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May 26, 2015 / 8 Sivan, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Arab World’

A Cup of Soda in Hell

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

The great theme of every overrated writer in the past twenty years has been the interconnectedness of things. Butterflies flap their wings in China and famine kicks off in Africa. A man gets on a plane in Sydney and another man jumps off a balcony in Paris.

You can get your interconnectedness fix from Thomas Friedman’s New York Times column as he marvels at the flattening of the world or any one of an endless number of fictional tomes in which strangers from around the world collide and influence each other’s lives.

The interconnectedness of things is not just the theme of the next TED talk you’ll watch or the next Wired article you’ll read. It’s the theme of policy as well. Pull one string and everything changes. Policy is no longer about making things happen by doing them, it’s about finding the precursor to them and doing that and when that doesn’t work, finding the precursor to that.

The growth of government means that everything is interconnected and instead of trying to cut the cost of health care by trimming back the bureaucracy, you ban sodas to fight obesity in the hopes of eventually cutting the cost of health care. It’s the sort of thing that sounds smart when it’s made into the theme of a book that discusses how connected everything else is to everything.

It’s stupid in real life, but who pays attention to real anyway?

Public policy is wired into the next great insight into interconnectedness and the one after that. Doing things to do them is stupid. It’s the sort of thing that Bush, poor dumb ape man, would do. The smart set, the Obama set, do the things that they don’t want to do to do the things that they want to do. It’s the sort of thing that sounds stupid if you try to explain it to a cab driver, but sounds like absolute genius when explained to an audience consisting of dot com people and people who wish they were dot com people.

And sometimes it even works. Most of the time though it makes things confusing and miserable.

The opening premise of interconnectedness theory is that trying to do what you want to do is futile. You don’t make a hurricane by turning on a fan and aiming it as a cloud, you do it by getting on a plane to China and then irritating a butterfly so that it flaps its wings. And then the hurricane comes or it doesn’t.  But while you’re there you’ll probably meet a monk or a street urchin who will go you a deeper insight into life or steal your wallet which will inspire you to write the next bestselling book about how everything in life is really connected to everything else.

Wars? Naturally we don’t do them. Only dumb brute apes think that you win a war by killing the enemy. That’s a positively medieval point of view. Even Bush knew better than that. No, you win a war by dealing with the root causes of the war. You find all the links to all the events, you win over the natives with candy bars and briefcases full of infrastructure money and then it all converges together and the war is over. Or it’s not. But either way you write a book about it.

Interconnectedness is the search for causes. It’s never a mismanagement problem, because that’s not a revelation.

Tell Mayor Bloomberg that health care costs are high because it takes four administrators to a doctor to get a patient through the system and he’ll look bored. That’s obvious. Tell him that recreating every new government building so that visitors are forced to use the stairs and those cold black marbles in his head will come awake.

Tell Obama that we’re losing the war because we’re not killing the enemy and he’ll hand you a pen and excuse himself, but tell him that the war is being lost because we need to get more Muslims into space and he’ll hand you a czarship.

We are becoming a subtle and stupid society, obsessed with nuance and a mystical search for the hidden social engines of life. And while that may seem advanced when you’re reading through the latest New York Times bestseller that explains how fishermen in Southeast Asia are influenced by sales of cotton candy in Michigan and the price of coffee in Brazil, it’s actually quite debilitating.

The Arab Street is Still Angry

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Much like Festivus, American diplomacy in the Middle East usually begins with an airing of grievances. These are not the American grievances over decades of terrorism and acts of violent hatred. These are the grievances that are supposedly infuriating the Arab Street. The list begins with Israel, continues on to the “Arab Dictators” supported by America and concludes with warnings to respect Mohammed by not making any cartoons or movies about him.

During his first term, Obama kept his distance from Israel, locked up a Christian who made a movie about Mohammed and withdrew his support from the Arab Dictators. The street should have been happy, but now it’s angrier than ever. And much of that anger is directed at America.

Mohamed El Baradei, once the administration’s choice to take over Egypt, has refused to meet with Secretary of State John Kerry. Joining him in this boycott is much of Egypt’s liberal opposition.

When Mubarak was in power, the “Arab Street” of Islamists and Egyptian leftists was angry at America for supporting him. Now the “Arab Street” of Egyptian leftists, Mubarak supporters and some Anti-Brotherhood Islamists is angry at America for supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

The American foreign policy error was to assume that the political grievances of the Arab Street could be appeased with democracy. They can’t be. The various factions are not truly interested in open elections. What they want is for America to elevate their faction and only their faction to power. When that doesn’t happen, they denounce the government as an American puppet and warn of the great and terrible anger of the Arab Street if America doesn’t make them its puppet instead.

