Viewing the Middle East from the East and the West

Apologies for the very light posting this week. We’re in the run-up to the three-day Rosh Hashana-followed-by-Shabbat festival and I’m run off my feet.

Here are a few items which caught my interest in recent days which bring a slightly different angle to the news. First the good news:

In what would have been unthinkable only a few short months ago, the Syrian opposition leader in exile visited his wounded countrymen hospitalized in Israel. Not only that, but the Syrian praised Israel’s treatment of the Syrians:

An exiled Syrian rebel leader visited countrymen wounded in fighting being treated at an Israeli hospital this week, in a first-ever such visit by a senior Syrian official, Israel’s NRG News reported Thursday.

“After what Assad has taught us, we see who is the enemy,” 57-year-old opposition leader, Dr. Kamal Al-Labwani, who is living in Turkey, said during his visit, delayed until now for fear of showing recognition of support for the Jewish state. He is here, after attending the International Conference on Counter-Terrorism, held in Herzliya.

During his week-long visit, in which Al-Labwani was to meet with top government officials, he will be joined by Israeli-American businessman, Moti Kahana. Kahana is involved in humanitarian activities for Syrian civil war victims, and is active in efforts to remove the remaining Jews in the country.

Al-Labwani’s visit to the Sieff Hospital in Safed, was in doubt due to fears that Israel would be seen taking a particular side in the bloody three-year conflict, taking place only several dozen kilometers away in the Golan Heights.

So far, Israel has constantly been careful not to be seen taking sides in the civil war, apart from providing humanitarian assistance when needed.

“The visit was amazing,” Al-Labwani said.

“For 60 years, Assad has taught us that Israel is the enemy, and now he slaughters us and Israel is taking care of us. Then who is the killer and who is the enemy?” Al-Labwani asked, rhetorically.

Here is a video of Al-Labwani’s proposals for peace with Israel:

You may not agree with all Al-Labwani’s proposals, but the very fact that he is willing to sit down and talk peace and practical suggestions for normalization with Israel is a refreshing novelty in this part of the world.

In another refreshingly unusual development, Gazans have been speaking out against Hamas war crimes, as reported by Mudar Zahran (h/t Brian Goldfarb and Ken Kelso):

While the world’s media has been blaming Israel for the death of Gazan civilians during Operation Protective Edge, this correspondent decided to speak with Gazans themselves to hear what they had to say.

They spoke of Hamas atrocities and war crimes implicating Hamas in the civilian deaths of its own people.

Although Gazans, fearful of Hamas’s revenge against them, were afraid to speak to the media, friends in the West Bank offered introductions to relatives in Gaza. One, a renowned Gazan academic, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that as soon as someone talked to a Western journalist, he was immediately questioned by Hamas and accused of “communicating with the Mossad”. “Hamas makes sure that the average Gazan will not talk to Western journalists — or actually any journalists at all,” he said, …

As already reported by the award-winning journalist, Khaled Abu Toameh, Hamas killed one of its leaders, Ayman Taha, and blamed Israel for it.

Asked about Abu Toameh’s report, S., a Gazan political activist said:

“Taha was already in Hamas’s jail before Israeli operations started. Hamas imprisoned him and tortured him because he was critical of its radical policies. He had warned Hamas not to cooperate with Qatar and Iran. Eye-witnesses said they saw Hamas militants bring him alive into the yard of Shifa hospital in Gaza and shoot him dead. They kept mutilating his body in front of viewers and little children and left it on the hospital’s yard for a few hours before allowing the staff to take it to the morgue.”

Read the whole article which is simply a litany of complaints by Gazans against the inhuman treatment they received at the hands of Hamas, with the odd jibe against the Western media for not reporting the truth.

A salient point made by many:

M., a Gazan television producer, stated: […]

Hamas lives in its own fantasy world. Hamas wanted the dead bodies to make Israel look ugly. The media has exerted a huge pressure on Israel for every dead Gazan. In that sense, Hamas’s tactic has worked, and we have seen more Western tolerance of Hamas, especially in Europe. Of course Hamas doesn’t care if we all die so long as it achieves its goals. We are not going to accept living under Hamas any longer. Even if there is calm, and the firing stops, we are going to still be under Hamas’s mercy, where all basic living standards are considered luxuries. Hamas is just buying time by going to the ceasefire talks. Hamas does not want a ceasefire.”

When asked why that was, he said, “Ask Qatar’s Sheikh, not me. He is Hamas’s god who gives them billions and tells them what to do. May God curse Qatar!”

A first-aid volunteer, E., said that Hamas militants had confiscated 150 truckloads of humanitarian supplies the day before. He said the supplies were donated by charities in the West Bank and that their delivery was facilitated by the IDF. He commented: “This theft angers all of us [Gazans]. The Israeli army allows supplies to come in, and Hamas steals them. It seems even the Israelis care for us more than Hamas.”

A Gazan mosque’s imam said that the most precious aid item Hamas stole was water. “Gazans are thirsty and Hamas is stealing the water bottles provided to us for free and selling them at 20 Israeli shekels [approximately $5] for the big bottle and 10 Israeli shekels for the small one.”

H., who did not want his profession to be mentioned, lost one of his legs in an Israeli raid. I asked him who he thought was responsible for his injury. He stated:

“Hamas was. My father received a text-message from the Israeli army warning him that our area was going to be bombed, and Hamas prevented us from leaving. They said there was a curfew. A curfew, can you believe that?

