Saturday, December 14, 2013

We Really Need to Talk About Palestinian Corruption. By Jonathan Schanzer.

President Mahmoud Abbas faces a permanent crisis of confidence. Photo: Ahmad Khateib/ Flash90.

We Really Need to Talk About Corruption. By Jonathan Schanzer. The Tower, December 2013.


The U.S. has made Israeli-Palestinian peace into a top priority. But how can you build a legitimate, peaceful state out of a kleptocratic regime?

If peace were suddenly to break out in the Middle East, John Kerry would undoubtedly assure his place in the Secretary of State Hall of Fame. Defiantly challenging a chorus of naysayers at home and around the world, Kerry launched a new round of Palestinian-Israeli diplomacy on July 29, 2013, and believes he can conclude a deal between the two sides by the end of April 2014.
He has his work cut out for him, however. Extremely difficult, almost impossible issues remain to be resolved, such as the status of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugee claims, and final borders.
But one obstacle is almost never discussed in public, yet has the potential to make even the most successful negotiation end in a spectacular failure. The present efforts to create a Palestinian state are built entirely atop a Palestinian political system that has long suffered from endemic corruption, abuse of power, nepotism, and waste. This problem has dogged the Palestinians at least since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, radically undermining the most basic elements required for successful governance—including the faith of individual Palestinians in their leaders. This hinders the ability to administer international assistance, encourage investment, or build effective institutions.
Put simply, the current Palestinian regime, led first by Yasser Arafat and now by President Mahmoud Abbas, is ossified, brittle, and distrusted by the Palestinian street. The failure to address this problem would most likely lead to the birth of a failed state that crushes Palestinian freedom and economic growth, threatens Israel, and fosters radicalism—making American diplomatic efforts today seem, in retrospect, tragically flawed despite the huge investment of resources and political credibility.
. . . .
It seems clear that, despite being rejected by both the ballot and the gun, Abbas has failed to learn his lesson. He has failed to reform the dysfunctional Palestinian Authority, and does not show any signs of attempting to do so in the near future.  And the West, addicted to top-down peacemaking, shows little interest in genuinely helping the Palestinian people attain a government dedicated to coexistence with Israel, nor one built on the open, fair and transparent civil society and legal system required to build a successful state.
Abbas, it should be noted, is not going anywhere. Four years past the end of his presidential term, with no elections in sight, despite regular tantrums in which he declares his departure is imminent, Abbas appears determined to continue in office until he is no longer physically able to govern. What happens after that is anyone’s guess. Abbas has no heir apparent and, according to Palestinian law, his designated successor is a Hamas member who became speaker of the Palestinian parliament following the 2006 elections.
Washington appears distinctly unconcerned by all this. Indeed, Kerry’s new peace initiative is marked by a strong willingness to throw money at the PA without a plan to bolster its ability to govern or end decades of financial mismanagement. In fact, the cash is already on the proverbial table: In May 2013, Kerry announced that the PA will be rewarded for reaching a peace agreement with $4 billion in aid. More recently, the White House’s Middle East Coordinator Phil Gordon stated that “stabilizing the Palestinian Authority’s finances” was an urgent goal for the administration, while also noting that the U.S. has already contributed $348 million to the PA this year.
Sadly, this means that the administration is now unlearning what past administrations took years to understand: Ignoring the issue of Palestinian governance is a mistake. Ambassador Dennis Ross, for example, who spearheaded the Clinton administration’s peace efforts, has said that “We should have been focused on the state-building enterprise. … We didn’t really focus on that until, in effect, after the collapse of Oslo.”
Aaron David Miller, who worked closely on Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking for over two decades, has said that Washington often turned a blind eye to the PA’s abuses of power, so long as the Palestinians maintained a public commitment to peacemaking diplomacy. “State security courts and human rights abuses?” he said. “Terrible. But you’ve got to keep the peace process alive. Corruption? Terrible. But you’ve got to keep the peace process alive.” Miller has expressed regret that Washington’s approach was transactional rather than transformational.
Elliott Abrams, who served as an advisor to George W. Bush, has also acknowledged that the problem of PA mismanagement and poor governance was well known to the administration, but “on corruption, we never had a program. We did not have a five-point plan.”
Indeed, for a time, the only plan the U.S.—and the West in general—had was to bet on Salam Fayyad and his efforts to clean up the PA. But now that Fayyad has been pushed out, there appears to be no plan at all.
Theoretically, the United States could steer the Palestinians back to the Fayyad model, since it doesn’t really matter whether the effort is led by Fayyad himself, or by another competent leader with a commitment to reform and institution building. Unfortunately, this seems very unlikely to happen.
Today, American diplomats are falling all over themselves to placate the wrong Palestinian leaders. Washington’s goal is to reach a peace deal, pure and simple, even as the Palestinian government suffers from the same endemic corruption and abuse of power it always has. The failure to address these issues will inevitably give rise to the same wave of frustration that elected Hamas, an outcome that would threaten the very peace deal Washington hopes to foster.  Furthermore, the best possible way to encourage the civil society needed for a stable state, let alone a durable peace, may be better achieved from the bottom up, rather than simply hoping that corrupt leaders will make it happen from the top down against the interests of their profitable patronage networks and their own continued enrichment.
In other words, administration officials continue to ignore the Palestinian struggle for good governance, despite the lessons learned from the election of Hamas and the Arab Spring movements that have recently toppled multiple Arab regimes similar to the PA.
Seemingly desperate for a peace deal and disinclined to challenge the Fatah leadership, Washington now appears only too willing to enter into yet another transactional relationship at the expense of a transformational one, and at the expense of a sustainable two-state solution.

