Recommended Reading: Plitnick on differences between enemies

Check out Mitchell Plitnick and “Those We Can Talk To and Those We Cannot.” Exploring some new thinking in the American military and the important distinctions between Hezbollah, Hamas and al-Qaeda.

Those We Can Talk To, and Those We Cannot

A senior officer in the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said that “Putting Hizballah, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda in the same sentence, as if they are all the same, is just stupid.” He was referring to a statement made by that prince of idiocy, Danny Ayalon, Israel’s perpetual embarrassment of a Deputy Foreign Minister.

As shameful as it is that a man as crude, boorish and ignorant as Ayalon holds such a position in Israel, the source of that statement is just one element in what appears to be evolving thinking in the US military.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon

An article at Foreign Affairs on the so-called “Red Team” report regarding policy toward Hamas and Hezbollah should not be given more weight than it is due. The purpose of the Red Team deliberation is specifically to challenge existing policy. Still, the thinking that the article reports is quite promising.

There is a real understanding reflected in their recommendations that Hezbollah and Hamas are not transitory political forces, but are here to stay, and they need to be dealt with in a serious fashion. Merely writing them off as terrorists and refusing to engage them has already proven counter-productive. Eventually, both groups will, in fact, be dealt with in an open fashion. That day is likely a long way off, which is unfortunate; a lot of bloodshed could be avoided by hastening, rather than delaying, that day.

Different kinds of Islamist groups

It’s easy to lump all of those groups together. It’s a useful propaganda tool for the inane “war on terror.” And it produces a backlash among leftists, who often overlook the abhorrent acts Hamas or Hezbollah have committed, identifying them primarily as freedom fighters. Given that all of these groups have used the tactic of terrorism, they make it easy for people to lump them together.

The reality is that al-Qaeda and similar groups, on the one hand, and national-religious groups like Hamas and Hezbollah are real forces in the world, and if we don’t do a better job of both distinguishing between them and understanding them, the conflicts we are in today are going to go on for a long time. Continue reading

United States of Denial

One can never accuse the neo-conservatives of a lack of hubris.

Liz Cheney, daughter of Dick and Lynne Cheney, offers a prime example of this in an interview on ABC News. While Cheney was admitting the massive mistake the Bush Administration made in pushing for Palestinian elections in 2006, Cheney condescends as follows:  “I don’t think they [the Palestinians] were ready for it. I don’t think we should have pushed it.”

No, Liz. It is we who were not ready for it, and to a lesser extent, our friends in Fatah. Indeed, even the Israeli government, then under the leadership of Ariel Sharon, turned more and more cool to the idea as the elections approached, fearing significant gains for Hamas (despite some re-writing of personal histories, exceedingly few expected an outright victory for Hamas, let alone the overwhelming one that occurred).

Liz Cheney

Those elections, held under occupation in exceedingly difficult conditions, were universally praised as free and fair, and the results generated far less controversy than many American elections, including both of those which brought Cheney’s boss, George W. Bush to office.

The Hamas victory was due to three major factors:

  • The ineffectiveness of Fatah’s leadership in ending or easing the occupation. The second intifada had simmered down in early 2005, but the revised and intense measures Israel had put in place during the intifada were mostly still in place by the end of that year. Palestinian life was perhaps at the lowest point it has been, before or since. While many Palestinians questioned the intifada, that question was often based in the notion that Fatah, under both Yasir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas had so badly blown the negotiated approach that the intifada was the only choice many Palestinians saw.
  • Corruption in Fatah. In 2006, before Salam Fayyad reformed many Palestinian institutions, corruption within Fatah continued apace. There is little doubt that corruption was a major problem under Arafat, who dealt with it as part of his system of control. Abbas was not so inclined, but also did very little to stem the tide of corruption in the PA.
  • Poor organization of campaigns by Fatah. In 2005, the Fatah party was on the verge of splitting in two. Although in the end, the breakaway group, al-Mustaqbal, agreed to stay with the party, out of fear of handing Hamas victory, the damage was done. In numerous districts, Fatah ran multiple candidates, splitting the vote. Continue reading

An excellent article on Gaza

I strongly recommend this article at the Jewcy web site on the question of war crimes in Operation Cast Lead and the recent testimony of Israeli soldiers there.

Also, you might be interested in the preliminary report B’Tselem put out in February. We haven’t been able to go further in depth because Israel refuses to allow us into Gaza. That link takes you to the summary and you can download the full report from that page or you can get it by clicking here (requires the Acrobat Reader).

From Jerusalem: Supporting Israel, Body and Soul

It’s been a while since my last post. This has been due to my being in Israel since March 28. And I still have a few days to go. But I finally do have a new piece up at Allvoices.com. You can read it by clicking here.