Tuesday, August 30, 2011

From Israel to Iraq, We're Fighting a Common Enemy

Terror proves to be an unlikely source of unity for
Israelis and Iraqis
By: Avi Yesawich

I recently had the surprising pleasure of speaking with Sabah, a former Captain in the Iraqi military who contacted me directly through an affiliate web project, Friend a Soldier. Our correspondence was truly gratifying, and I wanted to share it with the readers on our blog.

Typically, individuals from countries with traditionally hostile views towards Israel tend to ask us similar questions. Why do you kill Palestinians? Why do Israelis hate us? Why can't we be friends? Why does Israel continue to occupy Palestinian land? However, the message I received from Sabah was the polar opposite of anything I expected. What I received was a message of solidarity against terrorist elements that continue to disrupt the daily lives of Israeli and Iraqi civilians.

Sabah served in the Iraqi military from 2003 until 2007 and fought side by side with US troops in the Baghdad Green Zone. Here is the information he provided me - in brief, which I have cleaned up because his English was broken, and it included some harsh language:

"I'm an Iraqi man who served in the Iraqi army from 2003 to 2007, fighting side by side with the US army in the Baghdad Green Zone. My rank was Cpt/Xo/Cco in the Iraqi Civil Corps and I fought often against the Iraqi insurgency, which included groups similar to Hamas and Hezbollah... I want to stand with a great nation like the Jewish people that know the meaning of freedom...G-d bless you and yours forever... Regards - Brothers in Arms, Sabah."

Sabah went on to explain the precarious situation in his country, including Iranian encroachment on Iraqi affairs, his thoughts on Israel and the Jewish people, previous Jewish culture in Baghdad, and other interesting topics. In the end, I came away from the conversation with a reaffirmed notion that transcending the differences in the Israeli Arab conflict is indeed a possibility. Genuine dialogue between apparent rivals can produce real, tangible progress.

To see my entire correspondence with Sabah (who I recently e-mailed today in order to reestablish contact), you can visit the entire posting at http://www.friendasoldier.com/en/?p=2304

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Sinai Debacle: Why There's Still Hope

Egyptians soldiers participating in Operation Eagle
in the Sinai Peninsula.

By Daniel Nisman

Despite the post-revolution lawlessness currently gripping the Middle East's most populous nation, the Egyptian governments’ actions in Sinai prove that it is still very much in control of the country, even if a transition to real democracy eventually proves to be wishful thinking on behalf of the international community.

One glance at the headlines in local newspapers illustrates a grim picture of the post revolution struggles facing Egypt. Sectarian strife, familial disputes ending in massive instances of domestic violence, civil workers on strike, power outages, contaminated water supplies, dismal economic performance and societal-religious disagreement over the framework of a future constitution are threatening to pit Islamists and seculars against each other in a brutal, protracted conflict. Unfortunately, these are just a few of the problems that are gripping the North African state since the fall of Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt’s political situation is both fluid and volatile. At the moment, it is practically impossible to predict which candidate or party will take power in the coming elections. Commentators in the West and in Israel have been quick to condemn the future makeup of the Egyptian government as one that will be dominated by an Islamic and fundamentalist agenda, and for good reasons. The Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist Al-Nour parties possess considerable influence over common Egyptians. Egypt's secular parties are still struggling to carve out concrete identities and unify in hopes of becoming an effective and influential political mechanism.

Top Religious Leaders Concur: Israel isn't Promised to the Jews

This article appeared in the Jerusalem Post on 9/9/2011

By: Avi Yesawich

A series of developments originating from the epicenters of the monotheistic religious world continue to blur the line between religious belief and downright bigotry. Recently, a delegation of high-ranking Synod of Bishops convened a two-week conference at the Vatican, during which the assembly called for an end to the Israeli (i.e. Jewish) occupation of Palestine. The official statement issued by the delegation claimed that that certain biblical concepts could no longer be used as justification for the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria.

When asked to elaborate on the assembly’s position, Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros (handpicked by Pope Benedict XVI to construct the Synod’s concluding propositions) explained, “there is no longer a ‘chosen’ people…the justification of Israel’s occupation of Palestine cannot be based on sacred scriptures.”