Democracy is no solution, because none of the factions really wanted democracy for its own sake. They wanted it only as a tool to help them win. Now that the tool has failed most of them, they don’t care for it anymore. And the Islamists who benefited from democracy have no enduring commitment to it. Like all the other factions, they see it as a tool. A means, not an end.

While the West views democracy as an end, the East sees it as only a means. The West believes in a system of populist power rotation. The East however is caught between a variety of totalitarian ideologies, including Islamists and local flavors of the left, who have no interest in power rotation except as a temporary strategy for total victory.

There is no actual solution to the Arab Street that will please all sides and keep their hatred of America down to a dull roar. Whichever side the United States of America backs will leave the others full of fury. If the United States doesn’t back a side but maintains good relations with the government, it will still be accused of backing that government.

The only way to disprove that accusation is for the winning side to demonstrate its hostility to the United States. Accordingly even governments that are in theory friendly to the United States must demonstrate their unfriendliness as a defense against accusations that they are puppets of the infidels. And as a result, no matter whom the United States supports, all the factions, including those we support, will continue to engage in ritual displays of hostility against us.

Trying to appease the fictional construct of an Arab Street that has clear and simple demands is a hopeless scenario. It’s a Catch 22 mess where every move is ultimately a losing move, no matter how promising it initially appears to be.

There is no Arab Street. The real Arab Street is the overcrowded cities full of angry men with no jobs and lots of bigotry. Their hostility to the United States has nothing to do with the sordid politics that experts insist on bringing up to prove that the Muslim world hates us with good reason. Even if this history did not exist, the United States would be just as hated. The best evidence of that is that most of the accusations that enjoy popularity on the Arab Street are entirely imaginary.

Demagogues can lead the street from bread riots to toppling governments, but what they cannot do is fix the underlying problems, let alone change the bigotry of people who blame all their problems on the foreigners, rather than on themselves. Each faction promises that the anger will subside and stability will return when it comes to power, but the anger will never go away because it’s too convenient to blame America for everything. As long as America is around, no one in the Muslim world ever has to take responsibility for anything.

PA Finance Minister Quits in Frustration

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

Palestinian Authority Finance Minister Nabil Qassis announced on Sunday he is quitting his post as the bloated budget grows and labor unions and politicians refuse austerity measures.

His resignation marks the continuing decline of the Palestinian Authority economy, which has been a de facto welfare state for years and whose economy has been so weak that the World Bank said last year it would be difficult for the PA to maintain itself as a country if it becomes independent.

The Arab world has filed to live up to pledges of billons of dollars in aid, and the European Union  is hard-pressed to continue to bail it out in the wake of struggling economies back home.

Israel last week said it would resume transferring to the Palestinian Authority tax revenues collected in order to prevent a rise in tensions on the Arab street.

The World bank noted last year that the budget deficit, lack of commitment from Arab donors,  “few positive prospects in the broader political environment and t eh slit between Hamas and the rival Fatah faction headed by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas all combine to raise questions about the viability of a PA state.

The ‘Whipped Cream’ Arabs of Israel

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

The Arab citizens of Israel constitute twenty percent of Israeli society – a population that has equal rights, but does not share the Zionist dream. But just as there are differences of opinion among Jewish Israelis, Arab-Israeli attitudes towards the Jewish sector, the state of Israel and its institutions not only differ, but often are even polar opposites.

And just there is no cohesive “Jewish sector,” there is also no such thing in Israel as one cohesive “Arab sector” (though I will use the terms for sake of simplicity). Instead, there are several Middle Eastern populations, some of which are not Arab, and they differ from each other in religion, culture, ethnic origin and historical background.

Ethnic Division

Within the Arab sector of Israel there are a number of ethnic groups who differ from each other in language, history and culture: Arabs, Africans, Armenians, Circassians and Bosnians. These groups usually do not mingle with each other, and live in separate villages or in separate neighborhoods where a particular family predominates. For example, the Circassians in Israel are the descendants of people who came from the Caucasus to serve as officers in the Ottoman army. They live in two villages in the Galilee, Kfar Kama and Reyhaniya, and despite their being Muslim, the young people do not usually marry Arabs.

The Africans are mainly from Sudan. Some of them live as a large group in Jisr al-Zarqa and some live in family groups within Bedouin settlements in the south. They are called “Abid” from the Arabic word for “slaves.” The Bosnians live in family groups in Arab villages, for example, the Bushnak family in Kfar Manda.

The Armenians came mainly to escape the persecution that they suffered in Turkey in the days of the First World War, which culminated in the Armenian genocide of 1915.

