“Let’s substitute Israel Apartheid Week with Palestine Democracy Week”

December 09, 2009

A Palestinian speaks:

* Shouting anti-Israel slogans or organizing Israel Apartheid Week in the U.S. and Canada does not necessarily make a person “pro-Palestinian.” But promoting good government and reform in the Palestinian territories does.

* Being anti-Israel does not necessarily turn one into “pro-Palestinian.” If anyone is entitled to be called “pro-Palestinian,” it is those who are publicly campaigning against financial corruption and abuse of human rights by Fatah and Hamas.

***

* At last month’s UNRWA meeting, the Arab regimes again showed their breathtaking hypocrisy in claiming they want to help the Palestinians and then doing nothing – despite record oil revenues last year.

* Only one Arab country, Kuwait (whose oil revenues last year surged by 44 percent to $78 billion), in twentieth place among the top 20 donors, offered to help by a small amount with UNRWA’s deficit – leaving western tax-payers to pick up the vast majority of the bill.

* While the U.S and European counties offered hundreds of millions, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates gave miniscule amounts. Saudi Arabia gave nothing.

***

* “Steeped in an overarching idea of American guilt, Obama and his lieutenants offered nothing less than a doctrine of American penance. No one told Obama that in the Islamic world it is considered bad form, nay a great moral lapse, to speak ill of one’s own tribe when in the lands of others.”

* “My brother and I against my cousin, my cousin and I against the stranger,” goes one of the Arab world’s most honored maxims. The stranger who came into their midst and spoke badly of his own was destined to become an object of suspicion.

 

CONTENTS

1. A Palestinian pleads with “Pro-Palestinians” on Western college campuses
2. The hollowness of the Arab states’ pro-Palestinian pronouncements
3. “A foreign policy of penance by Obama has won America no friends”
4. “What does “Pro-Palestinian” really mean?” (By Khaled Abu Toameh)
5. “Do Arab states really care about the Palestinians?” (By Michael Freund)
6. “The Arabs have stopped applauding Obama” (By Fouad Ajami)


THREE IMPORTANT ARTICLES

[Note by Tom Gross]

Today’s dispatch is split into three for space reasons.

It includes various articles I had planned to post last week but I didn’t have time.

I have prepared summaries for those who don’t have time to read these articles in full.

Today’s other dispatches can be read here:
Ehud Olmert in his own words: What I offered President Abbas
Leading Ha’aretz writer: “Netanyahu is positioning himself left of Rabin”

 

SUMMARIES

A PALESTINIAN PLEADS WITH “PRO-PALESTINIANS” ON WESTERN COLLEGE CAMPUSES

I attach three important articles below. The first is by leading Palestinian journalist, Khaled Abu Toameh, who is from the West Bank and is a longtime subscriber to this email list.

In summary, he says:

In recent years there has been a significant rise in the number of non-Arabs and non-Muslims who describe themselves as “pro-Palestinian” activists. These people can be found mostly on university campuses in North America and Europe. Many of these activists have never been to the Middle East. What these folks have not realized is that their actions and words often do little to advance the interests of the Palestinians, and in many instances are even counterproductive.

Being anti-Israel does not necessarily turn one into “pro-Palestinian.” It is hard to see how organizing an “Israel Apartheid Week” on a university campus could help the cause of the Palestinians. Isn’t there already enough anti-Israel incitement and propaganda already on Arab and Islamic media outlets?

If anyone is entitled to be called “pro-Palestinian,” it is those who are publicly campaigning against financial corruption and abuse of human rights by Fatah and Hamas. Those who are trying to change the system from within belong to the real “pro-Palestinian” camp. These are the brave people who are standing up to both Fatah and Hamas and calling on them to stop killing each other and start doing something that would improve the living conditions of their constituents.

