Monday, January 31, 2011

A Personal Experience On Why Media Coverage Is So Bad

By Barry Rubin

A Salon reporter called me. the first thing I told him is that I had never been on Fox before, so naturally they called me a Fox analyst as if I was an employee.

I explained to him that I was not criticizing the media but that most of the demonstrations had been small. Salon, trying to make me look silly, quoted in its article  one report from the New York Times to quote saying hundreds of thousands of people poured into the streets. Naturally, he didn't mention it to me since he didn't want to have to print my response.

Unfortunately, the photo accompanying their story shows an area with large empty spaces and perhaps 200 people. Goodness, couldn't they even have found a photo showing huge numbers to make up their claims?

The point then was not to take the substance of anything I said seriously but to try to make me look foolish by picking on a peripheral point. I also told him that there were also tens of thousands of people guarding their homes against looters. But he didn't mention that.

I also explained that the level of participation given the size of Cairo's population was relatively low if we compared it to the demonstrations during the Beirut Spring, the Iranian revolution, or the recent events in Tunisia.

I said that in Lebanon they had demonstrations of more than 200,000 people in a country whose population was only 2.5 million. The population of Cairo alone is six times the population of Lebanon. So something equivalent would be 1.2 million people just taking into account Cairo alone.

Being an academic type I also balanced out my point by saying that, of course, activists were only a minority always, giving the Russian Revolution as an example, so the numbers were not so significant.  He didn't mention that either.

Many other media reports have referred to a few hundred or a few thousand demonstrators in individual events.  In much of the television coverage you can see that the crowds aren't huge, again taking Cairo's massive population into account. He didn't mention that either.

So here is why news coverage is so bad: The game is to try to find one point where you can make someone you disagree with look silly. Does the author have a different view of events in Egypt? Probably not. This had nothing to do with me personally or even the issue. He was just trying to make people view Fox as stupid and biased.

This is what is highlighted rather than dealing with little details like a takeover of Egypt by revolutionary fundamentalists as being of any importance. I have studied Egypt for more than 30 years, written three books based on extensive research into the country's politics, and am in daily touch with people there giving me behind-the-scenes information. I am one of the few analysts who actually quotes what the Muslim Brotherhood says. But who cares? 

Meanwhile, people are on television saying that the Muslim Brotherhood is moderate, against terrorism, there's nothing to fear if they take over. No mistakes there! Wouldn't it make a good article to round up their statements?
I'm thoroughly disgusted.

Muslim Brotherhood Declares Jihad on America; America Declares Muslim Brotherhood is Moderate!

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Mubarak Sphinx Becomes Muhammad Badi (head of Muslim Brotherhood) Sphinx

By Barry Rubin

The best thing I can do for you to understand the Muslim Brotherhood is to ask you to read what I wrote last October 7.  In that article I asked whether the United States would notice that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, through its leader, declared Jihad on America. At the end of the article I noted that an Egyptian friend said I was the only one who noticed outside of the country.

Here's the key quote:

The United States is "experiencing the beginning of its end and is heading towards its demise....Resistance is the only solution…. The United States cannot impose an agreement upon the Palestinians, despite all the means and power at its disposal. [Today] it is withdrawing from Iraq, defeated and wounded, and it is also on the verge of withdrawing from Afghanistan. [All] its warplanes, missiles and modern military technology were defeated by the will of the peoples, as long as [these peoples] insisted on resistance – and the wars of Lebanon and Gaza, which were not so long ago, [are proof of this].”

And here's what the previous supreme guide, Mahdi Akef, said:

"Question: Regarding resistance and jihad…do you consider Osama Bin Laden a terrorist or an Islamic Mujahid [a holy warrior, literally someone who wages jihad]?

"Akef: Certainly, a mujahid, and I have no doubt in his sincerity in resisting the occupation, drawing closer to God Almighty."

What I never imagined is that 3.5 months later people would be claiming--in contradiction to every Muslim Brotherhood speech and writing (in Arabic)--that the Muslim Brotherhood is some harmless nonviolent reform group. So please click on the link and read that article. These are the people who may be running the most important country in the Arab world.

Note that even if President Husni Mubarak resigns that is not what is important. What is important is whether the current regime survives or there is a totally new government.

The Muslim Brotherhood won't take over immediately but would be the power behind the throne. Remember that after the Free Officers took power in July 1952--the beginning of the current regime--it took three years for Gamal Abdel Nasser to step out as the country's dictator. Then he nationalized the Suez Canal company, made an alliance with the USSR to get weapons, and began subverting every other state in the region.

One explanation is laziness and ignorance. I have not seen any evidence to date that any journalist who wrote about it either read the "Palestine Papers" (except for the Guardian and al-Jazira people who--to put it politely--creatively interpreted the materials) or have ever read or heard any statement ever made by a Muslim Brotherhood leader.

How can you explain it? The leader of the Brotherhood calls for Jihad on America and destroying all US influence in the region and then the media says they are moderates!

Here's my (satirical) theory: Being against revolutionary Islamists seizing power in any country has now been declared to be Islamophobic.

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 The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The GLORIA Center's site is and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

Flash: Egyptian "Moderate Democratic" Leader Negotiating Coalition Government With Islamists

By Barry Rubin

As I've been warning, Muhammed al-Baradei, seen as the leading "moderate, pro-democratic" leader in Egypt is negotiating with the Muslim Brotherhood to form a national unity government.  That doesn't mean the negotiations will succeed but it gives a clear glimpse of what a post-Mubarak regime Egypt would mean.

As one shrewd analyst remarks, "al-Baradei being put in power by the Muslim Brotherhood is effectively like the `moderate' Miqati being put in power [as prime minister] in Lebanon by Hizballah.  What matters is that the Muslim Brotherhood and Hizballah are calling the shots." 

If you believe that al-Baradei, with no real political experience or any organized movement behind him, can dominate the Muslim Brotherhood, I have a bridge over the Nile I'll sell you. But it's even worse than that. It has been well-known in Egypt that much of al-Baradei's presidential campaign has been run by the Brotherhood. He's certainly not their puppet but to a considerable extent he is their pawn.

And for those of you who think that the Muslim Brotherhood is really a moderate group, here is one example of its rhetoric from Rajab Hilal Hamida, a member of the Brotherhood in Egypt’s parliament, who proves that you don’t have to be moderate to run in elections:

“From my point of view, Bin Ladin, al-Zawahiri and al-Zarqawi [the leaders of al-Qaida who staged the September 11 attacks and massive killings in Iraq] are not terrorists in the sense accepted by some. I support all their activities, since they are a thorn in the side of the Americans and the Zionists.…[On the other hand,] he who kills Muslim citizens is neither a jihad fighter nor a terrorist, but a criminal murderer. We must call things by their proper names!”

[After he said this the Brotherhood issued a statement, albeit only in English on a site known for trying to make the group sound moderate to a Western audience, that he did not represent their viewpoint. It is quite true that the Brotherhood does not support al-Qaida, as I have pointed out. But shorn of those specific names, he did state the position that the Brotherhood has frequently taken.]

And here's Muhammad Badi, the Brotherhood's leader:

"Resistance is the only solution….[Today the United States] is withdrawing from Iraq, defeated and wounded, and it is also on the verge of withdrawing from Afghanistan. [All] its warplanes, missiles and modern military technology were defeated by the will of the peoples, as long as [these peoples] insisted on resistance–and the wars of Lebanon and Gaza, which were not so long ago, [are proof of this].”

Let's assume that al-Baradei became Egypt's president. The Muslim Brotherhood might get key ministries such as education and social welfare, transforming large sectors of Egyptian society, putting thousands of their supporters into key positions, and consolidating power for the next step. They would also infiltrate and recruit pro-Islamist officers in the army.

What effect would such a coalition have on Egypt's policy toward the United States and Israel? Would U.S. economic aid and military sales continue to such a regime? One of the new government's first steps would be to end all sanctions to the Gaza Strip, allowing weapons and terrorists to flow there freely.

This development shows precisely why the existing regime should be preserved--without Mubarak and with some reforms--rather than overthrown.

There should be no more illusions about what's happening in Egypt. If the Brotherhood is so weak, why is it the proposed partner in the next government?

The key factor now is the army, which al-Baradei--with no good prospects of it happening--hopes to win over. Will the army support Mubarak, get rid of him and preserve the regime, or remain passive and watch as a revolution happens?  

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 The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The GLORIA Center's site is and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

U.S. Policy Toward Algeria as a Case Study for the Egypt Crisis

By Barry Rubin

Two former ambassadors and several current and former U.S. diplomats have written me agreeing with my warnings regarding Egypt. One of them made the following remarks which I have heavily paraphrased.

After the 1991 elections in Algeria, in which the Islamic Salvation Front won 47 percent in the first round and was headed toward taking power, the army canceled the election and established a military junta as the government.

The U.S. government discussed the issue and decided to do nothing, remembering the Iranian experience and understanding that "one man, one vote, one time" for a radical Islamist regime was neither a great triumph for democracy or in the U.S. interest.

The U.S. hands-off policy toward Algeria during the civil war was a great success. The civil war was a horrible tragedy and both sides committed atrocities. But there was no way America could have prevented or mitigated this situation. The Algerian government appreciated the U.S. stance and its policies became a lot less extremist and hostile.

Some elements in the U.S.government wanted to push the Algerian government into negotiations with the Islamists and a coalition to emerge. The French government, which was taking the lead, was strongly opposed to this as were a number of U.S. officials. Among those supporting bringing in the Islamists was Robert Malley, today head of the International Crisis Group and an advocate for Hamas, Hizballah, Iran, and Syria. 