Cultural Divisions

The Arab sector can generally be divided into three main cultural groups: urban, rural and Bedouin. Each one has its own cultural characteristics: lifestyle, status of a given clan, education, occupation, level of income, number of children and matters connected to women, for example polygamy (multiple wives), age of marriage, matchmaking or dating customs and dress. The residents of cities – and to a great extent the villagers – see the Bedouins as primitive, while the Bedouins see themselves as the only genuine Arabs, and in their opinion, the villagers and city folk are phony Arabs, who have lost their Arab character.

The Arabic language expresses this matter well: the meaning of the word “Arabi” is “Bedouin,” and some of the Bedouin tribes are called “Arab,” for example “Arab al-Heib” and “Arab al-Shibli” in the North.

The Bedouins of the Negev classify themselves according to the color of their skin into “hamar” (red) and “sud” (black), and Bedouins would never marry their daughters to a man who is darker than she is, because he does not want his grandchildren to be dark-skinned. Racist? Perhaps. Another division that exists in the Negev is between tribes that have a Bedouin origin, and tribes whose livelihood is agriculture (Fellahin), who have low status. A large tribe has a higher standing than a small tribe.

Religions and Sects

The Arab sector in Israel also breaks down by religion, into Muslims, Christians, Druze and ‘Alawites. The Christians are subdivided into several Sects: Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant, and among the Muslims, there is a distinct sect of Sufis, which has a significant presence in Baqa al-Gharbiya. There is also an interesting Salafi movement in Israel, which we will relate to later. The Islamist movement is organized along the lines of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The religion of the Druze is different from Islam, and Muslims consider the Druze to be heretics. Because of this, the Druze keep their religion secret, even from each other and therefore most are “juhal” (ignorant – of religious matters) and only a small number of the elder men are “aukal” (knowledgeable in matters of religion). In the modern age, however, there have been a number of books published about the Druze religion.

The Alawites in Israel live in Kfar Ghajar, in the foothills of the Hermon and some live over the border in Lebanon. They are also considered heretics in Islam, and their religion is a blend of Shi’ite Islam, Eastern Christianity and ancient religions that existed in the Middle East thousands of years ago. Their principle concentration is in the mountains of al-Ansariya in northwest Syria, although some are in Lebanon and some migrated southward and settled in Ghajar. The meaning of the word Ghajar in Arabic is “Gypsy”, meaning foreign nomads with a different religion. In Syria the Alawites – led by the Assad family – have ruled since 1966. That Alawites are considered heretics is the reason for the Muslim objection to Alawite rule in Syria since according to Islam, not only do they not have the right to rule, being a minority, but there is significant doubt as to whether they even have the right to live, being idol worshipers.

Arab Moderation Murdered in Tunisia

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph in the world is that good men do nothing.” –Edmund Burke

And if the good men are murdered by the forces of political evil than they certainly cannot do anything. Hence, the outcome is assured.

Thus, the “Arab Spring” has just been murdered with bullets and hijacked amid bloodstains. Here is the list of countries in the Middle East area currently ruled by Islamists: Egypt, the Gaza Strip, Iran, Lebanon, and Turkey. Syria will probably join them soon. Qatar has a pro-Islamist policy. Morocco technically has an Islamist government though the king neutralizes it in practice. Saudi Arabia is ruled by a strict Islamic regime but opposes the revolutionary Islamists though its money often spreads their doctrines elsewhere. Everyone is being forced into Sunni or Shia Islamist camps, backing radical forces in other countries so that their religious allegiance can conquer.

In this situation, only in Tunisia could the non-Islamists win fairly conducted elections. But an election isn’t fair if one side uses violence to ensure its victory and its ability to transform the country into a social-political dictatorship afterward.

I know that whenever I write an article on Tunisia it will have fewer readers than other topics. That’s understandable from the standpoint that Tunisia is a small country with little international impact and limited U.S. interests.

Yet Tunisia was the country where the “Arab Spring” began. And Tunisia is going to be the place where the Middle Eastern equivalent of the Spanish Civil War will be fought. In other words, it is the only place where moderate and “secularist” forces are going to fight and the only country where the moderates have a majority of the population–though not a majority of the guns–behind them.

Given that bellwether factor, they have just suffered a massive defeat which is simultaneously a major victory for the Islamist forces.

Briefly, what people who believe the Arabic-speaking world is heading toward democracy don’t understand is that they have helped unleash forces quite willing to engage in violence and that will not stop until they’ve achieve a total triumph. It’s sort of like Pandora who opened the box to unleash its spiritual whirlwinds and said, “This ought to be interesting!”

