Monday, March 31, 2014

Seth Mandel  3-31-14

On June 17, 2009, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said something strange. On the topic of a deal struck on settlement construction between George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon, Clinton said: “In looking at the history of the Bush administration, there were no informal or oral enforceable agreements. That has been verified by the official record of the administration and by the personnel in the positions of responsibility.”
It’s important to clarify what is “strange” about this comment. It was a strange thing to say because it is flatly untrue: the agreement most certainly existed, and was put to writing. But it was not strange that Clinton was the one to say it: as Omri Ceren meticulously explained for the magazine in May 2012, the Obama administration’s disastrous policies toward Israel were predicated on ignoring, and at times outright falsifying, history.
Sharon made real strategic concessions to boost the peace process at great political and personal cost because he knew he had America’s support. When Obama came into office, American allies learned the hard way that the White House was no longer bound by such agreements, regardless of the danger it put those allies in. Ukrainian leaders now appear to be running into the same problem.
According to the Budapest memorandum of 1994, Ukraine would give up its nukes in return for the recognition and maintenance of its territorial integrity. That ship has very clearly sailed, since the United States is now asking Vladimir Putin’s Russia to please only take from Ukraine that which they have already pilfered. Putin is considering this request–which is exactly what it is: a request. Thus, Ukraine’s “territorial integrity” does not, at the moment, exist in any meaningful sense.
Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, has taken to the Daily Beast todescribe the Budapest memorandum in terms nearly identical to the way the Bush-Sharon letter was described by those who wanted Obama to respect the promises of the White House. When Clinton denied an agreement that plainly existed, she tried to hedge, in part by saying she found no “enforceable” deals. As Elliott Abrams noted in the Wall Street Journal at the time: “How exactly would Israel enforce any agreement against an American decision to renege on it? Take it to the International Court in The Hague?”
Gelb acknowledges that the Budapest deal does not specifically obligate America to use force against Russia to repel its Ukrainian adventure. But Gelb wants the administration to stop insulting the intelligence of the Ukrainians:
The Budapest document makes sense historically only as a quid pro quo agreement resting upon American credibility to act. The United States cannot simply walk away from the plain meaning of the Budapest Memorandum and leave Ukraine in the lurch. And how would this complete washing of U.S. hands affect U.S. efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, supposedly a top national priority? Why should any nation forego nukes or give them away like Ukraine, if other nations, and especially the U.S., feel zero responsibility for their defense? It’s not that Washington has to send ground troops or start using its nuclear weapons; it’s just that potential aggressors have to see some potential military cost.
And that’s the consequence of the administration’s penchant for selective memory in foreign affairs that Obama brushed aside when it came to Israel. It’s not about whether Obama would or would not have signed such a deal himself. It’s about whether American promises evaporate every four or eight years.
The obvious rejoinder is that presidential administrations cannot be bound by every political or strategic principle of their predecessors–otherwise why have elections? True, but the question is one of written agreements, “memoranda,” and understandings, especially those offered as the American side of a deal that has been otherwise fulfilled. Sharon pulled out not just of Gaza but also parts of the West Bank and made concessions on security in both territories he was hesitant to offer. He held up his end of the bargain, and Israelis were only asking that the administration hold up Washington’s.
That’s the point Gelb is making on Ukraine, and it’s an important one. He is saying that the United States’ decision on how to respond to Russia’s aggression should not be made in a vacuum. This may bind Obama’s hands a bit, but there is danger in reneging on this agreement. It’s a danger that was mostly ignored when it came to Israel. But now it’s clear that this is a pattern with Obama, and that American promises are suspended on his watch. It’s no surprise that the world is acting accordingly.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Changing the Historical Narrative: Saeb Erekat’s New Spin
Amb. Alan Baker, March 23, 2014

