Resistance to the West, and rejection of Israel, are the pillars of a rapidly strengthening alliance in the world's most volatile region . . .
. . . goes the headline of the last survey of the Muslim world by the Economist.
Apparently it takes an economist to see that ordinary people's opinions matter as much as economic indicators and political alliances. The Economist is unimpressed by the situation of the so called moderate Arab regimes and a certain closing of positions betweeen them, Israel and the US in the face of the growing threat of Tehran Damascus axis and its non-state allies like Hizbollah. The article conveys well an impression of the shaky USA friendly regimes presiding over the raging insanity of the Arab societies:
Even high-minded Western initiatives now arouse suspicion. The effort to deploy a tougher peacekeeping force in Darfur, where some 200,000 people have been killed and perhaps 1m displaced by a government-assisted slaughter of Darfuris, is widely seen as a subterfuge. The head of the Egyptian lawyers' union, a group which might be expected to defend the rights of the weak, recently declared that the true target of UN peacekeepers was Egypt: Sudan was simply “the next stop after Iraq on the road to the heart of Cairo”.
In the face of such an insane situation, the Economist though still has an advise to offer:
It is also clear that a powerful sector of Islamist opinion is so fundamentally rejectionist that it will never change. The best the West can do may be to ensure that it does not push more moderates into that camp. It could start by remembering that people choose to “resist” when they feel threatened.
But this doesn't sound very practical. The Egyptian lawyers' union is probably the closest thing Egypt has, to what the Economist calls moderates and they are widely viewed as a spearhead of the so called Egyptian democratic opposition. Watching these people hit by the typical Arab paranoia over vicious designs of the Western/Zionist conspiracies, makes it hard to believe that the Economist's recipes would work.
Rather it makes one realize the unsoundness of optimism some people are displaying recently over the awakening of Arab masses. One may think that the corrupt and stagnant Arab regimes are really bad, but what is on the way to take their place may happen to be incomparably worse.
As a Muslim who grew up in a conservative family and who later had a “western” education and lived with Western friends, I’m always surprised when I read articles like this one (which apparently is so groundbreaking it made it to the top most emailed articles on the New York Times)
But many Europeans — even those who generally support immigration — have begun talking more bluntly about cultural differences, specifically about Muslims’ deep religious beliefs and social values, which are far more conservative than those of most Europeans on issues like women’s rights and homosexuality.
Duh…The word “boyfriend” is still a dirty word in even the most liberal of practicing Muslim families, did it really take them that much time to figure out how different they were?
One may start wondering after reading this: howcome the Europeans, with all their enthusiasm for "let's celebrate our differences" stuff, ended by being so ignorant of the actual differences themselves?
Jan Pronk, the UN mediator expelled from Sudan a few days ago, was writing in his blog (no wonder they kicked him out of the country):
Presently in the western part of North Darfur, close to the Chadian border, there is much fighting between the SAF (Sudanese Armed Forces) and a combination of the G19, the JEM and the NRF (rebels). But it seems to be a rather loose coalition, because not all three components participate in all fights.
The pattern is not clear. However, some trends emerge.
First, the SAF has lost two major battles, last month in Umm Sidir and this week in Karakaya. The losses seem to have been very high. Reports speak about hundreds of casualties in each of the two battles with many wounded and many taken as prisoner. The morale in the Government army in North Darfur has gone down. Some generals have been sacked; soldiers have refused to fight...
This world is a home to many smart people. Unfortunately, Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, is not one of them. But in his latest interview he outdid even himself. Solana appears to be not only weak on logic but on imagination too. --> Full Post
Hamas wants to "liberate the Palestinians," not to destroy Israel, Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
In an interview following his talks in Tel Aviv with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Solana insisted that it was "not impossible" for Hamas to change and "recognize the existence of Israel." History had shown that people and nations "adapt to reality," he said. "I don't want to lose hope."
Pressed as to whether he was underestimating the fundamentalist religious imperative at the heart of the Hamas ideology, Solana said, "I cannot imagine that the religious imperative, the real religious imperative, can make anybody destroy another country... Therefore that is an abuse of religion...
Ok, Solana. Just imagine that Hamas is operating on a religious imperative which is not the true religious imperative as you understand it. . . Oh, I forgot. You don't know to imagine.
