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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Double standard? What double standard?!

As the late Mr. Roger's used to sing, "Who are the people in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood, in your nei-bor-hood...?"  Let's take a peek, shall we?

Jordan...a country and monarchy invented out of whole cloth by the British (in direct violation of their Mandate) which everyone loves to think of as the most enlightened, democratic member of the Arab world.  Well, guess what?  'King' Abdullah just dissolved the legislature and pushed off elections indefinitely.  Outrage?  Anyone... anyone?  Oh yeah, I forgot.  We have to respect their unique culture.

Lebanon... Another 'enlightened' Arab state.  'Paris of the Mediterranean' they like to call it.  A cafe culture so close to our own that misguided lefty Israeli journalists are compelled to do a Jane Fonda-esque cameo from Beirut within hours of a shameful end to a war... a war that was started by these peace-loving, latte-sipping Lebanese!  These same Lebanese now count Hezbollah - a terrorist militia that was supposed to be disarmed under the terms of U.N. Resolution 1701 - as part of their government.  For context, that would be like the KKK holding a veto-wielding majority in the U.S. Congress, and also being given the right to raise and command their own army.

Syria... Another country made up out of whole cloth... this time by the French.  Funny how Europeans who love to toss the word 'Colonial Power'' at Israel conveniently forget that it was Israel's neighbors that were created in the last gasp of the colonial era, while Israel was voted into being by a recognized legal world body.  But don't tell that to any of the religious or ethnic minorities in the Arab world... it might stir them from their satisfied slumber.  Syria's constitution requires that all positions of power remain in the hands of the Bathe party... and even though there is a national referendum for president every seven years, the Syrian people are essentially required to appoint the head of the Bathe Party as President.  Thus this bastion of democracy is essentially saddled forever with a dynastic ethnic minority (Alawite) leader who also happens to head a minority political party.

Iran... Do we really need to do this exercise?  They call themselves an Islamic Republic yet ironically consider Israel's self definition as a Jewish state to be racist.  And as to the 'republic' part, any country where the highest office - called 'The Supreme Leader' - is a religious leader and not subject to election... well, I don't think you'll find that one in Wikipedia under 'Republic'.  And as to their elections... I think we can pretty much agree that the outcome of these farces are set and approved by the Supreme leader well before anyone goes near a ballot box.

Iraq...  Okay, since the U.S. kinda pushed the 'reset' button on the Iraqi government and all instruments of power when they invaded, it will be some time before we know what the political face of this country will look like long-term.  But the likelihood that anybody will be playing nice with anyone else once the U.S. leaves the sandbox is not very high.

Saudi Arabia... Pshah!  Another theocracy (see Iran, above) in a region where only Israel is castigated for religious 'offences'.  The Saudis cut of the hands and feet of petty criminals and behead drug dealers.  The Royal family is a dysfunctional nightmare from the dark ages, and less than 5% of Saudi women are allowed to work (the lowest percentage in the world).  Heck, Saudi women aren't even allowed to drive!  And if you wants to talk about freedom of speech... well you'd better not be in Saudi Arabia because it doesn't exist.  There are actual laws against criticizing the government or anyone in the royal family. 

Yemen... Another so-called 'republic'... this country is a model of a modern democracy, if you don't count the rampant corruption, torture, inhumane treatment of political prisoners and even extra-judicial executions.  But on the feminist front there seems to be some progress (not!).  They have recently abolished the rule whereby the onset of puberty marked the minimum age for a girl's marriage.  Apparently those romantic Yemenis couldn't wait that long to bed their child brides.  Again, outrage anyone?

Gaza... Puleeze, can anyone say failed proto-state?  If Anyone were to faithfully document the situation in Gaza and make it into a movie, the American Muslim Anti Discrimination Committee would protest the absurd depiction of the adherents to 'the religion of peace' as sub-human terrorists. 