  • Palestinian leaders are manipulating the history of geographic Palestine/Land of Israel. They have manufactured a curious claim, expressed recently by Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, that they are descended from Canaanites and are therefore the indigenous people of the area, present before the emergence of the Jewish people around the year 1500 BCE.
  • Saeb Erekat’s family is Bedouin. According to Bedouin genealogy, the family is part of the Huweitat clan which originated in the Hejaz area of Saudi Arabia, arrived in Palestine from the south of Jordan, and settled in the village of Abu Dis in the early twentieth century.
  • Several leading scholars of Middle Eastern studies and Islamic history have confirmed that the Palestinians do not have ancient roots in the area and are trying to invent origins for themselves that predate the Jewish people’s presence.
  • They explain that most of the Palestinians arrived as part of the waves of immigration that began in the nineteenth century at the time of the emergence of Zionism, attracted by employment opportunities and economic benefits.
  • The historical presence of the Jewish people in the “Holy Land” is well-documented, not only in the scriptures of all three monotheistic religions, and visible in extensive archeological remains, but also in historic writings by early Greek, Roman, pagan, and other visitors to the area. The fact that Christianity emanated from Judaism is further proof of the presence of a thriving Jewish community in the area.
Manipulating History for Political Purposes
Aside from the topical and pragmatic issues on the negotiating table between Israel and the Palestinians – borders, settlements, refugees, Jerusalem, water, and security arrangements – there is a far deeper discussion that is not taking place in the negotiating room but in the international arena. This discussion involves the issue of historical narratives and the basic question of historic rights to geographic and historic Palestine.
Palestinian leaders are manipulating their history in the land for political purposes. They have manufactured a curious claim, expressed recently by Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, that they are descended from Canaanites and are therefore the indigenous people of the area, present before the emergence of the Jewish people around the year 1500 BCE.
Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, has already established an international reputation for stretching the truth. Many Israelis recall during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 when Erekat went on CNN to assert that Israel had killed “more than 500 people” in Jenin in a “real massacre,”1 adding that 300 Palestinians were being buried in mass graves. It soon became clear that in combat operations at the time, the Palestinian death toll in Jenin was 52: 34 of whom (65 percent) were known military operatives of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or Fatah-Tanzim. Now Erekat’s wild assertions have moved into the field of history as part of a Palestinian battle over the narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Palestinian leadership relies on the thirst of the international media to seriously take up any wild and baseless Palestinian claim; on the pressures of the ongoing negotiating process with the high-level involvement of senior U.S. and European politicians who are keen to show achievements; and, above all, on the wide and almost automatic inclination of the international community to criticize Israel and to buy into any artificial claim uttered by the Palestinian leadership.
Saeb Erekat’s Curious Claim
While one might assume that as the chief Palestinian negotiator and long-term participant in negotiations with Israel since the Madrid Conference of 1991, Saeb Erekat would, and indeed should, be deeply ensconced in the ongoing negotiating process – a process that needs to be conducted in a confidential, serious, and civil manner – this regrettably does not seem to be the case.
In fact, in direct contrast to what any serious chief negotiator should be doing vis-a-vis the other negotiating party, Erekat prefers to indulge on a daily basis in blatant demagogy, hostile outbursts, wild accusations, and attacks against Israel, its leaders and negotiators, and above all, in simply misleading the international community and media.2
A recent fabrication, vented at an international security conference in Munich on February 1, 2014, and which received considerable prominence in international political and media circles, has generated considerable criticism and even ridicule. According to Erekat’s curious claim, he is a direct descendant of the Canaanite tribes who lived in Israel some 9,000 years ago:
I am the proud son of the Canaanites who were there 5,500 years before Joshua bin Nun burned down the town of Jericho.3
No less amazing is the recent statement by a member of the Jordanian Parliament, Sheikh Mousa Abu Sweilam, on February 3, 2014, according to which:
The Palestinians are the original owners of Palestine, who lived on its land when they moved from the western Mediterranean basin to its east in 7000 BC.4
Ahmed Tibi, a member of Israel’s Knesset, is quoted in the Ha’aretz newspaper from January 19, 2014, stating:
….the Arab citizens of Israel are an indigenous population.5
The Erekat claim was immediately controverted by several authoritative sources who cited, among other things, Erekat’s own Facebook entry describing the origin of the Erekat clan to be from the Huweitat clan in the northwestern Arabian Peninsula.6
The Erekat Family History
Erekat’s family, presently residing in Jericho, previously lived in the village of Abu Dis near Jerusalem. In fact, the Erekat family was never part of the Jericho tribal system. It is a Bedouin family which, according to Bedouin genealogy, came to the area from the south of Jordan, an area called Husseyniya and Rashaida, at an undisclosed time.7
According to genealogical research of the Bedouin families in Israel, the Erekat family belongs to the extensive Huweitat clan, which originated in the area between the Liya valley, near Taif, in the vicinity of Mecca in the northern Hejaz region, close to the town of Hekl in the Sarawat Mountains, 350 km. from the Jordanian border, and northern Aqaba.8 Bedouin genealogical literature claims that the Huweitat clan is a Sharifi clan allied with their cousins the Hashemites.9 The Huweitat clan settled not only in Israel but also in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Sinai Peninsula by Ras Seeder.10
A branch of this clan settled in geographic Palestine in several waves of immigration that started some 200 years ago, ending during the period of the Arab Revolt and First World War. Apparently, the family to which Erekat belongs settled in Abu Dis near Jerusalem during the last of these waves, which occurred in the early twentieth century, after the Jewish immigration to the area.
The first wave of this immigration brought the Fahum and Hanun branches of the clan to settle in Nazareth and Tul-Karem. They were followed by another branch of the well-known Shuman family, which settled in Nablus (owners of the Amman-based Arab Bank, one of the biggest banks in the Arab world).
According to Bedouin genealogy, the branches of the Huweitat clan that had already settled in Jordan welcomed the clan’s newcomers, who came with the Hashemite Sharifi army during the Arab Revolt at the beginning of the last century and helped found the Kingdom of Jordan. This branch came from southern Jordan, from the center of the Huweitat clans’ area, and is considered entirely Jordanian rather than Palestinian.
Scholars on Islam Question Palestinian Claims
The claims by Erekat and his colleagues of their Canaanite provenance, if they were considered serious, could in fact give rise to some difficult questions as to the very character and identity of the Palestinian people as a part of the Arab peoples. Taking Erekat’s claim to its logical and sequential conclusion, is he claiming that Palestine should be recognized as the nation-state of the Canaanite people?
In a similar vein, his declaration raises serious questions regarding the very roots of Islam and the origins of the Hashemite dynasty (connected with the Huweitat clan11), and as such regarding the ethnic origin of the Imam Ali, cousin of the Prophet Mohammad, to whom the Shi’a denomination of Islam relates. If the Huweitat are Canaanites, as claimed by Erekat, this would logically lead to the absurd conclusion that the descendants of the Imam Hussein Ibn Ali are not Arabs but Canaanites.
The general claim to Palestinian indigenous status has been questioned by a number of scholars of the Middle East and experts on Islam:
  • Professor Rafi Israeli from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem notes the absurdity in the link that the Palestinians have tried to create with the ancient Canaanites.12
“The early origins of the Arabs who came to this country are in the Arabian peninsula….The first ones came from there. Now they are standing on their heads. Instead of saying that they are Arabs who immigrated to Canaan and turned it into a Muslim country, they have rendered themselves indigenous Canaanites.”
“Even their Arab surnames give clear clues that they immigrated here. In Umm al-Fahm, there are four large clans who originated in Egypt. In the Old City of Jerusalem, one can find the Moroccan Quarter, which was home to Muslims who came from North Africa, the Maghreb, and settled in the Land of Israel.”
“Furthermore, the Ottoman Empire transferred populations from place to place in order to tighten its control over those areas….[T]ake, for example, the Circassians, Muslims who were brought here from the Caucasus.”
“The Palestinians don’t really have roots here. They know this very well, so they are trying to invent origins for themselves. Whenever you offer historic or archaeological criticism of this nonsense, learned scholars the world over immediately insist that you ‘respect the narrative.’ It doesn’t matter one bit to them whether there is historical truth there. If we do not debunk this, it will be accepted as fact. If you repeat a lie thousands of times, it eventually becomes accepted as true, so we mustn’t keep quiet.”13