"The Economist" is writing about Albania's economic renaissance:
Although there are few reliable statistics, about a third of its population of just over 3m is thought to be living abroad, mainly in the EU: at least 600,000 in Greece, more than 200,000 in Italy and probably another 200,000 elsewhere.
After moving another third of its population to the EU, Albania will have all rights to claim that its living standards have finally reached the European level. --> Good times, at last
Visiting Beit Jala a few weeks ago Nobody was taken to a house just two meters away from a site the Palestinians used to fire mortar rounds on Gilo two years ago. It's a weird experience to see Jerusalem by the eyes of Palestinian gunmen and at one point Nobody even caught himself scanning the Israeli side in an attempt to identify the best potential targets (!!!).
"Good firing position you got here", Nobody told the owner of the house. "I am not into doing shit. I care only for my family," said the man, "But i can't drive the bad guys away". "Yes yes. I see," Nobody nodded his head in agreement, his eyes radiating compassion and understanding, though he couldn't help noticing to himself that the mortar launcher had been apparently positioned right at the center of the garden, that the family of the man were refugees of the 1948 war and that all eight of his daughters had names of Israeli (Palestinian?) cities and towns like Karmiel and Beit Shaan.
A while later the guests were invited into the house and here the Palestinian, Nobody and an Israeli Arab, who was Nobody's guide, shared a bottle of Shivas in the warm circle of the man's wife and twelve or something of their children. What is the point of having your wife wear a head scarf if you are then drinking alcohol with Zionists and their collaborators is beyond Nobody's comprehension. But then Nobody is not Arab. What does he know about Arabs?
A lively discussion has developed between the Palestinian and Nobody, with the Israeli Arab acting as a translator, around the most idiotic question possible - who won the last round between Israel and Hezbollah? But the debate quickly ran into difficulties as with each round of Shivas the Israeli Arab was progressively losing the ability to distinguish between Hebrew and Arabic and his translations were becoming more and more an incomprehensible mix of the two languages.
"We love Sa'id Nasrallah," said the Palestinian, "He is a good man." Nobody tried to protest arguing that it's not appropriate for a Sunni to praise a Shiite, but his protestations were ignored. "Hassan Nasrallah is a very good man," repeated the Palestinian to stress his point.
All the while one of the girls was messing with an old tape, winding back and forth the cassette until she finally found what she was looking for. She switched the volume to maximum and amid cracking and immense noise coming from the tape Nobody could clearly hear the beginning of the latest Palestinian hit. "Ya Hassan Nasrallah!," went the song, "Ya sager Lubnan!".
. . .
. . .
The grinning Palestinians were scrutinizing Nobody looking for signs of embarrassment or any other reaction. But they were clearly underestimating their guests because almost at the same moment Nobody got the idea of the song, both he and the Israeli Arab were already clapping their hands and chanting "Yalla Hamas!! Yalla Intifada!!".
Now it was the turn of the Palestinians to get embarrassed. "We are not Hamas," said the man with a cross face, "We are Fatah. We are against Hamas because they are killing Jews"...
. . .
. . .
Nobody was struggling to hold his tears back. In a place where every second corner is decorated with posters of martyrs, creating the impression that the entire population moved to Israel to bomb cafes and buses, he was least prepared to hear anything like this. He wanted to say 'Thank You', but 'Shukran' got stuck in his throat, the feelings of gratitude and appreciation overwhelming Nobody.
And yet, even wiping tears from his eyes, there was no way Nobody could ignore such a basic fact that Fatah actually killed truckloads more of Jews than Hamas and Jihad together. "But then," was Nobody thinking, "is the Buddhist philosophy not teaching us that it's not the actions themselves that count so much but the good intentions behind them?"
Over the last few weeks Olmert and Sanyora were perfecting their own method of boring people. Every now and then Ehud Olmert climbs the podium of the Knesset and proclaims: "I want to call on Mr. Sanyora, Mr. Fuad Sanyora, from this very place, the heart of the Israeli politics, to meet me face to face in order to achieve a comprehensive and lasting peace between our two nations."
But Fuad Sanyora is hitting the peak of his testosterone cycle these days. He is playing hard to get. "The last of the Arab states would sign a peace deal with Israel and only then Lebanon may consider this option", he promises.
A few days ago the two went through another round of this routine and the whole thing is becoming plainly boring.
