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Advice to Western Leaders: Don’t Visit the Middle East

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

While speaking to American diplomats during his current tour, American Secretary of State John Kerry “created” a new state: Kyrzakhstan. Apparently he confused Kyrgyzstan with Kazakhstan. This slip of the tongue is more proof that those who hold key positions in the American government were appointed not because of their experience, talent, knowledge of the field and suitability for the position, but because of their connections, with the president, of course.

The new secretary of state, who has no experience in foreign affairs, must learn within a short time about almost two hundred states, about their history, their culture, their leaders, politicians and rulers and about the conflicts that they are involved in. The new secretary of state does not have a one hundred day grace period or a term of apprenticeship, so the inevitable result is characterized by shallowness, mediocrity and mistakes such as Kerry has already made, and mistakes that are much more severe.

And what is worse is that the new secretary of state fills senior positions in the state department with his friends, who, like Kerry, more or less, generally are not familiar with the international scene. Within the State Department a nucleus of permanent professional officials does exist, but they are not always in the center of political activity, which is located on the axis between the White House and Secretary of State.

The Middle East is one of the most difficult things for an American to understand, because the civil American culture is based on the individual, and is as far as possible from the East and its culture, which is based on groups  – tribal, ethnic, religious and sectoral – and this characterizes the societies in the Middle East. As a result of this, Americans see the Middle East through the lens of American culture and ask: “What is wrong with those people?”

There is a general pattern of failure regarding visits from senior officials, whether from America or Europe. The failure is a result of several factors:

(1) The itinerary of the visit. Naturally, the itinerary cannot include all of the states in the region, so someone will always be offended because he and his state were not included in the tour. An apology does not eliminate the feeling of disdain felt by someone who has been left out of the itinerary, and the injured party will find an opportunity in the future to take revenge on the Western leader for insulting him by visiting the region and ignoring him.

(2) Meeting the Opposition. The visitor wants to meet not only with the people in power, but also with the people of the opposition. This is acceptable in the United States and in Europe, but not in the Middle East. In June 2009, President Obama visited Egypt as a guest of Mubarak, but also met with his opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood. This meeting was like a knife in the back for Mubarak; it humiliated him and he was deeply offended by it. This is the real reason for his absence when Obama gave a speech to the Islamic nation. The meeting with the Brotherhood very much strengthened and encouraged them, and even today, many people who oppose the Brotherhood blame Obama for the success of the Muslim Brotherhood in their taking over the state.

(3) Meddling in Internal Affairs. The visitor tends to become involved in internal matters of the state that he is visiting, mainly in order to mediate and encourage reconciliation between the government and its opposition. In the Middle East such involvement is perceived very negatively, because according to the regional tradition, a mediator has the status of a judge, and how can a foreigner, who does not understand the culture of the Middle East, be a judge?

(4) Legitimizing Oppression. The visitor usually holds a press conference with his host, a president, prime minister or minister in the local state, in which he expresses support for the host and friendship toward him. In the West – where leadership is seen as legitimate – the public takes the words of the visitor as support for the state and friendship towards it. But in most of the states of the Middle East, where the government is perceived as illegitimate, a visitor who expresses support and friendship  for a ruler is seen as hostile to the population and a n accomplice in the governmental oppression that he suffers from.

(5) Offering Solutions to Complex Problems. The visitor likes to offer solutions to regional conflicts, but these solutions are usually shallow and do not address the roots of the conflicts. As a result, the “solutions” arouse opposition and hatred towards the visitor. The most obvious example is the solution based on money: monetary grants encourage governmental corruption and arouse hatred towards the visitor, since he is implicitly encouraging corruption.

(6) Middle Eastern View of Women. The visitor behaves according to the accepted behavioral codes of his state, which may differ from those of the host state, especially where women are concerned. Women who hold senior positions in the West – Madeleine Albright, Condoleeza Rice, Catherine Ashton – are accepted in the West as equals to men. But in the Middle East it is not acceptable for a woman to behave in a authoritative manner towards men, even if she represents a different state.  This was especially true regarding Condoleeza Rice, who presented a great cultural challenge to the people of the Middle East, because they had to accept her authority despite the facts that she is a woman, unmarried, and of African descent. These three components, and especially her African descent, caused many in the area to regard her with severe repulsion.

Palestinians’ Nazi-Style Youth Movement Prepares for Jihad

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

Thousands of Palestinian schoolchildren have been receiving military training in the Gaza Strip to prepare them for jihad against Israel.

According to Mohamed Siam, a senior official with the Hamas-run ministry, some 9,000 high school children have already joined 36 camps throughout the Gaza Strip and are being taught how to use various types of weapons and handle explosives.

Hamas says that the purpose of the camps is to prepare Palestinian children, both militarily and psychologically, for the “liberation of Palestine, from the Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea,” in other words, all of Israel.

How can anyone talk about the two-state solution when thousands of Palestinian children are being trained to use weapons and explosives to replace Israel with an Islamic state? Does Mahmoud Abbas really believe that these schoolchildren will ever accept his strategy of peace with Israel? These are questions the West needs to ask itself before once again pressing for a two-state solution.

The training is being held under the supervision of the Hamas government’s Ministry of Education, and the training camps have been named Al-Futuwwa [meaning, spiritual chivalry].

