Friday, September 30, 2011

Why Most of The Mass Media Can't Report Honestly on Israel—Or Other Middle East Issues

By Barry Rubin

Underlying any other factor regarding attitudes toward Israel in the Media-University-Government (MUG) complex  is the programmatic and ideological problem faced in honestly understanding and explaining Israel's behavior.

To report truthfully would require comprehending and communicating the following two paragraphs:

 --Most Israelis believe, on the basis of their experience during the 1990s’ Oslo era and with the "peace process" generally, that Palestinian leaders cannot and will not make peace, and that most Arabs and Muslims still want to destroy Israel. As a result, they explain, past Israeli concessions have made Israel's situation worse, risks to show that Israel wants peace have not persuaded onlookers, withdrawals from territory have only led to that territory being used to launch attacks on Israel.

--In justifying their stance, Israelis cite the extremism of Iran; the advances of Hamas and Hizballah; the growing radicalism and Islamist influence in the Egyptian revolution, and other such factors. In addition, they worry that the Obama Administration policy is undermining Israel and enabling a growing extremism in the region. This is a prevailing viewpoint across the political spectrum.

I could have chosen to make additional points but this shows the main factors. Since the Israeli argument is so cogent and backed by facts and observable realities, it would be dangerously persuasive to those who  actually get to hear it.

Instead, the muggers of MUG must insist:

Read it all:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Western Policy on Israel-Palestinian Peacemaking is Ludicrously, Totally Wrong and Will Produce Only Humiliating Failure

By Barry Rubin
 It’s truly remarkable about how international diplomacy on the Middle East, especially Israel-Palestinian issues, is so out of touch with reality. Consider the Quartet’s response to the mess at the UN.

The proposal is for Israel-PA talks to start within a month, both sides to present proposals on borders and security within three months, and to reach a final agreement by the end of 2012.

This is insane. The premise here is that the PA is really eager to negotiate a compromise agreement with Israel. Everything that’s happened in the past three years—indeed the last 18 years since the Oslo agreement was signed—shows the exact opposite. The PA spent a year building its campaign for unilateral independence at the UN precisely to avoid negotiating with Israel at all.

Read it all:

Give the Status Quo Some Respect: All We Are Saying Is Don’t Make Things Worse

This article was published in the Jerusalem Post. I own the rights and I've added more material here so read and link to this version! 

By Barry Rubin

Many people are obviously and understandably frustrated that Israel is so badly treated by the Mug-gers (media, university, and government) complex in much of the Western world. One can fume endlessly against their behavior (double standards, falsified history) but that accomplishes nothing.

So the immediate alternative is to say what is needed is creative new ideas, with the assumption that these ideas will solve the problem or at least make things better. This is logical and fits many other situations but it usually doesn’t apply to Israel’s case. Why not?

The assumption is that if good actions are taken then they will be recognized and rewarded. If good things are said, they will be reported and praised in a meaningful way. But while Israel should always do and say the best things this mechanism doesn’t work. The good actions are ignored or reinterpreted; the good statements are just ignored.

And so the eternal last bastion of those who unintentionally make Israel’s situation harder and the Middle East worse is to say: Why don’t you propose something positive? What’s the alternative? The status quo is unsustainable!

Of course, all status quos are unsustainable in a sense since change is inevitable. But sometimes the status quo deserves to be kept around for a while until something better comes along or can be made to happen. The best alternative of all is not to make things worse than they already are. As for the cliché that the status quo is unsustainable, .that is usually followed by a plan that would make for a status quo even more unsustainable and negative.

There is a one-word description for the idea of the unsustainable status quo: defeatism. Mind you, I don’t mean that nothing should change and that one’s policy should be that of mindless reactionary intransigence. But one can also make one’s own strategy better rather than switching to another one.

The implication of an unsustainable status quo is that things are so bad that you better jump off the sinking ship into shark-infested waters before it is too late. It might be better to mobilize the crew, start pumping out the water, and steer a good course.

Consider past examples of the “status quo is unsustainable” nonsense:

The status quo is unsustainable so we must withdraw immediately from south Lebanon.
The status quo is unsustainable so we must have the Oslo accords.
The status quo is unsustainable so we must withdraw from the Gaza Strip.

And what has this done but produce what we are now called an “unsustainable” status quo” as opposed to all of those previous unsustainable situations of the past six decades.

Another thing left out by the unsustainable status quo school is to assume that any change must focus on making more concessions. One could alter the status quo, for example, by showing more strength and by inflicting higher costs on adversaries and sabotaging hostile acts. One can also be creative about defending oneself.

On top of all this, however, Israel has special problems. Here are three examples:

Turkey: In trying to deal with the current friction with Turkey, Israel’s government proposed that it express regrets about defending itself during the Gaza flotilla, not the defense but the resulting loss of life among Turkish jihadists come to create a confrontation. It offered to make donations to a humanitarian fund for the relatives of those killed.

The Turkish government responded that only a full apology, the payment of compensation (an admission of wrong and based on demands rather than the donors' judgment), and an immediate end of the Gaza blockade. The Turkish demand was ironic coming immediately after a UN commission declaring the blockade is legal.

So despite trying creative ways to end the conflict, Israeli officials could do nothing. Why? Because for its own reasons the Turkish regime doesn’t want to resolve the conflict. All Israel can do is to show its respect for the Turkish people and nation along with willingness to be flexible if the other side is reasonable.

Egypt: What is going to be determining the Egypt-Israel relationship in future is not Israeli actions or words since radical nationalists and Islamists in Turkey—even relative moderates—are so hostile. Israel’s creative alternative is to try to get along with the military junta and to avoid offending reasonable Egyptian pride and legitimate Egyptian rights. Once an elected government takes over, it isn’t going to be easy.

No verbal formula, no Israeli action will make the country popular among revolutionary Islamists and radical nationalists. This is different from normal international relations, where countries can make alterations in their words or policies to get credit for them and sooth disputes. That’s a point many in the West simply don’t understand.

Palestinians: What’s Israel to do on this issue? How about withdrawing from the Gaza Strip to show its good intentions? No, did that. Letting a couple of hundred thousand Palestinians return and establish their own government? Been there, done that. Letting them have guns and lots of money? Check. Offering, on almost a daily basis, to negotiate without conditions; to accept an independent Palestinian state; to return basically to the 1967 borders with some alterations and swaps? Ooops, done that, too.

