Maajid Nawaz on the US’s vote on the UN resolution

Maajid Nawaz (I hadn’t realized that he was only 38) is, as most of you know, a former Islamist extremist and now an Islamic moderate who runs the anti-extremist Quilliam Foundation. And he’s a brave man. I don’t know if he has bodyguards, but given his calls for moderation in Islam and his vigorous condemnations of Muslim oppression, he would seem to be in danger. (He regularly gets death threats.) His latest piece at The Daily Beast, “Why did Obama pander to the UN’s stunning anti-Israel bias?“, isn’t going to make him any more friends, for it’s largely pro-Israel.

Although Nawaz is against Israel’s building of settlements and in favor of a two-state solution, he’s an even stronger critic of despotic Arab regimes, and pulls no punches about it—or about the bigotry of low expectations that concentrates in Israel while ignoring the far greater oppression in many other lands. First, his position:

In truth, I believe Israeli settlements to be illegal under international law, built on occupied land, and that Netanyahu has been uncooperative while in office, and that a two-state solution is not only still possible, but is the only viable option for solving this conflict. Yet still I maintain that Resolution 2334 was an amateur, emotional move by liberal dogmatists that will only aid the Israeli right.

(See Malgorzata’s recent post on the risible UN Resolution here; she disagrees with Nawaz about the illegality of settlements and the intransigence of Bibi.)

As I don’t want to brain much today (it’s my damn birthday!), and you can read the piece for yourself, I’ll give just a few excerpts about the bigotry of low expectations, and the “whatabouttery” gambit:

Opposing Israel is The One Ring that binds us all. It is the sacred god that must not be questioned. So deep runs this bias against Israeli transgressions, that to call it out is to arouse immediately incredulity and ad hominem abuse.

So entrenched is it, that few noticed how on the very morning of Resolution 2334 a motion seeking to stem the flow of weapons  going to what the UN itself fears are genocidal killers in South Sudan failed.

The Security Council could not even bring itself to adopt the simplest of resolutions calling for a seven-day ceasefire to halt the tragedy of Aleppo. Yet when it came to pushing through a final year-end condemnation of Israel, the Security Council suddenly mustered the will to act.

(Nawaz loves Lord of the Rings analogies!) He goes on about the hyprocrisy:

On Wednesday, Secretary Kerry reinforced the view that the two-state solution “is now in jeopardy… The result is that policies of this [Israeli] government… are leading towards one state.”

This is simply false. The fact that this sentiment is even expressed betrays the deep bigotry of low expectations held in the West toward Arabs and Palestinians.

Settlements are illegal. But why is it that Israel is expected to integrate—and does a reasonable job of including—the 20 percent of its population that is Arab, yet a Jewish presence of 500,000 settlers in any future Palestinian state is deemed “an obstacle” to the two state solution? Are Palestinians assumed to be ethno-fascists? Are they not capable of building a multiethnic state just like Israelis? Is this how low the standard is to which Western leftists hold Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims?

In fact, there are eight million people in Israel, so Arabs constitute 1.6 million of them, many of them Israeli citizens with full voting rights. There are Israeli Arabs sitting in the Knesset. Yet Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly said that if there were a two-state solution and Palestine absorbed the West Bank, every single Israeli Jewish settler (but not Arabs) would be expelled from that area. Is that fair?

And then, taking a big risk, Nawaz goes after the Arab states:

. . .there is not a single crime that Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stand accused of that an Arab totalitarian despot or absolute monarch has not committed manifold times and on a daily basis. From torture and occupation, to proxy wars in foreign countries, to treating non-citizens—including Palestinians—as second class, to a lack of democracy, Arab despots top it all.

Look at Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis in Yemen, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his coup in Egypt, the chaos in Libya, even the Taliban, Lashkar al-Tayyiba, al-Shabab, Boko Haram and ISIS, sexual enslavement, beheadings, child soldiers, and the use of chemical weapons—the reality of the greater Middle East lies bare for us all to see. Yet as America’s UN Ambassador Samantha Power noted, this year the UN passed more resolutions against Israel than these other problems combined.

I simply can’t comprehend that but have some explanations at the bottom.

And Nawaz’s ending:

. . .  I maintain that Resolution 2334 was an amateur, emotional move by liberal dogmatists that will only aid the Israeli right.

There is nothing unique about the Israel conflict deserving such disproportionate attention. Baluchistan, Kurdistan, Cyprus, Kashmir, and Taiwan are but a few other disputed territories not fetishized like Palestine is at the UN and in our media. All of these disputes involve deep religious, historic, and political meaning for their respective parties.

Only the overwhelming narcissism of our Abrahamic faiths – including those among us who define themselves against them—would deem the religious and historic significance of the “Holy Lands” to mean anything more than other lost holy lands for Buddhists in Tibet, or Sikhs in Khalistan, which was lost to Pakistan a year before Israel’s creation. Only by releasing the “exceptional status” pressure from this conflict, by stripping it of its religious hyperbole, by removing it from the spotlight, by simply placing it on a par with every and any other conflict in the world—tragic but not unique—do we stand a better chance of solving it, because the stakes are lowered and the frothing prophets of doom, with their Armageddon pathology, are taken out of the equation. Let us call this “Israeli unexceptionalism.”

I remain unaware of a single Middle East pundit not tied to Obama’s State department who holds that the outgoing president has done a good job in the Middle East. Obama cut a deal with Iran and conditionally lifted sanctions, while the Iranians, Hezbollah and Russian President Vladimir Putin aided Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as he used crude chemical bombs and massively destructive weapons against his own people. And just as Obama’s inaction allowed others to act in Syria, his inaction at the UN set the tone once again, this time reaffirming the notion that Israel is the region’s biggest problem. That is despicable. It is inexcusable. And I could remain silent no more.

Our actions in Syria, or rather failure to act against a state that bombed hospitals and used chemical weapons against its own people, was reprehensible. And yes, both Kerry and Obama’s actions of late have been despicable, singling out Israel while tacitly supporting far more egregious actions by Arab states. I hate to say this, as I use the words rarely, but I see the concentration of the UN’s opprobrium—and the Left’s opprobrium—on Israel, as a form of anti-Semitism. Is there another explanation for considering Israel an “apartheid state” (a misnomer if ever there was one), while remaining silent on the crimes and oppression in places like Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia? And if it’s not anti-Semitism, it’s still a form of bigotry—a bigotry that excuses bad behavior by Muslims because they’re seen as “people of color.”

 

114 Comments

  1. Posted December 30, 2016 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Happy Birthday!

    I’m one and a half months older than you, and I’ve always appreciated the fact that if I forget my age I only have to add or subtract 50 from the year.

    Come to think of it, that works even better for you than it does for me!

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted December 30, 2016 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      Works even better born in 1950…I recall my grandfather born on the 30th Dec. 1899. Hard to forget your age there, no math required.

      • Posted December 31, 2016 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

        Just to tell you that that makes my uncle Paul a perfect contemporary of your grandfather. Paul died just two days before his 84th birthday. In the Excel sheet I made of my family, I added two columns, one stating any person’s current age, the other one mentioning the age they had reached. The calender started in 1900, so in Paul’s case, I had to change the two formulas manually.-
        Wishing you and any other readers a healthy 2017!

  2. Posted December 30, 2016 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    sub

    • GBJames
      Posted December 30, 2016 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      sub2

  3. Posted December 30, 2016 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  4. shoshidge
    Posted December 30, 2016 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    I think that our tendency to hold Israel up to higher expectations is because we consider it to be part of the “west”, one of us.
    It’s the same tendency that causes France to be criticized for attempting to ban hijabs while the imposition of such garments in countries like Iran gets tepid criticism at best.
    This does seem unfair but I’m ok with holding Israel to higher standards than their neighbors, especially given that I see no reason why building these settlements is in Israel’s best interests.

