Thursday, January 16, 2014

Israel’s Arabs: Not Zionists, But Israelis. By Leon Hadar.

Israel’s Arabs: Not Zionists, But Israelis. By Leon Hadar. The National Interest, January 15, 2014.

That is certainly no way to integrate Israeli Arabs into the workforce. By Meirav Arlosoroff. Haaretz, January 9, 2014.

Israeli Arabs Want to Remain in Israel. By David Lange (Aussie Dave). Israellycool, January 14, 2014.

Israel-Arabs Prefer to Remain Israelis, Despite FM Lieberman’s Call for Territory Swap. By Joshua Levitt. The Algemeiner, January 10, 2014.

Israeli Arabs: We Do Not Want to Live in Palestinian State. By Khaled Abu Toameh. Gatestone Institute, January 6, 2014.

Arab Israelis describe how they want to remain Israeli. Video. elderofziyon2, January 8, 2014. YouTube.


If the tens of thousands of mostly Serb residents of northern Kosovo were asked whether they would like to see their region annexed to and become an integral part of Serbia or would prefer to remain part of Kosovo, there is little doubt that a huge majority of them would vote for joining the Serbian homeland instead of co-existing with the Albanian majority in the unitary state of Kosovo, and that the Serbian people would enthusiastically support the idea of annexing northern Kosovo to their state.
In fact, irredentism, the drive to annex territories and people governed by another state on the grounds of common national, ethnic, or religious ties even if means redrawing existing borders, has been a powerful force in world politics, with the most historically explosive case being the annexation of the German-speaking Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany in 1938.
So how does one explain the rejection by the majority of Israel’s Arab minority, as well as by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, of the proposal that some of the county’s Arab towns and villages near the border of the future Palestinian state be handed over to Palestine in exchange for parts of the West Bank where Jewish settlers live?
The plan applies to about 200,000 Israeli Arabs who live in the towns and villages along the 1967 cease-fire line (Green Line) between Jerusalem and Ramallah, also known as the Triangle.
While it is true that the proposal of land and population swaps with the PA has been advanced by one of Israel’s leading ultra-nationalist figures, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, it should not be dismissed as a merely reflection of a radical right wing agenda.
Lieberman, after all, has not called for the forced transfer or expulsion of Arabs out of Israel and he based it on the expectation that it would be part of a deal with the government of Palestine and not a unilateral move on the part of Israel.
Moreover, Arab citizens of Israel have been complaining for years that they feel they are treated as second-class citizens by a state that defines itself as Jewish and has national symbols, including the flag and the national anthem, that give expression to that unique form of identity that merges nationalist, religious, ethnic, and linguistic components, in the same way that Arab nationalism and to some extent the Muslim religion are central to the identity of the Palestinian people.
Indeed, Arab Israeli public figures, including a member of the Supreme Court and the Knesset (parliament) admitted that they do not sing the Israeli national anthem (“Hatikvah”) that recalls the historical longing of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, and according to opinion polls, 22 percent of Israeli Arabs define themselves strictly as Palestinians; 45 percent identify themselves as Palestinian Israelis; and only 32 percent defined themselves as Israeli Arabs.
But then the result of a poll conducted by the Dialogue also indicated that 79 percent of Israeli Arabs are satisfied with their life as citizens of Israel, and that 53 percent of them oppose any proposal for a land-swap between Israel and Palestine, with about 65 percent indicating that they reject the idea a new Palestinian state annexing their towns and villages in Israel (with the strongest opposition expressed by the Arab residents of the Triangle).
The city of Umm al-Fahm, which is located in the Triangle, published a statement after a meeting of the city council calling on PA negotiators to disregard Lieberman’s offer, underscoring that while Israeli Arabs consider themselves part of the Palestinian nation, they “are unwilling to act as pawns in the service of Lieberman and the Israeli right.” A survey conducted in July 2000 by the Arab-Israeli weekly Kul al-Arab among the residents of Umm al-Fahm, found that 83 percent of them opposed transferring their town to the PA.
One Israeli-Arab resident of Umm al-Fahm interviewed this month on Israel’s Channel 10 television channel explained that “I don’t want to be under [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas’ or the Palestinians’ rule. I want to stay here under Israeli rule,” explaining that he considered himself to be “a Palestinian, but also an Israeli.” An Arab woman shopping in a mall interviewed by Channel 10 said, “We love Israel. We love living in Israel. Our whole life is in Israel. We don’t want to live with the Palestinians and have nothing in Palestine.”
Lieberman has insisted that without territorial and population swaps, he does not intend to support any deal reached between the Israelis and Palestinians that could emerge out of the current negotiations conducted under American diplomatic auspices.
But it is also important to recall that similar population swaps were already proposed in previous peace negotiations and were dismissed by both Palestinians and Israelis as impractical, since Arab Israeli citizens could appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court if and when such a plan would be approved by the Israeli government and the court could support their petition, and at the minimum, would probably debate it for months if not years.
But the hostile response by so many Israeli Arabs to the idea of being annexed by a future Palestinian state and their determination to remain an integral part of the State of Israel despite the political and economic problems involved in their integration into a Jewish State whose national identity they do not share, may be a sign that they prefer the relative political and economic freedom they enjoy in a western society like Israel over a future in what even under the best case scenario would be an Arab state with third-world living standards and emergent democratic institutions.
“We are proud of our Arab-Palestinian identity but we are citizens of Israel, where we work here, and here we will die,” said Maazan Gaanim, the mayor of the Arab town of Sahnin in the Galilee in a recent interview with Haaretz. “Talk with us about social justice and building trust instead of [land swaps]. I bet you that not even one Arab Israeli is planning to move [to Palestine].”

The Twilight of Sykes-Picot. By Mark Donig.