The U.S. government decided to stay out of it and, while no bed of roses (except for the thorns), the Algerian situation has turned out as well as could be expected.

While the United States has more leverage in Egypt than it had in Algeria, ability to affect events there is limited. Still, attempts to force that government into open elections--the approach that brought civil war to Algeria--and a totally different regime would be a big mistake, paid for in Egyptian blood and American interests.

Optional reading:

PS: As a check on Europe, consider the debate in the Netherlands. Today, two members of parliament--one conservative and one left-liberal--appeared on television and agreed on everything: Mubarak's era is over; democratic change is here; events are comparable to Eastern Europe in 1989.

The Labor party guy said this shows all the talk for years about the radical Islamist threat is false. On the other hand though, if the West doesn't side with the democratic forces a small minority of radicals (sic) would hijack the situation. Both agreed that Europe was very "guilty" because of having supported Mubarak for such a long time.

And the Labor party man got in the view that the United States had no need of having Israel as an ally any more because it didn't want to talk to the Palestinians (after two years when Israel has been seeking talks and the Palestinian Authority has refused!).

Sunday, January 30, 2011

On Egypt: Obama Might Be Wrong But His Critics Are Worse

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Cartoon by Charles E. Hughes Especially for Rubin Reports
By Barry Rubin

Briefly, this seems to be the nature of the U.S. debate over Egypt:

Conservatives, eager to score partisan points on President Barack Obama, criticize him for not pushing Egypt hard enough on reform, remembering President George W. Bush's backing for democracy.

The left and liberals criticize Obama for not going further pushing Egypt hard on reform.

In short, both camps want the regime to fall. Now if we are talking about Husni Mubarak being replaced, he is after all 82 years old and wouldn't be long in office any way. And if we are talking about Gamal Mubarak, his son, not taking power as successor, that makes sense because he isn't up to the job.

But if this bipartisan consensus is talking about bringing the regime down altogether and fundamentally transforming Egypt, be very careful what you advocate, you might get it.

Analogies to places like the Philippines, South Korea, and Chile (!) don't work so well because none of these are Middle Eastern countries, all had strong democratic pasts, and in the first two there was no serious radical threat. In the third, Chile, the radical forces were the ones being overthrown.

Now, Iran (Islamist), Lebanon (Hizballah), Gaza Strip (Hamas), Algeria (bloody civil war) are in the Middle East. And the differences with case studies of countries in Asia and South America are not just accidental.

While the Obama Administration is pushing too hard for my taste and not giving enough public support to the regime--not the Mubaraks personally--its critics seem to be even more wrong.

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 The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

Egypt's Revolt: The Economic Dimension

By Barry Rubin

The very savvy columnist Spengler has kindly given me permission to quote in advance his column in the Asia Times. He writes:

"There's an economic dimension to the problem is quite worrying. Structural changes in the world food market will make jumps in the price of grains such as we had during the last few months and in 2007-2008 a regular occurrence. A spike in food prices were certainly a factor in the timing of the revolts.

"The trouble is that this is likely to be a regular occurrence. Any minor disturbance in grain supply now has catastrophic price effects because prosperous Asia no longer cares what it has to pay for wheat and maize. In effect Asia is threatening to price the Arab poor out of the world food market.

"Egypt is the world's largest grain importer in most years (Iran had the number-one spot in 2009 due to drought, with 6 million tons of imports). Egypt imports about half its wheat. Iran still can pay for food; with a few weeks' of instability, Egypt's currency and foreign credit (trade credits from banks in particular) will be in jeopardy and people will be hungry. Whatever regime is around will have to deal not just with the urban mob but with the very poor. We haven't really had food riots like 1977 [in Egypt] yet, but we probably will. We have a country that is structurally incapable of feeding itself and may have difficulty paying for imports soon.

"Insurance against Egyptian default was LIBOR +3.3% a week ago; now it's at LIBOR+ 4.54%. That's not quite crisis levels, but if banks start reducing exposure, things could get bad fast. In 2009 Egyptian imports were $55 billion against only $29 billion of exports; tourism and other services brought the current account into balance. Scratch the tourism, and you have a $26 billion deficit against $35 billion of central bank reserves. It would not take long for a run on the currency to materialize--and if the currency devalues, food and fuel become all the more expensive. Food and fuel subsidies are now 7% of GDP.

"With half the population living on $2 a day or less, that means real distress. I suppose there's a scenario under which al-Baradei gets in and scores some loans from his friends at the World Bank and an ad hoc aid consortium, but there's no reason to count on it. And if the country really starts to hurt badly, the Ikhwan will be out there preaching al-Qutb style Islamic socialism to hungry people."
Right, I'd add that given Egypt's situation, a free election would not produce a moderate democratic government that can meet popular demands. That means either the elected government will go to demagoguery to mobilize mass support--meaning shrieking about Israel, the United States, and the West--or be replaced by an Islamist regime.
We've seen this pattern in the past, including in Egypt itself between 1952 and 1977 or so. There were three wars with Israel during that period, an alliance with a radical anti-Western state (the USSR), and a government dedicated to destroying U.S. and Western interests in the region.
This is a critical point: What could a moderate democratic government do if it gained power given Egypt's difficult situation (few resources, some oil; Suez Canal; huge population; little capital)? It can't cut the military budget because the army would revolt. It can't cut subsidies because the people would revolt.
It is no accident that Egypt has a dictatorship. Obviously, every country is in a different situation 
Here's a detailed article about the issue.

Two Iranian Dissidents Disagree On Egypt

By Barry Rubin

While his view is not the same as mine, I respect the arguments made by Mir Hossein Mousavi, leader of the democratic opposition in Iran (without romanticizing his moderation excessively) and think they are worth considering. But then check out the very cogent points made by an Iranian dissident blogger.

There are two different Iranian models for what's happening now. I am not saying that anyone is consciously thinking in these terms; this is just from the point of view of outside analysts:

--The Iranian revolution of 1978-1979: That is, a protest movement that evolves into a new Islamist dictatorship.

--The Iranian rebellion of 2009: That is a democratically minded protest movement which was repressed.

Both were against dictatorships. But, of course, in each case left a radical Islamist regime on power. Ironically, if the Egyptian rebellion fails it can easily be romanticized and is more like 2009; if it succeeds, the outcome could be very bad and more like 1979.

His January 28th statement is as follows. The translation is unofficial and Mousavi is not responsible for it:

"The Middle East is at the brink of great events that could affect the future of the nations of this region and the rest of the world. Certainly the ultimate aim of what is happening is the disruption of the unjust order....

"Today the Iranian people's slogan of “where is my vote” is echoed in the slogan of “the people demand the overthrow of the regime” in Cairo, Suez and Alexandria...."

After hinting that Egypt's regime was tyrannical like that running Iran today, he concludes:
"Our nation admires the glorious revolution of the people of Tunis and the uprising of the people of Egypt and Yemen and other nations in the region to attain their rights."

Now, here's a dissident Iranian blogger:

"I would like to remind people that after the 1979 revolution in Iran, the secularists and the various religious groups united to form a coalition government. Within a year, the Islamic Republic party (two of the members of which were Rafsanjani and Khamenei) completely took control and turned Iran into a totalitarian state in the guise of a so-called 'Islamic' republic that took away many of the hard-earned rights that Iranians had gained in the last century. This regime is still in power in Iran today, executing opposition members and Iranian citizens who dare oppose them.

"I would like to remind people that when Khomeini came to Iran he promised freedom, democracy and human rights. As we are seeing today—with people telling us not to worry about the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt— in Iran in the early days of the revolution people said the same about Khomeini and his minions."

U.S. Policy in the Middle East: Moderates Cry; Radicals Laugh

By Barry Rubin

In the United States, the sending of a U.S. ambassador to Syria is presented as a normal act, not a concession. That's not the way it is being seen in Syria. In the United States, the issuing of statements favoring Lebanese sovereignty is seen as an effective policy. That's not the way it is seen in Syria and Lebanon.

Or as an unidentified, but presumably Syrian, official put it:

"Obama went out of his way to send [a new ambassador]. He will be expecting something in return. Lebanon is an obvious area but the Syrians realize that the United States does not have much more to pressure them with," another diplomat said.

"Syrian political commentator [i.e., lackey of the dictatorship] Ayman Abdel Nour said Damascus was not averse to compromise if it felt the United States was lessening support for an international tribunal on the Hariri killing, which Syria views as a tool in the hands of its foes.

"`The United States is keeping the tribunal card close to its chest. But Syria is stronger on the ground in Lebanon,'" Abdel Nour said. He dismissed the possibility of Washington resuming a policy of internationally isolating Syria because Damascus has built ties with countries such as its northern neighbor Turkey."

In other words, Syria is strong; America is weak; Syria can do as it pleases with no additional cost.  If the United States drops support for the international tribunal finding  Syrian and Hizballah terrorism in Lebanon, Syria will then...not give anything back.

This is the gap between Washington--and America in general--which believes Obama is doing a terrific job in the Middle East, and the actual Middle East where the moderates are crying and the radicals are laughing.

And don't forget:

Hizballah seizes power in Lebanon, U.S. policy has no effective response.

U.S. policy helps Hamas entrench itself in the Gaza Strip (by providing indirect aid and pressing Israel to reduce sanctions).

In Egypt, the emphasis of U.S. policy is to press the regime into potentially fatal concessions.

