Blogs > HNN > The Middle East Presents Obama with a Host of Problems, and Few Palatable Solutions

Nov 9, 2008 11:10 pm


The Middle East Presents Obama with a Host of Problems, and Few Palatable Solutions



“Congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations!”

“Hope things will get better for U in z US....”

“I'm so happy!”

These are just a few of the comments I've received from friends and colleagues in the Muslim world, most of whom seemed to be more excited about Barack Obama winning the presidency than am I.

Who can blame them? The Bush Administration has so badly mismanaged relations with the Arab and larger Muslim world that any change in American leadership would be an improvement.

But most of my Middle Eastern friends also understand that Obama's election will not automatically lead to substantive changes in American foreign policy. A well known Egyptian blogger skyped me: “I remain cynical about Obama, but I'm no longer cynical about Americans.”

To overcome this cynicism Obama will have to pursue policies that diverge significantly from those he espoused during the campaign, focusing on five areas:

First, in Iraq, contrary to what most Americans have assumed, Obama has not called for the withdrawal of all American forces from Iraq. Rather, he has called for the more limited withdrawal of combat troops, a policy that ultimately differs little from those advocated by President Bush and Senator McCain. All would leave tens of thousands of American soldiers permanently stationed in Iraq, much as they are in Germany, Qatar or South Korea.

Such a normalization of the occupation is morally and politically unacceptable to most of the world, including most Iraqis and a large percentage of the American public, all of whom expect American forces to withdraw fully from Iraq in a timely manner.

In approaching America's future in Iraq, President Obama will have to choose between two problematic options: He can follow in the footsteps of President Bush and negotiate an agreement for permanent US bases, or he can declare his intention to implement a full troop withdrawal. The former will be seen across the world (especially in the Muslim world) as a violation of the spirit of his campaign pledges and a sign of continuity with the policies of his unpopular predecessor. The latter would likely initiate a conflict with senior American military leaders (and their corporate allies who've made hundreds of billions of dollars off the Iraq war) that will make Clinton's struggles with gays in the military during his first year in office pale in comparison.

Obama's second big quandary surrounds US policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Professor Obama might have befriended a Palestinian academic or two, but during his candidacy Senator Obama demonstrated little of the political vision or will necessary to revivify a comatose peace process. An aggressive negotiating agenda is needed, one which couples pressure on Hamas to renounce violence with equal pressure on Israel to withdraw from most settlements, accept East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, and allow the return to Israel of a small but significant number of Palestinian refugees.

It's hard to imagine Obama beginning his presidency by pressuring Israel to make concessions that most of his own advisers, not to mention most members of the Congress, don't support. The task will become more difficult if the right wing Likud Party, and its leader Benjamin Netanyahu, win the upcoming elections.

Even if Obama were inclined to push Israel to withdraw most settlers or share Jerusalem, his choice for Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, will make it difficult for him to act on his inclinations. Emanuel comes from a right-wing Israeli family; his father was a member of the pre-1948 Jewish terrorist group Etzel. What's more, he served briefly as a civilian volunteer in the IDF, and is known on Capital Hill as a chief enforcer of the views of the the Israel lobby.

It is hard to imagine Rahm Emanuel advising the new President to put as much pressure on Israel as on Hamas. But without such an even-handed policy the peace process, or what's left of it, is doomed.

Obama is therefore faced with a second difficult choice: If he won't pressure Israel to make the necessary concessions to enable the creation of a viable Palestinian state, he will eventually have to acknowledge that the Oslo peace process is dead, and with it the two-state solution. The only option left will be to call on both sides to begin the painful yet inevitable task of imagining a post-Oslo political framework—essentially, some sort of binational state.

There is no third way. Continuing with the status quo is both morally and strategically untenable, even if it remains politically expedient for the time being.

Afghanistan presents the third policy quandary for Obama. During the campaign then Senator Obama differentiated himself from John McCain by declaring his intention to shift the focus of US military action from Iraq to Afghanistan. The problem with this seemingly sensible change in priority is that without a fundamental reorientation of America's goals in the war on terror, no amount of extra troops or strategic attention will succeed in securing the country.

Americans—and most Muslims for that matter—are likely appalled at the Taliban's actions and beliefs. But these sentiments do nothing to change the situation on the ground. The reality is that the US cannot defeat the Taliban military, as the latter is a deeply rooted socio-political movement that thrives precisely on the sort of violence Obama wants to unleash more of across Afghanistan.

To have a chance at securing Afghanistan Obama must separate the Taliban from al-Qa'eda (as much in the minds of US policy-makers and war planners as on the ground). But to sever the Taliban from al-Qa'eda Obama must first accept that the larger policy governing the war on terror—specifically, that it should be conceived of as a war and fought as such—is fundamentally flawed.

Put simply, Obama must end the “war on terror.” He must accept that American military action in the Muslim world can no longer be conceptualized and prosecuted as a global conflict against an ill-defined “enemy,” in which the United States arrogates to itself the right to invade countries at will, and kidnap, kill and torture people based merely on their religion and the suspicion that they have attacked or might attack the United States.

Instead, the conflict must be redefined as what it should have always been: a criminal investigation whose goal is to capture and try people directly responsible for the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and other violence against American civilians.

At the same time the US focuses on a more manageable and legitimate set of military targets, the Obama Administration will need to broaden American policy options regarding how to address the endemic poverty that has helped the Taliban win the allegiance of so many Afghans. The most important step here would be for the US must end its policy of destroying Afghanistan's only profitable export, opium. Instead, in collaboration with various governments and the United Nations, a system must be established to purchase, each year, the country's opium crop. Profits from the sale can be administered through an international trust in order to benefit farmers rather than warlords, while the opium will help alleviate global shortages of medical opiates.

Coupled with a more focused military campaign and the inclusion of the Taliban in discussions over the country's future, such support for poor Afghan farmers just might stem the tide towards extremism and violence. But none of this will happen unless Obama is willing to challenge the Bush Administration's—and America's—vision of the United States as engaged in an all-out war with Islamic extremism in which victory can be secured, ironically, only by the sword.

