10 August, 2006

True? False? Irrelevant?

"Once again, in the Arab world, the past buries the future."
-- Thomas Friedman in yesterday's NEW YORK TIMES.

(working link added 8:28 AM)


marwan said...

Would be nice if we could read the article.

I'm not a fan of Friedman, but he's right, about the Arab world constantly sheltering in the ghosts of the past and long forgotten glories. Every day they have a chance for peace and prosperity, if they only had the courage to seize it.

War is the easy answer.

Anonymous said...

August 9, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist
Buffett and Hezbollah

Warren Buffett. The most important thing you need to know about Israel today and how it has performed so far in the war with Hezbollah is Warren Buffett.

Say what? Well, the most talked-about story in Israel, before Hezbollah started this war, was the fact that on May 5, Mr. Buffett, the Berkshire Hathaway chairman and the world’s most successful investor, bought an 80 percent stake in the privately held Israeli precision tools company, Iscar Metalworking, for $4 billion — Mr. Buffett’s first purchase of a company outside America. According to BusinessWeek, as a result of the deal, Iscar’s owners were “likely to pay about $1 billion in capital gains taxes into the Israeli government’s coffers — an unexpected windfall. With the Israeli budget already running a $2 billion surplus, the government is considering slashing value-added tax by one percentage point to 15 percent.”

In May, Israeli papers were filled with pages about how cool it was that Israel had produced a cutting-edge company that Warren Buffett wanted to buy. It was being discussed everywhere, pushing the Tel Aviv stock exchange to an all-time high.

That is where Israel’s head was on the eve of this war — and it explains something I sensed when I visited Israel shortly after the fighting started. Nobody wanted this war, and nobody was prepared for it. Look closely at pictures of Israeli soldiers from Lebanon. There is no enthusiasm in their faces, and certainly no triumphalism. Their expressions tell the whole story: “I just don’t want to be doing this — another war with the Arabs.”

Israeli soldiers were napping when this war started — that’s why they got ambushed — for the very best reasons: They have so much more to do with their lives, and they live in a society that empowers and enables them to do it. (Unfortunately, the Buffett company is in northern Israel and had to be temporarily closed because of rocket attacks.)

Young Israelis dream of being inventors, and their role models are the Israeli innovators who made it to the Nasdaq. Hezbollah youth dream of being martyrs, and their role models are Islamic militants who made it to the Next World. Israel spent the last six years preparing for Warren Buffett, while Hezbollah spent the last six years preparing for this war.

“Israel was not prepared for this war,” said the Israeli political theorist Yaron Ezrahi. “It came upon us like the crash of a meteorite. ... The whole focus of debate in the country before this war was on withdrawal.” The Israeli Army had just taken on its own extremists, the settlers in Gaza, and removed them against their will, added Mr. Ezrahi, “and the country had just elected for the first time a prime minister who promised voters to unilaterally withdraw from the West Bank in return for nothing.”

In the end, Israel will do whatever it has to do to prevail. But what is so troubling for Israelis is that this war is about nothing and everything. That is, Israel got out of Lebanon, and yet Hezbollah keeps coming. It is all about Hezbollah’s need to justify its existence and Iran’s need for a distraction.

What is doubly sad is that Lebanon was getting its act together. Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister, represented a whole new type of Arab leader — one who rose to power by being a builder and an entrepreneur. He understood that Lebanon, freed of Syria, was a country whose youth had the energy and skill to compete anywhere. He thought Lebanon could again be a model of how Arabs can embrace modernity. But Mr. Hariri was murdered, allegedly by Syria, and now Lebanon’s democracy is being murdered by Hezbollah. Once again, in the Arab world, the past buries the future.

Israel mustn’t get sucked into that same grave. Israel needs to get a cease-fire and an international force into south Lebanon — and get out. Israel can’t defeat Hezbollah, it can only hurt it enough to make it think twice about ever doing this again — and it has pretty much done that. It must not destroy any more of Lebanon, which is going to still be its neighbor when the guns fall silent.

