Friday, October 22, 2010

Ahmed Tibi's Contradictions

I always marvel at MK Ahmed Tibi's willful distortions of the truth. Now, the doctor from Taibeh has seized the stage of the New York Times op-ed page to capitalize on Lieberman and Bibi's latest loyalty oath mischief. That business - a law that applies only to non-Jewish immigrants - is indeed shameful and another expression of the evil and stupidity currently residing in the foreign ministry. But Tibi's argument consists of a lie and a calculated one at that. According to Tibi,
there is far more wrong with the loyalty oath than simply the original intent of applying it only to non-Jews. Swearing allegiance to an Israel that is Jewish and democratic is logically inconsistent and an attempt to relegate Palestinian citizens of Israel to inferior status.

Palestinian citizens of Israel comprise 20 percent of the population. The insistence of some Jewish leaders on the state being “Jewish” is a punch in the gut to Palestinians who for more than 60 years have struggled to achieve equal rights in Israel.
There is racism and discrimination against Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in Israel. But the definition of the state is not the problem and in itself cannot be called racist. Furthermore, there is nothing new about that definition. Tibi apparently is trying to turn back the clock of history with some sleight of hand.

Israel's Declaration of Independence and its Basic Laws already define the country as a "Jewish State." Indeed, the United Nations itself called for its establishment in 1947. There are many people who want to distort the meaning of this simple description. In part, the word "Jewish" lends itself to such distortions because, unfortunately for the Jews, it describes both a confessional identity and a cultural, ethnic, or national one (this apparently confuses many people in the modern world; 300 years ago, few people would have recognized any sort of problem). But the original intent was quite simple: Israel is the "nation-state of the Jews," which means that any person who is "Jewish" may immigrate there. And 62 years later, this continues to be one of the guiding principles of the state. Is there a problem with that? Let Ahmed Tibi say so straight up: I don't believe that there should be a Jewish state.

The problem of course is that Tibi seems to have no issue with the nation-state or with nationalism per se - if he did, he would object to any number of Arab states in the region and nation-states elsewhere. He also would not be suggesting that
The international community could address our situation by calling on Israel to recognize us as a national minority.
Tibi, in other words, wants Kosovo or Bosnia. This is not the game of liberal democracy but of nationalist secession - in other words, exactly the game that Lieberman wants.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Syrian Economy

Please take a look at this excellent post by Ehsani for Josh Landis's Syria Comment on the economic reforms in Syria. The process described in this post are much more important than the blips on Zvi Bar'el's radar.

The Awakening Councils and the Future of Iraq

The New York Times reported today that Sunnis in Iraq formerly allied with the U.S. appear to be (re)joining the Qaeda-led insurgency. The article cites militia leaders in Salah ad Din, Diyala, and Baghdad governorates. The Awakening Councils played a critical role in defeating al-Qaeda in Iraq, initially in Anbar province. (For a compelling interpretation of how this actually happened, see John McCary's The Anbar Awakening: An Alliance of Incentives.) Although the Iraqi central government politicians interviewed in the article deny that such defections are taking place, there seems little reason to doubt that fighters are leaving the employ of the government or threatening to do so. Apparently, the tribal militiamen and their commanders have had enough of the Iraqi central government refusing to pay them or grant them immunity from prosecution. They see little reason to co-operate with the Shi'i-dominated federal government. With American forces leaving Iraq, the Sunni tribes in places like al-Anbar are now renegotiating their role in the Iraqi order. It is unlikely that they will want to surrender their sources of income to al-Qaeda, as they almost did in the bad years of the insurgency. But they need more assurances than they have been getting from Baghdad and from the U.S. The Iraqi security forces are not strong enough to govern areas dominated by the tribes in western Iraq and in the Sunni governorates. Whoever ends up taking charge in Baghdad will have to make concessions to them.