The day may come when the US, frustrated with Iran's nuclear program, will send its planes to bomb Iran's nuclear installations. On this occasion Hezbollah, on orders from Tehran/Damascus or just out of solidarity with its spiritual homeland, may set the border on fire for another time, creating the perception of a simultaneous Israeli American attack on the Arab/Muslim world.
At that point Sanyora may find himself reverting to his usual unconvincing technique of shedding tears in front of the cameras. And he may even find himself wishing that Ehud Olmert would be here to make his offer one more time. But by that time Mr. Ehud Olmert may not be around and the person who would take his place may actually happen to be more of a out of routine personality type.
Somalia is receiving little attention from the media, but it may quickly become another flashpoint in the war of civilizations. Since the Islamic Courts took over Mogadishu, they were steadily expanding their control over the country.
Ethiopian troops are already in Somalia, supporting the provisional government besieged by the Courts. Ethiopia is a huge country with a population of seventy something millions, almost half of them Muslims. The Islamic Courts repeatedly threatened to declare Jihad on Ethiopia because of its involvement in Somalia and because of a territorial dispute between the two countries.
Add to this the mess between Ethiopia and predominantly muslim Eritrea and chances for a full scale regional war have never looked so bright in the horn of Africa.
There can be no doubt about one thing - the latest IDF's visit to Lebanon passed as a very unpopular event there. On another hand apparently many Israelis were sure that the Lebanese would see the whole thing as a great opportunity to rid themselves of Hezbollah. So they were surprised to discover that the Lebanese do mind destruction of the bridges and they love to use their airport and that some Lebanese, God forbid, are even harboring brotherly feelings towards their Shiite compatriots.
Now many Lebanese can't stand anything even remotely smelling of Israel, while many Israelis came to conclusion that the Lebanese are just regular Arab assholes who can't figure out properly what are their real interests. The situation is aggravated by the habit many Israelis have developed recently of coming to Lebanese blogs and posting there. Lebanese Political Journal at times looks as if the poor L.P. is under siege there by a horde of Israeli posters. Some Lebanese apparently got so disgusted with the whole thing that they stopped coming to his blog.
Finally Ehud Olmert and Livni were doing overtures recently towards Sanyora offering negotiations and expressing willingness to discuss everything including Shebaa. But this time Sanyora has decided to break his usual routine of bursting in tears, sweeping after him the whole audience. He took this opportunity to show that he knows to be tough and promised that the last of the Arab states would sign peace with Israel and only then, and only then, Lebanon may consider the idea.
I don't know how the Lebanese see Israelis but many Israelis consider Lebanese a special case, as the name of Jean's blog, The Middle East Exception. Lebanese Christians are perceived as a sort of a super race of the Arab nation (Israelis, by the way, have no idea that many Lebanese Christians take being called Arab as a personal insult). Every second Israeli is sure that Hariris are Christians because they are rich. Many Israelis think the country to the North is actually similar to Israel and Beirut is an Arabic version of Tel Aviv.
It's hard to know how similar Israel and Lebanon are indeed, when one's primary source of information comes from trading insults with the other side across blogs. But it's possible that Lebanon is indeed closer to Israel in many respects than to its Arab neighbors. For example both countries are parliamentarian democracies and base their free market economies on free trade and integration into global economy. One thing may be pointing to the possibility that Beirut has indeed crossed the line dividing Western civilization from the Middle East. Beirut is apparently tolerant of sexual minorities and has gay clubs. It's hard to know how Beirut compares in this respect to the situation in such bastions of Israeli secular culture as Tel Aviv where one's sexual orientation is one's own business and doesn't trouble anybody, but in any case gay clubs are unthinkable in any other country in the region.
Anyway, however similar Tel Aviv and Beirut may be, the last Israel's attempt to turn the clock back in Lebanon by twenty years has unleashed the wave of unmitigated hostility towards Israel in Lebanon with the notable exception of the coquettish elderly Lebanese women, or so the joke claims. It has also undermined the optimism some Israelis were cherishing about the possibility to get at least one normal neighbor in the sense of being a modern country.
The current rage of hostility between the two nations is very unfortunate because both countries share not only democracy, free market economy and a very problematic history of mutual relationships. They also share the same enemies and, unlike Israel and Lebanon, the enemies of the two counties see themselves as allies and so Iranian weapons flow to Hezbollah via Syria, while Hamas has its headquarters in Damascus and is receiving military training and advise from Hezbollah. Syria Iran and Hezbollah/Hamas see themselves as allies to the point that they cooperate and publicly pledge support to each other.
