Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Posts Tagged ‘Hamas’

Middle East Update – Qatar, Iran and terrorism

Posted by sanityinjection on June 9, 2017

I find that it’s rather difficult for those of us in the US to find quality, up-to-date analysis of what is going on in the Middle East. As it has for thousands of years, what happens in this region disproportionately affects the rest of the world. So I’m going to try to post periodic updates summarizing what you need to know with my own analysis.

SAUDI – QATAR SPAT: Perhaps the biggest story this week was the intra-Arab diplomatic spat between the small but wealthy Persian Gulf state of Qatar and a group of countries including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt. These countries not only have suspended diplomatic relations with Qatar but have cut off land and air travel access and ordered Qataris to leave their territory. This creates a serious problem for Qatar since they import most of their food from these countries and will now have to rely on Iran and Turkey for help. The seriousness of the Saudi-led group’s intentions can be understood from the fact that the Saudis will also suffer from the diplomatic break: Qatar supplies natural gas for the Saudis and other countries in the region, and the Qataris have been kicked out of the coalition military forces fighting the Houthis in Yemen. That war is not going well for the Saudis, so you can tell they are pretty pissed if they are willing to weaken their forces there over this dispute. So what is really going on?

Basically, Saudi Arabia and the other states believe that Qatar is not only too soft on Iran, but too cozy with Islamist groups like Hamas, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, and Shiite groups in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The Qatari media outlet Al-Jazeera has been a long time thorn in the side of the other Arab monarchies. But the last straw came recently when Qatar paid ransom money to both Iran and al-Qaeda, which of course will be used to fund more terrorism in the region.

Ultimately, the dispute amounts to an inconvenience for the US, whose military Central Command is based in Qatar. But if the Arabs are successful in pressuring Qatar to move away from it support for Iran and other groups, that could be a positive development from the US perspective. There are reports that a minor exodus of Hamas operatives leaving Qatar has already begun.

TERROR ATTACKS IN IRAN: Also this week, the Iranian capital of Tehran became the latest victim of terrorist attacks. The timing is somewhat suspicious, coming in the wake of the Saudi media campaign linking Iran with Islamic terrorism. What better way to prove that Iran is not in bed with Sunni groups like IS and al-Qaeda than for it to be attacked by them? I’m not going so far as to claim that Iran staged the attacks as a false flag operation on their own people, but I wouldn’t put it past the terrorists to have expedited plans to attack Shiite Iran (whom they view as heretics, in many ways worse than infidels) as a way of trying to counter the Saudi propaganda effort. It’s worth noting that these attacks are the first major terrorist attacks in Iran in over 25 years.

BATTLE OF RAQQA: In Syria, US-backed coalition forces have begun their assault on the IS capital of Raqqa, even as progress continues to be made in driving them out of their other stronghold of Mosul in Iraq. Most analysts expect these campaigns to be successful in essentially ending IS as a “caliphate” or territorial power in Syria and Iraq. However, IS-affiliated groups continue to operate freely in places like Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, so the threat of terrorist attacks is far from over.

PALESTINIANS CARE MORE ABOUT JOBS AND DEMOCRACY THAN FIGHTING ISRAEL: A poll conducted last month of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza produced surprising results suggesting that public opinion among Palestinians may be more open to compromises for peace than the Palestinian leadership would like to admit. Basically, the results showed that Palestinians are more interested in being able to find good jobs and having an honest, responsible government than about issues like whether the US moves its embassy to Jerusalem. From Israel, Palestinians most want freedom of movement and more job opportunities from Israeli companies more than they care about Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Perhaps most astonishingly, 62% of Palestinians in Gaza agreed that Hamas should quit calling for Israel’s destruction and accept the idea of a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders.

These poll results may provide some ammunition for US efforts to broker a new agreement, by calling into serious question the claims of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas that they would face a popular backlash if they compromised with Israel on their positions.

For more info on these and other Middle East developments, I recommend the Washington-based Al Monitor website. You can find there up-to-date reports from each of the regions within the Middle East as well as some of the most insightful and objective analysis to better understand what is really going on underneath the spin.

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It’s a question of values

Posted by sanityinjection on October 8, 2009

Today’s complicated ethical dilemma comes to us from the Gaza Strip. Gaza, as readers will recall, is a poor and crowded area controlled by Palestinians. Its borders are tightly controlled by Israel and Egypt because the government of Gaza, run by terrorist group Hamas, sees nothing wrong with allowing missiles to be brought across those borders and fired at Israeli civilians. But I digress.

