Hussein Ibish

Refugees From Assad’s Campaign of Murder

The level of ambivalence found in the West towards the mass death of Syrian civilians is truly grotesque.

In March 2014 it will be the three year anniversary of the conflict, which started with peaceful protests and continues with the Syrian government dropping barrel bombs.

Nearly three whole years of slaughter. A point to ponder.

This map shows only one aspect of the conflict, mass refugees.

HIU_syria1

We need to be under no illusion that the cause of suffering in Syria is placed squarely at the feet of the Assad government and their allies, Russia, China and Iran. The latter countries have fuelled the conflict from the outset and propped up Syria’s murderous dictatorship.

What I find most galling in the West is the denial of basic facts about the Assad regime. Westerners seem to have an infinite amount of concern about the Middle East until it affects real people.

Hussein Ibish, one of the most intelligent Middle East commentators, re-enforces that point by asking “Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk are being starved to death by the Syrian regime. Does anyone care?”

Please do read it:

“There isn’t much the Palestinian people haven’t suffered. But the use of enforced starvation against them by the Syrian dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad at the Yarmouk refugee camp breaks new ground in cruelty. Hundreds are said to be facing imminent death by starvation, lack of water and medical care, and the loss, for almost a year now, of all heat and electricity.

The crucial thing is not simply that Assad and his allies – Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia – must be held fully and completely responsible for this outrage. It must also be noted that the international community and the Arab world are not doing enough to respond to it, practically or politically. They have done virtually nothing as Yarmouk’s pre-war population of 250,000 has shrunk in the past three years to 18,000 famished, cowering, and shivering souls.

Those who still worship at the altar of the false idol of “resistance” and see Assad, Iran, Hezbollah, and their allies as the embodiment of the Arab cause are not simply disingenuous or delusional propagandists. Their thinking – not even, but especially, if it is sincere – is profoundly sick.”

I have covered Syria elsewhere.

Punishing Israel

In light of recent events an adage needs updating:

Benjamin Netanyahu never seems to miss an opportunity, to miss an opportunity.

I am not the only one annoyed at Netanyahu’s maladroitness.

Two astute Middle East analysts, Meir Javedanfar and Hussein Ibish have noticed the issue, how Netanyahu has succeeded in isolating Israel and himself from potential allies by his own clumsy actions.

Ibish remarked on the UN vote:

Israelis must ask themselves how they lost their “quality minority” and why so many European and Western states that have been historically supportive of them or neutral moved rather dramatically today in the Palestinian direction. The war between Israel and Hamas shows that the situation on the ground is fundamentally unstable and untenable. The dramatic shift in the diplomatic landscape at the U.N. today demonstrates that the international community understands that and is losing patience.

Javedanfar puts his finger on it:

“The Iranian regime was hoping that the recent Gaza conflict between Israel and Gaza based militants would create a diplomatic crisis for Israel.

Unfortunately for the regime, this did not happen.

Ayatollah Khamenei must have been very disappointed to see that his regime’s military support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist groups did not lead to an Israeli military response which created a diplomatic crisis in Israel – EU and Israel – US relations.

What Iran could not achieve in Gaza, Netanyahu achieved for the Iranian regime with his latest plans for new settlement homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank: diplomatic crisis in relations between top EU countries and Israel. As Barak Ravid reported in Haaretz: “Europe threatens to withdraw support for Israel over settlement building plans”. According to the article the top 3 EU economic powerhouses Germany, UK, and France are protesting, so are the Dutch. More countries could follow.”

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Operation Pillar of Defense Rolling Thread

I imagine that Operation Pillar of Defense will go on for a while so I am having a rolling thread with anything I read, hear or think relevant.

Firstly, John Cook at Gawker puts his foot in it with Israel Names Its New War After Biblical Story About God Terrorizing Egyptians.

The Tablet takes him down a peg or two:

“But don’t tell that to John Cook. Writing at Gawker in a post subtly titled “Israel Names Its New War After Biblical Story About God Terrorizing Egyptians,” Cook—who admits he does not know Hebrew (let alone, one can safely assume, midrash)—lists a few Googled biblical verses in which the pillar of cloud appears…”

Over at Foreign Policy the depressing, Israel Defense Forces live blogs Gaza offensive.

Aluf Benn has a piece entitled, Israel killed its subcontractor in Gaza, which even I found to be incredibly cynical, but on reflection I think he might have a point.

This is a backgrounder by B’Tselem on Gaza.