  • Dr. Rivka Shpak Lissak, in her book Responding to Palestinian Rewriting of History – How and When the Jewish Majority in the Land of Israel Was Eliminated and the Jewish Diaspora Was Created,14 states:
“Historically, no national Arab entity ever has established a national state in this country. The Land of Israel was conquered in 640 A.D. and occupied by Muslim-Arabs until 1071. A large percent of the Palestinians are descendants of Arabs and Muslims who immigrated to the Land of Israel a few generations ago illegally from Arab and Muslim countries.”
On the general question of the Arab conquest, Dr. Rivka Shpak Lissak summarizes the chain of developments as follows:
“The Arab occupation of the Land of Israel lasted from 640 to 1071, roughly 400 years. The Seljuks, Muslim Turks, conquered the land from the Arabs, but on the eve of the First Crusade, they lost it to the Fatimid who ruled it until 1099, when the Crusaders took over. Saladin, who was not an Arab, but a Muslim Kurd from Iraq, defeated the Crusaders in 1187 and ruled until his death (1192). Following the Battle of Hattin and the conquest of Jerusalem by Saladin in 1187, he took over other parts of the country while the Crusaders maintained their hold over the rest. An agreement signed by his successors with the Crusaders returned the Galilee to them and they moved their capital to Acre. The Mamelukes, Muslim Turks, conquered the Land of Israel from the Crusaders in 1260 and ruled it until 1516, when it was taken over by the Ottoman Turks who ruled the Land of Israel for 400 years. The Muslim rule in the Land of Israel ended in 1918 and a Mandate over the country was given to the British.”15
  • Dr. Shaul Bartal, a Middle Eastern scholar from Bar-Ilan University, says16 that while in many Palestinian history books, heavy emphasis is placed on “the Arab conquest of Palestine” in 638, “a conquest that for 1,300 years made Palestine into Islamic territory,” in fact, the waves of immigration from the Arabian Peninsula and the subsequent arrivals of Arabs from Transjordan and Syria are what led to the continued settlement of Arabs in this country.
“Even in Ramallah, the administrative capital of the Palestinian Authority, the origins of Arab families are traced back to those who came here from Jordan in the late 15th century.”
A research study that Bartal co-authored with Dr. Rivka Shpak Lissak shows that the four main clans that make up the population of Umm el-Fahm – Makhagna, Jabrin, Mahamid, and Aghbariya – trace their roots back to families who immigrated to Palestine in the seventeenth century onward from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Syria. It was only afterward, during the nineteenth century, when many families from Egypt and Transjordan joined them.
“The Palestinians are not the farmers who have lived in Palestine for generations, but rather immigrants who only arrived recently. It was only toward the latter stages of the nineteenth century that the country began to blossom thanks to the emergence of a new presence – Zionism – and the amazing results. In 1878, the population of the country numbered 141,000 Muslims who lived here permanently, with at least 25 percent of them considered to be newly arrived immigrants who came mostly from Egypt.”
“Various studies done over a span of years by Moshe Brawer, Gideon Kressel, and other scholars clearly show that most Arab families who settled in the villages along the coastal plain and the area that would later become the State of Israel originated from Sudan, Libya, Egypt, and Jordan….Other studies show that the waves of immigrants came here in droves from Arab countries during the period of the British Mandate.”
The Arab immigrants were drawn to the land because Jewish settlement there brought on development of economic opportunities as well as improvement in sanitation and medicine.
Attesting to the huge Muslim immigration into the area, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt remarked in 1939 that the immigration of Arabs to Palestine since 1921 was outpacing the immigration of Jews during that same period. Winston Churchill commented on the massive waves of Arab immigration into the country during that time. “Despite the fact that they were never persecuted, masses of Arabs poured into the country and multiplied until the Arab population grew more than what all of world Jewry could add to the Jewish population,” he said.
  • Dr. Arieh Perlman, in his book The Origin of Palestinian Arabs,17 records the entry into and conquest of the “Holy Land” since the seventh century CE (636 to be exact) by various Arab, Muslim, and Christian elements, dynasties and tribes, including, among others, the Abbasid dynasty (750), the Egyptian Fatimid dynasty in 969, the Turks and Seleucids in the eleventh century, the Crusaders (1099) and then back to the Egyptian Fatimid dynasty, and then to the Muslims of Sallah-a-Din, Turks, Tatars (1260), Egyptian kingdom, Mongols, and Ottomans (1517), the occupation of Galilee by Shiekh Daher el-Omar in the mid-eighteenth century, and the occupation of the area by the Egyptian Ibrahim Pasha in the mid-nineteenth century.
To the above may be added raids and movement by Bedouin tribes from the western desert since the late nineteenth and up to the mid-twentieth centuries, and the above-noted influx of Arab populations from Syria, Lebanon, Trans-Jordan, Sudan, Morocco, Cyprus, Yemen, Spain, Albania and Australia and other North African countries, seeking to benefit from the relatively advanced development and modernization in the area instituted by the Jewish population, and concomitant chances of increased income.
  • Prof. Gideon M. Kressel, Professor Emeritus of Cultural-Social Anthropology at Ben-Gurion University, and Dr. Reuven Aharoni, Dept. of Middle Eastern History at Haifa University, in their study Egyptian Emigres in the Levant of the 19th and 20th Centuries,18 recall a statement on March 23, 2012, by Hamas Interior and National Security Minister Fathi Hammad that “half of the Palestinians are Egyptian and the other half Saudis.”19
  • Prof. Solomon Zeitlin of Dropsie College, in his monograph Jewish Rights in Palestine,20 observes:
“The Palestinian Arabs or the Arabs of Trans-Jordania never ruled Palestine. Palestine had been conquered by the Arabs who came from the South….The dynasties of the Omayyads and the Abbasids were not natives of Palestine. Certainly the Mamelukes and later the Turks not only were not Palestinian Arabs, but were an entirely different race; they were not even Semitic.
“Palestine up to 734 C.E. was never an Arabic country and was never so considered by geographers and historians. Josephus as well as the Roman geographer Strabo placed Arabia beyond the boundaries of Palestine, or as it was then called, Judaea.”
  • Dr. Yitzhak Ben-Zvi and other experts view the forced conversion of Jews to Christianity and then to Islam as a contributing factor to the extensive rise in the Muslim population in the area in the early nineteenth century.21 They trace a not insignificant percentage of Palestinian residents of the area to their Jewish forbears.
No one should take Saeb Erekat’s claims about Canaanite ancestry seriously. His attempt to inject a false narrative into Israeli-Palestinian relations undermines negotiations between the parties and is a diversion from the substantive issues that must be discussed.
The historical presence and existence of the Jewish people in the Middle East generally, and the area of Palestine or “the Holy Land,” in particular, has continued from time immemorial up to the present day. It is well-documented and proven, not only in the scriptures of all three monotheistic religions, and visible in extensive archeological remains, but is also borne-out by empirical historic writings and records by early Greek, Roman, pagan and other visitors to the area.
The fact that the sources of Christianity evolved and emanated from Judaism is, in and of itself, further proof of the presence of a thriving Jewish community in the area generally, and in the specific areas in which the Jews existed from biblical times, including Judea (from which the term “Jew” stems), Samaria, and the other neighboring tribal areas.
Of all extant peoples, the Jewish people have the strongest claim to be indigenous to the “Holy Land,” where Judaism, the Hebrew language, and the Jewish people were born around 3,000 years ago. No one, Saeb Erekat included, can cast any doubt on this fact.
*     *     * 
*  The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.
1. See Erekat on CNN making claims about the Jenin “massacre” in the video “Who Else Is Being Injured by the Vilification of Israel?” (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2013),
2. Recent examples of Erekat’s threats, accusations and attacks include:
glorifying and praising terrorist leaders Al-Ayyam, Jan. 6 2014; threats to call for a global economic boycott of Israel –,7340,L-4490386,00.html; threat regarding the 1967 borders;
accusation that Israel propping up the Hamas administration in Gaza –
8. Ibid., based on several genealogy books of the Arab tribes in the Levant. See also “The Huweitat Clans,”
9. The close relationship between the Huweitat Sharifi clan and the Hashemite Sharifi clan explains the importance of the Huweitat clan as one of the pillars of the Arab revolt.
11. Ibid.
12. Reported by Nadav Shragai, in “The Fabricated Palestinian History,” Israel Hayom, February 7, 2014, based inter alia on an interview with Professor Israeli,
13. Ibid.
15. Lissak, op. cit., at chapter 5.
16. Shragai, “The Fabricated Palestinian History.”
17. Arie Perlman, “The Origin of Palestinian Arabs,” (Hebrew), See also, describing the research of historian Zvi Misinai.
20. Jewish Quarterly Review, New Series, Vol. 38, No. 2 (Oct. 1947), pp. 119-134, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press
21. See Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, “The Populations of our Land” (1932) (Hebrew) – “Yesodot” Library No. 14. See also Zvi Misinai, quoted in “The Lost Palestinian JewsJerusalem Post, August 20, 2009, In a separate interview Misinai refers to the fact that the Erekat family from Abu Dis is well aware of its own Jewish roots – see