According to Wikipedia, Al-Futuwwa was the name of the Hitler-Jugend [Hitler Youth] style of pan-Arab fascistic and nationalistic youth movement that existed in Iraq in the 1930s and 1940s. In 1938, the Al-Futuwwa youth organization sent a delegate to the Nuremberg Nazi party rally, and in turn hosted the Hitler Youth leader Baldur von Schirach. In 1941, the fascistic pan-Arab Al-Muthanna Club and its Al-Futuwwa movement participated in theFarhud attack on Baghdad’s Jewish community.

Last week, during a graduation ceremony for thousands of school children, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh declared that his movement was planning to establish a military academy for training and educating seventh and ninth graders. The goal, he said, is to prepare Palestinian children for jihad against the “Zionist entity.”

Addressing the cadets, Haniyeh declared: “You are the future leaders. You will march your people toward freedom and dignity. The Al-Futuwwa will end in victory and the liberation of all Palestine, “from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.”

Not surprisingly, parents in the Gaza Strip have not protested against this form of child abuse. Many parents, in fact, seem to like the idea that their children are being trained how to handle explosives and various types of weapons.

More disturbing is that only a few of the dozens of Western-funded human rights organizations that operate in the Gaza Strip have raised their voices against Hamas’s abuse of children. Even the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which was created to work for children’s rights, their survival, development and protection, has yet to condemn Hamas for recruiting school children to its military apparatus.

Many of Hamas’s children will undoubtedly be sent to the battlefront during the next round of fighting with Israel. Some will also be dispatched on suicide missions against the “Zionist enemy,” while others will be provided with assault rifles and rockets to be used against Israeli targets.

By poisoning the hearts and minds of schoolchildren, Hamas is raising an entire generation of Palestinians on glorification of suicide bombers, jihad and terrorism.

And this is happening at a time when some governments and leaders in the West are talking about the need to revive the peace process between the Palestinians and Israel — and at a time when the Palestinian Authority is making efforts to achieve unity with Hamas.

These are questions that Abbas needs to ask himself as he continues to seek unity with Hamas; and that the West might do well to ask itself, too.

Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.

Syria: The Main Middle East Crisis in 2013

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

While President Barack Obama has been inaugurated for a second term and made his speech, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is still in power in Syria, making his own speeches saying he will not give in.

The Syrian civil war will go on until one side wins and the other loses. And a lot more people are going to die. The idea of some kind of compromise or diplomatic process has always been ridiculous. These two sides—the government and rebels—have nothing to talk about. On one hand, they thoroughly distrust each other with good reason. On the other hand, they both want power and that’s something which cannot be shared.

Incidentally, please forgive me when I point out that in 2010, I said that Egypt would be the big story of 2011, and that in 2011 I said that the Muslim Brotherhood takeover of Egypt would be the big story of 2012.

For those asking why I’m not saying Iran will be the main crisis, that’s possible, but 2013 is more likely to be a year of endless talk between the Washington and Tehran, punctuated mid-year by Iran’s election of its own new president. Iran will buy time, the election of a new president alone will be good for about three months or so since he’ll need to get into office, appoint his cabinet, and formulate his “new” policy. So 2014 is more likely to be the year of Iran.

Meanwhile, 2013 will be a year of continuous battle in Syria, at some point punctuated by either the government’s collapse or retreat. The rebels have been advancing, especially in the north and in Aleppo. But the regime still has a pretty strong hold on Damascus and in the Alawite stronghold in the northwest.

The idea that Syria will fragment into two or more countries is ridiculous. Nobody is declaring independence. Both sides maintain they are the legitimate rulers of Syria and that will continue to the end. Yet it is highly likely that there will be two zones of control for some time.

The following scenario seems realistic. And nothing said below should be interpreted as my personal preferences but merely an analysis of the reality on the ground.

In several months the rebels will be eating away at Damascus. If and when the day comes that most of Damascus is captured, the rebels will set up a government. That new regime will quickly be recognized by the U.N., Europe, and the United States. Regional states will be more diverse in their response, with Islamist-ruled Egypt, Tunisia, and Turkey along with pro-Islamist Qatar will be enthusiastic; Saudi Arabia and other anti-Islamist Arabs reluctant; the pro-Assad, Islamist-dominated Lebanese government and Iran rejecting this option.

Of course, a critical question will be: Who will lead on the rebel side? The negotiations will be very complex and quarrelsome but, with American help, the Muslim Brotherhood will probably emerge with a disproportionately strong showing.

Here is a good point to ridicule the idea that the United States has little influence. Of course, America isn’t going to decide everything or control events. But for the Brotherhood and other Islamists, having U.S. backing will make them a lot stronger than if they faced U.S. opposition. And remember the context will be shaped by all those arms and money the United States (through Qatar, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey) gave the Islamist side. The moderates certainly view the United States as pro-Islamist and while they themselves have a lot of weaknesses, being demoralized by this fact adds another one to the fatal mix.

Sometime in 2013 there will be big choices for each side. For the current regime, will it retreat when necessary to a redoubt in the predominantly Alawite sector of the northeast? How quickly will the rebels assault that center as compared to consolidating their control over the rest of the country?

And finally, how many ethnic massacres will there be, of Christians and Alawites in rebel-held territory and of Sunni Muslims in regime-held territory? There is no doubt that such murders will take place by the Salafis even if the better-disciplined Muslim Brotherhood refrains from revenge killings. But will they reach the level that will shake up Western thinking and perhaps force a reluctant Obama Administration to do something serious about it?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/rubin-reports/syria-the-main-middle-east-crisis-in-2013/2013/01/24/

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