How Western Institutions' Naivete Helps Terrorists / Prof.B.Rubin
How Western Institutions' Naivete (Or Incompetence or Ideology) Helps Terrorists
If I had to pick one sentence to show what's profoundly wrong with Middle East coverage in the Western mass media, this is the one I'd choose. It's in a New York Times article entitled, "Israel: Tensions Rise Along Gaza Border" by Isabel Kershner. I'll put the sentence in bold:
"A rocket fired from Gaza fell close to a kindergarten in an Israeli village on Tuesday morning. Earlier, the Israeli Air Force struck several targets in Gaza in retaliation for a recent increase in rocket and mortar shell fire. Small groups appear to be behind the fire, but Israel says it holds Hamas, the Islamist organization that governs Gaza, responsible."
Why does this bother me so much? Because it seems to symbolize how the West--oh so well-educated, sophisticated people--fall for every trick, no matter how simple, of the terrorists and totalitarians of the world and do their propaganda work for them.
Hamas rules the Gaza Strip as a dictatorship. What it wants to happen happens; what it doesn't want to happen doesn't happen, or if it does someone is going to pay severely for it. There are smaller groups allied to Hamas, notably Islamic Jihad. Nothing could be more obvious than the fact that Hamas uses these groups so it can attack Israel and then deny responsibility for doing so.
But let's assume that Islamic Jihad--which Hamas allows to operate freely in Gaza as its junior partner or some smaller groups or some Hamas people hiding behind some other name--fires rockets or mortars at Israel. Presumably, if Hamas didn't like what they were doing, because they were provoking Israeli retaliation, it would arrest and perhaps torture those responsible. But when it does nothing month after month despite repeated attacks this is a signal that Hamas approves of the attacks.
That New York Times sentence could be used to argue that if Israel hits Hamas facilities in self-defense it is in fact lashing out against an innocent bystander. And every time some devious Hamas leader remarks about the group's willingness to make peace in the ear of some useful idiot politician or reporter, it produces free publicity about Hamas's alleged moderation. This, in turn, sets off other useful idiots to start chattering about how good an idea it would be to engage Hamas in negotiations, maybe even to make some concessions or give some rewards to prove Western credibility.
The radicals and terrorists never seem to have to prove their credibility.
You can substitute for Hamas such words as Iran, Hizballah, the Muslim Brotherhood, Syria, the Taliban, or other such forces.
A couple of years ago I was a consultant on a court case where someone denied that they worked for Fatah. On this basis, the person was admitted to Canada and has been supported by that country for two decades. It took me five minutes on the Internet to find documentary proof that the individual had lied, which had no effect on their status by the way.
More recently, I was an expert witness in the case of a person injured in a terrorist attack who sued the PA, Fatah, and the PLO. Their defense was that the group carrying out the attack, the al-Aqsa Brigades, had nothing to do with Fatah. If you go to the al-Aqsa Brigades website, however, it openly advertises that it is part of Fatah and there is much other evidence of these connections from previous statements by Palestinian leaders. For all practical purposes, though, the defense won the case.
I could cite hundreds of such examples of how Western governments, journalists, academics, courts, and at times public opinion have been fooled by having radicals and terrorists make fools of them.
Yet the truth is hardly well-hidden. In the case of Hamas, it has revealed its new strategy. Mahmoud Zahar, the group’s key leader in the Gaza Strip, which it rules, explains that Hamas's medium-term goal is consolidating its hold on the area, thanks largely to help from the United States and Europe.
"We are not in a hurry to buy or to sell our national interest because this is not the proper market." The group has a long-range strategy, rejecting both negotiations (selling) and all-out war (buying). The medium-term effort is to win broad support among Gazans by improving their lives (with aid money), then using this mass base to go to war with Israel in the future (thus making their lives much worse).
This is the counter to the U.S. argument that raising living standards and improving conditions in the Gaza Strip will inevitably make people more moderate and lead to Hamas’s downfall.
Personally, I’m putting my money on Hamas, not the Obama Administration, proving to be correct.
Zahar said Hamas is not planning to launch new attacks on Israel. Why should they? It is enough to let Islamic Jihad and other small groups allied to Hamas to fire mortars and rockets at Israel while trying to send small squads across the border to do terrorist attacks. If Israel tries to retaliate too much, Hamas will run crying to the Western media and governments to protect it.
Thanks to Western aid and to the lowered sanctions—despite the fact that it is officially listed as a terrorist group in the United States and Europe--Hamas can stay in power and build a strong support base by delivering the goods.
"They told me...`You cannot stay isolated and you are not going to survive more than two months. Now we finished five years and we survived, and we stayed, and we faced two wars," Zahar said. "So we can stay, and we can withstand, and we can win."
Of course, Hamas would not have survived if Israel was enabled to overthrow it during the December 2008-January 2009 war or perhaps if sanctions had remained tight. Hamas succeeded not because of its own ability—its military performance in the war was abysmal—but because the West saved it.
And why is Zahur saying the following: "Time is not important if you are not wasting this time," he said, adding Israel was losing international support as the Palestinians gained legitimacy.
In other words, Western demonization and delegitimization of Israel is directly encouraging terrorist groups to be less moderate and to fight.
