Tuesday, July 17, 2007

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This is a responsible negotiating partner?

One of the standard mantras uttered by Middle East experts is that if the Bush administration had approached Hamas differently when they came to power in 2006, that group could have eventually cut a deal with Israel.

This may very well be true, but every once in a while I run into a story like this one in the New York Times that makes me wonder just how much wishful thinking is embedded in that sentiment:

Hamas television, which was criticized for a Mickey Mouse-like character named Farfur who spouted anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish nostrums at children, has replaced the mouse with a bee named Nahoul, who says he is Farfur’s cousin.

Farfur was beaten to death by an Israeli who wanted his land on the previous episode of the children’s show “Tomorrow’s Pioneers.”

Nahoul, the bee, says: “I want to continue on the path of Farfur, the path of ‘Islam is the solution.’ The path of heroism, the path of martyrdom, the path of jihad warriors.”

In the name of Farfur, the bee says, “we shall take revenge on the enemies of Allah, the murderers of the prophets, the murderers of innocent children, until Al Aksa will be liberated from their filth.”

UPDATE: In the words of my people... sweet fancy Moses!!

posted by Dan on 07.17.07 at 08:30 AM


Hamas is an evil antisemetic bunch. I believe in working with nonviolent Islamist movements, but not only is Hamas violent, they show no qualms about targeting civilians.

That said, I think Hamas is still in some ways a better negotiating partner than Fatah. This is because Hamas is much closer to having a monopoly of force (in Gaza at least). This was recently show when they were able to gain the release of a BBC reporter held by a different group ( http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/07/04/africa/04mideast.php ).

Negotiating with a group like Fatah might help bring a lower level of terrorism. However, so long as Fatah lacks a monopoly of force, it cannot coerce other Palestinian groups to give up terrorism.

'Responsible' is not really that relevant of a term. It's a matter of capability and intent. Israel's demand to be recognized as a precondition to negotiations means that they will only negotiate with parties that have demonstrated a minimum level of intent. Once someone like Fatah has met that threshold Israel and the West have tried, without success, to build up that group to have the capability to enforce an agreement. Hamas is an example of going at it the other way. They now have the capacity. The question is whether, through carrots and sticks, intent can be induced.

posted by: Greg Sanders on 07.17.07 at 08:30 AM [permalink]

First of all, dan, you simply know nothing about the middle east. Your views are relevant only because some of your colleagues who are even less informed might listen to you. But to anyone who knows anything about the region and the people knows that you know nothing about it. I don't challenge your economic policies much because i am not an expert on economics (even though i detest the right). But your words on middle east politics have about as much value as my views on photosynthesis. If you want to talk about Jews, maybe you might have something to say. But when you talk about Arabs (or Muslims), it is empty bullsh%t.

As for Greg Sanders, do you realize how violent the west is? How violent Israel is? Which side do you think is killing more poeple, Hamas or Israel and the USA? Do you realize how violent the USA is? The millions of innocent Iraqis, Palestinians, Afghans, Syrians, Egyptians, Jordanians, Lebanese... that the Americans and Israelis have killed makes the post WWII Jewish and American deaths seem like rounding error. If you want to talk evil, look at the west and Israel.

And what on earth makes you think that Israel wants peace? Are you nuts? Do you think they want negotiations? Do you think that they give a damn how much syria or palestinians beg for talks and peace? Of course not because they are extremely powerful and they are fine with allowing a few Jews to die every year as long as they can completely dominate the region. They have absolutely no interest in negotiating because they have everything they want already. Even to the extent that Fatah makes no demands on them anyway, and they are perfect for Israel because they let them act like they are having talks without having any serious talks. Israel doesn't need to do anything, they are not under occupation and they hardly face violence. If you remember, they are in violation of hundreds of UN resolutions but no one cares. They are expanding their settlements onto Palestinian land, not the other way around. If you watch the news even a bit, this will be clear to you. SO they have nothing at all to gain from peace. Even, since 9-11 their war economy has become a jackpot for them, so they even have an incentive to keep the palestinians under violent occupation so they can test their latest military equipment and then sell it to the idiot Americans. So please, get over yourself.

posted by: Joe M. on 07.17.07 at 08:30 AM [permalink]

joe m:

I assume you live in the Middle East. Matter of curiosity -- what do you want?

(a) No Isreal, most of the Jews in Palestine go somewhere else;

(b) No Isreal as a Jewish state, but the Jews can stay as part of the nation of Palestine (covering all of current Isreal and the "Palestinian Territories")

(c) Everyone living in peace behind 1967 borders (or a negotiated equivalent), but all Palestinians who left their homes in 1948 given the right to return to those homes and fully participate in Isreal's elections and political society.

Also -- what are you willing to settle for?

Do your views reflect what you think Hamas' wishes are?