Obama's fourth major challenge concerns Iran's quest for nuclear weapons. It is here that his focus on diplomacy and engagement has the given people the most hope; but the reality is that no amount of talking will convince Iran to give up on its quest unless Americans can offer a quid pro quo of equal value to Iran's giving up a strategic asset as valuable as nuclear weapons.

The quid pro quo is clearly Israel's nuclear weapons.

Any suggestion that Israel give up its nuclear arsenal in return for hard to verify pledges by Iran not to develop its own nuclear capabilities are nonsensical. However, there is a compromise that could give all sides something valuable in return for making major strategic concessions.

Such a compromise would involve Israel's joining NATO, after which it would turn its nuclear weapons over to NATO control. In return, Israel would be placed under the alliance's nuclear umbrella, meaning that any attack on the country would be responded to in kind by NATO. This would ensure that Israel maintains its deterrence capability; indeed, it would increase its overall security by preempting a conventional invasion as well.

Such an action would also provide the Iranian regime with the kind of political “victory” that would allow it to relinquish its own nuclear ambitions and submit to a robust and permanent inspection regime. And this process could also lead to a comprehensive agreement to ensure that the Middle East remains a nuclear free zone.

Americans might be loathe to hand any sort of victory to Tehran. But the essence of a successful negotiation is that each sides gets something of similar value to what is giving up. And the alternatives to forging an Israeli-Iranian quid pro quo are either a military assault on a well-trained, heavily armed and extremely motivated Iranian military, or the equally unpalatable choice of learning to live with a nuclear-armed Iran.

Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Afghanistan and Iran confront President-elect Obama with well-entrenched problems, none of which can be solved militarily, and all of which involve diplomatic solutions that will be nearly impossible to pursue under the current political circumstances. On top of this, President Bush's democracy agenda lies in a shambles, as governments across the region—outside of the smaller Persian Gulf states—have spent the last eight years increasing their authoritarian capabilities rather than encouraging real democratic openings. Without democracy there is little chance for peace or development in the Arab and larger Muslim world, but it's hard to imagine the United States supporting democracy when any representative political system would oppose most of the policies Obama could pursue upon taking office.

In the Middle East, as in the United States, Obama will certainly have his work cut out for him on January 20, 2009.




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art eckstein - 11/23/2008

Readers, what happened to the Palestinians may have been tragic but it was not unique. The multiple examples adduced (not for the first time) by Friedman and myself show this.

The Palestinian response, on the other hand--the death-culture--has been unique, and that is why they are where they still are today.

Omar, when confronted with the many parallel tragedies adduced by myself and Friedman, has himself has admitted that the Palestinian response is unique, has admitted that the Palestinian response is unique (i.e., NOT inherent and natural in the situation per se), and that it was and is culturally determined by specific Palestinian culture. In his view this is Palestinians being "more noble" than other victims. That is what he wrote two years ago.

Others will have a different view of what is it among the Palestinians and their culture that caused such a unique response.

And here one can say the following: Part of the reason for the rise of the Palestinians' death-cult response to the Nakba was people like Omar himself. They have historically suppressed and they continue to suppress by threats any attempt at a compromise. The Husseinis started this technique in the 1920s--and of course this led to Amir al-Husseini being a collaborator and protege of the genocidal Hitler (and still popular now among many Palestinians, as the genocidal Hitler himself is).

Omar gleefully continues the destructive process now, when he talks gleefully about the minority of Palestinian "defeatists" who dare not raise their voices in public. Then he ascribes the result of such (now-traditional) terrorism vs. moderates to the "nobility" of Palestinian culture in general.

Q.E.D.


omar ibrahim baker - 11/23/2008

For fear that the subject would be high jacked by the BS of the multi awarded Professor I call upon Mr Friedman, be he multi awarded or not , to answer this question:
-Should I respond to your query, as you request, re the Lebanon analogy that you draw; will you discuss:
a- “negation of basic human rights can be a foundation of a durable
"peace"" as you, Mr Friedman, allege and defend.
b-" a durable "peace" can be attained WITHOUT a historical reconciliation" as you also allege and defend.
Hoping that the multi awarded professor will NOT butt in with more of his customary BS I await Mr Friedman’s reply!


art eckstein - 11/23/2008

In other words, Omar has no reply to the facts, the historical examples, which Friedman and I presented above.

Actually, Omar already has explained his position here, about 2 years ago: it is that all these other victims who have adjusted peaceably to the terrible traumas they have suffered are "less noble" than the Palestinians.

But THAT means, in turn, that what has occurred and is occurring between the Palestinians and Israelis is not--repeat--NOT some sort of "natural response" to anything (since others don't engage in the kind of vile acts that Palestinians do) but rather is a Palestinian CULTURAL CHOICE unique to them.

Of course, for Omar, that "noble" Palestinian cultural choice translates as intentionally blowing up women and children in buses, etc.--whom he has indicated he considers legitimate targets because they are only "civilians" in scare-quotes. He can't escape what he wrote earlier this summer.

Two years ago Omar's statement here had the virtue of for once being honest about what is going on: others are "less noble" than the Palestinians. But he often forgets what he himself says.

And so on this thread he has reverted once more to the ahistorical position that "you NEVER get a durable peace unless the victims of population exchanges get justice on THEIR terms". (I emphasize exchanges because more Jews were displaced from the Middle East after 1948 than were Palestinians, via the actions of Arab governments.)

Friedman and I have presented numerous examples where large groups of people who were displaced did not get justice on their terms, did not (and cannot) return to old homes, and yet a durable peace has resulted. Repeat: a durable peace has nevertheless resulted.

Given these numerous other examples, the conclusion is that it's not the Israeli acts but the specific Palestinian death-culture that continues the trauma in the Middle East.


omar ibrahim baker - 11/23/2008

Gratitude is due to the multiawarded Professor for butting only at the END with a reiteration of his well stocked legacy of BS, to borrow a term from Friedman.
Seldom was he worthy of a reply and here , more than ever, he is certaily unworthy of a reply!


art eckstein - 11/22/2008

Can we really be sure that Omar is not a MOSSAD agent cleverly blogging here to make Palestinian radicals look like idiots? He certainly does not know how to debate.

