Friday, February 27, 2009

All the news that's fit to print about Amnesty International's call for arms embargo on Israel

On Monday this week, I was listening to one of the BBC world service's hourly news broadcasts, and the top story was this one:
Amnesty International has called for a freeze on arms sales to Israel and Palestinian groups such as Hamas following the recent Gaza conflict.

The human rights group said it had evidence both Israel and Hamas had used weapons sourced from overseas to carry out attacks on civilians.

It called for the UN Security Council to impose the embargo on all parties.

Amnesty International is a pretty well-known and well-respected organization in the United States, and as this BBC story reminds us, "Israel's weaponry predominantly came from the US, the report said."

So what did the U.S.'s newspaper of record have to say about this story? After all, a couple of years ago the U.S. signed an agreement promising $30 billion in military aid to Israel over a 10-year period. So you'd think that some American officials and other American interest groups would have something to say about Amnesty's call for this military aid to be suspended.

The New York Times has had just one reference to the Amnesty report, in Tuesday's print edition on page A7. The headline: "Netanyahu Rebuffed Again in Efforts to Form Coalition". Most of this article is about the negotiations between political parties to form a new Israeli government, but then if you scroll down to paragraph 10, you find a sudden change of topic:
In a separate development, Amnesty International issued a report on Monday accusing Israel and Hamas of misusing foreign-supplied weapons to "attack civilians" during the recent 22-day Gaza war.

Amnesty called on the United Nations to impose a comprehensive arms embargo on both parties, and it urged the Obama administration to suspend American military aid to Israel.

Then the article quotes a response from the Israeli Foreign Ministry and a response from a Hamas spokesman, but no response from the Obama administration or any other Americans on Amnesty's request for a change in American policy.

The article then refers to a different Amnesty report released earlier this month "that accused Hamas of a "campaign of deadly retribution" against Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel." The version of the article on the Times website includes a hyperlink to that report. However, there is no hyperlink to the other Amnesty report, the one that calls for an arms embargo on Israel and Palestinian groups, even though there are more than twice as many words about it in the article.

Unlike the Times, the BBC's website does include a hyperlink to Amnesty International's report. Just the table of contents is revealing:

Misuse of conventional arms by Israeli forces3
Unlawful use of indiscriminate rockets by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups15
Arms supplies to Israel16
Arms supplies to Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups30
Hmmm, why is it that this report has many more pages on use of arms by Israeli forces than by Palestinian armed groups? And many more pages on arms supplies to Israel than on arms supplies to Palestinian armed groups? Someone should expose this clear sign of anti-Semitism at Amnesty International.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

So focused on future scenarios that you ignore the present

Stephen Walt has posted an article entitled What do we do if the "two-state" solution collapses? He writes:
One does not need to look far down the road to see the point where a two-state solution will no longer be a practical possibility. What will the United States do then? What will American policy be when it makes no sense to talk about a two-state solution, because Israel effectively controls all of what we used to call Mandate Palestine?
This is a strange way to pose the question, because Israel has been effectively controlling all of what we used to call Mandate Palestine since 1967.

Prof. Walt goes on to describe three alternatives to the two-state solution. Option 1 is expulsion of the Palestinians from the West Bank (which Walt rejects as "a crime against humanity"); option 3 is a democratic binational state in which all individuals have equal rights (an option that Walt considers objectionable for other reasons). Option 2 is:
Israel could retain control of the West Bank but allow the Palestinians limited autonomy in a set of disconnected enclaves, while it controlled access in and out, their water supplies, and the airspace above them.
This is, of course, a perfect description of the status quo, as Walt surely knows, but in this article he never lets on that he's aware of that fact. He continues:
This appears to have been Ariel Sharon's strategy before he was incapacitated, and Bibi Netanyahu's proposal for "economic peace" without a Palestinian state seems to envision a similar outcome. In short, the Palestinians would not get a viable state of their own and would not enjoy full political rights. This is the solution that many people -- including Prime Minister Olmert -- compare to the apartheid regime in South Africa. It is hard to imagine the United States supporting this outcome over the long term, and Olmert has said as much.
But how long is "the long term"? Walt is describing the course that Israel has chosen to take for 40 years, during which time the United States has been supporting Israel consistently. But then Walt writes:
After all, supporting option 2 -- an apartheid state -- is contrary to the core American values of freedom and democracy and would make the United States look especially hypocritical whenever it tried to present itself as a model for the rest of the world. Openly endorsing apartheid would also demolish any hope we might have of improving our image in the Arab and Islamic world.
Yes, and this is exactly why the United States does not openly endorse apartheid, but says it supports some other outcome for Palestine. At the same time, though, it won't exert pressure on Israel towards any outcome that the Israeli government itself will not support. Hence Israel's stalling and creating distractions to supply "formaldehyde that's necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians", as Ariel Sharon's senior adviser Dov Weisglass put it in 2004. And hence the continuation of what Walt calls "an apartheid state".

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Two pictures

BlueStar PR has been putting up pro-Israel advertising posters around the U.S. Am I the only one who notices a striking similarity between the poses of the two figures in this poster and those in this famous painting?

Now just imagine if the poses of the two figures in the poster had been reversed, with the European-looking Hebrew reader looking down, as his swarthier Arab companion looks confidently at the camera. Would BlueStar consider that such a poster might be equally appealing to the target demographic of its ad campaign?


"The situation is very bad." This is a phrase I keep hearing from people in parts of the Middle East that are beset by war or occupation.

There are other good blogs on Middle East affairs out there (see the blogroll), but this one is for me to post any insights I might have that I haven't seen posted elsewhere, or to link to articles that I think deserve attention, even if they're not explicitly about the situation being very bad.