Thursday, August 22, 2013

Christians under siege


A few days ago, mobs of Muslim Brotherhood supporters attacked a Franciscan school in suburban Cairo.

An Egyptian Coptic Christian holds a cross with the Egyptian flag.Photo: REUTERS

A few days ago, mobs of Muslim Brotherhood supporters attacked a Franciscan school in suburban Cairo. They pulled down a cross, smashed it to bits and replaced it with the black flag of al-Qaida. That was just the beginning.

They looted the school, gutted it meticulously for hours, and later burned down what remained of the classrooms.

Then came the climax as three nuns were grabbed and paraded through the streets like humiliated prisoners of war.

The frenzied throngs spat on the helpless captives, poured refuse on them, slapped and groped at them and heaped abuse and scorn. This too lasted for hours during which the nuns literally ran the gauntlet, not knowing where they were headed.

The sacking of the school was not unique or unexpected.

Egypt’s Christians, who comprise 10 percent of the 80 million population, have long been hounded and persecuted.

Their lot grew alarmingly dire after Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow and during the short-lived tenure of Mohamed Morsi.

That said, none of the pre-Morsi regimes can be described as having gone out of it way to safeguard the beleaguered religious minority from plunder, murder, abductions of women and their involuntary conversions and forced marriages to Muslims. Despite occasional lip service, no real succor was offered.

The recent unrest has only escalated the peril to unprecedented proportions. This is not just payback for the fact that the Christians on the whole cheered Morsi’s removal.

What is happening in Egypt is not radically different from the anti-Christian ardor that has swept through much of the embattled Middle East ever since the advent of the Arab Spring.

Incredibly, all this appears to pass right under the radar of Western media. Ostensibly undetected and barely reported, anti-Christian drives stand out as yet further illustrations of mind-boggling selectivity by the press overseas.

Some suffering is not newsworthy.

The nonobjective criteria for free world outrage are particularly mystifying given the fact that hardest hit of all are the native churches – such as Syria’s Assyrians or Egypt’s Copts. These are among Christianity’s oldest sects and their members comprise the vestiges of ancient indigenous populations.

They face xenophobic fanaticism reminiscent of that brazenly practiced by Afghanistan’s Taliban honchos. In 2001, the latter dynamited the 6th-century monumental Buddha statues of Bamiyan – an iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site that offended Muslim fundamentalists for supposedly embodying idol worship. Some of Egypt’s Taliban counterparts have already served warning that they will target the Pyramids. But meanwhile, the ultra-vulnerable and reviled Copts are much easier and softer targets.

Dozens of churches, monasteries and schools have been ransacked during the past few weeks, with Morsi supporters whipping up passions by accusing the Copts of having orchestrated the killing of pro-Brotherhood demonstrators.

The Copts – whose Church traces its origins to 50 CE Alexandria – are now popularly portrayed as foreign interlopers who scheme to undermine Islam in the Land of the Nile.

Although the Copts were never remotely a friendly force so far as Israel was concerned – to no small degree feeling obliged to curry favor with the Muslim and nationalist Arab majority – their current travails are evocative of Egypt’s ethic cleansing of its Jews between 1948 and 1956.

Effectively, Egypt had been rendered judenrein. These days, many Copts are emigrating.

In the region as a whole, Christians account for between 2% and 5% of the region’s population, versus 20% 100 years ago. Lebanon’s Christians are at the mercy of the Shi’ite Hezbollah, whereas in Syria Christians are victimized by Sunnis. In Iraq they are walloped by everyone. In the Palestinian Authority Christian numbers are falling sharply too, as evidenced by the Muslim majority in once- Christian Bethlehem. Gaza’s Christians are running for their lives.

The one steadily growing Christian community in the Middle East is to be found in much-maligned little Israel.

Only under Jewish sovereignty are Christians safe and free from serial terror and harm. But the one beacon of genuine liberality in an unkind and callously intolerant region is hardly likely to win accolades from the self-styled enlightened world.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Season of lies: This summer presents a series of bad news stories

By GIL TROY 08/13/2013

Center Field: Blindly appeasing Palestinian extremism while negating Israel’s legitimate rights will not produce a just or lasting peace.

Summertime is “silly season,” the slow news season of frivolous sideshows compensating for the seasonal quiet as politicians vacation.

Three weeks after the Royal Baby Watch ended, it remains this summer’s top story.

Although Israelis have their own lethargic “cucumber season,” this year’s silly season in the Middle East is deadly serious, as a spate of biased reporting and one-sided diplomatic maneuvers blame Israel for the continuing conflict while absolving Palestinians of responsibility.

