Sunday, December 13, 2009

Israeli-Palestinian Peace: Two Opposing Views

Consider first Barry Rubin's contention:

Why if the Palestinians are suffering so much won't they make peace?
Here's the answer: the Palestinian leadership wants total victory and Israel's elimination. They are willing to go on letting their people suffer for a century in pursuit of that goal. They hope that the world will give them everything they want without their having to make any concessions.

Next, a two week old column in The Wall Street Journal:
In June, the Washington Post's Jackson Diehl related how Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had told him why he had turned down Ehud Olmert's offer last year to create a Palestinian state on 97% of the West Bank (with 3% of pre-1967 Israeli land being added to make up the shortfall). "In the West Bank we have a good reality," Abbas told Diehl. "The people are living a normal life," he added in a rare moment of candor to a Western journalist.

Nablus stock exchange head Ahmad Aweidah went further in explaining to me why there is no rush to declare statehood, saying ordinary Palestinians need the IDF to help protect them from Hamas, as their own security forces aren't ready to do so by themselves yet.

The truth is that an independent Palestine is now quietly being built, with Israeli assistance. So long as the Obama administration and European politicians don't clumsily meddle as they have in the past and make unrealistic demands for the process to be completed more quickly than it can be, I am confident the outcome will be a positive one.

Put the two together and what insight pops out? That in the West Bank, both sides are working to create peace in all but name. But for the moment, Israeli troops are both needed and desired - hence the intransigence of the Palestinian leadership!

Friday, December 04, 2009


Courtesy of Solomonia:

Update, 12/5/09: Welcome Pakistan Defence Forum readers! The deleted post in the "Israel's cruel face" thread contained the lower of the two cartoons above. It was in response to this comment by "Barrett":
Israel is a zionist state, their policies are barbaric and satanic.
Israel should stop killing innocent human beings -

After the cartoon, I added the following, as close as I can remember:

Israel does its best to avoid casualties, but its enemies do their best to make that difficult. One American academic, Bruce Thornton, calculated back in 2006 that "Since World War II, some 25 million people have died in various conflicts, only 8,000 as a result of Israel’s attempts to ward off a chronic existential threat." link That's about the average number, by my calculation, of Iraqis killed by Saddam over a four-month period, or a bad hair day for Hafez Asad. Does this mean that Israel is "barbaric and satanic"?

My post was deleted by "taimikhan", who has been a moderator for about three weeks. He explained his reasons in a pm exchange with me. Because I consider taimikhan's response unbecoming of a moderator (this post violates no posted policy at PDF), and because he ignored my arguments to reinstate it, I reproduce it here. (I hope never to have to violate a pm exchange ever again.)

Me: "Big Fat Lie" is your reason for DELETING a post? Not that something isn't relevant, but because you THINK it's a lie? Are you not using your position to advocate a particular point of view? Do you really consider this the proper duty of a moderator? Please undelete my post immediately, thank you.

taimikhan: "The picture that you posted was one big fat lie and insulting to the thousands of innocent children killed by Israel. This is not what we say, it is said by the whole world. Lebanon War 2006 was a further proof where UN sanctuaries got hit having children in them. I remember seeing the pictures of dead children being taken out of a school, where around 40 or so children were murdered by Israel in a so called mistake. So don't make me started, i being a moderator doesn't means i have to see and do nothing to the lies that you or guys like you paste and put the blame on others, while Israel justifies itself killing women and children in the name of human shield. Whole world knows, nether the still cameras photos are photo shopped nor the live TV coverage showing dead women and children are lies. So don't give us your propaganda, use it in Israel or US to keep the mouths of people shut and get more weapons and money to kill thousands more in coming months."

The cartoon graphically illustrates why, in the opinion of many, many, Israelis and Jews, innocents are being killed. By withholding this you are denying non-Arabs knowledge of Israeli self-conception of Israeli motives.

"i being a moderator doesn't means i have to see and do nothing to the lies that you or guys like you paste and put the blame on others"

That's for you to respond and debate, isn't it? Only yesterday Reuters carried a report with the headline, "Israeli runs over Palestinian", you had to read far down the page to learn that the Palestinian had stabbed the Israeli and his wife first. The mainstream media is full of this sort of bias - do you really want to see it here, too?

I didn't start the "cruel face" thread. But think of what preventing me from answering the charge means. Do you really want the Forum to decay into a hall of mirrors, a receptacle for blind hatred?

And today, finally:

Since I consider you have ignored my previous pm, and in my opinion have acted in a fashion unbecoming of a moderator by expurgating a post that doesn't violate PDF rules, I am taking the unusual step of posting this private exchange on my blog.

You should know that I've asked to be banned from the forum. If my voice cannot be heard, the process of justice is corrupted and so the best choice is to leave the community and seek better company, rather than remain in what has proved to be an unholy community. For my people and by extension myself are accused of crimes yet forbidden to defend ourselves.

Why shouldn't I consider this another example of the sort of "toleration" Muslims boast of when they speak of the protection they offer Jews and Christians? Do you wonder why so few Jews remain in Muslim lands today?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Guest Post: Amotz Asa-El

Dubai crisis is the Arab economy’s opportunity

What began as a pharaonic construction site is suddenly sinking in economic quicksand, its future as an archeological attraction possibly more promising than its pretensions as a global financial center.

Dubai, which until last week loomed tall – literally – as an enterprising, cosmopolitan, glitzy and happy antithesis to the Middle East’s economic stagnation, has now emerged as a sad monument to all that is ill about the pan-Arab economy, which includes more than a quarter-billion people but is smaller than Spain’s.