Zahran points out that the hatred for Hamas does not mean that Gazans love Israel. However, reality does seem to have sunk in, at least for some:

F., a Gazan physician, said:

“I wish Israel never existed, but as it does not seem to be going away, I would rather be working in Israel like I used to before the first Intifada, not fighting it. Hamas sympathizers, apologists and appeasers should be ashamed of themselves for supporting a terrorist organization that has butchered civilians, Israeli and Palestinian. Apparently a group of Israelis is working on bringing Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal to trial in the International Criminal Court. But perhaps the world should consider putting all the Hamas leaders on trial for crimes against the Gazan people.”

If the Gazans are starting to accept their new reality, maybe an end to the fighting can indeed be achieved before our great-grandchildren are born.

A less pleasant revelation comes to us, surprisingly, via the New York Times which exposes the worrisome, if not outright duplicitous, relationship between Qatar and Washington think-tanks.

During Operation Protective Edge most Israelis were aghast at the absurd ceasefire proposal put forward by John Kerry, with US Special Envoy Martin Indyk emphasising Obama’s “rage” at Israel. Indyk has a long history of hostility towards Israel. Now all becomes clear as the New York Times reveals that Indyk’s think-tank, the Brookings Institution is sponsored by the Hamas-supporting Qatari regime:

TheNew York Times reported that the Washington, DC-based Brookings Institution, which is considered one of the world’s most influential think tanks, received a $14.8 million donation last year from the government of Qatar—a major sponsor of the Hamas terrorist organization. According to the report, the funding is spread over a four-year period for the Brookings Doha Center, and it earmarked for a special project studying the relationship between the U.S. and the Islamic world.

The fact that think tanks finance their scholars’ work through a variety of sources—including private donors, foundations, and nations with special interests in projects being researched—is nothing new. But the large donation given to Brookings by a state sponsor of Hamas has spurred allegations of a conflict of interest because earlier this year, the think tank’s vice president and director of research, Martin Indyk, served as America’s special envoy to the Middle East and was responsible for directing the failed peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Although Indyk resigned from his Brookings post to assume the special envoy role, he returned to the think tank following the peace talks’ collapse. Critics say Indyk’s relationship with Qatar should have prevented his appointment by the State Department in the first place. Some also say Indyk was the source of leaks on the peace talks that were anonymously cited in media reports as coming from “a senior U.S. official” who blamed Israel for scuttling the negotiations.

Mark Rom, who worked for two years as a research follow at Brookings about 25 years ago, told that Indyk should have considered that concerns over a conflict of interest would be raised before he took the job of U.S. special envoy.

A May 2013 Bloomberg Viewcolumn by Jeffrey Goldberg challenged Brookings on its overly gracious treatment of the Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani. Goldberg described his attendance of a private, off-the-record dinner hosted by Brookings to honor Al Thani, writing that it was a “cringe-worthy” event.

“I went to the dinner that night embarrassed on behalf of Brookings, which, like many institutions in Washington, shouldn’t be taking money from despotic Middle Eastern regimes, yet does,” wrote Goldberg.

Though he does not know Indyk personally, Rom said the former Mideast negotiator’s financial ties to Hamas-funding Qatar are at the very least a valid concern.

“I don’t know anything about [Indyk’s] general integrity, but I’m just saying, if you’ve received funding and then you’re representing people as a neutral party, having been [previously] funded by one of the sides to those discussions, that should raise questions,” he said.

Arelene Kushner also addresses the Brookings-Qatar scandal in a column aptly and concisely titled “Duplicity”:

his is “where Martin Indyk serves as vice president and director of the Foreign Policy Program. Indyk worked for Secretary of State John Kerry from July 2013 to June 2014 as special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations…how could Indyk be expected to act in a neutral way?” (Emphasis added)

You may remember, when Israeli-PA negotiations fell apart, Indyk said it was Israel’s fault.

That Indyk is guilty of duplicity barely touches the surface of what might be said about him.   His career should be totally down the tubes, but – given Washington DC realities – it won’t be.

Another institution that should lose all credibility, but probably won’t, is the venerable British medical journal The Lancet. Honest Reporting gives us the story:

That the UK medical journal The Lancet has been hijacked in the pursuit of an anti-Israel campaigning agenda is certainly not news judging by the regularity that the publication has been critiqued by HonestReporting.

In 2010, the journal employed active supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel as supposedly expert commentators on the situation, which earned it a 2010 Dishonest Reporter Award. Lancet editor Richard Horton even posted a snide response aimed at HonestReporting.

further examination in 2013 revealed more anti-Israel bias. So, in August, in the midst of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, The Lancet’s publication of an “open letter for the people in Gaza” came as no surprise. That radical Israel hater and 9/11 conspiracy theorist Mads Gilbert was one of the signatories was enough to signal just how politicized the letter was.

The Daily Telegraph has, however, revealed far more about some of the signatories thanks to some research by NGO Monitor:

In addition, a cache of emails openly available in Google groups show that two of the authors, Dr Paola Manduca and Dr Swee Ang, have sympathies with the views of David Duke, a white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard.

And The Lancet’s reaction to be informed of this?

“It’s utterly irrelevant. It’s a smear campaign,” the editor of the Lancet, Dr Richard Horton, told the Daily Telegraph. “I don’t honestly see what all this has to do with the Gaza letter. I have no plans to retract the letter, and I would not retract the letter even if it was found to be substantiated.”

So the trampling of medical ethics, professionalism and credibility continues at The Lancet, whose anti-Israel obsession appears to be terminal and incurable.

Isn’t it funny that the Arabs can see more clearly than the supposedly civilized West?

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2 Responses to Viewing the Middle East from the East and the West

  1. Anne,

    I too have been distracted, for very different reasons and probably shall not post at WS for a few days.

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