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Posts Tagged ‘nabi selah’

Obaminology

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Do you remember “Kremlinology,” the study of what was actually going on behind the walls of the Soviet citadel? Experts would scrutinize photos of Soviet officials to see who was standing closest to the leaders, who had moved farther away, or, ominously, who was not present at all. Since the Soviets were not exactly transparent about their policies, a known ‘hawk’ moving closer to party chiefs might signal a threat.

A free society is expected to be more transparent. Officials should announce policies, which are more or less the policies that the government then tries to carry out.

But in the America of today — and particularly with regard to Middle East policy — this is not the case. At least the pro-Israel community finds it necessary to microscopically examine the behavior of important officials, to try to determine what the administration intends. At times like this — immediately preceding the presidential visit to Israel — speculation reaches a high pitch. We find ourselves engaged in Obaminology.

There are some simple methods that can be employed. First, what doesn’t work: it is usually a waste of time to listen to the President’s actual words. As we can see by his recent comments to “Jewish leaders” and to representatives of American Arab organizations, he will tell his audiences what they want to hear. Such statements are carefully calibrated so that they will be technically true but either vacuous or open to multiple interpretations.

One useful technique is to look at the “friendly” media. For example, the New York Times often presents the official line or floats trial balloons for the administration. And the Times has run no less than four anti-Israel op-eds or stories in the past seven days: the Joseph Levine piece arguing that Israel did not have the right to exist as a Jewish state (which I commented on here); an op-ed by Columbia professor and Palestinian apologist Rashid Khalidi which claims the U.S. has enabled Israel’s “apartheid” policies; a long story in the magazine by Ben Ehrenreich, blaming the IDF and ‘settlers’ for provoking “resistance” by saintly Arab residents of Nabi Saleh; and a front-page news story by bureau chief Jodi Rudoren critical of Israel for allowing Jews to live in what she calls “Arab East Jerusalem.”

All of these articles had this in common: they are intended to reduce sympathy for Israel, to establish the ‘Palestinian’ narrative of both historical and current events, and to weaken the Jewish one.

This is nothing new for the Times, but the concentration of coverage makes one wonder. And it is not only the Times: this weekend NPR presented an interview with Khalidi making the same points as his op-ed.

If the President’s words are not useful in sniffing out his intentions, his actions are. Wednesday, President Obama will be visiting Israel, where he will snub the democratically elected Knesset by speaking at a nearby convention center, unlike Presidents Carter, Clinton and Bush, who chose to speak at Israel’s parliament. This is apparently because of the unprecedented lengths to which the Obama Administration has gone to deny Israel’s sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem. To add insult to injury, students from one of Israel’s accredited universities — the one that happens to be located in Ariel, east of the armistice line — were left out of the invitations offered to students at other universities.

I believe that the administration believes that it has set all of its ducks in a row for the upcoming visit. I do not believe that it will be “merely a photo-op,” as some have suggested, because Obama has no need for a photo-op today. The visit is costly and complicated, and will have objectives that the President and his advisers think are important.

It has also been suggested that the President will concentrate on issues involving Iran and the Syrian civil war rather than the question of the Palestinian Arabs. But this is not what is implied by the media offensive and the deliberate snub of Israel’s parliament and government.

Obaminology tells us that these objectives will be related to the ongoing effort to force Israel to withdraw from Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem. Probably there will be renewed pressure to freeze construction east of the armistice lines, including Jerusalem. It would not surprise me if support for Israel in possible future actions against Iran were conditioned on concessions in the Palestinian arena.

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A Little Village in the Hills and the Monsters it Spawns

Monday, March 18th, 2013

If you want to affect how people think about an issue, putting your case onto the cover of the New York Times Magazine must be one of the most effective things to do. And, given the intense competition, one of the hardest. So if the editors of the NYT (108 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other news organization; 30 million unique visitors per month to its website; the largest local metropolitan newspaper in the United States – according to Wikipedia) give you the cover of the prestigious Magazine, it’s a massive vote of confidence, a huge privilege, a platform of the most effective kind that (probably) can’t be bought for money.