Reuters explains what it sees:

Hussien Ibish presents a different perspective:

“During most of the period since Cast Lead, the Hamas rulers in Gaza have refrained from attacks against Israel and tried to prevent other militant groups from launching attacks as well. But as 2012 has progressed, that policy has changed — largely due to internal transformations within the group itself.

The internal dynamic of Hamas has traditionally been that leaders in its Politburo, which is based almost entirely in neighboring Arab countries, were more militant than their compatriots inside Gaza. It was the leaders in exile who maintained close relations with the radical regimes in Iran and Syria, while the Hamas government in Gaza was more restrained because it had more to lose from violence with Israel.

That calculation has been inverted in recent months as Hamas’s foreign alliances have undergone a dramatic transformation and its domestic wing has made a bold attempt to assert its primacy. Hamas’s relationship with Damascus completely collapsed when the group came out in opposition to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The Politburo had to abandon its Damascus headquarters, and is now scattered in capitals throughout the Arab world. This has also created enormous strains with Iran, which is apparently supplying much less funding and material to Hamas than before.

Hamas leaders in Gaza, meanwhile, have increasingly been making the case that the Politburo does not represent the organization’s paramount leadership — but rather its diplomatic wing, whose main role is to secure aid and support from foreign governments. It is the Hamas government and paramilitary force in Gaza, they argue, that are in the driver’s seat, because they are actually involved in fighting Israel. “

Emily L. Hauser’s contribution, I have one question about Israel and Gaza.

One noticeable characteristic of this conflict is how it has ignited passions not seen in the past 18 months. By that I mean, the likes of the Stop the War Coalition are organising a demonstration outside the Israeli Embassy in London, yet for the last 18 months they have been almost silent concerning Assad’s slaughter of Syrian civilians.

That’s worthwhile comparing and contrasting when it comes to Western attitudes to people in the Middle East.

Simon Tisdall in the Guardian touches upon a real danger, the longer term consequences of this conflict:

“Ironically, Netanyahu’s uncontrollable new Gaza war could also tip the scales in an internal power struggle within Hamas, strengthening the faction gathered around Gaza political chief Ismail Haniyeh at the expense of those Hamas leaders in exile who hope to succeed Khaled Meshaal. Netanyahu’s war may actually end up bolstering Hamas in Gaza, or alternatively cause it to splinter and lose ground to more violently confrontationalist jihadi groups. Neither outcome would serve the all but forgotten cause of peaceful co-existence. “

Brent E. Sasley is astute:

“Given the emphasis on short-term tactical goals, it’s more likely the military operation won’t end neatly, which will in turn cause considerable electoral problems for Netanyahu and Likud-Beiteinu—who are otherwise persistently polling at less seats than they currently have. If this happens, perhaps Kadima—whose otherwise tired image doesn’t bode well for it in January—will have been proven prescient after all: that Bibi really is bad for Israel. In this case, the bad decision-making will become the politics. “

The Daily Kos (which is excellent for US election coverage) has a speculative report, which is based on the word of one individual, Israeli newspaper: Israel attacked Gaza knowing truce was in the works.

According to an informed journalist, Hamas have access to some serious hardware including the Fajr-5 rocket. It is over six metres in length and has a potential destructive distance of about 70 kilometres. What a terrible waste of human resources, building armaments the fire at Israeli civilians.
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Hamas And Likud Meant For Each Other

As Palestinians hide in their homes and Israelis stay in their bomb shelters we could almost be forgiven for thinking that these sorry and terrible events were unforeseeable.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Hamas since taking power in a coup d’etat have slowly built up their military capacity and spent $10,000s on equipping their internal security services.

Across the border Likud presides over a motley coalition of rightwing politicians and those far more interested in lining their pockets than finding peace in the Middle East.

In many respects, Hamas and Likud are meant for each other.

Neither of them really wants to go the extra mile, to recognize the reality of the necessary coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians. Both are prisoners of their own rhetoric and incapable of moving beyond their own limited mindsets.

The current terrible events, where hundreds of rockets and projectiles had deliberately been targeted at Israeli civilians in the past week, was entirely predictable.

Hamas know that they don’t have the military force to defeat the IDF, so allow Islamic Jihad or their own members to let off steam by targeting Israeli civilians. They do it partly to prove their radicalism and stay in power, and knowing how the Israeli government will respond they garner international support as the IDF’s actions kill Palestinian civilians.