Israel wins when Warren Buffett’s company there is fully back in business — not when Nasrallah is out of business. Because that will only happen, not by war, but when Arabs wake up and realize that he is just another fraud, just another Nasser, whose strategy would condemn the flower of Arab youth — who deserve and need so much better — to another decade of making potato chips, not microchips. Nasrallah can win in the long run only if he can condemn the flower of Israel’s youth to the same fate. Don’t let it happen, Israel.

Anonymous said...

I could care less for Fiedman...especially after seeing him debate miserably in a roundtable a few months ago....after that he got all upset when he discovered that the hosts where not serving lunch....pretty much sums up what he is all about...

A better article if you have time to waste is this...atleast he is candid about his views:


bandicoot said...

Marwan – Perhaps some chances were lost, though I believe on closer scrutiny each one of them will show some fatal flaw (or only look good in hindsight). In my humble opinion the only fair, serious and COMPREHENSIVE peace plan that ever was offered and could’ve truly changed history was the
Arab Initiative of 2002; and
this is how Israel responded to it!!! Yes, it takes a lot of “courage” and “leadership” to do that!

bandicoot said...

It's quite humorous actually how Mr. Preaching Moustache Crocodile Tears Thomas the Friedman makes Israel looks like a lamb who was sleeping peacefully in the meadow with no care in the world until the wolves of Hizbollah and Iran and Syria started a war out of nowhere, and therefore they are to blame for everything. Well Mr. Friedman the facts are a bit more complicated. Of course Iran and Syria had their invested interests and agendas and overall play a destructive role; but how come you forgot that Israel never gave a damn about Lebanese sovereignty, never respected the Blue Line, was still keeping Lebanese prisoners, refused to hand in land mine maps to the Lebanese side, and was occupying Lebanese territory? Was this also part of the business plans and napping atmosphere in Israel? And I'm not even going to go into what Israel has been doing in the West Bank and Gaza for the past six years as Israeli youth dreamt only of making it big in nasadaq! Who are you kidding Mr. Friedman?

Anonymous said...

Maybe in all of our discussions, we are ignoring another pertinent matter:

Nasrallah--his motivations and objectives.

Takers, anyone?

marwan said...

Sharon's "response" was launched on Feb 28th. The peace plan, according to Wiki, was delivered on March 28th. What was Sharon responding to?

Also note that Hamas, according to Wiki, staged the Passover massacre to derail the nascent peace initiative.

With friends like that, who needs enemies?

If we go even further back to 2000, Arafat should never have walked out on Camp David. Not because the Israelis offered him a particularly good deal, but because he had a right to his people to stay and negotiate a final settlement, no matter how long it took. By walking out, he saved face and damned his people.

No peace plan is perfect and complete without compromise, but a peace - any kind of peace - must be a starting point. Let the guns fall silent and the negotiators become the stars.

bandicoot said...

Marwan – the second link I had in the comment refers to a massive earlier Israeli attack ordered by Sharon on 28 February 2002 against 2 refugee camps (Balata and Jenin) as part of his war against the second intifada. This obviously happened before the Beirut Summit where the Arab Peace Initiative was declared on 28 March. My mistake; what I was trtying to link to is Sharon’s decision to storm Arafat’s Compound in Ramallah (where he became a virtual prisoner), dismember the Palestinian Authority, and forcibly reoccupy the West Bank cities. This attack started on 29 March, the after the Arab Peace plan was published; hence my reference to Sharon’s response to Arab peace efforts. Clearly the Passover suicide bombing in Netanya may have hastened Sharon’s decision, but nobody seriously believes that Sharon would’ve accepted the plan. His overriding concern then was to shoot down whatever was left of the Oslo Accords (which he always strongly opposed) and defeat the uprising militarily. Remember that by then the intifada has been going on since September 2000 and the Palestinian had suffered more than one thousand killed and some 17,000 wounded.
As for Arafat’s missed chance, it wouldn’t be fair to say Arafat just walked out on the peace process. The fact is Camp David crumbled because Clinton tried to 1 100-yearold conflict tin 2 weeks and without showing Arafat acceptable proposals on Jerusalem and the refugees issue. Despite the bitter disappointment and recrimination both Palestinians and Israeli negotiators continued to meet and try and come up with a final comprehensive agreement, and by September 2000 they are very close and there is much optimism. Then Sharon makes his provocative visit Haram Al Sharif (aka Temple Mount); the visit sparks huge protests which Israeli army and police tries to quell using lethal force; more violence breaks out and basically the 2nd intifada arrives. The failed peace efforts and the violence caused Barak to lose the elections to Sharon in February 2001; and the rest is history! For more info, consult
this timeline.