    On the Syria question, I hope that history doesn’t condemn Obama for his inaction regarding Syria.
    I remember what the political climate was like when the issue came up and there was nearly universal consensus on both sides of the spectrum saying “Hell no”.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 30, 2016 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      Yes, and I think there’s an additional problem with this “bigotry of low expectations” analysis. A straightforward application of it would prevent us from ever demanding more of any nation than we can from the worst renegades in the international community.

      We should expect more from allies than from others (especially from allies to whom much in the way of US foreign aid is given). This applies not just to Israel, but to our soi-disant “allies” Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, as well.

  5. mikeyc
    Posted December 30, 2016 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    No, you are not mistaken. It is open anti-Semitism.

    Having said that, I think Obama did the right thing by not opposing the resolution irrespective of all the other whatabouteries – many are true and deserve far more attention and action. It was risky but bold and literally his last chance to something, anything – even a risky thing to try to open some path to peace.

    But there is no doubt in my mind that UN and its policies are lousy with anti-Semitism.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted December 31, 2016 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      I agree with your take. Taken in isolation, the US abstention was a correct move. It only becomes a problem when viewed through the lens of the rampant anti-Semitism at the UN. The US has always protected Israel from that anti-Semitism by using its veto power, but that has meant that Israel has got away with bad stuff like the settlement building.

      I know Malgorzata doesn’t think they’re illegal, and there’s an argument she’s correct. However, the land they’re building on is being taken from Arabs who own it, and because those Arabs don’t have Israeli citizenship in the country they live in and were born in, they have no legal recourse. It’s immoral. It’s true that there are plenty of surrounding states that are constantly doing worse things, but that doesn’t make it okay. It’s like saying it’s okay to pay women less in the US because they need permission to work from their male guardian in Saudi Arabia. We do expect more from Israel because they are better.

      I also get a bit sick of the claim that Obama is anti-Israel. He’s not. He’s done more for Israel than just about any other US president. He is anti-Netanyahu, and I don’t blame him personally. Netanyahu pays lip service to wanting a two-state solution internationally, but the way he sucks up to the extreme right at home in order to retain his grip on power makes that seem like a lie.

      The reason all those other egregious things happen in the UN that Nawaz refers to are not the fault of the US or Obama. They happen whoever is president. The problem is the way the UN is set up. The US, UK, France, China, and Russia all have veto power in the Security Council. That has proven helpful when the anti-Jewish nations get together because the US can override their votes on their own. However it also means that Russia in particular, and sometimes China, uses their veto to protect their own interests. Russia has been protecting Bashir al-Assad a lot recently for example. (The UK rarely uses their veto power and France almost never.)

      For years NZ has been trying to change things so that countries can’t use their veto power when there’s a humanitarian crisis (currently that would help in Syria and South Sudan) but Russia and China won’t agree and the US won’t agree unless they do. France and the UK are open to the idea.

      • Malgorzata
        Posted December 31, 2016 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

        Unfortunately, Heather, you are wrong. The land most Israeli settlements are built on didn’t belong to individual people. It was so called “state land”, first belonging to Ottoman Empire, then to Mandate Palestine. And if any individual Palestinian could show that Israeli settlers took his land, the settlers were evicted by Israeli army after Israeli court (sometimes the Supreme Court) decided against settlers. It doesn’t matter that a resident of the West Bank do not have Israeli citizenship: if it is an Israeli citizen who wronged him, Israeli court will take the case and more often than not (if he can prove ownership) give a sentence in his favour.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted December 31, 2016 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

          If my info on that situation is wrong, I’m very pleased to hear it. Thanks Malgorzata.

      • John Perkins
        Posted December 31, 2016 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

        @Heather Hastie and mikeyc: Why do commenters persist in throwing around the tired old saw of anti-semitism ? Do they not realise that Arabs, including Palestinians, are Semites ? Surely anti-Zionist would be more appropriate !

        • Malgorzata
          Posted January 1, 2017 at 2:24 am | Permalink

          The problem seems to me that you do not realize what the word “antisemitism” means and why it was coined. It means “hostility, prejudice or dyscrimination against Jews” (look it up – Wikipedia has a good explanation). But In short: Late in 19th century “Juedenhass” (hatred to Jews in German) was widespread in Europe. At the same time science enjoed a very high status. Judenhass didn’t sound “scientific” enough and intellectuals of the time needed a more “scientific” name. Wilhelm Marr, a German Jew-hater and intellectual, thought that “antisemitismus” sounded very good and could be used in polite society. When Hitler started to court Arabs in 1930s his propagandists explained to Arabs that “antisemitism” relates ONLY to Jews and that Arabs were valued members of human race in spite of being Semites. (Mein Kampf is a runaway bestseller in the Arab world to this day). Until 1945 people in Europe (and America) proudly called themselves antisemites, of course, meaning Jews only. Then, somehow, it went out of fashion.

          • John Perkins
            Posted January 1, 2017 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

            I can assure you that I know perfectly well what anti-semitism means. My view of the expression is not the Jewish p.o.v. because I am not Jewish,but that fact alone does not dis-
            qualify me from expressing an opinion.Perhaps a more appropriate expression would be anti-Judaism to replace anti-Zionism. My original comment was prompted by the fact that I studied Arabic in the School of Semitic Studies at Durham University in England in 1949 – 1952. At Durham,in the JCR or at Dinner we would often engage in what we called Talmudical discussions;high flown and confusing verbiage which I have not encountered in the 60+ years since coming down from Durham U. until I read your response to my comment!

            • somer
              Posted January 1, 2017 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

              I think Malgorzata is very clear

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted January 1, 2017 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

              We call people from China and Japan “Asians” but we don’t call Indians “Asians”. Aboriginal Americans are called “Indians” and they are nowhere near India. We call people of the United States “Americans” but Canadians and Mexicans live in North America and there are a bunch of South American countriesthat could technically call their inhabitants “Americans”. “Canada” means “village” but someone misunderstood and that ended up being the name of the whole country.

              Language is imperfect because people are imperfect. What matters is we understand what each other is saying.

            • Malgorzata
              Posted January 2, 2017 at 1:34 am | Permalink

              Expression “anti-Judaism” is already taken by Christians: “I’m not an antisemite. I have nothing against Jews as people. I just can’t stand their religion, Judaism. If only they would convert into Christianity, they would be fully accepted”. Of course, the trouble is that when they do convert the answer is: “Those Jews! They are never sincere. Their conversion is false and they practice their Judaism in secret”. And that’s antisemitism. But in a way I agree with you. The word antisemitism is misleading. The old, crude “Judenhass” (Jew-hatred) was much clearer. It doesn’t matter which refined word you use: anti-Semitism, anti-Judaism or anti-Zionism – it’s the same old Judenhass.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted January 1, 2017 at 9:22 am | Permalink

          No. Though I’m sure most readers of WEIT know that, it’s not common knowledge and has become an accepted term for being anti-Jewish. Further, not all Zionists are Jews, nor all Jews Zionists. That only properly refers to those who are supporters of a Jewish homeland in the land the Bible etc says they traditionally occupied.

  6. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 30, 2016 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    It is always easy to lay out all the examples as this posting does as well. But often that is the problem. We go over the well deserved criticism of the U.N. and all of their actions or lack thereof. We compare what this group did and what that group did and who did what to whom. It is no wonder that there is no solution and there will be a solution to this matter.

    Imagine two neighbors who have lived next to each other for 50 years. One day one of them destroys something in the yard of the other. This event is only one of a long string of things that they have done to each other over the years. But today they ask a third party to resolve this latest thing. If I were that third party my first demand would be that they totally ignore everything that happened in the past and just resolve this issue alone.

    If the parties to conflict cannot do that and start from scratch…it cannot accomplish a damn thing. So by doing this dance as I would call this article by Nawaz, he also accomplishes nothing.