And if after all that Western leaders and writers can still say that Israel hasn’t proven that it wants peace will the next change in the status quo change that? Of course, if Israel elected a left-of-center prime minister, the world would say nice things for a while even if they had the same basic policy and said the same words as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does. Yet how long will that last? Don’t believe me? Three words: Rabin, Peres, Barak.

An outside observer who doesn’t understand any of this or who hasn’t been following events would think that obviously Israel can and should do more for peace. Let me put it this way: Why should we risk our lives just because you haven’t been paying attention?

Precisely at this moment I read an op-ed by a well-intentioned law professor who points out a “positive” aspect of Palestinian statehood. If Palestine becomes an internationally recognized state, it will be responsible—he explains—for actions taken by any group on its soil, say for example if a Palestinian group crossed the border and attacked Israel, killing Israeli civilians.

Professor, please note that by that standard Israel has no problem with Lebanon, for example, a country from which terrorists have often attacked Israel. Oh, by the way, the terrorists are now governing that country. Also, once Palestine becomes a country it is more likely that terrorists will attack Israel from its territory, Israel will retaliate, and the state of Palestine will go to the UN, where the General Assembly will then agree that Israel is the aggressor.

And as a sovereign state it is free to go to Egypt or other Arab or Muslim-majority states, import weapons and even ask for military advisors. So when Israel retaliates, it is better-armed and more likely to inflict casualties on Israeli forces. If foreign advisors are killed, that country may declare the death of its citizens to be an act of war by Israel (as Turkey’s prime minister has done regarding the Gaza flotilla clash). Or the government of Palestine can ask other countries to rush in forces and weapons to fight the Israeli “aggression.”

Please, all you professors and “experts” and politicians and journalists out there: Consider the consequences of your schemes on the real world. Before you criticize Israeli leaders as fools who don’t know what’s good for their people or Israelis in general as evil and short-sighted people who don’t know what’s good for themselves, it’s a good idea to understand the situation they face and the experience they have lived through.    

So let me say something nice about the status quo. Given the alternatives, Israel is relatively secure and prosperous. When you are the stronger party who is benefiting more, you can afford to wait until the other side makes you an offer so that changing the status quo would benefit you even more. Israel is not the—supposedly—desperate party that—supposedly—suffers from “occupation,” and that groans under the yoke of settlements—though if it makes a peace deal these will be dismantled.

The new idea needed at a time when the regional situation is deteriorating badly because of external factors is how better to defend yourself.  There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes contacts with the Palestinian Authority and others to ease the situation as much as possible, including the promotion of Palestinian prosperity.

Winston Churchill knew something about real-world politics and “unsustainable” status quo situations. He was, after all, prime minister at a time when the Nazis ruled virtually all of Europe and German planes nightly bombed British cities.

Asked once what it was like to be ninety. Terrible, he said, but consider the alternative! What about democracy? The worst of all political systems, Churchill replied, except for all of the others.

So I’m all for creativity and new ideas, as well as flexibility, but anyone who doesn’t understand Israel’s special situation and history in that regard understands nothing. There’s a reason why every concession, risk, and new idea Israel tries out doesn’t create a “sustainable status quo” and that reason is: the fault does not lie with Israel.

 Finally, if the status quo is so horrible, say, for the Palestinians then let them make a deal for a stable, two-state solution peace with Israel to change the situation rather than public relations' campaigns at the UN and patiently waiting another few generations in the hope that violence, martyrs, intransigence, and an Arab or Islamist war against Israel to bring them total victory.  . 


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Letter from Bratislava, Slovakia: Two States for Two Peoples

 By Barry Rubin
                                                                                  Bratislava, Slovakia
 A Czech friend, who has achieved considerable success in life since then, reminded me that for several years he was a window-washer under the Communist regime. The government of the proletariat believed that the worst thing it could do to people who had dissented was to send them into the proletariat. During that period, he was very active in the democratic opposition.

 Since he spoke good English, he was often asked by his comrades (probably not the right word) in the anti-Communist struggle for freedom to be the guide for visiting Western sympathizers. Often, he recounts, these were Western leftists eager to explain to those Czechs engaged in the battle for liberty that Marxian socialism was really a great idea, they just needed to make a few adjustments.

Imagine if you will, people who had grown up in an ideological dictatorship that sent people to prison for making the wrong joke being lectured by a bunch of spoiled, well-dressed Western intellectuals on the splendor of their prison.

 That’s a familiar image today, with many gays, self-identified feminists, Jewish leftists, and leftists in general (including those pretending to be liberals) extolling ideologies and systems that would pound them into the ground.  Who are they, for example, to criticize the treatment of women as one step above cattle since after all that’s the local custom? And, they continue, the women really like it!  Yesterday’s reactionary racist chauvinism is today’s multicultural progressivism!

Read it all:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Letter from Prague: What The Betrayal of Czechoslovakia in 1938 Can Teach Us About The World and Israel Today

 By Barry Rubin
                                                                                        Prague, Czech Republic

Visiting the Czech Republic prompts thoughts of the 1938 Munich agreement. Analogies with Nazism and the 1930s are overused today, made even more tasteless and cliché-ridden by the fact that many of those using them know very little about the situation then and now.

Beyond the simple narrative usually offered, a more detailed analysis shows a number of points that fit both situations better than people realize. That’s true despite the very important differences between the two cases.

After all, this pattern will not be repeated today. Western countries genuinely don’t want to sell Israel out, the balance of forces favors Israel and the West, they aren’t really afraid of direct war, the “other side” is badly divided, and Israel is much stronger than Czechoslovakia and is unwilling to sacrifice itself. Still there are lessons to be learned.

Let’s look at the 1938 crisis and its relationship with today from a different standpoint.
1.       A bad cause with a good cover story
 There was a large ethnic German minority in Czechoslovakia. These people, who lived in an area strategically important for Czech defense, certainly had some legitimate grievances  British Prime Minister Nevil Chamberlain actually had some sympathy for the “suffering” Germans. Hitler didn’t just rant and rave. He knew, like radical regimes and movements today, how to play the victim.
Today, many people cannot believe that a humanitarian issue for which a real case can be made might also block understanding of a wider danger and the creation of a worse humanitarian issue.
The Palestinians are suffering. The Palestinians want a state. These are problems worthy of a solution, but what kind of a solution? Like saying the proletariat has poor living conditions or bigotry against Muslims is a bad thing, these are true enough statements but not ones that should overwhelm common sense and a legitimate self-interest.
Even the detail of blaming Netanyahu and Israel’s current government has its parallel in the 1938 case: the problem is portrayed as the intransigence of Benes rather than that of Czechoslovakia as a whole. Incidentally, after 1945 when he returned to power, Benes expelled by law virtually all of the country’s Hungarian and German minorities.
The Germans were victimized by an unfair diplomatic settlement after World War One. Guilt feelings, then as now, led the West to make some dangerous mistakes. Beware of aggressors and would-be committers of genocide asking for your sympathy.
2.      Resentment against the “troublemaker” who is just trying to survive....