In the Gaza Strip is a small zoo called the Marah Land zoo. It offers Gaza’s children and families a chance to see some wildlife. However, the zoo can’t boast too many exotic animals, because the cost of having them smuggled across the closed border is exorbitant.

So when the zoo wanted to open a zebra exhibit, instead of paying $40,000 to acquire a real zebra, zoo officials used their ingenuity: They took two donkeys and painted them with black and white stripes. When the effect wasn’t very convincing, they replaced the black paint with women’s hair dye. The results were good enough to delight the children who visited the zoo and got a chance to see their first “zebra”. (Never mind that real zebras and donkeys differ significantly in many aspects other than their coloring.)

Now, if a zoo here in the US tried something like this, we wouldn’t hesitate to call it criminal fraud. In Gaza, though, nobody seems to mind, least of all the parents of the kids. After all, the zoo’s prices are very reasonable, and it’s not as if there is another zoo they can go to that offers a real zebra.

What this illustrates is a contrast in cultural values. In our culture, the deception is unacceptable, based on the assumption that the goal is to make money by duping people. For the Palestinians, the deception is OK, because it serves the practical goal of doing something to benefit the children of Gaza. But you have to wonder where they draw the line. Why not glue a horn to a horse’s head and call it a unicorn? That would delight the children, too, while giving them an equally false lesson in biology.  How do we suppose the children will feel if they find out that they were tricked in this way?

By the way, the article on this is almost as deceptive as the zoo itself. Reuters writes that “Gaza’s Palestinians are impoverished by their isolation under an Israeli embargo”. In fact, while the embargo certainly hurts, Gaza has been dirt-poor for a century or more, including periods when it was part of Israel, Egypt, the British mandate of Palestine, and the Ottoman Empire.

The article also fails to point out that the zoo’s owner, Mohammed Bargouthi, is one of the richest Palestinians in Gaza, having done very well for himself by stealing Western aid dollars when he was a cabinet minister in the Palestinian Authority. If anyone could afford a real zebra for the Gaza strip, it would be Bargouthi. But why do that when you can scam children and be viewed as a humanitarian into the bargain?

The same people who would dress a donkey up as a zebra would not hesitate to cheat in negotiating a peace deal with Israel if it advanced their goal of an independent Palestinian state. That is not to say that there are no honest Palestinians, just to point out that honesty as a constant virtue is simply not held in the same regard in the traditional Arab culture as it is in the West. On the contrary, if you can cheat your neighbor successfully, you are admired as clever, and would not be condemned as long as your neighbor didn’t suffer too badly.

While the Israelis have plenty to answer for on their side of things, including a failure to reign in religious zealots who insist on settling in the middle of hostile Palestinians, keep the lesson of the zebras in mind when you hear Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that Israel lacks a “credible partner” in peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

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Winners and Losers

Posted by sanityinjection on September 17, 2009

I’m debuting a new feature here at Sanity Injection. Occasionally I get sort of a writer’s block because there are so many things I want to write about and never enough time. So today’s post is going to hit a number of different topics by running down my thoughts on who benefited most (winners) or who was hurt most (losers) by the news developments of the last several days. Let me know what you think; if this format proves to be popular I might make it a weekly feature.

Anyway here goes:

WINNERS:

Ayatollah Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad of Iran – Their crackdown against the election protesters seems to have succeeded for the time being. Meanwhile, Russia refuses to support additional sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program when even the French, who invented the art of sticking one’s head in the sand, are acknowledging that Iran is trying to build a bomb. 

Conservative activistsHundreds of thousands protest peacefully in Washington against the Obama Administration and manage to avoid embarrassing their cause while actually attracting some media attention. Simultaneously, two conservative activists manage to take down the fraud organization known as ACORN (see Losers, below.)

Sharron Thornton – A blinded Mississippi grandmother who has regained her sight after doctors implanted one of her own teeth inside her eye to hold an artificial lens in place. She will soon be able to look at the faces of her youngest grandchildren for the first time.

Hamas – Recent Western focus on the Palestinian civilian victims of the Israeli attack on Gaza ignores years of rocket attacks by Hamas against Israeli civilians, while the terrorist group continues to gradually implement sharia laws making Gazans considerably less free under Hamas than they would be under Israeli control.

RussiaEverything seems to be going right for the Russian government. The media continues to buy into Medvedev and Putin’s good cop – bad cop act; relations with China are improving; no one is lifting a finger to stop the creeping annexation of the “liberated” Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia; unrest in Chechnya and Ingushetia continues to provide a convenient excuse for authoritarianism; and US President Obama, far from holding Russia accountable for anything, has so far given Russia everything it wanted in arms control reductions including signing away the one thing Russia feared, a European missile defense system (see Losers, below.)