Plus more. The radicals know what they are talking about.

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 The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

I Bet You Were Waiting for This: Whose Fault Is the Egyptian Revolt?

By Barry Rubin

Robert Malley, son of Simon Malley, ace Israel-hater, scion of the Egyptian Communist Party, former White House aide, and a key person in the lobby of Middle East "experts" trying to get the United States to commit suicide in the region, has told us why there is unrest in Egypt.

On NPR's "Weekend Edition Saturday," Malley explained that the Arabs have been "humiliated" by not being able to control their own history because of the invasion of Iraq and "the fact that the Palestinians can’t get Israel to give them anything."

Hmm, said the NPR host thoughtfully.

So now we know: Israel and America are responsible for all the problems of the Middle East. But since many of these same people claim that Israel was behind the U.S. invasion of Iraq (though Israeli policymakers and decisionmakers opposed the operation) it comes down to Israel again.

Iran, of course, said the same thing. And in his country, said a Lebanese expert (a real one, not the type quoted in the New York Times), "You should see the pro-Syrian and Hizballah people, salivating with excitement at the fantasy that this is the end of Mubarak." Speaking of pro-Syrian and pro-Hizballah people, Helena Cobban doesn't just blame Israel but AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby.

Cartoon by Stephen E. Hughes, exclusively for Rubin Reports

Indeed, one of the main Syrian servants with a pen, Rime Allaf, "international consultant and an associate fellow at Chatham House in London." wrote the same thing in the--you guessed it--New York Times (which Lebanese are starting to call the New York Akhbar after the Syrian front newspaper (al-Akhbar) that the Times so admires.
She explains:

"The Mubarak regime’s closeness to Israel and participation in the siege on Gaza were never popular, and if Egyptians manage to go the Tunisian way, there may be a softening of this embrace. It’s too early to tell which way Egypt’s army will go, and whether President Mubarak can survive this wave, but Arabs are rooting for Egyptians to have their peaceful revolution, and for Egypt to become once more a leader in the Arab world."

Lead the Arab world into war with Israel, of course.

By the way, none of these people have any concern whatsoever for U.S. interests. They merely use this as a figleaf for bashing Israel. In fact, they are all on the other side. They want Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hizballah to triumph and drive the West out of the region.

What this kind of thinking requires is to erase the fact that Arab countries actually have domestic issues! Yes, incredible as it might seem there are things like unemployment, poverty, repression, personal ambition, ethnic and regional quarrels, dissatisfaction with the functioning of government institutions, religious conflicts, and all the other kinds of things that make people everywhere dislike their governments, especially if they live under a dictatorship.

And there are people who have ideas of what they would prefer to replace the existing system: democracy, Islamism, or themselves and their friends as the new dictators.

Equally, governments blame Israel and America to deflect attention from their own shortcomings. This approach often works. It isn't working in Egypt right now.

Yet all these factors are often deleted in Western discussions (especially in universities), leaving people unable to conceive that anything might happen without it being caused by Israel. Every time something happens that proves local problems are involved--say, Sunnis and Shias killing each other in Iraq--it must somehow be linked to Israel's existence or actions.

On one occasion a couple of years ago, the head of a United Arab Emirates (UAE) think tank explained to a startled Swiss reporter how Israel was responsible for the poor educational system in the UAE. Many similar tales can be recounted.

"Actually," says a veteran Cairo resident and Egypt-watcher, "Israel seems to have hardly been mentioned by the demonstrators in Egypt. Only the `experts' think this is primarily about foreign affairs, U.S. policy or Israel. It is mainly about Mubarak's domestic failures and his party's outright theft of the last parliamentary elections."

News bulletin: There are a lot of other things going on in this region, from Morocco in the west to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the east, that pertain to other matters.

The Middle East: Where the Ridiculous is Mainstream and Nonsense Kills

In the nothing is too ridiculous category, al-Safir, the left-wing, Syrian-backed, pro-Hizballah newspaper, that the New York Times is now using as a reliable source on Lebanese politics, has a scoop. According to the newspaper, an Israeli security agent paid a Palestinian $3000 to put a poison pill in a Palestinian's coffee in order to give him polio. The man's father says his son is paralyzed and vomiting blood:

"If things don't move forwards during the next few hours, I and my family will burn ourselves in front of the Red Cross headquarters in Ramallah in order to alert the world to our cause," Haitham's father said. "When I die, my son will say to everyone that I was a hero martyr."

Oh, they gave the name of the alleged pill. It's Oleptro, a commonly used antidepressant.

Now why is this kind of thing important except for laughs?

1. It has political consequences internationally. The constant demonization of Israel in every aspect of Arab discourse--including sports stories--makes it impossible and seemingly undesirable to make peace with that country. This is no ordinary dispute easily solvable by compromise but a battle between good and evil, deity and devil, that can only be resolved by total victory.

2. It has political consequences at home. If anyone in the Arab world wants to make peace with the well-poisoning (Suha Arafat to Hillary Clinton), Arafat-poisoning (many Palestinian Authority officials), polio-inducing, poison tear gas-using (last week) they are a traitor and should be killed. Of course, Egypt made peace with Israel (Anwar al-Sadat assassinated), Lebanon tried (Bashar Gemayel assassinated), and Jordan did (King Abdallah I assassinated). But the radical nationalists and Islamists are working very hard to reverse the peace agreements in Egypt and Jordan.

3. It is incitement to violence against Israelis and others. Comparing the level of incitement to violence in the Arabic-speaking world to demagogic extremist media shows in the United States (like MSNBC) shows a rather enormous gap. People have died in attacks attributed by the perpetrators to phony atrocity stories.

4. It leads to antisemitism and the delegitimization of Israel thus leading to further violence and making it harder to achieve peace. The world's leading form of hate speech is precisely the hate speech that is ignored in a world that has become absurdly over-sensitive to alleged slurs.

5. By refusing to publicize the volume and nonsense in such daily stories, the Western media prevents Western publics from understanding the four points explained above. In addition, by fully publicizing this kind of thing, editors and journalists would understand how absurd it is for them to publicize uncritically only slightly more credible examples of made-up stories to discredit Israel.

These range from phony massacres in Jenin, to fabricated stories about Israeli soldiers killing Muhammad al-Dura (a boy in the Gaza Strip who can be seen to move on the videotape after supposedly being dead), to globally publicized sensationalism about a woman supposedly dying of tear gas..

In other words, it should be recognized that these are not news story but a systematic propaganda campaign which uses the Western media as suckers. If contemporary media practices had been around during the Middle Ages we would be saying front-page stories about Jews poisoning wells and CNN reports about the latest child being murdered to make matzoh for Passover.

And no the previous sentence is no exaggeration.

6. Publicizing and explaining this phenomenon would also show how Israeli sources, including the Israeli government, is a far more reliable source than al-Jazira or al-Safir or al-Akhbar and the rest.

As I read over this article it amazes me that I have to write something like this. All of these points should be so totally obvious that it wouldn't be necessary. But such is the enlightened, anti-racist, oh-so-sensitive world of 2011 that not to point out these realities is unthinkable.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Special Report: The Revolt in Egypt and U.S. Policy

This article was published by the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) as an e-note and it is available here. I have substantially revised it since then and suggest you read and reprint my updated and expanded version here.

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By Barry Rubin

There is no good policy for the United States regarding the uprising in Egypt but the Obama Administration may be adopting something close to the worst option. This is its first real international crisis. And it seems to be adopting a policy that, while somewhat balanced, is pushing the Egyptian regime out of power. The situation could not be more dangerous and might be the biggest disaster for the region and Western interests since the Iranian revolution three decades ago.

Experts and news media seem to be overwhelmingly optimistic, just as they generally were in Iran's case. Wishful thinking is to some extent replacing serious analysis. Indeed, the alternative outcome is barely presented: This could lead to an Islamist Egypt, if not now in several years.

What's puzzling here is that so much enthusiasm is based so much on points like the demonstrators being leaderless and spontaneous. But that's precisely the situation where someone who does have leaders, is well organized, and knows precisely what they want takes over.

Look at Tunisia. The elite stepped in with the support of the army and put in a coalition of leadership, including both old elements and oppositionists. We don't know what will happen but there is a reasonable hope of stability and democracy. This is not the situation in Egypt where the elite seems to have lost confidence and the army seems passive.

Can Omar Suleiman, long-time head of intelligence, as vice-president  and former Air Force chief  (the job Mubarak himself used to have) Ahmed Shafiq as prime minister stabilize the situation? Perhaps. But to have the man who organized repression now running the country is not exactly a step toward libertarian democracy.

There are two basic possibilities: the regime will stabilize (with or without Mubarak) or power will be up for grabs. Now, here are the precedents for the latter situation:

Remember the Iranian revolution when all sorts of people poured out into the streets to demand freedom? Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is now president.

Remember the Beirut spring when people poured out into the streets to demand freedom? Hizballah is now running Lebanon.

Remember the Palestinians having free elections? Hamas is now running the Gaza Strip.

Remember democracy in Algeria? Tens of thousands of people were killed in the ensuing civil war.

It doesn't have to be that way but precedents are pretty daunting.

What did Egyptians tell the Pew poll recently when asked whether they liked "modernizers" or "Islamists"? Islamists: 59%; Modernizers: 27%. Now maybe they will vote for a Westernized guy in a suit who promises a liberal democracy but do you want to bet the Middle East on it?

Here’s the problem.