Read it all:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

To Those Always Wrong About the Middle East and Who Never Lose A Gram of Arrogance or A Moment of Sleep Over the Tragedies They Create

By Barry Rubin

On the occasion of your supporting Palestinian unilateral independence despite the dangers this presents for Israel while simultaneously criticizing Israel for not giving massive concessions in exchange for nothing. On the occasion of the world groveling before Mahmoud Abbas, a ruler of a mere one million people who is in partnership with an explicity genocidal terrorist group, is dependent on Western hand-out, refuses to negotiate or compromise, and has cancelled elections at a time when democracy is supposedly the big thing in the Middle East.   

On the occasion of your ignoring the fact that Turkey is ruled by an Islamist party engaged in massive repression and the transformation of the country into a dictatorship, holding that regime up as a model for other Muslim-majority states as it arrests dissidents on a massive scale and keeps them under lock and key while threatening war with Israel.  The U.S. government chooses this regime as its co-director in the most important new international counter-terrorist initiative and as its manager of the political transition in Syria.

On the occasion of your whitewashing revolutionary Islamism andglorifying anti-Western forces that will yield a harvest of bloodshed and misery in future.
And most of all on the occasion of your ridiculing, censoring, or ignoring far more accurate assessments of the situation. 

Here’s the record....

Read it all:

Friday, September 23, 2011

Here and There in the Middle East: Sharia Law Measuring Scale, Turkey or Iran, and the Israeli Peace Initiative Contest

Here and There in the Middle East: Sharia Law Measuring Scale, Turkey or Iran, and the Israeli Peace Initiative Contest

By Barry Rubin

1. One of my readers remarked that what we need to study now is the use of fifth columns to subvert and overthrow countries rather than the 1940-era conventional warfare  blitzkrieg. Actually, and this was well-known at the time, the Germans used a very sophisticated strategy of ideological and institutional subversion. It is surprising how much this has been forgotten. Political parties and militias were set up or subsidized; newspapers bought up; German minorities organized. If any of you are interested in this I will provide examples in future, some of which I described (using U.S. intelligence archives) in my book, Istanbul Intrigues.

2. Turkey is now going to sell Egypt both unmanned aircraft and swift patrol boats. Not that there's anything wrong with that, since both are U.S. clients and, according to the Obama Administration, allies. But this is something to watch in the future. Remember that the relatively moderate military commanders in both countries are on their way out and will be replaced by ideologically motivated (or opportunist) officers who will attack whatever they're told.  With excitable, reckless, and anti-American Recep Edrogan running Turkey and excitable, reckless, and anti-American Amr Moussa perhaps soon to be Egypt's president, old American friends may soon be attacking other old American friends, or even U.S. forces.
Have you noticed that its increasingly difficult to distinguish between remarks about Israel by Erdogan and those by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

Read it all:

I Hate Israel! I Hate America! I'm a Muslim! I've Got it All! Let Me Be Your Leader!

Scene: A nightclub in Morocco.
Abdul: "I’m sorry, sir, this is a private room."
German official [from the Nazi-controlled DeutschBank]:  "You dare not keep me out of here!"
Rick: "Your cash is good at the bar."
German official: "What! Do you know who I am?"
Rick: 'I do. You’re lucky the bar’s open to you."
--“Casablanca,” (1942)

 By Barry Rubin

 First it was Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and the Iranian revolution.

 Hey, he said in effect, Yes, I’m a Persian, Yes, I’m a Shia, but I hate Israel and want to destroy it! And besides we’re all Muslims. So let me lead the Middle East. I know the way to kick the Americans out of the Middle East, too. By force! And the blood spilled and behold, Iran was popular for a while. But the Arabs and Sunni eventually found other heroes, and some became frightened of Iran’s power.

 Then there was Saddam Hussein and his Iraqi dictatorship.

 Hey, he said in effect, I am an Arab, I am a Sunni. True, I am a Godless atheist who kills believers. But I not only hate the Americans and Israelis but I also hate the Shia and those Shia heretics. So let me lead the Middle East. I know how to defeat them! By force!  And the blood spilled and behold, Iraq was popular for a while. But then he led Iraq to disaster, and was defeated and then killed....
 There is something different this time, however, since there is still another savior of Islam in the field: Turkish President Recep Erdogan. He says: True, I’m not an Arab but I’m Sunni. And I hate the United States, though I don’t say so in public. And I know how to defeat them: by force! Let’s go and fight! And the Arab League leaders erupt in cheers and chant his name. Then the Muslim Brotherhood discovers he is too subtle for them, he wants to keep the Islamism secret until all power is seized and they disagree with that strategy.

 Read it all:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Battle at the UN and the Reaction So Far

By Barry Rubin

I think I understand the world but it is much harder to understand the world's reaction to the world's events. President Barack Obama, who has for months said he would veto the Palestinian bid to obtain UN recognition of unilateral independence, has now made a speech saying he stronly opposes it. This is portrayed as some great defeat for the Palestinians. But they've known this was going to happen for around three months. The point was--and probably still is--that they will have overwhelming support in the General Assembly. This seems likely to lead to some new concessions to them, increasing international support, and either recognition or higher status in their treatment by other countries.   So why should this be some kind of shocking development? What really makes this interesting now is how Obama's action--and especially his veto--will be dealt with in the Arab and Muslim majority world. Also so far the Palestinian demonstrations have fizzled. Exhaustion? Indifference to a purely symbolic issue? Or will reaction be delayed? We should remember that this mess was all unnecessary since if Obama had told the Palestinian leadership this nine months ago the whole thing never would have happened. Finally, does this speech prove that Obama is passionately pro-Israel? No, but it proves he isn't hysterically anti-Israel.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

It's A Bird (A Turkey Actually), It's A Plane, It's A Totally Wimpy Foreign Policy!

By Barry Rubin

Turkey's Islamist regime subverted and then opposed sanctions against Iran. That regime also declared Iran and Syria, Hamas and Hizballah to be its friends. It also sponsored a terrorist group (the IHH) to provoke Israel into an international incident that would generate Islamist martyrs and dead Israeli soldiers. Now, rejecting Israeli conciliation attempts (regrets; donations to families of jihadists who got killed trying to kill Israelis), the Turkish regime escalated to the verge of war.