As for forcible expulsions of populations not being the basis of a durable peace--the principle enunciated by Omar-- Friedman notes what happened to the Sudeten Germans, which has led to a durable peace in the Czech Repubic. But one can go further:

The same is true of the "Polish" Germans: millions fled or were expelled in 1945; a durable peace resulted.

Again, the Greeks of Asia Minor: millions fled or were expelled by the Turks in 1922, and another half-million in northern Turdkey in the mid-1950s, in a classic ethnic and religious cleansing. A durable peace resulted,

Again, the Greeks of Egypt (expelled in the 1950s in a classic ethnic and religious cleansing by Nasser). No war between Greece and Egypt.

Again, 300,000 Palestinians expelled from Kuwait in 1991, because of their collaboration with the Saddam aggression. No complaints at the UN and no war.

Conclusion: what is going on between Palestine and Israel is NOT a "natural response" to the Nakhba. Plenty of people have suffered on a scale of numbers what the Palestinians have--and have suffered far worse than the Palestinians have, too (2 million Germans died in the expulsions of 1945, and a million German women were raped; I know the descendant of one of them.).

Rather, this current conflict, far from being "natural", is a ginned up fanaticism that has prevented a sensible compromise solution for 60 years--ginned up by destructive people such as Omar (assuming he is what he says he is, and not an Israeli sock-puppet).


N. Friedman - 11/22/2008

Omar,

This conversation is over, since you refused to address any of my points.


omar ibrahim baker - 11/22/2008

Mr Friedman
I would rather we discuss your approach to "peace" as in your earlier post :
"Nevertheless your approach to “peace” as laid out in your post # 129 151 is worthy of consideration.
It is fundamentally based on two premises:
1-That a durable “peace” can be attained through ” a total negation of basic human rights.”
AND
2-It could be achieved without a “historical reconciliation.”
We reject both contentions.
Observance of basic inalienable human rights, such as the Right of Return of the Palestinian refugees to their homeland, is that aspect of human life which distinguishes it from the animal world and which, by failing to reward aggression and plunder , prevents its recurrence.
Prevention of the recurrence of aggression and plunder IS THE foundation of a durable peace.
The absence of “a historical reconciliation” can be the basis of a “peace” in only ONE case which is the total, substantial , absence, disappearance, practical dissolution/vanishing from real life, of one party of the conflict which prevents its recurrence as with the Red Indians of the USA or of the aborigines of Australia.
Obviously that IS NOT the case with us.
If anything at all our cause has spread to mobilize, on top of the Arab world, the Islamic world.
It is NO LONGER the Palestinians alone versus the combined effort of international Jewry, the Zionist movement and the imperialist powers of the West.
You should, in view of what is going around us all, see the utter idiocy of contemplating a “peace” without “a historical reconciliation” that you espouse.
To give priority to such relatively secondary factors as the “inconvenience” of colonists/settlers if requested to move or potential internal strife that could, with good will, be contained OVER “observance and respect of basic human rights” and a “Historical reconciliation” Is not only idiotically short sighted but is a new declaration of principles and intentions of more aggression and plunder in the same Zionist tradition. "


N. Friedman - 11/21/2008

Omar,

Again, a lot of people have been killed in the fight between the Israelis and the Palestinian Arabs. You focus on one person, who played a minor role at one point. He should not have been killed, if that is what you are looking for me to say. That, however, is what happens in war.

Again, your assertion that Palestinian Arabs have a special, inalienable right is nice but does nothing to settle the dispute. Placing two groups together to fight with each other will do nothing to end the war. It will, as in Lebanon, kill lots of people.

As I said, there was no reconciliation for the Sudetenland Germans, yet there is peace in Europe. How can that be, if your thesis that there is no peace without reconciliation, is correct?

Answer my question or this conversation is over.


omar ibrahim baker - 11/21/2008

Mr Friedman
Your reassertion that the assassination of UN envoy Count Folke Bernadotte by the Zionists LEHI, of Israeli ex Prime Minister Itzhak Shamir, has nothing to do with "making peace" nor with the
Repatriation of Palestinian refugees is belied by uncontestable historical facts.
Your reluctance to discuss it, or comment on it, as a fact and as a clear PUBLIC DECLARATION of PRINCIPLES of the Zionist movement/Israel betrays your and yours total self inflicted blindness and self centered obsession which laid the foundation of modern Zionism that was/is based on such absurd and blatantly false declarations as " a land with NO people for a people with NO land."

NOW that the utter falsehood of this, and other, Zionist pretensions, including land ownership in Palestine, is laid bare for all to see you shift gears and pretend to be concerned about "peace".
Your real concern however is "how to retain the lands colonized by the Zionist movement that came to be Israel after dislocating and dispossessing its indigenous population: the Palestinian people."
That , as such, is NOT my main concern!
That the whole edifice was built on falsehoods and fabrications, initiated and maintained through aggression and plunder does NOT seem to bother you.
It DOES bother us a great deal and as such, retaining usurped land, it can never be the foundation of a “peace” that provides a better life for ALL.
Nevertheless your approach to “peace” as laid out in your post # 129 151 is worthy of consideration.
It is fundamentally based on two premises:
1-That a durable “peace” can be attained through ” a total negation of basic human rights.”
AND
2-It could be achieved without a “historical reconciliation.”
We reject both contentions.
Observance of basic inalienable human rights, such as the Right of Return of the Palestinian refugees to their homeland, is that aspect of human life which distinguishes it from the animal world and which by failing to reward aggression and plunder , prevents its recurrence.
Prevention of the recurrence of aggression and plunder IS THE foundation of a durable peace.
The absence of “a historical reconciliation” can be the basis of a “peace” in only ONE case which is the total, substantial , absence, disappearance, practical dissolution/vanishing from real life, of one party of the conflict which prevents its recurrence as with the Red Indians of the USA or of the aborigines of Australia.
Obviously that IS NOT the case with us.
If anything at all our cause has spread to mobilize, on top of the Arab world, the Islamic world.
It is NO LONGER the Palestinians alone versus the combined effort of international Jewry, the Zionist movement and the imperialist powers of the West.
You should, in view of what is going around us all, see the utter idiocy of contemplating a “peace” without “a historical reconciliation” that you espouse.
To give priority to such relatively secondary factors as the “inconvenience” of colonists/settlers if requested to move or potential internal strife that could, with good will, be contained OVER “observance and respect of basic human rights” and a “Historical reconciliation” Is not only idiotically short sighted but is a new declaration of principles and intentions of more aggression and plunder in the same Zionist tradition.


