June 22, 2010
Number 06/10 #07
As readers will be aware, the Israeli cabinet announced a major easing of the blockade of Gaza on Sunday, whereby from now on all items not on a list of prohibited and dual-use items will be allowed in. (More details on the Israeli announcement is here.) This Update looks at the new rules for the blockade.
First up, the always insightful Barry Rubin examines both the new principles laid out by the cabinet decision and their implications. Rubin notes that, by promising to allow in all non-military materials, what Israel is essentially giving up on is any attempt to destabilise Hamas or reduce their ability to reward their supporters and consolidate their rule. He predicts that this result, which he says is the outcome of Western, not Israeli policy, means that “A revolutionary Islamist statelet, an outpost of Iran, a base for spreading terrorism and subversion, a source for genocidal antisemitic propaganda has been established for the long term on the shores of the Mediterranean”. For his complete discussion, including his prediction of very bad consequences from the world’s agreement to a permanent Hamas-stan, CLICK HERE. Meanwhile, Aluf Benn of Haaretz reports that while Turkey and Hamas will claim credit for the changed Israeli policy, in fact, Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu canvassed the idea of changing the blockade along the lines just anounced at a hearing before the whole flotilla affair even occurred. Meanwhile, Netanyahu has argued that the changes announced by Israel will make the security elements of the blockade stronger.
Next up is an article discussing what Israel’s list of banned items for Gaza is reportedly going to look like. According to this story from the Israel daily Yediot Ahronot, Israel plans to publish a list of banned items based on the Wassenaar Arrangement, an internationally agreed regime, based on an accord, which identifies dual-use items. This will be designed to give Israel’s list international legitimacy, but UNRWA and other UN agencies are already attacking any restrictions as unacceptable. For all the details about what Israel is likely to continue to restrict, CLICK HERE. Meanwhile, an Israeli paper reports that the lifting of the Gaza blockade with respect to civilian goods will have little effect on availability of goods in Gaza, but may lower prices somewhat.
Finally, following the announcement of a new US National Security Strategy (NSS) in Washington, independent Senator Joseph Lieberman is critical of the document’s language with respect to the fight against Islamist terrorism. He is particularly questioning of the use of the term”violent extremism” to define the enemy out of fear of serving enemy propaganda about a “clash of civilisations”, without mention of the ideology involved. He also views terminology about a war against “Al-Qaeda and its allies” as too specific, given the range of Islamist groups at war with the US and the West, and makes a case that the best terminology is that dumped from the last NSS, “transnational terrorists [who] exploit the proud religion of Islam to serve a violent political vision.” For Lieberman’s complete argument for clarity in these matters, CLICK HERE. Some similar arguments about the White House’s use of language in describing the war on terrorism comes from Dr. Boaz Ganor, the head of Israel’s renowned Institute for Counter-Terrorism.
Readers may also be interested in:
- Quartet envoy Tony Blair, who helped broker the new Israeli blockade policy, praises it and says there are no need for additional flotillas.
- Asaf Romirowsky and Nicole Brackman point out the totally partisan role being played by the UN agency UNRWA in recent events, including repeated calls for efforts to break the Israeli blockade, and also note that other nations will also now suffer from the precedent of the recent international effort to grant positive legitimacy to the terrorist group Hamas.
- A new poll shows that, despite the flotilla incident, Palestinian support for the Palestinian Authority continues to climb and that for Hamas continues to fall, including in Gaza.
- Yet more new footage from the Marvi Marmara, showing IHH leader Bulent Yildirim exalting his followers saying “We don’t want to be recorded in Allah’s book as cowards. If you send commandos, we will throw you down from here” while others speak of “millions of martys marching to Gaza.”
- An interesting evaluation of Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu’s leadership style and goals in his second term in office.
- A group of prominent individuals led by former Spanish PM José María Aznar launch a new global organisation called Friends of Israel, whose manifesto is here. Aznar explains his beliefs about the importance of Israel here.