LOSERS:

Poland and the Czech Republic – Risked the wrath of their giant neighbor, Russia, by agreeing to host components of the Bush Administration’s missile defense system, only to be stabbed in the back by President Obama’s decision not to move forward with the program. Adding insult to injury, the decision was announced on the anniversary of the day Poland was invaded by Soviet Russia in 1939.

Congressman Joe Wilson, Kanye West, Serena Williams – Rude and offensive behavior apparently crosses all lines of gender, ethnicity, and politics. There is a time and place for expressing your opinions. Learning how and when to do that is part of what being an adult means. Guess these three need to repeat a few grades. Also, am I the only one who suspects that Serena Williams might be using steroids or some similar substance that might have fueled both her iron physique and her violent outburst?

Senator Max Baucus – The head of the group of Senators trying to craft a compromise health care bill ended up having to go it alone with a bill that nobody likes, not even his own Majority Leader.

ACORN – The controversial advocacy group (and favorite target of conservatives) has had all federal funding stripped from it in both House and Senate legislation after conservative activists videotaped its workers giving tax advice to a couple they thought were a pimp and a prostitute. They were also declared persona non grata by the Census Bureau as far as hiring census workers. I would argue the massive voter fraud perpetrated by the group in multiple states, for which they have been the target of prosecution by state authorities, should have warranted this step months ago, but in Washington I guess it takes a prostitution scandal to make you too hot to handle.

Everybody involved with the Hofstra gang rape case – now that the “victim” has recanted her accusations. I feel sorry for the falsely accused men, the unnecessarily frightened Hofstra students, the police whose time was wasted, the real rape victims everywhere who will have that much harder a struggle to be believed, and even the accuser herself, who must be a troubled individual to make up something like that.

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Keeping Israel in perspective

Posted by sanityinjection on January 21, 2009

With the Gaza violence finally coming to an end, at least for the time being, Israel’s public image is not in great shape. Even those who understand Israel’s need to defend themselves against Hamas rocket attacks cannot help but be dismayed by the level of devastation in Gaza, much of it suffered by ordinary Palestinians who may or may not have anything to do with Hamas.

You can bet that we will be hearing with renewed fervor the drumbeat of those who call Israel a racist state that persecutes Arabs and violates their human rights. With this in mind, I offer for consideration the recent decision by the Israeli Supreme Court allowing Arab parties to stand in Israel’s upcoming elections.

The Israeli election authority had moved to ban Israeli Arab parties from taking part in the elections. These are Arab politicians who live in and are citizens of Israel proper, not the West Bank or Gaza. The Israeli parliament has long had a handful of Arab legislators.

The reason for the ban was that the Arab parties, which openly sympathize with the Palestinians, had supported terrorism by traveling to Arab nations such as Lebanon and meeting with groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. The ban was only on the parties themselves, and not on any individual politicians. However, the Israeli Supreme Court overturned the ban by a unanimous vote.

What is the significance of this? Just that if you are an Arab living in Israel, while you may face social discrimination from the Jewish majority, your freedom of speech and due process rights are protected under Israeli law. You have the right to vote and to run for office.

In the vast majority of Arab countries, on the other hand, even Arabs do not enjoy these rights. In no country do they enjoy all of them. And God help you if you’re a non-Arab, or a non-Muslim in say, Egypt or Saudi Arabia.

In short, if we are going to talk about human rights in the Middle East, Israel is not immune from criticism, but it is hardly the place any rational person would single out as their primary target. Israel treats even its minorities better than Arab countries treat their own people.

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Brief comments on Israel’s action in Gaza

Posted by sanityinjection on January 5, 2009

I have no doubt that there will be plenty of opportunities in 2009 to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian issue in depth, so I’m not going to do that now. But I did want to briefly comment on the current military action by Israel in Gaza against Hamas.

Consider this: If a terrorist group were firing rockets from foreign soil into the US and killing civilians indiscriminately, would we take seriously calls for “restraint” in retaliating against the perpetrators? It simply is not rational to expect Israel to sit by and do nothing while their people are murdered. Thus I feel the Gaza action is entirely justified.

That having been said, it would behoove the Israelis to be as surgical as possible in their strikes. I know that’s not easy because the terrorists deliberately use civilian areas and homes as a shield for their attacks. But it is nevertheless true that every time Israel blows up somebody’s house that wasn’t a terrorist, they create new terrorists. Over the past half-century we have seen the Palestinian population become increasingly radicalized by poverty and deprivation of civil rights (for which their fellow Arabs are largely to blame.) It will become impossible for Israel to negotiate peace if there is no one left to negotiate with.