  7. Michael Waterhouse
    Posted December 30, 2016 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    I don’t know of another reason to judge Israel so harshly.
    I certainly don’t know why socialists stand so strongly against it, as Israel has been quie sociaalist in a lot of ways and socialists are standing with those with the exact opposite philosophy and belief.
    As for the general left, I don’t know, it may well be anti semitism. It certainly isn’t rational.
    The political machinations of Islam have been quite effective in playing the ‘brown’ and the ‘oppressed’ card, especially to an audienence so eager to accept these bogus premises without due scrutiny. And we know for sure where anti-semitism does still thrive, and that is in Islam.

    Well done Maajid Nawaz, again.

    • harrync
      Posted December 30, 2016 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

      My first response to Nawaz’ article was “how idiotic”. Then I started to think about it [I know, thinking is dangerous.] Maybe he does have something of a point. Still thinking, though.

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted December 31, 2016 at 6:40 am | Permalink

        Me too.

    • charlize
      Posted December 31, 2016 at 8:57 am | Permalink

      On the other hand, it is fascinating how identity politics (a fancy, less “triggering”, term for tribalism) has the power to undermine the otherwise so reliably rational rigourous thinking of some of our favourite and beloved anti-theists when they sweep under the carpet a cornerstone of the justification for the existence of Israel: Their god Yahweh has ordained that his chosen people take possession of that “promised” and “holy” land.

      • Malgorzata
        Posted December 31, 2016 at 9:16 am | Permalink

        I’m afraid you are very much mistaken. The first modern Zionists were secular people. It wasn’t any “God’s promise” which prompted Herzl to start Zionist movement in the second half of 19th century but the “Dreyfuss affair” and pogroms in Russia and Poland. He realized that if Jew can be persecuted both in tzarist, religious Russia and in secular France there is no other solution for Jews than their own country. This was the cornerstone of the justification for the existence of Israel. And he was definitely proven right by what happened next both in Europe and in Arab countries. Nobody is sweeping under the carpet the existence of religious Jews for whom this is the fullfilment of God’s promise. Religious Jews were actually very much against Herzl (calling him a blasphemer) in the beginning because, according to their belief, Israel should’ve been resurected first after the Messiah came, not “manmade”. They changed their mind after the Holocaust. The remaining strand of those fanatics (Naturei Karta) is Iran’s best friend and is shown proudly by diverese antisemites: “Look, even Jews think that Israel is illegal!”

        • Carl
          Posted December 31, 2016 at 11:20 am | Permalink

          Thanks for the accurate history lesson. Israel has a much higher percentage of atheists than the United States, and probably a majority of the population.

          It’s interesting that Palestine (as it was then called) was not the only place Herzl considered – Uganda and Argentina were also in the running.

          • Malgorzata
            Posted December 31, 2016 at 11:28 am | Permalink

            Herzl was convinced that Europe was lethal for Jews (and how right he was!) He considered any safe place for European Jews. When Uganda was suggested to him, he considered Uganda as well, and decided that it was not such a good idea.

  8. Posted December 30, 2016 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    “The fact that this sentiment is even expressed betrays the deep bigotry of low expectations held in the West toward Arabs and Palestinians.”

    Is it wrong to expect less from people who are statistically less privileged in terms of wealth, nutrition, and education? I suspect the term bigotry in this context is used to shame, and imply this a paternalistic almost racist attitude, but is it really? Am I a bigot for recognizing I can expect less from my current state of residence Alabama, than from my home state of Massachusetts? It seems to me that ignoring, or being blind to the inequities that cause the differing expectations would be worse than acknowledging them.

    • Posted December 30, 2016 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

      Am I a bigot for recognizing I can expect less from my current state of residence Alabama, than from my home state of Massachusetts?

      If Alabama rescinds women’s rights, outlaws homosexual, and jails people for blasphemy, and your only response is ‘What can you expect from a bunch of ignorant rednecks?’ then yes, you are a bigot.

      • Posted December 30, 2016 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

        “If Alabama rescinds women’s rights, outlaws homosexual, and jails people for blasphemy, and your only response is ‘What can you expect from a bunch of ignorant rednecks?’ then yes, you are a bigot.”

        I guess I’m OK because that wouldn’t be my only response.

    • Taz
      Posted December 30, 2016 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

      The sentence you quote says “Arabs and Palestinians”. Is it your contention that all Arabs are “less privileged in terms of wealth, nutrition, and education” simply by fact of being Arabs? Or perhaps Muslims?

      • Posted December 30, 2016 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

        “Is it your contention that all Arabs are “less privileged in terms of wealth, nutrition, and education” simply by fact of being Arabs? Or perhaps Muslims?”

        I’d say it’s primarily about location.

        • Taz
          Posted December 30, 2016 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

          Is there another explanation for considering Israel an “apartheid state” (a misnomer if ever there was one), while remaining silent on the crimes and oppression in places like Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia? And it’s not anti-Semitism, it’s still a form of bigotry—a bigotry that excuses bad behavior by Muslims because they’re seen as “people of color.”

          Is your rejoinder about expecting less from people who are statistically less privileged in terms of “wealth, nutrition, and education” applicable to this statement as well? Are you claiming there’s no such thing as the bigotry of low expectations?

          • Posted December 30, 2016 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

            “Are you claiming there’s no such thing as the bigotry of low expectations?”

            Certainly not, my question is only whether the loaded term bigotry is an appropriate one. Again, is it bigotry to recognize extenuating circumstances that make different people more or less accountable for their bad behavior?

            • Taz
              Posted December 30, 2016 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

              It is when applied indiscriminately to an entire group – just like any other form of bigotry.

    • Posted December 30, 2016 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

      You can recognize that the present reality in Alabama is different from Massachusetts and what you can expect from Alabama is different as well.
      And it’s also possible to recognize that the difference of present realities of Alabama and Massachusetts is probably for the most part the result of the differences in policies of those two states over the last two hundred years, since both states are part of the same country with the same set of federal laws, and not because Massachusetts was lucky to have some valuable resource that Alabama doesn’t have that might explain the disparity. (But it’s an interesting question, actually – for example, I think that the fact that MA is probably less suitable for agriculture than AL may have resulted in faster industrialization and urbanization of MA in the early 19th century and ended up benefiting MA in the long term.)
      So just because it’s realistic to expect different things from Alabama, it’s not unreasonable to hold the similar expectation of both states.
      And, of course, there are always things that you can expect to be the same in both states – like the fact that you not going to be imprisoned for making a joke about the president or some holy figure, or will not be killed for selling your house to someone from another state, or that state authorities will not launch homemade rockets into towns across the state border, will not name streets after terrorists, and will not teach kids to see people from another state as subhuman filth that should be exterminated.
      There are just some things that no matter how unprivileged one is, should always expected of every human being, privileged or not – things like not trying to kill other people simply for belonging to a different ethnic group.

  9. W.Benson
    Posted December 30, 2016 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Happy Birthday. I treat mine as a day to forget, preferably with icecream.
    Concerning the Syrian state’s alleged use of chemical weapons, for some reason they were used almost simultaneously with the visit of a UN chemical weapon investigatin team. Their use was either bad timing by idiots, or a black flag operation with CIA involvement. Remember Bay of Pigs, Iran-Contras, etc.
    Syrian forces that now occupy former rebel areas of Aleppo presented videos of warehouses full of food (rebel-intercepted international aid for civilians) and deposits of gas canisters (looked like cannisters of the type used for propane) that, it was claimed, rebels launched (somehow, that was left unexplained) onto the Syrian army and civilias living in government controlled parts of Aleppo. Could not chlorine canisters also be `fired` from one to another part of the city?
    I fundamentally do not believe that a free press exists in a country where Debbie Wassman Schultz can ring up the directors o MSNBC to demand that they tone down Mika Brzezinski’s criticism of Hillary, and then she does. The Syrian situation is, IMHO and as conspiration-theoristic as it may seem, a US & Co., Ltd. operation to block cheap Russian and Iranian oil and gas from being piped across Syrian and Kurdish territory to the shores of the Mediterranean.