marwan said...

The Passover suicide bombing would have enormously influential in public opinion, if not Sharon's planning. It's the equivalent of firing on civilians celebrating Eid.

Re: Arafat: The refugees and Jerusalem are too thorny an issue. There *has* to be some compromise from the Palestinian side, especially considering Jerusalem, the Holy site of Three major religions.

The Sharon visit was a smokescreen, and another example of losing the plot a bit. I'm not sure why Sharon visiting Temple Mount is really that big a deal - at the time, he was an elected official of Israel and had every right to do so, regardless of his dubious background. Palestinians (and Muslims, really) can't lay claim to that area, it's home to three major religions; so there has to be some sense of mutual understanding.

I personally think militants were impatient with the slow peace of peace and the failure of Camp David. That's the thing about negotiations though - they take years, but they *work* in the end. How did the Intifada solve anything? Thousands have died, for what?

There'll never be any negotiations as long as both sides keep firing each other. Right now, it's chicken and egg - "I'll stop if they do." No, that's not how it works - *You* have to stop, stop thinking that shooting guns will work. It hasn't worked for the most powerful country on Earth, and it hasn't worked for you.

Tim Newman said...

One of the reasons Israel won't budge on the Jeruslaem issue is because they know that under Muslim rule, Jews won't have access to the Wailing Wall. This has been the case in the past whenever Jerusalem has been under Muslim control.

Under Israeli control, Jerusalem remains accessible to Muslims, Jews and Christians; if Muslims could demonstrate that they will reciprocate, the Jerusalem problem will be a step closer to being solved.

Anonymous said...

I dont think a jew from the ukrine or russia has the right to decide who owns a land that has been kept in safe keeping for more than 14 centuries and accissible to all...

You historical information is just like a Mac Chicken...it not healthy, its not fancy and and its not chicken...it is just something that passes through your system while waiting for something else...

i, Bobo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
bandicoot said...

mawan _ I agree with the spirit of your comment, that shooting won't solve anything, that peace and negotiations are the only way, that mutual compromises are necessary, and that the intifada, especially this latest one only brought more misery to Palestinians and made a complicated situation much worse.

But I disagree with you on some facts and views. Palestinians were/are willing to be very flexible on the thorny issues of Jerusalem and refugees. Problem is Israel is not. So to say that Arafat (or any Palestinian leader for that matter) should just forget about this, is unthinkable; these are absolute national red lines. Even the proposed compromises about them will be very hard to accept in a real settlement.

It seems to me you underestimate the poignancy of these issues to the Palestinians. Palestinians are not asking for a full implementation of the right of return for refugees and are asking to share Jerusalem (either as divided or "united" as Israelis like to call it, though it's really divided); that's not too much to ask in the pursuit for peace, especially knowing that there will never be peace without a just resolution of these issues.

As for Sharon's visit, well, it was very provocative. He wasn't really visiting the Western Wall, but the actual grounds of the Haram Al Sahrif. The fact is the “Temple Mount” is no more, for 2000 years now, and the only real thing there is the Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock. Sharon and other Jewish fanatics who insist on visiting the place as if the temple is still there (or hoping to rebuild it) do that knowing full well it's an extreme act of provocation to Muslims feelings and sensitivities. And moreover Sharon did it “in style” so to speak, entering the compound with 1,000 policemen and security and with helicopters over head; it amounted to a reoccupation of the site; hence the outrage and protest from worshippers.

i, Bobo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
i, Bobo said...