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 07.17.07 at 08:30 AM [permalink]

I split time between the Middle East and the USA (with most of my life in the USA, but much of my family in the Middle East). As I have family that live in the West Bank, Gaza and that are citizens of Israel (as well as in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria), I do not favor a two-state solution, but a one-state solution with a federal nature. Where the people (jews and arabs) share political structures, but it is proportioned in a way to maintain each people's ethnic identities (but with only one "border", that being the national one). A one state solution would solve all types of other issues, like the settlements (for example). The settlements are only a problem in so far as they are racist colonies for Jews only. If they were opened up and Palestinians were allowed in them, the would not pose a problem.

My views do not reflect the views of Hamas very much. I share views with them terms of identification of the problems, but not in terms of the solution. I think they would accept a one-state solution if it were honestly proposed, but since they think time is on their side and that Israel will be doomed in 20 or 30 years (or more) they don't have much incentive to strike a huge deal. Hamas is a very conservative movement which is willing to sacrifice a little bit today to get what it wants later. But, that said, they are also very honest and trustworthy and are very unlikely to dishonor any agreement they make.

I prefer a one-state solution for many reasons, but one major one is that i generally like diversity and prefer the Jews to stay in Palestine (if there is peace). I also think it is good for both sides culturally, economically, politically, humanitarianly. Hamas is so nationalist that it doesn't even consider that it way be advantageous for the Jews to stay. But they also are not so stupid or anti-semetic to want to exterminate them or anything like that. It's just that their views basically see Israel as the problem and so they are fighting the problem. While i don't think this is unreasonable for people living under occupation for 60 years, who's lives have been totally dominated and controlled, I also think it is pretty simplistic. If you were to ask any individual Hamas leader or activist about the Israeli Jews, they basically have a similar view as most Israelis have towards the Palestinians (IE. "demographic threat"). My views are much closer to those of Edward Said or Mustafa Barghouthi, only I don't have a constituency to worry about so i can foam at the mouth when i want.

Oh, I will not settle for anything short of:
1) the right of return for refugees.
2) full freedom of movement for Palestinians.
3) Guarantee that Israel can not invade or send troops into Palestinian lands, or shut off our access to water, air, electricity... (basically, sovereignty).
4) Huge reparations from Israel for it's destruction over the years.
5) An official apology stating that the founding of Israel was a crime against the Palestinian people (though, I admit that it had its benefits for Jews, they just have to recognize that it was a crime too), and that the occupation is also a crime.

(under a two-state situation, - basically a postponement of a solution - i favor something like the original UN partition plan. Though, i do not think this is near enough)

Otherwise, there simply will not be peace, just a lack of ongoing violence. But currently the only violence is directed at us, so it doesn't matter to them. And they can already totally control us, so they have a means of controlling the violence anyway. And the less peace there is in the region, the more Iraq and Lebanon burn, and if the USA invades Iran, well, the more and more i will agree with Hamas that Israel is doomed and the less generous i will be toward allowing anything for the Jews.

posted by: Joe M. on 07.17.07 at 08:30 AM [permalink]

If you are typical of viewpoints among the Palestinians (and Isreal's Arabs), peace could be a long time coming. The reparations and the apology are something that could only be obtained from a defeated Isreal on the brink of annihilation. This thought comes from no special knowledge of the region -- I claim none -- but just my sense of how humans behave. Items 1-3 on your list are a hard enough sell for Isreal.

My own guess is that a federation would not work so well and that a two state solution is the likely outcome. (See Lebanon for example of why that might be.) The two sides just don't trust each other. I thnk your own post shows how deep the mistrust is on your side of the divide. It is not hard to find similar beliefs expressed in the Isreali press.

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 07.17.07 at 08:30 AM [permalink]

What a coincidence! I also lived in the Middle East and have relatives and I have a completely different view than Joe M. But they and I are Jewish which probably means that my opinion should be ignored as biased whereas Joe's comments are completely objective and dispassionate.

So Joe, what about Arab reparations for the property seized from the Jewish families who fled the Arab countries (and who make up the majority of the Jewish population of Israel)? BTW, about as many Jews fled Arab lands as Palestinians fled the nascent Israel. What about an apology from the Arab world for forcing the Jews to live as second class citizens for centuries? For that matter, how many countries in the world came about through immaculate conception? Why not an apology for attacking the Byzantine and Sassanid empires to forcibly spread Islam? And why with over 20 Arab countries in the Middle East, shouldn't Jews have a country of their own? Your one-state solution means that the Israeli Jews will be a minority unable to determine their own destiny and subject to those who consider any Jewish Israeli to be a legitimate target. (One of Hezbollah's demands for freeing the kidnapped Israeli soldiers was the release of Samir Kuntar who smashed the head of a 4 year old girl against a rock with a rifle butt.)

posted by: CRW on 07.17.07 at 08:30 AM [permalink]

I think it would be absolutely fine for Jews who were forcibly made to leave their former Arab countries to be given reparations. What's more, I think that they should be given citizenship in those countries and encouraged to go back and live in their old homes (and i don't mean that as an attempt to destroy Israel. I mean, seriously, they should be allowed to go back and be given access to their old lands if it can be proved that it was illegally taken from them). As a matter of payment if that is deemed necessary, I am sure some method can be devised. Further, I am all for the Israeli "Law of Return" as long as the Palestinians who's families date back only a couple dozen years (rather then a mythological 2000+) are also given rights in a similar "Law of Return".