To create a coalition of the Iranian Shiite theocracy, secular semi communist Syria, the Shiite fundamentalists of Hezbollah and the Palestinian department of the Sunni Muslim Brothers movement is an impressive feat. For sure if the dictators and the fundamentalists from the two conflicting strains of Islam managed it, it should be possible for Israel and Lebanon too. But while the two countries are under a simultaneous attack by the members of the Tehran Damascus axis, the idea of alliance or cooperation is unthinkable in Lebanon and unimaginable in Israel. Many Lebanese are totally disgusted by this war mongering, villages and towns flattening, cluster bomb using, Palestinians torturing, women raping, babies killing and even cats and dogs harassing ... in short very evil, evil means very very very evil, Zionist entity. And many Israelis seem to have reached the conclusion that the Arabs are always the same backward shit whether they are praying in mosques in Saudi Arabia or dropping acid on techno parties in Beirut. But it makes sense for the two sides to rethink the situation, if only for the sake of their own survival. Because theoretically Israel and Lebanon are a perfect case of natural allies, even though practically they are not.
It could be interesting to hear top Muslim clerics responding to the Pope's claim that in Islam God is transcendental to the point of Satanism by explaining Islam's view of the matter in theological terms. But instead on the very first day of the scandal the world of Islam immediately fell back into its habitual ways of transcending all common sense and rationality.
Surprisingly a group of top muslim scholars at last found time to respond to the Pope's lecture that set on fire dozens of churches across the Middle East. The reply is refering to each and every point the Pope was making and comes with a very sound argumentation. It's just unfortunate that it took them so long to compose it.
In March 2002 the Beirut summit adopted a resolution concerning a Middle-East peace proposal. As far as I know it has been rejected by Israel but it is interesting to review it and try to see whether it's workable. --> Full Post
It starts with the declaration that “the conviction of the Arab countries that a military solution to the conflict will not achieve peace or provide security for the parties”
Basically it calls for Israel's withdrawal back to the borders of 67 and the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as it's capital. This also includes the Golan heights.
Another important section is the one dealing with the refugees as after all that was the issue that Oslo fall on. It calls for “achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian Refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194.” (The UN Resolution 194 adopted in 11 December 1948 calls ,among other things for “the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible”)
In return the Arab Countries affirm the following: ” a. Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region.
b. Establish normal relations with Israel in the context of this comprehensive peace.”
This leaves 2 questions :
1. Is there a practical way to fulfil the Arab countries suggestions?
2. Do we trust them?
In terms of the West Bank and Gaza , I believe that it's possible to return to the borders of 67 . Perhaps it is possible to reach some compromise but in the long run it's best if Israel returns all pre-67 territories , this will be very good for Israel's public relations and propaganda machine. It never seizes to amaze me how a modern highly developed country like Israel comes up with the worst PR in the mid-east . The current wall should be relocated to 67 borders and if peace prevails for an agreed time (say , 5 years ) the wall can be torn down. What should be done with the settlers is a delicate matter , but I think most of them can be tempted with financial treats . But as for the more hardcore ones – I have a suggestion further on.
Returning the Golan heights is more difficult because of its strategic importance. I would speculate that if we are to follow Stef Wertheimer's idea,(“sufficiently developed free market economies don't fight each other, but instead make democracy inevitable.”) then we will get the following scenario: Israel accepts the proposal , but promises to return the Golan heights after an agreed X years of no hostility towards it (in the meanwhile the is some sort of an international force there) . Then, open trade , tourism and cultural exchange between Israel , Lebanon and Syria bring Syria and Lebanon closer to Wertheimer's ideal. Tourism will also help Israelis monitor whats going on in those countries. Syria and Lebanon stop being a threat – they get the Golan back.
Then there is the problem of refugees . But if Israel agrees to receive them. It's impractical for them to get their houses in Haifa back but they can be treated like new immigrants and get some sort of housing somewhere. In return they will have to become Israeli citizens , renounce any connections to the Palestinian state , pay taxes to Israel and serve in the army (IDF) . A similar solution can be applied to the hardcore settlers in the West Bank. They don't want to leave? OK , they get a Palestinian citizenship and pay their taxes to the Hamas.