Now the Turkish prime minister goes to Egypt, proposes an alliance with the Egyptian revolution, then advocates a united bloc of Arabs, Iranians, and Turks as well as war on Israel to the assembled Arab foreign ministers.

And how does the United States government respond?

 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tells the Islamist Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, according to a U.S. diplomat,

"She encouraged Turkey to keep the door open" regarding Turkey's relationship with Israel. "We want to see them repair their relationship, so she encouraged them to avoid any steps that would close that door and, on the contrary, to actively seek ways that they can repair (their) important relationship with Israel."

Read it all:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Key Theme? Not Israeli Panic or Isolation But Western Unreliability

A version of this article was published in the Jerusalem Post. I own the copyright, this is the best version, so please read and link here.

"Then was the palm of the hand sent from before Him, and this writing was inscribed: MENE MENE, TEKEL UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of the thing....Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting." --The Book of Daniel

By Barry Rubin

Agence France Press reports that the Palestinian bid for UN recognition of unilateral statehood is “causing diplomatic panic” in the United States and Israel.

While Israel is certainly concerned, I think “panic” is totally wrong as a description. After all, Israel’s overwhelming interpretation is that the UN event will change nothing. As for U.S. panic, where has the Obama Administration been for the last year when this outcome was totally predictable?

The Associated Press says that Israel is “increasingly isolated” ahead of the vote. I don’t think that’s how Israelis look at this either. We know that cynicism makes sense—various countries will vote for the resolution or abstain purely to get popularity points with Arab and Muslim-majority states and then do nothing.

The most important effect on Israel is that it will never again listen seriously to these countries' advice or criticism since they don't keep their most basic promises or commitments. Saying Israel is panicking or isolated suggests that Israel should want to make more concessions, striving to please the West, and depending on its support in exchange. We're over that, dude. Just because Israel still tried to be polite don't think it's stupid.

 Now, if you want to see a real crisis, go to the Financial Times which reports as follows: ”Tunisia and Egypt have received only a fraction of funds promised by the international community to support their transition to democracy, according to the two countries’ finance ministers.”

So after all the outpouring of devotion to the supposedly great democratic outpouring of the profoundly oppressed people living under horrible dictatorships, these two countries and their people will be left twisting in the wind. They face financial situations actually worsened by the months of upheaval, lost tourist revenue, and frightened off investors. And they will not get real help from the West. What is the relationship of these news items?

 Simple. Western countries don’t keep their commitments to Israel. They also don’t deliver on their supposed sympathy for Arab peoples who—according to the Western states—are struggling for independence and rebelling against unacceptable economic situations. That means instability, civil war, and massive suffering becomes more likely in Egypt and Tunisia. In other words, the West is not reliable. If that’s true, why should anyone listen to its advice? Why should Israel take big risks or make large concessions in exchange for Western promises.

The Palestinian Authority, which breaks all of its commitments, is rewarded. It refuses to negotiate with Israel for almost three years and Israel is criticized for not negotiating. It daily incites violence and Israel is blamed for being violent and overreacting. It slaps President Obama in the face repeatedly and only Israel is criticized for alleged ingratitude to America's president.  The Turkish regime becomes increasingly repressive and tramples on Western interests only to be praised.

Become more moderate? The PA would be crazy to behave that way since the West generally punishes moderation and rewards those who are antagonistic to it.
Amazingly, Western governments and leaders don’t even notice such things.
 Here are two key principles that are going to guide Israel's policy no matter who is prime minister:

1. The Arab and Muslim world has shown Israel that it makes no sense for Israel to make more concessions or take risks because in general they are not going to change their goal of wiping it off the map. That doesn't mean they will actually do anything but that will remain their theoretical goal and their rhetorical stance. Nothing--repeat nothing--Israel will do or say will change this.

Here's an example. The Palestinian Authority ambassador to Lebanon (anyone remember that the PLO signed the Oslo agreement promising it wouldn't conduct international relations?) explains that even if there is a Palestinian state no Palestinian refugee, inside or outside that country's boundary, will become a citizen. Why not? Because this might weaken the Palestinian case for demanding that all such refugees be allowed to go live in Israel where, of course, they would work to turn Israel into another Arab, Muslim, Palestinian state that would eventually be incorporated in Palestine. So much for a "two-state" solution solving the problem.

2. The Western world has shown Israel that it makes no sense for Israel to make more concessions or take risks because in general they are not going to change their perception that Israel is at fault for the lack of peace and has not shown its desire for peace after 20 years of strenuous Israeli efforts to negotiate peace. This is also despite the fact that Israel has made huge concessions, withdrawn from territory, and advocated talks on almost a daily basis. You are about to betray every previous commitment to Israel made in the peace process in exchange for its risks, concessions, and compromises--risks that have brought the death of hundreds of Israelis.

Therefore I say unto you: Mene Mene, Tekel Upharsin.
Mene Mene, your policies have failed and you will be voted out of office or subvert your own countries' interests until someone finally notices.
Tekel, you have proved yourselves unworthy of our trust.
Upharsin. We are going to ignore you from now on.

You can write that Hitler can be appeased; Stalin wants compromise; Ayatollah Khomeini's a reasonable guy; Turkey's Islamist regime is a great role model for the Middle East; the "Arab Spring" is leading toward moderate democracy; and the Muslim Brotherhood is a moderate, secularist organization. You can say that the moon is made of green low-calorie cheese whose mining will provide green jobs.

 It doesn't matter.

Guess what? Israel isn't isolated. You are. From reality. And that's what counts.

As the nature of the coming Middle East crises becomes impossible to ignore, you are the ones who will suffer humiliating defeats and shocks that will force you to change your policies or be changed for other leaders.

As Omar Khayyam's poetry puts it:

"The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it."

And, believe me, nothing gives you the finger like Middle East reality.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I accuse President Barack Obama of Destroying Western Interests in the Middle East, Helping Destabilize the Region, and Putting Millions of Lives in Jeopardy

By Barry Rubin

 Think of how outrageous my headline is:

 “Destroying Western Interests in the Middle East, Helping Destabilize the Region, and Putting Millions of Lives in Jeopardy”

 Do you think that's extremist, crazy, can’t be true because you're not seeing that stuff in the New York Times? You must be a right-wing Republican, you say?
 No, just a serious Middle East analyst.

