Sunday, February 03, 2008

Myth: Most Palestinians Accept the Legitimacy of Israel

Westerners, across the political spectrum, often demonstrate an inability to mentally process challenges to the idea that Israel is legitimately a Jewish state that I find somewhat puzzling. By this I don't mean that they disagree with challenges to Israel's legitimacy. I mean further that they seem to create in their own minds a world where there is essentially no disagreement over whether or not there should be a Jewish state between Jordan and Egypt.

When a Westerner encounters the opinion that there should not be a Jewish state, that Westerner, whether liberal or conservative, interprets the opinion as an opinion that Jews should be murdered or some other bizarre fantasy that is entirely unrelated to the original opinion.

I'm completely certain that Westerners reading this blog have reached the conclusion that I hate Jews and want them killed to create a Jew-free Middle East. I don't hold anything like those opinions but Westerners interpret challenges to Israel's legitimacy that way, and there is nothing I could write that would change that.

It is part of reality that in the minds of many Westerners, a non-hateful, non-genocidal belief that Israel should not be a Jewish state does not, and cannot exist.

This inability to perceive, to mentally process, the fact that others believe Israel should not be a Jewish state colors the creation and interpretation of polls I see from time to time of Palestinian opinion with respect to Israel. Here is a typical example:

63% support and 35% oppose mutual recognition of Israel as the state for the Jewish people and Palestine as the state for the Palestinian people after the establishment of a Palestinian state and the resolution of all issues of conflict.

The support shown here is the result of a contrived effort to inflate reported acceptance of a Jewish state. The additions "the establishment of a Palestinian state" and after "the resolution of all issues of conflict" make respondents more likely to give the right answer, but makes their answers less meaningful.

Whenever the question is asked clearly, "should there be a Jewish state" or "is Israel as a Jewish state legitimate" in nearly any Muslim population or any Middle Eastern population outside of Israel there is consensus approaching unanimity that Israel is not legitimate.

From the same study:

43% support and 54% oppose a permanent settlement in which the refugee problem is resolved based on UN resolution 194 but with restrictions on refugee return to Israel which would be subject to an Israeli decision.

This is a step that is skipped by the headline finding that 63% of Palestinians accept Israel. 43% of Palestinians support a permanent settlement where Israel can limit the return of refugees. But even that is overstated because this in many cases does not reflect a belief that Israel morally has some right to deny refugees. Instead it in those cases reflects a belief that though Israel is immoral, fighting is not worth it.

The view that Israel's Jewish identity is immoral and illegitimate but cannot be successfully challenged under the current circumstances is also a prevalent view of US/Israeli "allies" in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. This view is dependent on current circumstances though and can change rapidly with them. That view is ignored, probably non-voluntarily, by most Western observers of the Middle East.

  • Most people in throughout the Middle East do not hate Jews, do not advocate genocide and do not accept Israel's legitimacy as a Jewish state.
  • There are reasonable people who do not accept Israel's legitimacy as a Jewish state.

The above are two sentences that are true and that I believe many, even most Western supporters of Israel, whether Jewish or non-Jewish, whether liberal or conservative, are just not able to process.

If Iran Were America

Linking to a really good essay.

Here is an excerpt:

1980–1988: The America-Mexico War

The Iranians have previously maneuvered one of their long-time Mexican intelligence assets, whom we'll call "José Husseino," into the position of dictator of Mexico. Now they provide their pet dictator with arms, aid and intelligence, and launch Mexico into an invasion of the United States.

Ideally, this policy will topple the revolutionary Christianist government in Washington. Failing that, the Iranian leadership hopes Mexico will seize the oil-rich province of Texas, denying revenue to the new Washington government, while keeping Texas oil within the Iranian "sphere of influence."

The Canada/Israel analogy misses some important elements, but that is my only criticism of the essay. The essay itself is astonishingly well written for something by a Westerner.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Bribes For Iraq's Parliament

A computer-generated translation of an article in the Akhbar Alkhaleej newspaper.

An Iraqi MP preferred to remain anonymous told the newspaper that highly confidential negotiations took place by representatives from American oil companies, offering $5 million to each MP who votes in favor of the Oil and Gas law.

I've always assumed that direct corruption is an important element of US leverage over Iraq's government. And I've read reports that Iraq under the occupation has become the most corrupt place in the Middle East.

I've never read a report of a direct accusation of a specific instance of corruption until now.

My first thought on reading this is to congratulate the Iraqi parliament for so far resisting what I'm sure are huge pressures from the US to succomb to this type of corruption.

My second thought is that I guess it's mathematically possible that this report is fabricated from nothing, I find that completely implausible. I see no reason that the US would not engineer the writing of an oil law substantially more favorable to the US than the standard oil laws of the region and attempt to use corruption to split the difference between US companies and whichever Iraqi leaders are willing to be paid off.

My third thought though, is that I am very disappointed by the failure of the Western press to uncover and present this story earlier.

When Iraq's parliament, at the urging of the Sadr faction, prepared to nominate Jaafari for another term as Prime Minister, Bush said that was not acceptable. Rice flew into Iraq for consultations on stopping his candidacy. As adamant as the US or England could be, the fact was they had no votes on Parliament. My questions at the time were "What leverage does Rice have?" "What can Rice be saying that could be persuasive to members of Iraq's parliament?"

The common answer at the time was since the US has around 150,000 troops in the country it has to have some leverage. While as a generality that may qualify as a true statement, the specific story of what Rice could and did promise to change the votes of Iraq's parliamentarians had to be an interesting and important story.

It was very frustrating at the time to watch the Western press fail to even address that question. I concluded that the reason for that failure was partly that the Western press was sympathetic to the aims of the Bush administration, more widely than they pretended and partly that many members of the press are not able to immediately see the disconnect between the influence the US had in theory and the influence the US was acting as if it had. If members of the press had perceived that gap, they would have worked to explain it, instead the gap never entered their field of vision.

We're getting the first concrete indications that US influence in Iraq's parliament is powered at least partly by direct monetary payments. It is true that every skeptical observer, including myself, has believed this to be the case for years now. But belief via ruling out of alternatives is different from having specific examples. A press that was doing its job would have provided specific examples a long time ago.

Along with Iraq's legistlature, congratulations are also in order for the Akbhar Al-Khaleej Newspaper that has done in Arabic what no Western press source has done in English to my knowledge.