July 13, 2006

Ray of Hope or Bullshit PR?

Yesterday's issue of the German newspaper DIE WELT carries an interesting opinion peace by the mighty Lord Weidenfeld, which I have translated:
Trial of Strength in Gaza
Israel and the Arab World

by Lord Weidenfeld

During the heated discourse over the situation in the Gaza Strip, the buzzword proportionality comes up once again. Do the kidnapping of a young soldier, weapon smuggling or the rocket shelling of the Israeli border town Sderot justify major attacks with inevitable civilian deaths? Isn't moderation the only done thing now?

The tragic truth is that moderate, "symmetrical" reactions on the part of Israel are what the Hamas leadership most urgently wants. As the weaker party in military terms, yet more aggressive, Hamas profits from an ongoing guerilla war hoping to wear thin the morale of the arch enemy Israel. Israeli "moderate" reactions have been always taken as signs of weakness and led to more and bigger terrorist action. When Israel left the Lebanon, the first Intifadah started, and the peace negotiations at Camp David and Taba, supported by President Clinton, were hardly even over (and failed) when the second one started. And now, only a few months after the pulling out from Gaza, which all the world found praiseworthy, another, maybe even cross-border, crisis emerges.

Syria is stirring up the civil war in the Palestinian territories and supports the permanent guerilla war against Israel. The true leader of the Hamas armed forces, Khalid Meschaal, can do as he pleases in Damaskus. So far it was said that Hamas and a dozen other terror groups are just keeping press offices in Syria. Bashir Assad hopes that the USA and their coalition partners are too much stuck with their problems in Iraq and Afghanistan and that Iran will go on helping him out financially. He did pull out his army from Lebanon, but his political agents went on doing business there. Also, things have become quiet regarding Syria's involvement in the murder of the Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri.

The case of 19-year old Corporal Gilad Shalit has become a trial of strength. Any deal with Hamas, an exchange or temporary ceasefire, would increase the danger of further blackmailing. That is understood by other Arab countries as well, for example Egypt and the Gulf States. For the first time, there are major voices in the Arab media who criticise the Hamas leadership explicitly. A well-known Saudi columnist, Yusuf Nasir al-Suweidan, calls the hostage-taking in the Kuwaiti newspaper "Al-Siyassa" a crime and, for the first time, the Hamas terrorists.

The Arab world is in a schizophreniac position. The oil-producing countries are richer than ever. The longing for political change is growing among the people but fear of the fanatic Islamist underground groups is keeping the leading classes back from more extensive concessions. The ruling oil-rich regimes are eager to establish trust in their stability and non-partisanship with the world public. Big TV networks, like Al Djazeera, are supposed to prove that freedom of thought is largely established and that competing with the major American and European broadcasters is not unreasonable. Al Djazeera is buying anchormen, columnists and advisors in the democratic West. The Brit Sir David Frost is supposed to present a weekly programme. A technical advisory board boasts names like Andrew Neil, publisher of the "Spectator" and TV-journalist, the French writer and journalist Christine Ockrent and Josef Joffe, co-publisher of "Die Zeit". One can only hope that the station will develop into a respectable and politically moderate mouthpiece of the Arab world. If not, the newly-recruited stars would be the first to feel the consequences.

Article appeared Wednesday, July 12, 2006
I hope my translation brings across his Lordship's intentions, as he was, intentionally or not intentionally, a bit vague at some points.

I always found that a deliberate opening to the West was the only explanation for the recommendable and otherwise inexplicable broadcasting of the now famous interview with Dr. Wafa Sultan on February 21, 2006 by Al Djazeera. Click HERE for the video.

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