A group of Bishops gathered at the Vatican discuss the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Even if we can ignore such malicious revisionist theology, another blinding fallacy floats to the surface: why are the world’s “holiest” men rescinding support for religious concepts that are undeniably - and quite prevalently - rooted in the sacred texts of their faiths? Do these individuals honestly believe that centuries-old hallowed concepts no longer apply?

When Facing Terror, Israeli Apologies Aren't Necessary

A shortened version of this article was posted on Ynetnews, found here.

By: Avi Yesawich

While rockets were falling on Israeli towns and innocent Jewish blood was being spilled, an odd debate raged on in the UN Security Council: whether to issue a condemnation of the recent terror attacks perpetrated against innocent Israeli civilians, including children. Amazingly enough, a current member of the Security Council – Lebanon - prevented the condemnation from coming to fruition.

The Lebanese demanded a toned down, more “balanced” denunciation that includes criticism of Israeli retaliatory strikes in Gaza. It did not matter that the IDF responded by attacking legitimate targets – leaders of the terror group that executed the attacks, weapons compounds, smuggling tunnels and rocket and mortar cells aiming to kill Jews indiscriminately. No condemnation was issued, and no one blinked an eye.

Norway Massacre Reveals a Hard Truth

This article was featured on Ynetnews, found here.

Op-ed: While Norway attacks were carried out by Secular-Christian, Islamism is still the greatest threat

By: Daniel Nisman, Avi Yesawich

The horrific attacks perpetrated by Anders Breivik in Norway raised quick predications about the motivations of the assault. Even before Breivek had been identified as the perpetrator, there was rampant speculation about the involvement of extremist Islamic group in the attacks’ planning and execution. Initially, the New York Times reported that a Jihadi organization claimed responsibility for the violence. An al-Jazeera correspondent said there was little doubt that al-Qaeda was behind the attack. Other western media outlets claimed that the incidents were possibly the materialization of past Islamist threats over Norway’s involvement in Afghanistan and Libya.

Boycott the Propaganda War

Original piece was posted on Ynetnews, found here.

By: Avi Yesawich, Daniel Nisman

As part of the recent controversy inspired by Israel’s “Boycott Law,” Avigdor Lieberman asserted that some left-wing groups are “terror organizations.” His harsh accusations included alleged leftist involvement in Hezbollah espionage operations and leftist efforts to convince students not to enlist in the IDF.

Meanwhile, leftists cried foul over the alleged affront to Israeli democracy and freedom of expression. MK Ahmad Tibi called the bill both “fascist” and “McCarthyist.” Gush Shalom went as far petitioning the Supreme Court on the grounds that the Boycott Law is “unconstitutional and anti-democratic.”

Such hysteria over the Boycott Law and a probe into leftist funding – which virtually any government would consider if facing the brutal de-legitimization campaign that Israel has experienced - is both counter-productive and exaggerated.

The Myth of Indefensible Borders

This article was featured on Ynetnews, found here.

By: Avi Yesawich, Daniel Nisman

Individuals who claim the 1967 borders are indefensible ignore the overarching paradigm shift of the Israeli-Arab conflict that has taken place over the last decade.

The political outcry in Israel following Obama’s Mideast policy speech was palpable. The president stated what many Israeli hawks found to be unacceptable, if not outright dangerous: Any future Israeli-Palestinian agreement should be based on the 1967 borders with mutually agreed upon land swaps. Hysteria followed, with Netanyahu issuing a clear rebuke to Obama’s statement during his speech at the US Congress.

Bibi addressing the US Congress

But is panic over a return to the 1967 borders justified? Recently, a slew of politicians, security experts, former defense officials and intelligence gurus presented a case that minimizes the efficacy of this argument. Martin van Crevald, arguably Israel’s most prominent military historian and strategist, laid out a compelling case that illustrated the negligible effects of giving up the West Bank. In his analysis, he states: “It is crystal clear that Israel can easily afford to give up the West Bank…strategically speaking, the risk of doing so is negligible."

Iran: A Tale of Hope and Despair

This was featured in The Jerusalem Post, found here.