TEACHING

Instead of investing money and efforts in organizing Israel Apartheid Week, for example, self-described “pro-Palestinians” could dispatch teachers to teach young Palestinians English. Or they could send a delegation to Gaza to monitor human rights violations by Hamas and help Palestinian women confront Muslim fundamentalists who are trying to limit their role to cooking, raising children and looking after the needs of their husbands.

Let’s substitute Israel Apartheid Week with Palestine Democracy Week. Or is delegitimizing Israel and inciting against “Zionists” much more important that pushing for an end to financial corruption and violence in Palestinian society? It is time for the “pro-Palestinian” camp in the West to listen to the authentic voices of the Palestinians.

 

THE HOLLOWNESS OF THE ARAB STATES’ PRO-PALESTINIAN PRONOUNCEMENTS

In the second article below, Michael Freund, who is also a longtime subscriber to this email list, writes in The Jerusalem Post:

For all their talk of standing by the Palestinians, the Arab regimes sure have a strange way of showing it. Despite reaping an oil-driven windfall last year of unprecedented proportions, few Arab states seem willing to help.

… The hollowness of their pro-Palestinian pronouncements was unambiguously on display last month in Amman, at a meeting of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which relies on voluntary contributions from governments to fund its activities on behalf of Palestinian refugees.

… UNRWA is facing a deficit of $84 million this year… Indeed, two weeks ago, the group’s 16,000 employees in Judea, Samaria and Gaza held a one-day strike to demand better pay.

Why, you might be wondering, have the UN agency’s troubles been mounting of late? After all, fuel prices surged last year, with oil peaking in July 2008 at a high of $150 a barrel.

… And yet, in 2008, 19 of the top 20 donors to UNRWA’s general fund were from the West, with the EU contributing over $116m., and the U.S. more than $94m. Others, such as Sweden and the UK, each gave over $35m.

“GENEROUS” KUWAIT

Just one Arab country – Kuwait – appeared among UNRWA’s top 20 benefactors. The Kuwaitis came in last on the list, having given just $2.5m.

Given that Kuwait’s oil revenues last year surged by 44 percent to nearly $78 billion, you would think that if they truly cared about the Palestinians, this would have been reflected in the size of their donation to UNRWA.

Nonetheless, when compared to the other five Arab states that comprise the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – the Kuwaitis come out looking generous.

THE SAUDIS GAVE NOTHING

In 2008, the combined revenues of the GCC states from oil production amounted to a whopping $575b. Yet their joint contribution to UNRWA’s regular budget was a little more than $3.6m., signifying less than one one-thousandth of a percent of their total petroleum income! Bahrain gave a miserly $50,000, Oman forked out just over $25,000, while Saudi Arabia gave zero.

… Not that I am shedding any tears over UNRWA’s difficulties. The organization has long been a vehicle for perpetuating the Palestinian refugee problem as a lever for pressuring Israel, and it has not shied away from working closely with Hamas in Gaza, or serving as a vehicle for anti-Israel and anti-Western indoctrination.

But UNRWA’s woes lay bare the breathtaking hypocrisy of the Arab states. They lambaste Israel at every opportunity over the condition of the Palestinians, even as they themselves do very little to alleviate the problem…

(Please see previous dispatches on this website for more on UNRWA.)

 

“A FOREIGN POLICY OF PENANCE BY OBAMA HAS WON AMERICA NO FRIENDS”

In the third and final article below, Fouad Ajami writes in The Wall Street Journal that “the Arabs have stopped applauding Obama.”

Professor Ajami says:

In the endless chatter of this region, and in the commentaries offered by the press, the theme is one of disappointment. In the Arab-Islamic world, Barack Obama has come down to earth.

He has not made the world anew, history did not bend to his will, the Indians and Pakistanis have been told that the matter of Kashmir is theirs to resolve, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains the same intractable clash of two irreconcilable nationalisms, and the theocrats in Iran have not “unclenched their fist,” nor have they abandoned their nuclear quest.