Jews Can’t Stop: A Right-Wing Israeli Parody of Miley Cyrus. By Orit Arfa.

Inshallah, the Jews won’t stop. By Ami Kaufman. +972, December 13, 2013.

Yes, “Jews Can’t Stop” Is a Miley Cyrus Cover by Israeli Settlers. By Yo Semite. Heeb, December 12, 2013.

Pro-settler video parodies Miley Cyrus. By Renee Ghert-Zand. The Times of Israel, December 14, 2013.

Ghert-Zand and Arfa:

Arfa contends that political leaders “torpedo normalized relations between Jews and Arabs in the West Bank,” and that left alone, the two national groups would figure out how to live and prosper together.
So, would this mean that Arfa would be willing to live in a West Bank that was under Palestinian authority or even a Palestinian state?
“The governing body concerns me less than the mode of governance and if it would respect individual rights,” she says. “If by some miracle a Palestinian government emerges that would treat the Jewish minority the way that Israel overall humanely and equally treats Arab citizens, I would be fine living under it.”
But in the next breath, she clarifies that she doesn’t think that is going to happen any time soon, if ever. In the meantime, she believes Israel must retain control of the West Bank.
“As it now stands, Israel is the country that is more suited to ensure, inspire or install humane civil law throughout . . . The corrupt and oppressive Palestinian Authority . . . is not suited in its current state, as most totalitarian Arab governments in this region, to ensure stability, peace, advancement and freedom for its own people, let alone Jews.”
Arfa believes the time has come for Israeli Jews, particularly settlers, to speak their mind. “Jews are especially concerned with how they are perceived and being politically correct,” she says. “I think what many people need to get over is the fear of what other people think.”
One look at Arfa’s video and it’s obvious she has gotten over it.

Can Miley Cyrus Save Israel? by Orit Arfa. The Times of Israel, December 11, 2013.

Orit Arfa website.

Miley Cyrus: Wrecking Ball. NJBR, November 26, 2013. With link to “We Can’t Stop” video.

Orit Arfa: Jews Can’t Stop. Video. Orit Jean Arfa, December 9, 2013. YouTube.

“Jews Can’t Stop” Is the Worst Miley Cyrus Parody Video Yet. By Caroline Bankoff. New York Magazine, December 13, 2013.

We’ve Reached Peak Miley: Strange Parody Music Video Declares “Jews Can’t Stop.” By Josh Feldman. Mediaite, December 13, 2013.

Israeli Releases Miley Cyrus Parody “Jews Can’t Stop.” By Ashley Ramnarain. Shalom Life, December 13, 2013.

Settler siren channels Miley Cyrus in bulldozer vid. By Philip Weiss. Mondoweiss, December 13, 2013.

Jeffrey Goldberg Twerks John Kerry’s Butt. By Orit Arfa. Jewish Journal, December 11, 2013.

Can a settler be against the occupation? By Orit Arfa. +972, October 24, 2013.

Pinchas. By Orit Arfa., November 9, 2012.

Orit Arfa painting Pinchas.


And when Pinchas, the son of Elazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation and took a spear in his hand, and he went after the man of Israel to the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman through her belly. And the plague that struck the children of Israel ended. (Numbers 25: 7-9).

Orit’s experiences in Israel during the Palestinian terror war that started in 2000 prompted her first politically tinged painting. Pinchas is a blistering critique of Jews who “sleep with the enemy,” with an allusion to the Oslo Accords, which only led to more Jewish bloodshed. While this political message is often associated with observant Jews, Orit purposefully used image an R-rated image of couple fornicating to appeal to a more secular mindset. The painting asks the basic question: at what point is the use of force a desired and moral option?

Why Israel is Losing the PR War. By Orit Arfa. Arutz Sheva 7, March 4, 2013.