What is more, Western aid, pressure to reduce sanctions, and pressure to limit retaliation against Gaza is helping Hamas to build a genocidal-oriented, terrorist, repressive Islamist dictatorship on the shore of the Mediterranean, backed by Iran and determined to spread regional instability and anti-Western revolutions.
Does this make sense?
Finally, it is interesting how Zahur contrasts PA with Hamas strategy. Although he likes to complain that the PA is wasting time in negotiations with Israel, Zahur does understand that the PA's real strategy is bypassing Israel and negotiations. The PA, Zahur explains, "says we are going to make the infrastructure for a state and then the international community will give us a state as a gift."
Hamas’ view is, "We are not beggars here....We are the owners of this land."
So neither side wants to make peace with Israel: the PA wants unilateral independence without conditions or concessions; Hamas seeks ultimate military victory. Western policy encourages both of them not to become more moderate and not to make peace. Even worse, Western misunderstandings and misreportings help make the world a worse and more dangerous place to live.
By the way, if you are interested here's an essay by George Orwell, written in 1946, about how people are fooled by nonsense.
Son of Mubarak: Succession Without Success?
Posted: 23 Dec 2010 10:59 AM PST
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By Barry Rubin
Some of the more interesting Wikileaks concern the U.S. diplomatic perspective on the succession in Egypt from President Husni Mubarak to his son, Gamal. Let’s remember that Egypt is the single most important country in the Arabic-speaking world. Dramatic instability there would be disastrous for U.S. interests. And it might happen.
Even compared to Jordan and Saudi Arabia, Egypt has been remarkably passive in the region’s international affairs over the last two decades. It has not acted as one might have expected, by taking the lead in organizing the Arab nationalist opposition to Iran and revolutionary Islamism.
But Mubarak has certainly been aware of the threat. While Jordan’s King Abdallah compared Iran to an “octopus” reaching out its tentacles to seize control of the region, Mubarak called it a “cancer.” A U.S. State Department cable of April 28, 2009, reports:
“President Mubarak has made it clear that he sees Iran as Egypt's—and the region's — primary strategic threat. His already dangerous neighborhood, he has stressed, has only become more so since the fall of [Iraqi dictator] Saddam [Hussein], who, as nasty as he was, nevertheless stood as a wall against Iran, according to Mubarak. He now sees Tehran's hand moving with ease throughout the region, 'from the Gulf to Morocco,' as he told a recent congressional delegation."
Yet Mubarak also stresses the immediate danger is not so much Iran getting nuclear weapons as it is Tehran’s subverting almost everyone else in the Middle East:
"While he will readily admit that the Iranian nuclear program is a strategic and existential threat to Egypt and the region, he sees that threat as relatively 'long term.' What has seized his immediate attention are Iran's non-nuclear destabilizing actions such as support for Hama, media attacks, weapons and illicit funds smuggling, all of which add up in his mind to 'Iranian influence spreading like a cancer from the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council countries] to Morocco.'"
But President Barack Obama also frightens Mubarak:
“[The Egyptians] are worried that [the United States is] going to strike a 'grand deal' with the Iranians....The prevailing [Egyptian government] view remains a principled rejection of any diplomatic rapprochement."
Sounds like Mubarak’s been writing Rubin Reports! Or to put it another way, Mubarak (and the Saudis, Jordanians, and others) are more worried about Tehran than is the United States. Well, they should be! After all, not only are they closer to Iran but they are also dependent on U.S. protection. Nowadays, that's enough to scare anybody.
But the 82-year-old Mubarak won’t be around too much longer. The assumption is he will give the presidency to his 46-year-old son, Gamal Mubarak. Yet even now Gamal remains only the head of the ruling party’s policy committee and is its assistant chairman. He has not been given any high-ranking governmental responsibility.
In 2011 there will be a presidential election. Will Husni run for reelection again or will he give the spot to his son and retire? If Husni, obviously reluctant to yield power, doesn’t make that transition the country will possibly face instability.
Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone wrote in a May 14, 2007 memo:
"[Gamal’s] power base is his father, and so while he could conceivably be installed prior to Mubarak's death, the task would become far more difficult ...once the pharaoh [Husni] has departed the scene.”
Opposing Gamal, say American diplomats, are Defense Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi and intelligence chief Omar Suleiman. I can attest from personal experience that Suleiman loathes Gamal. To give you a sense of how deep this runs, one of Suleiman’s agents always refers to Gamal as “the boy.” The State Department also worries that mid-level officers might some day try to stage a coup.
The most worrisome line in the cables—and remember this for future reference—is the warning that Gamal will be "politically weaker" than his father and thus eager to sound anti-American to build popular support. I was a bit surprised at this point since Gamal is very Westernized and attuned to business. But perhaps this assessment makes sense.
With both Egypt and Jordan run by “princes” who are very lightweight (King Abdallah of Jordan is no King Hussein and one seasoned Western observer recently described him as more British than Arab), the leadership forces on the Arab anti-Iran, anti-Islamist side will be pretty weak.
[By the way, if you are keeping track, only 270 shopping days until Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's birthday. I understand that his friends and colleagues are taking up a collection to get him a nice nearby country or two as a present.]
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.