N. Friedman - 11/20/2008

CORRECTION:

I wrote UN 184 when I meant UN 194.


N. Friedman - 11/20/2008

Omar,

It is so hard to debate with a person who has no even remote intimate knowledge of the facts. I repeat: Count Bernadotte has nothing to do with the resolution of the dispute that exists - i.e, neither with UN 184 or UN 242. He was not alive when either resolution was passed and,in fact, was killed before the war ended. His proposal was superseded by the UN and you do not even have his proposal correct, in any event.

According to you: To claim that the assassination, by Zionist/Israeli assassins, of a UN envoy entrusted with the mission to implement the UNGA resolution re the Right of Return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland "has nothing to do with making peace" is absurd to the point of disclosing bottomless ignorance and/or arrogance.

In fact, his proposal called for the Arab side to make peace with and accept Israel, not for Israel merely to take back those made refugees. Moreover, his proposal required the Arab side to take in Jewish refugees who lost their homes in the fighting, something the Arab side also rejected. Which is to say, you have so changed his proposal so as to make it be unrelated to reality.

Returning to reality, how about answering my concern about resolving the dispute instead of spewing idiocy, since that is the gist of what your entire post amount? I suggest you respond to my point that your proposal would be cruel to both Arabs and Jews because it would recreate a new Lebanon - with even more difficult problems to resolve than those in Lebanon. In other words, stop wasting time and stop treating your readers as if they were idiots.


omar ibrahim baker - 11/20/2008

Mr Friedman
I will go first to your post #129 141 in which you state:"I have not mentioned events regarding Count Bernadotte because it has nothing to do with making peace. "
To claim that the assassination, by Zionist/Israeli assassins, of a UN envoy entrusted with the mission to implement the UNGA resolution re the Right of Return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland "has nothing to do with making peace" is absurd to the point of disclosing bottomless ignorance and/or arrogance.
That act was a very clear unambiguous declaration of several major Zionist/Israeli intentions and premises. These are; inter alia:
1- Israel shall maintain and continue the ethnic cleansing of Palestine of its indigenous population by disbarring any Palestinian from returning to his home land.
2-Israel shall pursue it policy of terror , violence and whole sale massacres of non combatant civilians which encompassed ,as an example, the Deir Yassin massacre which included the cold blooded murder of men and women of all ages, children and the disemboweling of pregnant women by what was to become its army.
3-Israel will never entertain any notions or ideas that could lead to a peaceful settlement such as withdrawing from lands it occupied beyond its Partition of Palestine allocation or allowing the Return of Palestinian Refugees to their homes and homeland.
4- Israel will pursue the conquest of ALL of historical Palestine irrespective of what the international community, whose representative and envoy it assassinated in cold blood, desires or wants.

The assassination of Lord Folke Bernadotte, a UN envoy/mediator and his French second in a command was as clear a Declaration of Policies and intentions of the nascent state, Israel, as could be.
WE received , read and understood the message....if you fail to see that then it is a question of your incomprehension of the world of real politik!
Should you appraise objectively Israel’s policies from that stage to this very day will find out that it is the very same policies as declared by the assassination of Lord Bernadotte!


N. Friedman - 11/19/2008

Omar,

You write: "The negation of a basic human right can not be the foudation of a durable peace. ..."

1. The right of the Sudetenland Germans to return to their homes was negated and is still negated. Yet, there has been an enduring peace and, in fact, the negation of that right was an important component in making that peace into an enduring reality. Hence, your theory is ad hoc and, to me, merely states your preference for resolving the dispute.

2. Palestinian Arabs ought be free to return to land that will be ceded by Israel, i.e., a Palestine state alongside Israel, but not to the land which would remain Israeli. Hence, there would be no negation of the alleged right you claim because Palestinian Arabs will, in fact, be able to return to a Palestinian state.

3. I do not believe there is a reconciliation in the cards and working for it is not only dystopian but likely to get large numbers of people needlessly killed. The Lebanese tried your idea. 200,000 deaths later, they still have no reconciliation. Why do you think that Palestinian Arabs and Jews, who have even less in common - politically or culturally - than do Maronites, Sunnis, Shi'a and Druze in Lebanon, will do better? I think it would be a recipe for death on an unimaginable scale. I think that anyone who pushes for that idea is either ignorant or hates both the Palestinian Arabs and the Israelis. It shocks me that you fail to understand that most basic point. Or, perhaps, you do understand it and just think that violence is a good thing.

Rather than a reconciliation, I suggest that the proposal made by the world community and supposedly accepted by the Palestinian Arabs, as stated by Mr. Arafat, be the basis for peace - i.e. a two state solution. In that way, both sides have their interests resolved in part and can live normal lives. That is how one solves problems.


omar ibrahim baker - 11/19/2008

The Right of the Palestinian refugees to RETURN to their HOMELAND is a question of inalienable ,basic,human RIGHTS and NOT not a question of "special rights" as you allege.
It is an unarguable and indisputable basc human right as confirmed by the
"Convention relating to the Status of Refugees "
(it is on the web.)
The implementation of this Right of Return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland is the only feasible means to achieve a historical reconciliation between the Palestinians,the Arabs and Moslems and "Israeli" Jews.
Such a reconciliation would be the only durable foundation of peace.

The negation of a basic human right can not be the foudation of a durable peace.
The key words here are
"historical recociliation" in which neither party would hold a historical grudge against the other.
"Peace" as in a peace agreement can be only transitory and tactical as was Versaille until.....
I urge you, if you are really interested in peace, to consider the fundamental difference between :
A-a "peace agreement" achieved with one party a clear victor imposing its terms and the other submitting to those terms in defeat and humiliation AND
B-a historical reconciliation in which both parties feel that their basic aspirations were met.