At almost every pro-Israel lecture I attend, someone feels compelled to ask an unrelated question at the end: “Why does Israel have such bad PR”?
People offer answers—or guesses—that don’t speak to the heart of the issue:

“Israel doesn’t spend enough on PR.”
“The world is anti-Semitic.”
“We are doing just fine.”
“I don’t know.”
Part of the problem with Israel’s PR is the fact that we even refer to an intellectual defense of Israel as “public relations.” It’s not a matter of mere PR or image. It’s a matter of our core values and our willingness to stand up for what we believe and know is right and true, no matter what the cost. We could have exponentially more effective PR if we spent less money, but tapped into our other hidden treasures: our conviction, passion, honesty, and fearlessness.
Israel’s enemies are good because they offer “black and white” messages, using humanitarian language that makes Israel’s enemies sound like the oppressed and downtrodden. They do not sugarcoat their lies. They say:
Israel is an apartheid State
Israel is an occupying power
IDF soldiers are war criminals
And how do Israel’s spokespeople—both in and out of the Israeli government—fight these lies?
They give long, arduous facts to debunk those claims
They assert that Israel simply wants peace
They assert that “it’s complicated/complex”
They boast that Israel is a leader in hi-tech. (Without Israel, you wouldn’t have cell phones!)
I’ll tell you why these strategies rarely make a dent. The general population doesn’t care about drawn-out facts, especially in this television/Facebook obsessed, fast food/fast consumption culture. We need to answer such claims with strong messages as simple and pure as the ones that Israel’s enemies use - except ours will be honest. You can’t fight lies with “it’s complicated.” You have to throw the intellectual attacks back in their court, with statements like:
The Arab world consists of apartheid states
“Palestine” is a made-up nation and the “Palestinians” are a made-up people
Palestinian leaders are war criminals
But, people argue, you’ll only turn people off that way! Not if you’re consistent. Not if you don’t falter. The Palestinians and their friends are consistent, unified, and—worse—have no qualms about being deceptive.
It is a holy war for the jihadists, with victory in mind: the destruction of Israel. For Jews and Israel, depending on whom you ask, it’s merely an ongoing battle or “peace process.” Jihadists will die for their cause. Most Jews will at most part with some time and money for the Zionist cause.
Regarding appeals to people’s love of technology—sometimes, statements boasting of Israel’s wealth and accomplishments make people resent Israel more. Israel appears obsessed with material goods while it “oppresses” the Palestinians. Actually, we may even consider telling the world how Israel suffers because of all the Arab wars against the Jewish state, how Israel is, in fact, the oppressed, beleaguered country, with its citizens struggling with poverty, evidenced with rising housing costs and low wages.
But most Israelis and Israel-advocates are shy of these strong, passionate messages because they are afraid to fight dirty. They’re afraid to be labeled “right wing” or “extremist” or “Islamaphobe.”They’re afraid it will turn off their bosses or colleagues, and they might lose some money or friends, who don’t like them for who they really are anyway.
Here’s another reason Israel is losing. As generally rational and civilized people, Israel advocates don’t use smear tactics. A smear is not an argument, but a subtle character assassination. These include equating gun owners with murderers, Republicans with greedy businessmen, Israelis as oppressors. And no one wants to be called criminal, greedy, or oppressive.
What’s worse is that majority of Israel advocates and particularly American Jewry shun those people who actually speak the truth, who aren’t afraid to fight fire with fire, who put Israel’s enemies on the defensive. These include Jews living across the “green” line (the 1949 Armistice Line, ed.) and organizations and personalities who speak out against Islamic jihad. They’ll agree with these zealots in their hearts, but never admit it. Meanwhile, these courageous Israel defenders who speak the truth experience social ostracism.
But the main reason that Israel is losing is that Israel bashers control the culture, the arts, film, and academia. Artists and academics are the purveyors of ideas, and ideas shape the next generation. Meanwhile, the pro-Israel camp relies on booklets of facts, lengthy non-fiction books, and op-eds.
Art influences by touching emotion. Academia influences by calling forth ideas, which these days are influenced by the “black and white” messages of the jihadists and their sympathizers. If we are to win, we need to train a new generation of Zionist artists and academics. The new Zionist intellectuals.
So if you’re still wondering why Israel is losing the PR war, I ask one more thing: Look in the mirror. Think about where you could have defended Israel vigorously, but were too afraid to speak up, too desirous of being politically correct. Of messages you could have posted on Facebook, but were afraid of sounding too “political.” Of Zionist causes you could have supported, but decided to go to a party or make a business deal instead. Of arguments you could have made at a social gathering, but didn’t lest you sound too "militant" or “right-wing.”
I sure hope people will stop asking that annoying “Why does Israel have such bad PR?” question.