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

 DR. TAWFIK HAMID, A FORMER TERRORIST SPEAKS OUT...  2  must watch video interviews
- Israel/Palestine conflict .. 8 minutes

- Stop exploiting Palestine as wedge against Jewish Israel..2 minutes 20 seconds

It’s Not Just Ukraine
What his actions in Eastern Europe tell us about how Vladimir Putin sees the Middle East.
By Michael Doran | March 26, 2014 

Michael Doran, a senior fellow of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, is a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and a former senior director of the National Security Council .

Does the Ukraine crisis mark the beginning of a new cold war? The answer from President Obama is a firm no. “The United States does not view Europe as a battleground between East and West, nor do we see the situation in Ukraine as a zero-sum game. That’s the kind of thinking that should have ended with the cold war,” he told a Dutch newspaper.
The president is partially correct. Unlike the Soviet Union, Russia has neither the intention nor the capability to challenge the entire European order, and it is certainly not mounting a global revolutionary movement. Nevertheless, it is a revanchist power, and its appetites are much larger than the president cares to admit.
That Russian President Vladimir Putin sees Ukraine as a zero-sum game seems obvious. Somewhat less apparent is the fact that his revisionist aspirations also extend elsewhere, and most saliently to the Middle East. 

Obama’s first-term effort to “reset” relations with Russia was rooted in the firm conviction that the main cause of Russian-American competition in the Middle East lay in the previous Bush administration’s war on terror, which was read by the Russian leader as a pretext for a global power grab. Bush’s freedom agenda, with its support for democratic reform inside Russia, only confirmed Putin’s worst suspicions.
Alienating Putin, the Obama White House believed, had been a strategic blunder, depriving the United States of a potentially valuable partner. Putin, whatever his faults, was a realist: someone who could cut a deal in situations—like those in the Middle East—where Russia and America shared many interests. Once Putin fully grasped our sincerity, demonstrated by our ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Russian fears of American aggressiveness would dissipate and Russian-American cooperation would blossom. 
Unfortunately, getting through to Putin proved harder and took longer than expected—though not for want of trying. Famously, during the 2012 American presidential campaign, an open microphone caught Obama making his pitch. “This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility,” he told then-Russian President Dimitry Medvedev. “I understand,” Medvedev answered. “I will transmit this information to Vladimir.”
Eventually, Putin did seem to grasp the concept. When Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stepped forward last September with an offer to strip Syria’s Bashar al-Assad of his chemical weapons, Obama saw the move as a breakthrough, precisely the kind of mutually beneficial arrangement that the Russian reset was designed to generate. Soon, working together on the chemical-weapons problem, Secretary of State John Kerry and Lavrov also conspired to launch Geneva II, a peace conference designed to find a diplomatic solution to the Syrian civil war. 
In the dawning new era, Syria was seen by the White House as a prototype: a model for stabilizing the Middle East and containing its worst pathologies. If successful, it could be applied to other problems in the region—including the Iranian nuclear program, the greatest challenge of all. In his speech at the General Assembly last September, the president was eager to defend his friendship with Putin in just these terms. “[L]et’s remember this is not a zero-sum endeavor,” Obama reminded his critics. “We’re no longer in a cold war.” 

