Posted by Joshua on Monday, June 29th, 2009
I begin by apologizing to Howard Schweber, an Associate Professor of Political Science and Law at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who wrote me a thoughtful note explaining that I had mischaracterized his article “Iran and the Syrian Gambit,” which I excerpted in my last post.
Here is Prof. Schweber’s note, which I publish in full. I lumped his article in with a few others and should not have.:
Dear Prof. Landis,
Someone sent me a link to your blog post entitled “Why Turmoil in Iran Will not Cause Peace Between Israel and Syria.” I wanted to point out that in some cases I did not actually make the claims that you ascribed to me (and others). Specifically:
1. I never said that Iran would be weakened, or that Syria would lose confidence in Iran. What I said (I cannot speak for other commentators) was that the Obama administration appears to be reaching out to Syria, that this is a Good Thing, and that from *our* — the American — perspective having relations with Syria is important partly for its effects on limiting Iran’s reach in the Middle East. The Syrian perspective is different. I continue to believe — as I think you do, too — that Assad will be willing to go along with whatever gets him the most of what he wants, starting with the return of most of the Golan. That, and only that, would be the incentive that would lead Syria to make peace with Israel. But even absent peace with Israel, Syria’s relations with the U.S. can be improved, with beneficial effects for America’s interests.
2. I certainly never said that an increase in democracy in Iran would result in a regime that is friendlier to Israel — actually, in emphasizing the Islamic element in the opposition I was trying to make the opposite point!
3. I do think that the Islamic element in the opposition offers the possibilty of an opening on the nuclear issue.
4. But this is the one that got me upset enough to write to you. “Many Americans and Israelis share a belief that they can solve the Arab-Israeli conflict by breaking the Arabs. The analysts recorded in the following articles seem to be swayed by this conviction.” I reject the suggestion that I have ever thought of “breaking the Arabs” as a path to peace. To the contrary, I consider this a despicable way of thinking that is associated with the worst Jabotinskyite tendencies of right-wing Zionism — and have spent literally decades fighting against it in my own small way.
I apologize for this intrusion, but since you are a serious observer of the Middle East I felt compelled to respond.
Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak arrived in Washington Monday afternoon, after a forum of ministers including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided not to freeze construction in West Bank settlements. YNet.com explains that “Barak will attempt to soften the US and EU’s stance on the issue by proposing that the future of the settlements be determined during talks with the Palestinians.” The Washington Post has picked up on this.
Jackson Diehl, the Deputy Editorial Page Editor of the Washington Post, supports this strategy in his article, “End the Spat With Israel. He attacks the State Department and Obama’s effort to stop Israel from swallowing up remaining Palestinian land that could support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. He advises that Obama use the Iran problem as a “foreign policy opportunity” to “creep away from” ts promise to stop settlement expansion.”
He explains why Obama is pursuing a fool’s mission in trying to stop Israel’s land grab:
This absolutist position is a loser for three reasons. First, it has allowed Palestinian and Arab leaders to withhold the steps they were asked for; they claim to be waiting for the settlement “freeze” even as they quietly savor a rare public battle between Israel and the United States. Second, the administration’s objective — whatever its merits — is unobtainable. No Israeli government has ever agreed to an unconditional freeze, and no coalition could be assembled from the current parliament to impose one.
He advises the US administration to shift pressure away from Israel to also demand that Palestinians and Syria “take tangible steps toward a regional settlement.” He concludes: “It would be foolish to squander an opportunity over a handful of Israeli apartment houses.”
Ethan Bonner of the NYTimes explains how “Israel May Shift on Settlements Freeze Amid Broader Effort.” The Israelis are putting forward the notion that they will slow settlement construction for a few months if Arab countries take measurable steps to meet their efforts, thus the pace of settlement construction will become contingent on Arab concessions. This Israeli proposal is identical to the one being pushed by Diehl of the Washington Post quoted above.
Egypt: “Arab Activists Watch Iran And Wonder: ‘Why Not Us?‘” by Sudarsan Raghavan in the W. Post:
When the Iranian protests erupted, Ahmed Abd el-Fatah wrote on his blog, “We Egyptians are like youth watching pornography because they can’t practice sex. Congratulations to Iran for its democracy.”
Fatah noted that many of the Iranian protesters appear to be from the social elite. In Egypt, most people are more concerned about food and other basic necessities than politics. More than a quarter of Egypt’s 80 million people are illiterate, and only 8 percent have access to the Internet.
“The elite here are limited, and most are working in hand with the regime,” Fatah said. “And the only reason the Egyptian street has risen up is over money, salaries or prices. The minute the police arrive, there is silence.”
“We’re too passive,” El Sheikh said. “Protesters go downtown, perhaps 20 or 30 at a time. The security forces come. They beat them senseless. They detain them. And that’s as good as it gets.”….
Most of a group [of Egyptian lawyers] said they admired Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and wanted him to remain in power — chiefly because he was America’s foe. “Anyone who can stand up to the United States and force his nation’s interest forward, we’ll support him,” said Ahmed Mattar, 29.
“….There is no real evidence pointing to the latter other than the silence from the administration on the just-announced plan to expand the Talmon settlement by some 300 units, a provocation and a test of Obama’s resolve. Beyond that is the general fear that the Israeli government has invariably won these battles with previous administrations and the feeling that Obama will, like his predecessors, blink as the lobby quietly (or loudly) pushes back.
Only time will tell whether Obama will choose to prevail; I say “choose” because he holds all the cards in the U.S.-Israel relationship….”
Want to Stop Israeli Settlements? Follow the Dollars.
By Ronit Avni
Thursday, June 25, 2009; 6:33 PM
This month, both at Cairo University and from the Oval Office, President Obama has called on the Israeli government to stop the expansion of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. He should send the same message to the Americans who are funding and fueling them.
