Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Aspen's Suspension of Credibility: Fayyad and Syria's Regime Lie, Americans Applaud

By Barry Rubin

The Aspen Daily News, the publication of the affluent, conspicuous-consumption ski resort in Colorado, is not a major media outlet. Yet how beautifully this society sheet illustrates the spirit of an age in which self-described beautiful people applaud the ugly terrorists and dictatorships!

“Palestinian prime minister: Jews would be welcome in future state,” reads the headline. Now, it is well-known that the Palestinian Authority, which the aforementioned prime minister Salam Fayyad sort of heads, has always taken the view that all Jews must be removed from any future Palestinian state. This was also known to the more informed members of the audience, but modern Western intellectuals and journalists are very polite people—if you fall into the right category.

One man at least had the courage to ask if the emperor’s clothes weren’t a bit scanty:

“At the Aspen Institute's Ideas Festival on Saturday, former CIA director James Woolsey noted that there are a million Arabs in Israel, accounting for one-sixth of the Israeli population, and...then asked PA (Palestinian Authority) Prime Minister Salam Fayyad: `If there is to be the rule of law in a Palestinian state, and if Jews want to live in someplace like Hebron, or anyplace else in a Palestinian state, for whatever reasons or historical attachments, why should they not be treated the same way Israeli Arabs are?’"

“Fayyad responded: `The kind of state that we want to have, that we aspire to have, is one that would definitely espouse high values of tolerance, co-existence, mutual respect and deference to all cultures, religions. No discrimination whatsoever, on any basis whatsoever. Jews to the extent they choose to stay and live in the state of Palestine will enjoy those rights and certainly will not enjoy any less rights than Israeli Arabs enjoy now in the State of Israel.’"

There is much that one can say about these two paragraphs. The Western media and academia is replete with articles about the allegedly terrible lot of Arabs in Israel. They are noticeably empty about the really terrible lot of Christians in many Muslim-majority places. (To be fair, I am not talking about the PA-ruled West Bank here.) The same applies to alleged oppression or repression in Israel and the lack of information on the very real oppression and repression where the PA rules. So already Fayyad has a head start.

What makes this especially disgusting is that leading figures in the PA recently attended a stage show at which Fatah bragged--as proof of its superiority to Hamas--of the mob murder, abetted by the PA police, of two unarmed Israeli reserve soldiers who took a wrong turn and found themselves in the middle of a PA-controlled city. The PA's response? To threaten the Italian reporter who filmed the murder.

Fayyad is lying. He knows he’s lying. The better-informed members of the audience know that he’s lying. So here’s what the audience did:

“The crowd at the Greenwald Pavilion applauded enthusiastically.”

This was followed by a fawning question by former assistant secretary of state Martin Indyk who, according to the newspaper:

“Complimented Fayyad on his plans to build up Palestinian government institutions en route to statehood, which Fayyad has set a goal of achieving in two years. He asked Fayyad if `final stage” political negotiations should also now be underway. “’

This is all pure nonsense since in fact Palestinian government institutions are a mess of corruption and incompetence while Fayyad has about as much chance of obtaining statehood in two years as (you are invited to fill in the blank with something appropriate).

“Fayyad answered that there was a risk for `this to be seen as an effort to make the occupation work better, and not to end it, and thereby doing away with any political viability that our political leadership still has.

“’What we are counting on is a meaningful political process that is capable of ending the occupation, because building the institutions of the state, by itself, is not going to end the occupation. It is a necessary condition, but it is not sufficient ....Both have to work together.”

What he’s really saying is that his idea of a peace process is that the West will force Israel to pull out of the West Bank without the PA doing anything. This is what he has put forward as strategy in his main policy speech, which those in the audience should have read and digested but presumably didn’t.

And then this exchange:

“Earlier in the interview, Fayyad said that Palestinian elections set for January should definitely be held as scheduled.

“`That is an absolute right for the people,’” he said, adding that, “`it is no secret that Hamas does not want elections.’”

“`Because they think they will lose?’” asked [columnist Tom] Friedman.

“`I don’t know of what other reason they may have,” Fayyad said.

“`That’s usually a pretty good reason not to have elections,’” Friedman said.

Ha! Ha! Very funny. But in fact everyone in the audience should know—and Friedman must know—that it was Fayyad’s boss, Mahmoud Abbas, the PA’s chief executive, who cancelled elections and unilaterally extended his term.

True, the PA cannot supervise elections in the Gaza Strip, controlled by Hamas, but Fatah which rules the PA has never even held internal elections. And some of the poll results show Hamas as being very strong in the West Bank.

The following is a true story: In the run-up to the Gaza elections which Hamas won, Fatah and PA officials approached Israel and proposed having a phony military confrontation that would give the PA an opportunity to cancel the elections. But Fayyad—who, true, was not involved in this particular incident--is allowed to get away with his supposed dedication to democracy.

Earlier in the day, Fayyad said that the way to handle Hamas—which to her credit Senator Diane Feinstein condemned at the conference--is to get Palestinians to support

“That which is done to affect a meaningful change for the better in people’s lives. I think we stand a much better chance of winning that debate than going about it in a war of words, which has typified much of the argument over the divide.”

But Fayyad knows, as should the well-informed people in the audience, that his stated policy is to make a power-sharing deal with Hamas. So if Feinstein accurately described Hamas as “a militaristic/terrorist organization that still believes Israel should be driven into the sea, that does not admit Israel’s right to exist,” why is Fayyad seeking to bring it into his government?

For the full interview/speech see here.

I know I should stop here, but it is impossible to describe the absurd credulity of the contemporary scene—Festival of Ideas, indeed!—without discussing the end of the article. Not content to apologize for one such regime, the festival includes a speech from another honored speaker, Syrian ambassador to the U.S. Imad Moustapha. (The quotes were taken from an interview he just did in the Atlantic.)

Here is the representative of a vicious dictatorship, one of the world’s leading supporters of terrorism, where the state produces television series showing Jews murdering Christian children to drink their blood and helps terrorists get into Iraq to murder American soldiers (you know, working class people who don’t usually hang out in Aspen).

And what does Moustapha lecture Americans about? Why democracy, of course!

“`Democracy is an ideal state that is never attainable,’” Moustapha said,” well that’s sure true in Syria!

He goes on—a statement too priceless not to quote:

“When asked about the state of democratic freedoms in Syria, Moustapha said that U.S. policy seemed to be that the Arab people should only elect those candidates and parties supported by the U.S.” He cited the Hamas win in the Gaza Strip and the recent elections in Lebanon. Given Syria’s bloody history in Lebanon and more recent involvement in murders, this is rich, though perhaps not as rich as the Aspen audience.

In regard to U.S. policy in Syria, the Syrian ambassador said, “You need to leave us to evolve into a more democratic state from within. Don’t try to impose anything on us from without.”

Right, just let Syria go on trying to impose its interests on Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinians, Jordan, and Iraq “from without.”

But isn’t this what it’s all about? The United States and its friends are responsible for all the world’s problems. America should make up for its sins by either supporting its enemies, sending them checks, or at least doing nothing.

Oh, yes, did I mention applauding their lies enthusiastically?

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