Treading through the baloney

By Prof. Barry Rubin

There is so much silliness and misinformation published about the Middle East nowadays that the debris is obscuring reality. Four examples demonstrate this: First, Thomas L. Friedman`s latest gimmick is “The real Palestinian revolution.”

A real Palestinian revolution would take place when Fatah, the PA and Palestinian public opinion really changed toward accepting a two-state solution.

Instead, the “real revolution” of Friedman and PA leader Mahmoud Abbas is merely a matter of image, as in the following paragraph: “It is a revolution based on building Palestinian capacity and institutions not just resisting Israeli occupation, on the theory that if the Palestinians can build a real economy, a professional security force and an effective, transparent government bureaucracy, it will eventually become impossible for Israel to deny the Palestinians a state in the West Bank and Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem.”

It would be a good thing, of course, if the PA did succeed in accomplishing these goals. Yet a number of cogent questions can be raised about Friedman`s model.

Lets suppose the PA failed to do these things. Nothing much actually seems to be changing and even if it did the PAs modest progress to date might well collapse in a new round of extremism and violence.

So what if the PA failed? Would conventional wisdom in Washington switch to saying that Israel had no real alternative for peace and thus US policy should back Israel or would the PA merely find some new gimmick? Even if it succeeded in creating a marvelous stable, prosperous, democratic (does that mean elections that Hamas might win?) entity, would that mean it was ready to make a real and lasting peace with Israel? Not necessarily. Because the issue is not whether there is more money or less corruption but whether there is a Palestinian readiness to end the conflict, teach their people to give up their dream of getting all of Israel, provide security guarantees and be willing to resettle refugees in the state of Palestine.

Why should Israel give up territory and security to the PA merely because it prosecutes corrupt leaders (dont hold your breath) and is more prosperous? What it needs to know is that the conflict wont continue, that there wont be cross-border raids, that Hamas wont take over and that Palestine won`t invite in Syrian or Iranian military forces, to cite some examples.

But Friedmans formula reveals the PAs strategy: Forget about making peace with Israel, just get international support for declaring independence on its own terms.

Second, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times seem to have a policy of running as many op-eds as possible by apologists for terrorism and advocates of engaging terrorist groups. Here`s another one from the NYT, trotting out all the misrepresentative arguments by people who never say a word about the specificity of groups like Hamas and Hizbullah, their goals, ideology and personnel: “Why we talk to terrorists” published on June 29 is the kind of article that claims that since the South African group, the African National Congress (ANC), became moderate, why not Hamas or Hizbullah? While it is true that the ANC had a military wing and engaged in some terrorism, that violence was very limited. The ANC was always led by a philosophy of peace and conciliation not””as in the case of its Middle Eastern counterparts””totalitarian dictatorship and genocide. There is no sign that the revolutionary Islamist Hamas is or wishes to become more moderate and there are good reasons why that is so.

BY COINCIDENCE, I revisited the terrorism museum in Israel recently. There were some new features, including the cigarette lighter made in China and sold in the West Bank that shows the World Trade Center on fire when clicked. There is massive documentation on the involvement of Hamas and Hizbullah in terrorism, anti- Semitism, anti-Americanism and would-be genocide. One can see videos of kids in the Hamas schools carrying out military exercises.

Watch their videos and then ask whether Hamas is intending to produce a generation of moderates.

Revolutionary Islamism and terrorism, hatred for the US and the desire to wipe out Israel (and Jews generally) are not some minor side issues for these groups but are absolutely central to their existence.

It is amazing to think of these naïve people who think they are going to talk revolutionary Islamists into being moderates, or buy them off with money (there`s that idea of prosperity solving all problems again) or concessions.

Third, members of the official US delegation to Syria made fools of themselves by twittering about the good time they were having. Syria is a repressive dictatorship.

While these American ninnies were having nice cups of coffee, a few minutes away prisoners were being tortured because they had criticized the regime.

When a US official from the delegation says: “We made it clear that we want assurances that technologies sold to Syria won`t be… used in ways to harm Syrian citizens,” does he have any idea how ridiculous this sounds? Indeed, the more American delegations show up, the more peaceful dissidents get arrested.

FINALLY, HAMAS officials are now claiming that the Obama administration is secretly contacting their regime. What is probably happening is that the US government thought itself very clever to send some well-connected but not official figures to hang out with Hamas and explore getting along with a group that happens to be backed by Iran, revolutionary Islamist, anti-Semitic, intent on genocide, repressive toward women and intolerant toward Christians, among other things.

Of course, they should understand that all this does is convince Hamas that the Obama administration is ready to make a deal so there is no reason for it to change policy. All some Hamas leaders have to do is mumble a few words into the easily deceived Americans` ears and the fools will rush off to shout how these people are moderates in an op-ed piece.

And of course the US government makes itself subject to blackmail from Hamas, which only has to reveal whatever conversations have taken place, with some creative additions and distortions. Thus, the title of the article about this issue, “Hamas says asked by US to keep silent on talks,” illustrates that point.

Lets be clear here. If you deal with Hamas, Hizbullah and Syria, you are dealing with thugs and murderers. Sometimes you do have to deal with thugs and murderers, but never forget that reality. And one thing you have to remember is that such people arent going to make deals with you, keep their promises, become moderate or respect your interests no matter how much you bribe or bow to them.

At the terrorism museum theres a Hizbullah poster that shows people giving money to Islamist charities, that money being turned into bullets and those bullets being fired at Israel. Thats also an accurate picture of the diplomatic “charity” being given to the enemies not only of the West but also of the Middle Eastern peoples they murder and oppress.

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Prof. Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of Middle East Review of International Affairs and Turkish Studies. He blogs at

Published in The Jerusalem Post 04.07.10 Copyright by the author.

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