Today, just six months later, the new model is collapsing before our eyes. The proximate cause is the spillover from the Ukraine crisis. On March 19, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned that if the West imposed sanctions over the annexation of Crimea, Russia would retaliate by exacting a much greater price: it would throw its support to Iran in the nuclear talks. “The historic importance of what happened . . . regarding the restoration of historical justice and reunification of Crimea with Russia,”Ryabkov explained, “is incomparable to what we are dealing with in the Iranian issue.”
Even before Ryabkov issued this extortionate threat, there were clear signs that the Kremlin never truly supported the new model of Middle East cooperation. Kerry and Lavrov did convene Geneva II in January, but the conference ended in abject failure thanks to the intransigence of the Assad regime—which after all is Russia’s client. Shortly thereafter, Kerry openly blamed Russia for the Syrian disaster. “Russia needs to be a part of the solution,” he complained, “not contributing so many more weapons and so much more aid that they are really enabling Assad to double down.”
In the Middle East as in Eastern Europe, then, the reset looks increasingly bankrupt. In fact, being based on two major errors, it never had a chance.

The administration’s first error was the failure to appreciate Putin’s either-or perspective on politics, a viewpoint succinctly expressed in Lenin’s famous formula: “who-whom?” Who will dominate whom? In Putin’s view, all accommodations with the United States are tactical maneuvers in a struggle—sometimes overt, sometimes covert—for the upper hand.  
In the bad old days of the cold war, the overtly malevolent intentions of the Kremlin were hard to misread (although, even then, some American leaders did try to misread them). Today, Russia’s motivations are more complex: a unique mix of Great Russian nationalism, crony capitalism, and autocratic whimsy. This makes it difficult to predict the Kremlin’s behavior. For 364 days of the year, a deal between a Western client and Gazprom, the largest Russian natural-gas supplier, will function like a normal business transaction. On the 365th day, to teach the recipient a lesson about who’s really in charge, Putin will cut the gas flow. 
Adding to the unpredictability is Putin’s mercurial-seeming personality. Perhaps the single most revealing fact about him is his interest in Sambo, a Russian form of judo whose techniques have been deliberately tailored to the requirements of each state security service. “Judo teaches self-control, the ability to feel the moment, to see the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses,” Putin writes in his official biography on the Kremlin website. “I am sure you will agree that these are essential abilities and skills for any politician.” As a former KGB agent and judo black belt, Putin is undoubtedly adept at the deceptive move that turns an ordinary handshake into a crippling wristlock, instantly driving the adversary’s head to the ground.
Turning a blind eye to such niceties, Western politicians assumed that by enmeshing Putin in a web of diplomatic and economic deals, they would foster in Moscow a sense of shared destiny that would ultimately work to moderate Russian behavior. As the Ukraine crisis demonstrates, the web has indeed created mutual dependencies. But the crisis also reveals that the two sides do not approach dependency in a spirit of reciprocity. When shaking hands on a deal, Putin never fails to assess whether he has positioned himself for a speedy takedown of his partner. 
The Sambo approach to diplomacy is particularly suited to the Middle East, where international relations, more often than not, is a zero-sum game dominated by brutal men with guns. This is Putin’s natural habitat; as prime minister in 1999, he supported the Russian military’s use of ballistic missiles against civilians in Grozny. It is a simple truism that a leader habitually photographed shirtless while performing feats of derring-do will understand the politics of the Middle East better than sophisticated Westerners who believe that the world has evolved beyond crude displays of machismo.

Lack of attention to the perfect fit between Putin’s mentality and Middle East reality constitutes the second error of the administration’s Russian reset.
With respect to political alignments, the most influential event in today’s Middle East is the Syrian civil war. That the conflict is barbarous is easily gleaned from a slogan of the pro-Assad forces, scrawled on buildings in all major cities: “Assad, or we will burn the country.” This demand has divided the entire region into two groups. On one side stand the allies of America: the Saudis, Turks, and other Sunni Muslim states, all of whom agree that, come what may, Assad must go. On the other side, the Iranians, together with Hizballah, have lined up squarely behind Assad, their partner in the so-called Resistance Alliance.
For Putin, Syria has raised two key questions, each a variant of who-whom: (1) who will dominate inside Syria; (2) who will dominate in the region more broadly. It was Foreign Minister Lavrov who two years ago, in a rare slip of the tongue, best explained how Putin saw these questions: “if the current Syrian regime collapses, some countries in the region will want to establish Sunni rule in Syria.” More bluntly, the Kremlin sees itself as the great-power patron not just of the Assad regime but also of Iran and Hizballah—the entire Resistance Alliance. At the time, Moscow’s unvarnished preference for Shiites won little attention in the United States, but it sparked a storm of outrage in the Sunni Arab world, leading one prominent Saudi commentator to dub the foreign minister “Mullah Lavrov.”
Not surprisingly, Putin’s position was in perfect keeping with one of the most fundamental rules of strategy, perhaps best expressed by Machiavelli: “A prince is . . . esteemed when he is a true friend and a true enemy, that is, when without any hesitation he discloses himself in support of someone against another.” In the Middle East, Machiavelli’s logic is inescapable, and Putin grasps it intuitively. Not so Obama, who has convinced himself that he can hover above the gritty game on the ground yet somehow still remain an influential player.
In Syria, the United States criticizes Assad harshly and says it sympathizes with the opposition. But it releases only dribs and drabs of military aid to opposition forces while simultaneously qualifying and hedging its diplomatic support. Fretting incessantly about the Sunni jihadist elements fighting the Assad regime, it develops no strategy to combat them; instead, it cozies up to Assad’s Russian and Iranian patrons. When the Sunni allies of the United States compare the confusion of American policy with the clarity of Russian strategy, it’s no wonder they despair.
Obama is not entirely oblivious of the problem. In a recent interview, the journalist Jeffrey Goldberg asked him bluntly, “So why are the Sunnis so nervous about you?” His answer: “[T]here are shifts that are taking place in the region that have caught a lot of them off-guard. I think change is always scary. I think there was a comfort with a United States that was comfortable with an existing order and the existing alignments, and was an implacable foe of Iran.” This exercise in condescension, while doing nothing to allay and everything to aggravate the fears of America’s allies, offers a glimpse into the mindset that generated the reset, a mindset that dreamed of a concert arrangement whereby both Russia and America would place a greater value on comity with each other than either would put on its relations with allies. 
To be sure, Putin will gladly sign on to American-sponsored initiatives like Geneva II. But he will insist on guiding them in directions that, regardless of their stated intentions, serve the interests of his clients. If the Obama administration has yet to admit or adjust to this reality, that is partly because the Russians do not wave a flag identifying themselves as the great-power patrons of Iran, Syria, and Hizballah. Nor does Putin back Tehran and Damascus to the hilt as the Soviet Union backed its clients in the cold war.
It is thus more accurate to say that Russia in an alignment, not an alliance, with Iran and Syria. Depending upon competing priorities and the vicissitudes of world politics, Putin will tack this way today, that way tomorrow. In the end, however, he will never sell out Tehran and Damascus in order to win compliments in Washington; if forced to choose, he will always side with the former against the latter, and will certainly leave them in no doubt that Russia is their most dependable friend in the United Nations Security Council.
It is this fact that makes Russia a revisionist power in the Middle East and the permanent adversary of the United States. 