On one hand, everyone knows that President Husni Mubarak's government, based on the regime that has been running Egypt since the morning of July 23, 1952, is a dictatorship with a great deal of corruption and repression.

This Egyptian government has generally been a good ally of the United States yet has let Washington down at times. For example, the Mubarak government has continued to purvey anti-American propaganda to its people; held back on solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict (it did not endorse the 2000 Clinton plan, though I have good sources saying Mubarak said later he regretted that decision); has not taken a strong public stance on pressuring Iran; and so on.

For a long time it was said that Egypt was the most important U.S. ally in the Arabic-speaking world. There is truth in this but it has been less true lately, though due more to passivity in foreign policy than to hostility.

Clearly, though, Egypt is an American ally generally and its loss to an anti-American government would be a tremendous defeat for the United States. Moreover, a populist and radical nationalist—much less an Islamist—government could reignite the Arab-Israel conflict and cost tens of thousands of lives.

So the United States has a stake in the survival of the regime, if not so much that of Mubarak personally or the succession of his son, Gamal. This means that U.S. policy should put an emphasis on the regime’s survival. The regime might be better off without the Mubaraks since it can argue it is making a fresh start and will gain political capital from getting rid of the hated dictator. Given the weakness of designated successor, Gamal Mubarak, who is probably too weak to deal with the situation the regime might well be a lot better off.

On the other hand, the United States wants to show that it supports reform and democracy, believing that this will make it more popular among the masses in the Arab world as well as being the “right” and “American” thing to do. Also, if the revolution does win, the thought is, it is more likely to be friendly to America if the United States shows in advance its support for change.

Finally, the “pro-democracy” approach is based on the belief that Egypt might well produce a moderate, democratic, pro-Western state that will then be more able to resist an Islamist challenge. Perhaps the Islamists can be incorporated into this system. Perhaps, some say (and it is a very loud voice in the American mass media) that the Muslim Brotherhood isn’t really a threat at all.

So in this point of view, U.S. policy should favor the forces of change.

Of course, it is possible to mix these two positions and that is what President Obama is trying to do.

Thus, Obama said:

"I've always said to [Mubarak] that making sure that they are moving forward on reform -- political reform, economic reform -- is absolutely critical to the long-term well-being of Egypt, and you can see these pent-up frustrations that are being displayed on the streets….Violence is not the answer in solving these problems in Egypt, so the government has to be careful about not resorting to violence and the people on the streets have to be careful about not resorting to violence. I think that it is very important that people have mechanisms in order to express legitimate grievances. As I said in my State of the Union speech, there's certain core values that we believe in as Americans that we believe are universal: freedom of speech, freedom of expression -- people being able to use social networking or any other mechanisms to communicate with each other and express their concerns."

On paper, this is an ideal policy: Mubarak should reform; the opposition should not use violence; and everything will turn out all right. Again, this is the perfect policy in theory, and I’m not being sarcastic at all here.

Unfortunately, it has little to do with reality. For if the regime does what Obama wants it to do, it will fall. And what is going to replace it? And by his lack of support--his language goes further than it might have done--the president is demoralizing an ally.

And it is all very well to believe idealistically that even if Egyptians are longing to be free, one has to define what "free" means to them. Also, the ruler who emerges is likely to be from the best organized, disciplined group. People in Russia in 1917 were yearning to be free also and they got the Bolsheviks. In Iran where people are yearning to be free, the Obama Administration did nothing.

No matter what the United States says or does at this point, it is not going to reap the gratitude of millions of Egyptians as a liberator. For the new anti-regime leaders will blame America for its past support of Mubarak, opposition to Islamism, backing of Israel, cultural influence, incidents of alleged imperialism, and for not being Muslim. If anyone thinks the only problem is Israel they understand nothing.
This is not the first time this kind of problem has come up and it is revealing and amazing that the precedents are not being fully explained. The most obvious is Iran in 1978-1979. At that time, as I wrote in my book Paved with Good Intentions: The American Experience and Iran, the U.S. strategy was to do precisely what Obama is doing now: announce support for the government but press it to make reforms. The shah did not go to repression partly because he didn’t have U.S. support. The revolution built up and the regime fell. The result wasn’t too good.

There is a second part of this story also. Experts on television and consulting with the government assured everyone that the revolution would be moderate, the Islamists couldn’t win, and even if they did this new leadership could be dealt with. So either Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini couldn’t triumph—Islamists running a country, what a laugh!—or he couldn’t really mean what he said. That didn’t turn out too well either.

Even more forgotten is that, regarding Egypt, that’s how the whole thing started! Back in 1952, as I wrote in my book, The Arab States and the Palestine Conflict, U.S. policymakers supported—don’t exaggerate this, it was not a U.S. engineered coup but they were favorable—to an army takeover. The idea was that the officers would be friendly to the United States, hostile to the USSR and Communism, and more likely to enjoy mass support.

The pattern is for U.S. policy to believe that getting rid of a corrupt regime--the Egyptian monarchy in 1952; Iran's shah in 1978; Mubarak now--and supporting a new, popular regime with a seemingly appealing ideology will produce stability and benefit U.S. interests. In fact, the last two times this strategy resulted in the two biggest disasters in the history of U.S. Middle East policy. And now it is even less excusable, since we have these precedents and particularly the point about what happens when Islamists take power.

There is no organized moderate group in Egypt. Even the most important past such organization, the Kifaya movement, has already been taken over by the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2007 its leader became, until his death in 2008. Abdel Wahhab al-Messiri, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood and a virulent antisemite.

Muhammad el-Baradei, leader of the reformist movement, makes the following argument against my analysis:

“Mubarak has convinced the United States and Europe that they only have a choice between two options -- either they accept this authoritarian regime, or Egypt will fall into the hands of the likes of bin Laden's al-Qaida. Of course that is not exactly true. Mubarak uses the specter of Islamist terror to prevent a third way: the country's democratization. But Washington needs to know that the support of a repressive leadership only creates the appearance of stability. In truth, it promotes the radicalization of the people.”

This is a reasonable formulation. But one might also say that nothing would promote the radicalization of the people more than having a radical regime. Even el-Baradei says that if he were to be president he would recognize Hamas as ruler of the Gaza Strip and end all sanctions against it.

That is not to say that there aren’t good, moderate, pro-democratic people in Egypt but they have little power, money, or organization. Indeed, Egypt is the only Arab country where many of the reformers went over to the Islamists believing—I think quite wrongly—that they could control the Islamists and dominate them once the alliance got into power.

Nothing would make me happier than to say that the United States should give full support for reform, to cheer on the insurgents without reservation. But unfortunately that is neither the most honest analysis nor the one required by U.S. interests. In my book, The Long War for Freedom, I expressed my strong sympathy for the liberal reformers but also the many reasons why they are unlikely to win and cannot compete very well with the Islamists.

I have pointed out that the Brotherhood’s new leader sounds quite like al-Qaida and has called for war on both Israel and America.
And here is Rajab Hilal Hamida, a member of the Brotherhood in Egypt’s parliament, who proves that you don’t have to be moderate to run in elections:

“From my point of view, bin Ladin, al-Zawahiri and al-Zarqawi are not terrorists in the sense accepted by some. I support all their activities, since they are a thorn in the side of the Americans and the Zionists.…[On the other hand,] he who kills Muslim citizens is neither a jihad fighter nor a terrorist, but a criminal murderer. We must call things by their proper names!”

A study of the Brotherhood members of Egypt’s parliament shows how radical they have been in their speeches and proposals. They want an Islamist radical state, ruled by Sharia and at war with Israel and the United States.

Then it is also being said that the Brotherhood is not so popular in Egypt. Then why did they get 20 percent of the vote in an election when they were repressed and cheated? This was not just some protest vote because voters had the option of voting for secular reformers and very few of them did.

The mass media is full of “experts” who also argue that the Brotherhood is not involved in terrorism. Well, partly true. It supports terrorism against Americans in Iraq and against Israelis, especially backing Hamas. In major cases of terrorism in Egypt—for example the assassination of Farag Fouda and the attempting killing of Naguib Mahfouz—Brotherhood clerics were involved in inciting the violence beforehand and applauding it afterward.

The deeper question is: why does the Brotherhood not engage in violence in Egypt? The answer is not that it is moderate but that it has felt the time was not ripe. Knowing that it would be crushed by the government, and its leaders sent to concentration camps and tortured or even executed, as happened under Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1950s and 1960s, is a deterrent. It is no accident that Hamas and Hizballah—unrestrained by weak governments—engaged in violent terrorism while the Muslim Brotherhood facing strong and determined regimes in Egypt and Jordan did not.

Having said all of this, U.S. influence on these events, already rejected by Egypt’s government, is minimal. It is morally good to speak about freedom and seem to support the protestors but also quite dangerous and will not reap the gratitude of the Egyptian masses in the future. After all, aside from the likely radicalism of their leaders, a revolutionary regime would be hostile toward the United States since America would be blamed for supporting the Egyptian dictatorship for decades. President Obama will not charm them into moderation.

The Egyptian elite wants to save itself and if they have to dump Mubarak to do so—as we saw in Tunisia—the armed forces and the rest will do so. But if the regime itself falls creating a vacuum, that is going to be a very bad outcome. If I believed that something better could emerge that would be stable and greatly benefit Egyptians, I’d be for that. Yet is that really the case?

Consider this point. Egypt’s resources and capital are limited. There aren’t enough jobs or land or wealth. How would a new regime deal with these problems and mobilize popular support? One route would be to embark on a decades-long development program to make the desert green, etc. Yet with so much competition where would the money come from? How could Egypt try to gain markets already held by China, for example?