By: Avi Yesawich

Millions of Iranians are witnessing the Arab spring with bittersweet feelings. The joy felt for their Muslim brethren is marred by the irony that their own unsuccessful 2009 uprising may have contributed to Arab world’s recent wave of protests. But how long will it be before Iranians once again jump on the bandwagon for reform?

Let’s review the outcomes of the Arab uprisings so far: Tunisia, Egypt, and (ostensibly) Yemen have liberated themselves from their tyrannical and oppressive dictatorships. Libya is in the midst of a civil war, and protests in Syria are currently in full throttle, propelled by Bashar al-Assad’s murderous and maniacal suppression of his own population. Demonstrations still linger in Bahrain, although they definitively lack the same level of domestic and international support attributed to the others. 

However, one prominent Middle Eastern nation has been surprisingly silent, a nation that is certainly responsible, at least partially, for inspiring the Arab revolution with its own massive street protests two years ago: Iran.

Hamas: The Elephant in the Negotiating Room

A shortened version of this article was published on Ynetnews, found here.

By: Avi Yesawich

Israeli politicians’ refusal to address Hamas’ role in future Palestinian state is dangerous and inexcusable

The United Nations and World Bank recently issued reports commending the Palestinians for their impressive efforts in establishing the essential social, economic and political institutions necessary for the conception of a future Palestinian state. Impressive, indeed: in merely four years since he came to office, Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad managed to accomplish political and economic feats that other Palestinian leaders failed to obtain throughout their entire careers, and his state-building initiative is bearing substantial political fruit. He has successfully positioned the Palestinian Authority for a transition into statehood, adding credence to the idea that UN recognition of a sovereign Palestinian state could be forthcoming as soon as September of this year.

Although peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been indefinitely stalled for some time, ostensibly because of settlement expansion, one realization has become undeniably clear: whether through unilateral declaration or negotiated settlement, a Palestinian state is emerging on the horizon. We can see its approach in clear view. Israelis, and the international community, urgently need to consider the political and security implications of such a reality, most notably the inevitable role of Hamas in the implementation of any future agreement with Israel.

The Art of Disproportion

This article was originally featured in Ynetnews, found here.

By: Avi Yesawich

Individuals who criticize Israel’s response to rocket attacks are obviously clueless about the rules of war.

Over the past several days, Israel’s southern region has been bombarded by a barrage of rockets and mortar shells from the Hamas-led Gaza Strip. It is important to understand that our southern border had not previously been privy to a period of exceptional calm and relative normalcy, but rocketed and bombed repeatedly, on a daily basis, by various terrorist groups throughout the Strip. However, these attacks have intensified over the recent days, and Israel, as she typically does, is responding with precision air strikes against Hamas terror cells and weapons compounds, attempting to inflict maximum damage on its targets while avoiding civilian casualties on the ground.

The recent escalation has prompted calls for a “serious response” from various Israeli officials, ranging from continued airstrikes throughout the weekend to a “Defensive Shield” type operation such as the one proposed by former Israeli national security advisor Giora Eiland. Whatever the ultimate size and nature of the response is, Israel will be pressured to act with restraint by the international community, including the avoidance of the use of “disproportionate force,” a term that has seemingly become synonymous with Israel and the IDF.

The Centrist Dogma

Welcome to the world of Israeli Centrism - where, as the title of our site clearly infers, we are working very hard to bring you a realist, centrist perspective on the most important issues affecting the Middle East. Want to know our thoughts about the Arab Spring? Settlements? Peace Process? Terrorism? Avigdor Lieberman? Hummus? Of course you do! You certainly wouldn't be reading this post if the opposite were true.

For the past several months, we've been writing extensively for a wide range of Middle Eastern news outlets to a significantly positive response from the public. As such, we've decided to give our readers direct access to our unfiltered, unedited thought processes - including all of our published articles, exclusive commentary and in-depth analyses - on the ever-evolving situation in the region. We intend to make it as entertaining and informative for you as possible.

We welcome all our readers to the site and hope you will enjoy reading our blog as much as we enjoy contributing to it.

All the Best,

Avi and Daniel