    • Dave
      Posted December 30, 2016 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      “The Syrian situation is, IMHO and as conspiration-theoristic as it may seem, a US & Co., Ltd. operation to block cheap Russian and Iranian oil and gas from being piped across Syrian and Kurdish territory to the shores of the Mediterranean.”

      Yes of course, the Middle East would be a utopia of universal peace and brotherhood if the dastardly “US & Co” didn’t keep messing it up. After all, Islam is a religion of peace, as everyone knows.

      Just out of curiosity, why do you think it’s so important to the US to stop Russian and Iranian oil from being piped to the Mediterranean? Both countries have seaports from which tankers can reach the Med in a matter of days, so it’s not as if their oil exports are being strangled in the absence of this supposedly vital pipeline.

      Sorry, but your conspiracist analysis of the Syrian conflict is ludicrous.

      • Posted December 30, 2016 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

        Read the Roolz, plase; your last sentence is uncivil.

        • Carl
          Posted December 30, 2016 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

          Prof. Coyne, I want to stay within your guidelines. Can you give further guidance on why Dave’s last sentence is considered uncivil? Is it that the “Sorry, but” makes it a too personal jab at the original commentor?

    • W.Benson
      Posted December 30, 2016 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      Dave, here is a link to a Wikipedia article showing how important Russian gas is for Europe and how NATO-prodded adversaries such as Ukraine and Poland can strangle supplies if they want (or someone wants them to).
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russia_in_the_European_energy_sector

      • Carl
        Posted December 30, 2016 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

        Europe is pretty much all NATO. 80% of Russian oil goes to Europe. A boycott could do the job. A Mediterranean port does no good, to say nothing of the fact Russia has ports on the Black Sea which empties into the Mediterranean.

  10. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 30, 2016 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Regarding Syria in general, and Aleppo in particular: it is undeniably a tragedy and a mess. But there is a lot of unwarranted Monday-morning quarterbacking going on. I did not hear anyone with a cogent alternate plan come forward when this mess was unraveling, and I don’t hear any cogent alternate plans for going forward now — certainly not from president-elect Donald Trump, and not from any of the other 16 Republicans who tossed their hats in the presidential ring this year.

    Everybody wants to do something; nobody wants to put US troops in harm’s way on the ground in Syria and Iraq, committed to an uncertain mission with unreliable allies, which appears to have been (and to continue to be) the only viable means for bringing about a meaningful change of course.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted December 30, 2016 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      Same thing here. Syria was no different than what ended up happening in Iraq or Libya or whoever is next. You run in on your white horse and do what? Once you have done whatever you think you should do, it will be total chaos in short order. There is not enough money in China for us to borrow to go get into all of these problems. There is no military solution to any of it. And by the way, what does this have to do with Israel. The conversation get wider by the minute and I do not hear one solution.

      • Posted December 30, 2016 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

        Backing al-Assad’s brutal repression is probably the only path to peace, and that was unacceptable to the US for a host of reasons. Russia has no such scruples.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted December 30, 2016 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

          Yes, that solution is not really a solution. When Assad gets back in to power with whoever helps him do this, he will just continue to murder the people.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted December 30, 2016 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

          The entire Levant seems vexed — must be God’s way of telling us there is no God.

  11. Meinhard Schwantz
    Posted December 30, 2016 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    On a similar note, why did Roosevelt pander to the Allies’ stunning anti-Germany bias?

  12. Posted December 30, 2016 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    “… I see the concentration of the UN’s opprobrium—and the Left’s opprobrium—on Israel, as a form of anti-Semitism.”

    I see it the same way.

    I also see something which is evidently invisible to almost all commentators outside Israel, but quite evident to a plurality of Jews within:

    It’s a country known as “Jordan”. And it is is filled with Palestinian Arabs who happily call it home. It was created by the U.N. as a homeland for Palestinian Arabs at the same time Israel was created as a homeland for Palestinian Jews. It shares a border with Israel.

    For many decades the leaders and diplomats of Jordan gave public speeches declaring that “Jordan is Palestine and Palestine is Jordan”.

    So, when I hear the phrase “two-state solution” bandied about, I worry about the selective amnesia of those who do not remember the entire reason why Jordan exists: as the “second” of two states created as a homeland for displaced Palestinians.

    That the Palestinians in the “occupied territories” in Israel should be expelled to Jordan is an opinion held by a plurality of Israelis. Even Palestinians in the territories prefer a confederation with Jordan to the so-called “two-state solution”:

    http://www.israeltoday.co.il/NewsItem/tabid/178/nid/30303/Default.aspx

    Yet, the Western press never mentions this. Indeed, the term “two-state solution” obviates it.

    • Carl
      Posted December 30, 2016 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      The trouble with this idea, is that Jordan’s leadership does not want it. They don’t want any additional Palestinians as Jordanian citizens and they don’t want political sovereignty over the West Bank. Jordan ceded (to the PLO) all its claims to the territories West of the Jordan River in 1988.

      • Malgorzata
        Posted December 30, 2016 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

        Well, one can always try with pressure, international opprobrium, UNSC resolutions, and if it doesn’t work, with BDS.

        • Posted December 31, 2016 at 5:50 am | Permalink

          Yes! I do not understand why Arab dictators, and also ordinary Arabs who (as Mr. Nawaz rightly pointed out) want their lands Judenfrei, should get everything they want, and why the international community is giving up to their whims.

  13. Claudia Baker
    Posted December 30, 2016 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    I can’t really comment much on the whole mess in Syria and also in Israel. It’s all so complicated. But I do think that Obama was smart not to jump in, in Syria, given what happened with Bush & Iraq. On the other hand, it has given Russia and Iran free reign. As regards Israel – oy- it breaks my heart to think that anti-Semitism is rearing its ugly head at the UN. But it certainly appears that that is the case.

    And Maajid is, indeed, a brave man.

    • Carl
      Posted December 30, 2016 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      But Obama did jump into Syria, with a stupid bluff that was called. This showed our enemies (worldwide) how weak Obama was, and that they could proceed with little fear.

      Antisemitism has been present in the U.N. for quite some time. The infamous “Zionism is Racism” resolution was passed in 1975. The antisemitism didn’t disappear when the resolution was revoked in 1991.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 30, 2016 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

        That may be. But I think refusing to jump into Syria with both feet was the best foreign policy move of Obama’s administration (and, in some ways, the most courageous, since he understood the opprobrium he’d catch for letting Assad cross his “red line”).

        Often the easiest, and dumbest, thing for a commander-in-chief to do is throw the nation’s military might around. Anyway, I haven’t heard anyone else proffer a cogent alternative strategy for what should have been done at that point. Ask a Republican, the answer invariably boils down to naught but “not what Obama did.”

        Imagine, if you will, how Trump would’ve reacted. With him, we’ll always be one international tiny-dick insult away from him pushing The Button. Imagine, in that regard, how Trump would react to something like the Cuban missile crisis, with someone like Curtis LeMay on the Joint Chiefs of Staff scowling across the Situation-Room table at him, muttering that he didn’t have the balls for all-out war.

        • Carl
          Posted December 30, 2016 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

          Will you agree that making the bluff was extremely bad judgement? At the point the bluff was called, imposing a no-fly zone was proposed by Hillary Clinton.

          Who knows what Trump will or would do? I also have Dr. Strangelove nightmares, but here we are.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted December 30, 2016 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

            Oh, I agree with that; hell, I’d hope even Barack would agree that that part was a mistake.