More likely is that a government would win support through demagoguery: blame America, blame the West, blame Israel, and proclaim that Islam is the answer. That’s how it has been in the Middle East in too many places. In two cases—Lebanon and the Gaza Strip—democracy (though other factors were also involved) has produced anti-democratic Islamist regimes that endorse terrorism and are allied to Iran and Syria.

Is America ready to bet that Egypt will be different? And on what evidentiary basis would that be done?

The emphasis for U.S. policy, then, should be put on supporting the Egyptian regime generally, whatever rhetoric is made about reforms. The rulers in Cairo should have no doubt that the United States is behind them. If it is necessary to change leadership or make concessions that is something the U.S. government can encourage behind the scenes.

But Obama’s rhetoric—the exact opposite of what it was during the upheavals in Iran which he should have supported—seems dangerously reminiscent of President Jimmy Carter in 1978 regarding Iran. He has made it sound—by wording and nuance if not by intention—that Washington no longer backs the Egyptian government. And that government has even said so publicly.

Without the confidence to resist this upheaval, the Egyptian system could collapse, leaving a vacuum that is not going to be filled by friendly leaders.

That is potentially disastrous for the United States and the Middle East. There will be many who will say that an anti-American Islamist government allied with Iran and ready to restart war with Israel “cannot” emerge. That’s a pretty big risk to take on the word of those who have been so often wrong in the past.

Suggested Readings

Barry Rubin, Islamic Fundamentalism in Egyptian Politics, Second Revised Edition Palgrave Press (2002, 2008).

Barry Rubin, The Muslim Brotherhood: A Global Islamist Movement (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2010)

For the Brotherhood’s political views on supporting Hamas “by any means necessary
MERIA Articles


Adel Guindy, "THE ISLAMIZATION OF EGYPT", Vol. 10, No. 3 (September 2006)


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 The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

My Interview on the Egyptian Revolt: I'm Worried That Others Aren't Worried

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By Barry Rubin

1) How do you judge the Egyptian protests?
It is tempting to see this as a revolution that will bring down the regime. But Egypt is not Tunisia. And while the demonstrations are passionate it is not clear that the numbers of participants are huge. If the elite and the army hold together they could well prevail, perhaps by removing Mubarak to save the regime. We should be cautious in drawing conclusions.

2) Do you see the threat of an Islamist takeover by the Ikhwan?
So far the uprising has not been led by the Muslim Brotherhood. But it is the only large organized opposition group. It is hard to see how it would not be the leading force after a while. The leadership would have to decide that it is facing a revolutionary situation and that this is the moment for an all-out effort. But if it does so and fails there will be a terrible repression and the group will be crushed. It appears that the Brotherhood is joining the protests but has not made its basic decision yet. In the longer term if the regime is completely overthrown I do believe the Brotherhood will emerge as the leader and perhaps the ruler of the country.

3) Do you see any chances that Egypt will witness the same model of Iran of 1979, the democratic protests followed by an Islamist rule?
Absolutely yes. On one hand, so far they lack a charismatic leader. On the other hand, alternative non-Islamist leadership is probably weaker than it was in Iran. Remember also that the Iranian revolution went on for almost a year, with the Islamists emerging as leaders only after five or six months. Many experts predicted that moderate democrats would emerge as rulers and said an Islamist regime was impossible but that isn't what happened. I very much hope I am wrong.

4) How can the Arab status quo be reformed and changed without letting the Jihadist fanatics take power? Is it possible to have democracy and liberalism?
One would need strong leaders, strong organizations, an ability to repress opposition, a clear program, and unity, among other things. None of this is present on the moderate democratic side. Again, I wish it were otherwise. More than any other country, reformers--though not all of them--have believed they can work with and then manipulate the Islamists. That seems like a mistake.

The chances for democracy and liberalism are different in every country. Tunisia has a good chance because there is a strong middle class and a weak Islamist movement. But in Egypt look at the numbers in the latest Pew poll.

In Egypt, 30 percent like Hizballah (66 percent don’t). 49 percent are favorable toward Hamas (48 percent are negative); and 20 percent smile (72 percent frown) at al-Qaida. Roughly speaking, one-fifth of Egyptians applaud the most extreme Islamist terrorist group, while around one-third back revolutionary Islamists abroad. This doesn’t tell us what proportion of Egyptians want an Islamist government at home, but it is an indicator.

In Egypt, 82 percent want stoning for those who commit adultery; 77 percent would like to see whippings and hands cut off for robbery; and 84 percent favor the death penalty for any Muslim who changes his religion.

Asked if they supported “modernizers” or “Islamists” only 27 percent of Egyptians said they favored the modernizers while 59 percent said they backed the Islamists.

Is this meaningless? Last December 20 I wrote that these, “Horrifying figures in Egypt…one day might be cited to explain an Islamist revolution there….What this analysis also shows is that a future Islamist revolution in Egypt and Jordan is quite possible."

5) What kind of threat does the Muslim Brotherhood network pose to Israel and the Western democracies?
In power? A huge threat: renewed warfare, overwhelming anti-Americanism, efforts to spread revolution to other moderate states, a potential alignment with Iran and Syria (though that might not happen), incredible damage to Western interests. In short, a real disaster. What shocks me is that Western media and experts seem so carried away by this movement they are only considering a best-case outcome. As I suggested, I would prefer things were otherwise but I am deeply worried and one of the things I'm worried about is that others don't seem to be worried.

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 The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

Hizballah Names Lebanese PM?: NY Times Has Hope

cartoon by Tundra Tabloid for Rubin Reports

By Barry Rubin

The New York Times has an editorial that says this:

"Lebanon's next prime minister, Najib Mikati, owes his job to Hezbollah. That is regrettable and dangerous. It will heighten Lebanon's divisions, antagonize Western donors (including the United States) and complicate the work of the international tribunal set up to try the killers of Rafik Hariri, a former prime minister. ...We hope he can still find ways to put Lebanon's interests first and dare Hezbollah to challenge him."

Where has the Times been for the last three years as this crisis has been building?

Why did its correspondent say a few days earlier that this wasn't going to happen?

As for the newspaper's hope that a prime minister handpicked by Hizballah, in power at their pleasure, facing the country's strongest militia, and knowing that this group kills people who "dare" it "to challenge him," this is the very definition of wishful thinking.

At least the Times calls Hizballah an Iranian-backed terrorist group, or rather it began that way, leaving the door open that it might have changed. It also says that if the new government doesn't pursue the investigation of assassinations in Lebanon the United States should cut off military aid.

When it comes to pressuring Israel, the Times wants the U.S. government to act decisively. When it comes to revolutionary Islamist terrorists who are clients of Iran and Syria it just mainly hopes things will turn out ok.

After all, the issue is not just the investigation, but the fact that a long-time U.S. ally is now ruled by revolutionary Islamist terrorists in the Iran-Syria orbit.

Might that be a serious strategic challenge?

Might it call for reevaluating past failed policies?

Might it suggest that the United States should support Israel more to defend itself from this new challenge?

Could there be some admission that five years after the United States and UN promised Israel to keep Hizballah out of southern Lebanon, block arms smuggling to it from Syria, and even help disarm it that all of these promises to Israel have been broken?

Might the Times call for a new U.S. strategy to block the spread of Islamist revolution?

No answer; no serious consideration is given.

Is this what the once-superpower United States is reduced to being? Waiting until everything is lost and then hoping that its enemies will act directly contrary to their own interests and views?

America the Neutral: Israel? Turkey? But Everyone Can't Be Right, Right?

By Barry Rubin

The U.S. government doesn't play favorites, even when it should. Israel came out with a report under international auspices on the Mavi Marmara/Gaza flotilla incident that corresponds to the evidence. The Turkish government had a report for which there is no evidence, accusing Israel of massacring Turkish citizens even though there is videotape showing that it isn't true.

So how did Assistant Secretary of State Philip J. Crowley respond, obviously reading from guidance produced by the State Department?

As a journalist asked, "How do you view Turkish report on the flotilla crisis, which basically [is] contrary to Israeli report right now?

Crowley responds that both countries have "worked seriously and responsibly to get at the facts, and both have made important contributions to the work of the [UN] Secretary General’s panel." He seems to give the UN inquiry the main role giving "the international community the opportunity to fully review the circumstances surrounding this incident." Aside from abrogating any U.S. stand, that "international community" isn't too trustworthy in matters concerned with Israel.

A reporter follows up, "But it seems like the relationship between these two allies of the U.S. in the region, two of the most important allies in the region, are getting worse, not for better."

And Crowley answers: "What is of equal importance to us is the longstanding ties that we have to both Israel and Turkey....And we hope that both countries will continue to seek opportunities to move beyond the recent strains in their own bilateral relations....Turkey has been a significant player in helping to resolve issues in the region related to the pursuit of Middle East peace. And we would hope that in the future that effort can continue."

Now of course both countries are important to the United States and the diplomatic language here is understandable. On the other hand, the Turkish government has not been too helpful lately, including its support for Iran against the United States. While obviously the U.S. government does not want to antagonize the Turkish regime unnecessarily it might be appropriate to give it a bit of a nudge.

It is also significant that that government has accused Israel of carrying out a massacre. A bit of support for Israel would be welcome in clearing its name and beginning to put a stop to the anti-Israel and often anti-Jewish hysteria sweeping the globe.