2. Can the Arab countries be trusted ?
That's a different question altogether. Of course if this peace agreement is ever signed it would need some serious super-power backings , though can Israel trust any of the super powers is yet another question that needs serious thinking....
A few weeks ago the International Herald Tribune published an article that was discussed on a few blogs I know. In 'Talking to the neighbors' Avi Azrieli called for Israel's cultural integration into the Middle East as a way to peace and mutual understanding between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The primary means for achieving this goal is of course teaching Arabic to every Israeli. Otherwise how can Israelis become a part of the Arab culture? Basically it's not so much about talking to the neighbors as about doing it in Arabic.
It's not difficult to understand why the article got a positive reaction from many people. Most people can't resist the idea of talking to each other and the word 'dialog' can send even many hardliners into a prolonged and intense orgasm.
The question is if indeed it makes any sense for Israelis to waste their time on learning Arabic hoping that it will make their state more legitimate in the eyes of their neighbors? Given that many Israelis don't speak English, they sure can find better use for their time. So I went back to the article and read it once again.
Azrieli starts with describing the problem:
While Israel has flourished economically and technologically by modeling itself on the Western European culture of its early Ashkenazi pioneers, the cultural alienation from its neighbors has intensified Israel's pariah status in the region. Even the peace with Egypt and Jordan remains cold, while hate toward Israel in the Arab street heats up to new records.
The question of course is why if modeling oneself on the European culture makes one flourish economically and technologically, should one be looking to substitute it with something else?
There are more questions. To what degree the universal failure of Arab states to produce a decent and successful society is due to their modeling themselves on the Arab culture? How one embraces the Arab culture without importing the backwardness and stagnation 'flourishing' across the border? The last question is no idle one since Israel doesn't dispose of any oil fields or gas reserves to support itself in case this happens.
A change of paradigm for the intensely besieged Israeli society would not be easy, and embracing the culture of the enemy could be confusing, if not outright repulsive. Yet it is necessary and possible. Israelis must accept that the people surrounding them are not only their current enemies, but also long-term cohabitants of the same troubled part of the world.
It can be indeed repulsive and confusing for Israelis to try their hand at arranged marriages, honor killings, mistreating of women and violent inter clan feuds so common among the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. But what it's good for anyway? Israelis already demonstrated that they see Palestinians as 'long-term cohabitants of the same troubled part of the world'. They did it by embracing the two state solution and supporting the Oslo process. How learning Arabic can help them here?
Azrieli then discusses a few ways to make Israelis learn Arabic but learning Arabic is only a means to the final goal:
Complementing its embrace of Arabic, Israel should absorb Arab culture. Israel's decidedly westernized self-identity has implied a rejection of everything that is Arab. Israelis need to engage in a dialog with the Arab people in order to understand their aspirations and frustrations.
Here comes the killer word: Dialog. After the majority of Israelis learn Arabic they would be finally able to engage in a long sought dialog with their Arab neighbors to understand better their aspirations and frustrations.
Probably Azrieli does not speak Arabic himself because I found no correlation between fluency in Arabic of Israelis I know and their attitudes towards their neighbors. Quite to the contrary it seems to work all the way round. The Moroccan Jews I worked with on water projects in the West Bank spoke fluent Arabic and even knew Koran to the point they could talk religion with Palestinian villagers (ordinary Palis, by the way, apparently know very little of their religion). But their intimate knowledge of the aspirations and frustrations of the other side didn't lead to any respect and embrace of their neighbors' culture. To the contrary they detested both the culture and its owners. And I doubt that it endeared them much on the neighbors themselves.
By far it's the Tel Avivans I know, who don't speak a word in Arabic and assume that Arabs are like Israelis who just happen to speak Arabic, who may be most sympathetic to Azrieli's ideas. But it's a shame to teach them Arabic since their delusional thinking may not survive a meeting with the reality. In a region where the majority of neighbors are sure that Jews are behind 9/11 attacks, failing to learn the language may save some people lots of disappointment.
I used to speak a rudimentary Arabic I picked up after living for a year with Israeli Bedouins and I have a relatively extensive exposure to Israeli Arabs and Palestinians. But if this exposure to the culture and mentality of the neighbors had any lasting impression on me it was mostly negative.
Azrieli is delusional if he thinks that exposure to Arab culture would endear Arabs on Israelis. Most probably it would only make Israelis realize even more that they are not Arabs and they want to have nothing to do with Arabs and their culture.
