1) Guess the source
A) In its efforts to stop amateur rockets from nagging the residents of some of its southern cities, Israel appears to have given new life to the fledging Islamic movement in Palestine.
For two years, the Islamic Resistance Movement (known by its Arabic acronym, Hamas) has been losing support internally and externally. This wasn’t the case in the days after the party came to power democratically in early 2006; despite being unjustly ostracized by the international community for its anti-Israeli stance, Hamas enjoyed the backing of Palestinians and other Arabs. Having won a decisive parliamentary majority on an anti-corruption platform promising change and reform, Hamas worked hard to govern better than had Fatah, its rival and predecessor.
B) America’s policy toward Hamas also sent the wrong message; rather than promoting peace, it only created incentives for the use of arms. Sanctions imposed after Hamas’s 2006 electoral victory told the party that Israel and the United States would marginalize it unless it accepted the same principles put forth by the so-called quartet of Middle East peacemakers that Fatah accepted — namely, recognizing Israel’s right to exist and renouncing violence. Having seen what that path yielded for Fatah — nothing but continued Israeli colonization — Hamas was not persuaded and chose instead to reject those principles. In return, the Gaza Strip was put under a brutal siege.
Hamas has used armed struggle to achieve certain objectives, albeit at significant cost. Its leaders saw the removal of Israeli settlers from Gaza in 2005 as a victory for their methods, as well as the return of thousands of prisoners last year, in exchange for a single captured Israeli soldier. The returns may be limited and the costs significant, but when the other options are either subjugation or the path their compatriots in Fatah face, Hamas is likely to make the same calculation — and choose violence every time.
C)Fortunately for Mr Nasrallah, he has another option. Every so often, an incident lifts the veil on Hizbollah’s covert campaign against Israeli interests worldwide. In March, one operative was convicted in Cyprus for scouting out Israeli targets on the island.
As a middle way between doing nothing and firing off his arsenal, Mr Nasrallah could escalate his movement’s efforts to attack Israeli tourists and diplomats.
That is hardly a rerun of the glory days of 2006, when he claimed to have taken on Israel and won. In his current predicament, however, Mr Nasrallah may have little choice.
D) Lebanon’s Hezbollah has cemented the image that some of its supporters in the Islamic world have tried so hard to deny, namely that of Hezbollah as Khomeinist Iran’s iron fist. We are talking about the image of Hezbollah as the obedient lap-dog of velayat-e faqih Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, rather than the symbol of Lebanese “resistance.” This is no longer the party that would cross swords with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Arab nationalists, particularly the Nasserites, from the Red Sea to the Arab Gulf.
A) The Washington Post – Has Israel Revived Hamas? – Daoud Kuttab – December 30, 2008
B) The New York Times – America’s failed Palestinian policy – Yousef Munayyer – November 23, 2012
C) The Daily Telegraph – Analysis: Hizbollah’s quandary over Israel retaliation in Syria – David Blair – May 6, 2013 (h/t Meryl Yourish)
D) Asharq Alawsat – Opinion: Hezbollah’s True Colors Revealed – Mshari Al-Zaydi – April 27, 2013
2) Israeli pride
Shmue Rosner uses the death of an author who was part of his youth to reflect on The Youths of Zion of today.
We Dvora Omer readers are in our 30s and 40s today, and by now many of us have grown cynical. Where are the heroes among Israel’s current leaders? Does Zionism still matter? My peers and I can occasionally seem bitter, contemptuous or blasé about the miracle that is modern Israel. But when Omer died late last week, the mask fell off. I, for one, had to let go of the cynicism when I realized how vividly I remember her stories and profoundly I feel about her — no, our — heroes: Sarah and Zohara, Itamar and Tabul.
Not so, though, for Israel’s Harry-Potter-cum-reality-TV generation. Omer’s naïve stories can compete neither with the super fantasies nor with the TV celebrities and pop stars of the day. This worries me, and not only because Israeli children today are missing out on some wonderful stories. It worries me because they are also missing out on the foundational tales that undergird a strong collective memory, which a country like ours needs in order to survive.