Friends have pointed us to this week’s NYT Magazine cover story, published Sunday. It’s devoted to a Palestinian Arab village set in the hills a few kilometers north of where we live in Jerusalem. It’s a place the author calls “spirited,” where “on warm summer evenings, life… could feel almost idyllic. Everyone knows everyone.” He says “a pilgrimage” to this magical place “has achieved a measure of cachet among young European activists, the way a stint with the Zapatistas did in Mexico in the 1990s”.

How can you not be captivated?But there is much wrong with the picture he conjures up. We know this because for years we have been tracking the media’s romance with the community called Nabi Saleh. Sitting here and looking over the online version of it, we are furious with anger about what the article says, and what the writer and his editors carefully avoid saying.

Start with some background: the Wikipedia entry for Nabi Saleh describes the village of some 550 people in notably gentle terms. Centered on an old religious shrine to the prophet Shelah whom we encounter in Genesis as the son of Judah and grandson of the patriarch Jacob, it was a hamlet of a mere five houses in the late nineteenth century when the Turks ruled the area. It grew slowly under the Jordanian military occupation that started in 1948; then declined when Israel took control of Judea and Samaria in 1967, and flourished and multiplied in the past two decades. Today, it’s the scene of weekly protest demonstrations and, to judge from Wikipedia’s English-language version, a place where things are done to passive inhabitants for no apparent reason.

Now if you go to the Arabic-language version of Wikipedia, you see a quite different emphasis. It’s not at all a direct translation of the English version. It’s created by different people for a different audience and different sensibilities. The Arabic Wikipedia entry depicts Nabi Saleh as a place of “popular resistance” that boasts of having taken a prominent role in two Intifadas, providing “hundreds of prisoners” and 17 so-called “martyrs on the altar of freedom.” The most prominent of the prisoners (Wikipedia’s description) is a woman called Ahlam. Her surname is shared with almost every other inhabitant of the village: Tamimi.

But it is Bassem Tamimi who is the focus of the article. He calls the Intifada launched by Yasser Arafat in 2000 “the big mistake… Politically, we went backward.”The NYT writer helps us understand what kind of backward he means:

Much of the international good will gained over the previous decade was squandered. Taking up arms wasn’t, for Bassem, a moral error so much as a strategic one. He and everyone else I spoke with in the village insisted they had the right to armed resistance; they just don’t think it works.

Or to say it another way: they are entitled to kill the Israelis and have done so again and again, but it’s not effective. A different kind of warfare therefore needs to be adopted.

Half-way through the essay, he introduces a figure who embodies that “big mistake”:

In 1993, Bassem told me, his cousin Said Tamimi killed a settler near Ramallah. Eight years later, another villager, Ahlam Tamimi escorted a bomber to a Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem. Fifteen people were killed, eight of them minors. Ahlam, who now lives in exile in Jordan, and Said, who is in prison in Israel, remain much-loved in Nabi Saleh.

That’s all he writes about Ahlam Tamimi but we can tell you more. She is a Jordanian who was 21 years old and the news-reader on official Palestinian Authority television when she signed on with Hamas to become a terrorist. She engineered, planned and helped execute a massacre in the center of Jerusalem on a hot summer afternoon in 2001. She chose the target, a restaurant filled with Jewish children. And she brought the bomb. The outcome (15 killed, a sixteenth still in a vegetative state today, 130 injured) was so uplifting to her that she has gone on camera again and again to say, smiling into the camera lens, how proud she is of what she did. She is entirely free of regret. A convicted felon and a mass-murderer convicted on multiple homicide charges, she has never denied the role she embraced and justifies it fully.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/this-ongoing-war/a-little-village-in-the-hills-and-the-monsters-it-spawns/2013/03/18/

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