The Twilight of Sykes-Picot. By Mark Doing. The National Interest, January 16, 2014.

U.S. Making Things Worse in the Middle East. By Fareed Zakaria. Washington Post, January 16, 2014. Also here.


Before our eyes, the Levant region of the Middle East is coming undone. With the U.S. looking to avoid entanglement rather than engage with this fraught region, the consequences may be as irreversible as they are dangerous.
Bombs are rocking Beirut. Syria is ripping at the seams. Al-Qaeda in Iraq has in its crosshairs the Fallujah area of al-Anbar, which the U.S. surge of 2007 was designed to protect. Jordan continues to teeter. Sectarianism is once again rising up against nationalism in the Middle East. But this time, sectarianism is winning.
Today, what ties the violence in these Levantine nations together is precisely that the nations themselves are tearing apart along sectarian lines. If no internal or external forces stop the trend, multiple statelets will emerge where single nations once stood. Rather than wish Sykes-Picot’s downfall away, Washington would be wise to prepare for this increasingly likely scenario by gearing up for the challenges and opportunities likely to emerge in its wake.
In order to address the Levant’s disintegration, it is necessary to properly diagnose the violence’s roots. Until World War I, the region was administered under the Ottoman Empire as a series of provinces whose borders roughly ran along ethnic, religious and sectarian lines. In 1916, as the Ottoman Empire fell, the British and French powers divided the region among themselves, drawing new borders that fit their own geostrategic interests, with little regard for the disparate identities of each new states’ citizens. Hence, states like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and TransJordan (now Jordan) came into being for the first time in history.
Consequently, despite being forced together over the past century through artificial borders without historical antecedent, Kurds, Christians, Sunnis, Shias and Alawis have never truly shared a sense of common fate. Instead, the British and French-drawn Sykes-Picot lines have been preserved through a combination of foreign military presences – with the U.S. leading the way since the end of the Cold War – and ruthless autocrats who propped up one sect while dominating others through fear.
But now, both of these ingredients have been removed. In the wake of a disastrous Iraq War and a still-recovering economy at home, Washington is bent on ending its current military campaigns in the Middle East, not starting new ones. Furthermore, Arab Uprisings have removed the hammer of fear from the Middle East dictator’s toolbox, and discriminated minorities have begun to take up arms alongside jihadist groups against their oppressors. The West’s diminished political appetite and economic means to compel through military actions or engage in pluralistic nation building, combined with this loss of fear, mean that the Arab Spring is also Sykes-Picot’s Autumn. The borders that have for a century comprised Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq (and perhaps even Jordan) may not be much longer for this world.
Are there benefits to the end of Sykes-Picot in the Levant? Theoretically, yes. New borders may provide new opportunities for long-oppressed peoples to finally gain autonomy. For instance, this may be the moment for the Kurds of Iraq, Syria and Turkey to finally form their own nation-state, offering them the self-determination they have long sought. Furthermore, Syria’s splintering would deal a blow to Iran, which relies on Bashar al-Assad’s service as willing intermediary for weapons and money shipments to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
But the creation of myriad new statelets in an already unstable region is fraught with risks. Syria has amassed chemical weapons stored in dozens of areas across the country. Now imagine an Al Qaeda-run state in central and northern Syria sitting atop a vast arsenal of such weapons. Or a Sunni jihadi western Iraq lording over critical oil pipelines, bordered by a Shia eastern Iraq that controls major reserves and sits squarely in Iran’s sphere of influence. Or an entirely sovereign Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. The Levant’s current state and the West’s desire to disentangle itself from the region mean that these nightmare scenarios are increasingly likely.
Given the implications of Sykes-Picot’s demise, Washington would be wise to devise a three-pronged strategy aimed at ensuring that Syria disposes of its chemical weapons as quickly as possible, empowering Sunni moderates to prevent jihadi-controlled statelets, and reducing our strategic dependence on Middle Eastern oil by investing heavily in alternative transportation fuels. Surely, the Obama administration’s primary regional goals of preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon and forging an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord are noble and strategically important. But these aims must be matched with an equal sense of urgency toward a Levant that is falling apart; for Sykes-Picot’s autumn, like Iranian nukes and Israeli-Palestinian strife, presents critical national security risks for the United States.
The U.S. is understandably reticent, given our experience in Iraq and our need to present a plausible military option against Iran, to stretch ourselves too thin. But policymakers must understand that just as there is a cost for overinvolvement, there is also a price for remaining aloof. Washington cannot midwife every transition in the Middle East; our experience should caution us against such hubris. But if we do not seek a comprehensive strategy to forge the Levant we wish to see, the one that emerges in its stead may come back to haunt us.

Sir Hew Strachan: Obama Is Clueless About “What He Wants to Do In the World.” By Nico Hines.

Senior UK Defense Advisor: Obama Is Clueless About “What He Wants to Do In the World.” By Nico Hines. The Daily Beast, January 15, 2014.

Sir Hew Strachan, an expert on the history of war, says that the president’s strategic failures in Afghanistan and Syria have crippled America’s position in the world.

The Power of Introverts. By Susan Cain.

Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts. Video. TED, February 2012. YouTube.

Masculinity Is More Than a Mask. By Christina Hoff Sommers.

Masculinity Is More Than a Mask. By Christina Hoff Sommers. Time, January 13, 2014.

Is masculine culture toxic for boys? By Christina Hoff Sommers. Video. American Enterprise Institute, January 13, 2014. YouTube.

Heretical Thoughts, Courtesy of Time. By Walter Russell Mead and Staff. The American Interest, January 15, 2014.

Women in Combat: A Mirror of Society? By Barbara Gottfried. Time, June 20, 2013.

The Mask You Live In. The Representation Project. Trailer at YouTube.