Failure to see the fundamental difference and the historical outcome of either alternative would only lead to more, but much more ruinous, of the same for generations to come.


N. Friedman - 11/19/2008

Omar,

I have not mentioned events regarding Count Bernadotte because it has nothing to do with making peace.

In the end, we have people who lost their homes. The question is what to do about them. So far as I can tell, there is no reason that they ought not be settled in a future Palestinian Arab state that is formed next to Israel and/or in Lebanon and/or in Syrian and/or in Jordan. Thus far, it is only the belief that Palestinian Arabs have special rights.

As for the refugees being consulted, their representatives did speak at the time and rejected UN 194. They did so because they rejected Israel.


omar ibrahim baker - 11/19/2008

Mr Friedman
Israel's, and your, logic is truly worthy of follow up and consideration as typical of the way to procrastinate until an issue is hopefully "DEAD".
(The Palestinian issue is NOT dead I assure you.)
It,your logic, is above in full view for all to see and consider:
1-For one thing you state that "it was rejected by all Arab states"; you fail to note that the party primarily concerned, the Palestinian refugees themselves, were never consulted.
Which is a continuation of the old Zionist/Imperialist practice of denying the Palestinians their RIGHT to SELF DETERMINATION adopted and pursued throughout by the Zionist movement and the imperialist powers which led to the colonization of Palestine and the subsequent establishment of Israel in their homeland.

2-You allow yourself to speak for the Refugees by claiming that they rejected to "live in peace" with Israel.
Were they ever consulted, through a plebiscite or similar, for you to claim that?

3-Had that resolution ,of allowing Palestinian refugees to RETURN to their HOMELAND been implemented when it was called on Israel to implement it, as it should have been, all refugees would have been refugees regardless of age.
Or do you propose that that resolution excluded, precluded, Palestinian infants born in their Diaspora from returning with their parents?

4-Your logic (? )and legal(? ) approach, FOR you a lawyer !, implies that :it is legitimate to delay the implementation of returning a stolen car to its legitimate owner until its owner is dead; then you claim there is nobody to return the stolen car to so the thief can keep it.

5-You fail to note the obvious: that because Israel refused to implement the Right of Return, and the Partition of Palestine , resolutions ALL Palestinians became adamant enemies of Israel.
Is that NOT the only too human reaction of a wronged party?
Does it surprise you that when a court order is ignored the aggrieved party will take matters into his own hands?

6-I, and all interested readers of this forum, do note your total failure to comment on or refer to the ASSASINATION of Lord Bernadotte by the Israelis.
BUT THAT SUMS UP the WHOLE issue: THAT the Zionist colonization of Palestine that led to the establishment of Israel on it, after dislocating and dispossessing its indigenous population, was the outcome of a succession of criminal acts of aggression and terror that never had anything to do with or are related to inalienable human rights, legality and/or ethics.

It was an act of armed robbery that ,only fittingly, included the ASSASINATION of an international mediator : Lord Bernadotte.

That much we know, and the world is progressively coming to realize, is the reality of Israel.

If you believe that that could, or ever would, lead to "peace" then allow me to disillusion you.
IT will NEVER lead to "peace " which is, according to you and yours, total submission and surrender.

IF anything it, your quest, is leading to progressive regional rejection of Israel; a subject I have earlier urged you to consider.
Your failure to comment on that, despite the "peace" label of your contribution, shows that a Zionist Israel is NOT ,nor will ever be, interested in a real "peace".

Israel wants total submission and regional domination; that , I promise you, it will NEVER obtain!


N. Friedman - 11/18/2008

Omar,

The UN General Assembly resolution - No. 194 -, of which you refer, was (a) rejected by every single Arab country and (b) does not require Israel to take in any refugees. Instead, it suggests that those refugees - not their children and not their grandchildren - willing to live at peace with their neighbors should be allowed to return to their homes but that those who do not wish to return on such terms be paid compensation. The Israelis have offered compensation, noting the obvious - the point you raise repeatedly, that there is no desire to live at peace with the Israelis in a Jewish state.

By the way, the stated reason why the Arab states rejected the resolution was that it required that Israel be recognized. Such was stated repeatedly on the floor of the UN. Which is to say, the Arab states formally recognized their unwillingness for the refugees to live at peace with the Israelis.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, the noted UN General Assembly resolution was effectively superseded by UN Security Council 242, which has its own provision for dealing with refugees and which does not call for Israel or any other country to take any refugees in. Instead, it calls for all of the states involved to negotiate and resolve the issues associated with the refugees.

Again, the Arab states refused to recognize what the UN had proposed, although, more recently, there appears to be a change of heart, or perhaps of rhetoric.

Are you ready to recognize Israel?


omar ibrahim baker - 11/18/2008

Mr Friedman
I may have been imprecise in my words; now that I look back at our "dialogue".
Nevertheless the India /Pakistan partition was agreed by the main parties to it.
I do NOT know, however, whether Hindus or Moslems refugees were allowed or NOT allowed to go back to their birthrights and homes if they so desired.

I certainly know, however, of a UNGA resolution requesting Israel to allow ALL Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland and homes if they so desire.
IT is our desire and WILL to go back to our homeland with our children and their children!.

I do, also, know that Israel's admission into the UN was CONDITIONAL on its implementation of that Right of Return of Palestinian refugees resolution.
(Lord Folke Bernadotte of Sweden was entrusted with the mission to observe Israel's compliance with that resolution .Israel's response, as you must know and as expected, was to ASSASINATE him and his French deputy .)

Be that as it may I find it extremely absurd and totally immoral,illegal and unacceptable for any one to argue about or dispute any one's right to RETURN to his HOMELAND; no matter why or how he left it in the first place.

To dispute that right of RETURN to one's HOMELAND is akin, to us, to disputing one's right ( I call it one’s duty) to love, cherish and defend his homeland, his heritage and his culture or to love,cherish and defend one’s parents, wife and offspring.
If you find that it is right to dispute these inalienable rights and human basic attachments and disposition, then that is your lot and your family's, and your present homeland's, bad luck with you!

Whatever other communities chose is ultimately up to them and is their own decision.
It DOES NOT bind us in any way.