Our sobering silly season produces front page New York Times stories romanticizing rock-throwing as Palestinians’ youthful, justified “rite of passage,” rather than a violent act that, like a gateway drug, often escalates to deadlier pathologies. This nightmarish silly season has Israel opening negotiations with a heart-breaking concession – freeing Palestinian murders – without receiving a reciprocal payoff. Such one-sidedness makes Israel look desperate to negotiate and the guilty party, when Israel is the victor mostly responding to Palestinian demands.

And this ongoing silly season sees the repetition of various lies, especially the claim that Israel’s settlements beyond the temporary 1967 borders are illegal, and that the American government considers these communities illegal.

Characteristically, the far Left’s congenital silliness triggers ridiculous overreactions from some on the far Right. So, although freeing monstrous murderers convicted in legitimate courts of law as a diplomatic gesture mocks a democracy’s rule of law, the extreme words denouncing the move, like “craven,” “obscenity” and “insane,” overlook the complex universe Israel faces.

Similarly, calling Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu a “coward” for making this tough choice is as absurd as questioning a surgeon’s courage for amputating a finger to save the patient. Netanyahu’s anguished open letter to Israelis correctly noted that governing often entails heartbreaking choices and calculated risks. President Dwight Eisenhower warned his successor, John Kennedy, that the easy decisions were made before reaching the chief executive’s desk.

Netanyahu must maneuver in a topsy-turvy world. On one perverse level, the Blame Israel Firsters are correct: it is Israel’s “fault” for existing. Those Palestinians and their enablers still fighting the 1948 war, trying to eliminate Israel, have a point – no Israel, no conflict. Psychologists call this “blaming the victim.” The Psychology Dictionary characterizes attributing “fault in a crime [rape, robbery, assault]” to its targets as “forms of rationalization and coping mechanisms in an attempt to distance one’s self from the victim and the problem.”

More pointedly, in his classic 1947 essay “Wagner, Nietzsche and Hitler,” the German philosopher and expert on authoritarianism Theodor Adorno taught that “one of the most sinister features of the Fascist character” was this “paranoid tendency of projecting upon others one’s own violent aggressiveness and then indicting, on the basis of this projection, those whom one endows with pernicious qualities.”

The hysterical Palestinian denunciations of Israel’s alleged “extermination” of Palestinians – when the population under Israeli rule has quadrupled since 1967 – projects Palestinians’ ongoing anti-Zionist genocidal fantasy onto Israel.

Yet the Palestinian “Big Lie” strategy is working. Perpetually blaming Israel, constantly claiming that only they have rights to live in the contested West Bank, repeatedly elevating the improvised 1949 armistice lines into holy “1967 borders,” has obscured Israel’s legitimate rights, even among many Zionists.

We cannot forget the historical fact that the British mandate granted Jews rights to settle west of the River Jordan. Morally, those Israelis nevertheless willing to relinquish some territory they believe is theirs in order to seek peace express a deeper commitment to peacemaking than those who negate Israel’s rights there – leaving from land you believe you stole does not reflect much commitment to peace.

Moreover, as an American historian I emphasize that in 1967, the United States intentionally supported inserting an “s” and dropping a “the” in drafting Security Council Resolution 242 endorsing “withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories” – not “the” territory – “occupied in the recent conflict.”

The linguistic subtlety affirmed Jewish rights, recognizing “the territory” as disputed.

While I also acknowledge that within the Israeli government there was an intense debate about “the territories’” legal status, only under Jimmy Carter did American foreign policy start accepting the Palestinian narrative negating Israel’s legitimate legal claims.

The turning point occurred in March 1980, when the United States voted for Security Council Resolution 465, condemning Israeli settlement as a “flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention” – a harsh accusation that has now become routine. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who remembered the Geneva convention’s post-Hitler origins, complained that the language implicitly compared Israel’s policies “to the Nazi practice of deporting or murdering vast numbers of persons in Western Poland – as at Auschwitz – and plans for settling the territory with Germans.” This false comparison, Moynihan noted, played “perfectly into the Soviet propaganda position” and the Palestinian projection that “Zionism is present-day fascism.” Fearing the political damage during his re-election effort, President Carter claimed miscommunication and eventually had his UN envoy Donald McHenry veto the next attack.

In December 1980, when the US again approved a Security Council resolution invoking the Fourth Geneva Convention against Israel, The Washington Post accused the Carter administration of “Joining the Jackals.” The editorial called the Security Council vote “the essential Carter,” unnecessary as a policy matter, naïve in futilely flattering the “virtuous souls of the Third World,” harder on America’s friends than America’s enemies, unduly trusting of the UN, diplomatically destructive as well as politically self-destructive.