            If it comes down to a Stragelove scenario, we’ll be longing to have at the helm the phlegmatic figure of a President Merkin Muffley. 🙂

            Let’s just hope Putin hasn’t built himself a doomsday device — and if he he has, that the Premier doesn’t love surprises.

            • Carl
              Posted December 30, 2016 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

              Peace.

  14. Carl
    Posted December 30, 2016 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    It’s surely possible to imagine Trump doing a worse job in the Middle East than the current administration, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

    The Obama administration has diminished the American position in the world, damaged Israel, and given cheer to so many of the really bad actors on the world stage.

  15. josh
    Posted December 30, 2016 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    “Our actions in Syria, or rather failure to act against a state that bombed hospitals and used chemical weapons against its own people, was reprehensible.”

    Obama has hardly been inactive in Syria. As usual he has tried to find a middle way and apply diplomacy. The US tried to back moderate rebels against both ISIS and Assad. At the same time he has avoided forcing an open confrontation with Russia while Kerry has made repeated attempts to arrange a cease-fire. One can argue that a more hard-line stance might have worked better but it is hard to deny the danger of being embroiled in another Middle East quagmire or escalation with Russia. Maybe it’s the wrong call but there is nothing reprehensible about Obama trying to thread the needle in such a fraught situation.

    • Carl
      Posted December 30, 2016 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      I think this is a pretty good assessment. It wasn’t an easy call. However, bluffing the U.S. would act if Assad employed chemical weapons, then doing nothing when the bluff was called was an incredible blunder.

    • colnago80
      Posted December 30, 2016 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      Aside from the issue of chemical weapons, Obama is to be commended from withstanding the criticism from the warmongers on the Washington Post editorial page led by editor Fred Hyatt and columnists Charles Krauthammer and Richard Cohen. These miscreants advocate sending in US ground troops into Syria to support who? That worked so well in Vietnam and in Iraq in 2003. Not.

      One of the reasons why US bombing is less effective then what the Ruskies are doing is that the US and Israel are concerned about collateral damage. Putin has no such concerns; his motto is just win baby.

      • Carl
        Posted December 30, 2016 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

        This is too kind to Obama. His weakness and ineffectiveness extend back through his administration. We could have used air power to good effect earlier in the Syria. We could have deterred Russia as we have many times in the past. As Josh points out, we can’t know what the outcome would have been, but I see no reason to celebrate Obama’s approach since the outcome we do have is extremely bad.

        • colnago80
          Posted December 30, 2016 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

          The problem is that who would we have used air power to support? The unfortunate fact is that there are no good guys in Syria. From the regime on down, there are only bad guys. The problem in Syria is due to the intervention of the Iranian wholly owned subsidiary Hizbollah, without which the Assad kleptocracy would have fallen long ago. If we wanted to intervene effectively in Syria, we would have had to bomb Hizbollah in Lebanon.

          I would point out that our bombing in Iraq has been effective because we are in support of the Kurds and the Iraqi Government. The threat to Kurdistan has been removed and the Iraqi armed forces are, albeit slowly, moving in on recovering Mosul. Completely different situation from Syria where, as I stated above, there is no ground force to suport.

          • Carl
            Posted December 30, 2016 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

            Five years ago, the popular uprising against Assad was doing pretty well. If we had destroyed Syrian air power and airfields this would have changed the situation drastically, and deterred the Russians. The devastation of Aleppo would have been mitigated at the very least.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted December 30, 2016 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

              History has shown strategic bombing to be notoriously ineffectual — at least when, as colnago80 points out, it is unaccompanied by coordinated ground attacks.

              For all the strategic bombing of Germany during WW2, it took a ground invasion by massed armies to end the fighting. Similarly, the strategic bombing of Japan, including the firebombing of Tokyo, did little to end the war. (Let’s put aside for present purposes the effect of the two nuclear weapons, and the imminent Soviet invasion of Manchuria, since their use in Syria wasn’t advocated even by the most-hawkish elements).

              We dropped more ordinance in Southeast Asia in the Sixties and Seventies than in Germany and Japan combined, yet the effect on ending that engagement was nil. Bombing worked more effectively in Kosovo, but that’s because it was done in coordination with ground forces, Kosovan and peacekeeping. Similarly, what limited success we’ve had with bombing in Iraq has been due to its coordination with the Peshmerga.

              What would it have taken to bomb Assad’s forces and their Hezbollah allies into submission — and how many Aleppos might that have wrought? The criticism of Obama’s Syria efforts, while warranted in many respects, involves a lot of past-posting, a lot of outcome bias.

              • Carl
                Posted December 30, 2016 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

                I said nothing about “bombing into submission.” You missed the point. We could have eliminated Assad’s air resources completely. That would have been an easy task. It would also have required the will to keep a no fly zone in place and stand up to Putin.

                Yes there is a lot of outcome bias, but it is deserved given the actual outcome of Obama’s foreign policy. He struck me as an appeaser even before taking office, when he boasted about how he would negotiate with Iran. I can’t recall his exact words, but they brought to mind Chamberlain post Munich saying, “This time Hitler will keep his word, because this time he has given it to me.” Obama has been naive and weak, and the free world is in a worse position. Nice guys finish last. (I know Trump is not a nice guy, but he probably isn’t a smart one either.)

            • Posted December 31, 2016 at 5:53 am | Permalink

              I agree.

        • Posted December 30, 2016 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

          If I remember correctly, Obama had asked Congress for an authorization to use military force in Syria, because, legally, Congress has the power to declare wars, not the president. I think a number of presidents have went around it by calling a military action not a “war” but some other name, but I don’t think these are precedents we should strive to repeat.
          And of course, Congress just sat on it and never voted to authorize it. Because for the Republicans in Congress, it’s much easier to criticize Obama for being weak on Assad than actually record vote to be tough on Assad and then to get criticized for it later when things (almost inevitably) go wrong.

          • Carl
            Posted December 31, 2016 at 12:29 am | Permalink

            Your memory is correct. Obama sought congressional approval in 2013. At the time Obama explicitly stated he had the power to strike Syria without congressional approval (and he was correct under the War Powers Act*). He also had to have known he would not get such approval. So what was the point? The result was the U.S. looked weak, Assad took it as a green light, and Russia and Iran were laughing in the wings.

            *He can act, then has 60 days to get congressional approval, then 30 more days to withdraw our forces if approval is not forthcoming.

            • Posted December 31, 2016 at 1:05 am | Permalink

              And things like the War Powers Act are an example of how congress has enabled our imperial presidency rather than do their jobs. Much of the American public is sick and tired of our main industry being the blowing up of other people.

              • Posted December 31, 2016 at 5:55 am | Permalink

                Unfortunately, when US stops blowing up other people, the resulting vacuum of power is immediately filled by rogue so-called states, and we are witnessing the results: Russia is so emboldened that, besides blowing up people, is messing with the US elections.

  16. Tom
    Posted December 30, 2016 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    This comment may be off the point.
    But looking forward I think that the UN will eventually wake up to the fact that the two state solution is as dead in the water as the other multiple state solutions adopted for :-
    Eire/Ulster
    India/Pakistan/Bangladesh
    North/South Korea
    It also comes to mind that Western Europe with its multiple states, laws and ambitions has been unusually quiet for the last seventy years and there are signs that it may not last another decade.
    The UN may well find that it has been concentrating on sideshows and missing what will possibly become the main event.

  17. Posted December 30, 2016 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    I must admit that my answers to Maajid’s questions:

    Are Palestinians assumed to be ethno-fascists? Are they not capable of building a multiethnic state just like Israelis? Is this how low the standard is to which Western leftists hold Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims?

    … are yes, no and yes. (I’d be delighted to be proved wrong.)

