Sunday, January 09, 2011

There goes 'The Economist' Again

The headline beseeches: "Please, Not Again: The Threat of War in the Middle East." The magazine's cover shows a worried looking President Barack Obama, an Israeli tank rumbling by in the background. Welcome to the Economist's first issue of 2011 devoted to Israel and to America's role in the Mideast. Its theme, in effect, is how to rein-in the Jewish state and preserve the peace.

Published in London, the Economist is hardly the only international newspaper – it resents being called a magazine – to heap lopsided responsibility on Israel for the perpetuation of the conflict. However, unlike moribund Time and Newsweek, the stylishly written and often droll Economist (worldwide circulation 1.6 million including over 800,000 in the U.S.) is must reading in government and academia. Owned partly by the parent company of the Financial Times – itself a bastion of British animus toward Zionism – and by among others, reportedly, some members of the British Rothschild's (who in the main are no longer Jewish), the Economist loses its facade of cool detachment when it comes to Israel.

In The Economist's view Israel suffers from a siege mentality, perpetually, lethally and disproportionately bungling even theoretically legitimate security threats, obdurately "colonizing" the "Palestinian side of the 1967 border," even going to the extreme of setting traffic lights to flick green only briefly to vex harassed Jerusalem's Arabs.

In its January 1 issue, the Economist says it fears war could break out this year over Iran's "apparent" desire to build atomic bombs, the arms race "between" Israel and Hezbollah or over "miscalculations" on the Gaza border. Its non sequitur solution to these disquieting possibilities would have Obama exert "tough love" on Israel by imposing a solution on the "feuding parties." The newspaper reasons that with a Fatah-led Palestine fashioned in the West Bank, Iran, Hizbollah and Hamas (in Gaza) will all find it "much harder" to attack Israel.

The fatal flaw with the Economist's argument is that the last time Fatah so much as feigned at peacemaking, at the start of the Oslo process, Hamas reacted violently by carrying out some twenty fatal terror attacks on Israelis between the September 1993 White House signing ceremony and mid-February 1994. Similarly, Hezbollah's aggression doubled in Oslo's wake. The implication is clear: Unless the international community first tackles the rejectionists, moderates will be afraid to make the compromises necessary for peace. Right now Mahmoud Abbas has latched onto any pretext not to negotiate with Benjamin Netanyahu's government. First he claimed settlement construction was suddenly keeping him from the bargaining table; though he did not deign to acknowledge Israel's ten-month moratorium until it was almost over. Next he insisted that Netanyahu stand behind a peace plan put forth by former premier Ehud Olmert, despite the fact that Abbas had walked away from this very offer. But it's no wonder relative moderates like Abbas are afraid to take risks for peace. Iran may soon provide the rejectionists with a nuclear umbrella; coddled by the international community, Hamas is solidifying its fanatical grip on Gaza, and with Syria's support Hezbollah has for all intents and purposes usurped Lebanese sovereignty. In this political ambiance Abbas would be pilloried by the rejectionists if he to negotiate in earnest with Netanyahu.

Economist editorials and features are customarily unsigned though the newspaper's Israel correspondent, former Haaretz editor David Landau, would likely have contributed to the latest barrage. Landau is on record as imagining that Israel "wants to be raped" by the U.S." and is begging for "more vigorous U.S. intervention." This week's feature has an unappreciative Israel pocketing billions in American aid even as it rebuffs pleas "backed by offers of yet more aid" to "pause in its building of illegal Jewish settlements." The reasons given for this supposed obstinacy are Israel's "thriving economy" and "America's pro-Israel lobby." The possibility that disputed territory deeply rooted in Jewish civilization, captured in a war of self-defense, and of immense strategic value to Israel's survival ought to be the subject of direct negotiations between the parties is, plainly, anathema at the Economist.

Instead, surveying the region from Afghanistan to Iran to Iraq, the "biggest headache" Economist editors put their finger on is not the metastasizing evil that inspired, in the latest incarnation, the bombing of a New Year's Eve Mass at a Coptic Christian church in Egypt, but "Jewish colonization in the West Bank." The Economist prefers to uncritically echo Muslim and Arab "objections" to America's presence in the Middle East and its support for Israel. One implication being: if only the Jewish state would just go away. In truth, Israel or no Israel, jihad is the pathological reaction of a dysfunctional civilization unable to cope with the demands of tolerance and pluralism emblematic of modernity.

Jan 2011

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