- Majorities of both US Houses of Congress sign letters supporting Israel’s stance on the Gaza flotilla – the Senate letter, signed by 85 out of 100 Senators is here (as a pdf), the House of Representatives version, signed by 298 out of 435 Congressman is available here (also as a pdf),
- Victorian ALP Senator David Feeney does an outstanding job answering some claims about Hamas and the Gaza blockade.
- American intellectual Shelby Steele argues that the growing demonisation of Israel is a symptom of larger deficiencies in the West.
- Two important pieces on Turkey’s changing orientation from Thomas Friedman, here and here.
- Barry Rubin reports that Turkish PM Erdogan apparently feels personally insulted by US President Obama’s treatment of Turkey’s attempts to “mediate” with Iran.
- A very different flotilla organised out of Turkey.
- A Hamas official says Palestinians should shoot rockets at Israel from the West Bank, and that Hamas will never change its policies on Israel.
- A review of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ recent Washington visit. In one story, Abbas is reported to have blamed his inability to negotiate directly with Israel on the Obama Administration’s demands for a settlement freeze.
- Iranian President Ahmadinejad says that Jews “only seem human.”
Israel Revises Gaza Policy; World Gets What it Wants: Terrorist, Genocidal, Antisemitic, Revolutionary Islamist Statelet on the Mediterranean
By Barry Rubin
GLORIA, June 20, 2010
Israel has looked for a policy that preserves its security to the maximum extent, undermines Hamas as much as possible, and reduces international criticism, in that order of priority. Thus, the cabinet has approved an altered strategy on the Gaza Strip.
The main principle can be summarized as placing the emphasis on anything that can be used for military purposes against Israel but easing up on the destabilizing effort. This makes sense since the international community’s protection of the Hamas regime–despite the fact that it is a revolutionary Islamist, terrorist, genocide-intending, anti-Western client of Iran that will fight Israel and subvert Egypt in future–makes its overthrow impossible any way.
The June 20 cabinet decision states:
“Israel’s policy is to protect its citizens against terror, rocket and other attacks from Gaza. In seeking to keep weapons and war materiel out of Gaza while liberalizing the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza….”
Thus, the first principle is:
1. Publish a list of items not permitted into Gaza that is limited to weapons and war materiel, including problematic dual-use items. All items not on this list will be permitted to enter Gaza.
This is a great contraction of previous lists. A range of construction materials–cement, which can also be used for military bunkers; pipes that can be used for making rockets–must be watched closely. Hence, point 2:
2. Enable and expand the inflow of dual-use construction materials for approved PA-authorized projects (schools, health facilities, water, sanitation, etc.) that are under international supervision and for housing projects such as the U.N. housing development being completed at Khan Yunis. Israel intends to accelerate the approval of such projects in accordance with accepted mechanisms and procedures.
The theory is that international agencies will make sure the materiels are used for building nice things, not pillboxes and reinforced bunkers. No doubt Israel will report on whether this promise is kept (though reports to the contrary will probably be ignored)
The land crossings will be expanded to admit more materials at a faster rate for sending into the Gaza Strip, and procedures for letting people leave to get medical treatment or other purposes will be streamlined..
What does Israel get in exchange?
The decision states: “The current security regime for Gaza will be maintained. Israel reiterates that along with the U.S., EU and others, it considers Hamas a terrorist organization. The international community must insist on a strict adherence to the Quartet principles regarding Hamas.” In other words there will be the continued political isolation of Hamas which, by the way, is still holding Gilad Shalit captive.
What does Israel give up? The entire strategy of trying to reduce Gaza’s economy and the rewards that Hamas can give its supporters. In other words, while Hamas’s military capacity is kept as low as possible it can politically consolidate and stay in power for decades. While this represents a considerable “retreat” it is not so meaningful in practice since–as noted above–nobody is going to help Israel or allow it to overthrow the regime in Gaza.
So, this is the future: A revolutionary Islamist statelet, an outpost of Iran, a base for spreading terrorism and subversion, a source for genocidal antisemitic propaganda has been established for the long term on the shores of the Mediterranean. For all practical purposes, one could have made this declaration tentatively two or four years ago. Now it is clear.