There is little Obama can do about this disenchantment. He can’t journey to Turkey to tell its Islamist leaders and political class that a decade of anti-American scapegoating is all forgiven and was the product of American policies – he has already done that. He can’t journey to Cairo to tell the fabled “Arab street” that the Iraq war was a wasted war, and that America earned the malice that came its way from Arab lands – he has already done that as well. He can’t tell Muslims that America is not at war with Islam – he, like his predecessor, has said that time and again.

“IN ARAB EYES, IT IS A GREAT MISTAKE TO SPEAK ILL OF ONE’S OWN TRIBE”

… Obama’s election has not drained the swamps of anti-Americanism. That anti-Americanism is endemic in the greater Middle East region, an alibi … for nations, and their rulers, unwilling to break out of the grip of political autocracy and economic failure. It predated the presidency of George W. Bush and rages on during the Obama presidency…

[America previously argued the cause of liberty and justice in other countries]. The Obama approach is different. Steeped in an overarching idea of American guilt, Obama and his lieutenants offered nothing less than a doctrine of American penance. No one told Obama that the Islamic world, where American power is engaged and so dangerously exposed, it is considered bad form, nay a great moral lapse, to speak ill of one’s own tribe when in the midst, and in the lands, of others.

… Obama could not make up his mind: He was at one with the people and with the rulers who held them in subjugation. The people of Iran who took to the streets this past summer were betrayed by this hapless diplomacy – Obama wished instead to engage the terrible rulers that millions of Iranians were determined to be rid of.

“IT WASN’T ONE OF AMERICAN DIPLOMACY’S FINEST MOMENTS”

On Nov. 4, on the 30th anniversary of the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran, the embattled reformers … posed an embarrassing dilemma for American diplomacy: “Obama, Obama, you are either with us or with them,” they chanted. By not responding to these cries and continuing to engage Tehran’s murderous regime, his choice was made clear. It wasn’t one of American diplomacy’s finest moments.

… Where Bush offered the Palestinians the gift of clarity – statehood but only after the renunciation of terror and the break with maximalism – Obama signaled a return to the dead ways of the past: a peace process where America itself is broker and arbiter…


FULL ARTICLES

WHAT IS STRIKING IS THAT MANY OF THESE “PRO-PALESTINIAN” ACTIVISTS HAVE NEVER BEEN TO THE MIDDLE EAST

What Does “Pro-Palestinian” Really Mean?
By Khaled Abu Toameh
November 17, 2009

www.hudsonny.org/2009/11/what-does-pro-palestinian-really-mean.php

In recent years there has been a significant rise in the number of non-Palestinians who describe themselves as “pro-Palestinian” activists. These people can be found mostly on university campuses in North America and Europe.

What is striking is that many of these “pro-Palestinian” activists have never been to the Middle East, let alone the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. In most cases, they are not even Arabs or Muslims.

What makes them “pro-Palestinian”?

In their view, inciting against Israel on a university campus or publishing “anti-Zionist” material on the Internet is sufficient to earn them the title of “pro-Palestinian.” But what these folks have not realized is that their actions and words often do little to advance the interests of the Palestinians. In some instances, these actions and words are even counterproductive.

It is hard to see how organizing events such as “Israel Apartheid Week” on a university campus could help the cause of the Palestinians. Isn’t there already enough anti-Israel incitement that is being spewed out of Arab and Islamic media outlets?

If anyone is entitled to be called “pro-Palestinian,” it is those who are publicly campaigning against financial corruption and abuse of human rights by Fatah and Hamas. Those who are trying to change the system from within belong to the real “pro-Palestinian” camp.

These are the brave people who are standing up to both Fatah and Hamas and calling on them to stop killing each other and start doing something that would improve the living conditions of their constituents.

Instead of investing money and efforts in organizing Israel Apartheid Week, for example, the self-described “pro-Palestinians” could dispatch a delegation of teachers to Palestinian villages and refugee camps to teach young Palestinians English. Or they could send another delegation to the Gaza Strip to monitor human rights violations by the Hamas authorities and help Palestinian women confront Muslim fundamentalists who are trying to limit their role to cooking, raising children and looking after the needs of their husbands.