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Palestinian groups continue to shoot themselves in their collective foot

Posted by sanityinjection on September 9, 2008

The secretary-general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, offered a rare public rebuke of squabbling Palestinian factions today:

“I am extremely angry with the Palestinian organizations…Do they (the Palestinians) have a state for them to be fighting over ministerial positions? We kidded ourselves and called it the state of Palestine. It’s not a state until it obtains its full rights.”

It is highly unusual for an Arab leader to make such a statement, particularly an experienced diplomat such as Moussa. This suggests two things: 1) The level of infighting among Palestinian factions is as bad as ever, and 2) Non-rejectionist Arab countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia are serious about trying to move the peace process foward and are frustrated with the lack of unity among the very people they are trying to help.  In an even more unprecedented move, the Arab League is actually considering some form of sanctions against any Palestinian factions seen as obstructing the current efforts by Egypt to reconcile the various groups.

Sadly, the Palestinian nationalist movement, like many political movements before it, is riddled with corruption and individuals seeking to enrich themselves at the expense of the cause they claim to espouse. No one exemplified this more than the late Yasir Arafat, now viewed as the George Washington of his people.  The continued fighting also affects the attitude of the Israeli side: dismaying those who seek a genuine Palestinian partner for peace, and giving cover to the Israeli rejectionists who use it as an excuse to delay and avoid further negotiations. Similarly, Palestinian rejectionists do their best to undermine the peace process while blaming everything on the Israelis. (Ironically Hamas’ electoral success is largely due to the fact that, being fanatics, they are far less corrupt than the more moderate Fatah faction.)

When Israel and Egypt, and later Israel and Jordan, signed peace agreements, they were between UN member states that could be held accountable by the international community if they failed to live up to the terms of the agreement. (And in fact, both peace deals have been hugely successful and beneficial to both sides.) Unfortunately, the Palestinians cannot be held accountbale. Nominal Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has little sway outside his capital city and must rely on Fatah militias, who frequently have agendas of their own. And the only international leverage against the Palestinians is to withhold aid from the corrupt officials that steal it, which is then denounced on humanitarian grounds. Meanwhile, ordinary Palestinians continue to suffer, especially in overcrowded Gaza.

Article here: http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=5760298

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Helping to understand why peace in the Middle East is so elusive

Posted by sanityinjection on August 4, 2008

Reuters reports that about 181 members of an influential Palestinian family in the Gaza Strip fled to *Israel*, of all places, in fear for their lives. Why? After all, for the majority of Palestinians, Israel is the enemy, a foreign occupier on their soil. Were these people traitors to the Palestinian cause?

Hardly. The family in question, the Hilles clan, belongs to a Palestinian faction called Fatah, associated with the late Yasir Arafat and the current Palestinian “government” in the West Bank. Gaza, however, has been taken over by a rival faction called Hamas. Both factions want Israel out of the West Bank. Fatah,  a secular group, has, on the surface, accepted the principle of peaceful negotiations, while Hamas, an Islamic group, believes in armed struggle to drive all the Jews into the sea and reclaim all of Israel for the Palestinians. Despite these differences, both groups are essentially on the same side and both view Israel as the enemy.

And yet, the two groups hate each other so much that they continue to fight violently with each other in Gaza. Even the common enemy isn’t enough to unify them. Thus, the Hilles fled to Israel because they knew that Hamas planned to execute them, whereas at the hands of the hated Israelis they could expect to be treated lawfully and even with some rights as refugees.

So what did the “enemy” Israelis do? They decided that the best thing to do with the Hilles would be to provide transportation for them to the West Bank, where they would be safe under the authority of the Fatah-controlled government. But Fatah initially said, “Send ’em back, we don’t want them.” According to Fatah, the Hilles, you see, had not done *enough* to fight the Hamas takeover in Gaza. (These people really can’t win.) An *Israeli* civil rights group had to intervene to keep most of them from being sent back, and the Fatah authorities finally agreed to allow the majority to come to the West Bank.

The point of all this is that there are too many Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza who are only too happy to hate and kill each other just as well as they hate and kill Israelis. Turning over the occupied territories to such as these is asking for the kind of violence and chaos we have seen in Lebanon and Iraq. When the Israelis sit down to talk peace with Palestinian “President” Abbas, they point to all this and say, “How can we possibly trust a Palestinian state to guarantee the security of Israel when you can’t even keep your own people from killing each other?”

The ultimate losers, of course, are the many Palestinians who want nothing more than to live, work, and raise their children in peace.

Full story: http://abcnews.go.com/print?id=5507812

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