Once the dust settles over Dubai World’s debt-default announcement last week, its many Western victims would do well to probe not only the way the emirate’s authorities treated their money but also the relationship between the entire petrodollar elite and the pan-Arab economy.

The Dubai crisis originated in a brave dream: that the Gulf’s oil riches would buy rather than produce a great financial center.

Had this transpired, it would have defied historical precedent, whereby the great modern financial centers — from London, Frankfurt and New York to Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore — both followed and fed monumental industrial revolutions.

Those financial centers rose after millions had moved from the countryside to factories, where the process of their economic empowerment began, eventually giving rise to the broad, educated, affluent and socially mobile middle classes that are the backbone of healthy economies.

Metropolis in the Dunes

In the Gulf, despite the complete absence of middle classes and an industrial base, a financial metropolis was emerging from the Arabian dunes.

Dominated by Burj Dubai, the $1 billion turret that at 2,500 feet is the world’s tallest structure and by its trademark palm-shaped system of artificial islands, Dubai invested $200 billion in tourism infrastructure. On top of that, it put $20 billion into a property venture that included 30,000 houses, luxurious hotels and an artificial lake, and an additional $4 billion for 300 artificial islands.

Dubai’s emir, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Makhtoum, openly spoke of the need to prepare for the morning after oil, which some suspect will arrive within several generations, whether because the resource will be exhausted or alternative energies will take precedence.

But the construction frenzy transcended Dubai. To the north, the Bahrain Financial Port was planned to employ 8,000 bankers and insurance agents, while at the other end of the Arabian Peninsula the Saudis laid the cornerstone for the $27 billion King Abdullah Economic City.

And real estate was but the most visible aspect of a spendthrift Zeitgeist that swept the entire Gulf area during this decade’s seven fat years of record oil prices.

It was the time when Emirates Airlines bought a $37 billion fleet including 45 state-of-the-art double-decker Airbus A380s; when Abu-Dhabi-based Mubadala Development bought a stake in Ferrari, and Dubai International shopped for U.S. seaports while other Gulf sheikhs bought skyscrapers in Manhattan and a chunk of London’s Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum.

No one abroad, let alone locally, seemed to ask who makes all those decisions and how, why and at what social cost, just as western governments never questioned their steady supply of Saudi Arabia’s estimated $20 billion annual military spending — about the size of Russia’s defense budget — and its social costs.

Westerners preferred to look at the happy side of all this financial momentum, which besides welcoming rich foreigners included a genuinely progressive quest, like Qatar allowing U.S. universities to open local campuses for Arab students, a large number of them women, and like Saudi Arabia earlier this decade launching a $50 billion plan to build new roads, hospitals and schools.

Economic alchemy

Alas, it was all part of one big exercise in economic alchemy.

Financially, the Dubai crisis is rooted in the region’s disbelief in transparency. Until this moment the extent of Dubai’s debt and resources remains unclear. And the suddenness of its default announcement was in keeping with the local idea of corporate governance, which recently saw the emir of Dubai sack the Ivy-League-educated chairmen of Dubai World, Dubai Holding, and Dubai International Financial Center, and replace them with his relatives and cronies.

With more transparency, the markets might have made the usage of the region’s minerals a bit more prudent and balanced. Yet that drawback is dwarfed by the Gulf vision’s social aspect.

Bluntly put, the great development along the Arabian coastline was part of an effort to freeze the Middle East’s deformed social structure, whereby hundreds of millions of impoverished and uneducated Arabs live almost immediately under a well-born moneyed elite, with hardly any middle class between them.

That is why the Gulf’s Arab oil producers did not use their wealth to build — in their own lands, let alone elsewhere in the Arab world — the kind of assembly lines that revolutionized the economies of China, India and Brazil. That is why Dubai and its neighbors import millions of Pakistanis, Indians and Bangladeshis as their unskilled workforce, even though nearby Egypt and Syria have chronic labor surpluses.

That is why a place like Dubai at any given time has more foreign residents than locals; and that is why the burgeoning financial center’s profits (while they were still being made) went abroad rather than where they were needed most: in the slums of Cairo, Casablanca, Damascus, Khartoum and Sana’a, where hope is as close to the destitute masses as the Burj Dubai’s 160th floor is to the ground.

Like Pharaoh’s Egypt, the Gulf economy rested on abundant resources, cheap labor, and a disregard for social solidarity. Economically or morally, this was no way to build a modern financial center.

The fact that Western institutional investors happily flocked to the Gulf should surprise no one, although one wonders just what all the bankers who are now fuming at Dubai’s leader were thinking when they signed deals with him. Did they think that the laws of economic gravity would not apply where islands were being imposed on the sea and castles were being planted in the sand? The bankers’ short-sighted attitude in this theater is but an extension of their failings during the era of greed that preceded the meltdown in Wall Street. Chances that they will now fix what they helped ruin are therefore low.

The ones in a position to make the repairs are Europe and America — if not because they care for social justice then because they care for the poverty that feeds Europe with a Middle Eastern immigration it does not want and Islamist terror with the fresh recruits it very much wants.

Europe and America can therefore use this moment of perplexity to help restore confidence in the vision of a financial center in the Gulf, but the proper way: with more transparency, social concern and regional investments, with less extravagance and with a real economy attached to it.

Amotz Asa-El is a former executive editor of the Jerusalem Post.