There are more than 450,000 settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to Peace Now, an Israeli organization that opposes the settlements. Some of them are Americans. And some of the most influential, militant figures in the settler movement have been Americans, too. Among them were Baruch Goldstein, the doctor from Brooklyn who fired 100 shots at worshiping Muslims in Hebron in 1994, killing 29; Rabbi Meir Kahane, the founder of the Kach party, which was banned in Israel in 1988 on the grounds that it was racist; and convicted terrorist Era Rapaport, a member of the Land Redemption Fund, which coordinates the acquisition of Palestinian land in areas targeted for settlement expansion.
Before the settlers were removed from Gaza in 2005, I visited a group of them while shooting my last film. Some of the settlements’ most passionate advocates spoke about their deep roots in the Gaza Strip even though they were actually Americans. Years earlier, while working as a human rights advocate, I had received reports from colleagues who had been threatened or physically attacked by young settlers as they tried to protect Palestinian farmers during harvest. The attackers often included North American Jews, my colleagues said.
Evangelical Christians in the United States also support the settlements, raising millions of dollars for them, according to a recent National Public Radio report. The Colorado-based Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, for example, encourages churches and ministries to connect with “the pioneers of Biblical Israel” through the “adopt-a-settlement program.” Sondra Oster Baras, director of the organization’s Israeli office, estimates that more than half of the West Bank settlements receive direct or indirect support from Christians, according to the NPR report.
A handful of wealthy businessmen, including American casino magnate Irving Moskowitz, are widely reported to have donated to groups such as the Brooklyn-based not-for-profit Hebron Fund, which raises money to support residents in the West Bank city of Hebron. According to the donation page on its Web site, the organization aims to “keep Hebron Jewish for the Jewish people.” Friends of Itamar, also based in Brooklyn, engages in domestic, tax-deductible fundraising for the West Bank settlement of Itamar. All this comes at the expense of the U.S. government, which loses tax revenue by allowing these groups to operate as not-for-profit entities.
Not all support for the settlements comes through charitable organizations. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz has reported that in 2007, the settler organization Amana held “housing fairs” in New York and New Jersey to encourage American Jews to buy property in the West Bank. According to the Jewish Voice and Opinion, a self-described “politically conservative Jewish publication” in New Jersey, approximately 250 people attended and as many as 10 properties were slated for purchase.
Last year the Palestinian village of Bil’in filed suit in Canada against two Quebec-based companies that built and sold residential units in a West Bank settlement. The case is still pending, but it demonstrates that people are beginning to pay attention to non-Israeli influences on settlement growth.
If the courts can’t find a way to dissuade settlement expansion, perhaps the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control should intervene. The U.S. government has already designated Kahane’s movement a foreign terrorist organization for reasons unrelated to settlement financing, but in doing so, it has prohibited U.S. citizens from providing financial support to this group.
The First Amendment protects the right of the settlement advocates to express their views, and so it should. I am not suggesting that non-profits should lose their tax advantages simply because they are at odds with American foreign policy. But the settlements are widely considered a violation of international law. Thirty years ago, a U.S. State Department legal adviser issued an opinion that called the settlements “inconsistent” with the Fourth Geneva Convention. In recent weeks, officials at State and in the White House have declined to say whether the 1979 opinion reflects official government policy, but President Obama’s comments have hardly been ambiguous. “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements,” he said in Cairo. “It is time for these settlements to stop.”
Maybe it’s also time for Americans to stop supporting them.
Ronit Avni, an Israeli, U.S. and Canadian citizen, is the director of the film “Encounter Point” and the executive director of Just Vision, an organization that documents Palestinian and Israeli conflict-resolution peace initiatives.
The following article explains that Syria has one of the highest population growth rates in the world, which is undermining efforts to increase per capita GDP and ruining the environment as well as causing an explosion in the size of Syria’s cities which are attracting most of the population growth.
باتت ظاهرة الانفجار السكاني أحد المؤثرات السلبية على الاقتصاد السوري في كافة مناحيه إذ يبلغ عدد سكان سورية 2ر22 مليون نسمة وبمعدل نمو 45ر2 بالمئة وهو اعلى معدلات النمو في العالم ويشكلون 8ر5 بالمئة من العرب البالغ عددهم 307 ملايين نسمة ما يؤثر على استهلاك أي نسبة نمو اقتصادي محققة.
ويشير الخبراء الديمغرافيون إلى أن عدد السكان في سورية وتوزعهم الجغرافي ومراحل التحول الديمغرافي يفرض قراءة جديدة للواقع السكاني في سورية وعلاقته بالتنمية والتنمية البشرية والصحة ومشكلة البطالة والرعاية الاجتماعية والعشوائيات وتاكل الفئات الوسطى اضافة إلى توزيع الثروة والدخل القومي.
ويبين الخبراء أن أي ارتفاع لمعدل النمو سيكون وهميا ما دام التدهور البيئي وحده يستنزف ما يقرب 75 بالمئة منه كما أن ارتفاع عدد السكان يؤدي إلى ضغط كبير على الموارد الطبيعية يصل بها إلى الشح.
وبالنسبة للتوزع الإقليمي فإن دمشق وحلب تستحوذان على 20 بالمئة من السوريين إذ يوجد في حلب 393ر4 ملايين نسمة تليها ريف حلب بـ 48ر2 مليون نسمة ثم دمشق 669ر1 مليون نسمة وإدلب 359ر1 مليون واللاذقية 943 ألف نسمة والسويداء 346 ألف نسمة حسب احصائيات 2007.
Basketball: At just 18-years-old, Mr Hamay has size 18 feet and stands 229cm (7 feet 6 inches) high, making him the tallest player in the competition. Syria’s tallest man takes attention in his stride