But the Obama Administration doesn't do that and this kind of response is all too typical:

1. Acting as if the most important goal is not to offend hostile regimes.

2. Failing to take the side of an ally in a dispute. Yes, both countries are  U.S. allies but the current Turkish government isn't.

3. A refusal to show leadership.

4. Putting decisionmaking into the hands of international organizations, not only abrogating the U.S. role but also giving power to groups that are often at odds with both truth and U.S. interests.

5. Predictably, the radicals then take the first four points as a sign of American appesement. The pro-regime Turkish media is crowing about how the United States supports their version of the issue, which will stir up more anti-Israel hatred and hysteria in Turkey. Even if this is not precisely what the U.S. government said, the bottom line becomes: Even the Americans admit that we are right.

True, the report in Hurriyet is quite fair but highlighted the statement to make it seem like an endorsement of the Turkish report. The Islamist Today's Zaman says that the U.S. government was forced to admit that the Turkish report was accurate, thus vindicating the blood libel charges against Israel.

The clearest manifestation of that right now is the opening of a Turkish film, "Valley of the Wolves," in which Israel is depicted as doing what the Turkish report claimed. In the end, the Turkish agents kill Israelis. So, in Turkey will the U.S. statement be taken as endorsing that version and thus justifying the murder of Israelis?

This is the kind of stuff you need to think about before taking an official State Department position.

Incidentally and equally predictably, the Egyptian government is now saying that the United States has endorsed the revolt there though the uprising seems to be anti-American, at least in large part.

And by the way, the European Court of Human Rights found Turkey to be the worst offender on this issue.

Friday, January 28, 2011

"The Palestine Papers": Now We Know the Real Story

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By Barry Rubin

We now know what actually happened in the negotiations mischaracterized by the "Palestine Papers," but before I tell you the true story, let me say some words about how it has been distorted.

Maybe it's just me out of step with the rest of the world, but someone tell me where the following paragraph is wrong:

The world is judging and condemning Israel on the basis of incomplete notes taken by people many of whom are not fluent English-speakers (of statements made by people who are not native-speakers of English) and who are passionate partisans of the Palestinian cause and who hate Israel; documents that have not been authenticated by anyone and whose translation has not been checked; documents that leave out much of what the Israelis said and leave out the concessions they made; then are filtered through the pro-Hamas, anti-Israel, anti-Palestinian Authority (PA) al-Jazira (whose record of reportage is marked by some amazing lies) and the anti-Israel, pro-Hamas, anti-PA Guardian (which is more  radical sect than newspaper); which then misinterpret them in ways that seem deliberate to make Israel and the PA look bad; and then are quoted by journalists around the world who know little or nothing about the issues, haven't read the documents, have never seriously considered the possibility that they aren't 100 percent accurate, and ignore every other previous negotiation and public statement by Israel and the PA that contradict the claims being made; and who then add on even more claims that are neither in the documents nor in al-Jazira and the Guardian!

Sorry that paragraph was so long but it had to be to cover everything. Now have I missed something here?

The reaction to all of this in an age supposedly fixated on tolerance is more like that of a lynch mob than anything else. And have no doubt that before this is over there will be people who are lynched.

And now what actually did happen? The story is told here from interviews with then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert before the papers came out. Briefly, Israel offered concessions; the Palestinian side talked about concessions. Olmert suggested they make a deal. PA leader Mahmoud Abbas hesitated and said he needed a few days, and then never responded, making public statements rejecting Israel's position.

And then read a brilliant piece by Benny Morris. He points out that there are only two concessions offered in the documents: Jewish suburbs of Jerusalem plus the Jewish and Armenian quarters of the Old City go to Israel. This was Clinton's proposal in 2000. But the concessions don't deal with end of conflict and security guarantees (or recognition of Israel as a Jewish state despite misreporting in some newspapers). He also points out that there is no explicit offer of dropping the demand that all Palestinians who wished to do so (1948 refugees or their descendants) could come to live in Israel. In other words, these were real Palestinian concessions but far more limited than has been implied.

So this does not prove that the PA made a generous offer of peace and Israel rejected it, the spin put on it by the media and by selective release of badly flawed documents. The PA rejected peace, as usual. Of course, a big reason for doing so was the fact that they knew they could not sell it to their people (who would denounce it as a sell-out), or Hamas, or even the Fatah Central Committee.

Note the new spin will be that if only Olmert remained in office and Netanyahu had not been elected there would have been a two-state solution. In other words, it will still be portrayed as Israel's fault. But this is ridiculous since the PA did not, and could not, agree on the conditions it had discussed. This is the structural problem with the peace process and it has not changed. The latest affair has made it worse.

No Israeli prime minister could make peace with the Palestinians when the Palestinian leadership isn't ready to make peace.

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 The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

One Sentence on Egypt (And a Paragraph on Tunisia)

By Barry Rubin

Keep in mind the following sentence:

Any mass movement in Egypt will be taken over by the Muslim Brotherhood.

That does not apply to Tunisia or Lebanon, for example, but it does apply to Egypt. Have no doubt about that.

Why is Tunisia different (though it might not remain so?)

--Because Tunisia has been the country where Islamists have been weakest.

--Modernizing and explicitly secular regime.

--Close ties to Europe and especially French cultural/intellectual influence

--Fierce and effective repression of Islamists

--Teaching of Islam in a totally different way from elsewhere

Islamists might catch up in Tunisia very fast and do well in elections there.

Today in the New York Times: A New Low and A New Role Model

By Barry Rubin

Here's one day of the New York Times on the Middle East. Be sure to read the surprise ending!

1. Al-Jazira is great! (Wow, just as it runs the Palestine Papers to transform totally our view of the region. Might this be a coincidence?)

The New York Times has run a largely adulatory article about al-Jazira without mentioning its Islamist politics (some accuse it of... is how they put it). On reading this article, I get the impression that the writer has never actually watched the station. For example, its debate shows regularly feature a moderate and a radical. The host attacks the moderate and supports the radical and literally every caller taken on the air is hardline. One friend of mine who was on one of them said that he expected it to be 99 percent hostile but it was 100 percent hostile. Nor do we hear about the great scoops of al-Jazira, like claiming the US had used a neutron bomb in Iraq.

So here is a story about a radical force in the region presenting it as a force for democracy.

2. An op-ed piece by Nicholas Noe, a noted (pun) supporter of Hizballah. Once again, here is a story about a radical force in the region presenting it as a force for democracy. How should U.S. policy deal with having a revolutionary Islamist group that has Syria and Iran as its patrons which now controls Lebanon? According to Noe: "pressuring Israel into a full withdrawal from the Golan."

3. A column on the Middle East by Roger Cohen, a man so ignorant that informed people laugh at his nonsense. Remember he began his career on this topic as an apologist for Iran and never misses a chance to attack Israel.

4. Robert Mackey, another full-time basher of Israel, runs another piece attacking that country in which he distorts Hebrew--a language he doesn't know--to attack Israel.

And now for the surprise conclusion. Ladies and gentlemen, while there are honorable exceptions, the New York Times has now reached the level of...the Guardian.

Naturally, there are many who would classify this as extreme right-wing nuts paranoid about alleged bias that doesn't really exist. Well, if that's so why is there a ridiculous amount of evidence proving this assertion on a daily basis?

Birth Rates in Arab World Fall, But How Much and What Does it Mean?

By Barry Rubin

If you are interested in demographic trends in the Arab world--especially in the Gulf--this is an excellent article. The basic argument is that many reports are misleading because they don't distinguish between the increase in the local Arab population and the many foreign workers who are in these countries.

Also, it questions whether falling birth rates are a sign of modernization. So birth rates in much of the Arab world are falling but the precise figures and what it means is in dispute.

Having said this, the author believes that there is a very significant fall in birth rates leading toward a two-child-per-family type situation. This trend shows why demographic analyses regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict are often so misleading.

And these charts (here and here) are interesting regarding the often-made claim that the Arab population of Israel is growing steadily with political implications. In fact, the growth of Arab population has already peaked and is falling off in proportion to the Jewish population.

I have a big problem

There is too much happening in the world and I have a lot of articles written waiting to be published here. I don't know what to do as I don't want to overburden you, but if I end up holding onto these articles too long the information might actually appear in the mass media (ok, though that will take a few months). So if you have thoughts or suggestions please feel free to write me at <> on how I can handle this.

Media on the Middle East, January 27, 2011

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By Barry Rubin

It seems to have become fashionable for some mainstream media outlets to become supporters of revolutionary Islamist movements recently. The Palestine papers case is an example but not the only one.

The pro-Hizballah Lebanon correspondent of the New York Times first told us that Hizballah wasn’t a threat to take over the government, then had to report on its taking over the government.

What’s his new line? That the new government is just fine. After all, he explains, the new prime minister wants to have good relations with the United States. Etc. No problem here. Just as there were no problems when Iran had an Islamist revolution, the Taliban took over Afghanistan, and Hamas seized the Gaza Strip.

I just love the headline: “Next Premier of Lebanon Tries to Set His Own Course.” So all those who believe the newspaper will not think that he’s just a puppet of Iran, Syria, and Hizballah. Unfortunately, he is.

Remember when we were told that sending a U.S. ambassador to Syria was not a reward but just a way to communicate better? Communicate what?

The new ambassador explains that this move is: “Proof that we are committed to try and solve the problems between our governments." In his talks with the Syrian president, they discussed, "Some areas in which we hope to identify mutual interests and ways of addressing them that serve the interests of both of our countries."