What, then, about the Iranian nuclear question? Hasn’t Russia consistently called for preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon? Didn’t it vote in favor of six Security Council resolutions against Tehran? Hasn’t it signed on to the economic sanctions? Surely all of these actions support the Obama administration’s contention that Russia, in certain contexts, is a valuable partner. 
Indeed, Putin has a strong track record of supporting some actions designed to prevent an Iranian bomb; in an ideal world, he would probably prefer an Iran devoid of such weapons. But he also has a strong track record of building the Iranian nuclear program and of providing security assistance to the Iranian military. Whatever his preferences in an ideal world, in the here and now his goal is less to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon than to garner as much power and influence for Russia as he can. He is supportive enough of the United States and its key European partners to maintain credibility with them. On the key issue of stopping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, he is never so supportive as to be taken for granted. 
How this cynical game works was revealed in Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov’s extortionate threat mentioned earlier. It has placed Obama on the horns of a severe dilemma. If, on the one hand, the president simply acquiesces in Putin’s power play in Ukraine, he will embolden not just Russia but also Iran, Syria, and Hizballah by demonstrating that, just as in Syria, he retreats when challenged. If, on the other hand, he marshals a robust Western response, he could well provoke the threatened Russian countermeasures of increased support for Iran.
No matter which course the president follows, the Ukraine crisis has damaged the prestige of the United States in the Middle East. America’s Arab friends in the region, who are on the front line against Iran, Syria, and Hizballah, already feel the pinch, and are deeply uncertain about how to respond. Unlike the Resistance Alliance, they are not accustomed to cooperating on their own. As Karl Marx notoriously said of peasants, America’s Arab allies are like potatoes. When U.S. leadership provides a sack, they take on a single form and become hefty in weight. In its absence, they are a loose assortment of small, isolated units.
The ally who most immediately feels the fallout is Israel. On March 17, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon described, with unusual bluntness, the consequences of what he called the “feebleness” of American foreign policy. The Obama administration’s weakness, he argued, was undermining the position not just of Israel but also of America’s Sunni allies. “The moderate Sunni camp in the area expected the United States to support it, and to be firm, like Russia’s support for the Shiite axis,” Yaalon lamented.
Yaalon spoke no less despairingly of Obama’s ability to make good on his pledge to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. “[A]t some stage,” he observed, “the United States entered into negotiations with them, and unhappily, when it comes to negotiating at a Persian bazaar, the Iranians were better.” On the matter of Iran, Yaalon concluded, inevitably, “we have to behave as though we have nobody to look out for us but ourselves.”
Whether Israel actually has the political will and military capability to launch an independent strike against Iran is anybody’s guess. But two facts are undeniable. First, Putin’s muscular foreign policy and Washington’s timorous response have increased the pressure on Israel to strike independently. Second, Obama has lost influence over the Israelis—just as he lost influence over his Arab allies when he refused to back them on Syria. 
Adrift in Machiavelli’s no man’s land, neither a true friend nor a true enemy, Washington is left with the worst of both worlds, treated by its adversaries with contempt, charged by its friends with abandonment and betrayal. President Obama was correct to say at the UN that the U.S. and Russia are no longer locked in a cold war. But it was a strategic delusion to assume that Putin’s handshake was an offer of partnership. It was instead the opening gambit in a new style of global competition—one that, in the Middle East, Russia and its clients are winning and the United States, despite huge natural advantages, is losing.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Poor Palestinians

By Ted Belman (first published in 2012)

In case you thought the title was referring to the Palestinians living in Gaza, or even  Judea and Samaria, you’d be wrong.  From my vantage point, these Palestinians have it pretty good, whether in relation to Palestinians living elsewhere, even in Jordan, or to Arabs generally, living in Egypt or Turkey.
“Palestinian” is a name given to Arabs after the ’67 War, who lived or did live in the area known as Palestine during the Palestine Mandate and afterwards right up to the present and includes their descendants even if such descendants never set foot in the area known as Palestine.

Whereas United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) has resettled tens of millions of refugees since WWII, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is a relief and human development agency, providing education, health care, social services and emergency aid to 5 million Palestine refugees living in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, as well as in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. UNRWA was specifically created to maintain the refugee status, not to end it.

Under UNRWA’s operational definition, Palestine refugees are people whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict. It also includes their descendants.
The world is focused excessively on the “poor Palestinians” living in Gaza or Judea and Samaria and ignores the Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon, Syria or Jordan where they number in excess of 400,000, 450,000 and about 2,000,000 respectively. To add to the picture UNRWA had listed in 2010 in excess of  775,000 refugees in the West Bank and 1.1 million in Gaza.
As of January 2010, UNRWA cites 1,396,368 registered refugees in camps and 3,370,302 registered refugees not in camps”. And of course there are millions of Palestinians who are not refugees.
The Arab League has instructed its members to deny citizenship to Palestinian Arab refugees (or their descendants) “to avoid dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return to their homeland”.
  1. “Palestinians are deprived of certain basic rights. Lebanon barred Palestinian refugees from 73 job categories including professions such as medicine, law and engineering. They are not allowed to own property, and even need a special permit to leave their refugee camps. Unlike other foreigners in Lebanon, they are denied access to the Lebanese health care system. The Lebanese government refused to grant them work permits or permission to own land. The number of restrictions has been mounting since 1990”
According to a major report titled, Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon by Sherifa Shafie:
  1. “There is a lot of poverty and the unemployment rate is very high. The area of land allocated to the camps has remained the same since 1948. Thus in the more populated camps, the refugees could only expand upwards. Construction is not controlled and buildings do not conform to international safety standards. [..]