Here is an idea: Let’s substitute Israel Apartheid Week with Palestine Democracy Week, where Palestinians would be urged and encouraged to demand an end to financial corruption and bad government.

The “pro-Palestinian” activists in the West clearly do not care about reforms and good government in the Palestinian territories. As far as these activists are concerned, delegitimizing Israel and inciting against “Zionists” are much more important that pushing for an end to financial corruption and violence in Palestinian society.

Telling the world how bad and evil Israel and the Jews are does not help the Palestinians as much as demanding good government and encouraging the emergence of young and “clean” leadership in the Palestinian territories.

If the “pro-Palestinian” camp in the West were investing a similar amount of its anti-Israel efforts in promoting moderation and civil society among Palestinians, it would be doing them a great service.

Shouting anti-Israel slogans or organizing Israel Apartheid Week in the US and Canada does not necessarily make a person “pro-Palestinian.”

But promoting good government and reform in the Palestinian territories does make one “pro-Palestinian.”

Being anti-Israel does not necessarily turn one into “pro-Palestinian.” On the other hand, promoting coexistence, peace and good government would be more beneficial to the Palestinians.

The Palestinians do not need students and professors on university campuses to tell them that Israel is bad. They have already had enough of this incitement from Hamas, Fatah and other Arab media outlets and leaders.

It is time for the “pro-Palestinian” camp in the West to reconsider its policies and tactics. It is time for this camp to listen to the authentic voices of the Palestinians – those that are shouting day and night that the Palestinians want good leaders and an end to lawlessness, anarchy and financial corruption.

 

DO ARAB STATES REALLY CARE ABOUT THE PALESTINIANS?

Do Arab states really care about the Palestinians?
By Michael Freund
The Jerusalem Post
November 26, 2009

For all their talk of standing by the Palestinians, the Arab regimes sure have a strange way of showing it. Despite reaping an oil-driven windfall last year of unprecedented proportions, few Arab states seem willing to dig very deep into their own pockets to back up their concern with cash.

Indeed, the hollowness of their pro-Palestinian pronouncements was unambiguously on display last week in Amman, at a meeting of the Advisory Commission of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, better known by its acronym of UNRWA.

Among the central topics discussed at the gathering was the growing financial crisis confronting the organization, which relies on voluntary contributions from governments to fund its activities on behalf of Palestinian refugees.

In her remarks, Karen Abu Zayd, UNRWA’s commissioner-general, bemoaned the group’s financial state, describing it as “my most worrying preoccupation.”

She told those assembled that the agency is facing a deficit of $84 million this year, and that it projects a budget shortfall of $140m. in 2010. “UNRWA’s weak financial situation,” Abu Zayd said, “hinders our ability to discharge our responsibilities to the standards Palestinian refugees deserve.”

For the past several years, it seems, UNRWA has been in increasingly dire straits. Indeed, on Tuesday of last week, the group’s 16,000 employees in Judea, Samaria and Gaza held a one-day strike to demand better pay.

Why, you might be wondering, have the UN agency’s troubles been mounting of late? After all, fuel prices surged last year, with oil peaking in July 2008 at a high of $150 a barrel, so the coffers of Arab treasuries throughout the region were hardly lacking for funds with which to aid their Palestinian brethren.

I wondered too, so I did some research and discovered a few surprising facts about the colossal gap between Arab rhetoric and Palestinian reality.

Consider the following: In 2008, 19 of the top 20 donors to UNRWA’s general fund were from the West, with the EU contributing over $116m., and the US more than $94m. Others, such as Sweden and the UK, each gave over $35m.

Just one Arab country – Kuwait – appeared among UNRWA’s top 20 benefactors. The Kuwaitis came in last on the list, having coughed up just $2.5m.