N. Friedman - 11/18/2008

In other words, Omar, you now admit that, in fact, there was no agreement to exchange millions of people. Which is to say, fourteen million people became refugees; none has been allowed to return to their former lands. And, their offspring are not allowed to return to such lands either. I might add: there was no agreement to exchange any population. That is a fact, whether or not you accept that fact. Must I cite sources that will, again, making you look even more ignorant?

In any event, the more important example I mentioned, since it is from Europe and Europe claims to be that higher model of morality, involved Germany, which took in millions of refugees from Poland and Czechoslovakia. Such people were marched to the German border at gunpoint and told not to return. As such, cities such as Danzig, which were German in character, basically have no Germans. In fact, we all know Danzig now as Gdansk.

And again, in the examples I mentioned - and I could have mentioned more of them -, the refugees were settled where they ended up. That is the International norm. It is the norm for a reason: it helps people have lives, which is what moral human being prefer.

Your approach, which is to make war forever in the name of Medieval principles, is a morally offensive position that tells the world's real refugees that they are garbage. Which is to say, you seem to think that you have the moral right to stick up the entire world community to get your political agenda through, with no regard for the actual needs of the world's tens of millions of refugees - people who would have infinitely more assistance were it not for the garbage masquerading as real need, viz. the actual position of Palestinian Arabs.

The fact is that there are perfectly reasonable solutions which would provide Palestinian Arab refugees with the opportunity for a decent life - e.g. in the West Bank and Gaza and/or in Lebanon and/or in Syria and/or in Jordan - countries which share a cultural heritage with Palestinian Arabs.

I am glad that you now admit that nearly no Palestinian Arabs want peace with Israel. That is the one clearly truthful thing you have said. Bravo.


omar ibrahim baker - 11/18/2008

Mr Friedman
1-I never contended anything about "massive exchange or transfer of populations" as you allege I did in the India/Pakistan context.
All that I stated is that the whole thing, the partition of the Indian subcontinent, was agreed and some population, mainly voluntary, exchange did take place as was foreseen at the agreement stage.
That is according to Nehru .
2-For your information "BADIL" means, in Arabic, "ALTERNATIVE" and with the views they are expounding I would not be surprised if it turns out that the whole thing is an American and/or Israeli creation.
They could also be part of that defeatist tiny minority who wants "peace" at any cost.
Such people do exist, as expected, but are a tiny , insignificant minority that seldom dare come out publicly with their views.
However recently, after following up the Abbass/Olmert negotiations, those among them who still believe in a political resolution of the conflict are fewer and fewer and dare not, at all, come out publicly with their views for fear of becoming totally ostracized by the public .


N. Friedman - 11/17/2008

Omar,

And, by the way, one source you will no doubt find unimpeachable is the Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights. According to an article on that website:

Although partition into modern India and Pakistan was planned along the lines of religion (Hindu, Muslim), the plan did not provide for massive exchange or transfer of populations. Despite early doubts raised by critics, the leadership of the National Congress and the Muslim League hoped to contain the movement of populations by partition along strict religious-majority division lines, and religious minorities were expected to remain in each successor state. [Emphasis added].

In other words, you are wrong. I might add that the Badil source overplays the importance of any agreement. The average person, like with Palestinian Arabs, was not asked about partition. So, the situation is remarkably similar to what occurred between Israel and the Arabs, except that the Arabs attempted to undermine the will of the United Nations by making war to prevent the rise of non-Muslim rule.


N. Friedman - 11/17/2008

Omar,

With due respect whether or not you return respect, you have your facts wrong. In fact, the agreement relating to India and Pakistan did not call for population exchange and certainly not one where 14 million people were turned into refugees and 1 million people were killed. Must I cite unimpeachable sources so that you have to go away with no dignity?


omar ibrahim baker - 11/17/2008

Mr Friedman
Without any respect, since none is due in this case, both the partition of the Indian subcontinent and a concurrent population exchange were AGREED.
Whatever happened during or after is another issue!

Bringing in unrelated facts and/or figures to bolster a falsification is a plain attempt at obfuscation; it only adds to the conscious deceptiveness of the whole argument.
No respect for the attempt to defend a falsification is ever due!


N. Friedman - 11/16/2008

Omar,

With due respect, there was no expectation that 14 million people would flee India and Pakistan, amid violence including massacres. That is in your head. Had there been such an expectation and agreement, 1 million people would not have been killed in the migration. In fact, it was not voluntary. It was people fleeing for their lives.


omar ibrahim baker - 11/16/2008

Mr Friedman
All this that you have written boils down to "we will keep what we stole"; for the time being that looks to be so .
However I promise you will not ever enjoy it; neither children nor grand children nor grand grand children.
Your morality is exactly what the late Israel Shahak described it to be: blindly self centered and reflecting a deep rooted pathological racism borne out of a perverted malevolent creed and a "spiritual" heritage which goes a long way to explain your historical alienation all over the world.

Nothing coming out of you or yours will ever surprise us for that pathological predisposition has been your alter ego and birthright and psyche formation for centuries.

That is in principle and in essence!

In practice you disinform to the point of outright conscious falsification when you fail to note than in the India/Pakistan case, that you cite, it was the outcome of an agreed population exchange to go along with the agreed partition of the Indian subcontinent which gave birth to both India and Pakistan!


N. Friedman - 11/16/2008

Omar,

Omar, people have been forced from their homes all over the world. Right now, that number exceed 25 million people. The moral solution for refugee problems - the one with near universal acceptance and repeated success all over the world - is for refugees to be settled wherever it is possible to settle them, not to force them on an unwilling population, as you propose. Which is to say, the issue is to settle refugees and their children, not to help your political agenda.

I suggest that the very same approach be used that was used with the 14 million refugees that came to be when Pakistan and India were founded and the very same approach that was used between Germany and Poland and between Germany and the former Czechoslovakia. All refugees and their children became citizens of the countries where they landed, not their country of first choice.

Such is the universal model for settling refugees and their offspring. It works. It resolves disputes. And, people are thereby able to make lives for themselves without killing each other. And, it allows for the efficient use of the world's very limited resources to help people who really need help rather than, as you want, to have the world's resources devoted to taking sides in a war that does not need to be fought.