Back to the article. Here comes the most important piece of Azrieli argumentation. It's basically why Israel should go into so much trouble of remodeling itself into a middle eastern country.
Would the Arab world accept such a Jewish state into its fold? Islamic extremists aside, Arab society traditionally embraced religious and ethnic pluralism. There are millions of Arabs who are not Muslims, and millions of Muslims who aren't Arabs.
Many religions and ethnic groups have prospered as part of the Arab world, such as the Druze, Kurds, Bahai, Copts, Christians and Jews. Islam itself is permeated with different varieties, most prominently Shiite and Sunni.
That many religions and ethnic groups have prospered as part of the Arab world is open to question. If anything it was long time ago. Maybe by the standards of the Middle Ages the Arab/Muslim world was a highly tolerant place but we are not living in the Middle Ages.
Probably Azrieli has not noticed this, but from the Druze to the Alawites, too many religious sects here keep their creeds secret, never revealing their books or making public their religious doctrines. Millions of Shia and the same Alawites have a rich history of massively practicing Taqiyya. Taqiyya, sometimes translated 'dissimulation', means concealing one's faith, which in practice means concealing by adopting outwardly the religion of the regional master race. Such a proliferation of secret doctrines and dissimulated religions in this region did not happen because the Arab/Muslim world is a very tolerant place.
Neither the regional minorities saw much of tolerance with the coming of the modern age. The same Kurds were slaughtered by hundreds of thousands in recent time. Thousands were gassed by mustard gas under Saddam Hussein. The Turks wiped out hundreds of Kurdish villages. Khomeini once even declared on them Jihad . And there is a reason why the spiritual center of the Bahais is in Israel, in Haifa, and not elsewhere in the region. And let's better pretend that we have never heard about this Sunni Shia thing to spare ourselves nightmares and occasional visits to a shrink. What sort of tolerance and inspiring co-existence Azrieli has discovered in the Arab world is impossible to see. Actually these facts are so well known and these observations of mine are so self evident, that I am under temptation to accuse this guy of deliberately twisting facts for the sake of pursuing some warped agenda of his own.
It's also hard to understand what Azrieli is trying to say since he got completely off track. Is he inviting Israelis to join a nearby Islamic Khalifat as an ethnic minority? But there are no Khalifats around !!! What this stuff about ethnic/religious minorities has to do with Israel ??!! Israelis are not an ethnic or religious minority. They have a state of their own.
The question properly asked should be if the Arabs would be ready to accept Israel as a state if all Israelis learn Arabic as a second language. If anything, Azrieli should check not how the Kurds are doing as an ethnic minority in Arab/Muslim states across the Middle East (and they are doing badly everywhere) but if the Arab/Muslim world is ready to accept their aspirations to create and maintain an independent state of their own. The unavoidable conclusion would greatly disappoint Azrieli and other enthusiasts of this idea. In particular given that the Kurds in Iraq and Syria probably speak fluent Arabic and culturally are closer to the Arabs than Israelis can ever be.
The end of the article is no better than its beginning:
By making Arabic a true national language beside Hebrew, Israel would send a clear message to its neighbors: We respect you and we are here to stay."
One may think that by sticking to Hebrew, Israelis were sending message to their neighbors that they are just about to pack their stuff and go to Canada. And it's hard to believe that our wars with Arabs came as a result of our failure to communicate to the Arabs how much we respect them. In fact, the concepts of honour and respect play such a tremendous role in the Arab culture, that at times it seems as if they can just never get enough of both.
At one point Azrieli turns to his personal experience to encourage Israelis to accept his radical plan:
Some Jews have always sought to understand their neighbors better. My great-grandfather and namesake, the rabbi of a farming community on Mount Carmel a century ago, learned Arabic in order to converse with his neighbors.
Now that the story got a personal twist, the whole thing starts looking more real and promising, and Azrieli continues:
Unfortunately, he and his family were massacred (!!! NB) while visiting relatives in Hebron during the 1929 Arab riots.
I would say that, unfortunately, even after sharing that piece of his family experience with the readers, Azrieli still fails to make his point appear overly convincing.
October 12, 2008
Talking Mummus with neighbors
The approaching cultural war between Israel and Lebanon has attracted my attention recently in view of the tremendous opportunities it presents.