Given that Kuwait’s oil revenues last year surged by 44 percent to nearly $78 billion, you would think that if they really, truly cared about the Palestinians, this would have been reflected in the size of their donation to UNRWA.

Nonetheless, when compared to the other five Arab states that comprise the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – the Kuwaitis come out looking generous.

In 2008, the combined revenues of the GCC states from oil production amounted to a whopping $575b. Yet their joint contribution to UNRWA’s regular budget was a little more than $3.6m., signifying less than one one-thousandth of a percent of their total petroleum income! Bahrain gave a miserly $50,000, Oman forked over just $25,000, while Saudi Arabia coughed up zero.

I’ve been to Hadassah dinners where more money was raised in an hour than the Arab states seem willing to part with in an entire year.

In fact, over the past two decades, Arab regimes have been providing a steadily decreasing percentage of UNRWA’s funding. In the 1980s, their contributions amounted to 8% of the group’s annual budget, whereas now they comprise barely 3%.

As a result, Western states are currently providing more than 95% of the funds behind UNRWA’s ongoing programs.

Now don’t get me wrong – I am not shedding any tears over UNRWA’s difficulties. The organization has long been a vehicle for perpetuating the Palestinian refugee problem as a lever for pressuring Israel, and it has not shied away from working closely with Hamas in Gaza, or serving as a vehicle for anti-Israel and anti-Western indoctrination.

But UNRWA’s woes lay bare the breathtaking hypocrisy of the Arab states. They lambaste Israel at every opportunity over the condition of the Palestinians, even as they themselves do very little to alleviate the problem.

Sure, some Arab countries have kicked in funds to various UNRWA emergency appeals, while others provide aid to Palestinians via other channels.

But the numbers above lead one to wonder: do the Arab states really care about the Palestinians?

If UNRWA’s ledger is any guide, the answer is a clear and resounding “no.”

 

OBAMA HAS MADE THINGS WORSE FOR AMERICA IN THE MIDDLE EAST

The Arabs have stopped applauding Obama
A foreign policy of penance has won America no friends
By Fouad Ajami
The Wall Street Journal
November 29, 2009

“He talks too much,” a Saudi academic in Jeddah, who had once been smitten with Barack Obama, recently observed to me of America’s 44th president. He has wearied of Mr. Obama and now does not bother with the Obama oratory.

He is hardly alone, this academic. In the endless chatter of this region, and in the commentaries offered by the press, the theme is one of disappointment. In the Arab-Islamic world, Barack Obama has come down to earth.

He has not made the world anew, history did not bend to his will, the Indians and Pakistanis have been told that the matter of Kashmir is theirs to resolve, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the same intractable clash of two irreconcilable nationalisms, and the theocrats in Iran have not “unclenched their fist,” nor have they abandoned their nuclear quest.

There is little Mr. Obama can do about this disenchantment. He can’t journey to Turkey to tell its Islamist leaders and political class that a decade of anti-American scapegoating is all forgiven and was the product of American policies – he has already done that. He can’t journey to Cairo to tell the fabled “Arab street” that the Iraq war was a wasted war of choice, and that America earned the malice that came its way from Arab lands – he has already done that as well. He can’t tell Muslims that America is not at war with Islam – he, like his predecessor, has said that time and again.

It was the norm for American liberalism during the Bush years to brandish the Pew Global Attitudes survey that told of America’s decline in the eyes of foreign nations. Foreigners were saying what the liberals wanted said.

Now those surveys of 2009 bring findings from the world of Islam that confirm that the animus toward America has not been radically changed by the ascendancy of Mr. Obama. In the Palestinian territories, 15% have a favorable view of the U.S. while 82% have an unfavorable view. The Obama speech in Ankara didn’t seem to help in Turkey, where the favorables are 14% and those unreconciled, 69%. In Egypt, a country that’s reaped nearly 40 years of American aid, things stayed roughly the same: 27% have a favorable view of the U.S. while 70% do not. In Pakistan, a place of great consequence for American power, our standing has deteriorated: The unfavorables rose from 63% in 2008 to 68% this year.