In other words, though he might well have been tougher in private (I doubt it but it is possible) the signal being sent is: Do whatever you want because we are continuing the soft line toward Syria.

The fact that this happened in the same week that Syria for all practical purposes took control of Lebanon is rather pointed, isn’t it?

Finally, I cite this AP article not because it contains new information but it is a rare example of something that actually reveals the key issue.

’ From the Afghan badlands to the Mediterranean, evidence of Iran's reach is easy to spot: a mix of friend and foe for Kabul leaders, a power broker in Iraq, deep alliances with Syria and a big brother to Lebanon's Hezbollah and Hamas in Gaza.”

Well, if it is so easy to spot why has it been so difficult for Western media, academics, and government to recognize that this (combined with the revolutionary Islamist challenge generally) is the main issue facing the Middle East?

Here’s the core paragraph:

“To those keeping score, it would appear that Iran is winning some important points around the Middle East at the expense of Washington and its allies.”

I think I’ve been saying this for several years.

But of course one can’t have everything so it tempers that analysis by adding:

“But such gains have potential built-in costs, experts say. With Iran's extended family increasingly joining the ranks of power — first in Gaza, then Iraq and now Lebanon — there also comes pressure to moderate and make other compromises often required from those in charge.

“It eventually could bring some uncomfortable contrasts for Tehran — with its partners in the region embracing more flexible policies and Iran facing more sanctions and isolation for refusing to make concessions over its nuclear program.”

Now consider the anti-logic of that argument. Faced with the “moderation” and “compromises” of Hamas, Hizballah, Syria, and the hardest-line groups in Iraq, Iran will have to become moderate? And that will be the effect of sanctions and isolation? Are you kidding me?

Or to put this worst way of thinking a better way, we are supposed to believe that the more Iran expands and the stronger its influence gets, the less dangerous it is going to be. See, now you understand geopolitics!

A better way to spend your time is figuring out how to deal with Iran’s string of victories—and there are more in the offing—rather than declare that the problem will naturally be solved by the moderation of revolutionary terrorist movements intent on imposing a ruthless repressive regime on millions of people, expelling Christians, killing Jews, and chasing Western influence out of the region.

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 book is Israel: An Introduction, to be published by Yale University Press later this year. The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

Thursday, January 27, 2011

PS On Palestine Papers

By Barry Rubin

A reader writes that he agrees with my assessment on the Palestine Papers but then adds that he doesn't mind seeing PA leader Mahmoud Abbas and PA prime minister Salam Fayyad subjected to some heat and criticism.

My response: How would you like to see them lynched by a crazed mob and replaced by people who launch a new uprising in which hundreds or thousands of people on both sides die?

Not the most likely scenario but quite conceivable. How can anyone think this catastrophe helps the peace process? Has anybody reaching a mass audience said that it hurts any chance for peace? I haven't seen that.

How can a group of revolutionary Islamists (al-Jazira, not the most reliable source) and revolutionary leftists (Guardian, not the most reliable source) so easily and totally seize control of the world debate? Why does it seem as if not a single major newspaper in the world has any desire to independently try to authenticate the documents, analyze their bizarre contents, or question the credentials of two of the most politically motivated and tendentious news organs on the planet?

And finally, have no doubt that this whole affair is probably going to cost people their lives. How's this for a reaction from a British philosophy professor, Ted Honderich,  (thanks to Melanie Phillips) writing a letter to the Guardian:

"The revelations in detail (Report, 25 January) of the intransigent greed, the escape from decency, of Israeli governments in negotiation with our selected leaders of the Palestinians, serve one purpose among others. They provide a further part of what is now an overwhelming argument for a certain proposition. It is that the Palestinians have a moral right to their terrorism within historic Palestine against neo-Zionism. The latter, neither Zionism nor of course Jewishness, is the taking from the Palestinians of at least their autonomy in the last one-fifth of their historic homeland. Terrorism, as in this case, can as exactly be self-defence, a freedom struggle, martyrdom, the conclusion of an argument based on true humanity, etc (my emphasis)."

So we now know that Palestinians have a right to murder Israel Jewish men, women, and children by blotting out decades of previous Palestinian terrorism, Israeli peace efforts, and territorial withdrawals on the basis of--even if it were true--one offer by the PA.

Do you believe we are in an area of anti-Israel and often anti-Jewish hysteria comparable to Medieval times? Keep reading.

For as if this wasn't enough:

--A British television station is preparing a documentary by an associate of Michael Moore on how horrible settlers are.

--The BBC is reportedly preparing a drama on the 1948 war. You can just imagine.

--The Los Angeles Times has a long article about Israel as a hotbed of racism and homophobia, when it is the only country in the region where someone found to be a homosexual wouldn't be murdered (and where Palestinian gays go to live and hide out). Not to mention a country that has been airlifting and organizing escape attempts for Jews of darker hue from Ethiopia for many years.

--The release of a Turkish film, "Valley of the Wolves" that lyingly shows Israeli soldiers opening fire on helpless Gaza flotilla passengers and shooting prisoners with handcuffs. At the end, the Turkish heroes kill lots of Israelis. Thousands of ethnic Turks in Europe (it is temporarily barred in Germany) will see a movie in which Israeli Jews brutally murder their fellow countrymen and Palestinians. Then they will see vengeance defined as killing Israeli Jews.

Might this list of things and many more have some effect on someone's behavior in that respect? But of course if someone does go out and kill some Jews or attack an Israeli office will that provoke some soul-searching by those who have been assisting in the incitement? Of course not. Because a number of such murders have taken place in France, for example, without changing anything.

Actually, I have a suggestion of a motto for this new era: Kill the Jews! They Really Deserve it This Time!

So who are the new heroes? Hamas, which is of course totally against any peace. A Hamas official is given op-ed space in the Guardian to push their line that the PA leadership are traitors who should be overthrown. See a pattern here?

So, here is our conclusion: the Palestinians want peace; Israel doesn't; the mild-mannered Tsipi Livni is an aggressive warmonger; Hamas is justified for killing Jews as the only way to wipe Israel off the map (oh, excuse me, establish a permanently peaceful Palestinian state alongside Israel). Lip-service is given to the "gallant" PA but that isn't who is benefitting here.
In America now there's a big to-do about political civility. You see, people are worried that if the public is shown inflammatory television or radio talk shows, they will go out and murder people. Apparently, this doesn't apply to Jews and Israelis since there's a massive campaign--with the cooperation of much (most?) of the mass media--to demonize them.

Talk about a blood libel.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Coming Soon, From Those Wonderful People Who Brought You The “Palestine Papers

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By Barry Rubin

"Avtalyon would say: Scholars, be careful with your words. For you may be exiled to a place inhabited by evil elements who will distort your words to achieve their bad goals. Those who come after you will then drink of these evil waters and be destroyed...." Pirkei Avot, Chapter One, Paragraph 11.

Do you really believe that suddenly, for no apparent reason, and no big Israeli concession the Palestinian negotiators tossed away their demand for a "Right of Return" for millions of Palestinians and accepted a mere 100,000 being let into Israel? And if you don't believe it, how can you think that these papers are authentic?

Do you believe that this could have happened without the U.S. government knowing about it? And if so why didn't it factor into U.S. policy at all? Indeed, anyone who understands Israeli politics would comprehend that if given such an offer Olmert and Livni--desperate to survive politically--would have made a deal.

Only someone who believes that Israel has no interest in peace--which is what the Guardian and al-Jazira think--could conceive that these leaders would just walk away after the PA made an offer that was light years' better than anything ever hinted at before. Only those who demonize Israel could believe that Livni was advocating expelling Arab citizens of Israel as if she were no different from Meir Kahane.

Do you not realize that this is a disaster for hopes of peace since no Palestinian negotiator in future would dare to offer any concession at all? And that's even if more radical forces don't sweep away those held responsible for "treason."?

In its defense the Guardian published an article by Jonathan Freedland entitled, "The Palestine papers have broken a taboo. Now the arguments for peace can be open. The papers show how much ground Palestinian negotiators were willing to concede. This isn't craven. It's admirable."

You might admire it but how many Palestinians are admiring it? And doesn't it matter more what they think about their own leadership? Does Hamas admire it? Does the Fatah leadership admire it? And of course, most of them will believe that this is what happened. I don't.

Don't justify this by saying it helps advance peace. It doesn't. Quite the opposite.

Incidentally, the Guardian offers neither evidence for its claims nor a response to specific issues raised about problems with the text. This makes me even more suspicious

The situation demands satire:

From those wonderful people who brought you the “Palestine Papers!”:

Coming soon to a credulous, irresponsible, and/or malicious newspaper near you!

The Cold War Papers: Revealing that Stalin desperately wanted peace and offered to give up control of all the Eastern Europe countries but Roosevelt and Churchill refused. (Actually, the Guardian editors probably believe this one!)

The Iran Papers: Revealing that Iran was eager to give up its nuclear weapons project but the Obama Administration  refused because it wanted an excuse to go to war with Iran, take over the country, and steal its oil.  (Hm, they might believe that one also.)

The Bush Papers: "And then the president said, 'Hey! Let's pretend that Iraq is a threat so we can invade them and steal all their oil!' Then Tony Blair responded, `Right, master! Whatever you say!" (Oh, no doubt they believe that one.)

The Obama Papers: "And then the president said, 'Hey! Let's seize control of the car and health industries so we can institute socialism and Death Panels!" (Okay, they don't believe that one.)

