Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sharmine Narwani Gets It Backwards

Ms. Sharmine Narwani has joined the ranks of Huffington Post bloggers writing about the latest flare-up in relations between America and Israel (and the rest of the Middle East looking on) with her article, "This US-Israeli Crisis Has Yet to Peak; Diverging Interests Never Clearer." Matt and I don't have the time to respond to every article published on the HP, but Ms. Narwani does make some pretty big errors in judgment. Click below to read my response.


Narwani starts her article with something that quite unexpectedly undermines her entire argument; namely, that Israel is only building because they don't want peace:

"The latest conflagration erupted over something that Israel has been doing for 42 years."

Exactly! The new settlements are going to be in an area of Jerusalem which is already predominantly Jewish and will stay in Israel as part of the land swaps. Israel has always been building there, even during Oslo and Camp David, and it has never been a problem...until the Palestinians made it one last  week by pulling out of peace talks. But as Narwani goes on to explain, it's not really about that, under normal circumstances things would have been fine. The problem is that America's standing in the region has been hurt by Israel's continual refusal to do what they say. This makes sense, but we will get to it a little bit later, because Narwani sticks her neck out even further:

"Netanyahu -- for all his protestation that the announcement was unintended and "innocent" -- is known among world leaders as a liar bar none. And nobody bought his latest whopper."

Have you noticed how it's only ever anti-Israel bloggers who profess to know what "the world" or "everybody else" is thinking? I have never heard of this reputation that Netanyahu somehow professes, and furthermore, Biden very much indeed did buy this "whopper." From this article, published on the Huffington Post itself:

"In his speech, Biden said Netanyahu's explanation was "significant" and showed the construction plan need not hinder peace talks."

So which is it, Ms. Narwani? Is Biden lying? Or the Huffington Post? Or you? She goes on to speak about General Petraus' belief that Israel's actions are putting American troops in danger. That will probably be the topic of another blog post, as I don't want to get too off topic, but I did want to take a look at Ms. Narwani's comment here:

" American troops fighting Salafi jihadists in the region are endangered each and every time Israel makes a move to undermine Palestinian rights -- daily violations flashed across Arab TV screens that anger the masses and are the number one recruitment tool for Salafi groups worldwide."

So if only Israel left the Palestinians alone, the insurgents in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan would just surrender? I expected better from someone as well informed about the Middle East as Ms. Narwani.

She must surely be aware that Israel's mistreatment of the Palestinians is nothing compared with the mistreatment of the Palestinians by Arab nations. She cannot seriously claim that Al Qaeda and the Taliban are motivated by caring about the Palestinians. No one in the Middle East cares about the Palestinians except when they are used as an excuse to attack Israel, as Ms. Narwani is doing here. If the jihadists in question want to find a good excuse to be fighting Americans, they might use the Palestinians. Otherwise, they'll be more than content to let the Palestinians fight Israel for them. And if the Palestinians and the Israelis make peace, the jihadists will just find some other excuse.

The world does not revolve around the Palestinians, though we know by now that they think it does. Blaming Israel for America's wars is a favorite pasttime among the Left, but we must not forget America acts in its own interests: If that were really what was going on, the American-Israel alliance would be gone by now. Osama Bin Laden himself admitted that his "concern" for the Palestinians was strictly ex post facto, time for Ms. Narwani to admit the same. But here is the most important part of the article, which is why I am going to address the rest of my response to it:


"His insistence of a settlement freeze was rebuffed by Israel, he spent long months just trying to wrest a lukewarm endorsement of a Two-State solution from Netanyahu, and instead of the goodwill gestures he requested from his "close friend," Obama has to contend with a new Israeli condition that Palestinians recognize the "Jewishness" of the state of Israel but have no conditions of their own.
"This relationship was cold well before Biden set foot on Israeli soil. Note that Obama has not yet paid a visit to Tel Aviv, although he has already in his first year visited Riyadh, Cairo and Ankara." [Emphasis hers]

Here is where Ms. Narwani gets it backwards. She claims that the American-Israeli alliance is being hurt because Israel is being so difficult, and her proof of this is that President Obama didn't visit Israel. But as long as we're recapping America's relationship with Israel under Obama, let's make sure we don't leave anything out, as Narwani does:

-In March 2009 Obama did not visit Israel but sent Hillary Clinton instead. He is the first president in quite a while not to visit Israel during his first year in office, but more on that later.
-He has repeatedly pressured Netanyahu about the settlements but hasn't demanded the Palestinians do anything either nor has offered Netanyahu anything in return for his cooperation.
-In his Cairo speech he verbally equated the Holocaust and the Nakba, and later implied that Israel's existence was a reaction to the Holocaust, thereby ignoring (or denying) thousands of years of Jewish history.
-Later, at the United Nations, he was even more critical of Israel. He was fair, but he was also very critical. John Bolton, former representative to the United Nations, said "I don’t think there’s ever been a speech by an American president, let alone one at the United Nations, that was so critical of Israel." In the same speech, Obama called on the Palestinians to end incitement while also calling Israeli settlements illegitimate. On only one of those issues has he actually followed through.

Okay, so let's recap: Barack Obama has probably been the most anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian president that Israel has seen since Carter. He has dictated to Israel what they can and cannot do, while expecting nothing in return. He blatant treats Israel unfairly, in that he expects them to do whatever he says while ignoring similar intransigence on the part of the Palestinians. And to put the icing on the cake, he hasn't even had the common courtesy to go to Israel and speak to them in person, while claiming that he knows what is best for them. Obama's plan of outreach to the world has pointedly not included Israel, and I am not the first one to notice that.

But then Israel doesn't comply with Obama's demands, and it's (in Narwani's words) the fault of the "the right-wing coalition" led by "the wily Netanyahu?" No, it's because Obama has been taking Israel for granted ever since he arrived in office. Even the Israeli Left agrees, ""He has spoken about us but not to us." Obama cannot expect to be so undiplomatic towards Israel without some kind of response, and Narwani cannot expect us to ignore everything going on that has preceded the events of the last two weeks.

Don't get me wrong. Netanyahu's government announcing the settlements on the day Biden arrived was about as boneheaded a move as anyone involved in this situation could make. But Israel isn't the only one at fault here. Obama's government was doing plenty to alienate Israel before Biden left Washington. It might do well for Ms. Narwani to remember that in the future.

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