Mr. Obama’s election has not drained the swamps of anti-Americanism. That anti-Americanism is endemic to this region, an alibi and a scapegoat for nations, and their rulers, unwilling to break out of the grip of political autocracy and economic failure. It predated the presidency of George W. Bush and rages on during the Obama presidency.

We had once taken to the foreign world that quintessential American difference – the belief in liberty, a needed innocence to play off against the settled and complacent ways of older nations. The Obama approach is different.

Steeped in an overarching idea of American guilt, Mr. Obama and his lieutenants offered nothing less than a doctrine, and a policy, of American penance. No one told Mr. Obama that the Islamic world, where American power is engaged and so dangerously exposed, it is considered bad form, nay a great moral lapse, to speak ill of one’s own tribe when in the midst, and in the lands, of others.

The crowd may have applauded the cavalier way the new steward of American power referred to his predecessor, but in the privacy of their own language they doubtless wondered about his character and his fidelity. “My brother and I against my cousin, my cousin and I against the stranger,” goes one of the Arab world’s most honored maxims. The stranger who came into their midst and spoke badly of his own was destined to become an object of suspicion.

Mr. Obama could not make up his mind: He was at one with “the people” and with the rulers who held them in subjugation. The people of Iran who took to the streets this past summer were betrayed by this hapless diplomacy – Mr. Obama was out to “engage” the terrible rulers that millions of Iranians were determined to be rid of.

On Nov. 4, on the 30th anniversary of the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran, the embattled reformers, again in the streets, posed an embarrassing dilemma for American diplomacy: “Obama, Obama, you are either with us or with them,” they chanted. By not responding to these cries and continuing to “engage” Tehran’s murderous regime, his choice was made clear. It wasn’t one of American diplomacy’s finest moments.

Mr. Obama has himself to blame for the disarray of his foreign policy. American arms had won a decent outcome in Iraq, but Mr. Obama would not claim it – it was his predecessor’s war. Vigilance had kept the American homeland safe from terrorist attacks for seven long years under his predecessors, but he could never grant Bush policies the honor and credit they deserved. He had declared Afghanistan a war of necessity, but he seems to have his eye on the road out even as he is set to announce a troop increase in an address to be delivered tomorrow.

He was quick to assert, in the course of his exuberant campaign for president last year, that his diplomacy in South Asia would start with the standoff in Kashmir. In truth India had no interest in an international adjudication of Kashmir. What was settled during the partition in 1947 was there to stay. In recent days, Mr. Obama walked away from earlier ambitions. “Obviously, there are historic conflicts between India and Pakistan,” he said. “It’s not the place of the United States to try to, from the outside, resolve those conflicts.”

Nor was he swayed by the fate of so many “peace plans” that have been floated over so many decades to resolve the fight between Arab and Jew over the land between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean. Where George W. Bush offered the Palestinians the gift of clarity – statehood but only after the renunciation of terror and the break with maximalism – Mr. Obama signaled a return to the dead ways of the past: a peace process where America itself is broker and arbiter.

The Obama diplomacy had made a settlement freeze its starting point, when this was precisely the wrong place to begin. Israel has given up settlements before at the altar of peace – recall the historical accommodation with Egypt a quarter century ago. The right course would have set the question of settlements aside as it took up the broader challenge of radicalism in the region – the menace and swagger of Iran, the arsenal of Hamas and Hezbollah, the refusal of the Arab order of power to embrace in broad daylight the cause of peace with Israel.

The laws of gravity, the weight of history and of precedent, have caught up with the Obama presidency. We are beyond stirring speeches. The novelty of the Obama approach, and the Obama persona, has worn off. There is a whole American diplomatic tradition to draw upon – engagements made, wisdom acquired in the course of decades, and, yes, accounts to be settled with rogues and tyrannies. They might yet help this administration find its way out of a labyrinth of its own making.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.