  2. “Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have the worst socio-economic situation in UNRWA’s five areas of operations with the highest percentage of Special Hardship Cases (SHCs). [..]
    “..since the early 1990’s, Lebanon has placed immense restrictions on the Palestinians in the form of legislation: Palestinian refugees have no political, social or civil rights (UNRWA, 2002). Any question of granting them rights is seen as a step towards permanent integration (USCR Report, 1999: 2). Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are discriminated against and harassed on a daily basis. They are liable to be arrested, detained and harassed by security forces, as well as by rival Palestinians.”
Lebanon: Exiled and suffering: Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, published by Amnesty International in Oct 2007 was summarized by them as follows:
  1. “This report deals with the appalling social and economic conditions of these refugees, most of whom live in war-torn camps. The discrimination and marginalization suffered by the Palestinian refugees contribute to high levels of unemployment, low wages and poor working conditions. The resultant poverty is exacerbated by restrictions placed on their access to state education and social services.”
Palestinians are treated much better in Syria than in Lebanon or Jordan.
According to a study titled Palestinian Refugees in Syria by the same Sherifa Shafie;
  1. Palestinians in Syria have the “same duties and responsibilities as Syrian citizens other than nationality and political rights.” and are “granted freedom of movement in all parts of Syria.”.  They “do not require work permits, they may work in the government, and men must undertake military service (in the Palestine Liberation Army under the Syrian Command). They have the right to own businesses. They also have the right to join labour unions.”
Nevertheless, Shafie reports
  1. “In most of the UNRWA camps, house constructions remain very basic (UNRWA 2002) : houses are of mud or crude concrete blocks (Brand 1988: 625) . UNRWA is responsible for sewage disposal, solid waste disposal, and control of infestations. The Syrian government provides the basic utilities in the camps; however, the water supply is not constant, most streets are unpaved, and the water and sewage systems, where they exist, are in need of upgrading and repair (UNRWA 2002) .”
In August 2011, the Guardian reported Syria assault on Latakia drives 5,000 Palestinians from refugee camp as “gunships blasted waterfront districts on Sunday in Ltakia, and his ground troops and security forces backed by tanks and armored vehicles stormed several neighborhoods,

In Jordan, less than 20% of the refugees live in camps. This is because when Jordan purported to annex the West Bank after the ’48 War, it granted all the Palestinians living there and in Jordan proper, citizenship. After the ’67 War in which Israel regained Judea and Samaria, many more Palestinians fled to Jordan and over the years since, many Palestinians from the West Bank emigrated there. It is estimated today that the number of Palestinians in Jordan total in excess of 5,000,000 of which only about 2 million are registered refugees.  They constitute about 75%  of the total population of Jordan. Given this fact and the fact that the West Bank has approximately 1.5 million Palestinians, one might rightfully argue that Jordan is the Palestinian homeland.
According to Wikipedia,
  1. Former UNRWA chief-attorney James G. Lindsay says: “In Jordan, where 2 million Palestinian refugees live, all but 167,000 have citizenship, and are fully eligible for government services including education and health care.”

  2. Palestinians who moved from the West Bank (whether refugees or not) to Jordan, are issued yellow ID cards to distinguish them from the Palestinians of the “official 10 refugee camps” in Jordan. Since 1988, thousands of those yellow-ID card Palestinians had their Jordanian citizenship revoked in order to prevent the possibility that they might become permanent residents of the country. Jordan’s Interior Minister Nayef al-Kadi said. It is estimated that over 40,000 Palestinians have been affected in the preceding months.
Mudar Zahran, a Jordanian of Palestinian origin, has in the last year written a number of articles which describe the plight of the Palestinians in Jordan. In Jordan is Palestine, published by the Mid East Quarterly, he writes;
  1. “In most countries with a record of human rights violations, vulnerable minorities are the typical victims. This has not been the case in Jordan where a Palestinian majority has been discriminated against by the ruling Hashemite dynasty, propped up by a minority Bedouin population, from the moment it occupied Judea and Samaria during the 1948 war (these territories were annexed to Jordan in April 1950 to become the kingdom’s West Bank).