Some people might find the above paragraph to be controversial. But it is all obvious. Hamas will be in power in the Gaza Strip for a long time. Who is going to remove it? It is a client of Iran. Certainly it is under embargo for arms but it does function a lot like an independent state for daily practical purposes. It will return to war against Israel at the first opportunity. It teaches its people to kill Jews and wipe Israel off the map and to be terrorists. That doesn’t mean all Gazans support it, but those who don’t can do nothing about it. Moreover, the Hamas regime receives indirect aid due to the Palestinian Authority paying much of its civil service and Western projects designed to help its people.
Yes, of course there are limits on what it can do given its size and the pressure still put on by Egypt and Israel. But indeed the above paragraph is an accurate description. Putting it bluntly sounds harsh, but the reality is harsh indeed.
And what could be more ironic than the fact that Western governments frantic for an Israeli-Palestinian peace have just helped put one more gigantic roadblock in the way of such an outcome? Even without Hamas ruling almost half of those under Palestinian rule, the Palestinian Authority probably wouldn’t be able to make peace. The consolidation of a Hamas state makes that inability a certainty.
While a change in Israeli policy can be said to mark this new era, the outcome should not be blamed on the Israeli government since the situation was already in place and made inevitable by Western policy. The world has no idea what it has done, how many bad things and how much bloodshed will arise from this failure. In future, it will become very familiar with this reality. People will write about this being true in five or ten years. You are reading about it right 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 latest books are Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict, and Crisis (Palgrave Macmillan), Conflict and Insurgency in the Contemporary Middle East (Routledge), The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition) (Viking-Penguin), the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan), A Chronological History of Terrorism (Sharpe), and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).
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Goods denied entry into Strip will be based mainly on international accord in hopes that this will increase legitimacy of move around world. At center of list of prohibited items: military equipment, metals, fertilizer
Just hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the list of goods and products that will be allowed into the Gaza Strip, international attention continues to focus on the items left out.
The list of prohibited items, according to estimates, will be presented in its final format within a few days and will be based on recommendations to be submitted by Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
The list of forbidden items, it seems, will also be based on the Wassenaar Arrangement, an international export regime that monitors the export of dual-use technology that can be used for both civilian and military purposes.
The list will be based on a recognized international accord in the hopes of garnering broad legitimacy throughout the world for the terms of the Gaza blockade. The Wassenaar Arrangement was signed by 40 countries.
In addition to items listed under the international export regime, the list of items prohibited from entering the Gaza Strip will include items forbidden entry to the West Bank in the defense minister’s directive issued in 2007 and updated a year later.
Ultimately, thousands of items will be kept out of Gaza, and will be listed on a detailed list in order to avoid situations of uncertainty or controversy. Defence officials estimated that foodstuffs and humanitarian equipment will not be prohibited entry, but that the list may include products items such as aluminum, and various metals and fertilizers, out of fears that Hamas will use these items to construct weapons.
“The list being put together will allow, on the one hand, for many products from a range of types to enter the Gaza Strip. However, via oversight mechanisms, the list will make it possible to stop a product that can be used for opposite uses,” said a defense official to Ynet.
“Even today there is no shortage in the Gaza Strip, not in food or in medicine. For Israel, there was never any intention to harm the civilian population, which Hamas unfortunately is doing. We are hopeful that everything entering the Gaza Strip will reach its destination, which is the Palestinian population, and will not become a tool in the hands of Hamas as has happened in the past.”
Despite this, officials in the coastal enclave were quick to say that all declarations issued from Israel today are nothing more than a cover-up meant to ease pressures placed on Israel, and they are not meant to result in a real change to the hardship in the Strip.
According to them, there is a real shortage in Gaza of electronic appliances, especially those related to the medical field, building materials, steel, cement, and other materials.
“Without a change to these lists and granting entry to the things the Israelis are insisting not be transferred, there will only be a cosmetic change here meant merely to prettify the blockade,” one official said.
Similar statements were recently made by UNRWA, where the prevailing line of thought is that the only acceptable move at this point is the complete removal of the blockade.