Personally, I don't think either Israeli or Palestinian entities should control the city -- the whole question is too fraught with anger and a fundamental inability for either side to look past their own interests.

Is it naive to suggest that because the city is treasured by three of the world's religions it should be an open city? Perhaps it could be controlled by a panel of religious scholars?

marwan said...

As long as there are "red lines" there will be no peace. Nothing in life is non-negotiable.

Muslims chose to be offended by Sharon's visit. At the end of the day, all he did was walk through it. With a guard necessary for a head of state. That's all. People can choose to ignore that provocation, because the holy grounds are still standing and people can still visit them.

I'd agree with Bobo on an international city instead. Good luck getting that one through the Security Council, my cynical side adds.

Call me an apostate, though - I'm simply not attached to any piece of ground, no matter what's built on it or how Holy it's supposed to be. It's all just land, rocks and stones. I care more (if I ever do) about the people who walk on the land.

i, Bobo said...

To be honest -- it wasn't actually my idea. Tom Clancy came up with it in THE SUM OF ALL FEARS (the excellent book, not the crappy movie).

Anonymous said...

Jews were prohibited from visiting the Wailing Wall from 1948 to 1967. And Jews did worship there regularly prior to 1948. It's inflammatory to suggest that it's wrong for them to want to worship there, the equivalent of saying "it's just an old wall." It would be like saying that al-Ħajaru l-Aswad in the Kaba is "just an old stone." It's not, it's a holy thing. We should show respect to other people's holy things.

Anonymous said...

They were banned after raping an entire country and claiming it for themselves.

We shoud respect those massacred in Der Yassin and other places were the savage killing of arabs took place.

i, Bobo said...

Are you saying that it would be fair to prevent people of a specific faith from praying at a sight of religious significance just because it was controlled by another country?

I don't blame Muslims for 9/11. I blame the people who did it -- who coincidentally are Muslim. If I followed your logic, shouldn't I be mad at all Muslims because nineteen out of a billion killed my countrymen?

Not every Muslim is Osama Bin Ladin.

Not every every Jew is Ariel Sharon.

And I don't know if you've realized it yet, but not all Jews are Israelis. Or Zionists, for that matter.

bandicoot said...

marwan – once again, the "red line” so to speak are an absolute MINIMAL expectation; I don't know why don't you see the difference between claiming all of Palestine and all of Jerusalem and a full return of all Palestinian refugees to what is now Israel, which used to be the standard Palestinian demands; and on the other hand asking for a modest homeland in the West bank and Gaza (less than 20% of Palestine) and the Eastern Muslim/Christian part of Jerusalem (or alternatively SHARE the city with Israel as a unified city and capital for both states) and asking for a symbolic recognition of the right of return and a fair solution of the refugee problem (that would most likely include repatriation of these people to the West Bank and Gaza), which are the very bare minimal demands that as I said have already split the Palestinian people since the Arafat leadership made its strategic choice for peace with Israel, basically on this program. I can’t see the rationality or fairness of abandoning any claim over Jerusalem, a city that has been at the heart of Palestinian, Arab and Islamic history for the past 1400 years!

And, no, Sharon has no right to be there, except perhaps the right that comes from sheer might and ability to force yourself on other people and their most sacred symbols. It’s not unusual for extremist Jewish groups to openly call for the destruction of the Aqsa mosque and the rebuilding of the Temple; some even have maps and picture of Jerusalem that show the Temple in the place of the Aqsa; so it’s exactly the free-thinking and religiously tolerant atmosphere where you could stand by and not think much about such visit. It's quite naive to assume Sharon was just visiting in good faith and that Muslims in the city can just lay back and "choose not to be provoked"; Come on!!! I don't imagine even Jesus Christ is capable of such magnanimity and love to a sworn extremist, cruel enemy and illustrious war criminal.