 On the tenth anniversary of September 11, almost three years after Obama's election is the suitable time to confront this issue honestly and fully. So consider fairly and honestly the list of points below.

 Read it all:

Friday, September 16, 2011

International Efforts to Avoid the Palestinian UN Bid Will Inevitably Fail Because Western Policy is So Bad

 This article was published in "Bitter Lemons" and is presented here with a number of updates and additions.

By Barry Rubin

I have seen about 20 articles today about why the UN bid isn't in the PA's interest and why they should stop. But none of these articles really point out that the opposite is true: the PA has pretty much nothing to lose.

Will the United States cut off all aid? Of course not. Will it make them more unpopular at home? No.  If it kills talks with Israel? That's good. They don't need or want them. If it delays the creation of a real state? Since the PA can't and won't negotiate for a compromise agreement it doesn't matter. The PA will get a huge majority in the General Assembly and that will seem a diplomatic victory. If the  United States  vetos, the PA has an excuse for not succeeding.

If you don't confront the reality of why a country or group act the way it does--and why a weak Western policy makes radical behavior possible--any discussion of the issue is a waste of time.

Here is the problem with "international efforts to avoid the Palestinian UN bid." To say this is not an attempt to avoid giving some constructive advice. Rather, giving constructive advice requires using this as a starting point and explaining why this is true.

First, it’s too late. The Palestinian Authority (PA) has been talking repeatedly about this gambit for almost a year. Why is it only now, when it is so thoroughly committed to this effort, is the U.S. government staging a campaign against unilateral independence? The failure to start earlier has destroyed any attempt to avoid this disastrous outcome.

Second, the U.S. government did virtually nothing to mobilize other countries to oppose this campaign. What should have happened is that starting in late 2010, the White House should have begun lining up votes. American ambassadors should have been given high-priority instructions to talk with the leaders of the countries to which they were accredited and put together a coalition to avoid the coming crisis. It failed to do so.

Third, the U.S. government has never used real leverage to persuade the PA to relent or to convince other countries to oppose the UN General Assembly backing for a unilateral independence bid. No threats have been made; no benefits offered; no power applied.

Clearly, this is not how international affairs should be conducted. Given neither incentive nor warning, dozens of countries have no compelling reason to vote “no.” On the contrary, they know they are getting a free ride. They can vote “yes” or at most abstain knowing they are protected from their irresponsible behavior by a U.S. veto of the proposal in the Security Council. The U.S. government will take the heat while the others can play progressive, humanitarian friends of the Arab world and Muslims.

As for the PA, without some threat of an aid cut-off, an end or sharp reduction in U.S. diplomatic support, or other price, why should it drop a high-publicity, no-cost campaign that—as we will see in a moment—offers so many political benefits.

Equally debilitating is the failure of the counter-campaign to use the most serious and important arguments—that are the only ones that might be effective. The Palestinian strategy breaks every commitment made to Israel and internationally guaranteed since 1993. These are the very commitments on which the Palestinian Authority (PA) itself is based.

The PA simply abandons the principle that any solution will be on the basis of mutual negotiations. It does so after the PA rejected the U.S.-proposed solution of 2000 and it also rejects a negotiated solution following two years of the PA’s rejection of negotiations. The U.S. refusal to make this argument parallels the Obama Administration’s refusal to criticize or use leverage against the PA, thus guaranteeing its own failure.

Equally, there is no use of the argument about the future implications of this gambit. After all, if the PA has an internationally recognized state it has no incentive to negotiate or compromise in future. Equally, Israel’s main asset—the ability to trade territory in exchange for the creation of a Palestinian state—is removed with no concomitant gain. What then is Israel’s incentive to make more concessions and take more risks?

Thus, the unilateral independence campaign and its at least partial success—certainly from a public relations’ perspective—kills the peace process for many years to come. Yet this fact has not energized the campaign, galvanized the U.S. government into strong action, or persuaded other countries to oppose the proposal.

As if all this weren’t enough, the prize is being given to the PA at a time when it is in partnership (albeit a very conflictual one) with Hamas, a group that opposes any compromise, peaceful resolution, existence of Israel, U.S. interests, and much more. The U.S government has not even pointed out that the government to be recognized includes a major pro-genocide, terrorist, revolutionary Islamist, antisemitic, and bitterly anti-Western component.

Since the PA has nothing to lose internationally, it has no incentive to drop the campaign. Since it can make real gains by putting on this effort, even if the United States ultimately vetoes the demand,  once again it has no reason to change course.

Turning to the internal Palestinian situation, the current leadership cannot—due to public opinion, Hamas, and militant elements in the PA plus Fatah hierarchies—make peace or even negotiate seriously.

Equally, the leadership does not want to make peace with Israel because most of them are hardliners or at least relatively so, as in the refusal of PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to accept Israel as a Jewish state, end the conflict even in exchange for a Palestinian state, and agree to resettle Palestinian refugees in Palestine. The movement’s goal remains to wipe Israel off the map. Getting a state without commitment, concession, or compromise furthers that goal.

Moreover, this initiative coincides perfectly with shorter-term PA leadership goals. It doesn’t want to negotiate with Israel, doesn’t want to reach a compromise solution, and thus wasting the entire year of 2011 on this bid gives it an ideal strategy to mobilize internal support, blame Israel, and get everything it wants for nothing in return. How can any non-punishing effort to persuade them to change ever possibly succeed?

PS: Negotiation EU style.

Europe's former negotiator Javier Solana is generously given space in the New York Times (funny, they don't seem to have any space for an op-ed opposing Palestinian unilateral independence) which gives ten reasons why Europe should vote for the plan and none why it should vote against. Guess he couldn't find any.

One former EU president has called for supporting unilateral independence because Israel continued to build settlements. This is an example of the ridiculous situation Israel faces because key leaders don't actually pay attention to facts. Israel was allowed to build on existing settlements in the 1993 agreement and the government has dismantled a lot of settlements and built no new ones.

Die Welt in Germany gets it right, though it also has a factual mistake, mentioning Israeli construction in Jerusalem as if it is some new feature rather than something going on for two decades. Moreover, the only way the Palestinians can stop settlement construction or even existence is by making peace with Israel, not refusing to do so.