The Obama administration should heed the negative lessons of the Carter years – and the Oslo debacle. Blindly appeasing Palestinian extremism while negating Israel’s legitimate rights will not produce a just or lasting peace. I desperately want the negotiations to succeed – but to succeed Israel must not act desperate and America must stand up to Palestinian desperadoes – originally a Mexican term describing brazen outlaws who refused to pay the required toll on new roads.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Palestinians Dismiss Prisoner Release as a "Bribe" (which, of course it is!)

by Khaled Abu Toameh  August 5, 2013

They regard the prisoner release as something Israel was supposed to have done anyway, many years ago. Many will continue to see it as as part of an Israeli-American scheme to extract concessions, and will continue to attack Abbas for "succumbing" to US pressure.

The argument that the release of Palestinian prisoners boosts the standing of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and "moderate" Palestinians and facilitates the resumption of peace talks with Israel is not necessarily true.

Many Palestinians do not see Israel's decision to release more than 100 Palestinians who were imprisoned before the signing of the Oslo Accords two decades ago as a gesture on the part of Israel.
Rather, they regard the Israeli move as something that Israel was supposed to have done anyway, many years ago.

As Saeb Erekat, the chief PLO negotiator, explained: "This Israeli cabinet decision is an overdue step towards the implementation of the Sharm Sheikh agreement of 1999, whereby Israel committed to release all the pre-Oslo prisoners. We welcome this decision 14 years later."

So unlike the US and other Western governments, the Palestinian Authority does not see the release of prisoners as a conciliatory move on the part of the Israeli government.

Moreover, Palestinian Authority representatives do not believe there is a link between the release of prisoners and progress toward achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Many of the prisoners who are scheduled to be released do not even belong to Abbas's Fatah faction.
It is unrealistic to think, for example, that members of Islamic Jihad or the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine who killed Israelis are going to come out of prison and declare their support for the Oslo Accords and the two-state solution.

There is also no guarantee that Fatah prisoners who were incarcerated before the signing of the Oslo Accords will endorse the peace process.

Of course Abbas and Fatah will do their utmost to take advantage of the prisoner release to try and score points on the Palestinian street.

Abbas's aides and loyalists are busy these days preparing a big rally in Ramallah to celebrate the release of the prisoners.

They are keen on presenting the prisoner release as a "huge achievement" by Abbas.
But even if a large number of Palestinians turn out to greet the prisoners, this still does not mean that they support Abbas's decision to resume peace talks with Israel.

Some Palestinians, including Abbas loyalists, see the release of a few dozen prisoners as a "bribe" offered by US Secretary of State John Kerry to the Palestinian Authority president to entice him to return to the talks.

These Palestinians point out that in return for this "bribe," Abbas was forced to drop his two other preconditions for resuming the peace talks: a full cessation of settlement construction and Israeli acceptance of the pre-1967 lines as the basis for a two-state solution.

There are also Palestinians who see the release of about 100 prisoners as a "minor" achievement for Abbas, especially in comparison to Hamas's success in securing the release of more than 1000 inmates in return for kidnapped Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Schalit.

"Israel is not doing anyone a favor by releasing 100 prisoners," said a Fatah official in Ramallah. "While we welcome this decision, we do not see how it could help the peace process, particularly in light of the fact that there are more than 5,000 Palestinians who are still in prison."

So while most Palestinians are expected to rejoice over the release of the prisoners, it is naïve to think that they will take to the streets to celebrate the resumption of peace talks with Israel.
The prisoner release could benefit Abbas in the short-term. But in the long-term, many Palestinians will continue to see it as part of an Israeli-American scheme to extract concessions from Abbas and the Palestinian Authority leadership.

After the celebrations over the release of the prisoners end, Palestinians will continue to criticize Abbas for "succumbing" to US pressure and going to the peace talks against the recommendation of the PLO leadership. And of course they will continue to attack Israel for not fulfilling all their demands, including a settlement freeze and the release of the rest of the prisoners.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

BDS and Peace Talks

By EDWARD S. BECK  (Jerusalem Post 08 /01/2013)

Let us be very clear: the BDS campaign does not serve the cause of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

From the very beginning of the anti-Israel boycott, divestments and sanctions campaigns, the attempt by their advocates was not to bring about a just and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but to lay the foundation for the dismantling of Israel by any means necessary, starting with what Natan Sharansky called the “3-D standards” of being demonized, delegitimized and held to a double standard.