The issue is not about a mundane religious site or just a pile of rocks and stones,; the compound has become a quintessential national symbol for Palestinians, not to mention its central significance in the Islamic doctrine, spirituality and worldview. In the wake of 1967 and Israel's illegal decision to annex the city and make it its capital, Israel has systematically besieged the Arab population of the city, changed the demographic facts, confiscated Arab land, and exerted every effort o make the city more Jewish and less Arab. You can't expect Palestinians in such atmosphere to act like what you say they should do (or what you'd do); maybe some individuals can, but a whole population? Again they will be provoked; it’s not much a matter choice really. I don't think Israeli policies in the city (and towards Palestinians in general) have left the people the luxury of too many choices.

Hesham, anonymous and others - It was absolutely wrong fro Jordan to deny Jews access to the Western Wall between the time it controlled that part of the city; there is just no justification for this and even given the war atmosphere and what happened to Palestine (including the fact that Israel denied 750,000 Palestinians to return to their cities and villages); wrongs cannot be justified by other wrongs. this should never have happened. Similarly, it should be noted that Israel has now been engaged in practices that infringe on religious freedom of Muslims by regularly denying access to tens of thousands of Palestinians to Jerusalem And to Haram Al Sharif. The "security" reasons given have become a meaningless blanket ban on certain age groups and many Palestinians from outside the city and serve as a smoke screen to humiliate people, empty Jerusalem from its Arab inhabitants and cut it off from the West Bank. It's ironic, but it's true, as nobody can claim with a straight face that Israel today grants Muslims full access to the Haram Al Sharif; not unlike like many other aspects of this struggle, yesterday’s victims are today’s oppressors.

marwan said...

Here's my bottom line:
Palestinians can't lay exclusive claim on Jerusalem. Too many fingers in that pie. The best thing, I reckon, is to take it away from everyone, or make it independent, Vatican-style. No one, Muslim, Jew or Christian should be in charge of it.

The Israeli haven't yet demolished the Mosque. In the meantime, Sharon has every right to visit, like every citizen of Israel (or Palestine), regardless of their views. I wouldn't want you - or anyone else - to decide if I should have that right. I don't care if Sharon went there to sing showtunes - it doesn't change anything . Sharon is not the personification of evil: he is an man, a man who made many decisions costing the lives of innocent people. Demonising him gives him a level of infamy he doesn't deserve.

As long as it's easy to provoke the Palestinians, the Israelis will continue to do so, crush them and come out smelling like roses. National symbols mean nothing when you have no means to defend them or protect them.
So good luck with your war, and may the better fool win.

bandicoot said...

And this is my bottom line:
I haven't said in any if my comments that Palestinians have an exclusive claim to Jerusalem; I talked about sharing or dividing the city; so I'm not sure where this reference to the exclusive claim has come from?

Internationalizin Jerusalem or something similar (as the original UN 1947 partition plan envisioned) is fine with me and I imagine with most Palestinians; but go tell that to the Israelis and see what they say! (The official line is that “Jerusalem is the eternal and undivided capital of Israel”!)

Sharon (and others like him) may earn a right to visit the Aqsa compound (regardless of their motives) when Palestinians are given the right to visit the places they like in Jerusalem and Palestine/Israel. Every Friday, thousands of Palestinians are denied the right of praying there; and Arafat died without ever being granted a permission to visit Jerusalem (nor to be buried in it). Rights and equality go both ways.

If a national community is weak or is facing a mighty enemy, it doesn't mean their national symbols become meaningless and they should just lift their legs and give up. Imagine what kind of world you'll have if this was the case!!! Palestinians have defended their symbols and land and dreams and rights and future with the very little they have, but mostly by not giving up, by surviving all the difficulties, and by drawing attention to the humanity and justice of their cause.

Finally, I'm not asking for war or promoting war; on the contrary there is nothing I'd like to see more than a resumption of the negotiations between the two sides and a genuine and lasting peace in Israel/Palestine. All I'm saying is that people can be squeezed so much but then it's either a complete surrender or a struggle to protect the bare essentials of their national survival. Palestinians are defending their very existence as a nation and a homeland; they're not asking for too much; Israel needs to recognize that and open a new chapter; otherwise it's only more wars and death and suffering.

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