At any rate, the newspaper explains:

"This crisis has shown which friends one can really count on. As it turns out, there are not many....The Palestinians are taking the easy route in the sympathetic UN General Assembly, rather than making the painful compromises that are necessary for a peaceful solution....It was the Palestinian leadership that in 2000, during the negotiations at Camp David under the direction of Bill Clinton, refused a compromise solution. Shortly thereafter, Yasser Arafat let loose his dogs of hell and destroyed the peace camp in Israel with the intifada. Now the Palestinians are again trying to take a short cut to their own state rather than making necessary compromises. Germany should not support this blatant violation of the Oslo Accords."

How rare is this level of understanding.

Meanwhile, the official EU position is that if the Palestinians drop their bid, the EU will support raising them one level at the UN with the prospect of more promotions in future. In exchange the Palestinians do nothing to deserve such a promotion. Moreover, the PA knows that hardly any EU country will vote against them. So what's their incentive? To examine this kind of bargaining is to show how ridiculous it is.

            Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, will be published by Yale University Press in January. Latest books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

A New, Selective “Semi-Antisemitism”? Only Jews Opposing Obama Are Evil, Greedy, and Have Dual Loyalty

By Barry Rubin

I was horrified by reports that the powerful congressman, Henry Waxman, had said that Jews in the ninth New York district voted against President Barack Obama “to protect their wealth.” Could the obsession with backing Obama have led a leading Jewish politician to make such a stereotypical antisemitic remark?

In fact, Waxman's statement was taken out of context. A usually happens, however, a proper understanding of what someone is saying teaches far more than stereotyping their argument.

Let’s examine Waxman’s statement as quoted in The Hill newspaper:

“I think Jewish voters will be Democratic and be for Obama in 2012, especially if you get a Republican candidate like [Texas] Gov. [Rick] Perry. But there’s no question the Jewish community is much more bipartisan than it has been in previous years. There are Jews who are trending toward the Republican Party, some of it because of their misunderstanding of Obama’s policies in the Middle East, and some of it, quite frankly, for economic reasons. They feel they want to protect their wealth, which is why a lot of well-off voters vote for Republicans.”

Let’s consider this statement. The first part is correct: More Jews are voting against Democrats and will vote against Obama, but the majority will continue to support them. The problem comes in the second part and an accurate reading teaches us several things.

Read it all:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

How Presidents and Presidential Candidates Get the Motives behind September 11 Wrong

By Barry Rubin

In the exchange over Ron Paul’s vindication of the September 11 attack in the Republican presidential debate there’s an important point being missed. Paul keeps insisting that Usama bin Ladin attacked America because the United States was occupying Muslim territory, particularly Saudi Arabia, and its treatment of the Palestinians.

This is not true.

But equally, Rick Santorum was wrong when he remarked in response: “We were attacked, as Newt [Gingrich] talked about, because we have a civilization that is antithetical to the civilization of the jihadists.”

It is amazing that ten years after September 11 the truth is still not widely understood.

Read it all:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What Jews should know about Christians

A shorter version of this article was published in the Jerusalem Post. I own the rights and ask you to link to and read this version 

By Barry Rubin

Most Jews today (or should I merely say many?), even the most secular among them, have a tremendous fear of Christians—especially fervent believers of the type represented today by Evangelicals--and conservatives. There is a material basis for this fear based on past Jewish experience. But it is the year 2011; things have changed; and it is time to reconsider these assumptions and see if they still make sense.

Let me begin by mentioning two specific situations I have witnessed that show the foolishness of this blindness:

1.     In a particular city a group of Jews organized a march for Israel. Several Christian groups wanted to participate. Since some elements among the Jews disagreed with the Christians on other political issues, they cancelled the march rather than participate alongside pro-Israel Christians.

2.     In a particular other city, an Israeli speaker was invited to speak by the main pro-Israel Jewish group. He was also invited to speak by a respectable pro-Israel Christian group.  The potential speaker was informed that if he spoke for the Christian group the pro-Israel Jewish group would refuse to have him as a speaker .

This kind of behavior is simultaneously shameful and stupid. We are not speaking here of political sophistication but about a mode of thinking equivalent to a fear of catching cooties.

True, in general, for almost 2000 years many Christians and their institutions have often persecuted Jews, either materially or at least had very negative views toward Jews. In this short space I will not attempt to review that history or get beyond generalizations. Readers are able to do that for themselves.

For 200 years, modern conservative and nationalist thought in the West has also often persecuted Jews, in words, attitudes, and actions. A good starting point for that phase is the triumph of German nationalists over Napoleon and the reversal of the French revolution’s grant of rights to Jews in those lands. And of course the culmination was in the Nazi death camps.

It is understandable, then, that Jews supported parties of the liberal and left type where they were welcomed, where modernity was extolled, and where Jews believed they could integrate with the masses and thus defuse grassroots’ antisemitism. That strategy made perfect sense.

With Communism’s betrayal of the Jews, the contemporary tendency for the far left to take over traditional social democratic and liberal institutions, and the left’s romance with Third World (and particularly Palestinian, Arab, and Islamist radicalism), the world has change. The left has largely abandoned Israel as a cause, often become antagonistic, and even evinces antisemitism.

There is still hope for reviving the social democratic and liberal tradition of being pro-Jewish and pro-Israel, but that won’t happen until the infiltration and seizure of intellectual hegemony of the far left is defeated.

Meanwhile, there has also been a change among many Christians (especially those called Evangelicals) and conservatives toward a greater friendship regarding Jews and Israel. A key reason for this shift—and proof of its authenticity—are a set of transformations in the thinking of these groups.

Before discussing the details, though, let me make it clear that Jews do not have to become conservatives or even agree with them—or with Evangelical Christians—on a wide range of issues. What is worthwhile, however, is to accept the offer of friendship on certain specific issues, respectfully disagree on others, and not demonize such people.      

As noted above, many conservatives and pious Protestants have changed their view of Jews. Factors that once made for antisemitism have now been reversed. Here is a brief summary:

--Formerly, Jews were seen as subverting Christianity. Now, in an increasingly secular world, Jews (even only slightly religious ones) are seen as fellow believers, allies in preserving religiosity in the face of huge challenges.

--A key element in antisemitism were Christian doctrines of "replacement theology," that Christianity had replaced Judaism and Jews were no longer the "chosen people," and the Catholic doctrine defining Jews as the “suffering servant” whose humiliation proved Christianity to be correct. These ideas have been widely abandoned by Evangelicals, as well as most but not all Christians.

Among Evangelicals there is a new interest—and gratitude—at the Jewish roots of Christianity and a view of Jews as fellows in a Judeo-Christian religious community. A key idea is that the Biblical injunction that those who respect Jews will be blessed by God and those who don't will be cursed by the Supreme Being.