And where concerns Dan and his totally empty and uninformed views on the Arab and Muslim world, i don't say that because he is jewish but because i have followed his blog for a while and know that he knows almost nothing about the region. Just watch his bloggerheads interviews about the region where he never knows the first thing about any events or players and can hardly put together a substantiative, while the other participants in the blog discussion (even though they usually don't know the first thing either) usually lecture him about what is going on or explain to him the basics of the situation...

So, you may or may not be informed, i have no clue. From the sounds of your post above, I would guess that you are too biased to be able to add anything to the discussion of Arabs or Muslims, but please correct me if you know about them, i have no problem with that. there should be more informed debate on this stuff. it is the uninformed debate that bothers me.

That said though, CRW, what you don't seem to recognize is that the Palestinians are being colonized, imprisoned, occupied, and destroyed today, not 2000 or 1000 or 200 or even 60 years ago (though, obviously, 60 years ago too). And also that the plain fact is that Israel is MINORITY Jewish TODAY, not in some fantasy of mine (http://electronicintifada.net/cgi-bin/artman/exec/view.cgi/11/3649). So, clearly, for the MINORITY Jews to continue to control the MAJORITY of Arabs who live in Israel, they have to resort to oppression and apartheid.

So when you ask "shouldn't Jews have a country of their own?", the obvious response is that they should not have one at the expense of other people. Although i think political Zionism is a racist ideology, it might be acceptable to me if the Jews had decided to colonize the moon or some other place empty of other people. But they decided to destroy Palestine and take it over by force and largely ethnically cleanse it of Palestinians in the process. In the world today, states are considered legitimate through the consent of their people. And states that don't have the consent of their people, and especially states that are explicitly colonizing and oppressing the native people of the land they are on are not legitimate. That Israel is powerful and can maintain it's power does not make it more legitimate. That Jews died by the millions during the genocide in WWII does not give them the moral right to oppress someone else, and does not make their state more legitimate. If there is any people on earth that should have learned what it's like to be oppressed, you would think it was the Jews. But it seems to me that the only lesson they learned was "Might Makes Right".

Lastly, the type of one-state solution i think would be most fair includes "states" like in the usa (say, like ohio and indiana). Where they have independent local/regional governments that are under the umbrella of the larger federal government. Something like this could easily maintain a Jewish or Arab identity if it wanted. But the federal government would provide that there are equal civil and political rights overall, and would open the country up so that the Palestinians finally had some rights and some freedom of movement... or so that there were no longer "Jewish only" roads and settlements and such... a two-state "solution" doesn't solve any of those problems. In fact, they keep having to come up with hair-brained schemes like a tunnel between the West Bank and Gaza exactly because it is so unworkable. and that leaves out the sovereignty issues like whether the Palestinians will be "allowed" to have an army in their "state" or even control of their own "borders".

Oh, i never said i was dispassionate. But I know the region and the people pretty well. not just stupid catch phrases and the occasional clip from MEMRI.

posted by: Joe M. on 07.17.07 at 08:30 AM [permalink]

Wow - as has been said, there is almost NEVER informed and 'balanced' debate on this - its great to read, altho still a shame that 'balanced' in this case can only mean two people with almost no common ground arguing without end.

Isnt conflating Jewish property seized in Arab countries with what those living on now-Israeli lands lost disingenuous?

Also, as much as I think the comment "do you realize how violent the west is? How violent Israel is?" is necessary, is there not something even deeper and darker (and therefore worthy of singling out) about the purposeful, explicit and sophisticated indoctrination of the youngest of children into who they should spend their lives hating and killing?

What would be the best example of the same process occuring in Israel?