The September 11 Papers: Al-Jazira has documents revealing that the U.S. government destroyed the World Trade Center and the whole al-Qaida thing was a hoax. In secret talks, Usama Bin Ladin really wanted peace but the United States rejected it.

OK, Funny, I hope. But this latest example of madness should teach a lesson. Not only the acceptance of obviously false claims but then actually making it worse than the original by “creating” new Palestinian “concessions” and slanders against Israel.

Here's how a friend of mine summed up the recent period:

1) Reporters accepting as fact that a woman died of tear gas inhalation despite there being no recorded cases of such an occurrence ever happening.

2) Treating the Mavi Marmara incident as Israel said/Turkey said despite video evidence supporting Israel's version. (Not to mention a hostile witness supporting Israel's version.)

3) Taking the Palestine Papers at face value despite the fact that they came from al-Jazira, despite every bit of evidence about PA and Israeli negotiating positions. Despite, I might add, the fact that they include alleged statements like when the Israelis say they are going to return the Golan Heights to Syria, the Palestinians reply that they will compensate Israel with more concessions.

How can one not believe that by these standards, if properly presented in modern terms, much of the media would accept as genuine the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (Gaza’s government does), the claim that Jews grind up children to make Passover matzos or organ transplants (the Saudis and Sweden’s biggest newspaper do), that the Holocaust never happened (Iran), or that Israel doesn’t want peace and is responsible for all the Middle East’s problems (Oops! The Guardian, much of the New York Times, and the Fairfax newspapers in Australia, among many others, say that).

This debacle should be the last straw. Unfortunately, it won’t be.

Here's how I would explain this issue:

1. Most of the routine material comes from actual documents but not the "interesting" parts that everyone is talking about.

2. That still does not mean that these documents accurately reflect what happened since they are the version of PA officials

3. On a number of specific points and on all the points being publicized the claims made are so ridculous that these diocuments must have been altered.  The texts read almost like a satire themselves in which someone set out to write a narrative in which the PA gave everything and got nothing in return. Indeed, the picture is so exaggerated that it should be obvious these claims are phony. But of course that assumes that people were going to use logic and know something about the issues.

There are about twenty reasons to believe this is essentially a hoax. Here's one: Do you really believe that after demanding a "Right of Return" for all Palestinians over decades as the most passionately held position, the PA leaders would give it up in exchange for only 100,000 being allowed in and get absolutely nothing in return for that concession?

Hee's another: If the Israeli government had such a great offer would Olmert and Livni--then desperate to save their government by making some progress--have just walked away from it?

4. In addition, the Guardian and al-Jazira often distort what is in the documents to exaggerate it even more. Some of the specifics are really absurd like the legalistic-minded Tsipi Livni saying she is against international law and even saying she planned to expel Palestinians from Israel after an agreement.

5. Yet almost all of the media uncritically quote these distortions.

6. Some even add new items that were neither in the documents nor in the original coverage. The most notorious example is the claim that the PA recognized Israel as a Jewish state.

I could go on for pages. Why isn't anyone publishing--they don't have to agree but at least report that the authenticity of this material cannot be taken for granted and that questionable interpretations are being put into them.

This, for example, is a case study showing how Tzipi Livni’s words are twisted in a way that nobody who didn’t read the original would know.

In other words, Islamist (al-Jazira) and radical pro-Islamist (Guardian) writers are being taken by the rest of the media as the definers of reality.

The Guardian has now defended itself by ridiculing the idea that this is a hoax or a forgery. Let me be clear: I have no doubt that real documents of the PA were purloined, but the text of these includes such nonsensical material that it looks as if the "editors" overdid it.

Finally, the statement of Nabil Shaath. As always, the Guardian's claims don't stand up to close inspection. He did say in passing they were authentic but gave no reason for this claim nor sign that he had read them. Shaath also was not involved in the talks during the time when the most sensationalist material supposedly happened. So he doesn't actually know. Moreover, he made remarks that seem to imply that he doesn't accept the idea that huge concessions were made at all. In other words he denies the content that is the subject of so much controversy.

From the coverage in other publications one can see that few journalists are actually reading the documents and none are seriously analyzing them. I don't think I've seen a single reference in the mass media (but I'm happy to be corrected) showing the contradictions and inconsistencies involved in these papers.

Does this matter? The moderate Dutch newspaper Trouw, for example, says that the papers--whose authenticity with the additional Guardian and al-Jazira "improvements: it accepts completely--proves Israel is to blame for the absence of peace and thus European states should pressure Israel. Multiply this by scores of media outlets and, no doubt, politicians.

And if anything the madness is accelerating. As Christians are being driven out of the Muslim world, homosexuals are threatened with death, women are treated as property, and hate is incited there every day, the Los Angeles Times chooses to publish a long article on, well let's quote from it:

"Israeli intolerance shows up on Internet, in Knesset, on the street....Racism, homophobia and religious discrimination seem to be more prevalent, taking the form of threats and even a government motion."

I could answer this but why bother? I'd suggest that racism and homophobia, along with intolerance in general, are less present in Israel than in any European country or the United States. I repeat: there is no sense expecting fairness from a long list of media outlets and reporters any more.

Nor is that the fault with Israeli hasbara. I once heard the great journalist Eric Severaid say that nothing can protect one from a journalist who's determined to distort your views or character.

If people in academic or journalism won't listen, or report, what you have to say, how can anyone do a better job of getting them to understand the situation and report on it accurately? We are often dealing with willing participants in a propaganda campaign for whom professional ethics has no meaning.

Here is a brief biography of the Guardian editor who co-authored the Palestine Papers articles:

     Seumas Milne, who is the co-author of the scoop, and is likely to have been the conduit for the leaks is an interesting character. He is a Wykhamist, via Balliol, Oxford. Prior to joining the Guardian, he worked for "Straight Left", which was the newspaper of the hard line, pro-USSR, "Tankie" faction in the Communist Party of Great Britain. These were the guys who applauded the suppression of bourgeois nationalist backsliding in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. If you want a taste of Milne's current politics, try googling his articles in the Guardian along with the words "Iraq" and "resistance". You'll see pretty clearly where his sympathies lie.

Milne was appointed Comment Editor of the Guardian just prior to September 11. In its wake, he filled the Guardian comment pages with op eds by Hamas officials and spokesmen, and their British and Middle Eastern supporters. On one occasion, they even had an op-ed by Al Faqih, Osama Bin Laden's man in Britain.

Milne also wrote articles basically calling Fatah a bunch of Israeli stooges and puppets. He knows very well what he is doing.

And that is his purpose here. Smearing Israel is a plus but destroying the current leadership of the PA and bringing Hamas to power is his main goal. This is the man, along with the Islamist-dominated al-Jazira whose reportage is now being taken at its word by the world media. Talk about ease in manipulating and fooling the world! This could be a new record.

Note also that the Goldstone Commission consistently based its conclusions on claims by Hamas, a group that publicly announces its goal of committing genocide against Israel's Jews.

As a Muslim friend who has seen this happen in his own country on various issues puts it, "Words mean nothing to these people... as long as they get them the desired outcome. The end justifies the means. Period."

Nor have I seen a single person in the mainstream media pointing out how disastrous this affair is for any chance of peace. Even if they were willing to make real concessions in the past--which I doubt--no PA official will ever do so in future. Granted, peace was unlikely any way but this makes the chances for a negotiated agreement pretty dead for a whole generation.

The most likely source of the material is increasingly appearing to be disgruntled hardline staffers in the PA's Negotiations Support Unit who quit, rather than some foreign, Hamas, or factional conspiracy.

But the real problem is the insanity of our current era. We live at a time when the UN's chief "expert" on the Israel-Palestine issue, the fanatical Israel-hater Prof. Richard Falk, can claim that by saying that the U.S. government is staging a cover-up on what really happened on September 11. And that's the Obama Administration he's talking about! This  is the man whose condemnations of Israel help determine the direction of UN reports.

Many people now understand that regarding Israel and a host of other issues we are simply not dealing with professors who have any care for logic and journalists who are interested in facts. Others don't.
Here's a story a reader sent me today:

"[A person I know] gets almost all his news from CNN. So today he gave the important news that he received from CNN that the "Palestinians said they were willing to give up most of Jerusalem for peace." I tried to explain to him that the story was completely false. He just gave me a blank stare back. His mind could not comprehend how such an authority as Wolf Blitzer and CNN could report something as fact but that is in fact completely false.

"Do you ever just want to scream? I do. What can we do? What can the average person do? Does it have any effect at all if we write to the media, expressing our outrage. Does the truth matter if the official truth is all that people believe?"

Do I ever want to scream? What do you think! Does it have any effect when we complain to the media? No.

Does the truth matter if the official truth is all that people believe? Well, that's different. Roughly two-thirds of the American people do not accept what the media tells them on this issue. In fact, support for Israel in the United States went up during the Gaza flotilla crisis. Every day, more people are waking up. New sources of information are expanding.

A lot of average people have common sense. A lot of government officials (not enough, for sure), have to deal with reality and sooner or later see through the illusions. Polls on media credibility show it to be quite low. Student sit through indoctrinating classes and don't accept what they are told.

Basically, we have to wait it out. Meanwhile, we need to tell the truth, educate as many people as possible, help build an alternate elite to replace and repair the diseased segments of society.

Rabbi Tarfon said "It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task, but neither are you free to abstain  from it." Pirkei Avot, Chapter 2, Paragraph 16.

Or here is the Enlightenment version of that principle from Edmund Burke: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

Barry Rubin is editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,