They are very much aware of Biblical verses that, for example, say that the creator of the universe will not bless those who attack or hate the Jewish people. There is also a real understanding of the history of the Holocaust and past antisemitism along with a desire to make amends. While there are those seeking converts, of course, and some who believe that supporting Jews will bring Armageddon, these are largely outdated concepts

--Conservatives tended to view Jews as cosmopolitan anti-nationalists, leftists, and pacifists. Today, however, the existence of Israel has given a different perspective on this. Jews, in the eyes of most conservatives, have created a model nation-state, a country that is willing and able to fight in its self-defense, where religion is respected as an important element in Jewish peoplehood.

--An especially important question has been how conservatives deal with the fact that there are so many Jews on the left, that is, among their political opponents and those who fight against religion in various ways. In the twentieth century especially, this was a huge source of antisemitism and a central element in Nazi doctrine.

Contemporary conservatives have, however, developed a new way of viewing this issue. First, of course, they have observed the left’s growing antagonism against Israel and even against Jews. Most importantly, they view leftist and anti-religious Jews as enemies of their own people. This neatly dispenses with a traditional core issue of antisemitism.

Someone like, say, Noam Chomsky is not seen as part of the Jewish conspiracy against America but as a person who has so broken with his Jewish roots and the interests of his people to be as much against the Jews as he is against his country or conservative values. In a sense, this concept parallels what most Jews—especially the religious and the pro-Israel majority—also think of such people.

In France and Italy, Holland and Spain, the United Kingdom and Scandinavia, conservative parties are more pro-Israel than their counterparts on the left. This has less to do with Israeli or Jewish behavior—whatever claims are made to the contrary—than it does the philosophical and political evolution of politics within those countries.

Let me make this absolutely clear: to cooperate with liberals on supporting Israel one need not be a liberal; to cooperate with conservatives on supporting Israel one need not be a conservative. To cooperate with Christians on supporting Israel one need not be a Christian.

Of course, a distinction must be made between much larger conservative forces and smaller neo-fascist ones. The Le Pen party in France, the British National Party, and other forces continue the historic antisemitism of the right-wing. In the United States, right-wingers like Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul also still hold traditional antisemitic concepts.

Yet the Jewish people have always survived by a willingness to understand the world as it is and to act as necessary without sacrificing core principles. While working to maintain and rebuild relations with real liberal and moderate social democratic forces where possible, Israel and Jews should also shake the extended hand of conservatives and Christians which is so often sincerely offered. 


Obama’s New Anti-Terrorist Group: Islamist and Pro-Terrorist Turkish Regime Annointed as Co-Leader; Israel, Left Out

By Barry Rubin

Every time I strongly criticize the Obama Administration's foreign policy, there are those who think calling this president's policy incredibly disastrous is an exaggeration. Within a few hours, however, this government proves my criticism to be accurate by still another astonishingly damaging, wrong-headed action. Here is the latest example.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced the establishment of a new Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF). According to the statement, this initiative is the main activity in the administration’s effort to organize a framework for the international counterterrorism effort. In other words, it is very important....

There are 30 founding members.... Switzerland is a mmber; Pakistan and India, despite the former's sponsoring terrorism agianst the latter, are members; Israel is not.

But there’s more. The United States is not leading this new organization alone. It has a co-director. That co-director is Turkey....

Read it all:

The Original September 11: President Franklin Roosevelt Announces the Pearl Harbor Unpleasantness, Updated Edition

By Barry Rubin

What if President Roosevelt announced what happened at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, by the standards of today’s official view of September 11? Imagine, if you will, you’re sitting in a rocking chair, listening through the static of a 1941 radio. It might have sounded like this:

My fellow Americans, this morning forces of the Imperial Army of a foreign country that I better not mention lest it stir up chauvinism and racism visited American facilities at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands. They dropped by without warning.

On the other hand, however, we can understand their motives. OK, I’ll say the “J” word! After all, we have discriminated against Japanese people for decades. We can understand why the Japanese people feel a grievance against America.

Antisemitism: Beirut and Norway; Strange Bedfellow Books; and Secret Cables

By Barry Rubin

The above photo is taken at a bookstore in Lebanon (the photographer will remain anonymous). It shows two copies of my book on Syria--which is banned in Syria--right next to a copy of the antisemitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Speaking of antisemitism, yet another cable has turned up from Wikileaks proving me correct about that country's growing, often officially sanctioned, antisemitism. Unlike some newspapers, I'm not intimidated by the untruths told by the Norwegian government. In my last piece on this subject, I quoted the U.S. ambassador speaking about how the Norwegian government supports the terrorist Hamas group.
Now, we have this one from the U.S. embassy in Oslo, February 2009 :

"Anti-Semitism in Norway, and the expression of anti-Semitic comments, has increased since the Gaza war....

"`Jew' 'has become more popular as an epithet....Israeli embassy officials have told us that increased Norwegian anti-Semitism is viewed in Israel as consistent with Norway's general anti-Israel bias...."

Read it all

Monday, September 12, 2011

An Egyptian Mob Attacks Israel's Embassy and Captures the Egyptian Revolution

“You have always yearned for this chance and now you have it. A wind is blowing from paradise sweet with the smell of martyrdom.” --Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s leader Hasan al-Banna, December 10, 1947

"The world will see it is impossible to beat Arabs by force.” --Arab Summit Declaration, December 24, 1947

“Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down!”  --Robert Frost, "Mending Wall”

By Barry Rubin
 How is Egypt’s revolution different from a real democratic revolution, as in Eastern Europe? Here’s a symbolic way to remember it.

 The most famous line, at least from an American, on the road to Eastern Europe’s transformation cane from President Ronald Reagan: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Eventually the East German people did the job. The tearing down of the wall was a symbol of opening the borders, letting in the light of the outer world, throwing out the old totalitarian ideas that has sat on the people’s heads and pecked at their brains for decades.

While the tearing down of a wall in Berlin signalled a democratic and liberating revolution in Eastern Europe, it symbollizes the decision to make the Egyptian revolution the basis for a new dictatorship of hatred, blindness, and destruction.

Read it all:


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Why Is Iran's Influence in the Arab World Declining? What is New Regional Line-Up?