    • Carl
      Posted December 30, 2016 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

      There is, no doubt, some percentage of Palestinians for whom your answers are wrong, but probably too low to delight you.

    • Posted December 31, 2016 at 5:57 am | Permalink

      + 1 (most of them).

  18. Henry Fitzgerald
    Posted December 30, 2016 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    I really don’t think anti-Israel bias is a result of, or a form of, anti-Semitism at all.

    In many people’s minds the United States occupies a similar position to what Israel does: a designated villain, a country that they’ve predetermined can do no right whatever it does.

    Once you gain designated villain status it’s next to impossible to lose it, but how the status is gained in the first place can be almost anything, and I don’t think it’s down to the race or ethnicity of its citizens – at least not for most people who have designated villains at the national level.

    • Posted December 31, 2016 at 5:59 am | Permalink

      I think you are not at all disproving the statement that the anti-Israel bias is anti-Semitism; rather, you are pointing out, correctly, the existence of anti-Americanism.

      • Henry Fitzgerald
        Posted January 1, 2017 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

        I wasn’t pretending to offer a proof. My point is more that we don’t need to appeal to anti-Semitism in order to explain Israel’s designated villain status.

        Anti-semitism might still be the true explanation (or a large part of it). I don’t think it actually is, but I find it hard to spell out my preferred alternative without being tedious.

  19. barael
    Posted December 30, 2016 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Majid Nawaz is a treasure.

  20. nicky
    Posted December 30, 2016 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Happy birthday!

    I think Nawaz makes some very pertinent points. Courageously so, we all know what happens with dissenters in the ‘peaceful’ Islamic world.
    And yes, it obviously is anti-semitism (in view of the context, since both sides are ‘semitic’, ‘jew-hatred’ would be a more appropriate term).

    As for Syria, I do not think Assad is worse than the opposition (except for the YPG Kurds). Stronger, I’d rather have him as an ‘ally’ than our own Saudi.
    I doubt whether he actually did use or approved the use of chemical weapons, he was nearly kind of keen to give them up under US pressure.
    (And on a side note: our very JBS Haldane -speaking from experience- would take poison gas over a septic shrapnel wound any day. Why is gas so maligned, while we may happily bomb and shell?).
    And yes, oh yes, Obama did a good job not getting more involved in Syria, at least he finally learned his lesson from eg. Vietnam, Iraq and Libya*. (I know it is difficult: the Bosnia intervention put and end to the civil war, the French did a sterling job in Mali and the first Gulf war was also a success. Intervention in Rwanda in ’94 should also have prevented the tragedy).

    * we might have prevented a genocide in Libya, we will not know.

  21. Posted December 30, 2016 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    I recently sent President Obama and my two US Senators and my congresswoman each a copy Nawaz’s book, Radical.

    I asked them to read the book and publicly support Nawaz’s efforts.

    If we don’t support moderates who are working hard to change Islam from within*, what hope is there to ever reform it? Reform must come from within.

    (* Dumping bad ideas like oppression of women, gays, others, martyrdom, jihad, shariah law, etc.; basically running the religion through the Enlightenment process.)

    • Carl
      Posted December 30, 2016 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      Have you read Islamic Exceptionalism, How the Struggle Over Islam is Reshaping the World by Shadi Hamid? It really dampened my hopes that Islam will ever be enlightened in the way Christianity has been. He lays out the case that Islam is so different that Maajid’s project is pretty much hopeless.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 30, 2016 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

        What do you propose as a solution, Carl? We share a planet with 1.6 billion Muslims.

        • Carl
          Posted December 30, 2016 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

          Efforts at enlightenment should continue and be supported. Hamid could be and I hope he is wrong. At the same time we should contain doctrine I* and mitigate the damage it does as part of our foreign policy. We don’t have the stomach to remain in a country like Iraq long enough to assure liberal values take root.

          What is your solution?

          *Doctrine I being any ideology that thinks religion or clergy should have influence in government, gays and atheists should be executed, women are the property of men, cartoons are justification for rioting and murder, that sort of thing.

          • Posted December 30, 2016 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

            Letting them kill each other until there are only 1.5B is one solution. Regrettably, genocide works well in solving conflicts. Certainly exhausting the other side until they lose the will to fight works too. I have no desire to send my child, or anyone else’s child, into the meat grinder that are these sectarian wars where the winners tend to be just as bad as the losers.

            We were reluctant to go into Syria because any one we backed would have been bad. We backed Afghan rebels in 1980. We got al queda as an outcome. We got rid of Saddam, and we got an unleashed Iran. We got rid of Ghaddafi and got murderous factions in Libya.

            Sure we could have enforced a no fly zone but what were we going to do when Russia violated it. Shoot them down? Sanctions? What?

            These people are theocratic asshats and I’d prefer to not get in the middle of it unless it directly serves US interests. I’m not wringing my hands over them killing each other. And I’m fine in Israel doing whatever they like to defend themselves.

            • Posted December 31, 2016 at 6:04 am | Permalink

              I think Libya is better off now than under Gaddafi. Libyans do not even come in large numbers to Europe as refugees. The intervention in Libya is, to me, the only good foreign policy move of the Obama administration. Unfortunately, the murder of Ambassador Stevens convinced the US public that it was a failure. If this was the goal of the terrorists – and most likely it was, – it was fulfilled 100%.

  22. keith Cook ¿
    Posted December 30, 2016 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    You make your own bed to lie in and the Palestinians have done just that.. they must surely love the desperate life they lead as I for one believe they could have a prosperous and rewarding life if they gave up the war, annihilation mentality against Israel and concentrated on their own national, domestic situation and well being.
    Their failure to take advantage of the proximity of Israel, a wealthy nation and those others around the Med for tourism and trade shows their poor judgement on the part of their leaders and religious and historical ties that keeps the population wretched and unstable.

    • Carl
      Posted December 30, 2016 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      What’s the atheist translation of “Amen?”

    • Ken Elliott
      Posted December 31, 2016 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      I tend to agree with you. I’m not an expert on the history of Israeli / Palestinian conflict, but I believe there to have been two, maybe three, perfectly valid offerings from Israel to the Palestinians for a two state solution, above and beyond Jordan, that were rejected by the Arabs. They hold on to childish, damaging viewpoints for the sake of what? Misery for their entire lives and the lives of all ensuing progeny?

  23. Posted December 30, 2016 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    Happy damn birthday, PCC(E)!…and many more.

    “You make your own bed to lie in and the Palestinians have done just that.”

    The bed the Palestinians have made, the rest of us are forced to lie in also. And, many who would prefer not to die in this bed, are forced to die.

  24. Craw
    Posted December 30, 2016 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    A special thanks to Carl for thoughtful, informed comments, and ones that cut against the grain of what is normally said here too.

    • Carl
      Posted December 31, 2016 at 12:46 am | Permalink

      Much appreciated.

  25. eric
    Posted December 30, 2016 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    First, happy belated birthday!

    Arabs constitute 1.6 million of them, many of them Israeli citizens with full voting rights. There are Israeli Arabs sitting in the Knesset. Yet Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly said that if there were a two-state solution and Palestine absorbed the West Bank, every single Israeli Jewish settler (but not Arabs) would be expelled from that area. Is that fair?

    I don’t think it’s that simple. I would see it as more similar to the illegal immigrant debate in the US; while we have a lot of legal, accepted first-generation Mexican (and Central American) immigrants in the US, this doesn’t suddenly mean that illegal Mexican immigrants will be accepted. A Palestinian government may (and probably does) view the settlers as illegal immigrants. Regardless of race, creed, or religion, illegal entry is often a reasonable means for sending someone back to their country of origin.

    Now, that certainly doesn’t make the problem insurmountable; Nawaz is right about that. A Palestinian state intent on a two-state solution could grant some form of amnesty or temporary legal residence to any settlers willing to seek Palestinian citizenship.