That’s why the assassination of Choukri Belaid is so important. He was leader of the Democratic Patriot party and a leader of the Popular Front opposition coalition. While the story will be obscure in the West it is devastating for Tunisia, the Arab liberals, and the future of the region. Belaid was the single most outspoken and determined anti-Islamist leader in the country, and indeed the most important openly anti-Islamist politician in the entire Arabic-speaking world. He wasn’t the only moderate politician in Tunisia but he was the main one who rejected Islamist rule and warned against Islamist intentions.

And how did the Islamist-dominated coalition react? The moment the leading opposition figure—the man around whom an anti-Islamist coalition might have been built following the next elections–was murdered, it called for new elections.

Get it? The Brotherhood’s moderate coalition partners didn’t want elections now. And if you eliminate the tough moderate, those remaining may be more pliable about caving in. It was quite conceivable that the non-Islamists would get a majority in the next elections–as they did in the previous one. But a majority divided among four parties isn’t enough. Last time, the moderate parties got 60 percent but their disunity allowed the largest single party, the Brotherhood, to take control of the government coalition with only 40 percent of the vote.

But a man like Belaid might have forged a moderate coalition government that would keep the Brotherhood out of power. In other words, though he led only the fourth largest party, Belaid was the key to forcing the Brotherhood out of power by convincing the four moderate parties to work together against the Islamist threat. His elimination isn’t just a crime, but a political strategy.

As I predicted a few days ago, destroying the left is going to be the Islamists’ priority and Tunisia is the only country where the political left poses a danger to them. Elsewhere it is too weak, confined to isolated individuals and publications.

Egypt’s Systemic Collapse

Monday, February 4th, 2013

The Egyptian flag is red, white and black with an eagle in the center. Until quite recently, this flag has been a symbol of national consensus symbolizing that all citizens of Egypt, without regard to their political orientation, are sheltered together beneath the wings of the eagle. But this consensus may be starting to crack, and because of the complex nature of the crisis – constitutional, governmental and economic – a growing number of citizens in Egypt believe that the continued existence of the state as one political unit is doubtful. It seems that Egyptian society has been undergoing a corrosive process, ever since the beginning of the “Arab Spring” two years ago, which is undermining the sense of unity and shared destiny in the Land of the Nile.

This process began to be apparent after the unprecedented step taken by the Egyptian judiciary, when it sentenced to death 21 people in Port Said, a port city near the Northern opening of the Suez Canal, because of their involvement in the deaths of 74 people during a soccer game that was held in the city in February of 2012.

When they heard about the sentence, the enraged residents of the city burst into the streets in stormy demonstrations in which more than forty people were killed. It must be noted, however, that some of the fatalities were caused by a barrage of heavy gunfire at the mass funeral of 31 people that had been killed in previous demonstrations.

Disregarding any political consideration, the death toll in Egypt testifies to the fact that the value of life in this densely populated country has been depreciated. Ninety million men, women and children are crowded into the length of the Nile Valley and its delta, with a few concentrations along the canal and the coasts. About one half of them live below the poverty line, which is low to begin with, and about one third of them live in “unplanned neighborhoods,” some in wooden crates, without running water, sewage, electricity or telephone, without employment, without hope and without a future, but crime, violence, drugs and alcohol abound.

In demonstrations in Port Said, there are demands to secede from the state of Egypt. In a graphic illustration of these demands, the demonstrators waved flags where they had changed the color of the upper part of the flag from red to green, with a clear Islamist reference, and instead of the eagle, the name of the city “Port Said” was in the center.

The curfew that was imposed on the city did not help quiet stormy spirits either, and the masses burst into the streets despite the curfew. The police used tear gas against them but to no avail. The army took up a position near the government offices in order to defend them from the raging mob. Military officers claim that they did not open fire and they have no idea how forty people were killed. The Egyptian in the street, who knows the truth, doesn’t buy the story because he understands the matter well: if forty people were killed despite the fact that the army “didn’t shoot”, they wonder how many would have been killed if the army had actually had opened fire

A local group calling itself “The Port Said Youth Bloc” issued a declaration, stating:

We, the people of Port Said, declare the cancellation of Morsi’s legal status; he is no longer the president of Egypt. We call for masses of the Egyptian people to express their solidarity and join the people of Port Said who are being murdered in the streets by the armored Egyptian police before the very eyes of the Egyptian government. The people of Port Said will continue to stand strong even if, as a result of these demonstrations, all of its sons will fall. This expression, “the people of Port Said,” which is repeated a number of times in the manifesto, is an expression of the mood of the residents of the city.