Egypt... Okay, this one is really scary in much the same way as watching a car crash in slow motion.  We have an aging autocrat hanging on to power by the skin of his teeth while the Muslim Brotherhood is already passing out portfolios in anticipation of their inevitable rise to power.  Even though in theory the executive power is split between the President and Prime Minister, in reality all of the power rests with the president.  Mubarak has even changed the election laws, raising the threshold for potential opposing candidates so high that he is virtually assured to remain in power for however much time remains of his life.

So it was beyond laughable when the current Israeli government was being formed, that much of the world (including our closest allies) bemoaned the end of Israeli democracy because Natenyahu's choice for Foreign Minister had some, let's just say 'controversial' opinions.  And the two countries from the list of thugocracies above that are actually on speaking terms with us (Jordan and Egypt) had the gall to announce that they wouldn't meet with our FM.  Nice.

Seriously, when are we going to simply announce to the world that we will play by whatever rules they want... but only if everyone will be bound by the same rules?  How's that for a controversial opinion?!

Posted by David Bogner on December 23, 2009 | Permalink


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Seriously, when are we going to simply announce to the world that we will play by whatever rules they want... but only if everyone will be bound by the same rules?
Necessary but unlikely.
At the same time I sometimes feel that if we compare ourselves to people with no moral standards we convey that we are allowed to do things the wrong way since others are worse. Do you see what I mean? As a teacher this happens to me all the time. When I scold a student for his/her poor behavior, he/she will point out to another one who is worse, as if to justify his/her attitude.
However I realize that I have no solution as to how we can make people see our points and share our values.

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | Dec 23, 2009 10:58:04 AM

"...conveniently forget that it was Israel's neighbors that were created in the last gasp of the colonial era, while Israel was voted into being by a recognized legal world body"

Palestine was created, legally speaking, as a homeland for the Jews by the San Remo Conference of 1920. This was a document created by the European winners of WW I, that is, Britain, France, and Italy, at least. This same Conference created Iraq, so they aren't about to repudiate it any time soon.

However, we might consider these countries the Colonial Powers, although they took over territory from the other colonial power, Ottoman Turkey. The League of Nations adopted the Convention so we can all call it kosher.

The UN adopted all the stuff the League had enacted, so it's still good. But the General Assembly Resolution of 1947 that recommended the Partition Plan was, in contrast, not binding international law. In any case it was rejected by the other side (the Arabs) so Israel can't be held to it, nor to the 1949 borders it suggested.

The San Remo Conference set aside all of Palestine, from the river to the sea, plus trans-Jordon, as a homeland for the Jews. This is a much better deal than the rejected borders of 1949.

See http://wwi.lib.byu.edu/index.php/San_Remo_Convention

and especially see this website:

Posted by: Fred | Dec 23, 2009 2:03:31 PM

"Who are the people in your neighborhood is a Sesame Street song!" Therefore your whole premise is wrong. Instead of wearing cardigans that are hand-knitted by their moms, everyone should eat cookies while saying "om-nom-nom-nom"

that is all.

Posted by: LeahGG | Dec 23, 2009 11:47:49 PM

LeahGG beat me to the punch, but I will put in my 2 agorot...."M-na,M-na"

Posted by: Marsha, freezing in Englewood | Dec 24, 2009 2:14:16 AM

Amazing post, David! I love it when talented folks like you sum up the picture of the Middle East that so much of the media so consistently (...and willfully) misses.

Posted by: Maksim-Smelchak | Dec 24, 2009 4:59:49 AM

David I think the Syrian's (and the Iraqi) party was either Baath or Ba'ath. (FYI)

Posted by: chaim | Dec 25, 2009 6:38:13 AM

LeahGG: "Who are the people in your neighborhood is a Sesame Street song!"

Yes, I believe you were thinking of Mr. Rogers' "Won't You Be My Neighbor"...

Posted by: Lurker | Dec 28, 2009 6:37:18 AM

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