Ali Waked contributed to this report
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The U.S. is at war with violent Islamist extremism, and the Obama administration does moderate Muslims no favor by refusing to recognize this.
By JOSEPH I. LIEBERMAN
Wall Street Journal, JUNE 15, 2010
In the new National Security Strategy released by the White House last month, the Obama administration rightly reaffirms that America remains a nation at war. Unfortunately, it refuses to identify our enemy in this war as what it is: violent Islamist extremism.
This is more than semantics. As military strategists since Sun Tzu have appreciated, the first rule in war is to know your enemy so you can defeat it. The 2006 National Security Strategy did this: It correctly identified our enemy as “the transnational terrorists [who] exploit the proud religion of Islam to serve a violent political vision.” The Obama administration removed those accurate and important words.
One argument administration officials use to defend their avoidance of terms like “violent Islamist extremism” is that they are imprecise and lump together a diverse set of organizations with different goals, motivations, and capabilities. Yet the administration’s preferred alternative term—”violent extremism”—is much more vulnerable to such criticism.
To state the obvious, there are many forms of “violent extremism” with which America is not “at war.” The strategies and capabilities needed to counter the specific threat of violent Islamist extremism are very different from those needed to deal with white supremacist extremists in the U.S. or genocidal militias in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet at no point does the 2010 National Security Strategy explain or defend its repeated use of the nebulous euphemism “violent extremism,” which also has appeared in other strategy documents over the last year.
The administration has also stated at times—including in its new National Security Strategy— that our enemy in this war can be identified as “al Qaeda,” “al Qaeda and its affiliates,” or as “al Qaeda-inspired terrorists.” While that’s a better characterization, it still suffers from a number of serious shortcomings.
First, it is not fully accurate. Defining the enemy by reference to al Qaeda implies that this war is primarily about destroying an organization, rather than defeating a broader political ideology. This war will not end when al Qaeda has been vanquished—though that, of course, is a critical goal—but only when the ideology of violent Islamist extremism that inspires and predates it is decisively rejected. That ideology motivates many other groups and individuals.
For example, the ambassador-at-large for counterterrorism, Daniel Benjamin, recently warned about the growing danger to the U.S. posed by the Pakistan-based Islamist extremist group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, which was responsible for the devastating 2008 attack in Mumbai, India. As Amb. Benjamin put it, “Al Qaeda is not the only group with global ambitions that we have to worry about.”
Finally, characterizing this war as being against a specific organization risks distracting our government from important policy questions about how to combat the ideological dimensions of the war that is taking place within Islam. It also may send a message to moderate Muslims that they can and should remain on the sidelines of this fight, while governments use conventional means to defeat al Qaeda.
Some in the Obama administration have suggested that—even if all of these objections were true—calling our enemy “violent Islamist extremists” is not wise because doing so bolsters our enemy’s propaganda claim that the West is at war with Islam. The logic of this argument is completely unsound. Muslims in fact understand better than anyone else the enormous difference between their faith and the terrorist political ideology that has exploited it.
There is no question that violent Islamist extremists seek to provoke a “clash of civilizations,” and that we must discredit this hateful lie. We must encourage and empower the non-violent Muslim majority to raise their voices to condemn the Islamist extremist ideology as a desecration of Islam, responsible for the murder of tens of thousands of innocent Muslims and people of other faiths. How can we expect those Muslims to have the courage to stand and do that if we are unwilling to define and describe the enemy as dramatically different from them?
We must recognize the nature of the fight we are in, not paper it over. The United States is definitely not at war with Islam. But a group of self-identified, extremist Muslims has definitely declared war on us, a war which they explicitly justify by reference to their religion. Muslims across the world see the ideological nature of this struggle. I believe it is disrespectful to suggest they cannot understand these distinctions and act on them.
As a former Democratic secretary of state, Dean Acheson, warned a half-century ago: “No people in history have ever survived who thought they could protect their freedom by making themselves inoffensive to their enemies.” This remains the case today.
Mr. Lieberman is an Independent Democratic senator from Connecticut.