This strategy was relatively new and reaching a far more influential level of society than were the previous shouts by radical extremist groups to “drive Israel into the sea,” but had very much the same intent.

This remains true as the calls for BDS ring loud and clear even as peace talks begin in Washington. If the BDS campaign were really about bringing Israel to the peace table to make the painful sacrifices it will need to make, the campaign would be bragging success and victory.

It is not and will press on during the peace talks and after, regardless of outcome, because of the politically pathological desire to not just demonize and hold Israel to a double standard, but to delegitimize Israel to a nonexistent state in the Middle East because of their fundamentalist extreme hatreds toward Israel, with the rationale that Jews have no claim or place in the neighborhood.

Regardless of what the European Union and others may say, this isn’t about the settlements in the disputed territories, this is about the legitimate presence of a sovereign Jewish nation surrounded by a sea of Arab sovereign states.

This is about Israel delegitimizers believing that creating the State of Israel was wrong in the first place or possibly even worse, that region was betrayed when the fledgling State of Israel when created was not wiped into the sea by her Arab neighbours to finish the job Hitler started. These people don’t want to live in peace with Jews; they don’t even want Jews in the Middle East. One only has to look at the history of Jewish expulsion from Arab countries to completely understand and accept this as truth. Jews are infidels and second-class citizens and their relative degree of inferior acceptance is dictated by imams and sheikhs and not guaranteed by the Koran.

BDS movements against other countries such as South Africa accepted that there had to be peaceful coexistence of all the parties as a goal with equal rights and standing.

No such goals exist in the present BDS campaigns. The campaign does not state what it is for in terms of peaceful coexistence, only that it is against the State of Israel’s very existence in any shape, form of fashion.

In fact the Arab concept of normalization of relations is not even yet in effect with the Palestinians, who do not even choose either religiously or politically to recognize the existence of the State of Israel, which is a starting point for any negotiations. Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian leader of the BDS campaign, can speak against normalization with Israel, yet secure an academic degree from an Israeli university. The irony is both astonishing and troubling.

I wonder, if there is a peace deal with the Palestinians will Bishop Desmond Tutu come to share a blessing, and will Stevie Wonder and Roger Waters join Alicia Keyes and Eric Burden in Celebrate Peace Concert in Jerusalem? If a peace deal is hammered out and Israel gives up a good bit of land for peace, will the EU lift its boycott of goods from the newly defined areas which may be behind the current Green Line, such as Ariel and others? Will the US State Department permit US government research and aid agencies to fund basic research and development at Ariel University, which is currently banned from receiving directly or indirectly research aid from US government agencies, thus forcing it to partner with other countries for funding for basic research from which all countries benefit? I think not.

Will calls for the BDS of Israel continue? Yes. Why? Because the BDS movement will find something else endemic in Israel politics and society to protest and continue the ongoing attempt to erode any ongoing peace and legitimacy of a sovereign Jewish state. It’s in their DNA. Calls for BDS not only ratchet up the level of anti- Israelism during an incredibly important series of forward movements in peace efforts, they have the consequence of stifling the very voices in Israel that are calling for peace with the Palestinians.

To take it one step further, it has been estimated that over 15,000 Palestinians may be negatively economically affected by the EU boycott of goods produced in the disputed territories. How is putting Palestinians out of work in the territories promoting peace? It is not, and therein is the crux of the fallacy of BDS thinking.

The British academic unions are pathological in their perseverance in both publicly and silently boycotting Israeli academics and academic institutions, even though they are silencing and collectively punishing many in the academic community who are roundly in favour of peace and who work side by side with Palestinian, Israeli Arab and Arab colleagues both in Israel and internationally.

The British justice system, by scolding British academic Ronnie Fraser for his suit against the faculty union for this annual ongoing anti-Semitic effort since 2005, has not only rendered itself incapable of sanctioning anti- Semitism in Britain, but has allowed the clownish, pretentious, self-righteous, but dangerous leaders of the British academic union (more a political lot than a scholarly lot) to aid and abet those who would see an end to the state of Israel.

Let us be very clear: the BDS campaign does not serve the cause of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

The BDS campaign does not even bring justice for the Palestinians and in some cases causes them to suffer.

Whatever the real intent of the BDS campaign, the reality of it is that it serves to incite against Israel unjustly and confound efforts for peace. It is the wrong strategy for real peace and justice.

The writer is president emeritus and co-founder of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, and also served as chairman of the SPME Task Force on BDS from 2004 to 2012


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