By Barry Rubin

Often, coverage of the Middle East in the mainstream media is bad or at least inadequate beyond belief. Even when the article has good information it often misses the main point. Such is the case with an article in the Wall Street Journal, "Arab Spring Turns Up Heat on Iran." The article correctly reports that Iran is losing popularity in much of the Arab world:

In Egypt, favorable views of Iran declined from 89 percent in 2006 to 37 percent today. In Saudi Arabia those holding such beliefs declined from 85 percent to 6 percent; and in Jordan from 75 percent to 23 percent. That's an incredibly steep decline. Incidentally, in these countries, attitudes toward the United States remained highly unfavorable and only got worse under President Obama.

A reader who doesn't have any understanding of the region--a category probably including most Western leaders, academic "experts," and journalists--would think: Aha! Democracy is triumphing over radical Islamism.  Iran is no longer much of a threat  These are great things! This is how the media is presenting this development and no doubt that's what Western policymakers think.

Such an analysis, however, is ridiculous so I'm glad you are reading this article. Don't stop now. Here comes the good and original part.

Read it all:  

Once More Into the Swamp: The Attack on Israel’s Embassy Opens A New Era in Middle East History

The following article was written for the Crethi Plethi blog in the Netherlands. If reprinting or linking please give Crethi Plethi credit. The article can be accessed here:

By Barry Rubin

The attack and looting of Israel’s embassy in Cairo is an event as significant as the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Iran, in 1979, and the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001.

The first event signaled a change in Iran and the rise of a powerful revolutionary Islamist movement. The results have included an increase in anti-Western politics in the Middle East, an upsurge in terrorism, and three wars in the Persian Gulf (Iran-Iraq, 1980-1988; Kuwait, 1990-1991, Iraq, 2003).

The second event brought the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq; a major upsurge in terrorism, and big advances for revolutionary Islamism despite the later defeats suffered by al-Qaida itself.

And now the third event, which many will see as far less significant. But it isn’t. While ground center for the first two were, respectively, Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan, this one strikes at the core area of the Arabic-speaking world and the Arab-Israeli issue.

What the attack on the Israeli embassy signifies can be divided into Egyptian and wider implications. Concerning Egypt, the era of Egypt-Israeli peace is over. Egypt will be a hostile country to Israel and the government will make no attempt to stop hysterical incitement and hatred. It is more likely to stop cross-border attacks from Egyptian territory and try to avoid direct war.

Yet even those limits are misleading. Mubarak’s Egypt was aligned—though not allied—with Israel and the United States. Post-Mubarak Egypt is allied with the Muslim Brotherhood, even if that group isn’t in power, and Hamas. It will not cooperate with the United States. The cornerstone, the lynch-pin, the most powerful country, of the Arab world has gone over to the other side.

Within Egypt itself, the riot and the military junta’s permissiveness toward it is a big step toward ending any hope of democracy or moderation within Egypt itself. Recognizing the power of the mob and the potency of its ideas—kill the Jews, wipe Israel off the map, down with America, war, jihad, total victory, a million martyrs!—the military junta stood aside and let the crowd rampage. Egypt’s international image and legitimate commitments are of no consequence in the face of this tidal wave of insane, suicidal hatred.

Not far from the Israeli embassy was a famous statue called Egypt’s Awakening. Anti-Israel demonstrators broke off pieces of the statue in their attack on the embassy. In other words, Egypt’s new “awakening” (the February revolution) is being reinterpreted as the same old determination to destroy Israel. At the same time, that choice is destroying any chance for a real Egyptian awakening, that involving democracy, pragmatism, and material progress.

A young Egyptian, describing himself as a “liberal reformer” cheered the use of the statue for this purpose saying that he was glad it had served the cause. Asked by an American whether he feared the revolutionary Islamists taking advantage of this kind of activity, he responded—by twitter, of course—that Israel is his enemy and that the Muslim Brotherhood is “a piece of cake.”

By using such an American slang phrase he showed his cosmopolitan background, with which such sentiments are obviously consistent in Egypt. “Piece of cake” means something dealt with easily. He is saying that the moderates can easily deal with the Brotherhood. That is, of course, ridiculous. The American responded that the moderates are the “piece of cake” and they will end up in the Brotherhood’s stomach.

The April 6 Youth Movement, the left-oriented group that began the revolution back in January, made a surprising statement criticizing the attack. It is especially surprising since that group has a long history of anti-Israel activity and has in the past been in partnership with the Brotherhood. A couple of months ago, at a time when there was no fighting in the Gaza Strip and Israeli sanctions there had already been minimized, one Movement leader said that Israel was committing “genocide’ in the Gaza Strip and that Egypt must act. Be careful what you wish for because you might get it.

Now the Movement’s leaders, if not the tweeter mentioned above, are getting scared. They see that the revolution is no longer in their hands and is headed toward a new dictatorship likely to repeat all of the mistakes of Egypt’s past.

Another example of this awakening about the nature of Egypt’s awakening. A CNN television crew covering the attack on the embassy was attacked by some of the demonstrators, who screamed that they were American spies.  The CNN people finally escaped.

Afterward, the crew’s producer said that the attackers had acted like “animals.” If she had been a Westerner she would have immediately been fired and no one would ever have employed her again. But since she was herself Egyptian such an expression was considered acceptable. One can well imagine how it feels for an Egyptian to see her neighbors turned once again into a raging mob out for blood and indifferent to the consequences.  

Like Iranians in the 1970s, and like Lebanese, Turks, Libyans, and perhaps soon Tunisians, she is witnessing her country run eagerly back into the darkness of a new, even worse situation than the one that had driven them to dream of a stainless brave new world.  

The broader, foreign policy, implications of this lynch mob are equally enormous.

First, Egypt will not try to restrain Hamas from attacking Israel. If Hamas does attack Israel from the Gaza Strip, the Egyptian government will not inhibit the flow of arms, money, and volunteer fighters to join the war against Israel from Hamas-held territory. Under such circumstances, Egypt could conceivably be dragged into a war with Israel.       

Second, Egypt will seek out a new alliance system. The most likely candidates for its friendship are Hamas, Turkey, and the Muslim Brotherhoods in Jordan and Syria. It will oppose Iran’s Shia-led Islamist bloc and the two sides could clash in various places. 

Third, whatever minimal hope remained for any Arab-Israeli or Israeli-Palestinian peace process is now dead, killed not only by the defection of Egypt but also by that of Turkey, by the Palestinian decision to pursue unilateral independence, and by the self-chosen weakening of the United States.

Every gain made in the Middle East since the 1970s is now melting away. What makes this all worse is that the disaster is being cheered in much of the West as something good, or at least has been up until now.  

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, will be published by Yale University Press in January. Latest books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,