    • BJ
      Posted December 31, 2016 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      The problem is that those in power (and the general population) on the Palestinian side of the issue aren’t just concerned with whether the Jews nearby are legal or illegal; rather, they want Jews as a whole wiped out. No Jew is tolerable to them.

  26. Posted December 31, 2016 at 3:29 am | Permalink

    When the U.S.A. gives native peoples back their lands, and the rest of the “conquering hordes” give back lands to the peoples who originally populated them, then we can talk about Israel. And when we do, it will be about returning the land to the Jews, because those civilizations who predated the Jews no longer exist.

    In November, I stumbled across a Rand MacNally Atlas, high quality and up to date for its time. The copyright was written in Roman numerals, and the date was 1975. I showed it to others standing by, first holding up the page which focused on Israel, asking if they could see “Palestine” or “Palestinian.” Neither word was anywhere to be found. Then, I shuffled to a page which included Egypt and Iraq, and I asked them to find Israel. Of course, it was so tiny I had to point it out to them, hidden between Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, above the even larger Saudi Arabia.

    You should have seen the looks on their faces. If only these two pages could be shown to everyone else in the world, to prove how propaganda has been used to rewrite history.

    Not so incidently, the “West Bank” was taken over by Israel only because Jordan attacked and Israel had to defend itself. What other country is told it can’t keep, for safety’s sake at least!, land that it won in an act of self defense?

    • eric
      Posted December 31, 2016 at 10:18 am | Permalink

      When the U.S.A. gives native peoples back their lands, and the rest of the “conquering hordes” give back lands to the peoples who originally populated them, then we can talk about Israel.

      Realistically, I think the further back in time a ‘taking’ occurs, the more it’s going to be accepted as the status quo…and probably should be. There’s no feasible way to trace “original” ownership unless we humans want to give the entire planet (with the exception of Tanzania) back to nonhuman animals.

      More recent land grabs, just by the nature of human civilization and politics, are going to be more contentious than land grabs further in the past.

  27. Diana MacPherson
    Posted December 31, 2016 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Late to the party but I wonder if some of the bias against Israel is due to racism as well, which is part of lowered expectations. Brown and black people can behave badly (in Africa or in Muslim countries) but we white peoples expect more of white people in Israel.

    • Carl
      Posted December 31, 2016 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      There is also a different flavor of bigotry present. “Good liberals” who don’t want the antisemite label, will present themselves as “merely anti-Israel.” But we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion all these are disguised bigots.

  28. KD33
    Posted December 31, 2016 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    “And yes, both Kerry and Obama’s actions of late have been despicable, singling out Israel while tacitly supporting far more egregious actions by Arab states.”

    In the end I can’t agree. Israel has been singled out by the U.S. *because* they are the one nation embedded in the Arab world that the U.S. most strongly supports. I also think it’s telling that Nawaz says that the U.S. “conditionally lifted sanctions” while neglecting to mention that this action was taken in exchange for the single biggest event toward Israel’s long term future: stopping the development of a nuclear weapon by Iran. Meanwhile, Israel continues the one action that may in fact most jeopardize its long term future: namely the accelerated building of settlements, most to be occupied by right wing and (in many cases) religious zealots. On that point, I spent a fair amount of time last week reviewing the history and components of a two state solution (the NYT had several good articles from various perspectives), and came away again convinced it is the only way forwards. I think their outgoing actions stem from Obama and Kerry being highly frustrated to see this avenue perhaps slip away forever.

    I understand it is galling to have this focus on Israel given the atrocious behavior of so many Arab states and there proxies, which Nawaz does an excellent job articulating. This is the paradox of Middle East – so much you have to swallow in order to make any headway. It really is’t fair that Israel must be held to such higher standards than the rest. And I do agree that some of the UN votes were by states less supportive of, or outright hostile to, Israel. In that sense I do hate to see the U.S. non-vote alongside the others. But I do not mistake the U.S. abstention as support for the wider views of these others.

    In the end I still see Obama/Kerry as the ones telling the hard truths – and attempting the really challenging and crucial diplomacy happen (e.g., Iran). I cringe to think of what may happen starting next year.

    Syria – that’s harder. It is horrific to see the outcome of this situation. But where along the way was the U.S. supposed to jump in, and how? In the midst was a delicate alliance with Russia to crush ISIS. How were the rebels to be bolstered enough by the U.S. to challenge the Assad/Iran/Russia axis? What level of military intervention would have been acceptable to the American people? What alternative outcome could we have envisioned? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but neither did I ever find a credible answer as this horror unfolded.

    • BJ
      Posted December 31, 2016 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      “In the end I can’t agree. Israel has been singled out by the U.S. *because* they are the one nation embedded in the Arab world that the U.S. most strongly supports.”

      And yet, when it comes to criticism of places like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, and other Middle East allies of the US, that criticism is no longer forthcoming.

      • KD33
        Posted December 31, 2016 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

        Not following. Saudi Arabia has gotten more criticism from this admin than any I can remember. I don’t know about the others, though.

    • Malgorzata
      Posted December 31, 2016 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      Even if it was the truth (and according to many reports, it isn’t) that Iran deal stopped developing nuclear weapon according to the agreed (but not signed by Iran) JCPOA this deal runs out in 10 years and after that time Iran is free to develop whatever they want. For an American ten years may seem an epoch but for Israelis, Persians and Arabs it’s just a moment (and more than a year and a half of those 10 years is already gone). Moreover Iran is not forbidden to work on nuclear installation in the meantime so direct after JCPOA expires it can build a nuclear bomb in a matter of months or even weeks. Iran is also developing ballistic missiles capable of delivering such weapon (now they have enough money to do so). A big part of the money Iran got in accordance with JCPOA is continuously going to terrorist groups, among them Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. Ayatollah Khamenei promised: “We will arm the West Bank like we armed Gaza”. It is telling also that all Israeli parties, the whole political spectrum (maybe with the exception of Meretz, a Communist party supported by some 1% of Israelis) were and are very strongly opposed to this deal. Don’t forget that when sanctions started to bite President Obama secretly sent an envoy to Iran (through intermediaries in Oman, 2011) that U.S. was willing to accept Iran’s right to enrich uranium in exchange for talks about a deal). This must’ve strengthened Iran’s resolve to continue. For a time they had to cut the flow of money to the their terror organizations, but they knew it’s only a matter of time before they will get plenty. And they did. BTW, Iran does not support a two-states solution. Iran is of the opinion that Israel should be wiped out of the map.

      And, as I wrote many times before: the “accelerating building of settlements” is a mantra; it doesn’t get any more true by endless repetition. The settlements still take barely 2% of the West Bank area, not much more than when Netanyahu came to power. But every newly built bathroom, balcony or a nursery for a baby is described in the Western press with more details and more often than Palestinian children dying of hunger in Yarmouk. No wonder you have the impression of a monstrous expansion and easily forget about those children.

      • KD33
        Posted December 31, 2016 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

        Please do not put words into my mouth- I have not “forgotten about those children.” Please read my post again.

        I do not believe that many of your statements re an Iranian nuclear weapon are correct, e.g., how fast they could resume building one.

        And the “accelerated building…” is not a mantra. It may be a small proportion of the territory, but it has huge impact.

        That we disagree on details is not the big issue. I’m afraid reading posts like this one make me despair more that a two-state solution may be lost.