So, no, Omar. Israel is not going to negotiate itself out of existence to solve your self-created refugee problem since there is a non-disruptive resolution already available - one that comports with the universal view of morality and resolving refugee problems. Lebanon can do its part. So can Syria. So can Jordan. And, so can the PA and the Gaza territories, which house non-refugees for no imaginable reason as if they were real refugees - which is one of the foulest misuses of one's own kine that can be imagined.

All told, Omar, your approach is a radical retreat from all universal norms of morality. People are not pawns in politics. Settle the refugees and the internally displaced where they are. Worry about the politics later.

Returning to reality: the goal in settling the Arab Israeli dispute is to settle the dispute without recreating Lebanon and without displacing additional millions of people. If that is not good enough for you, then that is your problem.

As for expanding Israel, the country could not expand beyond its general boundaries if it wanted to. To think otherwise is to be a moron. That would go for the one or two Israelis who might really think that. And, it certainly goes for you, if that is what you really think.


omar ibrahim baker - 11/16/2008

Mr Friedman
You DO NOT have to kill every one you meet to be a killer;Israeli withdrawl from Sinai while expanding in Palestine and on the Golan does NOT negate its expansionist nature.

Obviously Israel will NOT expand all over the region in one go at the present phase of the conflict over all the lands it covets.
It has priorities dictated by tactical considerations such as removing Egypt from the conflict which it did by withdrawing from Egyptian Sinai.
It still covets Sinai .
However its first priority now, also due to tactical and doctrinaire considerations,is to expand in historical Palestine which it is doing with the Settlements , the WALL and with all its proposals for "peace" which included annexation of different parts of the 1967 occupied Palestinian teritories..

Next, if tactically feasible and adviseable , it will attempt to expand into the Syrian Golan where many Settlements were constructed.

RE BS ; I believe you yourself attempt to BS unknowing readers by attributing to me a corelation between the WALL and the "Nile to the Euphrates" premise that I never made.

That premise was given as the SECOND definition of the "Land of Israel" with "ALL of Historical Palestine" as the FIRST definition.
You must have noticed that but dishonestly attributed to me a corelation with the WALL.

Your question:
"Again, Omar, how are we going to resolve a dispute without creating another disaster like Lebanon and without forcing large numbers of people from their homes? "
smacks of typical Zionist racism!

What about the large numbers of indigenous Palestinians that were "forced from their homes" and have been, still are, DENIED the RIght to RETURN to them?
They are the legitimate owners of the land of Palestine and if their RETURN will displace the usurpers of their land and homes then that is only proper and JUST; both legally and ethically!
As a lawyer you should now that returning a stolen car overrides and precedes supplying its thief with transportation or avoiding discomforting him, the thief, by depriving him of his, stolen, means of transportation.
THAT much you should know unless you adhere to and abide by a different set of standards.
Which is what I expect from you ...you being what you are a defender of the Zionist colonialist project: Israel.
According to the late Israel Shahak your standards do give precedence to the thief if his victim is a goy and he, the thief, is of "the chosen people"!


N. Friedman - 11/16/2008

Omar,

Again, Omar, the Israelis ruled the entire Sinai, built oil fields there and a resort city there and then withdrew, in exchange for a treaty of peace with Egypt. How did withdrawing from land between Israel and the Nile help conquer the Nile? It didn't, Omar, did it? So, stop the BS.

Moreover, claiming that building a fence or wall a few miles beyond the Green Line shows an effort to conquer to the Nile or the Euphrates is too stupid for words. Stop the BS.

Again, Omar, how are we going to resolve a dispute without creating another disaster like Lebanon and without forcing large numbers of people from their homes? Throwing BS about efforts to conquer land far from Israel does nothing to help resolve the dispute.


omar ibrahim baker - 11/16/2008

Mr Friedman
I do NOT have to imagine anything.

All I have to do is observe what is going on and conclude there from.
Let us together consider your argument of "defensible borders" in the context of the WALL.
The WALL, as such, is meant by Israel to be and is designed to provide a "defensible border", for this stage of the conflict.
It would have been as "defensible" had it been located at the Green Line instead of so many kilometers into occupied Palestinian land.
But that was an opportunity to EXPAND and it was located in a manner to grab so much more Palestinian, mainly agricultural, land .

Consider, do NOT imagine, the issue of SETTLEMENTS.

NONE was constructed on pre 1967 Israeli occupied Palestinian land (72% of historical Palestine); ALL were constructed on Palestinian and on Syrian post 1967 occupied lands.
Another opportunity to EXPAND into Palestine and Syria that Israel would NOT miss.
If you fail to see that… that would be your problem.

Your "small country" argument, the ex favourite Zionist argument, is, however, nothing BUT another approach to the issue of "defensible borders" in defense of Israeli expansionism.
What would make of Israel an "unsmall" country with "defensible borders"?
-All of historical Palestine, from the Med to the Jordan River?
OR
-From the Nile to the Euphrates?
OR
-From the Nile to the Taurus Mountains in Southern Turkey?

We, however, do know exactly what a Zionist Israel IS and what Israel wants.
A Zionist Israel is intrinsically, by doctrine and mode of birth, an aggressive alien expansionist implant with regional domineering designs and ambitions.

That perception is no longer confined to the Palestinians and the Arabs; it is now shared by Iran, Israel's erstwhile major regional ally, and by ever increasing great numbers of the Turkish people .
Imagine what future awaits Israel with total regional rejection!
And tell us what you come up with!

If you fail to see how dismal that would be …it would be, on your part, a failure of comprehension and not of imagination.


N. Friedman - 11/15/2008

Omar,

Imagine the possibility that you could be wrong. Imagine noting, at least to yourself if not openly and candidly, little facts, such as the fact that Israel ceded land huge swaths of land - larger than Israel proper - to Egypt, land which, by your theory, Israel should have kept in its effort, as you think exists, to expand.