It is a convenient and dismal game that Hamas and Likud play. Hamas provokes the Israeli government, who in turn must be seen to be protecting Israeli civilians, even though this and past incursions into Gaza have not actually stop the rockets and missiles.

Hamas and Likud are more concerned with staying in power and short-term goals than any long-term solution to this conflict.

And that is the problem.

Until the leaders are capable and willing to take the bold steps towards final status negotiations then rockets will rain down on Israelis and the IAF will bomb Gaza every few months.

My analysis might seem cynical, but years of watching the respective parties do little but stay in power or enhance their own prestige makes me pessimistic about the future.

As an antidote to my cynicism I recommend readers follow Hussein Ibish on Twitter. He’s smart, clear headed and attacked from both sides, which is not a bad sign!

This is one of his latest columns (written prior to the current conflict), MB and Salafists: the Closest of Frienemies is worth a read.

Ibish’s Hamas Rising? from October 2012 was prescient.

Israelis, Social Justice And Moshe Siman

I had not heard of Moshe Siman until I read Mystical Politics’ account of his protest.

When reading that what struck me was, how little we hear of the real Israelis’ struggles in the Western media.

Contrast that with the excellent coverage of Greece, the Banks, the economy and more importantly the people, their lives, the daily effort of Greeks to exist and the dire poverty that many suffer, after almost a year without pay.

Whilst Greeks receive subtle and sympathetic coverage, there is barely a word on Moshe Siman’s self immolation and what real Israelis think and do. It is simply not heard in the West.

True enough, if there’s a bombing, shooting or knife attack in Israel there will be a video clip or mention in the news, but not the rest of people’s lives there.

It is a hard life for Israelis, faced with a Right-wing government and pressures on their existence every day. Whatever the reason behind Moshe Siman’s decision to set fire to himself this story should have been covered better in the West.

On Google news there are three stories, but they are Israeli based so you would expect that.

There is nothing on the BBC, but its news site does have a piece on the nonsense about “Yasser Arafat poisoning claims to be investigated”. Paranoid balderdash, as ably demonstrated by Hussein Ibish.

The Indy and Guardian have relegated it to their specialist Middle East sections and it can’t be found via the search function.

I am sure if this terrible event had taken place in any other country in the Middle East then it would have received widespread and proportional coverage.

However, for that to happen the Western media would have to humanises Israelis, understand them, deeply, and treat them as they do everyone else in all other countries.

I doubt that will occur in the Western media any time soon.

Questionable Exam Questions, Syria And The EU

There is some debate as to whether or not it was appropriate for an exam paper to ask:

“Explain briefly why some people are prejudiced against Jews.”

My gut feeling was how inappropriate such a question might be for children, and the result of mainstreaming of anti-Jewish racism within academia. We have seen it manifest before.

But on reflection (and I’m glad that Norm seems to agree with me), I think discussing racism is a good idea, even if the wording is poor.

Opening up the subject, not letting it fester away in the corner, but facing all our prejudices, both individual, collective and societal is a good idea.

It helps us address the question, why is antisemitism still prevalent in western societies?

In Syria, according to the BBC there is continued killing of civilians in Rastan. Not unsurprisingly there is little indignation in the Western media concerning the shelling of the defenceless by Assad’s murderous gang.

Elsewhere, Chris Dillow makes an acute observation on Leveson inquiry:

“Tittle-tattle about whether Hunt should resign or not symbolises an ideology that disfigures our politics – the idea that what’s needed for proper decision-making is men of the right character. But this is not enough. You also need the right systems. And these have not been in place. If Hunt does have to resign – and I can think of nothing I care less about – he will pay the price for a political system which over-rates the role of personality and under-rates the role of structure.

Alfred North Whitehead famously said that “civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking of them.” By this standard, government hasn’t advanced very much. “

Over in Egypt.

I have never much followed the Daily Beast but Hussein Ibish is a must read for anyone serious about understanding the Middle East. His, Stop Settler Violence, is a very necessary post.

How much enrichment is really just for medical purposes? You decide:

“There are civilian uses for 20% enriched uranium, but it is also a significant technical step towards producing weapons-grade uranium.

Iran has told the agency it was a mistake in starting up the cascades of centrifuges, the machines used to enrich uranium.

Nuclear experts say that is plausible. But one senior diplomat in Vienna refused to speculate. “It can happen,” he said, “it needs to be checked”. “

Mystical Politics explains it better.

Apparently, EU to look into antisemitism on continent.