraqi Islamist parties on the one hand, on one side of the hinge. ... And you’ve got the Muslim Brotherhood regional project for overthrowing [moderate Arab regime] governments on the other.

The hinge is Hamas. Because Hamas is a core member of Leninist-style collection of national Muslim Brotherhood parties. It is also the only Sunni member of the pro Iranian alliance because of the money it gets through Khaled Meshal. Hamas is a hinge, Syria is a hinge. You've got Meshal in Damascus who gets lots of money from Iran. Hamas is not neutral in the moderate Arab regimes vs. Iranian alliance rivalry.

Both stand to benefit here. One project advances [unrest] in Egypt to the benefit of the Muslim Brotherhood. And while that is not something to be overjoyed for for Nasrallah, it's very helpful if it advances the Islamist agenda to destabilize your enemies.

It's limited ultimately. It's very unlikely to result in direct destabilization of Egypt. But they shoot for it, and hope that it contributes to the discreditation of all the [moderate, pro American] Arab regimes [egypt, jordan, saudi arabia] and in that sense, shows that there is an authentic movement in the region that has two manifestations, the Iranians and the Muslim Brotherhood, who are resistant to the regional order and the status quo. ...

What you end up with here are two groups of political actors with domestic and internal motivations that largely don’t have to do with Gaza. And they are using the lives of these people like casino chips...

http://www.warandpiece.com/blogdirs/008705.html

Is there a reason people here feel obligated to treat GOB as anything more than a garden variety troll? This is not a rhetorical question; I'm genuinely curious. I know that the ObWi regulars work very hard at creating a space for civil airing of opposing viewpoints, but when someone introduces themselves into the discussion with

No element of the Arab-Islamic culture has ever produced anything of substantial value to any part of the modern world.

my inclination is DNFTT.

Uncle K:

Sometimes there's a value in letting commenters show how ignorant GOB is so that readers will learn how to confront such ignorance should they encounter it in the future.

Clearly GOB has memorized a talking point. Which was instantly demolished when but one enormous contribution was cited. So GOB changed his talking point to "modern Arab-Islamic culture" - which was, again, easily demolished by references to important contributions from modern Arab-Islamic culture. Which forced GOB to, again, move the goal posts.

Sometimes watching how talking points are refuted - as in the present case - is useful.

Up to a point, admittedly.

Thanks for the response, Eric. As I said, it wasn't a flippant question. I'm very interested in how ObWi works, because it's quite different from just about any other blog I read in terms of the self-policing of commenters.

(For the record, were I not in DNFTT mode, my answer to the "modern Arab-Islamic culture" query would have been Cheb Khaled, or raï music more generally. Its influence on the popular music scene in France has been massive. But maybe France doesn't count as part of "the world" either, for our purposes.)

See, I would have found that reference to Cheb Khaled and rai music edifying. Something I did not know, but now will have at the ready the next time a GOB type tries to sow his bigotry.

As for policy: it's a bit fluid, and commenters are generally given enough rope to either use constructively or hang themselves.

Eric, I think that's very interesting. There has been a fundamental radical/conservative polarity in the Arab world/Mideast for a long time, although it is constantly evolving. The radicals used to be the Arab nationalists, but now there is a strong Islamist tendency too (although I do think that secular radicals remain a viable force). At the moment I think that Iran is trying to became the champion of the radical movement by fusing the old Arab nationalist cause (Palestine) with the religious one. I think Saudi Arabia, the center of the conservative forces, is trying to

"Obviously the non-Western world long saw the Palestinian independence movement as an instructive example of how to resist Western colonialism "

You're joking, right? Hamas is about as much a demonstration of how to resist Western colonialism, as my kid brother wildly swinging his arms while being held at bay by a hand on his head is a demonstration of martial arts success. Half the effort put into economic development would have made the Gaza a nice place to live.

Hamas continues to exist because,

1. The people who support it don't give a fart about the welfare of the Palestinians, they just want to hurt Israelis.

and,

2. Hamas hasn't managed to become enough of an existential threat to Israel to force them to relax their scruples to the degree necessary to destroy them. Which Israel is most assuredly capable of doing.

The fight ends when one of these two conditions ends. Pray that it's the first.

Brett: Half the effort put into economic development would have made the Gaza a nice place to live.

Given that I can't link directly to this comment I made in the "Eye for an Eye" thread, on account of Six Apart breaking the blogging software here, it seems worth repeating it to Brett:

We don't need to imagine that, [d'd'd'dave]: we know what happened whe Gaza's leaders tried to focus on "improving what they have".

A seaport in the Gaza Strip was agreed to by Israel back in 1993, but the Israelis broke that agreement: the seaport has never been built. Israel controls all trade movement by land in and out of the Gaza Strip, and Gaza's territorial waters.

The land crossing out of Gaza is (as described in more detail in this paper from April 2007- doc file) irregularly, frequently, and unpredictably closed by Israel, usually for unspecified "security reasons".

The deficient operation of the crossing prevents Gaza exporters and merchants from competing in foreign markets. The delays and frequent disruptions in the passage of goods make it hard for them to plan a production and marketing schedule for their goods, and do not allow them to commit to supply dates. This causes them to lose existing and potential customers. In addition, the delays lead to an enormous increase in the shipping and storage costs of goods, and goods often rot or are damaged before they reach their destination. As a result, import and export sectors have been paralyzed, businesses have collapsed and many residents of Gaza have lost their source of income.
In short, Brett, what happened when Gaza leaders tried to focus on improving the Gaza economy by trade, was that Israel doesn't permit that; evidently the last thing Israel wants is for Gaza to become a thriving, prosperous trading nation.

(This is also the problem with the "viable two-state solution" - Gaza needs that seaport, and needs to be able to function without Israel constantly interfering with independent trade: and Gaza and the West Bank need direct land access to each other, a "land bridge" that Israel can't interfere with. Given the geography, and given Israel's routine obstruction of Palestinian movement and trade, I just don't see this ever happening. A unified state is much more achievable.)

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