  2. “As a result, the Palestinians of Jordan find themselves discriminated against in government and legislative positions as the number of Palestinian government ministers and parliamentarians decreases; there is not a single Palestinian serving as governor of any of Jordan’s twelve governorships.[3]
    “Jordanian Palestinians are encumbered with tariffs of up to 200 percent for an average family sedan, a fixed 16-percent sales tax, a high corporate tax, and an inescapable income tax. Most of their Bedouin fellow citizens, meanwhile, do not have to worry about most of these duties as they are servicemen or public servants who get a free pass. Servicemen or public employees even have their own government-subsidized stores, which sell food items and household goods at lower prices than what others have to pay,[4] and the Military Consumer Corporation, which is a massive retailer restricted to Jordanian servicemen, has not increased prices despite inflation.[5]
    “Decades of such practices have left the Palestinians in Jordan with no political representation, no access to power, no competitive education, and restrictions in the only field in which they can excel: business.”
    Palestinians in Jordan have also developed an intense hatred of the military as they are not allowed to join the army; they see Bedouin servicemen getting advantages in state education and health care, home taxes, and even tariff exemption on luxury vehicles.[29]
Wikipedia amplifies this:
  1. “There is discrimination against urban areas which consists predominantly of Jordanians of Palestinian origin. This point is argued by Ryan [17] who maintains that the parliament has been dominated by conservative tribal leaders through the manipulation of electoral districts. He has described the institution as a gerrymandered parliament. Jordanian electoral districts are unequal in size, with electoral law over-represents rural conservative districts whilst under-representing urban areas which tend to be the historical base of Palestinian or Islamist support. Some constituencies have seven times as many constituents as others yet have the same number of parliamentary seats [18]. The strategy has resulted in a parliament overwhelmingly representing people from ethnic Transjordan and conservative background governed by tribal affiliations.
West Bank
The Arab Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have the right to form a government and govern themselves within the confines of the Oslo Accords. Their government known as the Palestinian Authority (PA) has full autonomy in all matters save for a limitation on matters of security affecting Israel. How they govern themselves is up to them.  In effect the Palestinians elect Palestinians to govern them.  Whereas in Jordan, the Palestinians  are severely underrepresented in the Chamber of Deputies where the minority Bedouin hold sway. If that wasn’t bad enough, all executive power is vested in the King.
It can safely be said that the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are the authors of their own misfortune. In their past elections, they choose parties, whether Fatah or Hamas, that are wedded to the “resistance” which is a euphemism for terrorism. The result of this “resistance” whether in the form of thousands of rockets fired from Gaza into civilian areas in Israel or the deployment of suicide bombers by Fatah in Jerusalem and Israel generally, Israel has placed restrictions on them such as a legal blockade of Gaza and travel restrictions in the West Bank. These restrictions are for security purposes only and not intended as punishment. Nevertheless, in the last three years, Israel has been easing these restrictions, and as a result, the Palestinian economy in the West Bank is experiencing an astounding  7% growth rate.
The PA could at any time compromise their demands and have a state of their own but this they refuse to do. As Gov Romney recently said“It’s the Palestinians who don’t want a two-state solution; they want to eliminate the State of Israel,”
But the Palestinians living in Jordan who have citizenship have no say in their present condition or in their destiny.  Their fate is dependent on what the PA chooses to do yet they have no vote in PA elections. Nor do they have a say equivalent to their numbers in Jordan due to the gerrymandering above noted.  In cables released by Wikileaks,  the U.S. Embassy was talking about a deal to integrate the Palestinians into the political system in Jordan in exchange for them abandoning their illusory right of return.  Needless to say, the King went ballistic.
It is the Palestinians in Lebanon and Jordan who are the poor Palestinians.

So, who is the Arab League? Myths and Facts  Eli E. Hertz,

It is illuminating to examine the record of the League of Arab States since the founding of the League in 1945, which is hardly a model for peaceful settlement of disputes in the spirit of the United Nations.
Prior to the establishment of the Jewish state, the League took the following steps:

  • In December 1945, the Arab League launched a boycott of ‘Zionist goods’ that continues to this day.
  • In June 1946, it established the Higher Arab Committee to “coordinate efforts with regard to Palestine,” a radical body that led and coordinated attempts to wipe Israel off the map.
  • In December 1946, it rejected the first proposed Palestine partition plans, reaffirming “that Palestine is a part of the Arab motherland.”
  • In October 1947, prior to the vote on Resolution 181 – the “Partition Plan” – it reasserted the necessity for military preparations along Arab borders to “defending Palestine.”
  • In February 1948, it approved “a plan for political, military, and economic measures to be taken in response to the Palestine crisis.”
  • In October 1948, it rejected the UN “Partition Plan” for Palestine adopted by the General Assembly in Resolution 181.
On May 15 1948, as the regular forces of Egypt, Trans-Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and contingents from Saudi Arabia and Yemen invaded Israel to ‘restore law and order,’ the Arab League issued a lengthy document entitled “Declaration on the Invasion of Palestine.” In it, the Arab states drew attention to:
“The injustice implied in this solution [affecting] the right of the people of Palestine to immediate independence … declared the Arabs’ rejection of [Resolution 181]” which the League said “would not be possible to carry it out by peaceful means, and that its forcible imposition would constitute a threat to peace and security in this area” and claimed that the “security and order in Palestine have become disrupted” due to the “aggressive intentions, and the imperialistic designs of the Zionists” and “the Governments of the Arab States, as members of the Arab League, a regional organization … view the events taking place in Palestine as a threat to peace and security in the area as a whole. … Therefore, as security in Palestine is a sacred trust in the hands of the Arab States, and in order to put an end to this state of affairs … the Governments of the Arab States have found themselves compelled to intervene in Palestine.”

The Secretary-General of the Arab League, Azzam Pasha, was less diplomatic and far more candid. With no patience for polite or veiled language, on the same day Israel declared its independence on May 14 1948, at a Cairo press conference reported the next day in The New York Times, Pasha repeated the Arabs’ “intervention to restore law and order” revealing:
“This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.” The League of Arab States continued to oppose peace after Israel’s 1948 War of Independence:
In July 15 1948, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 54 calling on Arab aggression to stop:
“Taking into consideration that the Provisional Government of Israel has indicated its acceptance in principle of a prolongation of the truce in Palestine; that the States members of the Arab League have rejected successive appeals of the United Nations Mediator, and of the Security Council in its resolution 53 (1948) of 7 July 1948, for the prolongation of the truce in Palestine; and that there has consequently developed a renewal of hostilities in Palestine.”
  • In October 1949, the Arab League declared that negotiation with Israel by any Arab state would be in violation of Article 18 of the Arab League.
  • In April 1950, it called for severance of relations with any Arab state which engaged in relations or contacts with Israel and prohibited Member states from negotiating unilateral peace with Israel.
  • In March 1979, it suspended Egypt’s membership in the League (retroactively) from the date of its signing a peace treaty with Israel.
More recently, in the Beirut Declaration of March 27-28, 2002, adopted at the height of Palestinian suicide attacks in Israel, the Arab League declared:
“We, the kings, presidents, and emirs of the Arab states meeting in the Council of the Arab League Summit in Beirut, capital of Lebanon … have conducted a thorough assessment of the developments and challenges … relating to the Arab region and, more specifically, to the occupied Palestinian territory. With great pride, we followed the Palestinian people’s intifada and valiant resistance. … We address a greeting of pride and honour to the Palestinian people’s steadfastness and valiant intifada against the Israeli occupation and its destructive war machine. We greet with honour and pride the valiant martyrs of the intifada.”