Children are hardwired to believe what their parents tell them in the first few years of their lives, and have tremendous difficulty altering the views/attitudes/emotions learned in those first few years, as i would guess all of us understand.

posted by: George on 07.17.07 at 08:30 AM [permalink]

The "indoctrination" in Palestine or the rest of the Arab world is not the result of a specific campaign to teach children to hate. In fact, there is no such "indoctrination" that i am aware of (at least on a large scale, maybe individuals do that sometimes, but that doesn't speak for much). But if you want to know how Palestinians come to hate Israel (or, as i will admit, often jews) the most obvious place to look is at the fact that the only interaction they have with Jews are as soldiers in tanks or guarding checkpoints or as helicopter pilots shooting rockets into their neighborhoods. Ask yourself what your life would be like if you were in a totally controlled refugee camp, where you were never able to leave and when those who control you invoke their own security (in their prosperous and thriving country) as a justification to steal your land or keep you imprisoned. How hard would it be for you to hate them? My guess is that you (assuming you are American) would be more then happy to see Bin Laden dead, yet i doubt he has personally effected your life in any significant way (excuse me if by a crazy chance you have been effected by him). Bin Laden does not have soldiers in the streets of Wichita Kansas, nor is he responsible for the half the American population being forced into becoming refugees. Though no proof has ever been presented, at most he has helped to train a few dozen people who have themselves decided to go and blow up the trade centers. But honestly, compared to the devastation that the Arab world is experiencing on a daily basis, the 9-11 attacks were rounding error.

So, if you think seriously about this, you will realize that the driving force behind hate in the Arab world is not any ideology, but that they actually are under attack in many cases. That there are American and Israeli bombs going off constantly in their streets, that they have no safety or security and that the vast majority of them live in a poverty that has been forced onto them (see the latest world bank report about the palestinian economy):

These are not matters of ideology, but of real life experiences. and they would teach anyone to hate, regardless of ideology. When you are a struggling family who has never left Gaza, when the lone power plant for your city is destroyed by the Israelis for the sole purpose of making 1.5 million people suffer and then eventually making them pay more for electricity by forcing them to buy it from those who destroyed it at a higher price, when you have yourself witnessed helicopter blowing up some militant who was ostensibly fighting for national liberation, how do you expect them to love the Israelis or the Jews? If this is not obvious, even from your own experiences in (probably) hating Bin Laden (who has most likely never effected your life directly), then i don't know what else to say.

That does not mean that there are not ideologies. and obviously i am not saying that there are no organizations who promote their own ideologies. But Hamas (for example) has adapted it's ideology to the conditions it faces. It talks about jihad and Islam in reaction to the people's suffering, and to give people some meaning and hope. They talk about martyrdom as a means to give meaning to the ceaseless suffering that the people are experiencing. And, also, be absolutely clear, Hamas' ideology is not exclusive to jihad and martyrdom, they have thousands of other aspects to their views. They talk about self-improvement constantly, they talk about spiritual growth in every speech, they talk about self-reliance, justice, family, solidarity, learning.... just as any major organization would do. Actually, it would be quite stupid to think that they did not. As it would also be stupid to reduce them to simply martyrdom.

Also, you asked, "What would be the best example of the same process occurring in Israel?" and there are many. but the most powerful and obvious is the MANDATORY military service where they are taught that Arabs are basically terrorists by definition. Further, though their society is largely safe, I don't deny that they also experience some violence from Palestinians. And this violence feeds directly into a generally extremely strong victimhood syndrome (historically for good reason, it just doesn't apply today), as well as their communal understanding that Jews always face an existential crisis (again, historically for good reason, just not today). The problem with these things is that the Jewish people are oppressing others by it and at the same time digging themselves into a hole. As powerful as they are today, they will not stay that way. It may go without saying, but there are 250 million Arabs who are almost all angry at the way Palestinians are treated. And they rely on the heavy hand of the Americans as well, no love is lost in the Arab world for the USA... and, simply, I don't think the situation is sustainable. I think Ariel Sharon realized this and that is why he moved so hard at trying to create facts to force his "convergence" plan. Though, of course, it was very short sighted and would never have solved hostilities.

Anyway, that's my response. and yes, i agree, the comparison between the entirety of Palestine and Jewish owned properties in individual Arab states is very very sketchy. But again, that is just a matter of when that argument was brought up, rather then the facts. If the facts show that Jews were forced out and that their land was stolen and such, why not compensate them for their suffering? But too, Palestinian refugees are still refugees, with out a country and without land of their own. They didn't have an israel to go to.

posted by: Joe M. on 07.17.07 at 08:30 AM [permalink]

I will just add that the vast majority of people in the Arab world are angry, but i would not necessarily say that they "hate" jews. If i just look at my family, for example, i would not say they hate. I was used the word "hate" before because that is the dominant narrative, and sometimes i forget to correct myself. Many people in Palestine truly hate just as many American or Jews do as well. But that's not the norm.

posted by: Joe M. on 07.17.07 at 08:30 AM [permalink]

I can already see Ahmed the Frog replacing Nahoul the Bee after the Bee's martyrdom (possibly as a suicide bomber in any European capital). Ahmed will hate Israelis (that is a given in Gaza) but his real venom is directed against the Fatah. Ahmed will encourage children to inform on their parents and help God's Party in many other useful roles.

posted by: jaim klein on 07.17.07 at 08:30 AM [permalink]

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