"At ethnic food exhibitions our producers go to the Israeli stand and find most of the specialities they are marketing as Israeli foods are Lebanese," said Fadi Abboud, president of the Lebanese Industrialists' Association (LIA). "Our culture goes back a few thousand years. It's time to set the record straight."
Abboud and researchers say they have documentation to prove that 25 traditional dishes hail from Lebanon and deserve the EU's Protected Designated Origin status, meaning they can be marketed under their name only if they were made in the country. Under an EU deal, Lebanon is entitled to seek European arbitration for its claim to protected status, but will require a World Trade Organisation ruling for the move to affect sales in non-EU markets.
No expert on foods and their history, I have little idea about the origin of Mummus and other stuff. Neither do I care. Whether this stuff was invented by Arabs or has been present here from the biblical times; whether it was introduced here by Turks or spread across the region from ancient or Coptic Egypt, is largely irrelevant as far as I am concerned. The only two things that I am ready to bet on with some degree of certainty is that the popularity of these foods in Israel has exploded following the massive exodus of Jews from the Middle East and that probably none of the 25 dishes claimed by the Lebanese can be proved to have originated in Lebanon. In fact there are sane voices in Lebanon who seem to not argue with the obvious. This is the closest approximation to the notion of sane voice that exists in a country that used to hospitalize its citizens in droves, paralyzed from inhaling toxic gases, each time winds were blowing Israeli advertising balloons across the border:
"Foods like falafel are not Lebanese but they're certainly not Israeli either. How can they be when Israel is only 60 years old?" asked Rami Zurayk, professor of agriculture and ecosystems at the American University of Beirut, and author of a book on "slow food" in Lebanon.
"But Lebanon's borders are only 60 years old as well. There is an instinctive response in the region against what is seen as Israel's theft of land and appropriation of culture, but to register falafel as Lebanese is almost as absurd and chauvinistic as Israel trying to register it as Israeli."
Following another debate with the neighbors on what goes under the name of Hummus in the Arab world, better known in Israel as Mummus, I came to spot here a tremendous opportunity for Israel to develop and modernize itself. Of course many Israelis would loath a possible WTO ruling obliging the Israelis to pack all of their Hummus and send it back to its rightful owner, the proud nation of Lebanon. Some people are sure to get so heart broken to the point of having heart attacks. But we should always try to see the full half of the glass.
First of all returning our Hummus...mmmm sorry ... returning our Mummus to Lebanon can be always used as an excuse for Israel to pay another visit to Lebanon, and this time not in order to destroy infrastructure or fight militants, but just to check how well what used to be our national food is doing. Second, claims to Mummus and Malamel may be soon followed by an attempt on the Arab side to get back those parts of the regional culture adopted by Israel. Personally I would be the most happy to see this country relieved of some of those musical genres that belong to what is collectively known under the name of "Zemer Mizrakhi". In particular, if the Turks and Greeks follow the suit, we may soon find our cities much quieter and radio waves cleansed of this noise.
There is no doubt that through its short history this country has accumulated more than enough authentic or locally reprocessed Levantine and Arab cultural ballast, possibly enough to produce another failed state, another Lebanon and even another Syria. The current campaign launched by the Arab world to reclaim part of its culinary and cultural heritage appropriated by the Jews should be welcomed and encouraged. Of course some people may take it harder than the rest, the music thing in particular, but then we can always calm them down by importing here a few BMWs.
In fact, in the best possible case the Arab world may go that far as to demand that, unless Israeli Arabs reject Israel and actively join the fight against Zionist entity, they can no longer practice any of the centuries old venerable traditions of the great Arab civilization. Forced marriages, honor killings, polygamy... All of this stuff can be just packed and sent back to the neighbors as part of the deal. Think about it and realize that Mummus is a very small price to pay for getting such favors.
From Israeli Hebrew Press (Undisclosed Military Sources)
The military force that Hamas disposes of in Gaza is currently about 7500 men. The force is divided into units trained for using different weapons and types of warfare. There are units of short range rockets, long range missiles, anti tank teams, sniper teams and so on. Basically it's Hezbollah. --> Full Post
The massive smuggling of weapons and ammunition across the border into Gaza is going on all the time inside underground tunnels. There are dozens of active tunnels but nobody knows for sure how many. The military sources report that during the last month 12 tunnels were uncovered just across one kilometer long stretch of the border near Dehanya . Nine of the tunnels were destroyed by the IDF and another three by Egyptians who uncovered entrances to the tunnels on their side. Inside some of the tunnels rails are used to run carts loaded with ammunition and explosives from the Egyptian side into Gaza. It's estimated that in one single day around 5 million tons of explosives can cross the border inside the tunnels.