        • Malgorzata
          Posted December 31, 2016 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

          It wasn’t you personally I was talking when I wrote about forgetting children dying of hunger in Yarmouk but I meant the Western media. If you compare the amount of ink used to describe the plight of the children with the amount of ink used to condemn Israeli settlements, you would see how easy it is to miss children altogether.
          The assesment about the Iran’s capability to built nuclear weapon after JCPOA expires is not mine but specialists (many different specialists from many different countries). The information about violations of JCPOA by Iran are not mine either but different international bodies and institutions. It’s not difficult to find those assesments and you do not have to take it on my words.
          About the two-state solution: I wrote about my stance in one of previous posts here: this idea is dead and the moment the world finally realizes it, this moment it can stop despair and start thinking about alternatives. And there are alternatives which would allow Palestinians to live in dignity (and without any Jews around as they seem to wish)as well as would allow Israelis to live in a bit more security than they have now.

          • KD33
            Posted December 31, 2016 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

            Fortunately, I don’t think it’s dead. There’s a high likelihood well go through a period of highly polarized and destabilizing activities, with a move back to it once those involved see how unpromising the alternatives are.

            Re the bomb and “specialists”: this type of argument never goes anywhere. There are plenty of “specialists” who disagree. The agreement may only in the end buy time, but it is a real accomplishment, if imperfect. When people brush it aside it makes me wonder if they do see the situation from the outside.

            I would like to hear more about the alternatives to two-state. I am willing to learn about a credible one. But keep in mind that the reason the two-state picture has gotten so much discussion is that it has been viewed by those not living in Israel or Palestine as the only suitable solution for decades. I am doubtful a better one is suddenly available.

            Also, I do not think what’s been said here about Israeli’s view of two-state is correct. In the NYT articles I mentioned, at least one said that Israelis are highly polarized on this point, and that up to a half support it and are very much against the settlements, largely for the reasons I mentioned. It would be great if someone could point to some real data on this. (Sorry, I do not have time to go back and mine it…)

            These discussions remind me very much of those emerging during the Israel/Lebanon conflict in (?) 1982.

            • Malgorzata
              Posted December 31, 2016 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

              When you say “two-state solution” you hopefully realize that you are talking about “four state solution: 1) Israel; 2) West Bank; 3) Gaza Strip; 4) Jordan. A short explanation: Hamas and Palestinian Authority are enemies – they kill each other members, “President” Abbas (in his 11th year of a 4-year term) can’t even visit his own home in Gaza, all attempt to reconcile Hamas and Fatah failed. Gaza – an Islamist dictatorship – has one goal: to destroy Israel and to build an Islamic state in its place. It makes the idea a one Palestinian state comprising both Gaza Strip and West Bank impossible. Now, let’s say the second Palestinian state is established in the West Bank only. For over 20 years now Palestinian Authority ruled over some 95% of Palestinians in the West Bank (Israeli administered Area C in mostly not populated) and had full civilian control over them (there is only security co-ordination with Israel). They have their own judicial system, own ministries (inclusive the ministry of foreign affairs with embassies all over the world), own banks, own educational system and all other attributes of self-rule. During this time a huge stream of Western money poured into West Bank to help them building the basis of a state. However, people still live in poverty, unemployment is rampant, they pay huge amounts of money to murderers sentenced to prison by Israeli courts, to families of “martyrs” (people who either were killed after killing Israelis or in the attempts to kill Israelis) and the officials pocket even greater amounts of money (Arafat was worth many million dollars, inherited by his wife who live in Paris), Abbas is a millionaire many times over, as well as his sons etc. How do you think this tiny, landlocked state would manage when the stream of foreign money stops flowing? And it will stop, once Palestinians have their own state and there is no longer “Palestinian cause” to rally around. Moreover, Hamas is quite popular on the West Bank, as well as Islamic Jihad, Iran is waiting behind the scenes to grab whatever they can… Fatah’s rule would probably not survive for long after independence. Which leaves Jordan – formerly known as East Palestine because it was a part of Palestine Mandate, cut off by British to build a state for Palestinian Arabs. It was accepted by the League of Nation with stipulation that the rest of Palestinian Mandate (some 22% of the original Mandate) will go to Jews. British didn’t allow any Jews to live in Transjordan (even evicted those that were there already) and very heavily curtailed Jewish immigration to the Jewish part of mandate. But allowed unchecked and unhindered Arab immigration (which was huge because of the economic opportunities created by Zionists). Jordan attacked Israel 1948 and occupied the West Bank, ethnically cleansed all the Jews, destroyed the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem, and gave it its current name (for millennia, until Jordan came, it was known as Judea and Samaria), annexed the area and gave the residents Jordanian citizenship. (What?! Nobody demanded a Palestinian State there?!) When Jordan attacked Israel 1967, lost the illegally held West Bank and washed its hands from its former citizens. Now it’s time to unwash them. Jordan should take responsibility for huge parts of the West Bank with most of its residents. And Israel should retain parts of the West Bank (like block settlements) to negotiate between Israel, Jordan and representatives of Palestinians. This way there would be a three-state solution: Israel, Gaza Strip and Jordan. OMG. this is already too long.

              • Ken Elliott
                Posted December 31, 2016 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

                Long, but very educational, at least for me, so thank you.

              • KD33
                Posted January 1, 2017 at 12:46 am | Permalink

                Nawaz – no problem. I have nothing more to say right now except peace, and happy new year! Maybe we can pick this up in 2017. Until then, best to you, and sincere love,

                K

  29. Secularjew
    Posted December 31, 2016 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Although I totally agree with Maajid’s criticism of the UN and of the Muslim states, I do not believe that Obama did something wrong by not blocking this resolution. Israel may believe that the settlements are perfectly fine from the legal, ethical, political, and safety standpoints, but the US does not, and this has been out country’s position for some time. All Obama did was not block a resolution (not exactly a first in US/Israeli relations), which the US generally agrees with. This does not mean the US is abandoning Israel, which has been cut a great deal of slack by this administration (it has blocked previous resolutions), along with a $38 billion check and the biggest military aid pledge in US history. I also am not convinced that Obama has somehow made the Israeli right-wing worse. Their current hard-line administration continues with the settlements despite all objections, while Trump previously signaled which direction he was going by picking someone who is against a two-state solution. We have a right to call out our stubborn friends on what we see as wrong even if we are perfectly aware that their enemies are worse. As for expecting less from most Muslim states than from Israel, color me guilty as charged. I believe that Israel’s more secular nature makes them more likely to adopt positive changes quicker than those in more religiously fanatical cultures (not that we shouldn’t continue to pressure them).

    • Malgorzata
      Posted December 31, 2016 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      There is no sanctification of 1949 armistice line (called falsely “1967 boarders”) in Oslo Accord from 1993 when Israel voluntarily gave parts of West Bank and Gaza Strip to Palestinians. The accord explicitly lists “Jerusalem” and “settlements” as “issues to be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations”. Formal witnesses: United States and Russia.
      The 1995 Interim Agreement transferred additional territory to the Palestinians, but once again designated Jerusalem and the settlements as issues to be negotiated in final-status talks, which meant that it preserved Israel’s claims to them. Additional formal witnesses: Egypt and the whole European Union.
      All this means that six Security Council members voted against the agreements they were formal witnesses to.
      Now, this new resolution does sanctify 1949 armistice lines, states that Temple Mount and Western Wall are “Palestinian occupied territories”, negates all previous assurances from U.S. presidents that the so called “block settlements” will stay with Israel. The disagreement between previous U.S. administrations and Israel was about settlements outside “blocks” which Israel could give up (even Naftali Bennet alluded to it) if the perspective of peace was real (like settlements on Sinai). Most of construction of settlements anyhow took place inside Jerusalem and “block settlements”.

  30. Claudia Baker
    Posted January 1, 2017 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    After following this very heavy discussion thread, I’m still chuckling over Ken’s comment in #13:

    “With [Trump], we’ll always be one international tiny-dick insult away from him pushing The Button.”

  31. paul collier
    Posted January 1, 2017 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Jerry–You’re out of line calling anyone critical of Israel “anti-Semitic”. I’m critical of Israel & I can assure you it has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. It’s like calling a critic of the McCarthy hearings a communist.


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