The demand of the people of Port Said to secede from Egypt horrifies the heads of the Egyptian government, because if indeed they do actually separate the area of the Canal from the state of Egypt, the state will lose its main source of income – fees of passage paid by ships that traverse the Canal. If this should happen, considering the recent loss of tourism and foreign investments, Egypt will go bankrupt immediately.

Yaalon: Abandon Corrupted Paradigm

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe “Boogie” Yaalon, speaking recently at a Likud Anglo event,  talked at length about the most pressing issues currently facing Israel.

Yaalon discussed four primary challenges facing Israel today: The current upheaval in Arab States in the region; the Iranian threat; the stalled attempts at progress with the Palestinians; and the internal dialogue and general morale of the Israeli body-politic.

“Westernism” and other “isms”

Ya’alon identified the root cause of Israel’s current problems, real or perceived, as being derived from a “corrupted conceptual basis of thinking” he termed “Westernism”. He stated that the two main foundations of Westernism are “Solutionism” and “Now-ism”, both of which distract Israel from perceiving reality as it is and working towards implementing realistic and sustainable policies.

The corrupting nature of Westernism – though foreign to Middle East culture – has penetrated all sectors of Israeli society, said Yaalon , but is especially prevalent and potent in the media, academia and in political discourse.

Solutionism is the conviction that all problems can be solved: “If we sent a man to the moon and invented the iphone, can we not solve the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict? Only God can solve certain problems, but the Western Mind believes if can solve anything.”

Now-ism refers to the fact that “nowadays, when we are hungry and want food, we put something in the microwave and we quickly have it; likewise we want solutions now, not later, not with difficulty, not with deliberation and patience.”

Yaalon further delineated eight related aspects of Westernism: wishful thinking; naiveté, ignorance of basic historical and social facts; political-correctness; patronizing cultural relativity  (“Our jihadist enemies are just too weak and oppressed to be held accountable”); appeasement (when the West seeks a solution, it immediately focuses on what it must relinquish to or tolerate from its enemies, without demanding reciprocity or compromise); denial (the choice to simply ignore the clear language of Iran, Hamas, Abbas, etc.); and finally, “document-ism” (all solutions for peace are codified in signed documents produced by experts, conferences, and various committees).

The result of corrupted thinking

Yaalon stated that the outcome of this corrupted conceptual paradigm of thinking is two-fold: First, we cannot properly know what to do or how to act effectively, and secondly, Israel will tend to fall into the trap of “self-blame”, as we are generally the stronger party in the conflicts we face with other political entities in the Middle East. Furthermore, the inevitable result of such self recrimination is the scourge of outright blame, condemnation, and delegitimization from Israel’s myriad detractors in the West and in the Islamic world, appearing increasingly in the form of blatant anti-Semitism. This development is bad for Jews globally, not just for Israel.

The antidote for the ills of Westernism, Yaalon said, is a vigorous defense of, and renewed commitment to, the ideals of Zionism, our spiritual, moral, and ethical heritage, and the renewal of faith in the justness of our state and our cause in the world, instead of placing our hopes in documents, international organizations, or media accounts.

Other thoughts on the Arab World, Syria, Iran, and the Palestinians

In the Q&A session following his speech, Moshe Yaalon made the following points:

1) In relation to the so-called “Arab Spring” (which he termed an “Islamic Winter”) Yaalon said that we are witnessing a collapse of the Arab nation-state System, which was imposed on the region by European powers after the two World Wars. This system is alien in a region where political realities are shaped more by tribal alliances, Sunni versus Shi’ite fault lines, and strong ethnic identities like Arab, Turk, Kurd, Persian, Druze, Alawite, etc.

2) The collapse of the regime in Syria is imminent, as Assad is now illegitimate in the eyes of the Arab world and his regime is predominantly Alawite in a country that is 80% Sunni Muslim—and generally non-jihadist. This collapse will be a serious blow to Iranian influence in our region, and therefore to its proxies Hizbullah and Hamas as well. Israel should entertain no serious fears from the situation in Syria: “Our most secure and tranquil border since 1967 has been that with Syria–with no peace agreement whatsoever in place. How does peace in the Middle East usually come about? — With Big Sticks and Some Carrots,” Yaalon said.

3) Syria, along with the new regimes in Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, etc. are “too broke to wage any conventional or terror war with the State of Israel.” Yaalon also stressed that Israel’s military superiority is “based on quality over quantity, and I know well from experience about what I speak. Our F-16 is the best in the world–our plane has an edge even over the U.S. Navy and Air Force–because it has Israeli-developed high-tech modifications in radar, missiles, avionics and more, but most important of all there is a Jewish Pilot in the cockpit.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/minister-yaalon-abandon-corrupted-conceptual-thinking/2012/01/24/

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