Apparently Hamas is close to overcoming a major obstacle that until now prevented it from stockpiling significant quantities of Kassam rockets. The current explosives used to propel rockets used to deteriorate too quickly to make storing large quantities of Kassams possible.
Hamas is also developing a two-engined version of Kassam that should extend its current range by a few kilometers. Large quantities of short range 'Grad' Katyushas are smuggled in and stored all over Gaza together with other kinds of ammunition.
Palestinians are also smuggling into Gaza advanced anti tank rockets similar to those used by Hezbollah during the last war in Lebanon. There are also reports of attempts to manufacture inside Gaza short range missiles for use against armored vehicles used by the IDF infantry.
It appears that the funds allocated by Hamas to developing its military force are largely unaffected by the economic situation in Gaza and persist more or less at the same level.
At this rate, unless the supply of weapons is disrupted, the Hamas army would reach the ability to effectively engage IDF by the next summer when both numerically and technologically it would reach operational maturity.
Palestinians in Gaza are apparently disintegrating into their clan structures and avenging deaths of the militants who died in the last Fatah Hamas confrontation is now becoming a family issue.
People who were not paid for months no longer mind what is the difference between Hamas and Fatah. They will kill anybody to get their salaries back. If Gaza turns into mini Iraq, years may pass before it comes back. --> Full Post
Three conditions were set by the international community and Israel to resume aid and money transfers to the PA:
1) recognition of Israel 2) recognition of the previous agreements 3) stopping terror attacks
But the situation in Gaza is so bad that from the three conditions practically survived only the first and the second.
Apparently Europeans with their obsession with humanitarian issues would be satisfied with the first one alone, because they can no longer see pictures of the humanitarian disaster in Gaza. It would be enough for Hamas to recognize Israel and agree to talks to get the EU aid partially resumed.
Even if Hamas eventually accepts recognizing Israel, it would be worthless. Recognition extracted under such pressure is a joke and nobody should take it seriously. They will break their word at the moment they consider the right one to do it. That even a temporary retreat from their principles, as a short term tactical maneuver, is not an option for these people only reveals the depth of their fanatism.
These people are committed to the last letter of Koran. To keep their political platform in line with Sharia they are willing to risk anything from civil war to starving Gazans to death to the last person. If they can put their own people through that much suffering for the sake of Islam, we should have no illusions of what they are capable of doing to us. And if Hamas is a moderate version of the Islamic Jihad, then I am wondering who are the people who call themselves Islamic Jihad.
The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." (related by al-Bukhari and Moslem).
The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings and presidents, neither any organization nor all of them, be they Palestinian or Arab, possess the right to do that. Palestine is an Islamic Waqf land consecrated for Moslem generations until Judgement Day. This being so, who could claim to have the right to represent Moslem generations till Judgement Day?
This is the law governing the land of Palestine in the Islamic Sharia (law) and the same goes for any land the Moslems have conquered by force, because during the times of (Islamic) conquests, the Moslems consecrated these lands to Moslem generations till the Day of Judgement. --> Full Post
It happened like this: When the leaders of the Islamic armies conquered Syria and Iraq, they sent to the Caliph of the Moslems, Umar bin-el-Khatab, asking for his advice concerning the conquered land - whether they should divide it among the soldiers, or leave it for its owners, or what? After consultations and discussions between the Caliph of the Moslems, Omar bin-el-Khatab and companions of the Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, it was decided that the land should be left with its owners who could benefit by its fruit. As for the real ownership of the land and the land itself, it should be consecrated for Moslem generations till Judgement Day. Those who are on the land, are there only to benefit from its fruit. This Waqf remains as long as earth and heaven remain. Any procedure in contradiction to Islamic Sharia, where Palestine is concerned, is null and void.
"Verily, this is a certain truth. Wherefore praise the name of thy Lord, the great Allah." (The Inevitable - verse 95).
The Main Points:
Palestine belongs to the islamic umma. Its not a property of the palestinians themselves (??)
The land, captured by force under the khalifs, is not subject to negotiations or territorial compromises.
Previous agreements concerning Palestine (Oslo agreements) that stand in contradiction to sharia law are invalid.