Rosner calls Israel a miracle, still I’m a bit bothered by his ambivalence. There is no such ambivalence in Nadav Shragai’s The Jewish Nation’s DNA.
The acceptable discourse and language are appropriate for days when we’re not celebrating. But on a day like this, remembering from where we came and where we’re headed, we need to talk about our right, our birthright, to this city of ours. Our connection to it is rooted in our religious faith, in our history and in two thousand years of recollection and longing. The Jewish presence in Jerusalem never ended. As former Prime Minister Menachem Begin said, “More than Israel watches over Jerusalem, Jerusalem watches over Israel.”
Oh, how right he was: Jerusalem is and has been the DNA that runs through the veins of Jewish people all over the world. Jerusalem was a magnet to us, a compass, a glue, the weave forming the Jewish people’s most characteristic memory, in which our justice and inherent right were embodied and are embodied until today. Without Jerusalem, our right to the land of Israel is eroded.
On this day, we need to retell again and again the Jewish story of Jerusalem, a story that is unparalleled. Without it our nation would never have been resurrected here, in Israel. Every day, Jews in the Diaspora reminded themselves of the holiness of the city: during the morning, afternoon and evening prayer services, at funerals, circumcisions and bar mitzvahs, in the blessing over food, at weddings, and on holidays. The Jewish people swore and swear to this day, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither.”
3) Water and other deficits
In his Postcard from Yemen, Thomas Friedman writes:
“Yemen suffered from two drugs: qat and easy oil money,” says Eryani. Qat drank all the water, and the easy oil money seduced the rural manpower into leaving for unskilled jobs. But now that most of the Yemeni workers have been sent home from Saudi Arabia, they are finding a country running out of water, with few jobs, and a broken public school system that teaches more religion than science. As a result, what Yemen needs most — an educated class not tied to an increasingly water-deprived agriculture — it cannot get, not without much better leadership and a new political consensus.
There is a ray of hope, though. Yemenis are engaged in a unique and peaceful national dialogue — very different from Syria and Egypt and with about a third of the input coming from women — to produce a new leadership. They may be starting at the bottom. But, of all the Arab awakening states, they do have the best chance to start over — now — if they seize it.
Friedman sees women participating in the political process as a good thing. As he’s written a number of times:
Some will say: “I told you so. You never should have hoped for this Arab Spring.” Nonsense. The corrupt autocracies that gave us the previous 50 years of “stability” were just slow-motion disasters. Read the U.N.’s 2002 Arab Human Development Report about what deficits of freedom, women’s empowerment and knowledge did to Arab peoples over the last 50 years. Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Syria are not falling apart today because their leaders were toppled. Their leaders were toppled because for too many years they failed too many of their people. Half the women in Egypt still can’t read. That’s what the stability of the last 50 years bought.
(Ignore Friedman’s silly straw man argument. Does he really think that Islamists will empower the people?) Note how Friedman decries the deficits in the Arab world of “freedom, women’s empowerment and knowledge.” But there’s another deficit in the Arab world that he doesn’t mention. That’s a deficit in dealing with Israel.
Israel would be uniquely qualified to help Yemen improve and conserve its water resources. A month ago Ed Rettig wrote in Water management: Turning a problem into a solution:
These four reports, all published within the last few months, provide a grim reminder that as we focus on daily crises, seeds of future disaster sprout. The demand for water is no respecter of political boundaries, and the challenge of meeting it must eventually throw friends and enemies together if disaster is to be avoided. Israel has enormous potential to help the international community.
The world leader in recycling gray water, a country that will soon supply 70% of its drinking water from desalination, and a champion at coaxing crops from a water-deprived environment, Israel has the technology and the skilled personnel to confront one of the world’s most pressing challenges.
Why doesn’t Friedman suggest that Yemen ought to forget about its boycott of Israel and seek help from the regional (if not the world) expert on water management?
Elliott Green recently quoted an observation by Australian journalist Brendan O’Neill:
This reveals something important about the Palestine issue. … [It] has become less important for Arabs and of the utmost symbolic importance for Western radicals at exactly the same time.
Is the Palestinian issue so important to Friedman that he won’t tell Arab nations to help themselves by turning to Israel?