In the world of fact, Israel is a small country which, due to its tiny size and tiny population, could not, as a factual matter, expand in the way you propose, even if that were something that interested most of its population. That factual limitation (i.e. limited ability to expand) is something which Israelis are well aware and that leads them to believe that ceding land in exchange for peace is the best way to survive. That you fail to understand that is, frankly, astonishing when, in fact, such fact has been well understood by Arab leaders for quite a while. Think Anwar Sadat and King Hussein, among others.

Now imagine that there are people other than idiots who read HNN. Imagine how they read your comment which has Israel expanding when, in fact, the opposite is occurring. How stupid do you think HNN readers are?

And, just imagine if were possible that a person like you could, instead of spouting stuff that only idiots would believe, would discuss how to resolve the dispute without creating another Lebanon and without displacing large numbers of human being, even people you may prefer would disappear. What about it, Omar? How about some honesty instead of crude propaganda?


omar ibrahim baker - 11/15/2008

Mr Friedman
You know as well as I do that:
"There will never be a dearth of arguments and pseudo rationale for more and more Israeli expansionism and land grab until Israel has total domination of all of "the land of Israel"!
This, however, has been alternatively defined as:
-All of historical Palestine, by some "modest" and peace loving Zionists
OR
-From the Nile to the Euphrates, by others
OR
-From the Nile to the Taurus Mountain range( in Southern Turkey) in which case that would also include the Arabian Peninsula; by the more ambitious Zionists!


N. Friedman - 11/14/2008

Omar,

Defensible borders means a border that can be more readily guarded. The Green line does not provide that for either side, since it is a bunch of zigzags.

Providing compensating territory for each side in order to advance the idea of such boundaries serves the interests of all involved. Which is to say, I was not suggesting that Israel gain additional land, only that the land it comes to hold should not invite invasion.

Your point about missiles is an interesting and, in fact, important one. The problem with that point, as I see it, is that while missiles can be used by either side to lay waste to its enemy's land, it does not conquer any land.


omar ibrahim baker - 11/14/2008

The rationale of "defensible boundaries" is still in vogue ONLY when it comes to Israel!

Defensible boundaries had military meaning and significance when troops stationed at a natural obstacle to troops movement, such as a river or high mountains range, had an advantage over, or made a difference to , troops stationed at flat plains where nothing substantial separated them from or hinders advancing hostile troop movements; be it cavalry , infantry or primitive tanks.
Presently it means nothing!

What are defensible boundaries in the era of missiles? Apache gunships? Long range cannons ?and air, helilifted troops? Mechanized troop’s transporters?
Do "Defensible boundaries" extend up to:
- Missile range?
- Troops helicopter transporter range?
-Big guns, cannons, range?

The case,Israel/Palestine/Arab, being what it is Israel is liable to come up soon with "(hostile)population centers" range from which hostile action can be launched.
With Israeli logic cum justification the case of Gaza, for example, could easily evolve into an argument for depopulating, ethnically cleansing, it to distance its population from inhabited Israeli "population centers".

Is the presently Israeli coveted Eastern borders: the practically waterless Jordan River , separating Palestine from Jordan, which at its widest, and at peak flow, does not exceed 10-12(?) meters a real obstacle to advancing armies, in either direction, in any real military sense?
Is it really a "defensible border"?

There will never be a dearth of arguments and pseudo rationale for more and more Israeli expansionism and land grab until Israel has total domination of all of "the land of Israel"!
This, however, has been alternatively defined as:
-All of historical Palestine, by some "modest" and peace loving Zionists
OR
-From the Nile to the Euphrates, by others
OR
-From the Nile to the Taurus Mountain range( in Southern Turkey) in which case that would also include the Arabian Peninsula; by the more ambitious Zionists!



N. Friedman - 11/13/2008

Mr. Schumacher,

Somehow, I do not think the Israelis would join the EU. If nothing else, there is just too much bad feeling all around, most especially felt by the Israelis.

That said, applying the legal scalpel to determine what land Israel ought or ought not control or build on seems counterproductive. The real issue is to create defensible boundaries for all involved, something that is likely to be difficult enough without asserting illegality - when much of the other side rejects Israel's legitimacy entirely, notwithstanding Israel being a member of the UN and notwithstanding UN 181.

Which is to say, making peace with, say, Hamas - which rejects Israel's legitimacy and, perhaps, even the UN's legitimacy - will require clever line drawers, not people who care whether this or that parcel of land belongs to this or that side, according to principles of law which, to Hamas, are irrelevant.


Lars Rudolf Schumacher - 11/13/2008

Of course the central problem with bringing Israel into NATO is that Israel has a large number of territorial disputes and those have to be settled first (this is the same problem that Georgia has as well). What would constitute an attack on Israel which would allow Israel to invoke article 5 of the Atlantic Charter? An attack on Golan? East Jerusalem? East Jerusalem is, after all, legally a part of Israel according to Israel (though of course in flagrant violation of international law).


omar ibrahim baker - 11/13/2008

Only the naive expected an Obama victory to translate into an American rethink of its policies and practices in the Middle East.

For one thing he does NOT have the public mandate to do it; his victory is more of a Bush renunciation and an output of the, timely, financial crisis than a conscious selection of the better man/politics of the two contestants.

For another he will be, as an outsider to the Establishment, more of a hostage to the AIPAC/Oil lobby than his predecessor ever was.

That bondage will only lead to more of the same re Iraq, Palestine, Iran etc.
An evolving public opinion here has come to the conclusion that, despite Arab officialdom's expectations and "promises", or because of it?, nothing will come of the USA except the hard way: the Viet Nam way of armed resistance and the Iran way of total alienation!
American foreign policy seems to have gone beyond the "interests of the USA", and the region's, approach to the stage of total servility to AIPAC and the OIL lobbies.

Public hostility to the USA will go on spreading and radicalizing more and more people in both the Arab and Moslem worlds with the entrenched and entrenching realization that the USA is, now, the prime enemy fighting Israel's and the OIL Lobby's wars!
That is ultimately extremely bad news to both the USA and the region!


Mark A. LeVine (UC Irvine History Professor) - 11/10/2008

yeah, no kidding... but at least one can try...


james joseph butler - 11/10/2008

From opium to Israel to Iranian nukes your answers are too logical to have much of a chance for success.